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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Feckless: A's 10, Angels 4

I've seen worse starts by the Angels, but it's hard to remember when. The Halos are now 1-4, and the radio guys last night said you'd have to go back to the 1992 Halos, who actually started the season 0-4, to find a team with so bad a start. That epically bad team finished 72-90, but also marked the beginning of Tim Salmon in an Angels uniform.

That, really, was the only good thing about the 1992 Angels. They had no real shot at contention, and in fact were eight years away from their most recent division win. And despite that horrible won-loss record, it actually represented an improvement in the standings that year thanks to an equally bad year from the Royals, and a 64-98 crater left behind by an even worse Mariners team.

But that team wasn't expected to win anything.

A number of observers have declared that the division is, if not the Angels' to lose, then at least reasonably within their compass. Of course, the perennially gloomy Baseball Prospectus projected a 78-84 finish for this year's squad, which, I'm sure, yielded the usual laughing from Halos Heaven and other quarters used to their preseason pessimism, one I have been inclined to share but lately have learned to ignore. (Recall they picked the Angels for an 81-81 finish in 2009, and they've been similarly off for years on the team in their recent run.)

Well, this certainly was a wake-up call. The Angels are getting blasted on a nightly basis, and while my desktop box is still missing its Lahman database, I have to believe this is something like a historic ass-whooping. The Angels have surrendered ten runs in two straight games; it's hard to see how that's not a direct indictment of the pitching, which has given up five or more runs in three of their four losses. Matt Palmer accordingly was horrible, accounting for five runs over five runs, plus leaving the bags loaded on his unceremonious exit in the sixth. Jason Bulger was equally crapulous, allowing all his bequeathed base runners to score (though in his defense, Palmer left him in a tough spot, bases loaded with none out). Palmer even got a break inasmuch as one of the unearned runs — Kurt Suzuki's in the first, scored on Eric Chavez' bounce out to second — got the benefit of the doubt when Juan Rivera's throw skipped off the infield. Jeff Mathis lost track of the play, let the ball get out of his glove, and permitted the lumbering Suzuki bearing down on him to score.

Brandon Wood, whom BPro declares needs to be for real this year as a precondition to the Angels' success in 2010, is showing just how little value he really has in the majors so far. He barely put the bat on the ball, and helped out opposition pitchers in every at-bat by swinging and missing at nearly every offering. He saw a grand total of ten pitches, by my reckoning, and swung and nearly every one. A more pathetic display I don't think I've seen in a while, even by hacktastic Angels standards.

The lone positive on the night — aside from it being Friday, and thus blessed with fireworks — was Bobby Cassevah's major league debut. Cassevah, you may recall, was spirited away by the A's in the Rule 5 draft but later returned. Called up from AAA Salt Lake in exchange for Robb Quinlan (whose minor league deal apparently allows such things), he posted two and a third innings of scoreless ball, but otherwise relatively unimpressive (i.e. only one strikeout).

Obviously, the season isn't over after five games, but it would be rather helpful if the Angels could show they can pitch minus John Lackey, and plus their new-look bullpen.

MLB.com recapESPN box

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