Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2007 Record: 94-68 (.580)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 90-72 (.558)
2008 Record: 67-40 (.626)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 59-48 (.553)
Manager: Mike Scioscia
General Manager: Tony Reagins
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Angel Stadium
Who’s Replaced Whom:
Mark Teixeira replaces Casey Kotchman
Torii Hunter replaces Orlando Cabrera
Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis take over most of Reggie Willits’ playing time
Juan Rivera (DL) replaces Shea Hillenbrand
Jeff Mathis inherits Jose Molina’s playing time
Ryan Budde (minors) is filling in for Mike Napoli (DL)
Jon Garland replaces Kelvim Escobar (DL)
Jose Arredondo replaces Dustin Moseley (minors)
Darren O’Day replaces Chris Bootcheck (minors)
1B – Mark Teixeira (S)
2B – Howie Kendrick (R)
SS – Maicer Izturis (S)
3B – Chone Figgins (S)
C – Jeff Mathis (R)
RF – Vladimir Guerraro (R)
CF – Torii Hunter (R)
LF – Garret Anderson (L)
DH – Juan Rivera (R)
S – Gary Matthews Jr. (OF)
R – Robb Quinlan (3B/1B)
S – Reggie Willits (OF)
S – Erick Aybar (IF)
R – Ryan Budde (C)
R – John Lackey
L – Joe Saunders
R – Jon Garland
R – Ervin Santana
R – Jered Weaver
R – Francisco Rodriguez
R – Scot Shields
R – Jose Arredondo
R – Justin Speier
L – Darren Oliver
R – Darren O’Day
15-day DL: R – Michael Napoli (C)
60-day DL: R – Kelvim Escobar
S – Chone Figgins (3B)
S – Maicer Izturis (SS)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Vladimir Guerrero (RF)
R – Torii Hunter (CF)
L – Garret Anderson (LF)
R – Howie Kendrick (2B)
R – Juan Rivera (DH)
R – Jeff Mathis (C)
Wait, why is the roster above the fold? Because, believe it or not, this is the first time the Yankees have faced the Angels this year.
The Angels entered the season as the surest thing in baseball, a near lock to win their weak, four-team division, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. With the A’s having tossed in the towel by selling high on Rich Harden, the Angels hold a 11 1/2 game lead over second-place Texas and boast the best record in baseball. Look a little closer, though, and they haven’t actually been that dominant. Their Pythagorean record is a dead match for the Yankees’ (and the Yankees’ actual record), and their offense ranks in the bottom half of the league in runs per game.
That last item was the likely motivation behind their the Angels acquisition of Mark Teixeira on Tuesday. With Vlad Guerrero having a down year (his worst since his rookie season of 1997), the Angels offense had no center prior to Teixeira’s arrival. Torii Hunter’s been a good edition, repeating the production of his resurgent final season in Minnesota, and second baseman Howie Kendrick is a hitting machine, but one that’s often out for repairs and appears to have been programmed to always swing at ball four. Beyond those two and Guerrero, the only Angels who have hit at or above league average this season have been injured catcher Mike Napoli and the man they traded to Atlanta to get Teixeira, 25-year-old first baseman Casey Kotchman. That even Kotchman was having an off year at the plate should tell you how the rest of the lineup has been performing.
The switch-hitting Teixeira is a significant upgrade over Kotchman in the lineup, and may actually be a better fielder despite the high bar Kotchman has set, but he doesn’t fill a hole for this team. He merely upgrades one of the positions that was already contributing fairly well.
That leaves things up to the Angels’ pitchers. John Lackey returned from an early-season DL stint to reclaim his place as ace, Ervin Santana has been resurgent, Joe Saunders has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, and Francisco Rodriguez is on a record saves pace, but overall, the Angels pitchers have been merely good, and given that the A’s can’t hit and the Rangers can’t pitch, that’s been plenty good enough.
Actually, it’s been better than that. The Angels have the stingiest road pitching in the league–bad news with them visiting Yankee Stadium for the next four days. Of course, that means that their home pitching has been pretty awful. Only four teams in the AL are allowing more runs at home than the Angels this year. Both of those rankings are helped by the fact that the Angels are an outlier in a season in which teams around the league have had out-sized home field advantages. In fact, the Yankees and Angels are the only two teams in the league that have winning records on the road. The difference between the two being that the Yankees are one game over .500 outside the Bronx, while the Angels are a whopping 17 games over .500 when wearing their road grays. That’s all due to the pitching. The Angels are scoring at almost exactly the same rate home and away.
In summary: the Angels are really good, except they’re not that good, unless they’re playing on the road, which they are this weekend, then they are that good.
Again, bad news for the Yankees, who need to get over their inability to beat this team both in the regular and postseason. I hesitate to mention it, but if the Yankees win the Wild Card, the team they’ll face in the ALDS will be these Angels.
Here’s the good news: the Yankees score a lot more often at home, and they’re kicking off this weekend’s four-game set tonight with a favorable pitching matchup. I’m beginning to sound like a broke record here, but Andy Pettitte has been great of late, as he’s gone 7-2 with a 2.11 ERA and 52 Ks in 59 2/3 innings over his last nine starts. In his last four starts, his line is 3-1, 1.93, 27 Ks in 28 IP against just four walks and two homers. Facing an unimpressive Angels offense, you have to expect at least a quality start from Andy tonight.
That leaves it up to the offense to get to Jon Garland, who has been the Angels’ worst starter on the season. Not that he’s been bad, but he’s been average at best, and in his last three starts he’s assembled an 8.59 ERA due primarily to an opponents average of .365. Most of that damage came against the lowly A’s in his last start before the All-Star break. If you stretch things back to give him the same nine-start sample we used for Pettitte, his ERA is a reasonable, but still poor 4.72, opponents are hitting “just” .303 against him, and the Angels have gone a respectable 5-4 in his starts (if you can post a winning record when your fifth start pitches, you’re doing okay).
As a White Sock, Garland faced the Yankees three times last year, dominating the weak first-half version of that Yankee team in two early-season starts (15 1/3 IP, 2 ER), then getting destroyed by the powerful second-half version in early August (1.1 IP, 8 ER). The pressure’s on the Yankees tonight, not only to beat the Angels, but to win the game that looks most winnable from the outset.
More good news: Ivan Rodriguez will catch and hit eight tonight with Jose Molina riding pine, and Chris Britton has arrived to take Kyle Farnsworth’s spot in the pen (with Chad Moeller getting designated for assignment for the second time this season).
Finally, the Yankees made a just one minor trade at today’s 4pm deadline by shipping triple-A shortstop Alberto Gonzalez to the Nationals for double-A right-hander Jhonny Nuñez. Nuñez, who will be 23 around Thanksgiving, is a lanky Dominican who was signed by the Dodgers in 2006 and traded to the Nats that August for Marlon Anderson. The Nationals converted him to relief this season where his fastball-and-little-else repertoire is likely to be most effective. Right now he looks like a typical righty fireballing reliever; he’ll strike out a ton of batters and walk a bunch in the process. I wouldn’t expect much out of him, but Gonzalez is 2 1/2 years older and was hitting .250/.313/.356 for Scranton on top of a career .275/.327/.381 line in the minors, so they didn’t give up much either.