Thursday, September 30, 2004

Two games.

That's all it takes at this point. All the furor, desperation, and exhiliration of the previous 159 games are gone, a thing of the past, a relic of baseball memory.

To get to the playoffs, two evenly matched teams will play each other in a race to see who can win two games. Evenly matched? Yes, evenly matched.

Coming into play today:

Team  OBP  SLG  EqA   ERA

ANA 341 429 263 4.32
OAK 345 436 264 4.15
Now, NetAss has been a better hitters' park than The Big A has been this year; Davenport takes that into account with his Equivalent Average, but he uses multi-year park factors that take away some of that difference.

What's interesting is, despite almost identical OBP and SLG, is this (updated through today):

Team  RS

ANA 822
OAK 789
Why the difference (through Wednesday)?
                       With Runners in Scoring Position

ANA 140 45 117 1706 277 343 436
OAK 45 22 141 1719 261 353 411
Well, we're a little bit better with runners in scoring position, and we also gain in stolen bases (the caught stealing and the double plays basically cancel each other out).

So, a little bit of luck, a little bit of skill, and maybe even some of those silly "productive outs," though I doubt that's a big factor.

And even though they lead us in ERA, check this:

Team  RA

ANA 733
OAK 727
Not too shabby; yes, with the park involved, we're a bit worse than that, but still very close.

Add it all up:

Team   W   L   PCT   RS   RA   PythW   PythL   PythPCT

ANA 90 69 .566 822 733 89 70 .557
OAK 90 69 .566 789 727 86 73 .541
So, it looks like we're a little bit better so far ... but none of that really matters anymore. To a large degree, analysis can be thrown out the window. It will come down to a simple battle on the field.

Well, does it get more exciting than this? Two good teams, two smart organizations with different ways of going about business, both facing off for a do-or-die trip to the playoffs ... you've got to be kidding. I'm so excited, I'm making even less sense than usual!

This is what it's all about.

Two games.

Yes We Can!

When Curtis Pride -- Curtis Pride! -- is hitting two-out doubles to tie games, you suspect there may be a higher power at work. When you have a hitter fouling off all the pitches in the world before hitting a big home run, you also get a sense of deja vu -- or maybe it's just a glitch in the Matrix ...

I was watching the game at a bar last night, so there are no witnesses to the fact that I was skeptical about Frankie K. going two innings. In retrospect, it doesn't make any sense for me to have doubted, as he hadn't pitched for a couple days. But still ... Texas hitters did a good job, and he was clearly tired and trying to hard in the eighth inning.

But, all things considered, last night was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.


Park Adjusted
Lackey 194.0 4.55 .169 .066 .254 .027 4.63
Young 30.3 4.75 .170 .067 .237 .037 4.28
Chris Young is another of those who-dat guys that comes out of nowhere to shut the Lads down now and again. Oddly enough, Young's good starts have come against us and Boston (with a decent start against Minnesota), and his bad starts are against the lesser White Sox and Mariners. Now that we've seen him once, I feel pretty good about it.

The big question, of course, is which Lackey will show up. He's had four straight good starts, however, and is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 34 September innings (innings that have also been devoid of home runs). We've seen Lackey go on stretches like this before, so of course I wouldn't be surprised to see him continue his excellence in a big game in his home state.

Holy cow, we're about 45 minutes away from the first pitch!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Last night, Phys and Hud were talking about how the Angels were winning by doing the little things. You know, like Garret Anderson turning around a ball in as little time as possible, Dallas McPherson hitting the ball a little bit up the grass behind center field, Vlad hitting the ball a little short of the upper deck. Get off the talking points, guys, this was bashball!

Tonight, against Ace Washburn, the Rangers present something called Kameron Loe.

GAME 2                                                     

Park Adjusted
Washburn 145.3 4.46 .138 .062 .243 .032 4.53
Loe 2.7 0.00 .250 .000 .125 .000 0.00
So that's useless. But I've been doing that for the series, and I'm not breaking routine right now.

I have never, in my life, heard of Kameron Loe. Behold his minor league numbers for yourself here.

Loe stands at 6'8''-225 pounds, is 23 years old, is from Chatsworth, my home town, and was a 20th-round pick out of CSUN ("That's not college, that's the thirteenth grade." -- Howard Stern) (he went to Granada Hills High, which also produced the great John Elway, Champion Forever). As you can see for yourself, he has pitched very well in the minors, and has earned a shot at the big leagues. He strikes out a decent number of guys, and walks very few.

It's always tricky to face a pitcher no one has ever seen; of course, it's also to start a rookie for the first time in the middle of a pennant race. So I have no idea what to expect tonight/this afternoon. The Lads just have to keep doing what they have been.

UPDATE: Sean was there last night and gives an account.

EVEN MORE OF AN UPDATE: Rob links to a Ranger blogger describing Loe as a finesse pitcher. You're telling me that a 23-year-old 6'8'' righthander that struck out 8.09 men per nine innings in the minors is a finesse pitcher? This both scares me (we often suck against finesse pitchers) and excites me (his finesse may not be good enough to face major league pitching).

