Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mark Teixeira will help the Angels for the big push towards October

By Bruce Nye - Columnist

Or are we heading towards 1995 all over again?

Many of the Angels fans recall the tortuous ending to the 1995 season when the Angels had an 11 game late summer lead only to suffer two nine-game losing streaks. The end of the season came down to a one-game playoff in Seattle with the Mariners. Arguably that win by the Mariners was the beginning for an impressive run by them in the American League West.

The question is: Can it happen again? The answer is no and here’s why. Almost anything can happen in a game, in a series or in a year, so it’s important to look at statistics to understand how it did happen, before we can boldly predict that it won’t happen again.

The Offense:
The 1995 Team -- The 2008 Team
C Jorge Fabregas --- C Mathis/Napoli
1B JT Snow --- 1B Mark Teixeira
2B Damon Easley --- 2B Howie Kendrick
SS Gary DiSarcina --- SS Aybar/Izturis
3B Tony Phillips --- 3B Chone Figgins
LF Garret Anderson --- LF Garret Anderson
CF Jim Edmonds --- CF Torii Hunter
RF Tim Salmon --- RF Vlad Guerrero
DH Chili Davis --- DH Rivera/Matthews
Bench Greg Myers --- Bench Reggie Willits
Bench Rex Hudler --- Bench Rob Quinlan/Gary Matthews
Bench Spike Owens --- Bench Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis/Jeff Mathis

The Pitching staff:
1995 Team - - - 2008 Team
SP Chuck Finley -- John Lackey
SP Mark Langston -- Joe Saunders
SP Shawn Boskie -- Ervin Santana
SP Brian Anderson -- Jon Garland
SP Jim Abbott -- Jered Weaver
CL Lee Smith -- Frankie Rodriguez

Offensively, the 1995 team had plenty of power. Salmon with 34 HRs; Edmonds with 33 HRs; Phillips with 27 HRs; JT Snow with 24 HRs and Chili Davis with 20 HRs led the way with three of them with more than 100 RBIs and three with OBPs with at or near .400 averages. Impressive, to be sure.

However, the pitching staff tells the story. Finley led the 1995 team with 15 wins and a 4.21 ERA; Langston, too had 15 wins, but a 4.63 ERA; Boskie had 7 wins and a 5.64 ERA; Anderson had 6 wins and a 5.87 ERA; and finally, Abbott had 5 wins and a 4.15 ERA.

The closer Lee Smith had 37 saves and a 3.47 ERA.

The 2008 Angels team has five starters who are on a pace for 15 wins each – the first team and ONLY team since the 1998 Atlanta Braves in MLB to do so. Only Garland and Weaver have ERAs higher than 4.00 and Frankie Rodriguez’ ERA is 2.40 and as of this writing has 45 saves.

Offensively, the 2008 team probably will not have anyone hitting 30 or more HRs or amass more than 100 RBIs; however, there are indications now that the offensive output is on the rise.

After the pitching superiority, there is another major factor for the success of the team with the best record in MLB and that is the manager, Mike Scioscia. He does not manage to win large streaks, rather he manages one game at a time and one series at a time. Currently, the 2008 Angels are 14-0-3 in their last 17 series. They have swept a few teams in a series, but more often than not, Scioscia manages to win 2 of 3 and move on. In between, he sits the veterans to be sure they are not overused during the regular season He has a solid bullpen of relievers that lead up to an almost certain record setting season for saves by Rodriguez.

In conclusion, it’s not the offense that will keep the team from a potential collapse, it’s the pitching staff and steady managing of the best manager in baseball. Scioscia’s steady managing style, the best pitching staff in MLB and now a steady improvement in the offense, especially with the addition of slugger and Gold Glover, Mark Teixeira will ensure that history does not repeat itself.
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