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OC Register: Whicker: Angels’ pitching mess caused by many whiffs in the draft


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The Dodgers weren’t the only history-makers this fall.

The Angels wrapped up their fifth consecutive sub-.500 season. Regardless of how you view the 60-game hors d’oeuvre, they never had done that before.

In related news, the Angels were 13th in the American League in run prevention. They have been 10th or worse four times in the past seven seasons. In WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), the Angels have been eighth or worse five times in the past eight seasons.

In other related news, the Angels picked 80 pitchers in the first 20 rounds of the 2011-18 drafts. Nineteen of them have pitched at least one game in the big leagues.

But only Griffin Canning and Nick Maronde have started a game for the Angels, and 48 of them were out of the game by 2019.

Maronde was the Angels’ top pick in 2011, followed by Mike Clevinger. The Angels swapped Clevinger to Cleveland for Vinnie Pestano, and Clevinger, now in San Diego, has 92 major-league starts and a 44-23 record.

There are some caveats. Canning was one of only three second-round picks on that list. The only first-rounder was Sean Newcomb. The Angels got shortstop Andrelton Simmons from Atlanta in exchange for Newcomb, and you’d call that a bargain if the Angels could have won with Simmons.

Most teams routinely swing and miss when they draft pitchers. But there was a time when the Angels didn’t.

In 2009, they picked Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards and Patrick Corbin. In 1999, they picked John Lackey. In 2000, they picked Bobby Jenks. Corbin (Washington), Lackey (Angels) and Jenks (White Sox) all pitched in clinching games of World Series.

In 2002, they took Joe Saunders, and in 2004 they chose Jered Weaver and Nick Adenhart and reached deep to sign pitcher-first baseman Mark Trumbo. And in 2007, they drafted Matt Harvey, although he didn’t sign.

Nevertheless, scouting directors Bob Fontaine and Eddie Bane were shown the door. They are not coming back through it.

It is also true that drafting is only one leg on the stool, and the Angels, like most teams, have signed well-respected arms from the Caribbean. Billy Eppler, the general manager who was replaced by Perry Minasian, traded second-round pick Kyle Bradish and three other arms to Baltimore for Dylan Bundy, one of baseball’s best comeback stories in 2020.

“Chris Hernandez’s talent (fourth-round pick, 2016) is real,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Patrick Sandoval (acquired from Houston) is the same way. (Reid) Detmers is very polished coming out of college (Louisville).”

Still, Minasian’s Job One is unmistakable.

“We had trouble developing pitchers with the Cubs as well,” Maddon said. “It comes down to the evaluators, You need a pitching cross-checker, a guy with a good track record. When I was with Tampa Bay, they developed really good changeups. They emphasized clean deliveries and then teaching fastball, changeup, curve. Then you evaluate work ethic and makeup. They matter, too.

“I’d like to see us get away from the concept of limiting innings because we might hurt people. They get hurt anyway. You can’t push them too quickly. They need to pitch innings in the minors, develop and dominate, and not just for a year. That’s how they learn how to be starters and pitch deep into games. That’s how you develop good bullpens, by having starters with length. We have some interesting arms. They need to be nurtured.”

Underneath, there are sabotaging forces, beyond MLB’s control.

“We have these showcases and travel-ball teams,” Maddon said. “The goal is to be best-in-show rather than being part of a winner. You’re paying to be part of a team, rather than representing your city or your area. The only goal should be to win. If you do that properly, you’ll be seen by the scouts. This method we have is kind of repulsive. They’re being taught merely to be the best pitcher in the showcase.”

Maddon also says the ball needs to be deactivated because “second basemen who aren’t that big shouldn’t be hitting opposite-field homers.” But he also thinks Wall Ball might have hit his apogee.

“Everyone wants the swing and miss,” Maddon said. “The hitters have adjusted to elevated velocity. If pitchers go back to the sinkers underneath the hands, hitters will have to adjust back. I really think real baseball is on the verge of a comeback. The Giants won three World Series playing it.”

Signing Trevor Bauer, the National League Cy Young winner, would get the Angels back in the arms race. But their fans must recognize that climbing the tree takes longer than falling.

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31 minutes ago, AngelsWin.com said:

Chris Hernandez’s talent (fourth-round pick, 2016) is real,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Patrick Sandoval (acquired from Houston) is the same way. (Reid) Detmers is very polished coming out of college (Louisville).”

Who made the mistake here? Whicker or Maddon? I'd hope/imagine it was Whicker.

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6 hours ago, Trendon said:

Who made the mistake here? Whicker or Maddon? I'd hope/imagine it was Whicker.

it was a direct quote so unlikely.  Seems like Maddon confused Chris Rodriguez and Aaron Hernandez.  

I'm not a professional writer or anything but that was a tough read.  I did appreciate or at least find Maddon's comments to be worth reading.  Seems like the article could have been centered around that instead of taking this sort of bizarre and haphazard trip down memory lane. 

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