Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Angels currently have 29 games left to play in 2006, and barring a stirring comeback, they won't have any more to play after that.

Let's say that our Lads win two-thirds of their games from here on out, basically taking every three-game series. Let's say they go 20-9.

This will get the Halos up to 89 wins.

In order to win the division, the A's would have to go better than 13-17 over their remaining 30.

Let's even say that the Angels do very well against Oakland, and go 5-2 against them over our last seven games together; that means Oakland would have to go better than 11-12 to beat us out, and we'd have to go 15-7 against the remainder of our opponents.

These outcomes are certainly possible, but with every error and baserunning mistake, we seem to toss our chances into the dustbin. As the Rev points out, we did make up a similar deficit to our current situation over the course of July, so we might have it in us -- but the rest of the league has to chip in and knock down Oakland to help us out.

The odds against are long right now, but not quite infinite. The bartender is prepping for last call and the Fat Lady is doing vocal exercises, but neither one has acted.


This must be link to Halofan day:
Jered Weaver gets a high percentage of his outs from flyballs. Stat-guru theory says that the likelihood of these types of pitchers being good is lessened by the fact that they are prone to giving up the longball. And yet... these analysts never predict which game that will occur - when will all the homers rain down, when will the power strikeouts happen? They talk a lot about the coming regression to the mean, but cannot deliver the time and date of their own prophecies.

The smug stat gurus and their vague pronouncements are like astrologers who will give you broad generalizations of a personality type that kinda-sorta ring true, but turn to your daily horoscope and is it predicting that those personality traits are going to lead to anything specific on this exact date, for sure? Nope, never. Just another vague forecast.
I'm not entirely sure what brought on this red herring rant (the Rev's comments reference this intro at Lookout Landing, which deserves some scorn, as I'll get to shortly), but as perhaps the statiest stathead of the Halosphere, I figured I'd go ahead and respond.

First of all, no "stathead" ever claimed that he could predict what would happen in any specific game, and any one that ever did (or who was "smug" about it) was lying.

More importantly, whatever the opposite of "stathead" is (the scoutiest scout?), if he tells you he can predict what will happen in any specific game, he's lying to you, too. There isn't a man or woman on Earth, or in its history, from Henry Chadwick to Connie Mack to Casey Stengel to Mike Scioscia to Rex Hudler, who has that ability.

The projections of anyone, be they based on stats, scouting, intuition, or Miss Cleo, are based on the odds of something working in the long term. Mike Scioscia doesn't know on what days Vlad is going to go 0-for-4, else he would rest him on those days; he doesn't know when he's going to hit into an inning-ending double play instead of hit a home run, else he would pinch hit for him in those situations.

What Mike Scioscia does know -- and what everyone else knows, in this case, because it ain't exactly a mystery -- is that, in the long-term, Vlad's going to come through in big situations more than anyone else we've got, and more than most of the guys the other teams have got, so you play him. You play the odds.

Even the most micro decision -- e.g., whether or not to send a runner around third toward home -- is based on a macro consideration of the odds. If anything is 100% certain, no decision has to be made. But in most situations that is not the case; I doubt he has some kind of insta-calculator in his head, but when Dino Ebel sends a guy, he's basically saying, "I believe that the odds of this guy scoring, and the benefit to the team if he does so, outweigh the odds of his being thrown out and the damage it will cause." Sometimes he might be wrong, but even if he sends a guy who will make it 95% of the time on a play, sometimes that guy will be thrown out. If Dino Ebel, or anyone else, knew which 5 times out of 100 the guy wouldn't make it, I think he'd get promoted to Benevolent Dictator pretty fast.

The "pronouncements" of statheads on these things are no more "vague" than the pronouncements of anyone else. All anyone can do is do the best they can to evaluate the odds.


Anyway, let me address the Lookout Landing post that got the Rev so riled up.
If Jered Weaver had a few more innings under his belt, his GB% (30.4) would rank third-lowest among qualified starters in all of baseball, between Eric Milton (30.2) and Cliff Lee (32.4). The home runs haven't come yet, but they will, because Weaver's had an unsustainable level of luck keeping the ball in the yard. Oh yeah, he's also had an unsustainable level of luck on balls in play and leaving baserunners stranded. Which all boils down to an unsustainable ERA. Young phenom? He's good, but he's not even the best pitcher on his own team, let alone someone who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the guy who shut down the Anaheim lineup last night. Unless you're saying "Jered Weaver is no Felix Hernandez," in which case, yeah, go nuts.
I was going to go through this thing nuts and bolts, and have just spent a lot of time crunching numbers, but it really comes down to the the claim that Jered entered last night's game with an "unsustainable ERA". To which I say:

No freaking duh.

What, you mean he's really not going to have a 1.95 ERA his whole career? Thanks for the update.

Obviously Jered Weaver was never going to keep his ERA under 2.00. This is not a revelation. This is not analysis. And it doesn't take any understanding of any kind of stats or anything else to know that.

And as for thec omparisons to Felix ... at the Fangraphs site, they list something called Fielding Independent Pitching, which was developed by Tango Tiger to determine what a pitcher's ERA should be based on home runs allowed, walks allowed, and strikeouts.

After last night, Jered's is 3.73.

Felix's is 4.02, and his career mark is 3.68. (It appears that these numbers are not park-adjusted, by the way.)

They are both terrific young pitchers. Both are "phenoms". And you could make a good argument that each is the best pitcher on his team. Anyone trying to claim that there's a huge gap between them at this point is talking with the wrong head.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Last night, we got worked over by Felix Hernandez (and the Seattle defense) to the tune of a 2-0 loss.

Let this stand as an example to those who might think that Kelvim Escobar's poor win-loss record is primarily the fault of his own. Kelvim pitched a very good game last night, and the only difference between he and the King were a few ill-timed infield hits and odd bounces, the likes of which the fine defense of the Mariner infield prevented Hernandez suffering.

