Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's been nearly three weeks since the minor league season began, so here's how our guys have done in that time.

Position Players

Erick Aybar, SS, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 78 27 2 2 2 5 10 6 4 346 393 500
As always, Erick is hitting for average, but, like usual, that's about all he's doing offensively. Still, a very good start in his first exposure to AAA.

Michael Collins, C, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 67 25 5 1 2 4 10 0 1 373 427 567
A very hot start for the young catcher. He's not yet drawing as many walks as his record indicates he might, but it's still early and you can't complain about a hot bat.

Nick Gorneault, OF, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 73 20 2 1 4 5 18 0 1 274 321 493
Think he's upset that Reggie Willits got the call and he didn't? Slow start at AAA or no, Gorneault has established himself at the minor league level, so if the Angels aren't going to bring him up to replace an injured Juan Rivera, they just don't have this guy in their plans. He could still be a good throw-in on a trade, assuming we had a GM who ever made trades.

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 70 27 8 0 2 1 11 3 2 386 403 586
I suspect he'll get a start this afternoon, as the Tigers face a lefty for a day game antecedent to a night game, which is a usual time to rest regulars, anyway. Perhaps we'll soon see if he can maintain his high level of hitting with his, um, unconventional K:BB ratios at the highest level of the game.

Warner Madrigal, OF, A Cedar Rapids, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 64 17 0 0 0 4 16 2 0 266 309 266
Starting his third straight season at Cedar Rapids, Warner's offense has completely stalled, as he hasn't even notched an extra-base hit so far this season. He gets one more week until he gets booted from the Watch List to the Watch Out.

Kendry Morales, 1B/DH, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 74 18 1 0 3 1 13 0 2 243 253 378
As you may recall, Kendry started off pretty slowly in AA last season before really turning it on in August. As such, his slow start this year doesn't bother me. And it really doesn't bother Casey Kotchman.

Mike Napoli, C, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 62 16 5 0 2 6 20 1 1 258 352 435
A very typical line of strikeouts, walks, and batting averages for Napoli; he hasn't really found his power stroke yet, however. There's no way he's going to consistently hit over .250 while striking out one out of every three at-bats.

Sean Rodriguez, SS, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 58 23 4 1 3 2 16 4 1 397 429 655
Our center fielder of the future (keep your fingers crossed) is off to a nifty start at the High-A level. As with all Angel prospects, what bothers me here are the strikeouts and walks -- Sean does have a good track record with the latter, so I'm going to assume he's only drawn two bases on balls so far because he's been hitting the ball so well. Still, he needs to cut down on those strikeouts.

Honestly, he doesn't project as a high-average hitter at higher levels, but with the walks could put up an average of .250 with an OBP of .350. He'll have to maintain enough power as he moves up to keep pitchers honest, where they will fear him just enough to throw him some wide ones every now and then.

My ideal scenario was for S-Rod to hit 320/440/520 at Rancho this year, so the early returns on that are good (his Cedar Rapids line last year, relative to league, would have been equal to a 274/394/490 at his current level).

Drew Toussaint, OF, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 62 17 6 0 3 7 20 1 0 274 357 516
To be honest, that line isn't all that impressive for the California League, though obviously it's way too early in the season to worry about it. He does have some pop, and he's second on the team in walks, so it's an okay start, though he'll have to put up a big year in this league to not get lost 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 48 8 0 0 1 3 12 1 0 167 226 229

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 47 14 4 1 1 4 6 6 4 298 353 489
His call-up is more a matter of contingency than his forcing the issue; he came up to spot defense and to be a pinch-runner, which looks to be his longterm fate in the majors unless his lead-off skills are further honed.

Brandon Wood, SS, AA Arkansas, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
Now 78 25 8 0 5 8 29 1 0 321 386 615
I love everything here, except for the strikeouts. The fact that he's starting to draw walks is a very good sign; with his power, he's going to be pitched around, and he needs to learn to take those free bases instead of making outs on bad pitches. His incredibly high strikeout level indicates to me that he has yet to learn that lesson. He's still very young, but even if he develops to the worst case (a third basemen who hits 250/320/550), he still projects as a valuable player.

