Daily Distractions: Making sense of Yu Darvish’s near no-no.

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish, left, was removed after losing his perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros. His next opponent is the Angels. (Associated Press)

On an off-day for the Angels, the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros created a compelling night of action in the American League West on Tuesday.

In case you missed it, Yu Darvish retired 26 straight Astros to start the game before allowing a single to Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth inning. No longer are the Houston Astros completely anonymous. As the New York Daily News proclaimed, “YU BLEW IT.”

The pertinent question for the Halos: Are the Astros that bad, or is Darvish that good?

The right-hander joined a list that includes Dave Stieb, Mike Mussina and eight pitchers you might not have heard of who have lost perfect games in the ninth inning. Anyone can do it, even Armando Galarraga.

Ken Rosenthal and Mark Mulder blamed the Astros. Jean-Jacques Taylor and Bo Porter credited Darvish. Alan Ashby, the Astros’ color commentator, reacted with racial overtones (I think).

The Angels will find out soon enough whether Darvish’s stuff is for real. If he pitches on regular rest, he’ll face the Angels (and Jered Weaver) on Sunday in Arlington. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. national broadcast on ESPN2.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday morning:

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Daily Distractions: The new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Wilson on steroids, etc.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

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Daily Distractions: Mike Trout is debuting for the Angels, plus links.

Big news today: Garrett Richards is making his long-awaited spring debut.

So is some kid named Trout.

The reigning American League rookie of the year and new Angels left fielder will get his first chance to call off center fielder Peter Bourjos in a few minutes against the Seattle Mariners. He’s unlikely to play the whole game, but is any player more exciting to watch for just a few innings? Even at 240 pounds?

As for Richards, it’s his first shot to prove that he belongs on the Angels’ Opening Day roster. Definitely more on the line for him today.

Here are some links from around the league:

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Daily Distractions: Angels set tentative spring rotation.

In today’s notebook, I mused about the possible pitchers for the Angels this weekend, since Mike Scioscia is holding his projected starting rotation out of games until March.

Today the manager revealed his starters for Saturday’s split-squad games. Jerome Williams will start at Tempe Diablo Stadium against the Chicago Cubs, while Brad Mills will start against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale.

Barry Enright (Sunday vs. Oakland), Garrett Richards (Monday at Seattle in Peoria), A.J. Schugel (Tuesday vs. Arizona in Tempe) and Nick Maronde (vs. San Francisco in Tempe) will start the following games.

Some links to get you through the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Angels’ bullpen injury watch becomes a full-time thing.

Ryan Madson was seen throwing off flat ground today in Tempe, but manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that the Angels’ presumptive closer still has no timetable to get back on a mound.

That’s essentially the status quo. Madson was dealing with soreness and inflammation in his right elbow last week. An MRI came back negative but his throwing program was put on hold. Opening day looked like a longshot for Madson then and still does now.

The 32-year-old missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery.

At least the Angels don’t have to rebuild their bullpen from scratch. They can just go back to what (sometimes) worked for them last year — Ernesto Frieri in the ninth, Kevin Jepsen in the eighth, Scott Downs in the seventh — plus free-agent newcomer Sean Burnett.

Oh, about Burnett: He left camp today with stiffness in his lower back to undergo an MRI.

Stay tuned. The Angels’ bullpen is officially on watch.

Things are heating up in Arizona, literally and figuratively. These links are tepid at best:

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Daily Distractions: Angels report to spring training.

We’re driving to Arizona today in advance of spring training. Perhaps it’s the calm before the storm, but there wasn’t much Angels news over the weekend, though Bill Hall did make an Illuminati joke. In Phoenix, it’s 57 and cloudy. No haboobs lie on the horizon (yet).

If I could sum up the sentiment using emoticons, I’d quote C.J. Wilson. Now, some links to tide you over until Indio:

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Daily Distractions: On Mark Trumbo’s case for batting second, plus some Angels links.

Mark TrumboTurns out the question of who should bat second in the Angels’ lineup has some shelf life.

Related to our recent poll and post comes this thought, which Buster Olney addressed Thursday on his blog for ESPN.com: If you’re going to use the number-two slot in the Angels’ lineup to allow a good-but-struggling hitter to see more fastballs, why not Mark Trumbo? Writes Olney:

If you’re thinking that Mark Trumbo might be a candidate to hit second, keep in mind that he was slightly above average against fastballs (relative to all of MLB): .280 BA, .843 OPS, which ranked in the 57th and 64th percentile, respectively, last season. Trumbo increasingly struggled as the season progressed, which coincides with the decreased percentage of fastballs he saw month to month:

April: 52.7 percent
May: 51.9 percent
June: 50.4 percent
July: 49.0 percent
Aug: 45.3 percent
Sept: 43.5 percent

There’s more nuance to the formula than a batter’s simple ability to hit a fastball. But it’s an interesting argument for Trumbo.

Some links to send you into the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Who’s the Angels’ number two? Braun implicated; Micah Owings converting; Candlestick exploding.

Alberto Callaspo

Who will replace Torii Hunter as the Angels’ No. 2 hitter?

There are bigger questions facing the club going into spring training – you or I could hit between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and probably see some juicy fastballs – but by process of elimination we know it’ll be either Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta or Mark Trumbo.

For what it’s worth, Aybar, Bourjos and Kendrick were all among the top 25 sacrifice bunters in the American League last year. Iannetta seems an unlikely choice, though his patience and power are above average for a catcher, while Trumbo has the best chance of replicating Hunter’s .313/.365/.451 slash line from a year ago.

Perhaps unwittingly, FanGraphs.com makes a strong endorsement today for Callaspo, who signed a two-year contract yesterday. Callaspo’s best skill at the plate – hitting to contact while avoiding strikeouts – is typically the skill that managers value most in their number-two hitter:

Even in his best years with the bat (2009 and 2011) his BABIP was only around .310. But avoiding strikeouts does a lot for a player’s bat. This is not because strikeouts are all that much different from regular outs. It is because putting the ball in play simply allows other things to happen. Callaspo does not get an exceptional number of hits on balls in play, and the hits he does get on contact usually do not go very far. He simply ends plate appearances with the ball going into play often enough that even given average (and below-average) rates of favorable outcomes, he is able to be close to average overall as a hitter (95 wRC+ career).

It’s something to think about as Spring Training approaches.

Which defunct ballpark, and which former National League MVP’s reputation, are getting blown up? Read on …

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Daily Distractions: Hamilton vs. Berkman, Hall of Fame, RIP Richard McWilliam.

Is Lance Berkman an upgrade for the Rangers over Josh Hamilton?

That was the question pondered today at FanGraphs.com – more specifically, who will have the better 2013 season? The stat-laden conclusion is that on offense, the two will be about even:

So, what does the extra $114 million get the Angels with Hamilton that the Rangers are punting with Berkman? Defense, basically. Berkman is likely to be a DH who might occasionally play first base during interleague match-ups, while Hamilton is likely to be an above average defender in right field. There’s no question that makes Hamilton the better player, and certainly worth more in salary. I’m not suggesting that Berkman and Hamilton are equally valuable, or that Hamilton and Berkman should have signed the same contracts this winter. However, I am suggesting that perhaps the overall net effect of the moves on the Rangers and Angels won’t be as big as they might appear on the surface.

Some more reading material to delay the start of your work week:

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