Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ervin Santana starts the season off 5-0

By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

Heading into the season most fans hoped that the Angels would stay afloat and play close to or around .500 ball with the prospects of not having our #1 and #2 starters (John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar) for the entire month of April. Meanwhile the so called experts quickly jumped on the Mariners bandwagon as they traded for Eric Bedard and signed the innings eating, sinker ball pitchin' Carlos Silva to bolster their rotation.

One month later, on the eve of May 1st, the Angels have boasted an 18-11 record, best in the AL West by 1 game over the Oakland A's and the second to the Arizona Diamondbacks for most wins in all of baseball.

The kicker is this. We've done this without much help from our superstar on offense in Vladimir Guerrero who's batting a cool .270 with a sub .800 OPS.

Our cleanup hitter for much of the month-Garret Anderson, who was our most productive hitter in the 2nd half of '07 has looked awful at the plate, hitting a weak .222

Howie Kendrick when playing was a rock star, but he's only seen action in about a half of the month of April games.

Obviously no John Lackey or Kelvim Escobar.

Gary Matthews Jr., despite his 19 RBI's, is hitting .226 and has squandered as many opportunities as he's delivered.

Jon has pitched more like Judy Garland without the help of the Oz, posting a 5.94 ERA through 6 starts. His 12 to 9 walks to strikeouts rate has been downright awful.

Jered Weaver has been anything but a #1, posting a less than spectacular WHIP and ERA, going 2-3 in the month of April.

K-Rod missed time with an ankle injury that saw a drop in velocity and thus effectiveness, which forced Scioscia to give the ball to Justin Speier in a closing role, that didn't work out too well.

In the meantime, the Oakland A's who were supposed to be rebuilding and predicted cellar dwellers have played well, going 17-12 by getting solid contributions from their young starting rotation, along with enough offense to boast a solid month in their own right.

What has gone right for the Halos in the month of April?

The 5-0 studs in Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, the two heading into March who were supposed to be battling it out for the 5th spot, both have been the ACES of the staff by far. Santana (pictured above) who won his 5th against the Oakland A's on the eve of May 1st, has given up just 1 run in his last 30 innings of work against the Athletics and is currently boasting a 2.48 ERA and a solid strikeout to walk ratio.

Joe Saunders, the former #1 pick of the Angels out of Virginia Tech, won his 5th game the previous night, throwing 8 scoreless innings against the division rival A's, lowered his ERA to 2.08, while also lowering his WHIP to a minuscule 0.95.

Catchers' Jeff Mathis & Michael Napoli have combined to hit 9 HR's, proving that they can be a force offensively behind the dish going forward.

Our new cleanup hitter Casey Kotchman, has added some loft to his swing and has shown that he can be our BIG BAT - ala Miguel Cabrera, but with the better glove at 1B .

While it's only two games, Torii Hunter has provided some clubhouse Mojo by contributing with a walk off grand slam and an over the fence robbery of Richie Sexson's blast in the 9th inning, what could of been the game tying HR and possible L in the standings.

Lastly, the man in the middle Erick Aybar has been the talk of the town. Erick is getting local and national attention for the defense he displays, laser beams to Kotchman, all while hitting well enough that Mike has used him in the 5th and 6th spots in the lineup after sporting a superb batting average and contact rate, in the first month of the season. Aybar, a career .311 hitter in the minors, is the kind of player Manager Mike Scioscia loves to work with, and one that should anchor the SS position for quite sometime if he continues to develop.

The Halo is lit brightly as the Angels are atop the AL West, and with April behind us and the month of May upon us, the Angels are poised for a strong push, one game at a time.

The .500 hitting Howie Kendrick is due back on Friday, our #1 prospect Nick Adenhart takes the place of Dustin Moseley and toes the rubbber today against the Oakland A's in the series finale after sporting a 0.87 ERA in Triple-A for the 22-2 Salt Lake Bees and our other ACE John Lackey is due back in a couple weeks. The prospects of continued success is on the horizon.

So no pranks here, the 18-11 Halos are getting the last laugh at the pundits who are the butt of all jokes.

Monday, April 28, 2008

By Kevin Mark - Minor League Contributor

The best story of the 2008 baseball season isn't happening in Boston, New York, Chicago, or even Tampa Bay. The story isn't being reported by national media outlets like USA Today or ESPN. Sadly, one of the most amazing stories in the history of modern professional baseball is getting very little coverage in the team's local market. But despite the lack of coverage, the Salt Lake Bees record setting 21-1 is a story in which every baseball fan should be interested. What the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is accomplishing has never been seen before and probably won’t be seen again.

It is a shame the record setting performance of the Salt Lake Bees is not being recognized. With all happenings of the sports world it is unrealistic to expect the national media to spend much time on minor league baseball. But there is no excusing the local media for ignoring the Bees accomplishments. The two local newspapers view the Bees as unimportant. The small stories on the Bees are buried on the back of the newspaper’s sports sections after endless stories and columns about the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Both of the local sports-talk radio stations in Salt Lake City have adopted an “all Utah Jazz all the time” format. If Jazz point guard Deron Williams breaks a shoelace at practice it becomes the front page headline of the newspaper’s sports sections. The sports radio stations have live, on the scene coverage of Williams changing his shoelace and the impact the new shoelace will have on the Jazz in the playoffs. Even an out of control fan being ejected from a Jazz playoff game was the subject of endless coverage while a Bees victory is afforded only a token mention.

I am not proposing a AAA baseball team be covered with the same intensity as the only “major league” sports team in the area. But the overboard fascination Utah sports media and fans have with the Utah Jazz is ridiculous. The 2008 Salt Lake Bees are an exceptional story and should be receiving more coverage from the local Salt Lake media.

By David Saltzer - Columnist

1. The Salt Lake Bees (the entire team)

21-1 W/L record, 9-Game Lead
313/391/896 161 runs, 54 Doubles, 6 Triples, 28 HRs, 146 RBIs, 84/165 BB:K ratio
21-1, 3.21 ERA, 202 IP, 195 H, 79 BB, 156 K, 1.36 WHIP

In case you haven’t heard the Buzz, our colony of prospects at AAA are swarming for the kill in every game they play. They’ve gone 21-1 to start the season (an unheard of 955 win %) all while having several key players fly off to the parent club and back. Rather than getting stung by overlooking any individual member of the hive’s contribution, the #1 spot this week goes to the entire team. I’ve never seen such a strong start to the season. This is one of the greatest starts to any season for a minor league team, if not the greatest ever. Congrats!

2. Matt Brown, 3B, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
15/32 (469), 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HRs, 7 Runs, 8 RBIs
Last week Matt Brown said “Look at me! Look at me!” with his numbers. This week, the fans are saying “We want to see you in Anaheim!” With a few more weeks like this, it will be hard for us NOT to see him at the ML level as he’s blowing away the competition at AAA. He’s in the top 10 for the entire minor leagues in many offensive categories and is definitely making a strong case for a role in the majors. Message boards are already clamoring for it, and hopefully, the next time he gets a call up, he’ll stick.

3. Nick Adenhart, SP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
2-0 in 2 starts 0.00 ERA, 14 IP, 7 H, 6 BB, 10 K, 0.93 WHIP
4-0, 0.87 ERA, 31 IP, 18 H, 15 BB, 19 K, 1.13 WHIP, 170 BAA
If the PCL is a high octane league, then Nick Adenhart is a cool-headed fireman. At some point Adenhart may need to rely on his offense to pick up the slack in a start. But until then, he’ll just keep cooling off the opposition until he gets his shot in Anaheim. When he does, the AL better watch out, this guy can deal. He’s already making the adjustments that will keep him in the show for a long time. His walks are coming down and his strikeouts are up. At 21, his future is bright!

4. Shane Loux, SP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
2-0 in 2 starts 2.08 ERA, 13 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 1.08 WHIP
4-0, 1.40 ERA, 25.2 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 12 K, 1.09 WHIP, 237 BAA
Stop me if you’ve heard this story: high school pitcher gets drafted, plays a bit, gets injured, washes out of baseball, becomes a high school coach, gets a shot in the majors and just blows away the competition. Does it sound a lot like Jim Morris (the real-life Roy Hobbs)? Well, it’s true, and it’s the story of Shane Loux. Originally drafted in the 2nd round in 1997 by Detroit, at this time last year, Shane was out of organized baseball and working as a high school baseball coach. Like Adenhart, Shane is a veteran of Tommy John surgery in 2005. And, like Adenhart, he’s mowing down the competition at AAA. According to Shane, the Angels signed him and gave him a month to get in shape. If the surgery can work for Adenhart, and the story is as good as Jim Morris’s, let’s keep our eyes on Shane Loux!

