SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Angels are the definition of an average team that has a mediocre offense and a mediocre pitching staff and they are more average than ever since the loss of Mike Trout.
Even. This is a .500 team who is merely okay at just about everything, and that’s exactly how they are playing yet. They have won five of the last ten games. To be fair, they have won two of their last three series, with both of those coming against the Yankees. The Angels aren’t a bad team, but they also aren’t one that comes into this series on fire.
6/23: Rick Porcello vs. Alex Meyer, 7:10 PM ET
Porcello has arguably been the most disappointing member of the 2017 Red Sox, and nothing he’s shown of late suggests that’s going to change any time soon. The 2016 Cy Young award winner just can’t seem to avoid giving up hits this year, and while some of that is luck a lot of it is his own doing. The Red Sox need someone to step up behind Chris Sale, and while Drew Pomeranz has looked good lately and Eduardo Rodriguez is on his way back, Porcello is still the guy the Red Sox would like to step up. Hopefully a return to Fenway will do the trick for the righty.
Meyer, a former top prospect, has seen his stock fall dramatically over the last few years and the now-27-year-old was seen as a bullpen arm heading into this season. Injuries have forced him into the Angels’ rotation, though, and he’s done well in that role. He has massive lapses in control that the Red Sox will have to take advantage of, but he also has big time strikeout stuff that have resulted in 55 strikeouts in 46 innings. He’s also turned into less of a flyball pitcher this year, as his 48 percent groundball rate is a nine point improvement upon his previous career high. Meyer features a four-seam and two-seam fastball, both in the mid-to-high 90s, as well as a curveball.
6/24: David Price vs. J.C. Ramirez, 7:15 PM ET
Read everything I wrote about Porcello above, and just change the name for Price. Here, we have another disappointing pitcher who also would be an acceptable answer for who can step up behind Sale. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t looked like himself. There have been many problems with his performance since coming off the disabled list, but the biggest issue for Price has been his control. The southpaw is generally great at avoiding walks, but he can’t seem to find the zone this season. That will be the most important thing to watch for on Saturday.
Prior to this season, Ramirez had spent his entire three-year major-league career in the bullpen. He was actually quite good in that role last year, too, particularly after being traded to the Angels midway through the season. In 2017, the righty has started 13 games while making three appearances out of the bullpen. Overall, he’s been okay this season, although his 4.59 ERA certainly isn’t great. He is around average in terms of strikeouts and walks, and the big key for Ramirez is keeping the ball on the ground and in the stadium. The Red Sox will, of course, be looking to get some loft of the ball on Saturday. The Angels starter will primarily feature a mid-90s sinker to go with a slider and curveball.
6/25: Hector Velazquez vs. Parker Bridwell, 1:35 PM ET
Velazquez looked really solid in his last start, which was a huge step forward from his first career start in Oakland. He was able to work the edges of the zone and induce plenty of weak contact while avoiding any free passes. That is always going to be the key for the righty, as he’ll never be able to get by purely on stuff.
Bridwell is a 25-year-old who has made five career major-league appearances, including three this year. Two of those were starts, and by results he’s been pretty solid this year with a 3.07 ERA in 14 2⁄3 innings. There’s little evidence that can continue, though, as he hasn’t been able to generate whiffs as a starter and he has some real command issues. This is a pitcher the Red Sox should be able to take advantage of, although we’ve seen how that doesn’t always work out. Bridwell features a five-pitch arsenal that includes a four seamer, a two seamer, a cutter, a changeup and a slider.
Andrew Bailey is one on a long list of relievers acquired via trade by the Red Sox in the last decade that have not worked out. He has bounced around the league since leaving Boston in 2013, but he settled in with the Angels towards the end of last season. Unfortunately, he was hurt very early in this season and isn’t expected to return for at least a couple more weeks.
