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Angels mailbag: Kole Calhoun, plus lots of looking ahead

Angels mailbag: Kole Calhoun, plus lots of looking ahead
Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun is congratulated in the dugout after hitting his second solo home run of the game against Minnesota on June 1. (Paul Buck / European Pressphoto Agency)

Hello, Angels fans. Your favorite baseball team is off today. Their record this season is 29-31, a 78-win pace. A weekend series in Houston looms after three games in Detroit, and the Angels are going to be without the best player in the world for the next month. It’s a rough road ahead.

Let's answer some questions about the state of the team. As always, please submit mailbag questions through my Twitter account (@pedromoura) or via email at pedro.moura@latimes.com.

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Via email:

What in the world has happened to Kole Calhoun?

James Donahue

So, I've avoided answering questions about Calhoun so far this season because I've been unsure what, if anything, is wrong with him. He's walking more than he has over his career and striking out at about the same rate. He's seeing the same number of pitches per plate appearance, and swinging at the same number of strikes and balls, but his approach is not reflected in his more traditional statistics.

He did homer three times last week, which helps, but he's still hitting .227 with a .311 on-base percentage and .370 slugging mark, well below his career norms in each category.

One scout recently raised a question about whether he's become too vulnerable on down-and-in pitches. Anecdotally, that seems like a concern, but the data muddles it. I tend to think that more time will tilt his statistics closer to their norms.

Maybe the most plausible theory is simple sequencing. Until his two-homer game Thursday, he'd been slugging impossibly low on first pitches and swinging at a below-norm rate. Perhaps he was picking the wrong pitches at which to take opening hacks. That's the kind of thing that can change quickly, though, as Mike Trout has demonstrated. And both of Calhoun's homers that night came on first pitches.

Yes, Angels pitchers have given up far more home runs than could be expected considering the 4.10 earned-run average. They're second in the majors in home runs allowed, at 86, and the other teams near them have logged ERAs a half-run worse. There are a few reasons for that, the way I see it.

Most prominent is that the Angels have a good, maybe great, defense. That prevents many runs from scoring. It does not prevent home runs from leaving the field of play. Essentially, the true talent level of the staff is worse than its ERA represents.

Also relevant: The Astros and Athletics, members of the American League West, are two of the most homer-oriented clubs in the sport.

Also relevant: 20% of the fly balls Ricky Nolasco has allowed have been homers. That’s twice his career average and it is not going to continue. The same goes for Jesse Chavez, to a lesser extent.

Yes, a small sale is possible. As I detailed in this space a month or so ago, the Angels do not have a ton of traditional rental types who will attract large returns. Here follows a list of their veterans on expiring contracts: Yunel Escobar, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, Danny Espinosa, Cliff Pennington, Ricky Nolasco, Yusmeiro Petit, Bud Norris, Huston Street and Andrew Bailey.

Of those, Maybin, Escobar and Norris seem likely to receive the most interest. Of course, in Escobar's case, his clubhouse comportment remains a concern.

Like most questions about the future I field here, it depends. In this case, it depends on several factors, maybe chiefly the price for the premium players. J.D. Martinez is going to be a free agent, and he would be a splendid addition. But he’s going to be 30 and he is going to sign for a lot of money. Given the Josh Hamilton money that will finally come off their books at year’s end and the budgetary constraints the Angels have operated under in recent seasons, it seems plausible they could sign an expensive player, but not a guarantee.

I do not watch nearly enough baseball on television to accurately assess this. I'm usually watching the Angels wherever they are playing. I will go back and watch broadcasts sometimes to review certain things. Compared with other limited look-ins I've made, the Angels' broadcasters seem more realistic than many other teams'. That, I think, is good. Also, Mark Gubicza might be the most positive person I've ever met. He is a treasure.

I like that qualifier in front of "hypothetically." It really gets to the heart of the issue. My guess is they would stick with Bud Norris as their closer, use Huston Street as their eighth-inning guy, and deploy Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker as fifth-, sixth- and seventh-inning firemen that would help them disguise their starting-pitching issues. That, of course, assumes not only that those guys are healthy but that they pitch well.

He received television time alongside Albert Pujols on the field immediately after the game and in a news conference. The Angels said they would take care of other compensation. I'm sure that involves some autographed memorabilia of some sort. It's not the sum he could've attracted had he auctioned off the baseball, but it's something.

Send questions to the below addresses to be considered for the mailbag every Monday, all season long.

Twitter: @pedromoura

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