March 25, 2012; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder David Murphy (7) at bat against the Los Angeles Angels at the Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels @ Texas Rangers


This is the matchup everyone has been waiting for. The two heavyweights of the AL West going at it. The only problem is, 7 games separate the two teams and they are the bread on an Athletics-Mariners sandwich. That’s right. The team that was supposed to battle the Rangers for the AL West crown is currently in last place. I expect they will turn it around, but a seven game gap is nothing to sneeze at and if the Rangers pull away by winning the series, that gap gets even longer.

Some very interesting pitching matchups in this one, headlined by the return of C.J. Wilson.

Probable Starters:

Friday 7:05 CDT TEX: RHP Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54 ERA/3.21 FIP) – LAA: LHP C.J. Wilson (4-2, 2.61 ERA/3.24 FIP)

Darvish is coming off of his first loss of his career, and the new part of this new-old Ranger battle is eerily similar to his counterpart. Darvish still has to bring down that 4.85 BB/9 which ranks among the worst among Major League qualified starters. Looking at his other numbers, his BABIP is higher than average but that could be due to his high (10+) K/9 which means less balls are in play.

The return of C.J. Wilson and, truth be told he looks almost like the exact same pitcher he was last year with the Rangers. Most of numbers match up pretty well. The only significant change is that he has better luck this year, so far. He has a .184 OBA due to a .227 BABIP. Both are way below his career averages (.230 and .284) respectively. He also his throwing more fastballs and change ups meaning less curves and sliders. I don’t know if this is an Angels thing, or a early-season thing. The sample is still small. The point is, don’t expect to see a different Wilson. He’s the same guy who pitched as a Ranger last year.

Saturday 12:05 CDT TEX: LHP Matt Harrison (4-2, 5.11 ERA/4.17 FIP) – LAA: RHP Jerome Williams (3-1, 3.38 ERA/2.86 FIP)

I had trouble seeing why Harrison was struggling, then I saw two things. First is his groundballs. In his wins? He had 13,17,11 and 12. In his losses he had 10 and 6. Obviously isn’t much of a difference but the extremes do show something. Another is his Lefty/Righty splits.

Against RHH: .367/.405/.593

That’s really, really not good. He has to reduce the split or teams will just start stacking right handed hitters against him. There’s one more thing that coincides with that:

GB% vs RH: 45.4
GB% vs LH: 80.6

There you have it. The two things that stick out working together to conspire against what is otherwise a pretty successful season for Harrison thus far.

**

Williams is a great story. In 2007, he was 0-5 with the Washington Nationals. From 2007-2010, he pitched only in the minor leagues. Then, in 2011 he resurfaced in the majors with the Angels and since 2011 is 7-1. One significant difference is that he is throwing a cut fastball instead of a slider and that seems to be one of the keys to his new found success. In fact, in a pre-season poll. The Seattle Mariners said Williams is the pitcher they’d like to face the least. On a staff that includes Wilson, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. High praise.

Sunday 7:05 CDT TEX: RHP Neftali Feliz (2-1, 3.38 ERA/4.54 FIP) – LAA: RHP Jered Weaver (5-0, 1.60 ERA/2.14 FIP)

Feliz is coming off a start where he had the most strikeouts as a starter in the majors – 8. A good sign for sure but his BB/9 is almost exactly the same as last year (4.5) and that is 10th highest among qualified Major League starters. (Yes, that means the Rangers have two in the bottom-10, the other being Darvish.) Even creepier? Feliz has the exact same OBA and WHIP as he did last year. To three decimal places.

One final note on Feliz. He seems to be throwing a slider as his third pitch instead of a curveball. As a reliever, he averaged 12.5% curves and 5% sliders. As a starter, it’s 5.1% curves and 17% sliders. Can this be the reason his control is off? Is he still trying to get a handle on the pitch?

Weaver needs no introduction and he’s coming off a start where he threw under 90 pitches so he’s rested. He is also crazy consistent:

Vs LHH: .172/.213/.216
Vs RHH: .177/.215/.290

No split, and he’s an equal opportunity killer. There were also rumblings that the rocks in Anaheim’s home field were giving him an advantage and his home/away splits in the day time showed a difference. This year? He has a 8.27 K/9 at home and a 8.5 K/9 on the road. He’s having the best season of his career and is probably the early-season Cy Young Award winner.

Projected Angels Lineup

1 CF Mike Trout
2 3B Alberto Callaspo (S)
3 1B Albert Pujols
4 DH Kendrys Morales (S)
5 RF Torii Hunter
6 2B Howie Kendrick
7 LF Vernon Wells
8 SS Erick Aybar (S)
9 C Bobby Wilson

(source MLBDepthCharts)

Hot/Cold (Last 7 Days)

Alberto Callaspo (Hot-LAA) .429/.500/.619 (9/21), 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
Mike Trout (Hot-LAA) .350/.364/.700 (7/20), 4 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 8 K
Torii Hunter (Cold-LAA) 1/20 (.050), 3 BB, 6 K
Albert Pujols (Cold-LAA) 4/22 (.182/.182/.318), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 K
Elvis Andrus (Hot-TEX) .429/.529/.536 (12/28), 3 RBI, 6 BB
Josh Hamilton (Hot-TEX) .393/.485/1.071 (11/28), 1 2B, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K
Michael Young (Cold-TEX) .194/.188/.387 (6/31), 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 K
Ian Kinsler (Cold-TEX) .235/.250/.235 (8/34), 2 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K

For more information on the Angels see FanSided’s Angels page, Halo Hangout.

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Tags: C. J. Wilson Jered Weaver Jerome Williams Los Angeles Angels Matt Harrison Neftali Feliz Texas Rangers Yu Darvish