Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I know I should be giving some analysis about last night's game and everything, but I just don't have the heart. Obviously K-Rod's in a slump, but the most fundamental problem is that our starting pitcher went nine and one-third strong innings and couldn't get the win. The Angels had essentially no one on base all night, scoring the one run because of a solo home run, not because of any kind of rally.

This is the sort of thing that happens when you basically rely on one hitter for your offense, and he goes into a slump. And I just don't see how batting him in front of Bengie is necessarily gonna help, either.

Had the Angels moved Erstad to center in place of Finley, I'd have said the division was ours to lose. If we had kept Finley in center, I'd have said we'd already lost the division. The choice to keep The Legs in center while platooning Kotch and Rivera at DH is better than nothing, but worse than everything. Apparently a realization was made that Erstad couldn't take the move to center, either due to his arm or to his legs or to being haunted by the Ghost of Gary Pettis, I don't know.

Or maybe the decision was more along the lines of Juan Rivera -- who has hit right-handed batters better than lefties over his career -- shouldn't be an everyday player (either at DH or LF), or perhaps that determination was made about Casey Kotchman. I'm not sure how Quinlan is necessarily better suited to start every day than those guys (and maybe Ztu will take a bunch of AB there), but who knows.

The other elephant in the room is that Rivera is much more qualified to play left field defensively (an .884 zone rating with two assists in 178 innings, plus two more assists in 183 innings in right) than Garret Anderson (.870 and four assists in 783 innings). But whatever.

Whatever we do in the next month, we won't be playing with our best arrangement, but it will sure be a hell of a lot better than what we've had out there so far.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On the television broadcast, Hud just said that Scioscia announced that Chone Figgins was replacing Steve Finley as the starting center fielder.

There is much rejoicing in the streets of Los Angeles of Anaheim.

Now, this is not ideal, as Erstad's not out there, but maybe they determined his body couldn't take it. Presumably, Kotch and Rivera will platoon at DH with Garret staying in left. It could be worse.

The Angels have acquired Jason Christiansen, a left-handed specialist whose lowest ERA since 1999 was a 4.44 in 2001 -- and this is a guy who is supposed to come in just get lefties out.

We gave up Dusty Bergman and something named Ronnie Ray.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, completely useless and ridiculous.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Okay, so we'd be out of the playoffs if the season ended today.

So what?

There is still a month of season left. But if there is any good to be reaped from our sweep at the fins of the Devil Rays, it has to be in getting the realization in front of the Angel braintrust's face that Steve Finley v.2005 is a bench player.

Mike Scioscia has already realized that he's, at best, a platoon player. But every futile at-bat and defensive play he makes underscores the fact that he just shouldn't be a regular at all at this point.

He'll get Tuesday off, against Barry Zito. So we won't really know until Wednesday if the obvious had been declared, unless an official announcement is made. I actually think this realization has set in with management. Though obviously he didn't single-handedly cause the sweep, I think it's become clear that his presence makes the lineup suboptimal.

I really think the team is going to put him on the bench, because there's just now way they can't right now. Whether they do it by putting Figgins in center with Quinlan at third with Kotch and Rivera essentially platooning at DH, or by moving Erstad to center (please) with Kotch at first, Figgins at third, and Rivera/Garret at LF/DH, it doesn't matter to me -- either way is likely to be an offensive and defensive improvement on what we've heretofore witnessed.

A successful team learns from its mistakes, and deals with them. As Alvy Singer said, a shark has to keep moving forward or else it dies (if you don't get the reference, just Google it). Giving the center field job to Steve Finley this offseason was a mistake. It is time to move forward. If we don't, we'll just have a dead shark on our hands. Hopefully the sting of the ray will be enough to shock the shark alive.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"It hasn't been a season where we can pitch OK to win; we have to pitch well to win. We know the potential of this offense. We have a lot of great players who can swing the bats. Some guys haven't had the years they thought they would have, but sometimes you run into some bad luck too."

"Lopez pitched well, but we've got to find a way to beat guys like that to get to where we need to be, because we'll be facing plenty of them."
Both of those inspiring quotes come from John Lackey today in the LA Times. I don't know that the second one is something you want to hear a pitcher saying -- a batter, fine, but a pitcher saying that almost sounds like, "Hey, buttheads, it was Rodrigo Lopez. Thanks for nothing, and great bolshy yarblockos to thee and thine."

He has a right to be unhappy. The Angels left enough guys on base in the Orioles series to give another meaning to Steve Finley's shoulder tattoo. But, on the bright side, at least we had guys on base to strand!

Speaking of getting guys on base: the Times also reports that Orlando Cabrera is advising the Angels to be more patient at the plate. This strikes me as being roughly equivalent as me advising the rest of the Halosphere to start using less statistics in their posts. Cabrera has drawn a whopping 29 walks in his 405 at-bats this year; the league average in this category would typically have him at around 40.

Anyway, some quotes from Orlando Cabrera, Guru of the Free Pass: "It seems like when we get people on base, we want to swing right away." I will turn down the snark, because The OC also confesses, "I do it too. I'll swing at the first pitch. This has never been a patient team, and it killed them in the playoffs last year."

Anyway, he says some other things which you can read. And though I tease, of course I think he's right. But it doesn't matter; this is the team that cares more about getting guys into scoring position than actually getting them on base. Hal Bodley of USA Today tells the world about this obsession today. Scioscia provides an inscrutable sound bite to Bodley:

"We have to look at how many guys we get in scoring position. That's where we differ from other approaches. We cannot let on-base percentage die on the vine."

Um, okay. I'm not sure how that last sentence follows ... I'm guessing he's saying that a team that emphasizes OBP but neglects advancing runners is letting OBP die on the vine by stranding runners. Or something.

But whatever we've been doing also runs the risk of letting ERA die on the vine. Just ask John Lackey.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rosters have been released for the Arizona Fall League; Angel prospects will play for the Surprise Scorpions.

(Aside: if you had a team in a city called Surprise, would you consider just calling them Party?)

Anyway, the Angels are sending some of their big names to Surprise: Jered Weaver, Kendry Morales, Howie Kendrick, and Brandon Wood are all AFL-bound. Others include David Austen (age 24, he had a 1.80 in 45 Rancho Cucamonga innings before being promoted to AA, where he's at 4.24 in 40 1/3) and catcher Ryan Budde (Jeff Mathis' caddy).

The team wasn't firing on all cylinders last night, but the offense played just well enough to garner Bartolo his 17th win. The Big Mango's been far more dominant than he was last night, but he still took care of business, and is on a terrific run.

