Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Let the good times roll. Relive the 2002 Championship Season with us at Angelswin.com

Monday, January 28, 2008


Baseball America has posted its Top 10 Angels Prospects report today. Click Here to read the Top 10 scouting report (subscription required).

You can also view some of the questions we asked in the Angels Chat

Baseball America's Top 10 Angels Prospects are:

1. Brandon Wood 3B
2. Nick Adenhart RHP
3. Jordan Walden RHP
4. Hank Conger C
5. Sean O'Sullivan RHP
6. Stephen Marek RHP
7. Sean Rodriguez SS
8. Nick Green RHP
9. Peter Bourjos OF
10. Anel de los Santos C

Their list is pretty close to our Angelswin Top 50 List, especially prospects #1-#5, with the exception of the ranking of Wood over Adenhart.

While we're proud of our annual prospect list, Baseball America is the mother of all minor league and amateur ball coverage on the net or in print (You can pick up one of their magazines at any popular book stores in the magazine section).

I respectfully disagree in part with Alan Matthews who did the Angels top 10 list, but recently left to become an area scout for the Colorado Rockies, with his addition of Stephen Marek and Anel de los Santos to the list. I feel Pettit and Evans, and especially Matt Sweeney (who we ranked at #6) should be ranked higher, but everyone forms their prospect lists differently.

Some regard performance over skills, or skills (tools and upside) over performance. Others may look at both respectively as one, while some may factor in age-vs.-league & how quick their ascent to the big leagues may be. The best approach however is to factor in all aspects of a players game rather than heavily weigh one more than the other.

One thing to note is, their have been many prospects ranked 11-30 in Baseball America's rankings over the years that have faired better than those ranked 1-10. While I don't have the statistics, as a BA subscriber for many years, I've seen a lot of prospects bust from teams' top 10 lists over the years, so make sure you keep a watchful eye on our top 50 list so you won't be surprised when they make the show.

Oh and while our content is free of charge, be sure to purchase at the very least an online account at Baseball America for $65 a year for more extensive scouting reports, in depth coverage of the Angels prospects & well written articles.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


January 19th, 2008
By Chuck Richter

I'm going to take the opportunity to kick off the New Year with our first Ask Angelswin.com segment, with questions regarding our recently published Top 50 Angels Prospect List and items pertaining to our web site that Angels fans or our readers have asked over the last couple months. Based on the increase of fan mail of late, the Ask Angelswin.com segment will be an annual feature on our blog.

On to the questions and comments......

James McKnight (New York) - My question is regarding Young-il Jung, is this guy badly injured and what is his status for this upcoming year? any info would be greatly appreciated! I'm from New York and a Mets fan but the Angels are my 2nd favorite team! thanks!

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - The Korean High School coaches have proven to overwork their pitchers and are stubborn about pitch count and limit. In one instance according to the Korean Times a young HS hurler was asked to pitch 18 innings over 2 days. 200 pitches in a single game is common over in Korea, so it's not surprising that after the Angels signed Jung who was entering the 2007 season as his first professional campaign in Orem, that his elbow had soreness and showed a forearm strain that enabled him to throw just 9 innings in '07 with unspectacular results (9.00 ERA in 3 starts).

Baseball America, the quintessential Minor League publication, ranked Jung 4th in their Angels Top 10 Prospects list going into the 2007 season, but I think even they would tell you their ranking was a bit too high and premature for a guy that's never played professional ball.

The Angels are hopeful that Jung will be ready to show what they saw of him in Korea as a High Schooler in camp in less than a month. If his elbow and forearm are 100% he may get the nod to start in Cedar Rapids, otherwise look for another shot later in the summer in Orem.

Roland Smith (Walnut Grove, CA) - Do you think the Angels will sign Vladimir Guerrero to a contract extension?

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Yes! I really do. In fact, I think he'll be the primary DH for the Halos as soon as 2009, getting some occasional starts in right field. Vladimir is a future Hall of Famer that the Angels want getting inducted in as the first Halos player in the history of their franchise.

Robert MacKenzie (Lake Forest, CA) - Loved your top prospects report, best I've seen on the net. Thank you for supplying all these scouting reports for free, while others charge for theirs. Speaking of which, do you ever plan on charging for these, making your content subscription based?

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Thank you Robert for passing along those kind words. I can't see making money off a product that is not mine, whether it is photos, articles or scouting reports via online subscriptions, or by having ads all of my web site in the name of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I have turned down numerous ad banners to be posted on our web site or blog over the last 3-4 years, so the answer would be no.

Our motto is and will always be this: An Angels Web site of the fans, by the fans, for the fans. We're just a group of passionate Angels fans spread out across the country that want to contribute to not only the Angelswin community, but to our world-wide readers throughout the year.

Be that as it may, we do have a donation option for those who enjoy our content and want to give back a little to Angelswin.com. If we're ever in a situation were we need to charge $ to keep this thing running, we'll look at every opportunity to stay afloat without doing so.

Alisha Gutierrez (Santa Ana, CA) - The group that is headed to Rancho Cucamonga is going to be exciting to watch in 2007. Do you think any of the group of hitters headed there can match what Brandon Wood did in 2005? or what Brok Butcher did on the mound in 2007?