5. Bobby Wilson, C, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
8/19 (421), 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 0 HRs, 0 Runs, 4 RBIs
Behind ever great pitching staff is a great catcher. And, the problem is that under Scioscia, we’ve become stacked with catchers. Wilson., a defensive oriented catcher, is putting up putting up better offensive numbers than last year, when he first reached AAA all while guiding several of our young pitchers to dominate the opposition.

6. Giancarlo Alvarado, SP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
1-0 in 2 starts 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 11 K, 1.08 WHIP
1-0, 3.32 ERA, 21.2 IP, 17 H, 8 BB, 20 K, 1.15 WHIP, 213 BAA
I purposely split Loux and Alvarado around their catcher because if I told you their stories back-to-back, you wouldn’t believe it. Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: young kid gets drafted, bounces around the minors, washes out a few years later, hangs around pitching for independent teams, goes to another country to pitch, gets noticed, and gets one last shot to prove himself back in America. Well, that’s Giancarlo’s story. Originally signed by Pittsburgh at age 17 in 1995, Giancarlo bounced around the minors, never really made it passed AA, and eventually ended up playing in Mexico last year. Somehow he got noticed and signed by the Angels, and has been blowing away the competition ever since. So, if you’re into feel good stories, or just like seeing stats that make you feel good, keep another eye on Giancarlo.

7. Anthony Norman, OF, Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
9/27 (333), 1 Doubles, 0 Triple, 1 HRs, 4 Runs, 4 RBIs, 4 SBs
323/443/538 6 SBs
There’s been a lot of debate as to who should bat 2nd for the Angels. Well, for Rancho, the man who bats second is Anton Norman, and he’s doing a great job at it. He combines speed and power with patience at the plate. Hitting behind Bourjous, he’s taken enough pitches to allow him to steal 17 bags already. Yet, Norman isn’t afraid to swipe a bag himself. Drafted out of UCLA, he’s a bit old for the league, and might get promoted mid-season if he continues to show that these numbers aren’t flukes.

8. The Pitchers Who Were Left Out, SP, Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels
In the 5-Key Questions for Cedar Rapids, one question related to how the trio of lefties would do. While we all know about the Walden and Tobin, the lefties are being just as impressive now that they’re past their first starts.

Michael Anton
2-0 in 2 starts 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 1.26 WHIP
2-1, 2.63 ERA, 24 IP, 21 H, 5 BB, 15 K, 1.08 WHIP, 236 BAA

Robert Fish
0-0 in 2 starts 2.70 ERA, 10 IP, 6 H, 6 BB, 15 K, 1.20 WHIP
1-0, 3.47 ERA, 23.1 IP, 16 H, 14 BB, 30 K, 1.29 WHIP, 184 BAA

Trevor Reckling
1-0 in 2 starts 2.70 ERA, 10 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 9 K, 1.40 WHIP
2-0, 3.57 ERA, 17.2 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 16 K, 1.47 WHIP, 235 BAA

9. Peter Bourjos, OF, Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
6/19 (316), 1 Doubles, 0 Triple, 0 HRs, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, 4 SBs
293/354/347 17 SBs
Eddie Bane said that if Peter figured out how to steal bases with effectiveness that he’ll be a strong base stealer in our system. Well, so far, Peter has seemed to figure it out, having swiped 17 bags in 18 attempts and in only 19 games. Projecting those numbers out and he’ll be in Anaheim leading off for us in the future. The only drawback so far to Peter’s game this season has been a bit of a decrease in the power that he showed last year and in the spring—especially considering the league in which he hits. Otherwise, he’s been stealing at will and getting on base—which are his primary duties as a leadoff hitter.

10. Tommy Mendoza, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
1-0 in 2 starts 1.54 ERA, 12.0 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 5 K, 1.42 WHIP
1-2, 2.89 ERA, 28.0 IP, 34 H, 9 BB, 13 K, 1.67 WHIP, 293 BAA
Still trying to rediscover the form that allowed him to strike out more than 1 batter an inning as a rookie, Tommy is holding his own in the high-octane California league. Tommy definitely like his home cooking—he’s got a 1.50 ERA at home vs. a 5.40 ERA on the road. Maybe he should talk to whomever straightened Santana out from last year so that he too can rediscover how to dominate at both home and on the road.

On the Outside Looking In

At AAA Salt Lake City

Brandon Wood, SS
273/333/614 with 8 HRs—Still working to improve the BB:K rate.

Reggie Willits, OF
333/429/500—Great start after being demoted.

Freddie Sandoval, 3B
385/417/641—He’s picking up the load with 16 RBIs for the team.

Nick Green, SP
2-0 3.41 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 289 BAA—Still proving to be a solid pitcher.

At AA Arkansas Travelers

Michael Collins, 1B
324/400/527—Not too shabby for a bloke born down under.

Kevin Jepsen. RP
1-0 1.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 163 BAA—Has 3 saves so far in split closing duties.

At A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Mark Trumbo, 1B
289/354/522—The power is there and when the rest of the lineup gets healthy, he should really start to smoke the ball.

Barrett Browning, RP
0-1 3.55 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 191 BAA—Has a 15:3 K:BB ratio as a closer.

At A Cedar Rapids Kernels

Tyler Johnson, OF
255/368/527—The power and speed is there and developing.

Jeremy Moore, OF
257/342/429—Another speedster with 15 SBs in 17 attempts.

Mason Tobin, SP
2-0 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 154 BAA—Only had 1 start this past week and only went 2 innings.

Jordan Walden, SP
1-3 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 230 BAA—Got touched a bit this week giving up 7 runs in 13 innings, but still has a 25:9 K:BB ratio.

By Chuck Richter - Founder & Executive Editor

Q: (Angelswin) - Hope you've been well the last month since we last chatted, Eddie. What's new as Director of Scouting of the Los Angeles Angels?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Hey guys. Travel, hotels, watching games, renting cars and seeing a lot of airports. Not much else except that wonderful road food that keeps us scouts in such tremendous condition.

Q: (Angelswin) - The Salt Lake Bees are 21-1 as of right now, going into Sunday's game. What an amazing feat they've accomplished. What an amazing roster. Your thoughts?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I think you also need to realize that this team in Salt Lake is made up of a lot of home grown players that are prospects. A lot of them will be needed over the course of the season to help at the Major League level, but it is quite a testament to these players and Bobby Mitchell that they are keeping their focus and playing the game hard and with great concentration. A lot of times in todays game 3A is an older group that is playing out the string. Not the case at all with the Salt Lake team. Nick Green, Nick Adenhart, Thompson, Arredondo, Morales, Willits, Coon, Brandon Wood, Freddy Sandoval and several others are all homegrown and they are all legit major leaguers that will all play at that level if they can stay healthy.

Q: (Angelswin) - I noticed that Nick Adenhart's SO/BB ratio is 19-15. That is not very good in my opinion, despite his low ERA. Is he working on something in Salt Lake? Or is he instructed to "Pitch to Contact" rather than go for the whiffs?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I certainly do not see it that way at all. Nick is a guy that has an ERA under 1.00 in the PCL which is tradionally a hitters league. He is pitching against a lot of older guys and he is 21 years old. Nick Adenhart is probably the best pitching prospect in the game right now and we are lucky to have him and lucky to have him healthy. He continues to work hard and just today I noticed he blew away Fresno for 8 innings. I really do not care what the SO/BB ratio is when a pitcher has as low an ERA as Adenhart does. Sometimes with stats we can make baseball a lot harder than it is. As the old scout saying goes, "the hitters will tell you how good a guy is throwing"....... and the hitters have let us know that Nick is throwing the ball extremely well.

Q: (Angelswin) - Speaking of "Pitch to Contact". Can you explain to our readers what this means and if it's beneficial to a starting pitcher? Additionally is it only taught to those who do not have a knock out pitch to generate K's?

A: (Eddie Bane) - "Pitching to contact" is one of my least favorite sayings in todays vernacular and my scouts know that. Koufax and Ryan never pitched to contact. Blyleven did not. I guess the term means to get the ball over the plate early in the count, but if that is what you want to say then just say that. My scouts know not to say, "pitches to contact"........ " the guy has electric stuff" or that a "pitcher is bumping 95" on the radar gun. I only went to Arizona State so I don't know what that stuff means.

To answer the question you cannot teach a pitcher to "pitch to contact". You can get the ball over the plate more often, but that only helps the guys with marginal command.

Q: (Angelswin) - Matt Brown, a later bloomer, future starter? or is he just on a hot streak, still projecting as a reserve infielder or utility player in the big leagues? What do the Angels and your scouts think of him? Do they view him as a future starter or?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Matt Brown has always been a good player. He is hard on himself sometimes and that is tough in a 162 game season. We certainly see him as a major league player. No doubt about that, but he has to find a spot with the Angels and carve that spot out. That is not easy.

