Series Preview in Blog: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (28-27) @ Los Angeles Angels (36-22)

The Twins started their west coast road trip by losing two of three to Oakland while scoring 5 runs in 3 games. The Angels are finishing a 10 game homestand on which they are 5-2 so far, winning two of three from Seattle and three of four from Baltimore last weekend. The Angels have been extremely successful at home this year, posting a 22-8 record. The Twins are 13-13 on the road in 2007. The Angels are first in the AL West, leading second place Seattle by 5.5 games.

The Angels have been one of the best teams in baseball over the last 162 regular season games, including their odd ability to win game after game at Yankee Stadium. In fact, this is the best record in franchise history after 58 games. These are good things to keep in mind when playing GM and considering ways to improve the team. Bill Stoneman, the actual GM, has had an up and down tenure, here’s a look at the up and the down.

On to the Halos:

The Angels are a team that is not built on sabermetric principles, they don’t walk a lot (only the Mariners have drawn fewer free passes in the AL), and they rely on speed (most stolen bases in the AL, only the Devil Rays have more attempts or caught stealing). Thus when their players are ranked number one and number two in a sabermetric category (win shares), they get kind of excited.

Angels Themed Trivia:
Garret Anderson made his return from the DL yesterday. He has now had 101 plate appearances this year, in which he has only drawn 1 walk (which was intentional). Who set the major league record for fewest walks in a season with 10 in 526 plate appearances?

The Angels outfield (must..resist..Disney..joke) includes Gary Matthews, Jr. (.288/.349/.451) who recently talked about how he dealt with the HGH allegations that surfaced about him earlier this year. Others in the outfield are Reggie Willits (326/.426/.370), who got off to a great start due to a variety of factors, Garret Anderson (.263/.265/.389), and Vlad Guerrero (.349/.452/.608). Although intentionally walking Vlad doesn’t seem to irritate him much, at least one observer noticed that it makes Matthews, who hits behind Guerrero, angry.

Injuries have caused a bit of anxiety at the infield positions. Macier Izturis is on the DL with hamstring problems, which left third base as a question mark for a while. Super-utility player Chone Figgins (.198/.264/.277) has filled in at that position, and is coming off a fantastic weekend where he went 9/15 with a 2B in the four games against Baltimore. Howie Kendrick was also bit by the injury bug when he broke a finger after a very hot start in which he hit .327/.365/.490. Since returning from the DL he has hit .125/.167/.200 in 42 PA. Orlando Cabrera (.318/.370/.441) and Casey Kotchman (.300/.375/.488) have been regulars at the other infield positions thus far. Speaking of Cabrera, it’s not every day you see an athlete claiming he was not misquoted.

The single player who had the most entries devoted to him was the DH, Shea Hillenbrand (.241/.261/.324). He hasn’t impressed fans so far this year, and already the trade rumors have started. Check out the comments on this entry for a few suggestions as to what the Angels should try to get in return. As for in-house replacements at the DH position, the front-runner is Kendry Morales, who has spent some time with the major league club, although he didn’t get a lot of at bats. Morales was sent back to AAA when Anderson came off the DL.

Pitching matchups for this series start off with Boof Bonser against Jered Weaver (a.k.a. Younger Bongtoke) on Monday, followed by Scott Baker against Kelvim Escobar on Tuesday. No doubt Escobar’s legion of “hot friends” will be watching intently. Escobar has had some success this year with a 3.00 ERA, he has only allowed 2 home runs in 66 innings pitched. Finally, Kevin Slowey faces John Lackey in the finale. Lackey leads the league with 9 wins so far and he’s pitched long enough to get a decision in all 12 of his starts this year. Some people attribute his success this year to his being able to control his emotions on the mound. Lackey is also one of many major leaguers who has started his own blog.

The Angels have very strong pitching from the starters to the bullpen. The bullpen is anchored by closer Fransisco Rodriguez who is 19 for 20 in save opportunities this year, including his last 13 straight. The rest of the bullpen is primarily composed of Scott Shields (27 appearances 2.76 ERA), Chris Bootcheck (12 appearances 3.48 ERA), and Dustin Moseley (13 appearances 1.42 ERA). The only lefty on their active ro
ster is Darren Oliver (19 appearances, 7.98 ERA) who allowed at least one run in 5 of 10 appearances in May. Justin Speier was off to a good start out of the ‘pen (15 appearances, 1.69 ERA) but he was placed on the disabled list at the end of April “due to a non-baseball related medical condition.”

Finally, it has been noted that the Angels don’t seem to hit as well in the later innings this year, leading many to note the ineffectiveness of the Rally Monkey. Other people think the monkey may be stretching herself too thin as she appears to be moonlighting for another team in the area.

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