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Hello Alisha, I used to work in Santa Ana off McFadden and Ritchey a few years back. Anyhow, on to your question. It would be hard for any top prospect from other teams' to duplicate what Brandon Wood did in 2005 (.312, 43 HR's and 51 doubles, leading the minors in extra-base hits). However, if I had to pick a hitter that would come close or equal to what Wood did in '05 it would be Matt Sweeney. He reminds me a lot of Dallas McPherson (minus the back issues and high strikeouts). Hank Conger should put up some nice totals too if he stays healthy the entire season.

As far as the pitcher to keep an eye on and one that could mirror or come close to what Brok Butcher did in Rancho in '07, that would be Sean O'Sullivan. He has similar stuff, but more upside. The key to pitchers having success in the Cal League (hitter friendly league due to ball park dimensions and favorable weather) is to keep the ball down and get ahead of the count. That is something that Brok did with the Quakes and what O'Sullivan has done the last two seasons (with Orem and Cedar Rapids) as ERA champion 2 years running.

Jeffery Mitchell (Carson City, NV) - Your MLB Player comparisons seem to be unrealistic and really could create an expectation of failure for fans. I love the list, but do you think that was a bit too much? or was that just a way to illustrate what the maximum potential would be for those players?

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Your last comment is exactly it. Truth is, their are Angels fans who do not follow the minor leagues like we do and they like to capture a vision of what these players could be like should they reach their potential in the future. In following the Angels minor leaguers since the age of 13 years old (37 now), purchasing over the counter Baseball America magazines, I have seen top prospects or non-ranked minor leaguers come out of nowhere and end up as successful major leaguers, if not all-stars. But I just trust our guys, from the data we've gathered from our area scouts and Director of Scouting - Eddie Bane, I felt safe making these comparisons, should they reach their full potential.

Travis Lorne (San Jacinto, TX) - Hi, nice prospect list, question for you though. Why was Stephen Marek ranked so low (35) on your prospect list after posting a successful 2006 season in Cedar Rapids? I got to see him pitch at San Jacinto community college and he threw as hard as anyone I've ever seen, followed up by what was a pretty good start to professional career. I know his numbers weren't there, but not bad for pitching in an extreme hitter's league.

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Thank you for the question and patience in getting back to you Travis.

First off, regarding our prospect rankings, I would like to mention that it is no knock on Marek or any of the talented players ranked 31 and beyond, but rather a testament of how good the Angels farm system really is. While some may think it was weaker than years past, I disagree as we were more top heavy with prospects then, while we're more spread out now from top to bottom in this years list. There are a handful of Angels prospects ranked 31-50 that could easily shoot up into the top 15 bracket next year in our 2009 report, one of which is Stephen Marek.

As far as Stephen Marek, he got off to an awful start with the Quakes, learning to pitch in a tougher environment than Cedar Rapids, getting hit hard to the tune of a .257 BAA while giving up 17 Home Runs in 25 starts. Marek primarily struggled with his secondary pitches which caused him to use his heater too often in a fastball hitters count. The fastball velocity is still there (92-95 MPH), but he needs to get more consistent with his off-speed stuff if he wants to remain a starter. To his credit, he did finish the season well, giving up just 3 runs in one start (7 inn) out of 6 to finish the season with the Quakes. The rest of his 6 remaining starts he gave up just 1 run or less to lower his ERA to 4.30.

Marek should be in Arkansas in 2008 so you'll be able to see him pitch in the Texas League which is a better environment for pitchers ERA's. I'm hopeful that he improves his secondary stuff so that he can shoot up the list and be a successful Major League starter, if not a good late inning reliever with that fastball of his.

Marcus Johnson (Long Beach, CA) - Hi Chuck, we met in Seattle at the Mariners-Angels ball game. I wanted to tell you that your web site is off the charts and for that matter, nothing really comes close with regards to fulfilling this Angels fans needs . Though I never signed up for the Message Board, I read daily, including your blog articles. A talented group of people that make up Angelswin.com, I tell everyone about it. Thanks for giving me that card at Safeco Field, I spend the majority of my day on your web site when I'm not busy at work.

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Marcus, good to hear from you and yes, I remember meeting you. Too bad the outcome of the game wasn't good, but hey we won the Division and got back at the Mariners in late August. Thank you for the props, it's good to receive comments like this. Our entire staff and community at Angelswin.com appreciates the feedback.

Al Grams (So Cal) - I see that Ryan Mount (our grandson) was dropped considerably from your prospect list in '06. Hopefully he will have the year we all think he can. When he was healthy at CR he had a good streak going, he finished well, lighting it up in the playoffs. Many of us think this will be the year. I've known Wilfong since he was 16 and coached him a few years. I coached two National Champions in the 70's. Love the game. The consensus on Ryan that we hear is they expect him to have some pop for a middle infielder.

Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Al, we corresponded via email in short, but I wanted to get this included in the segment. Like my response to the Stephen Marek question, no shame in getting ranked where Ryan's at as the Angels farm system is loaded. With regards to Ryan Mount, 2008 is huge for him as he heads to Rancho Cucamonga with Conger, Bourjos, Sweeney and double-play partner PJ Phillips. If Ryan can stay healthy and put up the #'s in a full season he too could shoot up into the 1-15 bracket entering 2009. He's got some pop in his bat as you noted and his defense at 2B is above average, so the skills are there, but his contact rate and plate discipline declined in 2007 so I'm anxious to see how he performs with the Quakes before he re-enters the top 20 bracket.