Q: (Angelswin) - Injury update: When can we see the likes of H. Conger, M. Sweeney, C, Pettit, J. Haynes, M. Gonzalez, R. Mount and Young-Il to name a few, back in action with one of the affiliates?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Our group at Rancho (Conger, Sweeney, Mount and some others) are working their way back slowly and when the medical people give them the ok then they can play. Same with all of our injured players. We know it is frustrating to all involved not to see these guys, but it is much more frustrating to the individuals themselves as all of these kids have great makeup and it is really killing them not to be playing now. On another front Ryan Aldridge came back the other day and was throwing bullets in an Arizona game.

Q: (Angelswin) - Speaking of which. Who has looked good in extended spring training? Any buzz from the coaches and scouts for any of the prospects in Arizona?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Ty Boykin and his coaches do a great job with those guys and they work incredibly hard. As I said one of the names I was encouraged by was Ryan Aldridge and seeing his velocity in the mid 90's again.

Q: (Angelswin) - At what point in the season do you start making personnel decisions on what type of season you think the team/player will have? 1 month, 2 months?, Longer? Is there a timetable where you feel it is more than just a hot streak/slump and more of a trend/indicator of the year's performance?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I think you can relate that more to the injured players than anyone else. The position players need to get 300 or more at bats in order to get evaluated for the move up a level next season. That is why it is important that Sweeney, Conger, Mount and others get back ASAP. Everybody evaluates the players a lot when the season first starts, but it is important to get the entire body of work for the season. It is only natural though and expected to scout the players hard when you personally see them. That is because a good scout trusts his eyes and knows what he is looking at and does not need someone else telling him what he saw.

Q: (Angelswin) - There seems to be a drastic discrepancy in terms of leagues so that every other year if a player progresses normally they will go from a pitcher league to a hitters league then to a pitchers and back to a hitters. Was this formulated by the org on purpose or is it just happenstance?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I would agree that the jump to the Cal League from the Midwest League is a tough one for pitchers. The toughest jump though by far is from 3A to the Major Leagues. Those are the best players in the world and if you can compete with those guys you can compete anywhere.

Q: (Angelswin) - Have Michael Collins, Mark Trumbo and Robert Mosebach turned a corner? So far so good in 2008, performance wise.

A: (Eddie Bane) - All three are really good looking young players that we think will help the Angels at some point. Trumbo got an opportunity to show his massive power when he was in big league spring training. Others got to witness the power and it helped Mark to know that it would not take super human effort for him to play with those guys. Power is the last tool to come at the major league level and Trumbo is comfortable with that now.

Mosebach has always been a superior prospect, but for some reason the media and others tend to overlook him. We, in the organization certainly do not.

Q: (Angelswin) - Could you tell us more about Kevin Jepsen? What does he throw, where is he developmentally, etc. I remember when he was with Cedar Rapids a few years back, he was throwing in the mid 90's and had a nice breaking ball. Has he regained the velocity he once had before his shoulder injury?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Jepsen is a young pitcher that threw really really hard when we first signed him and then he got hurt and was on the backburner for a few years. With hard work and total dedication he has put himself firmly back in the picture as a legit prospect. Yes, the velocity is mostly all back.

Q: (Angelswin) - Could you compare the stuff of Jose Arredondo, Stephen Marek, Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Braiser? Which one has the best shot of becoming an ML closer?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Tough to answer who has closer stuff. Closer stuff and closer mentality are 2 completely different things. Takes a lot of stones to throw the 9th inning no matter what Bill James says and I like James' work. All those guys have plenty of fastball to do that job, but it takes a lot more than a fastball to pitch the 9th. Right now though we have one of the best closers in the game in Frankie so I am happy with that for now.

Q: (Angelswin) - Could you compare Erick Aybar and Brandon Wood defensively at SS? Do you think Sean Rodriguez profiles best at 2B or at another position?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Aybar has a spectacular glove with plus range. Erick is working really hard with Alfredo Griffin to make the steady plays. He will be a plus defensive shortstop in the big leagues for a long time. Brandon Wood is steady and makes all the plays with an above average arm and glove. Brandon needs to pay attention to advance scouting, spray charts and all the other stuff to get an edge on players at the big league level. Fortunately he has such great makeup that he will do whatever it takes to get an edge. Can you imagine a SS that has 30 homerun potential? Wood has that potential.

Yes, Sean will play a lot of 2B only because of all the SS prospects that we have. He can still play short though. In addition to Wood and Aybar, we have both Statia and Romine on express trains. As I said before a friend that scouts with Tampa told me that he would take "any of your shortstops, We dont care which one, just give us one of them including Izturis."

You have to be careful though as the Blue Jays had Michael Young, Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez and Chris Woodward a few years ago. They gave away all the good ones and kept Chris Woodward. Oops.

Q: (Angelswin) - Ken Rosenthal reported that some scouts believe Howie Kendrick should play LF next season because he does not turn the double play very well. Are the Angels scouts saying the same thing?, or is this just a Sports reporter pulling stuff out of the air?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I really respect Ken Rosenthal and his writing, but he and those scouts are "Way OFF Base" on this one. Howie Kendrick has made himself through hard work and great coaching into a really good defender. That includes the double play. People want to get on Howie about the DP because he is so tough that he hangs around and is not afraid of getting dirty from a hard slide. He takes the runner and still makes a good accurate throw.

As I have said before, Howie Kendrick will win a batting title. If he can stay away from the injuries (which he has always done before the last season or two) Kendrick will be an all-star at 2ndbase. He and Pedroia from the Red Sox should fight it out for the All-Star spot every year for a long time.

Chuck Richter - Eddie as always, the fans, the entire staff and community at and myself, appreciate your time.

Eddie Bane - I have stated a lot that I really enjoy hearing from the fans at and I learn a lot by getting their ideas and questions. Keep them coming as it makes me think when guys write about stuff. PS. If you have kids tell them not to "pitch to contact" and try to strike every kid on the other team out so that scouts will notice them. That should keep the young scouts and their toes for awhile.

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.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Willis (left) and Cabrera (right) were almost Halos in the off-season

By David Saltzer - Columnist

No other topic dominated the fans’ attention this past offseason than the potential to trade for Miguel Cabrera. The Angels, who made another early round exit from the playoffs while looking completely overmatched by Boston clearly needed to improve their offense. Even when the Angels landed Torii Hunter, the fans still clamored for a trade to net Miguel Cabrera. And, when it didn’t happen, the howl of the fans could be heard all the way through the start of the season. So, with our trip into Detroit, the ultimate winners of the Miguel Cabrera sweepstakes, it’s time to analyze the trade that wasn’t.

I’ll admit it: I wanted Miguel Cabrera. No, strike that. I coveted Miguel Cabrera. I would have pulled the trigger on some of the proposed trade scenarios, but, ultimately would not have made the deal that the Marlins tried to force down our throats. One can’t have an honest discussion about the trade that wasn’t without stating where he was at the time the trade could have gone down.

While we’ll never know exactly what the Angels were offering or what Florida demanded, it’s pretty clear that Florida wanted at least 3-4 young ML players or close to ready ML talent in exchange for M. Cabrera. Most likely they wanted Adenhart, Kendrick, Mathis and Santana. And, as they ultimately did in their trade, they would have wanted us to take Dontrelle Willis off of their hands to free up a huge chunk of cash for his next 3 years of arbitration.

So, let’s assume we made the deal for M. Cabrera: How would that have turned out for us? Let’s assume that all the players involved remained healthy and would post numbers similar to what they’ve done over the past 2-3 years. Should we have pulled the trigger on the deal?

No matter what people say about trades, there are 3 cardinal laws that must be obeyed when considering any trade. They are: 1) you have to trade value to get value; 2) never make one hole to try and solve another; 3) the money matters. Only the Yankees seem to be able to violate these laws, and well, let’s face it, if their fans are any indication, they aren’t human. But for every other baseball team, these laws apply like death and taxes.

As much as we wouldn’t want to admit it, if we traded for M. Cabrera, cardinal law #1 says we would have lost at least 3 top prospects or young rookies in the best case deal. While we would like to say that Howie Kendrick wouldn’t have been a part of the deal, most likely FLA wouldn’t do the deal without him. So, let’s count him in as part of a deal. Since FLA also got a catcher back from Detroit, we can assume that they wouldn’t have done the deal without Mathis. Since FLA insisted on a bunch of pitchers, we can also assume that Adenhart or Saunders would have gone in the deal as well. Finally, knowing how financially restrained their management is, we would have had to take Dontrelle Willis back in the deal (this is my thought as to what the final deal breaker may have been).

Under that scenario (prior to any knowledge about injuries, etc.), Figgins would move to 2B, M. Cabrera would take over 3rd, and our rotation would have been Lackey, Escobar, Weaver, Garland and Willis. We would be looking at increasing our payroll by about $17 million for the year with the arbitrations for M. Cabrera and Willis. Had we done the deal before we signed Hunter, there’s no way that we would have signed him, so our outfield would be GA, GMJr, and Vlad, with either Kendry Morales or Quinlan vying for the DH at bats since we wouldn’t be able to afford a better DH and don’t have any better internal options.