In fact, once we got past his awful first half last season, Colon has turned into a pretty snazzy signing:
                 W   L   ERA    IP
1st Half, 2004 6 8 6.38 104.3
Since Then 29 10 3.45 284.3
Bartolo leads the league in wins, so naturally thought turns to his Cy Young candidacy.

When I come to evaluate pitchers for the Cy Young Award, my first step is to look at two things: ERA and innings pitched. I don't really care about wins and losses, as they are so dependent on the rest of the team (see: Escobar, Kelvim, 2004 and Washburn, Jarrod, 2005). There are a number of things to look at after that, if it's close, but that's how I start to narrow it down.

Bartolo ranks 7th out of AL qualifiers in ERA and 4th in innings pitched. Two of the three guys ahead of him in innings pitched have better ERAs: Mark Buehrle (2.99 against Colon's 3.34) and Johan Santanadana (3.22). They're all pretty close in innings, though Buehrle has about 9 innings on Colon.

As for Buehrle vs. Colon, if Buehrle had his 2.99 ERA in Colon's number of innings, he'd have allowed 59.9 earned runs (that .9 will always kill you in a close game), where Colon has allowed 67. So that's nearly a win for Buehrle right there.

But -- Buehrle has allowed a rather high amount of unearned runs. He's allowed 14 UER to give him 77 runs allowed total; Bartolo has only allowed 5 UER for 72 total. If you look at Runs Allowed Per Nine Innings, Colon actually has Buehrle beat, 3.59 to 3.65.

Of course, unearned runs are often considered unearned for a reason. But sometimes the pitcher is really the guy most responsible for those runs scoring. In one game, Buehrle allowed three unearned runs as a result of his own throwing error (only one scored on the actual play). Though I don't think that Buehrle's fielding should be held against his pitching, he did allow 14 hits in only 6 1/3 innings that game, and allowed hits to six of the ten batters he faced after the error.

The season's not over, so I'm certainly not going to go through the whole season to figure that sort of thing out for all of his unearned runs. I do think Bartolo is legitimately in the running for the CYA. The one thing I haven't mentioned yet is ballparks -- the Angel Stadium park factor is .92 so far this year (meaning Angels and their opponents score 92% as many runs per game in Los Angeles of Anaheim as they do on the road) while New Comiskey (or whatever it's called) is at 1.05.

Adjusting the park factors to the Runs Allowed Per Nine, Buehrle moves to 3.56 and Bartolo to 3.74. The ERA advantage for Buehrle would also grow, and we'd still have the fact that he's thrown more innings. And we haven't even gotten to Santana yet, or any other candidate.

It is, of course, far too early to declare a winner. There is a lot of baseball yet to be played, and Bartolo has been on fire. The Fat Man has started to earn his Fat Contract, and it's a fun thing to see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

So, remember that scene in the original Star Wars where the Millenium Falcon is escaping the Death Star, and Luke and Han are in those turrets shooting the laser cannons at the TIE Fighters? Good, I thought you would.

Anyway, the Falcon takes a couple of hits, and Luke starts whining, and Han yells out to him, "Don't worry, she'll hold together."

The ship immediately takes another hit, and then Han mumbles to it, "Hear me, baby? Hold together."

This is like me and Francisco Rodriguez. (I am Han Solo in this scenario, which is sweet. K-Rod is the Falcon. I don't know who Princess Leia is -- I drive by this billboard of Gisele every day, so let's go with that.)

I keep insisting he'll be okay, and then he comes in and makes Miguel Tejada look the fool for a couple of pitches. Then -- boom -- just one pitch that's a bit up, and we have a one-run game.

No me gusta.


This is apropos of nothing, aside from Rob linking to an idiotic feature at BPro (he links to mock), and then that link having something interesting linked in it. Y'see, the guys at BPro keep track of the hitting stats of all the guys a pitcher faces, so we can see what pitchers have faced the best hitters. You can see that list here.

I have learned two things from this list:

1. Ervin Santana has, to date, the second-most difficult set of opponents in the major leagues.
2. There is a man on this Earth named Seth McClung.

Anyway, the average opponenet faced by Ervin has an AVG/OBP/SLG line of 268/337/426. I don't know how meaningful that really is, but there you go.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's always fun to see what beat writers come up on travel days late in the season. The most interesting stories about a team are followed day-to-day, things like trade rumors or guys losing their jobs, etc. So what do you come up with?

If you're Mike DiGiovanna, the answer is: start a campaign to have Frankie Rodriguez learn a change-up.

The sub-head of the article: "Angel closer Francisco Rodriguez has the 94-mph fastball and one of baseball's best breaking balls, but some think he'd reach a higher level with an effective off-speed pitch."

By "some think," it appears that it means "DiGiovanna thinks."

The article comprises the results of a bunch of interchanges that basically go like this:

DiGiovanna: Hey, do you think K-Rod would be better if he learned a change-up?
Someone in Baseball: Well, he could.

Bud Black sums up the situation very well, borrowing the Robert Evans rhetorical style of one-man Socratic dialogue: "Do I think [a change is] imperative? No. Will it add to his arsenal? Yes. Does he need it right now? No."

Obviously, Frankie would be better if he had a great change. He would also be better if he had a great knuckleball. He would also be better if he threw some kind of Heisenberg pitch, where the batter couldn't tell exactly where the baseball was located in the time-space continuum.

DiGiovanna points out that other dominant closers, such as Trevor Hoffman and Eric Gagne, are big on the change, but the fact is most every closer is a two-pitch pitcher, at best. Most are hard throwers who mix the fastball with a devastating off-speed or breaking pitch: for Gagne and Hoffman it's the change, for John Wetteland it was the slider, for Troy Percival it was ... um, yeah ...

The real basis of the article seems to be a rumination on What's Wrong With Frankie?. As I've said before, I don't know that anything is -- pitching him three straight days turns him from K-Rod to BB-Rod by the end of it, and nearly half of the runs he's allowed this season (7 of 15) have come in third-consecutive-day outings.

And here's something else, which we often forget: the kid is 23 years old. He's only one year older than Ervin Santana. He's only one year older than Casey Kotchman. He's a year-and-a-half younger than Dallas McPherson. He obviously has a lot of growing and improving to do. And if he wants to and can pick up a third pitch in winter ball (gulp), and masters it, and it makes him better, more power to him. But he's pretty damn good right now.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Garret Anderson is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday, and will likely begin his return as a designated hitter. If GA ends up being stuck at DH for awhile -- which the Angels are not yet ready to concede -- Scioscia has acknowledged that Darin Erstad may return to the outfield.

