Tag:Los Angeles Angels
Posted on: September 4, 2009 5:05 pm
 

Trial by Fire

A tough September schedule will make or break the Halos' postseason chances


What seemed an almost foregone conclusion a mere week or two ago is now anything but a sure thing. Clinging to an ever-shrinking 3 1/2 game lead in the AL West, the Angels face probably the roughest stretch of games they've faced all season coming up after a series that starts today in Kansas City (who shouldn't be taken lightly, as the Halos face the Royals top 3 starters in Meche, Greinke and Hochaver) and then a home series with the Mariners (who just took 2 of 3 from us in Seattle).

Here's what it looks like:

3 vs. White Sox
1 @ Yankees (a makeup game, I think)
3@ Red Sox
3 @ Rangers
3 vs. Yankees
3 vs. A's
4 vs. Rangers

Ugh, right? One thing's for sure, if the Angels are fortunate enough to qualify for postseason play, they won't go in cold and well-rested, ala last season. It may end up being a good thing if we can just find a way to beat the Rangers.
Posted on: May 5, 2009 1:53 pm
 

Can't Take Naps Out of the Lineup

Napoli's strong start is reminding Angels fans of his breakout 2008 season


Angels catcher Mike Napoli has been on a tear lately. A Pujols-like tear, really, that has seen him reach base in 13 of his last 14 at-bats. After last night's 4-for-4, 2 RBI performance, his average sits at .364 to go along with 4 HR and 11 RBI in just 55 at-bats. I'm guessing those AB's are going to skyrocket over the next few weeks, as manager Mike Scioscia just can't afford to take him out of the lineup. He's been the primary catcher all season, getting slightly more playing time than counterpart Jeff Mathis, but many of his upcoming plate appearances may come in a DH role, as he was in last night.

The Halos' offense has been rolling lately, as Napoli, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales have all been driving in runs, and after stumbling a bit, 2B Howie Kendrick has found his stroke and has been hitting the ball much better lately. We all saw Napoli's power potential last season when he belted 20 HR's in just 227 AB's, a staggering pace that lead the majors. He also got hot down the stretch to finish with a .273 batting average (he's a career .250 hitter).

That ungodly HR rate was impossible to expect Naps to repeat, or even approach this season, but Angels fans were still expecting big things from Naps big bat. The 4 HR so far are nice, but what I've seen is a shorter, quicker swing, especially when he's down in the count, making him a really tough out. He can, and does, still turn it loose early in the count and when he's ahead, but even when he does, he still looks more under control than last season. He's always been a patient hitter with a good eye, but a long swing lead to a few too many strikeouts. He'll still strikeout a bit, but he looks like a much more complete hitter so far this season. I'm guessing a .265 average with 25-plus HR's isn't out of the realm of possibility. For now, Scioscia just has to put that bat of his in the lineup and ride out this hot streak.

Posted on: February 25, 2009 7:26 pm
 

2009 Angels Season Preview, continued...

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.

Rotation

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.

Bullpen

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:

Angels: 91-71

Athletics: 86-76

Rangers: 78-84

Mariners: 70-92

Feel free to comment and to pick my projections and predictions apart. Let me know what you think.

And Go HALOS!!!

 

Posted on: September 22, 2008 4:21 pm
 

A Beautiful Dump

When I booked my trip to visit Yankee Stadium for the first (and last) time, I didn't realize at the time that I would be attending the third to last game EVER at the House that Ruth Built. As a baseball fan, it was a place I had to see before the wrecking balls came calling. I had to see the mecca of Major League Baseball before it was nothing more than a parking lot, or whatever they're going to use the hallowed land for.

And I'm glad I did. There was nothing special about the game that night, a meaningless contest against the Baltimore Orioles that the Yankees pulled out 3-2. But being there, in that stadium, that night, was special. I just tried to take it all in, but really, it's impossible to take in 85 years of history in three hours. So I just watched the game, enjoyed my $9.50 beer and listened to the season ticket holders behind me commiserate with one another about how difficult Sunday's final game would be.

If you've been there, you know. If you haven't, let me tell you. The place is a dump. The aisles and walkways are so narrow that two waifish models would have a hard time passing each other, it smells, it's dirty, there's not enough concession stands for 35,000 people, let alone the 57,000 that pack the stadium on a nightly basis, and it's not exactly in the best of neighborhoods. And while the place oozes sights and smells that are surely EPA hazards, it also oozes something else. Yankee Stadium oozes with tradition and reeks of baseball's glorious past, not just the Yankees' glorious, storied past. The legends that played on that field - Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle are household names, not just in New York or with Yankee fans, but all across America. In much the same way Xerox is synonymous with copies and Coke is synonymous with soft drinks in general, the Yankees stand for baseball.

I look forward to visiting the new and improved Yankee Stadium and having a $10.50 beer, and hopefully watching my Angels send the Yankee faithful home disappointed. I also hope that one day, the stadium I call home, the Big A, will have a tenth as much history of that beautiful dump that will soon be demolished.

 

Posted on: August 7, 2008 1:03 pm
 

Angels getting production from behind the plate

Even though their batting averages are flirting dangerously with the Mendoza Line, the Angels catching duo of Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli have given the team outstanding production from behind the plate. In fact, it's tough to find another Major League club that can match the pair's combined 21 HR and 67 RBI.

Napoli, who's currently on his way back from a shoulder injury, has belted 12 HR and knocked in 29 RBI in just 142 at-bats. His homerun rate of a dinger every 11.8 AB's is among the best in the bigs.

Mathis has caught nearly every game since his buddy (the two are good friends off the field) landed on the DL, and though streaky, has contributed 9 HR and 38 RBI to an Angels offense that needs every position player to pull his weight with the bat. If Mathis can find some more consistency at the plate, he looks like manager Mike Scioscia's choice to play the bulk of the innings down the stretch.

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: May 23, 2008 3:40 pm
 

White Sox are White Hot

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.

Posted on: May 21, 2008 1:48 am
 

A Little Separation

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.

 
 
 
 
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