Team Preview - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Maybe Kendry should have done this leap instead of the one he attempted when he fractured the Angel season. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Scored 292 runs, Allowed 299 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 30-32

While the sixth best organization in baseball is mired in last place and starting to look toward next year, the team that is always counted out by the sabre crowd is once again in their familiar position. As I write this the Angels are 1/2 a game out of first and could easily be in first when they arrive at Chavez Ravine tomorrow night.

I love the Angels because I love the experts being wrong. Mike Scoscia continues to get crucified for his aggressive style of base running but the numbers back his style up. I'd link to those numbers but they might not prove my point so I'll let others do it.

The team to the South is as hot as any team in baseball. Like the Dodgers the Angels are 8 - 2 over their last 10 games. Like the Dodgers the Angels were being written off in April. Like the Dodgers the Angels rotation is doing some great work during the winning streak. Like the Dodgers they are over performing their Pythag.  Like the Dodgers they have a catcher as a manager. Like the Dodgers they reside in Southern California.  Like the Dodgers they keep losing in the playoffs. 

Enough of the likes. Unlike the Dodgers, they don't have the best record in the AL, or anything close to it even after their 8 - 2 run. 

The strange part of the Angel streak is that it did not kick in, until they lost the best hitter on the team in a freak walk off celebration.  While they are winning without Kendry Morales, the likelihood of them keeping up this pace drops without him because this team does not have much power.

This is a strange team to break down. Offensively the infield without Morales is an unimpressive group,  the catching is awful when Napoli is on the bench, the outfield is mediocre. Is it the pitching? the teams they are playing? Mike Scoscia still has something on the devil? Hard for me to see how this team is in first place.  The team seems devoid of power or on base skills. Not sure they can survive without Kendry Morales unless Mike Napoli proves he can play full time, and produce at the same ratio's he has as a part time player.

Position Breakdown

1st Base-With Kendry Morales down, the Angels have turned to Mike Napoli and Robb Quinlan. Napoli is infamous for being an offensive catcher who is so bad on the defensive side that he can't get regular at bats. You would think 1st base would an excellent option for this true outcome player. So far in June it is not working out. Napoli has yet to walk in June which is the 2nd biggest part of his game. The biggest part of his game is home runs, and he's yet to hit one as a first baseman after eight games. His TSL as a first baseman  is .211/.211/.263 in 19 at bats.  Forgetting June, Napoli is a legitimate home run threat who has hit 49 home runs in the last three years in only  773 at bats.  That is some big time power. On the down side he has struck out 227 times in those same 773 at bats. The other guy who might steal some at bats at first base is  Robb Quinlan and he sucks.  When guys like John Lindsey can't get major league at bats but Robb Quinlin does, you know it is simply because he's played at that level before.  He doesn't walk, he strikeouts around 20% of the time, and he has the kind of power that only Jamie Carroll would be proud of. The drop off from Kendry Morales to Robb Quinlan is huge yet Quinlan has almost as many ab's as Napoli does at 1st base since Kendry hopped on home plate.

2nd Base-Howie Kendrick hasn't won that batting title that many predicted for him. Kendrick had an OPS of .948 in the 2nd half of 2009 so many thought that he had finally put together the skills. So far in 2010 that is not happening. If  Brandon Wood had not been a complete white hole at 3rd base maybe Mighty Maicer would be putting some pressure on Howie for playing time. Since they need Maicer at 3rd base, Howie gets to play with his TSL of .260/.291/.374 . With a wOBA of .301 I'll stop complaining about Blake DeWitt.  The sweet swing is still there, but the production is not. He may get hot again as he did in the 2nd half last year. The Angels need him to be that guy.

SS -Erik Aybar is the brother of ex Dodger Wily Aybar and is another one of the heralded Angel infield prospects who have yet to meet the expectations of 2010. Like Howie he has settled in as a starter but he would not be hard to replace. His game is speed yet he can't steal bases at a decent rate getting caught at a 50% clip.  He has no power, but does seem to be learning some plate discipline. He had only 30 walks in 2009 but already has 25 walks in 2010 which is keeping his OB at an acceptable level. TSL of .264/.333/.351 is acceptable for a SS.  If he can keep that plate discipline going, and raise his average back to the 2009 level he'll be okay, not great, but okay.

3rd Base - Brandon Wood was given plenty of rope this year to prove he could play and be a productive hitter in the major leagues. He didn't, now he's hurt and rehabbing in AAA where he's even having trouble making contact there. Wood is just another in the long line of failed 3rd base prospects in major league baseball over the last five years. Either they simply suck like Marte and Wood,  change positions like Gordon, Wallach, and eventually Alveraz, or become less then mediocre like LaRoche. Wood has always struggled in the major leagues but the Angels gave him 128 plate appearances before he got hurt. In that time he put up one of the saddest TSL you will ever see from a regular 3rd baseman .156/.168/.213. This pains me because I really wanted Wood to succeed. At least hit some bloody home runs. Nothing, Nada. So the Angels have turned to plan B in  Maicer Izturis. While Maicer found himself on the bench to start the year he could have made a claim that he was better then Kendrick/Aybar/Wood so having him as your plan B is a good plan B.  Except he has also struggled in 2010 and now he's hurt. So the Angels have turned to Plan C and Plan C is kicking ass.  According to Baseball Reference  Kevin Frandsen was traded by the Giants to the Red Sox for a period.

Traded by the San Francisco Giants to the Boston Red Sox for .