But perhaps not in the way we might hope. From the LA Times:
But Anderson will not play left field right away, and Scioscia acknowledged publicly for the first time Sunday that if Anderson is relegated to designated hitter for an extended period, Darin Erstad could move from first base to the outfield, and Casey Kotchman could take over at first.

"If Garret is a full-time DH, then we'll strongly consider that move," Scioscia said. "There are some trade-offs. It would be tougher to get [reserve outfielder Juan] Rivera's bat in the lineup, and if we commit to Kotchman at first, we wouldn't have that versatility [to play Rivera more regularly].
So it appears that moving Erstad to the outfield might mean making him a left fielder and sitting down Juan Rivera.
                 2005                    2004
Rivera 259 307 456 .251 307 364 465 .279
Finley 217 270 362 .220 271 333 490 .271
On a per-at-bat basis, Rivera has outproduced Finley going back to the beginning of 2004. This is not an effect of Rivera being a part-timer spotted against left-handed pitchers: Juan has actually hit right-handers better than left-handers over the last two seasons, and has an even platoon split over his career.

Speaking of Finley, I learned yesterday in the Times that he has the infinity symbol tattooed over his right shoulder.

Steve Finley wears a tattoo of the infinity symbol to represent:

A. His age.
B. How long Angel management will wait for him to re-find his skills.
C. What the Angel division lead would be if we hadn't signed Steve Finley.
D. All of the above.

So, while the Angels determine whether Garret is healthy enough to patrol the outfield, we're basically down to a competition between Steve Finley and Juan Rivera to see who stays in the starting lineup. I don't care which one it is, but hopefully one will step up and seize the opportunity.

Friday, August 19, 2005

You may be aware that Angel designated hitters have the second-worst OPS of any American League team this season (661, just ahead of the O's at 659). Well, you may not be aware of that specifically, like who just sits around looking up how teams are hitting at DH (*slinks away to the corner, ashamed*)? But you know that it's been a teamwide problem.

Which is why this is nice:
August, 2005
Kotchman 37 297 422 703
Rivera 40 400 489 675
It's great to see that from Rivera, who followed up a torrid 341/357/610 June with a horrid 180/239/393 in July.

And don't look now, but:
2005 Overall
Rivera 231 268 317 472 .258
Garret 438 288 317 434 .255
If Rivera and Kotch can both stay hot, that presents something of a quandary if Garret Anderson can return. That quandary mightshould find its resolution in the continuing saga of:
Steve Finley, 2005
Overall 343 216 270 362
PostASB 103 194 229 252
August 48 125 143 208
As you can see, things have not been improving for our hero.

This, of course, all goes back to the recent talk of Darin Erstad returning to the outfield. A big part of such a plan is the assumption that Casey Kotchman is ready to play first every day, as well as the capacity of Rivera (along with DaVanon) to cover the DH spot.

But every futile at-bat from Steve Finley just demonstrates that Kotch doesn't have to be ready, he has to be better than 216/270/362. His recent hot stretch has his career line up to 227/314/356. Finley's probably a better baserunner, but I'm not sure he's enough better to make up that difference in OBP.

Father Time better hope that Garret's sidelined for awhile, because if things don't change before his return, keeping Finley in the lineup would be inexcusable -- and you could make an argument that Ztu should be starting at third and Figgins in center right now.

It's sad. Finley seems like a good guy, and a hard worker, but he's just not getting the job done. Unless that changes -- either by benching the man or his turning it around -- he could end up costing this team the division. Angel management cannot let that happen.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

  • Is there any way we contract the Blue Jays?

  • Orlando Cabrera was moved to the two-spot on July 29th. He entered play that day with an AVG/OBP/SLG line of 247/298/347.

    About three weeks have passed, and The OC has played 18 games in that spot. Entering play today, his line is 252/305/350. He has gone 21 for 77 in that time (.273) with 7 walks (.333 OBP) and five extra-base hits (.364 SLG).

    Meanwhile, Adam Kennedy entered the 29th with a line of 331/377/397. Today, he sits at 334/387/405. In that period, he has played 17 games, going 20-57 (.351) with 5 walks (.403 OBP) and three extra-base hits (.439 SLG).

    Just using a very basic estimate of runs created (OBP x SLG x AB), that means Cabrera has created roughly 9 runs in that period, and Adam has created 10. But note that Cabrera has 20 more AB than Adam; if you give Kennedy The OC's at-bats, he'd be up to nearly 14 runs, and The OC in the nine spot hitting that way would be around 7 runs.

    In case you think basestealing might be a factor, Kennedy is perfect in five attempts over that period, and Cabrera has been successful three out of five times. So while Kennedy gets an extra run for stealing bases, Cabrera actually loses a little bit.

    Now, we of course can't assume that these guys would have hit the same had they been in the other spot in the batting order, but it's incredibly obvious that Kennedy has been a better hitter all year. Actually, let me take that back: Kennedy has been a better hitter than The OC for three of the last four seasons (including this year).

    And, over the last 18 games, there's a decent chance that having The OC in a spot where he gets 20 more at-bats than Kennedy does has cost the team roughly seven runs. You think the Angels could have taken seven runs in those 18 games?

  • Boston is on their way to town, and they're a tough customer. I feel pretty good about The Big Mango taking on Tim Wakefield tonight, despite the fact that Bartolo has been bashed around by the Sox the last two seasons (a 6.10 ERA in 20 2/3 innings). I think we've got a pretty good shot with John Lackey taking on Matt Clement tomorrow night -- Clement has had only two good starts since July 1, and both against the scuffling Rangers.

    I worry about Saturday -- Ervin Santana has struggled in day games (0-4 with an 11.34 ERA against 6-1, 2.79 under electric candlelight) -- and Sunday, where we face a rookie (Jon Papelbon), and the Angels never seem to do well against rookies.

    We're getting to the point of the season where every series is becoming a big series, so the Angels need to right the ship after the ridiculous Toronto series. It's up to Bartolo, our alleged ace, to set the tone tonight.

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Okay, everyone wants to remove Frankie from the closer role. I think it's nuts.

    Sure, he's struggled of late. His mechanics are a mess right now. But he's still our best reliever, and we all know that.

    And, honestly, what are the alternatives? Stephen Smith alleges Kevin Gregg, which to me comes out of too much what-have-you-done-for-me-lately. Rob looks forward to Kelvim Escobar seizing the role. That, at least, is understandable, as Kelvim can, you know, pitch.

    But let's sit back a minute and look at the situation calmly. A reliever's, and particularly a closer's, struggles are always exaggerated by virtue of the facts that they come in important situations and often cost the team the game, and also that bad outings happen one inning at a time.

    It's not uncommon for a starter to give up two or even three runs in the first inning, but then settle down and pitch a good game. A closer that gives up two or three runs in his one inning has failed, and everyone has seen it, and a W has magically turned into an L because of it.

