Monday, April 30, 2007


So, no complaints about the weekend series in Chicago. Well, Ervin Santana did pitch horribly Friday night -- he couldn't locate, couldn't throw strikes, and when he did throw strikes, the ball was getting hammered. He must have gotten about four outs on scorched liners in that game. The numbers may not make it seem that bad, but it was an awful start, and he easily could have given up more runs.

(In 28 innings this year, Ervin has K'd 20 batters, which is fine, but has walked 15, which is trouble. He needs to regain the consistency of command we've seen him have the last two years, and at home thus far in 2007.)

The offense played horribly in that game, as well, squandering opportunity after opportunity. That's a game we probably should have lost 12-10 or something.

But everything got better the next two days. Jered Weaver pitched pretty well Saturday. His command and location probably 100% where he'd want it to be, and his awesome strike-to-ball ratio was somewhat inflated by the White Sox fouling off pitch after pitch, but you can't complain about the results. A few line drives for hits, sure, but also some bloopers, and not once did he allow anything worse than a single. Kelvim had a similarly strong start yesterday, allowing only a home run to The Punter, which, though an embarrassment, only brought home two runs.

Legs Figgins returns to the lineup tonight. Pending Maicer Izturis' hamstring, this may send Erick Aybar back to the bench. Izturis and Aybar have produced nearly identically with the bat so far; Ztu doesn't have much power, but what power he does have balances out the on-base advantage Aybar has thus far. I am a confirmed skeptic regarding Aybar's readiness to produce offensively at the major league level, but his performance since stepping into the lineup for Howie Kendrick (282/317/308 in 39 AB) hasn't really done anything to prove me right or wrong.

The problem with Aybar's offense is that it's completely dependent on his batting average. He doesn't draw walks, he doesn't steal bases, and he doesn't have power. Kendrick may not draw walks either, but he's got some pop and steals bases with some efficiency. It would behoove Aybar to step up some other part of his game -- refining his basestealing skills, working counts -- to accompany his strong defense.

At any rate, a healthy Figgins should be good for this lineup right now. I don't know that he would produce a lot more than Izturis in the long term, but I think his baserunning and glove are definitely better than Ztu's at this point. But Maicer is holding down the fort, and despite some inconsistency with the bat has not dragged the team down.

Figgins' return also means that Brandon Wood has been returned to Salt Lake. He wasn't ready, of course, and only got a couple of games as a sampler of the future. He's going to need to recognize breaking pitches better, and know which ones to spit on and which ones he can drive. He'll need time in AAA to develop his talents, but he is only 22, so he has plenty of time to do so.

Finally, long-time readers may recall that I would occasionally post updates on some of our more prominent minor league players. I should have the first edition for this season up tomorrow at the latest.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Quite the game delivered by Bartolo Colon yesterday. Good control, good velocity, a minimum of mistakes. As we are so used to seeing, the threw his hardest pitch of the day in his last inning of work. He was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball, so I feel confident in saying he's fine, and that's good.

The other big news in Haloville is the arrival of Brandon Wood. I'm sure I mentioned this last week, but I do not believe Brandon is ready for the big time quite yet, but the Angels are not averse to bringing up top prospects for short periods before they get a permanent call. I just hope that the kid does get some consistent playing time for the duration of this stay, both so we can get a look at him against top competition and that he can get his feet wet against same.

Anyway, not much else to see here. We're going back on the road, where there have been problems, but with the lineup occasionally resembling a real offense and the pieces falling together in the rotation, I would expect our Lads to put up a much better showing than on our last pathetic road trip.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Seitz links to this, but apparently John Lackey has a blog. So far it's filled with insights such as "It's absolutely huge having Vlad back" and "[i]t's big for us to get Bartolo Colon back". But he also talks briefly about the team preparing for opponents. Hopefully he'll go into his own strategies after starts, much like Curt Schilling does on his blog. There sure are some times when I wonder what the hell he's thinking.

Well, we won yesterday's game, as you know, but that was one big ugly mess for the last half of the game.

Kelvim started off well, then hit some trouble; just coming off the DL, that's not really a surprise. And then the bullpen meltdown ... it's rare that our top three guys give up runs, but all three in one game? Madness.

