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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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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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4/12-Vlad’s Late Homer Propels Angels to 5-4 Win

cleared benchesIt was Easter Sunday at the Big A, but in the bottom of the 1st inning, the game was nothing close to peaceful. Both benches cleared after Josh Beckett sailed a fastball over Bobby Abreu’s head while he was calling for time. Torii Hunter, Justin Speier and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher would all be ejected.

In the bottom of the 2nd with Kevin Youkilis batting, Mike Scioscia would yell something from the dugout at home plate umpire Joe West, only to be tossed on the spot.

Dustin Moseley would earn the win today for the Halos, going 5 2/3 innings while giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits while striking out 3.

Josh Beckett would move to 1-1 on the season with the loss. Beckett would go 6 innings and give up 4 runs on 8 hits with 5 punchouts.

Jose Arredondo would allow no runs in his 1 1/3 innings of work, as would Scot Shields. Shields would load the bases with 1 out, but end up coming out of the inning unscathed, to set up Brian Fuentes for his 2nd save of the season in 3 chances.

Scoring Recap

2nd inning- After the Mike Scioscia ejection, Kevin Youkilis would hit a solo homer to left field, to put the Red Sox on top early on Easter Sunday, 1-0.

J.D. Drew would make it back-to-back jacks, hitting a home run to right field off Moseley to give the Red Sox a 2-0 advantage in the early goings.

3rd inning- With 1 out, Maicer Izturis would score from 2nd on a Howie Kendrick single into right field to pull the Angels to within 1 run. On the play, Chone Figgins would advance to 3rd base, and Kendrick would end up at 2nd on the throw (official scoring: Kendrick single). 2-1 BoSox.

The next batter would be Bobby Abreu, who would drop a single into shallow right field, scoring both Figgy and Kendrick to put the Angels from down 1 to up 1. 3-2 Halos.

5th inning- With 1 outs and Maicer Izturis on 2nd base because of a Josh Beckett balk, Kendrick would come through again with a single into left center, scoring Izturis, but resulting in Kendrick being tagged out at 2nd after trying to leg out his single into a 2-bagger. 4-2 Angels now.

6th inning- On a double steal with Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis on the basepaths, Pedroia would score and Youkilis would take 3rd on a throwing error by Angels catcher Mike Napoli. The Red Sox would now cut the lead to 1 with the Halos in front 4-3.

8th inning- In need of a little breathing room considering the way the bullpen has been in the early goings of the season, Vladimir Guerrero would belt his first homer of the year into left field. The Big Daddy’s solo dinger would give the Angels a much-needed 2-run cushion by a score of 5-3 with the Halos in front.

9th inning- David Ortiz would knock a single the opposite way, scoring Nick Green from 2nd base to bring Boston to within 1, but that’s the closest they’d get. The Halos win it 5-4, and take the series 2 games to 1.

Player-by-Player Recap

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

Figgy got on base in 3 of his 4 plate appearances, which is exactly what Mike Scioscia wants out of his speedy leadoff man. Figgins would steal his 5th base in 6 starts today, as well as get caught stealing for the first time on the year. Not much else you can ask out of Figgins if he’s getting on base 75% of the times he’s up.

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

Kendrick came up with 2 huge knocks today, in his first productive game since Opening Night. He would have 2 run-scoring singles that would prove to be crucial to the outcome of today’s ballgame. He helped turn 2 double plays today as well in the field and was instrumental to the Angels’ success in this contest. Good work, Howie.

3- RF Bobby Abreu – 1-4, 2 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

Abreu’s one knock of the game was a big one, scoring two on a single of his back in the 3rd inning. Abreu would get the last laugh with Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, as he hurled one over Abreu’s head in the first inning, sparking both benches to be cleared. Abreu’s squad came out on top in today’s game, and his doinker into shallow right was a big reason why.

4- DH Vladimir Guerrero – 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 HR, 0 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

The Big Daddy would come up big in the bottom of the 8th inning and jack his first homer of the year to give the Angels a 5-3 edge, and that added run would be enormously important since Boston would counter with a run of their own in the top of the 9th. Vladdy posted his 3rd multi-hit game of the season today, and his homer would ensure the Angels of the W.