    In a perfect world, one could say, "This guy's struggling with his mechanics, we should move him out of high-leverage situations until he figures it out." But in a world full of egos, high salaries, and the save statistic, that doesn't work out so well in practice. Another complicating factor is the degree to which every relief pitcher, even the good ones, are volatile -- any good reliever can get lit up on any given night.

    As such, and given that he's shown the ability to bounce back from bad outings before, I don't think Frankie can or should be moved out of the closer's role at this time. Obviously, he needs to iron out his mechanices; I'm not just sitting here whistling "Everything's fine" and pretending there's no problem. And I don't know Frankie's personality; maybe the threat of demotion would help motivate him, I don't know.

    Another thing about last night: Frankie was pitching for the third day in a row. Pitching him three days in a row is a startingly bad idea. Here are his third-consecutive-day games this season:
    Date  Opp   IP   H   R   ER   SO   BB   Dec
    4/22 Oak 1.0 3 2 2 2 0 BS,L
    7/23 NYY 1.0 0 0 0 1 0 SV
    7/30 NYY 1.0 1 3 3 2 4 BS,L
    8/16 Tor 0.3 2 2 2 0 2 BS,L
    TOTAL 3.3 6 7 7 5 6 0-3, 1 SV, 3 BS
    He only had one third-day appearance that went well. If you remove all of these appearances from his season, all of a sudden his ERA drops from 2.91 to 1.67; seven of the fifteen runs he's allowed this season have been in third-day appearances!

    Last night's appearance resembled strongly his meltdown in New York on July 30. I allege that fatigue messes with his mechanics, and then he tries to throw the ball 150 mph to compensate and further messes with his mechanics. When he can't get the fastball over, there's no reason for anyone to swing at the slider.

    I think his "problems," such as they are, are correctible with coaching and proper usage. I have every confidence in Bud Black's coaching ability; hopefully the bullpen will stabilize so that we don't need to try to push Frankie into more third-day appearances, which are murder on him and the team.

    So, tonight was one of those nights where I had to tape the game, as I was going to be out.

    The activity I attended was great fun. Well, at least, it was great fun for most of the night. It ended with me being in the middle of a ridiculous dispute between two of my friends, which basically boils down to one of them being a delusional numbnuts.

    So, after an contentious hour trying to reason with this clown, and how I got stuck with this task is a mystery to me, I came home a bit angry and embittered. And by "a bit," a mean "a great deal." I'm a very calm person in life, so that's a pretty rare occurrence, so I'm stewing as I cue up the VCR to watch the game.

    Because, you see, I had recused myself from all knowledge of the game, so I had no idea what I was about to see.

    You might be able to figure out the rest from here. Honestly, as I fast-forwarded between pitches, I wasn't really paying that close of attention. But Joe Saunders looked good, and we had some big hits and good plays, and in the top of the ninth I was starting to calm down and feel better.

    It was nearly 2 AM at this point.

    Of course, we had to suffer through another frickin' Frankie meltdown, which is not the way I wanted to end what should have been a good night. So now, in addition to anger and bitterness, I have discouragement and disappointment. And I've still got three-fifths of the work week to try to survive.

    Boo, I say. Boo.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    There are possibly no eight word designed to create more collective joy in the Halosphere than REDEPLOYMENT TO OUTFIELD IS A POSSIBILITY FOR ERSTAD (except for maybe SEAN HAS WRITTEN A SEQUEL TO HIS PLAY), and The LA Times brings us these words today (the Erstad words, not the Sean words).

    On the surface this sounds like a wonderful thing. Erstad, when we last saw him center, was an All World defender. His glove was a huge part of the success of the 2002 team, and his glove was certainly missed when he went down with injury in 2003, and the sorry line of petrified center fielders we've run out there since have only served to underline The Punter's defensive value.

    The question, of course, is whether or not Darin's body can take the abuse of him diving all over the damn place and running headfirst into walls and the like. And even if he keeps from being injured, would that mean he's still healthy? Because one of the theories about Darin's abandon-lacking defensive style is that it impairs him at the bat.

    And you know what? There may be some truth to that. In 2002, when he played defense like Bugs Bunny, Darin had a .247 Equivalent Average (.260 is average). In 2003, more of the same, he was at a sick .233 before getting hurt.

    But since moving to first base last season, Erstad has racked up a .259 EqA. Okay, that's unspectacular, but at least it's decent, and his excellent glove at first makes up for the fact that he's a below-standard hitter for the position, and I believe that overall, he's a pretty average contributor.

    Of course, one might reasonably argue that Erstad would be an even greater contributor, and certainly a big improvement for this team, playing a more important defensive position with great aplomb, even if he loses a little offense. But here's the question: how sure are we that he can still play great outfield defense?

    Darin hasn't been out there since 2003. He's two years older now, and might be losing some speed (he doesn't steal bases quite as often as he used to, which is normal for an aging mortal). So he might be (1) a worse hitter, (2) more injury prone, and (3) not all that great out there, anyway.

    Of course, he wouldn't have to be that great to be a defensive improvement on what we have out there now. Steve Finley has looked slow to my eyes, and his zone rating backs me up. His ZR is .844; the average center fielder seems to be around .890. The Old Man has 209 put-outs in center ... we can guesstimate that 209 put-outs with an .844 ZR means he had 248 (247.6, actually) opportunities. Had those been converted at a rate of .890, that would be 220 put-outs.

    So, if we can trust ZR, Finley's about 11 put-outs short. What does this mean? That's probably worth about 9 runs or so he's lost, which ain't good. Of course, maybe you don't trust ZR completely (I think it's a reasonable guide, but not The Truth), or maybe you think he's better at preventing doubles than singles or something like that, so maybe he's a little bit better than -9 runs so far. Maybe it's -5. But there's no way he's above average.

    And though The Legs looks good out there relative to Finley, he's still isn't all that great. He basically gave up a double last night by virtue of just getting a terrible read on a ball; his .863 ZR at the position isn't that much better than Finley's.

    So if Erstad returned to center and has fallen all the way down to average, he's still an improvement over what we've seen out there so far.

    If such a move were to happen, and we actually had a full retinue of healthy players, the lineup would apparently look something like:

    1. Figgins, LF
    2. Cabrera, SS
    3. Erstad, CF
    4. Vlad, IBB
    5. Garret, DH
    6. Bengie, C
    7. Kotchman, 1B
    8. McPherson, 3B
    9. Kennedy, team-leading .390 OBP*

    Another big question is whether or not Kotch is really ready to play first base every day. But, again, he wouldn't have to be great to be an improvement on Finley, who has a lower OPS than Bartolo Colon.

