Friday, July 30, 2004

... for linking to Page 3 content, but here a list of what music is played for each Angel batter, and a couple of pitchers. I don't even think it's accurate on some of them (esp. not Percy, I know they played Metallica for him on the 300 night), but, hey, it's Angel content you might have missed, so I pass it on ...

Per ESPN transactions page.

UPDATE: The AP article.

Your hopes of stealing Anna Benson away from her husband have decreased dramatically today, as he has apparently been traded to the New York Mets.

I don't normally comment on other teams, but ... the Mets have lost their minds.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

From today's LA Times:

The Florida Marlins, rebuffed in their efforts to acquire Arizona outfielder Steve Finley and skeptical of their chances of landing Colorado's Larry Walker, are making a strong push to acquire Angel left fielder Jose Guillen, according to a Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel report.

The Marlins are believed to be dangling two top prospects, including double-A right-hander Randall Messenger, whose fastball has been clocked at 96 mph, in hopes of convincing General Manager Bill Stoneman that he could replenish his farm system if he trades for Arizona ace Randy Johnson.
Say what???

This has got to be one of the dumbest ideas printed in quite awhile; either that, or Florida believes Stoneman the Emotional has the IQ of a decapitated toad. Do you know how many Angel hitters have slugging percentages above .500? Not counting the injured, here's a hint: it's more than one and less than three. You get no points for guessing who they are.

The idea of trading your second-best offensive player in the middle of a pennant race (which we are firmly in, by the way) is patently absurd. Who comes up with this stuff?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Currently on the telecast. My summary:

Q: What about Randy Johnson?
A: We'll see what happens.

Q: Are other teams asking about our prospects?
A: Yes. We have a good farm system.

Q: How do you identify your needs?
A: We have a balanced ballclub. I look for ways to improve it.

Q: Do you listen to Mike Scioscia?
A: Yes.

Q: Are you on the phone a lot?
A: This time of year? Yes.

Q: How big are the phone bills?
A: I don't see them.

Q: Are there are a lot of surprises in trade talks?
A: Only when I read the paper. The media is dumb.

Q: Jered Weaver?
A: We're not doing anything yet.

Q: Aren't these games important?
A: All games are important, especially these against the division leader.


On July 28, 2004, at 7:35 PM PDT, the contact play worked.

Bartolo Colon, in his last four games:

IP   H   R   ER   SO   BB   HR   W   L   ERA

27 12 6 5 19 10 2 4 0 1.67
Darin Erstad's last four outs made:


Looks like good ol' "4-3" might be back in business ...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Rob and Richard have already been there, but let's give some kudos to the Angels for signing 14th-round draft pick Nick Adenhart. Adenhart entered last season as the top high school pitcher in the country, but dropped due to undergoing Tommy John surgery, followed by a seemingly ironclad devotion to attending college. But now he's in the Angel stable, and is expected to start pitching again next year. Of course high school pitchers are often risky, but as Adenhart has already hit a big injury, one would hope some of that risk is alleviated. This is a nice move ....

All you need to know about last night's game is that Josh Paul played left field. Josh Paul! Left field! And I don't care what the announcers tell you, Kelvim Escobar did not pitch a good game. Sure, he gave some innings, and a the bullpen a needed rest, but those little numbers they put on the scoreboard count for something, you know. He didn't keep us in the game, and he (finally) deserved the loss.

The crazy thing is that the Angels are only three games out of the wild card. It seems like if they could just catch a break -- any break -- they might be able to move away from the pack.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Rob already pointed out this one, but it has been reported in multiple media that the Angels have offered the oft- and again-injured Casey Kotchman for Kris Benson.

I just don't believe it. First of all, if the offer has been made, why didn't David Littlefield immediately accept? There are possible answers: perhaps he fears acquiring a brittle player, perhaps he thinks he can negotiate for more elsewhere, and is using this offer as a bargaining chip with other teams. If the latter is the case, I think Littlefield has misjudged the market for Benson.

