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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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More Than an Average Joe?

average joe

2008 was a fluke. There’s no way that guy pitches anywhere near the way he did last year. He’s nothing special.

Those were the grumblings Joe Saunders was hearing entering the 2009 season for the Angels, and I didn’t believe a word any of those critics had to say. For showing great composure and dependability in ’08, I thought they were just plain crazy for saying that.

Coming off of a surprise 2008 season that featured him being selected to the American League All-Star team, the expectations were high for Saunders, who was tabbed as the Opening Day starter for Mike Scioscia and the Angels.

Saunders finished the ’08 season with a 17-7 record and a 3.41 ERA, over 1 run less than his ERA for the 2007 season (3.44).

His Opening Day start against Oakland was nothing short of brilliant. Saunders scattered a mere 3 hits over 6 2/3 fantastic innings of scoreless baseball en route to an opening day 3-0 shutout of the visiting Athletics.

Joe would start the year by winning 6 of his first 8 decisions, while keeping his ERA at a pretty respectable mark of 3.26 through the first two months of baseball.

Then he would hit a prolonged speedbump.

His 6.06 ERA in the month of June was nearly twice as high as his ERA for the month before (3.12).

July would be even worse. His 8.08 ERA over the course of July would be more than 2 full runs higher than his dismal June numbers.

Saunders would hit a streak that ran all the way up to 8 straights starts in which he allowed 4 or more runs in a given outing (4 runs twice, 5 runs 3 times, 6 runs twice, 8 runs once).

His ERA would just about double over the course of three months, and it was starting to seem like Saunders’ critics somehow saw something bad in him that many Angel fans including myself didn’t see.

His August 7th outing would last not even 2 full innings, but Joe would still allow 5 earned runs.

Maybe he was just an “average Joe” after all.

Following that start, Saunders was placed on the Disabled List due to shoulder soreness that had been troubling him for a majority of the season. His tight throwing shoulder wouldn’t allow him to fully extend and follow through comfortably like he normally does with his mechanics, which led to decreased velocity and leaving way too many pitches hanging out over the middle of the plate.

Saunders would come off the DL and make his 1st start on August 26th at home against the Detroit Tigers. He’d throw 89 pitches over a carefully shortened outing that lasted 5 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 6 Detroit hitters. The Halos won the game 4-2, with Saunders the winning pitcher.

Joe would stifle the Mariners in Seattle in his next outing, throwing 7 innings of 3-hit scoreless baseball en route to a 10-0 Angels win. Saunders would, obviously, be the winning hurler in this contest.

His last outing against Kansas City would be his weakest ever since his return from the DL, but he’d still minimize the damage incredibly well. Saundo would scatter 2 runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings of work, but would earn the win in a 7-2 Angels victory.

Since he’s come off the DL, Joe’s done nothing but win the Angels ballgames while allowing no more than 2 runs an outing. He’s given up 2 runs or less in each of his 3 starts since coming off the Disabled List. His previous 14 starts would feature only 2 outings where he would allow 2 runs or less.

He now has his ERA below 5.00 for the first time since July 22nd.

As much attention has been paid to the recent acquisition of Scott Kazmir and how he may be the missing piece that can solidify the Angels’ rotation, I think people are continuing to overlook the guy who was the Halos’ Opening Day starter.

Saunders doesn’t have to be the ace of the staff. Jered Weaver‘s had a fantastic year. John Lackey‘s rounding back in to form in a contract year. They can take care of occupying the #1 and #2 starter slots in the 5-man rotation. Saunders, if healthy and pitching the way he has the past few outings, could be a fantastic #3 starter to throw at teams.

It’s been a roller coaster year for the only Virginia Tech alum in all of the MLB, but if he can channel his 2008 style of pitching, rhythm, and composure, Joe will be the missing piece to the Angels’ jigsaw puzzle.

Not “can be”, he will be.

Time to prove the critics wrong one more time.

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4/28-Angels Hold Off Orioles 7-5 in 1st of 2-Game Set

fuentes hunterJoe Saunders, a native of nearby Virginia, had around 20 family members in attendance at Camden Yards Tuesday to root him on, and he his squad was not about to disappoint the Saunders faithful.

Saunders came in to Tuesday’s game at a perfect 4-0 lifetime against the Baltimore Orioles, and remained perfect with today’s outcome. Saunders wouldn’t have his most brilliant outing of the year, going 6 innings, while allowing 4 runs (only 2 of them earned) on 10 hits, while punching out only 1 Oriole batter.

