Saturday, June 9, 2007

Orlando Cabrera and Reggie Willits are not your typical baseball heroes. They are not outspoken. They don’t hit for power. They do, however, provide the Angels with great defense and high on-base percentages. But in this league it seems that those two attributes are often overlooked.

Willits was not even considered a top prospect for the Halos this season, and when Garret Anderson appeared to finally be back to full health, things didn’t look good for the now 26-year-old utility outfielder. But as fate would have it, fan favorite GA would be put on the disabled list and Reggie given his chance to shine. Needless to say, Willits has taken that opportunity and refused to loosen his grasp on it.

While Anderson was out, Willits added extra speed to left field. Anderson’s arthritic knees have held him back from performing at what was once his own athletic standard. Willits quick speed led to many impressive catches down the left field line, and only helped newly-acquired center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. In the 48 games Willits has played in the outfield, he has compiled an impressive 1.000 fielding percentage.

Willits' speed has also helped on the base paths. Willits has 14 stolen bases this season in 16 attempts. But, as everyone knows, to steal a base one must first get on. The young outfielder has done just that as he has impressed everyone by batting .320 (entering Friday’s game) in 153 at bats. More impressively, he has the eighth-best on-base percentage in the American League this season, sitting at .414. All of these stats have earned the youngster an opportunity to DH, and allow the other outfielders a few days rest.

Orlando Cabrera, on the other hand, has little (if anything) to prove. Cabrera is in his eleventh season in the majors, and a World Series champion at that. Cabrera has a consistently high fielding percentage. This season, his percentage is a full .017 higher than the league average, as he has only made four errors in 159 attempts.

But, as with Willits, it is more than just OC’s defense that has propelled the Angels to the peak of the AL West. It has also been his bat. Cabrera’s OBP is now at a very nice .381, while his batting average is a comfortable .333. These numbers may not be great for a middle-of-the-lineup guy, but the fact of the matter is Cabrera is a top-of-the-lineup guy.

Perhaps more importantly is the veteran presence that Cabrera contributes to a team full of rookies. With guys such as Willits in the dugout, the wise words of a proven player can do nothing but help.

So, the Angels found two heroes in one of the most unlikely places of the line up as The Wizard of OC and his table-setting counterpart, rookie outfielder Reggie Willits, have helped annual all star Vladimir Guererro lift the Angels into first place in the American League West.
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