Friday, June 30, 2006

And so it goes; Jeff DFA'd, Jered recalled.

Now, we will lose every fifth game by one run instead of five.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A gentleman named Paul Cunningham has started a new Angels blog. So far he's mixing series recaps with looks back at previous Angel squads, beginning with the inagural 1961 team. So check it out, and welcome to the Halosphere, Paul!


Speaking of looks back, last night's game was a wonderful retread of the 2002 Collection. We looked absolutely hapless at the bat for seven innings (no surprise there), but Adam Kennedy got things going with a walk, and the Rally Monkey was back in business. The big hit, of course, came from Mike Napoli, who in 130 plate appearances has done nothing to prove his doubters (a group that included me) right.

I don't think Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was one of those doubters, though he intentionally passed Garret Anderson to get to the Napoli Juggernaut. Hurdle's hands were tied; walking Garret gave him the platoon advantage and set up the double play, and I think in that situation you just have to grit your teeth and take your chances. Luckily for us, Hurdle got burned on this occasion.

John Lackey did his job by keeping us in the game, notching his third consecutive good start. He did frustrate me at times; with runners on first and second with one out in the second, Lackey started the number nine batter, Choo Freeman, with three straight slurves, each out of the strike zone. When his fastball missed on 3-0, Lackey had loaded the bases for no real reason.

I keep harping on this, but Lackey really needs to trust his fastball more often. His fastball is a plus pitch for him, and there are times when you just have to throw gas in the zone, because most of the time you're gonna get the guy out by doing that. Use the slurve as your out pitch and to throw a wrinkle or two into early counts. But Lackey fell behind here and unnecessarily loaded the bases, because he felt like getting cute and throwing a bunch of breaking pitches to a guy who's close to no threat at all.

What happened on the next pitch? Lackey threw a fastball to Jamey Carroll, who grounded into an inning-ending double play. Tough to figure, huh?

K-Rod looked great for two batters, awful for one, and somewhere in between for another. All said, however, he's really settled down into the K-Rod we know and trust (well, as much as we ever trusted him) this month. Last night represented the first earned run he'd allowed since June 4; in between then and last night, he had only allowed one unearned run in 8 2/3 innings, striking out 16 against only 3 walks and 4 hits.

Even the home run he allowed last night needs to be put into proper context; when Detroit was in town earlier this season and Troy Percival visited Steve and Rex in the booth, he spoke of how closers need to pitch to the situation: if you have a two-run lead, go ahead and challenge batters, as a solo home run isn't going to hurt you. I'm not sure I completely buy the logic -- whether or not you allow a solo shot or a walk, the next guy up is still the potential tying run -- but it remains that if you challenge a guy you'll still usually get him out (at least if you have the nasty stuff of our top relievers), whereas if you walk him you quite literally never get him out. You may remember Troy using this strategy in Game Two of the World Series, where he entered the ninth with a two-run lead, and faced Barry Bonds with the bases empty. Percy challenged him, Barry and his Violent Chems won the battle, but the Angels won the game, which is all that matters.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dream, if you will, a picture:

1. We have six more than capable major league starting pitchers.

2. One of them is in the minor leagues right now.

3. One of them that is in the major leagues has experience as a reliever.

4. The reliable part of our bullpen consists of two guys.

Well, the wrap-up here actually seems a bit obvious: move Kelvim Escobar to the bullpen and recall Jered Weaver, who dealt a 14-strikeout shutout in his most recent minor league start.

But I'm not so sure that this is the best course of action. Kelvim in the bullpen is just the third guy out of the pen, and I don't know that such a guy could be as valuable as a productive starter, which Kelvim certainly is, his bad start yesterday against Arizona notwithstanding.

There are, with Kelvim, a couple of different issues I want to address here:

1. His K Rate

As has been noted elsewhere in the Halosphere, Kelvim is striking out less men this year, which may be worrisome as he heads into his contract extension. Is it really?

The following is the percentage of batters Kelvim has struck out every season as a starting pitcher only, along with the rate of all starting pitchers in the American League:
Year  Kelvim's K%    AL K%    Diff
1997 --- --- --
1998 21% 16% 5%
1999 16% 15% 1%
2000 17% 15% 2%
2001 21% 15% 6%
2002 --- --- --
2003 19% 15% 4%
2004 22% 15% 7%
2005 27% 15% 12%
2006 17% 14%* 3%
CAREER 19% 15%* 4%
THRU '05 19% 15% 4%
*figure approximated
We see that Kelvim is definitely striking out less guys than he ever has in an Angel uniform, but his numbers aren't far out of line with his career performances in this regard. (Also note that his 2005 performance reeks of small sample, as he was hurt early in the year and made only seven starts all season).

