Posted on: February 22, 2010 6:39 pm
Spring has yet to arrive, officially, but pitchers and catchers have reported for most MLB teams, and really, does winter even exist in Arizona (yes, parts of Arizona get a bit of winter) and Florida? Now I'm not one those who gets all nostalgic and weepy with the earliest signs that baseball is right around the corner, i.e. "the smell of fresh cut grass," "the pop of the mitts," "a fresh start for each team" and all that quasi-poetic crap. I don't start getting the least bit excited until the Angels and Dodgers play their annual pre-season exhibitions, or at least until I draft one of my three or so fantasy teams. But with all the upheaval the team went through this past off-season and the positive changes made by two of the Halos' division rivals, I thought it an OK idea to give an early look at the team's new make-up and their chances this upcoming season. I'll probably write a similar post as Spring Training progresses and we get a better look at how the team is shaping up, meaning, I'll look at how Brandon Woods' spring is going and whether or not he'll break camp as the starter at the hot corner.
But first thing's first! And what's first is looking at the team's off-season filled with career-Angels bolting, a few decent signings and some swings and misses at pulling off a trade for an ace who's name rhymes with Shmroy Shmalladay.
John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver
Of course, the team said "buh-bye" to a few more players, but really, these are the only ones whose departure could affect the team(Sorry, GMJ). Let's start with the big Texan with the odd-shaped mouth. While it's tough to bid adieu to Lackey, giving him the kind of contract the Red Sox gave him just wouldn't have been a good idea for the club. I know you have to overpay in this day and age in the MLB, but I'd rather overpay for another, better (and younger) pitcher. Lackey has started the last two seasons on the DL, and even though he bounced back and had good seasons - including a nice 2009 post season - it's just not a good sign. There will be plenty of fish in the sea come the trade deadline and the 2010 off-season as far as starting pitchers go. I do think Lackey has two, maybe three more seasons in him at his current level of effectiveness, but this will be a move (non-move?) Angels fans come to praise very soon.
Oh, Desmond DeChone, it's gonna be tough watching you circle the bases up North in teal and navy. But I have a feeling you won't be circling them at quite the same rate (114 runs scored) as you did for the Angels in '09. I guess I would have been OK had the team re-signed you to a deal similar to that which you signed with the Mariners (4 years, $36 million). After all, you're one of the better lead-off men in all of baseball, and you had a nice season in 2009 - a near .400 OBP, the aforementioned 114 runs and 42 stolen bases (though you were caught a league-leading 17 times, OUCH!), and you played a GG-caliber third base. But you know, we have this kid named Brandon Wood who's been biding his time in the minors. He's supposed to be pretty good. We could have traded him a few times, but we didn't. I'm kind of curious to see him get regular AB's and he plays 3B as well. I guess what I'm saying Figgy, is I will miss you, but hopefully this Wood kid can lessen my pain by hitting a few (20? 25?) 450-foot bombs over the visitor's bullpen. As the saying goes, Chone, we will see. We will see.
As for Vlad. It was time, and I think most sane Angels fans would agree. Now, I'm not thrilled he ended up in Texas, but whatevs, he is an injury waiting to happen. I'll always appreciate his time with the team and will give him a standing ovation when he visits the Big A in Rangers gear. He better oblige by promptly grounding out to Erick Aybar.
To be continued...
Posted on: November 11, 2009 3:59 pm
The Angels are coming off of their most successful season since 2005, 100-win regular seasons notwithstanding. They managed to stay afloat while dealing with the death of a teammate. They survived injuries to key players that would have decimated lesser clubs. And they finally beat the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs. All-in-all, it was a pretty good season even with the team flubbing and floundering their way through the ALCS and losing to the eventual champion Yankees. Hell, a ton of experts didn't even think the Halos would win the AL West. I'm guessing there will be even more predictions that they relinquish their stranglehold on the AL West in 2010. And maybe they will. Chances are, the Angels will not look like the same club they've been since 2004.
Posted on: June 23, 2009 6:04 pm
The Angels' rollercoaster 2009 season continued last night with the team getting shelled 11-1 by the Rockies in Anaheim. That makes three straight losses by the club since reeling off seven wins in a row prior to this recent rough patch. I suppose the one thing we can say about these Halos is that they've been consistently inconsistent this season yet find themselves only a game out of first in the AL West entering play today (6/23). The Rangers have also been scuffling a bit, allowing the Angels to get close and hang around, but not take over first quite yet. The Mariners are also hanging around at a game over .500 and look like they may not go away altogether, like I thought they might. If Felix Hernendez and Erik Bedard stay healthy all season (big if) they should remain a .500 club or so.