Some good things: Kendry getting some hits (let's see him a bit more at DH while we have him, shall we?), Gary Matthews Jr continuing to heat up, and, of course, Vlad's prolonged dismantling of opposing pitchers.

Vlad also came as close to making a run by himself, non-home-run-division, in the ninth. He doubled, natch, and then advanced on Garret Anderson's deep fly to center; that wasn't really a no-brainer, with two outs some guys might stay at second and not risk it, some might have mis-read it and gone halfway instead of tagging up, but he got it right. And on the wild pitch, he got a great jump off third, and needed it, as Ivan Rodriguez had a perfect flip back to the plate. That flip was for naught, though, as Vlad's great jump got him home before Todd Jones even made it to home plate. Nothing special, really, but good fundamental play to capitalize on an opponent's mistake.

Anyway, now our good friend Joe Maddon comes in to town, so it's a good chance for the Lads to string some wins together.


I just wanted to make sure everyone saw this item in the Times:
Closer Troy Percival did not throw a pitch for the Tigers in 2006, but the team still awarded the former Angels reliever a full playoff share.

Percival, who is now retired, reciprocated by spending $120,000 to lease an 18-seat luxury suite in Comerica Park for players' wives to use this season.

"I've never heard of anything like it," Detroit closer Todd Jones said. "It's the best gesture I've ever seen."
What a mensch.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I was unable to post yesterday; if I had, my post would have been titled MORE LIKE IT and would have celebrated our sweep of the Mariners. Alas, last night's game put a damper on that, but I'll cover it nonetheless.

Joe Saunders didn't have a great game on Friday, and got some help from some atom balls, but he kept his composure through a few jams, and you can't complain about going six innings without allowing a run. It was nice to see Saunders succeed in his Virginia Tech hat; the game was obviously significant to him and likely of some significance to some of his fellow Hokies, so that was a nice story all-around.

Saturday brought us the return of Bartolo Colon. Though he only notched one strikeout, he had good velocity early in the game and demonstrated good command of his pitches. When Bartolo is on, he'll often gain velocity as the game progresses; that did not happen here -- perhaps partially due to his tweaked ankle. At any rate, it was good to see the Fat Man back in action and productive, a large boon to the team.

Sunday saw Ervin Santana return to form. The Kid was locating his fastball on the corners and getting his slider over for strikes. With everything working, Ervin was able to wiggle out of a couple of jams (a good sign after his jamtastic previous starts) and put up a strong start.

Much has been made of the disparity in Santana's performance on the home and road, and I do intend to take a look at it some time, but my null hypothesis is that it's all a crazy fluke. There's no real reason he should struggle on the road and dominate at home; there's no unique characteristic of Angels Stadium that would seem to benefit him. Remember, John Lackey also had a stark home-road difference in 2003 and 2004, a trend that eventually corrected itself (and even reversed itself, slightly) in the following two seasons. Was there a reason for that? Sometimes these things just take awhile to shake out.

Anyway, while Ervin excelled by getting his slider in the zone on Sunday, Jered Weaver got rocked by failing to do so Monday night. His location was off; it seemed that the culprit was an elusive release point, as Jered would miss consistently high and then, perhaps overcompensating, consistently low, or vice versa. His slider was missing well outside to right-handed hitters, and missing the zone healthily against southbats; recognizing this, Tiger hitters were able to sit on Jered's fastball, a pitch that is missing a few miles per hour from last year. Given that Weaver the Younger couldn't locate his fastball, either, this was a source of much trouble.

(When he did get the slider over, everything was shiny. He threw two good sliders to Gary Sheffield in the first, the only two he threw for strikes in the whole inning [technically Ivan Rodriguez got a hit off of a slider, but it was comfortably out of the strike zone, but elevated so that I-Rod could get it to the right-center gap]. He also got a strike two on Brandon Inge by getting his slider over the outside corner, and while the next one was outside, Inge had to respect his ability to locate the breaking ball, and wasn't able to stop his swing once he realized the pitch was too far away. Once you establish that breaking pitch in the zone, batters have to respect, and then you can get away with throwing it out of the zone. Curtis Granderson followed, Jered lost the touch on his slider, Granderson singled off a fastball, and the rally was on.)

