Monday, April 14, 2008

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 7-6 Games behind: 1.5 Week Record: 3-3

Week in Review:

Last week the starting rotation was up and down and not much changed this week. Jon Garland’s sinker failed to sink and Weaver took a beating through 5 innings. However, Ervin Santana is fast proving that last year was a fluke and is returning to the form that once had him mentioned in every trade proposal thrown the Angels’ way. Dustin Moseley has been a serviceable 5th starter and should have Sosh excited about the possibility of getting a pitcher that gets hitters out the first time through the batting order BACK into the pen. But Joe Saunders has to be the biggest story for the Angels so far this year. Saunders had 2 starts this week and gave up 3 earned runs in just over 15 innings. If Joe continues to shine the Angels could have a rotation consisting of Lackey, Saunders, Weaver, Santana and Garland. Based on the first two weeks of the season, this could end up being one of the best, and deepest, rotations in baseball.

While the Angels bullpen took a beating this week there are a couple of bright spots to consider. In 2 1/3 innings this week Darren O’Day gave up just one earned run and overall has an era (2.35) that should keep him in Mike’s good graces. Frankie Rodriguez is getting the rest he needs and should come back in due time. If there is anything this bullpen needs, it is for John Lackey to get healthy and back into the rotation so that Dustin Moseley can go to the pen and Jason Bulger can get some more seasoning in Salt Lake.

I wanted to save the best for last. Last week I made special mention of 2 players: Torii Hunter and Chone Figgins. Hunter continued his torrid hitting and on Monday night against the Indians he may have just played himself into a future AngelsWin Top 50 moments list. In the bottom of the 8th and with the score tied at one, Hunter came to the plate and launched a ball deep into the night to give the Angels what would be a short-lived lead. In the bottom of the 9th Hunter came to the plate again, this time with the bases loaded and his team down by 2, and cleared the bases with his moon-shot down the left field line. 2 homeruns in one game during the first Homestand with his new team; could there be anything sweeter?

Offensive Honorable Mentions: Chone Figgins. Last week the lead off man hit .407 with a .484 OBP. There was little drop-off in the Third Baseman’s production this week and by weeks end Figgins season averages are .404/.525/.972. Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman and the catching tandem of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis deserve mention as well.

The Bottom Line: The starting rotation is starting to come around and as it does we should see a little more stability in the Bullpen. If the rotation and Bully pull it together this team will be hard to beat. This offense is balanced and for real. Everyone knows they can play small and they are getting homerun production from top to bottom.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels go to Texas for a 2 game series and they will want to make a statement after being outplayed by the Rangers in Anaheim. The Angels send Ervin Santana and Dustin Moseley while the Rangers counter with Jason Jennings and Kevin Millwood. It goes without saying that the Angels need a good start from Santana as Millwood should be favored to out-duel Dustin Moseley. Then the Angels come home and will play another 2 game series against the red-hot Kansas City Royals. The weekend sees the team welcome the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels face 2 teams that it did not play well against last week and they will look to bring balance to the AL West universe. Additionally, the Mariners are making too much of their 2 wins in Seattle so the Angels should be looking to stick the M’s back in their rightful position, which is somewhere in 3rd or 4th place.
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