I finished up Part 1 with a look at the players leaving the Angels for greener pastures, or in Lackey's case, greener monsters, I guess? Well they're all leaving for more green, that's for sure. And who are we to begrudge them that? Just kidding, we're fans, we begrudge everything. Hell, we'd begrudge whatever god or deity we believe in if he/she came down wearing the cap of our favorite team's rival. "Really, Buddha, the A's? EFF-OFF!!"
Anyways, let's take a look at the NKOTB (don't act like you don't know) who were signed to replace our departed heroes.
Welcome to Anaheim:
Hideki Matsui, Fernando Rodney, Joel Piniero
Let's start with Matsui, since he was signed to, in effect, take the place of probably the best player the Angels ever had. Now, I didn't say, "the greatest Angel ever," so all you Garrett Anderson and Tim Salmon and Rob Wilfong fans can get off my back. Seriously, whoever you consider the "greatest Angel ever," it's tough to argue that Vlad wasn't the single greatest talent to ever grace the Big A. I'd say only Nolan Ryan could give Vlad a run for his money in that department.
Now, we all know Vlad was more the impaled, than the impaler the last few seasons, so losing him isn't really the blow it would seem to be. The lineup may look less intimidating with his name not in there, but it will be better off overall with Matsui's, granted he can stay healthy. He was relatively healthy for the Yanks last season as the team's primary DH, and I don't expect to see him wandering around the Angels' outfield with a glove on much, if at all. His power numbers from last season (28 HR, 90 RBI) were probably inflated a bit by playing in the launching pad that is the New Yankee Stadium, but I like that he put up those numbers in just 456 at-bats. If the Angels can coax 500 AB's out of those creaky knees, I'd expect to see a line somewhere in the neighborhood of .300-20-90. Pretty much what Vlad would have done with those same at bats, but without all the getting-thrown-out-trying-to-stretc
h-a-single-into-a-triple. You know what I'm talking about. Worst. Baserunner. Ever. Plus, Matsui at 1-year, $6.5 mil is a steal and gives the team flexibility for 2011 if his knees implode, which, lets be honest, is a possibility.
That brings us to Rodney, who kinda replaces Darren Oliver, I suppose. I liked DO's ability to go more than an inning, but I think I like Rodney's ability to close more. I am bummed we couldn't (didn't?) re-sign Oliver, but it seemed like he wanted to go home and pitch in Arlington. He will be missed. So Rodney gives us a right-handed version of Brian Fuentes in essence. He's more of a power pitcher, but he, like Fuentes, walks too many batters to be a truly elite closer. His ERA was a bit high last season for the Tigers, at 4.40, but 37 saves in 38 chances is pretty damn good. We'll see if it was smoke and mirrors. In any case, Brian Fuentes has a greater incentive to be better than he was last year with F-Rod (you heard it here first) waiting in the wings to take his job. Competition is good.
Joel Piniero wasn't really signed to take Lackey's place, but more to hold down the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation and make 30 or so starts. The Angels are hoping Jered Weaver or Scott Kazmir steps into the vacated "ace" spot created by Lackey's absence. I'll get into that later. As far as Piniero goes, he had his best season since 2003, going 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA. The consensus seems to be that his return to form was simply a result of Dave Duncan's brilliance and he will surely be unable to post similar numbers in the AL. I can't entirely disagree with the consensus, but I will add this: His turnaround was also attributed to a new grip for his sinker and a greater reliance upon it. So, as long as he doesn't forget the "magic sinker grip" or to throw it often, one has to assume he won't be a total dumpster fire every fifth day. I expect he'll end up somewhere in the neighborhood of a 4.20-4.50 ERA with around 12 wins while eating up around 200 innings. And that will do just fine.
(To be continued...)