By Brian Waller, AngelsWin.com Columnist
Joe Saunders has always been the type of player that tends to get over looked. The 31-year old lefty has never won 20 games in a season, never struck out 200 batters and never pitched in the World Series. There is nothing about Joe Saunders that is eye popping, nothing that would draw your attention to him more then any other starter in the game today. Despite never accomplishing the above mentioned, Saunders has quietly put together a very respectable career.
It's been over two years since Saunders wore an Angels uniform but his contributions to the team are still fresh in all of our minds. Saunders had two of his best seasons with the Halos, winning 17 games in 2008 and 16 games in 2009; he was an important piece to the puzzle for the Halos when they made it to the postseason 3 consecutive seasons from 2007 to 2009.
One of Saunders' best games with the Halos came on May 9th, 2009, when he out pitched Kansas City Royals ace and eventual Cy Young award winner, Zack Greinke. Saunders struck out 6 and walked only 1 while going the distance in a complete game shutout. With the final score being 1-0, Saunders had little to no room for error and he matched Greinke pitch for pitch. It was a very impressive outing and will most likely go down as one of the most memorable games of his career.
Personally, my favorite Saunders' game was the April 20th, 2007 game against the Seattle Mariners. Saunders scattered 7 hits over 6.0 scoreless innings while walking 2 and striking out 1. Although it's a solid stat line, his pitching performance wasn't necessarily the reason I remembered the game, it was how he paid tribute to the victims of a tragedy that occurred on the campus of his alma mater a week earlier. On April 16, 2007, an individual shot and killed 32 people and injured another 17 on the campus of Virginia Tech. It was the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history. Four days later, just hours prior to his scheduled start against the Mariners, Saunders received permission from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to wear a Virgina Tech hat during the game to honor the victims. After the game Saunders would go on to tell reporters, "I was really really nervous before the game and right when the game started for the sheer fact of what this game meant to me." Saunders continued, "I spent the best three years of my life at Virgina Tech. This was the first time I've ever had to do something like this, and hopefully it will be the last."
For those that have not followed Saunders since his departure from the Angels, he has pitched fairly well the past three seasons in Arizona. His record over that stretch is 19-24 with a 3.77 ERA, including this season were he is 4-4 with a 3.48
On Saturday, Joe Saunders will again take the mound at the "Big A", although this time is will be in an opposing team's uniform. Although we are all pulling for the Angels to win, I'm fairly certain there are quite a few fans pulling for the former Halo as well. Like I said above, Saunders may have never won 20 games, struck out 200 batters, or pitched in a World Series game but one thing is certain, he is a true class act and will always hold a special place in Angels history.