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What About Bob?

Move past the .188 career batting average.

Don’t look too deeply into the sub-.270 career on-base percentage.

Disregard the fact that the guy has driven in exactly a handful of runs in 31 career games.

Statistics don’t do justice to what Bobby Wilson brings to the Angels.

Bobby Wilson is a winner.

Bobby’s been another one of Mike Scioscia’s interchangeable parts of late with the slew of injuries that have plagued the Angels. As of a few days ago, the Angels were missing 4 of their Opening Day starters due to injuries (1B Kendry Morales-broken leg, SS Erick Aybar-meniscus damage, C Jeff Mathis-broken wrist, 3B Brandon Wood- uh… does he even count?) as well as the Angels’ most versatile position player in Maicer Izturis.

The Angels’ day-to-day lineup card has been a jigsaw puzzle in motion ever since Kendry went down on May 29th, and with Jeff Mathis out and being down a first baseman in Morales, it forced Scioscia to put players in unfamiliar spots. The prime example has to be Mike Napoli, a catcher by trade who has been playing first base for Mike Scioscia of late, and has performed admirably. That left a catching vacancy at times, paving the way for Bobby Wilson to get his shot.

Wilson, a product of Dunedin, Florida was drafted in the 48th round of the 2002 Amateur Draft by the Angels and got his first taste of the big leagues when he made his debut on April 28th, 2008, and got a hit in his first professional at-bat as a pinch-hitter (the Angels got blown out 14-2 by the Oakland A’s that day).

Playing through nearly 650 minor league games from 2003-2010, Bobby Wilson had hit at a respectable .284 clip working his way through the minor league ranks, and actually had his highest batting average in AAA ball, hitting .291 in 212 games for the Salt Lake Bees.

Through 2008 and 2009, Wilson had only registered 11 major league at-bats to his name, seeing limited duty in his time in the bigs. Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli were platooning behind home plate, and Ryan Budde was even in the catching mix, leaving not much of a spot for Wilson.

The early part of 2010 would prove to be a different story. If in the previous 2 seasons it seemed like the Angels had no need for Bobby Wilson, this year would be a complete 180 from that statement.

The 28-year-old Wilson has played a vital role in the Angels winning 15 of the 20 games since Kendry Morales went down with a fluke season-ending leg injury.

In the 11 starts Wilson has made this season, the Angels have gone 10-1.

In his last 7 starts, the opposing team has scored more than 2 runs on the Angels only once, with the Angels having a fantastic team ERA of 2.14 during those starts. Subtracting a performance where Angel pitching allowed 6 runs to the Oakland A’s, the team ERA of those games is a ridiculous 1.50.

Wilson makes starting pitchers better, there has been no disputing that.

Outside of one poor outing by Joe Saunders (4.1 innings, 7 earned runs), starting pitchers have gone 63 innings in Bobby’s 10 other starts with a combined ERA of 2.00 in those starts. Starters have given up 14 runs in those 63 innings, 8 of those given up by Ervin Santana.

Jered Weaver has gone 14 innings in his 2 starts with Wilson behind the dish, striking out 17 batters, and allowing only 5 hits. Furthermore, Weaver is yet to have an earned run charged to his name when he’s tossing to Wilson. He outduled last year’s Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez in one start and Ted Lilly in his first start following a near no-hitter of the White Sox in the other.

Scott Kazmir has worked with Bobby on three occasions, going 17 innings and giving up 4 runs in that span. Kazmir won each of those 3 starts, with an ERA of 2.11 in those outings. In all of his other outings this year, Kazmir has gone 4-5 with a fat ERA of 6.03.

Joel Pineiro put forth one of his better efforts of the year in his one start with Bobby Wilson, throwing 8 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball. Pineiro held down a Milwaukee Brewers offense who exploded for 19 runs against the Angels in the previous two games, and also currently have the 2nd most home runs (82) and are only 15 runs back of first place for most runs scored as a team in the National League.

Whatever Bobby’s been doing, it’s been working.

