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Vlad Joins 400 Home Run Club… Hall of Fame Awaits?

vlad 400th

On Monday, August 10th of 2009, Vladimir Guerrero blasted his 400th home run of his illustrious 13+ year career.

Not only would his blast eventually lock up a win for the Angels against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, it also virtually locks him into being a future Hall of Famer after the “Big Daddy” decides to hang ’em up.

Vladdy became the 45th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 400 home run plateau. Of the other 44:

23 are in the Hall of Fame

8 are still playing

Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, Chipper Jones, Jason Giambi

1 will be eligible for being elected this year

Fred McGriff

7 aren’t yet Hall of Fame eligible as of 2010

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Piazza

That just leaves out Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman, Andre Dawson, and Darrell Evans as the only members of the 400 home run club who have not yet been enshrined in Cooperstown.

Let’s take a quick look at some of Vlad’s career numbers:

– 2004 American League MVP

– 8-time All-Star

– 7-time Silver Slugger Award Winner

– 2007 Home Run Derby Champion

His best year can be debated between 2000 with the then-Montreal Expos:

.345 avg./.410 OBP/.664 SLG/101 R/197 H/28 2B/11 3B/44 HR/123 RBI

or in 2004, his first year with the Angels, in which he won the AL MVP award:

.337 avg./.391 OBP/.598 SLG/124 R/206 H/39 2B/2 3B/39 HR/126 RBI

My vote would have to go to the year where he put a team on his back and single-handedly willed himself and his team into the postseason, with that year being 2004 in Angel red.

Vladdy has posted years of a .300 batting average, 30+ home runs, and 100+ RBI in 10 of 11 seasons where he appeared in over 112 games.

Despite being arguably the biggest free-swinger the game has ever seen, Vlad has hit over .300 in every full season’s he’s played in (.302, .324, .316, .345, .307, .336, .330, .337, .317, .329, .324, .303).

To go along with his “hack away” mentality, Vlad has never struck out 100 times or more in any season, a rarity that possibly may never be seen again.

To-date, the injury-plagued 2009 season could mark the first year where Vladdy’s batting average falls below the .300 line… and he’s batting .299.

He posted 2 years of 30+ home runs and 30 + stolen bases back in 2001 and 2002 with Montreal.

Entering the 2009 season, Guerrero’s career numbers ranked pretty high up on the all-time lists:

– #13 all-time – slugging percentage  (.575)

– #43 all-time – batting average (.323)

– #99 all-time – on-base percentage (.389)

Although his current career statistics are so staggering, the thing that makes Vlad so special is that he is more than a rare breed of a hitter.

Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy who could turn their wooden bat into a 9-iron and literally golf a pitch that bounces in the dirt, 430 feet away to straightaway center. Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy that make you feel the breeze from every swing he takes… even if you’re sitting in the cheap outfield seats. Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy that make you marvel at the raw strength that they possess to muscle a ball in off their hands, to the deep power alleys of a ballpark.

Sure, that puts Vlad in rare and special company, but the thing that makes Vlad so unique, is that he has the uncanny ability of turning a pitcher’s best pitch into a ball that lands deep into the left field stands.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero would play stickball with his friends, a game where a thin stick would be used as a bat, and a rock as a ball. The object, like baseball, was to hit the rock into play, but there was a catch… you had to hit the ball, regardless of where it was thrown. Vladdy’s roots haven’t left him.

A sharp-breaking 12-6 curveball could start right in the middle of the plate and drop down to his shoetops, but Vlad, the great “bad ball” hitter that he is, uncoils that powerful swing of his, and makes his way around the bases, giving the fans in the cheap seats a souvenir.

A 100 mile per hour fastball could run inside on him, but he’d get the bat out in front and send a 450+ foot mammoth blast sailing into the night.

And he’s been having fun all the way through. His big smile could light up a dark room with ease.

Here’s to the guy who truly deserves it.

A once-in-a-generation type of hitter who swings at everything, and hardly misses anything (as Rex Hudler says, “from his nose, to his toes, that’s how Vladdy goes!”).

(Here’s a funny video of a guy spot-on imitating (duplicating sounds about right) Vlad’s quirky stance/swing… in front of the man himself!)

A player who was both a contact and a power hitter.

A player with one of the best cannon arms to ever play right field (as ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said following Vlad gunning a guy out at third, “he’s a mutant!”).

A player who could do it all.

Here’s to you, Vladdy. And as much as it’s hard to believe after your remarkable 13-year career (and still going), you will continue to be on your way to bigger and better things.

The baseball world congratulates you on reaching another incredible milestone.

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Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories, August Game Recaps

Hunter Withdraws From 2009 All-Star Game, Joins Vlad on DL

th injured

vlad injuredApparently an All-Star Game selection was Superman’s kryptonite this season.