That lack of velocity is the only warning sign that Weaver may still be injured, or at the very least not fully recovered or prepped for the season. We don't know, of course. The location problems don't really bother me, as though he wasn't quite sharp against Oakland, he only threw one egregious pitch in that game. But as long as he's healthy, I'm unworried.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

As you know, Howie Kendrick has been placed on the DL, and is not expected back in the lineup for four to six weeks.

Howie is one of the only guys in the lineup who had his bat going, hitting 327/365/490 in his 14 games. He had made three errors at second, but otherwise was settling into a regular role somewhat nicely.

It is unclear what the Angels will do in Howie's absence, but we may be as close as one week away from Legs Figgins making his first appearance of the season, which will simplify matters; Figgins can return to third and send Maicer Izturis over to second, or vice versa.

What to do for the next week (or possibly beyond, if Figgins isn't able to come back in time)? The current on-roster solution would be to put Erick Aybar there. Aybar has plenty of defensive skills at short, but isn't as familiar with second. That's a frequent conversion, of course, but we don't know how skilled he may be on the pivot.

Another solution would be to bring up someone from the minors; Brandon Wood (off to an okay 293/373/534 in 58 at-bats at AAA, but with 18 strikeouts) could come up to play third (once again moving Ztu to the keystone) or Kendry Morales (314/340/412 in 51 AB) could come up to DH, moving Robb Quinlan and Shea Hillenbrand into some kind of timeshare at third.

I don't really know what solution is more promising. I don't think either Wood or Aybar are particularly ready to hit in the majors, and Kendry's not off to a stirring start in the minors (though it's only been a couple of weeks, so it's too early to draw conclusions off of that), but the recent offensive ineptitude may lead to Wood or Morales getting the call just because things can't get worse. Both of those guys are capable of getting off to the hot start that Mike Napoli did last year, which would be a nice kick in the pants to a dormant lineup.

Under normal circumstances, I'd say just put Aybar there for a week and see what he can do. But with Maicer Izturis batting in the third spot, this is a lineup completely devoid of punch, just waiting to string single after single together to scratch together runs. Even if Vlad returns tomorrow and healthy, he can only bat when he comes up. So I wouldn't be surprised to see Wood or Morales get the call.


It would be churlish to blame John Lackey for the loss yesterday, but he did do some things to annoy me. He did struggle to locate his fastball from time to time, but was mostly getting good results from it, it seemed to me, so you can imagine my frustration when he kept slurving and slurving when he got in trouble.

(I don't know what to call that pitch. John called it a slider when he came up, even though it looks just like a curveball, just with a little bit of sweep to it. The announcers always called it a curveball, and last year in an interview Lackey referred to a curve and slider separately. I think the "slider" is some kind of cut fastball, I don't know; he doesn't seem to throw that one so much. So I'm calling his big breaking pitch a slurve. And you can't stop me.)

He had Shannon Stewart down 0-2 in the third, with no outs and runners on first and second, and slurved him to first base to load the bag. He did get Nick Swisher to ground into a forceout on the slurve, and then mislocated his fastball to allow a hit to Eric Chavez. But I thought the appearance against Stewart caused the trouble.

That didn't bother me so much as in the fifth, when Nick Swisher came up again, this time with a runner on second and two outs. Since he had got him with the slurve in his previous AB, Lackey went to it again, and got a couple over for a 1-2 count. I was hoping he's show Swisher the change away and bust him back inside with the fastball if necessary, but instead he kept throwing that slurve inside. He missed the strike zone three straight times, which brought up Eric Chavez.

So what does he do with Chavez? Slurve inside corner that Chavez wants nothing of, slurve for a ball, fastball way up and in, and then ... slurve hung inside that Chavez has no trouble timing, as Lackey has thrown like 45 straight of 'em before that meaningless fastball, line drive, base hit, run scored.

Lackey has that nice change-up against lefties, but he seems to abandon it when he gets in trouble.

Did you ever see the movie of The Hunt for Red October? The US submarines are having a bitch of a time tracking the Soviet sub, Red October, on their sonar, because the Red October has this crazy kind of engine that's hard to detect. But one of the US sonar operators figures out that something his computer is telling him is a "seismic anomaly" is really that crazy kind of engine. He explains that the computer was originally designed to track seismic anomalies (earthquakes), and when it gets confused, as it is by the Red October engine, it "runs back to momma" and declares whatever it's hearing as a seismic anomaly.