Albert Pujols clearly isn’t the hitter he once was — I think people kind of forget how incredibly amazing he was with St. Louis, but that’s a conversation for a different day — but he remains in the middle of the Angels’ lineup. One of his last defining qualities at the plate was his power, though even that has taken a step back this season. I’ll never not fear Pujols at the plate, but he’s clearly not the same guy anymore.
Coming into the season, Kole Calhoun was seen as the best non-Trout player in this lineup, which said more about this lineup than anything else. He’s taken a big step back in terms of quality of contact in 2017, though, and has been below-average at the plate this year.
Cameron Maybin was brought in by the Angels this past winter and has made good on that acquisition. He’s excelled out of the leadoff spot by showing off big-time on-base abilities to go along with some surprisingly solid pop.
Andrelton Simmons will always be known for his glove, as he’s arguably the best defensive shortstop in baseball. He’s been solid at the plate this year, too, and he thrives simply by putting the ball in play as much as possible. That’s a rare skillset in today’s game, of course.
Yunel Escobar is another contact-oriented player, and while he doesn’t have much power he usually makes solid contact that results in plenty of hits. That hasn’t quite been the case this year.
After three straight good seasons, Luis Valbuena has taken a big step back in his first season with the Angels thanks to a lack of solid contact.
Martin Maldonado has been a surprisingly solid contributor from behind the plate and has been the team’s second-best non-Trout hitter. However, much of that is built on a high batting average on balls in play.
The Angels have had a bizarre season in the bullpen with anyone who has sniffed the closer role getting hurt at some point in 2017. One of those guys is Cam Bedrosian, who just recently came back from his injury. He hasn’t been named the closer just yet, but he’s easily the most talented arm in this bullpen and the one who the Red Sox should fear the most.
David Hernandez is a quietly solid reliever who can get plenty of strikeouts. He’s been excellent for the Angels this year after being picked up from the Braves for nothing, showing off much-improved control and a newfound ability to induce ground balls.
Blake Parker has had a monster season for the Angels in 2017, striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings while inducing ground balls on 55 percent of balls in play. I still like Bedrosian more, but Parker will be a tough challenge in the seventh or eighth innings.
Jose Alvarez is the only lefty currently in Los Angeles’ bullpen. He has struggled mightily this season and will give up plenty of line drives while not striking out all that many batters.
Mike Trout was having yet another historic season before he went down with a torn ligament in his thumb. He probably won’t be back until after the All-Star break. His absence will make things easier on the Red Sox, but it’s a bummer we won’t be able to watch the best player in baseball this weekend and a guy who is arguably on his way to being the best of all time.
Garrett Richards was supposed to be the ace of the Angels’ staff this season, but he’s made only one start in 2017 and probably won’t pitch again until August.
Andrew Heaney was supposed to be another rotation mainstay, but he’s been out for about a year-and-a-half now after undergoing Tommy John surgery. They’re unsure if he’ll pitch for them at all in 2017.
Tyler Skaggs is a former top prospect who was having a post-hype breakout to start this season in the Angels rotation. He’s been on the disabled list since the end of April, though, and he’s hoping to be back around the end of this month.
Matt Shoemaker is yet another injured Angels starter who was just put on the disabled list with a forearm injury last week. He’s actually hoping to return for Sunday’s game at Fenway, so this will be one to keep an eye on over the next couple days.
Bud Norris took over as closer after all the other injuries in the Angels bullpen, and shockingly did a great job in that role. Of course, as is the case with all Angels closers, he was recently placed on the disabled list. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out for.
Nick Tropeano is another injured starter for the Angels. He will miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Bailey is also injured, as mentioned above, to wrap up a massive list of hurt players for the Angels.
It should be a fairly nice weekend at Fenway, with daytime temperatures in the 80s and then dropping to the 60s at night. That’s some nice baseball weather. The one concern is Friday night, as there could be some thunderstorms in the area. Those will hopefully pass well before the game starts, though.
Speaking of Friday night, this is of course the night in which the Red Sox will be honoring David Ortiz. If you’re going to the game, be sure to get there by 6:30.