Baseball

VS

 

Gametimes: Thursday 9:05 / Friday 8:38 / Saturday 8:07 / Sunday 7:37 (I don’t get it either)

TV: Thursday-Saturday NBCSN / Sunday ESPN

We Got Rocks In Our Outfield: Halos Heaven 

 

Probable Starters

Thursday: Lucas Giolito (4-3, 3.48 ERA) vs. Dylan “Al” Bundy (6-3, 3.29 ERA)

Friday: Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 1.99 ERA) vs. Andrew Heaney (4-3, 4.46 ERA)

Saturday: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (2-5, 4.30 ERA)

Sunday: Dylan Cease (5-4, 4.01 ERA) vs. Shohei Ohtani (0-1, 37.81 ERA)

 

 

After what seems like an eternity, White Sox baseball will finally return to us tonight as the boys take on Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Southern California But Not Including LA Or San Diego Really Just Disneyland And A 2 Mile Stretch Of The 405. After an off-season that featured the Sox punting on all the good toys except for the closer that is awesome but they really didn’t need, and Eloy going on the IL for attempting to rob a home run in spring training that would’ve required the Silver Surfer’s board to catch we finally get to see what the results of a 4 year rebuild gets us.

Because make no mistake, the ultimate goal for this team in 2021 is nothing short of wresting the division away from the playoff chokers to the North. Anything less than that should (and will) be deemed a failure by the fanbase and hopefully the front office. The Sox have a boatload of homegrown talent, and have spent a little money here and there to address (some) issues to fill out what should be a very fun and powerful lineup, but unless the results are there the misery of 2016-19 will all have been for naught.

Lucas Giolito will take the bump tonight against the best the Halos have to offer, which is Dylan Bundy. While on the surface that statement seems ridiculous, (much like Lance Lynn) Bundy has reinvented himself the past two seasons, dropping his ERA by almost a full point and a half since escaping from Camden Yards. Developing a new approach to attacking hitters with more of his off-speed stuff as opposed to relying on his two seamer worked wonders for Bundy last season. He was able to lower his BB/9 and raise his K rate by more than 1 each with his new approach, and his FIP of 2.92 shows that it probably wasn’t a fluke.

Sunday night will feature the return to the mound of the two-way international star Shohei Ohtani, and the Angels have been waiting quite awhile for his double debut. After being felled by Tommy John surgery back in 2018, Ohtani was able to serve as a DH during his rehab in 2019, though it clearly affected his ability to hit for power. 2020 was supposed to be his triumphant return to the mound, but it ended almost as soon as it began with a flexor strain in his forearm that took over two months to heal. Acting with an overabundance of understandable caution, the Halos shut him down completely. He’s looked pretty healthy thus far in his return to the mound in spring training, striking out 17 in 10 innings pitched. He’s also pounded out 5 dingers from the offensive side of the plate, so all eyes will be on him Sunday night to see if it’s the real deal.

As always with the Angels, however, it’s all about Mike Trout. While he’s had some competition from Mookie Betts recently for the title of Best In The World, he still hasn’t lost it yet. While having a down year (for him) in 2020, he still managed to post a 162 wRC+ rating and a 2.5 WAR season. Having Anthony Rendon and a healthy Ohtani around him should only offer more protection and opportunities to drive in runs, and the White Sox staff will be well aware of his presence in the lineup I’m sure.

As for the Sox, prized prospect Andrew Vaughn had his contract selected by the team yesterday so there will be no service time shenanigans with him. With the loss of Eloy, Vaughn is expected to see time in left field, which will basically involve him standing out there and watching Luis Robert run down anything that isn’t directly on the LF foul line. Vaughn will also fill in at DH, so we will finally get to see how those plus hit tools hold up against legit MLB pitching. He’ll be watching opening day from the bench, however, as Leury Garcia will be manning LF for game 1 against Bundy. Vaughn most likely will get a crack and Andrew Heaney on Friday night, realistically a much better matchup for his first game as a pro.

