Sunday, July 31, 2005

EMOTION ANGEL: This team sucks. What a pathetic show we've made of late -- aside from winning series agains the Twins and Yankees, we've been swept by Seattle and Toronto and lost series to the A's and New York. And the worst thing about losing that last series to New York is that we had leads in the last two games -- both games were winnable. But Mike Scioscia totally mismanaged the bullpen in games two and three, and out lead is down to one-and-a-half games and sinking in the AL West.

LOGIC ANGEL: Yes, we've played poorly of late. And yes, Scioscia's bizarre bullpen management cost us those two games.

One, on Saturday, the story is: Peralta -- 1/3 IP. Why did Peralta face only one guy? So that Scioscia could play the percentages by bringing in Jake Woods to face two lefthanded batters. When that didn't work, he had to press a clearly overworked K-Rod for a five-out save. That worked out about as well as could have been predicted.

But the thing is, we were already going into the game with a shorthanded bullpen, with presumably Shields and Donnelly unavailable. (Of course, K-Rod had thrown more pitches in the previous two games than either of those guys, and K-Rod had thrown more pitches Thursday night than Shields had pitched on those two days combined, so why he was available to try to get five outs when clearly gassed and Shields wasn't available at all is beyond me.) Having Peralta in for one batter artificially shortened the bullpen when it wasn't necessary, so Scioscia reaped what he sowed.

The story of Sunday's game is: Pitches/Strikes: Bootcheck -- 79/55. Why Bootcheck was pulled after six effective innings is a mystery as well. It brought Esteban Yan into the game, which, after his three scoreless innings Thursday night, is called Pressing Your Luck. Sure enough, this made Donnelly come in to try and make a long appearance, and when that didn't work, Shields had to try to make a long appearance. They were both wasted, and it didn't work.

EA: These are all things I know. But the fact is, we still should have won Sunday's game, and didn't because we're a bunch of chokers.

LA: If you really think the problem with this team is the defense of Darin Erstad and Orlando Cabrera, you have another think coming. (I do realize that Kennedy also made an error, but that one ended up not mattering. And I further realize that Cabrera wasn't charged an error on that play -- but it was one, I don't care how much the Yankee official scorer wants to kiss up to Gary Sheffield to get him an RBI.) It was phenomonally frustrating and phenomonally bad timing, but we can usually rely on those guys.

EA: Whatever. Cabrera and Erstad are overpaid and we have no DH. And Stoneman did jack nothing to improve us at the deadline.

LA: Well, we don't know what offers were out there. The Times was reporting stuff like Kansas City demanding a package including Shields and Figgins for Mike Sweeney. That's just absurd; we're never going to do that, and we shouldn't do that. I would love to see some offensive help for this team, and I'd even be willing to trade Kotchman and Erick Aybar in the right package. But we don't know what was out there.

Still, I share your frustration. It feels like something should be done.

EA: And look at the A's. They're about to pass us up, and we can't do anything to stop them. Our offense is terrible, our bullpen is overworked, and our rotation is pitching over its head. We're doomed.

LA: The offense is slumping now, it's true. We saw this in April and May. It's what happens when you have an offense based around batting average, and an offense based on the production of two guys: Vlad and Garret. Those guys have been struggling of late, so the offense has been struggling.

Oh, we have other good hitters: Bengie is hitting very well, and Kennedy and Figgins are their usual solid selves. But those two guys are the lifelin.

EA: Vlad looks terrible. You said he was going to come out of his slump. We're still waiting. Get your nose out of a spreadsheet and watch a game.

LA: Yes, when his slump began, Vlad was hitting in bad luck, I believe. But he looks like he's started to press a bit, and has had some very poor at-bats.

Still, he knocked in what should have been the game-winning run today, fighting off a tough pitch from a great pitcher to do it. As long as he's healthy, he'll come around, and fairly soon. Is he healthy, and will it be enough? I don't know.

The ancient adage: no team is as good as they look when they win or as bad as they look when they lose. We're all angry right now over the way we've been playing. But we're not this bad. We'll get better.

EA: I am sick of your rosy-colored "analysis." This team has major problems; Erstad can't hit, Steve Finley is done, our DHs are in a season-long funk. This team is beginning to show it's true colors.

I give up on them. Oh, I'll still watch every game, and cheer and root. But I expect nothing in return. Any game we "win" will be deemed a gift to us from a higher power. Every loss will be expected. With any luck, this will show the Angel brass the error of their ways, and they'll stop doing things like signing Finley and Cabrera to contracts bigger than their production. Bill Stoneman has to shape up or ship out.

LA: There are still two months of baseball to play. Let's say that in March, I told you we would have a one-and-a-half game lead on Oakland going into August. You'd be pretty happy, right?

Remember how bad things looked at times last year? We were way out of it, or so it seemed. And look at this year: so much has gone wrong -- Vlad's worst slump ever, the end of Finley, Kelvim injured, McPherson injured for much of the year -- and we still have the division lead of August 1. Let's use some perspective; it ain't over, and it's not close to over. There is time.

EA: Whatever. You set yourself up for heartbreak.

LA: I'm a life-long Angel fan. You think I can't take heartbreak?

EA: Good point.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

One day after springing Gustavo Espinoza into the world's eye in my Watch List Update (well, maybe not the world's eye, but anyway ...), I look at Rob's invaluable minor league update (and if you don't check that every morning, what's wrong with you?) and learn that Espinoza got spanked yesterday, allowing seven earned runs in five-and-a-third. He did strike out eight against only one walk, though, so he seems to have had at least some of his stuff.

Also, Espinoza pitched four scorless innings before giving up three runs in the fifth (on a three-run homer, Espinoza's first home run allowed in the United States) and getting knocked out in the sixth. He only gave up two hits in those four innings, striking out five and walking one. And this is on a day with a gametime temperature of 107 degrees.


Last night's despicable Angel loss reminds me of one of my favorite Angel victories.

It came during the otherwise forgettable 1996 campaign. It was on July 2, 1996, to be be exact. The Angels were hosting the Rangers, and trailed 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth.

Texas manager Johnny Oates dispatched his closer, Mike Henneman, to secure the victory. Due up for the Halos were Darin Erstad, Rex Hudler, and Garret Anderson.

Erstad reached on a single. Rex was asked to lay down a bunt, which he did. Fortunately for the Angels, Henneman fielded the bunt and promptly threw it wildly down the right field line.

When the dust had settled, The Punter had scored the tying run and Rex stood on third.

With the potential tying run 90 feet away, and no outs, Oates ordered intentional walks to Garret and Tim Salmon. Chili Davis stepped to the plate.

But before he did, Johnny Oates walked out of the dugout carrying a first baseman's mitt. Was Oates announcing himself as the new first baseman? No -- he gave the glove to left fielder Rusty Greer, and arranged the team in a five-infielder setup.

Oates returned to the dugout. Chili Davis dug in at the plate. Would Oates' maneuvering work?

We'll never know because -- you guessed it -- Henneman threw the very first pitch to Chili in the dirt and to the screen. In comes Rex; Angels win.

I've relished that game ever sense. I guess last night's loss was an instance of Baseball Karma coming to get me. Once again, I am a curse.

