Stats & Info: Los Angeles Angels

Top Stats to Know: Angels at Athletics

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24

AP Photo/Ben MargotScott Kazmir is having a career year.

The Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics finish off their three-game series on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN) in a dead heat for the AL West crown.

On Saturday, the Athletics beat the Angels to tie them atop the AL West. Here are the top stats to know as these teams battle for the division lead.

AL West race tightens up

On June 21, the Angels were six games behind the Athletics, marking their largest deficit of the season. Since then, Los Angeles has gone 36-19, the best record in the American League in that span (the Nationals have also gone 36-19).

Oakland is just 29-24 in that span. However, the Athletics have dominated the head-to-head matchup this season, winning eight of their 11 meetings, including all five at home.

Sunday night's starters
Angels starter Jered Weaver has the third-most wins (126) and third-most strikeouts (1,362) in franchise history. Only Chuck Finley and Nolan Ryan have more. Weaver has a 3.70 ERA this season, on pace to be his worst since 2009. There’s been a significant dip in his average fastball velocity, down to 86.1 mph from 88.7 in 2009.

Only three qualified pitchers this season have a lower average fastball velocity (minimum 400 fastballs).

Athletics starter Scott Kazmir is having the best season of his career. His ERA (2.73), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.6) and opponent OPS (.608) are all career highs, as are his 14 wins. He’s really taken a step forward in his performance against right-handed hitters.

Kazmir has allowed a .618 OPS to right-handed batters this season, on pace to be the best of his career. The only qualified lefties who have allowed a lower OPS to righties this year are Clayton Kershaw (.556), Chris Sale (.604) and David Price (.617).

Trout struggling
All-Star Mike Trout has had a rough second half of the season thus far. Since the All-Star break, Trout’s batting average is down 81 points, his on-base percentage is down 96 points, and his slugging percentage is down 177 points. Part of the reason could be pitchers are starting to throw him more pitches up in the zone; 43.9 percent of the pitches Trout has seen in the second half have been in the upper half of the zone or higher. In the first half, only 38.7 percent of his pitches were in that location.

Doolittle lights out
Athletics closer Sean Doolittle is having an excellent season. Doolittle has a 16.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio, on pace to rank third in any season by a pitcher with at least 50 innings. No pitcher with a minimum of 50 innings throws strikes at a higher rate than Doolittle (75 percent).

After Sunday night, seven games remain between the Angels and Athletics. The Angels have four of those games at home, but are just 3-3 at home against the Athletics so far this season.

Top stats to know: Angels at Red Sox

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20

Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesGarrett Richards goes for his 14th win tonight. He had 11 in his first three years combined in the majors.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Boston Red Sox play the third game of their four-game series tonight on "Wednesday Night Baseball" (7 ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN). The Angels have won the first two games of the series.

Soaring Angels
After play on June 5, the Angels were tied for second place in the AL West with the Seattle Mariners, 5½ games behind the Oakland Athletics. Since June 6, Los Angeles has gone a major league-best 43-22 and sit atop the division, a half-game ahead of the A’s.

A big reason for the turnaround has been their bullpen.

Another key for the Angels has been the performance with runners in scoring position. Through June 5, LA hit .245 with RISP. Since then, they are hitting .288, second-best in the majors.

Pitching Matchup
Garrett Richards, who’s turning in a career year this season, will take the mound for the Angels tonight. In three August starts, Richards is 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA

One reason he’s having a career year has been the effective use of his slider. Richards is tied for the AL lead this season with 85 strikeouts in at-bats to end in his slider. Look for that success to continue tonight as Boston is hitting a major league-low .179 in at-bats ending in a slider from a righty.

Clay Buchholz will start for Boston tonight. He has a 5.79 ERA this season, more than three times higher than the 1.74 ERA he posted in 16 starts last season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no pitcher in major league history has had his ERA triple from one season to the next while throwing at least 100 innings in each of those seasons.

Buchholz is throwing his cutter much more frequently this season, and it’s getting shelled.

He’s allowed two home runs this season with that pitch, after allowing just three in the previous five seasons combined. Perhaps the velocity loss has something to do with it.

• Mike Trout is hitting .378 with five home runs and 14 RBI in his career against the Red Sox. That’s his second-highest batting average against an opponent in his career (minimum 50 plate appearances).

