By Jonathan Northrop - AngelsWin.com Columnist
At the risk of using an over-used sub-title, here is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Angels season so far.
After going 3-7 in their first ten games, the Angels are close to .500 at 6-7 with a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays, a mediocre team at best, but one that has a history of owning the Angels. While not absolutely killing the ball, Howie Kendrick isn't slumping either, hitting .311/.367/.444, and he's just getting warmed up, folks. Here's a very good sign: through 12 games played, Erick Aybar has walked 7 times; to go along with a .298 average, he's getting on base at a .389 clip. Chone who? Jeff Mathis is being a tease, continuing his strong hitting from last year's postseason with a .323/.353/.484 line in 9 games played--and two stolen bases! Of course he won't sustain that, but can we hope for a passable .700 OPS? Torii Hunter has started well, hitting .341/.412/.523; he may actually be a better hitter than he was a few years ago, but also more fragile. Last but not least among the hitters, Hideki Matsui has been the Angels best hitter in 2010, with a .327/.400/.612 line so far. Vlad who?
On the pitching side, the rotation is showing signs of coming out of a first-week funk, led by Jered Weaver (2-0, 2.84 ERA, 21 strikeouts, 3 walks, 19 IP, in three starts). Joel Pineiro has pitched well so far, with a 2.77 ERA in his first two starts, and Ervin Santana's complete game on Sunday showed his 2008 form. After a rough first start and mediocre second start, Joe Saunders gave up 0 ER in 8 IP against Toronto. In the bullpen, Kevin Jepsen has been pretty good if a touch erratic.
I like Juan Rivera's 3 HR and .500 SLG, but it is never a good sign when your batting average (.271) is the same as your OBP. Take a pitch, Juan, you're not Vlad. Speaking of hackmasters, Bobby Abreu has 11 Ks in 12 games and a .259 OBP. He will settle down, but it is hard not to worry about the age factor. Kendry Morales has been mediocre at best, hitting .224/.255/.449, although it is far too early to call last year a fluke.
Everyone's raving about Fernando Rodney's 3-3 in save opportunities and nasty stuff, but what about those 4 ER in 6 IP? OK, it was only one game--but that might be the type of pitcher Rodney is: Excellent about 80% of the time, but terrible the other 20%...hey, that sounds like our other closer.
It is kind of ironic that there was actually a debate about who should make the team from Brian Stokes and Matt Palmer when they are virtually interchangeable mediocrities: Neither are good pitchers, but both have a place as "mop-up specialists." Do the Angels need two?
You knew it was coming: Brandon Wood. I'm all for being patient, but this goes beyond ugly into grotesque: 38 at bats and only 4 hits (all singles) to go with 12 strikeouts and 3 errors. Mike Scioscia is talking patience, but that can only be extended so far with the more-than-adequate Maicer Izturis waiting on the bench. I'm going to have to put Mike Napoli in here, although it isn't only because of his shabby performance (2-15) but the rising controversy over his playing time, or lack thereof. Napoli may have become one of the most polarizing players among Angels fans. Most everyone loves him, but now the split seems to be between those that think he should play no matter how sub-par his catching is or how hot Mathis's bat is, and those that think the Angels should continue hoping Mathis has broken through into some kind of Gary Carter Lite and trade Napoli to an organization more sabermetrically inclined. It could get uglier if Mathis continues to hit at least decently well and continues getting the lion's share of at-bats, with Napoli getting grumpy riding the pine. Let's wait and see how this unfolds before rushing to any final verdicts.
Scott Kazmir's first start leading to a 13.50 ERA was about as ugly as you can get. OK, he's rusty. I hope. The bullpen has been, by and large, terrible. Of pitchers with 2 or more innings pitched, only Kevin Jepsen has an ERA below 5.00, and the ERAs of Jason Bulger and Scot Shields have been astronomical (11.57 and 10.12, respectively).