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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

MIDSEASON REPORT CARD!
(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.

RIGHT FIELD: Vlad, A
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.

OVERALL: A
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.

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