Lastly in this months' edition of Ask Angelswin, Eddie Bane gave us a ringing endorsement with regards to our Top 50 Angels Prospect Report. The Angels will use our scouting reports as a point of reference for the scout meetings throughout the year.

Eddie Bane (Anaheim, CA) - Chuck: Outstanding job with regards to the Top 50 Angels Prospect Report and I mean that. I will take this and present it in front of our scouts and be able to use it as a reference point for meetings. Quite a compliment to you guys that we would be able to use this as a starting point for our scouts at the meetings. I really think you guys are really close especially on the top 6-7 guys. But, I am glad that you used your own stuff instead of just spouting what I think. I don't need a lot of confirmation of what I think Chuck, as I already know that so it is good to hear how other people see us.

Still think it is almost unheard of that a contending big market team like us has homegrown's at all the infield positions including catcher, 3 of 5 in the rotation and the top 2 from the bullpen. Look at the other clubs and it is just not that way.

Keep up the great work.

Eddie

If you have a question, send it to chuck@angelswin.com Please include your full name and hometown if you'd like your letter to be considered for use in an upcoming column. Also, please understand that we can't respond to every question. Ask Angelswin.com takes questions both on the Angels minor leagues & current players on the parent team, including your comments.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

By Kevin Mark - Angelswin.com Columnist
This spring in Arizona, one of the Angels position battles will be at catcher. During the 2007 season, both Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli served as the Angels number one catcher and each can make a strong case to be the Angels 2008 opening day backstop. Even though both players have proven they are capable Major League players, the Angels will be a better team in 2008 if Mike Napoli handles the majority of the catching duties.

There is no argument that Mike Napoli is a better hitter than Jeff Mathis. During the course of his big league careers, Napoli's has been a productive hitter. His .236 batting average leaves room for improvement but his .356 OBP and .450 SLG are very good and shows he produces when he is in the lineup. Jeff Mathis' career batting average is below the Mendoza Line at .197 and his .267 OBP and .336 SLG are weak. This is not to say that Mathis should be considered a defensive catcher that will never hit. I saw him play the majority of his AAA games in 2006 and he displayed the ability to produce at the plate and there is a chance he could develop into at least an average Major League hitter. But as things stand now, Mike Napoli is a positive in the Angels lineup while Mathis is a liability.

I saw most of the home games both Napoli and Mathis played in AAA and at the time my impression was both were very good catchers. My view of them has not changed since they have been promoted to the Angels. I will preface the comments I am about to write by stating I understand defensive statistics can be imperfect and misleading. Saying this, in his Major League career, Napoli has caught 1315 innings. During that time, he had a fielding percentage of .987, allowed 3 passed balls, thrown out 26.9% of the runners attempting to steal (32/119), and has a CERA (catcher's ERA) of 4.00. (Before people start emailing me I will let you know I am aware that CERA can be a misleading statistic. However, CERA does provide some reference to a pitching staff's performance when throwing to a certain catcher.)

Mathis has caught 605 innings. His career fielding percentage of .987 is identical to Napoli's. In more than half as few of innings Mathis has allowed 6 passed balls and has thrown out 17.5% of the runners attempting to steal (11/63). Mathis has a career CERA 4.28. I will say again that defensive statistics are not a complete picture but I was surprised that Napoli's statistics in several categories were better.

Mike Napoli has demonstrated he is capable of hitting 20+ homeruns, driving in runs, and creating runs by getting on base. This type of offensive production is needed in the Angels lineup. Adding his offensive production to his Major League level catching skills, Napoli becomes the clear choice to be the Angels #1 catcher in 2008.

Friday, January 11, 2008


F-Rod blowing smoke down someone's pipe

Part Eleven: The Bullpen

HISTORY

Of the major areas of a baseball team—lineup, starting rotation, and bullpen—it is the latter which has, historically at least, warranted the least attention. Certain records will likely never be broken simply because the nature of the game has changed so much: In the 19th century a team often only had two starting pitchers—the all-time record for games started is 75, shared by both Pud Galvin (1883) and Wil White (1879). Certainly, if you look at the single-season leaders for games started, you have to get to the 122nd pitcher on the list, Jack Chesbro, before you get to the 20th century (in 1904 he started 51 games). An interesting exception to this is Wilbur Wood, who in 1972 and ’73 started 49 and 48 games respectively; everyone else around him on the list is either from the 19th century or the early decades of the 20th.

It wasn’t until 1911 that a pitcher have more than 10 saves--Mordecai Brown with 13 for the Cubs; in 1926, Firpo Marberry had 22 saves for the Washington Senators. By the 1940s and 50s, the league leaders were regularly (but not always) in the 20s; it wasn’t until 1965 that a pitcher saved more than 30 games—Ted Abernathy with 31 for the Reds. Throughout the 1970s, the league leaders were in the upper 20s and into the 30s; the last league leader below 30 was Lee Smith in 1983, who saved 29 games for the Cubs, the same year that Dan Quisenberry became the first pitcher to save more than 40 games (45 for the Royals). By the late 1980s the five-man rotation was firmly established; complete games and total innings pitched dropped precipitously so that now 33-35 games started and 200 or so inning pitched is the norm for a front-end starter.

From the mid-80s onward the closer has been one of the most important players on the team. Bobby Thigpen still holds the major league record with 57 saves in 1990 for the White Sox; eight pitchers have saved 50+ in a season, Mariano Rivera and Eric Gagne each twice.