• Josh Hamilton is 2-for-22 (both hits are doubles) in his career against Buchholz. His .091 batting average is his second worst among the 28 pitchers he’s faced at least 20 times.

• David Ortiz is hitting .455 with three homers and eight RBIs in the past six contests.

His 402 home runs as a Red Sox are 50 shy of tying Carl Yastrzemski for second on Boston’s all-time list (Ted Williams holds the franchise record with 521).

Star-studded showdown: Trout vs. Kershaw

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
ESPN Stats & InformationThe Trout-Kershaw matchup will test the strengths of both players.
Hollywood loves a good blockbuster, and Tuesday night's battle in Chavez Ravine between the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers will be no exception.

It will be the first ever regular-season meeting between Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw.

Here are a few of the top stats to know for Tuesday night's marquee matchup.

Best of the best
Trout debuted for the Angels in 2011 (the season Kershaw won his first Cy Young award), but made a name for himself in 2012.

Since then, Trout has been arguably the best hitter in baseball, while Kershaw could be considered the game's best pitcher.

Trout leads all position players in WAR since the start of 2012 and Kershaw leads all pitchers in WAR over the same stretch.

Not only are they both at the top of their games in 2014, but each has started his career in historically impressive fashion.

Trout has produced more WAR through age 22 than any position player in MLB since 1900. His 26.1 WAR from 2011 on is ahead of Ty Cobb's 25.5 and Ted Williams' 23.6 through their seasons at age 22.

Meanwhile, Kershaw has produced more WAR through his age 26 season (this season) than any pitcher to debut in the last 40 years. His 37.4 WAR since 2008 is ahead of Dwight Gooden's 36.5 and Bret Saberhagen's and Roger Clemens' third-place tie at 35.7 through their seasons at age 26.

Strength vs. strength
One thing to keep an eye on will be how Trout handles Kershaw’s pitches in the lower third of the strike zone and below.

Kershaw ranks at or near the top in baseball in effectiveness with pitches down in the zone.

It's also worth noting that Kershaw has thrown an increasingly high percentage (46.0) of his pitches down, a jump from 37.3 percent a season ago and 36.5 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, Trout has crushed pitches down in the zone, leading MLB with a .382 batting average, .763 slugging percentage and 17 home runs this season on pitches in that location.

Fastballs early, curveballs late
When thinking about how Kershaw might pitch to Trout, consider how Trout has fared against each of the types of pitches Kershaw throws.

Eighty-five percent of Kershaw's first pitches this season have been fastballs, while Trout ranks in the bottom third of the league in batting average against fastballs. Against first-pitch fastballs, Trout is hitting .250 this season, which ranks in the 13th percentile across MLB.

Trout has also struggled to hit pitches thrown up in the zone.

If Kershaw can survive deep in the count, he has thrown the curveball on 36 percent of his two-strike pitches up in the zone this season, the highest rate of any starter in MLB. Trout has seen 131 curveballs up in the zone in his career and has produced zero hits on just seven swings.

Top stats to know: Angels at Orioles

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
Elsa/Getty Images
Mike Trout and the Angels face the Orioles on "Wednesday Night Baseball"
Two of the top three records in baseball are on the line during ESPN's "Wednesday Night Baseball" (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN) as the Los Angeles Angels take on the Baltimore Orioles.

While the Angels have the better record at 63-42, the 59-46 Orioles are the ones atop their division. The Angels have the Oakland Athletics, with the best record in baseball, ahead of them in the AL West.

Last night the Orioles secured another walk-off win on Manny Machado's 12th-inning home run. That ties the O's with none other than the Angels at eight walk-off wins apiece this season, good for second in the majors.

Both Teams are Hot
From June 9 on, these are two of baseball's three hottest teams. The Angels are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the MLB lead at 29 wins during that span. The Orioles are third during that stretch with 28 wins.

The Angels have taken care of business when it counts, posting a 37-11 record against teams that are .500 or worse, the best such record in the majors. They also lead the league with 33 comeback wins.

After another late victory last night, the Orioles are now 12-3 in extra-inning games this season, the best record in baseball.

