Sunday, October 31, 2004

"Troy Glaus is a monster."

The listener was me; the speaker had been a high school classmate and teammate of mine, one of two that were playing baseball for UCLA (this one didn't really make it; the other one lettered for two years and then left the team to pursue football only, in which he was a starter and has been bouncing around NFL practice squads for a couple of years).

It was fall, 1996; my classmate and I were freshmen. Troy Glaus would be drafted the following June by the Angels.

I hadn't followed UCLA baseball for a couple of years at this point, though I had in the early 90s, so this was the first time I had heard of him. It was odd to witness the star of your high school team speak in awe of another player. Right away, I knew Troy Glaus was something special. Over the course of that year, I read of Glaus' exploits, and was ecstatic when the Bruin shortstop was drafted by my team. How often do you get a chance to root for you college and your pro team simultaneously?

Being a large, powerful man, the Angels immediately moved him to thirdbase, which was fine, especially because he was represented by Doug DeCinces, great Angel of yore -- Glaus, at the time, was dating DeCinces' daughter (his son, Tim, was a catcher on the Bruin baseball team). I remember DeCinces in the booth for an inning of an Angel telecast that year, praising Glaus, predicting great things. Unsurprisingly, Glaus ripped through the minors.

Do y'all remember Troy's first major league at-bat? It was against Bret Saberhagen, another local boy that I liked (and one I have met). In one of Bill James' old books, he wrote about how Sabes would always, early in a game, set a right-handed batter on his ass by coming up and in in a threatening, yet safe, way.

Sure enough, the first pitch Glaus saw in the majors was up at his shoulders and knocked him down. The next pitch was a breaking pitch down and away; Glaus knocked it down the rightfield line for a double. Right away, he demonstrated that he wasn't going to be intimidated, and that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Sure, he did struggle for the rest of that cup of coffee, in 1998. He was a little bit better the next year, and then in 2000 broke out -- he homered, he walked, he was better than Cats. He's never really matched that season, but he has obviously been very productive since then.

We also saw him at his best in the 2002 post-season, hitting 344/420/770 in 16 games, knocking in possibly the two biggest runs of the season, or maybe even the biggest runs in the history of the Angels (it certainly is arguable, but the Game 6 double off Robb Nen has to be on the short list).

When he first was coming up, I said that his upside was Mike Schmidt (which is some upside), and his downside was Matt Williams. So far, he's been somewhere in between -- in fact, check out his Top 10 comparables through age 27 listed at BB-ref. He's been a fine player, and the only real limitation on his value will be if his shoulder doesn't allow him to play third base anymore. I'm sad to see him go, as an Angel fan and a Bruin; it's never easy to see the only World Series MVP in the franchise's history be shown the door at age 28.

Hopefully, he won't end up on some team I hate. So fare thee well, Troy, Angel fans will always be grateful, and wish you the best of luck.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Quentin Griffin, regular Chronicles Non-Baseball Whipping Boy, is injured and out for the year. Now I feel terrible for ripping on him all the time.

Well, get well, Q. It was nothing personal.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Great job by the Broncos' "shutdown corner," Champ Bailey, last night. He held the Bengals' Chad Johnson to a mere seven receptions for 149 yards. Actually, to be accurate, Johnson did catch one short pass against a zone coverage on third-and-long (Bailey made the tackle, but it was not a man-on-man match-up, nor a bad play by the Denver defense), and got away with one blatant offensive pass interference on another play; so Bailey was legitimately beat five times for 119 yards.

There were three incompletes thrown Chad Johnson's way, but Bailey only knocked down one of those. He did make an interception, but he beat Carson Palmer on that, not Johnson.

Basically, Champ Bailey got worked. Carson Palmer was 12 of 21 for 198 yards. To receivers not named Chad Johnson, Palmer was 6 of 11 for 49 yards.

Also exposed by the Broncos' pathetic effort was the fraudulence of their offense. ABC showed a graphic early in the game that indicated Jake Plummer has a mid-90s passer rating off of play-action, but is in the high-70s on dropback passes. A high percentage of Snake's play-action passes come on roll-outs. Cincinatti prepared for this, and their linebackers were always waiting for Jake at the other end of the roll-outs, thereby taking the play away. Deprived of their bread-and-butter passing plays, the Bronco passing offense struggled, averaging a miniscule 5.5 yards per pass -- and with Jake being sacked three times, doubling his total for the season.

During the Carolina game, right after Plummer had thrown an interception that Julian Peppers returned 3,209 yards without scoring, NFL Films caught one Panther defender on the sideline telling another "Jake Plummer ain't got no damn sense." Jake went out of his way to prove that last night, registering one dumb intentional grounding and two stupid interceptions. He had a few other passes that could have been intercepted, as well.