Kelvim now has a 4.95 ERA in losses, which is not good, but he also has a 3.33 ERA in his four non-decisions, an indicator of bad support. Five of his twelve losses have been quality starts, and only one of his nine wins hasn't been. 17 of his 25 starts have been quality starts, and he has an ERA of 2.57 in those starts.

Kelvim has given up a considerable number of unearned runs this year, mostly because of two games -- the June 3rd tilt against Cleveland where Vlad dropped a routine fly with the bases loaded, eventually (along with an Orlando Cabrera error) led to Travis Hafner hitting a grand slam off of Brendan Donnelly, and an April 12 game against Texas.

In short, he's pitched well, and deserves better than he's received. But yet he still goes out and does his job, and gives us a chance to win around two-thirds of the time. Now, if everyone else could follow suit, we may have something over the next month or so.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Angels went 7-3 over the just-completed homestand, which was the bare requirement. It was both encouraging and frustrating that two of the losses came in close games where a break or two would have brought a different outcome.

The third loss, however, was not so tightly fought. Though Angel offense did a good job of keeping on the outskirts of the game, the offensive Lads were unable to dig out of the hole they were thrown into by starting pitcher Joe Saunders.

This was Saunders' second horrible start out of the last three, and his once sterling rookie season has been tarnished, with his record dropping to 4-2 and his ERA rising to 4.78.

Has he really pitched all that differently in his first four and last three starts?
What Starts     BFP   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   ERA
First Four 110 .164 .091 .009 .164 1.67
Last Three 61 .131 .180 .066 .295 12.66
As you can see, it's been a wholesale decline from Saunders. You can see that his strikeouts and strikeout-to-walk ratio were not exceptional even in his good starts, a sure-fire sign of imminent decline. He managed to keep opponents down by keeping the ball in the ballpark.

But over the last three starts, not only has he been prone to the long ball, he's also lost his command of the strike zone, walking batters twice as frequently while striking out less guys. He's getting himself into jams more often, and he's unable to escape them himself, with the results being hits allowed, home runs allowed, and a gaudy ERA.

As Saunders has topped out his previous season-high innings totals, people begin to wonder if there mightn't be fatigue. There might well be. But it's also true that he was never as good as his ERA and win-loss record made it appear. We're seeing some correction for that, and we're also seeing teams come around and see him multiple times, which can't be good for a finesse pitcher.

Saunders has faced two teams a second time, Texas and New York:
What Starts     BFP   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   ERA
First vs. Team 52 .192 .077 .000 .173 1.38
Second vs. Team 35 .114 .229 .114 .343 27.00
Look at that for a second -- in his second starts against the Rangers and Yankees, 57.2% of opposing batters have reached base via hit or walk. That's extraordinary.

Obviously, I don't think Saunders is quite that bad; those are two pretty good offenses that roughed him up. But given everything, I'm beginning to become a bit concerned every time he goes out to the mound, and it's still possible that the effects of Bartolo Colon's injury have not yet exhausted their toll on our team's postseason hopes.

Friday, August 25, 2006

According to the indispensable The Book, the average home team trailing by one run in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on first and third and no outs, will have a winning percentage of .623.

Down by one run in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on second and one out, that percentage is .416.

Having a runner on second with no outs and a tie game, it's .697.

So, if the potential tying run is on second base and there are no outs, sending the runner on a base hit (with the batter advancing to second on the throw) will gain you .074 wins if he's safe over holding the runner (and thus holding the batter at first), but cost .207 wins if he's thrown out. To send the runner, the break-even point on his success rate has to be above approximately 73.7% (1-(.074/(.074+.207))).

Figuring out whether or not Juan Rivera, a notoriously unspeedy runner, had a better than 73.7% chance scoring against Wily Mo Pena, a natural right fielder who was fielding a sharply hit ball in shallow left field, is an exercise left to the reader.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Last night gave us an emotionally frustrating game, that once you sit back and think about it, isn't quite as bad as it felt.

For instance, in the broad sense, the Angels out-hit the Red Sox in AVG/OBP/SLG to the tune of 305/405/417 to 194/219/419. But while the Angels got all the right hits at all the wrong times, the BoSox bunched their hits and got some good extra-base smash, which got them an early five-run lead while the Angels squandered opportunity after opportunity, leaving eleven men on base when the dust cleared.

There's enough blame to go around; Tim Salmon, Howie Kendrick, Juan Rivera, and Vlad all had poor at-bats with runners on (though it might be churlish to blame Vlad and Rivera, who drove in runs, and Howie, who did manage to go 2-for-4, though his comebacker with the bases loaded on the first pitch was pretty inexcusable), and Figgins, Izturis, and Quinlan each left three guys aboard.

In the long run, you get that many guys on base, you're going to score runs. But last night it just happened that the Angels couldn't deliver when they needed to. As we won a game on Tuesday that we likely should have lost, this might seem like karmic revenge, but in order to take this division our Lads are going to have to surpass the breaks and take every win they can.

Last night also provided a peculiarity in that Kelvim Escobar gave up five runs but still managed to be the victim of poor offensive support. Usually, when you get blown up in your first two innings you cede all rights to complaint about what kind of runs you're getting, but Kelvim settled down quite nicely and somehow kept the Angels in the game. If only the Halo hitters had come through, just once, Kelvim would have been off the hook for the loss and could even have been in line for a semi-deserved win.

But the time comes to move on, and tonight Jered Weaver takes on Josh Beckett. I guess a lot of us are fearing the other shoe dropping on Weaver -- I think he's an absolutely terrific pitcher, but the fact is that no one is good enough to sustain a 1.95 ERA as a starting pitcher in the American League. He's going to have an out-and-out bad start sometime, and it could very well come against Boston, one of the game's best offenses. But the way he's been lighting guys up, a total meltdown is difficult to imagine.