Watch Out: Brett Martinez, Dallas Morris, 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 3 0 0 4 4 24.7 14 1 24 5 1.46

Steve Andrade, RHRP, AAA Omaha (Royals Organization)
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 4 0 7.0 2 0 10 3 2.57
Yes, I am just this stubborn.

Jose Arredondo, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 4 4 19.7 21 0 32 7 2.75
Arredondo is a converted infielder with an obviously live arm, and his early-season performance moves him from Watch Out to Watch List with ease.

Daniel Davidson, LHSP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 1 0 4 4 23.7 27 2 12 9 4.56
The man who would be our own Jamie Moyer is off to a rocky start in his second year at Arkansas. Falling down the organizational depth chart with every ball four issued.

Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
Our in-house Johan Santana clone, I have no idea why he hasn't started the season at Cedar Rapids. Visa troubles? Arm troubles? Does anyone know?

Tommy Mendoza, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 1 1 0 4 4 23.7 25 1 17 3 3.42
The top fastball in the system is off to a solid if unspectacular start.

Rafael Rodriguez, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga and AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 1 1 6.0 6 3 3 2 6.00 AA
Now 3 0 0 3 3 17.0 15 0 20 2 0.53 A Final
Another guy who moves onto the list with a lights-out early-season performance, one that's already gained him a promotion. He did struggle in his first Texas League start, but anyone who can give up less than a run per inning in the California League is worth keeping your eye on. Note: his fastball/slider style is considered pretty similar to another Rodriguez you may know about.

Steve Shell, RHSP, AA Arkansas and AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 0 0 1 0 3.0 2 1 3 0 6.00 AAA
Now 1 2 0 3 3 18.0 20 1 10 4 4.00 AA
Bartolo Colon's injury started a chain reaction that got Steve Shell moved up from AA (where he pitched decently last season) to AAA. I don't know if he'll move back to Arkansas when everything returns to normal; he's young enough where repeating a level isn't really a setback (he has already repeated at High-A Rancho), so we'll just have to see what happens.

Von Stertzbach, RHRP
He ended last season on the DL, and there is no record of his having played so far this season.

Jered Weaver, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 2 1 0 4 4 23.0 23 4 26 4 3.91
People like pointing out that Angel hitters have inflated numbers due to their hitting environments. There is some truth to that, and for the flipside we have to remember that this affects our pitchers, too. A 3.91 ERA is pretty good in the PCL, and the strikeout-to-walk ratio is exquisite. Jered still seems to be having trouble getting the ball down and therefore keeping it in the ballpark, but it's a good performance overall, and with Hector Carrasco having pitched himself out of the rotation, we may soon learn if the Big A is the kind of friendly environ that will suit Weaver the Younger's skills.

Bob Zimmerman, RHRP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 0 2 2 7 0 8.7 13 2 7 1 10.38
He got hammered to open the season last year at Rancho, then straightened out and had a good balance of the year. He'll need to perform a similar trick this season against tougher competition.

Watch Out: David Austen, Trevor Bell, Stephen Marek

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Howie Kendrick didn't play last night, but you can be assured that the Angels wouldn't have called up such a top prospect if they didn't intend to give him a real chance to play. With Ztu likely out for more time than his 15-day DL stint would indicate, and Ruben Juan Rivera still DL'd, he should have plenty of time.

According to what Mike Scioscia said on the pre-game radio interview last night, as well as what is said in the LA Times report linked above, Howie will be spotting AK at second, serve as a hitter off the bench, and even start taking groundballs at second. It is also conceivable that he will get some time at DH, as Tim Salmon (and his AVG/OBP/SLG line of 343/361/686!!!) is not considered able to play every day.