Starting Pitchers
Garrett Richards will toe the mound for the Halos. Only one starting pitcher has a higher average fastball velocity than Richards this season.

Richards has allowed only one home run to a right-handed batter in 2014, the fewest of any qualified starter in the majors.

Orioles starter Kevin Gausman is no slouch in the velocity department, either. His fastball is averaging 95 mph this season, which would rank fifth among starting pitchers if he’d thrown enough innings to qualify.

Gausman (in his second season) has never faced an Angels hitter in his MLB career.

Stats About the Bats
Already off to a great start in his career, Mike Trout's next home run will be his 87th. That would tie him with Ken Griffey Jr. and Johnny Bench for seventh most before age 23 in MLB history.

Albert Pujols has had 208 plate appearances in which he put the ball in play against the shift this season, the most of any right-handed hitter in the bigs.

For the Orioles, Chris Davis has struggled with off-speed pitches this season. A year ago he had a .310 batting average and 25 home runs against off-speed pitches. This season he is hitting .131 and has managed only five home runs against those same pitches.

Meanwhile J.J. Hardy has been big at short stop with 81 home runs the past four seasons. That's second in MLB among shortstops behind only Troy Tulowitzki, who has 84.

Trout and Abreu hit long homers

June, 28, 2014
Jun 28
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels hit a first-inning homer against the Kansas City Royals. His 489-foot homer is the longest hit in Kauffman Stadium since ESPN began tracking homers in 2006, and it is the longest hit there since Travis Hafner hit one 481 feet on April 15, 2012.

It is the longest by an American League player since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006. The second-longest is 488 by Edwin Encarnacion on Sept. 1, 2012.

Trout's homer is also the longest by an Angel since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006. The second-longest was Vladimir Guerrero, who hit one 484 feet on July 30, 2006.

Trout's home run is the longest of his career by 26 feet, is his fifth career home run of 450 feet or more and is the longest home run in MLB since Giancarlo Stanton hit one 494 feet on Aug. 17, 2012.

Abreu goes deep (twice)
Trout wasn't the only star hitting long homers on Friday. Jose Abreu hit two home runs for the Chicago White Sox in their win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

It was Abreu's fourth multihomer game this season, his first since April 27.

Abreu now has 25 home runs in 67 games. He's the fastest player to reach 25 homers in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Only one other player in MLB history -- Mark McGwire in 1987 -- has had more home runs as a rookie before July 1.

Abreu's fifth-inning home run traveled 428 feet. It is the seventh home run this year that he has hit 425 feet or more, which is tied for second-most in MLB and leads the American League.

Abreu's two homers were two of four allowed by R.A. Dickey, the first time he has allowed that many homers in a game since 2006.

Inside the matchup: Trout vs. Darvish

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22
Both Mike Trout and Yu Darvish have excelled in 2014.
The marquee matchup in the "Sunday Night Baseball" game between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels (8 ET, ESPN) will be the one between Rangers ace Yu Darvish and Angels star Mike Trout.

Let’s examine it from a few different angles.

Trout’s strength
Trout has four home runs in 31 at-bats against Darvish and is hitting .376 with eight home runs in 25 games since May 20.

Trout is the best hitter in baseball on pitches that are in the lower third of the strike zone. Over the last three seasons, he’s hitting .359 with a .592 slugging percentage and 29 home runs on pitches in that area. The batting average and slugging percentage rank best in the majors, and his home run total ranks second.

Trout’s 13 home runs against pitches in the lower third are the most in baseball this season. The next-closest entering Sunday is Adam Jones with nine.

All four of Trout’s home runs against Darvish have come in the lower half of the zone, with two coming in the lower third.

Trout’s weakness
The higher the pitch, the more trouble Trout has hitting it. Amazingly, he’s 0-for-32 this season in at-bats that have ended with a pitch in the upper-third of the strike zone or higher (he’s 8-for-73 when we expand that look to the upper half of the zone).

Trout does not often swing at upper-third pitches (only 29 percent of the time), but when he has this season, he’s missed on 40 of 95 swings, a 42 percent rate that is nearly twice as often as the average major leaguer.

Darvish’s strength
Darvish has excelled against right-handed hitters this season. He's held them to a .195 batting average, with 46 strikeouts, eight walks and only one home run allowed to the 142 he’s faced. The one home run allowed is impressive considering he’d allowed a total of 19 to right-handers during the last two seasons.

