Monday, July 31, 2006

And the AL West is substantively unchanged.

As you know, the Angels took two of three in Boston over the weekend, and should have won the game they lost. Nonetheless, it's hard to beat the Red Sox in their home, and we had three solid plus starts against their powerful offense.

Our own offense showed up for the series, and yesterday, as outlined by Seitz, we were able to out-bash a number of stupid plays.

One of those stupid plays is being laid at the feet of Howie Kendrick, both on last night's ESPN telecast and in the Halosphere, for throwing to second on a groundball to first instead of taking the easy out, said throw flying into left field to move up the lead runner.

Now, I agree that Howie forced the throw, and forewent (word?) the easy play at first. But you know what? He threw the ball exactly where he was supposed to, and it's not his fault that it went into left or allowed runner Kevin Youkilis to go to third.

Kendrick received the ground ball inside of the baseline, and his throw to second was -- you guessed it, inside the baseline. But Orlando Cabrera, covering at second, seemed unprepared to receive the throw, and was inexplicably moving toward the outfield side of the bag -- the opposite side of where the throw would have been coming from. Watching the replay, it looks like Cabrera is pointing to Kendrick while he's about to throw, as if to say, "Don't throw me the ball"; in fact, Cabrera is too busy telling Kendrick not to throw that he's completely out of position to, you know, actually catch the ball in case it's thrown to him.

And once the ball went past Cabrera and into left, just where exactly was Garret Anderson? As best I can tell he was in the left field corner, picking daisies, because he sure as hell wasn't backing up the play. By the time he got to the errant ball, years later, Youkilis had moved to third base. Had Garret been backing up the play, Youkilis would have been unable to advance.

And though everyone says Kendrick should have taken the sure out, I've never really understood that. Back in high school, I was an outfielder. Well, that's not strictly true, I was a benchwarmer, but on the roster I was listed as an outfielder. But one day in a scrimmage I played second base; a man was on first when a slot-hit grounder came my way; I grabbed it, spun and threw to second to get the guy.

People wanted to know why I threw to second instead of taking the "easy out." The only answer I could think of was: "Because I got him out." It seems to me, that if you can get the lead runner, you should always do so.

Of course, that situation excludes John Lackey's wacky throw to home later in the inning, after fielding a Manny Ramirez liner off of his thigh. I, sitting on my couch in my living room in Los Angeles of Los Angeles, had as much chance of throwing out that guy as did John Lackey, standing as he was on the grass in the infield in Fenway of Boston.

But, of course, we won. And while our win upset Boston fans, I'm sure, they were likely at least as vexed by the Yankees acquiring Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for four guys no one has ever heard of.

Well, I'm sure some people have heard of them, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on other teams' farm systems. But really, all the Phillies got for their trouble was money; most of the guys they received are around three or four years away from the major leagues.

Could the Angels have matched this offer? Certainly. Presuming for the moment that Arte was down with covering the ~$15M due Abreu next year, a package of:
Joe Saunders;
Sean Rodriguez or Ryan Mount;
Michael Collins; and
Tommy Mendoza
compares pretty well to the package the Phils actually received, and may even surpass it.

Would the Angels give up those guys? Joe Saunders to Lidle might be a slight downgrade, but I'm not sure, as I don't really have a good read on what Saunders is going to be able to do short- or long-term in the majors, and I'm not convinced anyone else really does, either.

Could the Angels have used Abreu? Of course. Everyone talks about his declining power, which is a concern, but he's still reaching base like no one's business, and when he gets there steals bases with a high rate of success. And it's not like he has no power, it's just that his power has declined from excellent to good. He's not worth $15M anymore, but he's still a damn good player, and one of the top all-around offensive stars in the game.

His acquisition would have formed some sort of corner ouftield/DH rotation between he and Garret and Vlad, putting Juan Rivera in center field. And lest you think the Angels would never do such a thing, note that we are apparently involved in talks to acquire Alfonso Soriano, which would likely have the same effect on the defensive alignment. (Though the Angels, no strangers to creativity with their defense, might also put Soriano in center in such a scenario.)

As for the possibility of acquiring Soriano, and its worth, I'm a bit skeptical. To date, Sori is having the best offensive season of his career, which to me is a dangerous sign that he's due to decline.

As I did regarding the Rangers trade the other day, here is Soriano vs. Maicer Izturis, the guy he'd be replacing in the lineup, in Baseball Prospectus' Batting Runs Above Average over the past few years, prorated to 57 games:
Year   Soriano   Ztu
2003 9 -
2004 0 -9
2005 4 -4
2006 15 5
Avg 7 -3
Wtd 8 -1
Well, that's a pickup of a win on offense. The defensive impact is hard to decipher. Maybe the shifts would give a couple of runs back. But it would still help the team.

Price? Erick Aybar is expendable, with Cabrera ahead of him and Wood behind him, and the Angels are also said to have offered either Reggie Willits or Tommy Murphy. That's the upper end of what I would offer; getting at best one extra win this year isn't worth giving up Adenhart or Howie. I'm not sure it's worth giving up Aybar, to be honest, but as everyone in the game knows Aybar has to be moved, I don't know how much we'll be able to get for him this off-season.

My prediction? Nothing happens.

Friday, July 28, 2006

As reported by Keith Law at ESPN (and linked to at the BTF), the Rangers have traded for Carlos Lee.

I am not concerned with who "won" this trade, or how it shapes up for the future, or who is best using their budget. My only concern is what effect this has on the AL West race this season.

To that end, the only parts of the trade that matter are the Rangers giving up Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero for Lee.

First of all, what's the difference between Lee and Mench?

Here are their Batting Runs Above Average for the last few years, as calculated by Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus, though I've prorated it to 60 games:
Year   Lee   Mench
2003 4 5
2004 9 4
2005 5 1
2006 11 0
Avg 7 3
Wtd 8 2
(The "Wtd" there is a weighted average, where this season is multipied by four, last season by three, 2004 by two, and 2003 by one, and the total is divided by ten; this gives more importance to the more recent performances).

So based on the past few years, we might expect the offensive difference between Lee and Mench to be around five runs -- half of a win. Of course, if Lee continues to hit as he has this season (it's been his best offensive year thus far), the difference could be as much as one win. And this is a tight division.

How about defense? Chris Dial at BTF converted players' zone ratings to runs prevented at the All Star Break, and he had Mench at -6 runs in right field and Lee as roughly average in left. Last season, he had Mench at +7 in left field and -3 in right, with Lee -4 in left. David Pinto's PMR had them roughly equal in left field last season.

Honestly, I don't think either one of them is a good fielder, though if you stick them in left they can get by. I don't think there's a tremendous difference between them on that count, so I'll say the difference between them for the balance of this year overall projects to be around half-a-win to maybe a win in favor of the Rangers.

Of course, Texas also gave up Francisco Cordero. Cordero has struggled to the tune of a 4.81 ERA this season, but if you look at his game log it's obvious that he has turned things around a bit since an awful beginning to the year, his most recent outing notwithstanding. He's not great, but he makes the Rangers bullpen just a bit shallower. Maybe a few runs, I don't know.

So I don't think Texas has improved themselves immensely; I think the one-half-to-one-win range seems reasonable. Of course, every little bit counts. But will Bill Stoneman see fit to answer?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's been three weeks since the last edition.

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 220 69 14 3 6 22 22 22 12 314 363 486 AAA
Now 20 6 1 1 0 0 3 0 0 300 300 450 MLB
Then 16 5 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 313 313 500 MLB
Then 182 54 10 3 5 14 20 17 9 297 350 467 AAA
Erick has hit well since returning to AAA and getting back to regular playing time.

Apparently, he likes the number "22".

Michael Collins, C, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 356 107 21 1 7 17 60 6 6 310 368 424
Then 280 83 18 1 5 13 49 5 4 296 367 421
It's nice to see the average come up, but Collins has stagnated a bit n the Cal League.

Nick Gorneault, OF, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 285 79 18 4 13 30 68 3 3 277 342 505
Then 267 77 17 4 12 30 59 3 3 288 355 517
Gorneualt's just coming back from his patella injury, and has clearly struggled in his first week or so back, dropping all of his averages by about ten points. Players are often rustly when coming off the DL, so nothing to see here.

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 50 14 5 0 1 3 8 2 0 292 358 458
Now 290 107 25 6 13 12 48 11 3 369 408 631
Now 275 104 25 5 13 11 46 11 3 378 418 647 AAA
Well, the future of the AL batting title ended his AAA career with a mini-slump, but he's returned to the majors with a vengeance, and I think he's knocked his way into the everyday lineup. So this will be his farewell from the Watch List, and his welcome to the bigs.

Jeff Mathis, C, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 281 86 24 2 3 17 54 1 1 306 345 438
Then 217 62 19 1 3 15 45 1 1 286 326 424
He's heating up a bit, but still nothing special in that performance. The thing is, even though Mike Napoli is in a slump right now, he's still established himself to some degree, and Napoli is a guy who can help you even when he's hitting .230. Mathis is not that kind of guy. He's still young and has a lot of time, and it's not like Napoli has locked down the job in the long term. But at some point Mathis is going to have to hit.

Sean Rodriguez, SS, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 383 119 24 3 20 37 109 13 3 311 382 546
Then 308 92 17 2 16 24 84 10 3 299 360 523
Now that's what I'm talking about. If I may pick nits, I am a bit bothered by his decrease in walks and his rather high strikeouts. But he's having a damn good year and treating the California League like he should. I don't know that his line projects to "star", but it probably projects to "productive regular", though obviously he's young enough and far enough away that anything can happen.

Drew Toussaint, OF, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 293 72 18 1 10 26 88 1 2 246 330 416
Then 248 59 13 0 10 21 75 1 1 238 323 411
Slight improvement, but Drew is officially mired, and the only thing keeping him on the radar is the total lack of corner outfield prospects in the system.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B, A Cedar Rapids, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 293 67 14 0 11 38 71 4 4 229 317 389
Then 249 51 12 0 10 22 61 1 3 205 271 373
Well, looks like he might be crawling back. That's a 364/533/477 line over the past few weeks, by the way, with strikeouts going down (and power) and walks going up. He needed to make an adjustment, so maybe he has and these are the fruits.

Reggie Willits, CF/LF, AAA Salt Lake and MLB Angels, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 9 3 0 0 0 1 3 1 2 333 400 333 MLB
Now 318 102 14 4 3 65 49 24 14 321 437 418
Then 275 84 14 4 3 56 44 22 12 305 424 418
I hope that Willits is in the majors because he's a better player than Tommy Murphy, and not because the Angels consider Murphy a better prospect. I'm skeptical of Willits being able to maintain his high walk rates in the majors, with better pitchers who have no reason to fear his power, but at least he has a shot. That stolen base percentage is also pretty lousy. But he's had a terrific year and is far and away the best center fielder in our system right now.

Brandon Wood, SS, AA Arkansas, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 380 108 36 2 22 50 126 14 1 284 371 563
Then 307 92 30 2 18 40 100 11 1 300 385 586
The roller coaster goes for a bit of a dip, but overall we're seeing the same strengths and weaknesses that we have all season.

Watch Out: Hank Conger, Clay Fuller, Ryan Mount, Aaron Peel, P.J. Phillips, Freddy Sandoval, Hainley Statia, Bobby Wilson


Nick Adenhart, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 3 1 0 5 5 27.7 29 0 20 9 4.55
Then 1 0 0 1 1 6.0 8 0 4 3 6.00
The hot Rancho sun isn't doing anything to help pitchers, I would suspect, and even Nick Adenhart is no exception. But he's holding his own, giving up just barely less than a hit per inning over his last 21 2/3, with a 16:6 SO:BB ratio.

Jose Arredondo, RHSP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 2 0 0 4 4 23.0 30 1 18 8 5.09
Another rocky performance following a promotion. Too many hits, but the rest of his peripherals are solid.

Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
Still waiting.

Stephen Marek, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids and A Rancho Cucamonga
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 1 0 0 2 2 8.0 7 2 7 3 4.50
Now 10 2 0 19 19 119.3 95 8 100 24 1.96 Cedar Rapids Final
Then 9 1 0 17 17 107.3 84 7 86 22 2.01 Cedar Rapids
Two starts with mixed results thus far for Stephen Marek at Rancho.

Tommy Mendoza, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 8 5 0 20 20 130.0 120 10 105 25 3.81
Then 5 5 0 17 17 108.3 104 8 90 23 4.32
Hey, look at that, a pitcher who's improved himself! Mendoza has won three straight starts, and it putting a relatively difficult spring behind him.

Joe Saunders, LHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 10 4 0 20 20 134.0 114 11 95 38 2.55
Then 10 3 0 17 17 114.0 95 9 83 29 2.37
As you know, he also had a solid start in the majors.

Last time I did this, I wrote here: "I'm not convinced Bartolo is healthy enough to pitch: his velocity is down and his release looks awkward and inconsistent, as if he's slightly altered his arm action to relieve stress on the shoulder (and put it all on the elbow).

"But the insurance policy is Joe Saunders, who continues to excel in the PCL."

Inasmuch as Bartolo left today's game early with a tweaky elbow, I'll not withdraw from this position.

Steve Shell, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 3 5 0 15 14 80.0 97 10 51 21 5.63
Then 3 4 0 12 11 69.0 76 6 44 14 3.91
Yikes! Shell started off pretty well at AAA, but the past few starts have been rough. His hits allowed and home runs hint that he isn't fooling anyone, and the low strikeout total doesn't aver me from that conclusion. At least he's only 23, and has a track record of needing a year to adjust to each new level.

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

As you assuredly know by now, the reason Dallas McPherson wasn't recalled in Kendry's stead is that he re-tweaked his back at AAA. It's possible that he's out for the season.

With three players sharing two corner infield positions -- Ztu, Q, and Kendrick -- speculation now turns to Bill Stoneman pulling the trigger on a first baseman, preferably a lefthanded hitter to platoon with Quinlan.

The main first base name that's been mentioned as being available is Sean Casey, who's about as non-impact a bat as you can get, but he's respectable. His 299/381/418 line this year adds up to a .276 EqA, which is above average, and though he's hitting better against southpaws than right-handers in his time this season, he's a career 312/379/476 hitter against the RHP.

He's not exciting and he's not sexy, but there's not that much else out there if the Angels want to go outside the organization. Casey would come relatively cheap over the last couple months of the season and his contract is up at the end of the year. What would Pittsburgh want? I don't know; anything, really, they're a sorry team.

Casey is obviously not worth an A or even an A- prospect. A B prospect? Maybe.

But I'm not so sure that giving Howie a first baseman's mitt and a bat isn't the best way to go.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Kendry Morales has been optioned to AAA, Curtis Pride recalled.
Month  AVG  OBP  SLG
May 257 278 457
June 223 298 340
July 259 322 426
That's Kendry this year.

Remember, this is a guy who historically has taken his time to adjust to each level. Now, he is 0-for-his-last-9 (10, actually, going back to a 2-for-4 game on June 19). But before that 0-for-9, he had his season line up to 253/312/408, the highest he had been since early June. And before that mini-skid, he had been hitting 311/367/511 in July.

Well, that is only 45 at-bats, but one thinks that had Kendry not picked the wrong time to have a whopping three-game hitless streak, he might have stuck around. But something happened in those at-bats that turned the Angels off, so apparently the first base job now belongs to ...

... Robb Quinlan.

I don't know, Howie sure has a shot at getting some plate appearances there, but it looks like the Lad Brass has decided to try to ride the hot hand at the position.

I'd have to hope Howie is going to end up being the guy there, though, as long as they're too stubborn to let Dallas McPherson come up and whack his line drives over opposing first baseman's head. Because while Q is a good platoon hitter and a valuable guy to have on the bench, he's just not a guy who should be out there every day.

But I can't shake this feeling that we demoted Kendry just as he was about to start making his adjustments and go on a tear. Just last year at AA, after 200 at-bats, he was hitting 240/290/430; he ended the season at 306/349/530, going on an ungodly tear for the next 81 at-bats. I think he has such a year in him at the major league level, but we won't have the opportunity to find out if that year can be 2006.

The Kansas City Royals are playing unexpectedly well this month -- their 6-10 July record coming into the Angel series improved their winning percentage -- but a split in Missouri is ugly nonetheless.

The series was bookended by our starters having uncharacteristically poor starts. Without looking it up, I'd guess that Ervin Santana's Thursday start, in which he walked eight men, was his overall worst since his debut. He did manage to battle and keep the Angels in the game for his short time on the mound, but his release point was a mess, his control was AWOL, and I don't think he had a real clue where the ball was going.

Jered Weaver closed the series with the worst start of his career, walking, if you can believe it, four men, while tying his career low in strikeouts with four. His command was off; his slider was inconsistent, his fastball just a bit better, and his change-up MIA. But he was facing a bad team and still had enough to dominate, though his ERA was inflated from 1.12 to 1.15.

Come to think of it, the middle two starts, from Bartolo and Kelvim, were also marked by pitchers scrappily keeping themselves and their team in the game. The Fat Man at this point has nothing, but you can tell he's putting all of the nothing he can into his effort out on the mound. Without his popping fastball he just can't be the same pitcher he's been for his career, and it shows in his performance, as he's only whiffed 30 batters this season, having worked just over 55 innings. This is far below what he's done in the past.

But Colon was able to fulfill the minimum requirements of the quality start, allowing three earned runs in his six innings (there was an unearned run in the mix, too). Kelvim did him one better, shaking off the rust by allowing three runs in his first inning on Sunday, but following them up with six shutout innings in which he allowed only five hits.

Continuing his season's theme, Escobar only struck out three guys, as many as he had K'd in his previous start. His apparently chronic elbow soreness certainly would appear to be a factor.

Though all of the starters this weekend might be considered to have done reasonable jobs of keeping the team in the game (with the possible exception of Ervin, who did a semi-reasonable job), the bullpen gets incomplete marks in this regard. K-Rod and Shields are as strong as ever, but getting to them can be rough as Brendan Donnelly struggles with his consistency and JC Romero has been disappointingly awful for much of the year, and has been so bad against right-handed batters that we'd be better off letting opponenets hit off of a tee.

(Aside: remember all the wailing early this season about Frankie losing it, being hurt, etc.? He's given up one earned run and one unearned run in his last 16 appearances, striking out 28 against 5 walks and 10 hits in 16 2/3 innings. He has had a couple of rocky outings in that stretch, but he's been fine. I just want everyone to remember that the next time he blows a save or two, which is going to happen some time.)

With Escobar's elbow flaring up, and the middle of the bullpen a wasteland, online talk once again turns to the possibility of moving Kelvim to relief. I suppose we're doomed to have this conversation every season, but it's pretty apparent to me that a healthy Kelvim Escobar is a key cog to our rotation. A good starter, which he continues to be, is just going to be more valuable than a seventh-inning guy.