Under that deal, our defense would have definitely taken a hit, as Figgy is not as good at 2B as he is at 3B, M. Cabrera isn’t as good as Figgy at 3B, and we’d be going with Aybar at SS. Our offense would definitely improve over the 2007 level (you can’t help but improve if you add a 300 hitter with 30+ HR potential). But, at the same time, our pitching would suffer, and, the net benefit would not be anywhere near as good. We probably would not have increased our net wins because the gains in offense would be offset by the declines in defense and pitching.

Projecting forward under that scenario, we would be in deep trouble with the injuries to Lackey and Escobar because our top pitching prospect would not be there to back them up. Our rotation would suddenly become Weaver, Garland, Santana, Mosely and Green (due to the injury to Dontrelle Willis) which is a far cry from the pitching we’ve had for the past few years. All of a sudden, we’d have a team ERA near 5, our bullpen would be completely overused, and we’d be helpless to stop the bleeding. Most likely, if we had pulled the trigger, we’d be looking at a 3rd place finish this year.

Hence, trading for M. Cabrera would have definitely violated cardinal law #2 for trading by creating a major just to solve a current hole. While we do have lots of top-shelf pitching talent, after Adenhart, the next best candidate is at AA in Brok Butcher! There’s no way that he could make the jump, so any advantage we gained on offense would immediately be blunted on defense and pitching!

Had we done it after the deal for Hunter, most likely K-Rod would definitely be gone next year, as would Garland and Lackey potentially after him because we couldn’t afford to pay M. Cabrera $20 million/year for 7 years, extend Vlad for around that much money, pay Torii Hunter AND keep all of the pitching together. So, in order to keep our costs down, we would continue to suffer near the cellar, much like Texas because we couldn’t out-hit our pitching.

Again, while we do have some top-shelf pitching talent, it would take at least 4-5 years to get it fully developed and in the majors (assuming it all pans out). By the time the pitching is all sorted out again, we’d be near the end of Vlad’s extension, near the end of Figgy’s maximum production, near the end of Hunter’s contract (if we had him) and at a point where we’d possibly be losing Kotchman. So, instead of creating a dynasty, we’d be chasing that 1 possible year way down the road while we rebuilt to get there. Hardly worth it, if you ask me.

Finally, there’s one last potential problem with the deal for M. Cabrera that made it a very risky deal: Miguel’s weight/defense (the two are tied together). Although much press was given to the weight that Miguel lost this offseason, there’s no denying that his defense was less than stellar at 3B. Already, Detroit has shifted him to 1B because he just cannot make it as an ML 3B. If we had that problem, we’d have to consider trading Kotchman to open up the spot for our $20 million/year player *OR* move him to LF. That would create an even greater logjam for the OF and DH spots, especially if we had also signed Torii Hunter.

As I said at the outset, I coveted M. Cabrera. I still maintain that this team needs to get 1 more middle of the order (MOTO) bat to complement Vlad in the heart of our lineup. As one AL executive said about why Vlad was the most feared hitter in the game “because there's no one else in that lineup I fear. Torii Hunter is a really good all-around player. But the difference between him and Vlad is, Vlad's a guy who makes you feel like you can't breathe the whole time he's at the plate." We can’t continue to let Vlad be our only answer to that question if we want to compete with the Bosox and Yankees—both of whom have 2 hitters that give opposing pitchers nightmares. Miguel is the kind of player that would make opposing AL executives quiver in fear, but, we shouldn’t sink our team’s pitching and defense for 4-5 years to just to get that MOTO solution.

Fans may not have liked it, but NOT trading for M. Cabrera was the right thing to do. I commend the Angels management for recognizing that and sticking to their guns to protect both the present and the future of the franchise.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Francisco Rodriguez has 10 saves thus far in 2008

By Eric Denton, Angels Senior Writer

With apologies to The Clash, this is probably the biggest dilemma facing Francisco Rodriguez and the Angels this off-season.

The 27-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the 2008 season. Since coming up as an unknown at the end of the 2002 season and turning into a playoff phenomenon, taking the closer role from Troy Percival in 2005, Rodriguez has been one of the best closers in baseball. He leads the league with 132 saves between 2002-07.

But the question is: how much money do you commit to a closer? Rodriguez will be looking for at least $10 million a season, or more, for around four years.

Is Rodriguez going to be the next Mariano Rivera or the next of so many closers, who dominate for a few seasons then end up with an injury, becoming a shell of his former self?

In the Angels favor is his age — at 27, Rodriguez should have at least three or four more quality seasons in the tank. Contending teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox are already set for the next few years with their closers. And the Angels have potential replacements with Scot Shields, Justin Speier and minor leaguer Jose Arredondo. So, it’s possible they could let Frankie walk like they have with other free agents of the past such as Jarrod Washburn and Adam Kennedy.

In Rodriguez’s favor is, again, his age, and that with Joe Nathan signing an extension with the Minnesota Twins, Rodriguez will be the premier relief pitcher on the market. Possible destinations could be the New York Mets, where Billy Wagner is coming to the end of his four-year contract, or maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers, who employ the 38-year-old Takashi Saito.

The key reason for the Angels and Rodriguez to continue their relationship, in my opinion, is they are good for each other. Rodriguez is a homemade star and should be rewarded as such. If the club has the money to sign outfielders Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter, they have the cash to sign Rodriguez.

Rodriguez thrives off the crowd in Anaheim. He also doesn’t face the pressure from the media that he would if he were to pitch for, say, the Mets. The fans and media are forgiving of a few “nervous saves” as long as the Halo is shining at the end of the game.

Most importantly, if Rodriguez stays with the club, the bullpen remains deep, with Shields and Speier remaining in their set-up roles. K-Rod dominates the Yankees and Red Sox (the ending of Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS notwithstanding). If the Angels are to win another World Series title they will need every weapon they can deploy.

Angels management should bite the bullet, so to speak, and get the deal done.

Vote either way on our community forum whether you think the Angels should sign him to a long term contract or not here

Monday, April 21, 2008

3B, Matt Brown has been red hot for the Bees and instrumental in their 17-1 start

By Jason Sinner - Angelswin Columnist


1. Matthew Brown, SS/3b, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
31-75 (.413), 20 runs, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 4/10 bb/k, .443/.827/1.270

On fire is the only way to describe Matt’s early season run. Regardless of how far down on the depth chart he has become, the Angels can’t help but to take notice of this kid as his bat helps him scream out “LOOK AT ME!!”. At some point, you just can’t ignore this type of production.

2. Nick Adenhart, SP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
3-0 in 4 starts, 1.17 ERA, 23.0 IP, 15 H, 12 BB, 14 K, 1.17 WHIP, .190 BAA.

I guess Nick wasn’t too pleased with not being able to crack the Angels rotation, so he took it out on PCL batters. Oddly enough, we can look at these numbers and know that there is room for improvement. The bb/k ratio is a bit concerning in that this was the trend last year and could keep him from going deep into games, but Shane Moseley has to be looking over his shoulder regardless.

3. The Travelers Trio, SPs, Class AA Arkansas Traveler

Robert Mosebach
2-0 in 3 starts, 2.33 ERA, 1 CG, 19.1 IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 13 K, 1.03 WHIP, .190 BAA

After a somewhat subpar 2007 season (although not bad for the Cal league), Bob is back with a vengeance to start 2008. Still only 23, he has some time to develop and make use of his 6’4”, 195lb frame. If he keeps the walks to a minimum and continues to make guys miss, he’s guy that will be on the radar for late 2009 or sooner.

Anthony Ortega
2-1 in 3 starts, 2.12 ERA, 17.0 IP, 10 H, 9 BB, 14 K, 1.12 WHIP, .169 BAA

Not your prototypical power pitcher by build, Anthony continues to make guys miss at every level with 212 K in 266 IP. He has flown under the radar to some degree posting a very respectable 4.04 ERA in the hitter friendly cal league last year. Like his teammate Mosebach, Ortega has the propensity to give up more walks than he should, but at just 22 years old (exactly 1 year to the day older than Adenhart), he is more than on track to reach the majors before his 24th birthday.

Brok Butcher
1-0 in 3 starts, 2.16 ERA, 16.2 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 10 K, 1.20 WHIP, .217 BAA

Brok had an excellent 2007 season posting a 2.69 ERA in 110ip at Rancho only to struggle some after a late season call up to AA (mostly due to arm trouble). He is back on his game to start this season. Although he has walked a few more guys than he is accustomed to, he continues to induce those ground balls as is his specialty.