Darvish’s fastball, which averages nearly 93 mph and tops out at 96, has been his best pitch against righties. They’re hitting .194 against it this season, though they miss the pitch much less often than they did last season (28 percent versus 16 percent).

Darvish’s weakness
It’s hard to find any weakness for Darvish against right-handed hitters, as he excels against them in just about every area and with every pitch type.

Trout has taken advantage when Darvish has come down in the strike zone. He’s 9-for-25 against Darvish when at-bats end with pitches to that area. All other righties are hitting .186 against Darvish on those pitches.

The one other issue that Darvish may have is if Trout reaches base.

Darvish has allowed eight stolen bases in eight attempts this season. Trout is 9-for-9 on his steal attempts.

Darvish will do his best to keep him off the basepaths in Sunday night's contest.

Top stats to know: Angels at Braves

June, 15, 2014
Jun 15

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
Nobody has hit more home runs on pitches down in the zone this season than Mike Trout.
Tonight on ESPN (8 PM ET), two teams in the thick of their divisional races square off in an interleague matchup as the Atlanta Braves host the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have excelled recently in interleague play, winning 11 of their last 14 games, while the Braves are just 1-7 this season against American League opponents.

Here are some players and matchups to watch.

Star Watch: Mike Trout
In Saturday night’s game, Mike Trout homered to give him 75 in his big-league career in 399 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Trout needed the third-fewest games in MLB history to reach the 75 HR-75 SB mark, being beaten there by just Eric Davis and Alfonso Soriano.

Braves starter Mike Minor should avoid pitching down in the zone when facing Trout, as Trout has hammered that type of pitching during his career.

Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, Trout leads the majors with a .356 batting average and a .581 slugging percentage against pitches down in the zone. And his 27 home runs ranks behind only Baltimore’s Chris Davis.

Trout is getting better against those pitches. As the chart on the right shows, his slugging percentage has risen every year, and his 11 homers against pitches down in the zone is three more than any other player this season entering Sunday.

Working up in the zone will be a much better bet for Minor. Trout is 0-28 this season against pitches up in the zone.

Matchup to Watch: Angels Hitters vs Minor’s First Pitch
This season, opposing hitters have 13 hits in 24 at-bats against Minor’s first pitch, good for a .542 batting average. On all other counts, batters are hitting .241 against Minor.

That’s continuing a trend for Minor, against whom opponents batted .345 on first pitches in 2013, compared to .254 in 2012.

Hitters are getting a bit more aggressive against Minor’s first pitch, as the swing rate on his first pitches has increased from 24.8% in 2012, to 29.5% this season. And they’ve been rewarded, as the swing-and-miss rate is 11.3% this year, compared to 26.0% in 2012.

What’s Going on With the Braves Offense?
Last season, Braves batters struck out 1,384 times, tied for the sixth-most by a team in a single season in MLB history. This season, their strikeout rate is up from 22.7% to 23.2%.

But along with the worse strikeout rate, the Braves have dropped off in several other categories this season, giving them one of the worst offenses in baseball.

Last year, the Braves ranked 13th in the majors in runs scored, but this season, they’re averaging just 3.6 runs per game, 29th in MLB.

Inside Mike Trout's contact struggles

May, 13, 2014
May 13

ESPN Stats & InformationMike Trout is really struggling to hit pitches up and in this season.
Entering this season, much was made about Mike Trout’s comments regarding how he intended to be more aggressive early.

While his swing rate is up slightly overall (and on the first pitch of an at-bat), the real story through the first month and a half is the fact Trout is making contact a lot less this season when he does swing.

The most surprising leaderboard from the first quarter of the season may be that, entering Tuesday’s action, Trout is tied for first in the American League in strikeouts with 47.

Trout’s production is down this season and the biggest difference is a massive increase in strikeouts, which naturally results in fewer balls in play.

Trout is whiffing far more often against pitches in the strike zone, and pitchers have been able to strike him out while keeping the ball in the zone.

Nearly half of his strikeouts last season came against a pitch in the strike zone. This season, almost three-quarters of his strikeouts are via a pitch in the zone.