The Halos’ Superman of the first half, Torii Hunter, withdrew himself from competing in the upcoming MLB All-Star Game today due to an injury he’s been playing with for almost 2 months. Nelson Cruz, a power-hitting outfielder for the Texas Rangers will replace Hunter in the Mid-Summer Classic.

As you may remember back in the first series with the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine in May, Torii slammed into the center field wall straight on while trying to make a grab on a long fly ball. Well, like Torii usually does, he made the catch… but he had to come out of the game for what would later be a nagging strained adductor muscle in his right side. He would re-aggravate it in a series with the San Francisco Giants in mid-June on an eerily similar play.

This injury not only forces Hunter out of what would have been his 3rd All-Star game, but also forces him to go on the Disabled List, where he’s eligible to come off and play on July 22nd.

If there’s any time to go on the DL, it’s now. With only 1 series left to play before the All-Star break, he’s only scheduled to miss 9 games, instead of being somewhere around 13 or 14 games if it had been any other time during the year.

Hunter also earlier declined an invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.

The Angels’ offensive leader is tops on the team in home runs with 17, and his 65 RBI ranks 3rd best in the American League.

As they say, misery loves company. It’s hard to call Torii misery, but his company will be Vladimir Guerrero.

The Big Daddy will join Mr. Hunter on the DL as well after planting his left leg awkwardly in right field during a game with the Rangers Tuesday night.

The current diagnosis consists of a strained muscle behind his left knee, as well as a hamstring strain.

Just as it seemed the Vladdy was getting his extra-base power back, he hits another setback in a year where he’s already missed 38 games while on the Disabled List. Vlad is scheduled to come off the DL at the same time as Hunter.

Coming up to replace the two men who combine for 11 All-Star appearances will be catcher Bobby Wilson, and “Mr. Get called up, play a few games, get sent back down” himself, 3rd baseman Brandon Wood.

This may now allow Jeff Mathis to be the regular catcher, while moving Mike Napoli back to the Designated Hitter role where he hit the ball exceptionally well earlier in the season with Vlad on the DL.

Wilson is hitting .261 with 6 home runs and 27 RBI for AAA Salt Lake.

As for Wood, he’s batting .313 with 17 homers and 52 RBI and has the 3rd best slugging percentage mark in the Pacific Coast League with a .592 mark for the Salt Lake Bees.

The Halos have a tough 3-game set with the Yankees before the All-Star break, and without their #3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, they’ll have their work cut out for them against quality starters in Joba Chamerlain, Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia.

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Juan Fire!

Dodgers Angels BaseballThe Angels are on fire.

Now 7 wins in a row for the Halos, 7th Heaven if you will.

And there unarguably has not been one hotter Halo hitter than Juan Rivera during this stretch.

Over the Angels’ current 7-game winning streak, Juan has gone 11-29 (.380) with 4 home runs, 2 doubles, and 9 RBI.

Juan has been instant offense over the past 18 games, hitting at that same .380 mark (27-71 overall) with 6 homers, 8 doubles, and 20 RBI. Rivera has an RBI in 15 of his last 18 games he’s appeared in and also has recorded 9 games of 2 or more hits during those 18 contests.

Today’s game against the Dodgers where he blasted a tie-busting solo home run marked the 2nd straight contest where a ball off his bat helped score the go-ahead and eventual game-deciding run.

Juan’s the type of home run hitter who will hit home runs in bunches of games, which is frequently followed by a long power outage of sorts until his next blast. But no doubt, his power is surging at this point of the season.

His average is now up to .316 on the season, the 3rd best mark on the team behind leadoff man Chone Figgins (.324) and the Halos’ Superman of the 1st half in Torii Hunter (.321). He’s also tied with Kendry Morales for 2nd on the Halos for home runs with 10.

Juan has been thriving in his starting role this season, but things have not always been so sweet during his season-by-season rollercoaster tenure in Anaheim.

Juan Rivera came over to the Angels along with current 2nd baseman Maicer Izturis in a deal that sent outfielder Jose Guillen from the Angels to the then-Montreal Expos back in November of 2004.

He would appear in 106 games in his first year as an Angel in 2005, hitting .271 with 15 home runs and 59 RBI on the season.

’06 would be a career year for Juan, where in 124 games, he would post career highs in batting average (.310), hits (139), runs scored (65), doubles (27), home runs (23), and runs batted in (85). Rivera would be an impressive mainstay in Scioscia’s lineup that year, and made the Angels look like geniuses for trading away Jose Guillen after his most impressive offensive year in 2004.

However, toward the end of 2006, his fortunes would change.

While playing Winter League ball in Venezuela, he would need a rod and screws inserted into his tibia bone after he broke his leg in a game.

His prolonged absence prompted the Angels to bring in a new outfielder, lassoing in center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. from the Texas Rangers, who made the All-Star team the year before.