Luis Robert still has questions to answer about what version of himself was the real one last year. Was it the July and August Luis with the wRC+ of 157? Or was it the September version of himself that slashed .136/.237/.309 with one home run and a 34% strikeout rate? The athletic ability and the hit tools are all there for Luis to be the better version of himself, he just has to get better at working pitchers over to make sure he gets something he can pound. Personally, I fully expect him to rebound back to what he was at the beginning of last season and be hitting in the top half of the batting order. I have no advanced stats to back up my assertation, but hopefully I can tell you all “I told you so” in September.

The road to the playoffs for the White Sox starts tonight in Anaheim. Most betting outlets set the Over/Under for the Sox win total around 91. Were that to be the case, it would most likely be enough for the Sox to win the AL central, squeaking it out by a game or two over the Twins. Personally I feel like the 87-89 win range is more likely, setting up a showdown with Minnesota and quite possibly Cleveland as well (who’s pitching is nothing to be sneezed at and pretty much owned the Sox last season). So much hinges on the Sox not only being able to stay healthy (because of the zero depth), but Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon being able to rebound from last September. There’s a lot that has to go right for this team, but if it does….look out. It’s been 6 long months with only the dark of winter to keep us company, but now the sun is shining out and the Sox take the field tonight. Hope shines eternal, LFG.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: 65-76   White Sox 62-78

GAMETIMES: Friday 7:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: NBCSN Friday/Saturday, WGN Sunday

WALLY’S WORLD: Halos Heaven

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Angels Spotlight: Shohei Ohtani

It could feel like the Angels and White Sox are in the same place, given they have pretty much the same record and are both going to finish this year up the track. They have teams to catch that feel like they’re going to be around a while (though the Twins are a lot more unstable than the Astros), and it’s been far too long since either team was exactly relevant.

But as this week in Cleveland proved, the Sox have an upward trajectory you can at least see if they’re not fully fastened on yet. Whereas the Angels have been here forever, perennially stuck in not going forward or backward but most certainly not going anywhere. And the Sox don’t have the guilt of wasting the career of perhaps the greatest player to do it as the Angels do.

So, in a complete disservice to Mike Trout, these two teams will run out three more games on the schedule against each other this weekend on the Southside. The Sox hope for more than this soon. Trout hopes for more than this just anytime, given how long he has committed to Orange County now.

And that’s the thing with the Angels,. They don’t have a plethora or even a helping of young players that portend to anything more than this. They do have some expensive vets draining money and at-bats, and firmly ground the team in mud. One of this upcoming offseason’s big dramas will be the Angels trying to lure Gerrit Cole home, if they will and how hard. He certainly could help a lot, and with the better health of Shohei Ohtani that would give the Angels rotation a serious boost.

But that’s not enough on its own to catch the Astros, or even a wildcard spot considering how far ahead the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, A’s, and Indians are now. Perhaps the latter will fall, but their slack might be picked up by the White Sox themselves. And you don’t build a team hoping for just a wildcard spot.

The lineup needs so much help. Only Brandon Marsh from within the system might help next year, and the Angels have a lot more holes. Catcher, 1st, 2nd, possibly third (David Fletcher might make that his own) and one of the corner outfield spots if not both. The Angels can’t spend their way to improving the lineup enough, or at least won’t. And they’ve tried that in the past, and it got them here.

Worse yet, there aren’t a lot of pieces they can flog to restock. Trout would have been one, but would have signaled a complete start-over which they didn’t want to do. There’s no pitcher they have to move, and really no position player either. They basically have to ace every draft and wait. That’s essentially what they’re doing now.

Anyway, they roll into Chicago after getting dumped on for three games by the A’s in Oakland, capping it off by blowing a 6-1 lead in the last two innings yesterday afternoon. It’s not a pleasant bunch at the moment.

