Photo By Sean Scanlon
By Paul Meyer - AngelsWin.com Contributor
After a grueling regular season, we finally have an opportunity to sit back and truly evaluate each player's 2009 performance before the playoffs muddy our perspective.
Mike Napoli - B+ : In the entire MLB, only three catchers have a higher OPS than Napoli — Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez. He hit his peak with consistent playing time when Vlad Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera were out and fell back a bit splitting time with Jeff Mathis. This was his first truly healthy season since being called up in 2006, which hopefully will earn him more playing time in 2010. One drawback has been inconsistent defense, but he has handled the starters well and essentially dispelled the myth that is CERA. Who was behind the plate during Santana's pennant clinching shutout? You guessed it...
Jeff Mathis - D+ : First, the positives — he's cut down on his throws into the OF, umpires rave about his ability to squat and Mike Scioscia thinks he's a hell of a model, America. Negatives — his OPS is under .600 for the second straight year and he strikes out at a rate similar to Adam Dunn, without all those extra base hits to compensate. If the offensive trend continues, you might be seeing a diminished role for Mathis in 2010.
Kendry Morales - A+ : He has exceeded everyone's offensive and defensive expectations this season. With the loss Mark Teixeira, there was concern that Morales wouldn't be up to filling the void and most expected decent offense and questionable defense. Not only has he elevated himself far above role playing status (and out of an early season platoon), but Morales has made himself into an MVP candidate. He is the only Angels regular to finish with an OPS above .900 and may turn the 3-6-3 double play better than any other righthhanded first baseman in the MLB.
Howie Kendrick - B : Struggled early on before being sent down to the minors, but reemerged white hot to legitimize his claim to the starting 2B position. Post All-Star, he produced a .358 average, .391 OBP and .949 OPS and made some spectacular plays on defense to dispell any lingering doubt about his abilities in the field. Still susceptible to the breaking pitch low and outside, Kendrick has work to do reach his full potential, but the fact he remained healthy this season is a step in the right direction toward 2010.
Maicer Izturis - A : Versatile and consistent, Izturis has provided Invaluable depth to the Angels as they struggled through injuries this season. He has everything — speed, defense, the ability to get on base and surprising pop with a .794 OPS. Imagine having a superior defender at 2B, SS and 3B that you could plug in as needed. His play made it difficult to pencil a hot Kendrick into the lineup.
Erick Aybar - B+ : To say Aybar progressed by leaps and bounds from 2008 would be an understatement. The talent was always there, but the concern about Aybar was his maturity and focus — was he smart enough to be an everyday player? After a rough start, the light seemed to click on and he was nothing but solid the rest of the year. Some areas that need work are his plate discipline and his ability to steal bases, which are areas of necessity if the Angels envision him as a leadoff hitter in the future. This is a minor critique, however, as his career-best .353 OBP shows he's developing a better idea about what it takes to get on base.
Chone Figgins - A+: Remember when people thought of him as only a super-sub? Figgins has been an impressive story as he not only has improved on his ability to get on base to near .400 (101 walks, but has also developed himself into a gold glove caliber defender. The unimaginative will point to the fact that you have a table setter at a position (3B) normally reserved for the Alex Rodriguezes of the baseball world, but they would be missing the point. Figgins, with his ability to get on base and take second or third shortly thereafter, creates runs — and that's justification enough for his presence at the hot corner. He is the main table setter for the Angels team record offense, which has made his signing a priority this offseason; even above John Lackey.
Bobby Abreu - A: Part two of the .400 OBP table setters, Abreu has made pitchers fear the No. 2 position in the lineup. At an age when hitters normally show decline, Bobby has maintained his speed (30 SB), plate discipline (94 BB) and extrabase power (47 extrabase hits, .825 OPS). He's been especially good with runners on base (.338/.437 OBP/.902 OPS) and runners in scoring position (.354/.448 OBP/.923 OPS). For the price the Angels paid, they got a significant bargain. The one drawback is his defense, which has ranged from questionable to downright scary at times, and I'd imagine, if re-signed, he'll see a lot more time at DH.
