Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Burned By the Hot Stove?

Let's take stock of what we've seen from the Angels so far this off-season, both positive and negative:
  1. Matt Brown, Jose Arredondo, and Dustin Mosely were non-tendered.
  2. Kelvim Escobar signed a minor league deal elsewhere.
  3. Chone Figgins signed with the Mariners.
  4. John Lackey signed with the Red Sox.
  5. The Angels re-upped with Bobby Abreu for two more seasons.
  6. The Angels signed Hideki Matsui for one year at a decent number.
The Non-Tenders

The only one that surprised me somewhat was Dustin Mosely, especially with the impending loss of Lackey at the time. He was capable, when healthy, of providing league average innings, and I figured that would make him at least a candidate in spring training for a fifth starter job, now that one appears available. But there may be more to his injury than we know, and with Matt Palmer, Trevor Bell, Sean O'Sullivan, and possibly Trevor Reckling in the mix, I'm assuming the Angels were comfortable with their options.

Matt Brown looked like a AAAA type that could take over the Robb Quinlan role, but those guys aren't particularly hard to come by. Not a back-breaking loss.

Jose Arredondo looked like he had figured things out in 2008 when he tossed 61 innings with an ERA of 1.62. Arm problems held him back in 2009, and he was set to undergo Tommy John surgery in the off-season. But his real problem was that he never got his head screwed on straight. Asked to go to Arizona to stay fresh in case he was needed as a post-season replacement, he defied the organization and went home to the Dominican, effectively punching his ticket out of Anaheim. All in all, these non-tenders, as well as the loss of Escobar, will have a negligible effect on the 2010 Angels.

Chone Figgins

I can't say I'm surprised by Figgins decision to sign elsewhere, and Seattle is a logical destination, what with the loss of Adrian Beltre. It will be difficult to see Figgins in another uniform, especially one within the division, but this was the right move by both teams. From Figgins' standpoint, he needed to take the best deal he could get, and while the Angels would have taken him back at their price, he did better than he would have done in Anaheim. When he was a pinch runner in 2002, I doubt too many of us thought that we'd get production from him that we saw over his Angels career. But he's not getting any younger, his stolen base success was down last year, and honestly, he's probably more valuable as a guy who plays every day, but plays three positions per week. The Mariners won't use him that way (the Angels wouldn't either). We'll have to wait and see if his 2009 was a case of a guy exploding in a contract year. I don't think it was, actually. I think he'll have a couple really good seasons in Seattle, then decline. I think it's a good deal for both player and team.

But the Angels have got to do something with Brandon Wood, and they appear ready to give him the shot that he's earned in AAA. Wood hasn't shown much at the major league level, but he's never been in a sink or swim situation. He was either up for the purpose of giving guys random days off, or because injuries necessitated it. His major league power numbers through his age aren't all that different from Kendry Morales, and if he continues to improve his discipline, even a little bit, he can be a productive power hitter who plays very good defense at third base. I think he got screwed by the organization in some ways last year, and it took him a while to get it rolling, but if he puts up another spring like he did in 2009, there will be no question that the job is his, and we'll finally see if he's been worth waiting for. It will be worth it for the closure alone.

John Lackey

Tony Granato played six seasons for the Los Angels Kings. He went to a Stanley Cup finals with the Kings. His gritty style and attitude made him a fan favorite of Kings fans for his entire tenure in L.A. Kings fans stuck by him when he took a two handed slash to the head of Neil Wilkinson. We stuck by him when he missed a lot of time due to a brain tumor. To this day, I remember being at a Kings game while he was recovering, and when they flashed his picture on the jumbotron, everyone in the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Then, in 1996, he turned down a comparable offer from the Kings to sign with the San Jose Sharks, arguably my most hated franchise at the time (still is, really, tied with the Ducks). To this day, I hate Tony Granato. That's how I feel about John Lackey.

My feelings regarding Lackey are almost completely opposite to those of Figgins. Granted, he took a lot more money than the Angels were probably willing to offer, and more money than he's worth, but I have nothing but antipathy for players who leave as free agents and sign with their longtime fanbase's most hated franchise (which I think the Red Sox are for Angels fans). I may be rationalizing, but over the last couple years, I don't think Lackey was an Angels warrior. I think he was a warrior who happened to pitch for the Angels, but I don't think he had much, if any, loyalty towards the franchise. He badmouthed his teammates at times, he had issues with his manager, and I think we all knew that when he blew up at Scioscia in the ALCS, he had thrown his last pitch as an Angel.

I will not root for John Lackey the way I rooted for Garret Anderson in Atlanta. I will not crack a tiny smile when I see that he's had a good performance, like I will for Chone Figgins. I will not celebrate a John Lackey day at Anaheim Stadium like I did for Chuck Finley. I won't wish him any physical harm (then again, I won't shed any tears if he shreds his elbow), but I will root for him to get lit up every single time he takes the mound, and I would love to see "Red Sox Nation" turn on him 10 starts into his Red Sox career. His is this decade's Jim Edmonds in terms of how much I'll root for him to fail (and hopefully he won't still succeed like Edmonds did).

Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu

The Abreu deal is a month old, and we already know what he bring to the table. I don't have much to disagree with there, and all I would say is that I hope he takes Erick Aybar under his wing and teaches him to be patient and the advantages that come from it. I think Aybar matured a lot this season, and I think with another year studying under Abreu, if he can learn to take a few more walks, he could replace Chone Figgins as a quality lead-off hitter.

I like the Matsui deal as well, though it likely means that Vladimir Guerrero is done as an Angel. It's only one year, and it's not for very much money. When it comes to free agent deals gone bad, it's almost never the dollars that kill a team, it's the years. Gary Matthews would have been palatable (though still overpaid) at $10MM per for two years. It's the third, fourth, and fifth years that made that deal awful. Even if Matsui blows up in the Angels' faces, it's just a minor blemish. He only missed 20 games last year, and had OPS+ of 131 with 28 homers. Those number are almost identical to Vlad's 2008. I'll gladly take that for $6.5MM for one year.

The Future

So where do the Angels go from here? They'll likely make some sort of play for another pitcher, or Jason Bay, or both. Hopefully the rumored deal of Juan Rivera for Derek Lowe is not close to reality, as it would be a horrible deal for the Angels. Lowe had a very subpar season last year, with his peripherals down across the board. You could expect a bounce back year from a 31 or 32 year old, but I wouldn't expect one from a 37 year old. Worse yet, he's got three years at $15MM per left on his deal. That's not the type of acquisition we've seen Tony Reagins go in for (see Abreu and Matsui). Reagins' only big splash has been for Torii Hunter, younger and more productive than Lowe. Honestly, I'm more confident handing the fifth starter job over to Matt Palmer than I am giving it to Derek Lowe.

So the starting staff, assuming no major injuries, looks to be Weaver, Saunders, Kazmir, Santana, and one of Palmer, O'Sullivan, Reckling, or Bell. I'd expect Saunders to put together a better overall season. Weaver may regress a bit, but not much. Kazmir will be an upgrade over what they got from the third spot last year, and Santana looks like he has regained his form. I honestly don't see a major drop off. If Shields can come back healthy, the bullpen won't be any worse (not a very high bar).

I see the offense as probably being down a bit. The projectors will say that Kendry Morales will regress, but I see him as just as likely to improve on last season, and if I were a betting man, I'd bet on similar production to what he did in 2009. I have pretty high hopes for Kendrick. I see Aybar dropping the average a bit, but hopefully picking up a few walks to balance out the OBP. Wood, obviously, is a question mark. Angel fans have reason to be optimistic after seeing what Morales could do with a full season of at bats, but I wouldn't pencil the kid in for a .300 average and 30 homers. I'll be happy if he just holds down the starting job for the whole year. In the outfield, I think we can expect similar production to what we saw last year, with maybe more from Matsui at the DH than we got out of Vlad.

If the Angels make no more moves right now, I think they'll be picked second by most of the media, with the Mariners looking like the trendy pick. And as always, it's baseball, so anything can happen. Guys blow up, guys fall off cliffs, and guys get hurt. So I think it's safe to say that the division is wide open, but I still expect (however irrationally) the Angels to win it.