What happens is Howie tears it up when he gets to play? People are beginning to wonder if Adam Kennedy isn't about to be on the trading block, and I bet there are a lot of Mets fans who are hoping that he is. But I don't see it. Adam is a valuable defender, and one of the only guys in our lineup who's a good bet to put up an above-average OBP. And he's been on fire for most of this month.

And we're getting ahead of ourselves, anyway. There is no guarantee that Kendrick, despite the fact that he's hit everywhere he's ever been, is going to immediately start hitting in the majors, especially if his playing time will come in fits and starts. If he just puts up a 280/320/420 in his major league time this year, I'll be happy -- but note that that's a step below Kennedy's performance (and that's before taking defense and baserunning into account).

Howie Kendrick is a career .361 hitter in the minors, but it is true that the Angels have a lot of good hitting parks in their system, and a few teams playing in hitting leagues. Of course, that doesn't really cut into Howie's status as a prospect: a lot of guys hit in hitters' parks in hitters' leagues, and no one else is hitting .361 all the time. But he's moving to a moderate pitchers' park, and he'll be facing a lot of pitchers with breaking balls better than he's ever seen before. As high hopes as we all have for him longterm -- hopes that are completely justified -- we have to realize that adjustments to the majors aren't always smooth, even for the best players in the game.

Monday, April 24, 2006

To take Ztu's spot on the 25-man.

I had mentioned that Brian Specht would have been a logical call-up, but an anonymous commenter astutely pointed out that he's not on the 40-man, so it's just not that easy. So now I wonder if Howie will be made the DH during his major-league stay.

After a horrific game to open the Minnesota series, our Lads went on to win both that series and the three-game set in Oakland. The pitching and defense seemed to click, with Adam Kennedy's highlight-reel double-play start on an Adam Melhuse grounder with one out and the bases loaded yesterday leading the way.

Of course, just as things are starting to go right, our local media starts searching for what's wrong. Mike DiGiovanna openly wonders how long Casey Kotchman's rope is. I've spoken of Casey and his struggles recently, and I don't really have too much to add to my prognosis that he will eventually turn things around. But there is no avoiding the fact that he looks awful right now, mixing tentativeness and overaggression in a disturbing mix of offensive ineptitude.

He's even drawn a bit of fire on the defensive end, which is generally a strength. To quote DiGiovanna from that link:
This wasn't a veteran taking a youngster under his wing. It was a veteran verbally scolding a young player, trying to nip a potential problem in the bud.

The exchange, witnessed by cameras televising the game in the Bay Area, took place after the third inning Friday night, when Angel second baseman Adam Kennedy aired out first baseman Casey Kotchman in the dugout.

Tensions have been running a little high with the Angels, who are getting frustrated by their defensive lapses and inconsistent play, and Kennedy reached a boiling point.

Catcher Jeff Mathis had raced about 90 feet in an effort to catch a Frank Thomas foul pop fly, the ball squirting out of Mathis' mitt in front of the first base dugout. Kotchman, playing toward the hole, gave chase but yielded to Mathis at the last second.

The play wasn't ruled an error, but it came one batter after Mathis made a similar play toward the third base dugout trying to catch Eric Chavez's pop fly, which fell out of Mathis' glove for an error. Kennedy didn't think Kotchman gave enough effort on Thomas' popup and let him know it.
A couple of things here:

1. Why didn't our local station show this exchange? Why was this reserved only for those serviced by Fox Sports Bay Area (which, by the way, broadcasts A's home games in High Definition, an option embarrassingly absent from Angel telecasts)? Was this just because the local guys don't want to run down the home team?

2. It's good to see Adam Kennedy taking charge about these things. I'm really gonna miss that guy next year.

3. But, getting real, Casey Kotchman is one of the slowest players in the major leagues. He may well have been sprinting after the pop fly in question; it's just that his spring looks like most people's lollygagging.