He would only appear in 14 games that year, mustering up 12 hits in 43 at-bats with 2 long-balls and 8 RBI.

His return to an everyday role in the outfield and lineup would take another turn for the worst (for him at least), as the Angels shocked the baseball world by bringing in another center fielder in Torii Hunter, who had spent his whole career in Minnesota prior to the signing.

2008 marked a year where the Angels had an absolute logjam in the outfield with guys like Hunter, Matthews, Vladimir Guerrero, left field mainstay Garret Anderson, and even Reggie Willits who was coming off of a great 2007 rookie year. That put Juan as outfielder #5/maybe even #6 on the depth chart, meaning that in a matter of just about 12 months, he had gone from being an everyday player to even lesser of a situational player. And trust me, it’s not easy for a productive player like him to swallow a situation like that.

But he took it all in stride during the ’08 campaign, getting situational starts in the outfield or DH duty from time to time, appearing in 89 games altogether, his lowest total in the past 4 full years he was able to play. He’d hit at a disappointing career-low .246 mark on the season, while tallying 12 home runs and driving in 45 runs.

I give Juan a lot of credit because he could have gone off and been a baby like Jose Guillen and thrown a tantrum about his playing time, but he didn’t. He stayed within himself and knew that Mike Scioscia and the Angels would give him his chance to be back as an everyday player for the ball club. He took it all in stride like a true professional while trying to make the most out of each opportunity that he was given, knowing that if he continued to work at the level that he had been working at, all while keeping a level head, a bigger and better opportunity would come his way.

2009 would be that opportunity.

Gary Matthews Jr. struggled mightily with the bat in 2008 which carried into Spring Training.

Garret Anderson, who had spent his whole 15-year MLB career in Anaheim with the Angels (he was a member of the Angels when they were referred to as the California Angels, Anaheim Angels and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, so you know he’d been a Halo for quite some time), was not picked up and ended up signing with the Atlanta Braves.

The door opened up for him, and he made sure he seized the opportunity.

Juan landed the Opening Day role for the Halos in 2009, and has been a productive and consistent hitter for the Angels all year long.

It’s been a long time coming since that career year of 2006, but he’s on pace to surpass those numbers as he tries to guide the Halos back in to 1st place in the American League West division and hopefully capture 1 of the 4 available playoff spots in the American League.

After Friday night’s game-deciding solo blast, the fans were in a frenzy, begging Juan to take the curtain call for his late-game heroics.

But I can imagine that at that moment, it was much more than one home run in one brief moment to him. It was years of hard work and sacrifice, mixed in with his fair share of flourishing moments and hardships; going from a nearly indispensable player one year to an almost forgotten player the next.

And as he went to make his way up those steps, I sure hope he felt that he earned the right to bask in that brief moment of glory.

Take your curtain call, Juan, you’ve earned it.

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Angels Find Power Surge

hunter 3 homersFor years, Southern California residents have seen those “Flex Your Power” commercials on TV.

Over their current 4 game winning streak, the Angels finally got that memo.

Season after season, the Angels have always been one of the best teams in team batting average, but at the same time have been one of the worst home run hitting teams in the major leagues, and entering their 3-game series with San Diego, the Halos dead last in the American League in total team home runs.

When the Padres came in to town, the light went on. They flexed their power, and it’s now spilled into a series by the bay.

In Friday’s game against San Diego, the Angels hit 2 home runs. Torii Hunter blasted his 13th homer of the season and Kendry Morales jacked his 10th in an 11-6 whooping of the Padres.

Then on Saturday, Torii Hunter and the Halos erupted to blast 5 homers off the Padres’ pitching staff. Torii had his 1st career 3 home run game, pushing his season home run total to 16. Kendry Morales hit his 10th, and Jeff Mathis hit his elusive 1st home run of the year in a game the Angels ended up winning by a comfortable 9-1 margin.

In the final game against the Padres on Sunday, the Angels didn’t slow up, or should I say Juan Rivera didn’t slow up. Juanito hit 2 home runs, giving him a total of 8 on the year. The Angels would shutout the Pads 6-0 in a game that featured Jered Weaver earn his first career shutout, allowing only 5 hits.

The Angels totaled 9 home runs in the 3-game set, after hitting only 42 in the previous 58 games (0.72 home runs per game).

Then they traveled up for a series in San Francisco with the Giants, and they carried their newfound power with them.

In Monday’s contest, when it was all said and done, the Angels tallied 4 more home runs against Barry Zito and company. Juan Rivera hit his 8th, Erick Aybar hit his 2nd, Bobby Abreu hit his 3rd in a back-to-back homer effort with Aybar, and in his 1st start of the season, Sean Rodriguez laced his 1st home run of the season. The Angels would win it (although the bullpen found a way to make it interesting yet again) by a score of 9-7, taking the 1st of a 3-game set.

