Monday, September 08, 2003

Thoughts on the Kansas City Series

1. The double-header sweep of the Royals on Saturday probably ended any realistic chance the Royals had to make the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus' now gives the Royals only a 3.7% chance of making the playoffs, and that may be generous. The Royals have been one of the best stories of the year, but it was always built on sand.

2. Kevin Gregg has certainly earned himself a look in spring training next year. He certainly hasn't earned himself a spot in the starting rotation, because two good starts do not prove anything. He doesn't have great stuff by any means, but I do like his K/BB numbers in AAA: 75 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 91.2 innings. Anyone with better than a 4-1 K/BB ratio has at least earned a chance.

3. Speaking of having earned a chance, Scott Shields earned a shot at the starting rotation, and has done little to show that he deserves it. I was a big proponent of cutting loose either Appier or Sele and giving Shields a chance. I still think it was a good idea. We now have a pretty good indication that Shields is better suited for long relief rather than starting, at least at this point in his career, and we don't have to find that out next season when the games will probably count.

4. Uncle Arte for the first time promised a trip to the free agent Toys R Us this Christmas, but didn't promise to actually buy anything. My wish list? 1. Kevin Millwood. 2. Vlad Guerrero 3. Carlos Beltran (if available) 4. Kaz Matsui.

5. Watching the Angels without Hudler and Physioc just didn't seem right. I'm not going to argue that those two are great announcers--they aren't, and sometimes they give me fits. But they are ANGELS. They have really made themselves as an identifiable part of the Anaheim Angels and something just doesn't seem right when they aren't there. Kind of like that goofy freshman year roommate that you tolerated more than liked, but you really missed him when you were out on your own and you looked him up on occasion. And to be honest, Hudler is a character. Harry Caray used to say anyone could announce for a team in first place in September during a close game. It's the June blowouts for a team out of the race that separates a real announcer from the pretenders. Caray was willing to make himself the story if there were no stories going on the field, and willing to get out of the way when there was somethig we needed to pay attention to on the field. Hudler is the same way, except sometimes he has a little trouble with the "get out of the way" part. That will come with experience. Hudler is the young Garret Anderson of color men: maddeningly frustrating and one isn't quite sure that he understands the game, but certainly full of talent and promise.

I don't particularly condone what Hudler is accused of doing, but I don't condemn it out of hand, either. It's a misdemeanor, and should be treated as such. Besides, it isn't like he's accused of raping a teenager in a Colorado hotel room. And it certainly seems that most sports fans in SoCal are willing to say that's OK, as long as it means another victory parade outside Staples Center.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

This explains a lot.

Honestly, I love Hudler, and in an era when all the announcers are starting to sound and look alike, we need a clown like the Wonder Dog in the booth, even if I sometimes think a donkey knows more about the game of baseball than he does. His particular brand of idiocy might play better if they had a smarter play-by-play man than Physioc next to him, but I honestly can't say that Physioc is any worse than most of the idiots out there calling ballgames, and in some ways he's better.

I'm sure I'll say more about this later on, but as for now, I'll just say: DON'T FIRE HUDLER!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Having now seen the replay on Baseball tonight, all I can say is:

I was writing my last post while listening on the radio to the horrible, horrible end of today's 6-5 loss to the Twins. I can't think of a worse way to lose a game. Well, actually I can, but I don't want to. And would someone please tell KSPN that that I'm tired of being asked about whether or not I have "sweaty palms" during each commercial break. (No link, I'm not going to give them any more publicity.) Talk about making up an illness to fit a cure!
I haven't said anything about the Angels picking up Wilson Delgado. I wonder why?

It's hard to know what to do with a season that is lost like this one. You can blame it on injuries, you can blame it on not making moves in the off-season and you can blame it Darrin Erstad's contract, as Rob Neyer likes to do. What's even harder is trying to motivate yourself while you are essentially playing out the string. But I know how the Angels are motivating themselves. They are looking forward to that big Christmas shopping trip to F.A.O Schwartz that Uncle Arte has promised to take them on if they are good boys. Never mind that Uncle Arte has never promised any such thing, but the assumption is that now that Uncle Scrooge is gone, there will be lots of presents under the Angels tree this winter.

We've already mentioned the wish list of Kaz Matsui and Carlos Beltran, but Ramon Ortiz added another name to the list, Vlad Guerrero.

