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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Angels Do The Dodgers A Favor: Angels 9, Dodgers 0

My premonitions didn't go too well so far this weekend. I have no doubt but that Al's publicizing my last one didn't help; the OBP-challenged Cubs went down last night, 5-1, even despite Greg Maddux on the mound. So, I keep such stuff to myself until just before the game starts.

I bring it up because I had no clear idea who would win this series. The Angels haven't been hitting much lately, though their pitching is good, and likely too good; if anything, Colon is due for a regression any day now, though you could make a case that both Wash and Lackey are finally working up to their levels of actual talent. So it was last night with the Angels' cheesehead, pitching as a man possessed of superior talent and Scott Boras whispering into his ear in a walk year. So if the Angels got a free win off Mr. Lisa last night, they certainly can't expect similar treatment today, not without a clear threat in the balance of the lineup. Garret Anderson's tight hammy kept him out of the game, and might do so for the rest of the series. That would leave the still-too-early-to-judge Dallas McPherson and the relatively untested Juan Rivera, whose .307/.364/.465 speaks of a possibly promising player if used full-time, or at the very least, a useful fourth outfield bat.

I hit the jackpot with my earlier suspicion that the Angels ought to be able to do the Dodgers a favor and once-and-for-all get them to release Scott Erickson. Erickson's pending release or demotion now comes to a full boil; while unable to watch the entire game, I note the Times reports he walked Washburn, thus invoking the Grabowski Principle:

Four Angel runs came early against Scott Erickson, whose most glaring mistake was walking Washburn with one out and runners on second and third in the second inning.

"I had him 1-and-2 and I walked him," Erickson said. "It's pretty much inexcusable."

How can I disagree? Hot wife or no, this was likely his last start for the team, and quite honestly, likely the last pitch he's thrown for the Dodgers, or anybody else. Tracy's failure to pull him after the walk invokes the usual cries of desperation from FJT; for some reason this year, Tracy has a much longer hook than he should. Yesterday, when fans had the opportunity on dodgers.com to chat with Jim Tracy online, the event revealed nothing of substance; nobody asked the critical questions pertinent to the Dodgers' May 13 game against the Braves, namely
  1. Why didn't you pull Weaver when he was clearly in a jam?
  2. Since when is bases loaded, any number of outs not a jam?
With Tracy fighting a hurricane of second-guessing in the stands, in the newspapers, and in the blogs, the only reason I can imagine that fans aren't asking such obvious and necessary questions is that the Dodgers edit them out. Therefore, such online chats are an immense waste of time.

The big ugly for the Angels was 2004 AL MVP Vlad Guerrero's early exit from the game with a subluxated (dislocated) shoulder detected by x-rays taken after the event; more tests are to come today. Certainly, Vlad will miss the remainder of this series, and possibly much longer. As we saw last year with Troy Glaus, dislocations can be very nasty, taking a long time to recover from.

The game had much in the way of entertainment, but it was mostly like watching a street performer slap himself with a slab of meat; funny the first time you see it, pathetic when you realize that's the only comedy he knows. The play at the plate in the fifth that injured Vlad amounted to the kind of stupid baserunning the Angels should avoid at all costs, especially with two out. It was repeated later when Scioscia tried for a suicide squeeze in the seventh that backfired, hammering Chone Figgins. I suppose FJT could take some comfort in that, while the Angels screwed up spectacularly twice at home, the Dodgers only managed it once; but you don't want to see such stuff at all, ever. By my eyes, the Angels manage fewer screwups than last year, though I have no way to prove it, as the sum of caught stealing and thrown-out-at-the-plate is not a statistic ordinarily making the box scores.

That the Angels aren't really a very good team despite their current first-place rank in the division is a fairly widespread sentiment, even among the team's fans. Jon e-mailed me last night about Joe Sheehan's column yesterday about the A's terrible start, in particular noting
If you're looking for reasons to be optimistic [about the A's], consider that the A's have played a fairly difficult schedule, but are now almost done with the Red Sox and Yankees until 2006 (or October, if you prefer). The Angels have a 23-17 record and a seven-game lead in the division, but according to BP's Adjusted Standings, are no better than the A's so far, with an indicated record of 16-24 that matches not only the A's actual record, but their indicated one. In other words, the two teams look alike through one lens. That said lens calls them both .400 teams is the problem.
It gets worse: prior to last night, the Angels were dead last on ESPN's strength-of-schedule (they moved up two places after beating the Dodgers) and are just ahead of the Yankees based on their relative power index (RPI, similar to BPro's Adjusted Standings but without all the second- and third-order effects). If Vlad's shoulder really puts him out for any extended period of time, the Angels' advantage in this division gets a lot thinner a lot faster. But the other teams have their crosses, too: There's still no clear winner in the division, but the balance of power is awfully thin, and Vlad's injury could catalyze a long losing streak. Over the course of the next three weeks or so, the Angels play seven games versus the Chisox (four at home, three on the road), six games with the Red Sox, three with the Royals, and three with the Braves. Vlad picked a bad time to go on the DL. Stay tuned.



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