5- CF Torii Hunter (ejected in 1st inning, no plate appearances)

Replaced by: Gary Matthews Jr. – 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 1 LOB

Matthews had to step in for the tossed Torii Hunter, going 1-4 in a game that you kind of forgot Matthews was even playing in. Nothing spectacular, but hey, he was in the lineup in a winning effort. I guess $10,000,000 a year for being a 5th outfielder ain’t too bad after all.

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

Kendry was in the Easter spirit, as we found an egg in his hit basket today. Kendry put up an 0-fer today after going 2-4 in yesterday’s ballgame, but is still yet to make an error on the season at first base. We all know his talent at the plate, but his defense had been under intense scrutiny ever since the Halos brought him over from Cuba. So far, so good with the leather.

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

So Nap goes 3-for-3 with 2 home runs and a double yesterday, and the Angels lose. Today, he puts up an 0-for-3 showing and the Angels win. Reverse psychology maybe? Is the “less is more” theory in play with Napoli? Either way, Nap gets his first win of the year in his 3 starts, even though he did make an error that would cost the Halos a run. So go figure this, yesterday, Kendry and Nap go 5-7 with 2 home runs and 2 doubles, leading to a Halo loss. Today, they go a combined 0-7 and are winners. That’s a head-scratcher.

8- LF Juan Rivera – 0-3, 0 RBI, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

Rough day at the dish for Juan, and that’s about all you can say. He’s currently 4-of-19 on the season at the plate with 1 run scored and 1 extra-base hit. Juan better get it in gear, because I don’t want to see Mr. Matthews Jr. inserted into the lineup with too much frequency… actually with no frequency whatsoever would probably be in the club’s best interest.

9- SS Maicer Izturis – 2-3, 0 RBI, 2 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Mike Scioscia got a lot of production out of his 9 spot today, and Mighty Maicer would come around to score 2 of the Angels’ 5 runs on the afternoon. Maicer would make an uncharacteristic error in the 5th, but the Angels finally got some production out of their shortstop spot in the lineup today.

Today’s MVP

Vladimir Guerrero

His 8th inning blast would be a game-changer, and an ultimate game-clincher. The Big Daddy picked the perfect time for his first round-tripper of the season, because that extra run would be much needed by Halos closer Brian Fuentes in that 9th inning.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/12 Halo of the Game Pick: Bobby Abreu

Stat Line: 1-4, 2 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 2 LOB

Abreu’s 2-run single in the 3rd would give the Angels their first lead of the game, and a lead that they’d hold on to for the rest of the contest. Abreu now is in a tie for the club’s RBI lead with 6 runs driven in, and has an RBI in 4 of his first 6 games in a Halo uniform.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 6

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.333 avg. (8-24), 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 5 K, 2 BB, 1 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Erick Aybar

Tuesday’s Probables

Mariners: Carlos Silva. Silva went 5 innings, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits (2 of them home runs) to the Twins in his first outing of the year, picking up right where he left off the year before. Silva went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in 28 games for the M’s in 2008. The Angels offense hasn’t been overly impressive to begin the season, but they have to be licking their chops at the thought of facing a guy who serves up an awful lot of meatballs on the mound.

Angels: Shane Loux. Loux will be making his first start of the year Tuesday, as well as his first major league start since the year 2003. The 29-year-old right-hander was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and graduated from Highland High School in Gilbert Arizona. Loux was in the minor leagues between 2003 and his return in 2008, and now finds himself as another Angel with an opportunity to prove his worth as a valuable member to the Angels’ staff.

The Halos are off tomorrow as they travel to Seattle to take on the Mariners for a 3-game set.

Go Halos!

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4/11-Angels Late Rally Falls Short, Red Sox Take Game 2

lowell and bayOn the Angels’ first day game this year, the balls were flying out of the Big A by players on both sides. The Red Sox, however, would get the better of the Halos today, coming out on top by a score of 5-4, evening the series to 1 win apiece.

