Tag Archives: offense

Kendrick’s Demotion Means It’s Maicer’s Time to Shine

kendrick izturisWhen you try to think of one word that can describe Howie Kendrick‘s offensive production for the Angels this year, what words come to mind?

Poor? Dismal? Nonexistent?

No matter how you slice it up, Howie Kendrick needed to be sent down to Triple-A ball. In my opinion, this move was made a month too late.

Howie on the year is hitting a depressing .231 for being regarded as one of the best pure hitters to come out of the minor leagues in recent memory. Heck, he hit over .360 in his 4 minor league seasons altogether.

Kendrick hit an even lower mark of .193 during the month of May. And the fact that he’s drawn only 10 walks in the 51 games he’s played in, it’s not like his on-base percentage of .281 is going to give Scioscia a reason to keep him in the bigs.

In his first 3 seasons in the MLB, Howie hit .285, .322, and .306 respectively, so it’s not like the kid can’t hit. But if there is one thing that gets to him, it’s the pressure.

Take the postseason for example, a time of the year where all the lights are on him to produce, and he shuts down. In 2 postseason appearances, Kendrick has amassed 4 hits in a total of 27 at-bats, good enough for a .148 batting average. In last year’s postseason series against the Red Sox, Howie compiled 2 hits in 17 at-bats, while striking out 7 times and drawing no walks.

To put it lightly, he just hasn’t been able to find his swing so far this year.

Thankfully, there is a “replacement” who I’m excited to see get regular starts in the field as well as at-bats.

That somebody is 28-year-old Maicer Izturis.

Maicer was acquired by the Halos back on November 19th, 2004 along with Juan Rivera from the Expos/Nationals (whatever they were at that time) in exchange for the talented but ticking time bomb named Jose Guillen.

Although Izturis is listed as a shortstop, he has also filled in time valiantly at both the 3rd base and 2nd base positions. Mike Scioscia is confident to put Maicer anywhere in the infield because he is as sound as they come with the glove.

Standing in at 5’8″, Maicer isn’t the prototypical shortstop people think of. He doesn’t have that incredible range, doesn’t necessarily have the strongest arm, that kind of thing. However, although he may not be great at one thing in particular, he is good at everything else.

He has made countless plays in the field this year that have gone straight to ESPN’s Top 10 Plays or Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems. He reads the ball great off the bat, always puts himself in great position to make a play, and always seems to deliver a great throw to finish the play, whether it be from 3rd, short or 2nd base.

And at the plate, while Maicer may not be the guy who hits over .325 in the lineup (.273 career hitter), or club countless home runs (career high in HR’s is 6), he does virtually everything else.

He’s a contact hitter, and rarely strikes out (career high in strikeouts was 39 in 336 at-bats in 2007).

Although he’s a career .273 hitter, his batting average seems to skyrocket any time there are runners in scoring position or if it’s a late-in-game or pressure situation (pretty much the polar opposite of Kendrick).

He puts pressure on the defense because he can run well, and does a great job of spraying the ball to all fields from both sides of the plate.

Ever since Mighty Maicer’s come to Anaheim, he hasn’t ever been able to really call himself an everyday player for Mike Scioscia’s ballclub.

In 2006 after centerfielder Darin Erstad hit the Disabled List, super utility man Chone Figgins was moved into center for the time being, opening up 3rd base for Maicer Izturis where he established himself as an incredibly capable defender worthy of more playing time (he ended up starting 78 games at 3rd in ’06).

In 2007, the Angels (much to my and many Angel fans’ current dislike) forked out $50 million dollars for centerfielder Gary Matthews Jr., fresh off an All-Star 2006 season. This forced Figgy back to 3rd, and Maicer back to being the odd man out. He once again became the space-filler for whenever any infielder would go down with an injury (mainly the oft-injured Howie Kendrick at 2nd).

Maicer suffered an injury-plagued 2008 campaign, but in his 52 games at shortstop throughout the season, he only committed 2 errors, good enough for a fielding percentage of .991 (translation = pretty damn good).

Now, he finds himself being the space-filler until Howie can find his swing, and the way we’ve seen Howie swing the stick this year, that could be quite a time-consuming search.

In his 1st start replacing Kendrick at 2nd base on Friday, all he did was go 4-for-4 with 2 singles, a double and a triple, as well as an RBI and 2 runs scored. He followed that up with a 1-for-3 showing Saturday night with a double and a run scored, all while playing spectacular defense at 2nd base.

And if I may add, man do Maicer and Erick Aybar make a pretty double-play tandem! Maicer and Erick compliment each other perfectly in my opinion. Aybar has arguably the most range of any shortstop in the major leagues and can make some incredible acrobatic plays (he’ll get to balls that Maicer has no chance of getting), let alone the fact that he’s got a cannon for an arm. However, all these incredible plays mean that he’s more susceptible to errors. Maicer makes every play look routine and is very consistent in the field.

I’m excited to see what this new lineup will do on a regular basis. It’s been pretty damn good so far, they’ve posted 20 runs in the first 2 games with this Kendrick-less lineup.