Even though he’s taken his lumps at the plate (.189 batting average this year) and blocking the plate (check out the video below in case you haven’t seen it), Bobby has brought the most important statistic to the Angels: wins.

(On a side note, this was probably the roughest home-plate collision baseball had seen since ex-Angel Darin Erstad slammed into Johnny Estrada back in 2005.)

So next time you want to see how Bobby Wilson did in his most recent game, don’t look for his name in the box score.

If you look for his name you might find an “0-for-3” or “0-for-4 with a strikeout” performance. That’s not what Bobby Wilson brings.

Instead, look at how the starting pitcher did. Did he get the win? How many innings did he go? How many runs did he allow? How many hits did he allow?

That’s where you’ll find the true value of Bobby Wilson.

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1 day until Angels’ Season Opener

vladdy2Opening Day is now upon us! I can’t wait for the Angels to get their season off and running tomorrow. I am pretty encouraged from the numbers that the Halos have put up from this year’s Spring Training. The thing I was most impressed with was their offensive efficiency. We had been accustomed to seeing the Angels put up 10+ hits in a given game and only manufacture 2, maybe 3 runs a contest. This spring, the Angels put together a league-best record of 26-8, manufacturing,  just under 8 runs per game and scoring double digit runs in 10 contests. For a player breakdown, here are some of the players who have impressed me this spring, as well as those who left something to be desired from them.

Impressive:

Kendry Morales – 1B – Spring Stat Line: 85 ABs/.400 avg./3 HR/17 RBI/11 2B/2 3B/18 R

After the Halos lost first baseman Mark Teixeira and his fat contract in free agency to the big-name free agent black hole that is the New York Yankees, Kendry Morales now had his shot to step in as an everyday first baseman. He had been playing behind Casey Kotchman and Teixeira, leaving him virtually no shot at getting an everyday starting role until now. Kotch got sent to the Braves in the Teixeira mid-season rental deal and now Tex is off getting millions in NYC, but Kendry had put together an impressive spring to where Halo fans may feel just fine with Morales over Big Tex. He is a fine, young talent at only 25 years of age, and hits for power from both sides of the dish, something you don’t come across to often. I’m looking for KMo to show the baseball world the talent and promise that the Halos have seen all along. Heck, Mike Scoscia even said, “If we’re wrong on this guy, then it will be the worst miss we’ve ever had here.”

Erick Aybar – SS – Spring Stat Line: 54 ABs/.407 avg./3 HR/11 RBI/3 3B/15 R/5 SB

We all remember how the Angels got eliminated from the postseason last year. The botched suicide attempt. …Yeah let’s just move on from that. That’s been Erick Aybar’s mentality, and the stats don’t lie. The kid’s been doing great at the plate and has as much range in the field as any shortstop I’ve ever seen. Aybar lobbied for the starting job last year with the versatile Maicer Izturis, and that would be the case again heading in to Opening Day. We will have to wait and see tomorrow night whether or not Erick or Maicer will get the nod at short for the season opener, but Aybar made a strong case for manager Mike Scioscia to give him the job off the bat.

Jeff Mathis – C – Spring Stat Line: 53 ABs/.340 avg./4 HR/13 RBI/6 2B/14 R

Mathis, to put it lightly, has struggled mightily with the bat in his big league appearances. Mathis and the word “strikeout” have pretty much gone hand-in-hand whenever he’s been at the dish for the Halos. However, Mathis calls a great game, and last year, compared to Mike Napoli’s starts, Mathis would allow one whole run fewer than Napoli. This means, say Napoli’s pitchers had an ERA of 4 whenever he starts at catcher, that means that Mathis’s pitchers would have an ERA of 3 on his starts. Coming from a catcher himself, Halos’ skipper Mike Scioscia said, “If you string out 162 games, and you have one catcher who’s giving up one run a game less. As net runs go, he’s 162 runs ahead. There’s a defensive aspect of catching we pay a lot of attention to. I think a catcher will influence a game more with his defense than he will with his four at-bats.” Now that Mathis is hitting (go figure), and Nap had a down spring, (.179 average, striking out nearly once every three at-bats) I’m hoping that Mathis will get the opening day job, but Scioscia loved platooning the two in for one another last year. Hopefully it can just be one guy this year, but we’ll have to see how the season unfolds for both Jeff and Nap.

