Weaver Snubbed & A Solution to Prevent Future Unwanted Snubbage

I’ve been all for having each team being represented in the All-Star Game… until today.

Today just made me realize that the under-qualified and under-represented took priority over the clearly qualified, and that is an absolute shame.

You know the story by now.

Angels’ ace Jered Weaver was left off the All-Star roster despite his numbers giving him a fantastic shot of reaching his 1st All-Star Game… let alone with it being in his home stadium.

It’s not like Weaver was  “on the fence” to begin with.

He should be in the game.

Here are Jered Weaver’s statistics on the 2010 season:

8-3 record/2.82 ERA/124 K/26 BB/1.06 WHIP/.217 BAA

He ranks 1st in the American League in strikeouts, 3rd in WHIP (Walks + Hits / Innings Pitched), and holds the AL’s 6th best ERA.

Looking at his 17 starts on the season, in his 8 wins, he has been great in each, going more than 6 innings in each win (going 7 or more in 5 of those 8 wins), and in his 3 losses, you could say he had a better chance to lose rather than win on that given day (allowed, 4, 4, and 6 runs in those respective losing decisions).

But looking at the games where he was given a No Decision shows that Weaver’s 8-3 record doesn’t do his half-season performance total justice.

In Weaver’s 6 No Decisions, he had given up 2 runs or less in 5 of those 6 starts, outings by Jered that definitely should have given him a W compared to a ND.

His record could potentially be 13-3 at this point if all happened to go right on those days (it usually doesn’t work out that way but let’s just roll with it).

So which starting pitchers did get in to the All-Star Game? Let’s run down the list here.

- Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox. Deserving. The kid’s been fantastic this year. 10-4 record with the 3rd lowest ERA in the American League at 2.45, Buchholz no doubt deserves his 1st All-Star nod, but as we’ll get into later, the key to Weaver’s potential last chance of an All-Star game appearance lies in the hamstring of Clay Buchholz.

- Trevor Cahill, Oakland Athletics. Deserving. Oakland was one of 3 American League teams to have just 1 player represent their team, but Cahill represents the A’s well. The 3rd youngest player on the American League roster (the 2 youngest are Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus [21] and Rangers closer Neftali Feliz[22], the 22-year-old Cahill got a deserving selection into the All-Star Game and should have been in regardless of whether or not each team had to be represented. 8-2 record, sub-2.75 ERA, the kid is where he belongs, on the roster for the first time in his incredibly young career.

- Phil Hughes, New York Yankees. Deserving. Hughes has faltered of late, allowing 19 of his 40 earned runs on the season in his last 4 starts alone, so it’s safe to say he stumbled into the All-Star Game roster. He stands at 10-2 with a less than impressive 3.83 ERA for an All-Star, but before the string of ERA-inflated outings, he was 8-1 with a 2.71 ERA, a little more telling of how his season had been going. Still a deserving 1st-time bid.

- Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners. Deserving. He joined Ichiro as the other Mariner to be selected to the All-Star Game, and he’s been downright filthy since the start. Lee’s got the lowest ERA in the AL (2.34) as well as the lowest WHIP ratio (0.95!). If that wasn’t enough, Cliff Lee has been as accurate and as tough to hit as any pitcher out there. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is an otherworldly 14.83… that’s more than 3 times as good as the American League’s next-best qualified starting pitcher… Jered Weaver. Lee is up there as one of the league’s top arms, he was an All-Star shoe-in.

- Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox. Deserving. Lester’s 2010 season got off on the wrong foot. After his first 3 starts, he had an 0-2 record with an ERA of 8.44 (15 earned runs in 16 innings pitched). Since that atrocious start, Lester has won 10 of 11 decisions, and cut his ERA down by more than 5 1/2 runs to be at 2.76. A top-5 American League pitcher in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and innings pitched, Lester deserved his 1st All-Star appearance.

- David Price, Tampa Bay Rays. Deserving. David Price has been living up to his #1 overall draft pick potential in 2010. He currently has an AL-leading 11 wins, and the 2nd best ERA (2.42), there’s no way that someone should have gotten this All-Star spot over Price. He has been outstanding this year and is completely deserving of heading to the Mid-Summer Classic. Oddly enough, of the American League’s 8 starting pitchers, Price is one of 6 to be making their first career All-Star appearances.

- CC Sabathia, New York Yankees. Deserving. Joe Girardi made this an easy choice, but let’s not have that take away from what Sabathia has meant to the Yankees. The guy’s been a straight horse for Girardi’s bunch. He’s thrown the 2nd most innings pitched in the AL and is tied for the 2nd most wins with 10, as well as having the AL’s 7th best WHIP mark of 1.13. A worthy 4th All-Star selection for the hefty lefty.

Which brings us to our final All-Star starter…

- Fausto Carmona, right-handed pitcher of the Cleveland Indians making his first career All-Star appearance.

The only player on the roster from the Cleveland Indians (it should have been outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to be the Indians representative if anybody). So this was really the “have-to-put-somebody-in” pick for the AL.

On the season, Carmona’s 7-7 with a 3.69 ERA, and a 1.29 WHIP ratio. Carmona’s 7 wins is the lowest of the AL All-Star starters. His 7 losses is the most of the AL All-Star starters (the next lowest is 4). His 3.69 ERA is the 2nd worst of the AL All-Star starting pitchers, and by a slim margin.

Let’s compare Carmona’s 2010 numbers to Weaver’s 2010 numbers side-by-side:

Weaver-      8-3 record/2.82 ERA/124 K/26 BB/1.06 WHIP/.217 BAA

Carmona-   7-7 record/3.69 ERA/57 K/39 BB/1.29 WHIP/.250 BAA

Who has more wins? – Weaver

Who has fewer losses? – Weaver

Who has a better ERA? – Weaver

Who has been tougher against hitters? – Weaver

Who is clearly the more deserving pitcher here? – Weaver

In conclusion, Weaver has won more, lost less, held a lower ERA by close to a full run, struck out over 60 more batters, walked 13 fewer batters, allowed fewer baserunners, and allowed allowed fewer hits to opposing batters.

No-brainer, right?

Wrong, buddy.

Because of the “everybody gets represented” rule, Carmona, the clearly inferior pitcher in this comparison gets the All-Star nod because his team had nobody else to put in. Let’s be clear here, the Indians are not what you’d call an above-average baseball team (32 wins is tied for the 3rd lowest in all of baseball). The Indians would need way more than Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Willie Mays Hayes, and Pedro Cerrano to even be considered a middle of the pack ballclub (but shipping off Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee as well as All-Star catcher Victor Martinez in the past few years kind of put them in this spot).

This representation rule lets fans know that it’s about quantity over quality.

Statistically speaking, was Fausto Carmona more deserving than Jered Weaver? No.

But representatively, he was “more deserving” because the Indians had no one from their team selected while the Angels already had Torii Hunter penciled in as a reserve.

It’s ridiculous to me, but hey, it is what it is. Me writing this won’t tell Joe Girardi to get up and erase Fausto’s name out and throw that lanky kid Weaver’s name in there instead.

