Thursday, May 14, 2009

Case Made: Angels 8; Red Sox 4

Matt Palmer overcame a shaky start and retired the last 19 Red Sox hitters he face. Mike Napoli saved a run by cutting down Jacoby Ellsbury trying to steal second, then blasted a three run shot to center field, which gave the Angels a lead that they would not relinquish.

Mike Scioscia, perhaps second guessing himself after last night’s bullpen meltdown, allowed Palmer to go the distance for his first major league complete game. Palmer surrended three hits in the first inning, including a two run shot to Jason Bay. In the second, he walked two and gave up a double to Nick Green as the Sox plated two more runs for a 4-0 lead.

But the Angels stormed back in the third inning against Tim Wakefield, as the first five hitters in the inning reached base. Reggie Willits, in for the ailing Gary Matthews, singled and stole second. Bobby Abreu walked. Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales delivered consecuting RBI singles, and Napoli cleared the bases with his bomb to center. Hunter added a solo shot of his own in the fourth inning, and the Angels tacked on single runs in the fifth and sixth for the final margin.

Palmer was the story of the game, however. He needed 109 pitches to complete the game, allowing four runs on five hits, all in the first three innings. He didn’t allow a baserunner over the final six innings, and finished the game with eight strike outs, improving to 4-0 on the season in what may be his last start for a while.

* Palmer has made a strong case to stay in starting rotation. Ervin Santana will start tomorrow, and John Lackey returns on Saturday, but Palmer has earned the fifth spot over Shane Loux for now.
* Loux could be a valuable weapon out of the bullpen, especially if he enters a game with runners on base. He’s a good sinker baller, and has an above average GB/FB ratio. Just what you want when you need a double play.
* Mike Napoli’s bat has become a must have in the Angels line up. I don’t expect his average to remain high, but he and Torii Hunter are the only power sources right now, and he has the ability to carry an offense.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jered vs. Jeff

I don't really want to write about what happened at the end of last night's game, since it was fairly predictable. What was somewhat unpredictable was Mike Scioscia's hook, pulling Jered Weaver after seven innings and fewer than 100 pitches. He survived a dangerous sixth inning, but breezed through the fourth, fifth, and seventh, and appeared to be pitching well. Maybe Weaver told Scioscia he was done.

Regardless, that's just a lead in to something I haven't looked at in a while. The sentiment has been expressed by some members of the Halosphere (not to mention any names......rob) that Jered Weaver is simply a younger version of Jeff Weaver, and that his solid young career is simply a carbon copy of Jeff Weaver's solid young career, which eventually turned to crap. So let's see where Jered sits in comparison to Jeff at this point.

Some disclaimers: Jeff Weaver was 22 years, 135 days old when he made his first major league start. He also played on a crappy team, which undoubtedly affected his W-L record. Jered Weaver was 23 years, 235 days old when made his debut, and played on a much better team. Let's look at the numbers through 84 career starts:

Jered: 38-20, 508.1 IP, 3.59 ERA, 480 H, 142 BB, 1.22 WHIP*, 407 K, 59 HR, 1 CG.
Jeff: 30-37, 526 IP, 4.57 ERA, 538 H, 164 BB, 1.33 WHIP*, 357 K, 67 HR, 6 CG.

*WHIP typically doesn't inlcude HBP, and I didn't include it here, but Jeff had hit 38 batters to that point against Jered's 12.

Jeff has a clear advantage in complete games. Jered has sizable advantages almost everywhere else. He's been a run per game better. Both in the aggregate and per inning he's allowed fewer baserunners, struck out more, walked fewer, and allowed fewer homers. Jered has outpitched Jeff in every category through this point in their careers, significantly so.

I know what you're going to say. Jered started like a ball of fire and since then, he's been good, but not terrific. His numbers are skewed by that great start. Fair enough. Through his first seven starts, Jered was 7-0 with a 1.15 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP, had struck out 40 in 47 IP, and allowed only two homers. So let's compare Jered, minus those first seven starts, against Jeff's numbers above.

Jered minus first seven starts: 3.84 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.16 K/9, 1.11 HR/9
Jeff from numbers above: 4.57 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.11 K/9, 1.15 HR/9

Even if we ignore the best stretch of Jered's career, he's still outpitching Jeff in every important category by a significant margin through a similar career point. It's really no contest.

And the coup de grace? Jered is pitching better at this point than at any other point in his career, save for his first 10 starts. He's shouldering the load with Joe Saunders, and he's risen to the occasion. We'll be following this periodically, but I'd say that 84 starts are a pretty fair sample, and the verdict to this point is clear.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sweep: Angels 4; Royals 3

The Angels didn’t generate much at the plate, but they took advantage of some Kansas City mistakes, and got some timely fielding from Torii Hunter to sweep the Royals for their fourth win in a row.

Shane Loux left after allowing three runs on seven hits in just 3.2 innings, but Darren Oliver and Scot Shields provided 4.1 innings of scoreless relief, giving the Angels offense an opportunity to get back into the game. They got their chance in the bottom of the seventh inning. After Kendry Morales was erased on what looked like botched hit and run, Mike Napoli walked. Howie Kendrick bounced one back to Jamey Wright, who threw an easy double play into center field. Kendrick then stole second, and Jeff Mathis delivered a two run single. Howie Kendrick should have been out by 15 feet at the plate, but Miguel Olivo couldn’t handle Jose Guillen’s throw. After an Erick Aybar single, Chone Figgins squeezed home Mathis for the game winning run.

Brian Fuentes came on in the ninth for the Angels and quickly gave up a long fly ball to Miguel Olivo. Hunter tracked it down, leaped, and pulled the game tying home run back into the park for the first out. After allowing a walk and a single, Fuentes induced a game ending double play from David DeJesus.

Thoughts on the game:

  • Sometime aggressive baserunning takes you out of an inning, but the Angels forced the Royals defense to make plays in the pivotal seventh inning, and the Royals were not up to the task.
  • If you missed Torii Hunter’s game saving catch, don’t worry. It will be on TV all night. It was a tremendous catch.
  • Bobby Abreu’s production at the plate has fallen off recently, but he today he did what the Angels hoped he’d do when they signed him. He reached base four times, all via the walk.
You've seen it everywhere by now, but here's that catch: