Friday, February 26, 2010

By Eric Notti - Contributor

There has been a lot of talk in the media about how much of an impact losing Chone Figgins will be in the 2010 season for the Angels. He has been the Angels primary leadoff hitter for the last 5 years and has done an admirable job at it, improving each year to the point we acknowledge he has been one of the best in Angels history taking on the role. But...

Anyone happen to remember Brian Downing? I ask this because he was far from the prototypical leadoff hitter. He was neither fast nor did he bunt well, in fact he was more of a # 4 hitter in size and on top of it all a converted catcher. So, how well did he perform as a leadoff hitter? If you look at the numbers, surprisingly well, in fact better than Figgins.

Career Leadoff hitter Stats
Downing: 594 games 594 PA .287 avg .375 obp .494 slg .870 ops
Figgins: 643 games 643 PA .263 avg .339 obp .364 slg .703 ops

At first look you have to think this is a misprint, maybe the author has flipped the numbers and made a mistake. Certainly there is no way Figgins numbers would be eclipsed by a bulky weight lifting bespeckled left fielder from the '70s. But like Blanche would say in "Bull Durham," “You can look it up.”

Let’s set Downing aside for the moment and take a look at the future for the Angels. Of the prospects for leadoff, we have four options: Bobby Abreu, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick — none of whom really have much time as a leadoff hitter (Abreu has almost exclusively been a No. 2 or 3 hitter his whole career), so those stats are not going to be helpful in choosing a replacement.

Career Leadoff Hitter Stats
Izturis: 45 games 45 PA .238 avg .289 obp .405 slg .694 ops
Abreu: 29 games 29 PA .185 avg .241 obp .222 slg .464 ops
Aybar: 6 games 6 PA .333 avg .333 obp .333 slg .667 ops
Kendrick: 0 games 0 PA .000 avg .000 obp .000 slg .000 ops

If you look at Izturis, who has the most career leadoff at bats, his average and on base percentage is terrible for the task. In his defense and all of the above mentioned players, they really do not have enough career at bats to make a relatively honest evaluation. So the question is, what can we use to determine which would fill the role the best?

Let’s take a stab at it by pulling their stats for leading off an inning. Next to being the first batter of the game, starting an inning fresh is pretty much the same role and that is to get on base and get something going. I’m going start with just last year’s stats to show how most of the starting lineup fares.

Leading Off An Inning 2009 Sorted By Plate Appearances
Morales: 90 games 129 PA .315 avg .341 obp .573 slg .914 ops
Rivera: 100 games 126 PA .252 .avg 317 obp .417 slg .735 ops
Abreu: 94 games 116 PA .272 avg .353 obp .447 slg .800 ops
Hunter: 76 games 109 PA .304 avg .349 obp .500 slg .849 ops
Aybar: 75 games 106 PA .306 avg .358 obp .439 slg .797 ops
Kendrick: 68 games 84 PA .262 .avg 279 obp .381 slg .660 ops
Napoli: 64 games 89 PA .284 avg .348 obp .617 slg .966 ops
Izturis: 60 games 76 PA .380 avg .421 obp .535 slg .956 ops

Ok, discussion over, it’s obvious that Morales should be the leadoff hitter. At least that is the easy way out of this predicament, just go by the highest batting average... wait, who is that guy on the bottom messing up this theory? It’s the Maicer that roared with an astounding .380 average and .956 ops. Maybe we should bat him cleanup?

The problem with raw numbers is that they confuse the situation. If you take a quick glance and not pay attention to who the player actually is then Maicer Izturis is a cleanup hitter but we all know that when it comes to clearing the bases you’d much rather see Morales up to bat with his 30+ home run power than a 5'8" infielder that looks more like Topo Gigio than Babe Herman Ruth.

So let’s filter out the big guns from this group and get down to just the core 4 that should be viewed as leadoff hitters and look at their career stats leading off an inning in comparison to Chone Figgins, whom they need to replace. More of an apples to apples comparison but this time sorted by OPS.

Career Leading Off An Inning
Figgins: 812 games 1432 PA .285 avg .355 obp .381 slg .737 ops
Kendrick: 212 games 292 PA .338 .avg 356 obp .475 slg .892 ops
Abreu: 1150 games 1551 PA .283 avg .368 obp .492 slg .859 ops
Izturis: 294 games 414 PA .280 avg .343 obp .410 slg .753 ops
Aybar: 172 games 234 PA .277 avg .321 obp .382 slg .702 ops

Ok this seems to be a flip flop of who is top and bottom with Kendrick going to the top of the class. Close behind him is the player with the best resume of them all in Abreu but the Angels should be reluctant to even consider him for the role simply because of his age.

Although Bobby managed to steal 30 bases last year, most of them came at the start of the season. He was obviously running out of gas around August and although he will probably split time as DH this year, his 36 year old legs should not be put upon to make things happen like Figgins did.

His patience, bat control and power also better suits him for the 2nd guy in the order to either allow the leadoff hitter to advance by stolen base, protect the runner, or situational hit, something some of the younger guys are just not as adept at. So even though Abreu has been showing passing marks in this test, by his own maturity and accomplishments he disqualifies himself.

So then it comes down to three players to consider for the position. If you look at the Angels roster for next year Figgins departure left the position open to the Angels former top prospect that has been waiting for his chance to flex his muscles at the major league level for quite some time. Brandon Wood should be given every opportunity to present his case for being the Angels permanent 3rd baseman for the next decade.

If the Angels are willing to make the commitment that leaves Izturis to battle for 2nd base with Howie Kendrick. That also means no consistent time for either player and as such they cancel each other out as the preferred choice for leadoff. That would be the same guy going to the plate every game bringing the same game plan and that is to concern himself with getting on base..

Logic would then say that Erick Aybar is the best choice for the role and it has nothing to do with the numbers he has put forth in a leadoff role but the need to place a player there that can develop in that role, very similar to Chone Figgins of 5 years ago.

Taking into account Aybar’s increased plate patience last year raising his on base percentage to .353 and  he has improved his bunting while also being the fastest of the three Angels candidates on the basepaths, you have to think that he would be the odds on favorite to take the job.

One other skill he brings to the job is switch hitting and last year he was very effective from both sides of the plate hitting .305 with a .763 ops left handed and .325 with an .804 ops from the right hand side. In contrast Figgins batted .323 with a .864 ops from the left side but his production fell well of from the right side hitting only .246 with a .630 ops. 

Last year Figgins had a quality contract year, one of his best as the Angels leadoff hitter and his contribution has lead to a multi-year deal with the Mariners. Looking at how he performed and then take into account Erick Aybar is 6 years younger and still a work in progress and you’d have to say the Angels may not be giving away that much at the leadoff spot.

2009 Stats
Figgins: 158 games 729 PA .298 avg .395 obp .393 slg .789 ops
Aybar: 137 games 556 PA .312 avg .353 obp .423 slg .776 ops

There may be a battle for the leadoff role in Spring Training for competition sake but if you look at as Sherlock Holmes would and remove everything that is not a leadoff hitter from the discussion, you end up with the only person that could be the leadoff hitter. In this case it would be Erick Aybar.

Of course, he’s no Brian Downing but then Chone Figgins wasn’t either.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I heard a rumor today that free agent outfielder Darin Erstad, the veteran of 14 Major League seasons will sign a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and accept a non-roster invitation to spring training.

Erstad, who will turn 36 in June, spent his first 11 seasons with the Angels before departing for the Chicago White Sox as a free agent prior to the 2007 season. He spent the past two seasons with the Houston Astros.

A two-time All-Star (1998, 2000) and the only player in MLB history to win Gold Glove Awards at three different positions (LF, CF, 1B), Erstad ranks No. 5 all-time in games played for the Angels (1,320) and No. 4 all-time in hits (1,505) and runs scored (818).

His 240 hits during the 2000 season are the 13th most hits during a single season in Major League history.

In 107 games (18 starts) with the Astros last season, Erstad batted .194 with eight doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI in 150 at-bats.

He is a career .282 hitter who has started 822 games in the outfield and 559 at first base. The Angels are without a true backup to first baseman Kendry Morales, a role Erstad could fill, though free agent infielder Robb Quinlan signed a minor league contract with the team on Feb. 11 and was also invited to spring training, presumably to compete for the job.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Interview conducted by David Saltzer - Senior Columnist

Since 1994, the fans at Angel Stadium have heard the voice of David Courtney announcing the players, the lineups and promotions throughout each game. He has become a familiar voice to fans who attend regularly and a welcoming voice for fans experiencing a live Angels game for the first time. He is the first and last sound heard over the PA system for all games. Additionally, David works as the PA Announcer for the L.A. Kings and can be heard Monday through Friday on KNX (1070 AM) and KOLA (99.9 FM) radio doing traffic and news. For fans eagerly awaiting the first game of the season, here is a look into the man behind the voice of the stadium.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20th, 2010

The first day of spring training always seems the same except for maybe some different faces. As I walked in the clubhouse, I greeted everybody and we exchanged conversations with each other about how everything has been, etc.

Spring training for a catcher is usually a grind. The day usually consists of meetings, where each day the team is introduced to a player new to big league camp. We then go to stretch and do agility drills. Then after bullpens, we do specific drills, whether it's bunts, receiving, transfers or blocking. After all that, we take BP and condition after.

I think the great part of spring training is that you're able to get into a set routine everyday to show up to the ballpark and get things done on the field.

On Friday, I got to catch Anthony Ortega's bullpen and on Saturday I caught Will Smith's bullpen. Both of them looked very impressive, as they looked like they didn't miss a beat, especially Ortega, after coming off his injury the past season. One of the pitchers that I was most interested in seeing was Joel Pineiro. I haven't gotten to talk to him much, but I did get to see him throw a couple of bullpens and he looked very good.

The drive out to spring training is always tough, although its not long; the drive is just so boring. It took me about five and a half hours to get to Tempe. Coming to spring training, I think the part that was most time consuming was me trying to find an apartment with my roommate, Ryan Mount. I finally got settled down in our new place at the end of this week. So far, the first week has been great and I hope to continue to build good momentum heading into the second week.

Hank Conger

Stay tuned next weekend for Conger's second journal in this series.

Friday, February 19, 2010

By Rico Ramos - Cartoonist, Columnist

Thursday, February 18, 2010

By Coral Marshall - Columnist

Many Angels fans were distressed by John Lackey’s decision to leave the club and join the rival Boston Red Sox. To be fair, who wouldn’t be? Lackey helped lead the club to its first-ever World Series victory with a win in Game 7 of the 2002 series. He has been an All-Star and, perhaps most importantly, despite injuries the ace of the staff has averaged 15 victories a year since 2002.

So, what fans wouldn’t be excited to sign the gem of the 2009-2010 free agent pitching market? A proven postseason winner? The pride and joy of the team that eliminated them from the playoffs?

Red Sox fans, that’s who.

On a recent trip to Boston, I had one question on my mind: “How excited are Red Sox fans to have John Lackey join their team?” And what was the answer? It was overwhelming, unenthusiasticly, “not very excited.”

How could they not be excited? These were real Red Sox fans, with a real passion for baseball. When pressed further about their lack of anticipation for Lackey’s arrival they gave a varied few responses.

Jeff, a waiter at Cheers (the bar on which the TV show was based), couldn’t seem more aloof in regard to the signing. When asked why he wasn’t excited, he asked me a very pointed question in response: “Why should I be?” To be honest, Jeff has a point — with two World Series Championships in the past decade after an 86-year drought, what more can Red Sox fans expect? Moreover, with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka (coupled with an East Coast media bias) already in the fold, where does Lackey fit in to the Red Sox starting rotation, let alone the hearts of Red Sox fans? Certainly not as the ace he was with the Angels.

Frank, the concierge at the Boston Park Plaza, was equally pessimistic. While he was giving me directions to Fenway Park, this lifelong Red Sox fan explained why he was “not really” excited to see Lackey join the staff. His reason was more thought out than Jeff’s, as he told the story of his first baseball game, during the 1975 World Series. It seemed that Frank was simply jaded to the coming and going of players after having had his heart ripped out during that Fall Classic against the Cincinnati Reds. Again, who could blame him? It seems likely that having witnessed loss after loss for so many years it would be difficult to get too excited over any one individual — let alone a pitcher.

And so it seemed that the two divergent views on why Lackey was not an excellent acquisition come from the same source — a cynicism of the game of baseball, in a town where baseball is the main focus; a cynical viewpoint toward winning in the case of Jeff and a cynical viewpoint toward losing in the case of Frank.

Steve, a tour guide at Fenway Park and Sox employee for 10 years, managed to merge the two viewpoints, as he stated that while he is not all that eager for Lackey to join the team he does think the club will “win it all again.” To this Angels fans have one response: "Not if we can help it."

While the Red Sox may have taken our ace, I have a theory of my own as to why these fans cannot get excited about having Lackey join the team. No one, especially not Red Sox fans, likes a traitor. The lack of enthusiasm over Lackey shows that while $82 million is an awful lot of money, it cannot buy respect in Boston — and it was certainly cause to lose all respect for Lackey amongst Angels fans. May the lesson be learned, while Lackey may have more money — he may even win a World Series — he will never be as adored in Boston as he was during his tenure with the Angels.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bill Plunkett the Orange County Register's Angels beat writer is already in Tempe, AZ covering the Angels' as pitchers and catchers reported today. With a majority of the players reporting by Friday, including Hideki Matsui, who is already drawing several Japanese reporters -- we have scheduled a live chat with Bill at 10:00 a.m. PST to talk about what's new in spring camp from an up close and personal viewpoint.

Name: David Lee Chalk
Nickname: Dave
Position: Shortstop/ Third Base                                         
Bats: Right                                                    
Throws: Right
Number(s): 7

Years Played As an Angel: 1973-1979
Angels’ Stats: .255 BA, .327 OBP, 2474 AB's
Career Stats: .257, .325, .310

How He Was Acquired: Angels first round pick (10th) in the 1972 Free Agent Draft

Why You Should Know Him: Dave made the move to the majors quickly as he got a "cup of coffee" in 1973.  However, his true rookie season was 1974 which was impressive enough to garner him a spot on that year's American League All-Star team. Chalk also made the All-Star squad the following season (1975).

Initially, Chalk struggled on the defensive part of his game.  His rookie season saw him make an astounding 29 errors.  However, Chalk refined his defense to the point where he became an adept fielder at both Short and Third.

Chalk's finest season was probably 1977 which saw him achieve a .277 BA and a .345 OBP.  While it would be easy to lump him in with the other light hitting shortstops that played for the Angels in that era I believe it would be a mistake.  Chalk started for the Angels for a majority of the 1970's and was a solid fixture for the franchise.

Memorable Moments/Games: Chalk was on the 1974 and 1975 American League All-Star rosters. 

Anecdotes and Quotes: Going to the games as a youngster, my step brother and I tried to come up with nicknames for a lot of the Angel players.  Brian Downing was "Jigsaw man" because of his many injuries, Joe Rudi was "grand slam man" due to his, well, grand slams, and Chalk was "choke up man".  We were always amazed at how high up the bat handle his grip was.

Contributed by Sean Dodds - Contributor

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Listen to Jeff Biggs and Jason Brennen from AM 830 talk about our Top 10 Moments of FAIL for Angels fans which was broadcast on February 15th, 2010 on "The Drive".

Download the MP3 of the show by clicking on the following link:

By Jon Hoppie – Contributor

This offseason, we as Angels fans have seen some of our most beloved icons venture off to new beginnings. We have seen Angels General Manager Tony Reagins make some of the best acquisitions for which a team could ever hope. We have seen players come and we have seen players go. In this era, there is not the profound loyalty to “team” that baseball has seen in years past.