I say we lead off Vlad to scare the guy out of his pants. (Okay, not really ...)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Courtesy of Rob, here are some comments from Joe Sheehan on the pay side of Baseball Prospectus on Guillengate:

I can't think of a precedent for this, where a team discards a starting outfielder with a week to go. I do know that the punishment doesn't fit the crime it followed, and it seems disproportionate even if it capped a series of unpublicized incidents, as was implied by Bill Stoneman ...
Um, Mr. Sheehan: how do you know? The simple fact is that there is more to the story, and a history with Guillen, and almost all of it is in the part of the iceberg below sea-level. We just don't know enough to flat-out say this was the wrong decision. Well, Joe Sheehan pretends he does, and Joe Sheehan always will find a way to bash the Angels:

It's a bold decision to suspend a major player at this stage, but consistent with the philosophy of a franchise that has spent a decade choosing personality over talent.
Rob says that this accusation has the whiff of truth to it, but only just. I'd say Rob is being a bit generous to Sheehan here. It is true that the Angels seem to value leadership and character, occasionally to their detriment. But is this really a pattern they've established over the last decade?

The choice of Garret Anderson over Jim Edmonds in the outfield crunch was not a good one (and this was obvious at the time), but character was hardly the only factor -- Jim Edmonds was injury-prone at the time, remember.

What other examples are there? Um, well ... let's see ... hmm. Well, they thought Mo Vaughn would be a leader and a hitter, and he was a hitter, but the only place he led the team was into discord. But that obviously wasn't a personality-based decision.

Let's see ... we have gritty David Eckstein. Of course, BPro championed Eckstein, who has been average or better at a bargain price for his entire Angel career. So Sheehan can't be referring to that ...

... which brings us to ... um, anybody?

I guess the argument, which Rob refers to, depends on the fact that Erstad and Anderson and Salmon are presumably being paid for more than market value because of their character and blah blah blah ... I might buy it on Erstad (though, his defensive performance in center was sufficient to make him worth the money), but Anderson and Salmon were organization products rewarded for years of hard work; the Angels certainly aren't the first team to overpay to keep homegrown talent, and these decisions have hardly crippled the team.

And, you know, I'm not a big intangibles guy, but there's nothing wrong with getting good players that are good people, too. If you get to pick from two average major league shortstops, and one is a gamer and a good guy, and the other one's kind of a dick, which one would you pick? That's easy, right? Yes, it's a problem when you have a lousy player sucking up playing time for his "intangibles," but that's not all that common, really. Do you really think we're overpaying Aaron Sele because of his personality?

Now, maybe in a few months we'll learn what Guillen did, and we'll all think the team overreacted, and we'll blame Stonemanbot and Scioscia for ___________ ... but, you know, I think our chances of taking this thing are higher without him.

So it looks like someone turned on the on switch on Vlad, and Bartolo Colon did what he had to, and we got an impressive and exciting win against the Texans. Nice job by Troy Percival, too. He brought his fastball in, jamming hitters and finally blowing away Brian Jordan like it was 1995 or somethin' ... while we're at it, I was totally behind Scioscia's decision to go with Colon in the ninth. He hadn't thrown many pitches, and he wasn't making bad pitches for the hits in that innings. The guys just got good wood on the ball, and it happened to be twice consecutively.


Park Adjusted
Escobar 197.0 3.88 .219 .087 .220 .024 3.94
Park 84.0 5.79 .151 .069 .257 .053 5.22
Kelvim Escobar gave up five earned runs in five innings against Oakland earlier this week -- this was only his third non-quality start since mid-August.

As with all Escobar starts this year, the main question will be whether the Angels can put together some runs. They have to take advantage of Chan Ho Park, who, as you almost certainly know, is an utter disaster. We think Colon is bad? Park is making over $13 million this year to screw up day after day. (Gotta love ESPN sometimes -- check out his alleged game log.) The Angels have long had Park's number (he has a 5.23 ERA against us in 74 lifetime innings) and he gets rocked in The Ballpark (a 6.47 ERA in just over 40 innings at home this year); this is no day to reverse these trends. He did manage a decent start against Oakland in his most recent outing, but such events are few and bar between.

Just like last night, this is a game the Angels should win.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Someone over at the PrimerBTF linked to this addendum about Guillen. I have no idea how reliable that is, but there you go ...

In my comments section, internet celebrity William says he wants to see this lineup for the next week:

Figgins - 2B
Erstad - CF
Guerrero - RF
Glaus - DH
Anderson - LF
McPherson - 3B
Kotchman - 1B
Molina - C
Eckstein - SS

Hey, no complaints from me, though, as William says, this will never happen. But what that might be is a good template for our lineup in 2005, obviously inserting Kennedy for Figgins and rearranging the order. If Glaus really can play third, the DH spot can be used to rotate the other guys around to give them semi-days off; Erstad can also take off-days at first, letting DaVanon play second. Quinlan can also fill in at first, third, DH, or possibly even an outfield corner against tougher lefties.

This all presumes, of course, that we trade Guillen in the off-season. It's hard to imagine that we'd bring him back after this, but youneverknow ... the measures the club has taken are so extreme and unique that we can't really compare it to anything.

So that's the longterm; in the short term, it seems evident that Scioscia elects a left field platoon between DaVanon and Angees Riggs.