4. Mark Trumbo, 1b, Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
21-68 (.309), 12 runs, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 6bb/14k, .365/.603/.968

Will this be the year that we see Mark harness some of that monster power that we hear about? So far so good. He rebounded from a poor 2006 to post solid numbers as part of the Midwest league last year, but lets hope the combination of the Cal league and a turn of the corner puts Mark back up to the top of the prospect list.

5. Freddy Sandoval, 3b, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
23-59 (.390), 13 runs, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5/11 bb/k, .438/.661/1.099

After a very solid campaign in AA, Freddy is another guy who is forcing himself to be noticed with his early season numbers. He’s starting to get the ‘utility guy’ label, but I hope that all of our utility guys can hit like this. I think the writing is on the wall for good ole’ Robb Quinlan.

6. Sean Rodriguez, 2b/SS, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
15-45 (.333), 14 runs, 5 doubles, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 7/9 bb/k, 2sb/1cs, .464/.711/1.175

All Sean did his first couple of weeks is earn himself a call-up to the big club where he got his first of many major leagues hits. After a somewhat forgettable season for the Travs in 2007, Sean certainly proved that he wasn’t resting on his ‘top prospect’ laurels. Of all his numbers, the one thing that is real good to see is that almost 1:1 bb/k ratio. Add him to the list of people to find a spot for.

7. The 3-star Rapids (soon to be five), SPs, Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels

Michael Anton 1-1 in 3 starts, 2.95 ERA, 18.1 IP, 4bb/8k, 1.15 WHIP, .250 BAA

Jordan Walden 1-1 in 3 starts, 1.02 ERA, 17.2 IP, 4bb/12k, 0.96 WHIP, .191 BAA

Mason Tobin 2-0 in 3 starts, 0.00 ERA, 15.0 IP, 3bb/8k, 0.73 WHIP, .154 BAA

For now, these three guys from Cedar are the second three headed monster of the list, but a solid start by Trevor Reckling (4.26era, 12.2ip, 7bb/12k) and Robert Fish (4.05era, 13.1ip, 8bb/15k), and this could become the five headed monster in a real hurry. All are very different in their approach, makeup and stuff, but all have the ability to dominate hitters. Health permitting, this quintet could reek havoc through the Halos minor league system.

8. Kevin Jepsen, RP, Class AA Arkansas Travelers
1-0, 2 saves, 0.93 ERA, 9.2 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 13 K, 0.93 WHIP, .171 BAA

Kevin has been plagued by injury the last couple of years but has a terrific fastball and slider making him a strong candidate for the bullpen. Let’s hope that these early season numbers are an indication that he is back to being healthy as he is still only 23 years old and could move up pretty quickly if he continues to show dominance as a reliever.

9. Jose Arredondo, RP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
0-0 in 8 games, 2.25 ERA, 8.0 IP, 7H, 3BB, 7K, 1.25 WHIP, .250 BAA, 7 Saves

Jose is likely making the Angels look real hard at whether they offer Francisco Rodriguez an extension. Hopefully, his ‘attitude’ issues were overblown as it appears that he is proving that he can close out ball games without any problems. The Angels typically don’t put up with problem children so I think we can be confident that this kid is here to stay and has a future in the 9th inning at Angel Stadium. With some current uncertainty in the major league pen, we might see him sooner than later.

10. Michael Collins, 1b, Class AA Arkansas Travelers
19-50 (.380), 13 runs, 4 doubles, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 1bb/6k, 4sb, .418/.580/.998

The Australian product has been in the Angels org since the age of 16 and is in his second go around with the travs after a subpar 2007. Still only 23 years old, Michael is back to form to start the 2008 campaign. This could be a breakout year for the young righty as he will likely need to show a bit more power to be considered as a major league 1bman.

Honorable Mention

Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees

Bradley Coon, CF
23-65 (.354), 20 runs, 2 doubles, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 13bb/9k, 6sb/4cs, .468/.431/.899

Bobby Wilson, C
15-47 (.319), 3 runs, 5 doubles, 9 RBI, 3bb/14k, .373/.426/.798

Shane Loux, SP
3-0 in 3 starts, 0.46 era, 19.2ip, 17h, 3bb/11k, 1.02 whip

Kasey Olenberger, SP
1-1 in 3 starts, 3.32 era, 19.0ip, 17h, 8bb/15k, 1.32 whip

Class AA, Arkansas Travelers

Coby Smith, OF
17-50 (.340), 11 runs, 1 double, 1 triple, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 11bb/8k, 3sb/3cs, .500/.460/.960

Stephen Marek, RP
0-2 in 6 games, 3.24era, 1sv, 8.1ip, 7h, 3bb/11k, 1.20 whip

Francisco Rodriguez, RP
0-1 in 6 games, 3.48era, 1sv, 10.1ip, 11h, 4bb/10k, 1.45 whip

Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Wilberto Ortiz, SS
22-67 (.328), 10 runs, 8 doubles, 8 RBI, 6bb/12k, 1sb/2cs, .392/.448/.840

Anthony Norman, OF
12-40 (.300), 6 runs, 3 double, 2 triples, 1 HR, 2rbi, 9bb/7k, 3sb/0cs, .440/.550/.990

Peter Bourjos, OF
16-56 (.286), 9 runs, 3 doubles, 5 RBI, 5bb/8k, 13sb/1cs, .344/.339/.684

Amalio Diaz, SP
1-1 in 3 starts, 3.94era, 16.0ip, 18h, 4bb/13k, 1.38 whip

Class A, Cedar Rapids Kernels

Efren Navarro, 1b
16-47 (.340), 7 runs, 5 doubles, 9 RBI, 4bb/10k, 1sb/1cs, .396/.447/.843

Jay Brossman, 3b
18-57 (.316), 8 runs, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 5bb/14k, 1sb/1cs, .371/.439/.810

Jeremy Moore, OF
14-47 (.298), 8 runs, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4bb/15k, 6sb/1cs, .365/.553/.919

Ryan Brasier, RP
0-1 in 7 games, 0.00 era, 5 saves, 9.2ip, 7h, 4bb/7k, 1.14 whip

Sammy Leon, RP
0-1 in 6 games, 1.59 era, 11.1ip, 6h, 3bb/13k, 0.79 whip

Brian Chambers, RP
2-0 in 5 games, 1.04 era, 8.2ip, 4h, 3bb/5k, 4 HB, 0.81 whip


Brandon Wood, 3b/SS, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
16-66 (.242), 13 runs, 3 doubles, 7 HR, 9 RBI, 5bb/25k, .296/.561/.856

Wood continues to put up the kind numbers that make for those Dave Kingman comparisons. Currently ‘on pace’ for nearly 50hrs and over 200ks is an interesting dynamic to say the least. Perhaps it’s allowable to some degree for a young player at the major league level yet not so much in a second year of AAA. A cloud of uncertainty now hangs over his prospect status to some degree although with the glimpses we have seen, we know that if he figures it out, he will be a monster. He might take a little longer than expected, but I think it will be worth the wait.

Jeff Kennard, RP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
0-0 in 5 games, 7.04 ERA, 7.2ip, 11h, 6bb/9k, .324baa

Jeff has yet to find his stride in the Halo organization with a tough run at Arkansas last year and a slow start this year. I think he’s going to have to show some results very soon as there are a bunch of guys with plus arms in this farm system waiting to take his spot.

Ben Johnson, C, Class AA Arkansas Travelers
9-55 (.164), 6 runs, 2 double, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3bb/13k, .238/.255/.493

Ben had a nice 2007 season with the majority of his time spent at A/AA where he posted an .843 OPS. This year has been a struggle so far to say the least. A ton of catching depth means that he will have to improve, but considering his minor league numbers, its promising he will do just that.

PJ Phillips, SS, Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
16-70 (.229), 10 runs, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1bb/21k, 4sb/0cs, .260/.386/.646

PJ has talent. There is no doubt about that, but 1bb for every 21ks is not going to get it done no matter how much talent he has. Perhaps the org. should send some film of Chone Figgins v.2008 down to the IE for him to review which I am sure they have already done. At 21 years old, he’s got some time to figure it out, and I’ll be pulling for him.

Andrew Romine, SS, Class A, Cedar Rapids Kernels
9-56 (.161), 12 runs, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, 11bb/7k, 8sb/0cs, .319/.196/.515, 6e in 16gm

Andrew surprised some people with his bat last year in the pioneer league and his peripherals are pretty good this year in that he has more walks than strikeouts and has yet to be caught stealing in eight attempts, but the average is certainly not where it needs to be. It’s clear he knows how to handle an at bat so I am sure things will pick up for him.

Jordan Walden has been dominate at Cedar Rapids thus far

By David Saltzer - Columnist

After a close look at all of the Angels minor league affiliates, this week we'll focus on the Single-A club as I pose these 5 burning questions with regards to the prospects playing for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, to start the 2008 season.