Part of the problem was the pass protection. The Bronco O-Line seemed confused having to block for a drop-back game (with the roll-out removed), and the blocking schemes never seemed a match for the Bengal pass-rush, especially in the critical fourth quarter.

Mike Shanahan essentially got schooled. At no point were the Broncos playing the type of game that they would have wanted. Reuben Droughns played well, but the running game was not a big factor for Denver as they were constantly trailing. It was just a bad, stupid game all-around. Yeah, Any Given SundayMonday and all that, but what Cincinatti did to them is easily replicable, so Denver has to devise a response.

(On a side note: the dumbest play of the game was by -- guess who? -- Quentin Griffin, picking up a kick-off inches before it went out of bounds at the 22, thereby depriving the Broncos of 18 yards. Dumb, just dumb ... field position was a thorn for the Broncos all game, and this stupid pranks didn't improve matters.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

So, at the suggestion of a "contributor," I'm trying out a new font. Thoughts? I never really liked the way Internet Explorer read the old font, either, actually, but it looked great on Safari on my home computer. I haven't tried out this font on Safari yet, but it seems to look better on my PC at work than the old font did.

I'm also trying to get the "Comments" at the end of each post to actually link to the comments part of the post instead of the top. I received a suggestion along these lines but can't seem to make it work. The only possible explanations are: (1) I am a moron; and (2) Blogger hates me.

These are not mutually exclusive.

Friday, October 22, 2004

(Before jumping into something here, did you know that Lindsay Lohan has a single out? It's called "Rumors", which is why I think of it here. But it's not attached to an album, it's just a single. What the hell? What is the world coming to? The song blows, by the way ...)

On last night's playoff BTF IRC session, someone, I don't remember who, claimed that he had been speaking with an AP writer that covers the Mets, and that this writer claims that a Jose Guillen for Mike Piazza swap is in the offing. Grain of salt, natch, but would such a move be wise?

Piazza, I would have to assume, would get most of his playing time at DH and 1B. This means that Glaus would definitely be gone, unless he can play third and McPherson returns to the PCL.

But Piazza also makes around $15 million next year, which is far more expensive than either Glaus or McPherson will be. Would he be worth that much more money?

I don't think so; in fact, I think the chances that Piazza will out-hit Glaus and/or McPherson in 2005 are not as high as you might think. First of all, as a 36-year-old (former?) catcher, he's not in the best shape physically. He missed thirty games last year and nearly 90 in 2003. He missed that time last year despite playing first more than backstop. There's also this to consider:

Year   SLG   OPS+

2000 .614 159
2001 .573 150
2002 .544 140
2003 .483 124
2004 .444 108
That's not a surprising trend for a catcher. Piazza has been a great player, and to the best of my knowledge a class act. But he is a shadow of his former self, and at this point just sticking him at DH might not be enough to keep him healthy and productive (just see Tim Salmon in 2004).

So if this is for real, I'm not sure I like the move. I like Piazza, but it seems more like a PR move than a baseball move.

However, thanks to Sean I noted that the Angels have made a baseball move: Angees Riggs has been unconditionally released. I never thought he brought much to the table as a player, but hopefully he can hang on somewhere. It's hard to root against the AAA lifers, even when they're unexceptional ballplayers. Fare thee well, Angees ...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

        G  AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(CF)

2004 112 442 133 20 1 14 75 29 2 1 301 343 446 105 .278 .866(8)
Car. 112 447 134 28 2 16 61 21 5 3 299 329 477 107 .276 .874
Pro. 140 563 172 38 2 23 81 30 5 3 305 338 503 119
(The career mark is different than I did prior; it's prorated to the number of games he played last year, which is how I'll do it from now on. For an explanation of everything ever, go here.)

A few points to note:

1. As you know, Garret was much more productive over 2002-2003 than he has been for the rest of his career. Last season, injury-hobbled, happened to be pretty much exactly as good as his career numbers -- which leads me to believe that the improvement Garret sustained the previous two years would have continued, had he been healthy.

2. The projection spreadsheet has no idea that Garret has arthritis, nor does it know about his knee problems. So we're looking at a period over 2002 and 2003 and saying, "Hey, he should have more power than he demonstrated in 2004, some of that will come back in 2005," but the fact of the matter is we have no idea if that's an accurate assumption. I would suspect it's not, and that he is more likely to perform according to his career norms than what he did in those two years -- but there is also no way of knowing if his power outage resulted from the arthritis or his knee injuries, nor do we know how chronic the knee problems may become.

If it is the case that his condition will have long-term effects on his performance, his contract will prove much more of a problem than even its biggest critics may have expected.