1. Diana Rigg
2. Angees Riggs

1. Angie Dickinson
2. Angees Riggs

Back in one of his Baseball Books, Bill James was discussing the legacy of Twin second basemen (this was when Chuck Knoblauch was just coming up, I believe) and said something to the effect of "Rob Wilfong, who went to the Angels to do Gene Mauch's laundry or something." This instilled in my mind the idea of The Laundryman -- the player that doesn't really do anything much, or at least anything special and unique, but who has a good relationship with a manager and always has a job as long as that manager does.

Look around, there are tons of these guys. Look at Dusty Baker and his employment of Ramon E. Martinez, Shawn Estes last year, and Neifi Perez this year. Harken back a few years and behold Tony La Russa's first few years in St. Louis with the mummified Rick Honeycutt and Mike Gallego.

Adam Riggs is Mike Scioscia's Laundryman.

Scioscia managed the Alberquerque Dukes in 1999, where second baseman Adam Riggs hit 292/360/452 (Riggs' career minor league numbers). That's not the most impressive line for a hitter in Alberquerque in the PCL, no matter what position you play.

Riggs has never been that impressive a hitter, really. But he does bring some things to the table. He's walked once every 10.6 at bats over his minor league career, which is not terrible; this and his stolen bases gives him a minor league secondary average of .337, though his stolen bases are no longer a big part of his game. Still, last year in AAA he hit 294/354/490 with a .310 secondary average, and this year he put up a life-best 331/373/633 (a secondary average of .387).

He's obviously not a .330 hitter, and he's not even a .300 hitter in the major leagues. But he is better than his up-to-the-minute 204/288/336 line. I would be the truth is somewhere in the middle, that he would hit 250/330/400 given enough playing time.

In short, he's not an exciting option in left, 2-2 last night or not.

vs. Left-handed Pitchers
Riggs 2004 6 500 500 833 DaVanon 2004 20 150 227 150
2003 20 350 480 500 2003 38 342 457 579
2001 6 333 333 333 2002 11 091 167 182
Career 43 349 452 462 Career 100 240 345 400
Well, so that's what Scioscia is thinking with the platoon. I don't really think the Laundryman can hit .350 against lefties, but there you go.

If Scioscia sticks with this plan, Riggs will get the start in left tonight.

Park Adjusted
Colon 193.3 5.31 .176 .082 .247 .044 5.39
Rogers 199.3 4.74 .135 .073 .267 .026 4.27
The AL .164 .085 .241 .030
The Gambler has clearly been better than The Big Mango this season. He's a junkballer, and a type Angel hitters often have trouble with. But he's not overpowering, and his control is good but not outstanding. He gives up a lot of hits, but keeps the ball in the park -- especially impressive given his home park.

However, Rogers has struggled since the All Star Break, with a 5.51 ERA in 80some innings. Check out his month-by-month for yourself to see how he has degenerated. And I don't have to to tell you how Colon has looked less bad of late.

With Rogers scuffling, this is a great opportunity for the Angels to jump down Texas' throat. Colon has owned Texas this year, going 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 30 men against only 11 walks. We're at the point where it's not necessarily a "must-win" in a literal sense, and even if we drop a game in the standings it's not the end of the world, but this is exactly the kind of game in which Colon needs to step up and earn his $11 million. This is the game $11 million pitchers are meant to win.

Bartolo, it's in your hands.

A trip around the web and the Guillen story:

-- Mike DiGiovanna's LA Times story makes it clear that the suspension is not just for the Saturday incident (for which, by the way, no video appears to exist, as it was not shown on the Fox/Channel 13 telecast). Mike Scioscia: "There have been a number of things — it wasn't just [Saturday]. I won't get into specifics about what transpired over the course of the year." Bill Stonemanbot: "I would say it's cumulative."

There is clearly a great deal to this story we do not know.

-- J.A. Adande's bizarrely non sequitur-free column on the subject includes this passage:

When asked about the behavior that precipitated Guillen's departure, Darin Erstad said he wouldn't discuss what happens in the clubhouse, an indication that perhaps there was something said after the game and not just Guillen's visible tossing of his helmet and glove after his removal Saturday.

Stoneman and Scioscia made it clear that the suspension was an accumulation of attitude by Guillen throughout the season.
Adande also puts forward the non-revolutionary idea that Guillen will not be a Lad next season.

-- The Punter continues to talk the talk in the LA Times report on the actual game: "You either fold up and let it affect you or come together and become stronger .... It's very unfortunate. I feel bad for Jose. But sometimes things like this can bring you together as a team."

-- David Pinto says this is "a lose-lose situation for both the player and the team," but I'm not necessarily inclined to agree. Yes, Jose's been a hell of a hitter for most of the year. But he's been slumping of late, and if his actions off the field are truly a distraction or otherwise harmful, the team could be better off.

It's obviously frustrating, as a fan, so be supporting these guys all year and to have something like this happen without explanation. I really have no idea if this suspension was justified or not, and neither do you. All we can do now is hope for the best and move on.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I'm feeling a lot better about us after taking that series from the A's. It's obviously not easy, but there's no real reason that we can't make up one game in the next seven.

And, as I emerge from the shock, the Guillen thing doesn't bother me. Maybe I'm just on a high after the victory, but he's been struggling at the bat of late. I don't hold much quarter for Angees Riggs in left against southpaws, but DaVanon should be fine in left. It's obviously not optimal, but the situation may be sufficient to galvanize and inspire the team. I'm resistant to chemical arguments 99.9% of the time, but there is that 0.1%.