Question #1: Does Walden really throw triple digits?
Sometimes, when you are blessed, you really are blessed. Saying Walden is blessed with a cannon for an arm—one that can touch triple digits late in a game and late in a season—is an understatement. Last year, on more than one occasion, Walden registered triple digits on the radar gun, and was regularly clocked in the 97-98 mph range late in the game. With stuff like that, it’s easy to understand why Baseball America says he has our organization’s best fastball

Walden has drawn some lofty comparisons. Sports Illustrated has compared him to Josh Beckett and other analysts have compared him to Roger Clemens. And, so far, he’s dominated like pitchers of that caliber. At age 19, he has a 1-1 record with a 1.02 ERA and 12 Ks in 17.2 innings. His WHIP is a microscopic 0.96 (Beckett right now has a 1.02 WHIP and Clemens had a career 1.17 WHIP) He could rise quickly and become a #1 or #2 pitcher for us by 2010.

So, what’s to watch with Walden besides the high heat? As Eddie Bane told us in his March interview “In Cedar Rapids you look for the young guys and how they adjust to playing every single day.” Last year Walden only threw 64.1 innings. This year, he should come closer to 150 innings. And, watch to see how his secondary pitches develop. At the low levels, it’s easy to get players out with high heat. At the higher levels, a pitcher will need a full assortment of pitches to keep a hitter off balanced—especially for when he can’t always bring the triple digits.

Question #2: How good is that outfield?
During the draft the fans often debate: should we draft the best talent available or to fill a specific need. Under Bill Stoneman, the Angels switched to drafting the most talented players available rather than for a specific need. That led to some logjams, especially for MIFers, and some shortcomings, particularly in the OF. Invariably many frustrated fans would criticize Stoneman for not drafting a highly-touted OF prospect over a pitcher of MIFer.

Well, it seems that the Angels may finally have an entire OF in development. While not as well known as Bourjos, Pettite and Norman at Rancho, the trio of Jeremy Moore, Tyler Johnson and Clayton Fuller may prove to be almost as good. Moore is a 4-tool player who so far is showing an improvement in his BA (298 in 47 ABs). Johnson, in a repeat at Cedar Rapids, has shown some power, but needs to work on his plate discipline. So far he is off to an OPS of 899 compared to 758 last year. And Fuller, a switch hitter, is a top of the order player who needs to work on getting on base more to take advantage of his speed. Last year, Fuller had a 398 OB%, and hopefully he will return to that form as the season continues (he’s at 220 right now in 56 AB's).

While these players are still a few years away, they have helped to propel Cedar Rapids to a 9-7 start and should continue to develop as they rise up the organizational charts.

Question #3: What about Tobin?
I have to ask Eddie why we all shouldn’t feel giddy about Mason Tobin. While not as hard throwing as teammate Walden, Mason Tobin has a bulldog mentality that is helping him to dominate Cedar Rapids. And what’s not to be giddy about? So far, Tobin is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA, a minuscule 0.83 WHIP and 10:4 K:BB ratio. Mason is showing why last year was no fluke as hitters are only hitting 169 off of him.

As for his pitching, Mason throws in the low 90s and a curveball. He is developing a slider and changeup that should help him keep batters off balanced. He pounds both sides of the strike zone and has a bit of deception to his delivery.

With numbers like these, this should be a breakout year for Tobin. While currently ranked as our 15th best prospect, he could crack the top 10 as our upper level talent graduates to the majors and he continues to dominate.

Question #4: Who the heck is Anel De Los Santos?
Throughout Spring Training, Mike Scioscia worked our catching prospects hard. And, quietly, working out with them was a player named Anel De Los Santos—a catcher that Baseball America ranked as our best defensive catcher and as our #10 overall prospect. That’s high praise for a 19 year old that seemingly came out of nowhere.

But, saying Anel came out of nowhere isn’t exactly an accurate description. When the Angels invested in opening an academy in the Dominican Republic, players like Anel were exactly who the Angels were hoping to get—young, raw players that could be shaped into solid major league players.

Anel first came to the Angels Domican academy in 2005—at the young age of 16. The next year he played for our rookie team in Arizona. He is a gifted defensive catcher who needs to work on his offense. He seems to fit the old saying that “one does not walk off the island” (he had all of 4 walks last year in 188 ABs). However, Anel already has some power (he slugged 436 last year in Orem), and should develop more as matures and fills out.

Baseball America states that it’s rankings are based on “projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel.” Of all positions, catchers are notoriously difficult to develop, especially defensively solid catchers. Defensive catchers are worth a lot, especially, if they have the ability to block the plate at a young age. Anel seems to have the defensive end down. As he continues to develop offensively, he will rise throughout our organization.

Question #5: Were some pitchers Left out of the discussion?
There’s an old adage that a team can never have too many lefties in development. And, the Kernels don’t disappoint in that category. Their rotation features 3 lefties that remind me of the Angels rotation in the early 90s when we sported Abbott, Finley and Langston—except their rotation consists of Fish, Reckling and Anton. Together, they are our #17, #19 and #23 prospects.

Certain trends appear to be common to our lefties at Cedar Rapids: They all got roughed up in their first starts and all have rebounded nicely. Fish and Anton both got roughed up by Clinton and Reckling got roughed up by Quad City.

But, since then, all 3 have been on a tear. In 2 subsequent starts, Fish has only allowed 2 earned runs while striking out 10 in 9.2 innings. Reckling has only allowed 2 earned runs in 10 innings while striking out 9. And Anton has only allowed 2 earned runs in 13.1 innings, while striking out 6.

Overall, this trio of lefties could climb very quickly through our organization. At no other level do we have 2 left-handed starters, and Salt Lake doesn’t have any lefties at all! While the righties such as Walden and Tobin have been getting a lot of press, don’t overlook this trio of lefties. All of them could easily climb up into the upper teens on our prospect rankings by next year.

Sleepers to Keep an Eye On

Andrew Romine (SS): This switch-hitting shortstop is still struggling at the plate. Although he has speed (8 SBs so far) he’s also hitting 154. And, his defense has been off a bit this year with 7 errors so far in 16 games. Hopefully he will adjust to playing everyday his hitting will improve. So far he has 10 walks to go with 10 Ks, so, he has been showing good plate discipline.

Ivan Contreras (2B): Another product of our Dominican Academy (he played with Anel de los Santos in 2005 in the DSL), this switch hitting MIFer is another work in progress. In limited action (only 4 games played over the last 2 weeks), Ivan has only posted a 143 average. This is a big drop from last year where he hit 311 in the Arizona league.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ervin Santana has notched 4 quality starts in his first 4 starts of the season

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 12-8 Games Ahead: 2 (Tied with the Oakland A’s) Week Record: 5-2

Week in Review:

Last year Ervin Santana couldn’t pitch at home or on the road. He was demoted to Triple-A Salt Lake and there was talk as the 2008 season started that Ervin should start thinking about a career as a bullpen specialist. After his play this week, Ervin Santana might start day-dreaming about building a special trophy case for all his Cy Young awards. Ervin Santana has clearly turned a corner; this week he threw 15 innings in two games and gave up a combined 4 runs while striking out 14 and walking one. Joe Saunders continued to shine, going 8 strong innings in a win over the Mariners.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where anyone could have predicted that 3 weeks into the season Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders would be the two most dominant starters on the team. As was mentioned last week, if those 2 can continue to pitch like this, adding John Lackey to the mix will easily make this rotation the best in the game.

Honorable Mention: The bullpen gave up 2 runs this week, only one of them was earned.

The offense has been even better than advertised. Torii Hunter raised his average 25 points this week and is now batting .319. Chone Figgins’ OBP at week’s end is .473. Erick Aybar has seemingly won the starting job at short stop by playing ridiculously good defense while also hitting the baseball with authority. There was never any doubt that Aybar could play some wicked defense. And on the offensive side he is doing everything right; he is hitting the ball hard, bunting for hits and turning the lineup back over to Figgins.

The Bottom Line: The starting rotation is only going to get better in a few weeks when John Lackey makes his return. And while guys like Saunders and Santana continue to dominate, the bullpen has begun to take shape, showing the form that Angels fans have become accustomed to. The team continues to fire on all cylinders offensively, and is virtually neck and neck with the Boston Red Sox in most categories.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels dominated two of its division foes by winning 4 out of 5 against the Rangers and Mariners, respectively. Now the Angels have to take their show on the road and go outside its division against two teams that were pre-season favorites to go deep into the playoffs come September, the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. The Angels will send Jered Weaver, Jon Garland and Joe Saunders to face Boston’s top 3 in Beckett, Matsuzaka and Lester. With Santana, Moseley and Weaver then set to face the Tigers and a potent offense that is slowly rising from its slumber, the Angels should be delighted with a 3-3 split over the next seven days.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

By Coral Rae - Columnist

Since the Mike Scioscia era began in Anaheim in 2000 the Angels have subscribed to a small-ball-with-a-DH theory of baseball, a la Billy-Ball of the Oakland A’s in the early 1980’s. During Scioscia’s first season the club had good power, but it has been declining steadily since that year, other than '04, when the Angels sported Vlad, Guillen, Glaus, Salmon and Anderson. It seems that Scioscia, along with the rest of the organization, has put an emphasis on the hit and run techniques made popular by Billy Martin in the aforementioned era. And so far it has worked well, with three division championships, and a World Series title to prove it.