As I had mentioned in my article earlier today, the Angels needed to get good efforts from guys like Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Chone Figgins and Mike Napoli to name a few, in order to be successful.

KMo, Figgy and Nap would each have two hits on the game, and Kendrick would have a 2-run jack for the Halos en route to a 7-5 victory.

More importantly, the bullpen did a great job of closing the door on the O’s on their 1st game of an 8-game road trip.

Joe Saunders (3-1) would be the winning pitcher in Tuesday’s contest, while Adam Eaton (1-3) would be on the losing end after giving up 5 runs in 6 innings of work.

Brian Fuentes would notch his 4th save of the year in 5 opportunities after starting the inning with a leadoff home run to Adam Jones, his 4th of the year.

The Halos move to 8-11 on the year, and Baltimore drops to 9-12, losing 10 of their last 13 games.

Game Notes

The Angels became the last team in Major League Baseball to win back-to-back games. The Angels couldn’t quite seem to ring up consecutive wins until the 18th and 19th games of the season, but for the first time this year, the Angels have a quote-unquote “winning streak” going.

The Angels would knock 7 extra-base hits in this game (6 doubles, 1 home run), with 11 hits altogether. This marks the 6th time in the last 7 games that the Angels have collectively had 10 or more hits in a single contest.

Howie Kendrick had a big 2-run homer in the 4th inning off of Eaton to tie up the game at 4-4. Kendrick would only go 1-for-4 on the night, but his tater makes it back-to-back games with a home run. 8 of HK’s 16 RBI on the season have come in the past 3 games. He’s now the club’s RBI leader with his total of 16.

Kendry Morales would go 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 1 run scored. KMo hit a crucial 2-run double in the 7th inning to push the Angels’ lead to 7-4. Morales now has 8 RBI in his last 5 games, and pushed his average up to .275 for the year.

Lots of Angels with a multi-hit game today, 4 to be exact.

Chone Figgins went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored and 2 stolen bags. Mighty Maicer would go 2-for-5, with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI. The aforementioned Kendry Morales would go 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run scored. And lastly, Mike Napoli would go 2-for-4 as well.

The bullpen would finally look 90% competent. Not all the way, but I’d say about 90%.

Jose Arredondo would pitch a scoreless 7th inning, surrendering only 1 hit and striking out 2 Oriole hitters.

Scot Shields (…gulp) oddly enough wouldn’t even give up a hit in the 8th, but would end up walking 1 batter. More importantly, Shieldsy didn’t give up a run… and that now pushes his ERA below 10.00! Yay! Now that’s some progress/change that he can believe in.

Brian Fuentes would allow a leadoff home run in the 9th inning to an emerging player in 23-year-old Adam Jones. Jones has been off to a scorching start this year, and I’m really thinking that this kid is going to have a special career. But on to the rest of the 9th inning, Fuentes would retire the 3-4-5 hitters in Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora, to end the game and give the Angels the 7-5 W.

The overall plate discipline from the leadoff spot to the 9-hole hitter is improving. The Angels drew 6 walks today, an overwhelming amount by Angels standards. This is a team that has had the free-swinging mentality ever since Mike Scioscia became the Halos’ skipper back in 2000. Bobby Abreu has been known throughout his career as being a guy who sees more pitches per at-bat on average than any other hitter in the league, and his eye at the plate is beginning to rub off on other guys. Chone Figgins drew only 62 walks as the leadoff hitter in 116 games last year, but this year he’s drawn 14 walks in a mere 18 contests, allowing Scioscia to let Figgy run free on the basepaths much more often.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/28 Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

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

Figgy got on base in 4 of his 5 plate appearances in Tuesday’s game (2 hits, 2 walks), and was able to swipe 2 bags, making him 9-for-10 in steal attempts on the year. He set the table today by getting on base, and was able to score twice, and it’s a documented fact that the Angels have a higher probability of winning if Figgins scores at least 1 run in a game compared to not scoring. Great game today on the part of Figgy.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 5 (season-high – 8 games)

Halo of the Game Season Batting Statistics

16 G – .356 avg. (21-59), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 12 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 9 K, 10 BB, 5 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Kendry Morales

Tomorrow’s Probables

Baltimore will send out 34-year-old Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara (4 starts: 2-1, 4.56 ERA). Uehara is labeled as a rookie despite being 34 years old, due to this being his 1st year in the MLB after spending the last 10 seasons as a member of the Yomiuri Giants. Uehara put together an impressive record of 112-62 with an ERA of 3.01 in those 10 seasons in the Japanese League.