Are Guillen's days as an Angel over? We know too little at this point. But I have this hunch that Percy will be pitching as an Angel in Anaheim again in 2004. We just have to take it to Texas and whup the Rangers around like we're supposed to.

We can do this.

I can't believe Guillen is suspended jsut for a hissy fit. I just can't believe it. I understand the notion that what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, but jeez ... something had to happen, and it had to have been pretty major.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

With ten games left, we are closer to third place than to first. I guess this was true yesterday, as well, I just didn't notice. And if Texas wins at Oakland again today, we'll be tied with Texas at two games back.

Of course, we get to seize destiny by the throat this weekend as we play host to the Oakland Athletic Club, but it's been incredibly frustrating to watch the Lads prove unable to pick up ground as the A's have stumbled against the Lone Stars. Last night the blame can be handed to The Big Fatso, The Big Mango, The Biggest Bust of the Year: Bartolo F. Colon.

I have strong words for Colon, but this is a family sport, so I might as well make this a family site (because I'm sure eleven-year-olds everywhere are falling all over themselves to read Angel blogs). I still maintain that Colon is the number one reason we are not in first place right now. After all the injuries, the inconsistencies, the fact that Colon has been so much worse than average is what's bringing us down.

The AL has a 4.64 ERA this year; Angel Stadium has decreased run scoring by about three percent this year, so applying that park factor to Colon's 5.31 ERA gives us 5.38, which is 16% worse than league average.

If Colon had merely a 4.58 ERA right now (applying the park factor to the league average), he would have allowed 98 earned runs instead of the 114 he has -- a sixteen run swing, which is about a win-and-a-half.

Imagine, if Colon was just a league average pitcher this year, we could be about a game-and-a-half closer right now! Of course, this is slightly better than when I looked at it at the All Star Break -- though our deficit from first place is identical.

There's likely more to say, but in the middle of this post I got slammed with a time-sensitive work project, so I'll see ya on the other side ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

So, I guess that's how Dallas McPherson strikes out so much. In his sip of coffee he's now hitting 333/400/444 ... he's made six outs, all via strikeout, and seven of his ten plate appearances have resulted in no contact with the ball.

In other news, we have eleven games left, and we still trail by two-and-a-half, because Angel players have a severe allergy to winning on days Oakland has lost. Helping this allergy along is an addiction to the pitching stylings of Aaron Sele and Ramon Ortiz. This is crunch time, dudes, and neither of these guys really has what it takes at this point. Sele's ERA now sits at 5.14, as his measly microscopic itsy-bitsy polka-dotted strikeouts-per-nine sits at 3.57. Your ERA should not be higher than your strikeouts!

Ortiz is a little better, but really, come on ... what's so frustrating is that either our pitchers are on and the offense sucks, or the offense is fine and the pitching sucks. And by "fine," I mean "above replacement level," as putting up three runs against Jamie Moyer and the Tacoma All Stars is something less than inspiring.

I mean, what the hell is that lineup? The Big Cat at first, The Legs at second, McPherson at third, Josh Paul at catcher, and Troy Glaus relegated to DH ... this was not the plan. But, you know, we should actually be impressed with the way the team has weathered the unexpected to even keep us competitive in the race, where we are still within striking distance. But the lineup we have is so far below optimal that it's just kind of depressing.

The Angels are hitting 285/342/427 as a team; in September, all they've managed is 259/322/386, adding up to 4.55 runs per game (season average: 5.13). Leading offenders this month are David Eckstein (617 OPS), Jose Guillen (571), and 4-3 (470). Clutch DaVanon has also struggled in his playing time this month, with a Sele Strikeoutesque 309 OPS.

Who have been the heroes of September to this point? Bengie Molina has an 835 OPS ... and Adam Kennedy was at 929.

Adam Kennedy, OPS by Month, 2004

April 726
May 584
June 676
July 799
August 885
September 929
He's also managed a good stolen base rate, 15 out of 20.

There are 31 major league second basemen this year with more than 300 plate appearances. In that group, Adam Kennedy ranks seventh in Baseball Prospectus' EqA, and second in the AL (tied in both cases [obviously] with Omar Infante and Miguel Cairo, and also Todd Walker -- though Kennedy has more plate appearances than any of these men).

And then you get to defense. Kennedy ranks second in the majors in zone rating, and first in the American League. He consistently ranks near the top in the measure.

In short, Kennedy is a valuable player, and we're going to miss him. McPherson and Figgins have big shoes to fill in the next two weeks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Torn ACL and MCL.

Last night provided what was in many ways a strange and wonderful game, full of odd plays, bad calls, heated arguments, chases, escapes, true love ...

... holding it back were the Halo injuries: Vlad getting cracked in the noggin was scary, but seems to have turned out okay, but the injury to Adam Kennedy has the possibility of being much more severe. He goes in for an MRI today, and the fact that he's wrapped up in a soft cast and on crutches is less than inspiring.

Kennedy's injury was a silently frightening moment; you could just tell from his visage and body language that something had gone wrong, and my attempts to heal him by talking to my TV ("You are fine. You will get up and walk and everything will be okay.") were futile.

