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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mr. Smith Goes Back To Arizona

Bryan Smith goes back to Arizona to vet players in spring training. Here's his commentary for the Angels (red emphasis is mine):
Seen: 6-7 loss to Cubs
  • Let's start with the only other player I saw from the week that could have underlying injury troubles: Vladimir Guerrero. The former MVP looked really bad in this game, reaching base once in three at-bats via a hit by pitch off his foot. Guerrero, a guess hitter prone to looking bad, looked really bad thanks to a few Rich Hill curves. However, this was not retro Vlad as he failed to ever have great timing, and he also looked hurt running around the bases. [Note I didn't think this was the case; he didn't look any worse than last year, but Bryan may be more clued in to these things than I. -- Rob]

    First-round picks in fantasy baseball are very important, and back problems have a history of lingering. Put these two together, and I suggest you pass on Vladimir Guerrero in the first round of your draft. Let someone else make that mistake.

  • Juan Rivera is an interesting player. At the plate he looked fantastic, collecting an RBI in each of his first two at-bats. He does not have a lot of patience at the plate, but he seems to be a solid contact hitter. In the field however, Rivera is awful. He reminded me of vintage Carlos Lee in left, taking disastrous routes to a Todd Walker double. Rivera then dropped the ball when going to throw out Matt Murton later. Rivera has the potential to be a good player at the Major League level, but to do so he will have to make up for being in the red defensively.
  • Mike Napoli impressed me for the second straight year. In his one at-bat, Napoli homered to left field. His approach at the plate and his subsequent home run led me to believe that Napoli is a big-time pull hitter. This would seem to be the reason why he strikes out a lot, but also indicate why his power is so great. Jeff Mathis had two hits in the game and looked ready for the season, but the Angels shouldn't be placing him on a pedestal above Napoli. In 2007, I hope the two have a chance to battle evenly for the catching position.
  • The Angels entered the ninth inning with a very imposing three against Scott Williamson: Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Kendry Morales. The outcome was unimpressive (1-2-3 inning), but it provided a nice glimpse of the future. Kendrick didn't do anything of note, neither did Morales, though he looks stronger than a year ago. Kendry looked foolish on a low and away pitch, but if he solves the holes in his swing, has the swagger of a big league player. Aybar seemed to equal his scouting report, showing a cannon from shortstop and some rawness to his game. After drawing a sixth inning walk, Erick had a horrible jump on a stolen base attempt and was thrown out. His speed is an asset, his baserunning has never been.
Smith also has the following comment (relevant to my earlier post on the matter) regarding White Sox closer Bobby Jenks:
Let's start with where the news is. Two days after I saw the White Sox play, Tracy Ringolsby wrote that Bobby Jenks "has lost up to 10 mph off his fastball." His comments came days after the appearance I saw in which Jenks gave up three runs in just one inning. The big right-hander walked three batters in the inning, while also allowing two hits.

Shortly after the game I mentioned to someone that Jenks looked awful. His fastball control was awful, as he threw just 13 strikes in a 31-pitch inning. His fastball velocity wasn't the same, and while I didn't have a radar, I will venture that Ringolsby's reports seem exaggerated. Jenks problem was that he hardly flashed a curveball that he threw often in warm-ups, a likely indication that he isn't quite ready for the season.

With Dustin Hermanson in pain, a leftie spot up for grabs and uncertainty from the closer, the White Sox bullpen could be the team's most discernable April weakness. Until he proves otherwise, I suggest you pass on Jenks.

So, were those screws -- in his head or in his elbow -- due to come loose on somebody else's watch?

This clown sees Vladi in a meaningless spring training game and declares that he's damaged goods?! Someone should explain to him what spring training is about.
Vlad always, ALWAYS, looks awkward running around the bases, injured or no. He is a big, lumbering, awkward-running dude that doesn't exactly look like a runner rounding the bases. Of course, something may actually be wrong, but it's probably just Vlad running as if appears to be hurting, which is how he always does.
Bryan Smith is not "some clown".
With all due respect Rob, anyone who sees Vlad play regularly knows he looks like an indecisive giraffe on ice. The guy sounds like the typical stat-type who cannot understand what he is seeing without a stat shet to explain it - stands in the rainstorm waiting to see what the weatherman says is happening.
Maybe he sounds that way, but Bryan is pretty scout-y. I would tend to trust his observations, with the caveat that I'm not sure how much time he spends watching Vlad.
After Vlad got a hit in the first inning of today's game, rasing his average to .500, Rory Markus noted that Vlad has looked "fantastic" this spring, and is ready to get the season underway. Rory, of course, has watched Vlad play ALOT over the past two seasons.
I never trust anything anyone from the team says, especially not a broadcaster, whose job it is to promote the team. Or haven't you noticed that Rex is a homer? (I know, it's Rory doing the sayin', but still.)

