An Interesting Night in Los Angeles

Last night’s Battle of Los Angeles was quite the interesting little 3-2 affair for a number of reasons. With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the 9th, the Angels’ Albert Pujols singled home Mike Trout to give them the lead. Ernesto Frieri was able to shut the door in the 9th to keep the red-hot Angels rolling.  Here are some of my more random thoughts and observations from watching the game last night:

-Mike Trout has continued to play like he’s unaware that a 20-year-old isn’t supposed to come up from Triple-A and dominate the league over his 1st 180 plate appearances of the season. Trout scored the game-winning run las night and was 2-4 with a homer, a walk, 2 steals, and 2 runs scored. That brings his season line up to a robust .354/.412/.565 with 6 homers, 26 RBI, and 15 steals– numbers good enough to get him to the All-Star game. The Angels are now 25-15 with Trout in the lineup and only 8-14 without him. It may be strange to already say this, with so many All-Stars on the roster, but Mike Trout is the most important player on the Angels. He plays great defense most of the time, he’s going to lead the American League in steals THIS season (he’s tied with Jason Kipnis for 1st despite playing in 19 fewer games), and once he gains enough at-bats to qualify, will rank in the top-10 in all of the triple slash (batting avg., on-base, slugging) categories.

-Trout’s steal of 2nd of Kenley Jansen in the 9th inning last night was just as important as the Albert Pujols’ single to bring him home. It was painful obvious to everyone in the ball park that Trout was going on the play, yet catcher AJ Ellis’ throw never stood a chance. Trout has fantastic speed and is a potential 50+ stolen base threat this season. Next year, if he can get a full 150 games under his belt, Trout has the potential to top 60 stolen bases, and could even be a threat for 70, he’s THAT fast and he gets on base at an excellent rate, giving him ample opportunities.

-On the flip side, its now painfully obvious that whatever Kenley Jansen is doing to hold runners on is not working. After singling the winning run home, Pujols was also able to easily steal 2nd of Jansen as well. Opposing base runners are now a perfect 14-14 of Jansen in his career in just 110 total innings pitched. The rest of Jansen’s arsenal is excellent. His blazing fastball and killer curve, allow him to strikeout batters at an elite rate (14.7 K/ 9 this season), which keeps runners off base, but this is an exploitable weakness, and it hurt the Dodgers last night.

-AJ Ellis, in his 1st real opportunity as an everyday player at age 31, has been absolutely stellar at catcher for the Dodgers this season. He drew 4 walks last night, giving him 34 on the season which ranks 6th in the National League. His plate discipline is excellent, which allows him to get on base even if the hits aren’t falling. He’s now 3rd in the National League in OBP at .434, which looks even better when you consider the fact that the MLB average for a catcher is over 100 points lower.

-Last night’s closer for the Angels, Ernesto Frieri, continued to make his May 3rd under-the-radar acquisition from San Diego look like a stroke of genius. He put 2 Dodgers on base, but got out of the jam, generating a weak flyball off the bat of Dee Gordon to end the game. Since coming over from the Padres, Frieri has allowed only 2 hits in 17 innings, striking out nearly 33 total batters. His control can sometimes be a little sporadic, but other that a walk here and there, he has been downright unhittable. Frieri is only 26 and can’t become a free agent until 2017 at earliest, which makes this acquisition by Angels’ GM Jerry DiPoto look even better.

-One of the most interesting sights last night was seeing Bobby Abreu wearing the Dodger blue against his old mates from Anaheim. Abreu had been an Angel since 2009, but his relationship with the team soured this season when he lost playing time. Abreu was the odd man out for the Angels with so many better outfield options (Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter) on the bench or in the minors, so he was cut, and with good reason because he was only hitting .208 at the time. The Dodgers picked him up and Abreu has been rejuvenated at the plate, hitting .326/.444/.461. The downside is playing his awful glove in the outfield, where his range has diminished to the point he should probably be back in the American League, but it has yet to hurt the Dodgers so far. He’s been a positive addition on the South end of the Freeway, and his removal in Anaheim has opened the doors for more talented youngsters to shine.

-Was I the only one who thought the two teams were playing a phenomenally slow ball game. I know Vin Scully mentioned the deliberate pace a couple of times, but did it really take them 3 hours and 59 minutes to play 9 innings? That’s ridiculous and it led to quite a few empty seats at the end of the ballgame, which was a nail-bitter, although some of the fans leaving were probably doing so to join the celebration for the Stanley Cup champion Kings.

-The Angels are now a solid 33-29 this season and Albert Pujols is starting to heat up and his OPS+ is now at 111, back above league average. He’s hitting very well over his past 25 games, going .344/407/.677 with 8 homers and 24 RBI. LAA is now only 2.5 games behind the slumping Texas Rangers as well. The race for the AL West title is back on, and the gap between the two teams appears to be next to nothing with nearly every Rangers pitcher struggling right now.

-Finally, can’t we just have Vin Scully announce every ball game? He’s fantastic to listen to, really knows his history, and his passion for baseball really shines through every broadcast. There is no better broadcast in baseball than one done by Vin Scully

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