If Kennedy is inded out for two weeks, this puts Legs Figgins at second and Dallas McPherson at third. This is a bit of a defensive dropoff at both positions, but the offensive impact is an open question. Kennedy and Figgins have had similar offensive seasons (with .275 and .277 EqAs, respectively), and McPherson's Major League Equivalencies are about 10 points lower.

McPherson did look very good at the bat last night. He was patient, and his short swing led to the ball exploding off his bat. Just watching him last night, it was hard to imagine that this is the guy who could strike out 150 times, which is why you don't judge players on one game, but ... you can tell that he has the tools and the makeup, and even if he "just" ends up being the Troy Glaus of the 2002 regular season, that's not a bad player.

He also demonstrated some good rough defensive ability, with his one real mistake being the offline throw that didn't really pull Alfredo Amezaga off the bag (and the notion that a third base umpire would have a better view of a play at second than the guy standing there and staring at the base is a completely new one to me, by the way); he did bounce a throw that The Punter dug out with no problem. He's been working with Alfredo Griffin and has already started learning (second item), and continued exposure should only further help him. If Kennedy is down, this could be a very interesting two-week audition for the young man ...

Monday, September 20, 2004

I will be honest with you; I did not even know Chris Young existed until yesterday.

We are three games back with thirteen to play; with six of those games against the A's, this is theoretically doable, but let us face facts: this is not a championship caliber team.

As for me, I have been saddened and disgusted by our offensive shutdown. We've got Kelvim Escobar and Ace Washburn pitching their heart out, and over here we can't even scrape out one run against Texas! Of course, these are all things you know ...

Here is what we would have to do, based on how Oakland does, in order to tie or win the division:

Oakland    Tie    Pct    Win    Pct

12- 1 XXX XXX XXX xxx
10- 3 13- 0 1.000 XXX XXX
9- 4 12- 1 .923 13- 0 1.000
8- 5 11- 2 .846 12- 1 .923
7- 6 10- 3 .769 11- 2 .846
6- 7 9- 4 .692 10- 3 .769
5- 8 8- 5 .615 9- 4 .692
4- 9 7- 6 .538 8- 5 .615
3-10 6- 7 .462 7- 6 .538
2-11 5- 8 .385 6- 7 .462
1-12 4- 9 .308 5- 8 .385
0-13 3-10 .231 4- 9 .308
So that's encouraging. As you can see, it's not even in our own hands at this point. Texas and Seattle have to help us out, or it's just over*. But this is all very dispiriting ...

P.S. Baseball Prospectus claims we have a 17.6% chance of making the playoffs. Okay ...

P.P.S. Maybe Quentin Griffin really does suck.

*As pointed out in the comments section, this statement is not literally true -- it is mathematically possible for us to win even if Seattle and Texas lose every game from here on in. But realistically, we would have to expect that Seattle and Texas will win more than one game between them over the next two weeks.

As this is now the second revision I've made to this post since originally putting it up, I may put this in the file for Worst Post Ever.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Look, there's just not that much to say right now. We finally broke out some offense last night, and it's about time. It's somewhat embarrassing that we couldn't pick up any ground in the last four games, but it's not ruinous, either.

It would be nice if the offense could really get it in gear, though. Sean shows how off everyone was in the Seattle series, and it's not a pretty picture. Texas pitching should be the right medicine.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2004

Kelvim Escobar pitches tonight; as you know, he's had a pretty good year. His 3.97 ERA is the best amongst Angel starters, and his 162 strikeouts ranks fourth in the AL. However, his record is only 9-10.

We all know it's because of lousy run support, but how uncommon is this, for a good pitcher to have a mediocre record? Obviously, it's not that uncommon. Brandon Webb has a 3.64 ERA this year, but is 6-15. Dontrelle Willis is 9-9 with a 3.86 ERA. But these random examples tell us nothing ...

... here's what I did. I took every qualifying pitcher season since 2001, and sorted them by various stats: ERA, K/IP, K/BB, WHIP, and then I determined the winning percentage for each group of ten. Actually, Microsoft Excel did that, I just told it to. Here are the top 10 ERA performances by qualifiers since 2001:

Pitcher           Year   W   L   ERA

P. Martinez, Bos 2003 14 4 2.22
P. Martinez, Bos 2002 20 4 2.26
R. Johnson, Ari 2002 24 5 2.32
J. Schmidt, SF 2003 17 5 2.34
K. Brown, LA 2003 14 9 2.39
M. Prior, ChC 2003 18 6 2.43
R. Johnson, Ari 2001 21 6 2.49
D. Lowe, Bos 2002 21 8 2.58
G. Maddux, Atl 2002 16 6 2.62
T. Hudson, Oak 2003 16 7 2.70
Now, these ten pitchers have an winning percentage .751. Pitchers ranked 2-11, in which you drop Pedro v.2003 and add Randy Johnson v.2004, have a winning percentage of .723. The ERA for the top 10 pitchers is 2.44, and for 2-11 it's 2.49.

There are 344 seasons in this sample, and the correlation between any group of ten's ERAs and WPCT is -.909, which is very strong. What's the point of this? The point is to identify seasons similar to Escobar's in respects other than winning percentage and see how many of them have similar winning percentages.