Other solid springs:

Brandon Wood – SS/3B – Spring Stat Line: 59 ABs/.322 avg/4 HR/13 RBI/5 2B/14 R

Played solid defense at third and short this spring, and like Mathis, had always seemed to have trouble with the bat at the big league level. Hit very well over the course of this spring training, but did not make the Opening Day 25-Man roster.

Howie Kendrick – 2B – Spring Stat Line: 62 ABs/.339 avg/2 HR/13 RBI/4 2B/15 R

One of the most gifted hitters to ever come through the Halos’ farm system, Kendrick continues to produce. Kendrick played well last year, hitting .306 with 26 doubles in 92 games, but injuries haven’t allowed him to play more than 100 games in a season since he’s been given the starting role at second.

Chone Figgins – 3B/utility – Spring Stat Line: 71 ABs/.380 avg./1 HR/10 RBI/2 3B/17 R/9 SB

Still one of the biggest threats on the basepaths in all of the Major Leagues, Figgy is still getting it done. He plays sensational defense anywhere on the field, whether it be at third, second, or in the outfield, and just has a knack of “hitting it where they ain’t.” Chone should be getting the Opening Day start at third, as he has the past few years.

Is that all you got?

Juan Rivera – OF – Spring Stat Line: 61 ABs/.230 avg./1 HR/12 RBI/3 2B/6 R

Come on now, you’re telling me a big guy like Juan Rivera slugs the same amounts of home runs in Spring Training as Chone Figgins? Sweet lord, Juan, we all know you can do better than that. Juan is still a guy with a cannon arm in the outfield, but it remains uncertain if he or Vlad will hold down the DH spot. If Juan can get a full season of hitting under his belt, he may be able to replicate and eclipse his impressive ’06 numbers (.310 avg./23 HR/85 RBI/27 2B in 124 games).

Mike Napoli – C – Spring Stat Line: 39 ABs/.179 avg/3 HR/9 RBI/1 2B/8 R

Nap has never been one to hit for a high average. He just blasts those long bombs from time-to-time. Not as good of a defensive catcher as Mathis, but certainly has had the edge on Jeff with the bat. Last year, Napoli hit .273 with 20 homers, whereas Mathis hit a dismal .194 with 9 homers in 16 more starts than Napoli. We all know the power is there, and Nap had as good of an eye at the plate as anyone in the line-up last year with the 2-month exception of Mark Teixeira, it just all depends on Scioscia’s grand scheme of things when it comes to divvying up starts between Mathis and Napoli.

Gary Matthews Jr. – OF – Spring Stat Line: 41 ABs/.244 avg/2 HR/12 RBI/2 2B/8 R

Always has been lauded for his defense, but ever since his one all-star year in Texas (which inclined the Halos to offer him a 5-year, $50 million contract), he has not done so hot with the stick. This spring is no exception. Now in the third year of that ridiculously fat contract, and $33 million still to be paid to the order of Mr. Matthews, things looked bleak for the former Gold Glover as he was given permission to leave camp for a day. Matthews said he was not told he was being traded, but Mike Scioscia said of the whole situation, “Gary has made it clear to us that he wants to play every day, but right now, that’s not where we’re at.” If he’s in the Opening Day plans, God help us all.

It’s been a great Spring Training for the Halos, but now it’s time to move on to the season that counts.

The Halos open tomorrow against the division rival Oakland Athletics at 6:05 Pacific time at the Big A.

Tomorrow’s probables are:

A’s: Dallas Braden – last year’s record: 5-4/4.14 ERA/19 games, 10 starts

Angels: Joe Saunders – ’08 All-Star selection – last year’s record: 17-7/3.41 ERA/31 games, 31 starts/1 CG

Go Halos!

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