Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Torch Has Passed 

I no longer cover the Angels for ESPN, so there will be no new posts to this blog until we figure out what to do here. Thanks for the reading and keep enjoying Angels baseball.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Cold? In July? August? 

How do you catch a cold in July? Anyone? It's 100 degrees outside and I was blowing my nose 562874-every 5 minutes. Now, it's August, and it still feels like someone is sitting on my head. I've had plenty of colds during the playoff chase in the NFL, but very few (I can't remember any) during the stretch drive of a summer pennant race. So that's the reason you haven't heard from me in a bit--what's the Angels offense's excuse? The Halos were next to last in the AL in runs and average for July and last in OBP, SLG, and OPS. Somehow, they managed to go 13-14 with all those horrid numbers, thanks in large part to a 3.98 ERA (3rd in AL). But even better were the Elephant Men (3.66), who have thundered the Angels lead all the way down to 1 game.

Bats Are Sluggish

Currently, the Angels have 2 players who are slugging over .450 that have more than 150 ABs. That's 3 less than Oakland and 5 less than the Texas. Wanna take a guess at which two? Sure, one's easy--Vlad (.556). Number two? No, it's not Garret Anderson. Nope, not expensive free agent signees Steve Finley or Orlando Cabrera. Not rookie slugger Dallas McPherson or newcomer Juan Rivera. That's right--it's backstop Bengie Molina (.458). He's also only the 3rd Halo to hit double digit HRs in '05. Bengie continues to hit the ball well while making a lot of contact (92%). The hitting has to come from somewhere and Bengie just had a .303/4/17 July while playing in 25 games. You can expect that production to continue as long as his health and stamina holds. Only 20% owned. Take a look.

No Lack of Respect Now

I'm very glad to see that John Lackey is almost a universally owned pitcher now in mixed leagues (98%). His ERA has been below 3.50 in every month but April (5.61). We all know a bad start can taint a pitcher's ERA for the remainder of the season, but now Lackey's ERA is beginning to reflect how well he's doing on the mound. In July, he threw 39 Ks and only 6 BBs. He did walk 3 in his first start in August, but since the All-Star Break, his numbers look like this: 3-0, 1.33 ERA, .214 OBA. Someone certainly needed to fill the void left by Kelvim Escobar and he's done it well. Lackey is going to be a very good pitcher for years to come and it looks like he may have finally reached the potential that many had him pegged for since his great run in the 2002 championship season.

Mending Wings: An Ace and Two Jacks

Even with the AL West lead down to a single game, the Halos still have to think about the postseason and playing their cards right now in order to set up a good hand if they get there. The Ace, Kelvim Escobar, is still on target to return in early September, allowing him to throw some meaningful innings in the stretch drive to hopefully prepare for a postseason series. Jarrod Washburn, who--let's face it, is a Jack (you know those crafty Jacks)--will miss his Saturday start and rest a little longer with that forearm tightness. His inexplicable 3.28 ERA will have to sit for now, but he should be back to fooling hitters (and fantasy owners) next week. Finally, Dallas McPherson began his minor league rehab in Rancho Cucamonga 1-3 with a double. He'll be back when his stroke is back.

All Arms

Since there's little reason to rejoice outside of Vlad on the offensive side, there's nothing wrong with continuing our focus on the arms that are carrying this division lead. Bartolo Colon is actually the only starter with double digit wins, but deservedly so, with 13. His K/BB is over 3, and opponents are getting on base at under .300 against him (.294). He did have a bad July, but his first start in August a 7-inning, 0 ER rebound. Paul Byrd continues to pick, pick, pick his way to a formidable year. Yes, his K/9 is only 4.67, but his BB/9 is a mere 1.23, which obviously doesn't give the opposing team any breaks. It's hard to recommend a guy who strikes out so few for several reasons, but Byrd has a lot more good starts than poor ones. A good matchup makes him a good pickup.

Juan Gone

So much for the emergence of Juan Rivera as an offensive jolt. After a stellar June (.341), he cooled off by over 150 points to hit a meager .180 in July. He did manage to drive in 10, but the increased PT did nothing to make him worthy of full-time PT. He's been in RF lately with Vlad just taking the DH slot, but it's hard to see Scioscia going to Rivera too much longer because he's clearly not getting it done. Of course, Jeff DaVanon is doing little to make you think he could produce at a regular clip (.216 in July), but the man can walk--even with that low, low average he still almost managed a .400 OBP (.396). The Angel DHs have managed only 5 HR (3 of those Vlad) this year. Put that together with a .242 AVG and a .638 OPS and the reality is that the pitcher might as well hit.