The Sox will send out Giolito to carry out the momentum of yesterday’s wind, and Dylan Covey will save everyone the horror of watching Ross Detweiler start tomorrow night. They will hope the signs of life from Eloy and Collins are carried out a little more, before everyone gets to feast on a lot of Tigers and Royals before the season closes out.

Baseball

When Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound next year, as it seems likely he will, it probably won’t have the fanfare of his arrival. Ohtani came to these shores hitting dingers and throwing serious smoke from the mound, and somehow in the back of your mind but steering your acknowledgement anywhere else you knew that something like this couldn’t last. It’s simply too much at one time, and of course it wasn’t too long before his elbow went twang.

Ohtani has been rehabbing his elbow after offseason Tommy John surgery throughout the campaign, even while DH-ing since the middle of May when he came off the injured list. The plan is for him to have a normal offseason and to pick up in spring training as a starter and DH again. Of course, the question is will this be enough for the Angels.

Even with his plus-fastball, Ohtani was something of a mid-rotation starter. He had a 3.57 FIP which gets toward #2 range, but will he be able to maintain that if he can no longer use his split-finger? That’s a pitch that’s been linked to serious elbow stress, and he might have to drop it to keep his ligaments intact long term. Maybe not, but those aren’t questions we’ll get answered until next season.

You can’t go very far without hearing whispers that Gerrit Cole is desperate to head home to California in the offseason as a free agent, and the Angels are no less anxious to bring him home. Anaheim (never calling them LA) haven’t had a frontline starter since God knows when. Put it this way, Jared Weaver is their 4th-leading pitcher in career WAR. It’s not exactly a hallowed history.

Adding Cole and a returning Ohtani would certainly boost the Angels, but would it ever be enough to catch the Astros? The past three seasons, the Angels have been 21, 23, and currently 26 games behind the benchmark in the whole AL, much less the AL West. Are there any combinations of moves a team can make to make up 20 games in one offseason? Probably not.

Which means a multi-season project you’d have to think. Which Ohtani can be a part of, but he does require a team to be built a little differently. The Angels went to a six-man rotation last season to accommodate what he was used to in Japan, as well as maximize the amount of days he can DH. He doesn’t on the day before, or on, or after he pitches, so essentially he can DH about half your games. Perhaps they can play with the day before or after, but even in a best case scenario he’s only hitting two-thirds of your games. Which means another player has to rotate into the spot, and possibly another into the field, and every team would like that depth and flexibility but it doesn’t just grow on trees.

As a hitter only, Ohtani has been pretty weird this season. He’s been absolutely crushing the ball in terms of the contact he makes, with basically a 50% hard-contact rate and an average exit velocity of 92.5 MPH. Both marks are top-1o in the league. And yet Ohtani has seen a 72-point drop in his slugging from last season to this. And that can mostly be attributed to half of his contact being on the ground. You can get a lot of hits that way, Ichiro had a few, but it’s hard to pile up a lot of bases that way. His 6.1-degree launch-angle is one of the lowest in the league.

Pitchers have used their fastball more to the outside on Ohtani this year, which might be a reason his slugging is so much higher when he goes the other way. But his slugging when pulling the ball this year to drop 223 points. Like we said, weird. Maybe that has something to do with the elbow?

That will be the key for Ohtani next year, at least at the plate. If he can start turning on balls again, and make himself dangerous to all fields, then he can be a decent supporting act for Mike Trout in the coming years. If he continues to try and spell his name on the infield grass and dirt, he’ll only be a passable DH moving forward.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Sox 7 – Angels 8

Game 2: Sox 7 – Angels 2

Game 3: Sox 5 – Angels 6

Game 4: Sox 2 – Angels 9

 

Smited? Smote? I dunno, but “cast back into hell” also works for the way the Angels pummeled the Sox pen this weekend. This is one of those series where if Rick Hahn had any interest in making the Sox good this year this series is at minimum a split and most likely they take 3 of 4. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t have to be this way, and doubly so because the front office doesn’t seem to care what we think. Meanwhile Zack Collins, Luis Robert, and to a lesser extent Nick Madrigal continue to steal the lunch money of the middle school children in AAA and would be almost instant upgrades over players on the major league roster but instead we get to sit here and scream at the rain. Tiger isn’t going to change his stripes just because we want him to put a better product on the field, but I digress.