(You can check out the box score of that game here.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

It's only been a couple of week since I last did this -- July 11, to be exact -- but some players have been really hot (Brandon Wood) and some have been really cold (Mike Napoli), and there have been some promotions, and I'm feeling the bug. So here we go.

Erick Aybar
SS, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 383 106 22 7 4 19 41 277 325 402
Then 325 93 18 6 4 17 34 286 338 415
A minislump across the board, you have to wonder if this is the reason he hasn't been moved up with his Keystone Kompanion Alberto Callaspo. Even though we're talking about a twenty-one-year-old in his first exposure to AA, these numbers are not terribly impressive: a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2:1, drawing a walk for every twenty at-bats (the standard is around ten). Since he's so young, the fact that he's holding his own is sufficiently impressive -- but, quite frankly, Wood is blowing past him on the Angel prospect list, despite Aybar's purporteldy sterling defense, and you have to wonder if Aybar won't be moved soon (either to AAA or another organization) to allow Wood to come to AA. It strikes me that Aybar is Available Prospect #1 in the Angel system right now.

Alberto Callaspo
2B, AAA Salt Lake

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 51 11 2 2 0 4 2 216 268 333
Now 350 104 9 0 10 28 17 297 346 409 AA Final
Then 333 100 9 0 9 27 16 300 350 408
Though that's a solid AA performance, you have to think that the real reason he got promoted was to make room for Howie Kendrick at Arkansas. That Callaspo might slump upon reaching AAA is no surprise; he struggled in his first season at AA last season, before adjusting and playing pretty well this year.

Nick Gorneault
OF, AAA Salt Lake

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 345 99 18 9 18 38 85 287 356 548
Then 304 88 16 8 15 28 74 289 346 543
Ho-hum. I'm actually pretty curious to see how this guy would do in the majors -- the free-swinging might get to him, but he has raised his walk rate this year (and over his last 50 plate appearances in particular), so maybe he would adjust well. He has a middling defensive rep, so I don't know that he could really fill the shoes of Rivera or DaVanon. So don't get me wrong, I'm not campaigning for a call-up; I'm just curious, that's all. If he's not part of a trade, he could end up being an interesting bench option in September.

Howie Kendrick
2B, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 41 14 5 0 1 0 4 341 341 537
Now 279 107 23 6 12 14 42 384 421 638 A Final
Then 257 95 21 5 11 14 39 370 409 619
Upon reaching AA, Kendrick has immediately gone into a terrible slump. I mean, .341? Dude, at least try out there, okay? We know you can do better.

But, seriously, draw a walk. Do you think you're Vlad or something? Hell, even if Kendrick develops into the pre-2002 Garret Anderson, that alongside competent second base defense would make for a valuable player. At his current pace, that looks like a worst-case scenario. If he rips up the Texas League from here on out, he might even start 2006 at AAA, next to Aybar (or possibly Callaspo), or -- who knows? -- possibly at third base. As for how quickly he can make the majors, it might depend on how quickly his glove can catch up with his bat.

Baltasar Lopez
1B, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 182 46 10 0 0 17 55 253 312 308
Then 151 38 9 0 0 16 44 252 320 311
Coming off an injury, Baltasar, sadly, has picked up right where he left off. It's going to be tough for him to get playing time with Clifton Remole (313/352/470 in 134 AB at A, and a possible Watch List addition in the near future) now in the mix, and the chances of Lopez still being on this list next year are remote.

Warner Madrigal
OF, A Cedar Rapids

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 292 68 14 1 12 15 67 233 273 411
Then 251 57 12 1 11 15 60 227 274 414
It's a shame that the two Angel position prospects with the best names -- Baltasar Lopez and Warner Madrigal -- have struggled so much this year.

Jeff Mathis
C, AAA Salt Lake

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 307 88 21 2 14 32 65 287 354 505
Then 261 74 19 2 12 27 58 284 351 510
I just discussed him a bit yesterday.

Kendry Morales
1B, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 135 32 5 0 4 8 23 237 280 363
Then 82 21 5 0 4 5 15 256 299 463
Kendry had bounced back pretty well from an 0-11 start at Arkansas, but promptly went into another tailspin. Just adding that up for you, that's a 208/250/208 line over the past couple of weeks. Maybe Casey Kotchman can breathe easier for a little bit.

Mike Napoli
C/1B, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 315 76 18 1 19 67 99 241 380 486
Then 262 69 17 1 16 59 85 263 404 519
Napoli was suffering an 8-56 slump when I last did this, and has gone 7-53 since: that's a 15-109 (.138 average) going back over the last month or so. More than half of those hits have been home runs, and he can still draw some walks, but where have the hits gone? This kind of slump can be a real sobriety check for prospect-watchers; a half-season is not always enough to legitimize excitement. Hopefully Napoli can bounce back.

Sean Rodriguez
SS, A Cedar Rapids

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 310 81 20 3 6 57 58 261 388 403
Then 268 71 17 3 5 48 48 265 389 407
Meet the new line, same as the old line.

Drew Toussaint
2B/OF, A Cedar Rapids

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 281 79 20 2 16 31 86 281 356 537
Then 233 67 17 2 12 28 71 288 368 532
His strikeouts are his only Achilles' heel, though I guess some might consider the twenty-two-year-old too old for the low A classification. He might have to move quickly to avoid the Nick Gorneault career path, but let's see how he finishes off the year and not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Mark Trumbo
1B, R Orem

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 142 39 15 0 3 7 38 275 307 444
Then 78 23 10 0 2 5 22 295 337 500
Discipline! Discipline! You must learn plate discipline! Of course, he's just nineteen.

Reggie Willits
OF, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 343 102 16 4 0 43 52 297 376 367
Then 285 88 16 4 0 39 38 309 390 393
No disprespect meant to Willits, but it's somewhat alarming that he is our most advanced center field prospect; the position at Salt Lake is manned by minor league veteran Chris Prieto (325/432/489 -- but is 33 years old), who had a brief cup of coffee earlier this season. At Rancho, center is manned by Jason Sugden, who is hitting an unimpressive 235/278/339. With Steve Finley hardly proving to be even a short-term solution at this point, this should be an area of concern for the organization.

Brandon Wood
SS, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 391 126 35 3 34 36 83 322 386 688
Then 338 100 28 3 28 30 74 296 357 645
Um, wow. In the past few weeks, Wood has gone 26-53 (a .491 average), posted a .542 OBP, hit 6 HR, and blasted a slugging percentage of .962.

I'm unconvinced that he has anything left to prove in A.

Nick Adenhart
SP, Arizona League

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 0 1 0 7 7 16.0 15 0 16 17 5.63
Then 0 0 0 4 4 8.7 5 0 9 9 1.04
He doesn't turn 19 for a month, and is still fresh off of Tommy John surgery. So I'm not worried.

Steve Andrade
RP, AA New Hampshire (Blue Jays org)

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 1 2 3 22 0 31.7 12 2 43 10 2.27
Then 1 2 1 16 0 22.7 9 1 28 10 2.78
After a rough outing or two coming off the DL, Andrade has pitched nine innings in which he has allowed three hits, one earned run on a solo homer, struck out fifteen, and walked zero. I'm sorry, but Andrade is about as well-suited to pitch relief in AA as Brandon Wood is to hit in A. FREE STEVE ANDRADE!

