Saturday, June 23, 2007

Just a short one tonight

I have to get up early tomorrow.

Do. Not. Count. This. Team. Out. Another terrific comeback victory, and the big thing is, other than the home run the other night, which they didn't really need, they're doing a lot of this without Vlad at his best. he can carry a team for two or three weeks, and he will at some point, but the fact that they're winning without his big contributions is very nice.

Give some props to Joe Saunders, who struggled early, but kept them in the game and got it to the bullpen within striking distance. Similar thanks should go to Chris Bootcheck, who got the job done when called up, as well as Frankie and Shields (but we expect it from them).

The OC was the player of the game with the walkoff double to go along with a homer and an RBI single.

And how about giving some credit to Dino Ebel! Twice he sent guys that should have been out by ten feet, but they must have some sort of scouting report that says run all over the Pirates defense, because he got them two runs that they may not otherwise have scored tonight. And both runners (Napoli and Haynes) looked like they did not expect to be sent. The tying run especially was enormous, because you just can't be sure whether you're going to get another chance.

Nice way to start the series.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Astros 4; Angels 8

Congratulations to Terry Evans on his first major league home run in his first major league start. For a guy who was a non-prospect 23 year old in AAA as recently as last year, he's come a long way, and he was the Angels' only offense until a wild seventh inning. He scored twice, drove in two, and the guy who struck out 60 times against 10 walks in Salt Lake this season drew a big walk in the seventh, and didn't strike out once.

They wouldn't have had a chance in that inning if not for what actually wasn't all that bad of a start from Ervin Santana, despite the poor line in the box score. Other than the first inning home run from Hunter Pence, he actually made a lot of good pitches. Give credit to the Astros for putting the bat on the ball and getting some hits when they needed to in the early innings. Santana kept the game from getting away in the fifth, sixth, and part of the seventh, helping to set up the comeback.

And for the second time in three nights, what a comeback. Error, walk, walk, walk......walk, sac fly. Oh, and a three run homer from Vlad. Just like that, a two run deficit became a four run lead. Four of the Angels' five walks came in that stretch. The walks to Napoli and Evans weren't surprising. The walks to Evans and Figgins were. And while Borkowski clearly struggled with his control, the Angels earned those walks, fighting off some pitches, extending at bats, and punching their own tickets to first base. And just as the Angels had taken the lead, Vlad decided to remove any doubt with a bomb to left center.

Another series win. Another game the Angels probably shouldn't have won. But once again, the message to their opponent was "if you come in to Anaheim on a roll, prepare to get rolled while you're in town". They're taking 2 of 3 consistently from good teams, bad teams, teams on a run, etc. Three more on tap versus the Bucs as the season rolls on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bartolo Colon

He's not very good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Across the Pond

I'm pretty sure I own the albums from whence 38 of the following 78 tracks, collected on this box set, are culled. Any guesses which ones?

The Brit Box:

Disc 1:

01 The Smiths - "How Soon Is Now?"
02 Cocteau Twins - "Lorelei"
03 Felt - "Primitive Painters"
04 Shop Assistants - "Somewhere in China"
05 The Mighty Lemon Drops - "My Biggest Thrill"
06 The Cure - "Just Like Heaven"
07 Echo & The Bunnymen - "Lips Like Sugar"
08 The Jesus and Mary Chain - "April Skies"
09 Spacemen 3 - "Walkin' With Jesus (Sound of Confusion)"
10 The Primitives - "Crash"
11 The Wonder Stuff - "Unbearable"
12 The Stone Roses - "She Bangs the Drums"
13 The Charlatans UK - "The Only One I Know"
14 Happy Mondays - "Step On"
15 Primal Scream - "Loaded" [single version]
16 Inspiral Carpets - "This Is How It Feels"
17 The Trash Can Sinatras - "Obscurity Knocks"
18 The La's - "There She Goes"
19 The Sundays - "Here's Where the Story Ends"

Disc 2:

01 Ride - "Vapour Trail"
02 Pale Saints - "Sight of You"
03 My Bloody Valentine - "Only Shallow"
04 Lush - "For Love"
05 The Telescopes - "Flying"
06 Chapterhouse - "Pearl"
07 Catherine Wheel - "I Want To Touch You"
08 Bleach - "Trip & Slide"
09 Curve - "Coast Is Clear"
10 Five Thirty - "You"
11 Moose - "This River Will Never Run Dry"
12 The Family Cat - "(Thought I'd Died) And Gone To Heaven"
13 The Dylans - "(Don't Cut Me Down) Mary Quant in Blue"
14 Thousand Yard Stare - "0-0 A.E.T. (No Score After Extra Time)"
15 Ned's Atomic Dustbin - "Grey Cell Green"
16 Birdland - "Shoot You Down"
17 Manic Street Preachers - "Stay Beautiful"
18 Teenage Fanclub - "Star Sign"