The Angels franchise has always existed in a context in which relief played at least a moderate role. For this piece I will focus mainly on recent decades, during which relievers have been more important. But as an overview, some of the prominent relievers of the first couple decades include Tom Morgan, Art Fowler, Bob Lee, Minnie Rojas, Ken Tatum, Hoyt Wilhelm (at age 46), Eddie Fisher, and Dave LaRoche. During the 80s, Angels relievers included Mark Clear, Andy Hassler, Don Aase, Doug Corbett, Luis Sanchez, and of course the tragic Donnie Moore.

In 1987, a 24-year old ex-softball pitcher named Bryan Harvey made his debut in three games. For the next three years he was a strong closer; in 1991 he had what is perhaps the best relief season by an Angels pitcher ever, with 46 saves, a 1.60 ERA, 101 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 78.7 innings. The following year he was injured and only pitched in 25 games and then was taken by the Florida Marlins in the expansion draft for whom he had a second stellar season before fading away due to injury.

The top relievers of the 90s, in addition to Harvey, were March Eichhorn, Lee Smith, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, and the man who has to this point probably the greatest Angels career as a reliever: Troy Percival, who complied 316 saves with a 2.99 ERA in 10 years as an Angel. Percival learned the trade as the set-up man for Lee Smith in 1995 and took over as the closer in ’96, posting one of the best relief seasons of the year. For the next four years he was consistent but unspectacular, with ERAs between 3.46 and 4.50. In 2001 and 2002 he regained his form of ’96-’97, although dropped off again to merely good in his last two years as an Angel. All told, Percival has four excellent seasons and six merely solid to good ones, yet enough to be considered the best Angels reliever of all time…until a certain 20-year old joined the team at the end of 2002. But more on that in a minute.

Percival’s reign lasted until 2004, headlining General Manger Bill Stoneman’s revamp of the bullpen of the last decade, which included standout middle relievers Brendan Donnelly—who was nearly unhittable in his first two years as an Angel (’02 and ’03)—and Scot Shields, who has arguably been as valuable to the Angels as any pitcher over the last six years. Stoneman has filled in the rotation with a revolving door of solid contributors, including Ben Weber, Kevin Gregg, and Justin Speier.

At the end of the 2002 season a 20-year old named Francisco Rodriguez faced 21 batters, fanning 13 of them, and allowing only six of them to reach base but none to score (In other words, of his first 15 outs, only two of them were not strikeouts). Despite his late season debut, the Angels managed to finesse him into the playoffs, where his dominance continued—in 18.7 innings he gave up 4 runs, while striking out 28—and he was a major reason the Angels won the championship.

The following year, Rodriguez apprenticed under Troy Percival in much the way Percival had under Lee Smith in ’95. In 2004 he got 12 saves, then took over in 2005, saving 45, 47, and 40 games over the last three years, with ERAs of 2.67, 1.73, and 2.81, for five full seasons that have been the most dominant five-year stretch for an Angels reliever ever, all before the age of 26.

2007 OVERVIEW

(50+ innings)

  • Francisco Rodriguez (25) – 2.81 ERA, 40 saves, 34-90 bb-k in 67.3 IP.
  • Scot Shields (31) – 3.86 ERA, 33-77 bb-k in 77 IP.
  • Justin Speier (33) – 2.88 ERA, 12-47 bb-k in 50 IP.
  • Darren Oliver (36) – 3.78 ERA, 23-51 bb-k in 64.3 IP.
  • Chris Bootcheck (28) – 4.77 ERA, 24-56 bb-k in 77.3 IP.
  • Dustin Moseley (25) – 4.40 ERA, 27-50 bb-k in 92 IP (including 8 starts).

The Stoneman years, especially since 2002, have been marked by one of the top bullpens in baseball. Yet the last few years have shown some cracks; after the departure of Donnelly and Gregg, Stoneman seemed to panic, giving a four-year $16 million contract to Justin Speier—a good pitcher, but $4 million is a lot to pay a middle reliever in his mid-30s.

How did the bullpen fare in 2007? It may have been the worst season in years. Rodriguez and Shields imploded in the second half (although Rodriguez righted himself by September). Shields in particular was surprisingly inconsistent; after being virtually unhittable in May (1.69 ERA) and June (0.00 ERA), he was merely average in July (4.09), terrible in August (9.00) and September (6.17). To put it another way, before the All-Star break Shields had an ERA of 1.70, after 7.36.

When he was healthy, Speier was good, and Bootcheck and Oliver were both solid. Dustin Moseley was a very useful pitcher, filling in wherever needed. After posting a 6.57 ERA in 29 games, Hector Carrasco was released (signed by the Nationals a week later). A few other pitchers made brief appearances: Greg Jones, Rich Thompson, Jason Bulger, Marcus Gwyn, and Chris Resop.

Overall the bullpen was still good, just not as unhittable as in past years.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

The biggest question is, of course, whether or not Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins will re-sign Francisco Rodriguez. They certainly want to, just not for what F-Rod thinks he is worth (as one of the best closers in the game, at least according to F-Rod).

There is an argument to be made to give F-Rod at least close to what he wants: he is coming off three straight years of 40+ saves and just turned 26 a few days ago (January 7th). Yet there are also concerns: His walk rate—already a bit too—was the highest of his career, and he seems to alternate stellar years with “merely” very good ones, as displaced by his Adjusted ERAs over the last five years: 145, 247, 158, 264, and 162 last year. Who is the real F-Rod? Is he the super-closer of 2004 and 2006? Or merely the very good one of ’03, ’05, and ’07? There are also concerns about his violent delivery—last year’s edition of Baseball Prospectus predicted that his arm would fall off any year now. For Rodriguez, 2008 may determine a lot: whether he can settle in as one of the top closers the game has ever seen, or whether he will be erratic and an injury waiting to happen.