Daniel Davidson
SP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 9 5 0 21 19 113.3 124 11 84 34 4.53
Then 7 4 0 18 16 97.0 110 11 63 31 4.64
That's a pretty good stretch for Davidson, who has seen some struggles this season. But he has a 21:3 SO:BB ratio over his last 16 innings, only giving up 14 hits in that span, and notching a 2-1 record.

Gustavo Espinoza
SP, Arizona League

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 3 1 0 7 6 38.7 28 0 34 6 1.63
Who the hell is Gustavo Espinoza?

I've been anxiously awaiting this guy's appearance stateside since I first perused the Angel farmhands in the Media Guide this spring, and I'm glad to spring him upon you right now.

Espinoza will turn 19 years old in September. Last year, for the Angels' Dominican Republic team, Espinoza ... well, hell, the stats aren't online. I'll check the Media Guide this evening, but for now, suffice to say he struck out tons of guys, walked very few guys, allowed scarce hits, and denied many runs to his opponents. The Arizona League team manager, Brian Harper, has said that some have compared Espinoza to Johan Santana (it was on the Future Angels blog, so I can't link to it directly). That seems a bit ridiculous to say about a 19-year-old, so let's not get too excited, but this is a name that we're probably going to be hearing in the next couple of years. So get used to it, and pray he stays healthy.

Abel Moreno
Stuck in the Dominican thanks to visa problems, and has not played.

Steve Shell
SP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 7 7 0 20 20 114.7 122 16 94 45 4.40
Then 5 6 0 17 17 93.7 105 16 72 39 5.00
Shell has gone on a tear in his last three starts, striking out 22 and walking only 6, allowing no home runs, and giving up less than a hit an inning. This is a great turnaround, and hopefully Shell can carry that momentum with him for the rest of the season.

Von Stertzbach
RP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 3 5 10 40 0 44.7 51 8 40 21 5.24
Then 3 4 10 36 0 41.3 45 6 39 21 4.79
The struggling Stertzbach went on the DL to create a roster spot for Jered Weaver. Let's hope that the injury is simultaneously (1) sufficient to explain his troubles and (2) nonserious.

Jered Weaver
SP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 1 1 4.0 7 1 2 1 6.75
Now 4 1 0 7 7 33.0 25 3 49 7 3.82 A Final
Then 2 1 0 5 5 20.0 21 3 28 4 5.85
As you know, he went on a supertear to break out of Rancho, but was served with some humility in his AA debut last night. We must remain patient, for his potential seems as promising as ever.

Bob Zimmerman
RP, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 5 7 10 35 0 40.3 37 2 48 18 3.57
Then 4 7 7 29 0 33.0 34 2 41 17 4.36
Zimmerman has been coming on like gangbusters of late, and after a rough start. A 3.57 ERA is not a disaster in the Cal League.

I'll give the Angels this: if they're going to play a game like last night's, at least they have the common decency to do it on the east coast, so that the game ends just as I'm leaving work and I don't have to waste three hours of my night on their sorry asses getting spanked. Bravo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rob points out an OC Register story about the dilemma to be faced by the Angels this off-season regarding the catcher situation (the article itself is registration-only).

Without reading the article, I can only assume that the dilemma boils down to the fact that Jeff Mathis may not be ready for primetime in 2006, meaning the Angels will have to sign Bengie to an extension (possibly blocking Mathis when he's ready) or let Jose Molina glove his way through a full season.

The big question is to Mathis' readiness. Though Rob posits that Mathis had an early-season slump, he's actually demonstrated a tendency to start hot and cool down. Here are Mathis' AVG/OBP/SLG lines this season from each time I've down a Watch List Update and today:
Date   AVG  OBP  SLG
4/19 407 500 926
5/04 373 421 667
5/24 274 342 566
6/16 270 340 500
7/11 284 351 510
7/26 287 355 508
So, no matter how you define "early-season," Mathis slumped after a torrid start, and has bounced back and stabilized since mid-June.

The PCL is a notorious hitters' league, so while not quite as impressive as it looks, that's still pretty solid for a 22-year-old in his first exposure to AAA. Mathis does strike out about twice as often as he walks (65:32), but he does walk a fair amount of the time (32 BB in 303 AB), so it doesn't seem as though bat control has been a major problem for him.

Complicating matters is the fact that Bengie's having such an excellent offensive season. His 311/343/462 line adds up to a splendid .275 Equivalent Average (.260 is league-average), a very nice mark for a catcher. And though his defense has slipped in the last couple of years, it's not as though Bengie has become a disaster behind the plate.

With this kind of season, and a Gold Glove on his resume, Bengie may command a pretty penny on the free agent market this winter. Should the Angels be willing to pay up? That depends in part on how this season turns out. Bengie has been injury-prone for much of his career, and just turned 31 this past week. Catchers over thirty years old, who are already injury magnets, often turn out to be bad investments. We must also consider the fact that Bengie has never hit this well before. Sure, that might be to some extent because he's rarely avoided injury for so long, but that just underlines the risk of keeping him for more than a few years.

Of course, there is little chance that, coming off of such a good year, Bengie would sign a one-year deal to give the Angels insurance in case Mathis fails. So if Bengie were let go, and Mathis failed, the job would fall upon Jose Molina. Jose is a marvelous defensive player, as you know, but not so marvelous offensively. But, if any position on the field is a defense-first position, it's catcher. Bengie's worst offensive season just happened to be 2002; it didn't seem to hurt the Angels too much, because his defense was legitimately top-notch that season.

Bengie had a .206 EqA that year and a lowly OPS+ of 60; Jose had a .231 EqA last year and a .213 this year. It may seem like a low standard, but in the worst-case scenario, the catcher position will be at the same level as the 2002 team.

Of course, Jeff Mathis can render the whole conversation moot by either raking or tanking the rest of the way. If he slumps from here on out, he may need another year of AAA seasoning. But if he gets hot ... who knows.

If I had to make the choice today, I would let Bengie go, bring up Mathis, and try to find an okay-hitting lefty-swinging catcher to complement Jose as a backup to Mathis, someone like a Greg Myers, though of course Greg Myers is done, and there aren't many like him (or how he used to be).

But, thankfully, no one has to make the decision today, and we have a few more months to see what Mathis and Bengie can do to help everyone figure it out.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm not sure why I'm doing this, but I have started a blog of movie reviews. I see about forty new releases per year in the theater, plus repertory showings, plus rentals and borrowings of other films, so I'll likely have sufficient material if I want to keep at it.

On that site, I'm using a pseudonym I got from the Ron Mexico name generator (I am Miguel Congo). The two new releases I reviewed were The Island and Bad News Bears, so those are up now, and I plan to post reviews of rentals and other recent releases (I've seen twenty features released in 2005 so far) this week. So, if you're interested, check it out. If not, well, I won't hold it against you.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Today (Sunday), I made it to my first Angel game of the year.

It's actually the first game I've made it to since 2003 -- living in Los Angeles of Los Angeles, the trek to Los Angeles of Anaheim is not always easy. Weekday games are a literal impossibility, and my weekends are usually cramped; I often don't have time to watch home games live on TV, and watch probably half of the games on video.

