Monday, May 29, 2006

Just an FYI that my schedule will preclude me from making any real posts before Wednesday, at which point I'll be summing up my impressions of Jered Weaver, as well as pontificating about whatever other things come up between now and then.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Chone posted this before Jered got the call-up -- I just was unable to post yesterday to link to it (or anything else, for that matter). Prescience, poetry, what more do you want?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Angels won a baseball game last night! Woo!

Of course, the big story is Kendry Morales, who picked up right where he left off at Salt Lake, going 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and an excellent defensive play to boot, cutting down the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt. Kendry's defense has not been well-regarded, but he pounced on that bunt well and demonstrated a strong and accurate arm, so who knows. Defense was always supposed to be a problem with Dallas McPherson, but aside from a lapse here and there D has been the least of Big D's problems since reaching the majors.

Ken' Mo' will have ample opportunity to make his place in the lineup permanent, and his approach at the plate last night even when he made his outs gave us a hint that he should be able to do that. If Casey Kotchman can come back healthy and productive, Kendry will likely find himself slotted as a DH, which is fine with me, as Juan Rivera has been struggling mightily. Of course, how this potential lineup crunch plays out will depend on how well the team is doing as a whole.

The Angels will have to do one of two things this year: win the division (or at least come so close to doing so that going for it makes sense) or determine if their young players are going to be ready to play in the majors next season. If we're still miserable at the All Star Break, I'm all for installing Casey at first (if he's healthy enough), Kendry at DH, and McPherson at third every day, and just letting them play. For instance, Dallas McPherson turns 26 this year, and we still don't know if the guy is a major league regular. That's a determination we'll all be better off making sooner than later, as long as it doesn't cost us a legitimate chance at a championship (a chance that, yesterday notwithstanding, certainly appears distant at the moment).


Today's essential reading is this recent post from Bjoern, who breaks down the key Angel hitters do determine their chances of turning it around. I don't think I totally agree with his conclusion that "the Angels offense isn’t so much a problem of bad luck or underperformance but of player quality," given that everyone's underperforming their past performances and projections.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Turns out there is a blog about the Angels in Chinese. Well, I believe it's Chinese, based on the fact that the author links to baseball-oriented blogs that are in Chinese.

Anyway, this author, Walaykao, links to this Ken Rosenthal column that says:
The Jays are targeting Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy, and almost certainly would part with first baseman/DH Shea Hillenbrand in an exchange of potential free agents. The Angels need to add offense and could use a proven hitter like Hillenbrand at first, as opposed to another minor-league callup like Kendry Morales.
As I type this, Kendry is 2-for-2 with a two-run homer, so hopefully this horrid rumor can be buried in someone's backyard.

As Walaykao says, and I can find no basis to disagree, "第三,Kennedy 是個生涯 EqA .261 的二壘手,今年的年薪是 3.35M;Hillenbrand 是個生涯 EqA .266 的一壘手,今年要領 5.8M。兩個人的合約都是今年到期。"

Kendry Morales made his professional debut in the US almost exactly a year ago (May 21, in fact), and homered on his first swing, in Ranco Cucamonga. He made quick work of the California League, hitting 344/400/544 in over 90 at-bats, and was promoted to AA.

It was there that the problems began. He started off 0-for-11, and as late as August 15th was stuck on an unimpressive 240/290/430 line with 200 AB. But Kendry caught fire, hitting 469/494/778 the rest of the way, to raise his season line at the level to a respectable, if unspectacular, 306/349/530.

Those aren't great numbers for the Texas League, but for a 21-year-old, they're pretty impressive, and were certainly sufficient to earn him a promotion to AAA this season. But once again, Kendry started off slowly; at my last Watch List Update on May 11, Kendry was hitting poorly, at 241/296/362. Here's what I said at the time:
He's drastically improved his walks, which is welcome, but Kendry hasn't started to do much of anything when he has to swing at pitches. I suspect he'll turn it around sooner than later.
By "turn it around," I never imagined that he would do this:
When     AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
5/12-22 45 23 5 0 2 2 3 0 0 511 532 756
So that's, um, pretty good.

Given Kendry's previous experiences, we shouldn't be surprised if he struggles for a bit in his first exposure to the major leagues. He's taken a few months to adjust to each new level; I have no evidence that he'll do the same in the AL, but I don't have any reason to think he'll do any differently, either.

But even if our worst fears come true and he takes two months to figure out what's going on, the Angels are going to have to give him those two months at some point. The way we're "playing," those two months might as well start now. Mike Scioscia claims Kendry is going to get his chance, and the Angel braintrust should certainly know better than you or me how long it takes Kendry to adjust to new levels of competition.

We just have to avoid going into panic mode if the kid doesn't get a hit for a week. Remember, he hasn't even turned 22 yet. He's up ahead of schedule. But he's shown some excellent potential in the 367 days he's been in the United States, and has earned his chance to play for the big club.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Okay, let's take Vlad out of the equation.

That leaves us with Jose Molina, Casey Kotchman, Adam Kennedy, Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Juan Rivera, Tim Salmon, Maicer Izturis, Robb Quinlan, and Edgardo Alfonzo as the remaining Halo position players with any kind of major league track record. (I'm, obviously, assuming Dallas doesn't make the cut here.)

Over their careers, that group of players has posted an Equivalent Average -- the offensive measure used at BPro -- of .266, and over the last four seasons it has been .261. The league average, by definition, is .260.

--Me, March 30, 2006
Yeah, so how's that one working out?

If you want the simple reason we're so unwatchable right now, it's that the above collection of hitters -- a group with an established talent level in the EqA range of .261-.266, has posted a collective -- you're not going to believe this -- .213. Take Alfonzo out of the equation, and the remaining guys are at .232. Take out Erstad and Rivera, each of whom lost (or are losing) significant time to injury, and you get to a whopping .234.