Other rumors have the Pirates trading Benson for Laynce Nix, who recently spent nearly a month on the DL. It also sounds incredibly silly for the Rangers to move Nix. Yes, they could put Gary Mathews Jr. (hitting 282/356/494 in 49 games -- an aberration) in center, but why would they want to do that? Nix is six years younger and is already better. And while Benson might help that rotation, it's not as though he's a difference-maker.

Benson is 29 years old, and a decent pitcher. I don't think you trade Grade A prospects for two months of decency, especially when you have Ramon Ortiz, whose rate numbers this year are very comparabale to Benson's. It's trendy to say that Benson could turn into the new Jason Schmidt -- but Schmidt, who turned otherworldly after a mid-season trade out of Pittsburgh at age 28, is the exception and not the rule. He also had far better peripherals than does Benson at the same age.

If someone in the Pirate camp is trying to talk up the Benson asking price with these rumors, I think that's a bad call. No one should believe that these are credible rumors, and Bill Stoneman is smart enough to know that Benson's not worth the hullabloo.

I hope.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Did Jose Guillen attend a recent players' meeting or not? Helpful info from the LA Times:

On Wednesday, Guillen told three reporters — in three interviews — that he did not attend that day's players-only meeting.

"It doesn't matter to me," Guillen told The Times. "I'm just trying to do my job. The meeting isn't going to mean anything."

After Angel management canvassed some players Thursday, Scioscia told reporters that Guillen did attend the meeting.

Guillen refused to confirm that, and said, "Who cares?" He also told reporters, "I'm not talking to you guys the rest of the season."
Of course, they don't really provide a quote where Guillen says, "I didn't attend," they just have quotes where he intimates that he doesn't give a rat's tuchis about the meeting. Note previous Times coverage:

... Erstad called a players-only meeting Wednesday afternoon to remind everyone of the urgency of playing better.

Jose Guillen said he did not attend.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I'm just trying to do my job. The meeting isn't going to mean anything. I'm just here to win."
Once again, no direct quote.

Why would Scioscia invent the fact that Guillen had, in fact, attended the meeting? Why would Guillen refuse to answer such a simple question?

Yet another mystery that may never be explained.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hey, guess what: two straight good starts. Yeah, the one against Boston was ugly, with the the Fat Man pitching himself in and out of jams, but he seemed to be more in control this game, even hitting the high 90s with his fastball, per the radio.

And the lifeline goes for another day ...

After yesterday's pathetic loss to the Lone Stars, the Lads are one two three four five six games out of first place. The Wild Card tells a slightly, but only slightly, better story with a 2.5 deficit to the Boys of Saber (Boston and Oakland). Of course, that Wild Card race is crowded, not only with those teams, but the AL Central competitors on the South Side and on the Twin Cityside. Not to mention the fact that the A's have a pretty decent chance of making up their 3.5 games against Texas, which would just put W.'s former charge back into the Wild Card race with us and the others.

At the moment, there is nothing separating us from these other teams aside from the fact that we appear the most likely to collapse. Our offense and our rotation are bafflingly inconsistent, forcing the bullpen to be perfect every time out (K-Rod was not up to the challenge yesterday, but how in the hell does a self-respecting team only score two runs against Ryan Drese in the first place?).

And we're long past the point where injuries can be exclusively fingered. Since returning from the DL, Garret Anderson has put up a 292/333/424 line in 144 AB, anchored by a punchless July swoon (1 HR in 69 AB) that makes you wonder if his arthritis and related medication is taking its toll. The Punter has continued to be on fire the last two months -- 358/426/505 in 109 AB -- who would have thought there'd be a two-month stretch where Erstad's OBP was higher than Garret Anderson's SLG? Don't look now, but Erstad has his season line up to a not-that-bad 307/359/412, rapidly closing in on Anderson's 309/351/449.

