Monday, August 08, 2005

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.

Wow, you mean that Figgy is going to get caught with a crackpipe in a Costa Mesa motel? That is the Tony Phillips role I recall...
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