Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On the Plus Side, It Didn't Take Long

The Angels picked up where they left off in 2005, unable to mount any offense, but you've got to hand it to Beckett. He was very impressive. They can talk all they want about making him work, but the guy was firing strikes all night, and the only thing you accomplish by taking pitches is getting yourself behind in the count. We've all seen the Angels struggle against mediocre pitching before, but that wasn't the case tonight. Remember, Beckett has a pretty stellar post-season history, so it's not like they got shut down by John Garland.

Still, the offense certainly didn't inspire confidence. They haven't really seen Dice-K yet. Usually you figure that matchup goes to the pitcher, but anything can happen.

With luck, Rivera will be able to play the outfield on Friday, allowing either Willits or Izturis to head to the bench. Either would have been preferable to Aybar in a pinch hitting role tonight.

Other positives: Lackey sharpened up considerably after his rough start, which couldn't have surprised anyone. But it's a reason for optimism if they can get this to a fourth game. Of course, that means Beckett again, but at this point, I'd take it. Santana also looked terrific in his relief role. The off-day tomorrow could be huge in that it will allow him to pitch in game five if a) Escobar's shoulder doesn't hold up, or b) the Sox force him into 100 pitches through five innings, both or which aren't particularly improbable.

And hey, they lost game one every time in 2002. Not over yet.

A Fine Series Preview

Or at least, a fine example of a preview that picks against the Angels, yet is still well thought out and researched, and concludes that, surprise, a team with a better record and a much better run differential is better than their opponent. Contrary to some people who have their heads up their asses, I'm not the Pollyanna you may have thought I was.

Baker's preview is flawed with respect to the rosters he cites. Colon, Matthews, and Bootcheck will not see action for the Angels. But I think he best sums up the problems I have with certain other Angels bloggers is best summed up here:
Focusing on what they don’t do is a mistake that is often made when analyzing the Angels
All anyone asks for is balance. The Angels may not be as good as the Red Sox. They may be just as good. They may be better. But regardless of how they match up with the Sox, they are a very good team. A team that has good pitching, and despite certain individuals' love affair with peripherals, they finished fourth in the AL in runs scored. Not over a week. Not over a month. Over 162 games.

The best news, of course, is that this evening, they'll line up and play the game, and all of the whining can cease until after the series is over, when I'm sure Rob will point out how he was right about everything, win or lose.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Playoff Eve

As long time readers will no doubt already know, I'm nothing if not the most optimistic fan who's ever donned an Angels cap in support of his team. So before this gets started, let me warn you, I don't actually pick the Angels to win every single game. I mean, in most of the early round games they aren't even playing, so I have to choose between the teams that are. And you may want to sit down for this, but I actually think the Angels might lose a game or two. Crazy, I know.

But anyway, here goes:

Division Series

Cubs in four: I honestly couldn't care less about the National League, and despite the fact that I live in Chicago, I know almost nothing about either team. Still, it seems as if the Cubs are hot, and and I just can't buy into a team with a negative run differential on the season going very far.

Phillies in five: This has the potential to an amazing series, and a purists nightmares. hitters parks galore, and two teams who ended the season on fire to charge their way to the playoffs. Again, National League, don't really care. But this one might be fun to watch.

Indians in five: The Yankees offense steps up in games two and three to bring the Yankees to the verge of the ALCS, but the Indians find another gear in the last two games to take the series. Though I'll admit, part of me wants to see the Yankees win, with Alex Rodriguez leading the way. The guy one of the greatest players of this generation, and he's unfairly maligned for his performance in clutch situations. I wouldn't mind seeing him shake that.

Angels in four: They lose game one when Lackey falls victim to the Lackey inning. But Escobar dominates in game two, and Weaver and the pen hold off the Sox in game three, setting up Lackey's revenge. Yankees and Red Sox go home, giving the NHL a minor ratings boost as the country stops caring about baseball, except for the Cubs.

League Championship Series

Cubs in five: A surprisingly easy series as some guys do some good things for the Cubs, and some other guys do some not so good things for the Phillies. Sorry, but I really don't care for the National League.

Angels in seven: I really want to pick the Indians in this series, but I've been told that "Anything that casts doubt on the Angels is enough to get Seitz going." Because it's getting kind of late, I don't want to get myself going, so I should probably pick the Angels in this one. I think Ervin Santana will have to prove his mettle at least twice in this series, once as a starter and once as a reliever. I also have a hunch that Casey Kotchman will put up big power numbers, like three or four homers in one series, including one off a lefty. I have no basis for that, other than a hunch. But the Indians have played the Angels really tough all year, and in the games I've seen, they don't appear to be a team that can be out-smarted.

World Series

Angels in five: I'm kind of torn here, and really in the whole playoffs. Not who I want to win, or think will win. Rather, I'm torn over how I want the Cubs to lose. Would I prefer a four or five game thrashing, dashing the hopes of Cubs fans everywhere almost before the series gets started? Or would I rather the Cubs suffer another Bartmanesque collapse, putting half the city (my half) into a three week state of shock, one night likely to be broken by either the awful Bears or awful Blackhawks? It's a tough call. If you could guarantee me that the Angels would win in seven, my dream would be for the Angels to overcome a ten run deficit in the the night, sending the game to extra innings. In extra innings, the Cubs would take the lead every inning, only for the Angels to come back and tie the game again, until finally, a Reggie Willits grand slam gives the Angels a one run victory in the bottom of the sixteenth. Of course, such a loss would undoubtedly make Cubs fans more insufferable than they already are, and almost as insufferable as they'd be if they one the thing.

But ultimately, if I'm watching this series, I'd rather see a merciless drubbing. Double digit victories every night, except for one bone that we'll throw to the Cubs. Either way, hopefully my Angels hat will be good for free beers on the Southside next year.

So that's your forecast from the most optimistic Angels fan in Angels fan history.