In terms of Casey and his rope, the fact is that he ain't goin' nowhere for awhile. Who's gonna replace him? Kendry Morales is hitting a wonderful 234/246/297 so far in AAA. He took awhile to adjust to AA last season, so that doesn't worry me, but there's no reason to believe he's ready for the majors yet. And though Robb Quinlan is a good spare part, there's no real reason to think he should be an everyday starter.

And we have to remember that Casey, after an awful start in AAA last season, stopped trying to hit everything over the fence, got back to his game, and hit very well for the rest of the season. That counts as part of our evaluation of him.

Here's what I might do, were I Mike Scioscia: sit Casey down for a couple of games. Let him clear his head. (Detroit sends Kenny Rogers against us tonight, a good opportunity for a lefty batter to rest.) And when those days are over, sit Casey down and tell him he has no at-bats so far this year; he's starting over. Zero for zero. Just relax and hit the ball.

Because right now he's swinging too hard. He's swinging at balls and watching strikes. He's pressing. He looks tense. He needs to chill and remember that the season is a marathon and not a sprint.


With Maicer Izturis about to go on the DL, speculation is that Erick Aybar will be called up to take his place.

Does that make any sense to anyone? Ztu is a utility guy, who can play second, third, and short. Aybar has strictly been a shortstop. You wanna see a guy with no experience fielding a bunt at third or turning a double play at second? And don't we want to see Aybar continue to get at-bats and reps at AAA on a daily basis?

We just need a utility guy to grab a few extra innings here and there, right? Isn't that what organizational soldiers like Brian Specht are for?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

There was nothing about last night's game that wasn't awful.

Well, except for the offense. And the middle infielders -- both Cabrera and Kennedy had good games with bat and leather.

Ervin Santana's line -- three earned runs allowed in five-and-to-thirds -- makes his day look better than it was. What we saw was a vintage John Lackey start; we had four good innings surrounding a second inning meltdown, leading to him being at the end of the line in the sixth. I know Ztu's error means those four second-innings are unearned, but you can really only blame one run on that error, I think. Well, maybe two. But Magic walked two guys all by his lonesome, and then had some bad luck on a chopper infield single that would have been a groundout in any legitimate baseball park. But, as I pointed out yesterday, Santana had a supernaturally low .105 batting average allowed on balls in play coming into the game, and the mean had to come bite him in the ass some time.

Meanwhile, we're down to one completely dependable reliever in Scot Shields, and if Brendan Donnelly and Frankie K. can't get things turned around, that just means Ol' Mike'll have to go to Scottie more and more, meaning his arm'll be toast by mid-August.

To add to the fun, Bartolo Colon is on the DL, and Hector Carrasco is taking his spot in the rotation. We'll see how that works out; I'm highly skeptical about his abilities as a starter, but in a spot situation he may do okay. But part of me hopes he gets blown away and precipitates the Jered Weaver Era.

Okay, I'm mostly just upset over a disgusting loss. Nothing that's happend makes me change my tune about our team this season, as nothing that's happened is anything that would have been impossible before the season began. I suspect our defense will fill its leaks over time. I believe the starting rotation, unless injuries ravage it, will be productive. And the offense will be what it will be, a serviceable collection of Vladi and the Pussycats.

The one thing that worries me is the bullpen. I did expect some regression, but right now the only 100% reliable guy is Scot Shields -- who, of course, lost a game in Baltimore. But even the most reliable moundsman will lose a game here and then, especially when just about every game they pitch is a close game. But Donnelly's reliability is questionable, Romero is good in his constraints (vs. lefties), and Frankie looks a mess. Blow-Rod has allowed at least one run in all but one of his six appearances this year. He did come into today's game with a 5:1 SO:BB ratio, hinting that maybe he was putting things together, but he walked two in tonight's disaster, and walked in the tying run with a crazy 3-2 slider.

I guess that if he'd gotten the game-winning K on that slider, I'd be saluting his courage, but there's a fine line between courage and delusion. I've defended him in the past, and we've seen him have bad stretches before and come out strong, but right now he's not to be trusted with any spheroids in his hand.

