Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I'm going to start off with a digression to another sport here, and bring it all back home.

I am used to, in sports, constant reminders that I know less than those in charge. My football team, for instance: Mike Shanahan is constantly doing things that make no sense to me, but work out anyway.

Two years ago, Shanahan surveyed all the quarterbacks in the world, and decided the solution was Jake Plummer. I scoffed, Jake won, and the team went to the playoffs (where everything fell apart, but it wasn't Jake's fault).

This year, Shanahan decided to trade Clinton Portis, far and away the team's best player, for a player that didn't really address an immediate need, and to put a Micro Machine mediocrity whose college affiliation revealed him to be evil to the core in Portis' place. This would be something like us trading Vlad for Mike Cameron and installing Legs Figgins in right field.

So what happened? Well, one game is too little to go on, but Quentin Griffin ran all over the place (he did that one game last year, too, so let's see him put more than one game together before throwing a party), Champ Bailey put the shutdown on the defense and even caught a pass, and the team looks as good as ever.

The morale is: I clearly know a lot less about football personnel than Mike Shanahan, and I should just learn to shut the hell up when he does seemingly baffling things.

Which brings me to Mike Scioscia, as quoted in the LA Times today:

We're at a point where this is the best rotation we've had since we've been here in 2000.
Say what?

Now, applying the lessons I have just learned, it's obvious that Mike Scioscia knows more about playing baseball and managing a baseball team than I do. Okay, so I think he's wrong about the stupid contact play and all the baserunning, and some of the bunting, but it's not like you could put me in charge and have a better team. But then Scioscia says stuff like this, and you're like ... "Huh?"

There's no way that he really thinks this year's rotation is better than 2002's, is there? I mean, I don't even have to post stats for you to know this; obviously 2002 was better. Kelvim Escobar, who now has a rotation-best 3.86 ERA, would rank 5th in ERA amongst the 2002 starters. And this is a pitcher's park, people, moreso than it was in 2002.

Maybe Scioscia is speaking only about the short term, where John Jekyl and Lackey Hyde have managed two straight good starts (after two straight bad ones), and The Big Mango is threatening to get his ERA below 5.00 for the first time since May 20 (just think about that for a second). Meanwhile, Ace Washburn got lit up by Toronto in his last start, which is something less than encouraging. Ponder this clip from a recent Gammons article:

Mike Scioscia on the worth of Erstad, Varitek, et al: "Sometimes your best player isn't the best player, at least statistically. The players all know Erstad is our best player, just as anyone who manages against the Red Sox knows Varitek is their best player, or Jeter is the Yankees' best player. Paul Lo Duca isn't far from that category, as well. People tell me that we'd be better with someone other than Erstad or David Eckstein, and I know otherwise. If they want someone else, fine, find someone else to manage." Not that Scioscia has to worry, because Bill Stoneman gets it.
There is no flippin' way that anyone really thinks Darin Erstad is better than Vlad, that Jason Varitek is better than Manny Ramirez, and that Derek Jeter is better than A-Rod and Sheffield (or Posada and Matsui [this year, anyway, on the latter], for that matter). Give me a break. Sure, they might be leaders, and there's importance to that (I guess), but come on ...

Part of me wants to think that these are things Scioscia says in order to motivate. All the talk about productive outs and Erstad and Eckstein being leaders instills the notion that the Angels are a team, not just a collection of prima donna superstars out for themselves. Everyone is led to believe that they are crucial to a winning effort; is it possible that this mindset has brought the best out of The Legs, Clutch DaVanon, and Robb Quinlan, not to mention a bullpen deeper than Mary Poppins' valise? If so, the results are worth every apparently lamebrained comment Scioscia makes to the press, and then some.

I think he's right about the rotation. I think you're misinterpreting him. He's not saying that the rotation this season has been as good as it was in 2002. He's saying that they're at the point now where the rotation is the best they've had. I think that's right. I think what Colon and Escobar have done over the last couple months, with a healthy Washburn, and with the good Lackey (it may be two starts, but at least it's the last two starts), they're at a point that even with Sele they're a better starting five, and Sele totally sucks.

In 2002 you could basicallyt count on Washburn to give you a good start. I had no faith in any other pitcher in that rotation to give a good performance, except for maybe Lackey, and occasionally Ramon.

And maybe your being generous and calling Shields a 2002 starter, but from my calculations, his 3.86 would be 4th, and roughly the same as Ortiz's (prettty close). I don't like using park factors on a year by year basis. Small sample size.

You tell me. The way they've pitched since the all-star break, who would you rather have as a four man rotation in the post-season? Colon, Escobar, JayDub, and Lackey? Or JayDub, Lackey, Appier, and Ortiz? For me it's no contest. I'm ten times more confident in this year's top four than in 2002.