The problem is that there are no clear heirs in the wings. Rich Thompson shows promise, but may not be closer material. This fan has pondered whether Ervin Santana might be a good fit as a closer, but if he can’t handle the pressure of road games, it is doubtful that he has the chutzpah to close.

As for the rest of the bullpen, it will be interesting to see if Reagins emphasizes it to the degree that Stoneman did. Only time will tell. In 2008 we should see a slight return to form (assuming Scot “party boy” Shields matures a bit). What that bullpen is, is still to be determined: Rodriguez, Shields, and Speier are locks, as probably is Moseley. But for the final two spots it depends: probably one of either Saunders or Santana, with Bootcheck and Thompson competing for the final spot.

2008 PROJECTION

  • Francisco Rodriguez (26) – 2.30 ERA, 44 saves
  • Scot Shields (32) – 3.30 ERA
  • Justin Speier (34) – 3.00 ERA
  • Dustin Moseley (26) – 4.50 ERA
  • Chris Bootcheck (29) – 4.50 ERA
  • Rich Thompson (23) – 3.50 ERA

UPGRADE?

The Angels have plenty of solid pieces to work with. As mentioned above, the major concern is two-fold and applies mainly to 2009: How much to offer Rodriguez, and who to replace him with if he signs elsewhere. Obviously Reagins isn’t afraid to spend money, so if Rodriguez isn’t resigned we might see a free agent closer or trade for 2009.

_____________________________________________________

The Angels Past, Present and Future

  1. Introduction and Catcher
  2. First Base
  3. Second Base
  4. Shortstop
  5. Third Base
  6. Left Field
  7. Center Field
  8. Right Field
  9. DH
  10. Starting Rotation
  11. Bullpen
  12. Conclusion

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

algoreaward.gif picture by chuckster70

Now is the time to let the fans and community decide what article, column or feature you liked the best from Angelswin.com in the year of 2007.

Obviously we've had a lot of good content so I can't include them all, but according to me, I nominated some of the best.

The Angelswin.com staff of writers' is a talented group and as a token of my appreciation I will give out prizes in Spring Training at our Angelswin.com Spring-Fest 2008 (if you're in attendance, otherwise by mail) to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers after the votes are in.

I have excluded The Bane Connection, Weekly Prospect Hotlist, as well as the Top 50 Angels Prospect Report which received rave reviews.

So with no further ado, envelope being passed and opened.

Angelswin.com 2007 Article of the Year nominees
(Feature Series included into one)

Adam Dodge (pre-season) Figgins Deserves Our Support, if not Confidence

Eric Denton (pre-season) 10 Reasons why the Angels will reclaim the top spot in the AL West

Adam Dodge & Victor Varadi ANGELS WITH UNEXPECTED LEVERAGE

Eric Denton I Love LA

Adam Dodge Angelswin.com: The Internet Home for Angel Fans

Victor Varadi Give the West a Chance

Sean Scanlon (Series counts as one in Poll) 2007: Where the Big Bats Roam
2007: Arms Control
2007: First to Third

Sean Scanlon ...and it ends with a thud

Geoff Bilau A SPOONFUL OF BITTER

Adam Dodge PAINFUL END BREEDS NEW HOPE

Brian Ilten The Missing Element

Jonathon Northrop Golden Era beginning or ending for the Halos?

Jonathon Northrop (Series counts as one in Poll) The Angels Past, Present, and Future -- Part 1: Intro & Catcher

Lou Garcia Angelswin & GM Tony Reagins

Jonathon Northrop Casey Kotchman: Our forgotten future star

Adam Dodge Identity Crisis - Part 1 of a 2 part series

Jason Sinner Times a changin

Eric Notti Have You Seen This Hall of Famer?

Adam Dodge ANGEL MVP's KEY TO POSTSEASON

Cast your vote here

Monday, January 7, 2008

By Eric Notti - Angelswin.com Columnist

No, it's not the 80's all over again where we spend to pump prime the economy, but the same could be observed about the Angels offense. So far Reagins had traded and spent the roster to $125 million. Reagins has been given the go ahead to improve the roster but how far can he take it?

"Arte and I talk about a lot of things, and the most important is improving the club, bringing a quality product to the fans year after year. If something makes sense, we'll take a strong look at it." Reagins said in an interview back in October when payroll was around $100 million. Then the news broke that a deal at Del Taco cost the Angels $19 million more a year and Torii Hunter started putting Rally Monkeys on his shoulder. Afterwards Reagins was quoted as saying, “We're still looking at our club to see if we can improve. I like our club today. If Opening Day started tomorrow, I'd be ready to go.”

Evidently the rumor mill seems to think they are not quite as ready as they'd like to be and they are looking at trading for Paul Konerko with the possibility of adding also Joe Crede to play 3rd, creating speculation that Kendrick would be shipped to Chicago and Figgins moved to 2nd. Can they really afford the trade not just in talent but dollars?

