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Angels mailbag: Questions after a rough weekend in Minnesota

Angels mailbag: Questions after a rough weekend in Minnesota
Angels pitcher Jered Weaver reacts after giving up a single to Minnesota designated hitter Joe Mauer on Saturday. (Ann Heisenfelt / Associated Press)

Come one, come all, with questions about the Angels after a series sweep in Minnesota dropped them to 5-7 this season. This is the forum to ask: a weekly feature on Mondays, with questions submitted through my email (pedro.moura@latimes.com) and Twitter accounts (@PedroMoura). 

@journoshane: Mike Scioscia is the longest tenured manager in baseball. Can you see him parting ways if the team fails to make postseason?

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I think that any parting of the ways between the two sides is more likely to stem from the ownership end. If Scioscia voluntarily leaves after this season, he'll effectively be burning $10 million. And if the Angels aren't in the postseason, it's not like he's going to be in particular demand, either. I don't see it.

@karenurane: What do the Angel players think of the "utley" second base rule ? Are they making adjustments for it?
I don’t think the players care all that much. It is not a topic that comes up often. But, since you asked, I queried Cliff Pennington, the team’s utility infielder. His first answer was that it hasn’t come up yet. But noticing the hard-pack of the infield dirt at Target Field before a day game on Saturday, he did ask an umpire what would happen if a player accidentally slid past the bag.
“It was kind of an open discussion,” Pennington said. “No answer was given.”
When it does happen to the Angels and affect them in some way, he said, he’ll have an opinion on it. Until then, he’s sliding slightly less aggressively.

@AnthonyDiComo: What would happen if Andy McCullough and Nick Piecoro switched pants?

The HBBWAA would disintegrate instantaneously.

@Beardedgolfpro: How long is C.J. Cron going to get a chance to be terrible?

What or who do you suggest as the alternative? Outside of Ji-Man Choi, there aren’t any other options for the Angels to play at first base besides Cron. And it’s not as if Cron’s actually been terrible outside of this small sample to start the season. He put up the same OPS in the 2014 and 2015 seasons: .739, a slightly below average number at first base. That seems to me to be what he is as a player: eminently flawed, but indisputably serviceable.
The Angels are splitting first base at triple-A between Kyle Kubitza and Jefry Marte, two men who have not hit enough to date to play third base in the majors, so it’s not like the system is brimming with talent.
@lucasvoorheis: Do you like tacos?
I dream of a world where this question need not be asked of anyone. Tacos are one of the world’s most accommodating foods. If you have gluten intolerance, you can get them with corn. If you have lactose intolerance, you can nix any cheese. If you don’t eat meat, there are many wonderful vegetable stews. What could be better than tacos? Tacos are great.

@OnBaseUnit: I saw someone mention that LAA opponents are hitting better against the shift than not. Is the team committed long-term to shifts?

There are two sides to this answer. Everything I’ve heard from the organization indicates they are committed to long-term shifting. Eight or 12 games is simply far too small of a sample to draw any informative conclusions about its functionality, so if they were committed on April 4, they should still be on April 18.
But this weekend in Minnesota conflicts with that. After averaging more than 15 shifts in their first nine games, the Angels shifted about half as much, 25 times throughout the three games. So read into that what you might.
Asked about that Sunday, Mike Scioscia said he did not want to provide his team’s rationale to a reporter. “There’s a lot of things it’s contingent on,” he said. “It will adjust from player to player, team to team. That’s it.”
It might have something to do with the Twins’ roster. They had only been shifted 28 times through nine games until the Angels came to town, albeit against three teams (Baltimore, Kansas City, the Chicago White Sox) who haven’t shifted other teams much either.

So I'm not entirely sure.

@DuranSports: legit question. How much does this team use the advanced analytics?

Here’s a legit answer, Beto: It’s not entirely clear — to me, and to most. The Angels are using them at the front-office level to inform player acquisitions and player development. That much is certain. How much Scioscia is making use of them in his daily decisions concerning the team on the field is far less certain. He says he has always used every piece of analytics offered to him from above throughout his 17-season tenure. Others who have been part of the organization speak differently.
@ShuebBaafe2: What's the most curious letter?
You’re looking for Y, but I’d say X. It’s versatile.

@KevinKLu: mailbag: Angels K rates vs. last year, how that portends to offense going forward?

This is an interesting question. I wrote after the Angels swept Oakland about how low their team strikeout rate was — less than half that of Minnesota, their opponent this past weekend. Scioscia said the rate was “by design, but not by philosophy.” I found that quote interesting. Strikeouts and run production are not as inversely correlated as you might think.
My friend Nick Piecoro presented an interesting example of this. In 2012, the Diamondbacks struck out 20.6% of the time and grounded into 108 double plays. In 2013, perhaps influenced by the contact-hitting Giants’ World Series title the year before, they restructured their roster — less Jason Kubel, more Willie Bloomquist — to make more contact. They then struck out 18% of the time, but they grounded into a league-leading 160 double plays. And they went from scoring 734 runs to 685. This is an oversimplification of the issue, of course, but I thought it interesting. The Angels are hitting into a lot of double plays so far this season.
Based on their offseason acquisitions, the Angels definitely expected to have a lesser strikeout rate this season. That will continue to produce positive and negative side effects.
@Botas111: Do we need a starting pitcher or a base stealing speedster?
I think the team has a fair amount of speed. Craig Gentry is a fast man, and he’s going to hit second about a third of the time. Now, with Daniel Nava out, Rafael Ortega is hitting second the rest of the time, and he is an exceptional runner. Mike Trout’s not slow. Kole Calhoun has above-average speed. Besides, stealing bases is rarely a worthwhile endeavor, I believe. You have to be really, really good at it, and few people are. That said, if one of those people is on the roster, I am in favor of teams carrying specified pinch-runners even before September, a practice Kansas City seems to be employing to great effect this season.
Now, the Angels could certainly benefit from a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. But who couldn’t? And how are they going to acquire one? It’s virtually impossible for them to do so this season, with the dearth of prospect talent in their organization. A bottom-end starter would be easier to acquire, but I don’t think they have much of a need for that. Nick Tropeano is a perfectly capable No. 5 or 6 starter.
@basedhaloballs: What are the chances Weaver pulls a LaRoche and retires before the season ends?
Not zero, because everything has some chance of occurring. But I don’t think the chances are very high at all — maybe 5%. Weaver is a stubborn man. He would tell you that. He was never supposed to become as good as he did. To retire, he’d have to believe he had no chance to succeed at this level again. And for him to believe that, I think he would have to be bad for a lot longer than he has. Even last year, with the velocity of a weak-armed left fielder, he belonged in the majors based on his statistics. He had a 4.64 ERA over 159 innings. That’s bad, but it’s not the worst.

That's it for this week's Angels mailbag. Send in your questions to the below addresses at any time, and check back each Monday for answers.

Twitter: @pedromoura
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