Brad Penny, in his first start as a member of the Red Sox, would be credited with the win after going 6 innings, giving up 3 runs, 2 walks, 2 punchouts, while scattering 7 hits.

Joe Saunders would get his first loss of the year, giving him a 1-1 record in the early goings of this year. Saunders went 7 innings, giving up 4 runs, walking 3, striking out 2, and allowing 7 hits.

The Halos would start the top of the 9th down 2 runs, but Torii Hunter would cut the lead in half to start the inning off with a solo jack to center. Kendry Morales would follow that up with a double of his own, and then be replaced on the basepaths by speedster Reggie Willits. Willits was just called up to “fill” the spot of the recently-passed Nick Adenhart. “I don’t feel like I’m replacing him. I don’t think anybody’s ever going to replace him,” Willits said. The Halos would threaten with the bases loaded with 2 outs and Howie Kendrick at the dish. After fouling off 7 straight Jonathan Papelbon offerings, Howie would fly out to right to end the game, with the Halos on the wrong end. The Angels drop to 2-3 on the season.

Scoring Recap

1st inning- After Chone Figgins would walk and steal 2nd, Howie Kendrick would knock a grounder to 2nd base, enabling Figgy to advance to 3rd with 1 out. Bobby Abreu would come up and bring in Figgins with an RBI groundout to 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia to put the Angels on the board first, 1-0. The Angels have scored first in each of the 5 games they’ve played this season.

3rd inning- Mike Napoli would step up for his first at-bat of the game, and do what he did last year, jack deep bombs out of the Big A. Nap would nail a solo homer to straightaway center to put the Angels up 2-0.

5th inning- Following a walk to Jason Bay, Red Sox 3rd baseman Mike Lowell would hit a game-tying 2-run home run off of Joe Saunders up and over the left field wall. The 2-run blast marks Lowell’s first home run on the year. It’s a tie ballgame now, 2-2.

5th inning- Napoli felt like undoing what Lowell had done with another deep blast of his own. Nap would jack his 2nd homer of the day, another solo shot, giving the Angels a 1-run advantage by the score of 3-2.

7th inning- Immediately following up a Rocco Baldelli infield single, Jason Bay would hit a 2-run home run to left, putting the Red Sox back on top 4-3.

9th inning- To give the BoSox a little 9th inning cushion, Jason Bay would hit his 2nd home run of the day, a solo blast this time, pushing the Boston advantage to 2 runs, the score being 5-3.

Torii Hunter would step up for the Halos in their final at-bat of the day, and cut the lead in half with one swing of the bat. Hunter would homer to center field to make the game 5-4 in Boston’s favor. The Angels would load the bases with 2 outs, but Jonathan Papelbon would be able to close the door on the Halos and secure the Red Sox of the victory.

Player-by-Player Recap

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

Figgins would draw a walk to load the bases for Howie Kendrick with 2 outs, but HK47 couldn’t quite cash in. Figgy got another stolen base today, his 4th on the year in 4 attempts and has done a decent job of setting the table for the Halos this year. It’s good to see Mike Scioscia giving him the green light on the basepaths, because the way that the hitters have been hitting in the early going, they’re gonna need any extra base they can get.

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

It seems that Howie Kendrick and 1-5 go hand-in-hand night after night. Howie has gone 1-5 for the past 3 games now, with 2 runs batted in. He came up in the 9th with swans on a lake and 2 out, but couldn’t come up with the big hit for the Halos. That’s been Howie’s bugaboo, hitting on the big stage. He hasn’t produced in his playoff appearances, and just seems to freeze up when the pressure’s on. Will he ever get rid of the big moment jitters?

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

Abreu would again find a way to manufacture another run, giving him 4 RBI in his first 5 games as a Halo. He has played solid defense in the field as well, and is batting an even .300 to start the season, good enough for 2nd best among Halos who have started all 5 games (Kendry Morales is #1 batting .368).