Aside from all that, I think we look great.

- I'd love to talk about Kelvim Escobar's apparently splendid effort yesterday, but unfortunately my new HDTV cable box/DVR decided to freeze up yesterday while I was at work, leaving me with zero recorded minutes when I got home in the bottom of the seventh. Needless to say I'll take a 10-strikeout, two-walk game any day of the week, and it's great to see Kelvim pitching well after a fingernail-impaired lackluster outing last week.

- In other Angel news, a minor league "prospect" named Karl Gelinas has been suspended for 50 games for a first violation of organized baseball's steroid abuse policy. I have no shame in admitting that I had never heard of Gelinas before this; he entered this season with a career 4.47 ERA in the minors, with 147 strikeouts against 38 walks in a bit over 240 innings. As a 47th-round draft pick who strikes out less than six guys a game, the odds were long against him already, and there's no way this can help.

- Who would have guessed that, two weeks into the season, Legs Figgins would have as many home runs as stolen bases? If this keeps up, I'll have to change his nickname to "Slugger" Figgins.

- Later today, the Angels will face Kyle Lohse, who enters the game with an 8.44 ERA and has issued as many walks as strikeouts in this young season.

Naturally, I expect our offense to sputter, and Ervin Santana should prepare himself to have only two or three runs with which to work. For his part, Ervin has allowed an absurdly low .105 batting average on balls hit in the field of play this season, which will of course come up. His "batting allowed" line (or whatever you call it) includes a goofy-looking 174/224/478 AVG/OBP/SLG line. Except normalcy to set in at some point.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Things that have happened in the six days since I last posted:

- We lost a blowout to Texas.

No comment.

- We lost 6-5 to Baltimore.

Ervin Santana's line for the game (four runs in seven innings, three home runs allowed) was worse than that in his first start (one run allowed over five-and-two-thirds), but I actually thought he looked better. (Seitz thought he looked ragged, so your mileage may vary.) But he seemed to be hitting his spots a bit more, and the placement of the center field camera in Oriole Park really showed off the bite he has on his slider.

As for the three home runs, Jay Gibbons' came on a pitch just above the knees on the outside corner, definitely not a mistake pitch. Nick Markakis' came on a ball down around his shins, and didn't strike me as an awful pitch, though many left-handed batters have a good power stroke on pitches in that area, and the small sample on Markakis thus far hints that he may not be an exception. And the pitch to David Newhan was poor, as evidenced by the fact that it resulted in a home run hit by David Newhan.

The problem is that the O's jumped on every one of Ervin's mistakes, and the jetstream in the air that night was unforgiving to fly balls. The kid has now allowed four home runs in his 12 2/3 innings of work, which is bothersome, but I'm sure will come down. I'd be a bit more worried about the fact that he's only struck out four guys this year, but it's early and his opponents have just made good contact.

The only thing that worries me about Ervin long-term (excepting health, about which you worry to some degree about every pitcher) is that he's very much a two-pitch pitcher, alternating between his fastball and his slider. Sure, he pulls the change out every once and awhile, but he doesn't use it often enough for it to be a viable alternative in his repertoire. Of course, John Lackey was basically fastball/slurve for a few years, before turning on his change and really amping up his game. Ervin is young enough, and his "stuff" is sufficiently impressive, that I have a good feeling that he'll develop into a bona fide Pitcher (as opposed to Thrower) as he matures.

The other story of the game had to do with Jeff Mathis; in the ninth inning, after Mathis' passed ball had set up the O's scoring their fifth (and go-ahead) run, I was convinced my blog about this game would include a rant about how the Angels erred in not at least offering Bengie Molina arbitration in the hopes that he would accept it and we'd have him for one more year while Mathis polished his game in the SLC.

And then Jeff had to go and tie the game with a home run.

Well, I still think Bengie should have been offered arbitration, and I'm not convinced Mathis is ready to play in the major leagues. But he's learning from one of the best in his manager, and long-term I feel he'll be a productive regular player. And we have to remember that he's only 23 years old.

- We lost to the Orioles 3-2.

I saw the very end of this game, when Casey Kotchman struck out looking, and once I saw the highlights I had no desire to go back and watch the rest.

Casey, as you know, has been kind of a mess this year, notching only one extra-base hit and a barely tolerable three walks in thirty-three at-bats, all adding up to a paltry 182/250/212 AVG/OBP/SLG line. On the face of it, I'm not bothered, as he started off 0-10 in the majors last season after struggling at AAA, and came around to hit a solid 278/352/484 for the year.

But, just like Ervin and his 2.5 pitches, there is one thing about Casey that bothers me. His swing tends to be top-hand dominant in a way reminiscent of Darin Erstad and his chronic 4-3 shenanigans. Rolling the top hand over during a swing often leads to weak toppers to the right side; Casey's groundball-to-flyball ratio is a ridiculous 4.25:1 this season -- he just isn't driving the ball yet.

That bothers me a little bit more than his tentativeness at the plate, as that's probably just a mental problem. But the top hand thing is something that appears to be inherent in his swing.

How much of a leash does Casey have? I think his productive summer last year bought him quite a bit, as if his reputation and minor league performance hadn't already. Kendry Morales is off to a slow 273/273/364 start in AAA (he also started off fairly slow in the Texas League last season before catching fire in late summer), so there's no real pressure coming from there. I think Casey will have time to straighten out, and that he will succeed in doing so.

- We beat the Orioles in a blow-out.

I didn't catch the whole game, but John Lackey looked very good. Take out his one bad inning in Seattle, and his season line looks like:
IP  H  HR  SO  BB  R  ER   ERA
18 14 2 17 2 4 4 2.00
Obviously, that five-run inning happened, and we can't ignore it. But Big John has been superb outside of that mini-meltdown, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is most impressive. The Baseball Prospectus book labeled him our new ace this year, and he looks committed to earning that moniker.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

GS  W   L   IP   H   HR   SO   BB   ERA
15 4 6 79.3 102 11 47 40 6.81
That's John Lackey's total line for each April (and one March start) from 2003 through 2005. Known for slow starts, Lackey always struck me as a guy who could put together a Cy Young-caliber season if he could just start the season with anything near the domination with which he tends to end it.

After his first start against Seattle, it looked like more of the same for Big John in 2006. He fell prey to the big inning that has always been his bete noir, giving up five runs in one inning, derailing an otherwise solid start.

So last night's effort was doubly pleasing; not only did Lackey shut down a good offensive team, he did so in dominant fashion, striking out eight against only one walk, and allowing a mere four hits. He did allow a two-run homer to Phil Nevin, but whenever a guy hits an opposite-field home run against you, you have to tip your cap and give him some credit for some good hitting.

In the meantime, the Angels managed to find enough holes in the Texas defense to notch five runs. Looking up and down the lineup, most of the Lads are on-track with the lumber, with Orlando Cabrera starting off particularly hot with a 370/414/630 line. He obviously won't keep that up, but he's earning his spot in the order so far.

The only real struggles have come from Garret Anderson, who showed some signs of life going 2-4 with a ribbie yesterday; Darin Erstad, who's nowhere near as bad as his current 240/240/320 line; Jose Molina, who could never hit, anyway; and Casey Kotchman, who has mixed up good at-bats and poor at-bats thus far.

I'm not ready to worry about Kotch yet; we're just a week into the season. But one thing he needs to start doing is laying off those fadeaway changeups from right-handed pitchers. He's struck out an uncharacteristic four times already this season, three of which came against northpaws, who tease him with off-speed away and get him off-balance. You can be assured that this will be the plan of attack on Kotchman for any and all right-handers with a circle change until he establishes that he's gonna lay off that pitch.

It's also somewhat bothersome that he only has one base on balls so far, but he's gotten off to slow starts before (as in last year at AAA) and bounced back.

