Halo Highlights: Angels Drop a Heartbreaker in Cincinnati


Apr 3, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) reacts after scoring on a base hit by first baseman Joey Votto (not pictured) during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Angels 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The dream of the perfect season is over, folks. Last night your Angels lost a tough one to Joey Votto and the Reds, 5-4 on  walk-off hit by the Canadian-born first baseman. The Angels fall to 1-1 though two games against the defending National League Central champs and will look to take the series tonight. More on that in a bit.

How it happened


As you can see by the win expectancy chart above, the Angels spent most of the night trailing the Reds, but chipped away at their lead to tie the game in the top-of-the-eighth. Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson started out well, retiring the first ten batters he faced before completely losing it in the fourth inning. After striking out Shin-Soo Choo to start the inning, Wilson went on to walk Chris Heisey and Joey Votto throwing eight out of nine pitches as balls. Then, against Brandon Phillips, this happened:

Kevin Jepsen started to get loose in the bullpen as the next two hitters, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, doubled and singled respectively and gave the Reds a 4-0 lead. Wilson was able to strike out the opposing pitcher, Mat Latos, to end the inning, but the damage was done. Somewhat surprisingly, Mike Scioscia did not pinch-hit for Wilson in the top of the next inning, but as it turned out, it wasn’t a bad move as Wilson settled down to pitch two more scoreless innings.

In the top-of-the-fifth, Howie Kendrick led-off and hit the second home run of the Angels’ season by crushing a 2-2 fastball 420 feet to center off of Latos. As you can see by looking at the following graph, Latos left the ball in a perfect spot for Kendrick who doesn’t have a habit of missing fastballs high in the zone

Alberto Callaspo had himself a night. The Angels oft-overlooked third baseman crushed the ball to deep right-field off of Latos his first two times up. The first time, in the third inning, he hit a line-drive that Bruce was able to track and catch in rightfield—because Bruce is an excellent fielder, it turns out. The next time he came up, he took Latos deep to right again; this time the ball smacked the wall and bounced right back to the aforementioned Bruce whose great arm held Callaspo to a single. His third time up, Callaspo made sure Bruce would not ruin his plans: He smacked the ball on a line over the rightfield wall for his first home run of the season with a runner on, cutting the Reds’ lead to 4-3 and chasing Latos from the game.

The Angels were able to tie the game in the top-of-the-eighth with Jonathan Broxton on the hill for Cincinnati. Erick Aybar led off the inning with a fluky single to second and then Frazier made a fielding error at third which allowed Albert Pujols to reach base. After a Josh Hamilton groundout to second moved the runners up to second and third, Mark Trumbo tied the game with a groundball to short, scoring Aybar.

The Angels bullpen looked a little shakier in this game than it did in the opener. Lefty Sean Burnett walked two of the three batters he faced in the seventh, although Kevin Jepsen finished the inning by striking out two. Garret Richards pitched a clean eighth, striking out two more before Scott Downs came on in the bottom-of-the-ninth.

Downs faced only three batters in the inning, unfortunately he only managed to get one of them out. After drilling Choo in the back with a fastball, Reds manager Dusty Baker called on Chris Heisey to bunt, moving Choo to second. Normally, I’m not a fan of bunting, but when playing for one run—as the Reds were doing in this case—it’s a totally defensible move. Sure enough, the bunt paid off as the next batter, Votto, slapped a groundball past Kendrick at second and Choo came around to score the winning run.

Final: Angels 4, Reds 5

Most Important Play of the Game
It should come as no surprise, then, that the most important play of the game was the Votto single. After the Heisey bunt, the Reds had a 69.2% chance of winning according to the win-expectancy metric and so Votto’s single increased those chances by 30.8%.

The Phillips home run in the fourth increased the Reds’ win-expectancy by 25.9%. The most important play for the Angels was the Callaspo home run in the seventh which increased the Angels’ win-expectancy by 15.1%.

On the offensive side for the Angels, Mike Trout’s backwards K to end the top-of-the-seventh decreased the Angels chances of winning by 8.3%.

Player of the Game
Joey Votto increased the Reds’ win-expectancy by 35.7% in the game, making him the single most valuable player on the field. Howie Kendrick posted a WPA of .205, while the most valuable pitcher according to win-probability-added was not Latos, but rather Aroldis Chapman whose scoreless inning in the top-of-the-ninth increased the Reds’ chances of winning by 13%.

