Monday, May 23, 2005

- Yes, Virginia, there is a Kendry. Almost as on cue from my bitching on Friday, Kendry appeared stateside and, as I'm sure you know, homered on his first swing in the United States. It will be interesting to see how the Angels handle him, now that he's here. He was allegedly a major league-quality hitter in Bill Stoneman's (or Eddie Bane's) mind when he was signed, but given his long layoff from competitive play and the acclimation issues, it makes sense to start him at High A Rancho Cucamonga.

- And if Vlad's only out for a couple of weeks and it's no problem, that might give Juan Rivera an opportunity to demonstrate that there is no urgency in throwing Kendry into the DH situation. Rivera has hardly had any at-bats this season, but he's found his power stroke in May, hitting three home runs in 42 AB. He's been a slow starter before, so if his heating up just happens to coincide with Vlad's injury and guarantees Rivera a bigger piece of the DH pie, that could work out okay.

- Of course, if Vlad is out more for than the expected couple of weeks, or if his return is marred by a shoulder that deteriorates his play, that's a big problem. Our 9-0 victory, essentially without Vlad, on Friday is much more exception than rule (thank you, Scott Erickson), and when Vlad's been in a relative slump, as he has been of late, this is a team scrambling to score runs. They're obviously going to get better at a number of positions, but Vlad's the one that makes the whole thing tick.

- That said, we did well to take two out of three in Chavez Ravine. Our starting rotation now has an ERA of 3.94 on the year, which drops down to 3.62 when you take out Ervin Santana and Kevin Gregg. I forgot who it was that first identified Gregg as the "White Flag" of the Angel pen (was it Rob? UPDATE: Rob credits Richard for using it yesterday, but I know I read it before then, so it must have been one of the BTF guys), but it's highly appropriate and I hereby co-opt the moniker for my own nefarious purposes.

Gregg has just been awful so far this year, and he's been awful for a pretty long time. He has a 6.32 ERA since the 2004 All Star Break, and a 6.40 ERA since the end of May, 2004 -- a period that occupies 77 1/3 innings. Over that timeframe his control has deteriorated, and his K:BB ratio is less than two-to-one over the past year. He has only one more strikeout than walk this year, and is the king of wild pitches. When you're pitching even worse than Esteban Yan, who sucks, you gotta think your days are numbered.

- Tonight the Lads begin a three-night dalliance with the Chicago White Sox, who are off to the best start in the major leagues. Though no one is surprised to see the Sox competitive in the AL Central, the fact that they have a winning percentage above .700 has come out of nowhere -- and despite what you may have heard about this team being a Go-Go-Sox-Redux, the real source of their success has been that little hill in the middle of the infield. The Sox are tied for sixth in the AL in runs scored, but their 3.20 ERA is first in the league by over half a run.

Leading the surprising charge is tonight's starter, Jon Garland. Garland, a perennial prospect, enters today 8-0 with a 2.41 ERA in nearly 60 innings. As much potential as he has demonstrated in the past, Garland has only been a league-average pitcher up to this point. Of course, now he's 25 years old, so maybe he's making a leap into fulfilling that potential.

The oddest thing about Garland's stat line is that he has only struck out 27 men in his 59 2/3 innings, an incredibly low rate (and below his career norms). He has managed good control, walking only 10 guys in those innings, and he's only allowed two home runs; so that's how he has found success. Garland has been an extreme groundball pitcher this year, so his philosophy is to let guys hit the ball at someone. That may seem sound, but the number of guys in history who can succeed while striking out so few guys is extremely limited. Hopefully the Angels can give Garland a history lesson tonight, because young Santana will likely need all the help his offense can muster.

1) I believe it was Richard who brought up the "white flag" locution.
2) Kendry did pretty well for himself; there were a few stories about this over the weekend, too.
3) The Angels are in for likely the toughest three weeks of the season coming up. If the team survives and manages to stay at .500, it's actually a good thing, because this club is both injured and had a lack of power hitting to begin with. McPherson needs to step it up, though; he's been getting regular playing time and has only one home run to his name this year. Mickey Hatcher's black touch might be withering him some.
I want to take credit for the Kevin Gregg WHITE FLAG nickname:

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