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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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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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First Half Report

The Angels now have 81 games in the books following last night’s 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers, and the Halos find themselves where they usually have been at the halfway mark over the past few seasons… in first place.

At this point last year, the Angels (who would go on to win a club record and MLB-best 100 games), were 48-33. This year’s Angels, with all the ups and downs, would only be 2 games off that pace with a record of 46-35.

The Halos have won the AL West division 4 of the past 5 years, so being #1 isn’t all that new to them.

But this year, things are much different. It was a year of big changes and adaptation for the Angels.

Preseason

Noteworthy Re-signings:

  • OF- Juan Rivera (3 yrs./$12.75 million)
  • OF- Vladimir Guerrero (1 yr. club option/$15 million)
  • SP- John Lackey (1 yr. club option/$9 million)
  • 3B- Chone Figgins (1 yr./$5.775 million)
  • SP- Ervin Santana (4 yrs./$30 million) – 2008 All-Star selection
  • SP- Joe Saunders (1 yr./$0.475 million) – 2008 All-Star selection
  • 2B- Howie Kendrick (1 yr./$.0465 million)
  • SP- Jered Weaver (1 yr./$0.465 million)
  • INF- Maicer Izturis (1 yr./$1.6 million)
  • RP- Darren Oliver (1 yr./3.665 million)

Noteworthy Additions:

  • CL- Brian Fuentes (2 yrs./$17.5 million) – 3-time All-Star with Rockies in ’05, ’06, ’07 seasons
  • OF- Bobby Abreu (1 yr./$5 million) – .300 batting average, .405 on-base percentage for his career

Noteworthy Subtractions:

  • 1B- Mark Teixeira (Yankees – 8 yrs./$180 million) – .358 avg., 13 HR, 43 RBI with Angels in 54 games
  • CL- Francisco Rodriguez (Mets – 3 yrs./$37 million) – MLB record 62 saves in ’08, 194 saves in 4 full seasons as closer, 208 total saves with Angels, won 5 games in ’02 postseason as 20-year-old phenom
  • OF- Garret Anderson (Braves – 1 yr./$2.5 million) – Was an Angel for 15 years, 2,368 hits, 489 2B, 272 HR, 1,292 RBI with Angels, starter in left field for ’02 World Championship team

To this current point in time, the Angels haven’t exactly had that gold-paved road to the top of the division, that they’ve seemed to have in years past. Injuries decimated the Angels’ rotation to start the year, and an unexpected tragedy would rock the Angels organization and the baseball world in the opening month.

April

Month record: 9-12

Highest point: 1-0 (the only time during the month they had over a .500 record was after the Opening Day win)

Lowest point: 6-11

3+ Game Winning Streaks: 1– 3 games (April 26, 28, 29)

3+ Game Losing Streaks: 1– 3 games (April 17-19)

April Player of the Month: Torii Hunter (.325 avg./.379 OBP/8 HR/16 RBI)

A look back on April

It all started great, nothing like an Opening Day shutout of an in-state division rival. Joe Saunders would dazzle in the April 6th season opener, en route to a 3-0 Halo win against the visiting Oakland A’s.

The A’s would take game 2, and then the bullpen would blow a tremendous outing (soon to become a recurring theme) from young hurler Nick Adenhart in game 3 of the series, a game in which he threw 6 innings of shutout ball, striking out 5 Oakland batters.

But just hours after that April 8th Angels loss, the Angels would be dealt a loss that no one saw coming.

In the early hours of April 9th, that same Nick Adenhart who threw 6 magnificent innings for the Halos in his season debut, would be killed by a drunk driver, as well as 2 of the other 3 people in the car. He was only 22 years old. This was a kid who you just knew was going to be special. At 22 and having good, yet still improving control of a knee-buckling curveball complimented by a mid-90s fastball, as well as having composure and resiliency on the mound… not many come around like that, especially that early in a career. He was exuding with promise. Such a promising career that I believe in all my heart he was going to have, now is just a “what could have been” thought.

The final game of the series against Oakland was postponed in wake of the tragedy.

It just put baseball on the shelf and really put into perspective what’s important in life.

The Angels’ first game following Adenhart’s death would be Friday April 10th against the Red Sox. Before the game, the Angels put together a brief video in memory of Nick Adenhart that I thought was pretty neat, and you can hear (as well as not hear for the moment of silence) the fan appreciation for the fallen Angel.

It still kills me to see that face following the end of the “Calling All Angels” video that the Halos play just about 5-7 minutes before the first pitch of every home game at the Big A.

In that game against Boston, Jered Weaver, who was scheduled to move in and room with Nick Adenhart within the week, was the scheduled starter. When he was removed from the game in 7th inning after throwing 6 2/3 ball where he allowed 1 unearned run, he pointed up to the sky on his way back to the dugout, as if he was saying, “this one’s for you, Nick.” They’d win the game 6-3.

The rest of the month would come with it’s fair share of anemic bats and horrendous bullpen work.

It would also take the Angels the longest amount of time to string together back-to-back wins, becoming the last team in Major League Baseball to do so (wins on April 26th, 28th).

