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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Keith Law On The Angels' Season

As a followup to the Rev's recent midseason review of the Angels, here's an excellent Keith Law article behind the pay wall at ESPN.com regarding the Angels' 2006. Significant excerpts:
The reality is that the playoffs are already hopelessly out of reach for the Angels this year. They're five games out of the division lead in the loss column, with three teams to pass, and they're 16 out in the wild card. And their run differential (they've been outscored by 32 runs this season) indicates that their record is no fluke. They really do stink.
Law recommends that Adam Kennedy, Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, and Chone Figgins all be removed as full-time starters, and echoes Matt Welch's entirely sensible suggestions, advising the Angels that Anderson has no value against lefties anymore and needs a platoon partner. Here's more:
Substituting Kendrick for Kennedy and Aybar for Cabrera would improve the Angels' offense, but it would leave the team with three major offensive holes: third base, first base, and possibly left field. The Angels should use the rest of this season to figure out whether Dallas McPherson is the solution at third base (he's not) and whether either Kendry Morales or Casey Kotchman is the solution at first base (my money's on Morales). Left field is as much a political issue as it is about baseball: Will the club acknowledge that Anderson's days as an everyday player are done, despite his long career with the club and the two years remaining on his contract?
These are very good questions, and thanks for asking them, Keith.

From Keith's lips to Angels management's ears....
Keith Law is an idiot. The Angels are five games out with a four-game series coming up next weekend against the first place team. If he can't do basic math, he shouldn't be telling the professionals how to run a ballclub.
I agree with Anon...the Angels are not hopelessly out of it, especially with this big division play week. Not to mention that last year's offense was terrible through May, was off-the-charts awesome in June and then settled into a .270 batting average team the rest of the year, not spectacular, but certainly better than in April and May. That team ended up 95-67, because it also had great pitching and fielding.

This year the offense has been stuck in that April-May 2005 state, which probably won't continue...at the least it can't get much worse, so I think it is safe to say the offense will get better. The pitching has been worse, although, a large part of that was Jeff Weaver, and it should get significantly better with Jered Weaver on the mound. The fielding has been worse than last year, too, but, like the hitting, we have to expect it won't get worse. So, the team should, by all rights, improve in every single aspect, plus they have two rookies who seem to give a charge to the team every time they take the field. No, their record is no fluke with how they have played, but they will certainly play better the rest of the year. Will they contend? Maybe, maybe not...but they should at least be better.

As far as moves the teams should make, Kendrick for AK is definitely the obvious choice, but I am not convinced Aybar would be better than OC, or that OC is even very tradeable, right now. GA is not going to leave the starting lineup in the forseeable future and Morales seems not quite ready for the big leagues (although, he is clearly close). McPherson and Kotchman both still deserve a shot, as both have had at least some success in the big leagues.
Following the games of July 4, 2004, the Angels were 4.5 games back of the lead, in 3rd place. As I recall, there was plenty of doomsaying then, too.

Run differential is interesting, but using it to predict the future is chancy. Teams make adjustments, and a team as deep as the Angels has more options than most to correct lack of offense - even if one doesn't take into consideration that at least a couple of guys are simply playing below their average and will rise to the mean. The lineup seems to have finally stablilized, and we can see a pretty good chance for improvement based on who's won a spot in the starting lineup versus who's played there so far. Despite Morales's growing pains, he's actually hitting a little bit better than other Angels first basemen. Napoli just last night passed Jose Molina for ABs as a catcher, and he's obviously a huge improvement going forward. Guerrero is emerging from the worst slump of his career. And at some point the Angels can expect to replace Maicer Izturis with Dallas McPherson.

Year after year, people write this team off and get it wrong. At some point, it just starts to look unscientific, you know?
The problem I see with the "we're not out of it" assessment is that, yes, it's technically correct, five games at the halfway mark is not really "out of it".


As somebody else said on Halo's Heaven (it was the quote on the upper right on the homepage), the problem is that if the Angels don't play Howie Kendrick this year, we get to go through his acclimatization process next year, after the free agent class is gone and past, and the Angels still wouldn't know what they need.

Dallas McPherson deserves to play for the rest of the season, however much of it he can stay healthy for, but his injury history and his inability to reliably make contact is rapidly making it plain that he's not a good answer at third. He's a very good mistake hitter. The problem is, they don't make those kinds of mistakes at this level.

I think we can also expect first base offense to improve in the second half. One of two things will happen: either the light will come on for Kendry Morales at around 200 AB, or Casey Kotchman will come back. Recent reports indicate Kotchman's return even this year is in doubt, though, so plan (b) may not work. In which case, let's hope Kendry's multihit game yesterday is the start of a good trend.
Thanks for expanding upon what some of us feel about trying out the rookies. I'd rather watch a rookie struggle while learning how to succeed in the bigs, than watch a veteran whose prime has passed struggle. We all know Mike is unable to stop penciling in the vets despite their poor performance(See Steve Finley).

Incidentally, Kotchman has to have the most severe case of mono in medical history. He should donate his body to science...
That the Angels aren't out of it isn't just "technically" true, Rob. You make it sound as if they're ten games out with eleven to play.