His batting average on pitches in the zone – which he should crush – has fallen from a top-15 mark of .350 in 2013 to a below-average .291 in 2014.

It appears that Trout is struggling with pitches up in the zone, and specifically when pitchers challenge him inside as well. As you can see in the heat map above, the ‘blue/cold’ area is most pronounced up and in, an area that was largely ‘red’ last season.

Last season, 43 percent of his hits came on pitches on the inside, but that rate has dropped to just 23 percent this year.

Perhaps the most telling stat of his “up-and-in” struggles is this: No hitter is producing hard contact less often against pitches in the upper half this season than Trout.

Trout’s contact issues have been a season-long problem, but recently his entire offensive production has collapsed. After putting together an MVP performance in April during which he led the AL in WAR, he has just five hits in 38 at-bats in his first 10 games in May.

Pitchers are challenging him more this month -- throwing more fastballs and pitches in the zone -- and he hasn't taken advantage like he did in April.

He is hitting just .111 on pitches in the strike zone and is 3 for 24 vs the heater this month.

It also appears that pitchers have recognized his inability to do anything with pitches up in the zone and have been pounding that area with a lot of success.

His rate of pitches seen in that location has increased from 34 percent in April to 42 percent in May, and Trout has just one hit in 13 at-bats ending in a pitch in the upper half of the zone this month.

Furthermore, Trout is really struggling to pull the ball with any authority in May. He has one hit to left field this month, a groundball single on May 2. He had 17 hits, including 10 extra-base hits (5 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs), to left field in April.

--Katie Sharp contributed to this post

The month of April in home runs

May, 1, 2014
May 1

ESPN Stats & Info
Giancarlo Stanton crushed the ball in April, earning him our Home Run Hitter of the Month award.

ESPN Stats & Info's Home Run Tracker Team tracks every home run hit in the majors. Here are a few standout performances from the month of April.

Home Run Hitter of the Month: Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton dominated the home run headlines in April, hitting three of the nine longest homers of the month. On April 4, he launched an Eric Stults pitch 484 feet to left center field for the longest home run in the history of Marlins Park and the longest home run of the 2014 season.

Stanton wasn’t done there, as he added a 469-footer on April 12 and a 457-footer on April 15. There have been 13 home runs hit of 450+ feet in all of MLB this season, and Stanton has hit three of those. In fact, since his rookie season in 2010 no hitter has hit more 450+ foot home runs.

Performance of the Month: Michael Morse
At Coors Field on April 23, Michael Morse hit a 458-foot homer off Tyler Chatwood in the second inning and a 450-foot homer off him in the third inning, the two longest home runs of the season at Coors Field. Morse became just the third player since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006 to hit two 450+ foot home runs in the same game.

It was quite an April for Morse as he added 449 and 442 foot home runs as well and finished the month with a major league leading 440 foot average home run distance, 42.5 feet further than the MLB average (397.5).

Other notable performances

ESPN Stats & Info
Ortiz hit the longest home run by a Red Sox hitter since ESPN Stats & Info began tracking home runs.

• On April 22 David Ortiz hit a ball 482 feet off Masahiro Tanaka at Fenway Park, the second longest homer of the season. Not only was it the longest homer for Ortiz since ESPN began tracking homers in 2006, but it was also the longest home run by any Red Sox hitter. It was the second longest home run hit by anyone at Fenway Park in that period, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero's 484-foot shot against Curt Schilling on July 30, 2006.

The ball left Ortiz's bat at 119.9 mph, the fastest off-bat speed for any home run hit this season. It is the third fastest speed for any home run in the last four seasons.

• White Sox slugger Jose Abreu set an all-time rookie-record with ten home runs before May. Abreu is the only hitter in the American League to hit three home runs of at least 430 feet. On top of that, Abreu hit the two longest homers at Comerica Park this season despite only playing four games in Detroit.

• Earlier this month Albert Pujols became the 26th member of the 500 home run club with a 430-foot homer at Nationals Park. Since ESPN began tracking home runs, six players have reached the 500 homer mark and Pujols’ traveled the furthest (430 feet).

Top stats to know: Angels vs. Yankees

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
The star power will be out in full force as the New York Yankees host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday Night Baseball. That starts on the pitchers mound, as the Yankees will start rookie ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistical storylines our broadcast crew will be following.