As a product of aging and injury, Garret was a defensive liability in center field last year, often disturbingly immobile. It has been declared that Garret will return to left in 2005, where he should be adequate defensively. But unless his bat rebounds, he will not rank amongst the best hitters at his position, which will make him a liability.

Garret's status as a leftfielder is also in doubt over the course of his contract. The emergence of Casey Kotchman will chase Darin Erstad from first base, meaning that Erstad will have to find a home in either center or left. If it's left, that sticks Garret at DH, unless the team is silly enough to give away outs by putting him in center again.

And if Garret ends up at DH, that creates multiple problems: (1) He will quite possibly not be good enough of a hitter to justify that; (2) he will be grossly overpaid, even moreso as a DH than as a LF; and (3) it will mean that the Angels have essentially chosen Garret Anderson over Troy Glaus or, conceivably, Dallas McPherson (if Glaus can play third and is retained at McPherson's expense), either of which is a mistake.

Troy Glaus' health status is about as uncertain as Garret Anderson's, but there are reasons I believe that Glaus is the better bet going forward:

1. The main concern with Glaus' injury, from an offensive standpoint, is whether or not he can preserve his power. His Isolated Power (extra bases per at-bat) after his return in 2004 was .242; his career mark is .244. So that hurdle seems to have been jumped. Garret Anderson, as revealed above, had even less power than his punchless old self as a result of his injuries.

2. The main concern with Glaus' injury, from a defensive standpoint, is whether or not he can play third base. That remains to be seen. But if he cannot return to third, he can still play 1B or DH and remain a solid offensive player for those positions. As discussed above, that is not necessarily the case with Anderson.

3. Troy Glaus is younger than Garret Anderson.

4. Troy Glaus has been a better hitter than Garret Anderson over the course of his career.

Actually, I was gonna do this alphabetically, but since he has come up and their fates are intertwined, here's Troy Glaus:

        G  AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(3B)

2004 58 207 52 11 1 18 52 31 2 3 251 355 575 138 .307 .652(10)
Car. 58 208 53 12 1 13 55 33 3 2 253 357 497 119 .291 .744
Pro. 98 351 88 18 1 22 87 55 6 3 250 353 498 122
As I recently discussed at extreme length, I think the Angels should re-sign Glaus, and have him and McPherson split 3B/DH duties. If Garret Anderson is forced into the DH spot, obviously such an arrangement would be impossible.

Now the Angels clearly have more information than I do on their respective medical conditions. But let's say they know, for the sake of argument, that Garret's health problems will not resolve themselves. What can they do about it?

Nothing, because of the four-year contract he signed in April. It was a controversial signing in the Halosphere when it happened. I wasn't a big fan, but it didn't really bother me that much. I figured he would be overpaid by the end of the contract, but I can't do anything about that, and he's been underpaid the last couple of years, anyway. But the development with his arthritis has really thrown that signing's wisdom into jeopardy. Not just because his performance may suffer and cause him to be overpaid, but because it also pushes him to one end of the defensive spectrum, and blocks the Angels from making upgrades to those positions.

The lesson I draw from this is that it's not a good idea to sign a long-term extension with a veteran player in April. Things appear very different for the Angel future now than they did then, but the team is locked into a decision made on a set of assumptions very different from the circumstances they currently face.

Now, it is very possible that Glaus will be able to throw, and will want to and be able to play third base full time, and the Angels will decide that the McPherson Era must begin, and the Angels and Glaus will part ways, rendering all of my above speculation moot. But even in such a case, the Angels, if not committed to Anderson, could have re-signed Glaus to play third and given Dallas McPherson the Jack Howell treatment and taught him to play left. That option is gone.

And that, in retrospect, was the big problem with the Anderson signing; it limited the club's options. It left some financial flexibility (which I focused on at the time), but not positional flexibility. Whether or not the Angels will suffer consequences rests in the uncertain crucibles of Troy Glaus' labrum and Garret Anderson's sore back.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

So the Sox and Yankees are having a legitimately great series. The good baseball distracts me from the sting of the Lads' failure, but I got to thinking about it this morning and it made me sad.

Sad that Vlad can't be performing on a national stage for the first time, or K-Rod in a reprise. That Chone Figgins doesn't get a chance to play in an ALCS as a real player and not a Designated Runner.

But I'm also sad because I would have loved to see A-Rod try that ball-swapping crap on any Angel pitcher.

I mean, seriously, can you see him trying to do that to Frankie? Frankie would have been the pitcher in the eighth inning if it were Halos/Yanks. K-Rod would have knocked Mr. $25M on his ass if he tried to do that. Just remember Kid K blocking home plate, and tell me he lets A-Rod swap at the ball like a little wuss.

