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.

I thinbk the most important thing on that list is that OC really needs to swing and miss at the first two pitches he sees...no matter how bad they are.
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