Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Is below, and likely buried by my overlong Disney entry. You can skip to the preview here -- it contains the first known post by a fan of an opposing team!

The Halosphere is on to this article at Save Disney about Disney's ownership of the Angels, and what a catastrophe it was for both organizations. It's not all wrong, but ...

... first of all, there is a distinct and proclaimed bias. The Walt Disney Company, you see, has been sputtering for a few years now, and Roy E. Disney is the head of a group called "Save Disney" that wants to pry the company from Michael Eisner's grubby hands and restore its good name. This is an admirable goal, and there is a lot of blame to be laid at the feet of current management.

(An aside: if you ask me, Disney's biggest failure has been with ABC, which has become a total joke of a network. They are renowned for mishandling their best shows [some would say that this goes all the way back to Twin Peaks, which precedes Disney], from My So-Called Life to Sports Night to Alias, not to mention their successful oppression of It's Like ... You Know just as it was hitting its stride. This is also the network that so alienated David E. Kelley [the showrunner for one its few perennial hits, The Practice, which is being replaced by a spin-off this season] that some suspect he made the short-lived Snoops bad on purpose. [I elect Occam's Razor and say David E. Kelley just isn't all that good, but whatever floats your boat ...])

Save Disney's begins a chronology of Disney misdeeds. To wit:

-- Their motives were impure, and only sought to strenghten Anaheim's desirability as a vacation target.

-- They brought silly looking uniforms, jazz bands, and cheerleaders to an unreceptive audience.

-- They made bad trades, like J.T. Snow for Allen Watson and Chili Davis for Mark Gubicza.

-- They didn't trade for Mark McGwire.

-- The regional ESPN (ESPN West) never came to fruition.

-- They signed Mo Vaughn.

At this point in the narrative, Disney begins to offer the club for sale, and the team's fortunes turn around. As Save Disney puts it, "It was after Disney announced that the Angels were up for sale that things started to perk up for the team." I believe they're trying to imply a causal relationship here, but I don't know ...

The above is my summary, so let's let the article speak for itself before I raise my objections. It's a big chunk, so take a deep breath:

Mr. Eisner and the Disney management failed on many fronts:

If Mr. Eisner had a vision for the Angels, it was hard to determine what it was. They started off by running the team strictly for the bottom line. This was then followed by aggressiveness in the free agent market, with poor results.

Disney felt that marketing and cross-promotion alone would bring fans to the stadium, and, in turn, get them over to Disneyland. After awhile, fans felt that Edison Field was nothing more than a Disney "infomercial," and were very annoyed. As a result, attendance decreased at both venues.

The traditional Disney audience and the typical sports enthusiast are not necessarily the same demographic. A realization the Disney strategic planners have been very slow to come to, even as they place ESPN at the center of their empire - nor are their needs and desires necessarily compatible.

Disney management lost the respect of players such as outfielder Darin Erstad (a perennial fan favorite) who questioned if the team was really committed to winning. While the players on the field are professionals and are required to give such an effort on the field, a lack of a commitment to improving the team usually translates to low morale in the locker room which in turn can translate into poor play on the field.

Fans (many of whom followed the team since the Autry days) paid even higher ticket and concession prices at these games and wanted to see a commitment to excellence on the part of team ownership. With the exception of the Mo Vaughn signing (which, at that time, was significant), Disney was not willing to provide that commitment.

The failure of ESPN West resulted in no additional revenue and the cable television rights being sold to a major competitor.
Okay, let's jump into this.

If Mr. Eisner had a vision for the Angels, it was hard to determine what it was. They started off by running the team strictly for the bottom line. This was then followed by aggressiveness in the free agent market, with poor results.
Let's evaluate some of the moves discussed above:

We traded J.T. Snow for Allen Watson. I can't be impartial on this one; I've never been able to stand J.T. Snow. He just drives me crazy. I would have loved this trade if we had traded him for a popcorn-flavored jellybean. But Watson, contrary to popular belief, was not awful for his one healthy year with the Angels, and trading Snow opened up a spot for Darin Erstad to play regularly, and later for Mo Vaughn to move in. Snow was a mediocrity who was 28 years old (he's older than Old Man Salmon, by the way, not to mention Garret, Erstad, and Edmonds, all of whom essentially beat out Snow for a job).

Of course, we also introduced a way-too-old Eddie Murray into the mix that year, because we traded Chili Davis. Okay, Gubicza was hurt and that was a bad move.

So. Mark McGwire.

At that time in human history, the Halosphere was very active on the Angel newsgroup, and whether or not to trade for McGwire was a large topic of debate. I was then, and have not changed my mind, of the school that the cost being demanded for McGwire was too large. Most rumors at that time had the Angels giving up Jim Edmonds and Jarrod Washburn in a package to acquire McGwire, whose permanence on the Angels was far from guaranteed. Save Disney, like many others before them, look upon the decision to not acquire McGwire as one of money alone; of course, salary is not the only cost. Would 2002 have happened had we traded for McGwire? Washburn was a key piece to the championship team, and Edmonds netted us another one in Adam Kennedy (still a bad trade, however -- and one that happened under the Disney aegis). Save Disney also seems to know that McGwire would have re-signed with the club and mounted his 1998 assault on Mount Maris -- but this is far from certain, and not that it didn't bring the Cardinals to the postseasonm, either. (Obviously, this trade did work out wonderfully for St. Louis, which did not trade away its future to get McGwire.)