One thing is sure for each and every halo fan, whether they like to admit it or not: the Angels have always put fans first. Arte Moreno has done a great job of putting together a winning team this offseason and I look forward to being witness to one of the L.A. Angels’ most remarkable years.

With that said, the losses our team incurred this winter were more than offset by the addition of players both young and seasoned. A certain recent free agent departure said that “winning was always (his) first priority for a team,” and I think we can all rest assured that the remaining Angels players have more than the tenacity and the talent required to do just that. There is no denying that 2009 was a disappointing end to an overall successful season, but I’m here to tell you that 2010 is going to be nothing short of mind blowing.  Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 reasons why the Angels are shaping up to be better in 2010.

1. Brandon Wood – A Troy Glaus type shortstop turned corner infielder, Wood is finally going to get the opportunity to show halos fans just what they have all been waiting to see... a big bat at third.  A first round draft pick in 2003, Wood has been waiting in the wings behind players like Figgins and Izturis for his chance to shine, and with the departure of Figgins to the M’s this winter he is going to get just that.  His last four seasons in AAA he put up some staggering power numbers, posting a .547 slugging percentage and 76 homeruns in 317 games played.  Though his major league stats have left much more to be desired, look for Brandon to settle in right at home down that third base line hitting 24 to 28 homeruns and batting about .305 this season.  There will be a catalyst to get Wood going, and that catalyst is going to be consistent playing time.

2. Scott Kazmir – Beginning the season with the Rays in 2009, Kazmir put up a mediocre at best 9-8 record with an ERA of 5.92 in 20 starts before he turned in his uniform and shipped off to the left coast.  Once arriving in Anaheim, and reuniting with former Tampa Bay pitching coach Mike Butcher, something ignited Kaz to finish out his season with the Angels in an illustrious fashion. In only 36 1/3 innings he boasted a 1.73 ERA, 26 K’s and only 10 free bases.  This offseason, Kazmir has focused on building core strength and conditioning in an effort to get back to max velocity and retain command of his fastball.  If healthy, I don’t think there’s anything that will keep Scott from a 16 win 200 strikeout season.

3. Joel Piniero – Certainly a journeyman of sorts, Piniero is a great pickup for the Angels this season.  Never in Angels’ club history have they ever had a cast of starters as experienced and as winning as we are going to see in 2010.  The fulfillment of that elusive fifth spot in the rotation is expected to give the Angels staff a sense of completeness, and allow them to keep their young guns fresh and ready to roll in September.  Joel revised his arsenal this past season with the Cardinals to include a 2 seam fastball and an aim to pitch to contact, landing him top rankings in ground-ball and walk rates throughout the majors.  Though his 3.49 ERA was his best performance since ’02, I expect those numbers to rise to the mid 4’s with his transition back to the historically more powerful American League West.  He does have a tendency to give up the long ball about once every nine innings, but look for that number to diminish with his newly developed 2 seamer.  Look for him to go 13-10 on the season with 150 to 160 K’s.

4. Kendry Morales – An absolute monster in 2009, Morales swung his way into the upper echelon of AL sluggers with a staggering 34 homeruns, more than Abreu and Guerrero combined.  A .341 hitter at home in 2009, it’s clear that Kendry takes his cue from the crowd and we are sure going to be giving him every bit of confidence once again this year.  When he plays at home, look for him to really shine as he has now clearly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Angels lineup. 

5. Fernando Rodney – Fernando, while not boasting overwhelming stats at the end of his 2009 campaign, should be recognized for his incredible ability to convert saves, blowing only one opportunity this past season.  While Rodney is assumed to be the setup man for halos closer Brian Fuentes, his conversion rate and ability to keep opposing batters to a mere .208 AVG with RISP makes him a threat not only as a setup man, but as a formidable RHP capable of assuming the closer role and cinching the win in a righty versus righty situation.  Any manager would kill to have that versatility in the bullpen, and Rodney gives the Angels just that.

6. Torii Hunter – In Torii’s second season as an Angel he was selected to his third All Star team, collected top honors as the AL Silver Slugger, and was named the Major League Branch Rickey Award winner for his excellence off the field.  In addition, he delivered yet another anything but ordinary season defensively, winning him his ninth consecutive gold glove for his performance in the outfield.  Without a doubt, he is one of the most amazing defenders to ever capture the hearts of halos fans.  A career .992 Fld% is a mark that may not be matched for ages to come.  Batting .287 against right-handers, he hit an astonishing .336 versus southpaws, and still 15 of his 22 HRs came against hard throwing righties.  A dangerous man to face regardless of how the opposition chooses to pitch to him, Hunter batted .353 in late and close games making him a definite go to man in any clutch situation.  He has been and will continue to be an anchor for the halos both on the field and in the clubhouse.

7. Mathis & Napoli – This year is without a doubt going to be the year of the catcher for the halos.  While Jeff Mathis is highly regarded by Angel’s manager Mike Scioscia as being an extra coach in the dugout, Napoli has by far set the standard for Angels offense when it comes to picking the offensive catcher of choice.  Though both players have multiple years remaining on their contracts, there is a wealth of prospects coming up through the Angels organization that could threaten one of these two spots on the 25 man roster.  Mike Napoli has blasted 40 HRs over the last two years, and though his .273 BA is no tremendous feat, in 18 games last season as the halo’s DH he sported a .359 average.  Look for him to be yet another name mentioned for that DH spot in the lineup, in addition to a late inning replacement for Mathis.

8. Hideki Matsui – Though not the short porch of old Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium looks to be a more than fitting landmark for the aptly named Godzilla to make his mark on baseball in the 2010 campaign.  I bet Angels fans would love nothing more than to see Hideki slam another 28 to 30 homeruns for the halos this year, short porch or not.  Signed in the offseason to a 1 year – 6 million dollar deal, Matsui is the obvious replacement for ex halo Vlad Guererro.  Comparing the two side by side, it’s no wonder the Angels jumped at the prospect of signing Matsui when they did, as he was clearly the most productive of the two.  Batting .274 in the regular season, 20 points lower than Big Daddy Vlad, Matsui was able to contribute 13 more HRs and 40 more RBIs.  Matsui also came up clutch during the 2009 season, grounding into only 4 double plays all year long, compared to Guerrero’s 16.  Oh, and if my memory serves me right, the Angels did lose to the Yankees in the ALCS this past year.  The New York Yankees did go on to win the World Series, and for those of you that care, Hideki Matsui was the MVP of that series.

9. Brian Fuentes – Fuentes, a California native, joined the Angels in 2009 and quickly proved to the halo fans that they need not fear the loss of K-Rod.  Fuentes led the AL last season with 48 saves and made his 4th All Star appearance, his first as an Angel.  Facing 242 batters this past season, he did issue a free pass to one tenth of them, and though his K’s have not seemed to reach the numbers he offered up in previous years as an NL closer, he was undeniably the best closer in the American League in 2009.  My hopes are high that Brian is able to repeat and improve on last year’s performance with the supporting prelude of his bullpen cohorts.

10. Jered Weaver – With the departure of John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox, the halos fans, myself included, will be looking to Weaver to take hold of the reigns and lead this team to another postseason, and another fall classic.  Weaver, the assumed staff ace of this 2010 season, is complemented by a supportive cast that rivals any in baseball.  Coming off a 16-8 season in 2009, this CSULB alumn and five-year Angels vet will no doubt be looked upon as the team’s number one arm come the beginning of his first windup this spring.  Ranking 3rd in CG and among the American League’s top ten in IP this past year, Jered will no doubt carry this team all season long through what is expected to be a season among the greatest ever seen in team history.

Angels fans, it’s going to be a great year!  Stay Fan Strong!