Juan Rivera - B+ : After two lost seasons due to injury, Rivera reasserted himself a solid offensive contributor. When Guerrero and Hunter went down he helped pick up some of the offensive slack before going down to injury himself. Rivera does still have a "swing-first" mentality, which can kill a rally at times, and his speed and defensive range are below average. He possesses, however, a strong, accurate throwing arm, is a solid run producer at the back of the lineup, and is, with an .810 OPS, a bargain at $3.25 million.
Torii Hunter - A : Despite the injuries this season, Hunter has outperformed his expectations — he's literally given his body for the team. Off the top of your head, how many momentum changing defensive plays can you think of for which Hunter has been responsible this season? They kind of blend together for a man who has become a centerfield superhero for the team, especially the pitchers. He had his highest career OPS this season at .874 to go along with his superior defensive play and is an effective contrast to Abreu's more patient approach to hitting. As team leader and an ambassador in the community, he's delivered the complete package for the Angels' $18 million.
Vlad Guerrero - C+ : Is his decline in performance this season due to injuries, age, or both? His OPS has declined significantly for the third straight season (.950 to .886 to .794), he can no longer defend or run the bases with any effectiveness and his bat has been noticeably slower against a good fastball. One thing to note, his post All-Star performance showed a big jump from the beginning of the year (+.111 OPS improvement) and despite a slow September (.253/.297 OBP/.655 OPS), he looked a lot closer to his former self. Time will tell if he can rejuvenate himself next season as a full time DH.
Gary Matthews Jr. - C : He is what he is — very average to below average in every aspect of the game, but he provides much needed depth in the field and off the bench. His 2009 line (.250/.336 OBP/.697 OPS) and $10 million price tag make you cringe, but he can take a walk when needed, drive in a run occasionally and flash the leather in all the OF positions. Looking into the numbers deeper, he had a strange season, which saw him disappear with no one on base (.501 OPS leading off an inning, .512 no one on) and get locked in with runners on (.915 OPS with runners on, 1.032 OPS with runners in scoring position).
Robb Quinlan - D : As much as you've got to like the guy personally, he offers very little in the actual playing of the game of baseball. He's the 25th player, so you can't expect too much from him, but he has no range in either the infield or the OF, he doesn't get on base, has no speed and OPS'd .651 against lefties. One positive is he will make the play if it is hit at him in the field.
John Lackey - B : It's been an up and down year for Lackey, who started his second consecutive year on the DL. With his abilities, he's capable of shutting down any lineup in the game, but you have to wonder if he can get back to his 2007 numbers and reestablish himself as the ace of the staff. His postseason performance may very well determine if he's back with the Angels next season — and for what dollar figure.
Jered Weaver - A- : He's been the rock of an injury riddled staff this season and set career bests in innings, complete games, strikeouts, ERA (for a full season) and WHIP. His one drawback is he's less effective on the road and will give up the long ball, but that's what you get with a flyball pitcher.
Scott Kazmir - A* : His overall numbers hide the fact that he has been dominant with the Angels since he was acquired in a waiver deal. His presence gives the Angels enough depth to send an improving Ervin Santana to the bullpen for the playoffs and someone you can pitch in Fenway with confidence.
(*Time with the Angels only.)
Joe Saunders - B- : Injuries made Saunders hittable this season, but he has rebounded nicely since he got some time off. When healthy, Saunders is a No. 2 or 3 on most staffs, but a luxury as a No. 4 starter on the Angels. His main enemy during his struggles was the long ball, but he's seemed to have reduced that figure recently (21HR pre-All-Star, eight post-All-Star).
Ervin Santana - C : A sprained elbow ligament robbed him early on of his lighting stuff, but he's learned to pitch through it to make something of a previously presumed lost season. After a horrendous start, he rebounded with a 3.27 ERA in August and a 3.10 ERA in September, including a shutout in the clinching game against Texas. If healthy, he could be the ace next season.