The lineup and overall defense can only improve from this move.

So Howie… take your time, buddy. No rush.

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Angels Offense Rolling Lately Despite Vlad’s Absence

torii walkoffWho would have thought that the Angels lineup would be producing more runs without their most prolific run-producer of the past 5 seasons?

The man I’m referring to of course would be “The Big Daddy”, Vladimir Guerrero.

Since coming to Anaheim in 2004 as a free agent, Guerrero has done nothing more than tear it up with the bat on a game-by-game basis.

He won the American League MVP award back in 2004, his first year as a Halo, when he single-handedly put the team on his back and carried them into the postseason, only to get rocked by the BoSox.

Here’s his stat lines from the past 5 years, to understand the high-caliber hitter that the lineup is missing:

2004 (156 games): .337 avg./206 hits/39 doubles/39 home runs/126 RBI/124 runs scored

2005 (141 games): .317 avg./165 hits/29 doubles/32 home runs/108 RBI/95 runs scored

2006 (156 games): .329 avg./200 hits/34 doubles/33 home runs/116 RBI/92 runs scored

2007 (150 games): .324 avg./186 hits/45 doubles/27 home runs/125 RBI/89 runs scored

2008 (143 games): .303 avg./164 hits/31 doubles/27 home runs/91 RBI/85 runs scored

Let’s compute that out to an average Vlad-in-an-Angel-uniform year:

“Typical year” (149 games): .323 avg./184 hits/36 doubles/32 home runs/113 RBI/97 runs scored.

Your offense should be anemic if you’re missing a hitter like this in the lineup, right? I mean this is a guy who’s been consistently .300+ batting average, over 30 doubles, around 30 home runs, and more than 100 RBI per year over his entire MLB career. The normally weak and sometimes pathetic Angels offense should probably be tanking, putting up maybe 2 to 3 runs per contest right?

Well, of lately, that hasn’t exactly been the case, to the delight of Angel fans, myself included.

The Angels have put up 8 or more runs on the board 4 times in the past 5 games, a feat that only happened once in the previous 13 games (plenty of which featured Guerrero with his torn pectoral muscle in the lineup).

I think you have to look at two guys in particular who have been consistent all year: free agent pick-up Bobby Abreu and 2nd-year Angel center fielder Torii Hunter.

Abreu has been hot, batting .381 (8-for-21) with 2 doubles and 5 RBI. He’s been getting on base with great regularity all season, and is a perfect 8-for-8 on stolen base attempts. Once Guerrero gets back and starts swinging the bat to the level that baseball fans are accustomed to seeing from the free-swinger, Abreu is the ideal #3 hitter that Mike Scioscia has been looking for since 2004.

Hunter has been even hotter, batting .391 in the last 5 games (9-for-23), with two doubles, 2 home runs, and 4 RBI. Hunter also leads the team with 7 home runs in the 18 games he’s played in (19 officially but he got ejected in a game a while back in the 1st inning, so he didn’t even have an AB), after he put up 21 home runs throughout all of last season (146 games played).

The Angels are also getting sporadic sparks from different players, like Kendry Morales who exploded on April 22nd against the Tigers by going 2-for-5 with a 3-run home run and a 2-run double, giving him 5 RBI on the night.

Even a slumping Howie Kendrick was able to produce in the Angels’ final game of a home series against the Mariners, as Kendrick went 3-for-5 with 4 RBI. Kendrick knocked a 2-run home run, and had two run-scoring singles en route to a 8-0 thrashing of Seattle.

As much as the big run totals are a breath of fresh air for me, the consistency is not there with the exceptions of Abreu and Hunter. Morales has been a bit off (.266). Kendrick (.258) had been in a slump since the end of Opening Day. Neither Mathis (.227) nor Napoli (.237) can get consistent at-bats. Figgins hasn’t been able to get the bat on the ball much (.227), and Aybar (.255) hasn’t been able to get much going at the dish either.

To add to the lack of consistency, the Angels have not yet won back-to-back games, as in their longest winning streak of the year has been 1.

Three hitters are over .300 right now, in Abreu (.375), Hunter (.338), and Juan Rivera (.309). Maicer Izturis is the closest to the .300 mark at .289 and then it’s just a drop-off.

The Angels (7-11) have assured themselves of their first losing month since June of 2006 when they compiled a 12-14 mark, breaking a 15-month streak of having a winning record in the month when the calendar has to be turned.

I can’t fault the Angels, they’ve gone through more in the first 18 games of the year than some teams may go through in a year. Missing 2 All-Star pitchers in John Lackey and Ervin Santana, having your franchise slugger go on the DL for a month in Vladdy Guerrero, losing 2 more pitchers during the season in Dustin Moseley and Darren Oliver, as well as the shocking death of the young and promising pitching prospect Nick Adenhart.

They’ve had their fair share of adversity, and I’m beginning to feel confident that they will overcome all the obstacles that they’ve been dealt in this young season.

I’m learning to keep the faith in this team after feeling hopeless for a majority of the month of April, because things will turn around. It can only go up from here.

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