The team has actually struck out quite a bit more than expected, with Vlad whiffing once every 5.0 AB (his career mark coming into '06 is 8.1) and Garret once every 2.9 (much worse than his lifetime 7.3). Hopefully those are just blips, especially in Garret's case, and not a sign of any long-term problems (such as, for instance, declining batspeed).

But all-in-all we're trucking along, and Jeff Weaver needs to step up tonight. He will face Rick Bauer, who hasn't started a game in the majors since 2004, and has a lifetime of rather mediocre performance in the minors. It would be nice for the Angel bats to deliver a comfortable win, give the bullpen a rest, and help Weaver the Elder to his first Halo victory.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Well, the first two games of the Yankee series turned out quite well. Kelvim Escobar pitched a nifty game Friday night. He didn't seem to be locating his forkball well enough to rack up strikeouts, but he was getting outs nonetheless, and walked no one.

Ervin Santana's outing Saturday night was solid if unspectacular. Sure, two hits in five-and-two-thirds innings looks great, but the kid missed quite a few spots and allowed more than a few hard-hit balls. Luckily, when he missed a spot, he generally missed somewhere where he still couldn't be hit hard, and when someone tagged the ball, it went right at someone.

Relatedly, how in the hell does Country Joe West stay employed? He's got to be one of the four worst umpires in the majors, a honored roll that includes Mike Everitt, Larry Young, Jerry Meals, and of course Doug Eddings. His goof of a play at first Friday night, where he ruled that Casey Kotchman had pulled his foot off of first base, was bad enough, but he had to top if off with a ridiculously inconsistent strike zone Saturday evening. The piece of resistance was definitely the eleven-pitch-walk Ervin "issued" to Jason Giambi, wherein ball four not only was called a strike roughly five times later in the game, but it had been called strike two earlier in the at-bat! Ervin's reaction was priceless, as he covered his mouth with his glove to deprive Joe West of what was certainly a colorful string of Spanish nouns and adjectives, only to break into laughter when he finally pulled his glove away.

Yesterday, as you well know, was a disaster, as Bartolo Colon got hammered halfway to Saturn. The Big Mango insists he's not hurt, but a few more starts out of the Pre-All-Star-Break 2004 Collection, and I'll be calling to put him on the DL on general principles. Big Bart just isn't very consistent out there, looking good and spotting his fastball for one inning and coughing up BP fastballs down the middle in the next. To his credit, Colon immediately shot down any speculation that the cause of his troubles was that he was throwing to rookie Jeff Mathis and not to his crutch of last season, Jose Molina: "I can't blame whoever put the signs down because I was the one making pitches, and they were very bad pitches."

This is most certainly true; the home run he allowed to Jorge Posada missed its spot by about 17 inches, and a fastball intended to run away from the Yankee catcher on the outside corner ended up right in his wheelhouse at the knees, and resultedly ended up a souvenir in right field.

Of course, we're going to need Colon healthy and productive in what should prove to be a competitive division this season, so hopefully this will just be a blip, like the awful game he threw in Yankee Stadium last season.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Could anyone have conjured up a more ass-backwards opening series for our Lads?

  • We sent three veteran pitchers up against a mediocre offense in good pitcher's park, and walked away with zero quality starts, two losses, and a 7.63 ERA.

  • The six home runs we have hit -- again, in a tough park for hitters -- is tied for third in the majors.

  • Our six errors are the most in baseball.

    Oh, well, it's just three games. Too early to define their import.

    One weird thing about yesterday's game ... bottom of the seventh, we trail 4-2, one man is out, Ichiro! is on second, and Raul Ibanez is at the plate. Mike comes out to make a pitching change. Does he bring in JC Romero, who we acquired to get out tough lefties, and who pitched splendidly in his debut on Monday?

    Of course not. In comes Brendan Donnelly, in comes the run, and the score stands at 5-2.

