Thursday, July 27, 2006

First Place

Sure, I'm a little late, and hey, it's only been a week since I've updated this thing, but trust me, I've been busy. Between multiple projects at work that are forcing me to actually do work (the nerve...), and spending pretty much my entire weekend playing golf, I've been tied up. Speaking of golf, I set a personal record on Sunday at Blackthorn in South Bend with five birdies, and those don't include a a 255 yard three wood I hit to about 10 inches to save par on a hole on which I'd hit my drive out of bounds. Finished with a 75. Two double bogeys are tough to overcome, but I'd gotten back to even through 12, and was one over going to 17 before making really bad bogeys on the last two holes. But they were the 35th and 36th holes of the day, so I was starting to wear down a bit.

But enough about me. The resurgent Angels have worked their way back into a tie at the top of the AL West, tied with Oakland, 1.5 games clear of Texas and three up on Seattle. Quite frankly, I never would have believed it possible after the first three months of the season, and I'm still not quite sure how they're doing it. They still aren't playing good defense, their pitching has still been hot and cold, the front end of the bullpen has been atrocious, and their offense has been spotty. But Juan Rivera has been a freaking stud. Orlando Cabrera is still turning in a solid offensive performance, and management has finally seen fit to put Howie Kendrick in the lineup. All he's done since is hit .458 with five doubles and a homer. Robb Quinlan and Maicer Izturis are providing consistent production at the corners, which have covered for Mike Napoli's predicatble but not discouraging regression. Vlad isn't exactly displaying his raw power, but he's hitting .400 in July, and driving in runs.

The question, of course is whether they can keep it up. Quinlan, Izturis, and Kendrick can't be expected to maintain their level of production, and Rivera is bound to cool off. On the mound, they can expect better performances than what they've received from Ervin Santana lately (who really was pretty unlucky on Tuesday aside from the Wigginton home run). Lackey will be Lackey, but Jered Weaver has got to cool off at some point. Kelvim is sore after every start, and an injury to Bart could be a blessing in disguise if it brings Joe Saunders back to the rotation. Remember, he won't be replacing Bart of 2005, he'll be replacing the shell that has worn Bart's XXXXL jersey in 2006, so that's an upgrade, most likely.

When you look at it, there's not a lot to be excited about. But darn it if I don't feel pretty positive about the Angels right now. They're fun to watch again. They're back in the race, and they've got fresh faces in the lineup that make them an interesting three hours of entertainment. Four if Colon, Escobar, or Santana are pitching. The biggest thing they've got going in their favor is that the rest of the division sucks as well. I've said it before, but the reason I can see the Angels winning the West this year isn't because I think they're good, but rather, I don't think any of the other teams are deserving. In the last two years, the A's really scared me. This year, they don't. Same goes for the Rangers and Mariners (of course, those teams are all saying the same things about the Angels, but...).

Regardless, the team is fun to watch again, though maddeningly frustrating when they play like they did on Tuesday, but hey, that's baseball.


UK Halo said...

The maddening error-strewn games are, fortunately, getting fewer and fewer.

Most of the baseball being played at the moment is solid, pitching hitting and fielding, and with what is basically a talented club, that should be enough to win this division by 5-7 games.

Chone said...

You're feeling way too positive, that can't be good for the Angels.

Embrace the Doom.

NFL Adam said...

Don't worry, that annual Stoneman deal is coming to the rescue!