It's a long way to April, though, and what happens between now and then could make this entire analysis moot.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Morning Mix 12/3/09

Pre Holiday-Party:
  • Cheerleader - Grizzly Bear
  • Spit it Out - Brendan Benson
  • Les Yper-Sound - Stereolab
  • One to Another - Charlatans UK
  • Splash #One (Now I'm Home) - Mighty Lemon Drops
  • Hypnotized - Spacemen 3
  • Bright Yellow Gun - Throwing Muses
  • Soma - the Strokes
Here's the first single from the first CD I ever bought.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Morning Mix 12/2/2009

Sausage Fest today:
  • Billy Liar - the Decemberists
  • Come Together - Spiritualized
  • Jackass - Beck
  • Morning Bell (version from Kid A) - Radiohead
  • Planet of Sound - the Pixies
  • Something So Strong - Crowded House
  • Slash N' Burn - Manic Street Preachers
  • Juicebox - the Strokes
  • Begin the Begin - R.E.M.
The Pixies/Crowded House back to back was an interesting change of pace. I think the Spiritualized song is the best song on this list, but Slash N' Burn is what got me interested in Manic Street. See the video below.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Morning Mix 12/1/09

First one of December.
  • Quick Canal (w/ Leatitia Sadier of Stereolab) - Atlas Sound
  • All of the Things That Go To Make Heaven and Earth - New Pornographers
  • The One Who Got Us Out - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • Futures and Folly - Blitzen Trapper
  • Cracking Up - the Jesus and Mary Chain
  • High and Dry - Radiohead
  • Let the Serpent Sleep - Elf Power
  • Run - Spiritualized
  • In the Flowers - Animal Collective
The last song serves as a good reminder that year end lists are coming up. Animal Collective will likely be featured prominently. Here's Run, from Spiritualized. Originally released as the first song of the second movement of Laser Guided Melodies, it has also been released as a single in its own right.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Morning Mix 11/30/09

Post-Thanksgiving and ready for three weeks of work before I go home for Christmas:
  • Fall On Me - R.E.M.
  • Lovecats - the Cure
  • On and On - the Longpigs
  • Four Sticks - Led Zeppelin
  • Sons of Cain - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • So Much - the Sundays
  • The Piccolo Snare - Super Furry Animals
  • Big Red - Frank Black
  • You're Not Very Well - Charlatans U.K.
  • Squint - Grant Lee Phillips
Maybe the largest concentration of "acts I've seen live" today. All but Zeppelin, if you give me credit for Frank Black, who I've seen with the Pixies. And not one song released this year. Which reminds me, year end lists start soon. Here are the Longpigs and Frank Black.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cheatey Petey Shows His True Colors

Is there a bigger cocksucker in sports than Pete Carroll? Fresh off bitching about Stanford trying to hang 50 on him, he runs up the score with a meaningless touchdown in the final minute against UCLA.

If I were Rick Neuheisel, I would have called an out pattern on that last drive, and instructed my receiver to forget the ball and bury a U$C coach, preferable the cocksucker Carroll himself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Morning Mix - 11/23/09

Ran into some disaster this morning, but here's what came up first:
  • Motor Away - Guided By Voices
  • Only Shallow - My Bloody Valentine
  • Nice Dream - Radiohead
  • Mason City - Fiery Furnaces
  • Sonny - Paloalto
Then I ran out of juice. Apparently it had been a while since I powered up the old iPod, and now, roughly 700 songs into a 1,400 song playlist (give or take), I have to start all over. Ugh.

Today you get two videos. First the is the short and sweet GBV video for both Auditorium and Motor Away. Next up is the long, meandering, sort of all over the place Mason City, by the Fiery Furnaces, which features one of my all-time favorite guitar solos right around the two minute mark.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Morning Mix 11/20/09

After three straight days of driving 50 miles in traffic back and forth to the suburbs for training (teaching this week after attending last week), I was finally back on the train this morning. You SoCalers who drive every day don't realize how nice it is to live close to reliable and clean public transportation.
  • In the Flowers - Animal Collective
  • The King of Carrot Flowers - Neutral Milk Hotel
  • Blue Spark - X
  • Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before - the Smiths
  • Not Even Jail - Interpol
  • Pandora's Box - Throwing Muses
  • Seems So - the Apples in Stereo
  • Can You Feel It - the Apples in Stereo
I think that's the first time since I've started this that I've had two songs from the same band back to back. First time Animal Collective has popped up as well, the first track from what will probably be my album of the year, in a close race with Dirty Projectors.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Morning Mix 11/16/09

Back from training and back on the train. Here's today's lineup:
A bunch of tracks that are arguably the best on their respective albums. Still not sure how the Peels never made it, with Robyn Miller's voice and good looks. I've seen six of these acts in concert, and I skipped the one chance I had to see Matthew Sweet.

Here's the High Dials. This is the only good version of this song that I can find on Youtube, but it really doesn't do justice to the live version, which is an incredible 10 minute jam.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Morning Mix 11/9/09

Happy Berlin Wall day. My brother was actually there in Berlin when it all happened, just by chance. He was studying in Heidelberg and had made a weekend trip to Berlin and ended up in the middle of everything. I still have a piece of the wall in my apartment.

On a programming side, this bit will go on hiatus for about a week since I have to go to a worthless training that I'm pretty pissed off about.
The last one is a B-Side. I probably only have about five or six Cure songs on this playlist, so it's a bit surprising to see two come up in one morning. Of the eight bands, I've seen all but Echobelly and Elf Power in concert.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Morning Mix 11/6/09

Let's get to it:
Lots of British stuff today until the Posies came in and broke the streak. Every time I hear Show Me Mary, I can never tell at the beginning whether it's that song or Wembley, by the Candy Skins. I'd post the vids, but Universal doesn't want me embedding videos, so here's the lovely Megan Hickey instead.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Morning Mix 11/5/09

Today's random commuter music:
This was like two sides of a mix tape, with the classic stuff on the first side and the contemporary stuff on side 2. Five of the first seven songs were released in the '80s, and the other two were mid-'90s. Also notable, three of these were released as b-sides (the other two from the Stone Roses). Finally, Art Brut followed Billy Bragg, and the song 'Fight' repeats the variations on the lyric "Some things are really best left unspoken but I prefer it all to be out in the open", which is lifted directly from Billy Bragg's hit 'Sexuality'. Funny coincidence.

I'm going to throw a change up today and post the Smiths' version of Jean.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Morning Mix 11/4/09

Here's today's commuting music:
Two things stand out today. After yesterday's sausage fest, we had some ladies today, with Anita Robinson taking vocals on Tornado Alley, and Emily Haines on Empty. Also, pretty poppy, with the exception of maybe Cracker. Also a bit odd to have both M79 and M62 Song in the same morning.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Morning Mix 11/3/09

See yesterday's post for details. Here's today's stuff:
  • Good Weekend - Art Brut
  • 303 - Kula Shaker
  • Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip - the Whigs
  • Timorous Me - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • Evil - Interpol
  • Going to Hell - Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • Mary Anne - Spacemen 3
  • The Holy Ground - the High Dials
  • The Ballad of Elton John - Simple Kid
  • A Good Man is Easy to Kill - Beulah
  • Jeepster - T. Rex
Pretty decent showing today. Good stuff to listen to on the train. I've seen eight of these bands live (8.5 if you give half credit for Spiritualized in place of Spacemen 3). Three of them this year. Here's some TL/Rx, who I just saw at the brand spankin' new Lincoln Hall about a week and a half ago. He played this song.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Morning Mix 11/2/09

In order to keep from totally ignoring this blog, I've decided that I'm starting a new series which will no doubt bore the crap out of everyone who stumbles by, but oh well. A little background: I have roughly 7,600 songs on my iPod, 99% of which are from albums I've either purchased and ripped to my computer, or albums I've downloaded through things like emusic (I think I only have 20 songs I've ever purchased from iTunes because of a gift card I received, and they're all almost all David Bowie). The rest are either one offs that I've downloaded from band's websites or places like Stereogum.

From that universe, I created a playlist of only the songs I really like to listen to, and ended up with about 2,500 songs. I listen to music on the train on the way to work, and with that playlist, I found myself skipping songs a lot if I wasn't in the right mood for what popped up. So I cut that list further, and reduced it to it's current 1,300+ songs.