Do you know about Tango Tiger's Leverage Index? Tango is the call signal for one of the internet's, nay, the world's, most innovative sabermetricians. If I can abbreviate a definition here without confusing people (including myself), LI seeks to determine how much certain situations affect the probability of a team winning.

For instance, early in a game, situations are neutral, so the LI will be around 1.0. But late in a game, say the bottom of the ninth when you're down by one and the bases are loaded with two outs, the LI is close to 11 -- that situation has 11 times the impact on winning than your basic early-game situation. (You can see a whole chart here.)

One way to use this tool is to look at innings pitched by relievers. Relievers pitch fewer innings than starters (sorry for the "duh" observation there), but a closer or set-up man will pitch innings that have a much higher LI, and therefore (inning by inning) may have a larger impact on winning.

LI for this season is tracked at the site Fangraphs, and the Angel page can be seen here. You can see that K-Rod's LI is 1.99, meaning that his innings have nearly twice as much important as neutral situations.

So Scot Shields has an LI of 1.62 in 53 2/3 innings; that's equal to around 87 innings of just normal importance.

Kelvim Escobar has an LI of 1.02 in 113 2/3 innings, the equal of 116 innings.

So, right there, you see that a starter will generally have more impact on his team's chances of winning than even a oft-used late-inning reliever. And if you moved Kelvim to the bullpen, his LI would be lower than Shields', probably around 1.50. Sure, you'd gain something as relievers have an ERA advantage over starters (the authors of The Book -- a troika including the aforementioned Tango -- found the advantage to be around 0.80 of ERA), but I just don't think there are enough important innings going around to make a move of Kelvim a worthwhile trade-off.

And that doesn't even consider the fact that Joe Saunders is unproven in the majors, and that while he looks like he's going to give it is all come hell or high water, Colon's body doesn't seem particularly reliable right now.

Of course, if Kelvim's health requires him to move to the pen, I'm for it. He'd obviously help the pen. It just that, if he's physically capable, his presence in the rotation helps it more.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Just got through last night's game on my DVR.

Seriously: what the hell?

Here's an idea: instead of trading Adam Kennedy for Shea Hillenbrand and/or a bunch of good players for Miguel Tejada, how about we trade everyone in the organization for, um, six cantaloupes, which we then award to the six Orange County high school students that come up with the best limericks about their daddy's yacht?

Who's with me?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

  • The Blue Jays have designated Shea Hillenbrand for assignment giving them ten days (well, now it's nine, I guess) to trade him. Hillenbrand as oft been linked to rumors involving our Lads, as he's a free swinger who is generally overrated because of a high batting average.

    Would Hillenbrand help the team? Baseball Prospectus pegs his offense as being just above average this year (a .267 equivalent average where .260 is the league benchmark), which would rank fifth amongst our regulars (behind Vlad, The OC, Napoli, and Rivera), and behind Tim Salmon and just ahead of Robb Quinlan amongst our reserves.

    Of course, Q is primarily a platoon player at this point; where Hillenbrand over his career has a 804 OPS against lefties and a 771 versus righties, Quinlan has managed an excellent 934 against southpaws, but a mere 653 against northpaws. Hillenbrand is thus a legit option to play third base (he's better than Ztu and has a better track record of health than Big D), first base (if the team tires of Kendry's on-the-job training), and, naturally, DH.

    Would we be able to acquire Hillenbrand? Though the LA Times reports that Toronto GM J. Pimp Ricciardi is looking for a pitcher and not an infielder, it's not hard to envision a scenario in which the Jays acquire Adam Kennedy and move promising young Aaron Hill to shortstop (thanks to the posters at Halos Heaven for pointing out that moving Hill is a viable possibility).

    But ... the reason Hillenbrand is so easily available is that he's run into problems with management north of the border, and there are rumblings that he's not too beloved in the clubhouse, either. I don't know much about Shea's personal relations, but on the face of it he appears to be a personality type that the Angels like to (and are smart to) avoid. Given the fact that Hillenbrand doesn't appear to provide a significant upgrade at any position, I don't know that Stoneman would make a move for him at this point.

    He wouldn't hurt, but I can't say I really endorse his acquisition.

  • Halofan reopens the rumors of the Angels looking at Miguel Tejada.

    The LA Times alleges that we called the O's about Miggy a few weeks back, and were greeted with a request for Ervin, Howie, and Scot Shields. This is obviously a non-starter.

    Halofan hints that the requested package may be more in line with Orlando Cabrera, JC Romero (praise God), and ... Nick Adenhart.

    That package is a paradox to me in that it seems both like the Angels would be giving up too much and that the Orioles would be acquiring too little.

    The O's have a legit star in Miguel Tejada, so you think they'd be able to acquire, in addition to a major league regular, at least one high-level prospect close the majors. Adenhart is certainly a high-level prospect, but is at least three years away, and is on schedule to be making his major league debut in the last year of Tejada's contract (he's signed through 2009).

    Halofan's post claims that "but LAA's Latin Quarter in the clubhouse is clamoring for Miggy," which sounds legit to me, but I doubt that they or anyone else would want to see Lando Cabrissian dispatched to get him. Previous rumors have intimated that the Angels would acquire Mr. Swings At Everything without ridding themselves of Cabrera, thus moving Tejada and his strong arm to the hot corner.

    The only longterm issues with that are the costs involved in paying Tejada (he's due $38M over the next three seasons, which may be a tad high if he's at third, but a rich team in contention can afford to overpay for the wins that can put them over the top) and the possibility of blocking Brandon Wood in a couple of years. That latter point can be dealt with when we get there, as it won't be an issue until after next season at the earliest.

    If I were Baltimore, however, I'd sure as hell be asking for Brandon Wood in a package. I might settle for Erick Aybar as long as I got someone else to go along with it, such as Dallas McPherson (in whom Halofan claims they have no interest). But I might also ask for Juan Rivera (they play Jeff Conine in left every day, for God's sakes) and, well, you're not getting Adenhart on top of those guys, so maybe Tommy Mendoza or Stephen Marek.

    I obviously have no idea if Baltimore would really ask for that; if I'm Bill Stoneman, I do think long and hard about trading Aybar, McPherson, Rivera, and Mendoza for Tejada, and then flipping Adam Kennedy for Hillenbrand to take over the DH spot. That latter move would mean more of Garret Anderson in left field, which is suboptimal; the hope would be that the decrease from Rivera to Hillenbrand would be more than offset by the improvement from Izturis/McGimp to Tejada.

