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Where is the Love?

kendry point

Entering this year, the departure of Mark Teixeira probably had a decent amount of Angel fans worried.

By Teixeira leaving Anaheim to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees, and Casey Kotchman being shipped to Atlanta in exchange for Teixeira at the trade deadline in 2008, it opened the door for a capable, but unproven Kendry Morales to be tabbed as the Angels’ everyday first baseman.

Questions like, “can our offense possibly get any worse?”, “can we ever recover from Tex leaving us?” and maybe even, “who the heck is this Kendry Morales guy?” arose.

Entering the 2009 season, Morales had played in 127 games over the course of 3 seasons, while posting a .249 batting average to go along with 12 home runs.

Angel fans got a glimpse of what the big switch-hitting Cuban talent could do in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS against the Boston Red Sox when he hit a pinch-hit double off the Green Monster to start of the 9th inning in a 2-2 ballgame (which would end in Erick Aybar botching a suicide squeeze… you know what happens from there).

Kendry picked up where he left off with that at-bat, and has been absolutely scorching the ball throughout the entire 2009 campaign, which brings me to ask the following question, “where is the love?”

At this point, all you hear on TV or read about is “Joe Mauer or Mark Teixeira for the AL MVP? Who will it be?” and that’s it. No Morales. Not a hint that he’s even in the running for the MVP award. Nothing at all.

No disrespect to Joe Mauer, who’s put together an absolutely remarkable season (league-best .367 average and 1.044 OPS marks), and Tex who has definitely put up the numbers that Yankee fans have envisioned him doing (32 home runs, 101 RBI after Sunday’s game).

But what more do you want the guy to do? It’s hard to say that he’s been struggling at any point of this season.

He put together a career-best 20-game hit streak earlier this year. He had a 5-for-5 night a couple games back where he blasted 2 homers and drove in 6 runs. You think that would put him on the map? Nope, still no love for KMo.

Entering Sunday, KMo’s numbers look like this: a .309 batting average, 29 home runs, 91 RBI, 70 runs scored, 34 doubles, a .587 slugging percentage, and on defense (the big question mark regarding his game entering this season) he’s only had 6 errors (.994 fielding percentage).

Let’s stack those numbers up against the rest of the American League entering Sunday’s games.

His .309 batting average ties him for the 21st-best mark in the American League.

His 29 home runs ties him with Justin Morneau of the Twins and Jason Bay of the Red Sox for 5th most in the AL.

His 91 RBI is also 5th most in the AL.

His .939 OPS (on-base + slugging percentages) is the 5th highest in the AL.

His .585 slugging percentage is 2nd best.

His 65 extra-base hits gave him the 2nd most as well.

He’s up near the top for most of the power categories and it’s a shame how all of his accomplishments this year are somehow continuing to go under the radar.

Let’s get real here, Joe Mauer may just be the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols. Not in a long, long time has a catcher come along and been able to hit like Mauer has in his young career (.326 career average, 2-time AL batting champion)… oh, and he’s only 26 years old. The sky’s the limit for this kid, and the MLB would be stupid to not begin to advertise the kid some more. He’s a player who just plays baseball the way it should be played, has no strings attached, and is easily likeable… that is, unless he’s torching your team that day, but that’s another story. He’s had an unreal year (.367 average, .435 OBP, 25 homers, 79 RBI), but his team isn’t even winning the weakest division in baseball. It just leads to the age-old argument: does it go to the best player on the best team or the league’s best player on a team that may not even make the playoffs?

Mark Teixeira has had an outstanding year following an early season slump that left many Yankee fans restless. Tex is too good of a player to stay down for that long, though, and I think all baseball fans know what kind of player he has been over the past 6 years. Tex leads the AL in RBI with 101, and his 32 home runs ranks 2nd behind Carlos Peña of the Tampa Bay Rays (37 homers). The two-time Gold Glove award winner has been exceptional at 1st base game after game for the Bronx Bombers, no surprise there. But it just seems that picking Teixeira would be the “sexy pick.” Pick the guy with the gaudiest numbers, yeah he deserves it. Not to take away from the season that Tex has been having, but if you were batting behind Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, with Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui among others hitting behind you, I’d sure hope you’re putting up numbers like that.

It’s almost as if it’s a David vs. Goliath type of situation. The Goliaths in Teixeira and Mauer are dwarfing Morales to the point where he may not even get MVP recognition by the media.

As much as I’m lobbying for Kendry to get his fair share of recognition, I truly don’t believe he’ll win the MVP award. I think Joe Mauer’s 100% got it in the bag. With the type of year he’s been having, I say how can you not vote for him? All I’m asking is that the baseball world gives KMo the respect he deserves for the season he’s been having, it is undoubtedly a season worth recognizing… especially for a guy in his first full year as an everyday player. Even 2006 MVP award-winner Justin Morneau of the Twins deserves some MVP race consideration with the year he’s been having as well.

But, hey baseball writers, all I’m asking is that you throw him a few votes, just a few! Don’t overlook our KMo!

To add to it, while writing this article, Morales hit a 3-run bomb with 2 strikes and 2 outs to put the Angels comfortably ahead 8-1 against the visiting Oakland Athletics. The Halos would go on to win today 9-1. Is that something that we haven’t seen from him this year? Nope, that’s what we’ve seen him do time and time again.

Maybe a little love shown now that he got that 30th home run? Maybe… just maybe.

As I had written back in the beginning of May in “(So Far) the Angels Look Like They Made the Right Moves“, “The future has a lot in store for KMo, and I truly believe that he could become one of the most productive offensive first baseman in the game in only a matter of years…. This kid’s gonna be something special, make no mistake about it.”

I can firmly say that I continue to stand behind those statements nearly 4 months later.

My final question that I’m asking to baseball writers is this: where would the team be if you removed that player from the lineup?

The Yankees would still be winning thanks to having 6 or more All-Stars in their lineup everyday.

The Twins would still not be leading their division.

The Angels would be nowhere near where they are today with the 2nd-best record in baseball.

That’s all I have to say.

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Who’s on First?

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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!

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