Where is the ceiling for the Angels and what constitutes stepping into territory reserved once for Boston and the Yankees? If you look at the proposed trades for Konerko and Crede, that tier will be entered. It is not as though the Angels have been afraid to be big spenders the last few years but always they kept it within a budget reflective of their income potential. Last year the Angels reported a modest profit, something the previous owners were unable to achieve. How much payroll can be supported before they run red not just on the base paths but on the spreadsheet?

Konerko alone raises the payroll by another $12 million a year with Joe Crede earning in the $6+ million dollar range after arbitration. That is going to run the payroll into the $145 million dollar range and leave the Angels with two players from trades that will be free agents in 2009, Crede and Garland. Add into the mix Figgins will also be a free agent and the infield now becomes as expensive as any in the majors.

Is this worth the money spent and the additional cost after 2008 to keep either or both players (Crede and Garland) if they are productive? Calculating what the two would make combined could be in the $25 - 30 million dollar range driving payroll past the $160 million range. Where exactly is the end?

If the Angels stand pat with the infield of Kotchman, Kendrick, Aybar (Wood) and Figgins, the only free agent of the group is Figgins. Effectively the economics of keeping this infield intact is far less expensive than Crede's salary alone. Would the offensive gains outweigh the salary increase or will the Angels burden themselves getting older and maybe not more effective in the long run?

The stats for both players, Crede and Konerko, raise plenty of their own questions as do also the ceilings for Kotchman and Kendrick. A trade seems to indicate the Angels have less faith in their home grown talents abilities and a fear of Boston so great that they are willing to mortgage a future for a shot at the World Series today. Will the players and money invested result in a payoff?

All trades are a gamble but the proposed deals look to be a price tag that not even a billionaire will be apt to approve.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

by Eric Denton
AngelsWin.com

Happy New Year Angel fans. We have officially entered 2008 and there are now only 43 days left until pitchers and catchers report to Tempe for Spring Training !

Baring any surprise trades or free agent signings between now and opening day the roster new General Manager Tony Reagins has put together seems to be set.

Let's preview...

1B. Casey Kotchman
2B. Howie Kendrick
SS. Erick Aybar/Macier Izturis
3B. Chone Figgins
OF/DH. Gary Matthews Jr.
LF/DH. Garret Anderson
RF/DH. Vladimir Guerrero
CF. Torii Hunter
C . Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis
SP. John Lackey
SP. Kelvim Escobar
SP. Jon Garland
SP. Jered Weaver
SP. Joe Saunders/Ervin Santana
CL. Francisco Rodriguez

First things first. To make the MLB post-season the Angels will have to win the AL West or Wild Card. With the A's in full rebuilding mode (having traded their two best players Dan Haren & Nick Swisher), the Mariners inactivity and Texas perpetual lack of pitching, it's fairly safe to say that unless disaster strikes Mike Scioscia's club should be able to win their fourth AL West title during his tenure.

Now onto the burning question. Are the Angels good enough to get past the World Champion Red Sox, the upgraded Detroit Tigers and other the contending teams NY Yankees and Cleveland Indians and back into the World Series. These are the teams the Angels are really competing with in the big picture.

While fans bemoaned the Angels lack of offense during the post-season, let's not forget that starting pitching didn't exactly dominate the Red Sox which combined for a recipe of disaster going three and out in the ALDS like it was 2004 all over again.

What do the Angels need to do to have a sucessfull post-season ? First and foremost, they need their best players to step up. This means Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins cannot continue to fail with the bats. John Lackey needs to get over his issues pitching in Fenway Park and Kelvim Escobar (1-3 during his post-season career for LAA) has to show some mental toughness in October.

I understand that it sounds like a broken record, but I do believe that the Halos will improve offensively in 2008 despite the fact that Reagins was unable to land a "big bat" such as Miguel Cabrera. The addition of Torii Hunter will add some more pop to the lineup. Hunter actually out homered Guerrero by one in 2007 and his road splits show that he was not just a product of the Metrodome in Minnesota.

Having Gary Matthews Jr. spelling Guerrero and Garret Anderson in the outfield should allow both corner outfielders time to rest any nagging injuries by giving them time at designated hitter. Also in the mix is Juan Rivera who slugged 23 home runs in 2006 and is the perfect compliment to Matthews in a platoon situation. Matthews posted a .553 OPS as a right handed batter in 2007.

What has to happen for certain is it's time for Casey Kotchman, Howie Kendrick and Mike Napoli to all take their game to the next level, especially in the power department. Mike Napoli in particular has shown the most power at the minor league level (29 Hr in 2004, 31 in 2005) and could surprise with quite a few long balls this summer.

The 24 year old Kendrick was nearly dealt to Florida and he must show the Angels that their faith in him wasn't in vain. While he hit .322 last season it was an empty Rod Carew-ish .322 with Kendrick only hitting .247 with runners in scoring position, the stat Scioscia and his coaches consider most important.

Kotchman is the player with the most to lose since the organization believes Kendry Morales has huge power potential waiting in the wings. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Angels could get 15-20 home runs from both their first and second basemen.

Obviously their ability to stay healthy will be the key (137 games for Kotchman, only 88 from Kendrick and 77 from Napoli). If all three are able to get between 550-600 at bats the Angels should see a significant improvement as an offensive unit.

The area of greatest concern in my estimation is what the club will get out of the short-stop position. It appears that the trade of Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland was supposed to be the first domino to fall in the acqusition of Miguel Cabrera that never materialized. Now the Angels are opening spring camp with six starting pitchers and only five rotation spots and a huge question mark at the arguably the most important position on the diamond.

