Category Archives: August Game Recaps

More Than an Average Joe?

average joe

2008 was a fluke. There’s no way that guy pitches anywhere near the way he did last year. He’s nothing special.

Those were the grumblings Joe Saunders was hearing entering the 2009 season for the Angels, and I didn’t believe a word any of those critics had to say. For showing great composure and dependability in ’08, I thought they were just plain crazy for saying that.

Coming off of a surprise 2008 season that featured him being selected to the American League All-Star team, the expectations were high for Saunders, who was tabbed as the Opening Day starter for Mike Scioscia and the Angels.

Saunders finished the ’08 season with a 17-7 record and a 3.41 ERA, over 1 run less than his ERA for the 2007 season (3.44).

His Opening Day start against Oakland was nothing short of brilliant. Saunders scattered a mere 3 hits over 6 2/3 fantastic innings of scoreless baseball en route to an opening day 3-0 shutout of the visiting Athletics.

Joe would start the year by winning 6 of his first 8 decisions, while keeping his ERA at a pretty respectable mark of 3.26 through the first two months of baseball.

Then he would hit a prolonged speedbump.

His 6.06 ERA in the month of June was nearly twice as high as his ERA for the month before (3.12).

July would be even worse. His 8.08 ERA over the course of July would be more than 2 full runs higher than his dismal June numbers.

Saunders would hit a streak that ran all the way up to 8 straights starts in which he allowed 4 or more runs in a given outing (4 runs twice, 5 runs 3 times, 6 runs twice, 8 runs once).

His ERA would just about double over the course of three months, and it was starting to seem like Saunders’ critics somehow saw something bad in him that many Angel fans including myself didn’t see.

His August 7th outing would last not even 2 full innings, but Joe would still allow 5 earned runs.

Maybe he was just an “average Joe” after all.

Following that start, Saunders was placed on the Disabled List due to shoulder soreness that had been troubling him for a majority of the season. His tight throwing shoulder wouldn’t allow him to fully extend and follow through comfortably like he normally does with his mechanics, which led to decreased velocity and leaving way too many pitches hanging out over the middle of the plate.

Saunders would come off the DL and make his 1st start on August 26th at home against the Detroit Tigers. He’d throw 89 pitches over a carefully shortened outing that lasted 5 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 6 Detroit hitters. The Halos won the game 4-2, with Saunders the winning pitcher.

Joe would stifle the Mariners in Seattle in his next outing, throwing 7 innings of 3-hit scoreless baseball en route to a 10-0 Angels win. Saunders would, obviously, be the winning hurler in this contest.

His last outing against Kansas City would be his weakest ever since his return from the DL, but he’d still minimize the damage incredibly well. Saundo would scatter 2 runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings of work, but would earn the win in a 7-2 Angels victory.

Since he’s come off the DL, Joe’s done nothing but win the Angels ballgames while allowing no more than 2 runs an outing. He’s given up 2 runs or less in each of his 3 starts since coming off the Disabled List. His previous 14 starts would feature only 2 outings where he would allow 2 runs or less.

He now has his ERA below 5.00 for the first time since July 22nd.

As much attention has been paid to the recent acquisition of Scott Kazmir and how he may be the missing piece that can solidify the Angels’ rotation, I think people are continuing to overlook the guy who was the Halos’ Opening Day starter.

Saunders doesn’t have to be the ace of the staff. Jered Weaver‘s had a fantastic year. John Lackey‘s rounding back in to form in a contract year. They can take care of occupying the #1 and #2 starter slots in the 5-man rotation. Saunders, if healthy and pitching the way he has the past few outings, could be a fantastic #3 starter to throw at teams.

It’s been a roller coaster year for the only Virginia Tech alum in all of the MLB, but if he can channel his 2008 style of pitching, rhythm, and composure, Joe will be the missing piece to the Angels’ jigsaw puzzle.

Not “can be”, he will be.

Time to prove the critics wrong one more time.

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Morales Tabbed As August Player of the Month

kmo august

Last month, it was Bobby Abreu who won the American League’s Player of the Month award.

Kendry Morales wanted to keep it within the organization.

The powerful switch-hitting Morales was recognized for a fantastic month of August yesterday, being issued his first Player of the Month award in his young career.

Minnesota Twins’ “Mr. Do-It-All” Joe Mauer finished 2nd to Morales after he posted some tremendous August numbers (.391 average, 8 home runs, 23 RBI).