I actually had pretty high hopes for this series based on the way the Sox had played against the Astros, and losing 3 of 4 to an Angels team that’s had trouble getting anyone out since the calendar flipped to August definitely hurts. That being said, if you sift through the rubble there are actually a few positives to take away from this fetid pile of baseball excrement. Let’s take a look, shall we?

 

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-I said in the preview that if the Sox hit and the starters were able to hold the Mighty Trout off the scoreboard they would stand a good chance of winning this series or at least splitting. Well, that turned into somewhat of a mixed bag for results. Lucas Giolito picked up where he left off, going 6 strong innings and striking out 11 Halos en route to the only win of the series for the Sox. It’s good to see that the bumps in the road he encountered just before the All Star Game are now merely a memory, as the last 2 lineups he’s faced have been stiff challenges. On the other side of that coin, Reynaldo Lopez couldn’t get Mike Trout out to save his life. That in and of itself is not much of a shock, as the number of pitchers who have the same distinction could fill up the Cook County phone book. What was unfortunate for Lopez was that the offense didn’t show up until after he left, and the fact that he had to leave was because Wellington Castillo is a burning clown car behind home plate. Lopez had multiple chances to get out of the 5th inning unscathed but Castillo got crossed up twice behind the plate and it kept the inning alive and 3 runs scored. Castillo has been hitting better of late but he’s just plain terrible behind the plate and I have seen enough.

-Dylan Cease pitched decently today, but made a few mistakes with his curve and they haven’t landed yet. He still struck out 6 and looked in command of his stuff for the most part, though Trout got the day off so take that for what you will. I still feel like Cease is going to end the year on a tear and get everybody excited for him in spring training where he will get bit by a brown recluse spider and his pitching arm will become necrotic and need to be amputated.

-Hector Santiago was fine and his 4.2 innings were fine until Evan Marshall showed up and did his best Rick Ankiel In The 2000 NLDS impression and walked everybody including the churro guy working behind 3rd base. Marshall’s peripherals have been teetering lately, and the axe finally fell this series. He managed to get 1 guy out in the 2 games he appeared in. Meanwhile he walked 3 and plunked one. He only got charged for 1 ER Saturday night thanks to a Goins error, but we all know it was his fault and he should feel bad.

-James McCann has shaken off the malaise of late July and early August to get back to mashing dongs. Eloy likewise had a very good series going yard twice and notching his first career triple, scoring (who else) McCann. Abreu and Timmy continue to hit as well, and the imminent return of Yoan Moncada bodes well for this offense going forward.

-Game 4 of this series the Sox looked like they wanted to be anywhere but SoCal, and played accordingly. I can only hope they’re a little more geared up to face the Twins this week or it could be ugly.

-The rotating cast of characters in the booth with Jason Benetti this weekend was very entertaining. I enjoy Benetti and Stone quite a bit, but switching things up occasionally can be fun and this was. Listening to Bill Walton call his first ever MLB game was the equivalent of watching your buddy get shitfaced for the first time and laughing at him trying to strike up a conversation with the water fountain outside your dorm. Ozzie is entertaining as ever, but also has some quality insight that’s delivered in the way that only Ozzie can. Ken Tremendous (AKA Michael Schur of Parks and Rec, The Office, and The Good Place fame) was very very good, and I would absolutely like to have him be the permanent substitute for Stone any time he’s away. Alas, he’s a busy man so this was probably a one off, but awesome all the same.

-The other thing this weekend did was prove that Jason Benetti is an excellent announcer, as he was able to adjust his style constantly and keep the broadcast not only listenable but very fun. If you haven’t heard him call basketball games for ESPN, he’s excellent there too. My fear is that the NFL is going to realize that and lure him away from the Sox with big money, but for now I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts.