Anyway, John Lackey is like that computer. When he gets in trouble, he runs back to momma and throws breaking pitch after breaking pitch. Now, that's a great pitch, and it's his out pitch, and he's a terrific pitcher, but when you overuse it guys get used to it, they're not fooled, they time it, and they take it when it's a ball and hit it when it's a strike. Lackey has to make guys earn their hits more often, I think.

What was Lackey's last pitch of the day? One out, man on first, Nick Swisher up. Well-located fastball down, 4-6-3, and he's out of the inning. He's got to trust in that more often.

But until he gets runs, it ain't gonna matter.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our "team's" performance is simply making analysis redundant right now. We all know what happened last night -- Jered Weaver basically threw one bad pitch, that hanging slider to left -- but one bad pitch it two bad pitches too many in a lineup where Orlando Cabrera bats third. Add into the equation an outfield that can neither track nor catch flyballs, and it's a recipe for disaster.

The wind was bad last night, so I should give Gary Matthews Jr. a pass for misplaying the Eric Chavez double that preceded (by two batters) Bobby Crosby's home run, but the fact is I've noted Matthews taking the scenic route to flyballs before. It cost us a hit in Ervin's second start -- not that one hit really made a big difference the way he was pitching -- and it may cost us more in the future. It's too early to make any conclusions about his glove this year, of course, but despite a few good plays and a good sense of where the wall is, he hasn't really blown me away on that front.

At any rate, we have now gone five consecutive games without scoring more than two runs, which just won't get the job done. (See our top 50 streaks of games scoring two or less runs here). And until that changes, there's not much any of us can do or say.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

While our starting rotation is plagued by injury right now, the true cause of our recent malaise is substandard offense. We have only scored seven runs in our last four games, and are averaging a measly 3.42 runs per game over the season's first two weeks.

Though I hoped and believed that our offense would surpass last year's effort, mostly thanks to contributions from Casey Kotchman and Howie Kendrick (both of whom have delivered in the early going), I'm sure we all did realize that such run shortages would be in the cards. The fundamental problem of the offense remains unchanged: the lineup is built around one man, Vladimir Guerrero, and a lineup that leans so heavily on any one man will struggle to find consistency.

Vlad has managed to deliver this season, but thus far is the only bopper in our lineup. He has driven in 12 runs, twice as many as Maicer Izturis, who ranks second on the team in that category. Those 12 ribbies account for a shocking 29% of Angel runs in the early going. (And nothing against Ztu, but if he ends up the season second on the team in steaks, we're in some trouble.)

This is unsustainable, and won't be sustained; last year Vlad's RBIs accounted for roughly 15% of Halo scoring.

Vlad is hitting a mighty 429/526/643 with runners in scoring position this year; that is also likely to abate, though he's a good bet to hit around .325 in such situations. But even that outstanding level of production means that Vlad would only be converting one scoring opportunity in three, so he clearly needs assistance in picking up the slack.

Unfortunately, no one is doing that so far. The team, as a whole, is hitting 206/270/255 with runners in scoring position -- and this includes Vlad's outrageously good performance . Garret Anderson, who actually has one more plate appearance than Vlad in RISP situations (20 to 19 -- partially thanks to Vlad's being on base in 37% of his PA), is only 1-for-20 with 1 RBI in those situations. That's a lot of runner stranded, a lot of scoring opportunities wasted. Orlando Cabrera ranks third on the team with 14 plate appearances with RISP; he is 2-for-14 with 3 RBI.

Again, this will not continue. This is not a great offense, but they're not a bunch of .200 hitters, either. Garret Anderson is hitting .050 with RISP. That's just a fluke.

What is less of a fluke is the scarcity of run-scoring chances. The Angels have had 115 plate appearances this season with RISP, with a total of 170 runners on in those appearances. That's 9.6 such PA per game, and 14.17 runners per game (note that runners stranded for subsequent batters are double-counted). The Boston Red Sox, who have bashed us around for two days in Fenway, have 12 PA with RISP per game, with 20 runners per game.

