Tag:Vladimir Guerrero
Posted on: November 11, 2009 3:59 pm
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Altered Angels?

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.

Continuity has been one of the club's primary characteristics over the last five or six seasons, that and baserunners going first to third on a single ("they play the game the right way, blah blah blah"). From year to year, you knew John Lackey would be leading the rotation, Chone Figgins would be leading off and creating havoc on the bases and Vlad Guerrero would be swinging at every pitch thrown in his general direction, hittable or not, and, until recently, carrying the club from an offensive standpoint. Sure, you'd get a Gary Matthews, Torii Hunter or Bobby Abreu here and there, but for the most part, you knew what the Angels would look like next season, pretty much the day the Red Sox ended whatever season you're talking about. Not the case this "next season."

The first three guys I mentioned above are all free agents, along with a few other bench guys and 40-year-old wonder Darren Oliver, who will hopefully give it another go before moving to Boca Raton, or wherever it is old people go. Seriously, dude's old. But he's left-handed and can still pitch. And there are plenty of Hometown Buffets in Southern California. Did I mention he was old? Anyway, a lot of teams are looking at more free agents than the Angels are, but few are looking at more free agents who are as key to the club's success as the Angels. Ace, leadoff hitter (and a nice glove at 3B) and cleanup hitter - all hitting the free agent market. Of course, Vlad is not the same Vlad that won the AL MVP in 2004, or even the same Vlad that hit 27 HRs in both 2007 and 2008. Vlad seemed to age 5 years in the 2008 off-season and is now perpetually injured or banged-up, even in a full-time DH role. Vlad may not be entirely "done," but for what the Angels need - a middle of the order bat - he is. It wouldn't surprise me if Vlad's in an Angels uni in 2010, and if he is, I hope he makes me and many other Angels fans eat our words. But it's probably best for the club to look elsewhere as far as a DH is concerned. There are a few serviceable FA's out there, and even giving Napoli the job and hitting him out of the 6 or 7-hole might be a better option than Vlad. Tough to say, but true. Probably.

Now to Lackey. Big John has been the Angels ace and one of the leaders of the team, not just the pitching staff, for a while now. We always hear about how much of a "bulldog" he is and how much "fire" and "heart" and "insert adjective here" he pitches with. But the bottom line is, he's been one of the most consistent pitchers in the AL over the last four or five seasons. He's had five straight seasons with an ERA under 4.00 and almost won a Cy Young Award in 2007, going 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA. He's been pretty durable, even though he's started the last two seasons on the DL and hasn't reached the 200-inning mark since '07. The last two seasons are a bit of a red flag, but they weren't major injuries and he rebounded to pitch well in both seasons and he really did have a nice postseason for the Halos in '09. Thing is, Big John's in a pretty good position, as far as Big John's concerned. He is the best free agent pitcher available in a pretty down year for FA starters. Some team's gonna pay him a lot of money to bring his fire and bulldoggedness to their club. Will the Angels pay to keep him? Should they? Tough call, really. Chances are, whoever signs him will be overpaying a bit and will probably only get 2 or 3 more seasons of the John Lackey we see now. Other pitchers are available via trade, ala Roy Halladay, but parting with young talent hasn't been the Angels M.O., as we all know. I just don't see Lackey in an Angels uniform for 2010.

But the hottest Angel on the FA market may not even be Lackey. It very well may be Chone Figgins. Desmond DeChone has become one of the premier leadoff hitters in baseball and is coming off his best season. His OBP percentage hovered around .400 all season, he walked 100 times, he scored 114 runs, he stole 42 bases. Figgy had a hell of a season. While he's held down 3B for the Halos the past few seasons, he can play anywhere, really, and if another team signs him, he'll probably end up playing LF or 2B. He's obviously not a prototypical third baseman and the Angels think they may have one waiting in the wings in Brandon Wood. Jury's still out on that. I wouldn't be surprised to see Figgy return to Anaheim. We don't exactly have a leadoff hitter in waiting (Aybar's not ready) and the organization may be ready to trade Wood in a deal to acquire pitching. We'll see, but this Angels fan wants Figgy back. Our offense would take a HUGE hit if he left, I'm afraid. But just like with Lackey, teams are going to throw some ridiculous jack at Chone. Not sure if the Angels will be one of them.