So while this is something to pay attention to, I don't think it's quite time to sound alarms.

(In case you were wondering, Kelvim over his career has struck out 25% of batters he has faced in relief, where the average AL relief pitcher has struck out 18%.)

2. Does Kelvim pitch just well enough to lose?

Since joining the Angels, Kelvim has an ERA of 3.92 as a starter, which is very good, but has only managed a win-loss record of 18-23. This may lead some to believe that he just "doesn't know how to win" or somesuch nonsense. Does Kelvim lose a disproportionate amount of close games? Does he give up leads? Does he "not know how to win"?

Let's look at all 23 of Kelvim's losses as a starter with the Angels (with thanks, of course, to Retrosheet):

April 14, 2004 at Oakland
5.7 IP, 4 R, 4 ER
Final: Oakland 7, Angels 1

That's just a bad start, no mystery about it.

May 16, 2004 at Baltimore
6.3 IP, 3 R, 3 ER
Final: Baltimore 4, Angels 0

An okay start from Kelvim, but the Angels got shut out by the great Sidney Ponson. The only thing Kelvim could have done to win this game is allow negative runs.

June 18, 2004 at Houston
6.7 IP, 4 R, 4 ER
Final: Houston 5, Angels 0

A bad start and a combined shutout from the Houston pitchers.

June 23, 2004 vs. Oakland
6 IP, 3 R, 3 ER
Final: Oakland 7, Angels 1

The Angels jumped out to a 1-0 lead in this game, which Kelvim then "blew" by giving up three runs. Unfortunately, the Angels were finished scoring. I guess if you want to make the argument that he doesn't have what it takes to win, you can go ahead and blame him for not shutting out Oakland in this game.

July 4, 2004 vs. Chavez Ravine
6.3 IP, 6 R, 6 ER
Final: Chavez Ravine 6, Angels 2

Again, a plain ol' bad start.

July 16, 2004 vs. Boston
6 IP, 3 R, 3 ER
Final: Boston 4, Angels 2

Boston got the lead here, and was able to ride Pedro Martinez to a victory over Kelvim's quality start. Kelvim would have had to have allowed only one (or zero) runs to win this game.

July 21, 2004 at Texas
6.7 IP, 3 R, 3 ER
Final: Texas 3, Angels 2

Texas was up 2-1 going into the top of the seventh when the Angels tied the game. The Angels immediately gave up the tie in the bottom of the inning, when Francisco Rodriguez allowed a two-out double to Micheal Young to allow a run charged to Kelvim to score. So you can blame Kelvim for letting a runner get to third with two outs, but he needed assistance in not knowing how to win in this game.

July 26, 2004 at Texas
7.3 IP, 6 R, 6 ER
Final: Texas 6, Angels 1

Just a bad start.

August 17, 2004 at Tampa Bay
4.7 IP, 5 R, 5 ER
Final: Tampa Bay 8, Angels 3

Again, this is just a day where Kelvim didn't have it. He did have lead at one point, but was struggling and unable to hold it.

September 8, 2004 vs. Toronto
8 IP, 1 R, 1 ER
Final: Toronto 1, Angels 0

Kelvim struck out 12 men, but fell to the historic combo of Justin Miller and Justin Speier. Kelvim gave up a run in the first, and that was it. If you think this game provides evidence that Kelvim is a loser, you are simply beyond help.

September 18, 2004 vs. Texas
8 IP, 1 R, 1 ER
Final: Texas 2, Angels 0

Once again, it is impossible to blame Kelvim for this effort.

September 24, 2004 vs. Oakland
5 IP, 5 R, 5 ER
Final: Oakland 6, Angels 3

Oakland got three runs off of Kelvim in the top of the first, and it was over.

April 30, 2005 at Minnesota
7 IP, 4 R, 4 ER
Final: Minnesota 4, Angels 2

The Angels never led in this game and never got the offense going, plus Kelvim had a rather poor, though not horrific, start.

May 11, 2005 vs. Cleveland
5 IP, 4 R, 4 ER
Final: Cleveland 9, Angels 3

Kelvim did cough up the lead here, but as you can see he was having a bad game. Go ahead and count it against him if you like.

April 12, 2006 vs. Texas
4.3 IP, 8 R, 4 ER
Final: Texas 11, Angels 3

Again, just a bad start.

April 29, 2006 vs. the White Sox
5 IP, 1 R, 1 ER
Final: White Sox 2, Angels 1

A good start. A bad offense.

May 17, 2006 vs. Toronto
7 IP, 3 R, 3 ER
Final: Toronto 3, Angels 0

I'm not blaming him for this.

May 22, 2006 at Texas
6.3 IP, 3 R, 3 ER
Final: Texas 3, Angels 2

Kelvim had a 2-0 lead going into the sixth, and allowed three runs to score over the next inning-and-a-third. So you can go ahead and use this one to say he doesn't know how to win.

May 28, 2006 vs. Baltimore
6.3 IP, 5 R, 5 ER
Final: Baltimore 7, Angels 6

Kelvim carried a 4-2 lead into the seventh; he left with one out, runners on first and second, and one run in. Scot Shields allowed both inherited runners to score, so once again Kelvim got some assistance in pitching well enough to lose.

June 3, 2006 at Cleveland
5.7 IP, 8 R, 2 ER
Final: Cleveland 14, Angels 2

The Angels had just tied the game at two in the top of the sixth when the wheels fell off the wagon in the bottom of the inning. Vlad dropped the third out in right field, allowing two runs to score, and disaster ensued. Yeah, Kelvim loaded the bases, but he got out of it, and the tie was broken by Vlad's brain cramp.

June 9, 2006 vs. Seattle
8 IP, 4 R, 2 ER
Final: Seattle 4, Angels 1

Again, Kelvim would have had to have thrown a shutout to win this game. The Angels never led. No choking here.

June 19, 2006 at San Francisco
7 IP, 2 R, 2 ER
Final: San Francisco 2, Angels 1

Well, the Angels did have a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, then the Giants got two in the bottom. The scoring was over; I guess you can be really harsh on Kelvim and blame him because the Angels couldn't get a base hit until the eighth inning.

June 25, 2006 at Arizona
4.7 IP, 8 R, 8 ER
Final: Arizona 9, Angels 7

Bad start, man. Bad start.

So, looking at it, there are a few games here and there where Kelvim could have buckled down and gotten a victory, even though his team wasn't scoring runs. But, for the most part, he loses because either he gets hit hard (which happens to all pitchers) or because he gets no offensive support whatsoever (which happens to all Angel pitchers). In 17 of Kelvim's 23 starting losses with the Angels, the Halos have provided him with two runs or less to work with. I just don't think that means he's lacking. He's a valuable starting pitcher, and unless that changes dramatically he deserves a spot (and is needed) in the rotation.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Let me start off with a micro issue that I was unable to get to yesterday.

We lost Tuesday's game due to, in chronological order, Adam Kennedy making an error, Mike Scioscia engaging in the worst strategy of all time, and John Lackey pussyfooting around an opposing pitcher at the plate.

Adam's error, that's obvious.

Mike Scioscia's mistake was, with two outs, intentionally walking the number eight batter to get to the pitcher, Matt Morris. I loathe this strategy with every ounce of my being. Most number eight hitters are not very good, and not worth pitching around; let your pitcher attack him. Sure, that guy'll get a hit every now and then, but more often than not you're going to come out ahead.

And if the best case scenario happens and you retire the pitcher, that means your opponent gets to start the next inning at the top of its order, which is a fairly large advantage over starting with the pitcher leading off. Nine times out of ten, the top of the order will be left with only two outs to play with, which obviously cuts down on how many runs they can score.

Of course, there's also the worst-case scenario, which is that the opposing pitcher gets a hit and knocks in a run (or more), and that's exactly what happened to the Angels on Tuesday. John Lackey, once again refusing to trust his fastball, threw roughly three or four straight slurves to Morris, which were fouled off and/or taken for balls, leaving a 3-2 count in which Lackey had no choice but to come into the zone with a fastball.

Morris was sitting on it, of course, and Lackey threw it knee-high and away, where Morris was able to basically throw the bathead out at it and slap it down the rightfield line for a two-run double. This was in large part a result of Lackey's pitching defensively instead of assertively, going with high-risk/high-reward off-speed pitches (which are less frequently in the zone) instead of challenging Matt Freaking Morris -- a career .158 hitter -- before falling behind in the count.

Of course, another big reason we lost that game was because of the ineptitude of our offense, which brings us to the macro issues due to be discussed by Scioscia, Bill Stoneman, and Arte Moreno today.

Unfortunately, the spin given in that linked LA Times report is that topics of discussion will include what young players we may be able to give up to acquire established slugger or big bat. The Reverend has opened up a discussion on this very topic at Halos Heaven.