And why don't we get runners into scoring position? Because we don't get runners on base, of course. I guess the fact that our .323 OBP ranks 7th in the AL thus far isn't terrible, but it's not too exciting, either, especially on the heels of a 10th-place finish in that category last season (our SLG thus far ranks an even worse 11th). And the runners we put on in front of the big gun, Vladi, aren't particularly good at reaching base.

Gary Matthews Jr.'s OBP thus far is .314; yes, it is obviously early and that means nothing in terms of evaluating him, but his performance last season marked only the second time in his career that he was able to sustain an OBP above the park-adjusted league average over a full season. Orlando Cabrera is actually off to a good start, but it's worth noting that last season was the first time he registered an OBP better than the park-adjusted league average, and even then he only did so by two points.

I worry that this is going to hurt us in the long run. If Matthews can't reprise last year's magic and The OC can't sustain his new-found on-base ability, RBI opportunities for Vlad (and Garret) won't mount up, and we already know we'll be lucky to convert one-third of the ones that do.

Is there a solution? My guess is that Kotch, Howie, and Ztu are all better candidates to set Vlad's table than Matthews and Cabrera are. But none of those guys are proven in such a role, so we are unlikely to see them get a shot there unless Matthews and Cabrera tank.

Our current #1 and #2 have shown, over their careers, that they can step up and create run-scoring opportunities. But they have also shown that they are unlikely to, and if that's the sad destiny they fulfill, and our younger players demonstrate such an aptitude, I hope our management will be willing to re-think the lineup and give Vlad and Garret some runners to actually clean up.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The by-line's screwed up, but I co-wrote this Angel preview over at BTF. Can you figure out which part(s) I wrote?

Tango's Win Probability Chart in The Book says that, for an average team against an average team in an average ballpark, a visiting team on the road, in the top of the ninth, down by one with two outs, that team has an 8.2% chance of winning the game. Put that guy on second, and it's 11.6%.

So what's the breakeven point for trying to steal second? Well, you gain .034 wins for stealing the base and lose .082 (and the game) for getting thrown out. Running the math (1-(.034)/(.034+.082))) gets us a breakeven point of 70.7%.

Erick Aybar's career basestealing percentage in the minors was 65.1%. And last year Kelly Shoppach threw out 34% of baserunners, which is pretty good.

The breakeven point for the game earlier in the week where Aybar was thrown out to end the game was 68.9%, by the way. Now, we are talking about average players and teams here. But Howie Kendrick was at the bat this time ... well, he's probably better than average, even against the immortal Joe Borowski, which means the breakeven point is higher than it otherwise would be.

There's this whole other thing where successful steals often damage the guy at the plate (removing the extra hole on the right side, taking the middle infielders out of double-play depth), but anyway ... chances are we were going to lose anyway, and chances are Howie, as good as he can be, wasn't going to go 5-for-5. And I understand that sometimes you have to do suboptimal things to keep the opposition honest. But Erick Aybar, for all of his physical gifts, is no kind of basestealer, and it's silly for us to behave like he is and throw two games away.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

As I mentioned a post or two ago, the last half of last week saw me traveling, so I didn't have any opportunity to post here. Not only that, but as I was DVRing the games, I avoided all news of them to the best of my ability, and watched them all upon my return Sunday night.

Fast-forwarding between pitches and innings cuts down your watching time considerably, and though I'm used to it (I haven't seen a game live all season, and won't until this weekend at the earliest), four games in one day tend to run together. Suffice to say that I'm happy with the split and a 5-2 start.

I'm particularly happy with our starting rotation. Our weakest start thus far came from Joe Saunders, but even he was a mere one out away from a quality start and kept us in the game. He got let down by the bullpen (What! Frankie isn't perfect?!), but the other loss was dealt to Kelvim Escobar, who received the run support he has typically been given in Angel red.

Kelvim's run support, and whether or not his mediocre win-loss record coupled with his superb ERA and other stats means Kelvim just "doesn't know how to win", has been kind of a theme of the Halosphere for awhile now. Let's take another look at it.

You know about Game Scores, right? They're just this toy Bill James came up with for rating starts by pitchers. You start at 50, and get points for doing good things and lose points for doing bad things. It's not the most scientific process, but it's a good way to generalize the quality of different starts.