Then he was released by the Red Sox and picked up by the Angels on April 29th. Frandsen has simply gone bonkers since joining the Halos putting up a TSL of .370/.408/.435. Yet, even Frandsen is struggling in June so again, how are the Angels winnings with such little offense from the infield? 

 

Of all the teams I've profiled this year, this is the worst offensive infield I've profiled if they put out a team of Quinlan/Kendrick/Aybar/Frandsen.

CJeff Mathis has been on the DL and doing rehab in Salt Lake. I don't know if he will be activated for our series or not. If so then he'll get the games, if not then Napoli or Bobby Wilson will get the honors.  If the Angels could combine Mathis's defense and Napoli's offense they might have the best catcher in baseball. They can't so when Napoli catches, lets run wild.  Mathis was actually hitting for the first time in his major league career before he got hurt but no one should expect that to continue when he comes back. Mike Scoscia loves his defense which keeps him in the lineup a head of Napoli.

CF - Torii Hunter - Hey, some one who can hit. Hunter is hot in June with a plus .600 slug% while overall he's been a solid hitter. His wOBA of .362 is the best on the team. Hunter has been one of the more consistent offensive center fielders in the game over the last five years. The defensive metrics never seem to support just how good he "looks" in center field. Hunter is fun to watch but if he's your best hitter, are you really a contender? If the answer is Yes that means you are playing in the AL West.

RF - Bobby Abreu - after a solid  2009 season, Abreu is struggling to find his game. Over his career he's been one of the best at getting on base, but so far in 2010, his On Base% is 40 points off of last year. With little power for a right fielder, and a terrible defensive outfielder to boot, if he's not getting on base, he's not helping your team.

LF -Juan Rivera is another player who had a solid 2009 but has yet to find his stroke in 2010. This is the common theme with this team. In 2010 Rivera can't even boast of a .300 wOBA or a slug% above .425. Right now, the Angel corner outfielders are simply not very good. When people wonder if Xavier Paul can be a starting left fielder, they simply need to look at what other teams are using in left field and the answer seems obvious.

DH - Hideki Matsui was signed to replace the popular Vlady and so far it looks like the Angels made the wrong decision. Vlady is stroking in Texas while Matsui is barely producing an .800 OPS.  Of course we won't see the DH this weekend which hurts the Angels even more. They either have to play the immobile Matsui in LF, or bench one of the few players who has any power on the team.

Bench -Ex - Giant Kevin Frandsen has been a big boost to the bench by playing 3rd base when Wood and Isturis were hurt. With Morales, Wood, and Izzy hurt, the bench is thin so you will see the likes of Quinlan, and a host of AAA types.

 Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game 1 - Joel Pineiro took his ground ball from the Cardinals and came to Southern California. To bad for him he had to leave Duncan behind. Many wondered if Pineiro could sustain the success he had in St. Louis and based on ERA the answer is no (5.23). However his FIP is a solid 4.10 and his xFIP is 3.98 so don't be so quick to judge him as a failure. His GB rate has dropped from 60% to 55% but that is still a great rate. He's increased his K rate from 4.42 too 5.72 but at the same time he's increased his stellar walk rate from 1.14 to 2.43.

Game 2 - Scott Kazmir no longer has the golden arm. Given the troubles the Angels are having with power I'm not even sure they would make the same trade that sent Sean Rodriquez to the Rays for Kazmir. Kazmir ended 2009 on a high note but 2010 is not being so kind. Like Pineiro he has an ERA over 5.00, unlike Pineiro the supporting peripherals suggest he's also pitching like a pitcher who should have an ERA over 5.00. His FIP is 5.28 and his xFIP is 5.27. His walk rate is 4.38 which he might get away with if he struck out anyone.  Kazmir has seen his K/9 rate drop from a high of 10.41 in 2007 to a measly 5.98 in 2010. The fastball/slider/change have all seen drops in velocity from his hey day as a Ray.

Game 3 - Jered Weaver is having a solid season in every aspect. A 3.20 ERA is supported by a K/9 rate of 9.81, along with a sterling 2.42 walk rate. Weaver had the honor of pitching and losing a no - hitter to the Dodgers on June 28th in 2008.

Bullpen - Fuentes is the closer and he's the type of closer that the opposing team likes to see take the mound with a one run lead.  He gets the job done most of the time but you always feel you have a shot at the comeback. He may have eight saves but he has an ERA of 5.52, a FIP of 6.78, and an xFIP of 4.08. Based on those set of numbers you know he has been victim of the home run ball giving up five home runs in only fifteen innings of work. Fernando Rodney was signed away from the Tigers to provide setup work since Scott Shields is just a shell of his former excellent self. Rodney is walking almost seven hitters per nine innings. Somehow he has managed a 2.70 ERA  but he must be driving Angel fans crazy. Kevin Jepsen is the best pitcher in the bullpen but even he is walking almost five hitters per nine inning. The Angels have another Francisco Rodriquez in the bullpen and so far he's as good as the original. He's only pitched seven innings, but has yet to allow a run, has not walked anyone, and has nine K's. He throws a 95 MPH fastball along with hard cutter.  Rounding out the bullpen are Bulger, Bell, and Cassevah.

Looking at the numbers it is hard to be impressed with this team, but the Angels are rarely about the numbers so expect a tough series. They will be handicapped without the DH, they are playing on Thursday which should involve some bullpen work, they have been on the road forever. If the Dodgers could ever sweep the Angels this would be the weekend to make it happen while they are hurt, tired, and simply not that good, even if they are 8 - 2 in their last 10 games.

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