Monday, April 28, 2008

Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 16-10 Games Ahead: 4 (Tied with the Oakland A’s) Week Record: 4-2

Week in Review:

Jered Weaver’s (1-1 this week, 2-3 overall) two starts this week were a case in point for his season thus far; one bad, one good. Weaver barely got through 5 in Fenway, but was downright electric in a win, going 6 1/3 at Detroit. Ervin Santana (4-0) continues to show that he may be one of baseball’s elite pitchers. Ervin gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in a win at Detroit’s Comerica Park, a place where his career ERA had been so high prior to this latest start that it would have been near impossible to count it using BOTH hands. Joe Saunders improved to 4-0 by going into the Angel killing ballpark, Boston’s Fenway, and holding the Red Sox to 3 runs in 6 strong innings. Jon Garland (3-2) needed only 82 pitches to throw 6 effective innings against the Red Sox. Garland’s pitch count was relatively low, but it was a tough 82 pitches as illustrated in the 3rd inning against Manny Ramirez, whom he struck out for his only K of the game. Garland "threw everything…at him -- changes, sinker, four-seamer, slider."

The bullpen has teams scared again and has Scioscia’s confidence riding high. This week the team went 4-2, yet no starter went 7 innings. The bullpen is shortening games and winning battles against equally stacked back-enders.

Honorable Mention: Dustin Moseley. For Angels fans there may not be a more anticipated date in recent history than that spot on the May calendar when John Lackey returns to the rotation. Knowing his days in the rotation are numbered, Moseley took the mound against Detroit and had his best start of the year, limiting the Tigers offense to 3 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings.

Chone Figgins is starting to show signs of struggling at the plate; either that or teams are paying special attention to how to pitch to Figgins. In 6 games this week Figgins had only 4 hits, but his OBP is still over .400 so it might be a case of getting on base any way you can. However, Angels coaches might want to keep an eye on Figgins as he struck out 7 times through those 6 games. Casey Kotchman has gone out and done what every player aspires to do; play so well that the team has no choice but to move him up the line up card. Kotch started the week batting in the 6th spot with an odd appearance in the 8 hole, but by week’s end he may be on his way to a permanent home in the cleanup spot, sandwiched between Vlad and Torii Hunter. Casey’s line for the week: 8 for 20 (.400), 2 HR’s, 4 RBI, 4 runs scored.

The Bottom Line: There was a certain swagger about this team for most of last year and it disappeared somewhere around the 5th or 6th inning in game 1 of the ALDS. Winning 4 out of 6 in Boston and Detroit should make a statement to the rest of the league that the swagger is back. Considering the fact that this team is without its number one and number two starters from last season, there should be few skeptics left about whether or not this is the best team in baseball right now.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels come home to face the Oakland A’s, the teams biggest rival since 2002. The A’s are coming off of a series win against Mariners and their League high 16 wins may be the biggest surprise of the young season. While the Mariner’s put all their eggs in one basket in an early season match-up versus the Angels, this 4-game set against Oakland should have a playoff-like atmosphere and could be an early season indicator of just how good the A’s are. The week concludes with a visit from the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles.
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