Taken as a whole, these players are roughly 28 runs (close to three wins) below average, which for all intents and purposes means that they're three wins below expectations. Add in Vlad, who despite hitting well is still below his usual excellence (a .299 EqA where he's usually closer to .320, which at this point in the season is only a difference of a few runs), as well as rookies such as Jeff Mathis underperforming drastically, and there you have it: an offense that is probably four to five wins below where they were projected to be.

Even if we say we "should" be five wins better, that just gets us to 22-22. We've also had problems in the starting rotation. Regression here was expected after the superb performances put up by most of our starting five last year, but we currently have three rotation spots underperforming to varying degrees:

1. Ervin Santana, as befits a young pitcher, has been inconsistent. I don't think him having an average ERA this year would have been an out-of-line expectation (and of course he has plenty of time to right the ship), maybe just a bit worse. The AL ERA right now is 4.71, and with Angel Stadium historically helping pitchers a bit, we can guesstimate 4.50 as the park-adjusted average. Ervin's 5.02 ERA is a bit worse than this, to the tune of around three earned runs so far. (If I'm right about the park-adjusted ERA being 4.50, his ERA+ is 90, identical to last season's mark. And remember, he came on strong in the second half last year.)

2. The dropoff from Bartolo Colon's injury has been huge. I think he could have been expected to have had an ERA around 15% better than average (roughly 3.90 given our assumptions above). Instead, Bartolo, Kevin Gregg, and Hector Carrasco have combined for an ERA of 6.60 in nearly 44 innings, a loss of roughly 13 runs, at the very least (probably more as a healthy Bartolo would have more than 44 innings at this point).

3. I'm pretty sure you know about the struggles of Jeff Weaver. He was expected to be a league-average innings-eater; his unsightly 7.30 ERA is an outrageous 15 runs below average.

Add it all up, and there's another three wins the rotation has cost us, simply by vastly underperforming against their reasonable expectations.

Give us back all the wins I've discussed here, and suddenly we're 25-19, which would be a fine place to be. And I haven't even (and won't be here) addressed the bullpen or defense.

Will these guys start playing like they're capable? I, of course, don't know. They sure don't look like they will. Five-and-a-half games is not an insurmountable deficit, but the way we're playing now, it might as well be 55 games.

What needs to happen over the next few weeks to get us back to being a reasonable excuse for a ballteam:

1. Bartolo Colon has to either has to come back at full strength or his rotation spot needs to be adequately filled by Jered Weaver or one of the other spot starters.

2. Jeff Weaver needs to get his act together, and stat.

3. Someone who plays first base needs to start hitting.

4. Juan Rivera needs to start hitting.

5. Garret heating up would be nice.

That's pretty much it. Sure sounds easy when you type it; we just have to hope that our guys can get it done.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I may owe Chone Figgins an apology for my post of yesterday. According to today's OC Register, it was Adam Kennedy questioning Figgins' jump from second, not Figgins calling out AK for making a bad bunt, that started the clubhouse fracas.

Darin Erstad's "AK made a mistake", for all I know, refers to him lashing out at Figgins as opposed to his making a "bad" bunt, though I can't tell exactly from the context of the quote.

Either way, these guys are playing like little leaguers, and they have no one to blame but their own selves for their (and our) troubles.

Friday, May 19, 2006

So tempers boiled after last night's loss, one of the most appalling and disgusting incidents of ballplaying I have seen in years. Several Angels seem to feel the same way, and a dispute broke out in the locker room after last night's "game".

Piecing together accounts from various media, Legs Figgins was upset because Adam Kennedy didn't properly get a bunt down in the seventh inning. An argument broke out, and Darin Erstad intervened to regulate, yelling, "This is going to stop right … now! There's going to be no finger-pointing, I don't care who you are! It's over! If we go down, we're all going down together! We're going to pull for everybody! No talking behind anyone's back! Let's pull for each other! Let's go!"

A few observations on this dispute and the game as a whole:

1. Figgins criticizing Kennedy for not getting a bunt down is rich. Figgins is probably the worst bunter I've ever seen, at least out of guys who should be expected to bunt. And Kennedy's bunt, though obviously not good enough, sure wasn't awful; it was better than the best bunt Figgins has ever made.

While we're at it, how many times has The Legs screwed up on defense in the past week, anyway? He made three or four misplays in the Toronto series alone, between dropping balls and getting horrible jumps in center. I love ya, Chone, but glass houses and all that.

2. Asking Mike Napoli to make the fourth sacrifice bunt of his professional career as a squeeze play in the bottom of the eighth of a tie game is one of the craziest things I have ever seen. Mike Scioscia just got way too cute with that one.

While we're on the subject, Napoli has performed much better than I expected so far. The sample size is very small and he hasn't been around the league, but he looks very comfortable both at and behind the plate. He's not going to keep hitting .333, and I do expect his strikeouts to rise, but he definitely seems like a guy that will be able to help a major league team over his career.

3. I don't know where anyone on this team gets off blaming anyone else for the loss; just about every guy who played in the game gets some responsibility, except for maybe JC Romero and Scot Shields. And Erick Aybar was fine. And it does seem a bit churlish to blame Napoli for not getting that bunt down out of nowhere, but there were plenty of missed opportunities and defensive meltdowns all over the place.

4. John Lackey: trust your fastball and throw some damn strikes. Jeez.

Anyway, I'm not willing to give up on this season yet. No one in the division is really doing anything of note, and we can and should be playing better than this. If we're still struggling in a month, sure, see if we can move some of the veterans and get the kids up early. But part of this is that I think guys like Kendrick and Aybar should get a full year in AAA. I don't really see how starting their arb clocks early is going to help anything.

Of course, I won't deny that we suck right now. This team looks awful. I can't remember the last time I had so little confidence as we went into a series against the loathful Chavez Ravine.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I don't really like piling on our TV announcers here, because I think there's enough criticism of them out there in the ether. But they made a pretty egregious mistake last night, one that absolutely boggled my mind.