Is Erick Aybar the .300 plus hitter that he showed in the minor leagues ? If Aybar isn't the answer, can Macier Izturis handled the work load and stay healthy enough to get 500 at bats ? In this writers opinion Izturis has the greatest chance of being able to fill the offensive void left by Orlando Cabrera. Izturis showed an uncanny ability to get the big hit in 2007 hitting 6 homers and driving in 51 runs in only 336 at bats. While Izturis shouldn't be expected to hit 20 home runs, it should be noted he did have a higher slugging percentage than "OC" (.405 to .397).

The wild card is top prospect Brandon Wood who the Angels believe is ready defensively for the major leagues. But is the team's top brass willing to allow Wood to play everyday and most likely struggle ? It's quite possible that Wood could give the Angels the same type of first full season that Troy Glaus did in 1999 (.240 29 HR 79 RBI .781 OPS)

Los Angeles undoubtedly has what it takes to get it done April - September. It will remain to be seen if they can translate regular season success into post-season glory.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Angels staff ace, John Lackey

After a holiday hiatus, the series continues:

Part Ten: Starting Pitching

HISTORY

For their 47-year history, the Angels have had a strong tradition of starting pitching, at least relative to the positions. For most of that span, there has been a distinct lineage of staff leaders—from Dean Chance to Nolan Ryan to Mike Witt to Chuck Finley to John Lackey. Below is a list of the probable eight best starting pitchers the Angels have had, with their years played as an Angel, including innings pitched, won-loss record, ERA, and Adjusted ERA+ (Baseball Reference’s pitching version of OPS+).

  • Dean Chance (1961-66) -- 1236.7 IP, 74-66, 2.83 ERA, 122 Adjusted ERA+
  • Andy Messermith (1968-72) -- 972.3 IP, 59-47, 2.78 ERA, 118 ERA+
  • Nolan Ryan (1972-79) -- 2181.3 IP, 138-121, 3.07 ERA, 115 ERA+
  • Frank Tanana (1973-80) -- 1615.3 IP, 102-78, 3.08 ERA, 117 ERA+
  • Mike Witt (1981-90) -- 1965.3 IP, 109-107, 3.76 ERA, 107 ERA+
  • Chuck Finley (1986-99) -- 2675 IP, 165-140, 3.72 ERA, 118 ERA+
  • Mark Langston (1990-97) -- 1445.3 IP, 88-74, 3.97 ERA, 109 ERA+
  • John Lackey (2002-07) -- 1161.3 IP, 79-58, 3.82 ERA, 116 ERA+

There are simply too many starting pitchers to go through them all, although here is a snapshot of some of the notable starters of the 60s and 70s:

  • Dean Chance (Cy Young Award in 1964)
  • Ken McBride (three time All-Star)
  • George Brunet (led the league twice in losses, although finished 4th in ERA in 1965)
  • Jim McGlothlin (All-Star in 1967)
  • Rudy May (league average starter who pitched on the Angels for a few years)
  • Clyde Wright (6th in AL Cy Young voting in 1970)
  • Andy Messersmith (two-time 20-game winner, once with Angels, once with Dodgers)
  • Bill Singer (won 20 games and an All-Star in ’73)
  • Nolan Ryan (finished in top 3 in Cy Young voting three times as an Angel; set all-time single season strikeout record with 383 in 1973)
  • Frank Tanana (three-time Angel All-Star; promising career was derailed when he blew out his arm in his late 20s—was a league average pitcher after that)

We all know Nolan Ryan, who had some of his best years as an Angel—although his wildness kept his ERA above 3.00 most years.

Frank Tanana was a particularly unfortunate story. His injury in 1979 kept him from being a Hall of Famer—before it he had a string of ERAs around 2.50, with 200+ strikeout seasons. After his injury he was a league average player, although finished his career with 240 wins (to go with 236 losses), 2773 strikeouts, and a career ERA of 3.66.

The contending teams of the 1979-86 era were better at scoring runs than preventing them, with the top starters including Mike Witt, Ken Forsch, Geoff Zahn, Tommy John, Ron Romanick, Kirk McCaskill, and John Candelaria. Mike Witt was the best of the bunch, winning 15 or more games four years in a row (1984-87), but tapering off at a relatively young age; he was traded to the Yankees in 1990 for Dave Winfield and was injuried for most of the rest of his career, out of baseball before he turned 33.

For a few years in the late 80s and early 90s the Angels had one of their strongest rotations, including Chuck Finley, Mark Langston, Bert Blyleven, Jim Abbott, Kirk McCaskill, and Mike Witt. In 1991 Finley, Langston, and Abbott all won at least 18 games—the first and only time an Angels corp has accomplished that feat. Yet Abbott and McCaskill proved to be disappointments: both with some good years, but fading quickly.

Chuck Finley, on the other hand, proved to be the longest lived Angels starter of all time, with 379 Angels starts to his name, well above the 2nd-5th on the list: Nolan Ryan with 288, Mike Witt with 272, Frank Tanana with 218, and Mark Langston with 210.

Aside from Chuck Finley and Mark Langston, the 1990s were a bad decade for the Angels rotation, with a veritable smorgasbord of mediocre starters: Willi Fraser, Allen Watson, Steve Sparks, Brian Anderson, Julio Valera, Phil Leftwich, Shawn Boskie, and Jason Dickson, among others. The Angels had their usual assortment of past-their-prime names: Bert Blyleven, Tim Belcher, Scott Sanderson, and Ken Hill, not to mention a half year of Kent Bottenfield, one half of the infamous Jim Edmonds trade.