The overall character, resiliency and companionship of the Angels’ organization was tested early by having all-stars John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Vladimir Guerrero all on the DL at the same time to go along with Kelvim Escobar among others. Then with the additional blow of losing a teammate, the Angels showed incredible heart to finish the month at 9-12, a success in my honest opinion.

I think a lot of that reflects upon Mike Scioscia and the way he runs his team. He treats his major league squad not as a team, but as a family. It was a month that I believed would go 1 of 2 ways: the Angels fold completely or they rise up and persevere.

Towards the end of April, perseverance was beginning to break through.

May

Month record: 16-12 (25-24 overall)

Highest point: At 18-15, Halos had won 9 of their previous 11 games.

Lowest point: 9-13 to start the month, tough 10-9 loss to the Yankees to begin May.

3+  Game Winning Streaks: 2– 3 games (May 2, 4, 5), 4 games (May 7-10)

3+ Game Losing Streaks: 1– 3 games (May 15-17)

May Player of the Month: Matt Palmer (6 starts/4-0 record/1 blown lead/3.76 ERA/26 K)

A look back on May

To sum it up quickly, May was a very “up-and-down” month for the Halos. Right when you think they’re picking it up and starting to play quality baseball, they go on and lose 2 or 3 in a row. And then, right when you think they’re stuck in a rut, they go on and win 2, 3, or 4 in a row.

Their hottest hitter, Torii Hunter, continued to kill the ball for the Halos game in and game out, recording 26 RBI during the month of May. Had it not been for Hunter making up for the lack of a clean-up hitter (Vladdy on the DL), who knows where the Angels who have been after May, and even now into early July.

But Torii’s stellar player was not even close to being the story of the month.

No doubt about it, the story of the month would be that of 30-year-old rookie right-hander Matt Palmer.

Palmer, a journeyman for years in the minor leagues who could never seem to get his shot with a major league ballclub, contemplated giving the game up altogether at one point. Although it took some convincing, Matt’s wife Michelle convinced him to keep giving baseball a try (Matt wanted to start a landscaping business if baseball didn’t work out for him in his hometown of Caruthersville, Missouri… a small town of just over 6,000 people!).

He would break through with the San Francisco Giants in 2008, and have 3 rough outings, prompting the Giants to let him go after the ’08 season.

The Halos would sign him as a minor league free agent in January of 2009, and by the end of May, Palmer would find himself to be 5-0 to begin his Angels career. Palmer still continues to wear his wedding ring underneath his glove as a reminder of why he’s still on the mound.

The Angels’ play of the year, and a top candidate for the top play in all of Major League Baseball to this point in the season came in the 9th inning of a 1-run game against the Royals on May 10th from Spiderman himself, Torii Hunter. Check out the video below to see his absolutely incredible grab.

As much as the ground he covered and the catch itself are just flat-out remarkable, you can’t help but love the passion, fire and competitiveness and that Torii shows after the catch. That’s what baseball is all about.

June

Month record: 17-9 (42-33 overall)

Highest point: 42-32 (highest amount of games over .500 all year to that point)

Lowest point: 29-29 (Scioscia would give the team a tongue-lashing, and would finish the month by going 13-4)

3+ Game Winning streaks: 3– 3 games (June 3-5), 7 games (June 12-17, 19), 6 games (June 23-24, 26-29)

3+ Game Losing streaks: 1– 3 games (June 20-22)

Player of the Month: Juan Rivera (.290 avg./29 hits/6 2B/8 HR/24 RBI)

A look back on June

July would mark the start of the Angels… well, playing like the Angels. While relying on small ball to win in May (36 doubles, 20 home runs, 37 stolen bases), the Angels would start pounding the ball and playing uncharacteristic long ball (53 doubles, 33 home runs, 15 stolen bases), en route to their most successful month of the season.

Juan Rivera would no doubt be the hottest hitter of the month with his aforementioned June statistics, but guys like Torii Hunter (9 XBH), Bobby Abreu (10 XBH) and Kendry Morales (15 XBH) would compliment Rivera’s hot hitting with some consistent extra-base hitting of their own.

The Halos would rack up 2 impressive winning streaks (7 games and 6 games respectively) and really start to hit their stride on their way to getting as high as 10 games over .500.

Pitching stayed solid and consistent, and meanwhile, the arms of the bullpen seemed to have settled in and really calmed down after a rocky 2 months to start the season (thankfully).

Matt Palmer’s remarkable run would continue, with him ending June with a 7-1 record in 11 starts.

But Jered Weaver would no doubt be the Halos’ best pitcher through the first 3 months. Weaver would compile a record of 8-3 by June’s end, and post one of the MLB’s lowest ERAs with a mark of 2.65. To compliment his ERA, his command would be nothing short of outstanding all the way through June by recording 83 strikeouts to only 32 walks.

Brian Fuentes would sit atop the MLB with the most saves (22) at June’s end, going 9-for-9 in save opportunities over the course of the month.

June would also mark the end of Interleague Play. The Halos would post the top record in the MLB against the opposing league, by going 14-4 against National League teams (11-1 against teams not named the Los Angeles Dodgers).

Player Grades

Now that we’re in early July, let’s take a look at some 1st half stats and grade some players:

(bold statistics indicate team-high)

(* denotes All-Star selection)

All statistics are as of the first 81 games.

Torii Hunter *- .307 avg./.382 OBP/86 H/56 R/19 2B/1 3B/17 HR/65 RBI/13 SB

Grade A+

The Angels’ MVP, no questions asked. He’s done everything for the Halos so far. He’s hit for average (.307 avg.). He’s hit for power (37 extra-base hits). He’s driven in runs (65 RBI is 5th in all of the MLB). He’s stolen bases (13). And like the typical Torii Hunter always does, he’s played Gold Glove-caliber defense game in and game out. He picked up the slack for the offense when Vladdy Guerrero was out for over a month, and is one of the first-half MVPs for the American League, no doubt. And talk about a clubhouse leader, he handled everything regarding the Adenhart tragedy so well, and really rallied his team to stick together and face everything with a smile and a positive attitude. It’s really hard to measure the impact that Torii Hunter has had on this team, because his impact reaches far beyond the playing field and stat sheets.

Chone Figgins– .311 avg./.393 OBP/97 H/63 R/16 2B/5 3B/1 HR/25 RBI/24 SB

Grade: A

He’s been the table setter for the Angels’ offense this year, and has really developed his plate discipline since the end of last season, and Bobby Abreu’s presence and influence seems to be the main reason why. For his career, Figgy has an on-base percentage of .359, and this season alone, he’s on pace to post a new career high with a current mark of .393. His defense has been spectacular at 3rd base and should be in the consideration for a Gold Glove, no doubt. He’s getting on base, he’s stealing bases, and he’s scoring runs. The Angels go as Figgy goes. If he scores at least 1 run, the Angels have a remarkably higher record compared to when he doesn’t score a run in a game. You get an A from me Chone, and deserved an All-Star nod in my honest opinion.

Bobby Abreu- .302 avg./.405 OBP/83 H/45 R/16 2B/2 3B/6 HR/51 RBI/17 SB

Grade: A-

Talk about a steal and a bargain. I was hoping and praying that the Angels would go after Abreu, because he’s the type of #2 hitter that Mike Scioscia had been begging the front office to get for years. A guy who, over his career, is a .300 hitter and has an OBP of over .400, Bobby is right at his career levels at the midway point of the year. He’s stealing plenty of bases too, so he’s still got some wheels despite being 35 years of age. He’s played adequate defense in right field, but more importantly, has been able to compliment Figgy’s high on-base percentage with that of his own, which sets up run-producing situations for Torii, Vlad, Kendry, Juan etc. Although Abreu doesn’t have his typical home run numbers (6, but averages roughly 20 per season over the course of his career), he’s been worth every penny.

Juan Rivera.312 avg./.353 OBP/87 H/34 R/15 2B/0 3B/14 HR/50 RBI/0 SB

Grade: A-

I wrote an article on Juan a number of weeks ago talking about how this is his first year being back as an everyday player for the Angels after a few years of being the odd-man out in the stacked Angels outfield. I was thrilled to hear that the Angels inked him for 3 years in the offseason, because he can be a productive hitter when given regular at-bats. He’s impressed me every bit so far this year. He’s been on a power surge after a slow start (home run-wise) and has been driving in runs, all while leading the Angels in batting average with a .312 mark. His defense has been solid in left field as it usually is, and I hope Juan can continue his success because he played the role of a true professional the past couple of years; knowing he could be easily getting everyday at-bats while he wasn’t and not making a scene about it like Jose Guillen did years ago… it’s a feeling of clarity for the man.

Brian Fuentes*- 24 saves/3 BS/3.38 ERA

Grade: A-

After blowing a save in his 2nd appearance as an Angel, Fuentes has calmed down and performed nicely late in games lately, converting on 11 straight save opportunities, as well as 18 of his last 19 save situations. I was a little shaky on him early on, but then again, the whole bullpen was imploding before Angel fans’ eyes. He’s been mowing down opponents lately, and with his league-leading 24 saves, made the All-Star team in his first year as a Halo.

Jered Weaver9-3 record/3.15 ERA/114.1 IP/95 K/12 QS

Grade: A-

As you can see, Weaver’s the team leader in every major pitching category (most wins, lowest ERA among starters, most strikeouts, most quality starts). Over the years, Weaver had been the kind of pitcher who would run his pitch count up towards 100 early, and have his night be finished after the 5th inning. This year, he’s done a much better job of controlling his pitching, to where he can pitch deeper into ballgames (recorded his first career shutout back on June 14th against San Diego). He’s been much more composed than in years past too, where sometimes his emotions used to get the best of him. He’s a special pitcher with good stuff, and has far exceeded my expectations this year by being the most consistent pitcher the Halos have to throw out, and he’s not only acted, but also performed like a legitimate #1 starter for the Angels as well.

Kendry Morales– .285 avg./.340 OBP/80 H/37 R/23 2B/2 3B/14 HR/45 RBI/0 SB

Grade: B+

Talk about coming in with some big shoes to fill. KMo had to fill the void of All-Star slugger Mark Teixeira, who opted for the New York Yankees and the 8 years and $180 million dollars they threw at him. A raw talent from Cuba with great power from both sides of the plate, Kendry has done a better job than I thought he would do. He leads the team in extra-base hits (39), and to my surprise, has played pretty good defense at 1st base for the most part. As long as he continues to hit well in the 5 or 6 hole in the lineup, the Angels will continue to have a steady attack if guys like Vladdy, Torii and Bobby continue to get on base. For having such high expectations, he’s responded incredibly well and has produced much more than I could’ve imagined going into the ’09 season.