-Next up for the Sox is the fucking Twins again. God I hate them.

Baseball

VS

 

RECORDS: White Sox 54-65  Angels 59-63

Gametimes: Thurs/Friday: 9:07, Saturday 8:07, Sunday 3:07

TV: Thursday – Saturday NBCSN, Sunday WGN

We Got Rocks In Our Outfield: Halos Heaven

 

So as the White Sox finished up a season series yesterday against the Houston Astros, they begin one today against an Angels team that has had a pretty rough start to the month of August. The Angels kicked off the month by losing 8 in a row before finally breaking through against the Red Sox last Saturday. They currently sit at 3-9 for the month, and have given up 86 runs so far, culminating in a series loss this week to the Pirates where they gave up 24 runs in 3 games.

The Angels starting pitching has been brutal this season, as only the Phillies, Mariners and Orioles have had worse stats than them so far. The team ERA is an unsightly 5.07, and the entire unit has been worth a measly 5.1 WAR as a whole. The Sox for comparison have garnered 8.5 WAR with a team ERA of 4.85. Not a ton better, but if you just look at the last month the Sox have fared much better, going from 18th in the league to 9th in team pitching. The Angels actually get worse in that span, going from 4th last to 3rd.

Most of the Angels issues stem from the fact that Tyler Skaggs, their statistical leader in most starting pitching categories, tragically passed away last month in his hotel room on the road in Texas. At the time, Skaggs was the team leader in innings pitched and strikeouts. It also can’t be dismissed that his passing had an effect on the overall morale for the starting 5. The other pieces are young and mostly untested, the best of which is probably Griffin Canning.  Canning was actually having a pretty solid rookie campaign until it was derailed by elbow issues a few weeks ago. Before that his ERA sat in the 4.15 range, and his strikeout totals were fairly impressive. He’s your atypical fastball-slider combo guy, who has a decent change to round out his arsenal, though he doesn’t throw it very much.

The one thing the Angels do well his hit the piss out of the ball.  They’re 5th in the AL in hitting, and most of that is due to Mike Trout. He’s having another of his atypical MVP-caliber years, currently leading the whole damn league in hitting (yet again). For a good chunk of the season he was behind Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, but they’ve fallen off slightly and that’s been enough for Trout to go sailing by them. The rest of the squad can hit the ball too, as 3B David Fletcher is having an excellent breakout campaign. He’s currently slashing .284/.343/.738, which isn’t all that impressive power-wise but he gets on base at a good clip and sets the table for the bigger bats behind him in the lineup. Shohei Ohtani hasn’t let Tommy John surgery stop him from being the power threat the Angels thought he’d be when they signed him over from the Japanese league. He’s still slashing .294/.356/.868 with 15 dingers and 45 RBI thus far. He’s also a threat on the basepaths, as he’s swiped 10 bags so far giving him a solid chance at 20/20 honors. Justin Upton is also here, though you wouldn’t know it by his stats. He’s had a rough go of it since missing 2/3rds of the season with a turf toe injury he sustained back in spring training.

As for the Sox, after yesterday’s exciting win they had to jump on a plane and head west to a new time zone. Rick Renteria hasn’t set his rotation past tomorrow night’s game but we will kick it off with Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. I would assume that Dylan Cease will probably be skipped in the rotation and Saturday will be a bullpen day with Nova going on Sunday. The Sox bats seem to have come to life recently, and the Angels pitching staff is the perfect choice to continue that streak. They’ll have plenty of chances to hit the ball around, and if Lopez and Giolito can keep the ball off the mountain in left center field the Sox stand a good chance of at least a split in this series. Keep that momentum rolling while you can, because the Twins wait on the other side of this one.

 

LETS GO SOX!