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

The Halos got a big ol’ bagel out of Vladdy G today. The Angels’ 3 and 4 men would go a combined 0-7 today, and in any game, that’s not exactly what you want out of your better hitters. Vladdy is nearing a return to the outfield after straining a pectoral muscle which hasn’t allowed him to throw comfortably this season. Maybe a little outfield action will let Vlad get some game-to-game consistency at the dish.

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

Torii got the Halos off and running in the 9th with his first home run of the year, but it’s too bad they couldn’t follow his lead. He came through when he needed them to, but didn’t do much in his previous 3 at-bats. Hunter is at a .222 average to start the season.

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

One of two Halos with multiple hits today, Kendry followed up Torii’s homer with a nice double, giving Angel fans hope of a comeback victory, only to have their hopes dashed at the end of it all. This is Kendry’s 3rd multi-hit game in 5 contests this year, and has the highest batting average of Angel starters with a .368 average.

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

Not much popping off for Juanito today, after he got the day off by Mike Scioscia yesterday. However, Juan was 1 of 4 Angels to put up 0-fers in the hit column tonight.

8- C Mike Napoli – 3-3, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 HR, 1 2B, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 LOB

Mike Scioscia got a huge game offensively out of Nap, as well as the first multi-homer game for a Halo this year. All 3 of his hits went for extra bases, but the Halos have come on the losing end of both games where Napoli starts. I have to give credit where credit is due, and Napoli was the reason that the Angels stayed in this game.

9- SS Erick Aybar – 0-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 3 LOB

Erick’s been struggling with the bat in the early goings, hitting .083 (1 for his first 12). If he continues to struggle for the next game or two, I’d think it’s about time for Mike Scioscia to give Mighty Maicer a shot. Hopefully the Halos will be able to get some production out of their shortstop spot, and the way that production starts is with Maicer Izturis, in my opinion.

Tonight’s MVP

Mike Napoli

Pretty obvious choice here. Nap reached base in all 4 of his plate appearances, hitting 2 towering home runs, lacing a double, and also drawing a walk. Unfortunately for Nap, he was the MVP in a losing effort. Nap has impressed with the bat in his two starts, but have also been unable to win either of his two starts. Nonetheless, it was Nap Time at the Big A on Saturday.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/11 Halo of the Game Pick: Kendry Morales

Stat Line: 2-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

KMo put forth a solid effort today, going 2-for-4, and did his best to even the score in the bottom of the 9th with a clutch effort, only to have the team come up short. Kendry had his 3rd multi-hit game in 5 starts and I’ve been impressed with the way he’s been swinging the bat early on.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 5

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.350 avg. (7-20), 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 4 K, 2 BB, 1 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Bobby Abreu

Tomorrow’s Probables

Red Sox: Josh Beckett. Beckett struck out 10 batters in his first start of the season, going 7 innings and giving up only 2 hits and 1 run, earning the win. Beckett had gone 48-28 in his first 3 years as a member of the Boston Red Sox, and was the 2003 World Series MVP for the Florida Marlins when they topped the New York Yankees.

Angels: Dustin Moseley. Moseley went 6 innings in his first outing against the A’s, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits, while striking out 4 batters. Moseley stepped into the season as the Halos’ #2 starter thanks to injuries to John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar. Moseley is going to have to bring his A-game to go pitch-for-pitch with an ace like Beckett.

Tomorrow’s game against the Red Sox is scheduled for 12:35 Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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4/10-Angels Honor Adenhart’s Memory With 6-3 Win Over Red Sox

jered weaverOnly one day removed from the shocking and tragic death of 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart, the Angels thought the best way they could honor his memory would be a victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox. And that’s exactly what they’d do Friday night.

Before the game, both teams and all fans in attendance observed a moment of silence for the deaths of Adenhart and two others who were in the same car as him Thursday morning. John Lackey and Torii Hunter held up Adenhart’s #34 jersey on the mound for the moment of silence.