I fear that this is the backward way to be doing things; no one hitter is likely to provide that much assistance at this point. Any moves to be made should be made with an eye toward the future, assuring that we will be a competitive team in the next five years and beyond. That obviously doesn't mean we should go out of our way to sacrifice today at the future's expense, but I don't want to see the future mortgaged so that we can make a push in a weak division that already has our number in 2006.

One name mentioned in that article is Miguel Tejada, who might well cost us Orlando Cabrera (whose trade value will never be higher) and Erick Aybar or Brandon Wood. I'm not saying we should make a trade along those lines, but as Tejada is under contract through 2009 and is still going strong, it's at least a move that would have some future benefits, and is worth considering.

Ditto the talk of acquiring Carl Crawford, who could theoretically solve the centerfield problem through 2008. I don't want to give up Ervin Santana for him, but, again, that's a move with an eye to the future.

At the other end of the continuum you see the names of Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee mentioned. Good hitters both, but each is a free agent at the end of this year, and neither will single-handedly drag our offense to respectability. Moves such as acquiring these (and they would demand some of our brightest prospects and young players) have no eye toward the future, and would merely represent a futile attempt to try to drag our team to ... something.

I don't want to see this organization panic just because a bunch of veterans are underperforming at the major league level. This is still a team in good shape, and the current struggles of the flagship do not change that. We don't need to ruin 2008 and 2009 to quixotically drag 2006 to where it should be.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Of course, some have been hearing her sing for awhile, but I've been holding steady. But with the A's having already started their Annual Streak of Invincibility, we now find ourselves seven games out and sputtering.

You all know the reasons; you've seen the underperforming offense and the indifferent defense. You all know we should be better, but that we're running out of time to get to where we need to be.

Yesterday provided no solace; Bartolo Colon didn't have a great start at all, but it wasn't a start that was so horrifically bad that it provided evidence that he shouldn't be out there. In the meantime, Jered Weaver had his first bad start in ages at AAA (which, by the way, means nothing) -- maybe the Angels knew he was due for a bad start and didn't want it to hurt the major league team!

As our deficit in the AL West grows toward unmanageable, thoughts of course turn to 2007, and when we should start making ready for same. I would say that this team gets until the All Star Break to improve their position; if we're not any closer by then, we trade Adam Kennedy, we trade Jeff Weaver (even if it's at a loss) and bring up Jered as long as Bartolo is healthy (and, if not, we can always see if Joe Saunders has a future on this team). Even Orlando Cabrera is touchable, in my mind.

That's not a hard-and-fast deadline, of course; we can always get swept over the next week and fall ten or more games behind, in which case we can start the firesale early.

I am increasingly convinced that Ervin Santana should not be part of that firesale. He's a good young pitcher, and you just don't give guys like that away, even to get a fine young player like Carl Crawford.

As for Adam Kennedy ... he's one of my favorite players, but with Kendrick hovering around the Williams Line at AAA, I'm not so sure that trading him isn't the best move to make for both winning now and winning in the future. We obviously won't be getting an impact bat or anything for him; we may have to make do with a solid reliever. One problem is that there appear to be no good matches amongst contending teams; every team in spitting distance of a playoff spot has a second-sacker that is either decent (or better), young, or both. And no team that is not contending will have any cause to acquire Kennedy, with his contract up at the end of the year. He may need to be packaged with a B prospect to fetch anything. In that case a team like Tampa Bay would be a match, if they only had a worthwhile reliever to trade for. I don't know.

I do know that a 4-6 homestand against the Mariners (I still think we're better than them), Royals (worst team in baseball) and the Padres (who are at least somewhat decent) is unacceptable, and if we can't play like we're supposed to in 2006, we might as well start thinking of our bright future.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Well, taking three of four from the lowly Royals is acceptable, though there was some ugliness along the path.

As I'm sure you've had beaten into your brain by our television crew, the Angels have allowed so many unearned runs this year that they've already allowed more unearned runs this year than they did all of last year. Wowzers!

I'm not sure what that means; by itself, the number of unearned runs don't really tell you a whole lot about a team's fielding acumen. There's just so much noise -- you know, there are some people who think we should abolish the idea of unearned and earned runs, as the crediting of errors and hits sometimes seems capricious. I don't really find that argument persuasive (you shouldn't just abolish information because it's imperfect), but it does make a point worth noting. And some earned runs score because of indifferent defense, and one mis-timed two-out error can lead to a cavalcade of unearned runs, though the pitcher may truly be at fault for the lot of them.