The Angels only need to split the next four games of this homestand to have put up a 7-3 record, which will have been pretty good, and you can't really complain about that. But taking two of three from each of the titans of the east would give us a 8-2 record over the stand, which can't be complained about at all. Jered having a good outing tonight will go a long way toward making these dreams reality.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Last night the Angels faced one of the top offenses in the league, spotted them three runs with inept defense, and still managed to win.

Sure, Boston was missing Jason Varitek (who's having a down year, anyway), and Manny Ramirez was limited to one pinch-hit appearance, but it's not often that you can gift-wrap three runs for the opposition and still come out with a victory.

Only two of those runs were unearned, which now has the Angels up to allowing 75 unearned runs this season, which, as I'm sure you know, is the most in the majors. The average AL team has allowed 47 unearned runs (you can see team listings here) -- that's 28 more runs than average, close to three-wins worth.

As we're four games out of first place, this is obviously a source of concern, and an odd one, as our defense is usually pretty good. Looking at the Hardball Times numbers I link above, we learn that our team has committed 33 throwing errors, which 7th in the league (the AL average is 32) and 61 fielding errors, which is the most in the league (the average is 42).

That indicates to me that there are issues of concentration at hand; players are getting to balls, but blundering when it comes time to catch them. We have seen this frequently with Vlad, and we witnessed it last night with Chone Figgins, who just up and dropped a ball with two outs, giving the BoSox two runs and a temporary lead.

I don't know what the correction for this is, other than our players just stop being stupid. Our defensive efficienaly -- turning batted balls into outs -- is actually quite solid, ranking fourth in the league and ninth in baseball. As a whole, I think this is a good defensive team, at least in terms of talent. But they need to cut out the stupid, otherwise they're just going to make everything hard for themselves in coming back in this division.

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's been just over three weeks since our last revisiting.

A new addition this time -- I'm linking to each player's page at Minor League Splits. They're "only" updated through August 15th, but this is still a tremendous resource, and I wonder if it isn't making this here obsolete. But here we go:

(EDIT: I realized that, as the Minor League Splits page has park adjustments, I could give OPS+ for every position player. They're a few days older than the other stats, but should be pretty accurate otherwise.)

Position Players

Erick Aybar, SS, AAA Salt Lake, BB/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 311 92 18 3 6 21 34 31 17 296 342 431 93
Then 220 69 14 3 6 22 22 22 12 314 363 486
Bad times, man.

Yeah, I don't know what happened with the walks there -- I must have had a typo last time. It looks like he's had six walks this month, if that helps.

Michael Collins, C, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 420 123 22 1 7 23 69 7 6 293 370 400 103
Then 280 83 18 1 5 13 49 5 4 296 367 421
A few interesting things in his splits -- Collins, despite being a walk-heavy non-slugger overall, is actually hitting 307/387/452 with men on base, and 259/332/340 with no one on, and in limited time has hit better while playing first base than behind the plate. Probably too early to know if any of that means anything, but it's certainly possible that he has a different approach with men on, and if that's the case, he should probably try to implement that approach as often as possible.

Nick Gorneault, OF, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 344 98 22 5 14 34 88 5 4 285 347 500 115
Then 285 79 18 4 13 30 68 3 3 277 342 505
When last we saw Nick, he was in a bit of a skid coming off the DL. As you can see, he's pretty much stabilized his performance since then.

Jeff Mathis, C, AAA Salt Lake, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 346 100 30 2 4 23 69 2 1 289 332 422 97
Then 281 86 24 2 3 17 54 1 1 306 345 438
Nothing to see here.

Sean Rodriguez, SS, A Rancho Cucamonga and AA Arkansas, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 6 4 0 0 1 1 2 0 1 667 714 1167 AA
Now 455 137 29 5 24 47 124 15 3 301 377 545 146 A
Then 383 119 24 3 20 37 109 13 3 311 382 546 A
Sean is up in AA while Brandon Wood takes a sojourn to play for the US team. It looks like he was getting back on track with the walks before leaving the Cal League. I'd assume he'll go back there, depending on when Wood returns, but either way he's made a statement in High-A that he can't be overlooked. Like many Angel prospects, he's whiffing a bit too often, but his broad base of offensive skills has covered that thus far.

Drew Toussaint, OF, A Rancho Cucamonga, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 337 82 21 1 11 30 105 1 2 243 325 409 93
Then 293 72 18 1 10 26 88 1 2 246 330 416
Toussaint, however, is doing all he can to make sure he continues to be overlooked. If you look at his splits, you see that, contra Michael Collins, Toussaint actually has been hitting much better with no runners on than with guys aboard. With men on, he walks more often and strikes out more often, which leads me to speculate that he gets pickier in such situations. Perhaps he'd be better off if he stopped thinking and went up and hit? I don't know -- I should emphasize that these are speculations based on the numbers only.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B, A Cedar Rapids, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 367 83 17 0 12 44 86 5 5 226 309 371 95
Then 293 67 14 0 11 38 71 4 4 229 317 389
Trumbo had been on a bit of an up-swing, but you can see that's been abated.

He is yet another guy with drastic differences in how he does with men on and not. I have no idea if that sort of thing is at all significant for minor league batters; I don't think anyone has looked at it before. You see people all the time debating whether or not there is "clutch" ability for major leaguers, and whatever your feelings on that, it doesn't follow that the same would hold for minor leaguers.

I mean, Trumbo, with guys on base, has 23 unintential walks and 28 strikeouts in 147 at-bats. Those are both reasonable numbers -- they project to 78 BB and 95 SO over 500 AB. But with no one on, he has 19 walks and 57 strikeouts in 214 at-bats, numbers that would project to 44 and 133.

Looking at the Midwest League as a whole, we see that the league does indeed hit a bit better with men on. So does every league in the world where a baserunner is allowed to take a lead off of a base before the pitch is thrown, as this makes fielders hold runners on and play and double-play depth, opening up holes for batted balls (in fact, as you can see at that link, the difference between the league's performance with runners on and not it pretty much identical to the difference in batting average on balls in play between the two situations, which is common).