And he wouldn't have been in, but I don't think Percival takes that crap, either. And if Erstad has fielded the ball, forget it.

However, Colon never woulda gotten to the ball, so I guess he's the exception.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

So here we go. I plan to review each player on the team (and I apologize that Alfredo Amezaga is first, because honestly we all know everything there is to know about him as a player), so I'm gonna take some time on the first one to explain what all this nonsense is. So bear with me the first time; if you don't want to bear with me, just scroll on down to BACK TO PLAYER ANALYSIS. This is the format I'll be using for each offensive player:

       G   AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(SS)

2004 73 93 15 2 0 2 24 3 3 2 161 212 247 20 .168 .864(3)
Car. 122 211 44 7 2 4 48 12 6 4 209 264 318 55 .212 .856
Pro. 51 84 16 2 1 2 20 5 2 2 191 248 295 72
Okay, what the hell is all that?

The top line is obviously the guy's numbers for 2004, the middle line are his career marks, and the bottom line is his projection for 2005. More on that later.

If you are familiar with OPS+ and EqA, skip this paragraph. OPS+ comes from Baseball-Reference, and denotes how high a player's on base and slugging were above league average. 100 is an average figure. With an OPS+ of 20 last year, Amezaga's OBP and SLG were 20% of league average. This figure is park-adjusted. EqA is Clay Davenport's Equivalent Average (maintained by Baseball Prospectus), and measures how many runs a player created per out, but is scaled so that .260 represents a league average offensive player.

In the Zone Rating column, I have the player's Zone Rating at his primary position, as reported on the player's ESPN card. The number in parantheses is where the player ranks or would rank among league qualifiers at that position. Amezaga did not qualify for AL shortstops last season, but if he had and performed the same, he would have ranked third. ESPN, for unknown reasons, does not list career ZR marks, so I weighted his ZRs by innings and to estimate the career mark.

Okay, the projections. What they really are a weighted average of the last four years. You multiply the most recent year by four, 2003 by three, 2002 by two, 2001 by one, sum those figures, and divide by ten (i.e. 4 + 3 + 2 + 1). Amezaga had only three years, so I adjusted that for three. I really should have an age adjustment, but I'm not that smart, and the weighting should incorporate any trends for better or worse. It's an estimate, I'm not trying to be Nostradamus here. Note that the numbers may not add up exactly because of rounding, and also because I keep track of HBP and stuff on the spreadsheet that I don't display here. As for OPS+ projections, I weight the park-adjusted league average OBP and SLG for each of the year's included by the player's plate appearances in that year, as reported by BB-ref.

I'll throw in a demo of a couple things at the very end of this entry for those that care.

Okay, let's start anew. In case you forgot, we're doing Alfredo Amezaga:

       G   AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(SS)

2004 73 93 15 2 0 2 24 3 3 2 161 212 247 20 .168 .864(3)
Car. 122 211 44 7 2 4 48 12 6 4 209 264 318 55 .212 .856
Pro. 51 84 16 2 1 2 20 5 2 2 191 248 295 45
After all that, all I can tell you about this is that Alfredo Amezaga is about as close to a useless ballplayer as you can get, which is something you already knew. He's a good defender at short, and his abilities get him by at second and third. But he can't hit, he's fast but can't steal bases (at least since he hit AAA), and he can't even bunt very well. He'll be 27 years old in 2005, and his window is closing fast. The Angels can't pretend that he's a viable middle infield option, and must realize that his starting games in the ALDS was an absolute last resort thrust upon us by disaster.

Is there any reason to believe Amezaga is a better hitter than his major league performance so far indicates?

A 25-year old Amezaga hit .347 in 75 games in his second stint at AAA in 2003. And that's about it for the high levels ... his career minor league line is about 287/350/388 in over 2000 at-bats (I don't have the HBP to include there), which is not fantastic. He probably is better than he's shown, but "better" just means he might hit .240 if he's lucky with no power and some walks. Basically, he'd still be worse than David Eckstein by a significant margin. I mean, Eckstein's been lousy the last two years but the worst he hits is .250, and he's got better secondary skills, too. (View Amezaga's minor league numbers for yourself, if you dare.)

If you've got space on your roster for a 25th man that can only field, Amezaga won't hurt you. But it's a problem if he ever sees a bat in his hands in a meaningful situation, grand slams against Joe Blanton notwithstanding.

So BB-ref figures OPS+ by this formula: (Player's OBP / Park-Adjusted League OBP) + (Player's SLG / Park-Adjusted League SLG) - 1. For Amezaga last year that's (.212/.337) + (.247/.432) - 1 = .201. They then put that on a scale of 100, so his OPS+ is 20.