No, what's disturbing to me is that so many of the errors that lead to these unearned runs seem to be errors of stupidity instead of errors of action. Physical errors are forgivable, as even the best players will make a few; this year we've seen tons of errors where guys botch routine plays, lose focus on flyballs or throws, or try to force plays where it isn't needed. Quite frankly, we look like the Royals from time to time, and this fundamental breakdown is actually a bit shocking from what heretofore has been a team well-versed in how to play the game.

However, other indicators of our defense are positive. Our team's Defensive Efficiency Record (the rate at which batted balls are turned into outs) ranks a solid tenth in the majors, so it's not like there are a lot of balls our fielders can't get to. It's just that they often mess up when they get there.

I don't think there's a real solution to this, aside from everyone getting their act together and keeping their heads in the game. We gift-wrapped two runs for the Royals last night, and against a real major league team giving away runs can lead you to your doom. Our Lads' margin of error gets smaller every day, and this is a simple and manageable improvement that can slow the waning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

As predicted by everyone on Earth who spent more than a nanosecond in contemplation of the issue, Jered Weaver complicated our rotation last night by having his fourth straight Damn Good Start (six or more innings pitched, no more than two earned runs allowed). With El Gordo returning to the rotation this weekend, the Angels must now figure out how to fit six guys into five rotation slots.

I will say that Jered Weaver is ready to be a major league starter right now at this moment, and that nothing we've seen can be classified as a fluke. Sure, two of his starts came against lousy teams (Tampa Bay and Kansas City), but in the thirteen innings he threw against those two teams, he allowed only two earned runs, nine hits, and one walk while striking out nine. That's how bad teams should be handled when they face a good pitcher.

There is pretty much nothing left for Jered to learn at AAA; he has already demonstrated his dominion over the hitters of the PCL, and last night against Kansas City he established that his dominion also includes the "AAAA" hitters of the world. His next bad start, wherever it will happen (and it eventually will), is more likely to teach him anything if it happens at the major league level.

I must say, that after seeing four of his games, I think that whoever said Jered only projected as a number three or four starter was high on something. The kid has good stuff, confidence on the mound, composure, and knows how to pitch. With his tall, lanky build, pinpoint control, and poise, he reminds me of a young Bret Saberhagen (the only difference being that Sabes, to my recollection, was more of a groundball guy).

So what to do? It seems obvious that Jeff Weaver is the rotation's weak link right now, even though he's put together a few consecutive solid outings. But he gets the money and seniority, so I don't know if the Angels would sack up and put him in the bullpen, dispatching Kevin Gregg back to AAA to make room for Cy Colon.

One rumor making the rounds, including in today's OC Register, is that the Magic Man, Ervin Santana, would be packaged in a deal to Tampa Bay that would net us Carl Crawford.

I have mixed feelings about this rumor. There is a lot to like about Carl Crawford; he turns only 25 in August, he's a splendiferous defender in left field and could likely be moved to center to fill a huge organizational need, and he's improved his offense every season. But I've taken a liking to Ervin, and I think he can be a damn good pitcher for a long time, and those guys just aren't easy to come by. When you factor in the fact that Tampa Bay will likely also want a prospect in addition to Santana, well, I think I'd have to recommend a pass on that action.

Of course, if Bartolo's performance on his rehab assignment at AAA (a 6.17 ERA and only three strikeouts in nearly twelve innings) is any kind of indication of what playing shape he's in, this whole conversation may become moot pretty fast.

Monday, June 12, 2006

As my relatively regular readers may be aware, I was a bit inactive last week, as my work schedule conspired with Blogger's planned and unplanned outages to keep me from posting. As such, I had some material stored up, in my brain anyway, to get into this week.

Much of this material would have been of an optimistic bent, as we were in the midst of winning five straight series. I had intended to write about the terrific year being enjoyed by Orlando Cabrera, and there was even a nifty article about him this past Friday in the LA Times to use as a springboard.

But you know what has happened in the intervening days; a sweep at home at the hands of the Mariners (the Mariners!) has dispatched us to last place. These three "games", to use the term loosely were characterized by offensive, defensive, baserunning, and pitching breakdowns up and down the roster. A very off-putting series, and total buzz-kill after our team had spent a few weeks giving a glimpse of how they should have been playing all along.

So imagine my joy when I open up the paper this morning to discover this headline: Erstad Could Be Back in the Lineup Tonight

The Punter is of course a marvelous defensive player, and as we've been committing more than our fair share of defensive miscues of late, that seems welcome. What is not welcome is his impotent bat, and the fact that he's only been 3-for-33 during his AAA rehab assignment.

