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Friday, October 15, 2004

ACTUAL ANGEL NEWS
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.

.372.

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?

Comments:
Glaus in Pinstripes
Anderson at DH
Scioscia loves Erst @ Ferst
--halofan
 
Good analysis.

Erstad is back at CF next year, 50-60% chance.

Guillen is gone to some NL team or a non-AL-West team needing offense. Good riddance.

Jury's out on Quinlan. We may have seen the best 100 AB of his career. Or not.
 
You've sketched out my best-case scenario, with the sole exception being Quinlan has no business playing an inning at third if we've got Glaus & Dallas on the squad. If Beltran is signed, though, someone's gonna have to get traded, and I hope against all realism that it's Ersty.

I also hope we re-sign Percy at some kind of hometown, last-hurrah discount, reason being I think the man's still effective, and K-Rod is probably both more valuable and less risky in the set-up & sometimes-closer role. More valuable because he pitches more innings, less risky because that bouncing slider can be hell on back-handing catchers with one-run games on the line.
 
Dude, Matt's totally copying me on the Percival thing. Seriously, Matt, get an original thought for once.
 
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