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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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Filed under Angel Stories, MLB Stories

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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Filed under Angel Stories, Offseason

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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Kazmir Impressing After First 2 Starts

kazmir

Before the waiver deadline last month, the Angels were hoping to find an arm somewhere in the MLB that could help solidify a struggling Angels rotation.

Scott Kazmir, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays, turned out to be that guy, despite having a rough year up until the time of him changing scenery.

Don’t look too deeply into the new hurler’s 0-1 record with the Angels after 2 starts, the record misleads Kazmir’s contributions completely.

He’s faced one of the American League’s best pitchers and a potential Cy Young award-winner in Félix Hernández in both of his starts (14-5 record, 2.61 ERA), and has received virtually no run support in return (offense has produced 3 total runs in his 2 starts).

Here are Kaz’s numbers for his first two starts in Halo red:

September 2nd @ Seattle – 6.1 innings/3 hits/2 runs (1 earned)/1 walk/8 strikeouts (loss – 3-0 final)

September 8th vs. Seattle – 7 innings/3 hits/1 earned run/2 walks/4 strikeouts (no decision – 3-2 final)

His numbers combined through his first 2 starts are:

13 1/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts

He has now gone 6 or more innings in 10 of his last 11 starts.

He has allowed 1 earned run in each of his last 3 starts (best streak of the season).

Despite a rough first few months for the 25-year-old Kazmir, he’s apparently saved his best baseball for when it matters most… crunch time.

It looks like Kazmir seems rejuvenated to be pitching with a contender since the Rays have fallen off in the past few weeks, and you have to love the composure he brought in his first start.

After an error, a walk, and a hit batter (Kazmir’s first 3 batters he faced as an Angel), it seemed like the Angels made an awful decision to bring him in… at first glance.

How would he respond?

3 straight strikeouts to end the inning. No runs. No damage done. Inning over. Whew!

And he’s been sensational ever since. His walk-to-strikeout ratio has been outstanding. His control has been great. And he seems to have garnered a new sense of self-confidence that he hasn’t had since the Rays made their improbable run to the World Series just a year ago.

For better or worse, pitching is contagious. For a decent portion of the year, pitching has been unfavorably contagious for the Angels’ rotation as well as their bullpen.

Now that September has rolled around, and Kazmir has injected a little bit of new life into this Halo rotation, I’m hoping his positive starts can continue to influence Jered Weaver (14 wins entering tonight’s start), Joe Saunders (3 straight wins), John Lackey (17 innings, 1 earned run in last 2 starts), and most importantly Ervin Santana (5 straight starts of 3 or fewer earned runs until his last start).

Hopefully, the best from this Angels rotation is yet to come.

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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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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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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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