 

Baseball

Players like Mike Trout come along once in a generation, if that. Someone with the combination of raw speed, athleticism and power just do not grow on trees, even these days with next level physical workouts and sciences available to athletes. Trout has throughout his 8.5 year career amassed 72.7 WAR, which is an insane stat in and of itself when you consider the next closest player in that time frame is Buster Posey from the Giants, and he’s worth a mere 49 WAR. Mike Trout is 23.7 wins against replacement better than the next best person on that list. He’s also added a Rookie of the Year award, made the All Star Game 9 times and won the AL MVP twice.

Wanna know whats almost as amazing as those stats? Since he was a rookie in 2011, the Angels have made the postseason ONE TIME. For an organization with potentially the best player in the history of the sport (an argument for another time, but yes he is) on their roster, their only postseason appearance was in 2014 where they got swept by the fucking Royals. The same Royals team where their best player in terms of WAR is Alex Gordon, with a whopping 27.1 WAR in the same time frame as Trout. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad for Jose Abreu during this rebuild.

What all this goes to show is that baseball is truly a team sport, and even the best player in the sport can’t do it all by himself. So where have the Angels gone wrong? Well for starters, their pitching staff  is (and has been) utterly woeful. In the same span of time that Trout has been on the team, the Angels are 4th from the bottom in combined pitching stats. Only the Orioles, Padres and Reds have been worse during that time. Their best pitcher (and I’ll use WAR as the defining stat just to keep consistent) in that time has been Jared Weaver with 13.0 total WAR in 6 years with the team. In comparison, the Sox (who happen to be 15th on that list, dead in the middle) have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana both with far better WAR totals (27 and 21.5 respectively) in that time frame.

They also haven’t really put together a team around him that can keep opposing pitchers from pitching avoiding him. This has improved recently with the signing of Shohei Ohtani from the Japanese league, and the maturation of younger stars like Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher. They also have Jo Adell waiting in the wings, who projects to be the next Ronald Acuna (and who went just before the Sox took Jake “I’ll Run When I’m Dead” Burger) (fuck). So the future offensively is fairly bright for the Angels, but they’re already regretting the money they spent on Justin Upton, who has been a pretty massive disappointment thus far.

This past off-season the Angels addressed their most pressing need by signing Trout to a 12 year $430 million dollar extension, essentially making the best player in a generation an Angel for life. Now I would guess they will have to spend on pitching this upcoming winter, or risk letting that player never go farther than the first round of a playoff series. You’d have to think Garret Cole and Zack Wheeler would be high up on their lists to join Ohtani, Griff Canning and Andrew Heaney as the pitching staff that just might give Mike Trout the one accolade that isn’t already on his mantle: World Series MVP. Honestly as a baseball fan I’d be rooting for them to succeed, as seeing Trout hoist the WS Trophy would be one of the cooler things for the sport.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Angels 7-6   Cubs 4-8

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20pm

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC Saturday, WGN Sunday

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Tyler Skaggs vs. Cole Hamels

Chris Stratton vs. Kyle Hendricks

Trevor Cahill vs. Tyler Chatwood

Probable Angels Lineup

David Fletcher – LF

Andrelton Simmons – SS

Albert Pujols – 1B

Jonathan Lucroy – C

Taylor Ward – 3B

Kole Calhoun – RF

Zack Cozart – 2B

Peter Bourjos – CF

 

Probable Cubs Lineup

Albert Almora – CF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

David Bote – 2B

Mark Zagunis – RF

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Note: Against right-handed starters Sat. and Sun. expect to see Heyward in center with Descalso at 2nd and Zobrist in right

After winning their first series of the year, the Cubs turn right around and host the Angels of Somewhere, a team shorn of all that makes it interesting. Which is fine, because the Cubs need wins so they’ll take boring as they can get for now. And they’re not without drama themselves.

We’ll start with the Northside Nine, who last night lost their backup catcher Victor Caratini to a broken hand for at least a month, and more likely six weeks. Of course this turned Cubs twitter, always anxious to paint their lives as a dark, dark room, in to the most obnoxious Cure fans around. Why oh why they pontificated, didn’t the Cubs sign a third catcher? Why must we suffer with Taylor Davis for a month? Please, unleash me from this hell and give me the sweet release of the great darkness beyond!