Here is every win Kelvim has as a starter with the Angels. He has pitched very well in those starts, averaging a game score of 60.4 and an ERA of 2.55.

What's kind of shocking is how he has done in his losses. Yeah, he's pitched poorly overall, with an ERA of 5.84 in losses, but his average game score is 47.0, just a bit below average. In his losses, by contrast, Bartolo Colon has an average game score of 33.4 ... and an ERA of 9.00.

Kelvim has gotten the shaft on non-decisions as well. Hell, let's just put it in a chart:
Avg Game Score in: Goggles Gordo
Wins: 60.4 62.6
Losses: 47.0 33.4
No-Decisions: 54.6 47.0
Though Bartolo Colon has pitched just a bit better than Escobar during wins (and that's a very slight difference, and you could make the argument it's a virtual tie), Escobar has pitched about just as well during his losses as during Colon's no-decisions, which is pretty crazy. Look at it this way:
W-L-ND with GS : Goggles Gordo
80+: 1-0-1 3-0-0
70-79: 3-1-3 10-0-2
60-69: 10-2-3 11-2-0
50-59: 9-8-3 11-4-2
40-49: 1-8-6 5-2-3

30-39: 1-6-2 0-3-5
-29: 0-3-0 0-14-0
Here we see that Colon has both more outstanding and more horrible starts than Escobar, but what's really interesting is that middle section that I bolded. In game scores registered between 40 and 59, Kelvim is 10-16-9 while Colon is 16-6-5. That's a pretty incredible difference, and I have no reason to believe that it's something Kelvim has done to deserve this.

Let's take a look at the starts where each pitcher scored in that 40-59 range. You can view Kelvim's starts at these links.

Here are the opponents Kelvim faced in those games, their ERA+ for the season, and how many innings they threw that game (the "GS" for Game Score and "result" refers to Kelvim's GS and decision):
Opponent      Year    ERA+    Inn    GS   Result
J. Contreras 2006 109 8.3 59 L
M. Buehrle 2006 93 6.7 58 W
J. Lester 2006 97 6.3 58 W
S. Chacon 2006 70 4.7 58 W
J. Washburn 2006 93 6.0 57 L
E. Loaiza 2006 91 3.7 57 W
W. Ledezma 2005 60 5.3 57 W
R. Drese 2004 120 7.0 57 L
T. Lilly 2004 120 6.7 56 W
F. Garcia 2004 121 7.0 56 ND
G. Chacin 2006 93 7.0 55 L
J. Lester 2006 93 5.0 55 L
M. Redman 2004 99 5.3 55 W
E. Volquez 2006 64 5.0 53 ND
J. Blanton 2007 103 5.3 52 L
J. Garland 2004 100 7.0 52 ND
V. Padilla 2007 63 4.7 51 W
M. Redman 2004 99 7.3 51 L
K. Loe 2006 80 7.0 50 L
J. Johnson 2004 88 5.0 50 W
L. Hudson 2006 95 6.3 48 ND
P. Martinez 2004 125 6.0 47 L
M. Mulder 2004 106 7.0 47 ND
C. Lee 2005 108 6.0 46 L
B. Radke 2005 109 7.3 46 L
S. Ponson 2004 90 9.0 46 L
K. Brown 2004 110 6.0 45 ND
B. Zito 2004 105 6.0 45 L
C. Janssen 2006 93 8.0 44 L
E. Loaiza 2006 91 5.3 43 ND
B. Zito 2004 105 7.0 43 ND
R. Drese 2004 120 6.7 43 L
J. Weaver 2004 103 6.3 42 L
T. Hudson 2005 125 4.0 40 ND
S. Elarton 2004 79 6.0 40 W
TOTALS/AVERAGES 99 6.2 50 10-16-9
Breaking that down a bit, Kelvim faced 19 pitchers with ERA+ marks below the league average (which is always 100), and averaged a game score of 52 in those games, going 9-7-3 against those opponents. Against pitchers with an ERA+ of 100 or better, Kelvim had an average game score of 49 and went 1-9-6.

