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Tag:Erick Aybar
Posted on: October 8, 2008 2:58 pm
 

This story's getting old

Manny is in Dodger blue, Papi looked like he aged five years since last season's ALDS, Beckett was not his dominating self and Schilling is not in uniform, off blabbing somewhere to anyone that will listen. And the Boston Red Sox still beat the Angels in the postseason. No, it wasn't Manny or Papi, heck, it wasn't even Youkilis or Pedroia that did the Halos in this time. It was Jason Bay in his first taste of playoff baseball, JD Drew with a bad back and some dude named Jed. Speaking of Jed Lowrie's game winner in Game 4, is it me or did it seem like that grounder took like 10 years to reach the outfield grass?

Nope, no Josh Beckett either. I mean, he was there and he pitched OK in Game 3, but it was not the Josh Beckett whose appearance on a mound in October generally means the opposing team has no chance. Instead, a young pitcher named Jon Lester became Beckett, allowing zero earned runs in 14 innings against the Angels.

The point to all this? Boston had players step up and rise to the occasion. It seems since 2004, they always do. For the Angels, Mike Napoli played the role of hero one night, hitting two home runs off Beckett to key a win in Game 3, and while John Lackey pitched great, he was still outdueled twice by Lester who was just that much better.

The Angels had plenty of baserunners in this series, and the team's heart-of-the-order guys got their share of hits, but in Games 1 and 2, there was no one on base when those hits came and when there were guys in scoring position, the big hit was nowhere to be found. Torii Hunter came up big in a few spots and Vlad and Teixeira got some hits, but none left the yard and none came when we really needed them. In the playoffs, clutch is everything, and the Angels have been anything but clutch in the postseason since that magical run in 2002. The team really needed a guy like Juan Rivera or Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar (even with that bloop in Game 3, he was 2-for-the-series) to come through. They didn't. Instead, a guy named Jed is a hero and we're thinking about how the team will look next season.

I'm not quite ready to resign myself to the thought that 2002 will be it. Our only taste of magic. But come playoff time, if we're matched up with a certain team from the New England area again, I may be tempted to pop in my 2002 World Series DVD and relive some happier times. If we do win another title, and I think we will, I guarantee we will not go through Boston to win it. This was our year to erase 22 years of heartache against them, and we couldn't do it. Like the title says, this story's getting old.

Posted on: September 11, 2008 4:31 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2008 4:37 pm
 

How the West was won

While it's been a foregone conclusion for a few months now, the Angels repeating as AL West champions was not exactly a "gimme" when the team broke Spring Training. Injuries to the team's two best starters from 2007, trading away a Gold Glove shortstop, and an overcrowded outfield were just some of the reasons many were picking Seattle to dethrone the Halos.

Fast forward to September 11. The two young starters who were supposed to battle it out for the 5th spot in the rotation, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, were both All-Stars and absolutely carried the team in the early going with John Lackey missing about 5-6 starts and Kelvim Escobar missing the entire season. The trade that had many Angels fans scratching their heads turned out to be perhaps the most important thing the team did in the off season. While O.C. was fantastic at shortstop and the ideal #2 hitter, the stability Jon Garland provided at the back end of the rotation, especially with the loss of Escobar, was invaluable, and Scioscia and Reagins both knew Aybar and Izturis could hold down the fort at short, both defensively and with the bat. And they did. Another head-scratcher was the signing of Torii Hunter. Although we just gave a big contract to Matthews to seemingly be the team's CF for next few seasons, Hunter was signed to a big free agent deal himself, moving Matthews into a corner outfield/DH rotation with Garret and Vlad. While Torii was not exactly the "big bat" Halos fans have been waiting for, he was another bat and has played the best center field this long-time Angels fan has ever seen at the Big A (no disrespect to Devo, Pettis and Edmonds). Besides his glove and above-average bat, Torii also brought leadership and a winning attitude to a clubhouse that was maybe in need of a veteran vocal leader.

The MLB trade deadline is an exciting time for a fan of a team in the heat of a pennant race. Heck, it's even at least mildly interesting to the fan's whose teams are already looking forward to next season, with the chance getting some young prospects for aging veterans. For Angels fans, it has recently been a time to watch other contenders grab a bat or an arm for the stretch run while we "stand pat" and "go with the players who got us here," wherever "here" is. As a result, our offensively-challenged teams have been bounced out of the postseason rather abruptly, especially last season, when the Red Sox whipped us in three straight en route to their second World Series title in four seasons.