Starting tonight, the Angels have a few more against the Rockies before continuing their tour of the NL West against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. After that, a big series in Texas that could see the winner standing alone in first in the division after it's over.
Just as the Angels rotation was beginning to get solidified, in personnel at least, Ervin Santana made his way back to the DL recenty. Sean O'Sullivan, who made and won his big league debut in SF last week will take Ervin's spot in the rotation. And while Kelvim Escobar recovers from his recent foray into the rotation, it appears it was a bit premature and overly hopeful to think he was ready to go 90-100 pitches every 5th day. I was convinced the bullpen was the right place for him, and it appears I was right. Take that, Scioscia.
The offense was starting to hit a nice little stride recently, and then the Dodgers and last night, Aaron Cook cooled them right off. Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales continue to provide at least some punch to the team's punchless lineup, but Vlad appears more and more done as each game passes. The offense often looks better without him, and that's tough to imagine, let alone say.
It appears the Angels are going to just say NO to Pedro. Good move. He's not the answer. Unless the question was who was the most dominant righty of the 90's? Well, it's not the 90's anymore and Pedro can't hit 90 on the gun either. Let him be another team's problem. Figgy continues to climb in the AL batting race and more importantly, get on base. It'll be interesting to see what the team does with Figgy after the season as he's a free agent. I like him at 2nd base personally, but I imagine the team is still considering that Howie Kendrick's position. I say re-sign Figgins for another 2-3 years and play him at 2nd base. Trade Howie. He'll probably end up being a pretty good hitter, but guys that hit .290-.310 with minimal pop are a dime a dozen...hell, that's our entire lineup, right?
Posted on: June 15, 2009 3:01 pm
The Halos are hanging around, but are they going anywhere?
After a road trip that saw the Angels play their worst ball of the season (and that's saying something), the club headed home for a three-game set with the Padres. Thank God for the Padres, huh, Halos fans? A visit from Buddy Black's club proved to be just what our sputtering offense needed, as extra-base hits were flying around the Big-A like it was 2002 all over again. In the series, a struggling Chris Young was the only bona fide big league pitcher the Angels had to face, as before his start on Saturday, Pads ace Jake Peavy was placed on the DL. Still, these are the Angels, and the team has had a knack for making Triple-A scrubs look like Cy Young, so it wasn't quite a foregone conclusion that the bats would come alive. But come alive they did!! The Halos slugged 9 HR and scored 26 runs in the three-game sweep, highlighted by Torii Hunter's 3-HR game on Saturday and Juan Rivera's pair of round-trippers in Sunday's finale.
With the Angels sweep and the Rangers dropping 2-of-3 to the Dodgers, the Halos climbed to within 2.5 games of the AL West-leading Rangers. The AL West remains a very winnable division, and it looks like it's going to go down to the wire with the Angels and Rangers duking it out all summer. The Mariners are hanging around as well, but their offense makes the Angels' look like the Red Sox. The M's just don't seem like contenders to me, but Felix and Bedard should keep them around .500. Billy Beane's probably already begun seeing what prospects Matt Holliday will bring, as the young (and old) A's look at another disappointing season.
The main reason the Rangers are tops in the division is their complete dominance within it. Texas is 13-3 against the AL West this season. Conversely, the Angels are 9-12. If the Halos don't do something to turn this trend around, they will most likely be watching Nolan Ryan and the Rangers celebrate a division title. As the old saying goes, there is a lot of baseball left to play.
In researching some stats for this blog entry, I came across some pretty interesting numbers. Let's look at offense. The common thought is that the Rangers have a top flight, explosive offense and the Angels, well, don't. This really isn't the case this year unless you're only looking at HR totals. The Angels currently lead the AL with a .279 average and sit 9th in runs scored with 296. The Rangers (albeit without Josh Hamilton for much of the season) are 7th in the AL with 310 runs scored. That's it, 14 measly runs separating the powerhouse Rangers from the slap happy Halos. This isn't to say that everything's all good offensively in Anaheim. While the club has hit .280 with RISP, far too many of those hits have been singles. The Angels don't hit a lot of home runs, but it seems when they do hit one, no one's on base. Ever. They also haven't hit a ton of doubles this year either, meaning the Angels need three hits in an inning oftentimes to score a run. This needs to change. If it's a case of bad luck, they may be in line for a nice offensive boost very soon, but if it's a case of lack of clutch hitting, which is how it appears, the Angels mediocre offense will remain just that.