What seems even more disturbing is that Erstad's return likely means a decrease of playing time for Dallas McPherson, whom I think is actually deserving of more playing time. For Erstad in center returns Legs Figgins to third, meaning that Big D gets forced into a crowded DH picture along with Tim Salmon (who hits well, but can only play a couple times per week) and Juan Rivera (who has hit poorly thus far this year in his irregular playing time).

D-Mac, however, is starting to come on. His 0-for-3 yesterday brought his June AVG/OBP/SLG line down to 333/360/667, and his season line is at 256/273/465. That's not a very impressive overall line, but he's starting to have some good at-bats and is hitting the ball consistently well when he makes contact. He's sitting back and whacking line drives (usually right at or over the first baseman, it seems) -- the Hardball Times reports that 22% of his balls in play are line drives (the league average is 19%) -- and nearly one-in-four of his flyballs go over the fence.

I mean, he strikes out a ton, and could always fall flat on his face. But I think he has at least a chance to help us out offensively, which Darin Erstad can't really do. And whether or not he needs to be platooned against lefties is a totally open question, no matter how much Mike Scioscia wants to keep Robb Quinlan fresh.

I'm not saying Erstad shouldn't get any playing time when he's ready, but if he takes substantial playing time away from Dallas, it will demonstrate that the Angels don't really have a plan to win this year or to find out who can help us win next year. And unless this past weekend was the aberration and the previous two or three are the norm, we're going to need a better plan than no plan at all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

This last occurred nearly a month ago, on May 11.

(Note: I fixed a couple of mistakes since I posted this; I had listed Stephen Marek as a southpaw [because I'm dumb] and I listed Joe Saunders as right-handed [because I can't type.)

Position Players

Erick Aybar, SS, AAA Salt Lake and MLB Angels, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 12 4 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 333 333 583 MLB
Now 144 42 6 2 4 10 17 13 7 292 342 444 AAA
Then 127 37 6 2 3 8 17 12 6 291 338 441
I'm leaving him on here as his return to AAA is imminent. He hasn't really had a chance to do much of anything with the big club, though he's looked smooth on defense and had some productive at-bats. He does need more time for seasoning, I believe, so I welcome his return to Salt Lake.

Michael Collins, C, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 216 66 10 1 3 10 38 4 2 306 367 403
Then 118 40 5 1 3 6 19 2 1 339 383 475
Michael Collins slugged .482 last year at Cedar Rapids, and also drew an almost-passable 34 walks in 363 at-bats. Both his power and patience have gone a bit AWOL in the California League. With Mike Napoli impressing in the majors, Jeff Mathis still showing (faint) signs of life at AAA, and Hank Conger on the way, Collins will have to revert to his old ways to stake a place in this organization.

Nick Gorneault, OF, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 222 66 15 3 8 28 44 2 3 297 373 500
Then 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
Is there any reason at this point to think that Gorneault can't out-hit Robb Quinlan? And who would you rather see manning left field?

Howie Kendrick, 2B, AAA Salt Lake and MLB Angels, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 164 66 19 2 7 6 26 6 3 402 440 671
4/26 70 27 8 0 2 1 11 3 2 386 403 586
I had removed Howie from this list for his major league sojourn, and here we see a triumphant return. I'm going to go ahead and say that Kendrick could handle the major leagues right now, were he to be given an everyday job (and not expected to be adjusting to major league pitching while also becoming a part-time player for the first time in his life). I'm not advocating that happen, but I don't really think that Kendrick hitting over .400 at AAA is him hitting over his head to a significant degree.

Jeff Mathis, C, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 129 36 13 0 2 6 23 1 1 279 307 426
Then 23 8 3 0 0 2 7 0 0 348 385 478
Jeff hasn't really gotten it going at Salt Lake, and with Mike Napoli taking care of business in the Big A, there's no rush. But his numbers thus far are pretty unimpressive for the Pacific Coast League, and at some point he needs to perform.

Sean Rodriguez, SS, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 221 63 10 2 9 17 56 7 3 285 353 471
Then 117 38 6 1 4 4 34 6 3 325 365 496
Sean Rodriguez has re-acquainted himself with ball four, which is nice, but his batting average nosedive is a bit troublesome. He's not really outperforming his league, which he needs to correct.

