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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

RISE, FALL, AND RISE AGAIN: THE 1995 ANGELS -- PART 2 OF 3: IN WHICH EVERYTHING GOES WELL
Part One.

This was the Angel starting lineup on Opening Day:
Tony Phillips, LF
Damion Easley, 2B
Jim Edmonds, CF
Chili Davis, DH
Tim Salmon, RF
Eduardo Perez, 3B
J.T. Snow, 1B
Andy Allanson, C
Gary DiSarcina, SS
The rotation was Finley, Langston, Sanderson, Anderson, and Shawn Boskie. Lee Smith was the closer, and there was a rookie reliever who used to be a catcher: Troy Percival.

Looking at that lineup, the only reasonable bets for good offense were Phillips, if he could hang on another year; Chili Davis, ditto; and Tim Salmon. The infield was a big question mark, and Jim Edmonds had been a weak-hitting left fielder the year before. And Andy Allanson? Come on. (Though Greg Myers was really the regular catcher.)

The Tigers beat the Angels on Opening Day. The next day the Angels travelled to Toronto (the schedule of 144 games was all screwy because of the strike). Mark Langston started and pitched okay, giving up three runs (only two earned) in five innings. The Angels had a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the eighth when Russ Springer and Mitch Williams combined to let the Jays tie the game.

In came Mike Butcher, and he held the Jays scoreless for 1 2/3 innings. That was enough, because in the top of the 10th Tim Salmon took Tony Castillo deep for his second home run of the year, and Lee Smith held on in the bottom of the inning to notch the first Halo victory of 1995.

The Angels took three of four in Toronto, and continued to play decently. After 10 games they were 6-4, and after 20 they were 11-9.

That's about when things picked up. After losing to Kevin Tapani and the Twins to make their record 11-9, the Angels cracked out seven consecutive wins, won by a combined score of 64-28. That put the Angels at 18-9, 3.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners.

The team was playing well, on the whole. After the games of May 25, the last day of the streak, this is how the regulars were hitting (AVG/OBP/SLG):
Phillips:  284/434/510
Edmonds: 245/312/469
Salmon: 275/446/538
Davis: 392/492/649
Perez: 180/329/279
Myers: 278/350/500
Easley: 240/324/365
DiSarcina: 347/396/582
For added measure, the Mariners lost Ken Griffey, Jr. to a wrist injury on May 26. So while the Angels were rolling, Seattle lost their best position player for an extended amount of time.

Scott Sanderson was done in by injury at the end of May; he had only managed seven starts, and was 1-3 despite a respectable 4.12 ERA. The fifth spot in the rotation became kind of a rotating door for awhile, Mike Bielecki getting lit up for 11 games, Mike Harkey filling in starting late July; even Russ Springer got in a few bad starts. The rotation wasn't all that strong, actually; only Finley ended up having a good year, while Langston was okay, and Boskie and Anderson a bit below that. The bullpen ended up being a big strength for the team, with Percy setting up Lee Smith, but valuable contributions came from Mike James and and Bob Patterson as well.

The Angels kicked off June by taking Darin Erstad with the first pick of the draft. The second-round pick was used on Jarrod Washburn; the fourth-round on Brian Cooper (who was traded to Toronto straight-up for Brad Fullmer before the 2002 season). A few weeks later, Ramon Ortiz was signed out of the Dominican. In the span of three weeks, the Angels laid the groundwork for four key players of the 2002 team.

At this point in the season, the big surprise was DiSarcina, who had never hit anywhere this well in his life. The big disappointment was Perez, who actually had lost his job by this point. The veteran Spike Owen was getting a lot of starts at third, but he wasn't really any kind of solution to the problem.

Then, on June 13, Tony Phillips, who had played every game that season in left or right field, played his first game at third base. Left field was occupied by a rookie named Garret Anderson.

Garret went 2-4 in that game, hitting a home run off of Kevin Tapani -- his first in his career. The Angels won 7-2 to raise their record to 27-18, still 3.5 games ahead of Seattle's pace.

The dividends were not immediate, as the Angels 7-8 the rest of the month. But a 20-4 victory at Texas on June 29th demonstrated what was possible; the Angels scored 11 runs in the first inning, and oddly did so without Chili Davis in the lineup and without hitting a home run.

At the All Star break, the Angels were 39-30; they had played .500 ball since the mid-May winning streak, but were now 5 games ahead of Seattle. Here were the numbers on the Angel regulars at the break:
Phillips:  280/418/500
Edmonds: 291/354/498
Salmon: 291/423/530
Davis: 359/464/569
Snow: 305/372/586
Anderson: 256/319/415
Myers: 254/338/413
Easley: 198/282/305
DiSarcina: 324/367/488
Easley was obviously a disaster, but the Angels could spell him with Spike Owen (226/304/314 at the break) and Rex Hudler (255/291/429). So, um, yeah, second base wasn't really a source of strength. But you can see that just about everyone else was doing pretty well.

It was at this point that all hell broke loose.

The Angels won their first five games coming out of the break, and on July 25 began an eight-game winning streak. After losing to end the streak on August 3, the Angels were 56-34, and 12 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners. Here is where the regulars stood on August 3:
           At the Break   On August 3
Phillips: 280/418/500 290/414/485
Edmonds: 291/354/498 309/371/558
Salmon: 291/423/530 323/442/583
Davis: 359/464/569 343/468/559
Snow: 305/372/586 308/371/478
Anderson: 256/319/415 353/392/618
Myers: 254/338/413 249/317/373
Easley: 198/282/305 213/296/308
DiSarcina: 324/367/488 317/355/473
You can see how the outfield caught fire and started ripping people apart. The Angels went 17-4 between the break and August 3, and the young and powerful outfield was the buzz of baseball. To add to the fun, the Angels reacquired Jim Abbott on July 27, giving up pretty much nothing. Abbott won his first start with the Angels two days later.

At which point everything was poised to fall apart.

***
Part 3 will be posted tomorrow. This series would have been impossible if not for the deliriously wonderful Retrosheet. This Seattle Times article was also a considerable aid.

Comments:
As a daily reader of many Angels' blogs - and an all-around Angels' fanatic - I appreciate all of the work you guys do. However, I wanted to take time out in particular to thank you for your retrospect of the 1995 team. Not counting Ross Newhan's woefully outdated book about the Angels, our team's history is poorly documented, and the work you are doing is invaluable. Thank you.
 
I agree with Steven. Good work.

It is fun to remember that season because it was so NOT expected, and the offensive force that the Halos displayed that year was mind-numbing. I remember a streak where they got 10+ hits in a game for 11 or 12 straight days and were scoring runs in bunches. They really were fun to watch and listen to that year.

Thanks and looking forward to part 3 - as sad as it will be....
 
I think you're right on track and not many people are willing to admit that they share your views. daniel dae kim lost is an AWESOME place to discuss LOST.
 
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