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OC Register: Angels Q&A: What are these ‘sweepers’ that Shohei Ohtani started throwing?


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BOSTON — Two weeks into the season, the Angels have done little to warrant moving off the preseason expectations for this team. On paper they looked like a team that would be a little better than .500, and they’re 7-5.

The starting rotation ranks eighth in the majors with a 3.68 ERA and the bullpen ranks 12th with a 3.74 mark. The offense is 14th with a .739 OPS and seventh with 5.4 runs per game.

And, of course, Shohei Ohtani is just as good as he was in each of the past two years, maybe better.

In our first regular-season Q&A, Ohtani is the inspiration for a question that plenty of people have been asking over the past couple of months.

Actually, many questions, but we’ll address one that doesn’t require a dollar sign.

Q: What is a sweeper? Seems the broadcasters got the memo this morning but I have no idea what it is. Is it a slider or slurve? — @leo_arc1

A: The sweeper seemingly emerged out of nowhere as a popular pitch in the majors, and no one throws them more often, or better, than Ohtani.

After Ohtani threw 51 sweepers on Tuesday night – more than half of his pitches – he was asked about the origin of the pitch.

“I’ve been throwing it since my days in Japan,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I have always had the smaller slider and the bigger slider. These days they call it the sweeper.”

Although people around the game have started using the term sweeper this year, it’s really nothing but a new word for a traditional pitch.

It’s a slider thrown with a little less velocity and a little more movement than a standard slider. As recently as last year, pitchers would just say they have two different sliders. Sometimes one would be called a slurve because it was something in between a slider and a curveball.

Now, it’s a sweeper.

Q: Angels haven’t been stealing bases at all, is this to limit injuries? Seems like a big part of the game that they are not doing. — @Dan20175151

A: The Angels have just five stolen bases this season, which is mostly because they simply don’t have a lot of team speed. They only have five players who have above-average sprint speed, according to StatCast: Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Brett Phillips, Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo. Phillips doesn’t play much, and Rengifo is barely above average.

The others hit at the top of the lineup, with plenty of power behind them, so the last thing they want is to get caught stealing with a power hitter at the plate.

Besides all of that, there is the obvious risk of injury that you suggest. Remember that Ohtani is two players, so every time he does anything he’s putting a middle-of-the-order hitter and an ace pitcher at risk.

Q: This keeps getting asked, BUT any guess as to when we can expect Walsh to be back? There have been little to no updates on him. — @KylePulis20

A: It’s understandable to wonder, and maybe even be a little frustrated, at the lack of clarity on Jared Walsh’s situation. Walsh is currently at a facility in Utah undergoing treatment for headaches and insomnia.

The Angels have said these are real quality-of-life issues for Walsh, so they fully support him getting them addressed, however long that takes. They say he’s making progress, but there’s no real timetable.

The more time he misses, the more time it will take him to get up to game speed. So as soon as you read that Walsh has an end date for his treatment, you’ll get an estimate of how much time he’ll need to ramp up his baseball work. Until that happens, it’s impossible to say when he’ll be back.

Q: Logan O’Hoppe is doing so well in Stassi’s absence, will he remain the starting catcher when Stassi is healthy? — @angels30ryan

A: Max Stassi is in a similar situation as Walsh. He is also dealing with an uncertain timetable. In addition to his hip injury, Stassi has been faced with a family situation.

Given that we have no idea when he is coming back, it’s difficult to project what will happen at that time. It’s safe to say that as long as O’Hoppe is playing as well as he’s playing now, he’s going to stay in the lineup, though.

The more significant question is what happens to Matt Thaiss when Stassi comes back. Thaiss is out of options, and the Angels probably can’t keep three catchers. But it’s also too early to worry about that one.

Q: Can you tell me the percentages of challenges we’ve won and lost over the last 2 seasons? And where they rank in all of MLB. — @JDB442

A: Last season Phil Nevin was successful on 44% of his challenges, which ranked 26th among the 35 managers, including those who were fired. (Joe Maddon was last, at 29.4%.) The major league average was 49%. So far this year Nevin is 0 for 1.

Q: (José) Suarez had like 200+ innings of sub-4 ERA pitching prior to his rough start to this season. Do you see the Angels exercising more patience with him despite the other options on the MLB roster and in the high minors? — @shortstoppin_

A: In 2021-22, Suarez had a 3.86 ERA over 207-1/3 big league innings, so that’s nothing the Angels are going to discard after two bad starts to begin this season. Suarez is also 25.

He’s out of options, so if the Angels designated him for assignment, he’d definitely get claimed.

It is fair to ask if they might stick him in the bullpen if he keeps struggling, though. They have Tucker Davidson and Griffin Canning, and Chase Silseth started the Triple-A season by pitching 11 scoreless innings. As for how long the Angels would wait to make that call, I don’t know. Suarez is getting at least one more start next week.

Q: Nothing against Wayne (Randazzo), who has been phenomenal. But when should we expect to hear games with Matty V behind the mic? — @Mike27TroutGOAT

A: Matt Vasgersian is scheduled to do the play-by-play on the Angels’ TV broadcasts for their series in Milwaukee, April 28-30. He will continue to do some games throughout the rest of the season, but the exact number isn’t yet determined.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Patrick Sandoval, 1-0, 1.64) at Red Sox (RHP Tanner Houck, 2-0, 4.50), Friday, 4:10 p.m., Apple TV+, 830 AM

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22 minutes ago, AngelsWin.com said:

 

Q: Nothing against Wayne (Randazzo), who has been phenomenal. But when should we expect to hear games with Matty V behind the mic? — @Mike27TroutGOAT

A: Matt Vasgersian is scheduled to do the play-by-play on the Angels’ TV broadcasts for their series in Milwaukee, April 28-30. He will continue to do some games throughout the rest of the season, but the exact number isn’t yet determined.

Lol. How nice of Matty V. to drop in for a whopping three games a month into the season! 

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