So as it stands, Jered Weaver is left out of the All-Star Game… for now.

But back on June 26th, BoSox’ All-Star right-hander Clay Buchholz injured his hammy while running the bases, and this injury might just set him on the Disabled List, potentially paving the way for Jered Weaver to be his All-Star replacement. If this indeed happens (it appears likely Buchholz will miss his next start), don’t sleep on Felix Hernandez, though. His 6-5 record doesn’t quite do him justice, but when you look at the numbers, the scales tip in Jered’s favor if you had to pick between him or King Felix for the spot.

Update: Andy Pettitte selected through player voting to replace Buchholz

The “every team needs to be represented” rule isn’t just negatively affecting the American League (I could also get into the snubs of deserving guys like Kevin Youkilis, Michael Young and Andy Pettitte, Alex Rios even?), it’s just as prevalent if not even more so in the National League.

Let’s first look at the case of Cincinnati Reds’ first basemen Joey Votto (a first-half National League MVP candidate, I might add). Despite being in the top-5 in the National League in batting average (.312), home runs (19), RBI (57), runs scored (53), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.572), and OPS (.984)… Votto is still not on the team. It’s tough to make the squad when you’re competing against guys like Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez (all who made the team), and it wouldn’t make much sense to carry 4 first basemen, but in this case, it would have.

You’re telling me outfielder Michael Bourn of the Astros, hitting a not-so-eye-popping .260 with 20 RBI is more deserving than Joey Votto because he didn’t have another player on his team worthy of being an All-Star? I know they don’t play the same position and hence couldn’t fill the same roster spot but still, come on, really?

Let’s also take a look at Mat Latos, the talented 22-year-old starter for the San Diego Padres. The youngster’s been unbelievable for the Pads this year, putting together a 9-4 record with a 2.62 ERA and a league-best 0.96 WHIP ratio. The guy’s had 5 outings of 7 or more innings without allowing a run this year and has been instrumental in vaulting the Padres to the National League’s best record as it currently stands.

He didn’t make it either. However, Brewers’ hurler and All-Star-elect Yovani Gallardo injured an oblique muscle… which may just lead to a more than deserving All-Star nomination for the youngster Latos (a similar case could easily be made for the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey as well).

The biggest snub in my mind is Miguel Olivo, catcher for the Colorado Rockies. How in God’s beautiful green earth he isn’t the starting catcher for the NL is beyond me. Fan voting put Yadier Molina (really? … the guy isn’t even hitting .230!) in for his 2nd career All-Star appearance (another part of the All-Star game that needs to be altered somehow is the usage of fan voting… read on to see my solution). And the reserve catcher nomination went to the Braves’ Brian McCann. I can deal with McCann being an All-Star, but not Molina. Here’s why.

Here are the statistics of those three backstops: (bold indicates the best mark among the 3 players)

Molina-    .229 avg./3 HR/31 RBI/12 XBH/16 R/.309 OBP/.302 SLG/.611 OPS

McCann- .265 avg./10 HR/34 RBI/23 XBH/38 R/.381 OBP/.449 SLG/.830 OPS

Olivo-       .307 avg./11 HR/39 RBI/22 XBH/37 R/.363 OBP/.538 SLG/.901 OPS

It’s safe to say that this year, Yadier Molina isn’t quite in McCann or Olivo’s class. But yet, there he is. Starting in the All-Star game despite hitting 78 points lower than a guy who isn’t even on the squad. Of those 8 statistical categories, Olivo is best in 5 of them amongst the three listed catchers, and loses 2 of those categories by only 1 extra base hit and 1 run scored.

Fact: there will always be snubs. Somehow, someway there will always be at least 1 All-Star snub.

Problem: fan voting, while necessary to give baseball fans a feeling of importance that they can potentially select the starting lineups all by themselves, is not implemented in the best possible way.

Quick and easy two-part amendment/solution to avoid roster snubs and to just plain “get it right”:

#1.) First, get rid of the “each team gets represented rule.” If you’re deserving, you’re in. If you’re the best player on a bad team and you don’t meet the qualifications for an All-Star bid, too bad. Some form of equal representation will not unfairly help you get in over someone else whose team already has somebody into the All-Star Game.

Case in point: if you’re good enough, you’re in. Doesn’t matter if you already have a player from your team on the roster or not, if your season’s numbers should earn you an All-Star appearance, you’ll be rewarded for your performance fairly.

#2.) Second, to select All-Star starters, you take a little bit of both in regards to the current system. What I mean by this is that you effectively combine how All-Star starters are selected (fan voting) and how reserve All-Stars can be appointed (All-Star manager’s selection). What you do is you allow fan voting to take place, but once voting ends, you take the top-3 vote-getters at each position, and the manager will choose the most deserving of those 3 to be the starter at that particular position. You still allow fans to have a say in who could start in the All-Star Game, and with the manager’s approval, you just about eliminate the chance that an oft-injured fan-favorite who has spent most of the season on the DL will start in the All-Star Game, leading to at least 1 fewer snub if that were the case.

Case in point: who the All-Star team’s manager views as the best player of the fan-voted top-3 at each position will be appointed a starting job in the All-Star game. It keeps the fan in a position of power without completely stripping fans of their individual vote’s significance, and by the manager selecting 1 of the top-3 vote-getting players at each position, I feel that this could be a reasonable and realistic solution for the All-Star Game and its rosters to be almost as right as they could possibly be

Enough of hearing about the snubs, it’s time for the All-Star game to get a face-lift.

Heck, if the All-Star Game can change it’s rules to where the outcome of the game decides something unbelievably important (who gets home field advantage in the World Series), why can’t it change its rules to where the Mid-Summer Classic rewards baseball’s best players, regardless of team, instead of rewarding a decent player on a team that can’t seem to rack up more than 8 wins in a month over a guy who is clearly deserving but already has his club represented in the game?

We all know that something has to change. There’s nothing worse than seeing a guy you pull for being snubbed in favor of some middle-of-the-road guy on a last place team… the sentiment Angel fans are currently feeling.

It’s just not right.

And it’s time that that changed.

If you have any resolutions that you’d like to see implemented into the All-Star Game, feel free to comment or let me hear it on Twitter by replying to @TheHalosBlog!

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What About Bob?

Move past the .188 career batting average.

Don’t look too deeply into the sub-.270 career on-base percentage.

Disregard the fact that the guy has driven in exactly a handful of runs in 31 career games.

Statistics don’t do justice to what Bobby Wilson brings to the Angels.

Bobby Wilson is a winner.

Bobby’s been another one of Mike Scioscia’s interchangeable parts of late with the slew of injuries that have plagued the Angels. As of a few days ago, the Angels were missing 4 of their Opening Day starters due to injuries (1B Kendry Morales-broken leg, SS Erick Aybar-meniscus damage, C Jeff Mathis-broken wrist, 3B Brandon Wood- uh… does he even count?) as well as the Angels’ most versatile position player in Maicer Izturis.

