Tuesday, May 09, 2006

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.

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