Also before the start of the game, today’s starter Jered Weaver went out to the center field wall, where they now have an image of Nick Adenhart printed as well as his #34. He stood there for a brief moment, tapped the wall and headed back to the dugout. Torii Hunter ran out in the top of the 1st inning and also spent a brief moment in front of Adenhart’s image, and then the game got underway.

Jered Weaver put forth a brilliant performance for the Halos, going 6 2/3 innings, surrending 1 unearned run, striking out 8 batters and scattering 4 hits. When Weaver was taken out in the 7th inning with 2 outs, as he walked back to the dugout, he tipped his hat to the crowd, and pointed to the sky, as if to tell the fallen Angel, “This one’s for you, Nick.” Weaver and Adenhart planned on being roommates, with Adenhart scheduled to move in with Jered on Sunday. I bet his buddy would be awfully proud of his performance on the mound tonight.

The Angels would jump on top first, scoring 3 runs in the 2nd inning, and would tack on another 3 in the 7th, for their 2nd win of the year, moving to 2-2 overall.

Scoring Recap

2nd inning- With 1 out, Chone Figgins had Jeff Mathis on 2nd base and Maicer Izturis on 1st. Figgy would rip a Tim Wakefield knuckler into left center for his first double and RBI of the season, scoring Mathis and advancing Maicer to 3rd. Halos lead it 1-0.

Howie Kendrick would follow up Figgins’ knock with a 2-run single of his own, scoring Izturis and Figgins, putting the Angels up 3-0 early.

3rd inning- Jacoby Ellsbury stole 2nd base and took 3rd on a throwing error by catcher Jeff Mathis, setting up a David Ortiz sacrifice fly to score Ellsbury for Boston’s first run of the game. Halos are still up, with the score now being 3-1.

7th inning- Bobby Abreu would start the inning with a single, would swipe second base and advance to third on a sac fly by the Big Daddy Vlad Guerrero. Abreu would score on a sac fly to center field by Torii Hunter. The Halo lead is back to 3, the score being 4-1.

Still with 1 out and the Halos threatening with the bases loaded, Jeff Mathis would come up for the game’s most crucial at-bat in my opinion. On a 3-2 count, Mathis would lace a single by shortstop Jed Lowrie and in to left field, scoring Vlad Guerrero from 3rd and Kendry Morales from 2nd base, giving the Angels a 5-run cushion by the score of 6-1.

8th inning- Kevin Youkilis would chop one to 3rd base, reaching first base safely on the play, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury, but an error by Angels 3rd baseman Chone Figgins would also allow last year’s AL MVP Dustin Pedroia to come around and score as well. This would be the last time either team would score, making the final score 6-3 in favor of the Halos.

Player-by-Player Recap

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

Figgy had his first extra base hit and RBI all in one swing of the bat, which gave the Angels their first run of the game, and as I could imagine, was a huge confidence booster in that dugout. With a lot on the Angels players’ minds, Figgins got the Angels off and running and set the tone early for the team.

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

Kendrick’s one hit of the game was a difference maker, following up Figgy’s 2nd inning double to put the Angels up 3 early. Turned a double play in the 9th to guide the Angels to the win, and has played pretty good defense for the most part this season.

3- LF Bobby Abreu – 3-4, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 2 SB, 0 LOB

That a boy, Bobby! The first 3-hit game of the year for the Angels was delivered by first-year Halo Bobby Abreu, and he even stole 2 bags (even though it was against a pitcher who throws 69-70 mph max). That’s exactly what GM Tony Reagins and company had in mind when they inked Abreu to a 1-year deal this offseason. He has a hit in each game, and his plate discipline has been a great addition to the Halo lineup.

4- DH Vladimir Guerrero – 2-4, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 1 BB, 2 LOB

2 knocks for the Big Daddy tonight, and he’s still in that DH role because of a strained pectoral muscle that he says won’t allow him to throw comfortably. But hey, he can still hit, just as he’s done his whole career. No RBI tonight for Vlad, but still batted .500 in the game, and any game you can do that it is no doubt a success.