As you may recall, Orlando Cabrera attempted to steal second base with one out and Tim Salmon at the plate. Predictably, Bengie Molina's throw to second was not in time, and The OC was ruled safe.

But then home plate umpire Mike Winters ordered Cabrera back to first. Phys and Hud immediately concluded that this was due to batters' interference, and proclaimed it a bad call.

It wasn't such interference, of course, because when interference is called, the runner is called out. You probably remember us losing a game earlier this year when Jeff Mathis interfered with a catcher, making the final out of the game. If no one is called out, it ain't interference.

Amazingly, our TV guys even mentioned the Mathis incident, but somehow failed to realize that the fact that Cabrera wasn't called out was a big honking hint that interference had not been called on Salmon.

Now, I watched this game on DVR, fast-forwarding between pitches, so I don't know if this was ever corrected. I did watch the postgame interviews, where Lindsay Soto (and don't even get me started on her) asked Bengie Molina what the call was, and he said that he had stepped on the umpire's foot while pivoting to make his throw, which rendered the ball dead, meaning Lando had to return to first.

I don't blame our broadcast crew for not figuring that out immediately; it didn't occur to me -- my best guess was that the ump called it a foul tip or something, though he never signaled same, and I was rather confused. But I knew damn well it wasn't batters' interference. Everyone makes mistakes, but viewers at home shouldn't be more informed than the announcers on the goings-on of the ballgame.

Of course, the game overall was terrific, as we got some offensive production up and down the lineup to support a solid start by Ervin Santana. It's a hopeful sign that our offense is starting to get in shape and make baseball fun again.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Angels have finally come around to realize that Howie Kendrick's development is not being aided by his getting two starts per week, and have returned him to AAA where he can play every day.

Given the circumstances of his time in the majors, his poor performance in the majors is no surprise. As has oft been noted, even great players often struggle in their first exposure to the big club, and an every-day player often has difficulty adjusting to a part-time role. Asking a minor league star to adjust to an off-and-on schedule of playing time is asking a bit much, I think; the only way to learn how to hit major league pitching is to go out there every day and do it, not only go out every now and then and try. Kendrick should get back into the swing of things at Salt Lake and keep himself directed at taking over the starting job next season.

Of course, the word is that the Angels will recall Erick Aybar in his stead. Aybar is another top prospect and will provide depth at shortstop; as of this moment, the only guy to back up The OC is Legs Figgins.

Of course, to give Cabrera a day off, the Lads could always station Robb Quinlan or Edgardo Alfonzo at third and put Chone at short, but with Q settling into a platoon role at first base and The Fonz unable to hit his ass with both hands, management is apparently unwilling to go that road. To me, this calls into question the viability of having Alfonzo on the roster -- he hasn't played in a game since May 6, and has only one multi-hit game all season.

Not to beat a dead horse, but if he's not going to figure into anything, he's just wasting a spot on both the 25- and 40-man rosters, and the team might be better served to designate him for assignment and replace him with someone like Brian Specht, a legit utility infielder, and save our top prospects like Kendrick and Aybar for occasions where a starting player needs to be replaced for a few weeks at a time.

Of course, the 25th spot on the roster is the least of our problems right now. The most of our problems is the team-wide inability to hit; Orlando Cabrera is the only guy hitting better right now than we should expect (well, he and Mike Napoli), and the only guy hitting substantially better than average is Vlad (though he too is slightly below where is final numbers will likely end up). Adam Kennedy is hitting how he usually does, but the rest of the team continues to struggle.

Struggles are also infecting the other side of the ball, particularly Jeff Weaver. Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel was supposed to pitch around 220 league-average innings; instead his ERA is a grotesque 7.40 and he's averaging less than six innings per start.

His "performance" thus far isn't really an illusion of bad luck. He's allowed line drives on 25% of his balls in play, a staggering number; 20% of the flyballs he's allwoed have left the yard, which is also high (and likely to come down over time). He's also only induced 3.1% of balls in the air to be infield flies, which are almost always caught; his career mark in this regard is above 10%.

As a result, he's only stranded 59% of opposing runners; he's more typically around 72%, a pretty standard number for starting pitchers.

Weaver hasn't pitched this poorly since his sojourn with the Yankees a few years ago, and as such I have to think that he'll turn it around eventually. But he looked terrible against Seattle yesterday, throwing pitch after pitch belt-high down the middle. Guess what? Major league hitters can hit that pitch hard. Who'da thunk?

But all of his numbers are so out-of-whack with what he's done in the past, so I have to conclude that he's either hurt or due to improve. Because he can't get worse. And if he does, he just might lose his job to his brother a bit before he expected.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I last did this on April 26.

Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick have been removed from the list for the duration of their major league stays; Jeff Mathis has been added in Napoli's stead. I've also kicked Warner Madrigal and Bob Zimmerman to the Watch Out list, because I'm out of patience.

As an aside, a Brewers blogger has started collecting and posting splits for minor league hitters and pitchers (previously linked at BTF and by Halofan). This is, of course, totally sweet. Sample sizes for platoon splits are still pretty low, but data is also included for groundballs and flyballs hit and allowed, as well as line drives and bunts. This is great stuff.

Anyway, here's the Watch List, with everyone's current numbers compared to where they were on April 26.

Position Players

Erick Aybar, SS, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 127 37 6 2 3 8 17 12 6 291 338 441
Then 78 27 2 2 2 5 10 6 4 346 393 500
After a very hot start, Erick has cooled considerably, going 10 for his last 49 (a .204 average). His current numbers are in line with what we would expect from him.

Michael Collins, C, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 118 40 5 1 3 6 19 2 1 339 383 475
Then 67 25 5 1 2 4 10 0 1 373 427 567
The Irish freedom-fighter has suffered a power outage the last two weeks, managing only one extra-base hit out of his 15 safeties. His free-falling batting average doesn't really concern me, it's not like he has to hit .370, but I would like to see him reclaim some of the bases on balls he's posted in the past.