The Angels’ day-to-day lineup card has been a jigsaw puzzle in motion ever since Kendry went down on May 29th, and with Jeff Mathis out and being down a first baseman in Morales, it forced Scioscia to put players in unfamiliar spots. The prime example has to be Mike Napoli, a catcher by trade who has been playing first base for Mike Scioscia of late, and has performed admirably. That left a catching vacancy at times, paving the way for Bobby Wilson to get his shot.

Wilson, a product of Dunedin, Florida was drafted in the 48th round of the 2002 Amateur Draft by the Angels and got his first taste of the big leagues when he made his debut on April 28th, 2008, and got a hit in his first professional at-bat as a pinch-hitter (the Angels got blown out 14-2 by the Oakland A’s that day).

Playing through nearly 650 minor league games from 2003-2010, Bobby Wilson had hit at a respectable .284 clip working his way through the minor league ranks, and actually had his highest batting average in AAA ball, hitting .291 in 212 games for the Salt Lake Bees.

Through 2008 and 2009, Wilson had only registered 11 major league at-bats to his name, seeing limited duty in his time in the bigs. Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli were platooning behind home plate, and Ryan Budde was even in the catching mix, leaving not much of a spot for Wilson.

The early part of 2010 would prove to be a different story. If in the previous 2 seasons it seemed like the Angels had no need for Bobby Wilson, this year would be a complete 180 from that statement.

The 28-year-old Wilson has played a vital role in the Angels winning 15 of the 20 games since Kendry Morales went down with a fluke season-ending leg injury.

In the 11 starts Wilson has made this season, the Angels have gone 10-1.

In his last 7 starts, the opposing team has scored more than 2 runs on the Angels only once, with the Angels having a fantastic team ERA of 2.14 during those starts. Subtracting a performance where Angel pitching allowed 6 runs to the Oakland A’s, the team ERA of those games is a ridiculous 1.50.

Wilson makes starting pitchers better, there has been no disputing that.

Outside of one poor outing by Joe Saunders (4.1 innings, 7 earned runs), starting pitchers have gone 63 innings in Bobby’s 10 other starts with a combined ERA of 2.00 in those starts. Starters have given up 14 runs in those 63 innings, 8 of those given up by Ervin Santana.

Jered Weaver has gone 14 innings in his 2 starts with Wilson behind the dish, striking out 17 batters, and allowing only 5 hits. Furthermore, Weaver is yet to have an earned run charged to his name when he’s tossing to Wilson. He outduled last year’s Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez in one start and Ted Lilly in his first start following a near no-hitter of the White Sox in the other.

Scott Kazmir has worked with Bobby on three occasions, going 17 innings and giving up 4 runs in that span. Kazmir won each of those 3 starts, with an ERA of 2.11 in those outings. In all of his other outings this year, Kazmir has gone 4-5 with a fat ERA of 6.03.

Joel Pineiro put forth one of his better efforts of the year in his one start with Bobby Wilson, throwing 8 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball. Pineiro held down a Milwaukee Brewers offense who exploded for 19 runs against the Angels in the previous two games, and also currently have the 2nd most home runs (82) and are only 15 runs back of first place for most runs scored as a team in the National League.

Whatever Bobby’s been doing, it’s been working.

Even though he’s taken his lumps at the plate (.189 batting average this year) and blocking the plate (check out the video below in case you haven’t seen it), Bobby has brought the most important statistic to the Angels: wins.

(On a side note, this was probably the roughest home-plate collision baseball had seen since ex-Angel Darin Erstad slammed into Johnny Estrada back in 2005.)

So next time you want to see how Bobby Wilson did in his most recent game, don’t look for his name in the box score.

If you look for his name you might find an “0-for-3″ or “0-for-4 with a strikeout” performance. That’s not what Bobby Wilson brings.

Instead, look at how the starting pitcher did. Did he get the win? How many innings did he go? How many runs did he allow? How many hits did he allow?

That’s where you’ll find the true value of Bobby Wilson.

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The Guessing Game: Projecting the Angels’ 2010 Season

The calendar has now flipped to April, which means we’re now only a handful of days away from getting back into the full swing of Major League Baseball.

Here are some reasonable expectations of production that I see out of our guys in red.

The Lineup

I’m no Mike Scioscia, but here’s my best guess at what the Opening Day lineup card will look like:

1.) SS – Erick Aybar

2.) RF – Bobby Abreu

3.) CF – Torii Hunter

4.) DH – Hideki Matsui

5.) 1B – Kendry Morales

6.) LF – Juan Rivera

7.) 2B – Howie Kendrick

8.) C – Mike Napoli (with plenty of Jeff Mathis appearances as well)

9.) 3B – Brandon Wood

Let’s take a look at what these guys should do, in my mind at least.

Erick Aybar

Last year’s line: 137 games- .312 avg./.353 OBP/70 runs/5 HR/58 RBI/14 SB

Aybar had a fantastic 2009 campaign both at the plate and with the glove. There were stretches where Aybar was the most torrid hitter in all of the MLB (hit a league-best .414 in the month of July). There also were stretches where he didn’t hit so well, but that’s what we have come to see from EA, some inconsistency at the plate. But last year, the good outweighed the bad, and plenty of people felt Erick got robbed of a Gold Glove (Derek Jeter won the award). This year, Aybar won’t be batting 9th like he did most of last season. With the departure of Chone Figgins, the leadoff spot is Aybar’s heading in to Opening Day. He’s a slap hitter with good wheels, but the question remains if he will have good enough plate discipline to be an adequate leadoff guy. I’m not quite sold on Aybar being a 100+ run scorer (OBP was 42 points lower than Figgy’s was last season), but hey, prove me wrong Erick. Wouldn’t be a bad thing.

My 2010 projected line: .295 avg./.350 OBP/90 runs/7 HR/65 RBI/20 SB

Bobby Abreu

Last year’s line: 152 games- .293 avg./.390 OBP/96 runs/15 HR/103 RBI/30 SB

Bobby Abreu proved to be a beautiful addition to the Angels lineup in 2009, as his top-notch plate discipline and ability to consistently work a count rubbed off on plenty of Angel hitters, Chone Figgins especially (drew 101 walks last year, previous career-best was 65). Although Abreu is getting up there in age (turned 36 back in March), he’s proved that he can still be a run-producer (topped 100+ RBI for 8th time in career) and a threat on the basepaths (has averaged just about 28 steals per year since 2005). He was the lefty bat the Angels had been searching for since 2004, and the Angels were smart to keep him around after his steal of a 1-year deal last season. Abreu will benefit from having Hunter, Matsui, and Morales behind him, and could be up there at the top of the AL in runs scored when September is over. Expect another productive year out of Mr. Abreu.

My 2010 projected line: .290 avg./.380 OBP/105 runs/20 HR/100 RBI/25 SB

Torii Hunter

Last year’s line: 119 games- .299 avg./.366 OBP/74 runs/22 HR/90 RBI/18 SB

Torii had some injury setbacks as the season went on, he had been one of the names mentioned as one of the AL’s first-half MVPs. If you average out Torii’s numbers to that of a 150-game season, you’re looking at about 28 homers, 113 RBI and 93 runs scored. Numbers like those will deservingly earn you a little bit of MVP chatter. Torii set new career-bests in batting average (.299), on-base percentage (.366), and brought in his 9th straight Gold Glove with his exceptional play in center. Another year with Bobby Abreu most likely batting in front of Torii will do him plenty of good, and he’ll have plenty of run-producing situations at the plate in 2010. He’ll also benefit from having Hideki Matsui and KMo to clean up behind him, and the threat of those two power bats should make pitchers be a little more honest when they throw to Torii. Although I feel his batting average will dip a little closer to his .274 career mark, I still expect Torii to build on his fantastic ’09 campaign with an even better run-producing 2010 season.