Name: Rodney Cline Carew               
Nickname: Rod
Position: 1B, 2B                   
Bats: Left
Throws: Right                       
Number: 29

Years Played as an Angel: 1979-1985
Angels’ Stats: .314 BA, 474 R, 82 SB, 282 RBI
Career Stats: .328 BA, 1424 R, 353 SB, 1015 RBI

How He Was Acquired: Traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Angels on Feb. 3, 1979.

Why You Should Know Him: Before the 1979 season, the Angels made one of the biggest moves in their history when they traded Dave Engle, Paul Hartzell, Brad Havens and Ken Landreaux to Minnesota for perennial All-Star Rod Carew.

Carew immediately made his presence felt, hitting .318 and scoring 78 runs in helping the Angels win their first American League West crown in 1979.  He put together his best all-around Angels season in 1980, when he posted a .331 BA, collected 59 RBI and stole 23 bases.

When the Angels won their second AL West title in 1982, Carew made his usual stellar contributions.  He led the Halos with a .319 BA, which ranked third in the league.  Carew also put together a 25-game hitting streak, the longest of his career.

In his seven seasons in an Angel uniform, Carew earned All-Star honors six times.  He retired after the 1985 season, finishing his great career with 3,053 hits.

Carew enjoyed his best big league years with the Minnesota Twins, who originally signed him as an amateur free agent in 1964.  He made his major league debut with the Twins in 1967 and made an instant impact, winning AL Rookie of the Year honors.

It was the first of many impressive seasons for Carew, who went on to win seven batting titles with the Twins.  He turned in his best season in 1977, when he led the AL in BA (.388), runs (128) and hits (239).  Carew captured the AL Most Valuable Player award that season.  He also won the 1977 Roberto Clemente Award.

Carew earned All-Star honors in each of his 12 seasons in Minnesota.  His #29 is retired by both the Twins and Angels.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, which was his first year of eligibility.

Memorable moments/games: On Aug. 4, 1985, Carew collected his 3,000th career hit against the Minnesota Twins, his former club.  He accomplished the feat against Twins pitcher Frank Viola at Anaheim Stadium.

Anecdotes and Quotes: "Hitting is an art, but not an exact science." - Rod Carew.

Rod Carew was my favorite Angels player during my early 1980s childhood.  When I played pick-up baseball with my cousins and friends during that time, I would always pretend I was Carew.

I experienced an unexpected thrill after attending the Angels’ second home game of the 2009 season.  While walking our way out of the stadium, my mother and I saw Carew in person.  He was standing in front of the team store, surrounded by fans.  Though we did not get a chance to interact with Carew, seeing him from up close was an exciting moment for me.

Where is he now?: Fans can find out about Carew’s current endeavors by visiting his official Web site,

Contributed by Eric Terrazas - Columnist

Monday, February 15, 2010

Name: Jose Cardenal                                                
Nickname: "The Cardinal" or "Junior"                                           
Position: OF
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Number(s): 27                                                         

Years Played As an Angel: 1965 to 1967
Angels’ Stats: .257 avg., 33 HRs, 132 RBIs, 71 SBs
Career Stats: .275 avg., 138 HRs, 775 RBIs, 329 SBs

How He Was Acquired: Cardenal was traded by the San Francisco Giants to the Angels in 1964. 

Why You Should Know Him: Cardenal, born in Cuba played for 9 different MLB teams in his 18 year career. Jose was a line drive hitter with excellent speed, collecting more than 20 SBs in ten different seasons. Jose is the cousin of Bert Campaneris. He retired in 1980.

Memorable Moments/Games:  Perhaps the biggest contribution Cardenal made with MLB is his bat the C271.  Cardenal designed his bat with a not too narrow a handle and a “perfect barrel”.  The Louisville Slugger bat has consistently been used by more players than any in the past three decades. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez are two current players using his bat.

Anecdotes and Quotes: After coaching for several teams, he was released as a senior adviser to the Nationals. He announced that he wants to assist the people affected by Hurricane Katrina and wanted to auction off his World Series ring he obtained while being the Yankees first base coach in 1998 when the Yankees beat the Padres. 

Cardenal wasn't the hero on April 25, 1976 at Dodger Stadium when two men began to run onto the field to set on fire the American Flag after quickly circumventing Cubs left fielder Jose Cardenal, but Jose was still a part of Baseball history. As the stories goes, Rick Monday charged the protesters after realizing that they were trying to burn the American Flag. The the wind blew out the first match struck by one of the protesters after they doused the flag with lighter fluid, but Monday in full stride after running toward the two protesters snatched the flag off the ground in full stride that day, saving the flag from being set on fire. The flag Monday rescued is proudly displayed in the den of his San Diego home.

Where is He Now?: Adviser to the Washington Nationals general manager.

Contributed by Bruce Nye - Columnist

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Name: John Candelaria             
Nickname: The Candy Man
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Left
Bats:  Left                                                    
Number(s): 45, 49

Years Played As an Angel: 1985-1987
Angels’ Stats: 25-11, 3.77 ERA, 279.1 IPs, 208 Strikeouts
Career Stats: 177-122, 3.33 ERA, 2525.2 IPs, 1673 Strikeouts

How He Was Acquired: Candelaria was part of a six-player trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 3, 1985. He arrived with pitcher Al Holland and outfielder George Hendrick in exchange for outfielder Mike Brown, pitcher Pat Clements and a player to be named later.

Why You Should Know Him: Candelaria was the winning pitcher in a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox that gave the Angels a 2-1 series lead in their 1986 ALCS matchup, but he took the loss in an 8-1 defeat in Game Seven. He later had a very public spat with former Angels teammate Don Sutton, claiming Sutton had called the police to tip them off before they arrested Candelaria for the first of two DUIs in 1987. Candelaria claimed that Sutton was trying to save his own job by getting Candelaria arrested.

Memorable Moments/Games: Candelaria was a key pickup for the Angels in 1986, finishing with a 10-2 record, a 2.55 ERA and one shutout in 16 starts. His first three starts for the Angels were a 14-3 win over Milwaukee, a 12-3 win over Boston and a 9-3 win over Toronto. His 8-3 win over Texas clinched the American League West for the Angels, giving them a 10-game cushion with nine games left.  

Anecdotes and Quotes: Candelaria stood 6’7” and his fastball was clocked in the high 90s during the early part of his career. Originally scouted by the Dodgers, he was in line to sign with them until he appeared at a tryout wearing a shirt that had a marijuana leaf on it and the caption “try some, you’ll like it.” The Dodgers loss was the Pirates gain. Candelaria later threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 1976. 

Where is He Now?:  Candelaria lives in Davidson, N.C. and is an avid world traveler.

Contributed by Brett Borden - Columnist

Friday, February 12, 2010

By Brett Borden - Columnist

Recently our Senior Editor Geoff Bilau added two new memorable moments from the 2009 season to our Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball feature. While one loves to reflect on the good, the great and the triumphant moments of Angels Baseball, there are unfortunately some disappointing, ugly and downright frustrating moments that Angels fans had to endure throughout their lifetime as a follower the team. The guys at love to use the word FAIL (stemming from the ever-so-popular Website) when identifying a moment of utter failure -- so here's your Top-10 Moments of FAIL from this Angels fan's perspective.

10. The Eight-Inning No-Hitter

As most of you know, complete games that go eight innings usually mean one thing: a loss. The Los Angeles Angels managed to do that one better on the night of June 28, 2008, against the crosstown rival Los Angeles Dodgers. Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo combined to pitch eight no-hit innings — and yet the Angels managed to lose, 1-0.

The fact that the Dodgers were amazingly the fifth team in history to accomplish the feat was little consolation for Angels fans, who saw the hated Dodgers score the game's only run on Weaver's fielding error in the fifth inning. The Angels have had the upper hand in the series with the Dodgers, but this is one game that Dodgers fans can bring up in retaliation — the night the Angels pitched a no-hitter and still lost.

