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.

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