Tag Archives: 2008

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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Angels Acquire Scott Kazmir From Tampa Bay

scott kazmir

Seeing that the Angels had lost 6 of their last 8 games entering Friday night’s contest with the Oakland Athletics, GM Tony Reagins felt that the Halos needed to shake it up a bit.

Starting pitching has been the Angels’ weak link of late, and if the Halos couldn’t pull anybody up from within, then a deal had to be made.

Friday night, that deal was made.

The Angels looked to the American League East division for hurlers who had cleared waivers, and found that Tampa Bay Rays’ lefty Scott Kazmir had cleared waivers, which prompted the front office to pull the trigger on landing a quality arm.

The Halos were able to bring in Kazmir in exchange for minor league pitching prospect Alex Torres, infielder Matt Sweeney, and right-hander Jordan Walden.

The 25-year-old Kazmir, who was a 1st round draft pick (#15 overall) of the New York Mets back in 2004, was shipped to the Rays with Joselo Diaz (back when they were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) in 2006 in exchange for pitchers Victor Zambrano and Bartolomé Fortunado.

In 2006, Kazmir was tabbed as the Opening Day starter for Tampa Bay, becoming the youngest Opening Day starter (22 years, 2 months, 10 days old) since Dwight Gooden was the starter for the New York Mets in the 1986 opener.

Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 with 239 punchouts.

In his Tampa Bay career, Kazmir compiled a respectable 55-45 record to go along with a 3.92 ERA (prior to an injury-plagued 2009 season, he had an ERA of 3.50 or lower in each of the 3 previous seasons).

At one point during his high school career, Kazmir threw 4 consecutive no-hitters (yes, that’s right, 4 straight no-hitters). After allowing a hit in his bid for his 5th no-hitter, he’d finish the game, and then throw 2 more no-hitters in his next 2 starts (add it all up, and you get 6 no-hitters in a span of 7 outings… that’s pretty good if you ask me).

In his senior year of high school, Kazmir set a Texas high school record formerly set by current Red Sox ace Josh Beckett by striking out an incredible 175 batters in 75 innings… that’s over 2 batters per inning (about 2.33 per inning to be exact)! He verbally committed to the University of Texas, a college baseball powerhouse before opting to go to the pros.

Kazmir was elected to the American League All-Star in both 2006 and 2008 (helped lead Rays to World Series in ’08).

He is in the 1st year of a 3-year deal, so this is no Mark Teixeira 1 1/2 month rental that we came to see last year, folks.

As long as he can be a dependable middle-of-the-rotation guy, I don’t think there’s anything else that we as Angel fans can ask of him. He was not brought in to be any “savior” of sorts, but to be a quality arm to compliment the rest of the Angels’ struggling yet promising rotation (he’s even been rumored to have been brought in as a bullpen arm, but I’d confidently put my money on him having a spot in the starting rotation).

Not only do I welcome the addition of Kazmir as a fantastic short-term addition, but to have him inked for the 2 following years as well seems like a steal of a deal at the present time… I mean he’s only 25, he’s yet to even hit his prime!

For the Rays, it gives them salary cap relief for the upcoming few years, but for the Angels it guarantees them of a pitcher that they know will be under their control for the next couple of seasons (considering John Lackey will get plenty of money thrown at him this offseason due to his contract being up following the end of this season).

Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Kazmir can do for the Halos, so let’s all welcome in the newest member of the Los Angeles Angels… welcome aboard Scott!

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The Forgotten Arm

arredondo

Remember that kid who came up last year with that mid-90s fastball and that devastating split-finger fastball?

The kid who was originally drafted as a shortstop but was converted to a pitcher because of his remarkable arm strength despite being only 6’0″ and weighing 175 pounds?

The kid who appeared in 52 games last year, compiled a record of 10-2, and posted a microscopic ERA of 1.62?

The kid who struck out 55 hitters in 61 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a mere .190 average?

The kid who appeared in 3 games against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALDS, and closed the door on them without allowing a run each time?

Well, he’s 25-year-old Jose Arredondo, who electrified the Angels in ’08 with brilliant outing after brilliant outing.

This year has been a different story. In 24 1/3 innings this year, Arredondo has given up 4 more earned runs than he gave up in all of the 61 innings he pitched in last year (15 earned runs in ’09, 11 in ’08).

His ERA ballooned to 5.55. He had a record of 1-3.

“He just wasn’t in sync with his delivery,” Mike Scioscia put it.

All signs pointed to a demotion, and that’s exactly what happened.

Arredondo was sent down to AAA Salt Lake on June 9th while also dealing with an injury in his throwing arm which struck similarities to the injury that Ervin Santana suffered before the start of the ’09 season.

Some are calling it the proverbial “sophomore slump”.

Others are saying that the loss of a mentor may have triggered some old demons that held Arredondo back while in the minor leagues.

This mentor was Preston Gomez, a man who had been working in the Angels organization for 27 years.

When coming up through the minors, people just knew that Arredondo had a major league-caliber arm, but also had a big-time temper that at times, hindered his development.

In 2006 while in single-A ball, Arredondo and his catcher fought in the dugout after mixing up calls.

In 2007 in AA ball, Arredondo got into an altercation with a teammate who tried to cool down his rage in the clubhouse.

This prompted Mike Scioscia to call in Arredondo and have Gomez “drop the hammer on him” as pitching coach Mike Butcher put it.

The turnaround was remarkable, just look at his 2008 season statistics for proof.

But in March of 2008 before the regular season started, Gomez was hit by a truck at a gas station, and never fully recovered, eventually passing away at the age of 85 in January 0f 2009.

You may noticed the black diamond patch with the name “Preston” sewn in white that the Angels have on their jerseys, in memory of the man who spent nearly 3 decades with the organization.

“I love that guy. He taught my everything,” Arredondo said of Gomez. “He was all over me, trying to make me better.”

It’s tough to truly judge the effect that Gomez’s passing had on Arredondo, but clearly something has not been right.

But since his demotion to AAA, Arredondo has appeared in 11 games, while posting a 2.19 ERA for the Bees. And in a year where the Angels bullpen has been rocky, as well as feeling the absence of an 8th inning guy that can bridge the gap to get to Brian Fuentes in the 9th, Arredondo may do what he did last year… make lots of noise down the stretch after being called up to the Halos’ big league squad.

It isn’t too clear when he may be called up, but he’s been making a case to Mike Scioscia to call him up in the near future.

As of yesterday, in his previous 3 outings, Arredondo has gone 3 2/3 innings, giving up only 2 hits, while striking out 4 batters and walking none.

Only time will tell when Arredondo will be ready to pitch back in the big leagues, but when he comes back, let’s not forget the type of pitcher he can be. He will be an instant bullpen bolsterer, and hopefully he can work his way into being a Scot Shields-like reliever (as in bridging the gap from the 8th to 9th inning, not the recently erratic Scot Shields, of course… who wants that?) for the Angels, being a guy the Mike Scioscia can be comfortable giving the ball to in the 8th inning in close games.

But could he possibly crumble twice in two stints for the Angels this season after relatively no meltdowns on the mound last year?

In my honest opinion, no way, Jose.

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