Drew Toussaint, OF, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 187 43 12 0 8 19 59 1 1 230 321 422
Then 103 20 6 0 3 12 38 1 0 194 291 340
As of May 11, Drew was suffering a 3-for-41 (073/174/073) slump; since then he's gone 23-for-84 (273/330/524). That's not spectacular, but anything to get out of a hole. He's still striking out too often, and that needs to change for him to make an impace at higher levels, or even reach them.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B, A Cedar Rapids, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 180 39 7 0 8 16 45 1 3 217 284 389
Then 92 17 3 0 4 5 22 1 0 185 232 348
Slowly but surely, Trumbo crawls toward respectability. Emphasis on "slowly".

Reggie Willits, CF/LF, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 178 55 10 2 1 33 30 14 9 309 416 404
Then 76 24 5 2 1 12 13 8 3 316 404 474
Willits is drawing more walks than in the past, which is nice, but he's not stealing bases productively and has no power to speak of. His upside still projects to be a a David Eckstein-type, though there's a lot of room beneath that level for Willits to find himself.

Brandon Wood, SS, AA Arkansas, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 229 67 23 1 13 26 77 7 1 293 373 572
Then 131 36 11 0 8 14 42 3 0 275 356 542
The long gap between my updates hides the fact that Brandon actually struggled for a bit, his average dropping down to around .250. But he's come marching back, and is mitigating his prodigious strikeouts to some degree by drawing walks and getting back into the world of ultimate power. Nothing disturbing yet -- he still projects as a low-average slugger.

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 7 2 0 12 12 74.7 62 2 74 17 2.17
Then 5 0 0 7 7 43.7 30 1 46 10 1.65
Adenhart finally had a bad start, but his performance is still off-the-charts ridiculously great. Get this man to Rancho Cucamonga stat.

REMOVAL: Steve Andrade, as their are limits even to my stubbornness

Jose Arredondo, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 3 4 0 11 11 61.0 42 2 85 25 2.21
Then 1 1 0 6 6 31.3 29 1 49 12 2.59
Arredondo, in a terrific hitters' league, has more strikeouts than Nick Adenhart does at the next level down, in less innings, to boot. Only two home runs allowed in over 60 California League innings is also impressive. In a weird reversal of recent years, the Angel pitching prospects are on the verge of surpassing their position player counterparts.

REMOVAL: Dan Davidson and his 5.67 ERA

Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
Still waiting.

Stephen Marek, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 6 1 0 12 12 74.3 62 6 61 15 2.54
Well, he's highly-regarded and outperforming his teammate, Tommy Mendoza, so here you go.

Tommy Mendoza, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 3 5 0 13 13 77.3 82 6 64 18 5.35
Then 1 3 0 7 7 41.7 42 5 36 6 4.10
The best fastball in the system doesn't seem to be fooling too many guys of late, as Mendoza has allowed 40 hits in his last 35 2/3 innings. His walks have also shot up; the good news is that he's cut his home runs in recent weeks. It's also not impossible that he's best suited to the bullpen, where he did find success last season.

Rafael Rodriguez, RHSP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 2 4 0 9 9 45.0 60 14 26 14 8.60
Then 0 1 0 4 4 18.3 26 8 14 8 10.31
I jumped the gun in putting this guy on the list. He had three spectacular starts at Rancho Cucamonga, but his first exposure to AA has been nothing short of disastrous. I'll keep him on for one more go-around to see if he turns things around, but he's allowing too many hits, too many home runs, and not striking out enough guys.

Joe Saunders, LHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 7 2 0 12 12 80.3 65 7 56 20 2.46
I'm always shocked to discover how young Saunders is; he turns 25 next week, but it feels like he's been around forever. He has nearly 40 consecutive scoreless innings right now, so we might as well be paying attention, regardless of his mediocre strikeout and walk rates.

Steve Shell, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 2 2 0 8 7 48.0 48 5 30 13 3.94
Then 0 0 0 3 2 18.0 10 3 14 4 2.00
Shell has been more than adequate since his promotion to AAA. He's cut down his home runs allowed in the last few weeks, though has started to walk some guys. Remember, he's only 23, so he's doing fine.

Jered Weaver, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake and MLB Angels
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 3 0 0 3 3 19.3 11 2 17 3 1.86 MLB
Now 4 1 0 9 8 57.0 44 4 66 8 2.05 AAA
Then 2 1 0 6 5 35.0 32 4 46 6 3.34
I figure you know about him, I'm just leaving him on here in case roster crunches return him to AAA.

Watch Out: David Austen, Trevor Bell, Jason Bulger, Von Stertzbach, Bob Zimmerman

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Okay, I'm back.

NOTE: The following post was written before today's game, but Blogger's afternoon siesta kept me from posting it.

Jered Weaver
Jered has made two starts since I last posted; his third comes this afternoon.

