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: 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: February 25, 2009 7:26 pm
Now for the pitching, the strength of the club the last few seasons.
This looks to be the Angels strong suit, once more, with three starters who ended last season with an ERA under 4.00 and four guys who won 10-plus games. Both Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders enjoyed breakout seasons in '08 and were probably the biggest reason for the team's success, as ace John Lackey missed the first month or so the season. While I think Saunders will be hard pressed to repeat his success, I think Swervin' Ervin is the real deal. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he improved on his outstanding 2008 numbers, but I think he'll do about the same. The bullpen looks to be one of the stronger ones in the AL, even with the departure of Francisco Rodriguez. Let's take a look at the numbers.
John Lackey (R): 2008-12-5, 3.75. 2009 Proj.-15-7, 3.65
Ervin Santana (R): 2008-16-7, 3.49. 2009 Proj.-18-5, 3.40
Joe Saunders (L): 2008-17-7, 3.41. 2009 Proj.-13-10, 4.05
Jered Weaver (R): 2008-11-10, 4.33. 2009 Proj.-12-8, 4.20
Dustin Moseley (R): 2008-2-4, 6.79. 2009 Proj.-6-8, 5.00
Big John is still the ace of the staff and the leader of the pitching corps, but I think Ervin will establish himself as the club's best pitcher this season. Saunders will probably come back down to earth a bit, but still be very effective. Weaver is what he is - a 5-6 inning guy who is gonna battle and keep the team in games. He's one of the better #4 guys in the league. As of now, Moseley is 'penciled in' as the 5th starter, and I'm not too thrilled about it. He has a below average sinker and a way below average breaking ball and not much else. He's better suited as a long man and a spot starter, but unless someone like Nick Adenhart, Nick Green or Shane Loux really has a great Spring, we're gonna be stuck watching Moseley every fifth game. Ugh. Still though, not a bad rotation...easily the best in the division.
Brian Fuentes (L): 2008-2.73, 30 SVS. 2009 Proj.-2.25, 42 SVS
Scot Shields (R): 2008-2.70, 31 HLDS. 2009 Proj.-2.60, 30 HLDS
Jose Arredondo (R): 2008-1.62. 2009 Proj.-1.90
Darren Oliver (L): 2008-2.88. 2009 Proj. 3.10
Kevin Jepsen (R): 2008-4.32. 2009 Proj.-3.75
Shane Loux (R): 2008-2.81. 2009 Proj.-3.20
Justin Speier (R): 2008-5.03. 2009 Proj.-4.15
The Angels are going to play a whole lot of close games, so the bullpen will again be tested and called upon to hold many a 1 or 2-run lead. They should be up to it. Fuentes was signed to replace Franky as the closer, and he is very capable. Health has been a bit of a concern the last few seasons, but with Shields and Arredondo waiting in the wings, the Halos have other options. Arredondo is easily the best arm in the pen, and really, it seems like only a matter of time before he takes over the closer role. It actually wouldn't even surprise me if that happens this year, if Fuentes struggles or gets hurt. The middle-inning guys are solid with Oliver, Jepsen and Loux. Speier might be done. He looked horrible last season and really, couldn't get anyone out. I'm hopeful he'll bounce back though and be serviceable. The bullie should be solid enough to get the job done. I'm anxious to see the younger arms like Jepsen, Arredondo and Loux for a full season.
As for the AL West, I still think the Halos have the most complete club in the division and will ultimately win it again. The A's are improved with the additions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi, but much depends on how healthy Justin Duchscherer can stay. The Rangers are the Rangers. They'll score a ton and give up a ton and a half - not a factor. The Mariners are a mess, but if Erik Bedard can stay on the field, they shouldn't be too horrendous. Here's how I see it finishing:
Feel free to comment and to pick my projections and predictions apart. Let me know what you think.
And Go HALOS!!!
Posted on: October 8, 2008 2:58 pm
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
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 21, 2008 1:48 am
With the Angels 3-1 win over the Blue Jays (in Toronto, no less) and the A's 3-2 loss to the Rays, the Halos have opened up a nice little three game lead in the division. It looks right now like the A's will be the only threat to the Angels taking their second straight AL West title and fourth in five seasons.
The Angels had a nice series against the Dodgers, taking two of three this past weekend, and after a real rough stretch, have won three of their last four games. The offense is still sputtering a bit, but the starting pitching has been great, and has been responsible for much of the team's recent success.
A win in Toronto is always nice, as the Jays have owned us in their park for what seems like forever. Let's just see if we can't win a series North of the border for once and put some more distance between us and Oakland.