Kelvim's 2004 ranks 153 in the list of ERA. Putting him fifth in a list:

Pitcher           Year   W    L   ERA   WAG

K. Appier, Ana 2002 14 12 3.92 -1.52
B. Radke, Min 2001 15 11 3.94 -0.52
G. Maddux, Atl 2003 16 11 3.96 -0.12
J. Suppan, StL 2004 15 6 3.97 +2.46
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 3.97 -2.34
W. Williams, StL 2004 10 7 3.98 -0.15
C. Sabathia, Cle 2004 11 9 3.98 -0.94
A. Leiter, NYM 2003 15 9 3.99 +0.67
A. Pettitte, NYY 2001 15 10 3.99 +0.08
H. Ramirez, Atl 2003 12 4 4.00 +2.45
This group has a 3.97 ERA, and a winning percentage of .597. That last column is "Wins Above Group"; this group wins .597 of the time, and Escobar is at .474 in 19 decisions, and he has nine wins where we would expect him to have 11 (11.34, actually). Obviously, this group represents Kelvim pretty well in ERA, and just as obviously, it's his winning percentage dragging down the group.

If you take the group where Kelvim Escobar is the best pitcher, you get 10 pitchers with a 4.00 and a winning percentage of .588.

Looking at his comparables in ERA, Kelvim is easily the unluckiest pitcher in that group, when it comes to getting credit for wins.

Kelvim Escobar has struck out .92 men per inning this year, which ranks 37th amongst all of these seasons.

Pitcher         Year     W     L  K/IP   WAG

R. Wolf, Phi 2001 10 11 0.93 -1.55
C. Park, LA 2001 15 11 0.93 +0.70
J. Bere, ChC 2001 11 11 0.93 -1.10
J. Vazquez, Mon 2001 16 11 0.93 +1.15
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 0.92 -1.45
J. Bonderman,Det2004 9 11 0.91 -2.00
E. Loaiza, CWS 2003 21 9 0.91 +4.50
C. Finley,Cle/SL2002 11 15 0.91 -3.30
M. Mussina, NYY 2003 17 8 0.91 +3.25
B. Colon, Cle 2001 14 12 0.90 -0.30
This group has a winning percentage of .550. Once again, Kelvim is dragging the mean down, but he is not the worst defender. K/IP doesn't correlate as well to winning percentage; the group in which Kelvim is the best has a winning percentage of .570.

Escobar has a K/BB of 2.45, which ranks 124th amongst these seasons.

Pitcher         Year     W     L  K/BB   WAG

J. Burkett, Bos 2002 13 8 2.48 +1.81
M. Redman, Fla 2003 14 9 2.48 +1.74
B. Penny, Fla 2003 14 10 2.46 +1.21
J. Weaver, LA 2004 12 10 2.46 +0.27
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 2.45 -1.13
T. Hudson, Oak 2002 15 9 2.45 +2.21
C. Silva, Min 2004 11 8 2.45 +0.87
R. Helling, Tex 2001 12 11 2.44 -0.26
J. ThomsonNN/Col2002 9 14 2.43 -3.26
B. Sheets, Mil 2002 11 16 2.43 -3.39
This group has a winning percentage of .533, and group with Kelvim at the top has one of .522. Once again, Escobar is bringing the group down, though he is not the worst.

Pitcher         Year     W     L  WHIP   WAG

D. Davis, Mil 2004 11 10 1.314 -0.34
S. Trachsel, NM 2003 16 10 1.314 +1.96
A. Burnett, Fla 2001 11 12 1.315 -1.42
H. Nomo, LA 2002 16 6 1.316 +4.12
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 1.316 -1.13
A. Eaton, SD 2003 9 12 1.317 -2.34
C. Sabathia, Cle2004 11 9 1.317 +0.20
J. Kennedy, TB 2002 8 11 1.317 -2.26
C. Zambrano, ChC2003 13 11 1.318 +0.04
R. Drese, Tex 2004 12 8 1.318 +1.20
This group has a winning percentage of .540, and the group with Escobar at the top has one of .527. However, it is clear that Escobar is not particulary unique in this group, except for the fact that he is the only "underachiever" to pitch for a good team.

In fact, that last point is true of every list. Escobar's record is by no means historically unusual; what appears odd is that he's put it up while pitching for a good team. The Angel offense should really be ashamed of themselves, actually. Hopefully they can right the ship against Seattle tonight.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Are you kidding me?

And another thing: would someone care to explain to me why, with Carlos Delgado at the plate, the closest person to a weak fly to right-center is Adam Kennedy? Yeah, obviously Vlad lost the ball ... but where exactly was Garret Anderson on the play? Yeah, it was Vlad's ball, but in reviewing the replay, Garret's just standing there, not running over at all. Come on guys, it's a pennant race ...

... in the bottom of the third inning, Fox Sports West presented us a graphic with the following content:

Gold Glove Candidates -- AL 1st Basemen

Errors Range Factor
Darin Erstad 1 .871
John Olerud 1 .853
Tino Martinez 3 .868
Doug Mientkiewicz 4 .862
Wait, Range Factor? What Fox Sports was really showing was Zone Rating! So they should get credit for that, but how 'bout getting the name right, or at least giving the viewers an explanation? I bet 95% of the people watching thought "What the hell is a Range Factor?"

