Tag Archives: atlanta

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!

1 Comment

Filed under Angel Stories, MLB Stories

Who’s on First?

Indians Angels Baseball

APTOPIX Tigers Yankees Baseball

Giants Braves baseball

We had a post way back towards the beginning of the season (about 20 games in or so) comparing the three 1st baseman who the Angels had playing regularly last year (and now, this year).

At the trade deadline, regular 1st baseman Casey Kotchman was packaged with a minor league pitcher to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira.

All the while, a talented yet patient Kendry Morales was waiting in the wings, knowing his chance was soon to come.

Kotchman continues to be an everyday player for the Braves.

Tex would go on to be the starting 1st baseman for the American League All-Star team, representing the New York Yankees.

And Kendry has been everything that the Angels could have asked for and more.

Kendry may have not made the All-Star team, but he’s put up numbers that I’m certain not many people envisioned he’d put up.

Let’s get a quick refresher on the statistics from our last installment:

Casey Kotchman (25 games)-

.289 avg./.366 OBP/.398 SLG/0 HR/4 RBI/9 2B/0 3B/9 XBH/8 runs/9 BB/9 K

Mark Teixeira (22 games)

.182 avg./.354 OBP/.338 SLG/3 HR/10 RBI/3 2B/0 3B/6 XBH/12 runs/19 BB/13 K

Kendry Morales (22 games)

.280 avg./.330 OBP/.537 SLG/4 HR16 RBI/7 2B/1 3B/12 XBH/13 runs/6 BB/18 K

Early on, it was Kendry who had been the most productive hitter of the 3, but with a very small sample size.

Now the sample size is a little more accurate. Each player has 85 or more games played, and with more than 320 plate appearances per player, it’s now a more accurate time to judge the former and current Angel 1st basemen.

Casey Kotchman (85 games)

.275 avg./.346 OBP/.392 SLG/.737 OPS/80 H/26 R/19 2B/0 3B/5 HR/38 RBI/24 XBH/30 BB/28 K

Since last update:

Batting average (down 14 points), on-base percentage (down 20 points), slugging percentage (down 6 points)

Kotch is stuck with an anemic offense in Atlanta, so the run-scoring and run-producing numbers are understandably down. He’s hitting at a respectable .275 mark, but can be a .300-.310 hitter when he’s at his best. Kotch has always had a fantastic eye at the plate and is a great contact hitter, and he’s continued to strike out very infrequently (about 1 strikeout every 3 games). He’s proving to be a consistent hitter (although he may not be hitting at the average that he knows he’s capable of hitting at), but Atlanta will need to make some moves to help Casey out in the lineup, otherwise he’ll just be a capable hitter in an incapable lineup.

Mark Teixeira (96 games)

.282 avg./.378 OBP/.550 SLG/.928 OPS/107 H/62 R/27 2B/0 3B/25 HR/72 RBI/52 XBH/53 BB/67 K

Since last update:

Batting average (up 100 points), on-base percentage (up 24 points), slugging percentage (up 212 points)

Big Tex really started to get into his groove when Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup for the Yankees, because let’s face it, a guy who’s posted 5 straight seasons of 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI, with 3 of those featuring a .300+ batting average, isn’t going to hit .182 over the long span of a 162 game season. I’m convinced it was all mental for him, because in New York, of course the spotlight is going to be all on the new slugging 1st baseman who signed a lucrative long-term deal in the off-season. Having A-Rod come back, while bringing his steroid controversy issue, helped take much of that spotlight off Teixeira, and put it back on Rodriguez. After that point, the Tex that baseball fans have come to know began to show up game in and game out. Slugging home runs, driving in plenty of runs, all while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. And as much as I’m still slightly bitter that Tex spurned the Angels for the Yankees… who wouldn’t love hitting in front of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, while having Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano clean up behind you?

Kendry Morales (92 games)

.292 avg./.345 OBP/.560 OBP/.905 OPS/99 H/49 R/27 2B/2 3B/20 HR/58 RBI/49 XBH/30 BB/64 K

Since last update

Batting average (up 12 points), on-base percentage (up 15 points), slugging percentage (up 23 points)

Kendry started the season hot, and he’s continued to be hot with the bat in his hands. Most importantly, he’s been hitting for extra bases with great regularity. He’s been productive as a the #6 hitter, the #5 hitter, and even more recently due to multiple injuries, as the clean-up hitter. His 20 home runs leads the team, and he currently has the most home runs by an Angel 1st baseman since Mo Vaughn’s 36 back in 2000. He’s been clutch when they need him to be (walk-off single on May 31st vs. Seattle), and his 49 extra-base hits ties him for 4th in the American League, and ties him for 8th league-wide. These are pretty impressive numbers to begin with, let alone for a guy who’s stepping into his first season as an everyday player. His defense was the big question mark entering this season, but so far, he’s played more than adequate defense over at 1st (.993 fielding percentage, 6 errors), that is, more than adequate for what I had expected of him entering this season. Overall, “KMo” has gone above and beyond the call of duty with the bat and with the glove, and I can say he has far and away exceeded any expectations I had of him for this season.

Although Teixeira has clearly put up the better numbers to this point in the season (thanks to having a previously selected All-Star batting 1st, 2nd, 3rd (him), 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th in the lineup), as an Angel fan, we can’t focus on Teixeira. We have to focus on our guy, and our guy’s holding his own for being labeled as the guy who had to fill Mark Teixeira’s king-sized shoes.

To this point, Kendry’s got Mark beat in the batting average, slugging percentage, doubles (tied) and triples categories, and only trails Tex by 3 extra-base hits and 5 homers. Kendry has also struck out at a lesser mark than Teixeira as well.

Let’s not forget to throw in the almighty dollar figure as well.

Tex is making just about $21,000,000 this year.

Kendry’s making $1,100,000 for his services this year.

So while the Yankees are (debatably) getting what they paid for in Mark Teixeira, the Angels, you could say, are getting close to 20 times more production than what they paid for in Kendry Morales.

My vote goes to KMo fo sho!

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel Stories

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories, April Game Recaps, June Game Recaps, May Game Recaps