The league strikes out 111 times per 500 AB with no one on, and 105 times per 500 with men on base. That's right -- with men on, Mark Trumbo actually strikes out less than the rest of his league.

As I said, I don't really know if that has meaning. I don't know if it will continue. I don't know if it's a sign that he could really put things together. But I do know that, in this season, Mark Trumbo has been a vastly different hitter when he has ducks on the pond than when he doesn't.

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 OPS+
Now 17 4 1 0 0 2 4 1 2 235 316 294 MLB
Now 352 115 18 4 3 77 50 31 15 327 448 426 127 AAA
Then 9 3 0 0 0 1 3 1 2 333 400 333 MLB
Then 318 102 14 4 3 65 49 24 14 321 437 418 AAA
I assume you're aware of this guy.

Brandon Wood, SS, AA Arkansas, BR/TR
When    AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Now 453 125 42 2 25 54 149 19 3 276 355 552 122
Then 380 108 36 2 22 50 126 14 1 284 371 563
A bit of a skid, but his performance has the same shape it has all season.

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


Nick Adenhart, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA  
Now 5 2 0 9 9 52.3 51 1 46 16 3.78
Then 3 1 0 5 5 27.7 29 0 20 9 4.55
After a couple of rocky starts upon reaching the Cal League, Adenhart, as is his wont, has been turning things on.

I love the home run rate, too. Looking at his splits, you see he has 85 groundballs to 26 flyballs since joining the Quakes. An extreme groundballer with a high K rate and great control is a formidable foe.

Jose Arredondo, RHSP, AA Arkansas
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 2 1 0 8 8 43.3 55 6 39 15 6.23
Then 2 0 0 4 4 23.0 30 1 18 8 5.09
After a few rocky starts, Arredondo has continued to have rokcy starts.

Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
No hay Espinoza.

Stephen Marek, RHSP, A Rancho Cucamonga
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 1 3 0 5 5 25.0 21 3 23 12 4.32
Then 1 0 0 2 2 8.0 7 2 7 3 4.50
Marek's not actually pitching too badly, but isn't getting the wins to show for it. Needs to cut down on the bases on balls, though.

Tommy Mendoza, RHSP, A Cedar Rapids
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 10 6 0 25 25 159.7 161 15 125 32 4.34
Then 8 5 0 20 20 130.0 120 10 105 25 3.81
He had a few terrific starts in a row, but has regressed just a bit since then. I still think the best fastball in the system should be missing more bats, but this is still a solid performance.

Steve Shell, RHSP, AAA Salt Lake
When  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
Now 4 8 0 20 19 103.3 134 14 67 28 6.45
Then 3 5 0 15 14 80.0 97 10 51 21 5.63
Before freaking out too much over this, realize: he's still two-and-a-half years younger than Joe Saunders. He's still very young for his league and has time to figure out the PCL, just like he's figured out every other level.

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

Thursday, August 17, 2006

(First of all, do I really need to talk about the fight? Everyone knows exactly what happened, and why it happened, and it's over for now. Right?)

Before our just-ended road trip of death began, I commented that I would be thrilled with us going 5-5 on it. In retrospect, "thrilled" may have been an overstatement, as now that we have gone 5-5 I simply find it satisfactory. But that's good enough.

I also looked at the A's schedule in that time and said they were likely to go between 5-4 and 7-2, and that we would lose a couple games. I was wrong about this; they went 8-1 against some awful opponents, and have extended their lead to six-and-a-half games.

It is time for the Angels to answer. Four games at home against Seattle is a good tonic, but after a day off we get six games against New York and Boston.

Oakland has the day off today, one of five days off they have scheduled in August, and then begin a nine-game road trip to Kansas City, Toronto, and Texas. Oakland is likely better than all three of these teams, and should go at least 5-4 or 6-3 on this trip. I consider 7-3 to be essential for the Angels' chances, even it if just gets us a half-game. We need to get on track and can't afford to lose any further ground.

Given the schedule, I think we can be okay if we manage to have a three- or four-game deficit going into mid-September. That's not ideal of course, but pick up a game here and there and we're right in it when all the intradivisional head-to-heads go on at the end of the season. We just need to keep our heads above water until that point and take matters into our own hands when we can.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Seven games into the ten-game roadtrip from hell, we've managed to go 4-3, with which I can find no quarrel. As Oakland has gone 5-1 over that time, we've lost a couple of games, but that was expected going in.

Our first three games in the Bronx have been satisfactory, the only hiccup being Kelvim Escobar's vintage John Lackey start, where he pitched well but had the one inning where he served up gofer balls to Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon. Our offense was also MIA that game, but, hey, that's life.

One day, I'd like to see someone do a study on how rookie pitchers do the first time they face a team, because Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver don't seem to be missing a beat. Jered did walk a few guys more than usual yesterday, and racked up an awful lot of 3-2 counts, but he was facing one of the most patient teams in the game, so it wasn't a shocker. He made only one mistake, to Craig Wilson, and struck out eight. He had good command of his slider, and was blowing his fastball by several shocked Yankee sluggers. Not bad for a guy with "mediocre" stuff.

It was, as always, a pleasure to see the Yankees whine and complain about called strikes against them. This risible practice goes back to the days of Paul O'Neill, who would whine and complain about a called strike on a fastball down the middle on a 3-0 count. Why this childishness still infects New York is beyond me. Jered caught Jorge Posada looking on a fastball right over the corner yesterday, but Posada's crowding of the plate apparently fooled home plate umpire Marvin Hudson into calling it a ball (it was an inexcusable call). Two pitches later, Jered lasered the outside black, and got the strike three call. The pitch had been called a strike every single time it had been thrown all game, by all pitchers, which didn't stop Posada -- a catcher, for God's sake -- from complaining about it.