Matt Palmer - B : He was average as a fill-in starter that benefited from terrific run support, but he accomplished what they asked of him by eating innings and bridging the gap until the Angel starters could get healthy. Once in the bullpen, he hit his stride as a long reliever and has been a stabilizing force in an erratic bullpen.
Brian Fuentes - C+ : Despite his save numbers, he isn't exactly "game over" when he comes in to close. He was getting knocked around to the point where Scioscia had Kevin Jepsen face tough righties leading off the ninth. Even with all of this, he's still tough on lefties and will succeed often in tough situations.
Kevin Jepsen - B- : After struggling early, including a trip to the DL and some time in Salt Lake City, he's become consistent enough to be Scioscia's choice as set-up man and co-closer. His stuff is nasty and he has a closer mentality, but he needs to improve his location and command. 2010 might see his emerge as the closer before everything is said and done.
Darren Oliver - A : The best pitcher in the bullpen this season, he was the one ray of hope on the Angels early relief struggles. He can be counted on to pitch effectively in tough situations and give you two innings if necessary. At 38, he had his best season with the Angels with a 2.71 ERA, 20 holds, and a solid 1.14 WHIP.
Jason Bulger - B+ : At 30, he finally figured it out and became a go-to guy from innings 6-8. Wildness and the long ball can plague him, but he can also strike out the side to mitigate any damage. Hindered by shoulder stiffness recently, hopefully he'll be available for the Angels playoff push because he will be needed.
Jose Arredondo - D- : A huge disappointment after a solid 2008. He regressed, got injured and got demoted, so there are very few positives here other than to say that toward the end of the season you began to see a little of the 2008 Arredondo come back.
Tony Reagins - A : He earns his grade from two trades — one he made and one he didn't. Regarding the latter, there was a significant number rumors eluding to how close Reagins and Co. were to pulling the trigger on a deal for Roy Halladay that would have eaten into the Angels' depth and potentially weakened a lineup that had already survived injury and inconsistency. Halladay certainly would have been a welcome addition to a pitching staff rotating Palmer, Shane Loux, Sean O'Sullivan and Trevor Bell through the No. 5 spot while waiting for Saunders to recover and Santana to regain his form. However, the price was deemed too high and the patient Reagins waited for a better opportunity to present itself later during the season. Opportunity knocked with the left arm of Kazmir and the asking price, while not cheap, did not alter the current roster. Reagins not only found a talented starter, but one who was familiar with the Angels' foes from the AL East, unafraid and, more importantly, successful against them.
Mike Scioscia - A : I think we all understand that the manager can't hit, pitch or field for the players, but can only position them in the best possible way to succeed and Scioscia seems to always have a plan regardless of the situation. That innate ability to prepare and plan was stretched to the limit this season with Lackey, Escobar and Santana beginning the season on the DL, Adenhart's tragic death, Shields' season ending injury, Arredondo's demotion, Speier's release, Jepsen's and Bulger's early season struggles, Kendrick's lost May, Santana's second DL trip, Saunders' shoulder knot, and mid-season injuries to Guerrero, Hunter and Rivera — all at the same time. With so much injury, tragedy and change, the team had a built-in excuse to lay down and let the league run over them. If they finished at .500, people could read the story of the season and understand how a team might buckle under that much upheaval; they could justify failure in the face of unrelenting circumstance. However, something happened on the way toward teetering over the precipice — they excelled. This might be Scioscia's finest season, including 2002, and playoff results, win or loss, might still be dwarfed by what he accomplished through 162 games.
Nick Adenhart - Incomplete
Incomplete life, incomplete career, what might have been....
He only pitched six innings, but this was Nick's season and the players made sure he was with them every inning of every game. On Sept. 28, the team finally got to celebrate with their friend and invited the entire world to see how much he meant to them.