Disc 3:

01 Suede - "Metal Mickey"
02 Swervedriver - "Duel" [radio edit]
03 Eugenius - "Breakfast"
04 Superstar - "Barfly"
05 New Order - "Regret"
06 James - "Laid"
07 Nick Heyward - "Kite"
08 The Boo Radleys - "Lazarus"
09 Saint Etienne - "You're in a Bad Way"
10 Stereolab - "Wow & Flutter"
11 Blur - "Tracy Jacks"
12 Oasis - "Live Forever"
13 Pulp - "Common People"
14 These Animal Men - "Speed King"
15 Mega City Four - "Wallflower"
16 Echobelly - "Insomniac"
17 Gene - "Sleep Well Tonight"
18 Menswe@r - "Sleeping In"
19 Supergrass - "Alright"
20 Cast - "Alright"
21 Elastica - "Stutter"

Disc 4:

01 Dodgy - "In a Room"
02 Ash - "Girl From Mars"
03 Sleeper - "Sale of the Century"
04 Marion - "Sleep"
05 Kula Shaker - "Tattva"
06 Ocean Colour Scene - "The Riverboat Song"
07 Babybird - "You're Gorgeous"
08 The Bluetones - "Slight Return"
09 Super Furry Animals - "Something 4 the Weekend"
10 The Divine Comedy - "Something for the Weekend"
11 Cornershop - "Brimful of Asha"
12 Silver Sun - "Service"
13 Spiritualized - "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space"
14 Mansun - "Wide Open Space"
15 Hurricane #1 - "Step Into My World"
16 The Verve - "Lucky Man"
17 Rialto - "Untouchable"
18 Catatonia - "Mulder and Scully"
19 Placebo - "You Don't Care About Us"
20 Gay Dad - "Oh Jim"

Chone Figgins - Asskicker

It's not very often that you see a guy raise his batting average thirty points in one game in June. But that's what Chone Figgins did tonight, all while pulling John Lackey and Hector Carrasco's asses out of the fire. Both pitchers were awful, but Figgins capped off a six for six night by driving in the tying run on a two out infield single in the 8th inning and a two out game winning double in the bottom of the tenth inning, making a winner out of Frankie Rodriguez.

Lackey was less than good for the second straight start, blowing a 4-1 lead, and exiting the game with two runners on base and trailing 6-4, all five runs coming with two outs. He simply didn't have it from the get go, and while he battled for a few innings, he succumbed in the fifth, walking Carlos Lee to load the bases, and throwing three ball fastball after fastball to Mark Loretta, who finally bounced one over the left-center field wall for a two run ground rule double. But Lackey didn't accept the good break, and promptly delivered a textbook gopher ball to Mark Lamb. A hit batter and some choice words for the umpire is all Lackey could muster before finally getting the hook.

Hector Carrasco got out of the fifth, and delivered a 1-2-3 sixth before falling apart in the seventh, the coup de grace coming on error in a run down that not only allowed the 8th run to score, but allowed the eventual ninth run to reach third, where a sac fly would chase him home.

Then the monkey paid a long overdue visit. Singles from Vlad and HGHMJ, followed by a walk to Kendrick loaded the bases. Hillenbrand, who conveniently waited until the game was tied to deliver his usual suck (in his defense, he had three hits and two RBIs in what was a pretty good game for him) drove in two with a single. Mike Napoli busted down the line to avoid a double play, a huge effort that paid dividends. Erick Aybar knocked one into right to score Kendrick and move Napoli to third, from where he would score on a Reggie Willits sac fly. With Aybar on third, Figgins delivered his fifth hit of the night, a bouncer to first that he legged out for the game tying RBI.

Anxious moments plagued the 8th and 9th innings, but Scot Shields and Frankie Rodriguez made big pitches when they needed to, none more important than Frankie's slider to Craig Biggio that ended the ninth inning, which looked to me like one of the best he's thrown since 2002.

With two outs in the ninth, Reggie Willits became the ninth Angel starter to reach base via a hit, and set the stage for Chone Figgins' heroics. On a 1-1 pitch, with Willits drawing all kinds of attention from Astros reliever Trever Miller, Figgins laced a liner down the right field line, hit almost as hard as two liners that he had caught earlier in the game. It dropped a few feet to the happy side of the foul line, found its way to the corner, and Willits came home with the winning run.

The Angels should not have won this game. They got seven innings of lousy pitching, 4.2 from a guy who may have just cancelled his trip to San Francisco in mid-July. Only three of their 19 hits went for extra bases (Figgins was officially credited with a triple on the last hit), and none left the yard. But they scratched a victory worthy of their magical 2002 season. Championship teams win games during the season that they have no business winning, and this was one of those for the Angels. And almost all of the credit goes to Figgins. Really an amazing game, and an amazing turnaround from a guy that people wanted to run out of town about a month ago.

Less than stellar of late, Bartolo Colon takes the mound tomorrow to take a shot at wrapping up another series win.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Enough about Adam Dunn already

The Angels should make a run at Dunn, or whatever other power bat they can find, then send Hillenbrand packing.
So says Jonah Keri over at I like Adam Dunn. I had him on my fantasy team a couple years ago and even kept him last year over a bunch of really good guys, including Derek Lee (before all the injuries).

Let's say a guy was about to hit the market who hit 310/362/525 last year in the AL. Let's also say that the price the Angels would have to pay for this guy in terms of players/prospects and additional salary is a big fat nothing. Let's also assume that unlike Adam Dunn, the guy isn't a total butcher in the field, meaning that acquiring him would allow the Angels to DH Vlad more frequently down the stretch, keeping him rested for potential post-season play. I'd imagine that this would be the type of player that writers would say the Angels should go out and get.

Do people not realize that Juan Rivera will probably be back in a month or so? And that he'll be free? And that he's been pretty good the last year and a half? And that he can also play at least average defense?

Personally, I'd rather have a month of Hillenbrand, followed by Rivera the rest of the way, and hold on to the starting pitcher, major league infielder, and top prospect that the Reds are asking for over a few months of Adam Dunn, who won't come cheap, and will likely be a free agent at the end of the year if he gets dealt during the season.

On the U.S. Open

First, for the best coverage and commentary, go here. As for me:
  • The 280-300 yard par 3 8th hole: Personally, I liked it. I think Phil Mickelson summed it up best when he commented on the "black hole" that exists between about 240 and 310 yards. You never see holes of that length, because it's too long for a par 3 and too short for a par 4. But (and this is a theme I'll be returning to), par is just a number. The idea is to get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible. If you think you can get there and too putt for a three, have at it. You want to lay it up short and try to get up and down, be my guest. Golf isn't paint by numbers. There are lots of ways to skin this cat, and the best tournaments should feature the best players being creative.
  • The Rough and the Fairways: The conventional wisdom is that the straight hitters have an advantage in the open because the fairways are so tight and the rough is so penal, that you have to keep in the fairway to score. Wrong for a couple reasons. First, as Geoff Ogilvie mentioned, the fairways are so tight and firm in the typical Open that you can hit very good drives and still miss the fairway. So the advantage that straight hitters have is negated because they're chopping it out of the rough all day too. Guys that normally hit 10-12 fairways are hitting 6-7, just like the long hitters. As Ogilvie said:
    I mean, I'm quite happy hitting seven shots out of the rough. I do that every day. They don't.
    If you're going to miss the fairway, you may as well bomb it out there. On top of that, the long hitters are hitting two-iron to where the straight hitters hit 3-wood. That's a big advantage for the long hitters. And not surprising, Angel Cabrera is a bomber. So it Tiger. So is Bubba Watson.
  • The Setup in General: This is the time of year where we hear a lot of "it's great to see those guys hack around like I do on a typical Saturday." I think that's stupid. No one says "it's great to see guys strike out like I would in a major league game", or "it's great to see guys with three inch verticals and no inside or outside game miss all kinds of jumpers", or "it's great to see guys roll gutter ball after gutter ball once in a while". OK, scratch the last one since no one watches bowling. But anyway, these are the best players in the world. I want to see them play like the best players in the world. I don't want to see shots that land on the left side of the fairway roll into the rough on the right side of the fairway. That doesn't mean the winning score should be 20 under, but par is a standard, and the best players in the world should be able to do better than par. That brings me to....
  • Par: Like I said, it's just a number, but to the USGA it's like the virginity of a bible thumper's daughter, to be protected at any cost. That's why courses that routinely play as par 72s for the members play as par 70s in the open. They take two 520 yard par fives and turn them into 500 yard par fours. That's probably a two or three shot swing every day for four days. But here's the thing: Who cares? Other than the USGA, I mean. Tournament golf is a very simple concept. A bunch of players play the same course over four days, and the guy finishes in the lowest number of strokes win. Par is simply a concept that allows us to keep track of who's in the lead when players are on different parts of the course, and it makes following the leader board a heck of a lot easier. But you could get the same result by just making EVERY hole a par 4, or 5, or 10, or 20. It simply doesn't matter. It may matter to you and me when we try to compare how we did at one golf course versus another, but in the context of tournament golf, par is meaningless. They aren't competing against the course, or against their round at the local muni last Saturday. They're competing against each other. So when the USGA says they aren't fixated on par, they're full of shit.
  • Furyk: I can only assume that Jim Furyk was pretty confident that he could at the very least put the ball in a position to make birdie on 17, and no worse than par, even if he hit driver. Sometimes you pull a club that's easier to hit and you don't do any better than you would have with driver, with the added problem of being 20 yards further back. And let's not forget that he was tied at the time. He's trying to make birdie and win it outright. This isn't Jean Van de Velde making mistake after mistake on the 18th at Carnoustie.
  • Tiger: What's strange is that if Tiger is leading after three rounds, the tournament is over. If he isn't leading after three rounds, the tournament is over for him, even if he takes a lead, however briefly, during the final round. For the second straight major, he led in the final round, only to eventually finish as the runner-up. He simply couldn't make a putt when he needed to, and apparently got a bad break out of the bunker on 17, to the extent that's possible. I mean, bunkers are supposed to be hazards, so one should question whether you can really get a "bad break" in a bunker. But the bottom line is that if Tiger is in your rear view mirror on Sunday in a major, ignore him and worry about the other names you see, because he's not the one that's going to get you. One last thing about Tiger, though. If that becomes the conventional wisdom, and I believe it will, then no one is going to work harder to change it than Tiger.
  • Angel: This guy won the U.S. Open. He didn't inherit it. He wasn't the last man standing as everyone else fell apart. He won it by busting par on Sunday. He got up and down from tee box 300 yards away on number 8. And while he nearly gave it back on 16 and 17, he earned the title earlier in the round, especially with an incredible approach on 15. He hit the ball beautifully for most of the round, and when he came to the tournament's toughest hole, with a one shot lead, he hit a perfect drive and made a routine two putt par to maintain the margin of victory. He earned it.
As for me, I choked. I was four over through 14 holes at Dubs on Saturday after hitting a 198 yard five iron to about four feet on the 14th and making the putt for birdie. I played the last four holes in 5 over, including going four over on the last three holes despite hitting the fairway on all three. I was not happy.

