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: May 11, 2009 3:58 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2009 6:52 pm
The Angels won their fourth straight game (and 6th of last 7) yesterday in completing a sweep of the Kansas City Royals. They are now 16-14 and just a half game behind the Rangers for the top spot in the AL West. The makeshift starting rotation has been one of the best in the AL all season without studs John Lackey and Ervin Santana, who are both set to make their debuts later this week. Fill-ins Shane Loux, Matt Palmer and Anthony Ortega have performed very capably, especially Palmer (pictured left) who has gone 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA. His solid work has probably earned him a chance to remain in the rotation when Lackey and Santana return, with Loux probably heading back to the bullpen and Ortega, who got roughed up by the Blue Jays in his last start, heading back to Salt Lake.
Posted on: September 11, 2008 4:31 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2008 4:37 pm
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
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 2, 2008 12:53 pm
Well, the Angels and A’s just split a four game series that was, uh, odd. To say the least. Games one and four were blowouts with the A’s putting up 14 and 15 runs en route to easy wins. The middle games were dominated by Angels pitching with Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana each going to 5-0 on the season. To say this wasn’t your average Angels vs. A’s series is definitely an understatement.
In the two blowouts, it didn’t seem like the A’s were scorching the ball. They hit some balls hard and others just found holes. They did hit three bombs in the first game, but they strung together a bunch of hits to do the damage, in game four.
Nick Adenhart made his Angels debut and struggled with his fastball control, walking five batters in two-plus innings and surrendering five earned runs…ouch. He was only working on three day’s rest so it wasn’t exactly the best of circumstances for the kid. I suspect he’ll get a chance at redemption, maybe two, as John Lackey makes a couple more rehab starts.
So, we were tied with the A’s atop the West when the series started and we’re still tied with the A’s. The Orioles are in town starting tonight and then off to Kansas City. Bottom line, we gotta play better.
Posted on: April 20, 2008 2:27 am
By about the sixth inning I was scrambling to my computer hoping I wasn't too late. I quickly logged into my Yahoo! fantasy baseball league and let out an audible sigh of relief. Ervin Santana was still available. Heck, I didn't even have to drop anyone as I had an open DL spot waiting for another player.
Of course, Santana winning at the Big A is nothing new. He's damn near unbeatable in his home ballpark. Problem is, he's been VERY beatable everywhere else and last season he really wasn't good anywhere, hence the demotion to Triple-A and stints coming out of the bullpen. But coming into tonight's start he was 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and had pitched really well on the road. And tonight's start showed me something more. He looked confident and attacked the hitters with mostly his fastball the first time through the lineup. When he got ahead 0-2, he wasn't dancing around the zone wasting pitches, he continued to throw strikes and dared the batters to put it in play (oftentimes they couldn't) -- he flat-out dominated a team that hits the ball the pretty well at Angel Stadium. Eight innings, three hits, eight strikeouts and one earned run. Oh, and a 3-0 record on the season.
It seems like forever ago, but in 2006, Ervin went 16-8 with a 4.28 ERA and looked to be on his way to becoming a mainstay in the Angels rotation. I guess after a season like the one he had last year (7-14, 5.76) it becomes easy to forget the promise and talent we all witnessed his first two seasons in the league. He had a clunker of a season...it happens. Especially to young pitchers, and that is exactly what Ervin Santana was and still is. He's only 25 and now in his fourth big league season and it appears he's figuring it out. Great news for Angels fans, bad news for the rest of the AL.