Attending this game was kind of a spur-of-the-moment plan, so I ended up in nosebleed seats. I've always liked the View Level, actually, and there is no bad seat in Anaheim EdisionAngel Stadium. So that was good.

What was doubleplus ungood, of course, was the game. Jarrod Washburn walked a narrow line for six innings, but in the seventh everything fell apart. The Yankees got two legitimate runs, and another one I chalk up to Larry Young.

From my vantage point, looking straight down at first base, I sure thought Wash had his toe on the side of the bag to complete the 3-6-1 double play. Larry Young didn't agree, which didn't surprise me, since Larry Young looked indecisive and confused at times behind the plate Thursday night.

I didn't see the replay until I got home and checked on MLB.tv. The MLB.tv archive of the game was the Yankee Propaganda Network broadcast, and the angles I saw there were pretty inconclusive. I'm gonna maintain that Jarrod did have his toe on the side of the bag, but, because he moved his foot to a different part of the bag afterward, he did a poor job of selling it, and Young didn't have the best angle.

It ended up not mattering due to the impotence of the Angel offenseDarin Erstad. Erstad had a poor game, and in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on first and second and one out, managed to hit the ball to one of a select few places that guaranteed that Vlad not to come up with the potential tying runs on base. Erstad had also struck out earlier in the game with Kennedy and Figgins on base, and had popped up with Figgins in scoring position.

Not that Erstad was the only one to fail in important situations; Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis both hit into double plays. At least Rivera had the knockout throw to nail Robinson Cano at the plate in the fourth (the highlight of the game, and a play that I think ranks amongst baseball's most exciting when seen in person) and Ztu was 2-4 on the day. It was particularly frustrating to see Ztu ground out on a diving play by Derek Jeter -- a play Ztu almost certainly would have been able to make without diving.

And the middle of the order did little; Vlad was 1-4 with an RBI, but that RBI was more a result of it being an RBI opportunity than any special achievement by Vlad. Garret went 1-4; the both failed with runners on base in the third.

I'm concentrating on the negative, but that was, of course, a terrific series. There is no shame in taking three of four from the Yankees, and overall the team played very well. It was an exciting series, and hopefully the Lads will be able to do as well when they travel to Yankee Stadium at the end of this week.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Last night's game was thrilling and exasperating at the same time, and when it ended my reaction was more a sigh of relief than a shout of exultation. At no point did I feel that we were going to win; this is not because of losing any faith in K-Rod or anything like that, it's just that I felt that anything that could go wrong would have. I am, of course, quite glad to have been wrong.

The bad news: Bartolo Colon posted his third consecutive bad start, and is beginning to look like The Big Mango from the first half of 2004 instead of the nominal ace we had since mid-July of last year. This dovetails nicely with our offense back in its April/May mode.

Still, Vlad got the big hit when it was needed, Garret had an RBI (his first since July 7th!), and Bengie continued to hit the ball well, stroking an RBIa ground-rule double off of Randy Johnson. And, honestly, scoring only two runs in six innings against The Unit is not a catastrophe, especially when it should have been three runs if not for a #(*$(@#)! Yankee fan in the right field corner (and even then Mike Scioscia had good argument that the run would have scored regardless); sure, his ERA's up a bit thus far this year, but he's still Randy Johnson. And the Angel bats got to the shaky Yankee bullpen, which is exactly what they're supposed to do.

Tonight, our Lads take on Al Leiter, who came out of nowhere to make a helluva good start in his Yankee re-debut. Leiter's an odd type of pitcher at this point in his career; a finesse guy without exceptional control, he blows away no one, keeping the ball in the park and relying on a good defense. Last year he allowed only 138 hits in 173 2/3 innings, but issued 97 walks -- adding up to a not-so-good 5.02 walks per nine innings.

As you probably know from experience, pitcher who rack up big strikeout totals are the pitchers that rack up low batting average against numbers, and vice versa; last year, striking out an unexceptional 6.06 men per nine against those 5.02 walks, Leiter held his opponents to a .218 batting average. This is a unique achievement.

So unique, that it shouldn't surprise us that he got lambasted during his time with the Marlins this year: walking more men than he struck out, he allowed his opponents to hit .292 and had a ginormous 6.64 ERA. I'd be shocked if he really got that bad that quickly, but stranger things have happened.

Given our apparent bullpen advantage over the Yankees, John Lackey will be given the task of just keeping us in the game until the later innings. John had three straight bad starts at the end of June/beginning of July, but for the most part has done just that this season.

We're now halfway through the 16-game gauntlet against the Twins, A's, Yanks, and Blue Jays, and are ahead of schedule with a 5-3 record. The Angels only "need" to go 4-4 over the last eight game to meet expectations, so, all-in-all, I'm pretty pleased with the way the team's playing, and will become moreso if the bats can awaken sooner than later.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I'll never write a post saying we should be able to hit a pitcher ever again. I don't care if the Angels are due to face Esteban Yan; I'm not going to write it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'm sure you've noticed Vlad's recent slide -- he's 3 for 38 over his last ten games, knocking his line down from 344/399/590 to 314/367/543. But you've probably also noticed that he's been hitting the ball well of late; he's smashed line drives right at people, driving outfielders to the track, been robbed of hits on leaping catches, and justmissed a few balls that would have been homers had he not been off by a centimeter.

All of which to say that Vlad's going to be fine, and his recent statistics are a great indication of why small sample size has to be taken with a boulder of salt. Looking at his line would lead one to believe that he's been swinging the bat poorly, when for the most part that has not been the case.

Also in a mini-slide is Adam Kennedy, who is 2-15 over his last five games. Adam's performance illustrates the dangers of sample size in the other direction; though he's a good player, he's not really a .350 hitter, and was bound to see some regression sooner or later. And when he was hitting .350, though he was hitting the ball well, he was getting all of the breaks, and getting a lot of bloopers to fall in. That's not happening so much anymore.

The good news is that we know Vlad's capable of going on a tear at any time, and, the way he's been hitting the ball, he's only a inch or two away from being on one right now. And we also know that Adam Kennedy can have his average drop another sixty points and still be a productive ballplayer. So these "slumps" don't concern me. It's just sample size.

Tonight would be a good night for the breaks to come our way, having to face Barry Zito and all. Zito has been en fuego since June 22:

G   IP   H  HR  SO  BB  ER   ERA
5 37.3 20 5 21 11 6 1.45
This may sound crazy, but I look at that line, and I think, "We can get this guy."

First of all, the strikeout-to-walk ratio is unspectacular. He's also allowed more home runs than he should have. The Angels can get to tough lefties who allow a few too many home runs.

Furthermore, two of those Zito starts came against Seattle. Yeah, Seattle whupped us for four games going into the break, but they aren't that good a team. Zito also had two starts against the ChiSox in there; the White Sox rank an unspectacular sixth in the league in runs while playing in a good hitters' park; their success has come from pitching and defense more than offense.

