Remember when we thought we might be getting some of baseball’s most exciting players in the Postseason this year? Specifically a couple in Anaheim? Yeah, that’s not looking so good at this point.
Some bits from around MLB …
Phillies Weekend Sweep Post-Girardi Firing
The Philadelphia Phillies fired veteran skipper Joe Girardi on Friday and named Rob Thomson interim manager for the remainder of the season. Thomson’s tenure as Phillies manager is off to a roaring start after the Phillies swept the skidding (more on that later) Los Angeles Angeles at home this weekend. The Phillies topped the Angels 10-0, 7-2, and 9-7 on Sunday afternoon when rookie Bryson Stott drilled a walk-off three-run home run into the right field seats at Citizen Bank Ballpark:
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 5, 2022
Philadelphia’s three-game sweep of the Halos has them on a four-game winning streak and up to 25-29 on the season. Firing a manager mid-season doesn’t always translate to immediate success, and we’re just three games into the post-Girardi era in Philly, but sometimes a team just needs a new voice (or simply a jolt in the clubhouse). The Phillies front office believed that their roster needed that new voice, and thus far, the team looks like it agrees.
(Seeing the Phillies rejuvenated feeling this weekend gets me thinking about the what-ifs about a team in Chicago. Could the White Sox use a change in the dugout? Of course, they could. Tony La Russa has spent a season-plus proving on a nearly daily basis that he’s not up to snuff these days. Despite a roster full of talent in Chicago (injured be darned), the White Sox are under .500 and trailing the Twins and Guardians in the American League Central with the calendar now reading June. Still, I’m not holding my breath on that one. I don’t think that Jerry Reinsdorf has it in him to make the clear-cut right decision and can his good friend for a second time, at least not mid-season.)
Anyways, good for Philadelphia for doing something to help breathe some life into an underperforming roster. This feel-good weekend for the Phils might not parlay into a complete turnaround for them, but at least they saw a problem, did something about it, and gave themselves a chance to save their season.
Speaking of questions about managerial changes …
Skidding Halos’ Losing Streak Reaches 11
On the other end of the Phillies’ walk-off, three-run bomb and weekend sweep was the Los Angeles Angels, who have now lost an incredible 11 straight games.
We were talking about the Angels being potential buyers at the trade deadline last month when they were 21-12 and just a half-game behind the Houston Astros in the American League West on May 13. I discussed how fun it would it would be to have Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout in the MLB Postseason, where they belong. Just three weeks later, the Angels are 27-28 and 8.5 games behind the Astors in the AL West.
I cautioned that the Angels pitching would be their downfall, and here we are today as the Angels are reeling, losers of 11 straight and 16 of their last 22 games. From Opening Day to May 24, the Halos’ team ERA (3.36) ranked eighth in baseball, and their BB/9 (2.93) ranked ninth. In the HR/9 department, the Angels’ 0.99 mark was good for fifteenth in baseball. Since then, the Angels have ranked 29th (6.92), 29th (4.52), and 30th (1.83) in ERA, BB/9, and HR/9, respectively.
For one example of the shift, check out the drastic spike in contact rate and dip in fastball velocity on Noah Syndergaard’s fastball:
Well, that's not ideal. pic.twitter.com/0lHJMbdPOm
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) June 6, 2022
Yikes. Syndergaard is a free agent after this season, by the way, and is theoretically trying to build up his value before hitting the market.
Angels skipper Joe Maddon, who is not publicly on the hot seat just yet, says that the Angels’ affection for losing close games late makes no sense and has to stop:
“We’ve lost a lot of tough ones, and it really makes no sense,” Maddon said. “We got the right guys out there and the right time. And again, we gave it up late. We have to get that fixed. I loved the fight, but we have to finish these games off, and that’s a big part of the situation we’re in right now.”
The Angels held a 6-2 lead over the Phillies in the eighth inning of Sunday’s loss before Raisel Iglesias allowed a game-tying grand slam in the eighth to Bryce Harper, and then Jimmy Herget allowed a walk-off three-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning to lose 9-7 after the Angels had re-taken the lead in the top of the ninth inning. That’s just as brutal as it gets.
If the Angels can’t right the ship soon, we might face the proposition of another season without Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the MLB Postseason, which is an absolute crime against baseball.
More on the skidding Halos:
A couple stories after yesterday’s Angels collapse:
— Looking back at the worst week of the Angels season: https://t.co/54SPUA6QvW
— The Angels and Phillies entered their series in similar spots and left headed in different directions: https://t.co/RAfvpsJ2PQ
— Sam Blum (@SamBlum3) June 6, 2022
Law: Kumar Rocker Looked the Part in Frontier League Debut
We learned last month that Kumar Rocker inked a deal with the Tri-City Valleycats, where he’ll pitch before the MLB Draft during the All-Star break, and according to Keith Law of The Athletic, Rocker looked the part of a top-10 pick in his Frontier League debut on Saturday night.
According to Law, Rocker was hitting 98 on Saturday night and sitting 95-98 in four innings of work against the Trois Rivières in Troy, N.Y.:
“Rocker’s velocity was as good as ever on Saturday, as he hit 98 mph multiple times and was 95-98 mph over his four innings, racing through the Trois Rivières order the first time before running into a little trouble in the fourth inning. Rocker showed four pitches, just as he did when I saw him last year, with two breaking balls that kind of run into each other and a changeup that’s clearly the fourth pitch in his repertoire. He showed a better feel for his breaking stuff after the first inning when he threw a few curveballs without a lot of conviction, but both pitches were above-average when he got rolling, with the slider up to 89 mph and the curveball showing tighter rotation.”
Rocker was taken 10th overall in the MLB Draft by the New York Mets after the six-foot-five right-hander registered 14 wins and 179 strikeouts on the season to lead the nation in both categories during his junior year at Vanderbilt. When the two sides couldn’t reach a deal after the draft (reportedly due to health concerns), Rocker became eligible to enter the draft again this season, and the Mets were awarded the 11th pick in the MLB Draft as compensation for losing their selection last year.
More on Rocker’s debut from Keith Law:
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) June 5, 2022
Odds and Ends …
• We haven’t seen a perfect game since 2012, but the four-home run game is actually a rarer feat in the beautiful game of baseball. Today marks the fifth anniversary of the last occurrence, when Reds infielder Scooter Gennett became just the 17th player in MLB history to do it:
Did you know 4-homer games are more uncommon than perfect games?
OTD in 2017, Scooter Gennett became just the 17th player in history to accomplish the feat.
— MLB (@MLB) June 6, 2022
• Ronald Acuna Jr. is a bad man …
441-ft HR + The Silencer = 💪
Just king things for @ronaldacunajr24 👑
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 5, 2022
• On today’s installment of “So You Think You Can Hit Against a Major League Pitcher?” …
One of the grossest pitches you'll ever see. pic.twitter.com/UhM6wWyQKI
— MLB (@MLB) June 5, 2022
• The Yankees have gotten other-worldly production from their starting rotation this season, but this last week, in particular, was something else:
— MLB (@MLB) June 5, 2022
• OK, so the the Angels do have one W since late May:
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) June 6, 2022