Nick Gorneault, OF, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 121 36 8 3 4 12 28 0 1 298 361 512
Then 73 20 2 1 4 5 18 0 1 274 321 493
Nick Gorneault is currently on pace to have a typical Nick Gorneault season.

Jeff Mathis, C, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 23 8 3 0 0 2 7 0 0 348 385 478
A nice return to AAA, but it's too early to draw any conclusions.

Kendry Morales, 1B/DH, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 116 28 3 1 3 9 22 0 2 241 296 362
Then 74 18 1 0 3 1 13 0 2 243 253 378
He's drastically improved his walks, which is welcome, but Kendry hasn't started to do much of anything when he has to swing at pitches. I suspect he'll turn it around sooner than later.

Sean Rodriguez, SS, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 117 38 6 1 4 4 34 6 3 325 365 496
Then 58 23 4 1 3 2 16 4 1 397 429 655
Another guy who has cooled off after a great start, Sean Rodriguez seems to have forgotten how to walk. I'm happy with his batting average where it is, and the SLG isn't too far off of what I'd like to see, but walks were a key part of his game at lower levels. I don't know that he projects to be a high-average hitter, so getting on base and controlling the strike zone is important for him. A SO:BB ratio of 8.5:1 is a bit frightening.

Drew Toussaint, OF, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 103 20 6 0 3 12 38 1 0 194 291 340
Then 62 17 6 0 3 7 20 1 0 274 357 516
Egad. Drew is mired in the slump to end all slumps, going 3-for-41 over the last two weeks, adding up to a 073/174/073 AVG/OBP/SLG line. Not to mention that he's struck out in 44% of his last 41 at-bats. I think he's better than this -- hell, I think I'm better than this, but yikes. This makes Mike Napoli's 23-for-158 last summer look like a DiMaggian streak.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B, A Cedar Rapids, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 92 17 3 0 4 5 22 1 0 185 232 348
Then 48 8 0 0 1 3 12 1 0 167 226 229
Trumbo is one of the few guys here who seems not to have been affected by the major offensive slump afflicting this organization from the top down. Of course, the fact that his hitting .205 for a couple of weeks raises his batting average illustrates how poorly he has started the season.

Reggie Willits, CF/LF, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 76 24 5 2 1 12 13 8 3 316 404 474
Then 47 14 4 1 1 4 6 6 x 298 353 489
I guess his pinch-running cup of coffee with the big club make him hungry. I think Tommy Murphy has the defensive caddy spot locked up in the majors for now, which is fine as it allows Willits to continue his development on the farm.

Brandon Wood, SS, AA Arkansas, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 131 36 11 0 8 14 42 3 0 275 356 542
Then 78 25 8 0 5 8 29 1 0 321 386 615
A guy who strikes out a third of the time is much more likely to hit .250 than .320, so the drop in his batting average has been expected. But there are some things to like; his strikeout rate dropped from 34% of plate appearances in his first three weeks to 22% over the last two weeks, and his walk rate marginally increased from 9.3% to 10.2%. A guy who strikes out a fifth of the time will whiff 120 in a 600-PA season, which if accompanied by prodigious power at a premium defensive position is not a horrible thing.

Watch Out: Brett Martinez, Dallas Morris, Warner Madrigal, Ryan Mount, Aaron Peel, P.J. Phillips, Freddy Sandoval, Hainley Statia, Bobby Wilson


Nick Adenhart, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 5 0 0 7 7 43.7 30 1 46 10 1.65
Then 3 0 0 4 4 24.7 14 1 24 5 1.46
I don't think this kid has anything to prove in the Midwest League. I hope he gets promoted to Rancho so that I can make a field trip and see him.

Steve Andrade, RHRP, AAA Omaha (Royals Organization) and MLB Royals
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 4 0 4.7 5 0 5 4 9.64
Now 0 0 0 5 0 9.0 4 0 13 4 2.00 AAA Final
Then 0 0 0 4 0 7.0 2 0 10 3 2.57

And, so far, he's been lit up. Well, he pitched well in two outings and poorly in two outings, so obviously it's far too early to say anything. But he's definitely earned his shot, so I'm glad he's getting it.

Jose Arredondo, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 1 1 0 6 6 31.3 29 1 49 12 2.59
Then 0 0 0 4 4 19.7 21 0 32 7 2.75
His walks have shot up in the past couple of weeks, but he's more than holding his own in a tough league for moundsmen.

Daniel Davidson, LHSP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 1 3 0 7 7 44.3 52 4 20 12 5.08
Then 0 1 0 4 4 23.7 27 2 12 9 4.56
Another guy for whom my patience wavers. You're repeating AA and can't strike out a guy for every two innings? With the Arredondos and Mendozas and Mareks (Stephen Marek has a great chance at taking this spot on my next go-around of this thing) and everyone else in the system, Davidson is pretty much buried if he doesn't turn this around, and stat.

Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
He has tendonitis and is due to start the season with Orem in late June. I'll keep here just so no one forgets about him.

Tommy Mendoza, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 1 3 0 7 7 41.7 42 5 36 6 4.10
Then 1 1 0 4 4 23.7 25 1 17 3 3.42
Tommy's gotten a bit home-run-happy in his last three starts, but the strikeout-to-walk ratio is hard to argue against.

Rafael Rodriguez, RHSP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 1 0 4 4 18.3 26 8 14 8 10.31
Then 0 0 0 1 1 6.0 6 3 3 2 6.00
I was quick to add him after he annihilted the Cal League for two weeks and earned a promotion, but since then he's gone from K-Rod2 to HR-Rod. Growing pains, certainly, but so far it's been ugly.

Steve Shell, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 3 2 18.0 10 3 14 4 2.00
Then 0 0 0 1 0 3.0 2 1 3 0 6.00
Shell has acclimated nicely to AAA, possibly putting himself in the mix for a spot start for the big club in the future (though he obviously ranks behind Jered Weaver on that list).