Big Weekend for the Angels

On the diamond, the Angels continued their recent dominance over the Dodgers, taking two of three, and they really should have taken all three.

On Friday, Ervin Santana strung together his second consecutive solid road start, and his fourth consecutive solid start overall. That's four straight quality starts, and while his ERA is still around 5.00, it's come down about a run over those starts. He's thrown 27 innings and given up 9 earned runs over that span. Those are solid third starter numbers. Unfortunately, the bats didn't pick him up, and he dropped a 2-1 decision to Derek Lowe.

On Saturday, in a game that I couldn't watch (thanks, Fox!), the Angels got five and a third scoreless from Jered Weaver, who didn't sound as sharp as his numbers indicate, and a two run single from Reggie Willits in a three run fifth. The bullpen completed the shutout for the 3-0 victory, but the game was costly, as Garret Anderson returned to the DL, and Casey Kotchman was hit in the head with a ball thrown so hard that he needed stitches....UNDER HIS HELMET! Apparently Russel Martin has a cannon.

And finally, yesterday the Angels got yet another excellent start from Kelvim Escobar, who held things down until the Angels had broken the game open in the seventh. He left having thrown seven innings and allowing three runs while striking out eight. 110 pitches are a few more than I'd like to see, but it was yet another game in which the offense provided some run support, a rarity in Escobar's first few seasons in Anaheim. He picked up his 8th win, and he's a deserving all-star candidate, though he'll likely get screwed because the Angels always get screwed on all-star selections. Speaking of guys who will screwed out of all-star spots, raise your hand if you thought Orlando Cabrera would be hitting over .340 right now? The guy has been on fire for about a month now. He'll end around .310 or so is my guess, but the Angels are making hay right now, and he's a major reason.

Coupled with both the Mariners return to earth against Chicago and Houston, and the A's come from ahead loss yesterday, the Angels have now five games ahead of both teams in the loss column. On the docket are nine at home against the Astros (30-39), Pittsburgh (30-39), and the Royals (28-42). 6-3 would be a mild disappointment. This is the stretch where the Angels should really open up some serious ground on their pursuers.

As for the Dodgers? Well, L.A. will always be a Dodger town, but the Angels have clearly established themselves as the team of choice for a large portion of the Southern California market. Job well done, Arte.