Save Disney then takes management to task for having signed Mo Vaughn, a move that was universally praised in the traditional media. (My recollection of my own pre-signing reaction, on the Angel newsgroup, was that I was unenthused. It turns out I was more extreme, and right, than I remember, as were many other internet Angel fans: In November, 1998, I wrote: "Vaughn would certainly help, so he'd be a good addition. That doesn't necessarily mean he'd be a good signing." In September, 1998: "I want Mo Vaughn signed to a long-term contract as much as I want my ears ripped from my head." In April of '98, long before the signing: "Signing Vaughn would be a vintage Angels signing, which means it would be bad.")

Well, Vaughn was a pretty good player, but overpaid, and the team was besieged by injuries. He became a malcontent, was traded away, and the rest is history.

The point of this exercise is this: these decisions were baseball decisions, and to the extent that Disney Corporate had their hand in them (which is debateable), the decisions were no worse than decisions made by several other organizations in that time period (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, etc.) or since (the New York Mets on July 31, 2004). And remember Darin Erstad, hero of the Save Disney account for his doubt in Disney's desire to win, was traded by Bill Stoneman for Chris Singleton. Who stepped in to prevent the trade? Archvillain Tony Tavares of Disney Sports Enterprises. It's hard to argue that move didn't work out.

In terms of player personnel decisions, I do not see the sinister hand of Michael Eisner. The team had its most successful stretch in franchise history under the Disney watch, and built up a formidable farm system which fruits are still on the field today.

Let's move on:

Disney felt that marketing and cross-promotion alone would bring fans to the stadium, and, in turn, get them over to Disneyland. After awhile, fans felt that Edison Field was nothing more than a Disney "infomercial," and were very annoyed. As a result, attendance decreased at both venues.
Whether or not the first sentence truly encapsulates Disney's "feelings" is a matter of surmise. But I think that, much more damning than the Disneyfication of Anaheim Stadium, what led to the decline in Angel attendance was that the team was struggling and inconsistent.

Wait, didn't I just argue that the team had its most successful stretch under Disney? Yes, and the observations are not incompatible. 1997 and 1998 were solid years, but the next three were a struggle. It is well-established that attendance follows performance, and for those seasons performance was lacking. I believe that this is a far more significant factor than the alleged Disney "infomercial," an argument I feel is strained.

I guess I'm in the minority, but I didn't mind the periwinkle uniforms, jazz bands before a game don't bother me, and I don't have much of a problem with cheerleaders, either. So they didn't stick -- did that really have an effect on attendance? I doubt it. What's more, Disney overhauled the park and made it better, a lot better. Doesn't that count for something? I think Angel Stadium is the best place in the country to see a game, and Disney has something to do with that, so let's give them credit where it's due. Such credit is completely absent in the Save Disney manifesto.

Also, I find a connection between declining attendance at Angel games and declining attendance at Disneyland tenuous at best when it is stated thus: "After awhile, fans felt that Edison Field was nothing more than a Disney 'infomercial,' and were very annoyed. As a result, attendance decreased at both venues." Really? People started avoiding Disneyland because of their experience at Edison? Save Disney elsewhere takes Eisner to task, as well they should, for declining cleanliness, saftey, and convenience and, therefore, attendance, at the Disney theme parks. But I would say that the harmful effects move from Disneyland to Edison, not the other way around.

Disney management lost the respect of players such as outfielder Darin Erstad (a perennial fan favorite) who questioned if the team was really committed to winning. While the players on the field are professionals and are required to give such an effort on the field, a lack of a commitment to improving the team usually translates to low morale in the locker room which in turn can translate into poor play on the field.
Bah humbug. Yes, there were questions. So what? Wasn't signing Mo Vaughn a sign that management wanted to win? Wouldn't Darin Erstad see trading J.T. Snow so that he himself could play a sign of desire to win? And the "low morale" argument is a total red herring, and has much to do with the malcontentedness of Mo and the mismanagement of Terry Collins (whose very able replacement, Mike Scioscia, was hired by ... Disney).

The failure of ESPN West resulted in no additional revenue and the cable television rights being sold to a major competitor.
There are many that speculate that this was a bluff by Disney to get Fox to raise its bid for Angel TV rights, and to possibly get Fox to overextend itself. That may very well be spin, who knows. But it's not necessarily a debacle.

Obviously, the Disney years weren't perfect. But when it comes to the primary product, the on-the-field team, they were pretty good, and they laid a foundation for success in the future. Arte Moreno (who I certainly believe will prove to be a superior owner to Disney) has done a lot to improve public relations and marketing, but has not shaken up the baseball organization. Why not? Because he hasn't had to. It's not necessarily a credit to Disney, but we have one of the top farm systems in the game and core talent that precedes Moreno's appearance on the scene.

This is getting way out of hand in lenth, so suffice to say that the Disney years were far from an unmitigated disaster for the Angels, or for sports in general. And where The Walt Disney Company is in chaos, its handling of the Angels is a relatively microscopic stain on its honor.

Well, before the Minnesota series, I went and did a series preview, but then Kelvim got booted to heal from Beckettitis and all my match-ups were torn asunder. Call me crazy: I tempt fate once again.

                                     Park Adjusted

Team W L RS RA PythW PythL RS RA
BOS 76 53 739 601 78 51 700 570
ANA 75 55 677 600 73 57 692 613
Unlike the Minnesota series, it seems clear that Boston is better than us. But the advantage is not-so-much with the offense, as you might expect. Fenway has inflated run-scoring by 11% this year, while Anaheim has diminished scoring by about 4% (see all park factors here).

