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Thursday, July 07, 2005

THE REPLACEMENTS
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.

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