Here are Amezaga's plate appearances and the park-adjusted OBPs for each year of his career:

2002   13  .328

2003 120 .324
2004 105 .337
So you can easily find the park-adjusted OBP for the league overall for those three years: ((13 x .328) + (120 x .324) + (105 x .337))/(13 + 120 + 105) = .330. Of course, in Amezaga's case we only have three years to go with, so we can just look at his page on BB-ref, but for players with longer careers it doesn't really work that way and you have to do the calculation yourself.

So, putting all that together, I project Amezaga to have a 45 OPS+ in 2005, which is of course awful beyond belief. You'll note that this is lower than his career 55 OPS+; this is because he had some hits in 2002 and had a silly OPS+ of 229. If he gets any sort of playing time at all, that will of course not happen in 2005.

This is the first time in my life I've done this. I really have no idea if it's gonna work or not, but I figured I'd give it a try, because the worst that will happen is I'll look like an idiot, which has already happened enough times that I don't care anymore. There are mitigating factors, such as age and ballpark and injuries, that I am not really considering.

Anyway, next up is Garret Anderson, so this is bound to get more interesting.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Richard links to an OC Register article on the impact of Adam Kennedy's knee injuries. We're looking at a 6-10 month timeframe, which means Kennedy could return to the keystone somewhere between mid-April and mid-August.

ACL injuries are no fun, clearly: just ask Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson, and Boobie Miles. Kennedy's not a halfback, and Jerry Rice has also bounced back from an ACL tear, so it's certainly not like his career is over. A Google search turned up some helpful info on ACL tears here, and ESPN has features on tears to both the ACL and MCL, which Kennedy has also suffered.

What this means is the Lads will have to have a second baseman for anywhere from two weeks to four months of the season. Legs Figgins is the most viable in-house option. Figgins had about a good as year with the bat as Kennedy did in 2004 (Figgins had a .267 EqA to Kennedy's .264, not a significant difference). Of course, as underlined in the postseason, Figgins is not the defensive player Kennedy is. Or is he?

Zone Rating at 2B By Year

Player 2002 2003 2004 TOTAL
Kennedy .854 .853 .847 .852
Figgins .889 .957 .808 .856
I found the totals by weighting by innings. Figgins actually compares pretty well to Kennedy in terms of range over these years. However, both ZR and my personal observation see Figgins as struggling at the bag last year. Was this because he had been away from the position for so long? Or was it because he had uncommon good luck the previous two seasons?

I think we can say with relative certainty what Kennedy's defensive talent level is -- and it's very good. He has ranked in the top seven in the majors in Zone Rating each of the last four years, ranking first in 2001 and second in 2004.

I don't think we can have that same certainty with Figgins. Further complicating matters is the fact that Figgins may be in the center field mix next year. The Angels have come halfway to their senses and said Garret Anderson would be the leftfielder (which means adios, Senor Guillen). Which means we need a centerfielder, for which Figgins is in the mix.

Also in the mix, in terms of internal options, are Clutch DaVanon and Darin Erstad.

Wait, what's that? That OC Register article doesn't mention Erstad at all, leading Richard in the post linked above to claim that "we can look forward to another season of the worst everyday firstbaseman in baseball." Let's dive into The Punter for a second.

It was my first instinct to say that Erstad wasn't that bad last year. But, you know, maybe he was. He ranked 29th among first-sackers last year by Clay Davenport's ratings, 10th in VORP amongst ALers (25th overall), and 11th in the AL amongst 1B in total Win Shares (22nd overall). So he didn't have that great a year, his defensive excellence notwithstanding.

But I have trouble believing Erstad will man first next year, and I have one simple reason: .372.

Casey Kotchman hit .372 for Salt Lake City in 2004.


What do you tell a kid who hits .372 in AAA? Go back, hit .400, maybe we'll give you a job?

Look, he's rough. Duh. He looked overmatched at times, and proved that it's impossible to strike out when you ground out on the second pitch of a plate appearance. But the kid has nothing -- no thing -- left to prove in the PCL. He's mastered the PCL already, and I don't see how it does him any good to send him back there to make him do it again.

If I had my druthers, this would be the opening day lineup:

C -- Bengie
1B - Casey
2B - The Legs
3B - McPherson
SS - Eckstein
LF - Anderson
CF - The Punter
RF - Vlad
DH - Glaus

And there you go. Glaus and McPherson could share DH duties. DaVanon would be your fourth outfielder. Robb Quinlan would start at first or third against tough lefties.

If the Lad Braintrust insists on sending Kotchman back to Salt Lake, that means they would have to put The Legs in center and get a middle infielder, or put DaVanon in center or acquire a new one. As for the latter, the only real CF out there is Carlos Beltran, who will fetch a pretty penny. At shortstop, if you wanted one to move Eck over to second (as discussed in the article), Nomar and Orlando Cabrera are available.