9. Royal Flush

The Angels and Royals battled for AL West supremacy from 1978 until pretty much the arrival of the Bash Brothers in Oakland. One of their most intense pennant races came in 1985. The Angels had surprised everyone that year with the return of manager Gene Mauch. They probably overachieved, but with one week to go in the season the Angels indeed arrived in Kansas City for a four-game series with a one-game lead in the division. They lost the opener, but came back to win the second game and things looked very promising for the visitors. But Bud Black shut the Angels out, 4-0, and Danny Jackson beat them, 4-1, to win the series and the Angels, no longer in control of their destiny, finished one game behind. That Royals team won the World Series.

8. Brian Fuentes vs. Alex Rodriguez

The Angels came into the 2009 ALCS as sizable underdogs against the New York Yankees. They knew going in they would have to somehow steal a victory in one of the first two games in New York to position themselves for a chance at pushing their advantage to 3-0 over the Yankees in postseason series. When C.C. Sabathia and a brain-dead play by infielders Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar sealed their fate in Game One, the Angels hoped that Game Two would turn in their favor.

In the top of the eleventh inning of a tense battle, the Angels plated a run and it looked like they'd swipe that needed victory. But closer Brian Fuentes inexplicably put an 0-2 pitch in the worst spot anybody outside of the Bronx could imagine, the upper outside corner, perfect for the slugger to flip it into the short porch in right field, retying the game.

The Yankees, of course, wound up winning in 13 innings on an error by second baseman Maicer Izturis. The Angels won two of three at home, but lost Game Six at Yankee Stadium and finished two wins short of their second World Series.

7. Ninth inning, Game Four, 2008 ALDS versus Boston

The words Boston Red Sox are like nails on a chalkboard to most Angels fans. While the Halos exorcised many demons with their sweep of the Beantowners this past season, they still owe the Red Sox and their fans a lot of misery. After losing the last three games of the 1986 ALCS, then all three games of the 2004 and 2007 ALDS, and the first two games of the 2008 ALDS, the Angels, who had won 100 games for the first time in franchise history, were looking at an unprecedented 11-game postseason losing streak against one team. On top of that, they had to win two games in Boston just to bring the series back home.

The Angels gutted out a tough win in Game Three and looked poised to do it again in Game Four, putting a runner on third base in the top of the ninth with just one out. Pinch runner Reggie Willits was the runner and the batter was Erick Aybar. You know the rest. Mike Scioscia tried to squeeze the runner home, Aybar whiffed on the bunt attempt and Willits was a dead duck. The Red Sox plated a runner in the bottom of the ninth to stick it to Angels fans once again.

6. Nolan Ryan heads home to Texas

Nolan Ryan was the face of the Angels franchise for most of the 1970s. He finished with a 16-14 record in 1979, helping the Angels earn their first-ever playoff appearance, and was looking for a new contract with the team for whom he had pitched an amazing four no-hitters. But E.J. “Buzzie” Bavasi didn’t think Ryan was worth what he was asking, saying “We’ll just have to find a couple of 8-7 pitchers to replace him.” As we all know, Ryan went on to great success for the Astros and Rangers, pitching three more no-hitters and extending his strikeout record to a point where it may never be broken. After his sixth no-hitter in 1990, Bavasi sent Ryan a message that read “Nolan, some time ago I admitted that I made a mistake. You don’t have to rub it in.”

Ryan was 29-38 in five seasons with the Mets, 138-121 in eight campaigns with the Angels and 157-133 in 14 years with the Astros and Rangers. He developed a killer curveball in Houston to go with his legendary fastball. He could have been to the Angels what Sandy Koufax is to the Dodgers and Bob Gibson is to the Cardinals, a Hall of Fame standard bearer for the franchise.

5. Jose Guillen

There’s a scene in the movie Tin Cup that captures the Jose Guillen saga of 2004 pretty well. Roy McAvoy is caddying for David Simms at his celebrity tournament, then shows up Simms by daring him to shoot for the green instead of laying up on the last hole. Simms, who had given his ex-friend and rival a break with the gig, says “You know, Roy, I gotta admit, for 17 holes I thought you had the concept down pretty well.”

The Angels signed outfielder Guillen, despite his reputation as a hothead and a trouble maker, to provide protection for Vladimir Guerrero in their lineup. And for almost the entire season, that’s what he did. He had flare-ups here and there in the temper department, but it all came to a head when he showed up manager Mike Scioscia for removing him for a pinch runner late in the year. It was so bad that the Angels suspended him. And while Guerrero carried the team on his back the last week of the season to get into the playoffs, they were no match for Boston when they got there, losing 9-3 and 8-3 at home, then 8-6 at Fenway for a sweep. Guillen almost single-handedly torpedoed a promising season.

A few seasons later, he returned in a Washington Nationals uniform and instigated a brawl with his former team, shouting at Scioscia and, rumor has it, turning in former teammate Brendan Donnelly for doctoring the ball. Donnelly got suspended for having pine tar on his glove in that series.

4. Games Three through Five at Milwaukee, 1982 playoffs

The Angels were a collection of stars in 1982, with four former League MVPs in their lineup and “name” players at every position. Their pitching staff was a collection of veteran starters, but the relief corps was anything but that year. California beat Milwaukee 8-5 and 4-2 in the first two games at then Anaheim Stadium. Then Gene Mauch made two controversial decisions in his playoff rotation. He gave ace Geoff Zahn just one start, then gave second starts to veterans Tommy John and Bruce Kison in Games Four and Five. Ken Forsch, who was 13-11 and second on the team in innings pitched, was left out of the mix. John lost Game Four, putting the pressure on Kison in the finale. Kison delivered, holding the Brewers into the seventh, where the Angels led 3-2. But Cecil Cooper’s two-run hit off of Luis Sanchez gave the Brew Crew a 4-3 victory, making the Angels the first team to blow a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series.

3. Doug Eddings

The fact that you know this umpire’s name tells you everything you need to know. The Angels had shown amazing moxie and grit in the 2005 playoffs, playing in New York, Anaheim and Chicago on consecutive nights, and winning the last two to win the ALDS and take Game One of the ALCS. They were tied with the White Sox, 1-1, in the ninth inning of Game Two, and were one strike away from taking the game to the 10th inning. That strike seemed to be caught by catcher Josh Paul, who flipped the ball back toward the mound. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, sensing Paul might not have caught it cleanly, waited a second and then took off for first. The Angels infield, seeing Eddings make the signal for an out, headed for the dugout. Eddings claimed that Paul trapped the ball, though replays seemed to show otherwise. Regardless, his out signal, “my mechanic for strike three,” as he lamely explained, had the Angels thinking the inning was over. Pinch runner Pablo Ozuna scored on Joe Crede's double and the Angels lost the next three games in Anaheim. They were the only team to beat the White Sox in that postseason and had a decent shot at taking a 2-0 lead back home with them.

2. The last month and a half of the 1995 season

The Angels at one point in 1995 were 66-41. They were the surprise success story of the season, with an offense powered by young stars like Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds and J.T. Snow. Then the greatest collapse in team history, and one of the worst in major league history, ensued. The Halos completely fell down the elevator shaft, losing 25 of 32 games and having to win their last four games coupled with two losses by Seattle just to force a one-game playoff.

Randy Johnson put them out of their misery, limiting them to three hits and striking out 12 in that playoff at the Kingdome. Every series loss hurts in baseball, but watching a team struggle the way this one did for such an extended period of time, especially after their promising start, was a clear case of fan cruelty.

