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!

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