    So, if Darin's body can handle it, I'll join my Halospherians in rapture over this move.

    *Okay, so Adam Kennedy's not a qualifier, so if you gave him enough outs, his .390 OBP would drop below Vlad's .389. Sue me.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    I last did this nearly three weeks ago, on July 27th.

    Erick Aybar
    SS, AA Arkansas

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 450 132 24 7 7 23 45 293 338 424
    Then 383 106 22 7 4 19 41 277 325 402
    Erick bounces back a bit from a little tiny slump. For the record, his line now isn't far off of Alberto Callaspo's when he was promoted to AAA (297/346/409), so, with Brandon Wood's demolition job on California League pitching, why hasn't Aybar re-joined Callaspo in Salt Lake? The answer must be Brian Specht's 315/388/495 line at AAA. Aybar and Wood are both young for their leagues, so there's no need to rush.

    Alberto Callaspo
    2B, AAA Salt Lake

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 130 36 12 2 0 6 8 277 307 400
    Then 51 11 2 2 0 4 2 216 268 333
    Callaspo is trying to make a quick study of PCL pitching, and hitting .316 with 10 doubles over the last three weeks is a good sign. Still, you'd like to see some more walks, because one base on balls per week isn't really gonna cut it.

    Nick Gorneault
    OF, AAA Salt Lake

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 411 116 21 10 19 44 102 282 350 521
    Then 345 99 18 9 18 38 85 287 356 548
    A bit of a power outage for Gorneault, accompanied by a slight raise in an already-high strikeout rate. Still, very much in the range of what we should expect from him.

    Howie Kendrick
    2B, AA Arkansas

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 109 38 12 1 3 3 11 349 368 560
    Then 41 14 5 0 1 0 4 341 341 537
    Blah blah hits, blah blah free swinging, blah blah power, blah blah he slumped a bit and has been hot since, but maybe he's slumping if he's not hitting .370.

    REMOVAL: Baltasar Lopez
    I hadn't intended to remove anyone, but when you start the season suspended for PED use, then end up a Cal League backup, I don't need to watch you anymore. Sorry.

    Warner Madrigal
    OF, A Cedar Rapids

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 346 84 15 1 12 17 76 243 281 396
    Then 292 68 14 1 12 15 67 233 273 411
    Oh, good, now he's even losing the power.

    Jeff Mathis
    C, AAA Salt Lake

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 355 100 23 2 15 34 74 282 343 485
    Then 307 88 21 2 14 32 65 287 354 505
    On a down curve in his roller coaster. If the Angels elect to give him the catching job next year, I think having a reliable backup is going to be paramount. Keeping Mathis well-rested should be a big help to his production.

    Kendry Morales
    1B, AA Arkansas

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 200 48 8 0 10 13 32 240 290 430
    Then 135 32 5 0 4 8 23 237 280 363
    The power's starting to come, he's gaining a few more walks, but the average is still stuck in neutral. Still, he's making progress all-around.

    Mike Napoli
    C/1B, AA Arkansas

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 364 84 18 1 25 77 114 231 370 492
    Then 315 76 18 1 19 67 99 241 380 486
    He had been 15-109 (.138 average) over the previous month, and going 8-49 gets him to 23-158 (.146) going back to early July. He can still hit the ball over the bence, but, as you see, he has many more strikeouts than hits, which is not a good recipe.

    Sean Rodriguez
    SS, A Cedar Rapids

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 372 93 22 3 10 65 69 250 371 406
    Then 310 81 20 3 6 57 58 261 388 403
    Last year, in 196 AB at Cedar Rapids, S-Rod hit 250/333/393. So, we have 568 at-bats at A that tell us the guy is a .250 hitter at that level, with a SLG around .400. The plate discipline is encouraging, and he is very young, but he'll have to drag that average up to get noticed in the crowded Angel middle infield prospect picture.

    But, for encouragement, Brandon Wood at Cedar Rapids last season, at age 19: 251/322/404 in 478 AB. Rodriguez is 20, but still, clearly, has a lot of room to grow.

    Drew Toussaint
    2B/OF, A Cedar Rapids

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 338 89 23 2 17 40 108 263 346 494
    Then 281 79 20 2 16 31 86 281 356 537
    As he comes down the stretch in his first full pro season, Drew's numbers have been in a big tailspin. His strikeouts, which have haunted him all season, have ballooned: over the last three weeks, he has K'd in 38.6% of his at-bats. Whether this is fatigue, regression to the mean, or the league catching up with him, I don't know.

    Mark Trumbo
    1B, R Orem

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 209 57 20 0 4 15 51 273 320 426
    Then 142 39 15 0 3 7 38 275 307 444
    He lost some power, but the 8:13 BB:K ratio he's posted over the last three weeks is a huge improvement over what has come before. He's still raw.

    Reggie Willits
    OF, AA Arkansas

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 410 122 19 4 2 49 63 298 372 378
    Then 343 102 16 4 0 43 52 297 376 367

    Brandon Wood
    SS, A Rancho Cucamonga

    When?  AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
    Now 464 145 41 4 35 42 112 313 377 644
    Then 391 126 35 3 34 36 83 322 386 688
    He had gone on a 491/542/962 tear for a few weeks, so it was unlikely he was going to keep that up. There is still little to complain about here.

    Nick Adenhart
    SP, Arizona League

    When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
    Now 1 1 0 10 9 28.0 27 0 32 19 4.82
    Then 0 1 0 7 7 16.0 15 0 16 17 5.63
    There we go! 16 K's against only 2 BB's in 12 IP is totally sweet, and I'll let him give up a hit per inning while he manages that. Looks like his recovery is coming along nicely.

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

    When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
    Now 3 2 3 28 0 40.7 20 3 58 15 2.43
    Then 1 2 3 22 0 31.7 12 2 43 10 2.27

    Daniel Davidson
    SP, AA Arkansas

    When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
    Now 12 5 0 24 22 136.3 147 13 97 37 4.03
    Then 9 5 0 21 19 113.3 124 11 84 34 4.53
    He's on fire, and is offsetting a somewhat high hit rate with fantastic control (only three walks in his last 23 innings). Maybe you'd like to see more strikeouts, but he's a finesse kind of guy, and has really settled in at AA.

    Gustavo Espinoza
    SP, Arizona League

    When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
    Now 4 2 0 11 10 58.0 56 2 60 10 3.72
    Then 3 1 0 7 6 38.7 28 0 34 6 1.63
    Gustavo's had a couple of rough starts of late (in one, he fell apart in the fifth after four good innings; in another, he got beat up in the first before settling down a bit), but he still has healthy peripherals. There's nothing wrong with his line so far.