A few weeks ago I decided that I was going to listen to that whole playlist straight through on shuffle. No skipping. I do this on the way to and from work, and while working out. What will appear here will be whatever popped up on a given morning. Granted, I'm about 400 songs or so into the process, but so be it.

Here's the mix for this morning, in order:
  • Something's Burning - the Stone Roses
  • Creep (the F-word version) - Radiohead
  • Drop It Doe Eyes - Los Campesinos!
  • Electricityscape - the Strokes
  • Elephant Stone - the Stone Roses
  • Gun in the Sun - Wavves
  • Company I Keep - White Rabbits
  • Receptacle for the Respectable - Super Furry Animals
  • Three Women - Stereolab
  • When Jokers Attack - The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Litmus test

If in the biggest inning of the biggest game of your season, you allow two runs without the other team getting one hit, you don't deserve to even be in the post-season, let alone the World Series.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Angels Still Breathing: Angels 5; Yankees 4

With the season on the line, the Angels needed to find a way to get back into this series. Thanks to the bats of Vladimir Guerrero, Howie Kendrick, and Jeff Mathis, the Angels pulled the series back to 2-1 and look to get even tomorrow night.

Jered Weaver didn't bring his best stuff to the mound today. He got his pitch count up early, and his fastball was very hittable. He battled through five innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out four. He was undone by three solo homers, the first coming from Derek Jeter on the third pitch of the game. To Weaver's credit, he worked out of some serious jams. In the second and fourth innings, he found himself with two runners on and no one out, and was able to work out of it both times. He left after a fifth inning in which he allowed the third solo homer of his day, a fastball that was hit over the short wall in right field by Johnny Damon.

In the bottom of the fifth, Howie Kendrick started the comeback with a solo shot of his own off of Yankees starter Andy Pettite. Kendrick crushed an inside fastball into bullpen in left field. An inning later, Bobby Abreu worked a one out walk. With two outs, Vladimir Guerrero hit a towering shot over the wall in left field to tie the score at three.

The Angels took the lead an inning later. Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought in Joba Chamberlain to face the right handed Kendrick, and Howie greeted him with a triple off the wall in right field. Maicer Izturis hit for Mike Napoli and drove Kendrick home with a sacrifice fly. But the lead was short lived. Kevin Jepsen walked Hideki Matsui to lead off the eighth inning. Matsui was replaced by Brett Gardner, but he was erased on a caught stealing, the result of a pitch out and a great throw and tag by Jeff Mathis and Erick Aybar. It was in important play, because Jorge Posada followed it up with a solo home run to dead center field, tying the game.

The Angels missed a golden opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Bobby Abreu led the inning off with a double to wall in right center field. Abreu thought about stretching it to third, and by the team he decided to stay at second, it was too late. He had overrun the bag and was thrown out on a nice play by Derek Jeter, and a great cover of second base by Mark Teixeira.

The Angels threatened again in the 10th inning. Mathis led off with a double and was bunted to third by Aybar. All runners were safe when Mariano Rivera's throw to third went into left field, but an alert Johnny Damon backed the play up and held Mathis. Chone Figgins grounded to first, leaving Mathis on third. After Abreu was walked intentionally, Torii Hunter hit a sharp grounder to Teixeira, who threw to the plate for the second out. Guerrero grounded out to first to end the inning.

Ervin Santana got the Angels through the top of the 11th with top notch stuff, setting the Angels up for fireworks in the bottom of the inning. After David Robertson retired Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales, Joe Girardi made the strangest of his many strange managerial decisions and pulled Robertson in favor of Alfredo Aceves. Kendrick delivered yet again, this time with a two out single to center field. Jeff Mathis followed with a walk off RBI double on a pitch that he crushed to left center field, bringing Kendrick around from first base.

Thoughts on the game:
  • He screwed up on the bases, but a nice take away from this game are the two hits from Bobby Abreu. The Angels NEED his bat to come through, and hopefully today's game was a step in the right direction. On the other hand, Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales have been non-existent. Both were 0-5 today.
  • Hopefully Howie Kendrick made his case to stay in the lineup today. I know he'll be in there tomorrow against the left-hander, but there's no reason his bat should be on the bench, even against right handers. With all credit in the world to Jeff Mathis, he was the Angels most valuable player today. His solo homer in the fifth got the offense started. His triple gave the Angels their first lead, and his single in the 11th set up the drama in the bottom of the 11th. His addition to the lineup was huge.
  • Joe Girardi really overmanaged the Yankees today. Pulling Robertson for Aceves was the killer move, but Damaso Marte and Phil Coke, both left handers, faced two hitters and threw a combined four pitches in back to back at bats. He used Mariano Rivera for an inning, but made a defensive move to replace Johnny Damon's arm in left field with Jerry Hairston. This cost the Yankees their DH, and Girardi made the call to hit for Rivera with a weak bat and two out in the top of the 11th, which meant he had to pull Rivera from the game. The rest is history.
  • Mark Teixeira, love him or hate him, is just a terrific fielder. He made the crucial play to cover second base on Abreu's botched double. He retired all three batters in the 10th when the Angels loaded the bases, keeping the Angels from scoring in an inning where they had a runner on third and nobody out.
  • For all of its faults, the Angels bullpen worked six innings and allowed only one run, the Posada homer. Darren Oliver worked another solid 1.2 innings. Fuentes worked the ninth, striking out two and allowing only an intentional walk to A-Rod, perhaps a game too late. Jason Bulger worked a 1-2-3 tenth and struck out two hitters.
  • Can't wait for tomorrow night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yankees 4; Angels 3

Just an atrocious way to end a game that the Yankees tried to give away. I don't even know what to say after this one. Time and time again the Angels had chances to take control, and time and time again they refused to cash in. For some reason, the Angels have not come to the ALCS prepared to play, and it has cost them the first two games of the season. They wasted an excellent effort from Joe Saunders and Kevin Jepsen, and now they head back to Anaheim with a must win game on Monday afternoon.

The Yankees got the scoring started in the second inning. Nick Swisher worked a two out walk, and Robinson Cano tripled him home. Derek Jeter's third inning homer gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. The Angels got both runs back in the fifth inning. Maicer Izturis led the inning off with a ground rule double, and Erick Aybar singled him home. After Chone Figgins was hit by a pitch, and Torii Hunter walked, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett threw a wild pitch that scored Aybar to tie the game.

The bullpens battled it out into extra innings, with Joe Girardi burning through his best pitchers early, while the Angels went to the 10th with some of their best arms unused. In the 11th inning, Gary Matthews walked to lead off the inning. After Aybar bunted him to second, Chone Figgins singled him home to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. Mike Scioscia called upon closer Brian Fuentes to end the game, but he surrendered a lead off home run to Alex Rodriguez that tied the game. It came on an 0-2 pitch, but in Fuentes' defense, the ball barely cleared the wall in right field, and would have been a routine fly ball in every single professional ball park in the country. Only in the joke of a ball park they built in the Bronx would that be a home run. Yankee Stadium is really an embarrassment to baseball.

The Angels left the go ahead run in scoring position in both the 11th and 12th innings, failing to get the big hit time and time again. In the bottom of the 13th, Jerry Hairston, Jr. led the inning off with a base hit. He was sacrificed to second. The Angels intentionally walked Cano to get to Melky Cabrera. Cabrera hit a grounder to second that should have been the second out, but Izturis felt the need to try to get the out at second, even though there was no chance at turning a double play. Predictably, he threw it away, and Chone Figgins botched the back-up. Hairston scored, and now the Angels find themselves at death's door.

