Posted on: March 3, 2010 6:20 pm
We're a day away from the first Cactus League game for the halos in 2010, and I couldn't be more excited. This is the start of a new era in Angels baseball, as this winter saw the Angels part ways with team leaders and fan favorites Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins, and Big John Lackey. Scot Shields is now the lone holdover from the 2002 World Series team. Even if Rob Quinlan can make the squad again after signing a minor league deal with the halos, he and Shields would be the only two players left from the start of the 2004 season.
So we embark upon a new chapter in Angels lore in 2010 after an active winter that has put a halo cap on the heads of Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui, Joel Piniero, Fernando Rodney, and Brian Stokes. Scot Shields will also return after missing most of last season with a knee injury and Brandon Wood finally seems assured of regular playing time to show us if he is for real. No team in the AL West is as deep 1-5 in the rotation, or 1-9 in the lineup. Our defense should be excellent, and the leadership of our veteran outfielders in unquestionable.
My concerns, though mild, are as follows. First, can Erick Aybar replace Chone Figgins as an effective lead off hitter and catalyst for the offense? (Blazingly fast, he seems to need some good Rickey Henderson style instruction on the art of base stealing still.) Second, can Brandon Wood flourish wil regular playing time and bring his promised power numbers? (With Izturis at the ready and a slew of power in the middle of the order, this is not crucial, and it can be argued that we need Izzy's speed more than Woody's power!) Third, has the bullpen that cost us so many games in 2009 been effectively shored up with the return of Shields, maturation of Jepsen/Bulger/Thompson/Palmer, and the addition of Stokes/Rodney? My guess is yes. Finally, will anyone step up and take the place of John Lackey not only as the staff ace, but just as importantly, as a clubhouse leader? All five starters are proven 15+ game winners, but in October, can one of them outduel C.C. Sabathia, Doc Halladay, or even John Lackey? We'll have to watch and find out, because as Chris Berman likes to say, "That's why they play the games".
Posted on: May 6, 2009 3:06 pm
Just when halos nation was starting to panic, the Angels picked themselves up and dusted themselves off with a 5-3 road trip to Baltimore, New York, and Oakland. They've now won six of their last 8 games (and should have won another) to pull one game below .500. They square off against Doc Halladay tonight in Anaheim, where the offense hopes to fire their guns as well as they have been for the past week. The offense is clicking from top to bottom right now and Vlad will be evaluated today to see if he's ready to start swinging a bat again. The starting pitching has been surprisingly good considering it has included starts from the likes of Shane Loux, Anthony Ortega, and Matt Palmer. Reagins and Scioscia seem to have made the right call not going for a veteran free agent pitcher, and both Santana and Lackey looked good in their rehab starts with Salt Lake early this week. They'll start again for the Bees this weekend and could rejoin the big league club as early as next week. All indications have the team back at full strength by the first week of June. The worst seems to be over and the Angels appear to be back in Championship form. Now if they can just figure out what is wrong with Scot Shields...
Posted on: February 14, 2008 6:25 pm
Welcome to my inaugural blog entry. We finally hit 80 degrees again in SoCal this week and pitchers and catchers have begun reporting to camp. Spring Training is finally here, and all is right in the world again. My beloved Angels are set to embark upon a season of great anticipation and hope. The 2008 Angels are perhaps the best squad to ever don the uniforms, solid from top to bottom and deeper than they have any right to be. Six capable outfielders, Seven capable starting pitchers, a slew of switch hitters, and plenty of youth mixed with a few seasoned veterans. But even the veterans are young on this team. (Yes, even Garret Anderson is only 35.) In fact, only one player on the roster is over 35 years old, and that is 38 year old bullpen lefty Darren Oliver.
There are only three questions facing this team, in my opinion:
First, will they be able to fill the hole left at SS after trading Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland? This is the only true hole on this team. The club is big on Eric Aybar and his upside to fill that hole. I am not so convinced his bat is ready. In my opinon, Maicer Izturis is a far better option. Great glove, great bat. The only knock on him is that Aybar may have a higher ceiling and uber-prospect Brandon Wood is waiting in the wings.
Second, is Chone Figgins the answer at third base? Figgings certainly had a magnificent year in 2007 despite his early injury and initial slump, and is the spark that ignites this offense. He deserves to start every day and his defense at third is more than adequate. But everyone out there seems to think that the Angels need to trade for a third baseman that hits 25+ home runs instead. Why? Just because everyone else does? Last time I checked, the Halos were doing just fine on offense despite their lack of power. Which brings us to the thrid question.
Third, who will protect Vlad in the lineup and provide more power to the lineup? Nobody seems to be impressed with the addition of Torii Hunter and his 25-30 HR runs to solve this issue. Many think he will bat 4th after Vladdy to protect him. These are both short sighted views. The Angels have significatnly increased their power already simply by getting healthy. In addition to Hunter, Juan Rivera is back this season with 25 HR power. Young guns Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman also have another year under their belt and both missed time on the DL last season, so their power production should improve at least 5 HR's each. And most importantly, Garret Anderson is finally healthy again. In case you didn't notice, he had a monster 2nd half in 2007. Add in the fact that he is a lefty, and you have your #4 hitter behind Vladdy, with Hunter adding further support in the 5-hole. GA should add 10-15 more HR's this season than in 2007. So between GA, Rivera, Hunter, and improved totals from blossing youngsters Kendrick, Kotchman, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, the Angels should finish 2008 with at least 70 more home runs than they did in 2007. And that's without adding any production from prospect Brandon Wood, who hit 50 home runs in the minors in 2006. If he hits his way into the lineup in place of weak hitting Erick Aybar, that total will jump even more. Teams that still think the Angels have no power and no protection for Vladdy are in for a rude awakening.
Everyone seems to acknowledge that this team is very good, but nobody seems to realize that they might be great. Perhaps their dismal showing against Boston in the playoffs has given everyone a distorted view of the Halos, but they were crippled by injuries heading into that series and were not accurately represented on the national stage. I think this season, the Halos are going to surprise a lot of people. Especially given the weakness of their division, I expect the Angels to win over 100 games easily, possibly 110.
So that's my early take on the Halos. I'll focus more on the pitching next time. The Kelvim Escobar injury is certainly a topic to discuss. In the meantime, I'll be working on my web biz. Feel free to checkout out my online malls at www.EZShoppingSource.com and www.E-SoftwareSource.com to find everything you need all in one place. You'll never need to leave home again.