And speaking of JayDub, he had one bad inning in his last start, only second after a month off. He gave up five hits in that inning. He gave up no hits in the other five, and finished with five strike outs in 6 innings. And one of those hits was the result of Erstand holding Gomez on first (in other words, he got the ground ball, but got a little unlucky). I'm not worried about him.

As for Escobar, he's had one borderline bad start since the end of July, and that came after they had a pretty good sized lead against Cleveland. He did have a rough start against Tampa, but I'm giving him a pass since he tried to pitch through a blister, for which I give him the benefit of the doubt seeing as how in the start previous and the start following, he threw 14 innings and gave up 3 earned runs.

Call it a gut feeling, but I have much more confidence in the front two (Colon and Escobar) than I did in 2002, and the back two this year were the front two in 2002.

And I can't believe you think Oklahoma is pure evil, but Miami apparently isn't. Any bad karma from having an Oklahoma RB in the backfield is more than made up for by getting rid of a Miami RB (and I say that as a big Broncos fan).
It's likely that Scioscia probably didn't actually mean the "best" player as you are using it. The point he was trying to make, I think, is that if you have a lineup of A-Rods, you might score a lot, but you are less likely to win a championship. Want some small sample size proof of this? Florida Marlins won the chmapionship last year, while the Red Sox (having a fantastic offense and some pretty good pitching) didn't. I know I am cherry-picking right here, but every team that has won a champiomship lately has had these "best" players who weren't really the best on their teams.

I think you may be getting 2002 and 2003 confused. Sure, this year's rotation is lightyears ahead of lasts, but in 2002 the Angels had a healthy Kevin Appier, a solid John Lackey and Ramon Ortiz and nails Jarrod Washburn.

Are you telling me that you wouldn't take Washburn (3.15), Lackey (3.66), Ortiz (3.77), Appier (3.92), and Sele (4.89) over this year's lot?
Oh, and Chronicles- how can you be a Broncos fan!? I feel betrayed!
Ricahrd, yes. That's what I'm saying. That 2002 team also had a better left fielder, and if you believe MGL, had probably the one of the top 4 or 5 defensive center fielders of all time. Those guys would not have had those numbers with the 2004 defense.

That staff didn't have anybody that could really overpower a good hitting team and it showed. There were no great starts against the Yankees. A couple of good starts against the Twins, and only a couple of good starts against the Giants, and that's if you consider game 1 a good start. Colon and Escobar, when good, can dominate unlike any of those four. Not that Lackey and Wash can't shut teams down, but the way I see it, if Lackey keeps it together, we still have the best two of those four, and we replace Appier and Nervous McNerverson and Appier with Colon and Escobar. And it's not a 5.13 Colon, either. He's not pitching like he did early in the season. He's like a different guy.

So yeah, I'm much more confident in these four.
Oops, we only replace one Appier in that last comment. My bad.
I guess I can see that. If (and that's a pretty big if) Colon manages to return to dominance, then yes, this rotation is probably better.
To start with, I did find Miami to be pure evil until the Butch Davis era. They aren't nearly as obnoxious as they were in the Jimmy Johnson/Dennis Erickson days (Jerome Brown comparing himself to Japan on the eve of Pearl Harbor? Yikes). Oklahoma has the stain of Barry Switzer, and Bob Stoops is insufferable, so they win the coveted title of U$C of the west ...

Shred, er, William, makes a very good point about the 2002 defense. But, honestly, Wash and Lackey were going quite well that year, and I felt good with both of them on the hill. This year, I feel good only with Escobar and, on occasion, Colon. Lackey is like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and Ortiz and Sele are also inconsistent, not to mention Washburn's random forays into batting practice pitching. There was, to me, a lot more consistency in 2002 than this year, and as a result I had a much higher comfort level.

Sorry Richard, but I grew up here, and I never could take to the thugs that call themselves Raiders. Al Davis? Come on ... so I gravitated to the local boy that made good. I can even dub you a copy of my NFL Films "John Elway: Champion Forever" if you like ... ;)
I've been a lurker for some time, reading your blog, but never posting comments until now. We must be connected in some sort of cosmic mind link way. Not only are you an Angels fan, but you're a Broncos fan! I didn't know that there was more than just one of us!!! Go Angels!!! Go Broncos!!! :)

-Andy (WarAngel)
Hey, if you're a Bruin, we could have the trifecta ...
Broncos, Angels, and Bruins fan here as well. I've been a Broncos fan since my cousin moved to Denver the same year that Elway started.

The Broncos were about as impressive as the Angels today.
Nice blog with interesting topics. I have a website that offers alot of controversial topics here. Just go to the links page and look for "Video Reviews"
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