Of course, the Kingfish show has false-started, with Clutch DaVanon's performance disallowing the team from being able to give Timmy time to get his groove back. (The Regression Reaper has finally tapped Jeff's shoulder, however, as evidenced by his 188/286/313 line in 48 July at-bats; this is roughly equal to Timmy-Tim's April.)

What else we got? Eckstein's back to his career line, so bully for him, and in the middle of all this mess Adam Kennedy has come on to put his career norms within his sights. Of course, hitting .364 in a month will do that for you, so who knows what the rest of his season will see.

Oh, and Jose Guillen's got his brood on (Sean has the goods).

And today, already six games back, we go into the Ballpark in Arlington (which inflates run-scoring by nearly 24% this season) to face a formidable offensive team, and our hopes and dreams rest in the right arm of ...

... The Big Mango.

I'm waiting for the punchline.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

UM ...
(FYI, I am operating under the assumption that the last two games never happened.)

Richard and Halofan are in a contretemps about Jeff DaVanon. Halofan is the playa-hata (DaVanon's the playa in this scenario, by the way), and Richard takes up the defense.

DaVanon is a good player, natch, and I think Halofan's off-the-mark when he claims, "We have 48 wins. In how many of those wins was he a productive hitter when the game was within a two run margin?" Actually, what's the good of just thinking he's off-the-mark? Let's look it up ...

The Angels have won 18 games this year by two or less runs. DaVanon has appeared in 15 those, though in two he was a defensive replacement. That leaves 13 games.

The Angels won those 13 games by a total of 16 runs. In those games, DaVanon has gone 13-41 (a .317 average), scoring six runs and knocking in six runs. In five of the thirteen games, the number of runs DaVanon knocked in was equal to the margin of victory, and in four games the number of runs he scored was equal to the margin of victory. He hit a game-winning sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of one of the games.

Now, I wasn't keeping track of walks and evertyhing, nor was I looking up when most of these runs happened, but all that seems pretty good to me.


We have a lot of Texas in our future. The next few games against them can't make our season, but they can break it if we get our asses smacked. It's time to step up.

Monday, July 19, 2004

OK, I guess we could come back from this three-run deficit. In the bottom of the 10th.

But we won't.

Mike Scioscia blew this one.

Why was the stupid contact play on again? Garret's comebacker in the ninth should have only gotten him out. Vlad's single would have won the game. Instead, Vlad tied the game.

So you bring in K-Rod, right?

No? Percival?

Remember the Jim Thome-Manny Ramirez days when Cleveland owned Percival? Looks like Travis Hafner wants to bring those days back.

This was an ugly, ugly loss -- but most importantly, it was avoidable. Scioscia's stupid strategies and questionable pitcher usage doomed us.

And now the game is over.


Wow, I'm so  happy Blogger has changed their interface again.  It never ceases to amaze me when useful applications change for no reason.
Anyway, it's hard to get worked up about the split with Boston.  We lost the two games we should have and wone the two we should have, so there you go.  We just need to keep winning all the games we should, and we'll steal our share of those we shouldn't.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I don't normally do this, but ...

Ian McShane was robbed.

Rob has posted a mid-term review of the Lads. I agree with pretty much everything he has to say. Here's his recipe for Angel success over the second half:
Colon to rebound in the second half. If that doesn't happen, then put him in the bullpen and let Ortiz start.
Health for their starters.
Stop running the basepaths like idiots. Aggressive does not have to equal stupid.
No more regressions from the bullpen.
Salmon and Kennedy need to start contributing offensively again.
Scioscia needs to find DaVanon at bats to keep him sharp.
The first two points are probably the most important, and the third one is at least as important for my sanity as it is for the team on the field.

Here are a few other things to watch for in the balance of the season:

-- Adam Kennedy was on fire for the first week plus of July, hitting 424/472/667 in 33 at bats, raising his line to 264/327/389. His numbers to this point are very close to his career 276/324/404; of course, since he's still relatively young, we'd hope for him to be raising, not lowering those numbers. Kennedy has to turn it on; it's non-negotiable.