Now I would love to get Vlad Guerrero, and although I have some real questions about his long-term health, getting him off the turf in Montreal would have to help him like it helped Andre Dawson. But are the Angels forgetting the lessons of the eighties, when Gene Autry's high priced free agents brought nothing but an occasional lightning in a bottle AL West championship? The Angels won a championship by building from within, and there are at least four players (Santana, McPherson, Mathis and Kotchman--add in Bobby Jenks if you are feeling charitable) that have major league all-star written all over them. Certainly injuries could derail any or all of those guys, but I would hate to see those guys become the next Tom Brunansky, Brian Harper, Mike Easler, etc, etc, while the next Geoff Zahn is trying to win games in Anaheim and Donnie Moore is trying to save them.

Honestly, I don't think Stoneman will go in this direction. I think that all of this is a bunch of players trying to motivate themselves by saying better times are ahead. Stoneman seems pretty committed to building from within--otherwise he would have traded Mathis and Kotchman for Beltran earlier this year.

But I do think it is possible the Angels will sign ONE big name free agent this off-season, and it might be Vlad, if Arte really wants to open up the pocketbooks. The Angels are going to draw three million fans this season, so there should be some money to go around towards Vlad's huge contract. And there is one other cultural matter: Vlad doesn't speak English very well. Arte would be the only owner who could make a personal pitch to him without a translator, and that might mean a lot to Guerrero. But let's just say I'm not getting my hopes up.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. Of course, it never rains in Southern California.

There is a pretty funny article on the official Angels website on how David Eckstein has been picked to be the new player rep. Eckstein hasn't agreed to do it yet, but as Jarrod Washburn said (who is filling in for the traded Scott Schoeneweis) "He has less service time than me. He has no choice." Washburn addded that "I'd give it to Shields, but he ain't smart enough."

This seems to be the way of a lot of teams--unless the team has a respected veteran who has been active in union activity for a while or someone actually wants to do it, it goes to a young player that the rest of the team can respect. I know the Cubs picked Mark Prior for the job after Joe Girardi got dumped.

Ironically, such a cavalier attitude actually indicates that the players take the job pretty seriously, rather than the other way around. It's a lot of work for no extra pay and a lot of extra grief. All you get out of it is the respect and gratitute of your fellow players. Eckstein is perfect for it and Wash is right, Eck has no choice.

Wow, I haven't written since Wednesday. No big deal since I don't really have any readers yet because I refuse to advertise. I guess "refuse" is simply a fancy way of saying "too lazy to get around to doing it" and "would feel too much pressure to write if I thought anyone was reading."

Alfredo Amezaga decided that he wanted to be a real Angel so he went and tore up his labrum. I laughed out loud when Physioc said this on Friday. I mean, how cursed can this team be? Certainly, if it's a matter of us having used up all our good luck last season, it was a good trade. Bad seasons are forgotten, but World Championship flags fly forever.

But since I don't believe in that kind of crap, I have to think that it's just bad luck, with perhaps a bit of desperation from players playing hurt to help a struggling team and making it worse.

Despite that, the Angels got to play spoiler to their old eighties nemesis the Royals and their playoff hopes with a 10-3 victory in Kansas City. Of the Angels I expected to have a chance of a breakout year, Bengie Molina was not one of them. But Bengie's season takes some of the pressure off of Stoneman to push Jeff Mathis.

In a "related" manner, Jose Molina now has gone 88 AB without a walk.

Baseball Prospectus has an article on the Angels firing of Denny Rowland. It a subscriber-only article, but essentially it looks at the 2000 and 2001 drafts and concludes that he wasn't fired for performance reasons, because he did a pretty good job.

Well, I agree he wasn't fired for performance reasons. The Orange County Register uses nicer words that I'm going to, but they claimed he was fired for being a jerk. An ambitious jerk who might have been angling for Stoneman's job, even. He apparently upset the scouts below him and management above him.

But for as wonderful as the 2001 draft was, BP admits that the 2000 draft wasn't all that special, although Bobby Jenks could salvage it. They don't even look at the 2002 draft, probably because they think it is too early to evaluate, but it isn't looking very good. First round pick Joe Saunders is injured, and only second round pick Kevin Jepsen making even as far as low A Cedar Rapids so far. Rowland has been a decent scouting director, and certainly the Angels Latin American operations have improved greatly over the past few years. But I don't think that Rowland is so great that he can't be replaced, and it would be easier to replace him than two-thirds of the scouting staff who can't stand him.