Check out some of K-Mo’s numbers from 28 games played in August:

– .385 batting average

– 8 doubles

– 10 home runs

– 33 RBI

– .734 slugging percentage

His 33 RBI set a new Angels record for RBI in the month of August previously set by Bobby Bonds (31), a record that stood since 1977.

His RBI total also tied him with Ryan Howard (NL Player of the Month for August) for the most in the MLB during August.

He was tops in the MLB for August with that gaudy .734 slugging percentage.

Since the All-Star break, no player has driven in more runs than Kendry with his 45 RBI.

He had two outstanding games during August, with the first being on August 2nd, when he hit two 3-run home runs, posting a career-best 6 RBI.

He would match his top RBI mark again on August 28th as he went a perfect 5-for-5.

From start to finish, K-Mo has been en fuego.

On the season, Kendry’s hitting .313 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and his 69 extra-base hits is 2nd best in the American League behind only Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Manager Mike Scioscia strongly believes that Morales is deserving of MVP contention, and said, “If you take Kendry out of our lineup, I think you’re looking at a different offense.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mike.

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Lackey Notches 100th Career Win

lackey 100

It seems like the milestones have come pouring in for Angels players this year.

Vladdy hits home run #400 of his career.

Vlad and Figgy get their 1,000th career hits in their Angels careers.

Bobby Abreu hits home run #250 and picks up career hit #2,000.

The list goes on.

This time, it wasn’t a positional player reaching a noteworthy milestone.

Staff ace John Lackey picked up his 100th career win on Sunday vs. Oakland in typical John Lackey fashion. He fired 8 innings of 1-run ball (the run he allowed was also unearned), scattering 5 hits and punching out 6 Oakland batters in a 9-1 rout in the Angels’ favor.

Lackey became only the 5th pitcher to garner 100 wins with the Angels organization, joining the likes of Chuck Finley, Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, and Mike Witt… that’s some pretty good company right there.

Lackey was drafted in the 2nd round back in the 1999 MLB Draft by the Angels out of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, a team that Lackey helped win the Junior College World Series that same year.

Angel fans remember John Lackey being the young man who Mike Scioscia controversially made the Game 7 starter of the 2002 World Series, at the time he had just turned 24 years of age.

“Big John” threw 5 innings of 1 run ball (like his 100th win, the run was also unearned), helping catapult the Angels to their first World Championship in franchise history. Lackey became the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since Babe Adams of the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (roughly 93 years if you’re counting, give or take a few days).

The two seasons following the ’02 championship run would be difficult for Lackey. He was on the losing ended 29 times during the course of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, with ERAs of 4.63 and 4.67 respectively.

But 2005 would be Lackey’s turning point in his career. He went 14-5 with a career-high 199 strikeouts on the year, while getting his ERA to a respectable 3.45 mark.

He would continue to develop into a staff ace through 2006, and 2007 would be Lackey’s best season on the bump. He would compile a 19-9 record with a fantastic ERA of 3.01. He’d throw a career-high 224 innings and strike out a total of 179 batters and walk a then-career best 52. Lackey would finish 3rd in AL Cy Young voting.

The ’08 and ’09 seasons each started with injury troubles for Lackey, but he would remain (and continues to remain) a vital piece to the Angels’ rotation and deep playoff run aspirations.

Congratulations, John. Don’t stop now! (… oh, and even though your contract is up after this year, how about you come on back and keep winning more games!)

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Where is the Love?

kendry point

Entering this year, the departure of Mark Teixeira probably had a decent amount of Angel fans worried.

By Teixeira leaving Anaheim to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees, and Casey Kotchman being shipped to Atlanta in exchange for Teixeira at the trade deadline in 2008, it opened the door for a capable, but unproven Kendry Morales to be tabbed as the Angels’ everyday first baseman.

Questions like, “can our offense possibly get any worse?”, “can we ever recover from Tex leaving us?” and maybe even, “who the heck is this Kendry Morales guy?” arose.

Entering the 2009 season, Morales had played in 127 games over the course of 3 seasons, while posting a .249 batting average to go along with 12 home runs.

Angel fans got a glimpse of what the big switch-hitting Cuban talent could do in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS against the Boston Red Sox when he hit a pinch-hit double off the Green Monster to start of the 9th inning in a 2-2 ballgame (which would end in Erick Aybar botching a suicide squeeze… you know what happens from there).