-- The Punter has hit an uncharacteristic 345/406/471 since returning from the disabled list. Of course he can't keep this up ... but if you take 50 points away you get a 295/356/421, which is not far off from his career line. One of the most pleasant surprises of the season is that Erstad has not been a horrible offensive liablity at first base (though this is due in large part to his recent performance). No, he hasn't quite been average (Baseball Prospectus gives him a .272 Equivalent Average where the average first-sacker has a .283), but combined with this good defense you have a solidly above replacement-level hitter. If Erstad can perform at his career rates for the rest of the season, we'll have a player not so much worse than Scott Spiezio (he of the current 218/292/379 line) was for us the last few years.

-- The difference between Spiezio and Erstad is more than made up for by another pleasant -- well, "surprise" isn't the right word -- whatever he is, Jose Guillen. Guillen, an enigmatic player as the season began, has already earned his modest contract. Way back in March I looked at his past few years, and found that he had more success the more often he hit the ball in the air. Is this continuing this season?

Sure enough, The Uninjurable has a 1.45 groundball/flyball ratio this year, which would rank third-lowest in his career and is .22 below his career mark entering the season. It seems like Guillen's really figured things out at the plate, and kudos to Bill Stoneman and the Angels for believing last season was for real. At the same time, it's been only a bit over half the season, so Guillen has to keep this up.

-- Whither Kingfish? The fact is, Tim Salmon's injury-riddled body has only accounted for 114 at bats this year, so the fact that he's posted an anemic 228/289/325 line isn't really a surprise. The most worrisome thing is, even in his past when he's started slowly, he's exhibited more power than this. His Isolated Power (extra bases per at bat) is an ugly .097. And don't look now, but he's only walked 10 times in his 114 at bats, which would be his lowest walk rate by a long shot. Some disturbing trends:


2001 .202 .793 .156
2002 .147 .696 .217
2003 .146 .828 .189
2004 .088 .455 .097
Thus far, Salmon hasn't displayed any of the characteristics that have made him a good hitter over the years. Has he found the cliff? We've thought it before and he's always bounced back, but these numbers hint that his bat may be slowing (my eyes hint that as well) and that pitchers are more likely to come after him, knowing he can't hurt them like he once did.

I would love nothing more than for Tim to keep rebounding; he's been a class act for over a decade and the face of the team. But if hasn't improved by the end of July, I think the time to make Jeff DaVanon a regular will have come.

-- I've talked about the starters enough in this space, so without naming names let's just say they have have have to pick it up in the second half. Had everything else remained the same (offense, bullpen, defense) in the first half, and our starters merely pitched to their career norms, we'd be in first place. Is this too much to ask?

I think Angel management is essentially right when they say this team can win as-is. But that will require some guys to step up. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 12, 2004

After all the pain, the injuries, the heartaches, and the slumps, the Lads enter the All Star Break a mere 2.5 games behind division-leading Texas, and a half-game behind division favorite Oakland. I am quite a skeptic about Texas; I have no belief that their pitching will hold up. That Texas should rank first in the majors in runs scored, given their firepower and ballpark, is no surprise. And though it's not as though their nineteen rank in ERA is exceptional, but it's better than we might have expected.

Here are the AL West contenders in park-adjusted Runs Scored Per 9 Innings and Runs Allowed Per 9 Innings, along with their Pythagorean Wins (which would be identical for park-adjusted and not) and Actual Wins:


TEAM RS/9 RA/9 W L RS/9 RA/9 W L
TEX 5.42 4.81 48 38 5.67 5.02 49 37
OAK 4.92 4.57 46 40 4.96 4.62 47 39
ANA 5.23 4.71 48 39 5.15 4.64 47 40
As you can see, all three teams have been very close in terms of overall performance. The three teams are separated by 2.5 games in real life and 2 games in the Pythagorean standings, and each team is exactly one win off of their projections.