Matt Palmer– 7-1 record/4.88 ERA/70.1 IP/42 K/4 QS

Grade: B+

What a story Matt Palmer has turned out to be. Right when Mike Scioscia needed to find another starter, when he could’ve thrown a talented young arm into the regular rotation, he took a chance on a 30-year-old journeyman… and Matt Palmer has made Scioscia’s decision look nothing short of brilliant. He won his first 6 decisions, and has been eating up innings for the Angels as a starter, and has even appeared in relief in 3 games. They say “all good things must come to an end”, but for Matt Palmer, he has been defying that old saying for just about 3 months now.

Maicer Izturis- .303 avg./.351 OBP/56 H/37 R/9 2B/3 3B/2 HR/26 RBI/7 SB

Grade: B+

He’s been a space-filler for most of his tenure with the Angels, but now people are really taking note of how Maicer’s play is deserving of making him an everyday player for Mike Scioscia. Consistent with the bat, and clutch when you need him to be, Maicer’s been very productive through the first half of the season, all while playing impeccable defense at shortstop and 2nd base. Now with Howie Kendrick back from the minors (yet still sputtering), I hope that Maicer won’t find himself as the odd man out again, because he has played far better than Erick Aybar has at the plate and in the field. I’d take my chances with Maicer over Aybar any day.

Erick Aybar– .271 avg./.314 OBP/60 H/26 R/11 2B/2 3B/2 HR/22 RBI/5 SB

Grade: B/B-

Aybar and Izturis create the problem at shortstop that Napoli and Mathis create behind the plate… who to start? Aybar is lightning fast and may be one of the most athletic shortstops in all of the league, but is a streaky hitter whose defense can be erratic at times. While Izturis doesn’t have the speed, range or athleticism that Aybar has, he is a much more consistent hitter at the plate, and is one of the more clutch hitters the Angels have to offer with runners in scoring position. Izturis has impressed me more than Aybar, but when Aybar goes on a tear, look out.

Joe Saunders– 8-5 record/4.44 ERA/107.1 IP/61 K/9 QS

Grade: B-

Coming off an All-Star year where he went 17-7, expectations were high for the former Virginia Tech Hokie. He started the year by throwing 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball en route to an Opening Day shutout, and would move on to compile a 6-2 record at one point. But recently, he hasn’t quite had his pinpoint command, thus giving him his B- grade. He’s put forth 9 quality starts, but the rising ERA is worrisome. He’ll have one more start in all likelihood before the All-Star break, and it’ll be interesting to see how he does following the break. Entering the All-Star break last year, he would go 5-2, but have his fair share of rough outings. We’ll see how he responds, but as of now, he’s been fading quite a bit.

Mike Napoli – .288 avg./.376 OBP/55 H/28 R/10 2B/0 3B/10 HR/30 RBI/2 SB

Grade: C+/C

Pretty good stats for Nap with limited at-bats, so why the low grade, you ask? The defense. Napoli and Mathis foil each other perfectly. Napoli can hit the ball and get on base, but can’t play good defense. Mathis can’t hit the ball or get on base, but plays very good defense. Put them together, and they’d create the unstoppable catcher! Too bad that can’t happen or the Angels would be a juggernaut. Nap’s quietly batted .288 and still works his way on base with pretty good plate discipline, but after this year, management has a decision to make with who to keep and who to let go (if any). Both of their contracts are up following this season… will they stick with one or platoon both like they have this season and last season? Time will tell.

Jeff Mathis – .205 avg./.295 OBP/25 H/17 R/3 2B/0 3B/3 HR/19 RBI/0 SB

Grade: C-

Had it not been for his good defense behind the plate, he’d be a D- or an F. Mathis’ poor hitting continues despite hitting well in Spring Training (.340 avg./6 2B/4 HR/13 RBI in only 54 at-bats). He’s done a great job of calling games and has played waaaaaaay better defense than Mike Napoli this year. I just don’t know how much longer I can give Mathis the benefit of the doubt by saying “well, his defense makes up for it”… because his hitting has been nonexistent ever since he’s been in the majors.

Howie Kendrick – .227 avg./.275 OBP/45 H/26 R/7 2B/2 3B/4 HR/22 RBI/7 SB

Grade: D-

What an unexpected disappointment. After hitting .285, .322., and .306 in his first 3 years in the MLB, his .227 average just came out of nowhere. After being a .360+ average hitter in the minors, his hitting translated well through his first 3 seasons, but has dramatically dropped off so much that Mike Scioscia sent him down to AAA Salt Lake for 3 weeks to find his swing. His defense hasn’t been all that great either, which opened the door for Maicer Izturis, and he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity. Kendrick doesn’t deserve to start at this point, in my opinion, but it’s Mike Scioscia’s opinion, not mine, that matters.

Vladimir Guerrero hasn’t had enough at-bats for me to give him a fair grade, but he’s been picking up the pace ever since he shaved his head (good idea, because those dreads were getting a little nasty!). He’s starting to look like the Vlad of old, and the Big Daddy has been racking up the extra-base hits over the past week, which is a welcome sign to Halo fans as well as the rest of the lineup.