My 2010 projected line: .285 avg./.360 OBP/90 runs/25 HR/100 RBI/20 SB

Hideki Matsui

Last year’s line: 142 games- .274 avg./.367 OBP/62 runs/28 HR/90 RBI/0 SB

Mark this as the 2nd straight offseason that the Angels picked up an unwanted Yankee (with the last one being the man batting in the 2-spot, Bobby Abreu). After spending the last 7 seasons with the Yankees, Matsui went out on a high note as a World Champion, and even brought in a World Series MVP trophy to add to it. Matsui turns 36 in mid-June and can be a reliable run-producer when healthy. However, Matsui hasn’t been able to piece together back-to-back full seasons since he played every game from 2003-2005. His games played from 2006 to 2009 respectively are as follows: 51, 143, 93, 142. Based on his 7-year statistics playing for New York, a typical 162 game season from Matsui averages out to a .292 average, .370 on-base percentage, 25 homers and 106 RBI… not too shabby. The transition from the right field power alley in the Bronx to the high wall in Anaheim will surely knock down would-be home runs in Yankee Stadium, but Matsui should have plenty of extra-base hits this year if he can stay healthy for 140 or so games and get some starts in the outfield as well.

My 2010 projected line: .270 avg./.365 OBP/60 runs/22 HR/95 RBI/0 SB

Kendry Morales

Last year’s line: 152 games- .306 avg./.355 OBP/86 runs/34 HR/108 RBI/3 SB

What a coming out party 2009 was for Kendry Morales. After spending years trying to defect from his native country of Cuba, KMo exploded onto the scene in his first full year as a regular, and ended up finishing 5th in American League MVP voting. He finished in the AL’s top 6 in categories such as: home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, extra base hits, and total bases. Everyone in the Angels system knew he could hit, but fielding had always been the biggest bugaboo regarding Kendry’s game. How did he do defensively in ’09? He had a fielding percentage of .994 and was fantastic in turning the 3-6-3 double play. Additionally, Kendry led the team in homers and runs driven in, and even posted the highest on-base plus slugging percentage mark by an Angels first baseman in franchise history with a .924 mark (8th in the AL). However, I’ve just had the feeling that KMo is due for a sophomore slump. I know the talent is through the roof with Kendry, but he’s still got a ways to go to prove that he can be a legitimate MVP candidate year after year and not just have last year be a fluke. Teams are going to know how to approach him much better this year, and the pitching has only gotten stronger in the AL West (King Felix and Cliff Lee in Seattle, Oakland’s young arms are progressing + Ben Sheets, Texas brought in Mr. Can-Be-Good-When-Healthy Rich Harden), so a dropoff in 2010 seems likely in my eyes.

My 2010 projected line: .280 avg./.345 OBP/80 runs/30 HR/100 RBI/5 SB

Juan Rivera

Last year’s line: 138 games- .287 avg./.332 OBP/72 runs/25 HR/88 RBI/0 SB

Going in to 2009, I felt some good vibes about what Juan Rivera would do and thankfully those vibes held to be true. In his first full year as a regular with the Halos since 2006, Rivera posted career-bests in hits (152), homers (25), RBI (88), and runs scored (72). He also played fantastic defensive in left field and still has a cannon of an arm (10 outfield assists ranked 3rd amongst regular MLB left fielders). Much like Erick Aybar, Rivera had his fair share of major hot and cold streaks (had 5 homers, 19 RBI through first 2 months, had 8 homers, 24 RBI in the following month). Despite the streakiness, Juan still proved to be one of the more unheralded hitters in the MLB last year, ranking in the top 20 for homers and RBI among all MLB outfielders. I feel a comparable year is in order for Juan, and I think having a second year of consistent everyday at-bats can only benefit him.

My 2010 projected line: .280 avg./.330 OBP/75 runs/25 HR/90 RBI/0 SB

Howie Kendrick

Last year’s line: 105 games- .291 avg./.334 OBP/61 runs/10 HR/61 RBI/11 SB

In my mind, this is a make-or-break year for Mr. Kendrick. For years we’ve heard all about how great he hit in the minors (.360 combined average through all levels of the minor leagues) and how he can be a guy who will win a batting title during his, but it’s time to see what all the hype has been about, because frankly, there’s just been something missing with Howie’s game. Sure, through over 350 games in his professional career his batting average is a couple ticks over .300, but he hasn’t been able to piece together a full season in any of his 4 years in the bigs. Last year he played in a career-best 105 games, and had only played in 92, 88, and 72 games in the ’08, ’07, and ’06 seasons respectively prior to last year. And when it comes to be playoff time, it’s as if Howie shuts down completely (.196 average in 46 postseason at-bats). If he can put a full season together, he can be one of the better hitting 2nd basemen in the league. He can go gap-to-gap when he hits and does a great job of utilizing all fields with his line drive approach. The jury is out on Howie Kendrick this year, but he’s not the only one that’ll be under the microscope in the Angels’ everyday lineup this year (see Brandon Wood).

My 2010 projected line: .310 avg./.345 OBP/15 HR/70 RBI/70 runs/15 SB

Mike Napoli

Last year’s line: 114 games- .272 avg/.350 OBP/20 HR/56 RBI/60 runs/3 SB

Big Nap made it back-to-back 20 homer seasons despite being in Mike Scioscia’s platoon system behind the plate again. Nap accounted for 43 extra-base hits last year in his first season of appearing in 100+ games. Statistically speaking, his home run ratio dipped a bit (20 homers in 227 at-bats in 2008, 20 home runs in 382 at-bats in 2009), but Napoli showed that he belonged in the lineup by being 1 of 6 catchers (despite having anywhere from 100 to 200 less at-bats than everyday catchers) to account for 20+ homers and 20+ doubles on the 2009 season (list includes MVP Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Jorge Posada, Brian McCann, and former Angel Bengie Molina). As we’ve come to see over the past several years, Napoli brings the lumber and Jeff Mathis brings the glove, which is the reason for this platoon system that Scioscia has implemented and stuck with. I really think this is the final year that the Angels have to decide who their everyday catcher is going to be, it’s got to be one or the other. If Nap improves his defense, the decision won’t even be close. But, if Jeff Mathis can live up to his 1st round potential (drafted 33rd overall back in 2001) and hit like he did in this past postseason, he’ll give Nap a run for his money.

My 2010 projected line: .265 avg./.345 OBP/25 HR/60 RBI/60 runs/2 SB

Brandon Wood

Last year’s line: 18 games- .195 avg./.267 OBP/1 HR/3 RBI/5 runs/0 SB

This is the guy all Halo fans will be watching closely this year. Like Howie, Angel fans have heard plenty about this Brandon Wood kid, and how great of a hitter he is. He tore it up through the minor league ranks, but once he got to the show, he had nothing to show. In 224 major league at-bats, he’s posted a dismal .192 average, 7 home runs and 19 RBI. Not what you’d expect out of a former first-rounder who once hit 43 homers in A-ball and accounted for 160 home runs over his 7 seasons in the minors. Granted, Wood has never had the opportunity that he will have entering this year: an everyday job that will allow him to get consistent at-bats. In all fairness, before Kendry’s first year as an everyday player, he garnered up a .249 average in the three partial seasons in the majors that led up to his breakout year. It’s amazing what consistent at-bats will do, and it’s all about getting into a rhythm, something Brandon hasn’t yet had the chance to do. Don’t expect the world from Woody, but average numbers are about what you can expect from him.

My 2010 projected line: .245 avg./.310 OBP/20 HR/60 RBI/55 runs/10 SB

That’s about what you can expect from the projected regulars, now let’s switch over to the guys on the mound.

The Pitching

We’ll start with the starting rotation, which (not really in any particular order) will probably look like:

1.) Jered Weaver

2.) Joe Saunders

3.) Scott Kazmir

4.) Ervin Santana

5.) Joel Pineiro

Although the Angels may not have the best top of the rotation (that belongs to Seattle’s tandem of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee), the Angels definitely have the deepest rotation from top to bottom. The rotation features 3 former All-Stars (Saunders, Kazmir, Santana), the team’s best pitcher from last year (Weaver), and a guy who could become the best #5 starter in the league (Pineiro). Now, let’s get to the dissecting of this Angels staff.

Jered Weaver

Last year’s line: 33 starts/211 innings pitched/16-8 record/3.75 ERA/174 K

Weaver was the team’s best pitcher last year, tying for the team lead in wins (16) with Joe Saunders and had the lowest ERA of all Angels starting pitchers. Weaver posted his lowest ERA since he became a full-time starter (excluding his ’06 rookie campaign where he started 19 games, winning 11 of them), and posted his best numbers as a full-time starter in strikeouts, innings, batting average against (.246), pitches per inning (16.1), and hits per 9 innings (8.4). Additionally, Weaver threw 4 complete games (hadn’t thrown one CG in prior 3 seasons), 2 of those being shutouts. Entering his 4th year as a full-time starter, Weaver looks to be the odds-on choice in being the Opening Day starter, and has garnered in 40 wins in the last 3 seasons overall. I look for Weaver to have another solid year of 15+ wins and I feel he’ll continue to lower that ERA.

My 2010 projected line: 205 innings pitched/17-10 record/3.60 ERA/180 K

Joe Saunders

Last year’s line: 31 starts/186 innings pitched/16-7 record/4.60 ERA/101 K

Saunders had battled problems in his throwing arm for the majority of the year, but finished incredibly strong. He started the year 5-1, would go 4-6 in his next 10 decisions, and then finish the year winning his final 6 decisions to move to 16-7 on the year. Saunders pitched through his shoulder problems until he needed to shut it down, which is the main culprit for his ERA being nearly 1 1/5 runs higher than it was the season before in which he made the All-Star team. In his Angel career, Saunders is 48-22, and no Angel has more wins in the past 2 seasons than Saunders’ 33. Not John Lackey, who signed with the Red Sox for $82.5 million, not even Jered Weaver who is going to be tabbed as the team’s #1 rotation. When it comes down to it, Joe Saunders just knows how to flat out win. I look for that trend to continue this year as well, I see another season over 16 wins for Saunders with a much better ERA than last year’s inflated 4.60 mark.

My 2010 projected line: 200 innings pitched/18-9 record/4.10 ERA/100 K

Ervin Santana

Last year’s line: 23 starts/193.2 innings pitched/8-8 record/5.03 ERA/107 K

Ervin wasn’t healthy for the full season, but no matter how you look at it, his 2009 season was a great disappointment compared to his 2008 All-Star season (16-7 record, 3.49 ERA, 219 innings pitched). Much like I mentioned earlier about Hideki Matsui being unable to piece together back-to-back full seasons in recent years, Ervin has been the same way in regards to having good seasons and bad seasons. In 2006 he went 16-8, in 2007 he went 7-14, in 2008 he went 16-7, and last year he went 8-8. Is this season going to follow the trend of having a good year? Ervin sure hopes so, and so does the Angels front office considering Ervin repaid the management with an ERA over 5 after they gave him a healthy new 4-year, $30-million deal. It’s time for Ervin to show that he’s worth the money, but I’m not sold on him channeling that 2008 form just yet.

My 2010 projected line: 180 innings pitched/14-11 record/4.40 ERA/160 K

Scott Kazmir

Last year’s line: 26 starts/147.1 innings pitched/10-9 record/4.89 ERA/117 K

Kazmir came over to the Angels late in the 2009 season, and pitched very well in his limited action in Halo red (1.73 ERA in 6 starts). Only a couple of years ago, Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts with 239, and was beaten out by Jake Peavy by 1 punchout for the league lead. That was when Kazmir’s slider was one of the league’s most devastating pitches, but in 2009, his slider simply didn’t slide. If pitching coach Mike Butcher can help Kazmir find that slider, and he can find the form he had when he made the All-Star team back in 2006 and 2008, Kazmir has an excellent chance of re-establishing himself as one of the league’s preeminent strikeout pitchers. Kazmir is a real sleeper pick to be one of the AL’s better pitchers, considering he has 5 full seasons under his belt and he’s still only 26. He knows what success tastes like, and as I could imagine, is eager to get back to his winning ways.

My 2010 projected line: 175 innings pitched/15-10 record/3.90 ERA/150 K

Joel Pineiro

Last year’s line: 32 starts/214 innings pitched/15-12 record/3.49 ERA/105 K

At the age of 31, Pineiro caught a 2nd wind in his career last year with the St. Lous Cardinals, posting the most wins in a season for him since 2003, and putting up his lowest ERA since 2002. Pineiro’s 214 innings pitched was a career-high for him as well. He started his career in the AL West, playing with the Seattle Mariners from 2000-2006, and was at his best with the M’s during 2002 and 2003 when he posted 30 total wins and had an ERA in the 3.50s over those 2 seasons. However, in his final 3 seasons with the Mariners, Pineiro went 21-35 with ERAs of 4.67, 5.62, and 6.36 respectively. Plenty of critics are saying that Joel Pineiro’s 2009 season was a fluke, and I have to admit I’m not sold on Pineiro either. The Halos brought him in with a 2-year, $16-million deal, a hefty amount to be paying a #5 starter. However, if he throws the way he did under Cardinals’ pitching coach Dave Duncan, 15 wins would be a fantastic total to get out of your end-of-the-rotation arm. If Pineiro can master that new slider, he can be an excellent groundball-inducing pitcher, and chew up more than his fair share of innings. Last year was the first time since 2003 that Pineiro had more than 8 wins in a season, so will his 2010 campaign prove that last season was a fluke or a true finding of a 2nd wind?