The Halos tabbed Matt Palmer (1 start: 1-0, 6.00 ERA) as tomorrow’s starter. The 30-year-old journeyman Palmer went 6 innings in his first career start with the Angels against Detroit, giving up 4 earned runs in an eventual 10-5 Angel win last Thursday.

Tomorrow’s day game in Baltimore against the Orioles is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. Pacific time (12:35 p.m. Eastern). I’ll still be asleep, but I’m hoping I can wake up to Angel win!

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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4/6-Saunders, Kendrick Carry Halos to Opening Day Shutout of A’s

Howie AbreuWho needs Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez? Well, after one game, the Halos apparently don’t. Angel baseball is off and running on a good note this year, as the Angels blanked the A’s 3-0 for their first Opening Day shutout since 1978.

Joe Saunders, an all-star and 17-game winner in 2008 got the nod from skipper Mike Scioscia to take the mound as the Opening Day starter, and he was nothing short of spectacular. Saunders pitched 6 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball en route to his first victory of the season. Saunders would walk two batters and strike out two batters as well in his 6 2/3 innings of work.

Jose Arredondo, who burst onto the scene last year with 10 wins and a 1.62 ERA would come in for Saunders with two outs and strike out Jack Cust to end the 7th inning.

Scot Shields would need only need 11 pitches to get through the 8th inning unscathed, and offseason acquisition Brian Fuentes, a native of Merced, California, hammered down the A’s in the 9th to earn his first save as a Halo and secure the Angels of their first victory of the season.

An interesting little fact here, the last time a left-hander was tabbed as the Angels’ Opening Day starter was back in 2002 with Jarrod Washburn. You may also remember that the Halos would go on to win the World Series over the San Francisco Giants in an epic 7-game series…. Let’s hope history repeats itself this year!

Scoring Recap

3rd inning- With 1 out, Howie Kendrick roped a single in to right center field, plating Jeff Mathis, who led off the inning with a single from 2nd base, as well as advancing Chone Figgins to 3rd.

3rd inning- With 2 out, following a Bobby Abreu popout, Vladimir Guerrero would ground one to the right of a diving Orlando Cabrera, who would glove the ball cleanly but throw a tricky two-hopper over to Nomar Garciaparra at first, who could not come up with the ball initially, allowing Vladdy to reach safely and score Figgy from 3rd. Kendrick would advance to 2nd on the play.

5th inning- With 1 out and no one on base, Howie Kendrick would blast a Dallas Braden offering up and over that high right center porch and into the stands for a solo shot, his first and the Angels’ first homer of the year.

Player-by-Player Recap

1- 3B Chone Figgins – 0-3, 0 RBI, 1 run, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 LOB

Didn’t do much with the bat today and was kept off the basepaths, but made a fine play going to his right and firing across the diamond, showing off his unheralded arm and defensive skill. The Angels always seem to be better off whenever Figgy scores at least 1 run in a game, and tonight was no exception.

2- 2B Howie Kendrick – 2-4, 1 HR, 1 run, 1 K, 0 LOB

Offensive MVP of the game no doubt about it. Kendrick is known for being a great line drive hitter, and I was even more impressed with the way he was utilizing the opposite field today. That shows the mark of a great hitter, and for a guy who hit .360+ routinely in the minor leagues, there’s no doubt that Howie will be contending for a batting crown in his career. Made an error in the 3rd for what should have been an inning-ending double play, but made up for it with the bat in the bottom half of the inning and in the 5th as well with that solo shot.

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

This was Abreu’s first game as an Angel, and in his first at-bat, he was everything I had envisioned and hoped for. He worked the count to 3-2, and followed it up with a nice base knock right over the 2nd base bag. The rest of the game didn’t quite follow his lead. 2 strikeouts and a first-pitch popout from a guy who is notorious for seeing as many pitches as any other player in the league wasn’t exactly satisfying. Played the part defensively, but I think Abreu will do a great job as a 3-hole hitter for the Angels this year as he can get on base, drive in runs, steal bases and hit for power as well.

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

With his 3rd inning RBI infield single, Vladdy passed Frank Robinson for the most all-time RBI on Opening Day games in a career with 19. The Big Daddy did a good job of going back up the middle and it was encouraging to see Vladdy leg one out, seeing that his off-season knee surgeries have held up (so far). Vladdy doesn’t have the legs that he used to back in his Montreal days, but he still sure as heck can hit. Vlad will benefit big time from having a patient, experienced veteran like Bobby Abreu in front of him instead of someone like Maicer Izturis plugged into the 3-spot as we saw last year from time-to-time.