Posted on: February 25, 2009 3:49 pm
 

2009 Angels Season Preview

The Angels won a franchise-record 100 games last season before their annual ousting from the playoffs by the Boston Red Sox. They didn't go down near as easily as they did in '07, but down is down. Too few extra base hits and hits with RISP - it's a pattern we Halos fans have come to almost expect.

Last season was a little different than the previous few, as the team made a big deadline deal to land "the big bat" to hit behind Vladimir Guerrero in Mark Teixeira. To land Tex, the Halos had to part ways with talented first baseman Casey Kotchman, and even though the trade didn't bear the results Angels fans hoped for, I still think it was a good deal. They had to roll the dice with the team they had, especially the way the pitching staff was performing. Now with Tex donning pinstripes and Kotch across the country in Atlanta, the team looks to Kendry Morales to hold down the fort at 1B. Kendry only got a handful of AB's at the Major League level last season, but has had enough time with the big club the last few seasons to not be considered a complete question mark. He can handle the bat. Even though he hit just .213 last season (in just 61 AB's) he was never over matched. He's hit better than .340 each of the last few seasons at AAA Salt Lake, and, even though AAA's not the bigs, .340 is still impressive. Kendry will hit. His glove may be the biggest question.

The Angels also parted ways with some guy named Rodriguez...the kids called him K-Rod, I think. Yes Francisco Rodriguez saved a Major League record 62 games last season, but if you watched him day-in, day-out, you know he was less than dominant. In reality, he probably was barely a Top 5 closer last season. He blew 7 saves and ended the season with a 1.29 WHIP. He walks WAAAY too many batters and allows more base runners than a top-flight closer should. His replacement, Brian Fuentes, should be just fine. I honestly don't think the loss of Franky will affect the team at all. Thanks for the memories, though.

One of the greatest Angels of all time played his last game with the club last season. Aging left fielder Garret Anderson had another solid season (also his healthiest in years) but the crowded Angels outfield left no room for GA to return. Juan Rivera was re-signed, and looked to be team's every day LF until the club signed veteran Bobby Abreu to a 1-year, $5 million deal. A steal, really, considering Raul Ibanez got 3-years/$30 million from Philly earlier in the off season. Abreu will be a good addition to the Halos' lineup. He is a high on-base guy, has some pop with mostly gap power and can still run a little bit. He should fit right in. Speaking of the Halos' lineup, let's take a look. I'll include last year's relevant stats and what I expect this season.

1. Chone Figgins 3B: 2008-.276/.367OBP/72RUNS/34SB (116 gms). 2009 Proj.-.290/.380/105RUNS/55SB

2. Howie Kendrick 2B: 2008-.306/3HR/37RBI (92 gms). 2009 Proj.-.310/10/55/85RUNS/15SB

3. Bobby Abreu LF: 2008(NYY)-.296/20/100/100. 2009 Proj.-.300/18/90/80/20SB

4. Vladimir Guerrero RF: 2008-.303/27/91. 2009 Proj.-.315/28/110

5. Torii Hunter CF: 2008-.278/21/78. 2009 Proj.-.275/20/80

6. Juan Rivera DH/RF: 2008-.246/12/45 (256 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.285/22/65 (475 ABs)

7. Kendry Morales 1B: 2008-.213/3/8 (61 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.280/13/60

8. Mike Napoli C: 2008-.273/20/49 (227 ABs (WOW!)). 2009 Proj.-.250/25/55 (350 ABs)

9. Erick Aybar SS: 2008-.277/3/39/53RUNS (346 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.275/5/40/65

 

Of course, all these "projections" are assuming fairly healthy seasons. I still see Naps splitting time with Jeff Mathis, and you can't expect him to keep up last year's HR rate. Aybar will be spelled by Izturis a little bit, but I don't think Aybar did anything last season to not come into '09 as the starter at SS. If Rivera gets more ABs, look for him to sniff 30 HR. We'll see.