Scot Shields' season is over, and I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing for the club. Scotty just didn't seem to have it this season. If he was coming back, however, the club might have been OK with standing pat while the bullpen continues to struggle. With Shieldsy done, the club is now forced to look at bringing a good arm or two into the bullpen before the trade deadline. We'll have to wait and see who's available and just what the Angels are willing to give up.
A quick look at some HOT Angels:
Chone Figgins is now 5th in the AL with a .326 batting average. Figgy's hitting line drives all over the place from both sides of the plate and he's scoring runs too. He's currently tied for third in the AL with 47 runs scored. When Figgy scores, the Angels usually win.
Torii Hunter's 3-HR day on Saturday punctuated what's really been a two month hot streak. Hunter has really carried the club offensively and his 16 HR and 51 RBI are both 5th in the AL.
With Jered Weaver's CG shutout yesterday, the righty is now 7-2 with an ever-shrinking 2.08 ERA, good for second in the AL behind Zack Greinke's 1.72. Weav has been unbelievable lately, and looks like a lock for his first All-Star appearance.
Posted on: February 25, 2009 3:49 pm
The Angels won a franchise-record 100 games last season before their annual ousting from the playoffs by the Boston Red Sox. They didn't go down near as easily as they did in '07, but down is down. Too few extra base hits and hits with RISP - it's a pattern we Halos fans have come to almost expect.
Last season was a little different than the previous few, as the team made a big deadline deal to land "the big bat" to hit behind Vladimir Guerrero in Mark Teixeira. To land Tex, the Halos had to part ways with talented first baseman Casey Kotchman, and even though the trade didn't bear the results Angels fans hoped for, I still think it was a good deal. They had to roll the dice with the team they had, especially the way the pitching staff was performing. Now with Tex donning pinstripes and Kotch across the country in Atlanta, the team looks to Kendry Morales to hold down the fort at 1B. Kendry only got a handful of AB's at the Major League level last season, but has had enough time with the big club the last few seasons to not be considered a complete question mark. He can handle the bat. Even though he hit just .213 last season (in just 61 AB's) he was never over matched. He's hit better than .340 each of the last few seasons at AAA Salt Lake, and, even though AAA's not the bigs, .340 is still impressive. Kendry will hit. His glove may be the biggest question.
The Angels also parted ways with some guy named Rodriguez...the kids called him K-Rod, I think. Yes Francisco Rodriguez saved a Major League record 62 games last season, but if you watched him day-in, day-out, you know he was less than dominant. In reality, he probably was barely a Top 5 closer last season. He blew 7 saves and ended the season with a 1.29 WHIP. He walks WAAAY too many batters and allows more base runners than a top-flight closer should. His replacement, Brian Fuentes, should be just fine. I honestly don't think the loss of Franky will affect the team at all. Thanks for the memories, though.
One of the greatest Angels of all time played his last game with the club last season. Aging left fielder Garret Anderson had another solid season (also his healthiest in years) but the crowded Angels outfield left no room for GA to return. Juan Rivera was re-signed, and looked to be team's every day LF until the club signed veteran Bobby Abreu to a 1-year, $5 million deal. A steal, really, considering Raul Ibanez got 3-years/$30 million from Philly earlier in the off season. Abreu will be a good addition to the Halos' lineup. He is a high on-base guy, has some pop with mostly gap power and can still run a little bit. He should fit right in. Speaking of the Halos' lineup, let's take a look. I'll include last year's relevant stats and what I expect this season.