My 2010 projected line: 12-13/190 innings/4.30 ERA/100 K

And lastly, moving away from the guys who start the games, let’s look at the guy who will start the year closing the games for the Angels.

Brian Fuentes

Last year’s line: 65 appearances/1-5 record/3.93 ERA/48 saves/7 blown saves

To say Brian Fuentes had a shaky 2009 would be an understatement. Fuentes always got my heart rate up when he’d come in for the save in the 9th inning. One way or another, Fuentes couldn’t quite dominate game in and game out, he always had to make it interesting. Whether it would be giving up a couple walks or a couple hits, it always seemed to be a little too close for comfort. After spending the previous 7 seasons in Colorado, he posted his highest season ERA (3.93) since 2004. However, he set a career-high with his 48 saves, which also happened to be the best mark in all of Major League Baseball. On the flip side, his 7 blown saves was tied for the 4th worst mark in all of baseball. I look for Fuentes to settle in better this year. Maybe he won’t get as many saves, but I look for that ERA to go down, as well as those blown saves.

My 2010 projected line: 3-4 record/3.50 ERA/35 saves/4 blown saves

Those are my takes on what to expect out of the 2010 everyday Angel players, starting pitchers, and closer. I hope you get a good feel on what to expect out of our guys in red this year, and now it’s just a matter of counting down the hours till the ceremonial first pitch.

Here’s to a successful 2010 season, and hopefully another AL West crown!

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Victor Rojas To Join Angels Broadcast Booth

It may have gone all the way into the final 24 hours before the Angels’ first Spring Training game, but the Halos finally have their 2nd man to hold down their Fox Sports West television broadcasts as well as KCOP broadcasts.

The Angels announced today that the broadcast booth vacancy left by the late Rory Markas would be filled by Victor Rojas.

Here are a couple facts about Mr. Rojas so you can get to know the “new guy” who will accompany Mark Gubicza in the Angels’ booth:

  • The 42-year-old Rojas had worked with the MLB Network as a studio analyst since the network started in January of 2009
  • He worked as a member of both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers’ broadcast teams before joining the MLB Network, and even spent time as a minor league play-by-play man
  • He has ties to the organization as he played minor league ball for the Angels back in the early ’90s

From the Angel family to you, welcome aboard, Victor!

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A New Season Awaits

It feels like it’s been forever since the Angels last were on the diamond, but thankfully Spring Training is upon us and Opening Day is within reach for our beloved Halos.

A new season awaits Angels fans with a barrage of questions and a lack of familiar faces to go with it.

Who’s Out

Chone Figgins

Figgy had his eyes on the Emerald City as the Seattle Mariners gave him a healthy 4-year, $36 million dollar contract (no more Gettin’ Figgy Wit It? … this still disheartens me greatly). Losing a lethal run scorer and leadoff hitter who greatly improved his eye at the plate (from 62 walks in ’08 to 101 in ’09) will be a loss the Angels will definitely feel if the streaky and slap-happy Erick Aybar (or whoever may hit first) can’t adequately hold down the top of the order.

John Lackey

The Angels lost 2002 World Series hero John Lackey to the Red Sox when he signed a 5-year, $82.5 million contract back in mid-December. The Halos lost out on a guy who emerged as a workhorse, throwing 200+ innings from 2005 to 2007 until having injury-riddled starts to the 2008 and 2009 seasons. They’re also going to feel the void of a guy with passion on the mound as John was as fierce a competitor as they come.

Vladimir Guerrero

Another fan favorite and an MVP not too long ago, Vladimir Guerrero opted for the great state of Texas as he agreed to an incentive-laden 1-year, $5.5 million dollar deal. The man became the face of the franchise back in 2004 and solidified his spot in Angels lore after putting the team on his back down the stretch and beating out the Texas Rangers to become division champs that same year. Vladdy coincidentally won the MVP that year due in large part to his marvelous final week performance, and was a guy who had .300/30+ homers/100+ RBI potential the rest of the way through his Angels career until injuries started catching up to him.

In those 3 players, the Angels lost their #1 starter, their most versatile player/arguably their best defender, and the fan favorite who, even though he struggled with the bat in ’09 was still one of the most feared hitters in the game.

Not to mention the Angels also lost one of their better relievers in Darren Oliver, who posted a team-best 2.71 ERA in 73 innings of work. Over his 3-year Angel career, DO posted a 15-3 record with 40 holds and only 3 blown saves… not too shabby. Oliver will be going back to the team that he started his career with back in 1993, joining Vladdy in heading to the Texas Rangers.

But in all fairness, it’s not like the Angels were losing guys as they were entering their prime. Lackey is 31, Figgy turned 32 almost a month ago, Vladdy turned 35 earlier this month (but judging by the way he runs it looks like he’s twice as old and needs a walker to get around the bases), and Darren Oliver is 39.

The on-field production will be there, don’t get me wrong, but from a long-term point of view, it’s what had to be done at some point or another.

Oh, and who could fail to mention the unforgettable Gary Matthews Jr.? The Halos shipped him off to the New York Mets not too long ago, but it’s hard to say Matthews will be completely gone since the Angels still have to eat $21.5 of the $23.5 million dollars left on his contract. The ghost of Gary Matthews Jr. lives on! … as does the Angels’ severe case of buyer’s remorse.

Who’s In

Hideki Matsui

The Angels made it back-to-back years where they plucked out a guy off the New York Yankees’ roster, with last year being Bobby Abreu and this year being a man they call “Godzilla” (he also was named the World Series MVP for the Yankees after they took out the Phillies in 6). The Halos signed Matsui to a 1-year, $6.5-million dollar deal, and he will act as the guy who fills Vladdy’s production void. Over his 7-year career in pinstripes, Matsui had 4 years of 100+ RBI and hit .292 over that 7-year span. The Angels let Matsui know that they wanted to give him a chance to play in the outfield, making Anaheim his preferred destination after New York had no intentions of negotiating with him.

Thoughts and expectations:

No he’s not Matt Holliday. No he’s not Jason Bay. But he’s as good a value pickup as there was on the free agent market. Don’t expect the world of Matsui, but what he will bring is a power lefty bat to the order. He hit .274, jacked 28 homers and drove in 90 runs last year for the Yanks, so I’d expect comparable numbers in terms of batting average and runs driven in, but I’d see around 20-25 home runs due to going from the short porch in Yankee Stadium to the big wall in Angel Stadium that will undoubtedly knock down balls that would’ve been home runs if we were still playing in New York.

Joel Pineiro

A former American League West foe (with Seattle from 2000-2006), Pineiro had a bounce-back year with the St. Louis Cardinals in ’09. He compiled a 15-12 record, a 3.49 ERA, and had a career-best 214 innings pitched. His 15 wins were the most since 2003 and his season ERA is also the lowest since he finished ’03 at a 3.78 clip. The Angels inked Pineiro to a 2-year, $16-million dollar deal, as he was the best pitcher left on the market after Lackey left and the Angels missed out on dealing for Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.