    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 9 7 0 24 24 140.7 153 16 120 53 4.35
    Then 7 7 0 20 20 114.7 122 16 94 45 4.40
    Shell, like Davidson, has really settled down after some shakiness threatened to make his year at AA something of a relative loss (much like his initial year in the Cal League). A twenty-two-year-old having that kind of success at AA is no bad thing.

    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
    On the DL.

    Jered Weaver
    SP, AA Arkansas

    When?   W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
    Now 1 1 0 4 4 19.0 23 4 20 10 5.68
    Then 0 0 0 1 1 4.0 7 1 2 1 6.75
    Home runs and walks will kill you, and Jered has met with too many of these in the Texas League. He's a bit of a flyball pitcher, so hopefully he'll learn to get the ball down a bit and keep it in the park.

    Bob Zimmerman
    RP, A Rancho Cucamonga

    When?  W   L   SV   G  GS    IP    H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
    Now 6 7 13 45 0 51.3 43 3 59 24 3.68
    Then 5 7 10 35 0 40.3 37 2 48 18 3.57
    That newest win came on a blown save, so don't get too excited. Still, the strikeouts are nice -- too many walks, though.

    I KNOW
    everyone else in the Halosphere has told you to read this, so you probably already have. But just in case you missed it somehow, you need to go read it, and posthaste. I'm using the word need here, people.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Two nice pieces in the Halosphere today; one from Rob breaking down the decisions that got us here, and Sean points out that here isn't such a bad place to be.

    Being one game out of first is not the end of the world. What's frustrating now is the manner in which the team keeps finding new and interesting ways to lose. It reminds most of us long-time Angel fans of the past, of the ways the team would historically grab defeat from the jaws of victory. A misplayed bad hop there, a drop of a throw there, and all of a sudden we're not in first place.

    But on a positive note, the Angels very easily could have taken all three games in NetAss, and the fact that they got so close and didn't just might light a fire under their ass to remind them that they're not entitled to wins. This is still a good team, and we should be in the thick of this thing the whole way.

    Still, it's not a perfect team. Rob points out the thinned bullpen, and he's right. And this was obvious going into the season, and the powers-that-be did little that had a chance to correct the situation.

    The loss of Percival was indeed a loss, not so much because he would be going, but because it was an attack on the team's depth. Esteban Yan, despite his scattered moments of non-sucking, was no kind of solution, and there wasn't ever really a chance that he would be. Bret Prinz was brought in, but immediately got injured. But it's not like a healthy Prinz would have been a guaranteed panacea: even with his one earned run in three innings this year, the guy has a 4.77 ERA in over 88 career innings.

    And the vaunted Angel Middle Relief Factory has had diminishing returns. Joel Peralta has his moments, and is decent (a 4.02 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning is nothing to scoff at from your fourth reliever), but has not demonstrated the consistency that you would want from someone in a killer lineup for the 7-8-9 innings. The same is true of Jake Woods. Meanwhile, Steve Andrade (dominating AA, as always) and Bobby Jenks (a 2.63 ERA in nearly 14 major league innings, with a 17:7 K:BB ratio) were allowed to go to other organizations, while retainees Tim Bittner (6.33 as a starter in AA) and Dusty Bergman (a solid 3.05 ERA in middle relief at AAA) haven't advanced up the ladder.

    I have also found Scioscia's use of the bullpen in recent weeks to border on the bizarre. Asking Shields to go two innings Wednesday instead of using Donnelly in the seventh strikes me as bizarre, but of course Donnelly had to go and spit on my belief in him the next day. And through it all, after magically being enshrined as Closer, Frankie K. has only 44 innings, and is on pace for only 63 innings all year. His DL stint has a little bit to do with that, but he's averaged 85 innings the previous two seasons, and his time missed doesn't explain that whole gap.

    One relatively undocumented story this season is that of Shields' alleged rubber arm. No matter how often the story of his 16-inning game from college is recounted, the fact is the man just can't pitch every single day, and he's demonstrated that plenty of times.

    The concern is that Scioscia has appeared to lose any confidence in Donnelly, which means he risks overextending Shields, and thus messing up the game before it even gets to Frankie. Donnelly has been inconsistent this year, and has been lit up of late, but his reliability is required. But if he and Peralta start going south permanently, our worries might become valid sooner than we think.

    Look, there's just no analysis to be given on Thursday's game.

    I hate day games. I was too busy at work to even remember there was a game, and didn't get to Gameday until it was the eighth inning, where I got to see that we had totally blown a four-run lead. Then, I had to step away from the computer for awhile ... and came back to learn that we had somehow lost the game on an error, or defensive indifference, or something. I finally figured out what had happened, and caught the video.

    It renders me speechless.

    I do know this: the damn pitch was a strike. Has there ever been a pitcher that throws more pitches that are basically down the middle and get called balls? I think that's three for Frankie over the last two years ... this one wasn't really right down the middle, but it was close, and I'm not exaggerating to say that he's thrown that slider right down the middle before and not gotten the strike call.

    Not that that has anything to do with anything; it's just the only pitch I've seen from the whole game. Like hell I'm going to go back and watch that.

    One thing I'll say for this team -- they are great at finding ways to lose that no one has seen before. I never could have imagined that it was possible to lose a game in this manner; this is going to be something we remember for the rest of our lives.

    Depending on how this season ends, we'll look back on this with either amusement or tears. Right now ... I got nothin' ...

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    One thing I'll say for Ervin -- even when he's pitching poorly, he's calm and collected, and not given to Ramon Ortiz/John Lackey In April meltdowns. So, when he's on, as he was tonight, his game is a thing of beauty.

    Six innings. 92 pitches -- 59 of which were strikes. Four K's to two walks and four scattered hits, including the one home run. Guys would get on, but The Kid always had the pitch to get out of it. He outdueled Barry Zito, and fairly handily.

    The problem was Scot Shields allowing a big hit or two. Question: why the hell was Shields in the game in the seventh, anyway? Why can't Brendan Donnelly take the seventh? If you're going to to ask Shields to pitch two innings every time there's a close game, you're going to end up with one gassed out Shields before too long. Scioscia's loss of trust in Donnelly is alarming, as there's no one poised to take his place; Joel Peralta, who seemed lined up for the position, gave it away with inconsistency.

    The OC's defense did the part of the giveaway job Shields failed to. This play was tougher than the one that Cabrera blew against the Yankees, but it still should have been made, and the Lads would have escaped the seventh with a tie game. Instead, it was over, and even a home run by Father Time (on a pitch Huston Street grooved to him, right down the middle) couldn't bring victory.