Fuckin’ eh, shut up.

One, almost no team has three catchers. Any catcher goes down, you’re almost certainly going to have to toss some tomato can out there once a week. Yes, I remember 2016 as well. That was an accident, because Montero and Ross were signed the season before you’ll recall, which is also the season Willson Contreras started tearing up the minors out of really nowhere. He didn’t give the Cubs much choice. That’s generally how you end up with three catchers.

Third, even the max six weeks time frame, that’s probably at most 12 Caratini starts. How much value, even with how well he was playing, do you think Victor Caratini has over 12 starts? Yes, Taylor Davis blows and he’s got a little league swing, but he’s also not a double-amputee. I’m fairly sure he can catch the ball. This isn’t the disaster Cubs fans are so desperate to make it.

Anyway, other than that, after getting Jose Quintana on track and at least moving Yu Darvish toward it, it would be lovely if Kyle Hendricks followed the trend on Saturday, especially with Lester out, and especially as the Chatwood Experience awaits on Sunday. A battery of Tyler Chatwood-Taylor Davis. Remember kids, the Cubs have new executive suites!

To the Angels. Before the year, you probably thought, “Hey! Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani at Wrigley! That’s exciting!” Well sorry, fucko. Ohtani isn’t back until May and Trout tweaked a groin earlier in the week while the Angels were stuffing the Brewers. He won’t play today and is iffy for the weekend.

Those aren’t the only injury concerns for the Halos. Andrew Heaney went boom again, and Justin Upton ended up with turf toe in the season’s first week and is out until possibly July. Certainly June. So yeah, stripped of all that, this becomes a very ordinary outfit. Unless watching Albert Pujols try and scramble his unorganized collection of bones around first base in an NL park entertains you, and it should. The grounds crew should have a large dustpan nearby.

That hasn’t stopped them from winning six in a row over the Rangers and Brewers, mystifying the Cubs I’m sure. But it can also be inspiration, as the Angels started 1-6 and this early that’s how quickly things can look rosy again. It’s hard to know what the expectations were for this team, as they look to be well behind the A’s and Astros in the division, which doesn’t put you anywhere near a wildcard.

Without Trout, absolutely no one in this lineup is hitting. As you know, Pujols died five years ago, Kalhoun is striking out a third of the time, Simmons might as well go up there with a coloring book, and Justin Bour seems to only have mastered two of the three true outcomes so far, and that’s the two where nothing happens. Tommy La Stella had a nice half-week there for a minute, but that’s been about it offensively for the Angels. Zack Cozart is hitting .033. That’s a thing.

Which means they’ve had to do it with pitching, though it’s also hard to see how. They’re getting more miracles out of Trevor Cahill, who looks like he struggles to actually throw the ball 60 feet but here we are. Matt Harvey has gone back to being the utter disaster he was for two years before a half-revival in Cincinnati, but don’t worry it’s not like anyone can party in Southern California or anything. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two starts. Skaggs has been ok, but he doesn’t strike anyone out nor does he get a ton of grounders so one wonders how long this will last. That puts them praying for the safe return of Heaney, which is Beckett-ian.

Which means it’s been yeoman work from the pen, and that is the case. Hansel Robles (who uses the Undertaker theme and hence is now my favorite player), Ty Buffrey, and Cam Bedrosian have been unhittable so far, and Justin Anderson and Cody Allen are carrying 0.00 ERAs as well. They’re already third in the AL in appearances, and fifth in innings. But they also have the best pen ERA and fifth-best FIP. They don’t want to go to this well too often but while it’s working no one’s going to bitch.

If there’s a team that Hendricks can find it against, it should be this one. The offense probably needs to do its work in the first five innings, and that might be harder than you’d first think with both Skaggs and Cahill going. But then again, it’s fucking Skaggs and Cahill. Let’s get a move on already.