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Oakland A's series preview: The Los Angeles Angels in 1,282 words

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The Athletics will try to continue their climb out of the American League cellar with three games against the Los Angeles Angels.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After taking two of three from a pretty hot Texas Rangers squad, the Oakland Athletics (25-37) head to Anaheim trailing by 9½ in the division. Oakland has gained four games in just over two weeks by going 8-5 since May 28. Though the Angels (30-30) just took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Halos have lost six of their last eight to move them 3½ behind the Astros.

The Angels have remained relatively healthy, losing just a few role players in recent weeks. Reliever Mike Morin and outfielder Collin Cowgill were placed on the disabled list, but the heavy hitters have avoided any harm.

Starting on the mound

The A's will have to face two left-handers to start things off in Hector Santiago and C.J. Wilson before they face Matt Shoemaker on Sunday. Look for Stephen Vogt to play first or even get a day off entirely in the first two games so that he is good to go against Shoemaker.

Friday vs. LHP Hector Santiago
Friday (7:05 PM PDT)
Jesse Chavez vs. Hector Santiago
2.51 ERA 2.55
2.76 FIP 4.15
3.61 xFIP 4.66
21.5% K% 21.3%
1.12 GB/FB 0.58

Hector Santiago's 0.59 GB/FB ratio is the lowest amongst qualified starting pitchers in baseball right now. Santiago keeps the runs off the board by keeping all those fly balls in the park, however. He wants you to get so far under a ball that it drifts into one of those gloves patrolling a ballpark with the second-most pitcher-friendly park factor in the American League, according to Fangraphs.

His 16.1% infield fly ball percentage is third highest amongst the 54 qualified American League starters while his 8.6% HR/FB ratio is 15th lowest on that list. Santiago isn't here to strike you out, though his 21.3% strikeout rate is 16th out of 54.

Brooks Baseball shows Santiago has thrown five different pitches more than a baker's dozen times this year: a 91-92 mph fastball, cutter, changeup, curve, and slider. Santiago enters this game on a little bit of an irregular schedule. He was pressed into long relief service in the June 6 game against the New York Yankees in a blowout loss, making 45 pitches on two days rest.

Saturday vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
Saturday (7:05 PM PDT)
Kendall Graveman vs. C.J. Wilson
4.83 ERA 3.92
5.06 FIP 3.91
4.77 xFIP 4.05
12.8% K% 19.9%
1.87 GB/FB 1.21

Left-hander C.J. Wilson is coming off a couple of rough starts, and has failed to record a quality start in four of his last five trips to the hill. Against the Yankees on June 7, he survived seven innings but gave up six runs and three home runs in the process. He has not yet faced the Athletics this year.

I usually look for some sort of extreme statistic that defines a pitcher's approach. But there's almost nothing on C.J. Wilson. He's perfectly mediocre! Out of 54 qualified American League starters he is 28th in ERA, 31st in GB%, 32nd in HR/FB, 24th in K%, 17th in BB%. Hell, he's in 30th in LOB%. His FIP is pretty much actually his ERA. It's fascinating how boring C.J. Wilson is as a pitcher this year.

Anyway, he throws a 91 mph fastball, sinker, change, curve, slider, and cutter, says Brooks BaseballHe never throws the changeup to left-handed batters, preferring a slider, especially as a two strike pitch.

Sunday vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker
Sunday (12:35 PM PDT)
Sonny Gray vs. Matt Shoemaker
1.74 ERA 4.86
2.72 FIP 4.72
3.34 xFIP 3.85
23.2% K% 22.7%
1.70 GB/FB 0.79

The series concludes against Matt Shoemaker, who seems to have lost whatever it was that was propelling him to a 3.24 ERA in 2014. Perhaps the issue was that his pitches early this season had all lost a tick or two of velocity from last season. They have since recovered, however:

While Shoemaker owns the fourth-lowest GB/FB ratio, he has been much less effective than Hector Santiago in avoiding the home run. He has the fourth-highest HR/FB at 16.3%, and a middling 8.8% infield fly ball percentage.

Shoemaker is throwing a 90-91 mph fastball, sinker, splitter, slider, and knuckle curve. The splitter has been very effective as a strike three pitch, inducing a whiff on two strikes about 29% of the time. The slider has done about the same (27%).

At the plate and in the field

A's AL Ranks Angels
7th (4.21) RS/G 11th (4.02)
5th (103) wRC+ T-7th (98)
11th (52) HR 6th (63)
4th (.255) AVG 11th (.242)
6th (.319) OBP 11th (.302)
9th (.389) SLG 11th (.386)
12th (.134) ISO 8th (.143)
6th (36) SB 13th (22)
15th (58) Errors 4th (31)
T-7th (-2) DRS T-7th (-2)
15th (-9.3) UZR/150 5th (3.4)
10th (.712) DE T-2nd (.727)

Albert Pujols has been on a little bit of a hot streak of late. After dipping to a .177/.261/.355 slash on April 24, Pujols has since batted .302/.341/.604 with 14 home runs and six doubles, good for a 168 wRC+. Pujols has hit three home runs in his last four games.

Mike Trout is still Mike Trout, and his consistency is what gets me. He's only been kept off the bases eight times in 60 games and is riding a five-game hitting streak where he's hit three home runs.

After Pujols and Trout are regulars Kole Calhoun, David Freese, and Johnny Giavotella, each with a wRC+ a little over 100. It gets a little worrisome for the Angels after that, however.

Sogard Line: The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup. Sogard's wRC+ dipped from 66 to 65 after going 1-for-4 on June 9 against the Texas Rangers. The Angels have given 21% (464 of 2,189) of their non-pitcher plate appearances to batters below the Sogard Line.

Bullpen

A's AL Ranks Angels
9th (177.2) IP 14th (163.1)
15th (4.71) ERA 7th (3.36)
11th (4.01) FIP 4th (3.34)
11th (4.13) xFIP 8th (3.90)

It's hard for Angels manager Mike Scioscia to go wrong with the bullpen. All of its members enjoy an ERA around three, none have been crazily overworked, there's a decent mix of strikeout specialists and groundball specialists. It even has left-handers now!

Huston Street is performing just fine as closer, going 17-for-19 in save opportunities, with Joe Smith and Fernando Salas getting the bulk of high leverage, late inning situations. None are unhittable, but they've generally done well to avoid the crooked number and hang on to the lead given to them.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% GB% FB% 11-Jun 10-Jun 9-Jun 8-Jun 7-Jun 6-Jun 5-Jun
Huston Street R 24.0 2.63 26.6% 23.4% 48.4% 19 O
Joe Smith R 24.2 3.28 26.3% 51.6% 23.4% 10 F
Fernando Salas R 24.0 3.75 23.8% 36.2% 39.1% 11 F 20
Cesar Ramos L 15.0 3.00 15.9% 47.8% 26.1% 12 20 9
Cam Bedrosian R 11.2 3.09 14.6% 47.2% 30.6% 15 D 40
Jose Alvarez L 25.2 3.16 24.5% 43.8% 40.6% 12 A 24
Drew Rucinski R 2.0 0.00 25.0% 16.7% 33.3% Y

The games

Friday night is Kole Calhoun bobblehead night and Saturday is the regular fireworks spectacular. Sunday is a day game starting at 12:35 PM for the getaway day to San Diego.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV
Friday 7:05 PM Jesse Chavez vs. Hector Santiago CSNCA
Saturday 7:05 PM Kendall Graveman vs. C.J. Wilson CSNCA
Sunday 12:35 PM Sonny Gray vs. Matt Shoemaker CSNCA