    The Wyrd's got a decent shot tomorrow, and our starting pitching has been excellent the first two games of this series. But the offense never really got to Zito after the two runs were scored; the A's pitchers are good at limiting damage, even after you touch them up a bit. Still, I feel pretty good going into Thursday's game ... which probably means we're gonna get smacked.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Pleased me.

    So, as you can see, I've played with the color scheme a bit, in an attempt ot have it match the team's colors. Is it an eyesore? If there are objections, let me know.

    UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. I've gone ahead and made the blog title in a deeper red (now it's Angel red as opposed to normal red) and also made the slogan and the stripe dark blue instead of Chavez Ravine blue. I've also added the silver motif to the title's background.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    ESPN Classic's obit for Mauch (via Rob).

    Two very nice pieces in the LA Times: one from Mike Penner and another from Ross Newhan. The obit is by Tim Brown.

    Meanwhile, Mark Whicker has his say in the OC Register.

    A Philadelphia persepective from Bill Conlin (registration required).


    Speaking of Ross Newhan, he has written a special to ESPN.com about how the Angel offense needs to be more consistent. Not news to anyone who follows the team, but ESPN probably thinks its readers will be surprised to learn about baseball happening in California at all.


    So, last night, driving home from work, I flip by 710 AM and hear Joe McDonnell interviewing Arte Moreno.

    First of all, I want to apologize to my readers for listening to McDonnell.

    Second of all, the only reason I didn't flip away upon hearing McDonnell's voice was that he was talking to Arte. They spoke of the trade deadline; Arte said that the Angels had thought they were going to make a trade, that it was going to add "about $30 million" to the payroll, and "at the twenty-fifth" hour the other team demanded another "young player" from the Angels, killing the deal.

    My guess is that this is in reference to Mike Sweeney (who, if traded, would have been owed $12.5M for each of the next two seasons, plus the balance due this year), and that Allard Baird just got a bit too greedy at the deadline. Depending on what Baird's demands were, it's likely the Angels were wise to walk away.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Gene Mauch, the man who basically defined to me what a manager was in my youth, passed away Monday at 79 years of age.

    Mauch has a highly unfair reputation as a "choker," based on the legendary collapse of his 1964 Philadelphia team and the playoff appearances he managed with the Angels. The 1982 Angel club took a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series before blowing it, and the 1986 team's collapse is legendary.

    I wasn't around for that Philadelphia team, and I'm just a bit too young to have a clear memory of 1982. But looking back on that '82 club, there is no shame in losing to the 1982 Brewers. There's an odd story about that series, I don't know if I have a cite for it, I think it's a Peter Gammons story ... anyway, Mauch had apparently predicted that the final game was going to come down to Cecil Cooper vs. Luis Sanchez (a righty pitcher), and that Sanchez was going to line out to third. Cooper came up in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on second and third, two outs, and the Angels leading 3-2. Mauch had lefty Andy Hassler up in the bullpen, who he could have brought in, and had first base open with switch-hitter Ted Simmons on deck.

    Mauch left Sanchez in to face Cooper; Cooper lined a base hit over third base to knock in what turned out to be the winning runs in the game and the series.

    Mauch, who had taken over the Angel job halfway through the 1981 campaign (after the Angels had suffered disappointments in the wake of their 1979 divisonal championship), resigned after that series. Mauch had done well by the team; they had gone 65-95 in 1980 and 51-59 in 1981. The '82 team was 93-69, but the next year, with much of the same key personnel, the best new manager John McNamara could wring from the club was 70-92. 1984 was just a little better, with an 81-81 record being secured by Mike Witt's perfect game on the last day of the season.

    Mauch was back in 1985, and the 90-72 Angels finished only one game behind the World Champion Kansas City Royals. The stage was set for the 1986 team, of which I'm sure you know plenty. Mauch oversaw the 1987 collapse, and then retired from managing.

    "The Little General" was known to have a keen analytical mind, which may have been both his greatest strength and greatest weakness as a manager. He was known to overmanage at times, and was a very participatory manager. Mauch never saw a sacrifice bunt he didn't like, and was renown for his love of "little ball." Though in the age of sabermetrics, this seems passe, Mauch came of age as a manager in the run-starved 1960s, where the strategy made a great deal of sense.

    Mauch was well-depicted in Mike Sowell's One Pitch Away about the 1986 postseason. He comes across as a man who gave his all, and took his losses very personally.

    Of course, Mauch oversaw quite a bit of success in his managerial career, and according to me, he has nothing to apologize for. All you can ask of a man is to give his best, and Mauch did what he could, and brought a few teams to the brink of glory. We should all be lucky to choke in such a fashion.

    I have updated my movie review blog with a dual review of Broken Flowers, starring Bill Murray, and Hong Kong import 2046, both of which opened in limited release this past weekend.

    At this point, I would assume that it's indisputable that the Oakland Athletics will not lose any more during the 2005 regular season. This will leave them with a record of 117-45. As the Angels are due to play the A's ten more times this season, the best the Angels can do is go 107-55.

    Of course, the prospect of the Angels going 41-0 against the non-A's for the rest of the season are pretty slim. If the Angels manage to go 26-15 in those 41 games, that would get the team up to 90 wins, which has a good chance of being enough for the Wild Card (the Yankees, second place in that race, are on a pace for 88 wins).

    Moving past the hyperbole for a moment ... I think looking at it that way illustrates how a postseason berth is very much attainable, regardless of what the A's do the rest of the way. Going 26-15 against human teams and 5-5 against the A's would ge the Angels up to 95 wins, which should really be enough. You can spend days going through all the combinations that will get us to a healthy win total, but the fact remains that the Lads cannot worry about Oakland (except for those ten games against them) and just have to focus on doing what they can by themselves.

    Such focus worked yesterday for Casey Kotchman. After struggling early this season in both AAA and the majors (it has been alleged that Kotch started the season too pull-conscious at the plate and got out of his game, though he denied this in a post-game interview Friday night), Casey has been warming up all year, and in his current call-up is 4-10 with three HR and three walks. His home run to straightaway center on Sunday was impressive, day game in the Big A or no, and he turned on a minor league pitch the way a major leaguer should in order to notch his grand slam.

    And though this might sound ridiculous, I was nearly as happy to see his two walks on Sunday as his two homers. For now, Kotch's game is more dependant on good plate discipline than it is on home run power. After having great control of the strike zone throughout his career, Casey started swinging at everything during his cup of coffee in 2004. This carried over a bit to his minor league performance. He had regained his eye in AAA this season, and walked 43 times against 40 strikeouts in 343 at-bats; he has five walks in his 20 major league at-bats this season.