    Of course, I've come far afield of actual rumor and into the world of rampant speculation, which serves no one any good, and as such I'll stop when I'm behind. Suffice to say that Miguel Tejada is an excellent player, but I don't want to see the Angels gut their future to get him. I'd be loathe to see us dispatch Nick Adenhart, a first-round talent and possibly our best pitching prospect. I don't know if I see Stoneman moving him.

    As for what will happen ... your guess is as good as mine.

  • Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Comes now Mike Scioscia to inform Adam Kennedy -- and by extension, us -- that he is now in a platoon with Howie Kendrick.

    The idea of platooning Adam is, of course, very sound, as he's only a career 254/310/338 hitter against southpaws. I do have some concerns about Howie in a platoon arrangement, though, which are the same concerns I had when he was brought up earlier this year. Basically, I think that adjusting to the majors can be a tough adjustment and adjusting to a part-time platoon role can be a tough adjustment, and that it is doubly difficult to adjust to major-league pitching when you only play a couple of times per week. I don't know that the Angels are going to get enough games against lefties to get Kendrick into a groove.

    He has looked good in his first two games back, for whatever that's worth, going 4-for-8 with his first two extra-base hits of his career, and generally looking comfortable and confident at the plate.

    We all knew going into this season that Adam's days as an Angel were numbered, and of course, as I have recently discussed, many people are thinking (or even hoping) that that number is less than what it used to be. The main problem is that most competitive teams across the league -- the teams that would want to trade for a second basemen for two months -- generally have decent second sackers (or at least guys having good years). The Yankees and the Chavez Ravine team have suffered injuries to their second basemen, but we don't know at this point that such ailments will be devastating enough to cause the teams to look for someone else.

    The one team with pretty poor second baseman is St. Louis, who runs Aaron Miles out there. Miles is having about as "good" a year as Kennedy at the plate, but doesn't have the track record to indicate that he should do better. But he is a switch-hitter who has been slightly better against lefties than righties in his career, so a platoon in Missouri may be in order.

    I would say that Kennedy would best be moved for bullpen help (we don't have a dominant seventh inning guy, as you know) or a minor league outfielder. The Cards have a multitude of promising and/or intriguing relievers, though none of them are likely both dominant and available.

    And the thing is, unless Howie is getting big hits every time he plays (and no one does), he's not going to force the Angels to bench Kennedy outright, meaning that the only to get him into the lineup every day (assuming he's even ready) would be to trade the veteran. I just don't know if I see that happening. But this is a developing and intriguing story for our Lads, one with no easy answers, and one that may end up making a decisive difference in a tight division.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Well, Saturday night I made it out to the Big A for my first (and quite possibly only) trip of the year. A friend of mine came down with some free tickets, and so we went.

    I was looking forward to the schedule Ervin Santana-Scott Kazmir match-up, so I was slightly saddened when Kazmir was pulled in favor of Jamie Shields, though a bit gratified as I thought this gave us a better chance to win.

    Ervin delivered with a solid start, having only one inning where he struggled by giving up back-to-back triples. Jamie Shields kept up his end of the bargain by allowing four runs (plus two more bequeathed runners who came into score); the only impressive thing about Tampa Shields was his pickoff move, one of the best I have seen by a right-handed pitcher.

    Tampa Bay's roster is filled with guys who I hadn't realized were still in major league baseball -- Greg Norton, Tomas Perez, and Chad Harville, for three. For all the exciting young talent that organization is developing, they'll still be consigned to the footnotes of the AL if that's the best they can do.

    The two Angel highlights, of course, were Mike Napoli's towering two-run shot and Vlad's grand slam. Vlad's shot was impressive; right off the bat I thought it had a chance but wasn't sure if it would stay high enough. I didn't have long to contemplate this issue, however, as the ball flew over fence with extreme alacrity. As you might imagine, there was much jubilation in the stands.

    The Neapolitan also drew a walk, and at .412 threatens to be the first Angel with an OBP over .400 since Darin Erstad (.409), Troy Glaus (.404), and Tim Salmon (.404) pulled off the trifecta in 2000. I don't know if he'll maintain the average to do it, but it's nice to see someone at least flirting with the idea.

    Aside from that, we've been playing strong, and you know that. We even made it through a Dustin Moseley start. He didn't pitch particularly well, but it was about as well as you could expect a mid-level prospect to pitch in a debut against a strong offense. But on the whole, I can't say he truly impressed me in any way, either good or bad. He just showed up, threw strikes, allowed hits, and got some good run support.

    Can Joe Saunders maintain the excellence tonight? Unknown, of course, but the team has been playing with a confidence and poise that appeared AWOL this spring. Hopefully the kid can step up to the challenge.


    Another fun thing about going to the game is getting a program and reading all the propaganda. This month's issue includes an article on Adam Kennedy, which further includes a quote from Mickey Hatcher praising Adam for "leveling" his swing a bit more this season.

    This jumped out at me, given this recent post (which one Devil Rays' blogger described as an "epic rant" about why Howie Kendrick should be starting over Adam; "epic" I'll grant, but as the piece concludes that Adam should improve and the choice between them is so close that " I can't really begrudge the Angel braintrust for going either way", I'm a bit unclear on how it's a pro-Kendrick rant). As I observed in that post, Adam has hit more groundballs than ever the past few years, and has completely lost his power because of it. As a result, the main part of his offense are his singles, and this year his grounders just aren't finding any holes.

    So basically Mickey Hatcher took a guy who has hit .290 over the past four years, who used to (from 2002-2004) average 10 home runs per year with an Isolated Power (extra bases per at-bat) in the .130 range, and "leveled" his swing, turning him into a .260 hitter with three home runs in the last two seasons and an ISO hanging out at .100.

    Well done, sir!

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    But not what you think: Kelvim has been DL'd, Howie Kendrick called up.

    My guess is that we'll see another move to bring up Joe Saunders to start on Tuesday, unless they want Hector Carrasco and Kevin Gregg to tag-team Kelvim's starts for the next couple of weeks, which is actually a lame idea.

    Unknown yet whether or not Howie will be part of the Sit On Your Ass And Waste Development Time Plan or whether he might get some regular playing time in. If he's going to play (third base?), Ztu would likely return to the utility role, allowing Erick Aybar to be sent back down to make room for Saunders on Tuesday. But that's all speculation right now ...