Acknowledging the ballpark really puts the pitching in perspective. The Boston rotation has a 4.17 ERA this year, which falls to 3.95 once you take the park into account. Not too shabby, and downright scary when you consider the Angel starters have an ERA of 4.81 before you take the park into account (4.92 after). Also, the Boston bullpen, which last year did its best French Army impersonation, has a raw ERA of 3.77 this season -- 3.57 after adjusting for the park; Anaheim is at 3.48 before and 3.56 after -- a very even match-up.

And whereas Boston's defense has been much maligned this season, and was the cause of Theo Epstein's deadline moves, their Defensive Efficiency Record (the amount of outs recorded per ball in play) just edges out the Angels. Defense is not really a strength for either team.

So you have two teams with good offenses, very good bullpens, and mediocre defenses. The main difference is Boston's advantage in starting pitching. You can see why many are picking Boston to win the wild card (though Eric Neel demurs here, and says some things I agree with). Let's take a look at the match-ups as to what promises to be an exciting and promising series:

Pitcher    ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Lackey 5.00 5.11 .158 .063 .030
Schilling 3.38 3.20 .214 .038 .026
No Duh Alert: Curt Schilling is one of the best pitchers in the game, and John Jekyl/Lackey Hyde one of the most inconsistent. This doesn't really bode well for the Angels, but Lackey has demonstrated the ability to step up in big games before. If Jekyl shows up, this could be a great game.

Pitcher    ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Sele 4.35 4.45 .093 .089 .032
Arroyo 4.07 3.86 .192 .064 .021
On paper, it's impossible to see how Aaron Sele wins anything. Watching him pitch, it's impossible to understand how he manages to get people out. He's like Kirk Rueter or someone, a finesse pitcher in extremis, who can sometimes make it work. Bronson Arroyo, in the meanwhile, is having quite a good season himself (though his 7-9 record betrays Kelvimesque run support). You can see that he's better than Sele in every rate stat. But if Sele can keep the Lads in the game ...

Pitcher    ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Colon 5.38 5.50 .173 .082 .046
Lowe 5.22 4.95 .122 .083 .019
Looking at the season numbers, you see that both pitchers have been big disappointments to their teams. But we can dig deeper. Lowe has been very inconsistent (just check out his game log and how the ERAs jump around like they're at a House of Pain concert). Derek Lowe is also the posterboy for the struggles of the Boston defense, as he has allowed 26 unearned runs this year. Now, we can probably blame him for some of those. And despite his struggles in his last start, I still have a good feeling about Colon. On paper (or computer screen), this is the one game where the Angels have a big advantage.

This series' importance for the Angels is clear. One-and-a-half games out of the wild card right now, they cannot afford to be swept. Winning only one game wouldn't be the end of the world, and winning the series just keeps us in it. This is another one of those series that can only break, but can't by itself make, your season. I honestly think we have the guns to take this thing, and to knock around Arroyo and Lowe. Schilling may be a tall order, but stranger things have happened.

Best of all, we've got two hot teams playing in September with postseason implications -- this is baseball at its finest.

Monday, August 30, 2004

So Troy Glaus is back in the lineup, and Ramon Ortiz is complaining about his role. Let's party like it's May, 2004!

Does Ortiz have a point? Check it:

Player  ERA    IP   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Ortiz 4.41 112.3 .153 .074 .034
Sele 4.35 113.7 .093 .089 .032
Of course, much of Ortiz's success has come in the bullpen. As a starter this year, he has a 5.47 ERA in 79 innings, whereas Sele has a 4.27 in 103 1/3 innings. Ortiz's numbers benefit from the 33 1/3 relief innings in which he had a 1.89 ERA; his starting ERA is the worst of any Angel starter this year.

Then, of course, there's this guy:

Player  ERA    IP   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Lackey 5.00 156.7 .158 .063 .030
What's odd about this trio of pitchers is that their ERAs are in reverse order of their peripherals. Lackey strikes out the most men of the three, and gives up walks and homers to the least, but has the worst ERA while Sele -- the worst in those three categories -- has the best ERA!

Here is the batting average each pitcher has allowed on balls in play, as well as their percentage of hit balls allowed that were line drives (thank you Hardball Times) through August 27:

Pitcher  AVG   LD%

Lackey .313 .161
Team .311
Sele .294 .146
Ortiz .292 .175
Interesting: it seems as though Lackey has allowed all the hits you would expect, given the defense behing him, but that Ortiz may be having a run of good fortune. And it seems as though opposing teams are having trouble getting good contact against Sele (relatively), solidifying his crafty righthander status. Also, given that his hits allowed on balls in play is the furthest away from the team mark, and he gets hit harder than the other guys, Ortiz may be the most likely of these men to decline over the balance of the season. (This conclusion suprises me; I would have guessed it to be Sele, who I also suspect is due for a decline, due to his poor peripherals.)

So while I understand Ortiz's frustration, I think the Angels are making the right move by putting him in the bullpen. He has struggled in the rotation relative to Aaron Sele, and he has shown the ability to thrive in relief.

This is all somewhat academic, what with Ace Washburn healing and on his way back. Scioscia is committed to a four-man rotation, an absolutely wonderful idea I have long supported.


The best thing about seeing Glaus come back was his ninth-inning walk. He laid off the breaking pitches away, the pitches that have traditionally led to his strikeouts. Now, sure, it's easier to lay off that pitch 3-1 than it is 0-2, but it seemed that he was seeing the ball well. You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself, but seeing Glaus back in action was exciting.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I am sick and tired of this notion that the NCAA "dropped by ball" by not reinstating Mike Williams. I am sick and tired of this notion that the NCAA "passed up an opportunity to help the student-athlete." How in the hell would reinstating him help the student-athlete? It would have made a mockery of the whole concept of the student-athlete; the rules prohibiting signing with an agent are clear, and the rules prohibiting taking money from an agent to fund your football training are also clear. College sports are supposed to be amateur, remember?

The NCAA can't afford to allow a situation where college players can sign agents, collect and spend money from agents, and then return to college play as though nothing significant has happened. And this doesn't even address the fact that Williams agreed to a three-year deal with Nike and made money from trading-card deals. (I gleaned these last two facts from a column I agree with found here.)

I guess it helps the "student-athlete" to be a professional, and with that narrow definition I guess the NCAA did turn down a chance to help the student-athlete. But reinstating a player that had collected money for his football playing would make a total mockery of the system, and would essentially be corrupt.

Williams knew the risks he was taking. He knew the NFL would challenge the court decision that made Maurice Clarett eligible, and he knew that if the NFL was victorious in challenge his college eligibility would be at risk. And he knew the risks of signing with an agent, accepting his money, and making deals. Had he not signed with an agent, I believe he would be in uniform today. But he did, and he's not, and why the NCAA should be expected to toss out sensible rules to bail out someone who clearly preferred to no longer be a student-athlete is beyond me.

The dismissal of his craven reinstatement request should be greeted by national celebration. The fact that everyone is pretending that this is harmful demonstrates just how corrupt our thinking on this issue has become. Williams made choices, and he hurt himself (maybe) and hurt his team (definitely). Deal.

Friday, August 27, 2004

After beating up on a Williamsport also-ran, the Angels set themselves to host the Minnesota Twins, a bona fide good team in line for yet another playoff spot from what is possibly baseball most mediocre division. We've split our six games against the Gemini to this point in the season, so let's take a look inside the series:

                                     Park Adjusted*

Team W L RS RA PythW PythL RS RA
ANA 73 54 663 585 71 56 675 598
MIN 71 56 606 571 67 60 587 553
*based on the park factors available here.
Hey, so we're really the better team. Another thing to consider is that we don't play in a weak sister division, meaning we get more games against toughies like Oakland and Texas. Here are the pitching match-ups ("Adj" using the same park factors):

Pitcher  ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Sele 4.43 4.51 .096 .087 .032
Radke 3.41 3.30 .162 .025 .026
The cover-your-eyes match-up of the series. Radke has owned the Angels over his career, as the Halos have always seemed unable to build a team that can hit his change-up. He owns a 12-5 record against the Lads, with a 1.65 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 153 innings. He strikes out a decent number of men, and has impeccable control, so expect a lot of Halo flailing about tonight. Of course, the last time Radke faced Anaheim (May 1) he lost a 1-0 decision to ... Aaron Sele, who was in the prime of his groundball coaxing powers, getting the Twins to hit 11 grounders against two flies. The Angels will likely need to have Sele continue is high-wire act; or, of course, they could finally solve The Riddle That Is Radke.

Pitcher  ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Escobar 4.11 4.19 .208 .091 .024
Santana 3.13 3.03 .291 .065 .034
You probably know that Johan Santana has been on fire for the last few months. His ERA stood at 5.61 on May 29. Since then, he's rattled off 120 innings with 153 strikeouts, a mere 27 walks, and 13 home runs allowed. And, oh yeah, 25 earned runs for an ERA of 1.47. 1.47!!!

To clarify: 1.47.

So, though Kelvim's been our most consistent starter to this point, he has his hands full, and his chances of at long last receiving sufficient offensive support are, at best, slim. But there are still chances. Santana sticks around the plate, so maybe the Angel free-swinging ways will give him trouble. And no one is good enough to put a 1.47 ERA over three months in this day and age. Are they?

Pitcher  ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Colon 5.30 5.40 .172 .085 .047
Silva 4.71 4.56 .087 .039 .029
Silva is questionable due to back and neck pain. And as we know, The Big Mango has been pitching like his old self of late, though against lousy teams. Colon hasn't faced a team with a record above .500 since July 27, when he pitched seven scoreless innings and picked up a win against Texas. That ended an excellent three-game stretch for Colon (against Boston once and Texas again) where he pitched 20 innings and allowed two runs against two good teams. I feel good about this game.

But the first two are going to be tough. The Angel offense has been torrid (this is the sophisticated analysis you can rely on me for!), and they'll need to be at their best to knock of Radke and Santana.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Halofan's worst nightmare came true last night as Clutch DaVanon hit for the cycle to help the Angels put up three touchdowns on the Royals. I am fairly certain, at this point, that the Royals would not win, place, or show at even the Little League World Series. What a hapless, helpless, hopeless ballclub are the Royals; their defense is even worse than the Kansas City Chiefs'!

Prepare to be knocked out by an awesome segue, as I move from the Kansas City Chiefs to the NFL's putrid scheme to place an American football team Anaheim. Let's get real here: southern California does not want or need a pro football team. Practically everyone in town is a fan of some other team, from the Raiders to the 49ers to the Packers to (like me) the Broncos. I'm not gonna give up the Broncos to root for the Anaheim Argonauts or whatever they put there, and I doubt I'm alone.

What's more, the great thing about not having an NFL franchise in spitting distance is that we are spared silly TV match-ups brought to us by geographical necessity, and can be shown the best games in any given week (usually, anyway).

I don't live in the OC, so I have no stake on how this would affect the City of Anaheim's ceaseless campaign to revitalize, but I'd prefer to make the LA metropolitan area more of a baseball town, anyway (I'd also love to see the disbanding of the NBA, but I'm not holding my breath on that one), and keeping a mediocre football franchise away seems like a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Last night Bengie Molina grounded the ball to Desi Relaford at second. Relaford bobbled the ball -- no big deal. But then he rushed his throw and threw the ball several feet away from the first sack. As the ball sailed by the baffled Royal first baseman, Bengie was approximately 45 feet away from reaching first base.