Thoughts on the game:
  • I'm not sure I have many. I'm numb at this point. Aside from Joe Saunders, who got himself out of jam after jam, not one player on the Angels played like they wanted to win this game. A team that relied on getting the job done in crucial situations has not gotten it done in those situations against the Yankees.
  • Yankee Stadium is a joke. Blame Fuentes all you want for making a bad pitch to A-Rod, and he certainly made a bad pitch, but there isn't a professional baseball stadium in the country were that's a home run. I've played on softball fields where that wouldn't have gone out. The new Yankee Stadium is an embarrassment to baseball. If they wanted to play on a Little League field, they should have moved the team to Williamsport.
  • We won't know if the series is over until Tuesday evening. The Angels have to win games three and four. Even if they lose game five they aren't dead, but they have to even the series up at some point What scares me isn't the idea that Jered Weaver won't get it done. I have the utmost confidence in him. But this marks the sixth straight ALCS loss for the Angels, and the biggest problem in all of those games has been the offense. I think they can handle Andy Pettite. He's not all that. But they've got to get it done Monday, or the series is over.
  • There were all kinds of other weird things in this game that may or may not be worth mentioning. A strange call at second base on a routine double play ball where Erick Aybar didn't touch the base and didn't get the neighborhood call. Robinson Cano's multiple erros. None of those had an impact on the game, so I'm not going to delve into them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Game 1 Debacle

Not much to say. The Angels just looked like they weren't ready for the series to start. It's almost like they were expecting a rain out, and were surprised when the game went off as planned.
  • The misplay in the first inning will be considered a tone-setter, but it was almost more of a "tone-identifier". Lackey's inability to retire Derek Jeter in the bottom of the first, and the bloop broken bat double by Johnny Damon were signs that things probably weren't going to go the Angels' way tonight.
  • Give all credit to CC Sabathia. It was clear from the first strike out of Bobby Abreu tonight that he had his good stuff, and it was going to be a struggle. At the very least, it was going to be a game in which the Angels could not afford to gift wrap runs for the Yankees like they did tonight.
  • The Yankees' fourth run was the result of a bad pick off throw by John Lackey, but a better question is why he was even worried about the runner. There were two outs, and Cabrera can run, but he only had 10 stolen bases all year. I'm not sure why Lackey was so pre-occupied with him.
  • The thought of Joe Saunders starting game two felt a lot better when I thought the Angels might win game one. Now they send a guy out to the mound who hasn't pitched in two weeks, and while he can dial it up to 94, he's essentially a feel pitcher. I'm not sure that's the best option for the Angels, but it will have to do. The question will be whether the offense can jump out and five him some early confidence.
  • Part of that offense is going to need to come from the top of the order. Chone Figgins is just killing the Angels in the lead off spot. He HAS to get on base.
  • A-Rod is a pussy.
  • I think Teixeira probably pulled his foot on the bunt by Hunter, but the Angels got those calls against the Red Sox, so it's hard to complain. I don't think it would have made much of a difference anyway.
  • The nice thing about not having home field is that you console yourself after two losses with the thought that you were supposed to lose those games on the road. That said, game two now become huge. The Angels have to at least put up a worthy effort.
  • The Angels have now lost five straight ALCS games, after winning four straight in 2002. On the plus side, they lost game one in the 2002 ALDS to the Yankees, and in the 2005 ALDS, also against the Yankees. They won both series.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Probably Just Jinxed Them

But I'll be in Anaheim if the Angels beat the Yankees, and if the World Series goes at least six games. Just got tickets for games six and seven.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thoughts on Game 3 and the Series

  • I've said so many things and made so many casual predictions that I shouldn't get any credit for this. But something told me this was the year that everyone would basically give up and say that the Angels had no chance. With the pressure off, they'd win the series. Still, I probably wouldn't have put any money on it. And once the pundits started picking the Angels half the time, I became convinced that we'd see more of the same.
  • Going into the series, the consensus was the teams were fairly even, but the Sox had huge advantage in the bullpen. If they could make the series a battle of the bullpens, the Sox would win easily. In three games, the Angels bullpen allowed one run in six and a third innings. The Sox bullpen allowed seven runs in seven and a third innings, including five runs today. This probably speaks more the nature of the playoffs and small sample sizes than anything, but if you told me that the Angels pen would only give up one run over the first three games, I'd have a pretty good feeling about the series.
  • Angels starters deserve some credit for those good bullpen numbers. Both Lackey and Weaver worked into the eighth inning, and Kazmir lasted six today, even though he was a bit shakey. They really limited the potential for danger.
  • I can only say this from the perspective of an Angels fan, and fans of one of the 29 other teams will likely disagree, but I thought having Dave Henderson throw out the first pitch was low class. The wounds from that game aren't fully healed, and they run deeper than simply a lost baseball game. Hell, the Sox didn't even win the World Series that year. Maybe the Angels should have called up Ray Knight, Mookie Wilson, and the guy who sold coke to Len Bias to throw out the first pitch of a potential game five.
  • Bobby Abreu was amazing. He was on base nearly 70% of the time. He delivered big at bat after big at bat. He's arguably the best $5MM the Angels have ever spent.
  • On the other hand, Chone Figgins has been useless at the plate, or at least he was until his clutch walk in the ninth inning. But this is nothing new. Coming into today's game, he was hitting under .200 with an OBP barely above that. Not exactly what you expect or require from a table setter.
  • The ALCS doesn't start until Friday. I'm probably most concerned about Joe Saunders. There will be some question about the rotation for the next series, but John Lackey has to start the first game. You can't mess with the rotation just to get someone work. The only question worth asking is this: Who gives the Angels the best chance to win game one? The answer is John Lackey.
  • So it's on to New York, and again, I'm not going to make a prediction. But I'll say that the same hunch that made me think this might be the year that the Angels ended their Red Sox hex is also telling me that it's probably the season in which the Yankees end their Angels hex. Hope I'm wrong.
The Battles:
  • I think the starting pitching is a wash;
  • The Yankees have a better bullpen;
  • The Angels are better defensively;
  • The Angels have a better bench;
  • The Yankees have a better lineup.
The teams are fairly evenly matched. In fact, the teams have been virtually in a dead heat since July 1st. It's anyone's guess. Let's play ball.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Going Back to Boston - Up Two Games to None

After two games, the Angels have erased the letters H and E from the word HEX. Two starts, two great pitching performances, and two days with just enough offense to get the Angels over the hump. They’ll board a plane tomorrow and fly back to Boston with a 2-0 series lead in the best of five ALDS.

Jered Weaver backed up John Lackey’s gem from last night with one of his own, limiting the Red Sox to two hits and two walks over 7.1 innings, while striking out seven. , Kevin Jepsen, and took the reins and finished off the victory, ensuring a comfortable Saturday for nervous Angels fans everywhere.

The Sox got the scoring started in the fourth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury led the inning off with a triple. Two batters later, Victor Martinez singled him home, and the Sox had a 1-0 lead.

The Angels didn’t wait long to respond. Bobby Abreu led off the bottom of the fourth with a base hit. After Mike Lowell made a great play on a Torii Hunter line drive, Vladimir Guerrero singled Abreu to third. cashed him in with a sacrifice fly to right field, and the Angels tied the game at 1.

Weaver and Beckett matched zeroes in the fifth and sixth innings, but the Angels jumped in front in the bottom of the seventh. Guerrero walked to lead off the inning, and pinch runner Howie Kendrick stole second. Two outs later, clutch God singled him home. Josh Beckett hit with a curve ball two put runners on first and second. followed with the big blast to center field, a triple over the head of Ellsbury that gave the Angels a 4-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Thoughts on Game 2:

  • Through two games last year, the Angels’ 6-9 plus leadoff hitters were a combined 4-42, with three walks, and six total bases. This season they’re 7-34 with 11 total bases. The difference has almost totally been , who has a double and a triple so far, and whose triple tonight was the difference in the game.
  • I still think these teams are almost dead even. If you started this series fresh tomorrow, I could easily see the roles completely reversed. But for now, the Angels are outplaying the Red Sox, and the biggest key has been their clutch hitting. That’s been the Angels’ M.O. in the regular season this decade, but severely lacking come playoff time. This year seems different.
  • The Angels take two left handers into Boston, seemingly a graveyard for lefties. But both and have been excellent against the Red Sox in their careers. The matchups favors the Angels from this point, but things change again if we go to a fifth game.
  • The best the Angels could hope for, going into this series, are deep runs from their starters, and low leverage situations for their relievers. They’ve got that so far. If they can get that again on Sunday, they’ll be preparing for the ALCS.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thoughts on Game One