As for Kendrick, we really don't know if he would provide an upgrade this year - in which, remember, the Angels are still contending. Assuming you're right that he will need to go through an adjustment period before hitting well at the Major League level, then obviously bringing him up now to replace Kennedy is best for his development. The problem with this is that the Major Leagues don't exist for the purpose of player development, they exist to determine a champion. The 2006 Angels are nowhere near the point where they should be throwing in the towel on this season, and doing so at this point just to get rookies some playing time is crazy. Sure, playing Kendrick now maybe makes him better in 2007, but what's that going to matter anyway when the Angels are four games back at the All-Star Break and decide that they'd better trade away Lackey so Adenhart can get ready for '08?

This team can win the AL West. They ought to try.
The problem with this is that the Major Leagues don't exist for the purpose of player development, they exist to determine a champion.

Sean, I can't believe you're parroting Scioscia's empty-headed nonsense. Virtually all prospects have trouble when they first come up to the majors. Tim Salmon did. Erstwhile Dodger Paul Konerko did. Morale is right now. Scioscia uttered that comment on the heels of some awful moments from the Angels' highly-touted rookies, but the simple fact is that was a piece of clumsy ass-covering for the front office. Scioscia should know better.

As to whether the Angels should throw in the towel, I think they're very close to the point where they should. Not quite yet.
You're misreading my post. I'm not questioning whether or not Kendrick will struggle when he reaches the Majors. He might not, but probably will. Rather, what I'm saying is that it's foolish to value Kendrick's development for 2007 over the team's needs in 2006, whatever those may be. Hence the purpose of this season is to win it, not to get Kendrick ready for next year. Throwing in the towel now is ridiculous, just like it would've been in 2004.
Just to make that clear, that should read, "Morales is now."
The season is hardly over 5 out with a 1/2 season to go is nothing.

Next year is next year. I would prefer Stoneman do nothing than make some knee-jerk boneheaded trade which does nothing this year and hurts us next year.
Wait a minute, people PAY to read that shit?
Dallas McPherson (and better yet, a McPherson/Quinlan platoon), IS a perfectly good "answer" at 3B, as long as he is healthy.

He's slugging .468 this year. That's higher than Hank Blalock, Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff, Adrian Beltre, and Aaron Boone; and damned near Brandon Inge and Eric Chavez. Over his much-maligned career he's hitting .268/.316/.507 against righties, with 16 homers in 284 at-bats, and as luck would have it, the Angels have a guy on the team who can play 3B and bash lefties.

Also, he's 26, almost certain to improve, and cheap for the next several years. The only way he's NOT an acceptable answer is if he gets hurt ... or if you're asking bonehead questions in the first place.
Last year, on July 4, the Houston Astros were 39-42, 12.5 games out of first place, and 6 back for the Wild Card. They made it to the World Series.

The Braves on that day were a familiar-sounding 4.5 games out. They won the division. The Yankees were 4 games back, and in third place. They won the division. The Indians were 9.5 games back & in third place, and they damn near caught the White Sox. The A's were also 9.5 games back & in third place, and they made a run for it.

The division is eminently winnable, and will likely stay that way, given Harden's injury, Texas' inevitable wilt, Seattle's suckitude, and the Angels' very good starting rotation.
first of all, this guy Law is a complete idiot if he thinks this season is over - our starting rotation is pretty solid and can take us far. In 2004, weren't we 3 out with 9 to go?

next, it'd be nonsense to ditch OC for Aybar. period. OC is our first half MVP and still a player.

He does make a point about Kennedy and GA. i don't remember where i read it, but it was said:

"Kendrick is Jered. Kennedy is Jeff."
(that should be the Rev;s quote of the day; either that or Canseco calling MLB 'mafia')

get on with it, Bill - everyone has been saying that - Howie should have been here a month ago at least in a platoon.

finally, while we are not out of it, and actually have a good chance to take the division, we are a long ways from a World Championship with this offense. Looking at the Yanks for instwance, they have six solid bats in the middle of their line-up - we have at best 3 now (Vlad, Nap, OC) - we need an import and Kendry has to continue to step up. Howie should be part of the answer too.
Keith Law sounds like a guy who (and I hate to say it this way, but it's how I feel) never played the game. If he did, he would realize how poor his statement of "hopelessly out if it" sounds. In athletics, we are CONSTANTLY striving to be the best we can possibly be. And, to never ever EVER give up. I realize reality has to set in at some point, but to give up on a season while only FIVE games out would "de-program" the players; that would be like giving up in a baseball game down four in the seventh inning, because the "odds" are against you winning. You have got to BELIEVE you can still win. It's what competing is all about. When you're down by ten, sure, sit your guys, and let the miracle (if one is going to happen) take place. Otherwise, you keep grinding, hoping, and trying.

Many people scoff at the mental side of sports. They are shortsighted. And saying "they're professionals" won't argue the point, either. EVERYBODY in the majors is a professional, so you need to keep your competive edge at the top of it's game.

It took years, I believe, for the White Sox to "culturally" recover from their famous "white flag" trade - not because of the players involved, but the fact they were only three out at the time - it went against a basic competitive mentality.

Additionally, to nitpick, Keith Law, as a reporter, needs to get some facts straight. Figgins is signed to a three-year deal, and is not eligible to take the Angels to arbitration.

Do the Angels need to improve their offense? Sure. Get on base more? Of course! But, offense does not win games. Scoring more runs, consistently, than your opponent is what wins games. Sabermatricians would call it "run differential." And statistically, the difference between last years Halos and this year's, is the defense. A point that really does matter. A point that Law never even brings up...
I don't care how good your pitching is, unless you're the 1906 White Sox, you've gotta have offense.

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