Trout and Pujols may not be the biggest concern
The biggest Yankees-killer among the Angels hitters is not one of their big-time stars, but second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Kendrick is hitting .351 in 211 career at-bats against the Yankees, including a 20 for 47 stretch over the last three seasons.

The only active player with at least 150 plate appearances and a better batting average is Miguel Cabrera, .373.

Kendrick has swung a hot bat recently regardless of opponent. He’s 17 for 44 (.386) with a pair of opposite-field home runs over his last 10 games.

What to Watch for from Tanaka: First Time Through
Buster Olney walked you through the Tanaka-Mike Trout matchup, as it relates to Trout’s issues with splitters (hitters chase the Tanaka splitter 61 percent of the time).

One other thing to keep an eye on is how long it takes Tanaka to get going.

Opponents are hitting .306 with an .852 OPS the first time through the order against Tanaka, but only .151 with a .436 OPS the rest of the game.

Worth noting along those lines: Trout is hitting .455 with five homers in the first inning of games this season. His only other homer this season came in the ninth inning.

What to Watch for from Richard: Two-Strike Success
Garrett Richards is facing the team against whom he made his major league debut a few seasons ago, but he’s come a good ways since then. Richards has a 2.52 ERA in four starts this season. In two of those games, he pitched at least six innings and allowed one hit.

Opponents are hitting .155 against Richards this season. They are 2 for 41 against him in two-strike situations.

Richards’ premier two-strike pitch of choice is a slider that drops below the knees, against which opponents are 0 for 15 (with two walks).

Jeter streaking
Derek Jeter is 3 for 6 in this series and carries a note of distinction into tonight’s game. His current 15-game hitting streak against the Angels is his longest active one versus any opponent.

His career-long hitting streak against the Angels is 16 games, from 1998 to 2000. His longest hitting streak versus any team is a 25-gamer against the Tigers from 1999 to 2001.

Jeter’s next run scored will be the 1,882nd of his career, matching Hall-of-Famer Tris Speaker for 11th-most all-time.

Watch the Shift
The Yankees have had 149 shifts against batted balls in play this season, which ranks second-most in baseball entering Sunday, behind only the Astros (243) and well ahead of the third-place Indians, 102.

The Angels have several hitters who figure to see shifts today, most prominently Albert Pujols and Raul Ibanez.

Pujols has been shifted the third-most often of any right-handed hitter since the start of last season (Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista rank 1-2).

He’s hitting .250 when hitting a ground ball or short line drive against the shift this season. That’s considerably better than Ibanez who has hit 25 grounders and short liners against shifts this season, but has only two base hits.

Pujols joins 500-homer club distinctly

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Albert Pujols has done many distinct things in his baseball career, so it’s no surprise that his 500th career home run was done in a one-of-a-kind fashion.

Pujols became the first player to hit his 499th and 500th career home runs in the same game. The Elias Sports Bureau noted that two players hit their 500th and 501st home runs in the same game -- Mark McGwire and Harmon Killebrew.

Pujols is also the fourth player to hit his 499th and 500th home run within a span of three at-bats or fewer, along with Ted Williams, McGwire and Willie Mays.

The 34-year-old Pujols is the third-youngest player to join the 500-home run club, which now numbers 26 members. He trails then-32-year-olds Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx.

Pujols is the fourth player to reach 500 home runs within his first 14 seasons, along with McGwire, Rodriguez and Mays.

Pujols is also the fourth player born outside the United States to hit 500 home runs, joining Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez.

He is the second player to hit his 500th career home run as a member of the Angels, joining Reggie Jackson on Sept. 17, 1984.

Pujols entered the day with a career batting average of .321. Only three members of the 500-homer club have hit for a higher average: Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342) and Foxx (.325).

This wasn’t the first milestone home run he hit at Nationals Park. He also hit his 400th career home run there against Jordan Zimmermann.

Pujols now has eight home runs in 2014, his most before the end of April since hitting eight in 2009. He's hit more than eight by the end of April only once (2006, when he had 14).

Getting his swing back
Pujols' 500th home run went 430 feet, his longest of the season (and longest since June 21, 2013, a 448-footer off Gerrit Cole). It came on a fastball at the top of the strike zone.