And let's dismiss another possibly worrisome factor: the fact that the Angels hit a mere 257/314/389 against left-handers (as opposed to a 274/324/418 against righties), so that would seem bad. But Zito, for this year and much of his career, has been tougher against right-handed batters than left-handed batters:
Year        vs RHB   |    vs LHB
2005 205 294 338 | 250 306 420
2004 248 306 413 | 323 419 479
There are a few reasons for this. One, as we learned before, we need to be aware of sample size; Zito faces many more RHB than LHB. Two, the LHB are usually the best LHB because the lessors get the day off when Zito pitches.

Three, I believe there is a real factor in Zito's pitching style: his cut fastball. He runs it in against RHB and can really mess up their game -- think of the Sunday night game last year that was the first time Vlad ever faced Zito. It's a neutralizing pitch against righties, and Zito doesn't really have anything special against lefties -- he just has the same curveball he always uses.

So, the fact that the Lads struggle against lefties, and that Zito is a lefty, doesn't bother me. He's a reverse-type pitcher, he's really like a right-hander.

But, I'm sure, now that I've pointed out all these reasons Zito is hittable, he'll go out and throw a perfect game against us tonight. So, if that happens, blame me: I can take it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The great thing about the Twin series is we took it from them with almost everything going wrong. Vlad and Garret were nonfactors, and Bartolo got knocked around in his only start. Still, we took three of four from a pretty good team, and had some very good starts and bullpen work to seal the deal. So that's all good.

Just to catch up on some news ... as I'm sure you know, Alberto Callaspo was promoted to AAA and Howie Kendrick to AA. The assumption is that Erick Aybar and Brandon Wood can't be too far behind them; it's not like David Matranga has a stranglehold on the AAA shortstop job.

Kendrick went 2-5 in his first AA game, pretty much picking up where he left off at Rancho Cucamonga (384/421/638). With Kendrick and Morales gone and Wood likely soon on his way out, it looks like I've waited too long to make a trip out to Rancho to see a game. Oh, well, there's always Jered Weaver ... who picked up another win over the weekend to make his record 3-1 and lower his ERA to 4.85. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is a sick 39-to-5 in 26 innings ... okay, maybe Jered won't be there too much longer, either.

On the major league level, the Lads now have three games at home against the Oakland Athletic Club. Tonight will be yet another test for Ervin Santana, with even the LA Times saying two bad starts might mean the end of his rotation time in 2005. He's got the talent to pull it off, but I'm not holding my breath. The following two games will be difficult in that we'll have to face Rich Harden and his 2.23 ERA and a somewhat resurgent Barry Zito. The A's are only seven-and-a-half games out, and are only a half-game behind Texas in second place.

This series means more to the A's than to the Angels, which puts the Angels in a dangerous position. You can never underestimate a talented team playing with its back to the wall, and Oakland knows that they're just one more hot streak out of the division race. We need to see the Angel bats come around, especially in the middle of the order, to beat these guys up and put a big dent in their already remote postseason hopes.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Starting in about 20 minutes, the Angels will play:

Four games at Minnesota;
Three games hosting Oakland;
Four games hosting the Yankees;
Two games at Toronto; and
Three games visiting the Yankees.

That's 16 games against teams that are a combined 182-165 this season, for a .524 winning percentage. Weighing the winning percentages by how many games we play against each team, you get a .531 winning percentage.

The Angels enter play with a .591 winning percentage. Using the log5 method, we would expect the Angels, if they're really a .591 team playing against a .531 opponent, to have a winning percentage of .561, which is a completely intuitive result, as it's the average of .591 and .531.

A .561 winning percentage over 16 games would be about nine wins. Going 9-7 over the rest of the month seems like a modest goal, even though we play seven home games against nine road games in that period.

The big question here is: are the Angels really a .591-level team? Are these opponents really at the level at which they've been playing? We don't know yet, of course, that's why the games happen.

Paradoxically, the next 16 games will tell us quite a bit about the Angels, but not that much. If they go 9-7, that's to be expected, and even 8-8 is not terrible. But 11-5, 12-4? That might mean this team is really something special. Let's see how they run the gauntlet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

So, we lead the division by five games. Now what? What needs does the team have?

There was talk earlier in the year of pursuing a DH. Jeff DaVanon and Juan Rivera beginning to show signs of life has curtailed that talk somewhat. Though I think it's clear that a healthy Mike Sweeney or a returned-to-form Aubrey Huff would probably be better offensively, it's becoming increasingly difficult to say the improvement would be worth the cost (in prospects and in dollars). And lesser DH possibilities -- guys like Shea Hillenbrand or something -- are hardly improvements at all, if they were available.

So, for now, let's say that talk of acquiring a real DH is out.

This brings us to Ervin Santana.

Santana has great stuff, and when he's on, he's electric. He's dealt with adversity and shown an ability to pitch competently when he's at less than his best, a skill recent Angel system products like Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey have struggled to master.

But his command is inconsistent for all of his pitches, and that lack of consistency just doesn't cut it at the major league level. His 6.20 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, and 34:20 SO:BB ratio speak for themselves. As bright as his future is, I just don't think he's ready right now. He's only 22; he deserves a chance to hone his craft out of the pressure of a pennant race rotation.

Of course, Kelvim Escobar is not due back until September. That leaves about seven weeks of crucial season, and if Santana is not capable of taking one-fifth of those starts, the Angels must find a replacement.

First, the internal possibilities: others with starting experience on the major league roster are Scot Shields and Kevin Gregg. Though I have long advocated Shields being a starter, the time is not now. He is currently one of two relievers we have who is, for all intents and purposes, 100% reliable, and we need him there. Also, trying to build up his arm strength on the fly in the middle of the season is less than ideal. So no Shields.

Kevin Gregg started in his AAA stint, and pitched fairly well, but there is just about no reasonable expectation that he's going to outperform Santana. No to Gregg.

Jake Woods
started in the minors as recently as last year, but he's been relieving for awhile now and has notched less than 30 innings this season. Maybe he'll start in Salt Lake, I don't know, but it seems a longshot for him to get a month plus in the major league rotation.

Are there any minor leaguers ready to make the jump? Santana was the jewel of the system, and the organizational pitcher having the best year before his call-up, so that should give you a clue. Prospects like Steven Shell and Daniel Davidson have struggled at AA, and though Joe Saunders has pitched well (3.49 ERA) there, he hasn't been dominant in a way that makes you think he's ready for Los Angeles of Anaheim.

And no starter at AAA Salt Lake has impressed.

So it seems clear that the Angels would have to go outside the organization to fill the rotation spot, should they decide something has to be done. Which why I was not surprised or disappointed to learn today (via a sceptical Rob) that the Angels might be in the AJ Burnett business.

Burnett is, of course, a very good pitcher -- when he's healthy. He's not an ace: his ERA the last two seasons (roughly 230 IP) is 3.50 in a pitcher's park in the pitcher's league, which is good but not mindblowing. But he has good control, strikes out guys, and keeps the ball in the park.

Burnett is a free agent at the end of this year, which is why Florida's looking to move him. What would it gain for the Angels to get a guy about to leave? Well, it might give them a head start in re-signing him, were they so inclined, and were they to bid adieu to Jarrod Washburn. Or they could let Burnett go, take the draft pick, and re-sign Washburn, if so inclined.