Look, there have been some bad plays made by second basemen in history. Need we remind ourselves of the throwing adventures of Steve Sax, or the similar mental block suffered by the once-great Chuck Knoblauch? But, to me, this play takes the cake.

You've got the slowest runner in the majors "running" down the line, and you rush the throw? Are you kidding me? Relaford could have run to first base himself and retired Molina! You don't think so? Do you think Bengie Molina going 45 feet with a running start is faster than Relaford running 70 feet from a standing start?

Okay, you're probably right, I'm exaggerating to say he could have run to first. But come on, I could have made that throw, and I'm a lousy ballplayer.

Needless to say, the Royals are epicly bad (as far as I know, the word "epicly" has been invented by me). I don't recall ever seeing a team so poor in basic fundamentals. The Angels have certainly had their nadirs over the years, but I don't remember having a stretch as mind-boggling as that the Royals have put up against us. I just hope that this doesn't get our guard down, as we're about to to face two teams that just don't hand away three or four runs a game ....

... We all know of Troy Glaus' big day: 1-3 with big fat three-run homer and a walk. It's folly to get overexcited about one game, especially against California League competition, but wow, it's just exciting to see (or hear of) him back in action after what was supposed to be a career-altering injury. And with the good news on the Ace Washburn front ... someone outta pinch me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Halosphere is abuzz about the importance of Troy Glaus going nuclear on batting-practice fastballs. Hey, it's better than nothing, and it's great progress from where he's been. With crossed fingers knocking on wood, we can hope that he powers his way back into the DH mix and adds needed punch to our slap-happy attack.

Of course, bringing in Glaus would suck playing time away from Clutch DaVanon and Old Man Salmon. I was incommunicado when Salmon's injury was revealed; add my voice to the chorus that thinks Salmon will retire at the end of this season, especially if Glaus can come back impressively in the next month. This will create a logjam not only this year but next, with Dallas McPherson knocking on heaven's door. (And this doesn't even account for Casey "Swing At Everything" Kotchman's 372/417/567 whack job on PCL pitchers; will he have too much more to prove when the season is over?) As for this year, a healthy Glaus would give Mike Scioscia tons of options for the nightly lineup -- as would a sudden appearance by El Gato Grande.

In other news, the Angels clinched the season series against Kansas City last night! The Big Mango pitched well before hitting a bit of a wall, a wall brought closer by our large lead; Colon had no need to mess around and was just throwing fastballs for strikes, and a few of them were too much strikes. No big deal.

Hey, remember back when I used to make fun of Colon and our first-sackers?

Player                  R/IP, OPS, or SLG

The Punter (aka "4-3") .795
The Big Mango .621
Wally World .440
Of course, El Gordo has still allowed an 823 OPS this year, but it's moving in the right direction.

I'm not a big believer in momentum, but to what degree it exists the Angels seem to have it now, and they'll need it to face off against the Twins and BoSox in the coming week.

Friday, August 20, 2004

When I looked at the schedule and noted that we had three games in Yankee Stadium, my mind immediately thought, "And now we'll see whether or not we're really all that good." We've been playing bad teams for awhile, and despite playing mediocre ball have maintained a solid pace in the divisional and wild card race. But facing off against the Yankees for three games in the Bronx should provide a pretty good litmus test, right?

Well, not once you take a look at the pitching match-ups. Tonight brings Ramon Ortiz vs. Jon Lieber. Advantage: Angels. Tomorrow morning brings Erin Sele vs. Esteban Loaiza. Advantage: Angels. Sunday brings Kelvim Escobar (or if his finger is still Becketted, Scot Shields) vs. Kevin Brown. Advantage: Yankees.

So we catch a break, in that we're facing the two bottoms of the Yankee rotation (as well as a Kevin Brown is not his old self). The Lads need to take advantage of this, and maintain some of that offensive surge they discovered against the dregs of Tampa Bay.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

As reported in the LA Times:

With Robb Quinlan out for at least a month because of a torn left oblique and the Angels still hesitant to call up power-hitting third base prospect Dallas McPherson from triple-A Salt Lake City, General Manager Bill Stoneman has stepped up his efforts to trade for a hitter, preferably a third baseman, before the Aug. 31 deadline.


Among the candidates who have cleared waivers or are expected to clear waivers are Arizona's Shea Hillenbrand (.301, 12 home runs, 58 runs batted in), Seattle's Jolbert Cabrera (.274, three homers, 29 RBIs), and Kansas City's Joe Randa (.275, four homers and 35 RBIs).
What do all these players have in common? Well, for one, none of them have been as good as Legs Figgins this year:

Player       AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS  EqA   ZR   WARP3  TOP**

Figgins 295 355 426 781 .283 .703 4.6 894
Hillenbrand 304 347 464 811 .267 .732 3.0 767
Cabrera 273 313 400 713 .259 .778* 2.0 728
Randa 276 341 387 728 .253 .805 2.9 699

*has only played in 11 games at third base.

**TOP is "Total Offensive Production," a number meant to
represent how many runs a team of this hitter would score.
It's maintained by Eric Walker on his website, and I include
it here to show that it's not just Davenport's system that
sees Figgins as the best hitter this year from this group.
Looking at the EqA next to the OPS shows how much Angel Stadium has hurt hitters this year, and it also reveals Chone's basestealing ability.

