Coming into the season, I didn’t think the Angels had the offense to leave their division in the dust the way they did last year when they greatly overachieved relative to their run differential. Thus far, however, the offense has been there, but the pitching hasn’t, and poor team defense (hello Bobby Abreu) isn’t helping. Or so it would appear.
Only two Angels starters have made their full slate of starts this year. Of those two, Jered Weaver, who starts Saturday’s game on FOX, has been excellent, but Joe Sanders, who starts tonight, has been no better than average, adding a run to his ERA of a year ago, seeing his walks and strikeouts converge, and allowing a league-leading 20 homers in just 17 starts.
After starting the season on the DL, John Lackey, who starts Sunday, has gone 3-4 with a 5.18 ERA in 11 starts. His poor performance can be traced to a .353 opponents’ average on balls in play, which would seem to be attributable to that poor team defense. Ervin Santana has been on and off the DL all year and has a dismal 1-5 record to go with his alarming 7.81 ERA. Again, one looks to the defense as Santana sports an absurd .385 BABIP.
So who are the culprits in the field? That’s hard to figure. Going position-by-position, the Angels are rarely more than a tick below average anywhere on the field. Torii Hunter’s not as good as he used to be, but Bobby Abreu’s not nearly as bad as he was for the Yankees last year. Juan Rivera, another former Yankee, who has rebounded from nearly two seasons lost to a broken leg with a strong showing at the plate, has actually been a significant plus in the pastures. The middle infield grades out to about average, and better than that when Howie Kendrick plays, and the corners have been solid.
Gary Matthews Jr. has been awful on both sides of the ball, but most of his playing time came in the outifeld before Lackey and Santana returned from their initial DL stays; it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he alone could be blamed for their struggles. So maybe it’s not team defense that is the problem. Maybe Lackey and Santana are just all kinds of hittable right now. Either way, it’s bad news for the Halos, who are struggling to stay atop their division and enter this final series before the All-Star break a half-game behind the Rangers in the AL West and four-games out of the Wild Card race.
More bad news hit Anaheim today as both Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero hit the DL. Guerrero, who might be the oldest 34-year-old in baseball, is on the shelf for the second time this season. Meanwhile, Hunter’s replacement in center will be none other than Matthews, the team’s $50 million mistake.
Tonight the Yankees face lefty Joe Saunders, who has allowed 14 runs in nine innings over his last two starts. Saunders has really been hit or miss all season, with his two worst starts coming against the Rangers in Arlington (seven of the 20 home runs he’s allowed came in those two starts). At home, he’s posted a 3.43 ERA, though he was touched up by the Orioles at home his last time out. In addition to the Rangers, Saunders has been particularly susceptible to right-handed hitters, who are slugging .505 against him. That’s good news for the heart of the Yankee order.
He’ll face Joba Chamberlain, who got an ego check his last time out when he allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Joba’s been a bit obstinate about his performances thus far this season, often giving too much credit to the opposing lineup as well as to his own ability to make good pitches, when in reality he’s been inefficient, nibbly, and his velocity has lacked consistency. He’s still been valuable, but his lack of progress is becoming disturbing. Part of me almost wants him to get his ass handed to him tonight so he has to ugly outings staring him in the face through the All-Star break. The hope being that might put a crack in some of his delusions.
Mark Melancon rejoins the bullpen tonight with Jonathan Albaladejo getting optioned out despite his fine work in yesterday’s game. Derek Jeter gets a half-day off at DH with Cody Ransom, who drove in a pair of runs yesterday, playing shortstop against the lefty Saunders. Nick Swisher bats fifth ahead of Robinson Cano. Melky’s in center, and Jose Molina makes his first appearance since being activated, catching Chamberlain and giving us a chance to see just how much Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña really are going to be missed in the short term.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2009 Record: 46-37 (.554)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 43-40 (.518)
Manager: Mike Scioscia
General Manager: Tony Reagins
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Angel Stadium (103/102)
Who’s Replaced Whom:
- Reggie Willits (minors) has replaced Rafael Rodriguez (minors)
- Bobby Wilson (minors) has replaced Torii Hunter (DL)
- John Lackey (DL) has replaced Shane Loux (DL)
- Ervin Santana (DL) has replaced Anthony Ortega (minors)
- Darren Oliver (DL) has replaced Scot Shields (DL)
- Kevin Jepsen (DL) has replaced Jose Arredondo (minors)
- Rich Thompson (minors) has replaced Fernando Rodriguez (minors)
1B – Kendry Morales (S)
2B – Howie Kendrick (R)
SS – Erick Aybar (S)
3B – Chone Figgins (S)
C – Jeff Mathis (R)
RF – Bobby Abreu (L)
CF – Gary Matthews Jr. (S)
LF – Juan Rivera (R)
DH – Mike Napoli (R)
S – Maicer Izturis (IF)
R – Robb Quinlan (3B/1B)
S – Reggie Willits (OF)
R – Brandon Wood (IF)
R – Bobby Wilson (C)
R – John Lackey
R – Ervin Santana
L – Joe Saunders
R – Jered Weaver
R – Matt Palmer
L – Brian Fuentes
R – Justin Speier
L – Darren Olivers
R – Jason Bulger
R – Kevin Jepsen
R – Rich Thompson
15-day DL: DH – Vladimir Guerrero (knee/hamstring), CF – Torii Hunter (adductor strain), RHP – Kelvim Escobar (shoulder tendonitis), RHP – Shane Loux (shoulder inflammation)
60-day DL: RHP – Scot Shields (knee surgery), RHP – Dustin Moseley (nerve condition in forearm)
S – Chone Figgins (3B)
S – Gary Matthews Jr. (CF)
L – Bobby Abreu (RF)
R – Juan Rivera (LF)
S – Kendry Morales (1B)
R – Mike Napoli (DH)
R – Howie Kendrick (2B)
R – Jeff Mathis (C)
S – Erick Aybar (SS)
Notes: Kendrick has largely lost his second base job to Maicer Izturis. Napoli and Jeff Mathis split the catching duties evenly.