Kendry picked up where he left off with that at-bat, and has been absolutely scorching the ball throughout the entire 2009 campaign, which brings me to ask the following question, “where is the love?”

At this point, all you hear on TV or read about is “Joe Mauer or Mark Teixeira for the AL MVP? Who will it be?” and that’s it. No Morales. Not a hint that he’s even in the running for the MVP award. Nothing at all.

No disrespect to Joe Mauer, who’s put together an absolutely remarkable season (league-best .367 average and 1.044 OPS marks), and Tex who has definitely put up the numbers that Yankee fans have envisioned him doing (32 home runs, 101 RBI after Sunday’s game).

But what more do you want the guy to do? It’s hard to say that he’s been struggling at any point of this season.

He put together a career-best 20-game hit streak earlier this year. He had a 5-for-5 night a couple games back where he blasted 2 homers and drove in 6 runs. You think that would put him on the map? Nope, still no love for KMo.

Entering Sunday, KMo’s numbers look like this: a .309 batting average, 29 home runs, 91 RBI, 70 runs scored, 34 doubles, a .587 slugging percentage, and on defense (the big question mark regarding his game entering this season) he’s only had 6 errors (.994 fielding percentage).

Let’s stack those numbers up against the rest of the American League entering Sunday’s games.

His .309 batting average ties him for the 21st-best mark in the American League.

His 29 home runs ties him with Justin Morneau of the Twins and Jason Bay of the Red Sox for 5th most in the AL.

His 91 RBI is also 5th most in the AL.

His .939 OPS (on-base + slugging percentages) is the 5th highest in the AL.

His .585 slugging percentage is 2nd best.

His 65 extra-base hits gave him the 2nd most as well.

He’s up near the top for most of the power categories and it’s a shame how all of his accomplishments this year are somehow continuing to go under the radar.

Let’s get real here, Joe Mauer may just be the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols. Not in a long, long time has a catcher come along and been able to hit like Mauer has in his young career (.326 career average, 2-time AL batting champion)… oh, and he’s only 26 years old. The sky’s the limit for this kid, and the MLB would be stupid to not begin to advertise the kid some more. He’s a player who just plays baseball the way it should be played, has no strings attached, and is easily likeable… that is, unless he’s torching your team that day, but that’s another story. He’s had an unreal year (.367 average, .435 OBP, 25 homers, 79 RBI), but his team isn’t even winning the weakest division in baseball. It just leads to the age-old argument: does it go to the best player on the best team or the league’s best player on a team that may not even make the playoffs?

Mark Teixeira has had an outstanding year following an early season slump that left many Yankee fans restless. Tex is too good of a player to stay down for that long, though, and I think all baseball fans know what kind of player he has been over the past 6 years. Tex leads the AL in RBI with 101, and his 32 home runs ranks 2nd behind Carlos Peña of the Tampa Bay Rays (37 homers). The two-time Gold Glove award winner has been exceptional at 1st base game after game for the Bronx Bombers, no surprise there. But it just seems that picking Teixeira would be the “sexy pick.” Pick the guy with the gaudiest numbers, yeah he deserves it. Not to take away from the season that Tex has been having, but if you were batting behind Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, with Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui among others hitting behind you, I’d sure hope you’re putting up numbers like that.

It’s almost as if it’s a David vs. Goliath type of situation. The Goliaths in Teixeira and Mauer are dwarfing Morales to the point where he may not even get MVP recognition by the media.

As much as I’m lobbying for Kendry to get his fair share of recognition, I truly don’t believe he’ll win the MVP award. I think Joe Mauer’s 100% got it in the bag. With the type of year he’s been having, I say how can you not vote for him? All I’m asking is that the baseball world gives KMo the respect he deserves for the season he’s been having, it is undoubtedly a season worth recognizing… especially for a guy in his first full year as an everyday player. Even 2006 MVP award-winner Justin Morneau of the Twins deserves some MVP race consideration with the year he’s been having as well.

But, hey baseball writers, all I’m asking is that you throw him a few votes, just a few! Don’t overlook our KMo!

To add to it, while writing this article, Morales hit a 3-run bomb with 2 strikes and 2 outs to put the Angels comfortably ahead 8-1 against the visiting Oakland Athletics. The Halos would go on to win today 9-1. Is that something that we haven’t seen from him this year? Nope, that’s what we’ve seen him do time and time again.