If things just go according to plan and the young guys grow up a bit, I think the Halos will score enough runs to win 90-plus games. Now, they're no offensive juggernaut, but Abreu's OBP ability in front of Vlad makes the team much better than it was before his signing. They'll probably finish in the middle of the pack of the AL in runs scored.

I'll take a look at the pitchers in a different post and make a prediction on how the AL West shakes out.

 

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: 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 7, 2008 1:53 pm
 

Halos finding the road 'heavenly'

After last night's 5-3 win over the Royals in Kansas City, the Angels record away from the Big A stands at a league-best 12-5. Very impressive, considering the team did most of its damage in the friendly confines of Angels Stadium last season and played roughly .500 ball on the road. If we can start dominating like we have at home, and keep up a better pace on the road, the Angels are easily capable of surpassing last season's win total, which would hopefully mean another AL West title.

Nick Adenhart, the sequel. A little better than the original, but still not quite there. 4 1/3 innings with five walks against a fairly young and punchless Kansas City team. I think he walked 9-hitter Tony Pena twice and he's hitting like a buck-fifty. You gotta be able to lay one or two down the middle to hacks like that and Nick just couldn't. Good, live arm, and he did improve from his first outing. Got to within two outs of having a chance at his first big league win, but after walking consecutive batters in the 5th, had to hit the showers. He might get one more shot at that first win four or five days from now.

There was a Garret Anderson sighting last night. Finally. GA singlehandedly carried the offense knocking in five runs, including a 3-run shot, his second homer in two days. Hopefully GA gets it going.

Vlad had a triple-double last night. Make that a triple and a double, and he was robbed on a laser up the middle by Royals second baseman Mark Grudzasomethingorother. All those were hard hit balls to the right side. When Vlad's going good, he hits a lot of balls hard to right field. Watch out.

Howie Kendrick went 3-3 with 2 HR in a rehab start in single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He should be back soon, maybe tonight.

Uh, Casey Kotchman is pretty good. Kotch is batting .333 with 6 HR and 21 RBI and is leading the majors with a .545 average off of lefties....545. That's pretty good.

Posted on: May 5, 2008 6:47 pm
 

Angels - O's Series Wrap

After dropping game one of the three-game set with the Orioles, the Angels stormed back to defend the Big A and took the final two games to win yet another series. Game one was there for the taking too, as we mounted a nice little rally in the 9th, but fell short, as pinch-hitter Juan Rivera popped up with one out and runners on second and third.

Garland twirled a gem, leading the Halos to a win in game 2, 3-1. Garland's last two starts have been his worst and his best. Hopefully he can avoid outings like the meltdown he had against the A's and just be more consistent. I don't expect a ton of 8-inning, lights-out performances like he showed this weekend, either...just to keep us in games, eat innings and give the team a chance to win on most nights.

The Halos took the rubber match by jumping on Orioles starter Steve Trachsel (seriously, how's this guy still pulling a big league paycheck?) and bailing out Joe Sauunders, who struggled through 5 innings, but improved to 6-0 on the season. The offense probably owes Joe a couple as he's needed minimal run support up until this outing. Vladdy got some rest and hopefully he starts to heat up soon as I don't expect Garret to anytime soon. Torii Hunter hit his first bomb since the walk-off granny, this one, an absolute rocket shot over the bullpens in left field, gave the team a nice jolt early in the game after the O's had come out strong themselves. Mathis looked good throwing out Roberts attempting to steal third and then picked him off in the 9th to help seal a win in a tight game.

Off on another roadie, this time to Kansas City and then to Tampa Bay, to visit our old friend Joe Maddon, who's got a nice young team and should pose a tough challenge.

 
 
 
 
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