Out of all these guys, Hillenbrand is the best player, but Cabrera may be the best fit. He has played every position that's not catcher this year, and his career 257/305/363 line certainly betters Alfredo Amezaga's 206/263/289.

It just seems to me that going from Figgins to Hillenbrand is a step down in offense, though a small step up in defense. Do we really need Shea Hillenbrand as a defensive replacement? If we were to implement a de facto platoon between Hillenbrand and Adam Kennedy (shifting The Legs over to second against southpaws, as I have previously advocated), that would be worth it. If you're not willing to do that, look to upgrade Amezaga.

Bobby Grich, I believe, deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. I've been intending to do a massive series of entries defending this point, but it seems like something that's going to have to wait for the off-season. But I make (part of) the case in the 47th and 49th posts of this PrimerBTF thread, and I repeat (i.e. cut-and-paste) some of the same points over on the Assclown site* (a site that is hard to explain, really; its very premise is like an in-joke wrapped in an allusion wrapped in a footnote).

To sum up, Grich suffers because his raw totals and rates were cut down by his era and ballparks. Taking that into account, he's the best hitter of any eligible second-baseman not in the Hall, and is at least a good a candidate as perennial deservee Ron Santo (Santo's only edge over Grich is peak value; they have identical career value, according to Clay Davenport's measures at BPro, even though Grich played 235 less games -- two seasons worth).

*At least, I think I repeat it. Blogger doesn't seem to like my comments and I have no idea if they're really going to show up there, so caveat emptor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

So Robb Quinlan is apparently out for the season. This sets off a series of crises along the Halo positional daisy chain. To wit:

1. Chone Figgins is now the sole available third baseman. This means that he is no longer available to fill in in the outfield (DaVanon now solely occupies the DH spot [which of course is sometimes used by putting DaVanon in the field and giving one of the regulars a half-day off as DH], with Salmon taking his spot if necessary), at shortstop, or at second base.

2. Unless, of course, you want to count Alfredo Amezaga. Should Eckstein or Kennedy require a day off at any point from here on out, this would force Amezaga into the starting lineup.

3. Given the need to carry one backup infielder (Amezaga) and apparently two backup outfielders (Salmon and Curtis Pride[?]), we are one spot short when it comes to bringing up Wielka Kotka* and his 289/341/316 line at AAA. Of course, given that line, Galarraga doesn't appear to be a savior, anyway.

The real problem here is that Stonemanbot thought Shane Halter would be a worthy addition to this team, instead of going out and finding a utility infielder that could, you know, play a decent infield. The fact that Amezaga, who's at least a good glove, provides our best internal backup infield option is appalling. And now we pay.

*Polish for "Big Cat."

Monday, August 16, 2004

-- Am I the only Angel blogger that watched the game yesterday? Typical Angel victory: no offense, mediocre pitcher doing just enough to get the win. Aaron Sele has the upper hand over Ramon Ortiz on the Who's Not The Worst Seesaw (based on recent performance -- their season ERAs are withing 0.01 of each other), which will matter only if and when Ace Washburn returns from injury. He's finally throwing without pain, so that's a good thing.

-- Is Bengie Molina too fat? Mike Scoscia dice:

Does his weight hurt him day to day? No. Will it hurt him year to year? That's a possibility. I've lived that. He's able to go out there and do the things he needs to do and play at a very high level.
Has no one noticed that Bengie can't throw out baserunners anymore? Is there a chance his weight is part of that?

-- Mystery solved! What seems like years later, it is revealed that Jose Guillen really was at the players-only meeting! He was just joshing the media, y'see. That Jose, he's quite the kidder ...

From the same item:
The Angels signed third baseman Mark Trumbo, their 18th-round draft pick out of Villa Park High, after convincing him not to attend USC. [emphasis mine]
A heroic deed from Angel management! We'll save the world one person at a time from the horrors of U$C ...

... pretty quiet day out there, as the Lads have the day off.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I've been slammed at work, and I need to make an appearance at a courthouse tomorrow (don't worry, it's as a victim/witness, I'm not being arraigned), so blogging might be light over the next couple of days. The other Angel blogs have the Tim Salmon developments pretty well covered, and I'll add that it was nice to see Garret and Vlad get into the swing of things last night. Teams are making mistakes against us, but give the Halos credit for taking advantage of them and getting wins. Obviously, Boston and Oakland won't be making such mistakes, but you never know: someone could give them calendars marked "October" and we'll be set ...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

And we will never speak of this again. This game was almost as bad as my job -- and that's saying a lot, folks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The LA Times brings up the fact that Adam Kennedy can't hit at home this year. And it's true: he has a 179/261/235 line at home against a 328/389/484 on the road.

I would read nothing into this: over the course of 2001-2003, he had a 302/360/460 at home and a 267/313/353 on the road. So count up this year as a fluke.

But I don't think this is fluky:

Adam Kennedy AVG/OBP/SLG, 2004

vs RHP: 275/340/393
vs LHP: 217/301/304

Adam Kennedy AVG/OBP/SLG, 2001-2003
vs RHP: 293/346/424
vs LHP: 247/295/339
Kennedy, you may recall, started life as a platoon player. In 2002, Kennedy had 85% of his plate appearances against righthanded pitchers, and had his best season by far. But last year, only 76% of his plate appearances came against RHP. The irony is that he actually wasn't all that bad against lefties in 2002, hitting 275/320/449 against them in his 69 at-bats. This infers, to me, anyway, that Scioscia did a good job of spotting when Adam should hit against a lefty.

But Kennedy's limited success against lefties in 2002, along with his excellent defense, has led to his being a regular. Kennedy has faced righties in 74% of his plate appearances this year, which is a very normal rate: Vlad has faced righties in 73%.