No thanks. Nomar is aging and injury-prone, and his ability to maintain his defense at short is in question. Cabrera is skilled with the glove, though declining, and his hitting hit rock-bottom last year, with a grotesque .236 EqA at the age of 29. That's even worse than Eckstein has done the last two years! And they're the same age ... I'm not sure the potential upgrade would be worth the price.

Also entering free agency is Edgar Renteria. He'd be a likely improvement, though I'm not sure he would be worth the price increase, either. But given the risk of Nomar's health, he would be the better solution. Presuming St. Louis doesn't re-sign him.

But the Angels have some homegrown talent that has outgrown the minors. Kotchman and McPherson may struggle. McPherson's strikeouts are a worry, and both seemed to have forgotten about plate discipline. But I just don't see what either one of them will gain by one more year in the minors, not to mention that any long-term signing could block them in 2006 and beyond. If we sign Beltran, we still have Erstad under contract, meaning we would have to move him or Anderson to allow a spot for Kotchman in a year. Or, we could just let Troy Glaus walk, and let Garret be an overpaid DH and Erstad an overpaid LF when Kotchman is ready. (And if we let Glaus walk, that means we pretty much need McPherson up in 2005.) I think picking Anderson over Glaus is a mistake, but that could be the decision the Halos will end up making.

Anyway, that's what I think as of right now. My position could change, of course ... and there are obviously many facts that the team management has about Kotchman and McPherson that I do not. But Darin Erstad was a league-average hitter last year, and that's not-so-hot for a Gold Glove first baseman, but it is so hot for a Gold Glove centerfielder. When you have in-house solutions, that save money and set up the future, why not employ them?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

So, who do we root for now?

I know a lot of Angel fans hate the Red Sox, and sometimes because of bad experiences with BoSox fans invading Angel Stadium and behaving obnoxiously. Well, I've never really had those experiences, and to what degree I have, I find Yankee supporters even more insufferable.

I also don't hate the Sox because of 1986 or 2004. I mean, in 1986 they were just the instruments of fate, they weren't real villains. And this year, come on, they were just better.

As I'm sick of Yankee hegemony, I'll be rooting for Boston. Boston actually has players I like, such as Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn. I always liked David Ortiz, too, at least before he got really good and went _________ on our ass. Bill Mueller's a likeable sort, and so is Keith Foulke. Yeah, Pedro's a brat, but you know, I like Bill James and Theo, too.

I hate the Yankees as an organization, and like many Yankee-haters, I take it out on Derek Jeter. Jeter brings it on himself, with his Paul O'Neillesque whining about every strike called against him and his raising his fist in triumph every time he scores a run. But I actually like A-Rod, and a lot of the other players are inoffensive. I can't even bring myself to loathe Gary Sheffield, who's probably the most deserving. So, all things considered, I'll root for the Sox.

But the Yanks are gonna win. They're just better.

(And another thing: like everyone else in the world outside of New York, Boston, and the Fox studio, I am sick and tired of being asked to genuflect in front of the Sox vs. Yanks Rivalry, wherein every game is a "classic" by virtue of them just showing up on the same field. Doesn't Fox realize that to the rest of us, it's all just a pissing contest? Sure, like most people I gravitate toward the underdog, which is why I'm more sympathetic to Boston in this case. But, come on, people, it's not like this is Lucifer vs. The Army of Heaven or anything.)

As for the other league ... am I a bad fan because I can't get interested in the Astros? I don't know what it is, there is just something very boring to me about that team. Bags and Biggio are fine, so is Berkman. I like Beltran. Jeff Kent's a horse's patoot, and ... well, what else is there? Roy Oswalt? Brad Ausmus? Bland-o-rama, if you ask me. And their uniforms are boring, too. In terms of their past success, they're like the 2002 Angels coming into this season, but still ...

The Cards are at least interesting. Pujols! Rolen! Walker! And I still like Jim Edmonds, even though I think a significant number of Angel fans don't. And I always kinda liked Tony LaRussa and his crazy schemes, like batting the pitcher eighth. I don't even know if that makes sense, but at least it's different.

So to the extent that I'm rooting for anything, I guess I'm rooting for the Red Sox-Redbird match-up, even though the Yanks/Cards is more likely. I don't really care that much, though, it's not like I'll get frustrated and angry like I do over the Halos. But most of all, I'm rooting for good baseball and tight games, which we certainly got last night in ALCS Game 1.

So, really, I'm just rooting for baseball.

Monday, October 11, 2004

We now enter the first offseason of the Chronicles Era. What happens now?