I know, I know, baby steps ...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Well, last night K-Rod notched his 110th strikeout of the season, setting the Angel single-season record for whiffs registered by a reliever, passing up the immortal De Wayne Buice.

De Wayne Buice? Who the hell is De Wayne Buice?

I actually remember De Wayne Buice, and I think fairly well. He used to turn his back to home plate in the middle of his motion, serving well to hide the ball. Bryan Harvey had a similar motion when he came up, if I recall correctly. That said, I never would have guessed him as the holder of this Angel record.

Buice set the record in 1987, striking out 109 men in 114 innings (K-Rod has only 73 2/3, so he's obviously the far better strikeout man). Buice basically won the closer job that year, having a fine one. He had a 128 ERA+ and 17 saves.

Let's put ourselves in that season for a moment ... 1987 was a hopeful year for the Angel faithful, having come within one strike of the World Series a year before. Yes, the great Bobby Grich and Reggie Jackson were gone (Grich to retirement, Reggie to a farewell tour with the Oakland A's), but the farm system had produced their replacements in Mark McLemore and Jack Howell; Devon White was also ready for the major league stage, putting the aging Ruppert Jones into a declining role.

Devon White hit decently (263/306/443, an OPS+ of 99) and played great defense, and while Jack Howell had a pretty nice year with the bat (245/331/461, an OPS+ of 110), he spent much of the year out of position in the outfield (he was a primo third base prospect, and was waiting for Doug DeCinces to retire). Mark McLemore, however, struggled, hitting 236/310/300 for an ugly 66 OPS+.

Meanwhile, thirty-six year-old DeCinces hit the wall, hitting a mere 234/337/391, and earning an unconditional release near the end of September. And Gary Pettis, defensive marvel, dropped from a tolerable 88 OPS+ in 1986 to a cover-your-eyes 53 in 1987. Needless to say, the team was a disappointment, finishing last in the division.

Another big problem that year was the pitching, as the team ERA dropped from 2nd in the league to 7th. Injuries to Donnie Moore damaged the bullpen, as did a decline from the young Chuck Finley. But comparing the two years shows you who the hero of the '87 bullpen was:

Primary Angels Bullpen

1986 1987
Moore 2.97 72.7 138 2.70 26.7 161
Corbett 3.66 78.7 112
Forster 3.51 41.0 117
Lucas 3.15 45.7 130 3.63 74.3 119
Finley 3.30 46.3 124 4.67 90.7 93
Ruhle 4.15 47.7 99
Minton 3.08 76.0 173
Cook 5.50 34.3 79
Lugo 9.32 28.0 47
Buice 3.39 114.0 128
TOTAL 3.44 332.0 121 4.13 444.0 120
De Wayne Buice, a 29-year-old rookie, came out of nowhere to lead the Halo pen. He had bounced around from the San Francisco to the Oakland to the Cleveland organizations, never sniffing that elusive cup of coffee. The Angels picked him up in the winter of 1985, but he didn't make the majors until April 27, 1987. That was a middle relief appearance, but you can see how Gene Mauch gained confidence in Buice pretty quickly (splits found at Retrosheet):

Month   ERA    IP  GF

April 3.38 8.0 2
May 3.63 22.3 7
June 2.18 20.7 6
July 1.90 23.7 9
August 3.86 21.0 9
Gene Mauch loved having workhorse relievers, having once managed Mike Marshall, the patron saint thereof, and coming from an era where it was pretty common to see relievers notch a lot of innings. If you look back on his time in Minnesota, you see all kinds of random relievers notching over 100 innings -- Bill Campbell threw 167 2/3 innings, all from the bullpen, in 1976, going 17-5 with 20 saves. (Campbell moved on Boston the next year and had a similar season, pitching 140 innings.) With Campbell gone, Mauch gave 146 2/3 innings to Tom Johnson in '77 (he totally collapsed the next year) and gave Marshall a modest 99 in '78 before ratcheting him back up to 142 2/3 in 1979.

It seems clear, from looking at the record, that Mauch saw Buice in the mold of these men. But like Tom Johnson before him, it doesn't appear Buice was able to handle the large workload:

Month   ERA    IP  GF

Sept. 6.23 17.3 10
And, just like that, Buice was done. He had a 5.88 ERA the next season, was traded to Toronto, and had a 5.82 ERA in 1989. He was then out of baseball, after 172 1/3 innings.

Innings    ERA  K/BFP  H/BFP  BB/BFP  HR/BFP

1-95.7 2.92 .253 .170 .084 .027
96-172.1 5.87 .184 .240 .120 .026
Glory in sport is fleeting, and Buice's was more fleeting than most. A career minor leaguer got his chance, and was the bullpen ace on a last-place disappointment. And bang, whoof -- he's overextended, and it's just over. De Wayne Buice accomplished a lot more in baseball than 99.9% of people out there, and he can always look back on a terrific season. But now one chink of that glory is gone; never again will it say DE WAYNE BUICE at the top of the list of strikeouts by Angel relievers in a season. K-Rod is a better pitcher, and he deserves the record; but a part of me is sad that future generations will have less cause to look up De Wayne Buice's name, and that the memory of his golden season will be scattered like dust ...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

So, I had a great weekend; I hope y'all did, too. Not hurting was the Halo smackdown of those upstart Clevelanders. A few notes on what's up:

-- How good was that play Bengie and K-Rod turned in Sunday night? Breathtaking, amazing ... it's one of the best plays I've ever seen in my life. It's not quite the best, I don't think ... there was Jim Edmonds' back-to-the-infield catch in KC a few years back, and Darin Erstad had an even better diving game-saving catch in Yankee Stadium's left field in 2000 (and then hit the game-winning homer, to boot). But the instincts and reactions of both participants in this play were just incredible. Bengie ran the fastest he ever has (even faster than he did on that triple in the 2002 ALCS), and Frankie is so intense -- there was just no way in hell he was going to let that run score while he was alive. What a thrill; it's the play of the year.