Von Stertzbach, RHRP
Hasn't played.

Jered Weaver, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 2 1 0 6 5 35.0 32 4 46 6 3.34
Then 2 1 0 4 4 23.0 23 4 26 4 3.91
Jered is pitching very well of late, striking out 20 against only two walks in his last couple of appearances, and allowing no homers. It was reported that his groundball-to-flyball ratio last season was .40, but this year it's a much more healthy .59. He still looks like a guy who will give up more than his fair share of home runs, just because of the volume of flyballs, but he's making strides in that regard and the rest of his performance is unassailable.

Watch Out: David Austen, Trevor Bell, Stephen Marek, Bob Zimmerman

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

1. Designate Esteban Yan for assignment; replace him on the 25-man roster with Jason Bulger and on the 40-man roster with Brian Specht.
Is there anything Esteban Yan really brings to a team at this point? Sure, he did string some scoreless innings together earlier this season, but we're talking about a guy with a 4.83 ERA in nearly 86 innings in Angel Red. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is an uncomfortable 59:42 in that time, his WHIP a substandard 1.45.

It's not that Jason Bulger is a panacea for anything, and it's not like the bullpen is a weakness, anyway, but the guy has a 0.57 ERA in 15 2/3 innings at Salt Lake, striking out 23 against only 5 walks and 9 hits. Even if he just comes up and performs like this season's version of Joel Peralta, that's not bad for the fourth or fifth guy out of the pen.

Another benefit is to clear a space on the 40-man, which could also be done by issuing a DFA to the likes of Greg Jones (who would have a great shot at passing through waivers, in my opinion) or even, if we're tired of him, Edgardo Alfonzo.

2. Return Howie Kendrick to Salt Lake and recall Brian Specht.
Is Howie Kendrick really advancing his game by starting twice a week for the big club? The kid needs to develop offensively and defensively to be in a position to take over the keystone next year, and the best way for that to happen is for him to play every day.

Brian Specht can play second, third, and short, can draw a walk, and can steal a base. He's basically the ideal guy to warm Maicer Izturis' spot while the latter is on the DL.

3. Dallas McPherson: all we can guarantee you is three weeks. Make the best of them.
Yeah, three weeks isn't much, so that kind of sucks. But Casey Kotchman will be on the DL for two, and I think he should be rehabbed at AAA for at least a week after that. That gives Dallas three weeks to demonstrate he can help the team now. Three weeks to produce.

Of course, common sense should be used; if he goes 0-for-three-games with a bunch of hard-hit lineouts and good at-bats, that's a good thing. But he has to show something in order to stay in the mix when/if Casey comes back.

4. Casey Kotchman goes on "rehab" until he gets his swing straightened out.
Casey started last season in terrible slump at AAA, was recalled and slumped some more, then went back down. He got it together, and after being called up later that summer, hit 302/369/526 the rest of the way.

I think he can hit 270/350/420 for us this year, and that's not awful. But he needs to show that he's his old self.

5. Give Garret Anderson a first baseman's glove and tell him to love it or suck it.
Not to be a starter. But this has to do with Juan Rivera taking over in center while Darin Erstad's out. Start Rivera in center, and designate Tommy Murphy as his defensive caddy for late in games, with Murphy entering at center, moving Juan Rivera to left.

Of course, there will be situations where we don't want to lose Garret's bat from the lineup. Well, we're not going to move him to catcher for those situations, so learn him at first.

There may also be times when we want to pinch-run Tommy Murphy for Kotch or Dallas in late innings, so this is also an alternative that can re-set our defense in such situations.

6. Edgardo Alfonzo: on thin ice.
As mentioned above, you could argue that Alfonzo should be the guy DFA'd to make room for Specht. I don't know that I'd argue with you. He's not hitting, his fielding has seemed decent but would be made redundant by calling up a legit utility guy, and there's no real reason he should take any playing time away from a healthy Robb Quinlan.

Anyway, nothing here shatters the world; just little improvements to try to get the team on track. At the end of the day, no amount of roster magic will do the trick until these guys start to produce at the plate.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mike Emeigh over at BTF picked up on this Deseret Morning News story that claims Dallas McPherson was promoted to the Angels after last night's Salt Lake game. There are exactly zero references to this elsewhere, so I don't know if this is true or not, or who may have been sent down/DL'ed to make room for him on the 25.

UPDATE: Thanks to Bryan in the comments for pointing out that Rotoworld reports that D-Mac is up to take Casey Kotchman's place, who at long last is going on the DL. Also listed in the transactions at ESPN's site.

Let's face it: the Angels aren't any fun to watch right now. They're not fun to listen to. They're not fun to read about. They're not fun to write about. And they're not fun to contemplate.

What we've seen is exactly what we saw in the long summer of 2005, where on good days our pitchers pitch just well enough to allow one more run than our hollow offense can score, and bad days see our opponents put the game out of reach with one crooked number on the line score.

A week ago today, I looked at how our players were performing relative to reasonable expectations, and found we were around 20 to 25 runs behind. Suffice to say that nothing has changed in the intervening week to make me think we've made up that gap. Mike Scioscia is quoted in the Times today as saying, "we're just not playing anywhere near our capabilities right now," and this is a fact. Look up and down the lineup and you can see it to be true.

Jose Molina came into the season as a career 239/283/338 hitter; he's hitting 164/190/213. Garret Anderson entered the season with a line of 298/327/473; he's hitting 267/308/433. Even Vlad, though hitting well, is underperforming relative to what we should expect of him.

Of course, we all know about the struggles of Casey Kotchman, and it is rumored that a demotion may be imminent. What I don't understad is why he's not on the DL, under order to sleep for two weeks, and due for a rehab assignment to Salt Lake immediately upon coming off the DL. Perhaps our disabled list is too crowded, and we're waiting to see if Darin Erstad will be out for two months (Darin's 238/279/350 is substantially worse than he has done in any other season, to add to the litany of underperformers). But it strikes me that it's a lot better to have Casey healthy and hitting for four months than sick and struggling for five.