Thoughts and expectations:

I’m not fully sold on him. Was 2009 an aberration or a case of Pineiro catching a 2nd wind in his career? Only time will tell, but what we do know is that Pineiro is a hurler who pitches to contact, resulting in a very low strikeout rate per 9 innings (career-low 4.22 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched last year), but consequently was one of the league’s best ground ball-inducing pitchers. The Angels did what they needed to do, and that was to get another pitcher after Lackey left for Beantown, and Pineiro happened to be that guy. Although not all Angel fans are satisfied with having him over a guy like Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, the Angels were able to hold on to some important pieces in Erick Aybar, Joe Saunders/Ervin Santana, and up-and-comer Peter Bourjos who the Angels would have had to ship out to get one of those guys in return. While the Angels don’t have the best 1-2 punch in the AL West (the Mariners easily hold that title with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee), the Angels have the deepest rotation in the division, and adding Pineiro helped bolster a rotation that struggled mightily a year ago. If Pineiro can channel his 2009 stuff, this will be a fantastic addition and a great #4/#5 starter in the rotation, but if he reverts back to his old form, consider this another time the Angels bought up on a player after one good year out of nowhere (reference Gary Matthews Jr.).

Fernando Rodney

The Angels put $11 million into Rodney over the course of the next two seasons, after having been with the Tigers since 2002. Rodney became Detroit’s main closer in 2009, posting 37 saves to only 1 blown save. Rodney is a fireballer through and through, as he’s hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun plenty of times over his career, but what worries many is the high ERA and porous strikeout-to-walk ratio he has.

Thoughts and expectations:

I really think the Angels could have spent those $11 million dollars a little more wisely. For being a flamethrower, his strikeout rate dropped to its lowest mark in his last 6 seasons (7.26 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched). His ERA was 4.40 last year (that’s 47 points higher than Brian Fuentes’s mark of 3.93 last year… and we all know how many times he nearly gave us a heart attack when he took the mound). He’s only posted a sub-4.00 ERA twice in his career, none of which have come in the last 3 seasons. While his 37 of 38 save conversions is a nice statistic, we all know it’s not the mark of a great closer, considering Fuentes posted a league-best 48 saves last year and was as shaky a closer as there was in all of baseball. I’m not quite certain who is going to be the closer and who is going to be the setup man between Rodney and Fuentes, but one thing is for sure, pitching as Rodney did last year isn’t going to fill the void that the departure of Darren Oliver left. Not even close.

3 Under the Microscope

Last year, the 3 players who to me were the biggest question marks entering the season were Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar, and Juan Rivera. The much-hyped Morales had some big shoes to fill at 1st base, Aybar had a botched suicide squeeze in Boston still in his mind, and Juan Rivera was getting his first chance in a handful of years to get regular playing time in the outfield. What happened? All 3 produced much more than I could have asked of them. Morales finished 5th in American League MVP voting, Aybar (in my opinion) got robbed of a Gold Glove and marked his first season of a batting average over .300 (.312 on the year), and Juan Rivera posted new career highs in hits, runs, home runs, and RBI.

So who are the 3 to look for in 2010? Let’s get to it.

Brandon Wood

If there’s one player to watch this year it most certainly is Brandon Wood. He made more trips to and from Salt Lake that it seemed like Brandon Wood call-ups and send downs were daily occurrences. This year, there’s no more of that. He’s got 3rd base with his name all over it. Chone Figgins is gone, meaning it is finally his chance to prove what all the hype has been about ever since the Angels drafted him with the 23rd overall pick back in 2003. Wood tore up the minor leagues, but once he got to the majors, his bat was non-existent. In his time up in the majors, B-Wood has compiled some pretty miserable statistics… a career .192 hitter in the majors to go along with a .222 on-base percentage. And while his power hitting ability is something that stood out greatly in the minors (hit 43 home runs in 2005), he’s only hit 7 home runs in 224 career big league at-bats. It’s make or break time for Brandon Wood, no ifs ands or buts about it. While he won’t have a Kendry Morales-like impact on the team this year, he doesn’t need to, if he provides the Angels with a .260 average and 20+ home runs, that’s really all I think the Angels can ask of him.

Scott Kazmir

The late-season acquisition of Kazmir proved to benefit the Angels as he posted a 1.73 ERA in 6 starts with the Angels last year. 2009 was Kazmir’s worst as a full-time starter, with a season ERA (4.89) that was more than a full run higher than his previous career-worst (3.79 back in 2005, his first full year as an MLB starter). If Kazmir can find the grip and release point on his slider, he’s got one of baseball’s most devastating pitches in his arsenal. That’s a big if, considering he struggled with it all of last year, hence the ballooned ERA. Kazmir only turned 26 earlier this calendar year, and already has 5 full seasons of MLB service under his belt. Kazmir was an All-Star in 2006 and 2008… the calendar now shows 2010, does this mean he’s bound to be an All-Star again? Let’s hope history repeats itself in this case.

Ervin Santana

Much like Kazmir, his better years came in 2006 and 2008, but Santana’s performance has varied greatly from year-to-year during his Angels career.

Here’s a look at Santana’s last 4 seasons:

2006 (16-8, 4.28 ERA)

2007 (7-14, 5.76 ERA)

2008 (16-7, 3.49 ERA)

2009 (8-8, 5.03 ERA)

Entering a season, you’re either getting good Ervin or bad Ervin, one of the MLB’s better cases of Jekyll-Hyde Syndrome. Santana was fantastic in his 2008 All-Star season, and when the expectations were high for him entering 2009, he struggled all year long. This year, expectations are much lower, and maybe less of a spotlight on him is exactly what the doctor ordered. Like Kazmir, it’s an even-numbered year again, and 2010 will prove to be a big year for Ervin who is entering the 2nd year of a 4-year, $30 million dollar deal that so far has been wasted money. Time to prove you’re worth it, kid.

Not to be Overlooked

The Jeff Mathis/Mike Napoli situation behind the plate.

Not this again. Year after year we’re asking the same question: if you take one, who do you pick? Do you take Mathis with his career .200 batting average and better catching abilities or Nap with his power bat and below average defense? Scioscia can’t seem to make up his mind so he just platoons between both.

Joe Saunders

2010 needs to be a bounce-back year for all of the Angels’ rotation, and after pitching most of 2009 injured, Saunders threw extremely well down the stretch last year, winning his last 7 decisions on the year. He has the most momentum of any pitcher going into this year and is probably 2nd in line behind Jered Weaver for being this year’s Opening Day starter. He has a 33-14 record over his last 2 seasons and is one of the more composed pitchers on the team, and he’ll have to set the tone again this year in order for himself and the rest of the staff as a whole to be successful.

Kendry Morales

Don’t expect similar numbers to last year. Managers are going to know how to approach pitching to KMo this year, and that may mean a healthy dose of curveballs headed his way. While he could turn on a high heater with the best of them, he struggled hitting breaking balls, and until he learns how to sit and wait on pitches, you may be seeing a decline in production after his breakout 2009 campaign.

Spring Training is here and Opening Day is only 45 days away.

Here’s to a successful 2010 season, Angel fans!