Honestly, I'm not sure what happens to a team-oriented baseball blog when that team's season is over. But I have a few things up my sleeve.

First of all, there will be exciting commentary on other postseason games! Of course, I don't have any right now, but the LCS should prove interesting ...

... I'll also go through every Angel on the roster, sum up their year and their future prospects. That will take awhile, I'll probably do a guy or two per day, with interruptions. That series will start soon.

And as I threatened quite some time ago, there should be a multi-volume series on Bobby Grich and the Hall of Fame. That won't be for a couple of months, most likely, but it will be there.

As for 2004, despite its disappointing but unsurprising ending, it was an exciting and rewarding season for the Lads. The push in the last week of the season to win first place was a total thrill, and watching Vlad take hold of the MVP discussion was an absolute marvel. (I also plan to discuss Vlad and the MVP this week, but I think he's won it, and deservedly so.) We got to see Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson begin what promise to be productive careers, and -- shockingly, unpredictably -- even got to see them play in the playoffs.

Legs Figgins continued an emergence hinted at last season, and Clutch DaVanon had a very solid year as well. Troy Glaus came back from a career-threatening injury to demonstrate the same power, plate discipline, and bat-flipping skills he had in the past.

Kelvim Escobar thrived in a consistent role, and Bartolo Colon finally got it together when it mattered. Francisco Rodriguez was lights-out, and combined with Bengie Molina on the defensive highlight of the year.

Speaking of:

5. Alfredo Amezaga hits a grand slam against Joe Blanton of Oakland to put the Angels up 8-0 -- October 1
Alfredo Amezaga, one of the most useless "hitters" in all the major leagues, came up with the bases loaded. I was watching the game at a bar with a friend, turned to him, and said "This at-bat is hopeless."

I still can't quite believe that Amezaga did what he did, or that his only two home runs this year were both with the bases loaded. But this play indicated to me that something was going on here, that there was just no way we could win the division when inexplicable phenomona like this were afoot.

4. Curtis Pride hits a two-out double against Texas, scoring Vlad to tie the game and send the game to extra innings -- September 29
The last week of the season. We had won two straight against Texas, nearly knocking them out while keeping pace with struggling Oakland. But we're down by one with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Vlad, on a tear to end all tears, rips a single. And up to bat comes Curtis Pride, a 35-year-old who began the season in an independent league. On the mound is Francisco Cordero, who would end the season with 49 saves and a 2.13 ERA.

Naturally enough, Pride bangs a pitch off the center field wall. Vlad stumbles in his unique way around to home, and it's on. The impossible includes one play less than we might have thought beforehand.

3. K-Rod and Bengie go Showtime -- September 5
I still can't quite believe what I saw. Bengie Molina never really saw it; his no-look toss to home was there just in time to beat the runner, and if that weren't amazing enough, Frankie's body block on Ronnie Belliard was something to behold.

Particularly striking is that Ronnie Belliard, of all people, hit the first home run of Frankie this year to beat the Angels a few months prior -- not only was it the first time Frankie allowed a homer this season, it was the first one Belliard hit. You think K-Rod didn't know that? It wasn't just business, it was personal.

This was Frankie saying "this run will score over my dead body," the kind of sentiment that leads to his cartoonishly good year and utter dominance over the league.

And, oh yeah, he's just barely old enough to drink.

2. Vlad ties Game 3 of the ALDS with a grand slam, and shuts up all of "Red Sox Nation" -- October 8
I'd assume you remember this one. What was shocking is how the home run created a vacuum -- no sound escaped Fenway for minutes.

The slam also represented everything Vlad brought to the team this year. He was the one there when someone was needed, which was never more clear than in the last week of the season and on this pitch.

And you know Vlad wanted Timlin. Vlad had lit up Timlin in his crazy 9-RBI game, hitting a three-run homer against him on the first pitch he threw in the game. Timlin had K'd Vlad in Game 2, and you just knew Vlad would not let that happen again. He prevented it with a vengeance, and his last at-bat of 2004 (he drew an intentional walk later in the game) could barely have been more ideally representative.

1. Jose Guillen is suspended -- September 26
On the whole, I'm not a big believer in the power of "team chemistry" -- I think it's much more of a result than a cause. But no truth is absolute, but there is no doubt in my mind that we would not have won the division had Guillen been active the last week.

There was something electric in the way the team played without him, something evocative of 2002. It's when the impossible became probable, when people like Curtis Pride and Alfredo Amezaga started getting big hits, when Vlad started hitting for three. Losing Guillen brought the team together like nothing else, and regardless of the ALDS (where we were overmatched to begin with) Scioscia and Stoneman gambled and won. It created a team even easier to root for, and one of which I'm proud to be a fan.