One thing I learned in doing this is that the Angels are second in the majors in runs scored on the road, compared to a ghastly 21st at home. Angels Stadium has decreased scoring by about 7% this season; that's fairly moderate, but it's enough to be substantial. You can see how Texas' offensive advantage over the Angels wilts after you account for the park, dropping from a 10% to a 4% lead.

It is, of course, disturbing that our pitching/defense is so close to Texas', but it's worth noting that the A's aren't that far ahead, thanks to their bullpen and the struggles of Barry Zito. While both can be reasonably expected to improve as the season wraps up, we might also expect Texas pitching to decline even further (unless you think Ryan Drese is gonna keep it up with his absurd 1.99 home ERA).

The Angels should also expect improvement from the pitching staff. And I'm staring right at the Big Mango. Consider this: if Colon had posted a 4.50 (i.e. a minimum quality start) ERA instead of his 6.38 to this point, he would have allowed 52 earned runs instead of 74, a 22-run improvement. Now, let's see, about 10 runs brings us an extra win, that would be 2.2 wins, and we're how many games out of first place? Bartolo Colon is almost single-handedly keeping us out of first, and a reversion to mediocrity could be enough to get us where we want to be.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

As absurd as today's loss was, let's focus on the fact that we took two out of three against a good team in their home, and that the bats woke up for a few games. This is exactly what the club needs to do, and the Blue Jays have to be the next roadkill.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I thought I'd take a look at how our hitters and pitchers are doing, based on the same Base Runs formulation I used way back when before the season started. As it's based on runs per plate appearance, I needed some way to put hitters and pitchers on equal footing. As the league tends to average about .120 runs per plate appearance, I used that as the base. Hitters were compared to one-half of that figure, and pitchers to one-half above it. I park-adjusted that based on the fact that the Big A has been a good pitching park this year, so for hitters it comes out to how high their Base Runs per Plate Appearance is above .057, and for pitchers how much lower their BR/PA is than .190.

So, on a per plate appearance basis:

Rodriguez    .146

Glaus .146
Guerrero .131
Donnelly .111
Shields .109
DaVanon .109
Anderson .093
Guillen .089
Figgins .082
Escobar .078
Gregg .076
Ortiz .075
Sele .072
Lackey .070
Erstad .063
Washburn .056
MolinaB .050
Eckstein .043
Kennedy .043
Quinlan .041
MolinaJ .038
Percival .036
Salmon .030
Halter .024
Colon .016
Kotchman .010
Mondesi .008
Paul -.028
Amezaga -.032
Riggs -.034
BTW, I don't know or care if that's supposed to be BR/PA above replacement level, or marginal win level or whatever ... I think things can get silly when you start trying to define that stuff. I'm just trying to put everyone on equal ground.

It should really be no surprise that K-Rod is our best player per plate appearance, and looking at Colon this way (worse than Halter!) shows just how bad he's been. It's also interesting to see that Troy Percival has been about as "good" as Kennedy and Eckstein -- and it was a bit surprising for me to learn that Erstad has been better than all of them. (Of course, I'm not taking defense into account here.)

Let's look how it stacks up when you account for playing time; the below represents the above figure multiplied to plate appearances to derive Runs Better Than Whatever You Want To Call This Threshold:

Guerrero     46.9

Escobar 32.6
Lackey 30.3
Guillen 29.8
Shields 25.9
Rodriguez 25.2
Figgins 25.2
Washburn 22.9
Sele 20.4
DaVanon 20.0
Ortiz 19.5
Glaus 18.1
Gregg 16.4
Anderson 15.7
Erstad 13.4
Kennedy 12.7
Eckstein 12.4
MolinaB 8.7
Colon 7.3
MolinaJ 5.1
Salmon 3.7
Percival 3.6
Quinlan 3.2
Donnelly 2.8
Halter 2.6
Kotchman 1.2
Mondesi 0.3
Riggs -0.5
Paul -0.7
Amezaga -2.5
Again, no surprises to see Vlad at the top. It may seem surprising to see Escobar and Lackey so high, but it's not once you think about it. Kelvim Escobar has 416 plate appearances against him this season; John Lackey has 430. No Angel hitter has more than Vlad's 357.