Scioscia’s strategy makes sense, as he was a catcher in the National League.

Scioscia played twelve years for the Dodgers, and entertained countless battery-mates. As a catcher Scioscia was forced to be a leader on the field, a skill that has clearly useful in Scioscia’s time as the Angels’ manager. It is especially beneficial for Scioscia to have played in the National League where (many theorize) that small ball and strategy factor into the game more. And to add to the reasoning behind Scioscia’s game mentality, he was never a home run hitter himself, with a career high in homers coming in 1990 when he hit twelve. With the combination of Scioscia’s lack of power when he was in the majors, his history in the National League, and his leadership skills, it is only logical for him to manage in the way that he has.

But despite the success the Angels have achieved without a power hitting line-up, fans and ESPN analysts alike have not been able to refrain from criticizing the franchise. It seems that no matter how many Home Run Derby champions the club produces the lack of power cohesion on the field simply cannot satisfy the modern fan’s need for the home run. For every slap-hitting .300 hitter, the fans love the excitement of the long ball, especially to win a game in the latter innings.

This season the Angels are working hard to provide just what the fans have been asking for, as the Angels are currently first amongst American League teams in home runs. This is a huge departure from the 2007 season when the club ranked 12th out of 14 clubs in that department.

So since the manager is the same, what has changed?

Certainly not Scioscia’s philosophies on the game, as the Angels are still leading the American League in stolen bases with an impressive 16, after only 15 games.

Perhaps it is the off-season addition of Torii Hunter, which has helped the Angels hit 20 home runs already this young season. However, it isn't just Hunter, even though he is tied for the team lead in homers with Mike Napoli and Casey Kotchman with 4 at the moment, while Anderson, Vlad, Mathis and Matthews Jr. have all contributed with 2 a piece thus far in the young season.

I think it is the patience of the organization with its youngsters and a good mix of free agent additions such as Vlad ('04), Matthews ('07) and Hunter ('08). Some of the homegrown talent that was rumored to be going in trades for players such as Mike Sweeney, Miguel Tejada (Who aged 2 years today) and Carlos Lee, have rewarded the Angels patience with them. In fact the HR totals from just our catching spot in our lineup alone, totals more HR's than all 3 of those starting players mentioned above.

Oh and speaking of fun facts, albeit just three weeks into the season, how does this sit with you?

Torii Hunter (4 HR's) > Andrew Jones (0 HR's) - Had to get a local dig in
Casey Kotchman (4 HR's) > Albert Pujols (3 HR's)
Mathis-Napoli (6 HR's) > Adam Dunn (2), Prince Fielder (0), David Ortiz (1), Carlos Delgado (1), Gary Sheffield (1) & Troy Glaus (0) - (5 HR's total)

Obviously our guys will taper off a bit and these other proven sluggers will start cranking them out of the ballpark, but it shows the pundits that across the board, this team does have some pop and more importantly, come October, it won't be just 2-3 guys in the middle of the order that can crank one out of the ballpark in a crucial game, but hitters 2-8 in the lineup are all capable of changing the outcome of a game with one swing of the bat.

The season is still young, but with an addition of a healthy Kendrick (he has yet to homer, but is hitting .500 with a good share of doubles and should provide power as well), combined with having power off the bench in Juan Rivera, this could be a season when lightening and thunder is seen and heard in Anaheim, but struck off the Angels bats.

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.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

1B Mark Trumbo has 3 HR's, 5 2B's and is hitting .300 thus far for the Quakes

By David Saltzer - Columnist

After a close look at all of the Angels minor league affiliates, this week we'll focus on the Single-A club as I pose these 5 burning questions with regards to the prospects playing for the Salt Lake Bees, to start the 2008 season.

Question #1: Is this the best Quakes team ever?
Without doing a lot more research, a bold statement like that is just rhetoric. But, there is no doubt that this team has the makings for something special. According to Baseball America, we have (or will have when healthy) our organization’s: Best Hitter For Average (Conger), Fastest Runner (Bourjos); Best Control for a pitcher (O’Sullivan); and our Best Defensive Outfielder (Bourjos). Baseball America ranks Conger as our 4th best prospect, O’Sullivan as our 5th best prospect, and Bourjos as our 9th best prospect.

And, the praise doesn’t end there. Baseball Prospectus ranks Conger as a 4-star prospect, Bourjos and O’Sullivan as 3-star prospects and Matt Sweeney as a 2-star prospect.

And, if that isn’t enough praise, at, John Sickels, a notoriously tough grader gave out the following grades for players at Rancho: Hank Conger and Sean O’Sullivan (B); Felipe Arredondo, Trevor Bell, Peter Bourjos and Matt Sweeney (C+); and Barrett Browning as a (C).

It behooves all Southern California Angels fans to make the drive to see the team play. Besides, if you love baseball, you’ll love watching a minor league game. All of these players are worth following, and almost all could qualify as sleepers. Writing up the 5-Key Questions for this team has been extremely difficult because I’ve had to limit it to just 5 questions and limit the sleepers to a reasonable number.

Question #2: Is this the year that Trumbo figures it all out?
When Eddie Bane says about a player that “he has about as much power as anyone in baseball” people take notice—especially when the player only slugged 427 last year. Usually that makes the player and or the scout a target—especially if the player doesn’t live up to the hype. And, at 6’4”, 220 lbs, he’s a big and developing target.

Through 9 games, it does appear that this will be the year that Trumbo figures it all out and posts some incredible numbers. So far, Mark’s numbers are 297/366/703! More importantly, he’s posting a 6:4 K:BB ratio through 37 ABs. That is a noticeable improvement from last year in which he had a 98:34 ratio in 497 ABs and a 99:44 ratio in 427 ABs the year before that. Projecting this year’s numbers to 497 ABs, he’d have about 54 walks and only 80 Ks—a much better ratio!

As mentioned earlier, Rancho’s lineup is missing 2-key components: Conger and Sweeney. Trumbo is batting cleanup in a lineup missing two out of its 3 MOTO bats. Yet, he’s still on pace to hit about 40 dingers over the course of the season. Imagine how much better his numbers will be when he has Conger and Sweeney hitting around him! If he’s this big at age 22, he should continue to develop more power as he fills out over the next 2-3 years.

Question #3: Can Bourjos steal a spot in our outfield?
It’s a good thing that the Angels are like getting new CF'ers every year. That’s because in about 2-3 years, they might be looking at making space for another one with Peter Bourjos.

If you want to play for Mike Scioscia, it helps to have some speed in your arsenal. Well, Bourjos has speed. He’s been described by many (including Scioscia himself) as the fastest player in our organization. So far he’s stolen 9 bases in 10 attempts through 10 games. This is a big improvement from last year where he stole 19 bases in 28 attempts (in reduced playing time). Having speed is one thing—knowing how and when to steal a base is another. While a 90% success rate isn’t likely at the ML level, it is a huge improvement from last year’s 68%.

Bourjos’s plate discipline is also much improved this year. So far, as a leadoff hitter, he has a 6:5 K:BB rate in 41 ABs giving him a 391 OB%. As a result, he’s tied for second on the team in runs scored with 7 (Trumbo is leading the team with 8 runs so far).

With tools like these, and, some developing power, Bourjos could necessitate a move for Torii Hunter to a corner OF spot in few years. It’s no wonder why Eddie Bane says “if one of my guys is telling me how good a centerfielder at a college is then I want to hear how he compares to Peter Bourjos.”

For an interview that we did with Peter Bourjos, please click here.

Question #4: Can O’Sullivan win another ERA title?
Most pitchers never win an ERA title in any league in which they pitch. Winning it once would be more than enough excitement for a career. Winning it twice in a row is nothing short of a major accomplishment. That’s exactly what O’Sullivan has done in his short professional career and that’s why he is our #4 ranked prospect!

Drafted out of high school, O’Sullivan went to work right away in 2006 posting a 2.15 ERA to capture the rookie league title. More impressively, he had a 55:7 K:BB ratio and a microscopic WHIP of 1.01. In 2007, our #4 prospect won the Midwest ERA title with a 2.22 ERA and a 125:40 K:BB ratio with a 1.11 WHIP!

Now there’s no denying that the Cal league is a high octane league. There are plenty of parks where the ball just flies. But, that should affect everyone in the league at more or less the same rate, so, he could still dominate—even though he’ll still be one of the youngest hurlers in his league.