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    From certain corners of Angel fandom, the cry is loud and clear: dispatch Adam Kennedy at any costs and start the Howie Kendrick revolution as soon as possible.

    It is easy to see why people are calling for this; we all know it's coming at the end of the year, anyway, Adam's in a slump, Howie continues to rip it up at AAA, etc.

    Let's check out Adam's performances, offensively and defensively, over the past few seasons. EqA is Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average (.260 is the league average), ZR is Zone Rating as reported on the player cards at ESPN.com (the average for second basemen is usually around .830):
    Year  Age   EqA   ZR
    2001 25 .239 .888
    2002 26 .274 .854
    2003 27 .263 .853
    2004 28 .264 .847
    2005 29 .264 .836
    2006 30 .233 .797
    What we're seeing here is a fairly usual shape to his performance, both offensively and defensively. I think the jump from his age 25 to age 26 seasons is a bit large, and his consistency from 2003 through 2005 is a bit more stable than most players; it is also true that his decline this year, though expected, has thus far been steeper than most players'.

    As for the defense, players do generally decline as they get older. I wouldn't read too much into his 2006 numbers so far, as there is a a lot of noise in defensive numbers that usually take at least a season or two to sort out, but I don't think it's wrong to conclude that his fielding has declined a bit.

    What are the chances of Adam getting his offense back on track? Is he doing anything differently at the plate?

    Fangraphs has batted-ball data for all hitters; let's take a look at Adam again over the past few years (the columns should be rather self-explanatory):
    Year  Age   EqA   BB%   K%    GB%   FB%   LD%
    2001 25 .239 5.3 14.9 ---- ---- ----
    2002 26 .274 3.9 16.9 33.5 40.3 26.2
    2003 27 .263 9.1 16.3 31.6 42.0 26.5
    2004 28 .264 8.1 19.7 39.7 39.7 20.5
    2005 29 .264 6.5 15.4 40.1 35.2 24.8
    2006 30 .233 7.2 17.8 38.9 34.8 26.2
    That's a lot of numbers that look alike, so let me just underline a few things. For one, we see something that's really obvious to long-time Angel-watchers: Adam is hitting more and more balls on the ground, less in the air, and the result, as we've seen, is a drastic reduction in his extra-base power.

    For another, all of his rates are very much line with his successful 2004 and 2005 campaigns, so nothing Adam Kennedy is doing this year in terms of hitting the ball on the ground or the air, or his walks and strikeouts, explains his precipitous decline.

    Well, once he hits the balls, what kind of success is he having? What is his Batting Average on Balls in Play (i.e. no strikeouts and no home runs)?
    Year  Age   EqA  BABIP
    2001 25 .239 .307
    2002 26 .274 .364
    2003 27 .263 .298
    2004 28 .264 .328
    2005 29 .264 .351
    2006 30 .233 .309
    Now we're on to something, a little bit. Here's something to remember: flyballs in the park are outs more often than groundballs are. Why? The difference is mostly in that flyballs include infield pop-ups, which are virtually certain outs (they are caught around 97% of the time), but groundballs have ways of finding holes and bad hops.

    Let's look at the following:
    Year  Age   EqA  BABIP  GB/FB
    2001 25 .239 .307 -----
    2002 26 .274 .364 .83
    2003 27 .263 .298 .75
    2004 28 .264 .328 1.00
    2005 29 .264 .351 1.14
    2006 30 .233 .309 1.12
    2003 was Adam's most flyball-happy year, and thus his BABIP was down; fortunately, that was also the year he drew walks most frequently, and 8.3% of his flyballs went over the fence, a career high (his Isolated Power, or extra-bases per at-bat, was .129, which is okay for a middle infielder). So we was able to overcome that BABIP with walks and power, and have a productive season.

    2005 is at the opposite end of the spectrum in many ways. Adam hit tons of balls on the ground and racked up the singles, but his Isolated Power was a mere .070, easily the lowest of his career.

    This year, Adam is actually hitting with more power, with his ISO up to .104 at the break. But he's not getting the singles. Comparing the past two seasons:
    Year   1B/AB   2B/AB   3B/AB   HR/AB
    2005 .240 .055 .000 .005
    2006 .181 .059 .011 .007
    Incredibly, only 6% of AK's at-bats in 2005 ended with an extra-base hit; he's up to 7.7% this year, a modest improvement.

    But the problem is those singles; his groundballs just aren't finding holes. If he were getting a single in just 20% of his at-bats, he'd be hitting .278 with an OBP of .329 and a SLG of .381; not too hot, but a lot better than the 259/315/363 he's thus far posted. And if he were getting singles at the same rate he did last season, he'd be hitting 319/366/422, which would pretty much rock.

    So the million dollar question: is there any reason to believe that Adam's groundballs are going to find more holes in the second half?

    And that's a question I just don't have an answer to. You can look at pitchers and the BABIP they allow, and you know that their defense is a huge factor in that. But batters create their own BABIP to a large degree. But there is also a lot of year-to-year variation, caused by such a myriad of factors that you can't really assign it to any one thing in most cases. (And his BABIP last season was abnormally high, so you would expect some regression from it.)

    If I had to guess, I would say that Adam is going to bounce back at some point, be it this season or next. Yes, he's declining as he ages, as expected, and he might not be a good bet to put up another streak of seasons like from 2002-2005, but it's rare that a player would drop in skill level so quickly and immediately.

    Of course, the question the Angels have to ask is whether or not Adam Kennedy or Howie Kendrick is a better bet to hit over the next 70ish games, and whether or not there is a substantial defensive/baserunning difference.

    I don't really know what Howie would hit for the Angels this year. 300/320/450, maybe? If he can do that with average defense, there's a good chance he'd be better than Adam. But I don't know, and I don't think the choice is an easy or clear one. At this point, I can't really begrudge the Angel braintrust for going either way.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    As are most certainly aware, the AL West is the most competitive division in baseball right now, with four teams separated by a mere 2.5 games.

    And for all the problems the Angel offense has had this year, at least we've scored more runs than the Athletics, which is true of every team in the American League. This is not just an illusion created by the Oakland home park and its luxurious foul ground; the rank last in the AL and next-to-last in the majors in Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average, as well. (The Angels are an unexceptional eleventh.)