The main problem is that all the Burnett trade rumors are full of crazy-talk. The Marlins are allegedly seeking a late-inning reliever, which the Angels don't really have to spare (Donnelly?) along with a young pitcher (Santana shouldn't be touchable, I don't think). So what do the Angels have to give?

Well, Casey Kotchman's mediocre 265/340/355 first half doesn't engender confidence, though I would assume he's still well-regarded. Erick Aybar and/or Albert Callaspo, both at AA, might be expendable, inasmuch as Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick have made the California League their own personal Playstation. And does Mike Napoli have a future with Jeff Mathis blocking his path? And Nick Gorneault has no future in this organization. The Angels have position players to give.

Would Florida want those guys? Well, Florida has a pretty good first baseman on the major league level, and they have him wrapped up for a few years. Plus they have Jeremy Hermida, who's a big guy and might get moved to first. So Kotch wouldn't do much for them.

Would you trade Burnett for Donnelly, Aybar, and Napoli? Donnelly, Saunders, and Gorneault? Should Jeff Mathis be thrown in, just so the Fish get one Grade A prospect?

I just don't know if the Angels and Marlins are a good match for a trade.

Who else might be available? Roger Clemens is likely a pipe dream. Jason Schmidt has been fighting arm fatigue all season, and might finally have broken down. Kip Wells might be available, and for cheap, but the downside is that all you're getting is Kip Wells.

Another question is: say we get one of these guys; what happens when Kelvim returns? Mike Scioscia has publicly dismissed the notion of Escobar returning to the bullpen as "extremely remote", but if there are five credible starters when he returns in September, and he's coming off elbow surgery, doesn't it seem like putting him in the pen for a month might make sense? Especially in light of the fact that Scot Shields' right arm will likely have fallen off at that point, making him a left-hander. It doesn't mean Kelvim wouldn't return to the rotation when healthy in 2006; there will be at least one open spot no matter what. But it might be a good way to make it through 2005.

Still, all Halosphere speculation on such matters comes back to the fact that the GM is the close-to-the-vest Bill Stoneman. Stoneman is known for caution and keeping his prospects; he is not about the flashy moves. But if the Halo brass agrees with me that Santana might not be ready, it would seem that something must be done. The question is whether or not Santana will get enough chances to make this race even closer, or if he'll get enough chances to put it together and put some distance between us and our competitors.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

(Quick programming note: if you read my Watch List Update yesterday, be warned that I neglected to include Jered Weaver, so I've gone back and inserted him in there. Note II: I have also gone back to add in Mark Trumbo and Nick Adenhart.)

With some exhibition game going on tonight, the time has come to look back on the first half (plus) of the season. I give everyone a grade, but there's no system to it. I just kind of look at their numbers and think about them and make something up. I do make frequent reference to Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average, as it's both park-adjusted and scaled nicely like batting average so that .260 represents a league-average hitter.

CATCHER: Bengie Molina, B+; Jose Molina, B-; Josh Paul, Incomplete
Bengie has been hitting up a storm, finishing the first half with a .281 EqA. The problem is his glove. No longer an elite defensive catcher, Bengie has thrown out only 25.9% of guys trying to steal, and has allowed six passed balls in 395 innings. Jose Molina has the opposite problem: his defense is sterling -- he's thrown out 56% of basestealers and only one passed ball in 311 innings -- but his EqA rests at a substandard .226. Regardless, Jose provides a capable backup to his brother, and a boon to the pitching staff.

Josh Paul is, of course, indispensable.

FIRST BASE: Darin Erstad, B
A barely-above-average .266 EqA for The Punter is better than we might have hoped for, though it's not too hot for a corner infielder. His defense is superb as always; just like last season, Erstad isn't really a big help or hindrance in terms of on-field performance.

SECOND BASE: Adam Kennedy, A-
The batting average is pretty, but his lower power and walk totals mean it's a little bit empty. Still, he's hitting .347, and has come back from his injury as defensively superb as he ever was.

THIRD BASE: Dallas McPherson, B-
I think his offensive line is about as good as we could expect, and he's played solid if slightly inconsistent defense. Injuries are shutting him down, but overall he's been passable.

SHORTSTOP: Orlando Cabrera, C-; Maicer Izturis, B
Cabrera is hitting for crap, with a .231 EqA. His defense has been pretty good, but he's just not an $8M-per-year player. Ztu has hit very well and fielded pretty well, though regression has already begun to do its dirty work on his offense.

LEFT FIELD: Garret Anderson, B
His EqA is just a bit above average at .271, and his defense has been solid. "Solid" basically defines his season thus far, though he has shown signs of being the Garret of old.

CENTER FIELD: Steve Finley, D+
His .242 EqA is well below expectations, and his defense has been pitiful. Hopefully resting that shoulder will awaken the average player he's supposed to be.

No complaints.

DH: Jeff DaVanon, C+; Juan Rivera, B-
DaVanon actually has a higher EqA than Rivera (.250-.240), so my grades are on gut feel in this case. Both started off slowly and have been gradually heating up, which they'll have to continue to do to keep the Angels where they are.

UTILITY: Legs Figgins, B+
           AVG   OBP   SLG   SB   CS   EQA
Player A 281 339 406 26 6 269
Player B 294 372 344 44 9 266
Player A is our hero, Chone Figgins. Player B is on the AL All Star team.

STARTING PITCHERS: Bartolo Colon, A-; Jarrod Washburn, A-; John Lackey, B; Paul Byrd, B+; Kelvim Escobar, Incomplete; Ervin Santana, C-
Bartolo and Wash have been pretty tight, despite a few bad outings here and there. Wash has a better ERA, which I think is partially luck, though his new finesse stylings suit him well. Lackey has had terrific stretches and terrible stretches, but overall has been pretty solid; consistency has been the problem. Byrd has been a fantastic innings-eater, really, pitching pretty decently for most of the year. Santana, despite a couple electrifying appearances, struggles to consistently command his pitches and avoid trouble. His future looks as strong as ever, but I'm growing less and less convinced that that future is now.

RELIEF PITCHERS: Francisco Rodriguez, A; Scot Shields, A; Brendan Donnelly, B; Joel Peralta, C+; Jake Woods, B-; Kevin Gregg, F; Esteban Yan, Sucks
K-Rod started off the season in the A+ range, but has not been top-notch since his return from the DL. Still, his overall numbers are impressive, and his two blown saves, well, one of them was just a total fluke where he gave up some bloopers, and the other one was a tough save. Shields had one bad week where his arm was probably about to fall off, but otherwise has been fine. Donnelly has alternated good and bad stretches. Peralta was lights out before the regression caught up to him, but I think he has good stuff and should bounce back with more playing time. Woods just never pitched enough to get into a groove, but showed some good stuff when he did. He's better than Gregg. Yan teases you with some good innings here and there, but we cannot forget the inescapable truth that he sucks. That 25:19 SO:BB ratio is just not gonna get the job done when the chips are down.

Really? Why not? The team's on a pace for 96 wins and enters the break with the largest lead in their history (the 1979 team led by two games at the break). I glibly predicted 95 wins for this team, so 96 seems a good pace ... and we should remember how much went wrong in the first half: an offense AWOL through May, Vlad and K-Rod serving time on the DL, Finley and Cabrera sucking up the joint, Escobar throwing less innings than Scot Shields, and so on. The team has adapted well on the fly.