1. Chone Figgins 3B: 2008-.276/.367OBP/72RUNS/34SB (116 gms). 2009 Proj.-.290/.380/105RUNS/55SB
2. Howie Kendrick 2B: 2008-.306/3HR/37RBI (92 gms). 2009 Proj.-.310/10/55/85RUNS/15SB
3. Bobby Abreu LF: 2008(NYY)-.296/20/100/100. 2009 Proj.-.300/18/90/80/20SB
4. Vladimir Guerrero RF: 2008-.303/27/91. 2009 Proj.-.315/28/110
5. Torii Hunter CF: 2008-.278/21/78. 2009 Proj.-.275/20/80
6. Juan Rivera DH/RF: 2008-.246/12/45 (256 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.285/22/65 (475 ABs)
7. Kendry Morales 1B: 2008-.213/3/8 (61 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.280/13/60
8. Mike Napoli C: 2008-.273/20/49 (227 ABs (WOW!)). 2009 Proj.-.250/25/55 (350 ABs)
9. Erick Aybar SS: 2008-.277/3/39/53RUNS (346 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.275/5/40/65
Of course, all these "projections" are assuming fairly healthy seasons. I still see Naps splitting time with Jeff Mathis, and you can't expect him to keep up last year's HR rate. Aybar will be spelled by Izturis a little bit, but I don't think Aybar did anything last season to not come into '09 as the starter at SS. If Rivera gets more ABs, look for him to sniff 30 HR. We'll see.
If things just go according to plan and the young guys grow up a bit, I think the Halos will score enough runs to win 90-plus games. Now, they're no offensive juggernaut, but Abreu's OBP ability in front of Vlad makes the team much better than it was before his signing. They'll probably finish in the middle of the pack of the AL in runs scored.
I'll take a look at the pitchers in a different post and make a prediction on how the AL West shakes out.
Posted on: May 28, 2008 3:14 pm
Starting pitching: Check. What was supposed to be a weakness in the early part of the season with John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar missing time has been anything but. Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana have been two of the better pitchers in the AL, and now that Lackey's back and Jered Weaver is pitching better of late, the Halos have one of the top rotations in all of baseball.
Bullpen: Check. One of the Angels biggest strengths over the last several seasons was a major liability in the opening weeks of the season. Scot Shields opened the year on the DL and Justin Speier, Darren Oliver and company were just plain horrendous in the early going. Speier is still a bit of a mess, but D.O., Darren O'Day and the return of Shields got the pen going again and Franky has been getting the job done, albeit in shaky fashion.
Defense: Check. Trading a Gold Glove shortstop and having a young, unproven kid try to fill his shoes, you'd expect some growing pains. I did. But Erick Aybar has been very good defensively and, to this point in the season, better than O.C. with the bat. Uh, that Torii Hunter guy IS pretty good, isn't he? Having another plus defender in Gary Matthews roaming left or right field has been a luxury. Casey Kotchman is one of the best in the league, and the kids (Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez) haven't hit a lick but have been solid with the leather.
Offense: What's the opposite of a check? After getting off to a blazing start, to say the offense has fizzled out would be a massive understatement. There really hasn't been any offense to speak of. To be fair, one-third of our lineup should be playing in Salt Lake and missing our lead-off guy and catalyst Chone Figgins has really hurt. All that said, we should still be better than this. Vlad - Hunter - GA is a decent middle of the order but it seems like we can't get two or more of those guys going at once. Kotchman has been the team's most consistent offensive player, but after an early HR tear, hasn't hit one in a while. Mike Napoli's early power stroke has been fun to watch, hopefully it continues. I'm honestly not worried about the offense, or lack thereof. When we get healthy and have Figgy, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar back, we'll have a much more balanced attack and we all know Vlad won't stay down for long.
The good news has been that the team is winning even through this drought. We went through a similar stretch last season, but we dropped a bunch of games then. The pitching has been so good, it's like they won't let us lose right now.
Posted on: May 23, 2008 3:40 pm
The Halos exorcised some demons in Toronto, taking 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays, and now head to the South side of Chicago for a three-game set with a scorching hot White Sox club. The Sox have won eight games in a row, mostly with good starting pitching, but their offense is starting to come around a bit. Should be a tough series as the team's just split four games in Anaheim last week.
The key will be for the pitchers to keep the ball in the yard. The Sox have some bombers in Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and Jim Thome, but not much else offensively. If we limit the long ball, I think we win the series.
On the offensive side, the bats really sputtered in Toronto, and had it not been for a 2HR, 4RBI night from Vlad, the Angels would have dropped 2 of 3 instead of the reverse. Guys are just not getting on base and when we do get guys on, we're not doing the job of making productive outs and getting guys over and in. That needs to change. Hopefully Figgy missing yesterday's game was just a blip, because we need him at the top of the order.
The White Sox pitching has been good, but I look for the Halos to make more contact than they have lately and to get back into their style of ball. Those guys in the Blue Jays rotation are NASTY...thank God we got out of there with a series win.
Time to cool off the Sox and take another series on the road.
p.s. I'm digging Jose Arredondo...he's got good stuff.