We rank thirteenth in the league in runs scored, and we really should be closer to the middle of the pack. I think that's still do-able, but our guys are going to have to start meeting expectations. They're going to have to start having good plate appearances, and plate appearances where they look like they have a plan and some expectation of what they're going to see. The Angels swung at 14 first pitches yesterday, and in response Scioscia said, "Too many times we swung at his pitch. We gave too many outs away by swinging at his pitch. There's a line you cross with being aggressive."

Of course, to find the cause of this misplaced aggression, Mike should probably look to his left and find his "hitting" coach, Mickey Hatcher. The Mickster has long been known for preaching aggressiveness, our minor league organization does not breed patience at the plate, and as a result we have a team of guys swinging at bad pitches and making easy outs.

There is, on our team, exactly one guy who should be allowed to go up to the bat and do whatever feels right to him. And that guy is Jose Molina.

I jest, of course, it's Vlad. And though I'm not calling for Hatcher's head yet, it would be nice to see our players go up and, as Mike says, not swing at the pitcher's pitch. If not, this offense will never meet its modest expectations of mediocrity, and there will be no pitching staff on Earth that could drag them to the playoffs.


Not really apropos of anything above, but I thought I'd mention it, anyway ... Howie Kendrick is also struggling, but that doesn't really mean anything. For one, he's only had 23 at-bats. For another, he was never supposed to be in the majors this early. And for most, early struggles are common for players receiving their first exposure to the major leauges; Tim Salmon hit .177 in his cup of coffee (79 AB), and Troy Glaus hit 218/280/291 in his first 165 at-bats. Even the greatest players are not immune: Alex Rodriguez hit 204/241/204 with a 20:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first 54 career at-bats, and Mike Schmidt hit .196 in his first season as a regular. So Howie going 3-for-23 to start his career is certainly no cause for long-term alarm.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Angels won a game yesterday!

They did so behind an excellent start from Kevin Gregg and well-timed hits from Mike Napoli, Tommy Murphy, and Howie Kendrick, not to mention un bomb de Vlad Guerrero.

What percentage of Kevin Gregg pitches yesterday were fastballs? 85% 90%? It sure seemed like he unleashed his splitter sparingly and I can't remember him throwing a slider. Mike Napoli looked okay behind the plate, but wasn't really tested with balls in the dirt or baserunners attempting to steal.

I expressed some reticence yesterday about bringing up Napoli, and despite his debuting with a home run on a pitch where he didn't even seem to get all that good of a swing on the ball, I still have concerns. Given his minor league track record, there's no real reason that we should expect him to hit better than .200 and strike out less than twice a game (for now, I'm not talking about his future). Of course, as Rob pointed out in my comments section yesterday, there's really nothing to lose, given Jeff Mathis' "performance" in April, and Josh posits that this move is more about getting Mathis to settle down and get into a groove than anything else.

Even if he develops to his fullest extent, Napoli is going to be a hitter who's hard to watch at times, combining strikeouts and resultant low batting averages with prodigious walks and power.

Tommy Murphy ... okay, Rex wants to call him "Happy Tommy Murphy", but before he uncorked that nickname I was leaning toward calling him Smiles Murphy. Which one is better?

The Murph is considered the top athlete in our system, and his speed, defense, and arm were all demonstrated yesterday. He did take an odd and uncertain route to the ball to allow a triple, but made a nice sliding catch in the right-center gap in the eighth inning. Of course, going 2-for-4 at the bat ain't too bad, either.

The problem with Murphy is that he has never translated his athleticism into offensive production. Last season, when The Grin hit 288/346/482 at AA Arkansas, was by far his best year with the bat thus far, but:

1. 288/346/482 is not impressive for the Texas League, esp. in that ballpark;
2. not to mention was 26 years old, which old for the level; and
3. he was repeating the level, as well.

And after seeing him play ... I don't know. He has a very peculiar stance that keeps his hands very very close to his body, and his swing yesterday looked a bit slap-happy. But ... he's improved every season (he was off to a SMALL SAMPLE SIZE WARNING 352/398/495 start at AAA), so it's technically possible that he's a late bloomer. But given his age and performances thus far, it's more likely that he'll grow into a fourth outfielder role, and with his defense and arm he could very well be worth a roster spot.

The go-ahead hit yesterday was a home run blow from Casey Kotchman, his first of the year. It was recently revealed that Casey has been suffering from mononucleosis. I've never had that malady, but my understsanding is that it's my understanding that it's more fun catching mono than having it. Since the only treatment seems to be getting rest, I wouldn't be surprised or disturbed if they put Kotch on the DL at some point and ordered him just to sleep for two weeks. We're going to need him healthy and producing to compete this season.

One thing that's struck me about Casey this year is that he often seems to be in 0-2 counts, which is a big hole for any hitter to be in. Is this perception correct?

Thankfully, ESPN's player pages have splits that include how well batters have down at various counts and after various counts. Here are Casey's splits.

Kotch has faced an 0-2 count 18 times this year and has had 79 plate appearances, so he's had an 0-2 count in 22.8% of his plate appearances. His OPS (a blunt instrument, but sufficient for this illustration) after facing an 0-2 count is a grotesque 285, but in his other plate appearances is an ugly 552. How does that compare to other Angel hitters?
Player      0-2 %   0-2 OPS  Other OPS   % Dropoff
Kotchman 22.8 285 552 48.4
Anderson 18.8 227 952 76.2
Kennedy 18.5 470 878 46.4
Figgins 17.6 417 875 52.3
Molina 17.2 200 425 47.1
Vlad 16.9 461 978 52.9
Erstad 14.1 417 664 37.2
Cabrera 12.1 928 720 -28.8
Casey is facing more 0-2 counts than other Angel hitters are. His dropoff -- around 50% of his OPS (again, it's an imperfect measure) -- seems pretty typical, though he's not really hitting well after facing other counts, either.