Still, it's not going to be easy from here on out. The Rangers are hot, and the A's are a mere 7.5 games out. But the Angels have proven themselves uniquely able to deal with adversity by having tremendous depth, and those reservoirs will likely have to continue to be tapped for the Lads to capture their first consecutive division flag.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I last did this on June 16.

Erick Aybar
SS, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 325 93 18 6 4 17 34 286 338 415
Then 247 70 13 4 4 13 27 283 342 417
Erick appears to have settled into a rather solid performance.

Alberto Callaspo
2B, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 333 100 9 0 9 27 16 300 350 408
Then 252 83 7 0 7 24 13 329 386 440
His hot streak cooled off, and he's reverted back to slap-hitting and punchless. If he can maintain that line as he ascends the system and play a good defense at second, that would be great. The downside? Gary DiSarcina.

Nick Gorneault
OF, AAA Salt Lake

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 304 88 16 8 15 28 74 289 346 543
Then 209 64 14 6 9 22 53 306 368 560
Aside from the homers, all his numbers are down over the past few weeks. Could he be a throw-in in a trade for a starting pitcher?

Howie Kendrick
2B, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 257 95 21 5 11 14 39 370 409 619
Then 177 66 11 4 9 9 30 373 406 633
Coming off a DL stint for a strained oblique, Kendrick responds by -- ho-hum -- continuing to hit .370.

Baltasar Lopez
1B, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Then 151 38 9 0 0 16 44 252 320 311
He's been injured. From the drug suspension forward, it's been a half-year to forget for a guy who has a lot of people ahead of him on the organizational depth chart.

Warner Madrigal
OF, A Cedar Rapids

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 251 57 12 1 11 15 60 227 274 414
Then 186 41 8 0 9 9 45 220 261 409
Well, the strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved. A little.

Jeff Mathis
C, AAA Salt Lake

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 261 74 19 2 12 27 58 284 351 510
Then 178 48 13 2 8 19 36 270 340 500
A nice little bounceback from the future backstop.

Kendry Morales
1B, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 82 21 5 0 4 5 15 256 299 463
Then 11 0 0 0 0 1 3 000 083 000
One you take off that 0-11 start, you see some delicious numbers: 296/342/535.

Morales played in the Futures Game Sunday afternoon. He went 1-2; I missed his second at-bat, a flyout, but in his first at-bat he took a thigh-high fastball on the outside corner from Justin Verlander and dispatched it posthaste to the left-center gap. It was a nice bit of hitting off of what is, by definition, a major-league fastball (Verlander was hitting 95 and above in his inning of work).

Kendry was a bit stockier than I had realized from photos and other clips I've seen -- Bob Starr would undoubtedly refer to him as a "burly fellow." He looks a lot more like a first baseman than a left fielder, just making a really silly conclucion from his body type. He looked comfortable around the bag at first (on the plays I saw), though he wasn't really challenged at any point; the one hop he had to pick out of the dirt was a long hop, so no real problem there.

Mike Napoli
C/1B, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 262 69 17 1 16 59 85 263 404 519
Then 206 61 16 1 11 44 64 296 427 544
I think 8-56 qualifies as a slump -- though five of those eight hits went over the fence. Still solid numbers overall. With Mathis heating up ahead of him, is Napoli potential trade bait? Or the next Shawn Wooten?

Sean Rodriguez
SS, A Cedar Rapids

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 268 71 17 3 5 48 48 265 389 407
Then 213 57 13 3 3 42 35 268 402 399
He had been bringing that average up after a slow start, though he's leveled off for a few weeks, as you can see. Brandon Wood obviously started the season just a bit ahead of S-Rod on the depth chart, and has just obviously taken a humongous leap this season. But Rodriguez is still quite young, so it's definitely not panic time -- especially with his plate discipline and the possibility that Wood gets moved off of the position.

Drew Toussaint
2B/OF, A Cedar Rapids

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 233 67 17 2 12 28 71 288 368 532
Then 155 44 13 1 7 21 46 284 376 516
Toussaint may be on his way to becoming my favorite prospect that no one's ever heard of. I don't know anything about his defense, but that's solid production for a guy in his first full professional season.

Mark Trumbo
1B, R Orem

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 78 23 10 0 2 5 22 295 337 500
The Angels performed a great public good by keeping Trumbo out of U$C. Will he repay the Angels with good play? The strikeouts are scary, but otherwise this is a good start; remember, it his his first exposure to pro ball and wooden bats.

Reggie Willits
OF, AA Arkansas

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 285 88 16 4 0 39 38 309 390 393
Then 209 66 11 4 0 28 28 316 391 407
Nothing has changed.

Brandon Wood
SS, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Now 338 100 28 3 28 30 74 296 357 645
Then 261 82 23 2 21 20 59 314 365 659
A tiny bit of a slump, but he's drawing more walks as he gains further respect from Cal League pitchers.

Wood was the other Angel to play in the Futures Game. He was 1-1 on an infield single up the middle -- he was actually out at first, it looked from the replays, but the ump (apparently) thought the first baseman had come off the bag.

Wood's a lanky kid. He's listed at 6'3''-185, which seems roughly correct. He still has a lot of filling out to do, and if this is his power now ... watch out.

Wood allowed an infield single on a slow chopper with a fast runner, but looked pretty smooth defensively. His arm was impressive; it seems like if he gets moved off of short third base would be his destination, though I know some might salivate at the potential for a Jeff Kent on the keystone. He has enough development in front of him that these questions don't have to be resolved for a few more seasons.

Nick Adenhart
SP, Arizona League

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 4 4 8.7 5 0 9 9 1.04
Adenhart is coming back from Tommy John surgery, so this is his first competitive pitching in awhile. That brief line is indicative of good stuff but lackluster command, which is to be expected from someone coming back from an injury.

Steve Andrade
RP, AA New Hampshire (Blue Jays org)

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 1 2 1 16 0 22.7 9 1 28 10 2.78
Then 1 2 1 13 0 19.0 6 0 22 7 1.89
Our boy hit a rough patch coming off the DL, but he's still way too good for AA. FREE STEVE ANDRADE!

Daniel Davidson
SP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 7 4 0 18 16 97.0 110 11 63 31 4.64
Then 5 3 0 13 12 71.3 44 7 51 22 4.54
The hits just keep on coming. (Obviously, the "44" I had before was a typo.)

Abel Moreno
Has not played.

Steve Shell
SP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 5 6 0 17 17 93.7 105 16 72 39 5.00
Then 3 4 0 13 13 70.7 81 12 54 30 4.84
The vaunted Arkansas rotation has really had some problems since the promotion of Santana.

Von Stertzbach
RP, AA Arkansas

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 3 4 10 36 0 41.3 45 6 39 21 4.79
Then 3 3 8 28 0 31.3 36 4 27 16 4.60
The Travelers are just having problems with that hill in the middle of the infield.

Jered Weaver
SP, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 2 1 0 5 5 20.0 21 3 28 4 5.85
He had the one really rough outing, but, aside from that, seems to be getting things in order. That SO:BB ratio is marvelous.

