Monday, July 31, 2006

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.

Sure, call me out on the one I said I was willing to let slide.
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