1. Ninth inning, Game Five, 1986 American League Playoffs

For Angels fans, reliving this is like going through a root canal surgery without Novocain. The Angels, who had come back from three runs down in the ninth to win in extra innings the day before (the forgotten game), entered the ninth inning of Game Five with a 5-2 lead over Boston, up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. Still on the mound was ace pitcher Mike Witt. But Witt gave up a two-run homer to former Angel Don Baylor and with two outs manager Gene Mauch made the moves that have haunted long-time Halo fans ever since. He brought lefty Gary Lucas in to face light-hitting catcher Rich Gedman. Lucas hit Gedman on the wrist with the only pitch he threw, bringing Dave Henderson to the plate. Enter Donnie Moore, the Angels closer. Moore quickly got two strikes on Henderson, leaving everyone anxious to celebrate the Angels first-ever trip to the World Series. But Henderson fought off pitch after pitch and eventually golfed a Moore split-finger fastball into the left field seats over a slumped over Brian Downing for a 6-5 lead.

But that’s just the half of it. The Angels tied the game in the bottom of the ninth and had the winning run 90 feet away with just one out. The two players due up were Doug DeCinces and Bobby Grich, two of the most clutch players in Angels history … except on this day. DeCinces popped the first pitch he saw into shallow right field, not deep enough to score Rob Wilfong from third base, and Grich lined back to the pitcher to end the threat.

The Angels lost in 11 innings on a sacrifice fly by, who else, Henderson and went on to lose Games Six and Seven at Fenway Park, officially giving birth to the Red Sox curse. It would take the Angels 16 years to get another chance, which thankfully they cashed in.

Just outside of the top 10: 

11. The Gary Matthews Jr. $50 Million FAIL of a contract.
12. The Francisco Rodriguez ninth inning FAIL against the Oakland A's on Aug. 11, 2005, when he failed  to notice the throw back from the catcher, which went right past him allowing the winning run to score.
13. The Mo Vaughn opening night FAIL into the dugout, April 6, 1999.
14. Alfredo Amezaga strikeout FAIL as he swung and missed at two pitches that apparently hit him.
15. Tony Phillips 1997 drug bust FAIL, Aug. 10, 1997.

Thursday, February 11, 2010 partners AM830 interviewed Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher this evening on the drive with host Jeff Biggs and producer of The Drive Jason Brennan. Click on the two audio players below to hear both part 1 and part 2 of the interview.

Mike Butcher interview (Part 1)

Mike Butcher interview (Part 2)

You can also download the MP3's from our audio directory.

Name: Orlando Cabrera                        
Nickname: O-Cab
Position: Shortstop                                      
Bats: Right
Throws: Right                                                  
Number(s): 18

Years Played As an Angel: 2005-2007
Angels’ Stats:  .281 Avg., 502 hits, 108 2Bs, 215 RBIs, 68 SB vs. 9 CS
Career Stats:  .275 Avg., 1818 hits, 410 2Bs, 761 RBIs

How He Was Acquired: Signed as free agent after 2004 season, replacing fan favorite David Eckstein.

Why You Should Know Him: Cabrera, also known as OCab or The OC by fans, had a 63-game on-base streak in 2006, one of the top five streaks of all time. He earned his second career gold glove in 2007. Cabrera was a valuable hitter at the top of Mike Scioscia’s lineup, with excellent bat control and the aforementioned ability to get on base.

He left the Angels via a trade to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jon Garland. Surprisingly each player spent just one season with his new team.

Cabrera won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004 and played in the postseason with the Angels in 2005 and 2007. 

Memorable Moments/Games: Cabrera stole home against the Dodgers on July 2, 2006, the Angels first theft of home in nine seasons. He did it without a throw.

Anecdotes and Quotes: After the Angels defeated the New York Yankees in the ALDS in five games in 2005, Cabrera said “Any time you knock out a team that spends $200 million and you’re the underdog, it feels great.” His words if nothing else show the mentality players have going against the pinstriped Money Machine.

Where is He Now?: Signed as a free agent in 2010 to play for the Cincinnati Reds.

Contributed by Brett Borden - Columnist
(Photo by Sean Scanlon)

By David Regan,
February 12, 2010

To be clear, this isn’t an Angels team preview. You folks all have your own opinions on the Angels offseason to date versus that of their competitors in the AL West.

This is a fantasy article. If you want an Angels 2010 team preview that can be found elsewhere. If you want my opinion though, the gap between the Angels as the rest of the division has tightened, for reasons that you are all well aware of.

2009 review

Fantasy surprises: Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar
Fantasy disappointments: Joe Saunders despite the wins
Better fantasy guy than “real life” performer: Brian Fuentes

We won’t spend a lot of time (well, any team) looking backwards here, so let’s kick off the 2010 Angels fantasy preview.

The New Guys

Hideki Matsui, DH – Matsui’s power figures to slip some leaving Yankee Stadium, but at this point in his career, he’s probably a slight upgrade from Vladimir Guerrero, especially in leagues that use OBP instead of batting average. He’ll get you .280-20-80 with a strong OBP.

Fernando Rodney, Set-up Man – Rodney gets a two-year $11 million contract coming off a season in which he notched 37 saves, but let’s dig a bit deeper. Rodney could theoretically compete with Brian Fuentes for saves this season, but this is still a guy who posted a 4.40 ERA and 1.47 WHIP while walking north of five batters per nine innings. Angels fans saw how shaky Fuentes was last year despite the 48 saves, so Rodney can’t be ignored despite the salary that far exceeds his underlying skills.

Joel Pineiro, No. 4 starter – Innings-eater type had a career year under Dave Duncan in 2009, walking an incredible 27 batters in 214 innings for a 1.1 BB/9 that led the majors. His GB% also spiked to 60.5% from its usual 47-49% range and a smaller percentage of his flyballs allowed went over the outfield fence. So what does that all tell us going forward? First, it’s unlikely the walk and HR rates will be sustainable, especially considering the league change.  Second, while some overestimate the Dave Duncan effect, it is a factor. Expect Pineiro’s ERA to jump from 3.49 into the 4.20 range. Still a solid No. 4 starter in the AL, as while the loss of Figgins hurts the defense, the Angels infield is strong up the middle and Kendry Morales had a fine defensive year himself in 2009.

The Not-so New Guy, But New Starter Guy

Brandon Wood, 3B – As of February, it appears Wood is going get his long-awaited shot at 550 big league at-bats. Problem is, he’s still a huge unknown now that some of the luster has come off his star. Getting jerked back and forth from Triple-A to the big leagues three years running can’t help, and one wonders how patient Mike Scioscia will be as the strikeouts accumulate, but give Wood 550 at-bats and you’ll certainly get 25+ home runs. Problem is, you might also get a .240 average and 160 strikeouts. A guy worth taking a flier on given his minor league numbers, but the hit to your batting average could be severe.

Starting Rotation

Gone is John Lackey, and while Joel Pineiro is no Lackey, the Angels do have six months of Scott Kazmir as opposed to one last season. Only time will tell where the decision to not give Lackey $80-$90 million was a good decision, but it’s tough to say that the Angels’ rotation has taken a step forward. Status quo? Perhaps, but that all depends on Kazmir. Do the Angels get the Kazmir that posted a 1.73 ERA in six starts for the Halos, or the guy who had a 5.92 ERA for the Rays before they unceremoniously shipped him out for a questionable return? We’ll see, but on that note, let’s take a look at what Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have in store for the Angels’ starting five:

Jered Weaver – 16-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 174 strikeouts
Scott Kazmir – 11-9, 3.91 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 138 strikeouts
Joe Saunders – 13-10, 4.48 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 10 strikeouts
Erviin Santana – 12-8, 4.18 ERA, 1.31 ERA, 153 strikeouts
Joel Pineiro – 11-9, 4.21 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 09 strikeouts

Not a whole lot to be excited about in these numbers other than Jered Weaver, though I do like Santana somewhat as a sleeper pick. Two shutouts and eight quality starts (2.48 ERA) in his last 11 starts of 2009 give us some hope that his elbow issues are resolved headed into 2010, and you can’t question that a healthy Santana is a guy you want to own in fantasy leagues. Not many starters have a 214-strikeout season on their resume.

Pineiro is a huge question mark, as how often do you see a guy with his skill-set on the wrong side of 30 regress after signing a big-money free agent deal? Well, pretty often. Pineiro will eat innings, but outside of AL-only leagues, he’s safely ignored.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because Joe Saunders has managed 33 wins the past two years that he’s a guy to target. Saunders is the prototypical soft-tossing lefty (his fastball did average a respectable 90.5 mph in 2009), who saw both his HR and BB rates turn the wrong way in 2009,and coupled with a subpar 4.9 K/9, it left Saunders with a 4.60 ERA. Expect more of the same and fewer wins in 2010.

We don’t need to discuss Weaver too much here other than to simply say that he’s the undisputed ace of the staff and will be looking for Lackey type money soon enough.

Which Kazmir will we get in 2010? Don’t expect a 2007 repeat (239 strikeouts), though he’ll be better than he was with the Rays in 2010. Kazmir’s 1.73 ERA was due in large part to luck, as just one of his 77 fly balls allowed as an Angel cleared the fence. To put that in context, an average home run per fly ball rate is about 11%. Kazmir is still just 26, so he’s far from washed up, but Kazmir’s velocity has dropped off in each of the past two seasons, leaving him more a slightly above league average pitcher than the ace we projected him to be several years ago. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a solid No. 3 starter if healthy, but while Lackey is a top-35 fantasy pitcher, Kazmir shouldn’t sniff the top 50.

Potential rotation replacements if you’re in a very deep league are Trevor Bell and Sean O’Sullivan, though if those guys receive more than a handful of starts between them this year, the Angels are in trouble.

The Catchers

The Angels return the Mike Napoli / Jeff Mathis tandem for another year, and it should serve them well yet again. 155 more at-bats for Napoli in 2009 resulted in the same number of home runs (20) as he posted the previous year, and we should again expect him to get around 65% of the playing time behind the dish. Napoli’s contract rate doesn’t lend to a big batting average, but as a second tier catcher, you could do worse than .270-20-60. We saw Mike Scioscia start Jeff Mathis ahead of Napoli in the playoffs more than expected, but Mathis is far from average offensively. Expect similar numbers in 2010 as both put up the previous season.

The Infield

Lots to like here. Kendry Morales put himself into top-10 AL MVP consideration with a breakout year and there’s no reason to expect anything more than perhaps a very slight regression in 2010. Howie Kendrick might lose a few at-bats here and there to Macier Izturis, but he really shouldn’t. Kendrick doesn’t draw enough walks to be a top-of-the-order threat, but he has the ability to hit .300 in his sleep, and interestingly enough, no other big leaguer had a higher average distance on his home runs last year than Kendrick per the 2010 Bill James Handbook. Unfortunately, only 27.4% of his batted balls were hit in the air, a number that ranks among the lowest in the game, hence the low HR total. Perhaps he’s better off sacrificing some average for power. He’s slightly less valuable in OBP leagues.

On the other side of the diamond, Erick Aybar and Brandon Wood fill short and third. We covered Wood above, so on Aybar, he’s probably in the 15-16 range among fantasy shortstops. He’ll hit for a decent average, but the power isn’t there and the stolen bases (15 or so) won’t be enough to push him much higher.  His glove will keep him in the lineup, but like Kendrick, not your ideal leadoff man from an OBP perspective due to the lack of walks. Still, lots of other teams would love to have this guy.

The Outfield

It appears the Angels have a set outfield for the first time in seemingly a while this year with Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter, and Bobby Abreu occupying starting roles. Hunter and Abreu should be good for a 2010 that closely mirrors their 2009 numbers, and that will be good news for the Angels as both had strong seasons. There is some SB risk with Hunter, who turns 35 in July and is coming off hernia surgery. Rivera is the wildcard here. He’s a terrible baserunner, but at 31, there’s still probably another 2009 type season in him.

The Bench

Either one of Wood, Izturis, or Kendrick will find himself on the bench to start any given game, lessening their mixed-league value. All three however are worth looking at in AL-only formats, with Izturis being the obvious third wheel here given the presence of Wood at third base. Of course Wood could fall flat on his face, thus opening up third for Izturis full time.

Reggie Willits and Terry Evans could be the backup outfielders, though expecting much in the way of fantasy value is tied to your opinion on whether the starting three will suffer injuries. Evans has put up some impressive minor league numbers, but he’s 28 and has probably missed his window. Willits has a career .365 OBP and 38 stolen bases in 663 major league at-bats, but has Juan Pierre power and is not a legitimate starting outfield possibility for a contending team. Grab him in AL-only leagues should he get unexpected playing time, but don’t draft him.

The Prospects has you covered on the prospect front, so I won’t go too deep here other than to say that there’s really no impact prospect that we can count on seeing make a fantasy impact in 2010. The Angels don’t have that true elite prospect like a Jason Heyward, but few organizations do. What they do have is depth, a nice haul in 2009, and four extra high 2010 compensation picks from the losses of Lackey and Figgins to free agency. Trevor Reckling and Hank Conger could see time later in the year with a strong performance in the high minors, but we’re probably looking at more like 2011 for those guys. Overall, this is a system that is far from elite, but under Eddie Bane and company, there is progress being made.

The Obligatory Sleeper and Bust

Sleeper – We touched on him above, but I will be targeting Howie Kendrick in several leagues this year. I think he can build on his .392 September and 15 homers wouldn’t be a surprise, along with a .310 average.

Bust – Most of the candidates for this coveted award are pitchers, but I’ll go with Brian Fuentes. He just doesn’t look like an AL pitcher, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Fernando Rodney finish with more saves this season.

By Thomas Crow - Contributor

Having already clinched the best record in the American League, the 2008 Angels had one goal remaining to complete what would be the most successful regular season in franchise history. With 99 wins and three games to go, 100 or more wins seemed certain with Texas coming to town.

The Rangers were simply playing out their remaining few games while the Western Division Champion Angels were preparing for the playoffs and had their three top starters ready to take the mound. However, after two disappointing, even if meaningless, starts by John Lackey and Ervin Santana, Angels fans began to resign themselves that 99 might have to be good enough. Heck, 99 wins was good enough in 2002 wasn't it?

Joe Saunders, who was fresh off enduring kidney stones, would have none of that, though. He and the Angels bullpen combined to three-hit the always powerful Rangers lineup, who had scored twenty runs the previous two games. Mike Napoli concluded his sizzling September by going 3-for-3 with two doubles and blast over the center field fence to drive in four runs, securing the 100th win for the Angels and an appreciative home crowd.

It may have taken them all 162 games, but the Angels finally reached the century mark in wins and in doing so joined a rather exclusive club of excellent teams who have done so. The Angels finished 21 games in front of the second place Rangers and a gaudy 39 games in front of the trendy pre-season division pick Mariners. Even more remarkable was the Angels won 50 games at home and 50 games on the road.

Sadly for us fans, however, the Angels met the same fate as many of their 100-plus win peers by losing in the playoffs. For whatever reason these teams, despite all their regular season success, historically far more seemingly than their fair share do not win the World Series. But four postseason games cannot diminish what is accomplished over 162. Winning a fourth division title in five years, after winning three in four previous decades is quite an accomplishment.

This is truly the golden age of the Angels franchise. We could easily be writing about the most wins again next season and perhaps even that now seemingly elusive second World Series title.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

It was a moment almost exactly 23 years in the making and the principle players couldn't have been dreamed up any better:

Angels and Red Sox. Fenway Park and  October. Vladimir Guerrero and Jonathan Papelbon.

So much history between the two teams, almost all of it favoring Boston. Recently it was the ALDS sweeps in 2004 and 2007 and the gut-wrenching walk-off hits in those series and again in 2008. All of those, of course, were merely aftershocks to the debacle that was the 1986 ALCS, specifically Game 5 on Oct. 12, 1986.

Anybody with more than a passing interest in Angels baseball understands that what happened in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS wasn't just a clutch hit off a dominant closer. It was the hit many fans had wanted to see for more than two decades — dare I say it was the hit they needed to see.