John Lackey has been regaining his stuff over the past few starts and is looking like the Lackey of the past few seasons. Meanwhile, Ervin Santana has been on and off of the DL this year, but has struggled mightily in his starts.

Still 81 more games to go, but so far, the Angels have faced a lot of adversity, and have done the most that they’ve been able to do with the hand they’ve been dealt.

I still truly believe their best baseball is in front them.

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4/9-Angels/A’s Game Postponed in Wake of Adenhart’s Death

press-conferenceTonight’s game between the LA Angels and the Oakland Athletics has been postponed to another date, due to the tragic and unexpected death of 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart early Thursday morning.

Adenhart and 3 others were struck by a minivan which ran a red light, slamming the car into a light pole. The driver in the van fled from the scene on foot, but was captured soon after, and was arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter as well as a DUI. The man arrested had a history of DUI arrests, and at the time of the accident, had a suspended license from a previous DUI.

Adenhart had gotten the nod to be the starting pitcher Wednesday night, and would end up throwing 6 shutout innings, earning a standing ovation from the Halo faithful after he retired the side in the 6th inning. He went out on top, and with everyone’s respect.

Angels’ center fielder Torii Hunter had this to say about Adenhart,

“He had his whole life ahead of him. He’s only 22, he’s still a kid. He was a great kid, he was funny, he was very popular in the clubhouse and off the field. People loved him.”

Adenhart’s agent Scott Boras broke down at a press conference earlier today, but managed to say, “Some of the most exciting things about what we share in this game is to see the glow in a young man after he takes this step in his life [to become a major league player]. It’s obviously a very difficult moment, but also a very special moment, because Nick’s goal was to be a major league pitcher, and he was very accomplished.”

The Adenhart family also issued a statement on Nick’s behalf.

“He lived his dream and was blessed to be part of an organization comprised of such warm, caring and compassionate people. The Angels were his extended family. Thanks to all of Nick’s loyal supporters and fans throughout his career. He will always be in everyone’s hearts forever.”

It is a sad day, not only as an Angel fan, but as a baseball fan as well. A member of the MLB family was lost today, but he most certainly will not be forgotten. Rest in peace, Nick. You will be deeply missed.

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4/8-Oakland Rallies for Six Runs in Final Two Innings, Angel Bullpen Falters Again

nomarIf only this one could’ve ended after 7 innings. The A’s were held scoreless through the first 7 frames, but found a way to manufacture 6 runs in the final two innings to come out with a 6-4 win, moving to 2-1 on the season.

The Halos, meanwhile, would take a 4-run lead into the 8th inning, only to have Oakland put up 3 in the inning to move it to 4-3.

Brian Fuentes would come in to try to close it out in the 9th and would get two outs relatively quickly. Kurt Suzuki would tap a little dribbler down the first base line, but Napoli did not call off a charging Brian Fuentes, leading to no out on the play. Nomar Garciaparra would pinch hit and single in the game-tying run. Mark Ellis and Matt Holliday would follow Garciaparra’s lead and hit back-to-back run-scoring singles, to give Oakland a 6-4 lead heading into the Halos’ final AB’s.

The Angels would be unable to muster up a noteworthy rally and drop the game by a score of 6-4.

It’s unfortunate because Angels starter Nick Adenhart rebounded from a shaky 1st inning, and would throw 6 innings of scoreless baseball, scattering 7 hits, walking 3 batters and striking out 5. I was impressed with the way of how he performed under pressure situations, especially when he dug himself into some pretty deep holes. But, he got out of them and remained composed, and overall I was really impressed with the way he performed, and I’m looking forward for what the future has in store for this kid.

Scoring Recap

4th inning- With no outs, Juan Rivera knocked a base hit into right center, scoring Torii Hunter who led the inning off with a base knock, and also advancing Kendry Morales to 2nd base. Angels up 1-0.

Following up Rivera’s knock, Mike Napoli would club one into right center for a double after center fielder Rajai Davis couldn’t quite glove the deep knock. Kendry Morales would score on the play, and Juan Rivera would end up on 3rd. Angels now make it 2-0.

Erick Aybar would bat next and hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Rivera. The Halos would be done scoring for the inning, but lead the game 3-0.

7th inning- After Chone Figgins walked to start the inning, he then stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by catcher Kurt Suzuki, Bobby Abreu would lift a sacrifice fly into right field to score Figgy, making it a 4-0 Halo advantage.

8th inning- From here on out, it would be all Oakland. Following two singles against Jose Arredondo to start the inning, Scot Shields would come in to the game, strike out the first batter he faced, and then allow Mark Ellis to ground into a run-scoring fielder’s choice to 3rd base. Chone Figgins chose to throw home when he could’ve gone across the diamond to get an out but elected not to. This would bite the Angels in the behind later on.

With two outs, leadoff man Ryan Sweeney, who would go 3-5 for the game, would lace a single to center field, scoring both Kurt Suzuki and Mark Ellis, cutting the Angel lead to 1, by a score of 4-3 after 8 innings.

