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Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Happens To Early Clinchers?

Craig Brown looks at other early clinching teams besides the Angels (since the beginning of division play); you can read about those other clubs (1998 Yankees, 1998 Padres, 1975 Reds, 1995 and 1999 Indians, 2002 Braves) over there, but I thought it would be interesting to take a look at his comments for the Angels:
As Scioscia preps his team for October, question marks abound. Vladimir Guerrero hasn’t played since the Angels clinched, sitting out with a bum knee in the last days of the worst season of his professional career. John Lackey has battled arm problems, has a 4.92 ERA since the start of July and skipped his turn in the rotation before the Angels clinched. Francisco Rodriguez has had a nice year, setting a record for pitching in the final inning of the game when his team has led by three runs or less, but he’s appeared in a career high 71 games and his strikeouts are down while his walks are up.

In the weak AL West (like the ’99 Indians in the AL Central), almost a third of the Angels' wins have come against the Athletics, Mariners and Rangers.

With Lackey needing extra rest, it would make sense if Ervin Santana opened the postseason for the Angels. Santana has been great this year with a 3.33 ERA and 3.27 FIP and has emerged as a quality starter. The problem is, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and Jon Garland all have struggled in the second half. However, all three have shown signs of snapping out of their collective funk. In his last three starts, Weaver has a 2.12 ERA while Saunders is at 3.48 over his last three and Garland has posted a 3.79 during that same stretch. With Lackey struggling, the Angels will need someone from this group to step forward.

The ’75 Reds, ’98 Yankees and ’95 and ’99 Indians all led their league in scoring. With an offense that scores only 4.6 runs per game, the Angels currently rank 10th in the AL. But the Angels limit the opposition to 4.2 runs per game, the third best in the league, which is how the '98 Padres and '02 Braves found success. With their lack of offensive firepower, they will need their starters to continue their recent form if they hope to advance through the postseason.

Thanks to Phil Johnston for the tip.

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