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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Your Last-Place Los Angeles Angels Of Nowhere: Mariners 9, Angels 8

The best part of this game was the rousing-yet-ultimately ineffective ninth inning rally; last year, if the Angels scored eight runs, you could pretty much be certain they were going to win. These days, you have to ask yourself, how many were unearned?

The Angels are 6-11, which makes for a .353 winning percentage. That's horrible no matter how you try to paper over it; if they finish the month that badly, it's a 7-14 month; for the year, it's a 52-110, i.e. we're looking at 2003 Tigers levels of frustration. Not literally, of course, because that was a 116-loss team. But once you cross the 100-loss threshold, it simply becomes a long, numb grind to the end of the season, and September's talk of golf and "next year". Not necessarily that I think this is the Angels' lot, but a team that can't find ways to pitch its way out of trouble — my fundamental problem with the silliness that the RISP2 crowd has consistently overlooked is that this team, by clinging to a dysfunctional offensive model, has failed to give itself any cushion in case of disaster, i.e. the Angels' 2009 season.

So, the conundrum of not playing Wood. Well, really, not a conundrum; if you're losing this bad this often, it just doesn't make sense to pretend there's some compelling reason to keep him out of a power-starved lineup. Maybe it's a way for the organization to pretend they're not giving up the ship on this season. I see Wood's in today's game, so maybe there's a trickle of hope. But I'm getting more than a little fed up with the Angels' constant refusal to give us the satisfaction of seeing a young player try to figure it out at the major league level, rather than pretending that Maicer Izturis is a competent three-hole hitter.

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Comments:
I don't think the Angels will be a 100 loss team, but 90 is a real possibility. When the Times writes an article and mentions the Atlantic League as a viable option to find some pitching, you know your team is in trouble.

I agree with you about Wood. Why bring him up and have him sit the bench? I know people are down on him, but he still is only 24 years old. At least the game today is going well through 4 innings...
 
I also agree with you about Wood (and he's playing today, btw), but there's a level of incoherence about the rest of the argument. Offense is really not the team's problem at the moment. If you look at our division, the Angels are leading Oakland and Seattle by a fair margin in runs scored, team batting average and team OPS. Nobody assumed we'd best Texas in that department, and they've had a much lighter schedule to date.

Look, let's not make more of this than it is: our pitching situation is a mess. I know it's easy to reactivate old complaints about offensive strategies after a loss, but we're averaging 5-6 runs a game in the current series, which is roughly what we've been averaging all season. It's our relief corps that has killed us, and our starting pitching only of late.

We have five starters (if you count Oliver) on the DL, and another is dead. We've introduced a new closer who has never faced AL hitters before and is pressing because he wants to prove himself. We're trying to roll out AAA mediocrities named Palmer, Ortega and Loux and feel relieved if they only give up 5 or 6 in as many innings. Add to that the fact we have a seriously degraded defense in the OF and on the right side of the infield, and anyone who thinks that won't impact our bullpen isn't thinking.
 
Trevor Reckling pitched an absolute gem, by the way, in his debut at Arkansas today. Three-hit shutout through six innings.

This is why I think Seitz' vision of futility until 2013 is a load of bull. If 2009 is a transitional year, so be it. But we have Reckling, Walden and Bell all pitching well at AA right now, and O'Sullivan (who I'm still unsure about) starting nicely in AAA this weekend. I think those are all legit prospects, and our leadoff man of the future, Peter Bourjos, is hitting .339 in a league that favors pitchers. When he hits our outfield in a year or so, and bumps Torii to one of the corners, our OF defense is going to get a hell of a lot better.
 
I've been as disillusioned about the 2009 Angels as anyone, and am also mystified and frustrated with their refusal to play Brandon Wood. And yet, they just completed a 6-game homestand in which they averaged over 7 runs a game. It's the pitching that has really fouled things up.

Right now, the Angels' rotation consists of their #3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 starters. Is there any team in major league baseball that could do even as well as the Halos have done running out their #7, 9 and 10 guys? And that's without even mentioning the scary fact that Justin Speier may be the most consistent arm in the bullpen right now. If (and it's a huge if) the Angels get an effective Lackey and Santana back by June, they remain the odds-on favorite in the division.
 
I dunno about that. The problems in the bullpen will not easily go away. And it's anything but settled as to how effective either of Santana or Lackey will be when they return.
 
The bullpen is a concern, but Shields has a slump every year. This time, he's having it in April, at a time when the entire staff has been taxed, with lots of guys pitching in different roles. Fuentes hasn't been stellar, and then Scioscia was reluctant to use him for a couple of games, which pushed other guys into roles and situations to which they are not suited/ready/accustomed. Oliver got pressed into the rotation and landed on the DL. And a couple of bad starters' outings have forced them to use the 'pen more often. It all ties together. If Lackey and Santana come back, then all of a sudden the rotation is Lackey, Santana, Saunders, Weaver and Loux: not great, but serviceable. If Moseley returns, he or Loux could slide into the long relief slot (something that would suit both of them quite well), Speier looks competent again, and then you've got the return of Oliver, with Arredondo, Shields and Fuentes. These guys didn't forget how to pitch, and assuming health (a risky assumption, I concede), they should be OK. And who knows, but Escobar may yet return in some role. And like I said, they'd be odds-on favorites to win a weak division.
 

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