Wednesday, July 02, 2003


Well, the Angels reach game 81 with a record of 41-40. Sounds a lot like 1998, 2000, 2001, etc. They aren't really out of it, but they aren't really in it. That presents a problem. Do they go toward the trade deadline as buyers or sellers? Personally, I'd like to see them stand pat. They have a lot of pieces, especially in the pen, that will be very important if they want to contend next year. Brendan Donnelly has been incredible this year, and while it's unfair to expect him to maintain his level of dominance, he's still a very valuable arm to have in the bullpen, and will be a part of their next championship team when it takes the field in 2004. The weird thing is, he's discussed as bait in buying and selling mode. Weird. Anyway, keep him.

The Offense

Pretty predictable, really. A little more power out of Anderson than expected to this point, but he's been his same reliable self. Tim Salmon has been solid, naturally. Troy Glaus has been all over the map. After riding a May hot streak, he's been unable to swing his way out of a paper bag of late. He did put together a couple of extra base hits, including a home run, last night, so maybe he's working himself back the mean. Darin Erstad's injury was tough to take, especially on defense, but he seems to be getting back into the groove. Eckstein and Kennedy have really disappointed so far, with Eckstein's struggles magnified by the fact that he leads off. The hope here is that the injury to Fullmer, who had really been a key cog to this point, will allow Jeff Davanon to head to the top of that lineup and be the sparkplug that he can be. They're going to need to score more runs, but that's certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

The Gas Cans The Starters

Here's where it gets ugly. Nobody has lived up to expectations in the slightest, except for maybe Ortiz, who got lit up against Texas. This, we can all agree, is the area that needs to get it going. They have no chance if the starters continue to struggle. Unfortunately, it's been equal opportunity sucking to this point, so it's tough to point to a culprit. Unfortunately, the schedule only includes 6 games with the Dodgers, and those are done. Bummer. Oh well, the Tigers lay ahead, so maybe they can get healthy. Really, the bright side is that they haven't really played the AL Central, save 5 games against Cleveland (and it would be great if they could save them, because they took all five). They're really going to have to win about 80% of those games to have any sort of shot.

The Pen

Awesome. That's the only term you can use to describe the success of the Angels bullpen, and they're really the reason the Angels hover around .500. Brendan Donnelly has been absolutely lights out. Best reliever in baseball this year, so far. Frankie had a great June, and looks like he's back on track. I noticed the other day that he was going out of the stretch, even with nobody on. I think this is a great move. It's been his achille's heel, and the more practice he gets out of the stretch, the better he'll be. Weber has been his usual self. Solid, if not dominating. Percival has returned from what looked like a career threatening injury to be lights out in his last ten outings. He's really running it up there in a hurry. This piece can't falter if the Angels look to stay in contention.

The Outlook

As infuriating as this team can be (John Thompson?), they aren't out of it. Assuming the hitters and pen stay on track, it's going to come down to starters. Washburn needs another run like he had last year, and Lackey really needs to step it up. He's been pitching from behind much of the year, and he's been getting killed. Sele is a real question mark, but limiting him to five innings is a great idea. Anything that leads to more innings from the bullpen is OK by me. They just need some guys to go deep enough to rest them in non-Sele starts. They not only need to torch the central, they need to win head to head series with the teams they are chasing. While the Mariners appear to be running away with it, it's not over. They could collapse. Stranger things have happened. What sweet revenge it would be to storm back and steal it like the Mariners did in 1995. That would be sweeter than winning the Series.

No it wouldn't.

I'll try to take an off-season roundup for the Kings soon.

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