    Why, exactly, do we have JC Romero if we're not going to use him that situation? Were we saving him for later in the game, when things would be even more out of hand? Is he still gassed from his 21-pitch outing on Monday? Even if so, you'd think he could manage to face one batter, esp. with a day off to day.

    But 'twas not to be. Brendan came in and struggled, and we fell to an inferior team.

    No guarantees Romero would have retired Ibanez, of course. But since joining the M's, Ibanez has posted a 295/362/462 line against right-handed pitchers and a 283/343/429 against southpaws. Not a huge difference, and maybe that's why Mike didn't make the move, but it surprises me nonetheless.

    We'll see if our boys can straighten themselves up this weekend against the New York Highlanders; it would be nice if we could stop playing like a bunch of damn fools ...

  • Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Last night's loss was somewhat frustrating in that it were our alleged strengths -- pitching and defense -- that let us down, while the offense got on track and delivered eight runners to home plate.

    John Lackey started off the disappointment with a vintage outing. Here is one part of his evening:
    IP  H  HR  SO  BB  HBP  R  ER
    3 4 0 4 1 0 0 0
    And here is another:
    IP  H  HR  SO  BB  HBP  R  ER
    1 5 1 0 0 1 5 5
    You may recall that Big John's Achilles Heel in 2003 and 2004, as well as April of 2005, was a susceptibility to the big inning. Does last night's outing portend evil?

    I don't know; after the Johjima home run, he allowed a seeing-eye single past a diving Orlando Cabrera a blooper to right to Yuniesky Betancourt, and Legs Figgins stood idly by as a Vlad throw skipped past him, allowing Betancourt to move to second. It's when adversity and bad luck turned against him that Lackey used to struggle, so it's somewhat worrisome that he followed this up by hitting Ichiro!'s foot with an errant slurve.

    But it's just one game, so let's reserve judgment. Same thing for our defense, which in committing four errors looked like a bunch of little Kansas City Royals out there.

    Where I will not reserve judgment is in respect to Esteban Yan. The word out of Spring Training was that Yan was throwing well and had never looked better; he backed it up by throwing 11 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 12, walking 2, and allowing only six hits.

    But as we all know by now, Esteban Yan sucks, and last night his return to form may have cost us the game. Yeah yeah, one of his four runs allowed was unearned, but while I don't want to excuse Adam Kennedy's ridiculous error, all it did was put a man on first with one out, a situation that doesn't require Houdini-like skills to escape. Yan had already allowed Richie Sexson to dispatch a three-run homer before the error, so the damage was done.

    Hector Carrasco looked pretty decent in his three innings of work; the unearned run he allowed was caused more directly by The OC's error, which put a runner on third, who was in position to score on a subsequent groundout. Though I'm a bit of a skeptic of the Carrasco signing, I wouldn't mind seeing him take more innings from Yan as the season progresses.

    Anyway, it's just one loss, and our defense is unlikely to melt down like that again. And if we win today, we can still take this thing wire-to-wire!

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    I only got to watch the first seven innings or so, then the bar I was in switched over to basketball pre-game coverage. Under normal circumstances, I would have just waited until I got home to watch the balance of the game on tape, but as it was Opening Day (and the basketball game was such that I was looking for any good news I could find), when I got daily text message alerting me to the Angel game results, I went ahead and read it.

    As such, there wasn't too much drama as I watched the game when I got home. Still, overall, it was fun to watch, a good showing, and it's always great when baseball resumes. Bartolo looked great for four innings before he hit a wall (despite the WBC, he's likely still stretching out his endurance), and JC Romero had one of the better Halo debuts we've seen.

    Orlando Cabrera was the offensive hero, but, his heroics notwithstanding, the notion that The OC should bat second while Casey Kotchman bats seventh will likely prove unsustainable over the course of the season. Orlando has never had an OBP above the league-average, and reaching base should be Casey's main offensive strongpoint. If Kotch continues to hit and draw walks, he may force the issue.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    93 wins, 69 losses.

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