Friday, October 03, 2008

What's Riding on Tonight's game?

Obviously, for the Angels, this game is their season. Lose tonight, and pretty much everything they've worked for since Spring Training is shot to hell. The Teixeira trade signaled that this season was Championship or bust, and they're very close to bust. In addition, they're basically showing the world that if they're in the post-season in the same year as the Red Sox, they may as well not even show up. They've now lost 10 straight post-season games to the Red Sox, and more importantly, seven straight under their current regimes.

Tonight they take on Daisuke Matsuzaka, who the Angels have beaten before. But he's got serious control problems. He walks over five guys per nine innings. But he doesn't allow many hits, and he strikes a lot of guys out. That's probably poison for a lineup full of guys that make their decision to swing usually before a pitcher releases the ball. So I don't really have very high hopes for tonight's game. If they had lost game one in a high scoring back and forth affair, I'd probably be thinking differently. But what we saw on Wednesday was almost a replay of the six previous playoff matchups this decade. The Angels can't get runners on base, and when they do, they can't advance them. On rare scoring occasions, they can't come up with a big hit. Leads are the bread and circuses that keep the masses entertained until the Red Sox decide to pull away.

But tonight's game, in my opinion, has major significance for Chone Figgins. It's a contract year. The Angels have an heir apparent for third base (a couple, really). Since becoming an everyday player, Figgins has seven hits in 52 post-season at bats. He has a line of 135/182/231 over that span. As a leadoff hitter, he has killed the Angels. I'm not usually a believer in small sample sizes, but he bares as much blame as anyone for the Angels' post-season misfortunes over that period, and if he cant' turn it around, I don't care about his regular seasons, it's time to find an alternative. He's a free agent after this year, and I strongly recommend the Angels let him go. They have two guys who should be ready for a full time gig next season in Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez, and either of them can match his production and defense. While they won't steal bases, they'll hit for power, and that's a trade off I'm willing to accept.

So while this is a big game for the Angels, it's even bigger for Figgins. It could decide his fate in Anaheim.

Note - edited: Added "post season" to the third paragraph

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