I don't know that anyone has looked at this before, and I suspect that looking at a hitter being ahead in the count vs. behind in the count would be more telling than looking specifically at plate apppearances that have passed through the 0-2 count, but my guess is that this sort of thing should stabilize over time. Hopefully Casey will be healthy enough to capitalize once pitchers stop hitting the outside corner twice to start off every fourth at-bat.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

So Jeff Mathis has been sent down and Mike Napoli called up.

I'm on record as saying Jeff Mathis wasn't ready to be in the majors, and after a month the Angel brains apparently agree with me.

But it also strikes me that as ready as Mathis is, Mike Napoli is less so. Last year Jeff Mathis hit 270/340/499 at AAA at the age of 22. Mike Napoli hit 237/372/508 at AA at the age of 23, struck out a gazillion times, and went through a brutal slump for the entire summer. Napoli so far at AAA this season -- playing a level Mathis played at two years ago, age-wise -- is hitting an uninspiring 244/344/436, with 29 strikeouts in 78 at-bats.

I am not saying Mike Napoli has no future.

I am saying that bringing him up at this point smacks of desperation. But I hope I'm wrong.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Jered Weaver is the favorite to get the next start in Bartolo Colon's spot, which will be this Saturday in Toronto. Though the timing of this, two days after Hector Carrasco finally made a good start, seems odd, it unfortunately hints to me that The Fat Man's return is not anticipated to be soon.

Whether or not Jered had much to prove at AAA is doubtful. Through 29 innings in a hitter-friendly league, he has whiffed 38 batters against only five walks, a stunning ratio. His 27 hits allowed gives him a very solid WHIP of 1.10, and it all adds up to a very solid 3.41 ERA. As usual, his Achilles' heel is his propensity to induce flyballs and give up the longball, and his four home runs allowed are too many.

Of course, Erin Sele is also in PCL, where he has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 28:5 in nearly 30 innings, and a 2.43 ERA. Somehow I don't think an erstwhile batting practice pitcher like Sele has finally put everything together, so that underlines how we have to take such small sample performances with a grain of salt. However, Jered has put up similar numbers at every minor league stop, and it's not as though starting Hector Carrasco and Kevin Gregg twice this week was part of anyone's plan.

So I'm all for a Weaver call-up. What's the worst that happens, he gets knocked around for a few innings and we lose? The way we're playing now, it doesn't matter what our pitchers do, we'll find a way to lose regardless. So might as well give the kid a chance and check him out first-hand.


That same LA Times article I link above speaks of how Ie Kendrick has been taking groundballs at third and first bases, and our resident infield defense guru Alfredo Griffin is "not afraid" to post him at either one in a game situation.

This is something else I welcome along the same "what's the worst that could happen?" lines. We've brought up a top prospect (perhaps the top prospect in the organization) to make two starts in a week? That just seems odd -- it seems that he should be playing somewhere. And though I don't really know if he's ready to hit in the majors, I'm pretty sure Edgardo Alfonzo isn't right now, either, so let the kid get a few consecutive days of at-bats and see what he can do with them.

His time may be limited, however, as there is a possibility that both Juan Rivera and Darin Erstad will be back in the lineup come this weekend, which won't give the kid anywhere to play. I hope to see his name pencilled in a third base for as long as Chone Figgins has to man center.

My impressions of Howie at the bat so far: anyone who throws him a fastball in the zone that hasn't been set up by off-speed pitches is a damn fool. He's got a fantastic, quick, and level swing, and if you leave a fastball up and hittable, like Barry Zito did, he'll smack it somewhere. But it's also clear to me that he's not yet comfortable against the top-level breaking and off-speed pitches a guy like Zito brings to the table. The good news is not a lot of guys in the league have the devastating curve/change-up repertoire that Zito provides on his best days.

Zito teased Howie with curves and changes in his first at-bat, and Howie did a very nice job of getting him to a 3-2 count. I was expecting another change on the outside corner, and Howie might have been as well, as he was jammed by a fastball on the inside corner (the same pitch Zito used to catch Tim Salmon looking on a full count earlier in the game).

In Howie's third and final at-bat against Zito, Barry started him off with a fastball away (a purpose pitch just to remind him it was there), then got him out in front on a change for a groundball out.

At every progressive level of baseball, a young hitter will face pitchers with better control and better breaking pitches, so adjusting to this is essential for development and success at higher levels. Kendrick has demonstrated an ability to maintain his gaudy averages as he climbs the ladder, and I have no doubt that in a couple of years he'll know exactly what to do with the change-up on the outside black.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Last night's 1-0 loss to the Athletics exposed the impotency of our offense and wasted a fantastic start by Hector Carrasco. Adding to the frustration was that our guys hit four consecutive balls right on the button in our eighth and ninth innings, and all we got out of it was one lousy single. But such is life.

A lot of people were projecting mediocrity for the Angel offense, and thus for the team, before this season, so I'm sure they see our current performance as vindication. I always maintained that our offense should be in the middle-of-the-pack; we entered yesterday's game ranked a poor eleventh in the league, and I don't even want to look and see if last night knocked us back even further.

What I do want to see is whether or not we can reasonably expect this offense to improve. So I've looked at pre-season projections for our batters, using two different projection systems. One is the "Marcel the Monkey" system, developed by Tango Tiger. This is designed to be the simplest projection system possible, simply averaging a batter's past few seasons and applying an age adjustment. It is designed only to predict the predictable.

It doesn't include any minor league numbers, so to get fair projections of our youngest players I've also turned to Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections, which he posts over at the Primer. Longtime readers may recall that I've fooled around with a projection system from time to time; my projections are often very similar to Dan's.

