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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

FEEL THE LACK
GS  W   L   IP   H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
15 4 6 79.3 102 11 47 40 6.81
That's John Lackey's total line for each April (and one March start) from 2003 through 2005. Known for slow starts, Lackey always struck me as a guy who could put together a Cy Young-caliber season if he could just start the season with anything near the domination with which he tends to end it.

After his first start against Seattle, it looked like more of the same for Big John in 2006. He fell prey to the big inning that has always been his bete noir, giving up five runs in one inning, derailing an otherwise solid start.

So last night's effort was doubly pleasing; not only did Lackey shut down a good offensive team, he did so in dominant fashion, striking out eight against only one walk, and allowing a mere four hits. He did allow a two-run homer to Phil Nevin, but whenever a guy hits an opposite-field home run against you, you have to tip your cap and give him some credit for some good hitting.

In the meantime, the Angels managed to find enough holes in the Texas defense to notch five runs. Looking up and down the lineup, most of the Lads are on-track with the lumber, with Orlando Cabrera starting off particularly hot with a 370/414/630 line. He obviously won't keep that up, but he's earning his spot in the order so far.

The only real struggles have come from Garret Anderson, who showed some signs of life going 2-4 with a ribbie yesterday; Darin Erstad, who's nowhere near as bad as his current 240/240/320 line; Jose Molina, who could never hit, anyway; and Casey Kotchman, who has mixed up good at-bats and poor at-bats thus far.

I'm not ready to worry about Kotch yet; we're just a week into the season. But one thing he needs to start doing is laying off those fadeaway changeups from right-handed pitchers. He's struck out an uncharacteristic four times already this season, three of which came against northpaws, who tease him with off-speed away and get him off-balance. You can be assured that this will be the plan of attack on Kotchman for any and all right-handers with a circle change until he establishes that he's gonna lay off that pitch.

It's also somewhat bothersome that he only has one base on balls so far, but he's gotten off to slow starts before (as in last year at AAA) and bounced back.

The team has actually struck out quite a bit more than expected, with Vlad whiffing once every 5.0 AB (his career mark coming into '06 is 8.1) and Garret once every 2.9 (much worse than his lifetime 7.3). Hopefully those are just blips, especially in Garret's case, and not a sign of any long-term problems (such as, for instance, declining batspeed).

But all-in-all we're trucking along, and Jeff Weaver needs to step up tonight. He will face Rick Bauer, who hasn't started a game in the majors since 2004, and has a lifetime of rather mediocre performance in the minors. It would be nice for the Angel bats to deliver a comfortable win, give the bullpen a rest, and help Weaver the Elder to his first Halo victory.

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