But should he be? Would any defensive dropoff counteract the benefit of having, say, Legs Figgins play second against lefties?

Chone is hitting 319/404/420 in 119 at-bats against lefties this year, after going 284/340/375 in 88 AB last year. Let's look at lifetime numbers:

Vs. LHP, Career

Kennedy 250 302 338 529
Legs 298 369 395 215
Given the relatively few at-bats we have to work with, it's hard to say with certainty if this reflects either player's true abilities in the matter. But assuming it does ... let's say the Halo second-sacker will have roughly 600 plate appearances, and that 25% of those will be against lefthanders. That's about 150 plate appearances; we might expect each of these guys to walk about 10 to 15 times out of those, so let's call that 140 at-bats.

You may not know this, but multiplying OBP and SLG and AB brings up a reasonably accuarate appraisal of runs scored. The difference between Figgins and Kennedy with the bat in such a scenario would be about six runs. Do you believe, that over the course of 25% of the season, Adam Kennedy is six runs better on defense than Chone Figgins?

Well, that's a pretty difficult question to answer, but I would be shocked if Kennedy is six runs beter than Figgins over the course of about 40 games. That's .15 runs a game ... let's look at it this way: BPro claims that, over the course of his career, Adam Kennedy is .040 runs per game above average with the glove. They also claim that, in a much smaller sample, Figgins is .052 runs per game above average with the glove (second base only).

I don't know if you believe BPro, and I'm not sure I do, either, but .15 runs a game is an extra single saved once every three games, or maybe an extra double play. Putting it that way, it doesn't seem so ridiculous, but who knows ...

... with the current state of the team, it may not be possible to switch to a platoon at second. With Garret's shaky body and Clutch DaVanon on the DL, The Legs is needed in center. But looking to the future, this is something the Lads definitely need to consider.

(I should also add that this is not meant to disparage Kennedy. BPro puts him at a .260 EqA, which means he is exactly a league-average hitter. BPro also thinks he's been one run worse than average with the glove this year, which I think is crazy, but anyway ... a second baseman who is a league-average hitter with good defense is a valuable player. This goes for David Eckstein and his .261 EqA as well. But just because Kennedy has considerable value, that doesn't mean you can't look for ways to improve the position, especially with in-house solutions like Figgins that cost you nothing.)

Monday, August 09, 2004

If we make the postseason by one game, we should all chip in to send Scott Sullivan and the rest of the Kansas City bullpen flowers.

Sean has a nice look at Robb Quinlan, and concludes that though he is playing better than we expect, it's not terribly better. If you ask me, a 25-year-old who puts up a 333/381/555 in the PCL is certainly capable of 336/391/518 in the AL two years later. I too think Quinlan's going to decline (just look at how well Clutch DaVanon hit in the first few months of the season compared to more recently), but there's no doubt that Quinlan and The Legs have done much to negate the loss of Troy Glaus:

AVG/OBP/SLG for Angel Third Basemen

2002: 256/354/462
2003: 236/314/397
2004: 300/362/498
Not bad. Not bad at all.

The guys over at Redbird Nation make the case for Jim Edmonds, Hall of Famer. I was always a big fan of Jimmy, and was sad to see him go five years ago, so I'm pretty receptive to the argument, though it's a bit too early to really figure out if he belongs or not. So continued good luck to Jimmy -- unless we face him in October.

There is a certain degree of teeth-gnashing and nail-biting in the Halosphere in that our three weekend wins over the Royals have been less dominating than, say, a late-August college football match between the University of Miami and the College of One-Armed Nuns. But the point is we're putting "W"'s up when we need them and when we should be getting them. I think we all knew that the Angels had to take at least three of the four games in Missouri, so they've met the minimum requirement as later today Ramon ("Pumpkin"?) Ortiz tries to turn the clock back to 11:59 PM after a lousy start in the Metrodome.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Everyone gets their day, and yesterday's was Josh Paul's: 3 for 4, 2 runs scored, an RBI, and the Lads' only extra-base hit of the game (a double). In just over 40 plate appearances, Paul is now hitting 306/381/417! That's the mother of all small sample sizes, but there you go ...

... What team leads the AL in batting average? Quick hint: what team is this blog about? That be the Anaheim Angels, with a major league leading .286. They are also tops in the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position at .290. Despite this, the Angels rank a mediocre seventh in the league in runs scored.

As you may know, the Angels rank a big fat last in walks, which means that their OBP is a mere .341, sixth the the league. Their .428 slugging perecentage is a disappointing eighth in the league, despite that high average. This is because we are tenth in extra bases, and eleventh in extra base hits and isolated power. Remember Bill James' Secondary Average, designed to measure all that stuff batting average doesn't account for (walks, extra bases, stolen bases)? We rank eleventh, in that, too.

All which is to say we have a pretty one-dimensional offense. Our power comes from only the outfield corners; for the most part, we have to rely on stringing hits together to score runs, as our singles-dominated victory over Minnesota yesterday bore out.

(I'll take this moment to point out that the fact that Angel Stadium has been a pitcher's park this year is a factor. We do manage to rank third in the league in runs scored on the road, and our OBP and SLG go up to third and fourth, respectively. That said, we still rank seventh in extra base hits on the road and eighth in extra bases and isolated power.)