  • You really can't overstate how important it was to get game one. If the Angels had lost again, after getting another excellent start, you have to think it would have started some sort of death spiral. But they didn't win in a throw-away type laugher. They didn't win on a controversial finish. They simply outperformed Boston at the plate and in the field, and were the better team. They haven't won anything yet, but this is a good start.
  • I'm really glad that neither of the awful C.B. Bucknor calls had an impact on the game beyond John Lester's pitch count. They'll be footnotes now, but today would have been lousy with whiny Red Sox fans complaining that the fix was in.
  • That said, there were two bad calls that had an effect on the game. Lackey through ball four to Kevin Youkilis and got a lucky strike call from Joe West to keep the at bat alive, and got an inning ending ground out two pitches later. He handled David Ortiz pretty well, so it may not have mattered, but he was really struggling with his control right there, and who knows what happens if he walks three straight.
  • The second bad call, at least from the replays I've seen, was on the bases loaded double play. Looked to me like Torii Hunter avoided the tag at third, and that cost the Angels at least one run.
  • It may be the last time Lackey pitches for the Angels, but two things about that possibility jumped out at me. First, if it is his last start in Anaheim, he just made about a million more per year with that start. Second, with the run support and defense that he got, he may be a tad more inclined to stay in SoCal. At the very least, he won't have a bad taste in his mouth from another excellent performance that went for naught.
  • Chone Figgins was the only Angel who failed to reach base. The only other Angel without a hit was Bobby Abreu, but he also had no official at bats. Contrast that to last year where, for a few games, the entire bottom of the order was a black hole. This was a team effort. The defense was excellent, Kendry Morales provided a huge two out hit, and Torii Hunter, was very vocal on the need for the big performers to step up, provided the offensive heroism. That's a nice way to get things started.
  • Another good pitching matchup tonight. So many things can happen in a short series that even a 2-0 lead won't give me much satisfaction, but I think the Angels exorcised a couple demons last night, and I think they'll all be a bit more relaxed tonight.
On a final note, I missed the last two innings of the game (in real time) because I had tickets to see a really great band called The Subjects. I only mention this because I missed the first and second games of the ALDS in 2002 for the same reason (only then it was Gomez and the Super Furry Animals). I think we all know how that turned out. So I'm doing my part.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Five Times in Six Years

For the fifth time in six years, the Angels have won the American League West. For those first 29 years of my life, I don't think I ever thought I'd see this kind of sustained success. And what makes it better is that I no longer think it's likely to end any time soon.

I posted this in a Baseball Think Factory thread, but I think it's worthy of its own post here. And
If you told me the day Teixeria signed with New York that:
  • Vlad, Hunter, Lackey, and Santana would miss significant time (as in months);
  • Saunders would suck hardcore for a while, then go on the DL before finally returning to form;
  • Shields would miss almost the whole season;
  • Speier would get worse;
  • Adenhart would die;
  • Escobar would not recover;
  • Arredondo (remember how many people wanted him as the closer?) would suck donkeys;
  • Kendrick would suck bad enough to get sent down at one point;
  • That 31 starts would come from Shane Loux, Matt Palmer, Trevor Bell, and Sean O'Sullivan;
  • That Brandon Wood and/or Sean Rodriguez would still not arrive;
yet they'd still clinch the division with a week to go, I'd probably be pretty surprised. If you had told me all those things, yet still said that at one point late in the season they would start 9 guys hitting over .300, I'd try to have you committed.

Before this year, I thought the window was closing for the Angels. Now, after what I've seen this year, I'm more convinced then ever that the window is wide open. The lesson? Do not ever doubt any team that is managed by Mike Scioscia.
Four fifths of the infield is made up of young, team controlled players. Two thirds of the outfield is locked up for the next few years. Four fifths of the starting rotation is either locked up or team controlled for the next couple years. The best pitchers in the bullpen over the last few months have been the up and comers. And three more excellent prospects got big league experience in the starting rotation, which should only serve to make them better down the road when their time truly comes. Top prospects in the system continue their development, and the team took advantage of multiple high picks this season to help restock the low minors.

On top of all that, the players who may leave via free agency are all highly paid. If the Angels lost all four of John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, and Vladimir Guerrero, they would cut $44.5 million from the payroll (including almost $10MM from Kelvim Escobar). They would need to sign a big bat for the outfield, and that's probably it. One of Bell, O'Sullivan, or Palmer could pitch in the fifth spot of the rotation, and Wood could take over at third base. This team is set up to compete for a while longer.

Is this a good time to be an Angels fan or what?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


If the Angels lose tomorrow (Sunday, September 27th), and the Rangers win, the Angels will not make the playoffs. That's just a gut feeling I have. The odds are pretty good that either the Angels will win OR the Rangers will lose. But if neither of those things happen, the Angels will miss the playoffs.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Simple Solution to the Angels Bullpen Woes

The Angels bullpen has been its Achilles Heel all year. One wonders how much better the Angels' record would be if the starting staff had been healthy all year, and if that staff were able to turn leads over to a bullpen that could consistently get batters out. It's amazing that despite it all, the Angels still sit six games ahead of the Texas Rangers, poised to win their third straight division title.

But as the Angels gear up for the post season, there may be a solution to the ninth inning issues the team has recently faced. It's becoming increasingly clear that Brian Fuentes is not the answer. Since the all-star break, his ERA is a pathetic 6.38, and he's allowing opponents to post an OPS of .952. It's far too late to add a pitcher through an acquisition, and there are no Frankie Rodriguezes in the minor leagues, so no one is going to be snuck onto the post-season roster. Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger are intriguing options. Jepsen has been fantastic since the break, posting an ERA of 2.08 in 35 innings, while allowing a measly .513 opponents OPS. Bulger has been just as good, allowing an ERA of 1.99 while opponents are posting an OPS of just .634 against.

So the Angels can go into the post-season with either a closer who brings lights out stuff (Jepsen or Bulger), or a closer who brings playoff experience (Fuentes). But they might be able to do both. My suggestion for the role of post-season closer is Ervin Santana. I'm not the only person who thinks so. SenorChuckles over at Halos Heaven has offered the same advice.

In Santana's last 45 innings, he's posting an ERA of 2.96 and an OPS against of .717. Those numbers are solid, but keep in mind, he's put those up while pacing himself. Give him the opportunity to work in short stints, and you probably add a mph or two to his fastball. Let him cut loose a bit. He also give you the additional ability to work more than an inning if need be.

There's really no reason not to make this move. Santana has closer stuff. He has playoff experience. He's probably the odd man out in the rotation for playoffs. Lackey, Kazmir, and Weaver appear to be locks, and with two lefties in the pen (Oliver and Fuentes), Saunders is a good fit for the rotation. They don't need another lefty in the bullpen, and Saunders is pitching well enough since returning from injury to be a part of the post-season rotation. Don't let last night's game fool you. He had a rough inning that included only two hard hit balls, both of which should have been outs.

Will Scioscia do it? His usage patterns for Fuentes over the next couple weeks will tell the story. He's appearing less and less confident in his veteran closer. Santana in that role would leave the Angels' bullpen with a long reliever (Palmer), two lefties, and two power arm righthanders. But this is a move that doesn't harm the rotation and improves the bullpen. Santana's cool demeanor will serve him well in that role.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mariners 3; Angels 0

In a totally unsurprising performance, the offense which could only score one run against Mariners rookie Doug Fister managed one fewer than that against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. The Angels offense has seemingly been feast or famine of late, and last night was definitely famine. Hernandez had command of all of his pitches, and Angels hitters flailed accordingly, managing only four hits and seven baserunners, while striking out seven times.

Somewhat surprising, especially after the first three hitters, was the performance of newly minted Angel Scott Kazmir. His Angels career started with runners reaching via an error, a single, and a hit batter, leaving the bases loaded with no one out. Kazmir found his good stuff, however, and struck out the next three batters he faced to escape the first unscathed. He didn't stop there. He retired the next 15 hitters in a row and carried a shutout into the seventh inning. He left the game after allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out 8.

The Mariners got to Kazmir in the seventh. A leadoff walk to Mike Sweeney and a one out double from Bill Hall provided all the offense the Ms would need. Hall eventually scored on a steal of third and Mike Napoli's errant throw. Brian Fuentes allowed the Mariners' final run on a bases loaded walk.