    It's difficult to imagine that Kotch's recent hot streak hasn't bought him at least a few more at-bats in the coming week or two. With Darin Erstad apparently questionable to play defense, we may see The Punter at DH and Kotch at first on Tuesday. He'd probably sit against Barry Zito in this upcoming series, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Kotchman get the majority of DH/1B at-bats against righthanded pitchers in the near future.

    Because, honestly, there's nothing to lose. Angel DHs have a 644 OPS this season, which ranks last in the American League. While we're waiting for the return of Dallas McPherson, which is probably at least one series away, we might as well see if Kotchman can do the job.

    The problem is, if he is, once McPherson comes back, there's a logjam, because you need to find room for Figgins. And, unfortunately, you can't just platoon McPherson and Steve Finley. The Angels' confidence in Finley may be wavering, but there is every sign that he will be given the opportunity to play regularly. In order to stay in the lineup, Kotchman has to stay hot for the next few games. Then the return of McPherson could force Figgins into center field over Finley.
                 2005            2004
    Player EqA ZR(CF) EqA ZR(CF)
    Finley .231 .844 .271 .855
    Figgins .261 .861 .266 .822
    So, whether or not that's a good idea depends on whether or not Finley is really done or not.

    Of course, Kotch could go 0 for his next 15, look overmatched, and get sent back to AAA, in which case the team would just return to the rotating DH with Figgins in the Tony Phillips role. The DH drama has been one of the Angels' most compelling stories this year, and given how poorly they've performed, how it shakes out will go a long way in determining the team's fate.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    The Angels sure seem happy with their new lineup. And why shouldn't they? Since moving The OC to the second spot and The Punter to the third spot, thus putting Vlad fourth and Garret fifth, the team is 3-2, and has scored 37 runs in those games (7.4 runs per game). Stroke of genius, right?

    Orlando Cabrera was hitting 247/298/347 and the end of play on July 28. The next day, he was moved to the second spot, and now his line is all the way up to 250/304/350. He's gone 6-20 (.300 average) with three walks (.391 OBP) and two doubles (.400 SLG) in that time.

    Meanwhile, since moving to the third spot, Darin Erstad is 6-19 (.316) with two walks (.381) and one double (.368).

    The goal of the move was to get more "hitters" in front of Vlad so that he would come up more often with men on base. With Cabrera's .391 OBP and Erstad's .381 over the last five games, this has mostly worked.

    Though I'm glad this has worked out so far, or at least over the two days against a mediocre pitching staff, I am highly skeptical of it working for much longer. Cabrera is just not suited to one of the two top spots in the order. Cabrera has never had a season where he had an OBP higher than the park-adjusted league average (per BB-ref). Even in his best offensive seasons, Cabrera has been an out machine that balances it out with baserunning and adequate power.

    And Darin Erstad, as you know, is not a real third-place hitter. Last season was the first time he had an above-average OBP since his outrageous 2000 season, and only the fourth time in his career he had accomplished that feat. And Erstad's SLG has been well-below standard since 2000, as well.

    Eventually, this is going to catch up to the team, and Vlad and Garret are going to be up a lot with no one on base. It seems to me that if you want to get "hitters" in front of those guys, you would be best-served to move actual hitters to those spots. Someone like, I don't know, Adam Kennedy, who has an OBP of .376 and has been above-average in that category for each of the last three years.

    Of course, the crazy thing about baseball is that, even though that may make sense, it may not have worked as well, as Kennedy hasn't been too hot the last couple of games.

    Another factor, and one about which I'm an avowed skeptic, is the psychological. Perhaps moving Cabrera up in the order will cause him to focus more and become a better hitter -- or at least hit up to his career norms, which he has been underperforming all season. (That wouldn't necessarily speak well of Cabrera's professionalism, but maybe putting him in the two-spot gives him a definite role upon which he can concentrate and excel.) And maybe shaking up the lineup helped to free the minds of Angel hitters, who may have been pressing due to the team-wide offensive woes of July. Maybe it's a placebo effect. Or maybe it's an effect of getting to face Sidney Ponson.

    You can't prove to me that those are factors, and I can't prove to you that they aren't. Either way, I still believe that in the long run this new lineup is asking for trouble (though, honestly, lineup effects are pretty small), but I'll delight while it seems to work, and I welcome Cabrera and Erstad to prove me wrong.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    As you know, the Angels just finished the 17-game Gauntlet against some tough teams, and came out much the worse for wear. As you may or may not recall, before that series of games began, I figured the Angels had to go 9-7 in those games to meet expectations, which was stupid because they played 17 games, not 16, so all I proved is that I don't know how to count.

    So they "should" have gone 10-7, probably, but went 8-9 instead. So, with our division lead down to a tenuous one game, how do the next few weeks look?

    The next week brings us a scuffling Baltimore team and a typical Tampa Bay team. That's six games at home, and we need to and can win both series. Going 4-2 on the homestand would be fine, going 5-1 would be fantastic. Getting those two series is particularly big because the Lads then have a grueling 13-game stretch with no days off, playing Oakland, Seattle, Toronto, and Boston. It's imperative to strike back at Oakland, Seattle, and Toronto for their recent humiliations of us -- those teams have gone 9-1 against us since the beginning of July.

    And though we get Boston for four games at home, it's still Boston, so the outlook isn't brilliant. A split there would be acceptable, but we're getting way ahead of ourselves.

    As for now, it's up to Bartolo Colon to put a stop to the madness. The Big Mango had put up three starts from the June, 2004 Collection before pitching well in a no-decision in Toronto last week. He's facing a reeling Orioles club, but one that, even without Rafael Palmeiro, still has some pop. Their 143 home runs rank third in the AL, and their .460 slugging percentage ranks only behind the Ballpark-aided Texas Rangers.

    These numbers are not a mere creation of Camden Yards; Balitmore ranks second in the league in runs scored on the road, and their .474 slugging percentage on the road is the best mark in the circuit. Though Oriole Park does increase home runs, it cuts down on hits and extra-base hits, and overall is a fairly neutral park, often leaning toward the pitcher's side of things.

    I mention this because one of Colon's heel's is that he gives up a number of home runs. And, as I mentioned, the O's still have power in their lineup. Brian Roberts has come out of nowhere to post a 325/400/549 line, and has raked right-handed pitchers to the tune of 365/431/609.

    Miguel Tejada is his usual kickass self, and Melvin Mora is having a very solid season, as well.

    All of which is to say that Bartolo has to be on his game tonight to get the Angels back on track. The Orioles aren't pushovers, and our offense might have to get in gear to beat them. The time is now.

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