Bob Zimmerman
RP, A Rancho Cucamonga

When?  W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
Now 4 7 7 29 0 33.0 34 2 41 17 4.36
Then 3 6 6 23 0 26.0 27 2 32 16 4.50
So at least one pitcher on this list has been doing well of late.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

VCR set, I met a friend for dinner and we went to see Ingmar Bergman's allegedly final film, Saraband. I caught the Bengie Molina three-run homer in transit, but upon learning the final score, I concluded that watching the game would only make me sad and angry, an emotion I didn't want after a film that left me awed.

I say that Saraband is "allegedly" Bergman's final film because, though Bergman has declared his retirement from directing, he has pulled the Michael Jordan on us before. However, given that Bergman is so old -- How old is he? -- Bergman is so old that he could have filmed the birth of Steve Finley, it seems likely that he damn well means it this time.

Anyway, the film was sterotypical Bergman in that it was challenging, slow, intense, rivetting, and, ultimately, rewarding beyond words. The performances by all four leads were astonishing, and Bergman's austere camera style simply and effectively adorned them as they fully inhabited their believable and complex characters. Add to the mix the carefully chosen musical pieces, heavy on the Bach, and you have a singularly moving experience.

So, if you like that sort of thing, Saraband is for you. It's the best film I've seen in a theater all year (made simple by the fact that I've only seen 2046 on DVD, though when it has its theatrical release next month, that will complicate things), and a fitting swan song for who is arguably the greatest living filmmaker.

Also, the Lads coming through with a couple of wins here against TacomaSeattle would be most welcome.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm not at all upset about last night's catastrophe. It's just one of those bear-eats-you type of things. Bartolo ain't perfect, and Pineiro was on. These things happen. Sean does a good job of giving some historical perspective on blowouts, if you don't believe me.

But if The Big Mango puts up another two or three consecutive starts in this vein, there will be hell to pay.

As such, the highlights of the game (aside from the dramatic home run from The Indispensable Josh Paul) were the interviews of Brandon Wood and Jered Weaver.

So Rex Hudler is interviewing Wood, who (I believe) is leading all of professional baseball in home runs at the moment, and has already nearly doubled his career home run output this season. So what does he ask him?

"What kind of food do you like to eat?"

Now, I get that Hud was trying to tell people about the apparently substandard dietary habits of minor league ballplayers, but the way he did it, I thought the next questions were going to be "What's your favorite color?" and "Who do you think would win a fight between Batman and Superman?"

Anyway, Wood was well-spoken and seemed like a good kid.

Jered, however, came across as ... well, a Weaver. He was far less articulate and personable than Wood seemed to be. Of course, being interviewed on TV is likely a bit unnerving, whether or not you are a quiet type or outgoing.

I felt a bit gypped that Howie Kendrick, the other Rancho star, wasn't interviewed, but I guess he didn't come to the stadium to give out autographs, either.

Anyway, we need to get back on our game tonight, as anything less than a split with the M's would be a total embarrassment.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Both Steve Finley (starting a rehab assignment this weekend) and Orlando Cabrera (due back not long after the All Star Break) will soon be resuming their starting jobs for the Lads. Is this a good thing?

The OC has not played since June 26. Izturis has played in ten games since then, in which he has gone 14 for 42 (.333 average) with two walks (.364 OBP) and six doubles (.476 SLG). This is, of course, far better than Cabrera had been hitting (243/294/354) over the course of the season.

The immediate reaction is to say, "Yes, of course bringing Cabrera back will be bad for the Angels. Even if Cabrera's a little bit better defensively (not a given), Ztu should make up for it with the bat." But the fact is Cabrera is not a .243 hitter -- his career line is 267/314/405. If he were to match that career line this year, this is actually pretty easy to figure out: if he's really a 267/314/405 who has hit 243/294/354 over basically half a season, he would have to hit 291/334/456 over the other half to reach those numbers -- a line very close to what Ztu has produced in the last couple of weeks.

That is an oversimplified best-case scenario for Cabrera. His career line benefits from his home park being pretty good for offense the last couple of seasons, it reflects his peak (which he is certainly past), and it doesn't reflect the fact he will likely be playing injured upon his return.

But we're also comparing him to Ztu at his best. I like the guy, and thought he was a good acquisition, but I doubt he's really a 338/363/506 hitter, which is his line this season.

So we're probably due to see some regression from Ztu and some improvement from The OC. But even if Cabrera outproduces Ztu the rest of the way, will the difference be so great as to justify the large paychecks Orlando cashes? Doubtful.

In the meantime, Father Time has been unavailable beginning June 21. This has re-opened playing time for Jeff DaVanon and Juan Rivera. From June 21 through today, those two guys are 22 for 67 (.329) with nine walks (.408 OBP), six doubles, one triple, and two home runs (.537 SLG). This, again, is far better than the performance registered by the starter; Steve Finley has hit 225/287/408 this season.

Both DaVanon and Rivera started the saeson poorly, and have been marching back to where we might have expected them to be. Neither one is quite there, so continued improvement is likely.

Of course, improvement for Finley is likely, as well. His .225 average is 49 points short of his career mark. Add 49 points to his line across the board and you have a line of 274/336/457. Finley's career line? 274/335/449.

Basically, Finley has been drawing walks and hitting with power at the same rate he has since the founding of professional baseball in 1876. The problem is that he hasn't been getting hits. Is that bad luck or a sign of decline? If we think he can match his career average this season, that would require him to hit 323/383/490 in the second half. These numbers are just a bit down from the recent production of DaVanon and Rivera.

Can Steve Finley possibly hit .323 in the second half? After watching him for one half, I'd venture that there's no chance in hell, but who knows.

What I do know is that at the close of play on June 20 (Finley's most recent game) the Angels were 40-29, and today they are 52-32 -- the team has gone 12-3 in Finley's absence, and 7-3 in Cabrera's. The performances of Ztu, DaVanon, and Rivera have played no small part in that success. I won't be celebrating to see them depart the starting lineup.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A few random notes to catch up ...

- It seems a little depressing to get the 8.5 game lead against Texas with two games left in the series, where all you have to do to maintain that lead is to win 50% of the next two games, to drop both of them go get the lead back to where it was before the series started. However, going 5-2 against Texas over the course of a week-and-a-half is nothing to complain about, and a 6.5 game lead is manageable at this point in the season, even if it's not insurmountable by our foes.

- There is almost no pleasure in beating the Royals. What a collection of ineptitude and sadness. I weep for their fans and their young players alike, good-looking prospects like David DeJesus and Ruben Gotay who look to have strong futures but are currently either not ready or surrounded by dreck. And poor Mike Sweeney, going through yet another season in the midst of such pain.

So basically we need to smack the snot out of them today -- we're up 1-0 currently, not that I can see it, thanks to KC's nonsensical scheduling of the game up against the ESPN exclusive Sunday night broadcast slot.

- Congrats to Angel All Stars Vlad, Bartolo Colon, and Garret Anderson, Badass. Also congrats to David Eckstein for getting a starting job in the other league. Too bad that there was no room for Scot Shields or K-Rod, but that's the sort of thing that happens when you play a silly exhibition game for no reason.

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