Derek Jeter pulled the same nonsense when Scot Shields struck him out looking in the ninth. You'd think that over a decade in the league Jeter would realize that pitches that cross the outside corner count as strikes, but he always seemed shocked and offended when umpires effect this.

That said, Marvin Hudson has had a bad couple of days. He definitely blew a call at first on Saturday, where Maicer Izturis had beat out an infield hit, and almost certainly blew another one when Jose Molina picked Robinson Cano off first base (the ball beat him, but after watching it carefully, I'm pretty sure the tag didn't). And, of course, yesterday Hudson was out of position and didn't see Posada catch a thrown ball with the aid of his mask, which missed call cost the Angels a run and an out, but, thankfully, not the game.

While on that topic, Vlad was picked off of second in Saturday's game, and I'm not convinced he was out, either. I watched the replay several times without drawing a definite conclusion, but I think he skillfully eluded The Jeter's tag. He shouldn't have been in that position, regardless, but second-base umpire Jerry Layne went with the easy call, based on when the ball got there and not the tag.

This series has also been a prime demonstration of how Derek Jeter winning a Gold Glove, or even being labeled a good defensive player, is a travesty. Exhibit A was Adam Kennedy's first-inning single yesterday; with the Yankee infielders at double play depth, AK hit a grounder to the left of second base. It wasn't particularly hard-hit, but replays confirmed that Jeter didn't even start moving toward the ball until it had passed the pitcher's mound, and his late dive for the ball was futile. Of course, Rex Hudler said, "Not even Jeter could get that," even though this is a play Jeter is notorious for not being able to accomplish.

Later in the game, Chien-Ming Wang took a comebacker and turned to second to try to make a double play; he double-clutched, leading to a force-out only. Of course, the TV analysis focused on Wang's double-clutch, but never once mentioned why he did so -- he was, naturally, waiting for The Almighty Jeter to get to second.

Even Jeter's good plays are bad. Friday night saw his patented jump-and-throw on a ball in the hole, where Jeter fielded a ball hit with medium velocity, leaped thirty-five feet into the air, and threw to first, where he caught the runner by a half-step.

The runner was noted speed demon Robb Quinlan.

Every time I see Jeter do this play and get an out, he's throwing out someone like Robb Quinlan or Ramon Hernandez. In the meantime, anyone with average or better running speed is going to beat it out. I have no doubt that Rafael Furcal would have thrown out Q by two or three steps on that ball.

I just don't understand why so many announcers seem unable to see these things. As you may know, whether or not Derek Jeter is a good defensive shortstop has been a big debate in the past few years, with the traditional media taking "Count the rings" stance and the saber/stathead group saying, "Give me a break." But if you watch him play short with even a semi-critical eye, I think it's pretty obvious that his value comes when his bat is in his hand.

The first three games of this series have also been interesting as a demonstration of Alex Rogriguez's bizarre year. He's 5-for-11 with two home runs in the series, which breaks down to 5-for-6 with no one on and 0-for-5 with men on base. All of his damage has come while the game has been out of hand.

He made one bad play on defense, too, which handed Howie Kendrick an infield single, but in a few other cases has been lucky enough to come close enough to making tough plays, which his ultimate failure to make seems to rile up the fans in Yankee Stadium. He is having a down year overall -- but it's pretty much the same year Vlad is having. But he's just oddly contributing when it seems to matter least. I think that's the sort of thing that evens out in the long run, but in the meantime Yankee fans continue to boo probably the greatest player to wear their uniform in forty years (though Rickey may have an argument). It must be nice, as a fan, to have such a sense of entitlement. Let's hope the Angelenos of Anaheim never become so capricious with their favor.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Even worse than last night's loss (which I was spared seeing [past the first two batters of the bottom of the first], having received a tip-off before getting home to watch it on the DVR) was the injury to Ervin Santana.

El Maneo seems to think he'll be okay to pitch for his next start, but Captain Mike isn't so sure, and I suspect it's too early to really know. Though it's obviously great news that there's no structural damage to the knee, a deep knee bruise can still have a significant negative impact on a guy's ability to pitch in the short term. Obviously, all of a pitcher's weight ends up his plant leg at the end of his motion, so discomfort in that knee can really derail the whole process.

Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but if Dustin Moseley has to make more than a couple of starts in Ervin's stead, that's not the best thing in the world.

More immediately, our bullpen, outside of the two good pitcher, might be a bit spent as we head into Yankee Stadium. Which means a lot rests on the shoulders of Joe Saunders tonight. Saunders looked solid but not overpowering in his first two starts, but pitched very well against the Rangers in his last outing. Regardless, he's going up against possibly the best lineup in baseball, in their home, and that's never easy.

We all knew that the Angels were good bets to lose some games on Oakland on this road trip, and a thinned-out bullpen will only aid that process. So it's time for the rotation and offense to step up and get some wins.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

As you certainly recall, Orlando Cabrera, earlier this season, reached base for something like 9300 straight games, causing Mike Scioscia to move him into the third spot of the order and get this mighty hitter more at-bats.

Breaking down The OC this year:
When?            AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG  OBP  SLG
Before streak 75 21 5 0 3 3 6 280 304 467
During streak 251 76 18 1 3 27 19 303 372 418
After streak 113 28 7 0 2 9 15 248 299 363
That performance during the streak was, of course, very nice. But since then, Lando Cabrissian has been returning to Earth, and with a vengeance.

The last day of the streak, Cabrera was hitting 298/357/429; his line now stands at 285/342/412. That's still an above-average performance, overall, which what happens you hit very well for half a season. But the fact remains that that performance, no matter how much it helped as at the time, doesn't reflect The OC's true performance level.

Behold Cabrera's offensive performance as measured by Clay Davenport at BPro. He has a .265 EqA this year -- .260 is average, so Cabrera is just above average. This would be his second-best offensive campaign ever.

