10/03/12 8:10 PM ET
With new playoff system, 90 wins guarantees nothing
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
In fact, nothing less than 93 would've been enough.
"You would think that by adding the extra Wild Card spot, 90 wins would've been enough," Angels starter Dan Haren said. "I remember when 90 wins several times has gotten the Wild Card team in."
In fact, from 1995 (the first year the Wild Card was implemented) to 2011 (the last year before the new format), the average win total by the team that would've notched the second Wild Card spot in the AL was 88. In only four of those 17 seasons, from 2002-05, did a team need to win more than 90. And it was never more than 93.
Heading into Wednesday's regular-season finale, the Angels had gone 27-12 since Aug. 21 but found themselves the same amount of games out of the second AL Wild Card spot than when they started - four. The A's, who closed out the season with six straight wins to take the AL West from the Rangers, and the Orioles, who have surprised practically everyone by threatening in the AL East, were simply too resilient.
But that doesn't temper the Angels' frustrations.
"Actually, the fact that we will win close to 90 games, or 90 games, and not make the playoffs just makes it even more frustrating," Haren said. "These stretches that we went through, early in the year and then just after the All-Star break, if we would've played just a little bit better, we wouldn't be on the outside looking in."
Richards to be moved back into starter's role
SEATTLE -- Wednesday is the last day of the Angels' season and it'll also be Garrett Richards' last day as a reliever -- for the foreseeable future, at least.
With five All-Stars in the rotation, and a need for some weapons in the bullpen, Richards converted to a reliever in late August and struggled at times in a prominent late-game role, ultimately posting a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings.
But the 24-year-old right-hander has shown flashes of greatness as a starter, and next year, he's penciled in to join a rotation that's only guaranteed to have Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson back.
"That was the plan with Garrett all along," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Garrett handled himself well at various points this season as a starter. He's got the pitch mix, he's got the delivery. Obviously, we're still working through the adjustment phases at the Major League level for Garrett, but he's got all the weapons to be a starter and it's a very important thing. If we can inject Garrett Richards into our starting rotation, thumbs up, and it gives us the flexibility to do some other things, as well."
While Richards will return as a starter, Nick Maronde may stick as a reliever.
That's still up in the air, but the 23-year-old left-hander has risen fast in his first full season as a pro. In 20 games (18 starts) in the Minors, Maronde posted a 2.26 ERA while jumping from rookie ball to high A to Double-A. After his September callup, he impressed as a situational lefty, giving up one run on five hits, three walks and five strikeouts in 11 appearances (spanning 5 2/3 innings).
"Nick's going to be given an opportunity in Spring Training to show what he can do in Major League camp," Dipoto said. "I think he's done very well, he's represented himself well, and more than anything, I think his makeup is really outstanding. He gets out there, he's focused, he throws strikes and he's not afraid."
Trout mounts compelling MVP case with WAR
SEATTLE -- Mike Trout was asked recently what he knew about Wins Above Replacement, the all-encompassing sabermetric stat that has thrust him into the middle of a heated MVP debate with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
The Angels' 21-year-old center fielder laughed.
"That's a good question," Trout said, smiling. "Not a lot. Just heard it for the first time this year."
Trout's WAR heading into Wednesday's regular-season finale stood at 10.7, way ahead of the second-place Robinson Cano (7.6). And while it isn't necessarily WAR that makes Trout a popular choice for the American League's Most Valuable Player Award -- more so his overall production at the plate, coupled with his defense and baserunning -- it's that stat has made the discussion between him and Cabrera seem like a clash between old- and new-school ways of thinking.
"It is pretty crazy, all the statistics nowadays that can add up to being one and comparing me to other," Trout said. "I had no idea [about WAR] until somebody started talking about it, and I caught onto it a little bit."
Is Cabrera more valuable to the Tigers, who won their division despite winning less games than the Angels, with an AL-leading .331 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs?
Or is it Trout, who has produced from the leadoff spot -- with a .324 batting average and 30 homers -- while bringing fantastic defense to center field and wreaking havoc on the basepaths, stealing 49 bases and scoring 129 runs?
"It comes down to just two different kind of players, that's what it strictly comes down to," said Angels starter C.J. Wilson, who, of course, sides with Trout. "You have a guy that mashes, and then you have a guy that's a spark. And it depends on what your value of metrics is, whether you'd like to take the guy who's a Gold Glove defender, and the base-stealer, and the run-scorer, or the guy who drives in runs and is the more solid middle-of-the-lineup guy."
Weaver exits game early with 'general fatigue'
SEATTLE -- Angels ace Jered Weaver left Wednesday's regular-season finale at Safeco Field after just one inning because of what the team called "general fatigue."
Facing the Mariners in search of his 21st win, Weaver gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in the bottom of the first, throwing 25 pitches. Afterwards, the Angels decided to take the precautionary route and put an early end to his season.
Weaver's shoulder felt a little weak, though the 30-year-old right-hander said he wasn't experiencing any pain.
"I think after that first hitter, you could probably tell that something wasn't going right," Weaver said, after a 12-0 loss that wrapped up the Angels' season at 89-73. "It's not too often where I throw four pitches, not even close to the zone. It's tough to turn it on when you know your season is done. I just didn't want to push it and have something bad happen."
In a season that saw him throw his first no-hitter and reach 100 career victories, Weaver finished 20-5 to tie David Price for the American League lead in wins. His 2.81 ERA ranks third, behind only Price (2.56) and Justin Verlander (2.64), while his 1.02 WHIP is tied with Clayton Kershaw for the lowest in the Majors. When the rotation struggled early, posting a collective 5.50 ERA while the team went 14-22, it was Weaver who kept them afloat.
Asked how badly he wanted to make a final statement for the Cy Young, Weaver estimated it was 30-70 -- with only 30 percent of him interested.
"I wanted to give it a go," Weaver said, "but at the same time knew that it'd be tough to turn it on."
The Angels have decided against having Nick Maronde pitch in the Arizona Fall League, since he pitched through September and missed time earlier in the year with a strained lat muscle.
The Angels, at 89-73, failed to reach 90 wins for a third consecutive year. The last time they went three straight years without making the playoffs was from 1999 to 2001.
In 2012, Angel Stadium drew three million fans for the 10th straight season, a streak matched only by the Yankees in the American League.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.