-- In that same game, Adam Kennedy was up with a man on second and no outs. Jake Westbrook threw him a sinker away. Kennedy, trying to pull it to make at least "a productive out," hit a grounder right back to Westbrook. No advance by the runner.

Now, Kennedy was doomed by the pitch location, as Joe Morgan pointed out on the telecast. But he was also doomed by an often silly focus on the productive out. Charlie Lau has this book, The Winning Hitter, the follow-up to his The Art of Hitting .300. In this book, Lau says all the typical things about moving up runners, blah blah blah ... but the way he puts it is that he assigns an "Area of Maximum Vulnerability" to the defense, which goes from the left of the shortstop to the right field line. It's not just about hitting it to the second baseman, it's about driving the ball into that area. So, even if you mess up, you can get the runner over. One of Lau's commandments of hitting is to focus on hitting the ball back at the pitcher's forehead; you can see how that dovetails nicely with his "AMV" theory.

It just seems to me like this is the smart way to go about trying to advance runners. Now, for all I know, this is what the Angels preach. But we know trying to pull a sinker on the outside corner is a recipe for disaster; you are best-served waiting on that pitch and slapping a line drive over the shortstop's head -- or up the middle. The "productive out" thing really gives a good sinkerballer an advantage in that situation, if he's facing a lefty focused on pulling the ball.

-- It's Armageddon time. Dallas McPherson is in the majors, but it's hard to see how much time he'll get. I figure the first day The Legs needs a rest, we'll see him at the hot corner. He's going to Winter Ball this year, too, and Bill Stoneman's remarks as to what he has to work on offensively are encouraging:

He's got to cut down strikeouts, take more walks, and really, that means becoming more aware of pitches and the strike zone. Before he got to Triple-A, he drew more walks. In Triple-A, there were few of those, and a number of them were intentional.
Whoa, we're encouraging an Angel hitter to control the strike zone? Be still my heart!

Friday, September 03, 2004

What really made me angry last night was the hit-and-run call in the ninth. As Tony La Russa said in George Will's Men at Work, you should call for a hit-and-run when you have two of the following in your favor:

1. A contact hitter at the plate;
2. A fast runner at first; and
3. A pitcher with good control on the mound.

Well, we only had number 3 going for us last night. Troy Glaus, while not slow, is not the speediest of runners, and Adam Kennedy is not-so-hot on the making contact.

Strikeouts Per 100 At-Bats, 2004

Glaus 23.8
Kennedy 20.1
DaVanon 18.5
AL Total 18.2
Garret 17.2
The Legs 16.4
Guillen 16.2
Vlad 13.6
Punter 13.5
BMolina 9.9
Eckstein 8.2
So that was a brilliant decision ...

... I don't know how much I'll be online this weekend. So everyone have a great one ...

Thursday, September 02, 2004

We are in big trouble as far as the Wild Card is concerned. Four-and-a-half games out with 29 left to play? It's not literally impossible, but ...

We are now four games out of first place, too, which, with all the heads-to-heads, doesn't seem so insurmountable. But it's still tough. And our starting rotation was just exposed as the empty vessels of nothingness they are.

Hopefully, I can be more objective tomorrow. But, right now, I don't see how the season isn't essentially over. Please tell me I'm just overreacting.

Dear Tim,

It was a heavy heart that I read of your decision to undergo surgery that may end your Angel career, or even your baseball one -- though of course your Angel career and your baseball career have always been the same thing.

My best wishes on a speedy recovery. For over a decade you have been the face of my favorite team, and even when things were rough, that was always a source of pride -- though the team may struggle, it was always easy and honorable to root for a team that had Tim Salmon.

Angel fans have been blessed to have you on their team, and not just for achievements on the field. You have always carried yourself with class, dignity, determination, and charity.

One of my greatest thrills as a sports fan was to be in the stands for Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS, after which I got to see you carry the League Championship Trophy around the stadium, sharing the joy with the fans who had so long cheered with you and for you. It would be unimaginable to see any other Angel carrying that trophy; it was a well-earned reward for carrying the team through good times and bad. And this kicks off a whole series of memories of your excellence afield -- the game-winning home run in Game 2 of the World Series, a game-winning grand slam you once hit against Cleveland, your laser-like throws from right to home to hold a tagging runner at third.

If your pursue a comeback, always know that you will have the support of Angel fans, no matter where you are. But if you decide this is one comeback too many, rest assured that you have done more than enough to make us ever thankful. Angel fans will never forget you.


An Angel Fan

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