So far, O’Sullivan has gotten off to a good start (but not as great as he can be). In his first start, he struggled with his command and gave up 5 walks and 3 runs in 5 innings—and yet he still won the game. In his second start, he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings, no walks and struck out 7—and still lost. Today, even better, blanking the Visalia Oakes for 5 innings without giving up a hit. Overall he is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA, and a 14:7 K:BB ratio.

Question #5: Is this the year that PJ breaks out of Brandon’s shadow?
The Question is which player named Phillips hit 13 HRs and stole 34 bases in single A at age 20? If you said Brandon Phillips, the star now playing in Cincinnati, you’d be wrong. Those numbers were posted by his younger brother PJ Phillips, not Brandon (Brandon hit 11 and stole 30 at age 20). So, the question is: Is this the year that PJ finally steps out of his older brother’s shadow?

For that to happen, PJ is going to have to work on his biggest weakness: plate discipline. While the power and speed numbers for Brandon and PJ are rather similar at comparable ages (with PJ possibly having more and better speed and power), the biggest differences between them offensively has been in plate discipline. At age 20, Brandon posted a 50:87 K:BB ratio whereas PJ has only posted a 154:15 ratio. Not good. With a ratio like that, he’s following in the footsteps of a different Brandon in our organization—and even Brandon Wood does not strike out that much!

So far, things aren’t faring too well for PJ in the plate discipline department. PJ has 10 Ks in 9 games and no walks. His BA is 268 and his OB% is 286. Both numbers are below league average for the Rancho.

Aside from that, PJ needs to work on his defense. At the same age, Brandon Phillips posted only 12 errors to PJ’s 40.

There’s no doubt that PJ has the blend of speed and power that his brother has. If he can put it together with some discipline at the plate and better defense, he will post some monstrous numbers at Rancho. Hopefully this is the year that PJ does figure it all out and pushes his way up the depth chart in our stacked MIF department.

Sleepers to Keep an Eye On

Felipe Arredondo (RP): Another young bullpen candidate, Arredondo has posted a 177:40 BB:K ration in 158 innings pitched over the past 3 years. This year will go a long way towards determining if he breaks into the mid-tiers of our prospect chart.

Trevor Bell (SP): Yes, they clown around in the minor leagues while playing. No, Trevor doesn’t channel his grandfather to choreograph their skits. What he does do is pitch, and pitch well. So far, in 2 starts and 11.2 innings, he’s struck out 10, walked one, has a 2.31 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. Not too shabby for a 21 year old in the Cal League.

Barrett Browning (RP): Another potential closer in the making, Browning could move up quickly if he continues to dominate. Over the past 2 years, Browning has had nearly a 1:1 K:IP ratio, a 2.90 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. So far, he’s off to a hot start. In 4 games, he’s pitched 5.2 innings, earning 2 saves and posting a microscopic 0.53 WHIP.

Hank Conger (C): While he’s out rehabbing his injury to his throwing shoulder, he’s not forgotten. Conger has a bat—no doubt and he’ll rise as fast as his bat can take him. While some fans think he should be moved from catching, the Angels have shown no signs of making that change. For an interview that we did with Hank Conger, please click here.

Tommy Mendoza (SP):
Just missing out top 30 due to a sub-standard season for him last year, Tommy looks to return to the strikeout form that made him a breakout candidate over the prior 2 years. As a hard thrower, Tommy can bring it. But, at this level, he’ll lose it if he can’t spot his pitches. Let’s hope he gets back to his former self where over 2 years he posted a 202:45 K:BB ratio in 233.1 innings.

Matt Sweeney (3B): For those who target their CIF spots for power, Matt Sweeney is the type of player to follow. He’s a lefty with power (18 dingers, 29 doubles last year in 119 games) and should stick at the hot corner. His defense does need to improve, but, it’s not so bad that he will be moved to a less demanding position. Although he has been out since the spring with an injury, he should be back in a month or so. For an interview that we did with Matt Sweeney, please click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seattle, WA - Safeco Field

By Brent Hubbard - Columnist

As spring sets in and the baseball season begins, optimism fills the air. Every team’s fans think their team has a chance — even irrational or deluded fans of teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates are allowed to think, “Maybe this is our year.”

I know I always do. Last year’s post season collapse is all but a distant memory. Optimism usually dominates, at least where the Halos are concerned.

And even with the team beset by a rash of spring training injuries, leading me to think the training room must be built on a Native American burial ground, I wondered why so many in the media were jumping on the Seattle Mariners bandwagon. And after the first week of games, I still wonder.

Baseball is unique in that it’s all about the numbers, right? Well, before the Angels meet the Mariners for this weekend’s series in Seattle, a closer examination of the numbers is definitely warranted.

The Bedard and Silva Trade made a huge difference to the Mariners’ starting rotation. Look at this from USS (I’m paraphrasing)

“Assuming that Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva both stay healthy and make their 34 starts, what do you expect the Mariners record to be in those 68 games 36-32? 38-30? 40-28? I’d imagine that it’s almost certainly going to be somewhere in that range.

The Mariners record in the 68 games in 2007 that were started by Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Cha Seung Baek, and Ryan Feierabend? 32-36.

Yep, for all the talk about how terrible the back end of the Mariners rotation was last year (and in terms of individual performance, it was), the Mariners were a .470 club when their #4/#5 starters were on the hill. Even if you believe they’ll be a .560 club with Bedard and Silva on the hill, and if you believe that neither will miss a start all season, then you’re expecting the team to go 38-30 in those 68 games. That’s a 6 win improvement.

(Bedard + Silva) - (Weaver + Ramirez + Feierabend + Baek) = 6 wins, if you assume that no one gets hurt, everyone else on the roster plays at their ‘07 level, Wilkerson = Guillen, and losing Sherrill has no impact on the bullpen.

Yep, this trade still sucks.”

And that is from a Mariner fan! Erik Bedard is a pretty good pitcher who played for a lousy Orioles team, but his stats don’t impress that much. 2007 was his best year at 13-5 in 182 innings over 28 starts. He struck out 221 and had a 3.17 ERA. Which leads me to my next point.

Bedard is an ace. Um, no. He is a nice pitcher, but prior to 2007, it was maddeningly inconsistent Daniel Cabrera who was universally thought of as the future No. 1. Bedard has taken a big step forward in 2006 and 2007, but I hesitate to call him an ace. An ace dominates his competition. Bedard gets the benefit of being left-handed, but the next Pedro Martinez he is not. He compares more to a guy like Kelvim Escobar than John Lackey. The Derek Lowe to Pedro Martinez, or AJ Burnett to Roy Halladay.

In 2004, his ERA was 4.59. It dropped to 4.00 in 24 starts in ’05, then down to 3.76 in 2006, and finally 3.17 in 2007. His strikeouts have increased in a similar fashion. This career path is similar to Lackey, but while John has not missed a start until this year, Bedard has started 111 Games over 4 seasons, averaging 28 per season. Only in 2006 did he make 33 starts.

Bedard has struggled this season, but still manages to have a 2-0 record in two starts and a 3.27 ERA against the Rays and Rangers. Bedard has also already missed a start. He’s pitched 5 and 6 innings in the ones he made. Pretty average.

Silva is an above average starter. Again from USS Mariner: “Is Silva A Good Fit For The Mariners?”

That is a long piece, but basically it says Silva is not a good fit for the Mariners’ ballpark. Nor is he above average. Silva is average. But he should be better than Jeff Weaver, regardless. In his four seasons as a starter, Silva has posted ERAs of 4.21, 3.44, 5.94 and 4.19. Again average or below. Well, does he at least strike out a bunch of guys? No.

Next, we arrive at Seattle’s offense. Jose Guillen may not have many fans in Anaheim, but the guy can hit. And Adam Jones isn’t a slouch, either; even as a rookie, he provided a boost to the Mariners’ late season offense in 2007. Brad Wilkerson is league average in center field, but he’s playing right. He hasn’t hit for significant power, well, ever. Ben Broussard is gone to Texas, leaving Richie Sexson and his Mendoza-line average alone at first base. He and Adrian Beltre are going to have to take a significant step forward for the Mariners to even stay close to their offensive output of 2007.

And finally, look at the 2007 run differential: The M’s scored 794 runs and allowed 813 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 79-83. They actually won 89 games, so I’d say that is playing into a bit of luck. Teams that score, but give up more are not usually that successful. Good pitching is only going to lower the runs allowed so much, and the decline in their offense is probably going to parallel the decline on the other side of the equation. So, unless they are lucky as they were in 2007, the Mariners are likely going to decline in wins, even with their vaunted off-season pitching acquisitions.

I’ll take 94 wins + John Garland and Torii Hunter, thanks — even with a sidelined Lackey and Escobar hurt for the season. Experts, be damned.

And I’ll take the 2008 division crown.

Bring on the Mariners.

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