Series Preview in Blog: Los Angeles Angels

Is it over? Can I come out now? That Blue Jays series scared me a little bit, I have to be honest. The Twins dropped 3 of 4 to Toronto to fall to 4-7 on the season (and 3-5 at home). They continue the homestand with the LA Angels, who come in at 3-5 (pending last night’s result) having lost their most recent series to Seattle. I should point out that Seattle was 5-0 since leaving Minnesota going into last night, and overall teams the Twins have played are 12-5 (.705) in games against other opponents. So the Twins are doing a little bit better than everyone else, right? I know it’s a reach, but it’s hard to find positives when they haven’t won a series yet this season.

Of course, we can’t talk about the Angels 2009 season without the tragedy that is Nick Adenhart’s death. There are a ton of tributes on all the Angel’s blogs, here’s a couple: Halos Heaven, and John Weisman of Dodger Thoughts.  I don’t know that there’s much I can write about this, so I’ll just say it’s a terrible loss for all the families affected, and my thoughts and prayers remain with them.

The bad start is never easy on fans, but Angels just have to remember WWFPD (What Would Ford Prefect Do?).  Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for us) they will have to go through at least this weekend without Vlad Guerrero, as he is out due to a strained pectoral muscle.  That other outfielder will be there though (Of course I mean Torii Hunter, you haven’t forgot about Torii Hunter have you?)
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Series Preview in Blog: Los Angeles Angels (3/31-4/03)

Light at the end of the tunnel
We’re almost there. (Image from Michael Cook)

It’s finally here. Opening Day! We’ve survived another winter without baseball. All winter long, we look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting, not because we really want to see starting pitchers throw two innings and call it a day, but rather because it means that opening day is another step closer. Spring training has always seemed like a concession to me. The fans would rather have more “real” baseball, but the players can’t be expected to just jump back in without a little bit of warm-up first. Actually, I bet some players wouldn’t mind a little less spring training either, but instead we all settle for an appetizer of spring training before we get to the good stuff. So, as has happened for years upon years, we eagerly await the team coming north to start the season.

That’s the thing about baseball. It is history, one of the joys of being a baseball fan is relating stories of the awesome feats that we witnessed. Whether it was Johan’s 17K game, or the 2006 miracle run of the Twins, we’re saving those memories for people who come after us who didn’t get to witness them in person. The coolest thing is that baseball history is getting longer and longer. Every year we add another season, and sometimes we find that baseball goes back a little bit further than we originally thought. Here’s a story of one of the oldest known baseball games, which occurred in 1843 and was hosted by the New York Magnolia Ball Club, not Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright. It includes this image of a baseball game from around the same time, and this quote from Michael Walsh, one of the founders of the New York Magnolia Ball Club:

[P]arties of whole-souled fellows are going to express their gratitude to Heaven for its manifold blessings, to-morrow, by playing ball and eating chowder. They could not have selected a more appropriate and sensible method of doing it, as a man is never on so good terms with his God and fellow men, as when he is enjoying himself in healthy and rational manner.

So, grab a bowl of chowder and let’s start this thing off with a look at the Twins first opponent of the ’08 season, the LA Angels.

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Series Preview in Blog: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Round 3)

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

All right, here we go, a series preview from the end of dinner (burgers, corn on the cob, and pineapple straight off the grill) before the end of the game tonight. That way it’s still kosher as a preview, right? Thank goodness they’re on the west coast so I get the cushion of the late start time.

Minnesota Twins (58-56) @ Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (66-47)

The Angels started off their homestand by winning two of three from Boston. Now they finish their week at home with three against the Twins. The Twins are in the middle of a nine-game road trip, which did not start off all that well when the Royals took two of three from Minnesota. Los Angeles has the best home record in the American League at 37-17, while the Twins are 26-29 on the road. The Angels are in first place in the AL West with a 2.5 game lead over Seattle.

This is the third series betwixt these two teams, each team has won one series and the season series stands at 3-3. Recaps from game 1, game 2, and game 3 of the last series can be found at those links.

Their normal catcher Mike Napoli is on the DL and the Angels have been relying on a couple of young catchers, Jeff Mathis and Ryan Budde. Mathis has done a very good job, and Budde is getting his first look at the major leagues.

**Just to make this whole “race against time” thing interesting, I take an hour and a half trip into downtown Chicago to give myself a bit of a handicap, it is now the bottom of the fourth inning**

The Angels offense is similar to the Twins in that neither hit very many homeruns. Of course, the difference is that the Angels offense actually works pretty well. Nonetheless, the lack of homerun power lead plenty of people to speculate that the Angels need a big bat to remain contenders. Other people point out that, depending on what numbers are most important to you, a case can be made that no such need exists. Still, it’s a little bit disheartening when the trade deadline passes and nothing at all is done. The trade deadline did see Luis Castillo depart from Minnesota, but before he showed up in New York, apparently he added one last assist to the Twins when found time to help out the Angels in their sweep of Detroit.

Those of us who rely on for our Twins viewing will be treated to the hometown tandem of Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler. I don’t think that I would be out of place to call these two announcers “much-maligned”, but an odd thing has happened this year. The number of games these two were scheduled to call was scaled back in favor of a second broadcast team of Jose Mota and Mark Gubicza. Only it turns out almost everybody hates those two even more than the original duo. Additionally, the radio guy has been called into the booth to announce a few games as well, so the powers that be are certainly casting about for a solution.

**Wait a second, the Twins just scored a run. I’ve got to take a moment to savor this.**

Another story that has popped up here and there is the number of vermin violations Angel Stadium has accumulated in the last two years. A bit of careful reading shows a few inconsistencies in the article and its response. The big problem seems to be allowing the dirty stadium to sit overnight before cleaning. Of course, management has offered some reasoning for that, but you have to think this bad publicity will force them to implement cleanup operations in a more timely manner.

I didn’t really have a place for this, but Mike Scioscia has never struck me as a particularly astute tactician. Articles like this only reinforce that notion.

Finally, this has nothing to do with the Angels other than that it happened in a game they were playing in, but umpire gaffes are the kinds of stories that are always good for a chuckle.

**And I’m done with plenty of time to spare. I would have rather Light Rail Baker mowed down the Angels in order and I didn’t quite finish in time, but, alas, it wasn’t to be**

Series Preview in Blog: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Round 2)

The Twins will face starters John Lackey, Jered Weaver, and Joe Saunders in this series, all of whom have ‘J’ as their first initial. 34 of 95 games so far in 2007 have been against starters whose 1st name starts with ‘J’ (most of any initial).

Starters with first initial ‘J’ – 5.3 R/9
Starters with a different first initial – 4.8 R/9

On the subject of starting pitcher’s first initials, the Twins have faced five initials five times or more. They have had the most success against the letter ‘D’ (5.6 R/9).

‘M’ is the letter that has given the Twins the most trouble (allowing 3.1 runs per nine innings). (Doesn’t get much more trivial than that, does it?)

First Initial Gms IP R/9
A 5 28.0 5.1
B 1 6.0 10.5
C 12 70.1 4.7
D 5 29.0 5.6
E 3 9.0 14.0
F 3 17.0 2.6
G 1 5.2 9.5
J 34 214.0 5.3
K 4 23.2 5.3
L 2 8.1 3.3
M 6 34.1 3.2
N 2 14.0 1.9
O 3 16.1 6.1
P 1 7.0 6.4
R 3 18.0 5.5
S 3 22.0 2.0
T 3 21.1 1.3
V 2 8.1 8.6
Z 2 12.0 3.0

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.