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

Only 1 credited at-bat tonight, but he also drew a walk and drove in his first run of the season via a sacrifice fly. He continues to play the stellar defense that all MLB fans are accustomed to seeing out of him, and from what I saw yesterday from Torii, he shows more and more why he is worth every penny of the contract he was issued 2 offseasons ago. He addressed the media on the passing of Nick Adenhart in a solemn, graceful manner and continues to show why he is such a valuable clubhouse figure.

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

KMo stranded 6 Halos on base in his 4 AB’s tonight, but his double back in the 7th inning would ultimately set up a Jeff Mathis 2-run double to put away the game for good. So although the 1-4 may not stick out to you, his contribution to the ultimate game-clincher on the part of Jeff Mathis was crucial.

7- RF Gary Matthews Jr. – 0-2, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1 K, 2 BB, 3 LOB

Oh lord, we have a Gary Matthews Jr. sighting 4 games into the season. GMJ stepped in for Juan Rivera in the outfield today as Rivera had been given a day off by manager Mike Scioscia. I’ll give him credit, he actually got on base twice on walks (even though one was an intentional walk). I’m just hoping that Juanito gets back into the lineup tomorrow, because GMJ didn’t do much else. 5 years and 50 million for this? Buyers remorse for the Angels front office for another 3 years! Yay!

8- C Jeff Mathis – 2-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 3 LOB

I’m getting more and more encouraged by Jeff Mathis’s offensive production by the day. He came up with an incredibly timely hit in the 7th. Even though he had his first error of the season today, he continued to call a great game, and has allowed 7 runs in his 3 full games this season. The Angels are just better off with Mathis over Napoli behind the dish, and if that means sacrificing some power numbers for inserting Mathis in for more than a platooning role, I’m all for it.

9- SS Maicer Izturis – 0-4, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 4 LOB

Mighty Maicer got his first start of the season, and didn’t do too much with it. Maicer is a guy who can play great defense at shortstop as well as 3rd base and was arguably the Angels’ most clutch hitter in the 2008 season. It seems like the Aybar/Izturis situation at shortstop is quickly becoming the Mathis/Napoli situation of last year. Aybar has more range on defense, but Izturis makes less errors. Aybar is a streaky, slap-hitting table-setter, whereas Maicer isn’t as fast but is much more consistent with the bat. Mike Scioscia’s got a tough decision on his hands.

Tonight’s MVP

Mike Scioscia

What a blessing this man has been to the Angels’ organization ever since he arrived in 2000. Mike is the epitome of a calm, cool and collected individual, and has really set the tone for the Angels’ clubhouse. He has transformed the team into a family, and not many managers can say that. He handled Nick Adenhart’s passing with such grace and compassion, and I respect Mike Scioscia so much for how balanced he always seems to be, through both good and bad. From all Halo fans, thanks for everything Mike, it’s times like these that show why this Angel front office wants you around as the team’s skipper for the next 10 years.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/10 Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

Stat Line: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 SB, 2 LOB

Chone had his first 2-bagger and RBI of the year today, and collected his 3rd stolen bag as well. Picked up his first error, but thankfully for the Halos, it wouldn’t cost them later on. Chone continues the hit streak!

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 4

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

.313 avg. (5-16), 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 K, 2 BB, 1 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Kendry Morales

Tomorrow’s Probables

Red Sox: Brad Penny. Making his first start for the Sox on the year after being a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past 5 seasons. Penny had two 16-win seasons with the Blue Crew, and his acquisition gave the Red Sox an even deeper rotation that last year’s.

Angels: Joe Saunders. Went 6 2/3 innings as the Opening Day starter against the A’s, giving up 0 runs. The lefty went 17-7 last year en route to an All-Star bid, and picked up where he left off on Opening Day. He will be the ace for the Halos’ staff for at least the first month of the season, and if he can pitch anywhere near the way he pitched in the Angels’ opener, he’s a guy Halo fans can feel comfortable with as their #1. Different reports are also saying that Shane Loux could be the scheduled starter for tomorrow, which would be the 29-year-old righty’s first big league start since 2003.

Tomorrow’s game against the Red Sox is scheduled for 1:10 Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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