Pujols has four home runs on 35 swings against pitches in the upper-third of the strike zone or above. He had six home runs on 226 such swings last season.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Angels

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels face off in part two of an ESPN doubleheader Monday night (read about part one here). Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Oakland’s economical pitching
The Athletics are going with a very low-budget starting rotation this season as they’ve spent only $11.3 million on their five starters. Only the Marlins ($3.2 million) have spent less.

Scott Kazmir accounts for $9 million of the starting pitching budget. The next highest paid starter, Jesse Chavez ($775,000), starts Monday night.

Chavez, a 42nd-round pick in 2002, is now pitching for his seventh major league team, and he seems to have found a groove early this season.

In 13 innings pitched, Chavez has posted a 1.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts and only two walks (6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio). He has done most of the damage with his cutter.

Chavez has thrown his cutter on nearly 37 percent of his pitches, second only to Travis Wood (44 percent, min. 2 starts). Opponents have gone 4-for-24 (.174) against the pitch with eight strikeouts and no extra-base hits in 2014. The Angels have struggled against cutters so far this season, batting .160 against those pitches.

A more aggressive Mike Trout
Mike Trout mentioned this past offseason he wanted to be more aggressive early in the count. While the sample is small, so far he’s staying true to his word.

Trout has increased his swing percentage on the first pitch by 47 percent, which has led to him doubling his chase percentage against the first pitch as well.

Trout hasn’t put many of these balls in play (just 1-for-3), but falling behind early hasn’t been a detriment. Trout is batting .346 this season after falling behind in the count 0-1.

Josh Donaldson’s early slump
Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .222 through the first dozen games. The biggest difference for Donaldson is in his strikeout and walk totals. He’s struck out 15 times and walked only once this season, after 110 strikeouts and 76 walks in 2013.

An early issue for Donaldson has been the inside pitch. He’s 3-for-22 (.136) against pitches thrown to the inner third of the plate or off the inside corner this season, after hitting .330 against those pitches last season.

Hector Santiago’s fastball a concern
Hector Santiago pitches tonight for the Angels. He has posted a 7.71 ERA in his first two starts, both losses.

Opponents have posted a .346/.485/.577 slash line against Santiago’s fastball this season, which is compounded by Santiago throwing the pitch 74 percent of the time. Against Santiago’s other pitches opponents have hit .250 with a .500 OPS.

Hamilton back in the groove for now

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7

The results look good a week into the season for Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton getting pitched outside has been a fact of baseball life the last couple of seasons. No hitter gets pitched that way quite like Hamilton does.

But at least in the first week of the season, Hamilton is doing something about it.

The sample is really small, but as the image above shows, Hamilton is succeeding where he’s failed in the past. He’s 8 for 16 in at-bats that end with an outside pitch, including 1 for 2 with three walks in the Angels’ win over the Houston Astros last night. That came on the day he was named co-AL Player of the Week.

The last couple of seasons, Hamilton had a propensity to chase the outside pitch. He swung at nearly 40 percent of pitches off the outer third of the plate that were out of the strike zone in 2012 and 2013. He's done so less than one-fourth of the time through seven games in 2014.

Hamilton has also been more willing to hit the ball on the ground rather than lift it. His ground-ball rate the last two seasons was 38 percent. It's 61 percent so far in 2014.

The results have put Hamilton in good company. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the last Angels player prior to Hamilton with a .500 batting average after the team's first seven games of a season (minimum 20 at-bats) was Garret Anderson in 2003 (15-28, .536).

MLB theme of the week: Filling needs

November, 22, 2013
Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler wasn’t the only notable move this week, the busiest of baseball’s offseason so far. Let’s take a snapshot look at some intriguing notes related to other players who switched teams.

Bourjos, Young, find new homes to show off their ‘D’
The St. Louis Cardinals made a major defensive upgrade in centerfield in acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Though Bourjos has been hindered by injuries the last couple of seasons, he’s accumulated 33 Defensive Runs Saved in center field over the last four seasons. That’s tied with Craig Gentry for fifth-most at that position in that span. That’s just behind Chris Young, who agreed to a one-year $7.25 million contract with the Mets. Young is two years removed from his last really good defensive season. Young accumulated 38 Defensive Runs Saved for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011, which ranked second-best among centerfielders in that span, behind only Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.