Not this year. The normally gun-shy Angels finally pulled the trigger on a deadline deal, landing slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Braves. While it was tough seeing home-grown youngster Casey Kotchman go, it was clearly the right move and a move the team had to make if they wanted to avoid another early exit from the playoffs. And when Tex started hitting, I'm sure many a Casey-who? was heard around the Big A. Kotch was a nice young talent. Tex is a big-time, switch hitting masher and an ideal guy to hit in front of Vlad in the Angels lineup. Even if the free-agent-to-be walks after this season, I applaud the team for making the right deal in order to win now.

In my view, the hallmark of this Angels team has been balance. As of right now, the team is 45-29 at home, 43-28 on the road (by far, the best in the bigs), 30-16 vs. the East, 24-17 vs. the Central and 24-16 vs. West. They haven't had many prolonged winning streaks or losing streaks. They just went about winning series after series. Two of three here, three of four there, and before you knew it, they had one of the best records in baseball and had opened up a chasm of Grand Canyon-like proportions in the AL West over the disappointing Mariners and the young A's, who had since traded away many talented vets for prospects. Starting pitching has once again been the team's biggest strength, with all five starters reaching double-digit win totals. Francisco Rodriguez has been the anchor to a solid bullpen, and is closing in on the single-season saves record of 57. He has both done a great job and has been the beneficiary of many close Angels wins, but the results are hard to argue with.

I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but the Angels will have a few weeks to rest up and prepare for the playoffs while many teams continue to duke it out, night-in and night-out for a spot in the postseason. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are both battling hamstring issues, and while youngsters Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez have filled in admirably, it is important the two starters get back in time to get a week or so worth of at-bats leading into the playoffs. The Angels don't have the most explosive offense, but with everyone healthy, do have balance and guys that can contribute up and down the lineup.

On paper, this is the best-equipped Angels squad we've seen in a while. Perhaps even better than the team that won it all in 2002. But the games are not played on paper and if the Halos are to win it all this year, they'll need some of the magic that '02 team had. Maybe not a three-homer game from a light-hitting second baseman or a three-run homer in Game 6 of the World Series to cut into a huge deficit, but a 2-out RBI hit here and sac-fly there could be the difference between celebrating another championship and thinking, "wait till next year."

Posted on: May 28, 2008 3:14 pm
 

Angels Checklist

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: April 18, 2008 1:10 pm
 

Pop the Champagne!!!

The Halos have defeated the mighty Royals...finally.

OK, so a little over the top, but geez that streak was getting a little long for my taste. The Angels beat the Royals 5-3 last night behind a solid effort from Jon Garland, who ran his record to 2-2. Garret got the big hit, a bases-clearing double in the 3rd inning off Royals starter Brett Tomko and Gary Matthews and Erick Aybar each added an RBI in the 5th. Aybar is swinging a hot bat right now, and after his 2-for-3 last night his average is up to .318. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, even the outs he's making right now are sharply hit. It's nice to have production up and down the lineup.

Vlad sat out after bruising his finger in game 1 of the series, but he's fine. He probably needed a night off anyways and it was good to get Juan Rivera some at-bats. I expect he'll be back in tonight against the Mariners.

Speaking of the Mariners, they have taken care of the A's the last few nights rather easily and we miss "Prince" Felix in this series. Here are the pitching matchups:

Game 1: Joe Saunders (2-0, 1.27) vs. R.A. Dickey (0-0, 0.00) - Dickey was called up to replace Erik Bedard who is on the DL. Dickey is a knuckleballer, so the Halos need to show some patience.

Game 2: Ervin Santana (2-0, 3.32) vs. Jarrod Washburn (1-2, 3.50)

Game 3: Dustin Moseley (1-1, 7.80) vs. Miguel Batista (1-2, 6.35)

Hopefully we can exact some revenge for the 2 of 3 they took in their home park and do the same here in Anaheim. As always with the M's, it should be a good series.

 
 
 
 
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