Saturday, October 04, 2008

Howie Kendrick

I love Howie Kendrick. I think he's a future batting champion. But he needs to be on the bench on Sunday. He needs to be far away from the batters box unless they're desperate for a pinch hitter. He's 0-9 in the series with five strike outs, and he's left 11 men on base. And you know what? That's not why I think he should sit.

Sure, it's part of the reason, probably a big part. But in the eighth inning, after Jacoby Ellsbury reached base on a two out walk, he stole second. Mike Napoli grabbed the pitch and looked to throw to second. Ellsbury probably would have reached safely, but it was close enough to warrent a throw. Only, no one was covering. Right handed hitting Dustin Pedroia was at the plate, which means more likely than not, it was Kendrick's responsibility to cover second. But he was nowhere to be found.

His head is simply not in it. He's swinging at pitches nowhere near the strike zone. He's screwing up things you learn in Little League. He's not taking a first strike. He's killing this team. Hell, I expect nothing from Erick Aybar at the plate. But Howie has to hit, and he's an automatic out. He needs to sit. I don't know what they do, other than play Figgins at second and Wood at third. That sounds desperate, but they are desperate. There is not a person on earth who thinks the Angels will win this series, so maybe they have to do something crazy. Whatever they do, Kendrick needs to watch game three from the bench.

And let me reiterate to Ed Rapuano, if I ever see you in public, I will kick your fucking ass or die trying.

Friday, October 03, 2008

1 and 6-9 liveblog

Through one game and two innings, starters hitting in the leadoff spot and 6-9 spots are a combined 0-25. Kendry Morales, pinch hitting in game one, has the only hit from that part of the lineup.

The Angels started the inning 0-20. None of those hitters have even reached base. Tonight:

  • Figgins popped up - first inning - 0-21
  • Rivera grounded out - first inning - 0-22
  • Kendrick struck out - second inning - 0-23
  • Mathis struck out - second inning - 0-24
  • Aybar flew out - second inning - 0-25 - with his error, he's now producing negatively.
  • Figgins flies out - third inning - 0-26
Interlude - 2-5 hitters are 13-22, a .591 average. All other starters are hitting z-e-r-o.
  • A WALK! A Baserunner! The OBP is up to .037!!
  • Kendrick strikes out - fourth inning - 0-27
  • A HIT!!ONE11!!!!11one!!! Mathis - fourth inning - 1-28
  • Aybar grounds out - fourth inning - 1-29
  • Figgins Singles!!!! - fourth inning - 2-30
Overall update, and hell, I'll even throw Kendry's pinch hit single into the mix:

32 plate appearances
31 at bats
2 hits
1 walk
2 total bases
That comes to a line of .065/.094/.065
  • Rivera strikes out - fifth inning - 2-32
  • Kendrick flies out - fifth inning - 2-33
  • Kendry won't count towards the normal count, as he's a pinch hitter, but he's out too. Actually screw that. Let's throw his hit from last night in there, and his out tonight. The count is officially 3-35.
That may do it. First and second with no one out and the Angels can't get a run in to bring it to one. That's the story of the last five years. That, for all intents and purposes, was probably the game.
  • Aybar gets fucked on ball four, grounds out on a 3-2 pitch - sixth inning - 3-36
  • Figgins pops up sixth inning - 3-37
Garret Anderson almost hits one out, but ends up just making a loud out. He's not included in the calculation, but his 0-3 tonight makes it six consecutive unproductive hitters in a nine man lineup.
  • Juan Rivera Walks - seventh inning - still 3-37
  • Howie Kendrick, working hard to replace Chone Figgins, strikes out on two pitches that aren't even in the same area code as the strike zone - seventh inning, 3-38
  • Mike Napoli walks - RBI - seventh inning - still 3-38
  • Erick Aybar strikes out on a Howie Kendrick pitch - 3-39
42 plate appearances
39 at bats
3 hits
3 walks
3 total bases
That comes to a line of .077/.143/.077 - That's an OPS of 220. If everyone bunted every time up, they'd probably have an OPS better than that.
  • Figgins Triples!! - Eight inning - 4-40....They're up to .100!
I'm going to study Ed Rapuano's photograph. I'm going to burn it into my memory, and one day, I hope to see him walking down the street. And when I do, I'll go fucking Hormel Chavez on his ass and kick him in fucking balls, then kick the fucking shit out of him and hopefully take out a few ribs. Ed Rapuano, you're a piece of shit, and you deserve to have the living shit beat out of you.
  • Gary Matthews fouls out - ninth inning - 4-41
  • Howie Kendrick strikes out - ninth inning - 4-42
They end game two at:
45 Plate Appearances
42 at bats
4 hits
3 walks
6 total bases
That gives them a line of .089/.156/.143