9th inning- Brian Fuentes would come in to try to get the save, and would end up recording two outs until Kurt Suzuki would tap one down the first base line for an infield single. This was a ball where Mike Napoli should have called off Fuentes and thrown to first, but instead neither player would be able to get a clean grip and Suzuki would be safe. Nomar Garciaparra would pinch hit for Travis Buck and promptly knock a clean single into left field to knot the game up at 4.

The next batter was Mark Ellis who would hit an infield single to a diving Erick Aybar, who would have no chance of throwing out Ellis. Kurt Suzuki would score on the play, and Garciaparra would move to 2nd, giving the A’s their first lead of the game, 5-4.

Following up Ellis was big offseason splash Matt Holliday, who knocked a long single to center field, scoring Kurt Suzuki, and giving the A’s their second straight 6-4 victory over the Halos.

Player-by-Player Recap

1- 3B Chone Figgins – 1-3, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 2 BB, 1 SB, 0 LOB

Figgy would reach base in 3 of his 5 plate appearances, but still does not look like his normal self with the bat. He’s 2 for 10 to start the season, has 2 stolen bags in his first 3 games, so he’s still making the most of his limited on-base opportunities. Defensive decision-making in the 8th inning on the throw home was a horrible decision. With a 4 run lead, you get the sure out and let the run score, the Halos got neither, and that would just prolong the inning and ultimately, end up in a loss.

2- 2B Howie Kendrick – 1-5, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 4 LOB

Kendrick still couldn’t get anything going today, making him 1 for 9 in his past 2 games. Had that big Opening Day game where he was the offensive spark, but in the past 2 he hasn’t been able to spark up anything offensively.

3- RF Bobby Abreu – 1-4, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 1 LOB

Abreu has a hit in each of his first 3 games as a Halo, but is batting just 3 for 13 overall. He’s doing a good job of sacrificing runs in for the Angels who have not looked all that impressive through their first 3 games, but give Abreu more time, and if Figgy and Howie can start to get on base and give Abreu RBI opportunities, he will come through as he has year after year throughout his career.

4- DH Vladimir Guerrero – 0-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

The Big Daddy posted a nice, fat bagel across the board today, and actually swung at a pitch that bounced maybe 7 feet in front of the plate. Hey, that’s Vladdy though, he’s been known to golf balls off the dirt into the bleachers 400 feet away. Not a good game for him, but he doesn’t stay in offensive funks for too long.

5- CF Torii Hunter – 1-4, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Hunter continues to make good contact with the ball, but just can’t seem to find any holes in the defense. He’s putting good wood on the pitches he sees, and it’s only a matter of time for when a 1-4 showing turns into a 3-4 outing. Keep the faith, Torii.

6- 1B Kendry Morales – 2-4, 0 RBI, 1 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Kendry has been the most productive hitter for the Halos through the first 3 (.364 batting average), but he must really want his 1-5 guys to start getting on base. Tonight, the 1-5 hitters went a combined 4-20. I think Kendry is still going to be the catalyst to this team’s success for the season, but you can only do so much when you have limited RBI opportunities. He’s done very well in his first 3 games in my opinion and has played adequate defense as well, and has had back-to-back multi-hit games.

7- LF Juan Rivera – 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Juan and Kendry had as many hits (4) as the 1-5 hitters had, and nearly half the total of hits for the entire team in this one. He made up for his 0-4 showing yesterday and looked comfortable with the bat tonight. He benefited from Kendry’s ability to get on base, and looked like the Juan that Halo fans got accustomed to seeing back in 2006.

8- C Mike Napoli – 1-3, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 3 LOB

Nap got his first start of the year tonight at catcher, and would hit a deep double into right center today for his first hit of the year. However, Napoli also showed me why I’d rather have Jeff Mathis in the game at catcher than him. Mathis just has better control of his pitchers and has better control of the game. Nap also allowed a stolen base tonight, Mathis didn’t allow any stolen bags in his 2 starts this season. Plus, Napoli’s decision-making ability is sub-par at best. Memo to Mike Scioscia: start Mathis tomorrow. Please.

9- SS Erick Aybar – 0-3, 1 RBI, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 1 RBI

He currently has the honor of having the lowest batting average of any of the Halo starters thus far with a .125 average. Got his first RBI of the year, but hasn’t done much with the stick so far. His defense has been impressive so far, and has played flawlessly in the field.

Tonight’s MVP

Nick Adenhart

The 22-year-old righty had a shaky first inning, but would rebound to throw 6 solid innings of scoreless ball. His composure impressed me, and he has come along way from how he threw in the big leagues last year. Adenhart earned a win tonight with his ability to get out of jams, but unfortunately, the bullpen thought otherwise and tanked it in the final two frames. Starting pitching has been solid so far, but the bullpen is costing the Angels some early victories. Better early than late I suppose. But kudos to Nick for a solid first outing of the year, and I now can see how much promise there is in this youngster. His fastball was about 92-93 mph all game, and his curve at times was an absolute knee buckler… his future looks very bright.