Now, he might turn things around and get hot again, youneverknow. But the odds are against it.

Meanwhile, while The OC bats third and has been eating up outs for a month, Senor Juan Rivera bides his time in the fifth and sixth spots of the order, hitting 301/350/561 (a very good -- and tied for the team lead -- EqA of .296). Now, there's a chance Rivera is a bit over his head, as well, but this is a guy that's always had potential and has been searching for playing time, plus what excuse is there to bat The OC third against righties with Rivera in the six-spot?
vs. RHP, 2003-2006
Cabrera 1604 274 317 409
Rivera 781 292 344 489
Now, I'm not adjusting for the ballparks there, but Cabrera wo uld have to be hitting in Chavez Ravine in 1968 and Juan Rivera in Mile High in 1993 to make those lines equivalent, don'tcha think? (WARNING: Context comparison pulled from my bum, but still seems fundamentally sound.)

Now, lineup effects can be pretty small, so I don't want to overstate this (the difference between plate appearances you'd expect from your three-hitter and your six-hitter would be 27 plate appearances a season; over the 40 or so games we might expect to play against right-handed pitchers the rest of the way, that only comes out to six or seven PA). But it would be nice if someone at the helm were paying a little bit of attention. Rivera is hitting as well as Vlad so far this year, and while that's unlikely to continue, this is a guy that needs to be a key part of the lineup, not protection for a geriatric left fielder.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Adam Kennedy, suffering his worst season in years and the slings and arrows of impatient Angel fans, came through with a pinch-hit single last night that won the game 5-4.

Of course, for awhile in the game, it didn't seem like such heroics would be necessary. Jered Weaver pitched very well through five innings, allowing only two hits while walking one and striking out three (it was actually four, but it took Dale Scott at least three or four pitches to realize that sliders down the middle count as strikes, which cost Jered a backward K of Grady Sizemore to lead off the game).

But in the sixth inning, the wheels fell off, and Jered allowed more runs than he had in any previous game. No excuses or explanations necessary; he just had a bad inning against Cleveland's best hitters, and they hit the ball hard and capitalized.

There is one thing about Jered which concerns me, however, and was alluded to on last night's telecast:
Year  IP
2002 92.0
2003 133.3
2004 144.0
2005 76.0
2006 142.3
With his next start, Jered will enter uncharted territory as far as his season-long endurance goes. How will he perform?

We don't know, of course. I mean, we don't even know how he would continue to perform even if at full capacity, to trying to guess if he's not at full capacity and then trying to figure out how he might pitch in such a state is a fool's errand.

We can look at how other Angel pitchers have done in recent years while crossing into new innings-pitched thresholds. Ervin Santana, for instance, threw 154 1/3 innings in two leagues in 2003, a seasonal total he did not match again until last season, when he threw 192 innings in three levels, plus nearly ten innings in the postseason.

Thanks to David Pinto's sweet Day-by-Day Database, it's a snap to see how Ervin pitched before and after hitting the 154 1/3 IP mark (actually, just a bit above that -- and not including postseason):
                    K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   FIP   ERA
First 97 2/3 IP .161 .080 .032 .234 4.66 4.52
Next 36 IP .181 .075 .019 .231 3.72 5.00
FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching, a quick guide as to how a pitcher does based solely on what he is directly responsible for -- strikeouts, walks, and home runs. I show it here to demonstrate that while Ervin's ERA went up over the last few starts of the year, in many ways he actually pitched better, as you can see from his peripherals above.

Any number of things can cause a pitcher's FIP and ERA to diverge. The first thing I checked was the score rate against Ervin for each period -- basically, how often did someone who reached base (excluding home runs) score? Over his first 97 2/3, Ervin allowed 128 men to reach base (again, not counting home runs), and allowed 39 of them to score. That's 30.5%. (The league average was 29%.)

But over his next 36 innings, he allowed 17 of 49 baserunners to score, 34.7%. That indicates to me that while he was pitching better overall, when he did give up hits, they were congregated closer together, which led to more runs being scored.

Over time, that sort of thing will even out, I suspect. In the short term, is it possible that Ervin had reached some level of fatigue that caused him to lose focus or pitch poorly from the stretch? I don't know. It's possible, but it could also just be random variation, luck, a bad bounce or two, etc.

How about John Lackey?
                    K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   FIP   ERA
First 83 1/3 .138 .062 .017 .236 4.10 3.65
Next 14 2/3 .188 .116 .043 .246 5.92 3.68
Here we have the opposite as with Ervin, where Big John didn't pitch as well in terms of peripherals, but still managed to keep his ERA very good. It's hard to conclude much of anything due to the sample size, though.

One would have to perform a wholesale study on this to draw any real conclusions, but I think we can seen that there is no real set pattern. Jered will either get better, get worse, or stay the same. How's that for going out on a limb?

My guess is that he will continue to regress a bit, just because no one is really good enough to keep their ERA under 2.00 forever. I still expect solid starts, he's a hell of a lot better than his brother right now, and his future looks as bright as ever.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Did anyone else find the LA Lady's coverage of last night's victory a bit odd?
Escobar Is Free to Focus on a 6-3 Win
Without Pierzynski in the lineup, the Angels' pitcher has a fine six innings in Chicago.
By Mike DiGiovanna, Times Staff Writer
August 8, 2006

CHICAGO — Kelvim Escobar would never admit it, but the fact A.J. Pierzynski was not in the Chicago White Sox's lineup Monday night may have helped the Angels right-hander maintain his focus throughout a superb six-inning, two-run, six-hit effort, which helped lead the Angels to a 6-3 victory in U.S. Cellular Field.


Escobar couldn't bubble up with anger when Pierzynski came to the plate, a sight that would have stirred memories of that April 29 game in Anaheim, when Escobar hit Pierzynski with a pitch, sparking a war of words between the teams and some harsh comments from Chicago Manager Ozzie Guillen, who called Escobar "dumb."