Rays and A's

Three games that oughta to be easier to win followed up with a matchup against the hottest team in baseball on the road. The upcoming week should be an interesting one for the Halos and maybe the year's first series against the Devil Rays will be just what the offense needs. Because TB has given up more runs that any team in baseball, you'll probably want to activate all Angels hitters and possibly even pick up a free agent (Bengie Molina comes to mind). The A's series will be great baseball to watch and with the Angels likely facing both Harden and Zito, it makes it all the more exciting. It doesn't look like a good matchup on paper, especially considering the A's are 35-18 at home and hit .281 (.248 on road). Big, big test. For the Angels, Matt Allen--ESPN.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Question That Has to Be Asked 

Is Vlad really hurt? There really isn't any obvious indication that he is, other than the sore wrist he's been battling, but we've seen him play with bumps and bruises before in Montreal. Could the wrist be something worse? He told the Press-Enterprise that his wrist problems were from taking too many swings. OK, maybe, but here are the (not-so-obvious) facts: Since 2001, Vlad has batted no lower that .270 in any month when he wasn't hurt to the point of having to go to the DL (.143 in June '03 and .224 in May '05). So far in July, his AVG is .172. Secondly, Vlad has one of the best arms in the game, yet he's been DH twice in the last 6 games, which some argue takes a hitter even further off his game. I'm not saying a trip to the DL could be imminent, but I'd watch Vlad very closely.

Lack of Response

I've used line after line here trying to get owners to heed to the nickel's worth of free advice I'm giving on John Lackey. Currently, he's owned in just 2/3 of ESPN mixed leagues. This is a pitcher with 41 K and 5 BB in his last 5 starts (32.1 IP). Yes, I realize his ERA in those starts is a mediocre 4.45, but he's a tick away from being A-class. The last time Lack fanned less than 5 in a start was April 22. That's 15 starts with 5+ Ks. And for the record, in only 4 of those did he walk at least 3. That adds up to an excellent K/9 of 9.0 and K/BB of 2.81, which could start paying big dividends in the W column on a first-place team. The WHIP is a little high, but his Sunday's performance @ MIN shows what he can do (7 IP, 10 K, 0 ER). Continue to ignore Lackey at your own peril.

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Those of us who picked Chone Figgins up off the scrapheap in late May when other less-talented, less-patient owners waived him can presently smile and nod and do a little Miss America wave (all the while remaining decidedly manly during said wave). Chone hit 30 SB for the year on Tuesday night and hit the road toward 40 with another on Wednesday night. And, oh yeah, he's hitting .318 in July to boot. His July OBP is .384 and 7 BB and only 4 K, that good hitting can be expected to continue. Do know this though--you might want to sit him against LHP because he's only hitting .175 from the right side this year (and, logically, 28 of his 31 SB have come against RHP considering the higher OBP). Figgins remains an excellent target for his excellent speed, good bat, and position eligibility.

The Pen is Mightier

If you needed a reason to like this Angels bullpen, which has the highest K/9 in the AL and is 2nd in K/BB only to Cleveland, just watch them pitch. Solid. K-Rod is top-shelf (but of course very hard to trade for), Scot Shields has achieved former-"Octavio Dotel" status in middle relief, becoming a universally owned set-up man, even in shallow leagues. If you've been here recently at all, you know I'm still high on Brendan Donnelly, and the numbers back me up, although he hasn't pitched much lately with the starters doing as well as they are. And, also don't forget about Joel Peralta, who's had a bit of a rough stretch of late, but he's still shown he has what it takes to be a solid reliever. The only weak spots are Kevin Gregg and Esteban Yan, who've been good before.

Mending Wings: A Toss is Not a Throw

Kelvim Escobar "tossed" this week, according to the OC Register, his first step in getting back after elbow surgery. I would only be a little optimistic about this, as Scoiscia made it clear that he was tossing more than actually throwing. Best guess estimate still has him back in August, which may or may not be soon enough to help your team. For now, he's off the radar. Dallas McPherson is coming along and could be back as early as next week, but a rehab assignment is probably in his future and that hasn't been scheduled yet. He should start swinging any day now and the trainers and D-Mac will go from there.

Knick-Knack-Paddy-Whack to the Playoffs?

The Angels rank 11th or worse in HR, AVG, OBP, and OPS in the AL. They've managed to manufacture enough runs to fall in the middle of the pack, thanks to 82 SB (good for 3rd in the AL) and other knick-knacky, but very important, things that unsuccessful clubs don't do, like leading MLB with .306 average with RISP. If the power outage continues--and with this team, only Vlad strikes me as someone with raw power to burn--can the Angels knick-knack all the way to the World Series? Might be tough. Will the starters have to continue to pitch as well as they have to get the Angels over the hump? Pundits always say good pitching beats good hitting, and this year, the Angels will be the perfect example if they advance.

The Thundering Herd

The Elephant Men are now the closest competitor in the Halos' rearview mirror in the AL West. They passed Chuck Norris and Co. and will now be a threat to make a charge (as they demonstrated with a series win in Anaheim). It's interesting when you look at the A's, because in a lot of ways, they look like this Angels club--only 42 million dollars cheaper. The thick of a pennant race isn't exactly the time to talk payrolls, but it is interesting that with Guerrero, Anderson, Finley, Cabrera and the rest of the Halos currently have a .729 OPS while the A's and their anemic offense have managed a .731. Oh well, as Biggie used to say, "Mo Money, Mo Problems" (the Yankees would agree). Bottom line--Halos have more Ws. That’s all that matters. For the Angels, Matt Allen--ESPN.