Anyway, what you see here are the actual Linear Weights Runs Above Average each of our hitters has produced thus far, as well as what was projected by Marcel and ZiPS for each player, prorated to how many plate appearances they've had.

Don't worry, if you want to skip the chart, the punchline comes at the end.
Player      Actual    Marcel   Diff    ZiPS   Diff
Molina - 7.7 - 2.5 - 5.2 - 3.3 - 4.4
Mathis - 5.9 - 0.0 - 5.9 - 2.0 - 3.9
Kotchman -10.1 - 0.5 - 9.6 - 1.5 - 8.6
Kennedy + 0.2 - 1.0 + 1.2 - 1.4 + 1.6
Figgins + 0.5 - 0.8 + 1.3 - 0.7 + 1.2
Cabrera + 1.1 - 2.5 + 3.6 - 3.2 + 4.3
Anderson + 1.0 - 1.0 + 2.0 - 1.5 + 2.5
Erstad - 5.2 - 2.2 - 3.0 - 2.6 - 2.6
Guerrero + 1.5 + 5.0 - 3.5 + 6.4 - 4.9
Rivera - 1.1 - 0.3 - 0.8 - 0.1 - 1.0
Alfonzo - 5.0 - 0.7 - 4.3 - 0.8 - 4.2
Izturis + 0.6 - 0.7 + 1.3 - 0.6 + 1.2
Quinlan + 0.2 - 0.3 + 0.5 - 0.5 + 0.7
Salmon - 1.0 - 0.9 - 0.1 - 1.2 + 0.2
Kendrick - 1.3 ----- - 1.3 - 0.2 - 1.1
TOTAL -32.2 - 8.4 -25.8 -13.2 -19.0
(To read that: Jose Molina has been -7.7 runs against average this season [note: none of these figures are park-adjusted], Marcel projected he'd be -2.5 after having as many plate appearances as he's had, so he's -5.2 against expectations. ZiPS had him at -3.3 at this point, or -4.4 against expectations. In other words, he's been around five runs worse than we would have expected.)

To sum up, our offense has been around 20 to 25 runs worse than we could have reasonably expected them to be to this point. That's around two wins. And two wins is the difference between being 14-12 and 12-14.

So we should be better than we are now. We only have four regulars who are out-performing expectations, and all of those overperformances are slight compared to the lack we're getting from the rest of the lineup.

If these guys can't turn it around and play like they're supposed to, it's their own fault.

Monday, May 01, 2006

April ends with the Angels standing at 12-13, one game out of first place in the AL West. The team has yet to get into any real groove or suffer any debilitating slump; our longest winning streak is three games and our longest losing streak is three games (though we have a pretty good shot at extending that tonight). We have lost high-scoring games and we have lost low-scoring games.

Our record at this point doesn't bother me too much. Last April ended with the Halos 13-11, and I'm sure you remember our spectacular 27-27 record over the months of July and August. Our lukewarm start can be easily overcome, especially in light of the rest of the division being in similar straits.

What Went Right in April
Vlad's 306/330/490 AVG/OBP/SLG line is, of course, lower than we should expect, but despite a few slumps of a couple games in length here and there, he's hit pretty well. Garret Anderson's 309/356/511 is picking up the slack, and Adam Kennedy at 324/363/459 is no slouch. The OC is off to a good start, and Legs Figgins is only a little bit below where we would expect him to be when the season ends.

As for the pitching side of the ledger, our key bullpen guys end the month with some pretty good numbers, though they have been inconsistent at times. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, and Ervin Santana all have ERAs under 4.00, and though each has had a bad start or two (particularly Ervin), they have, for the most part, kept the Angels in their games.

What Went Wrong in April
A lot, actually. Jeff Mathis hasn't demonstrated that his offensive skills are ready for the big time, and Casey Kotchman's .162 batting average may overstate his actual offensive contribution thus far. Casey is lucky that Kendry Morales slowed down after a hot spring training, to the tune of 235/286/365 in AAA. This relieves a lot of the pressure on Casey to perform now to keep his job. He did have a couple of nice plate appearances yesterday, so hopefully he's turning things around. He's looked awful at the plate, and that can't stand.

Our offense ranks a meager eleventh in the league. Partly to blame is the injury to Juan Rivera, who was expected to provide solid offense, and even help to cover Darin Erstad against left-handed pitchers. And though Darin's defense in center has been a breath of fresh air, his offense has provided a far more putrid smell. Tim Salmon has helped to cover the lack of Rivera somewhat, but his aged body prevents him from playing every day, and he's also filled Rivera's double play quota, having grounded into three in his 50 at-bats, which would add up to a whopping 30+ over a full season.

I think the most long-term distressing news out of April comes from our starting rotation. Bartolo Colon pitched inconsistently before being sidelined with an injury, and Hector Carrasco, through two starts, has not appeared equal to the task of replacing him. A bad start by Hector tonight against Oakland, and you can prepare for the howls to commence the Jered Weaver era to get even louder. Weaver the Younger is managing a very solid 3.41 ERA in the PCL, striking out a whopping 32% of opposing batters while walking a miniscule 4%.

Speaking of Weavers, Jeff was pencilled in to give the Lads around 215 league-average innings. One month in, his ERA stands at a team-worst 7.48 and he's only averaging 5.5 innings per start, the least of the four healthy original rotation-members. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 20:7 is somewhat encouraging, but he's allowed 37 hits and five home runs, both the most on the team. He's not fooling anyone on the mound, and it's showing in his performance.

If Jeff can't straighten things out (I believe he will), and if Bartolo can't come back strong or be competently replaced, that means that 40% of our starting rotation will be substandard, which is gonna kill us. I am in no position to make any comments about Bartolo's health or ability to come back at his normal level of performance, but color me skeptical that Carrasco will be able to fill any kind of void in the rotation.

The good news is that it's early and there is plenty of time, and our AL West competitors are doing their best to make sure this race stays close wire-to-wire.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?