Thoughts on the game:

  • With the Rangers victory over Toronto, what seemed like a safe six game lead just two days ago has dwindled to 3.5 games. Considering that the Rangers have hammered the Angels this season, when one looks at the two teams' schedules down the stretch, one wouldn't be out of line predicting an AL West title for Texas.
  • On the other hand, Kazmir's outing adds to a string of solid recent performances by the Angels' "real" starters, which should give the team some hope, assuming the offense can get back on track.
  • High pitch counts continue to be a problem. Even good outings have been marred by early exits recently. That wasn't an issue the last few years when the Angels had a rock solid bullpen. With the shaky crew on the Angels' current roster, however, starters need to work deeper into games, or this team could be in trouble.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fistered: Angels 1; Mariners 2

Just when you think the Angels are ready to finally put Texas away, both teams show that the race isn't over. The Rangers swept two games from the Blue Jays yesterday. Coupled with the Angels loss to the Mariners, the AL West lead now stands at only 4.5 games with a month left in the season.

The Angels' offense, prolific in Monday's series opener, failed to create many opportunities, and squandered the opportunities it did create. Mariners rookie Doug Fister allowed just five hits and two walks over 7.1 innings, and the bullpen closed the deal for the home team. The Angels put the lead-off hitter on base in six of their nine at bats. Three times the runner was erased via the double play (including a strike-him-out throw-him-out double play in the first inning), and three times the runner advanced no further than the base at which he started.

The night's largest failure came in the eighth inning. With the Angels trailing 2-1, Maicer Izturis led the inning off with a double to right field. But Erick Aybay fouled out, failing to move Izturis to third. Consecutive fly-outs from Mike Napoli and Chone Figgins stranded Izturis at second.

Ervin Santana became a victim of low run support for the second straight game. He lasted six innings and allowed only one run. But he was also a victim of his own high pitch count, leaving after 100 pitches even. Darren Oliver relieved him in the seventh inning, and allowed a two out double to Jose Lopez which scored Franklin Gutierrez from first base for the eventual winning run.

Scott Kazmir makes his Angel debut this afternoon, and he's tasked with outpitching King Felix, who goes for the Mariners. A bit of a tall order, and a reason last night's game was so important.

Thoughts on the game:

  • Ervin Santana has quietly put together five consecutive quality starts. The Angels are only 3-2 over that stretch, but he's put up an ERA of 2.45 in those games. He needs to start working a little deeper. In the last four of those five starts, he's only lasted six innings. Still, he's starting to look like a guy who Angels fans can trust in the playoffs.
  • The Angels offense has been inconsistent of late, and they're struggling to find the form that they showed in late July and August. Games like this are unfortunate reminders of what we've seen in the playoffs the last couple years.
  • While all eyes have been on Texas, the Red Sox have been surging. They now sit one game behind the Angels and 3.5 ahead of the Rangers. This is meaningful for two reasons. First, they look more and more likely to win the wild card, which means they'd probably face the Angels in the first round, and I probably don't have to tell you what that means. Second, because the Angels can't seem to beat the Rangers this year, the wild card was a nice fall back option in case of a late season Texas surge. That option looking less likely, and if the Rangers nip the Angels at the wire, it probably means there won't be a 2009 post-season in Anaheim

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Angels 10; Mariners 0

For much of the season, 2008 all-star Joe Saunders was firing blanks. After finally admitting to an arm injury, and spending some time on the DL, it's Saunders' opponents who are getting blanked. In his second start since returning from the DL, Saunders tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and three walks, while striking out four. He lasted 98 pitches, 57 of which were strikes. After loading the bases in the first on a hit and two walks, Saunders allowed just three baserunners over his final six innings. Trevor Bell, in his first major league relief performance, worked two perfect innings to close out the game.

With the Mariners' bats silenced by Saunders, it was up to the Angels to provide some noise, and they responded by bringing the thunder. After Chone Figgins scored on a Torii Hunter sac fly to give the Angels a 1-0 lead, Vladimir Guerrero crushed a fastball over the wall in left center for a two run shot. The Angels added another run in the third on Howie Kendrick's RBI ground out. Juan Rivera added three runs to the board in the fifth with a blast to left field that scored Hunter and Guerrero. Vlad struck again with a mammoth two run shot to the upper deck in left in the seventh inning. Kendrick's RBI single later in the inning closed out the scoring.

With the Rangers losing to Toronto, the Angels lead in the AL West now stands at six games. The re-emergence of Joe Saunders, and the acquisition of Scott Kazmir (if his last three outings are predictive) puts the Angels in a pretty good position to win their third straight division title.

Thoughts on the game:

  • Kendry Morales is turning into a bona-fide star. He had three more hits last night, including two double, pushing his average to .314. He's slugging nearly .600, and his OPS+ (142) is actually two points higher than Mark Teixeira.
  • More on Morales: His OPS+ has increased every month of the season from an April low of 113 to an August high of 191. He's simply been dominant since the all-star break, leading the AL in RBIs over that stretch. He hit his first home run this season as a right handed batter in mid-July. He's since added three more. He's becoming a threat from both sides of the plate.
  • The competition for the post-season roster just got a little more heated in the wake of Bell's relief appearance. He was solid for two innings in his last start before falling apart. If he can show over the next month that he's capable of providing quality pitching for an inning or two at a time, he could be a big boost to the bullpen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Three of Four in Baltimore: Angels 8, Orioles 5

The Angels relied on the long ball at the plate, while Ervin Santana followed up last week's gem with another solid performance as the Angels closed out a four game set against the Orioles with a 8-5 victory. The Angels needed the win to keep pace with Texas who won in Minnesota. The Angels' lead sits at 4.5 games.

The Angels started their scoring in the second inning with Kendry Morales' 26th home run of the season, a two run shot that barely eluded the glove of Nick Markakis. The two run shot gave the Angels a one run lead. With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth, the Angels' power bats came to life yet again. Maicer Izturis led off the inning by crushing a 1-2 fastball over the wall in right for a 3-2 lead. Two batters later, Vladimir Guerrero hit a two run shot for a 5-2 lead.

Nick Markakis powered up for the Orioles. His solo shot in the bottom of the sixth pulled the Orioles within two. But a half inning later, Vlad struck again. With Chone Figgins on second base and two out, the Orioles decided to walk Bobby Abreu intentionally to face Vlad. Big mistake. He drilled a Cla Meredith fastball into the Oriole bullpen for his second homer of the game, providing the winning margin.

Santana threw a lot of pitches (116), but just when it looked like he was done, he was able to complete the sixth inning, giving some small measure of rest to a bullpen that worked nine innings just the day before. It wasn't a brilliant performance, but it gave the Angels a chance to win. The Angels are looking for some consistency from Santana, and they have to be pleased about back to back quality starts. Darren Oliver worked a steady seventh and eighth innings, and after Jose Arredondo ran into some trouble in the ninth, Brian Fuentes came into record the one out save, his 34th of the season.

Thoughts on the game:

  • There's only so much I can say about Kendry Morales. Another homer tonight, an average over .300. He's going to hit over 30 homers and drive in over 100 runs. But the stat I liked best in this game was his #pitches. Only Chone Figgins saw more than Kendry's 25. He's learning discipline, and if he can add patience to that power, he may outproduce Mark Teixeira over the life of Teixeira's contract.
  • I'm sounding like a broken record, but in Vlad's 12 games since returning on August 4th, he's got a line of 370/431/761. Not a bad deadline "acquisition". This team could very well go into October as a much better unit than the team that has built this lead.
  • Torii Hunter had the night off after playing all 13 innings yesterday. The strength of this team is its versatility, and that's going to be very important down the stretch as guys need a break here and there.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Is a Punk Rock Band

It's not irony. It's not rock and roll. They're just talking to the kids.

I've now seen Art Brut* four times since June, and the only regret that I have is that I've missed the other five or six chances I've had to see them in that time. There's something to be said for music shows that are simply fun. I love the Super Furry Animals. I think the Walkmen are one of the finest live acts I've ever seen. But I've never had more fun at a show than I've had an Art Burt show.

They played last night at Subterranean with Team Band (who were a whole lot of fun themselves). Once again, they failed to disappoint. Loud. Energetic. Polite. Willing to mix it up with the crowd. If you ever have a chance, do yourself a favor and please, please go see this band live.