Guillen removed any contentiousness when he opted to start veteran catcher Sandy Alomar, who had teamed well with Monday night starter Mark Buehrle the last time the White Sox left-hander pitched.

That enabled Escobar to channel all of his energy toward a lethal lineup that can punish a distracted pitcher.
Wait, was the story of this game really that Kelvim was able to concentrate because AJ Pierzynski wasn't in the lineup?

By the way, in that April 29 game, in which contention "may" have distracted Kelvim, he managed to go five innings, allowing only one run on three hits, striking out three against one walk.

I guess every now and then a beat writer needs to put some spin on a game, maintain interest for the readership and all that ... but come on. He's a professional pitcher who had a good game. End of story.


Last night also marked the end of the story for Howie's 16-game hitting streak. He actually hadn't been hitting very well over the six games of the streak, at least so far as results are concerned, going 7-for-26 for a 269/269/385 line. Of course, that's just six games, and he was having good at-bats and hit the ball well last night, going 0-for-5.

We are seeing the one drawback of his game, though, in the lack of walks. As I mentioned here recently, he doesn't miss out on the base on balls because he's a wild swinger -- it seems as though they're foreign to him because he's too good of a hitter, putting hittable pitches in play with great regularity. When the hits aren't falling, he doesn't have the walks to fall back on. But given his track record, and his approach at the plate, the hits will start falling again.

Monday, August 07, 2006

After a surging July, it was inevitable that our offense would crash down to Earth somewhat. This dovetailed just wonderfully with the A's coming to town; we managed a grand total of six runs in three games (which came after averaging 6.44 runs per game from July 1 through July 30). Texas pitching was something of a cure, and we managed an unimpressive split against them (I mentioned to a friend that we lost the first two games because we suck, then won the next two because they suck).

All-in-all, a 3-4 homestand wasn't really what we were looking for. But some good things did happen; Joe Saunders had his best start yet, Ervin had two good starts (a 2.81 ERA over the homestand), and Kelvim pitched well in a non-decision.

Howie Kendrick continued his hitting streak, but, honestly, his line over the past week (310/310/448) is rather unexceptional. Still, he's been having good at-bats and has been hitting some of his outs pretty hard, and overall is becoming a formidable presence in the lineup.

The next week-and-a-half will be tough, though. One game at Chicago, three at Cleveland, four in the Bronx, and two at Texas ... as of today, those teams (weighted by how many games we'll be playing against each) have a .532 winning percentage. As that's higher than our winning percentage, and we'll be playing on the road, and playing with no days off, I'll be thrilled if we can just split those games, going 5-5.

Unfortunately, Oakland's weaksauce opponents over that period -- Texas, Tampa Bay, and Seattle -- have a collected winning percentage of .448, and all the games will be in Oakland. We can't worry about that, but the A's are poised to go 5-4, 6-3, or even 7-2 over the next nine games, and could increase their lead by a couple of games.

But that's just on paper, and of course anything can happen. The Angels just need to focus on their own games and what they're doing. The starting rotation is going strong (sure, John Lackey is coming off a bad start, but after a horrific start against the M's on June 10th he came back to deal seven superb innings against the Royals, and went 4-1 with a 0.77 ERA over his next six starts, so he's been able to shake off bad starts before), and that can go a long way, inconsistent offense or not.

Friday, August 04, 2006

  • Tuesday, August 1, at the Big A. Top of the sixth inning, Angels lead 1-0, but the A's have runners on second and third with Frank Thomas stepping up to the plate. There is one out.

    Inexplicably, Mike Scioscia pitches to The Big Hurt, and, predictably, he singles to left.

    One runs scores. Speedy runner Mark Kotsay rounds third, almost certain to make it home.

    And comes now Juan Rivera to make maybe the prettiest throw you've ever seen, cascading home on one precise hop, nailing Kotsay for the second out and keeping the game tied.

    The Angels go on to win, 3-2, and Juan Rivera, despite an 0-for-3 day (with one walk) at the plate, might just be the player of the game.

    CUT TO:

    August 3. At the Big A again. This time the Angels are playing Texas, and the game is tied with one run apiece. There is one out.

    Jered Weaver falls behind Hank Blalock 2-0, and gets a swinging strike with a cruel and unusual change-up. They battle to a full count.

    Jered tries the change again, and Blalock this time slaps it down the left field line. But it's elevated, and Garret Anderson, running over, has a shot.

    He gets within a few steps ... and doesn't make the catch. The ball cascades by him, into the corner, and when the dust settles the potential go-ahead run is on third with only one out.

    The run scores, and the Angels end up losing 7-6 -- their last three runs coming on a blast from ... Juan Rivera.

    The question:

    Does Mike Scioscia watch this team play defense? How is the decision to play Garret in left over Rivera even remotely defensible?

    I understand that Garret Anderson doesn't like to DH. I also understand that we're trying to win a division here. Mike needs to sit down with Garret and say, "We're trying to win a division here." Let Garret play left maybe once or twice a week, maybe when Kelvim or Lackey are pitching. But certainly not when Flyball Weaver is on the mound, or young pitchers like Ervin and Saunders.

    And don't be afraid to play Juan in right and DH Vlad from time to time, either.

  • When looking at Howie Kendrick's numbers coming up through the organization, one thing that jumped at you (after his stratospheric batting averages leaped over your head) were his low walk totals. Without seeing him play, it was hard to know why they were so low -- was a freak of nature like Vlad?

    It turns out that, no, he's not -- he appears to be more of a freak of nature like ... like I can't remember seeing. Howie actually has a pretty good eye, and will usually spit on pitches out of the zone (obviously there are occasions where he, like every hitter, will be fooled). But he doesn't work deep counts because -- and this is going off of observation only -- he doesn't foul the ball off. He just squares up every pitch. If it's hittable, he's usually hitting it somewhere.