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How Far We’ve Come

angels clinch

As you know, the Angels punched their postseason ticket Monday night thanks to an 11-0 walloping of the Texas Rangers.

This marks the 3rd consecutive year and 5th time in the last 6 seasons that the Angels have won the American League West division.

It has been the Angels’ division to run away with the past few years, mixed in with moderate competition from Oakland, Texas, and Seattle… but there never had been any doubt that the Angels were the clear-cut team to beat in the AL West.

This year started off the same way, but just 3 days and a handful of hours into the season… everything changed.

The Angels organization was rocked after receiving news of the sudden and unsuspected passing of young pitcher Nick Adenhart, a victim of a deadly drunk driving accident that killed 2 others in the car he was in and internally decapitated another.

The Angels went into a tailspin.

They started the season at 6-11, their worst start to a season in 7 years.

Vladimir Guerrero clearly wasn’t his normal slugging himself.

The Angels were without all-star starters John Lackey and Ervin Santana to begin the season.

Signs were beginning to point to the Angels having a long and disappointing season ahead of them.

Being the heavy favorites to win the AL West at the beginning of the year, the Angels had plenty of expectations heading into the ’09 campaign.

But being dealt an indescribable loss of a fellow teammate 3 games into the season just threw any expectations out the window.

Baseball became irrelevant.

It went from an everyday job to an afterthought.

It opened the eyes of many to what was really important in life… family.

Nick Adenhart was buried in his hometown of Williamsport, Maryland on April 17th, a service that drew a crowd of over 1,500 people, all remembering the fallen 22-year-old.

It was a moment that turned the surreal into the real.

The Angels had lost a teammate, but more importantly, the Adenhart family had lost a son.

From that point forward, the Angels were no longer a team.

They were no longer an organization.

They were a family.

A family that banded together, embodied resiliency, and rose above all obstacles to attain a common goal.

The 2009 Angels personify resilience.

Not only did they have to rise above the tragedy of Nick Adenhart to begin the season, but they also had to fill the voids of Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter being injured and missing a month’s worse of time simultaneously midway through the season (with Juan Rivera missing a week and half’s play during that time as well).

Did the Angels throw in the towel and cave in?

No way, no how.

The Angels would win 17 of 20 games with Vlad and Torii out of the lineup, a streak that spoke volumes of the depth and perseverance of the Angels’ organization as a whole.

It also spoke volumes of their manager, Mike Scioscia; the most level-headed manager in all of baseball who regardless of any scenario or situation, would always keep calm and remain on an even-keel.

The 2002 Angels will forever be remembered as the Comeback Kids.

But the 2009 Angels never quit. They had every reason in the world to quit, and no one could blame them for doing so.

They could have packed it up, threw in the towel, and called the ’09 season a wash.

I couldn’t have blamed them if they did. Not after a blow like that to the organization, no way I could even think of blaming them.

But despite all the adversity, they didn’t give up. Not once.

This is a team of heart.

This is a team of perseverance.

This is a team of champions.

From tragedy to triumph, regardless of how the Angels do this postseason, they’ve won it all in my mind.

Tonight, when I saw the entire team walk out to the image of Nick Adenhart on the center field wall (http://www.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=6901489 for video of that moment)… I realized why I’m an Angel fan.

The reason?

Because this team is a family… and I feel like I am a part of that family.

And family… is loved.

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Fighting To Keep His Halo

vladdy pointing

In 2004, he came to the Angels as the best baseball player many fans had never heard of.

Just about 6 years later, everyone in the baseball world knows who Vladdy is.

The Angels got one of the biggest bargains baseball has seen this decade.

Earning himself nationwide superstar status (American League MVP in his first year with the team), Vladimir Guerrero had emerged as the face of the Angels franchise from Day 1 in Halo red… so why would it seem that the Angels may have turned the page on him?

Now 34 years of age and relegated to the Designated Hitter role with an abundance of injuries this year, Vlad’s durability has become a major concern.

His power numbers and run-producing numbers are way down, but he’s still shown that he can still put the bat on the ball.

His knees have all but given way, and he has grounded into more than his fair share of double plays.

And he’s doing this all in the final year of his contract, which leads Angel fans to ask, “What are the Angels gonna do with Vlad?”

That’s the burning question on everybody’s mind.

But it’s not like Vlad has done all bad and no good this year.

He’s still muscling balls as he has his entire career.

He’s still hitting over .300 on the season as he has every season in his career.

And lastly, he’s still the most recognizable face in all of the Angels organization.

You can’t go a handful of steps in Angel Stadium without seeing a fan wearing a Vlad Guerrero shirt or jersey.

All of this leads to the front office will have to answer, “do we want to keep him around or look elsewhere to fill a very “fillable” void?”

Although he will be 35 next season, I still firmly believe that Vladdy can play baseball at a high level.

Will he be able to play regularly in right field as he always had? My guess is no.

Will he put up 30+ homers, 100+ RBI as he has regularly during his career? Again, probably not.

But can he still be a productive player that Angel fans can root for and love?

No doubt about it, yes.

In 91 games this year, Vladdy’s numbers look like this:

.299 average, 14 doubles, 15 homers, 47 RBI, 15 doubles, 54 runs scored.

By far the weakest year of his illustrious and Hall of Fame-worthy career, but he’s still getting on base and he’s still hitting at a very respectable mark of just a smidge under .300. He’s also begun to catch some fire as the season has wound down.

I view the decision that the front office has to make to be one very similar to that of the decisions they made regarding players like Garret Anderson and David Eckstein.

These were players who were adored by the franchise, could still play, but were let go of. It will be a big PR move for the Angels and I hope they elect to hold on to Vladdy for a 1 or 2-year contract for low money.

I was let down by the Angels when they let Eck go, but he was replaceable. Orlando Cabrera did a great job of filling his void. I was able to move on from that front office decision pretty quickly.

I was incredibly disappointed to see the Angels let go of a lifetime Halo in Garret Anderson this past offseason, but it’s been a decision that’s been almost too easy to cope with thanks to the play of Juan Rivera in left.

I just don’t think I’d ever be able to move on from the departure of the Big Daddy.

That violent, crazy swing.

That awkward, painful running motion he has thanks to his knees getting run down after years in Montreal on astroturf.

The dreads (which he had for quite some time).

That helmet with more pine tar on it than any other helmet in the league.

And of course, that smile that could light up the city of Anaheim.

Regardless of how he plays, you just can’t replace a guy like Vlad. Plain and simple.

After all, he’s only one of 6 players in Major League Baseball to have career numbers of 400+ home runs and a .320+ batting average (the others only happen to be Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, and Stan Musial… 5 of the all-time greats).

On a side note, the Angels do not have 1 player representing the team in the Hall of Fame. Not 1. Who better to have potentially represent the organization in the Hall of Fame than a guy whose career is in the same class in some regards as The Babe, Gehrig, Teddy Ballgame, Foxx, Stan the Man?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an Angel fan through and through, but I could never forgive the Angels for letting him go.

You can’t replace a once-in-a-generation player, let alone a once-in-a-century player.

Here’s to keeping my fingers crossed to see Vladdy in Halo red for just one more year.

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