    And while Texas has what BPro's measures peg as the sixth-best offense in the AL, their pitching is at best mediocre (a 4.63 ERA, which their team has, is probably okay for that ballpark), and they have a shallow rotation. Seattle appears to be mediocre on all counts.

    In short, no team in this division is the complete package, and the division is entirely winnable. Our two-game deficit at the break is actually a pretty spectacular result once you consider:

  • Vladimir Guerrero has gone through the worst slump of his career and is putting up what is to this point his worst season.

  • Injury and its presumed effects (e.g. decreased velocity) have resulted in Bartolo Colon having one good start all year.

  • Adam Kennedy, who has been an average or better hitter for each of the last four seasons, is putting up a year nearly identical to his poor 2000 and 2001 campaigns.

  • Casey Kotchman, who was expected to build on his 278/352/484 performance in part-time last season, has been stricken down with mononucleosis, and played absolutely horribly when he was on the field.

  • For the second straight season, Dallas McPherson has gone down with injury just when it seemed like he was getting it together with the bat and starting to establish himself as a contributor.

  • Legs Figgins, who entered the season as a career .292 hitter, is only hitting .267 -- which is actually good, as he has raised his average by 14 points over the last ten games.

  • Garret Anderson is having the worst season of his career, hitting for neither the average nor power that has made him a tolerable hitter in the past.

  • That's a pretty horrible list of problems, but thankfully Oakland has had their own and kept us in this race.

    You can look at that and see how the Angels might improve in the second half of the season. Vlad, Figgins, and even Kennedy should be expected to improve to some degree, and Kotchman and McPherson could provide a nice little boost if they can come back healthy and ready.

    The thing is, Oakland is singing the same song. They have disappointment up and down their lineup, with Dan Johnson, Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, and Mark Kotsay all hitting well below where they have in the past, and in every case but Chavez's not only are the hitting below expectations, they're barely above replacement level, if at all. If just one or two of those guys can turn into an even average hitter the rest of the way, that would actually help that team out quite a bit.

    But the Angels can't worry about that, except for the days when we face them ourselves. Nor can we worry about when or if Gary Matthews Jr. will return to Earth in the Lone Star state (or whether his likely decline will be matched by Mark Teixeira getting back on track). All the Angels can worry about is themselves. Our Lads have come on strong over the past couple of weeks (no team in the majors has a better record over the last ten games), and shown the kind of well-rounded quality play to which we've become accustomed, spearheaded by a starting rotation that's making fools out of its hapless opponents. The Fat Lady has sat down, and we have the power to keep her waiting in the wings for some time.

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    I have exactly zero complaints with John Lackey's pitch selection in his last two games.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Somehow, after all the offensive droughts, the eight batters slumping at once, and the inconsistent defense, the Angels find themselves a mere four games out of first place, with four games in Oakland against the division pace-setters to close out the first half of the season.

    Of course, that scenario means that, as of right now at this moment, we're still in this thing, despite what many others have said and/or predicted. And with a stunning five-game winning streak and a series sweep under our belt, it hasn't been this exciting to be an Angel fan since October 11 of last year.

    As our division continues to struggle and keep us competitive, the four-game series in Oakland becomes paramount in importance. Obviously, a sweep either way would be pretty decisive, though the results will likely be more intermediary and muddled than that. I would certainly accept splitting the series and maintaining our four-game deficit going into the break; of course, taking three of four and picking up two games would be even better.

    Losing three of four would set us to six games back, which is getting to be on the edge of manageable at this point of the season, I would think; it would return us to that foggy land between contention and out-of-it-ness in which we've been mired for much of the season. Because of that, I think getting at least a split is critical, just to keep us within hailing distance of the Athletics.

    Of course, there's another question, one which seems to have been avoided so far. Even if we are able to win this weak division, will we be able to make any noise in the postseason? Well, as our strengths are with the pitching staff, we might be uniquely positioned to make some playoff noise, if only our offense could get it together enough to get us there. But we have seen that this team is capable of some bad play, and though just about every good team will go through tough stretches, ours have been so pervasive and extended over periods this season that I just don't know if this is a team that can win a championship.

    But that's no reason to give up, not just yet, at any rate. Earlier this season I advocated seeing where we were at the All Star Break before determining our future course, and luckily the stars have aligned so that our imminent destiny is completely in our players' hands. Take care of business in Oaktown, and the game is afoot.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Can you believe it's been nearly a month since I did this? That's June 9th, by the way. Anyway, with the holiday weekend over I'm getting back into the swing of things, so here we go:

    (One quick note: the LA Times reports that Bill Stoneman offered Jeff Weaver to the Mets for Lastings Milledge. Honestly, if I were Omar Minaya, I'd never take another phone call from anyone involved with the Angels ever again. What an insulting offer.)

    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 16 5 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 313 313 500
    Now 182 54 10 3 5 14 20 17 9 297 350 467
    Then 12 4 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 333 333 583 MLB
    Then 144 42 6 2 4 10 17 13 7 292 342 444 AAA
    Well, it's hard to say anything here, as he hasn't really had the opportunity to do anything.

    Michael Collins, C, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 280 83 18 1 5 13 49 5 4 296 367 421
    Then 216 66 10 1 3 10 38 4 2 306 367 403
    Well, at least the power's coming back, in the form of doubles.

    Nick Gorneault, OF, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 267 77 17 4 12 30 59 3 3 288 355 517
    Then 222 66 15 3 8 28 44 2 3 297 373 500
    Just when you thought the Angels' offensive woes were getting so bad they might just give Nick Gorneault a shot, he had to up break his patella. Dunno when he'll be back, or how he'll play when he is, but with Juan Rivera starting his second-half surge already, it doesn't look there'll be any room for him in Los Angeles of Anaheim.

    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 275 104 25 5 13 11 46 11 3 378 418 647
    Then 164 66 19 2 7 6 26 6 3 402 440 671
    As you can see, he's declined quite a bit in the last three weeks, hitting a mere .342 in that period.

    The time may have come to wonder if he's better than Adam Kennedy right now. Adam has finally shown signs of life in the last week, but he's in the midst of what is easily his worst offensive campaign since 2001, a fall that seems particularly dramatic as he was hitting pretty respectably for the first month-and-a-half of the season.

    I think Howie can likely hit in the .290-.300 range right now, at the least, if you gave him an everyday job in the majors. Maybe 300/330/450 to start with? I don't know that Adam's defense and baserunning would be quite enough to make that up. But the problem is that Adam's struggles have likely damaged his trade value, so can we even get anything for him? What happens over the next week, both with the team and with Kennedy's performance, may have a huge impact on who finishes this season at our keystone.