5- CF Torii Hunter – 1-4, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 2 LOB

Nothing really special or noteworthy out of the gregarious center fielder today, but he did get a base knock. No errors in the outfield for the game, and tomorrow Torii will be presented with his 8th consecutive Gold Glove award for his magnificent play in center field for the Halos throughout all of last year.

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

Not the start Kendry would’ve wanted, but that’s why he has 161 more games to make up for it. I’m still confident that Kendry can produce at a high level, and as the season goes on, he’ll be belting home runs and driving in runs from the 6th spot in the lineup with solid regularity.

7- LF Juan Rivera – 2-4, 1 2B, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 K, 0 LOB

Juan made up for the no-show of Morales who hit in front of him. He laced a nice double in the 6th, and pitched in with a single in the 4th. Not much action in the field for Juanito, but it’s an encouraging sign to see Juan hitting already, as he never was given the opportunity to get consistent at-bats last year and find a groove.

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

Jeff Mathis’ first at-bat went for a base knock. Go figure. In the one time he got on base, he ended up coming around to score, but more importantly, he caught a shutout today. Mathis called a great game and just seems to be the superior defensive and game-calling catcher compared to long-ball hitter Mike Napoli. Jeff also made a great throw-down to 3rd base to get Mark Ellis on an attempted double steal. The throw was a little high and Figgins made a nice catch and tag on the play, but Mathis had a whole lot of zip on his throw, something the Halos haven’t seen behind the dish since the days of Bengie Molina. His defense seems to be a constant, but the hitting would just be an added bonus.

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

Aybar couldn’t get anything going with the bat today, but played solid defense, and started an inning-ending double play in the 2nd, when the A’s were threatening with 2 men on base. Aybar had a strong spring and I think he’s going to be a solid hitter in the 9-hole for Mike Scioscia with his speed and slap-hitting ability. Plus, Aybar is as acrobatic as they come in the field at shortstop and has incredible range.

Tonight’s MVP

Joe Saunders & Howie Kendrick

Saunders was fantastic in his 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball en route to a team shutout of the A’s. Kendrick’s RBI single in the 3rd was all the Angels would need in the run column, but he figured a solo jack in the 5th would put away the A’s for good. This is a good sign to see Saunders dominating early considering the fact that the Halos will most likely be without John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar for April’s entirety.

Dub’s Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/6 Halo of the Game pick: Howie Kendrick

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

So far, so good! Howie was the Angels offense in this one, so I’m sure glad I picked HK47 in this one.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 1 (Every time my Halo of the Game gets a hit, it adds to the hitting streak. No hits means the streak goes back to 0 of course)

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game pick: Vladimir Guerrero (facing a righty fireballer tomorrow, much to his liking)

Tomorrow’s Probables

A’s: Trevor Cahill. The righty will be making his MLB debut tomorrow at the ripe age of 21. This is a guy who manager Bob Geren says could become a Brandon Webb-like pitcher in the future. Throws anywhere between 88 and 95 on his fastball and throws a hard sinker, which is his #1 pitch. The Halos struggled last year when they faced a kid making his MLB debut. Chris Waters of the Baltimore Orioles 1-hit the Angels in 8 innings of work back on August 6th of last year, en route to an Angel loss.

Angels: Dustin Moseley. Moseley steps in as the #2 starter on the decimated Halos’ staff to start the season. The 27-year old righty went 2-4 last year for the Halos while posting a fat ERA of 6.79 in 12 appearances. Moseley would go 0-1 in 3 appearances against Oakland in ’08, striking out 7, while giving up 7 runs in 9 1/3 innings pitched. Moseley is undeniably not your desirable #2 starter, as a matter of fact, I’m not so sure he’s even a #6 or 7 starter when all are healthy, but it’s up to Moseley to determine his worth.

Tomorrow’s game against the A’s is scheduled to begin at 7:05 Pacific time.

Go Halos!

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Offseason Review and Opening Day Preview

SaundersThe Halos and Athletics will open their season at the Big A Monday Night, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Pacific time. Either the Angels or the Athletics have won the American League West division for each of the past 7 years, and 8 of the past 9.

Last year, the Halos ran away with the division, finishing with a league-best record of 100 wins and 62 losses. The A’s, on the other hand finished third at 75-86, 3 1/2 games behind the 2nd place Texas Rangers, and a whopping 24 1/2 games behind the first place Halos.