What could be the reason for this power surge of home runs and offensive production? I can’t be too certain to tell you the truth.

However, prior to that 3-game set with the lowly Padres, Mike Scioscia had given the Angels an absolute tongue lashing, telling his pitching to step up, and more importantly, he told his hitters to start producing, or else (he already demoted Howie Kendrick to AAA to find his swing). Entering the 3-game set against San Diego the Angels had also dropped 4 of their last 5 games.

So far, it’s safe to say that the starting pitchers have taken Scioscia’s words to heart, given the fact that the last 3 starters (Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and John Lackey respectively) have each gone at least 7 innings and given up less than 3 runs.

And the hitters have no doubt made noise with the bats. It’s as if someone corked all of the Halos’ bats recently, blasting 13 home runs during their current 4-game winning streak. As a matter of fact, the Angels have hit nearly 1/4 of their home runs on the season in the past 4 games alone!

So who says Southern California needs to conserve their power?

The Angels are powering the southland with no signs of slowing up.

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4/29-Hunter and Morales’ Homers Give Angels 2-Game Sweep of O’s

morales hunterThe Angels kicked off an 8-game road trip on the right foot after completing a 2-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, with a 3-2 win today.

Shane Loux (1-2) would get his first major league win since the 2003 season after giving up 1 run on 5 hits in 6 innings pitched, striking out 3.

The bullpen would give up only 1 run in 3 innings of work today, with Brian Fuentes notching his 5th save in 6 opportunities.

For the Orioles, Koji Uehara (2-2) would receive the loss after going 6 1/3 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and striking out 5 Halo batters.

Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales would hit back-to-back taters in the 7th inning, with the 2nd blast giving the Halos a 3-1 lead, and that 3rd run would be all the run support needed for the win.

The Halos are now on a 3-game winning streak, pushing their record to 9-11 and the Orioles drop to 9-13 after starting the season at 6-3.

Game Notes

Shane Loux gave the Angels his strongest start of the season after throwing 6 innings of 1-run ball. Loux only went 4 innings in his last outing against the Mariners after giving up 7 runs on 11 hits but really settled down and gave the Angels a great effort today to complete a 2-game road sweep of the O’s.

The hot hitting continues, notching another game of 10 or more hits today (10 on the game). Torii Hunter, Kendry Morales and Jeff Mathis would each have 2 hits on the game.

Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales would hit crucial back-to-back solo home runs in the 7th inning to have the Angels go from tied at 1 apiece to ahead by a score of 3-1. Hunter hit his team-leading 8th home run of the season today (April 29th), when he didn’t hit his 8th home run last season until June 9th, and Morales’ jack was his 3rd round-tripper on the season. KMo went 4-for-8 with 2 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run in the 2-game series, posting 4 RBI and upping his season average to .288.

The bullpen would nail it down, but it wouldn’t come without a shaky start to the 8th inning with Jose Arredondo. Justin Speier struck out 2 Orioles in a 1-2-3 7th inning, but Arredondo led off the 8th by giving up an infield single to Adam Jones, and then allowed him to take 2nd base on a wild pitch. Nick Markakis would knock in the speedy Jones on a single to right, cutting the Halo lead to 3-2. Arredondo would then gather himself, strike out Aubrey Huff to make it one out, Jeff Mathis would throw out Nick Markakis trying to steal 2nd base for the 2nd out, and then Luke Scott would strike out looking to end the inning.

Brian Fuentes would come in for a save opportunity in the 9th, and would retire all 3 Oriole batters to give the Angels a 3-2 win.

An Oriole note, Nick Markakis pushed his hitting streak to 16 games today, the longest currently in the MLB.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/29 Halo of the Game Pick: Kendry Morales

Stat Line: 2-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 K, 0 BB, 0 LOB

Morales had an RBI triple to deep center in the 4th inning to tie up the game at 1-1, but his solo homer to straightaway center field would give the Angels a much needed 3rd run as insurance. Morales has been on fire in the past week, with 2 home runs, 9 RBI, and a .321 average in that span. He’s been seeing the ball better and really putting good wood on it just like he did all throughout Spring Training.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 6 (season-long: 8 games)

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics:

17 G-.365 avg. (23-63), 3 HR, 11 RBI, 13 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 10 K, 10 BB, 5 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Torii Hunter

The Angels now head to New York for a 4-game set with the Yankees.

Tomorrow’s game at New York against the Yankees is scheduled for 4:05 Pacific Time (7:05 Eastern).

Anthony Ortega or Matt Palmer will be the starter for the Halos, as Palmer was initially scheduled to be the starter today in Baltimore, and AJ Burnett will take the hill for the Bronx Bombers.

Go Halos!

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