Finally, Carlos Beltran is making noise that he'd like to play for the Angels. I don't think he has any particular affinity for the Angels, I just think he wants to get out of KC and would like to play somewhere warm that has a chance to win. The Angels inquired about Beltran earlier this season and were told it would cost them Casey Kotchman and Jeff Mathis and the Angels wisely said no. Beltran doesn't become a free agent until after next season, but it is generally assumed that the Royals won't agree to arbitration with him this off-season, where he could make as much as twelve million. So if the price for Beltran comes down, the Angels might be willing to make a deal for him.

Is this a good idea? Probably. Carlos Beltran is probably one of the top two or three centerfielders in the majors, only clearly inferior to our old buddy Jim Edmonds. On top of that, he'll only be 26 next season, so he should just be entering his prime.

The downsides? Beltran's agent is Steve Boras, and Boras thinks he can get Beltran a contract of 15 to 18 million a year over eight years. That's not going to happen. Not from the Angels, not from the Dodgers and even not from the Yankees. But it does mean that trading for him means risking losing him to free agency after next year because Beltran and Boras will test the market if they don't get a deal close to that.

The other downside is what to do with Darrin Erstad. I've said it so many times that it seems ridiculous to repeat myself, but Darrin Erstad is worthless as a first baseman. Perhaps moving him to right and Salmon to the DH spot might be OK, but Erstad simply wouldn't have as much of an opportunity to use his great defensive skills in right field as he would in center. It would make the Angels pitching staff extremely happy, however, to see as outfield of Garret Anderson, Carlos Beltran and Darrin Erstad. That would be one of the greatest defensive outfields in history. But it still isn't clear that giving up, essentially, Brad Fullmer's bat to DH Salmon and put Erstad in right field would be worth the defensive gain of keeping Erstad in the outfield. But it certainly isn't worth it to move him to first base.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Last night's 3-0 loss to the Twins is just another mark on a lost season. I honestly don't know what to say about it. I can't really get upset with the strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play that ended the game, since I had said just before the play to my wife "Yeah, I send the runners." I thought that Salmon hits into a lot of double plays and Figgins runs well It was a good gamble that just didn't work out. Additionally, there is no assurance that Spiezio would have done anything with two outs had the runners not gone.

The Angels fired scouting director Donny Rowland the other day in what appears to be more of a personality conflict between Stoneman and Rowland more than a judgement on his ability. On the other hand, if he was churning out great draft after great draft, Stoneman would have kept Rowland even if they didn't get along. As has been noted in the articles after his firing, the Angels 2001 draft was a bonanza with Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson and Jeff Mathis, but the 2000 and 2002 drafts are considered busts, with 2003 being too soon to tell, of course. What bothers me about this is not that Rowland was let go, but rather the comment made in the LA Times article:

Stoneman said the Angels have not wavered from the philosophy he directed Rowland to follow, that of drafting high-risk, high-reward prospects, particularly high school players.

Under the previous management of general manager Bill Bavasi and his scouting director, Bob Fontaine, the Angels emphasized the selection of college players who might sign more cheaply and reach the majors more quickly, even if their potential might not be as great.

Look, I thought Moneyball was a great book, but that Michael Lewis overstated the advantage of drafting college players over drafting high school players. But Lewis and Beane have a point--it is much harder to project high school players than college players. And it is absolutely ridiculous to think that high school players have a higher ceiling that college players. The folks at Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America don't agree on a lot, but the old saw that high school players have a higher ceiling is one that they both reject. Sure, Alex Rodriguez didn't go to college, but Barry Bonds did. Mark Prior, Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson all went to USC. If those aren't "high ceiling" pitchers, I don't know who is one. On the Angels, Garret Anderson was drafted out of high school, but Troy Percival, Troy Glaus, Jarrod Washburn, Adam Kennedy, Darrin Erstad, John Lackey and David Eckstein are all college men. Tim Salmon went to junior college. The Angels are a living testament to the idea that drafting players out of college (OK--the Red Sox drafted Eckstein and the Cardinals drafted Kennedy) and then developing them through your farm system is a formula for winning a World Championship. And of the three highly-touted players taken in the 2001 draft--Kotchman, Mathis and McPherson--which one looks like the best right now? McPherson. Can you guess which one went to college? That's right, McPherson went to the Citadel.