You know how you sometimes hear people saying that starting pitchers shouldn't be elibible for the MVP because they only go every fifth day? This demonstrates how silly that thinking is. Even bad pitchers have more plate appearances against than good hitters have plate appearances.

Yet more proof of how much our starters have hurt us ...

UPDATE: I had a minor error in my spreadsheet that I have corrected, so this is a slightly different list than I had up yesterday.

Will Leitch gives out midseason report cards (can you believe the season is halfway over?) and deigns to give the Angels a C+. That almost feels generous ... the offense has done well, considering, as has the bullpen, though the rotation has to be pretty close to an F.

Three of our five starters have ERAs in the bottom 24 of major league qualifiers. The Big Mango's 6.57 ranks next-to-last, which doesn't sound so bad until you see that Jason Jennings and his Coors Heavy 6.59 is what comes in last.

The Support-Neutral numbers maintained by Baseball Prospectus peg the Angel rotation as 23rd out of 30, with the Phillies being the only real contender ranking below us.

Even worse, Angel pitchers have been struggling in what has played as a pitcher's park thus far. Whereas 9.09 total runs are scored per game in Anaheim, the Angels and their opponents post 10.20 on the road. Putting park adjustments on Colon gets his ERA up to 6.95 (and Jennings' down to 5.21).

I had a strange dream this morning; I dreamt that Bud Black was fired. I did not consider this a good dream. But it's clear what the problem with this team is, and you have to wonder what management thinks they're gonna do about it.

... for no more screwing around. The Angels have to win nearly every series from here on in; they haven't managed to do that lately. They took two of three from the Dodgers in late June, but that was the first series they won since the two-game sweep of Boston on June 1st and 2nd. Series record by month:

April: 4-3
May: 5-4
June: 2-5-1
July: 0-2

This is, of course, a horrific trend. As Richard pointed out, we need to play around .650 ball for the rest of the season to have a reasonable chance at the playoffs. Last night's win against the ChiSox was a good start.

With a long weekend and a hectic work schedule, I haven't been around for a few days, so let me just hit-and-run some stuff ...

... Scioscia put Garret in front of, instead of behind, Vlad last night, and plans to stick with it. I don't think this is a big deal, but it seems to me that you want to get Vlad as many plate appearances as possible, and that you want him to come up in the first inning. But maybe that's just me ...

... Are we going to change our name? I doubt it. I also don't care. And I also doubting making it "Los Angeles" would really make any more money. Just keep it how it is, Arte ...

... Not that he's channeling Lou Gehrig or anything, but The Punter has his line up to 287/330/390. Okay, yeah, that's not very good, but he's been hitting 333/398/500 since his return from the DL. It's only 66 at bats, and there's no reason to expect him to keep that up, but let's enjoy it while we have it, eh?

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Is this how A's fans felt last week? After being manhandled, embarrassed, and run amuck, we face the prospect of a sweep at NetAss and -- presuming the Mariners continue their roll-over-and-play-dead routine -- could be one two three four five games out of first place, and only four above .500.

June saw the Angels go 11-16! The Lads were outscored 130-115 in June, a Pythagorean record of 12-15, so it's not like that doesn't represent how they really played. This is after a 17-10 May and a 13-10 April. One bad month is not the end of the world, of course, but it's not pretty, especially considering this is the month that saw the return of injured starters.

But the club should be able to take out their frustrations (Mike Scioscia yelled at them yesterday after they played like Little Leaguers) on Kirk Sarloos today, and Ace Washburn is tailor-made to pitch in Oakland's vast arena.

At least we get the Dodgers for three games after ...

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