This hints that Kelvim has not pitched as well when facing other good starting pitchers, and is the first indication I've come across that Kelvim may be at all responsible for his mediocre win-loss record with the Angels. However, remember that I'm looking at only a particular subset of Kelvim's starts here, not all of them. Some of his more outstanding starts, as measured by game scores, may have come against other good pitchers; I don't know.

On the whole, Kelvim in these games was average, and faced average opponents.

Let's look at Bartolo's starts that fit the same profile:
Opponent      Year    ERA+    Inn    GS   Result
C. Wilson 2005 65 4.7 59 W
R. Drese 2005 74 7.0 59 W
J. Towers 2005 120 6.7 58 ND
T. Wakefield 2004 100 4.0 58 W
J. Garland 2005 127 6.0 57 W
R. Halladay 2004 116 6.0 57 W
E. Bedard 2006 120 8.0 56 L
T. Hudson 2004 133 7.3 56 L
B. Zito 2005 116 7.0 54 W
J. Harris 2005 103 3.0 54 W
T. Wakefield 2005 106 4.3 54 W
C. Park 2005 75 1.0 53 W
K. Ishii 2005 81 5.7 53 W
C. Park 2006 88 6.7 51 L
R. Franklin 2004 88 7.0 51 W
K. Benson 2004 97 8.0 51 L
C. Fossum 2006 87 5.7 50 ND
R. Hernandez 2006 75 7.3 49 L
P. Hentgen 2004 70 5.0 48 ND
J. Serrano 2004 95 4.7 47 W
C. Park 2004 93 5.3 46 W
R. Hernandez 2005 78 5.0 45 W
R. Johnson 2005 117 6.0 44 W
J. Bonderman 2005 93 6.0 43 ND
J. Moyer 2006 102 6.7 42 ND
B. Arroyo 2005 98 6.0 42 W
J. Santana 2004 182 7.0 41 L
102 5.8 51 16-6-5
Interestingly, Bartolo managed a better record in these games despite facing a higher quality of opponent than Kelvim, on average. However, those pitchers did not seem to have as good of days as they normally did, as they only average 5.8 innings per start as opposed to the 6.2 racked up by Kelvim's mound opponents.

14 of the 27 starts came against below average pitchers; Bartolo was 9-3-3 in those games with an average game score of 50. Remember, Kelvim had a score of 52 in games against such opponents, but only managed to go 9-7-3. (The quality of the opposing below-average pitchers was essentially the same, an 85 ERA+ for Bartolo's and an 87 for Kelvim's.)

This is another indicator, to me, of Kelvim's bad luck with offense. Kelvim faced opponents just as bad as Bartolo in these games, pitched just as well if not better, and had a much worse winning percentage.

Against good pitchers, Bartolo averaged a score of 53 while going 7-3-2; his average opponent in this category had an ERA+ of 123. Remember, Kelvim scored 49 while going 1-9-6; his opponents here had an ERA+ of 112. Interestingly, however, Kelvim's above-average opponents, despite being less good overall, average 6.5 innings per start while Bartolo's averaged 6.0. That suggests to me that the Angel offense did do well against these opponents, so while Kelvim's performance in these starts explains part of his record, the performance of the Angel offense is also a factor.

Anyway, this whole thing has gotten way out of hand. How long is this damn post? I don't know. But I will take notice this year of how Kelvim (and the Angel offense) does against other good starting pitchers, to see if he can be blamed if his mediocre fortune in garnering decisions continues.

By the way, if you've clicked on any of the links here, you can see how awesome Baseball Reference's Play Index is.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Well, Deadspin linked to this, so you've probably seen Derek Zumsteg's argument that K-Rod doctors the ball.

I don't know if you've gone back to look at the video or not, but I have, and ... I have no idea.

It's certainly not as clear-cut as Derek makes it seem. Frankie does touch the brim of his cap quite a bit, but he practically always follows it up with wiping his hand across his pants. Maybe he tucks his thumb and is just wiping his fingers, and it's all an elaborate ruse, or maybe that's just his tic while on the mound. Or maybe both.

Derek also exhorts us to observe how the pitches he throws after touching his cap differ in movement from those he throws otherwise, but as best as I can tell there's no pattern to this at all. The second strike Frankie throws to Brad Wilkerson (before which he touches the cap) looks just like the first strike (before which he doesn't). The only pitch with unique movement is the first pitch to Gerald Laird, a fastball that rides inside for a ball (all of Frankie's pitches but one were fastballs). A couple of the other time he touches his hat, he throws a ball.