    Jeff Mathis, C, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 217 62 19 1 3 15 45 1 1 286 326 424
    Then 129 36 13 0 2 6 23 1 1 279 307 426
    So how's this guy's trade value? I still think he has a solid future, but with Mike Napoli bashing the ball in the Big A, and playing a more-than-adequate defense as a bonus, he appears to be gripping onto the backstop for years to come, at least as much as anyone can after 150 or so at-bats. It may be too early to decide, but if Napoli, who is roughly a year older than Mathis, puts the job in his death-grip, the Angels will have to decide whether or not Mathis is going to get a timeshare (with Naps getting time at first and/or DH from time to time), has a future as a backup, or if he's trade bait to a team with weak catching prospects. The good sign, long-term, is that Mathis continues to be young for his leagues and is holding his own. But given our dearth of outfield prospects, I can see us keeping our eyes open for good offers.

    Sean Rodriguez, SS, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 308 92 17 2 16 24 84 10 3 299 360 523
    Then 221 63 10 2 9 17 56 7 3 285 353 471
    Nice upswing in power here. A .523 slugging percentage isn't amazing in the Cal League, but power hasn't really been one of Sean's biggest weapons heretofore, so I'm fine with that. I'm glad to see his walks slowly returning, but I would like to see him get his average up around 20 poitns or so, just so he can force the organization to keep finding spots for him [cough]center field[/cough].

    Drew Toussaint, OF, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 248 59 13 0 10 21 75 1 1 238 323 411
    Then 187 43 12 0 8 19 59 1 1 230 321 422
    The roller coaster seems to be plateauing; over the few weeks preceeding May 11, Toussaint went 3-for-41 (073/174/073); from that point through June 9 he was 23-for-84 (273/330/524); since then he's been at 262/286/377, which is not very good.

    I've never seen him, but looking at that line, I wonder if he isn't (1) swinging earlier in counts and (2) cutting down on his power in order to cut down on his prodigious strikeouts. His strikeout rate has gone down ever so slightly, so if so, it's not working. But the power/walk package was a big part of Drew's allure as a sleeper, and he's not going to get very far unless he gets back on track.

    Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B, A Cedar Rapids, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 249 51 12 0 10 22 61 1 3 205 271 373
    Then 180 39 7 0 8 16 45 1 3 217 284 389
    Speaking of getting back on track, I don't think Trumbo has even seen the track this year.

    Reggie Willits, CF/LF, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 275 84 14 4 3 56 44 22 12 305 424 418
    Then 178 55 10 2 1 33 30 14 9 309 416 404
    Willits continues to do nothing to hurt himself; he just does what he does, and he's been pretty consistent this year.

    Brandon Wood, SS, AA Arkansas, BR/TR
    When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
    Now 307 92 30 2 18 40 100 11 1 300 385 586
    Then 229 67 23 1 13 26 77 7 1 293 373 572
    Brandon Wood appears to be adjusting well to the Texas League over time, the strikeouts notwithstanding. But he is decreasing his strikeout rate as the season goes on and he's drawing a good number of walks. I also like the stolen base ratio, a nice bit of icing on the cake.

    Watch Out: Hank Conger, Clay Fuller, Ryan Mount, Aaron Peel, P.J. Phillips, Freddy Sandoval, Hainley Statia, Bobby Wilson


    Nick Adenhart, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids and A Rancho Cucamonga
    When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
    Now 1 0 0 1 1 6.0 8 0 4 3 6.00 Rancho
    Now 10 2 0 16 16 106.0 84 2 99 26 1.95 Cedar Rapids Final
    Then 7 2 0 12 12 74.7 62 2 74 17 2.17 Cedar Rapids
    I had meant to get out to see Nick's first Rancho start, but then the weekend intervened and I couldn't make it. It doesn't look like I missed much, as the hot desert sun made the hitting seem fun. But he'll obviously be fine; it's just one start and his performance at Cedar Rapids was nothing short of Earth-shatteringly dominant.

    Jose Arredondo, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga
    When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
    Now 5 6 0 15 15 90.0 62 4 115 35 2.30
    Then 3 4 0 11 11 61.0 42 2 85 25 2.21
    He's actually already been promoted to AA, so those are his final Cal League numbers, which are stunning.

    Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
    Still waiting.

    Stephen Marek, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
    When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
    Now 9 1 0 17 17 107.3 84 7 86 22 2.01
    Then 6 1 0 12 12 74.3 62 6 61 15 2.54
    Marek's strikeouts, while solid, aren't as eye-popping as some of our other lower-level pitching prospects, but there's nothing to complain about yet, as the kid is definitely getting results.

    Tommy Mendoza, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
    When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
    Now 5 5 0 17 17 108.3 104 8 90 23 4.32
    Then 3 5 0 13 13 77.3 82 6 64 18 5.35
    There we go; Mendoza is starting to keep batters off the basepaths, which is always nice, and his fastball is taking care of business. Nice turnaround after some rocky outings.

    REMOVAL: Rafael Rodriguez, as I just jumped the gun putting him here. He's slowly getting better at AA, but there's a lot of time left.

    Joe Saunders, LHSP, AAA Salt Lake
    When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
    Now 10 3 0 17 17 114.0 95 9 83 29 2.37
    Then 7 2 0 12 12 80.3 65 7 56 20 2.46
    The one thing that bothered me about the DFA of Jeff Weaver was the health of Bartolo Colon. I'm not convinced Bartolo is healthy enough to pitch: his velocity is down and his release looks awkward and inconsistent, as if he's slightly altered his arm action to relieve stress on the shoulder (and put it all on the elbow).

    But the insurance policy is Joe Saunders, who continues to excel in the PCL. It's getting to the point where the Angels will have to decide if he has a future with the team, and if (when?) Bartolo returns to the DL, I'd rather see Saunders get an extended opportunity than watch Jeff Weaver shrug all over the mound.

    Steve Shell, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
    When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
    Now 3 4 0 12 11 69.0 76 6 44 14 3.91
    Then 2 2 0 8 7 48.0 48 5 30 13 3.94
    Steve Shell, who is only 23, is performing solidly in the PCL. The strikeouts are low and the hits are high, but it is a hitters' league and he's young for it.

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

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