Speaking of broadcasters, did anyone notice that the Angels chose a quiet moment in the offseason to re-up Rex Hudler?
I'm calling nonsense on that characterization of Juan Rivera's defense, too. So he missed some balls in the high Arizona sky, so what? His performance in actual major league games has been good. I have trouble believing he's turned into a pumpkin with the glove; The Fielding Bible says he was around 5 runs better than average last year, and I believe it (and that doesn't even consider his throwing).

So a guy who follows our team is a homer never to be trusted while Mister Scout (and his voluminous invisible credentials) is a reliabel analyst of injuries to MVPs with the flick of his wrist... i dunno, Rob, I guess we'll see soon enough... always SO easy to find Angel doom-and-gloomers in March...
So a guy who follows our team is a homer never to be trusted

A guy who is paid by the team sure isn't.
But you have to admit that his remarks are the standard remarks of newbie Angels observers: Vlad runs funny, must be injured. Rivera is hamhanded in the field.

Not sure why you're going to bat for a dude speculating from the smallest of sample sizes. Previous behavioral observation coupled with the statistical record should indicate not only that RIvera is an average-to-good fielder (miles above Anderson in left at this point), but that Vlad is gamboling goof on the basepaths, and is having a great spring.

I hate when these good-eye "somebodies" abandon restraint (and the prior art) and riff off nothing. It amounts to as much.
None of the four beat writers covering the team for the local papers; nor the reporter covering the team for mlb.com; nor any of the members of the admittedly paid broadcast team; nor any of the first-hand observers, including Rob himself, reported that Vlad appeared injured. On top of that, he's been hitting the ball well. Therefore I've concluded that Bryan Smith's observation is probably inaccurate.
Juan Rivera is a good defensive outfielder. His 2005 Strat-O-Matic card has him a rf 2 (-2) e 3, lf 2 (-2) e3, and cf 3 (-2) e3. The first number is a rating from 1 to 5 where 1 is best and 5 is worst. The second number is an arm rating where -6 is best and +5 is worst. The e rating is the number of errors expected over a full season.

Other Angel outfielders 2005 ratings are: Vladimir Guerrero rf 3 (-4) e4 and Garret Anderson lf 3 (+1) e8. Juan Rivera is clearing a better defensive outfielder than Garret Anderson.
Well, trying to be objective here, what we seem to have is a disagreement over how Vlad is playing, and how he looks. Putting that aside, and excepting the Rivera analysis, no one seems to have any gripes about the assessment of Napoli (I wholeheartedly agree, and would love to see Napoli play this year.) Mathis, Morales, and Aybar.

So, honestly, it seems harsh to call him a clown, and I belive a bit of defensiveness is involved on the part of long time Angels fans (who are accustomed to being told their team isn't any good, then having the team outperform those expectations). The man has a real following (via his work at Baseball Analysts) among some big time baseball pros. I figure if they see worthwhile stuff there often enough to read it regularly, we might cut him some slack if we disagree with his observations after seeing ONE game.

In any case, I've held his work over at BA in high esteem for a long time (back when it was Wait Till Next Year, too) and am willing to simply say that he and I disagree as to Vlad's health and outlook for the year. (Rob and I saw four Angels games last week, Bryan saw one, so I feel qualified to respectfully depart from his analysis.) I also disagree with some of his comments about the Cubs, though I respect his work enough to keep it in mind as the year begins.

But the lambasting he's gotten here in the comments for expressing his opinion is, imo, uncalled for. Bryan knows baseball, if there are errors in judgement here it's probably because of a small sample size, and he really doesn't deserve the name calling and general derision in this comments section.

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