Hopefully, Garret and Salmon will pick up the power sticks, and diversify our offense. As we know, the singles well can run dry, and it's necessary to have another way to score at your disposal.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

-- Did you know that Chone Figgins has a higher slugging percentage than Garret Anderson? That's right; coming into play today, The Legs has a .433 slugging percentage against Garret's .424. It's not just the triples: Figgins gets a double every 25.3 at bats, and Garret does once every 30.6. This is how powerful our team is: aside from Troy Glaus, Figgins ranks behind only Vlad, GUILLEN SMASH, and the streaking Robb Quinlan in slugging percentage.

-- But don't worry; help is on the way, in the person of the Big Cat, El Gato Grande: Andres Galarraga. Le Grand Chat is roughly 3,000 years old at this point. The fact that he keeps beating back disease to make a comeback is amazing and commendable, and he played well (a 118 OPS+) in a platoon role last year with the Giants. I'm not sure where he fits into the Angel plans ... perhaps platooning at first, punting Erstad back to the outfield? Taking away at bats from Tim Salmon? Can Die Gro├če Katze pitch? It's hard to say, and his appearance in the majors is not even guaranteed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

-- After a few weeks of good starting pitching, why did Ramon Ortiz have to turn back into a pumpkin? Why did John Lackey's arrow have to land on the "Hyde" on his "Jekyll/Hyde" spinner? They need to salvage a game against Minnesota today; we're not supposed to be losing series, remember? At least winning a game would salve the wound so we can keep going and work it out on the hapless Royals.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Wally Joyner, my favorite player of all time, christened a new NorCal Wrigley Field duplicate with a home run.

This was only the fifth home run hit by Angel first basemen this year.

Last night was another one of those games when I didn't get home from work until it was over, and as it happens I'm never going to watch it, anyway. Seems like we have a few too many of those games, but, hey, it's just one game, so let's move on ...

... Bengie's out for two to four weeks, which puts my yikes meter on orange. As I discussed yesterday, Jose is a better defender than Bengie, but the bat tells a different tale. Jose needs to step up the hitting over the next few weeks.

A Bengieless August means the Angels are looking to fill the roster spot, and the MLB article pegs Joe McEwing as a possible target. McEwing is better-known to some internet Met fans as "McSuck," so that's exciting. McSuck is basically Alfredo Amezaga's upside with the bat, and worse with the glove but at more positions (he's played everywhere except catcher in each of the last four seasons). Jack of all, master of none.

If a catcher is hurt, why are we looking at utility guys, anyway? Because it's unlikely that a worthwhile catcher will appear on the waiver wire, aside from Jason Kendall, and any such catcher would also bring cross-town attention from Paul DePodesta. Kendall's power has gone bye-bye, but the man can still get on base (a .382 OBP). But unless the Angels get an even more forbidding prognosis on Bengie, they will not make a move for a backstop.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Sean is all over the Jose Molina Is Not The Big Mango's Personal Catcher Story. Let's say that, despite Scioscia's polite protestations, Jose really is Colon's man-about-backstop. Does this make any sense?

Whether or not a catcher really affects a pitcher's performance is a matter of debate, and the argument seems to currently rest on the side of "not so much." And one glance at the Angel defensive stats reveals that Jose's pitchers have allowed a 4.20 ERA to Bengie's 4.31 -- a very negligible difference, conclusive of nothing. So, if even in general catchers do have varying abilities to affect pitchers, that does not appear to be the case here.

There is another issue, however, revealed by the defensive stats. Jose has thrown out a superb 54.8% of aspiring base thieves, while Gold Glove Arm Bengie has thrown out a mere 20%. Now, I know Bengie started off the year hurt and everything ... but the last time I wrote on this subject was May 12 -- and Bengie was tossing out 22.2% at that time. So he's actually getting worse!

Bengie has long maintained that Jose was a better defender than him, and this year seems to be bearing that out. Jose also has less passed balls per nine innings (.047) than Bengie (.091), and a higher fielding percentage (.997-.993).

The rub lies in the bats, of course. Jose is hitting a pathetic 242/261/353 against Bengie's 289/308/443. Is this enough to make Bengie the beter player this season? The difference between them on basestealing is somewhere around 11 runs, and the three extra passed balls probably don't amount to more than 1.

Looking at hitting, BPro puts Bengie at 10-16 runs better than Jose by Equivalent Runs, depending on how you look at it, and VORP has it at about 12 runs.

For whatever it's worth, in total contribution Win Shares pegs Bengie for 6 and Jose at 3, which is a win, or about ten runs. Though Jose outdefends Bengie 2.8-2.6 (and remember that's in less playing time), Bengie outhits Jose 3.7-0.1.

I'm bound to think that Bengie's hitting is enough to make him better than Jose -- but that Jose's defense is enough to mean that he is a capable backup to Bengie, which of course means Bengie can get more days off, stay healthy, and be a better hitter. And these are all good things.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Look, I'm no fan of that other team in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. I do respect their GM, but I really have no use for them at all, and can't imagine when I'd root for them.

But granting that, I am appalled by local and national media coverage of their recent trades. I happen to think that they did very well, though of course they're taking a risk with the drop-off behind the plate. Most coverage acknowledges the latter, without even pondering the possibility of the former.

One thing I noticed in the paper today was talk of Hee Seop Choi being a bad player in the clutch, a rally-killer etc. Because he's hitting .234 with runners in scoring position, y'see.

Never mind the fact that his OBP in those situations is above .400, and his slugging percentage in the high .500s. He's done very well with runners in scoring position -- he's done better with runners in scoring position than he has overall.

For DePodesta's sake, and the sake of common sense, I hope Choi, Finley, and Penny just tear it up, and LoDuca goes on the biggest slump of all time. I'll still root against that team as a whole, but DePo has done well, and deserves notice for it.

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