Bourjos will be worth more to the Cardinals than he will to most other teams. Over the last four seasons, the Cardinals centerfielders have combined for -12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Young’s value to the Mets may depend on what position he plays and what other moves they make. Their centerfielder, Juan Lagares, ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved last season.

Angels fill a need
In obtaining third baseman David Freese from the Cardinals in trade for Bourjos, the Angels secured a player with a better history of offensive production at the hot corner than they’ve had in awhile.

The Angels have ranked 28th and 27th in OPS from their third basemen over the last two seasons.

Freese’s numbers dipped a bit from 2012 to 2013, but definitely represents an upgrade for the Angels.

Freese’s batting average on balls hit in the air was a near match in 2012 and 2013 (.473 and .481), though his homer total dipped from 20 to 9.

His overall batting average drop from .293 to .262 was attributable to hitting more ground balls (a 52 percent ground ball rate in 2012, 56 percent in 2013) and to his ground balls finding fewer holes (he went from hitting .310 on grounders in 2012 to .230 last season).

Under the radar: Bolstering the bullpen
With questions at the back of the bullpen, the Rockies went for experience by signing veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who had formerly pitched for the team with modest success in 2007. Hawkins pitched very well for the Mets last season, particularly filling in at closer in the latter part of the season when Bobby Parnell got hurt. Hawkins held opponents scoreless in 17 of his last 18 appearances (the only blip was a five-run outburst by the Tigers), striking out 16 and walking only one in that stretch.

The strikeout-to-walk rate was a key to Hawkins’ success. He had a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (55 strikeouts, 10 walks) at age 40.

Hawkins was one of five pitchers to throw at least 70 innings of relief last season with a strikeout-to-walk-rate of 5 to 1 or better. The other four are Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Trevor Rosenthal.

Top stats to know: AL MVP candidates

November, 14, 2013
The three finalists for the AL MVP – Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout and Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis - all put up gaudy offensive numbers in 2013.

The voters will determine whose were most befitting an MVP when that honor is announced Thursday night.

Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera is trying to win consecutive AL MVPs, which hasn't happened since Frank Thomas won for the White Sox in 1993 and 1994. Thomas is the only player to do that since Roger Maris won consecutive AL MVPs in 1960 and 1961.

A Cabrera win would give the Tigers three straight MVP awards. They’d be the first AL team to have their players win at least three straight since the Yankees won four in a row from 1960 to 1963 (Maris winning in 1960 and 1961, Mickey Mantle in 1962 and Elston Howard in 1963).

Cabrera was actually a better offensive player in 2013 than he was when he won the Triple Crown in 2012, even with the injury that hindered his production in September and the offseason.

He raised his batting average 18 points, his on-base percentage 49 points and his slugging percentage 30 points, finishing with the same number of home runs (44) in 67 fewer at-bats.

MVP or not, his last two seasons have put him in the company of some of the game's elite players.

Mike Trout
Trout is trying to become the third Angels player to win the MVP, joining Don Baylor (1979) and Vladimir Guerrero (2004).

Trout led the majors in Wins Above Replacement for the second straight season. Though his advanced defensive metrics dropped a bit, Trout’s offensive numbers were about as impressive in 2012 as they were in 2013.

Yet he could miss out on the MVP award because of Cabrera’s presence.

Should Trout come in second, he’d be the first player to be a runner-up in the MVP voting in consecutive years since Albert Pujols in 2002 and 2003.

In fact, those two years also marked the last time that the same players finished 1-2 in consecutive seasons. Barry Bonds beat out Pujols for the NL MVP award in each of those seasons.

Chris Davis
Davis is trying to become the Orioles' first MVP winner since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991. Though his numbers tailed off after the All-Star break, Davis led the majors in both home runs and RBIs, the first Orioles player to have the top mark in both leagues in each of those stats within the same season.

Davis was known for his ability to get big hits. separates situations into high, medium and low leverage based on their importance to a team’s chance of winning the game. Davis thrived in high-leverage spots, hitting .342 with 13 home runs in 114 at-bats that met that classification.