The A’s brought in one of the league’s best bats in Matt Holliday, but were forced to part ways with their young closer Huston street, a highly touted outfield prospect in Carlos Gonzalez, as well as pitcher Greg Smith. They also brought back former MVP Jason Giambi (who won it as an Athletic back in 2000), a solid shortstop and great character guy in Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra, a guy who can still put up solid numbers if he’s healthy (but he’s also a guy who has played half the season or less in 4 of the past 6 seasons).

The Halos, on the other hand, lost the free agency market’s most sought-after bat in first baseman Mark Teixeira to the New York Yankees, the single-season saves record holder and constant at closer for the past 4 years in Francisco Rodriguez, lifelong Angel Garret Anderson to the Braves, as well as a solid end-of-the-rotation starter in Jon Garland to the Diamondbacks to name a few. The Halos would end up re-signing outfielder Juan Rivera to a 3-year deal, bringing in former Colorado Rockies closer and a Southern California native in Brian Fuentes, extending starter Ervin Santana’s deal for an additional 4 years, bringing in a free agent outfield bat in veteran Bobby Abreu and let’s not forget to mention maybe the smartest move of the offseason for the Halos, extending skipper Mike Scioscia’s contract through the 2018 season.

This seems to be a year where the youngsters will determine how successful the Angels will be. Guys like Kendry Morales (the powerful, switch-hitting 25-year old first baseman who has some huge shoes to fill at first base as he takes over for Mark Teixeira), Howie Kendrick (a guy who has hit well in the regular season and improved his defense over the years, but has struggled mightily in postseason play), Jeff Mathis (a kid who calls a great game behind the dish for the Halos but has been almost an automatic out in each of the past 2 seasons) and even Brandon Wood (that is, if he can even get a shot at the Bigs this year).

Vladimir Guerrero isn’t getting any younger, and the Halos will be without their top three starters (outside of Joe Saunders) in John Lackey (elbow, out through April), Ervin Santana (elbow, out at least a month) and Kelvim Escobar (initially thought that he would be out through the All-Star break, but reports have it that he is months ahead of schedule after recovering from a torn labrum that forced him to miss all of last season). This marks the second straight year that the Halos start the year with Big John and Kelvim on the disabled list. Guys like Nick Adenhart, Dustin Moseley and even Shane Loux seem to be the frontrunners to take the rotational spots, all three are quite unproven heading in to this year, causing many to raise red flags in regards to the Halos taking the AL West crown again this year.

I look for the Angels and A’s to battle for the top spot for the majority of the season, and I really think the A’s are going to surprise a lot of people this year. If they can stay healthy, they may give the Angels a run for their money at the AL West’s top spot.

On to the Opening Day probable starters:

The A’s will send out Dallas Braden, a 25-year old lefty who has been continually sent up and down between the majors and AAA over the past 2 seasons. He was a guy who went in to Spring Training as the A’s projected 4th starter in the rotation, but pitched very well over the course of the spring, and due to an injury to their #1 starter Justin Duchscherer, an Opening Day start fell into Braden’s lap. Braden pitched in 19 games last year, 10 of them starts, putting together a record of 5-4 with an ERA of 4.14. Braden would tally 71 2/3 innings in the 2008 campaign, striking out 41 batters and walking 25. Braden has been pitching to contact much more of late, something that the Angels’ lineup will either live or die by, considering how many of the Angels hitters have that aggressive plate mentality. Braden went 1-0 in 5 appearances against the Angels last year with an ERA of 2.08.

The Angels also throw out a lefty in Joe Saunders, a guy who the Halos would send to the 2008 All-Star Game after an impressive yet surprising season. Saunders would finish the season at 17-7 in 31 starts, while tallying 198 innings pitched. Saunders would strike out 103 hitters and walk 53 over the course of the ’08 campaign. Make no mistake about it, Saunders’ strongest month of the season was April, a month in which he went 5-0 in six starts with a low ERA of 2.08. He would go 3-1 in his 4 starts against the A’s last year, with an ERA of 3.18, and is 5-2 in his career against Oakland.

Halo of the Game:

Whoever the “Halo of the Game” is, is an offensive player that I will be following for the course of the upcoming game, and after the game has ended, I will review my selection of the player with how they fared for the game. I thought this would be a fun game to play over the course of the year and see how my picks do. I will be keeping a tally of batting average, home runs, RBI, doubles, triples and maybe a few other categories. The first Halo of the Game will be 2nd baseman Howie Kendrick.

Go Halos!

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