Angels pitchers are excelling with pickoffs

Albert Pujols, Jared Hoying
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols tags out the Rangers’ Jared Hoying on a pickoff throw by Nick Tropeano during a game May 23.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

The Angels are four games under .500, fourth in the American League West, moving along at a mediocre pace about one-third of the way through 2016. Their offense is slightly above average, their pitching slightly below, neither notably so.

There is one category in which they are exceptional: picking off opponents. The Angels have picked off 15 men this season, seven more than any other major league team. The precise reasons remain unclear.

“I can’t explain it,” pitching coach Charles Nagy said. “I’m at a loss myself. I’ve never seen this many guys get picked off before in a season. We’re not doing anything especially different. It wasn’t a game plan going into spring training, I’ll put it that way.”

Noticing the trend from center field, Mike Trout believes it to be in part a product of the Angels pitchers’ slow deliveries. They have to throw over often or risk the opponents running wild.


“I think the biggest thing is, our times to home plate are sometimes a little bit slower than what they should be,” Trout said. “We’re just keeping them honest at first base. If your times aren’t real quick to the plate, you gotta throw over a lot. That has something to do with it.”

But it is not all of it. Several pitchers have thrown over more times than any Angel, including Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who has tried 97 pickoffs, per STATS LLC, almost twice as many as the Angels’ leader, Matt Shoemaker, who has attempted 50.

Joe Smith said Manager Mike Scioscia successfully called for at least one of his pickoffs from the dugout. He has picked off three of the 36 baserunners he has allowed this season, tied with Hector Santiago for second on the team. Nick Tropeano’s four are tied for the major league lead, and his move is considered great.


“We’ve got some guys that have really good moves,” Scioscia said. “We’re doing a better job at containing the running game than we have in the past couple years.”

Short hops

Smith left the decision to place him on the 15-day disabled list up to the Angels, and they may need to make a decision Monday or Tuesday. The setup man’s hamstring has been sore for three weeks, and he was unavailable to pitch Sunday because of it. … Still without a starting pitcher for Tuesday’s game in New York, the Angels could turn to triple-A right-hander Kyle Kendrick, a veteran journeyman signed in April. If not Kendrick, the other plausible option appears to be a bullpen-heavy approach, with every reliever going an inning or two. That would require the Angels’ Monday starter, Shoemaker, pitching deep into the game, because Angels relievers handled eight innings between Saturday and Sunday.

Twitter: @pedromoura

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