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

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Angels offense - artist's rendering

The Angels worked for 162 games to secure a division title and home field advantage in the playoffs. They worked for three hours to lose it. After a season in which they worked so hard to convince their fans and the baseball world that this was the Angels team that could finally beat the hated Red Sox, it took them nine innings to convince everyone that really nothing had changed.

Jason Bay's sixth inning two run homer provided all the firepower the Red Sox needed as they beat John Lackey and the Angels 4-1. The October anemia that has afflicted the Angels offense since 2004 has not been cured by a shot of Teixeira, and they've brought their whole season down to one game on Friday.

The Angels wasted early opportunities, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, before catching a break when Jed Lowrie booted Vladimir Guerrero's routine ground ball. Torii Hunter singled to left, scoring Garret Anderson, who had earlier singled. In the top of the sixth, John Lackey made his only mistake. Mike Napoli called for a low fastball, Lackey elevated it, and Bay jacked it out to deep left field for a lead that the Red Sox wouldn't relinquish. John Lester escaped the early trouble, found his command, and was kryptonite to Angels bats through seven innings, allowing only the one unearned run. He dominated the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 1 hitters, who combined to go 0 for 16, a black hole that the Angels couldn't escape. After a season that looked so promising, the Angels play for lives Friday night. Lose, and the season is all but over.

Top three Angels perfomers:

John Lackey worked 6 and 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits, while walking three and striking out five. He made only one mistake, and it was the difference in the game.

Darren Oliver entered in the seventh in a jam, and struck out David Ortiz on a 3-2 curveball to kepp the Angels hopes alive. He retired two more hitters before leaving, having thrown a perfect inning.

Garret Anderson had two hits, and generally looked like he knew what he was doing, a rarity in the Angel lineup.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

Take your pick of just about the whole offense. Special recognition to Chone Figgins, who dropped his post-season average to barely over .150, and who's last at bat consisted of five takes, three for strikes. Gary Matthews Jr. deserves a shout out as well, for going hitless, and misplaying a ball in right field. Good thing he's in there for his defense. You can call out Vlad as well, for getting thrown out at third by 30 feet after a bloop single by Hunter, but the only way he was going to score was via an out, and you can't do that from second, so maybe some agression was warranted.

Play of the game:

Bay's two run homer.

What to look for Friday:

One team is confident, experienced, and knows how to win in October. One team is desperate. On the plus side, the Angels send the better pitcher, Ervin Santana, to the mound against Dice-K. But if half the lineup can't produce a hit, Friday night may be the penultimate nail in the 2008 coffin.

Game time is 6:30 PDT on TBS

Playoff Predictions

Matt Welch's are here.

Two things I do not want to see this year:

1) The Cubs winning the World Series. On this, I'm actually torn. I'm not sure if I'd just rather see the Cubs just get blitzed in the first three games, or whether I'd like to see them get to game seven of the World Series and lose in the most excruciating way possible. Probably the former, since I'd rather not take my chance on the latter. But I really hate the Cubs, even more than I hate the Dodgers, which is why I'd prefer to see the Dodger win that series.

2) The Angels playing the White Sox and/or the Cubs. This seems counter intuitive. I should want the Angels to play in Chicago so I can get to a game. Problem is, that's not happening. I love the Angels, and I spend about $500 hundred dollars per year on the Angels between tickets, and the packages on cable and internet. I'm probably not going to shell out $500 more for a ticket to see them play the White Sox, and I'm not shelling out roughly five times that to see them play the Cubs at what is basically nothing but a glorified high school park. Don't get me wrong, if someone dropped a free ticket on me, or even one at face value, I'd probably take it, but that's not likely to happen. Second, I have to live with these people, and I don't want to do that if the Angels lose to either of those teams. Of course, it would be sweet if the Angels took one, or even both, down, but I don't want to take that chance.

Anyway, here goes:


Phillies over Brewers in 4. I just don't think the Brewers have it. They haven't played well down the stretch. Although the teams finished just two games apart, the Phillies won the division in the final month, going 17-7 in September to best the Mets. the Brewers, on the other hand, had a 5.5 game lead for the wild card at the beginning of September, and only a Mets collapse landed them in the post season. This is all despite CC Sabbathia blistering the NL over the last few months. I think that right now the Phillies are the better team, and that will show.


Dodgers over Cubs in 4. The Cubs were a superior team over the whole season, but since the Manny Ramirez trade, the Dodgers have been pretty close (45-34 against 47-30). This just strikes me as an upset waiting to happen, and not because of any Cubs curse. Even though the Cubs handled both teams during the regular season, there was more fear out here over a possible match up with the Diamond Backs. When you're somewhat relieved to draw a particular opponent, karma says you lose that series. So I'm going with the team that Cubs fans* wanted to play.

*Note: Actually a rare species. This town is stupid with Wrigley fans, but actual true Cubs fans are quite rare.


Rays in 4. Tampa Bay has been proving everyone wrong all year. The fact is that they're a very good team, with an excellent manager. They prevent runs better than any of the playoff teams, and they have a competent offense. The White Sox have the benefit of experience (overrated in my opinion) and having dealt with pressure for the last couple weeks, which I actually think does help a bit. I think the Sox will take a game, but the Rays are going to prove to be too good. And honestly, don't let anyone push the "lack of post season experience" argument. Going into the playoffs in 2002, the Angels had one guy with post season experience. After game one, they had 25 guys with post season experience.


Angels in 5. I don't think the fact that the Angels hammered the Sox in the regular season is important on the field. I do think it's important in the minds of the Angels. The Sox won the season series in both 2004 and 2007, and killed the Angels in the playoffs. The Sox had that "team we can't beat" aura. That aura is gone now. The playoffs aren't that different from the regular season, and I think this Angels team believes it can win, and that's the first step. I also think Teixeira adds that extra bat that they've needed. In the past, if you controlled Vlad, you won the series. That may not be true this year. The Angels exorcise some demons in game five.


Phillies over Dodgers in 6.

Again, this is a gut level pick. Sabbathia grabs a lot of headlines, and the fact that the Brewers haven't been the playoffs in 26 years will get some ink. The vast majority of the public will be talking about the Cubs and Dodgers, and they'll be slobbering over the team that wins that series. Meanwhile, the Phillies will go about their business and just win. They just strike me as that team that no one is paying a lot of attention to, and teams like that seem to win for some reason.


Angels over Rays in 6.

The only bad thing about playing the Rays is that series like these tend to make me hate the opposing team, and I really don't want to hate Tampa. I like their players. I love their manager. I want to be able to root for them in the World Series should they get there. On the field, Tampa was the only team with a winning record over the Angels this year, so that's a point in their favor. But they aren't a great road team, and I think the first two games in Anaheim will put them behind the 8-ball. The Angels, and excellent road team will go back to Tampa and steal one in the dome before closing them out in game six back on their home field. The biggest advantage the Angels will get from home field isn't the privilege of hosting a potential game seven. It's getting two host the first two games, and Tampa will fight valiantly, but won't recover.

World Series

Angels over Phillies in Six.

This plays out the same way as the Tampa series. Win two at home. Steal one on the road. Close them out in game six as Ervin Santana, the Angels best starter all year, closes the door on Philadelphia. His fly ball tendencies won't play well at Citizens Bank Park, which is why a game two start will be perfect. Everyone will be denied the Cubs - Red Sox series they so desperately want. This will be a good, but not classic series. Frankie Rodgriguez gets the save in possibly his last game as Angel, finishing his Angel career the way we started it, with a World Series ring.

I'll admit to being a homer. I can't pick against the Angels, but I realize it will be a tough slog to a championship.