*I'd embed that video if I could, but it's disabled. It features Eddie Argos' girlfriend Dyan Valdes of the band Blood Arm, who is very nice. I chatted with her and Eddie for a bit before one of their shows at Spaceland in Silverlake.

Demons Out

Direct Hit Interview

Emily Kane

Back on the Horse: Angels 5; Orioles 1

After Friday's 16 run debacle, the Angels handed the ball over their big horse, John Lackey. Lackey responded with seven innings of one run ball, and was the beneficiary of a five run third inning as the Angels beat the Orioles 6-1.

All of the game's runs came in the third inning. After Brian Matusz started the inning by striking Jeff Mathis, he allowed the next five batters to reach base. Chone Figgins walked, Erick Aybar singled, and Bobby Abreu walked to load the bases. Matusz then walked Vladimir Guerrero to drive in the first run of the game. Juan Rivera singled to center, and Adam Jone's misplay allowed Aybar and Abreu to score. Howie Kendrick's ground out score Guerrero, and Robb Quinlan's single scored Rivera for the Angels' fifth and final run.

In the bottom of the third, a double from Nick Markakis scored Adam Jones, and that capped the scoring for the evening. John Lackey shut down the Orioles the rest of the way. He lasted seven innings, striking out six while allowing 8 baserunners. It's the type of performance the Angels expect from Lackey, and the type of performance they'll need if they make it to October. Kevin Jepsen worked a scoreless eighth, but Jason Bulger struggled in the ninth. He allowed a single to Melvin Mora and walked Felix Pie, creating a save situation. Mike Scioscia summoned Brian Fuentes, he quickly got three fly balls for his 33rd save.

Thoughts on the game:

  • For John Lackey, that makes seven straight quality starts. He has an ERA under 2.00 over that stretch. Let's not forget that he's playing for a contract. And while he's had a rough go of it at times over the last two years, every quality start adds dollars to his next deal.
  • It seems like I've written a lot of recaps lately in which I mention an inning in which the Angels see five, six, or seven straight batters reach base. Reminds me a lot of the 2002 offense.
  • With Kendry Morales getting a rest tonight, the Angels offense had a mere five straight hitters in the lineup hitting over .300. Of those, only Bobby Abreu failed to get a hit tonight.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voodoo Does that Voodoo That He Does So Well; Angels win 6-0

Ervin Santana has been an enigma all season. The velocity, the movement, the ability seems to have been there all year. Yet he entered tonight's game with Tampa Bay with an ERA over seven, struggling to find any type of consistency. He looked like Santana v2.008 tonight, simply dominating Tampa. Santana held the Rays to three hits, just five baserunners, struck out six, and completed nine innings in fewer than 100 pitches to earn his fifth win of the season. Coupled with the Rangers' loss in Cleveland, the Angels all but wiped out the weekend series, and pushed their AL West lead to five games.

Almost more surprising than Santana's performance was the Angels offense. Not the six runs so much as how they got them home. All six of the Angels' runs came with two outs, and five of them were driven in by Reggie Willits (2) and Jeff Mathis (3), both of whom are hitting under .220.

David Price took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Juan Rivera led off with a single. With two out, Mathis delivered a base hit, but both runners took an extra base on an error by left fielder Carl Crawford. With two outs and two strikes, Willits delivered a two run single, advancing to second on the play at the plate. He was subsequently singled home by Chone Figgins.

An inning later, the Angels loaded the bases with singles from Vladimir Guerrero, Kendry Morales, and Howie Kendrick. Jeff Mathis then delivered a rocket of a double over the head of Crawford. All three runners scored, breaking the game open to 6-0, and the Angels never looked back.

Thoughts on the game:

  • The Angels were quiet at the trade deadline, but the resurgence of Ervin Santana and Vlad Guerrero could be bigger than any acquisitions the Angels could have made. When Santana is on his game, he's one of the best pitchers in the AL. Vlad, meanwhile, has hits in ten straight games, including two more tonight.
  • Vlad's two hits put him over .300 for the season. That means that the top six hitters in the Angels lineup, after tonight's game, are all hitting over .300. Howie Kendrick sits at .270, and Napoli, who is the top starting catcher on the team, is hitting near .300. This is really an incredibly fun offense to watch.
  • Santana's effort meant the Angels didn't need to use the bullpen, but if they had, one guy we would not have seen is Justin Speier. The Angels gave him his unconditional release today with a season and a half remaining on his contract. It's sad, really. Speier's first season was excellent, but after last year's illness, he was never really the same.

400: Angel 8; Rays 7

Vladimir Guerrero is trying to slug his way into the hall of fame AND into a big contract for next season. He hit two home runs, including the eventual game winner in the seventh inning, the 400th of his career. Kendry Morales hit his 24th and 25th homers of the year, the bullpen combined for 4.1 innings of one run relief, and Juan Rivera made a game saving grab as the Angels shook off their weekend series with Texas to take game one of their matchup with Tampa Bay.

Tampa got two runs in the first inning for the early lead, but the Angels stormed back in the bottom of the second, taking a 3-2 lead on the strength of a solo blast from Vlad, and RBI singles from Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. Jason Bartlett's third inning homer tied the game briefly, but Kendry Morales homered right back in the bottom of the inning, a two run shot for a 5-3 lead. The Angels pushed the lead to three in the fourth inning, but the Rays fought back to tie it in the fifth, with Carlos Pena's home run eventually chasing starter Sean O'Sullivan from the game.

Morales' second homer of the game gave the Angels the lead yet again, but Jason Bartlett's RBI triple in the sixth inning brought the Rays even again. Bartlett finished a single shy of the cycle.

That set the stage for Vlad's heroics. He drove a 3-1 fastball off the foul pole in right field for an 8-7 lead and his 400th career home run. Following Juan Rivera's single, Vlad acknowledged the crowd with a curtain call to the delight of more than 37,000 home fans.

Kevin Jepsen, after a shaky seventh, worked a perfect eighth, and turned it over to Brian Fuentes in the ninth against the heart of the Rays order. Fuentes got Carl Crawford to bounce to second on the first pitch, and followed that by striking out Evan Longoria. Ben Zobrist, the Rays' last hope, drove a deep fly ball to the short fence in left, where Juan Rivera robbed a likely home run to preserve the 8-7 win.

Thoughts on the game:

  • The Angels may have gotten their big bat at the trade deadline after all. Guerrero, in seven games since returning from the DL, is hitting 357/400/786, with four home runs (all solo). We'll forgive him for the 1-2-3 double play he grounded into in the fourth inning.
  • Kendry Morales is, well, I don't even know how to describe what he's doing. Since the All-Star break he's hitting 349/374/771, with 10 homers. His OPS+ is comparable to Mark Teixeira (135 v. 144), and he's making $22 million less. The only real difference between the two is Teixeira's patience, but on this Angels team, that's not as important as it may have been last year.
  • Trevor Bell makes his major league debut on Wednesday filling in for the injured Joe Saunders.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Raveonettes w/ Living Things @ the Empty Bottle - 8/8/09

In the very early days of this blog, when I was still sort of experimenting, I wrote a short post about a band that I was going to be seeing in the near future. They were the headliner in a three act bill, and I was really only going because I wanted to see the second act, Autolux (who were, quite frankly, a bit disappointing). When I wrote that post, I was not sold on what I'd heard from the headliner. But at that show, I fell in love with the Raveonettes, and four years later, they keep getting better.

I saw the Raveonettes for the third time on Saturday night, the day before their set at Lollapalooza. And for the third time, they put on a terrific show. It helps that their music translates very well to a live setting. Drenched in feedback and distortion, they don't rely on slick production. This works for two reasons: First, it's much easier to replicate stuff in person that already sounds fuzzy to begin with; Second, that sort of sound, when played very loud, really envelopes the audience, and it's just not a feeling you can get via conventional media players. You're just drowning in it.

The Raveonettes are getting set to release their fifth album (if you consider Whip It On a proper album), and while their sound hasn't changed all that much, they've really gotten good at focusing on their strengths. Their lyrics are a little darker, but their sound is still bright, poppy, and laden with hooks. When I wrote that initial post, I described them as a sort of Buddy Holly as played by the Jesus and Mary Chain. They still fit that description, and it still sounds great, although their obvious affection for other acts of the period, like the Ronettes, is pretty evident as well (they even recorded a track with Ronnie Spector on their third album).

As for Sunday night, they were test driving some of the new tracks, which you can track down if you're so inclined. 'Suicide' is the one they played that I knew. But they hit the old stuff as well, dusting off Attack of the Ghost Riders from Whip It On. The rest of the set included (but was not limited to):
  • That Great Love Sound (encore)
  • Let's Rave On
  • Aly Walk With Me
  • Hallucinations
  • Dead Sound
  • Love in a Trashcan
  • Red Tan
  • Here Comes Mary
  • Twilight (encore)
They played for about an 1:15 or so, which is set-length I can live with, even if there are a couple songs that they left out that I wanted to hear, like Noisy Summer and You Say You Lie. Noisy Summer is one of those songs that I was lukewarm on until I heard it live, at which point it really clicked, and has since become a favorite. Someone made a video for it, so I've posted it below. It's a great example of a song that sounds so innocent that you barely realize how abosolutely drenched in feedback it is. But once you realize it, it makes the song even better. Twilight was, again, a major highlight.

Noisy Summer


Dead Sound

Thursday, August 06, 2009

At Least They Got One: Angels 9; White Sox 5

It took a couple of days, but the Angels finally found the offense they left in Minnesota. Combined with an adequate performance from Ervin Santana, the Angels salvaged the last of their three game set at the Cell with a 9-4 victory.

The Angels got things rolling early with six runs in the first three innings, two on Jeff Mathis' solo shot, and one on a bomb from Vlad Guerrero, his first since coming off the DL on Tuesday and fifth of the season. Jason Nix hit a three run shot in the second inning for the Sox. In the bottom of the third, Santana, after plunking Paul Konerko to load the bases, walked Mark Kotsay, forcing in the Sox' fourth run, and things looked bleak. But Santana froze Nix on a 3-2 pitch for a called strikeout, and induced an inning ending ground out from Chris Getz.

Bobby Abreu hit his ninth homer of the season in the fifth inning. Kendry Morales delivered an RBI with his first hit of the series in the seventh inning. Erick Aybar slugged his fourth homer of the season in the ninth, and at that point the game was beyond doubt.

Santana lasted six innings and allowed four runs for his fourth win of the season, and Jason Bulger provided two innings of perfect relief to make sure the Sox didn't entertain any thoughts of coming back. Kevin Jepsen pitched a shaky ninth, allowing a solo homer to Dwayne Wise before recording the final out.

Thoughts on the game:

  • The Angels attempted seven steals, but were only successful four times. The most egregious attempt came in the seventh inning when Guerrero broke from first base too early. Aybar, on third base, tried to come home on the play, but was cut down. Vlad later scored on Morales' single.
  • Santana on the road in a day game is usually a perfect storm of suck. But he survived the three run homer and a very shaky third to close the game strong. His bases loaded walk came after he was up on Kotsay 0-2, and he almost walked Nix after getting ahead 1-2.
  • The Angels drew five more walks, giving them 13 in the three games. That's usually enough to win, but they had only one extra base hit in the first two games. They pounded out five today, including four homers.
  • The weather in Chicago has been perfect the last few days. I haven't even had to turn on the AC. But it's going to get very hot this weekend. The Angels are leaving at the right time.

Angels 2; White Sox 6

Jim Thome slugged two homers and Gavin Floyd pitched into the ninth inning as the White Sox downed the Angels for the second consecutive night. Again, the Angels offense never got going, and was unable to pick up Sean O'Sullivan, who was strong through five innings, but collapsed in the sixth as the Sox broke the game open.

The Angels took the lead in the first inning. Bobby Abreu singled with two outs, and Jermaine Dye's error on a Vlad Guerrero fly ball to right field allowed Abreu to come all the way around from first base. Unfortunately, that was the last run the Angels would score until the game was well out of reach in the ninth inning. The offense managed only six hits, one for extra bases, and grounded into three double plays.

Sean O'Sullivan, fresh off his AAA no-hitter looked sharp through three innings, allowing only one hit. Jim Thome got to him in the fourth for the Sox first run of the game. In the fifth inning, the Sox scored the go ahead run, and in the sixth, Jim Thome's three run shot off of Darren Oliver (two runs charged to O'Sullivan) put the game basically out of reach. Paul Konerko added a solo homer in the eighth inning.

Thoughts on the game:

  • Apparently the Angels got a lot of rest on Monday's off day, and they haven't quite woken up. The offense has looked awful, with only one extra base hit in the first two games of this series.
  • The pitching has not covered for the offense. John Lackey and Sean O'Sullivan delivered performances that were good enough to win when the Angels were scoring 10 runs per game, but the low output the last two nights have left their starters out to dry.
  • Ervin Santana goes today on what was his nemesis before last season: Day games on the road. We'll see if he can turn around what has been a forgettable season so far, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn't wager that the turnaround would start today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Angels 4; White Sox 5

The Angels left their bats in Minnesota. Following a series in which they pounded out over 50 hits and scored in double digits in all three games, the Angels managed only five singles against White Sox pitchers and failed to take full advantage of seven walks in a 5-4 loss to the White Sox to open the midweek series.

After the Sox scored single runs in the first and second innings on solo homers from Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin, the Angels scored three times in the third on only one hit, four walks, two wild pitches, and a passed ball, which was enough for the Sox to yank Jose Contreras. Unfortunately, Sox relievers combined for 6.1 innings of one run ball allowing just six baserunners, and the Angels were only able to push one more run across. Bobby Abreu delivered a sac fly in the fifth to give the Angels a 4-3 lead that they would take into the 7th inning.

The Sox tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a two out double by Scott Podsednik and an RBI single from Beckham. John Lackey left the game after eight innings having allowed four runs (three earned), while striking out seven and allowing seven baserunners. Kevin Jepsen relieved him in the ninth inning and promptly retired the first two hitters he faced. But Jason Nix drilled a two out double to center field, and Scott Podsednik's drive into right center field chased Nix home for the game winning run.

Thoughts on the game:

  • All four Angels runs came from runners who reached via the walk. Figgins walked three times. But the power bats that crushed the Twins last weekend didn't make an appearance last night.
  • Bobby Abreu was named the AL player of the month for July, and his three RBIs in last night's game give him 32 in his last 29 games going back to July 1st.
  • On the other hand, Kendry Morales, the reigning AL player of the week, was a non-factor: 0-4 with a strike out.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Angels 9; Indians 3

The Angels hit the century mark with their winning percentage at an even .600 as they took the rubber game against the Indians in an afternoon tilt. John Lackey continued to round into form, tossing seven innings and allowing one run while striking out eight. 70 of his 113 pitches went for strikes, and he allowed only three hits, though he did walk four hitters. The Indians learned before the game that reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee had been dealt to the Phillies, and they played as if they’d just lost their best friend.

The Angels got off to a fast start against Indians starter Aaron Laffey. The pushed across two runs in the first inning on RBI singles from and . The Indians cut the lead in half with a run in the fourth, but the Angels broke the game open with a five run fifth inning. The first six Angels to hit in the inning reached base, thanks in part to Luis Valbuena’s drop of Juan Rivera’s popup to second base. Again, Morales and Kendrick provided the big hits, combining to drive in three runs in the inning. The Angels finished their onslaught with Kendrick’s homer in the seventh inning.

pitched a perfect eighth. closed the game out after struggled, allowing two meaningless runs in the ninth.

Thoughts on the game:

  • had himself a day. He went 3-4 with five RBI and a home run. He’s now hitting .377 with 14 RBIs in July. Just another example of a Angel who has caught fire this month.
  • is starting to put it together at the right time for both the Angels and himself. The more he pitches like this into August and September, the more money he makes next season. The question is from whom he’ll be drawing a paycheck.
  • Combined with the Rangers’ loss to Detroit, the Angels lead is back to 3.5 games, and Seattle is now 7.5 games back. They shouldn’t be counted out yet, but one gets the feeling the Rangers gave the Angels their best shot, and they may not have enough the tank to make another run.