So, I have no idea if K-Rod has his doctorate in ball ... doctoring or not, but if he does, I might suggest he stop, as the pitches that apparently arouse suspicion tend to suck.

(Incidentally, I went back and watched K-Rod's last save from 2006; he does substantially the same thing, touching his cap and then his goggles. Once again, there is no discernible difference in the movement of his pitches from one to another [he was slider-heavy in that outing, and mixes in his fastball with both the big and get-me-over sliders]. I glanced at some April outings, too, same thing. 2006 is as far back as the MLB.tv archives go.)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Well, aside from John Lackey having a relatively short outing, Opening Day went pretty much according to plan. A strong enough outing from the starter, a few runs scrapped out here and there, and the bullpen closing the door in the last third of the game.

A few notes:

  • John Lackey did not look particularly good, with errant control of his fastball and slurve. He reverted back to the old pussy-footing around when he got behind in the count, getting cute with slurves (which weren't close enough to the strike zone to get anyone to bite) and foregoing his heat. Now, when Mark Teixeira is up with a runner in scoring position with two outs, fine, pitch around the guy. With guys on first and second and two outs? I'd prefer you not to walk the bases loaded, thanks.

    And not only does this cowardice lead to baserunners, it also racks up the pitch count, which is going to keep Lackey from going deep into games, especially this early in the season.

  • Darren Oliver came in to face to left-handed batters and, shockingly, retired neither of them.

    Oliver, over his career, hasn't had any kind of platoon advantage against the LHB (he's allowed an 810 OPS to RHB and 817 to LHB, a virtual tie). He's even had several seasons where lefties tag him even more than righties did, so he's miscast in a role where he's asked to only retire left-handers.

  • Are we so phobic of Casey Kotchman's "speed" leading to double plays that we're gonna hit-and-run with Shea Hillenbrand on base all the time? Okay, one of the instances last night was on a 3-2 count, so I dig that one. But late in the game a straight hit-and-run was put on early in the count; Casey flailed at a pitch at least a foot out of the strike zone to the side and at least a foot out of the strike zone toward the ground, and Hillenbrand got hosed from you to me. This was when Mike Wood was pitching; he couldn't find the plate at all there, and Kotchman drew a walk. The hit-and-run backfired there. Hillenbrand is no kind of speedster, so we should be careful about using this weapon.

  • It isn't the sort of thing you notice, but K-Rod exhibited some very nice pitching against Brad Wilkerson in the ninth. After falling behind 3-0, K-Rod came back with two fastballs to full the count. Instead of pulling a Lackey and getting cute with the breaking stuff, K-Rod kept coming at him with the fastball, garnering a flyout to deepest center.

    While a fly to the warning track may look bad -- just a few feet another way and it's a home run! -- it was in fact the residue of design. With a three-run lead, Frankie knew that a home run wasn't going to hurt him, but that there's no point in walking a guy. If someone's going to reach base, make him earn it, don't give him a free pass. The K spotted his fastball perfectly on the outside corner, letting Wilkerson lay some wood on it in a place where he was unlikely to pull it over the rightfield fence or push it over the one in left. K-Rod let the ballpark work for him, and got one of the easier saves he should expect to see.

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  • Monday, April 02, 2007

    Okay, let's get this show back on the road.

    I have been distracted of late, and for the last week-and-a-half have had no kind of free time, but this is one of our great national holidays. It's time to get down to business.

    I don't have any kind of preview post, because I wrote half of a team preview that will allegedly appear over at Primer. I don't know when that's going up, but I'll let y'all know when it does, of course.

    Suffice to say I'm cautiously optimistic about the season. We should remain competitive in the division, and should expect to see a lot more production out of the right side of the infield than we did last year.

    Anyway, I'll once again vow to be more active -- the season actually beginning should help with that. Of course, this vow immediately finds itself challenged with the fac that I'll be out of town near the end of this week, so don't panic. I see from my hit counter that my incredibly small but hopefully devoted fanbase is checking back in, so let's get to it.

    First pitch in 86 minutes!

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