We fell short this time, but we'll be back.

Friday, October 08, 2004

We seem out of it, charge back late, and come up a bit short.

That's the season; that's the game.

The decision to bring in Washburn was mind-blowing. Yes, K-Rod had thrown a lot of pitches, but he was going strong. He could have gotten one more out.

We did not lose with our best. We lost with Wash.

Oh well.

The crushing appropriateness of it all is just so ... crushing.

More later.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Can't find one.

Some of the key plays were:

1. Chone Figgins bobbling the ball allowing Bill Mueller to reach base. The Kennedy Effect strikes again.

2. The ump calling K-Rod's strike three to Bellhorn ball four. The ump squeezed the plate, yes: but he was consistent all game. Until the seventh. This was a big miss.

3. Jose Molina declining to block the slider in the dirt. Honestly, just start calling those passed balls.

K-Rod's run, if you ask me, should be unearned, thanks to the misplays of Figgins and Molina. And yes, I know Damon forced Roberts, so it wasn't really the same runner. But it is, essentially.

4. The ump missing the call on Glaus. Okay, this one didn't matter as much, really. After Vlad justmissed and Garret did his Buckingham Palace Guard impression, we had two outs with a guy on first.

But the ump, for the second time in as many innings, blew the call. It was a terrible, terrible call, and Glaus and Scioscia had every right to be upset.

But, of course, it wasn't the ump that lost the game for us, we managed that ourselves with our mistakes and missed opportunities.

With Kelvim pitching Friday, I'm sure we'll be eliminated with a 1-0 loss.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Honestly, who didn't see that coming? Ace Washburn vs. Curt Schilling, are you kidding? Of course, we've lost Games 1 before, so no biggie.

It does put the onus on The Big Mango to have a big game vs. El Pedro tomorrow, and he should be up to the task. This is what he's supposed to do, and this is what Arte pays him to do, so no excuses allowed: only excellence.

Aside from that, I was appalled to see Alfredo Amezaga in the lineup today. This was a bad idea, badly executed. Scioscia's idea was that Amezaga/2B and Legs/3B was his best defensive set.

First of all, why are you concerned with defense with Washburn on the mound? It's most likely not going to be a low-scoring game. What's more, Wash is a flyball pitcher, and less likely to benefit from infield defense than outfield defense.

Furthermore, I think Legs/2B and McPherson/3B is stronger defensively, as well. The Legs has looked both good and awful at third (we saw the latter today -- or, rather, it was seen by the unemployed), and McPherson has been shaky but solid. The Legs is better at second, his natural position.

Note that the Sox' first inning run came after one ball was misplayed by Figgins, and the other one snuck by Amezaga. I only caught a replay, I don't know, but ... it's possible Adam Kennedy would have been able to at least knock that ball down and keep it in the infield to prevent the runner from scoring. Has Kennedy's injury led to its first postseason run? Dunno.

I do know this: no one saw the possibility of having Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson on a postseason roster, not to mention Alfredo Amezaga and Adam Riggs. The whole thing's pretty crazy.

Monday, October 04, 2004

But hopefully will have something up before Season: Part II premieres tomorrow.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Well, only the Giants bullpen prevented this from being the perfect day. My alma mater won its football game, and, well, you know ...

... Right now, we're all on a high. I don't really have anything to say; it's been a fantastic amazing journey.

But it's not over.

Vlad told Jose Mota in the locker room that there was still work to do, that it wasn't over ... and it doesn't get any easier from here on out.

But, for a couple days, let's just bask in a fantastic comeback, and take pride in rooting for a team that never dies, that never says never, and epitomize the very word "team."

Because I'm way too wiped out by joy to say much of anything else ...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Well, as I have season tickets for UCLA football, I will be tailgaiting during today's match-up. I will, of course, be utilizing my family heirloom miniature radio to follow every development, and certainly some fellow tailgaters will have the wherewithal and capability to have a TV on the premises. Kickoff is at 4, so we'll see how happy I am at that time ...

All it takes is one win out of two. Scioscia has obviously done a good job of keeping the Lads focused this week, and with bated breath I wait to see if he can keep it up for two more days.

One win.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Tonight, Alfredo Amezaga hit a )P*U(@#I$UOJ!@KL#WRJFSDPF(&*ASD)(F*Q_)41239ikm

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Had to reset there.

Tonight, Alfredo Amezaga hit a grand slam.

Andres Galarraga hit a home run.

And, most impressively:


There are powers at work here that we mere mortals can never understand. This is bigger than you and me.

Guillen gets money, the team gets to play Clutch DaVanon and Curtis Pride simultaneously.

Somehow I'm fine with this.

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