Around the turn of the millennium a promising young corp was emerging, with names such as Ramon Ortiz, Scott Schoeneweis, and Jarrod Washburn. Yet Schoeneweis never panned out to what Peter Gammons promised (an “18-game winner if he develops another pitch”, comparing him to Tom Glavine), and once-heralded prospect Ramon “Little Pedro” Oritz proved to be a couple years older than advertised.

Yet in 2002 the Angels put together a strong enough rotation to win the World Series, with Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz having career years, coupled with the emergence of John Lackey, a solid year from Kevin Appier, and a place warmer from Aaron Sele. The pitching staff would only get better, as GM Bill Stoneman proved to hold pitching as his #1 priority, signing two marquee starters in Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar after the 2003 season (to go along with Vladimir Guerrero). The Colon signing has to be considered a disappointment, despite earning an undeserved Cy Young Award in 2005; in four years as an Angel, he had a 46-33 record with a 4.66 ERA, making only 95 starts. Escobar, on the other hand, has been a success: 43-35 with a 3.60 ERA in 100 starts, and for much less money.

The last few years has seen steady improvement from John Lackey to become a legitimate staff ace and a Cy Young contender in 2007. To go along with Lackey and Escobar is the consistent Jered Weaver and the inconsistent, but talented, Ervin Santana.

2007 REVIEW

  • John Lackey (28) - 3.01 era, 19-9, 224 ip, 52-179 bb-k
  • Kelvim Escobar (31) – 3.40 era, 18-7, 195.7 ip, 66-160 bb-k
  • Jered Weaver (24) – 3.91 era, 13-7, 161 ip, 45-115 bb-k
  • Ervin Santana (24) – 5.76 era, 7-14, 150 ip, 58-126 bb-k
  • Bartolo Colon (34) – 6.34 era, 6-8, 99.3 ip, 29-76 bb-k
  • Joe Saunders (26)– 4.44 era, 8-5, 107.3 ip, 34-69 bb-k

2007 was a fine year for Angels starters, with John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar having career years. As mentioned, Lackey was a Cy Young contender—among the league leaders in most major pitching categories: Wins (tied 2nd), ERA (1st), Innings Pitched (4th), Shutouts (tied 1st). At one point Kelvim Escobar was also a Cy Young contender, but had a terrible stretch run; and Weaver was very good, if not quite as good as 2006. Ervin Santana, on the other hand, was very inconsistent, getting blown-out in almost every road start, eventually earning a demotion to AAA. Towards the end of the season, mainly in the bullpen, he showed signs of regaining his form.

The final 45 starts were distributed among Bartolo Colon (18), Joe Saunders (18), Dustin Moseley (8), and Hector Carrasco (1). Colon started strong, going 5-0 in his first five starts, but fell apart and got injured (again). Saunders and Moseley were both solid, posting ERAs just a hair better than average.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

The four spots in the 2008 rotation are set: Lackey, Escobar, Weaver, and newcomer Jon Garland, a surprise trade acquisition for Orlando Cabrera. Garland is a solid pitcher, although perhaps over-rated due to two 18-win seasons in 2005 and 2006 and a World Series victory. His career ERA is 4.41—basically league average, probably not much better than Joe Saunders. But he is an innings-eater, having pitched over 190 in each of the last six seasons, and most teams would love to have him as their #4 starter.

The fifth spot will likely be filled by Joe Saunders, although it depends on how Ervin Santana pitches in spring training. My guess is that Santana regains--even surpasses--his 2006 level, as well as his spot in the rotation; coupled with strong management, he’s simply too talented not to.

The Angels have a few strong starting prospects, most notably Nick Adenhart, who we’ll probably see sometime in the second half of 2008. Other names include Sean O’Sullivan, Nick Green, Jordan Walden, Brok Butcher, and Trevor Bell, with Green or O’Sullivan most likely to make their first major league appearance, although probably not until 2009 or later.

The future of the Angels rotation looks bright, with the average age of the six possible starters below 28 next year, and every pitcher either capable of remaining at the same level or improving.

2008 PROJECTION

  • John Lackey (29) - 3.30 era, 18-10, 220 ip, 60-190 bb-k
  • Kelvim Escobar (32) – 3.50 era, 14-9, 185 ip, 55-150 bb-k
  • Jered Weaver (25) – 3.65 era, 15-8, 190 ip, 55-140 bb-k
  • Ervin Santana (25) – 4.00 era, 13-8, 190 ip, 60-150 bb-k
  • Jon Garland (28) – 4.20 era, 14-12, 210 ip, 50-110 bb-k
  • Joe Saunders (27)– 4.50 era, 8-9, 150 ip, 45-85 bb-k

UPGRADE?

Unnecessary. With six starters—not to mention Dustin Moseley able to fill in, and the Two Nicks, Adenhart and Green, not far from the majors—we might see one of the Angels starters traded, probably Saunders or Garland.
  1. Introduction and Catcher
  2. First Base
  3. Second Base
  4. Shortstop
  5. Third Base
  6. Left Field
  7. Center Field
  8. Right Field
  9. DH
  10. Starting Rotation
  11. Bullpen
  12. Conclusion

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