Dub’s Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/8 Halo of the Game Pick: Torii Hunter

Stat Line: 1-4, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Nothing special by any means out of Torii tonight and starts the season with 3 hits in his first 13 at-bats. Torii’s offense will pick up sooner than later, but he improved the HotG streak.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 3

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.333 avg. (4-12), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 K, 1 BB, 0 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

Tomorrow’s Probables

A’s: Brett Anderson. The 21-year-old lefty will be making his MLB debut tomorrow, the second A’s pitcher to do so in this series. Anderson was a part of the bronze medal-winning team USA team at the Beijing Olympics. Threw one inning in the 2008 Futures Game in Yankee Stadium, a game which recognizes the top up-and-coming players in all of baseball. Anderson is arguably the top pitcher coming out of their farm system and some say that he has the ability, and the stuff, to become great in time.

Angels: Jered Weaver. Last year’s Opening Day starter for the Halos due to injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, Weaver would end up going 11-10 with a 4.33 ERA, striking out 152 batters in 176 2/3 innings of work. The lanky 26-year-old right hander aims to get the Angels back on track, in hopes to salvage a series split with the A’s, who currently hold a 2-1 win advantage over the Halos.

Tomorrow’s game against the A’s is scheduled for 7:25 p.m. Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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4/7-Cust, A’s Get Revenge On Halos, Even Series to 1-1

suzuki a'sOn Opening Day, the A’s could only muster up 3 hits as a collective unit. Today, they more than quintupled that. Jack Cust led the way for the Athletics with 3 hits and 2 RBI en route to a 6-4 Oakland victory, knotting up the series at 1 apiece. Cust, Ryan Sweeney and Jason Giambi would combine for 9 of Oakland’s 16 hits in the game. The Halos, on the other hand, would manage 8 hits on the game, but would end up leaving 18 men on base.

21-year old Trevor Cahill made his major league debut for Oakland tonight, receiving a No Decision after throwing 5 innings, while giving up 3 runs (2 of them earned) on 5 hits. Cahill would also strike out 1 batter and walk 5.

Michael Wuertz, who would end up with the victory for the A’s, would give up one hit and strike out two Halos in the 6th.

Santiago Casilla would throw two hitless innings, and after Brad Ziegler would surrender one run in the 9th to make it 6-4 in Oakland’s favor, he would go on to shut the door on the Angels by striking out Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter to end the game.

Scoring Recap

1st inning- With 1 out, after Figgins walked, stole 2nd, and advanced to 3rd on a Howie Kendrick flyout, Bobby Abreu grounded out to 2nd base, scoring Figgins to put the Halos on the board first. That’s Halo baseball right there, finding a way to manufacture runs. The Angels would hold the early 1-0 advantage.

2nd inning- After Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a double and got sacrificed to third on an Erick Aybar bunt, Travis Cahill would let one get away, and catcher Kurt Suzuki couldn’t body up the wild pitch, allowing Mathis to score, making it 2-0 Angels in the early going.

4th inning- Oakland finally gets on the board. Nomar Garciaparra started off the inning with a single, followed by an Eric Chavez groundout which would advance Garciaparra to 2nd now with 1 out. Jack Cust would lace a long single to right field, plating Garciaparra for Oakland’s first run of the game, and of the season. It’s now 2-1 Angels.

Kurt Suzuki would single up the middle against Dustin Moseley, giving the A’s runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Travis Buck would follow with an RBI groundout to first, scoring cust and advancing Suzuki to 2nd. The score is now knotted up at 2-2.

The next batter would be Mark Ellis, who would knock one up the middle which would bring in Suzuki to give the A’s the lead by a score of 3-2.

5th inning- Vladimir Guerrero would start the inning by  reaching on an error by Jack Cust. He would be thrown out on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Torii Hunter, who would end up at 2nd after the play was over. With one away, Kendry Morales would slap a base hit into center, to tie it up at 3-3. Kendry received his first RBI of the year on the play.

7th inning- With reliever Kevin Jepsen relieving Dustin Moseley after throwing a whopping 105 pitches (70 for strikes) in 6 innings, he would surrender two runs, the first coming on a fielder’s choice to first baseman Kendry Morales off the bat of Eric Chavez, scoring leadoff man Ryan Sweeney and advancing Jason Giambi from 2nd to 3rd. The A’s would re-take the lead 4-3.

Jack Cust would follow that right up with a base knock of his own, scoring Jason Giambi from 3rd base. The A’s are now up by a score of 5-3, and that’s all they’d need.

8th inning- Veteran left hander Darren Oliver would relieve Jepsen of his duties in the 8th, but would also end up surrendering a run of his own. After retiring the first two batters, Oliver would allow a double to Ryan Sweeney and issue a walk to Orlando Cabrera, setting up an RBI opportunity for Jason Giambi. The hefty lefty Giambi would promptly rope a double the opposite way, scoring Sweeney to give the A’s a 6-3 advantage.

9th inning- Bobby Abreu would come up with 1 out and speedster Chone Figgins on 2nd, and nail a Brad Ziegler offering into left field, scoring Figgy from 2nd to make the score 6-4 with the A’s in front. The score would go final as such.

Player-by-Player Recap

1- 3B Chone Figgins – 1-4, 0 RBI, 2 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 1 SB, 2 LOB

Figgy finally got his first knock of the year in the 9th and would also get his first stolen bag as well. Chone would score twice and play flawless D at 3rd in this one.