Though the Angels had already jumped out to a commanding 2-0 series lead on the strength of dominant pitching performances by John Lackey and Jered Weaver in Games 1 and 2 in Anaheim, no Angels fan took a series victory for granted. How could they after all that had happened in the past?

And when the Red Sox, back home in their comfy bandbox, roughed up Scott Kazmir and took a 5-2 lead into the eight inning of Game 3, Angels fans were already fast forwarding to Game 5 and Josh Beckett.

Red Sox reliever Billy Wagner, however, allowed the Angels to mount a threat in the eighth, forcing Boston manager Terry Francona to summon Papelbon for a four-out save. In 26 postseason innings, the Red Sox closer had not allowed a single run. But with runners on second and third, Juan Rivera drove Papelbon's first pitch to right field, drawing the Angels to within one, 5-4.

All hope seemed to die moments later, however, when pinch runner Reggie Willits was picked off first base to end the inning and the Red Sox added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.

Papelbon made quick work of Maicer Izturis and pinch hitter Gary Matthews Jr. to start the ninth and Game 4 seemed assured. But Erick Aybar, 2008 ALDS goat, lined an 0-2 Papelbon offering into center field to keep the Angels alive. Chone Figgins, in the midst of a horrible series (0-12) worked a seven-pitch walk.

When Bobby Abreu slapped a 1-2 pitch over left fielder Jason Bay's head, the Fenway crowd grew so quiet the sound of the ball slamming into the Green Monster echoed throughout the stadium. Aybar scored, the Angels trailed, 6-5, and Game 1 hero Torii Hunter was due up.

Francona elected to walk Hunter and load the bases for Guerrero. The face of the Angels franchise for much of the most successful period in team history was no longer the same "Super Vlad," injuries and age sapping much of his power and presence. A likely free agent at season's end, there was every indication this might be Guerrero's last hurrah with the Angels.

To nobody's surprise, Guerrero swung at Papelbon's first pitch, a knee-high 95 mph fastball, and served into into center field, where it dropped in front of a fast-charging Jacoby Ellsbury. Figgins and Abreu scored, giving the Angels a 7-6 lead, and Guerrero stood safe at first base with the biggest hit of his postseason career.

Papelbon walked off the Fenway Park mound to a chorus of boos.

A few minutes later, Brian Fuentes retired Boston in order in the bottom of the ninth and the Angels completed an unbelievable series sweep of the Red Sox.

Though they would succumb to the eventual World Champion Yankees, 4-2, in the ALCS (though not before providing two more memorable victories), there was undoubtedly a sense that the Angels had indeed completed some "unfinished business," thanks in huge part to the ninth inning heroics the man who may one day become the first player enshrined in the Hall of Fame as an Angel.

By Geoff Bilau - Senior Editor

In the top of the fifth inning of their Aug. 18 game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Angels catcher Mike Napoli smashed a line drive single into center field off Indians starter Fausto Carmona. It was Napoli's second hit of the game, lifting his batting average to .302.

And though Napoli popped up and struck out in his final two at-bats of the Angels 5-4 victory, his average at the game's conclusion was .300. While it's always noteworthy when a batter (especially a career .256 hitter) eclipses the magical .300 mark, this particular moment was altogether monumental. Napoli was just one of nine Angels hitters who finished that game with a batting average of .300 or better.

Chone Figgins: .308
Bobby Abreu: .310
Juan Rivera: .310
Vladimir Guerrero: .313
Kendry Morales: .303
Torii Hunter: .307
Maicer Izturis: .300
Mike Napoli: .300
Erick Aybar: .313

It would last only those final four innings and the time leading up to the next day's game — Angels manager Mike Scioscia inserted .275 hitting Howie Kendrick for .300 hitting Izturis and Napoli flew out to left field after walking twice, dropping his average back to .299 — but it was historic, however fleeting as it may have been.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time since 1934 that any Major League team at least 100 games into its season finished a game with every player in its starting lineup hitting .300 or better. Mickey Cochrane's Tigers accomplished the feat Sept. 9, 1934, against Boston — which was all the more impressive considering pitcher Lynwood "Schoolboy" Rowe and his .301 average was batting ninth. The Tigers lineup that day included four Hall of Famers (Cochrane, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin) and two All-Stars (Rowe, Gee Walker).

The Angels hitting heroics helped rookie starter Trevor Bell win his first Major League game — one that he and Angels fans won't soon forget.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Name: George Brunet           
Position: Starting pitcher                                            
Throws: Left
Bats: Right                                               
Number(s): 43

Years Played As an Angel: 1964 -1969
Angels’ Stats: Win – Loss 48 – 62, ERA 3.13, WHIP 1.202, Shutouts 14
Career Stats: Win-Loss 69-93, ERA 3.62, Strikeouts 921, Shutouts 15

How He Was Acquired: Purchased from the Houston Colt .45s in 1964

Why You Should Know Him: Brunet pitched for the Angels in six consecutive years and had ERAs of 2.56 in 1965; 2.86 in 1968 and 3.31 in 1967.  Brunet’s WHIP were as low as 1.056 in 1968 and1.107 in 1965 – highest WHIP was 1.488. After his career in the majors was over Brunet pitched 14 more seasons in the minor leagues with most of those seasons being in the Mexican League. He posted 3,175 minor league strikeouts to go with his 921 major league strikeouts for a total of 4,096 strikeouts in 33 years of professional baseball.

Memorable Moments/Games: In 1968 George Brunet threw 5 shutouts and had 3 shutouts in 1965. He averaged over 200 innings pitched in all but one full year with the Angels.

Anecdotes and Quotes: Brunet was inducted into the Mexican Hall of Fame in 1999

Where is He Now?: Brunet passed away in 1991 at the age of 56

Contributed by Bruce Nye - Columnist

Monday, February 8, 2010

Name: Michael Dana Butcher                
Nickname: Mike
Position: Pitching Coach, Pitcher                                         
Throws: Right
Bats: Right    
Number(s): 23                                            

Years Played as an Angel: 1992-1995
Years Coached as an Angel: 2007-present
Angels’ Stats: 11-4, 9 Saves, 4.47 ERA
Career Stats: same

How He Was Acquired: Spent one season as pitching coach of the Tampa Bay Rays before taking over the same position with the Angels, the only team he ever played for, in 2007, replacing Bud Black.

Why You Should Know Him: Butcher won six games in relief for the Angels in 1995. He was part of a bullpen that included Troy Percival and Lee Smith. In 115 career appearances for the Angels, he never made an error. His first two wins came at Yankee Stadium, two days apart.

Butcher spent six seasons as a pitching coach in the Angels minor league system before taking over the job in Tampa Bay. He was the pitching coach at rookie level Butte in 2000, AA Arkansas in 2001, AAA Salt Lake City in 2002, and the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League in 2003.

Memorable Moments/Games: When the Angels blew a ninth-inning lead to the Red Sox at Fenway Park in mid-September, several Angels players and coaches, including Butcher, let the home plate umpire know that they didn’t appreciate two controversial non calls, either one of which would have gotten the Angels out of the inning with the victory. The team responded with a win over Josh Beckett the next day and the Angels finally defeated the Red Sox in the playoffs less than a month later.

Anecdotes and Quotes: Butcher was the first member of the Angels to hear about Nick Adenhart’s tragic accident. He was called at his home at 2 a.m. and spent the night at the hospital with Adenhart’s father, Jim. He remembered a conversation with Adenhart earlier that night after his stellar performance versus Oakland.

“I walked up to him and asked him, ‘How’d it feel? Did you feel the ball coming off your fingertips like it’s supposed to?’” said Butcher. “He said, ‘Butch, I got it.’ That was a pretty special moment. “To see a kid figure it out that early and to understand it and own it. It was only a few hours later when he lost his life.”

Contributed by Brett Borden - Columnist

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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