I'm not Michael Lewis. Heck, even Billy Beane isn't Michael Lewis. I'm not against drafting some talented high school players and taking some chances. What is it that investment advisors are always saying? Diversify your portfolio? A good farm system has got a good mix of high schoolers and college players. But the idea that high school players have a higher ceiling is simply crap. The Braves have a draft strategy of getting all the best players, high school or college, from Georgia and the Carolinas, in a way to concentrate their resources to make sure they get the best players. The Angels could do a lot worse than to concentrate on really scouting Southern California, both high school and college. Unfortunately, unlike Georgia and the Carolinas, the Angels would have to deal with a lot of other teams combing SoCal for talent.

Of course, it may be that the crap here is coming out of the LA Times and not the Angels, since the Angels declined to put those comments on drafting strategy on their official site. But having seen the heavy emphasis on drafting high schoolers since Stoneman took over, I doubt it.

Monday, August 25, 2003

I forgot to mention Bobby Jenks yesterday, and today's off-day is as good a time as any. Jenks has now pitched 29.2 innings of shutout ball, and many people are saying that Jenks has finally gotten his five cent head out of the way of his million dollar arm and turned himself into a real prospect. (Nuke LaLoosh was twice as smart as this guy.) John Sickels answered a question about Jenks, essentially repeating the party line on him, although he was kind by describing Jenks as simply having "troubles with emotional maturity."

I'm still dubious. Jenks is still walking a lot of batters, and that's going to only get worse as he moves up the ladder. Minor league hitters know that they get rewarded more for a high batting average than a high on-base percentage (ask the Red Sox and David Eckstein) and thus they have a tendency to swing at pitches that major leaguers would lay off. Jenks may still put it all together and become a dominating pitcher and I certainly hope he does, but I think that even if he learns to control his head, he still is going to have to learn to get that 100 mph fastball over the plate.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Wow, I hadn't written anything since the Tigers series started. It's been hard since today's game was the only one televised.

Something just isn't right about Percival and there is probably more to his retirement talk than he is letting on. Even when he manages to get a save, he looks bad doing it. Sure, the runs that he gave up in the ninth were unearned, but I've always thought it was a little bogus when they consider a run scored on a home run to be "unearned." I understand why they do it, but it is silly to think that Percival wasn't responsible for those runs in today's defeat. Of course, he is getting the "L."

It's ironic that an error by Adam Kennedy was what led to the losing dinger. Kennedy should win a gold glove, but such things aren't usually decided by overall excellence. What's also ironic is that just about a month after I had packed AK's bags and shipped him of to Baltimore (or wherever), Adam Kennedy has clearly been the Angels MVP since the all-star break. So much so that the Angels finally got rid of Benji Gil and gave the job to Kennedy full-time.

How good has Kennedy been? His defense has always been excellent, and even the error he made today was a tough play. But he has been tearing the cover off the ball-- a .958 OPS--so much so that only Marcus Giles has a better OPS among second basemen since the all-star break. He's even getting on base at a .390 clip. When one considers that Eckstein's health has been questionable and pretty much every thing except his health has been questionable for Alfredo Amezaga, Kennedy is making a strong bid to return for next season. With the Angels continuing to pursue Kazuo Matsui in Japan, according to the LA Times, would the Angels be willing to part ways with fan favorite David Eckstein to keep Kennedy? That's a tough call. If you base it on this season, Kennedy has now pulled ahead of Eckstein, and he's a year younger and more "toolsy." But I can imagine the outcry from Cerritos to San Clemente if little David Eckstein is allowed to go on his way.

Looking at the lineup the Angels put on the field in Detroit, I'm actually pretty surprised that the Angels took three out of four. Yes, there isn't a word in the English language to describe how truly terrible the Tigers are, but they have managed to win one out of every four games this year against real major league teams, and those guys wearing the grey uniforms with Anaheim on the front were much closer being the Salt Lake City Stingers than the Anaheim Angels. Losing the last game--and the only televised one-- was a real disappointment, but not really all that surprising.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?