    Sure, he was only 1-for-5 last night (though the first-base ump might have missed a call where he could have received an infield hit), but he's hitting marvelously overall, and I see no good reason why his success won't continue for many years. The guy just knows what he's doing at the plate, and has a preturnatural ability to smack the baseball with his baseball bat.

  • Not that anyone has noticed, but Adam Kennedy is on a 17-game hitting streak. Well, sure, Steve and Rex are talking about it, but no one else is.

    Adam is hitting 297/324/453 over the course of the streak, which is not terribly thrilling, but he's slowly raising his seasonal line, now at 267/318/374, a modest improvement over where he was when the streak began.

    A lot of people are calling for Adam's head, but I don't really know what the alternative is. The odds are good that he'll be roughly a league-average hitter from this point forward, and if you put him on the bench you make Robb Quinlan the every-day first baseman, which I don't think anyone outside the Q Clan wants. I'm pretty satisfied with a Kennedy/Quinlan platoon, personally, given the personnel we have.

  • By the way, here's Legs Figgins since the All Star Break:
    AB   H   BB   SO   AVG   OBP   SLG
    65 14 8 6 215 301 262
    The one good thing about Chone's offensive performance this year is that he's increased his walk rate for the third straight season, which is nice to see from a leadoff hitter. The problem is that his average has dropped from the .290 range down to .258. But you can see that even over his recent slump, he's been controlling the strike zone. Like Kennedy, I think he will bounce back a bit. But unlike Kennedy, given Figgins' role in the lineup, we pretty much need him to.

  • Of course, the other big slump is Mike Napoli's. The Napster, since hitting a home run in the midst of a 2-for-3 day on July 15, has gone 3-for-40 with no home runs, hitting 075/275/075 in that span, with 12 strikeouts.

    He has bailed himself out somewhat with 10 walks in that span, but that's still an ugly performance.

    Long-time readers of this blog my recall that Napoli went on a similar slump in AA last summer, going 23-for-158 from mid-June through mid-August. So I can't say that this is unexpected, especially as his current line (242/384/484) is pretty much the at the high range of what we should expect from him (maybe we could expect just a bit more power). I don't really have any idea if he's going to turn this around, of course; he's already given us more than anyone would have thought he would have been able to in his rookie season.

    But, there's no alternative. He just needs to make adjustments -- it seems like there have been quite a few balls he's justmissed -- and I think that, over time, he will be able to make them.

  • Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    The Rev links to this New York Daily News article about a Dominican trainer named Angel Presinal, who in 2001 may or may not have been the owner of a bag that may or may not have contained illegal steroids intended for use by Juan Gonzalez. Presinal is currently a trainer to Bartolo Colon, and according to the article has worked with several Dominican players, including Vladimir Guerrero, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar (yes, I know he's Venezuelan), Jose Guillen, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada ... the list goes on and on.

    The facts, as best can be assembled, are as follows:

  • In what appears to be the first week of October, 2001, the Cleveland Indians flew into Toronto to play the Blue Jays.

  • Agents of the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) noted and searched an unmarked bag which contained "five ampules of anabolic steroids, pills of the anabolic drug clenbuterol, along with hypodermic needles."

  • The CBSA agents, after notifying Toronto police and Indian personnel, allowed the bag to travel with the team to its hotel, so that it could be seen who claimed the bag.

  • The bag was claimed by Angel Presinal, who said that the bag and its contents belonged to Juan Gonzalez, whom he served as personal trainer.

  • CBSA agents questioned Presinal and Gonzalez for four hours, after which point they concluded that they did not have sufficient evidence to link the bag to either. The bag was confisacated and Presinal and Gonzalez went about their business.

  • Presinal's employ with Gonzalez subsequently came to an end.

  • Four months later, Major League Baseball notified the resident security agents (RSAs) at each of the 30 ballparks that Presinal would not be allowed into any restricted area, i.e. anywhere "the general public [can't] go."

    Even the facts listed above are somewhat disputed; the article quotes a statement issued by Gonzalez's representation to the effect that Presinal was the owner of the bag and that even "[t]o this day [Gonzalez is] not aware of its contents." In the meantime, Presinal denies that the bag contained steroids at all (though the CBSA's seizure report lists another anabolic, which has since been banned by MLB).

    Here is an interesting passage:
    MLB's official report says Presinal eventually admitted ownership of the bag, although the CBSA report does not say that, and Presinal denies it. Cleveland officials also say they have no recollection of Presinal saying the bag was his. But even given MLB's official stance that Presinal was the culprit in the incident, [MLB vice president for business and labor Rob] Manfred expresses some sympathy: Among Los Angeles, Cleveland and even some MLB personnel, there is wide agreement that Presinal may have unfairly taken the entire blame.

    "He took the fall, no question," says Cleveland media relations director Bart Swain.
    An MLB executive speaking on the condition of anonymity says MLB checked out all the players Presinal has been associated with, and that none has tested positive for illegal performance enhancers, although several of his clients have been suspected over the years. Presinal also has never been connected to another doping-related incident.
    Presinal currently has a close relationship with Bartolo Colon, which was chronicled in a Bill Shaikin article in the LA Times last year.

    I can see how this might raise the concern of some, and if I worked in the Angel front office I would certainly start asking some questions to make sure everything's okay, but I would say the evidence that Presinal is a "drug peddler" or that his players would be taking banned substances is phenomonally slim at this juncture. To paint everyone Presinal has worked with as suspicious is to paint suspicion with a broad brush; the Daily News article lists at least fifteen current Latin major league players that have worked with Presinal, which doesn't count several players that were on the Dominican roster for the World Baseball Classic, a clubhouse that welcomed Presinal. In fact, his reputation on "the island" is, as reported here, impeccable.

    Right now, I see nothing to worry about. Could other revelations surface? Of course. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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