For the Angels, the best player on the field according to WPA was Callaspo who posted a .109 WPA, while reliever Garrett Richards increased the Angels’ chances by over 10%.

Worst Player on the Field
According to WPA, it was Downs, obviously, but C.J. Wilson’s terrible fourth didn’t help things much. Mike Trout struggled again—he smacked a ground-rule double in the third that would have led to the game’s first run if it hadn’t bounced over the fence, but overall he was just 1-for-5 with two more strike outs. Clearly a sophomore slump, amirite?

The Crazy Thing(s) Mike Scioscia Did:
In the top-of-the first, with Albert Pujols on first and Josh Hamilton at the plate, Pujols attempted to steal second on Reds’ catcher Ryan Hanigan and was promptly thrown out to end the inning. Obviously, we can’t know if that was Pujols’ decision or Scioscia’s—or if it was just a missed sign—but someone needs to explain to me why Pujols, who’s not exactly a burner, would be trying to steal second in the first inning of a game with two out and one of the best hitters in the world at the plate. I know Scioscia’s propensity for playing aggressively on the basepaths, but this one just seemed nutty.

Additionally, in the bottom-of-the-fifth, Heisey stole second with two out and after the stolen base, Scioscia decided to intentionally walk Brandon Phillips in order to bring Jay Bruce to the plate. Although I understand that Wilson is better against left-handers—of which Bruce is one—and Phillips took him deep his last time up, putting more runners on base when you’re already down by three is never a good idea. It ended up working out for Scioscia and the Angels, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was questionable decision. Bad process can be covered up by good results.

Random Thoughts

Pitch Framers
Watching the two catchers in the series, it’s hard not to see the differences defensively between the two. Not only is Reds’ catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly a better backstop than Chris Iannetta in terms of traditional defensive acumen like blocking balls and throwing runners out, but the difference in the two’s respective ability to frame pitches is tangible even to the naked eye. Iannetta always seems to be moving around behind the plate—jerking and twisting and contorting—whereas Hanigan is smooth and always seems to receive the ball in the middle of his body. He stole a few strikes for his pitchers tonight that would have been balls had Iannetta been catching.

Given the recent research by Mike Fast, formerly of Baseball Prospectus and now a member of the Houston Astros’ front office, regarding the ability of catchers to frame pitches, the difference between a catcher like Iannetta and a catcher like Hanigan can be huge.

Aroldis Chapman
In case you weren’t aware, Chapman is ridiculous. In last night’s inning of work against the Angels, Chapman threw nothing but four-seam fastballs, topping out at just under 99 mph and averaging over 96. Given that he’s a lefty with a deceptive delivery, that velocity is just stupid. Obviously, the Reds know him better than we do, but man it might have been special to see him in the starting rotation.

The Pitching
I’m not sure about this pitching staff, you guys. I get that it’s still way too early in the year to make clear judgments on any players, but the warning signs for both Jered Weaver and Wilson were there previous to this year. Now, Weaver’s velocity is way down and Wilson looked shaky last night. Both are high injury risks given their mechanics and this team could be in some trouble if those two aren’t pitching to a pretty high level. Hanson, Blanton and Vargas just aren’t good enough to carry the staff.

Today’s Game
How about some morning baseball? The Angels and Reds wrap up their series today at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on getaway day—which in the Eastern time zone means morning baseball for all you folks in Orange County. The game gets underway at 9:35am and will feature Joe Blanton who’ll make his Angels debut against Bronson Arroyo.

Here are the lineups:

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Josh Hamilton, RF
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
7. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
8. Hank Conger, C
9. Joe Blanton, P

The only difference between this lineup and the one Scioscia ran out in the first two games is at catcher where Iannetta will get a routine day off and Hank Conger will make his first start of the season.

1. Shin-Soo Choo, CF
2. Chris Heisey, LF
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Brandon Phillips, 2B
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. Todd Frazier, 3B
7. Zack Cozart, SS
8. Ryan Hanigan, C
9. Bronson Arroyo, P

Enjoy! And again, feel free to use this as a thread for the game if you so choose.