Because there's nothing better do after a pretty solid weekend series win over the vaunted Angels of Anaheim or Los Angeles, formerly California Angels that used to wear blue sometimes... (is it just me or do too many people try and fail at making fun of the Angels name? And is that failure just because everyone has tried?) I digress... It's time to reflect on the weekend and see what we can take from it going forward. Here's ten things I noticed and to keep an eye on going forward.
Dude, was that Mila Kunis over there?10. The bullpen isn't invincible.
Angels celebrate here, but they clearly had no idea what was lurking on Saturday and Sunday...
We came into this season thinking this would be the strength of the team, for good reason. With all the young arms that had success last year, and the sheer visual brilliance of some of these pitchers, we looked to shorten games. Well, baseball is a one game at a time affair, and anything can happen. Witness Friday: Aaron Crow comes in the game in the 7th and looks like the most dominant reliever in the game, striking out three Angels, including baffling Pujols on three straight strikes. Crow then returned in the eighth and loaded the bases on three successive singles (hey, no walks though... until Sunday). Holland, the Fireman himself (Sorry Lil' Wayne), came in, got a weakly hit grounder that was interfered with by Moustakas on its way to its proper caretaker Escobar. One run in. One elevated fastball later, we were down 4-0. We lost 5-0. Though we've already seen this in tweets and other media, Holland was miraculously 2-33 in permitting inherited runners to score in 2011. Before putting his first inning under his belt in 2012, he had allowed all 3 runners he inherited to score. The bullpen isn't invincible, and we need to keep that in mind, as there will be more days like this, just like there will be dominant days ahead as well.
9. Jonathan Broxton is probably back.
Broxton, AKA Human Rain Delay, during one of his five mound visits during Sunday's save.
The concern from many Royals fans and scouts around baseball was that Broxton would never regain his dominant form due to the arm injuries that have ailed him since 2010. He came into camp a strikethrower, throwing a hard 92-94, casting doubts among scouts in the process. On Saturday, in a non-save situation, Broxton allowed one run due to a hanging slider he gifted to Kendrys (can someone finally end this, Ken-dree or Ken-drees?) Morales. He then ended the game on a DP. The important thing was that he was sitting 93-95. On Sunday, Broxton answered doubters two-fold. He had not worked back to back days in Spring Training, but he came on in a legit save situation Sunday (2 on, no out, 4 run lead). Not only did he strike out the side, he was sitting 95-98. His fastball was electric, and his slider was just evil, itself hitting 89 routinely. That is dominant stuff. Broxton is probably back, though his health still needs to be monitored.
8. Bruce Chen is still Bruce Chen.
The joke is on everyone else as long as Bruce keeps throwing 84 MPH pitches by people as if they're thrown at 95.
Bruce Chen baffled the Angels Friday night, allowing no runs on four hits through six innings, needing only 75 pitches. With some injury history and early season caution, Yost pulled him. Many of us here at RR, myself included, questioned the wisdom of the Chen deal, specifically the two year commitment, due to Chen's age. However, Chen appears to have the mental side of this game mastered. That won't go away. See Moyer, Jamie (Rockies 2 starter, seriously).
7. Yuniesky doesn't suck at second.
Seriously, he probably does have plus hands.
With limited opportunities, Yuni looked pretty fleet of foot at second, ranging deep to his right to snag a ball and throw out an Angel runner. In addition, he looked good turning two. I'm mostly convinced he's a better defensive option there than Getz (Why would I even talk about the hitting?). Nonetheless, Yost used Getz as a defensive replacement on Saturday in the seventh inning, early enough to allow Getz a hitting opportunity, where he somehow doubled (look at that power as he muscled it halfway down the left-field line!).
6. Jonathan Sanchez is as advertised.
This particular pitch was either a swing and a miss or a wild pitch, or both.
Sanchez was effectively wild on Sunday, pitching only 5 innings, needing 99 pitches to do so, allowing only 2 runs, striking out four and walking three, sprinkling in some wild pitches. If you were to ask a Giants fan what the typical Sanchez outing is, this would be the line. Cause for alarm? No. Just expect to be home thirty minutes later when you're at the park and he's pitching.
5. Alex Gordon is cold.
Time to panic? No. We've seen this before, it just wasn't in 2011...
Gordon looks lost at the plate a little right now. He struck out a lot this weekend and is still hitless on the season (though Pujols robbed him of a double on Sunday). He often swung on the first or second pitch only to make poor contact. Perhaps it's just early season jitters, or maybe that contract was a curse. Either way it's too soon to tell. What we do know is that Gordon is still a beast in the field (looking at you Pujols).
4. Hochevar looks promising.
Luke is 1-0. Wins are important... this year.
Whatever Hochevar "figured out" in the second half of 2011, it certainly carried over to his first start of 2012. The club says he's pitching inside, but I think his mechanics look a little different out of the stretch (specifically that he's not in an open stance to the plate, forcing a more direct step and follow through). Either way, Hochevar looked capable of good things; the promise he has may finally be revealing itself in meaningful ways. Then again, he's had good starts before. Stay tuned.
3. Humberto Quintero is a mystery man.
"Welcome back to the show Kendrys, but go sit down."
Humberto Quintero was acquired as an all-defense replacement for the injured Salvador Perez and Manny Pina. In his first two starts, he whacked 3 doubles, nearly homered, and even walked. He was known for none of these things prior to the trade. This is again proof that anything can happen in a small sample size, even a Getz double. Defense was a different adventure for Quintero. He picked a runner off at first on Saturday. He also threw one into right field on an attempted pickoff on Saturday, putting a runner on third. On Sunday, he did not block many balls he should have. Even if they were tough (Sanchez, remember) he showed a lack of effort at times. He allowed a runner to go first to third on one play. On the bases, he made an inexcusable baserunning error and was doubled off at second on a Getz liner, killing a scoring opportunity. Whatever Quintero is, it certainly was an interesting weekend. What we know is he's somewhere between the worst player and a mediocre player on this team.
2. Lorenzo Cain will see a LOT of sliders.
I hit straight balls very much.
I feel like I saw Cain wave and miss at about 25 sliders this weekend, and it seemed like the Angels pitchers had that in mind. Ervin Santana pounded him with the pitch Sunday, following Weaver's effort Friday. The result was a lot of strikeouts for Cain this weekend. He will need to adjust, whether that means recognizing the pitch earlier and laying off, or just hitting the damn thing. Regardless, the word is out on Cain. The good news is that he hit the ball with authority at times this weekend (when he made contact) and played an awesome centerfield.
1. Eric Hosmer is becoming a superstar before our eyes.
In this picture it appears Eric is telling someone to "suck it." This is not a particularly religious message, but I suppose I'll advocate the message.
Does anyone else feel like a sophomore slump is already out of the cards for Hosmer? He summarily destroyed the Cactus League this year, following it up with a two-homer opening weekend which included 5 RBI, numerous other scalded hits (including one that nearly decapitated Dan Haren), and a little increased plate discipline relative to last year (he was deeper in counts, though it didn't show in walk totals). Hosmer was a very good player as a 21 year old rookie in 2011. He showed this weekend (sample size, duh) that he is poised for his breakout year, just as many of us suspected. It will be unbelievably fun watching him these next six years, whatever the win-loss totals come out to be.
Our Time? As of now it doesn't sound stupid.