2- 2B Howie Kendrick – 0-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 3 LOB

Howie had a little Opening Day hangover today. Yesterday’s MVP of the game put up an 0-fer and was a complete nonfactor in this one, but did contribute to the eventual manufacturing of the Angels’ first run of the game back in the 1st inning, where he moved Figgins over to 3rd, eventually to be brought in on a Bobby Abreu RBI groundout.

3- RF Bobby Abreu – 1-5, 2 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

Abreu earned his first Halo RBIs today, as he had an RBI groundout in the 1st and a run-scoring single in the 9th. 1-5 isn’t stellar by any means, but the fact that he can pull 2 RBI out of a 1-5 day makes his day slightly better. Because otherwise, a 1-5 day isn’t too impressive.

4- DH Vladimir Guerrero – 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 LOB

The Big Daddy got a base knock in his first at-bat and wouldn’t reach base via a clean base knock for the rest of the game (he would reach on an error and on a walk, however). Vlad didn’t have many potential run-scoring plate appearances in this one, and we all know Vlad’s capabilities with runners in scoring position. No need to fret over Vlad’s stat line when the 1-3 hitters go a combined 2-13 in front of him. He bats 4th for a reason, and if the guys in front of him can’t produce, there is going to have to be a lineup shift from Mike Scioscia (yes, I know it’s the 2nd game of the season, but if it doesn’t work out, things will have to change up).

5- Torii Hunter – 1-5, 0 RBI, 1 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 3 LOB

Nothing special from Torii today. His one base knock was an absolute rope back in the 1st inning that would go for a double, but he was unable to reach base in any of his final 4 AB’s of the game. Not a good sign when your 1-5 hitters go 4-22. Yikes.

6- Kendry Morales – 2-3, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 0 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 LOB

KMo was the only Halo with multiple hits today, and was the only other Angel outside of Jeff Mathis to not strand a runner on base (but hey, he didn’t have many chances to strand runners considering the way the 1-5 hitters performed at the plate today). Kendry would get his first RBI of the year today, and bounced back from his 0-4 day at the plate on Opening Night.

7- Juan Rivera – 0-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 6 LOB

Oh boy, not a good day for Juan with runners on board, but that was really the story of the Angels’ offense tonight in general. Continuing the trend of playing the opposite of how you did yesterday, much like Howie (better yesterday) and Kendry (better today), Juan put up a big ol’ goose egg in the hit department tonight. Only he and Howie went hitless for the Halos tonight.

8- Jeff Mathis– 1-3, 0 RBI, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 0 LOB

Two-game hitting streak for Mathis now… must be a career long. Sorry, Jeff, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Jeff had a nice-looking double back in the 2nd, and would allow no stolen bases in this one. Doing his part so far from the 8-hole in the lineup, and any offensive contribution, in my opinion, is just a gift from God.

9- Erick Aybar– 1-2, 0 RBI, 1 2B, 0 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 1 LOB

Aybar had an 0-fer yesterday, but had a nice liner into right in the 6th that would go for a 2-bagger. No errors in the field today, and contributed with a sacrifice that would ultimately plate a run. Reached base twice in 4 plate appearances, that’s a great contribution from a guy batting last in your lineup in my eyes.

Tonight’s MVP

Kendry Morales

If “runners left on base” were a person, they’d have tonight’s MVP locked up, no doubt about it. Morales was the only half-way competent hitter in the lineup for the Halos tonight as he went 2-3. Dustin Moseley played the part tonight as a fill-in #2 hurler, going 6 innings and giving up 3 runs, while striking out 4, walking none, and scattering 9 hits. It could’ve been much worse for Moseley, but he threw scoreless innings in 5 of the 6 he went tonight, and surrendered all 3 of his earned runs in the 4th inning. Kevin Jepsen would blow it in the 7th in a relief effort, and ultimately give the A’s the victory after giving up 2 runs in that 7th inning.

Dub’s Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/7 Halo of the Game Pick: Vladimir Guerrero

Stat Line: 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 LOB

Not the best game for the Big Daddy, but he did knock a single through the infield in the 1st. But with that hit, he does extend the HotG hitting streak in the early goings of this season.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 2

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.375 avg. (3-8), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 K, 1 BB, 0 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game pick: Torii Hunter

Tomorrow’s Probables

A’s: Dana Eveland. The 25-year old lefty will be making his first start of the season tomorrow, after compiling a 9-9 record last year in 29 starts, 1 of those being a complete game. Eveland would put up a 4.34 ERA in 168 innings of work, while striking out 118 batters, and walking 77. Hitters hit .269 off of Eveland in the 2008 season. Eveland came over to the Athletics from the Arizona Diamondbacks in late 2007 in the Dan Haren deal. He went 0-2 in 3 starts against the Halos last year.

Angels: Nick Adenhart. A talented and highly touted pitching prospect at the ripe age of 22 will be making only his 4th career start, as he made 3 last year. The righty went 1-0 with a lofty ERA of 9.00, giving up 12 runs in 12 innings of action. Adenhart struggled with his command last year in his limited appearances, walking 13 and striking out only 4. Adenhart had a solid spring, going 3-0 with a 3.12 in Cactus League play, and would issue only 5 walks compared to 18 punchouts. Adenhart brings a lot of promise to the table, and I’m interested to see how he’ll fare out in the bigs this year.

Tomorrow’s game against the A’s is scheduled for 7:05 Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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