Maybe a little love shown now that he got that 30th home run? Maybe… just maybe.

As I had written back in the beginning of May in “(So Far) the Angels Look Like They Made the Right Moves“, “The future has a lot in store for KMo, and I truly believe that he could become one of the most productive offensive first baseman in the game in only a matter of years…. This kid’s gonna be something special, make no mistake about it.”

I can firmly say that I continue to stand behind those statements nearly 4 months later.

My final question that I’m asking to baseball writers is this: where would the team be if you removed that player from the lineup?

The Yankees would still be winning thanks to having 6 or more All-Stars in their lineup everyday.

The Twins would still not be leading their division.

The Angels would be nowhere near where they are today with the 2nd-best record in baseball.

That’s all I have to say.

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Vladdy Gets 1000th Hit in Angel Career

vladdy 1000

In the 5th inning of August 26th’s matchup with the Detroit Tigers in Anaheim, Vladimir Guerrero recorded his 1,000th hit during his nearly 6-year tenure as an Angel.

He becomes the 8th player in club history to have at least 1,000 hits while wearing an Angel uniform.

The 34-year-old free-swinger joins the likes of Garret Anderson (2,368 hits), Tim Salmon (1,624), Brian Downing (1,588), Darin Erstad (1,505), Jim Fregosi (1,408), Bobby Grich (1,109) and Chone Figgins (1,009) who actually reached the mark just 10 days before the Big Daddy notched the Halo millenium hit mark.

Signing with the Angels in 2004 after 8 years with the Montreal Expos, it took Vlad not even 6 years to reach 1,000 hits. 813 games to be exact, which equates to just barely over 5 full seasons of play (that’s averaging just about 200 hits per “full 162 game season”). Pretty impressive stuff, Vladdy.

This isn’t the first big milestone of this year for the Big Daddy. He blasted his 400th career home run back on August 10th at the Big A, almost assuring his career as being officially Hall of Fame-worthy.

He joined an exclusive club by becoming only the 6th player in MLB history to record 400 home runs over the course of his career while maintaining a batting average of .320 or better.

Who else is in that club you may ask?

How about some of the all-time greats.

Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, and Stan Musial.

Wow. Now that’s some company.

He also joins Hall of Famer Dave Winfield as the only other MLB player to have 1,000 hits in the American and National Leagues.

We all know the great career he’s had, but let’s just reflect on what he’s done in Halo red.

In his 6th season with the Angels, not only has he garnered up an MVP award (2004), but he’s also currently posted 1,000 hits, a .321 batting average, 522 runs scored, 189 doubles, 162 home runs, and 598 RBI. Pretty good for not even a 6-year stint with a ballclub.

Hats off again, Big Daddy Vladdy, you never cease to amaze baseball fans everywhere.

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Trevor Bell Gets 1st Career Win

trevor bell

Congratulations to young 22-year-old Trevor Bell, who in his 2nd Major League start, earned his 1st career win.

The 6’2″ righty from just up the street in North Hollywood scattered 9 hits in his 5 1/3 innings of action, allowing 3 runs while striking out 2 Cleveland batters.

Bell was drafted by the Halos in the 1st round back in 2005 as the 37th overall pick.

In the 22 starts in the minors (11 in AA, 11 in AAA) before being called up this month, Bell compiled a record of 7-7, with a 2.70 ERA and 2 complete game shutouts. He struck out 89 batters in all and walked 35.

Although on paper it may have not been the finest performance he was looking for, the W was put next to his name, and this will be one he looks back on for quite some time. The Angels won the game by the final of 5-4.

A big congratulations to Trevor Bell, hopefully plenty more W’s will be put next to your name over the course of your career!

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Figgy Collects 1000th Career Hit

choney

During the 6th inning of Sunday’s contest with the Baltimore Orioles, Chone Figgins reached a milestone in his career by knocking his 1,000th base hit in his 7-year professional career.

The speedy veteran would lace a single right back up the middle off Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, scoring Howie Kendrick, which then broke a 6-6 tie.

Figgy would tie his season-high with 4 hits (3 of them doubles) on the game, as well as post a new season high in RBI with 3 runs driven in on the game. He would also score 3 runs (pushing his American League-leading total to 92 runs on the season) and steal a base.

That’s just Figgy doing what he’s always done over the course of his Angel career: get on base, steal bases, and score plenty of runs.

Congratulations, Chone!

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