So far, I am impressed. He mixes his pitches well and his slider is a plus out pitch. My only real concern with his stuff -- and at this point it's small -- is that is fastball is so straight. You have to think that word of his stuff will get around the league, and batters will be ready to hit a straight fastball. I believe more than ever that he should add a two-seamer to his arsenal, just to keep batters honest. But his control and command is so good that it may be a bit before he really has to start tinkering.

Something else interesting is that he induces flyballs even when he throws his four-seamer at the knees; I thought maybe, based on the many flyballs he's allowed thus far in his professional career, that he played fast-and-loose in the high part of the zone, but it's really just the fact that his fastball has no downward bite.

Even more impressive than Jered's command, to me, is his composure. Could anyone be more diametrically opposed to Jeff Weaver? In his debut start, there was a weak fly to left-center that neither Garret nor Juan Rivera (and with such an extreme flyball pitcher on the mound, why was Rivera getting the call in center instead of The Legs or even Tommy Murphy?) came anywhere near, for reasons unknown to me.

Jeff Weaver, had he would have been on the mound, would have sighed, pouted, and given up six runs. Jered just took the ball and got guys out.

He has had defensive help; but remember, after Vlad hosed a guy at home in his debut for a double play, Jered rewarded his defense with three straight strikeouts. Not bad for a guy with the ceiling of a "three or four starter."

Of course, Jered's success sets in motion a series of questions of what to do once Bartolo Colon returns to the world. Obviously, neither Colon nor Lackey are going anywhere, and though Kelvim Escobar was effective in the bullpen at the end of last season, he's one of our top starters, and top starters are more valuable than middle relievers.

That leaves the brothers Weaver and Ervin Santana to fill two rotation spots. Santana, after a splendid start last night, has his ERA down to 4.32, which is better than the league-average, and his peripherals (51:18 K:BB, only 6 HR in 73 innings) are very respectable. There's no real reason to drop him from the rotation or demote him to AAA.

And despite Jeff Weaver's horrible start, he's put up three consecutive good starts (over which he is 2-1 with a 4.12 ERA and a 12:5 K:BB ratio) and project to be a league-average pitcher over the haul of the long season.

So it's a tough question; I think my preference might be to dispatch Jeff to the bullpen, but I suspect it's more likely Jered be returned to AAA for additional seasoning. He is due for a bad start at some point, but I think he's ready right now.

The Draft
Read about our first-day picks here.

The Angels have a sick need for outfielders in the system, but in the first round seemed to go with draft-the-best-player-available and took Hank Conger, a switch-hitting high school catcher from Huntington Beach. Conger wasn't the first catcher taken in the draft, but his power hitting led many to believe he was the best in the draft. Conger has said he is excited to be an Angel, and it looks like he will save his soul and sign with us instead of going to U$C.

The Angels did take outfielders in three of their five next picks, though one of them is a bizarre and probably wasted pick. That's of UCLA strong safety Jarrad Page, who went in the seventh round, fulfilling an odd bifecta of being taken in the seventh round of both the MLB and NFL drafts.

He was likely underdrafted in the NFL draft by a bit -- he's an athletic if slightly undersized strong safety, though his instincts often bring him to a play a hair's-breath late of the optimal time -- and overdrafted by the Angels. In two years of baseball-playing at UCLA (he did not play baseball this year), he managed a whopping .195 average, which likely converts to a -.048 average in the major leagues. I really doubt he's any kind of prospect at all, and I think it's a longshot that he even signs.

Another outfielder drafted was high-schooler Clayton Fuller (switch-hitter, throws right) out of Texas in the fourth round. He has an oral commitment to Baylor, but is the younger brother of Angel farmhand Cody Fuller, who was a 48th-round pick out of Texas Tech last year. Cody is hitting an unexceptional 281/375/359 at Ranch this year (he's 22), but maybe his presence will induce Clayton into signing -- and maybe that was the plan all along.

One intriguing pick comes from the twelfth round in the person of Jordan Walden, a 6'4'', 215-ound right-handed pitcher from Texas. He's clocked as high as 97 and is reported to have a good curve; he was considered a top talent in the draft before being slowed by a groin injury this past season. Poor man's Nick Adenhart, anyone?

I should have a Watch List Update up tomorrow, if all goes well.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I had meant to post today (really, I did!), but Blogger had some technical problems whenever I tried to ... long story short, my schedule for the rest of the week just got a bit more complicated, so I don't know if I'll have anything new until Monday.

Because I'm sure you were all waiting with baited breath. Anyway ...

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