…except a win from your favorite team.
Man, last nights Mets/Giants game was something else. Our seats weren’t the greatest, and there were a couple of big, fat, front-leaning jabrone’s in sitting in front of us, blocking our view from the upper deck, but the game made up for it.
You would have thought Jonathan Sanchez would have lost his fighting spirit after all of those solo shots. You would never have expected him to still be pitching in the eighth. Sandoval was completely mystified by Bobby Pelfrey. Must have been one of those situations where a guy just can’t see a guy, because all those swing-and-misses looked a bit sad.
After all that lopsided offense this jaded Giants fan never would have expected a 1 run ballgame in the eighth. After a terrible call at third, followed by Rowand’s double play, this jaded Giants fan, really wasn’t expecting much.
In come’s K-Rod, with all the to-do on the HD screen. Flames surrounding his #75, some obligatory rock music to pump up the crowd. And Bochy finally gives our man John Bowker some credit. He pinch hits him for the lowly Eli Whiteside, who has been kind of hot lately.
It was cold at Citi Field last night, and even colder for me because my cousin was only wearing a t-shirt, and I felt too bad about letting him freeze, so I gave him one of my layers. So the result was that I was freezing the whole game. It sucked, but at least it saved me money on beer. Late in the game I got the only beverage I could consider purchasing, a hot coffee, and as Bowker was standing at the plate, fouling pitch after pitch, I thought to myself, “If Bowker hits a home run here I might just spill my coffee.” Not only did he hit a home run, but he hit an upper deck shot! I didn’t spill my coffee, but it was a nice moment, celebrating the good fortune with my Dad, Mom, Eva, and cousin. After that, we hoped our big-bopper might be able to do something, finally facing someone other then the panda-perplexing Pelfrey, but at least we saw one of the most amazing plays I’ve witnessed in person. Ike Davis looked like JT Snow down there. Snagging that ball, while holding on the rail, flipping like an acrobat. It was something else.
After Romo came into the game, I was expecting good things, based on his awe-inspiring performance in Miami on Wednesday. Last night it wasn’t to be. He gave up that deep shot to the catcher the Mets signed after Benji left $5 million of their money on the table. It was disappointing, but more fun watching the crazy Mets fans celebrate.
Eva and I just saw our first ballgame in the former Joe Robie, former Dolphin Stadium, now known as Sun Life. I’m not sure what Sun Life is, but for a Candlestick fan, Sun Life brought back that old feeling. Crowd-wise, however, my only comparisons would be the game we saw in Olympic Stadium in Montreal, and maybe some lean nights in the eighties at the ‘Stick in 1985 when the Giants lost 100 games.
About the game, though, Zito, man that Zito!
To be rooting for someone as an underdog who makes 20 million a year feels strange, but after the last couple of seasons, it’s so neat seeing him do so well again. Plus it also doesn’t hurt that he’s playing in the uniform I root for.
The first trouble he saw tonight was not until the 8th inning, but the trouble was weak. The first man on could have been out, the second hit was weak, and the third hit… man, I know Sandoval was playing doubles defense close to the line, but you think the guy could have at least dove! That ball wasn’t too far from him. I couldn’t help but think, “Feliz would have had it.” Though I quickly reminded myself of Pablo’s 330 average and sting-ray line drives.
It was sad to see Zito go, but Sergio Romo’s clean up job was something I won’t soon forget. He made Hanley Ramirez look like Eugenio Velez, then got the next guy to hit into a double play. It was so darn exciting. We we’re in the 9th row above the Giants dugout. So close to the action. As intense as an empty stadium could be!
Wilson’s 9th was frustrating. I know he’s the closer, and Bowker got a pinch hit in Romo’s spot, but I bet most Giants fans just wish a little common sense could have been used, and you’d keep your hot hand in the game.
Romo was dominant. His pitches were dancing. Dazzling! Wilson, sure he threw 98 at times, but they were mostly fastballs, and they were all straight! I don’t know how he can just expect to throw stuff down the middle, at major league hitters. Where was his slider? I only saw one breaking pitch, and that may have been a curve? Anyway, it was nice to see him at least mix it up a little bit as the young swinging marlin’s didn’t seem fazed by his heat.
But he got out of it. Zito got the win he deserved. And we forgot the parking lot # of our car, walked around for a half hour, and eventually had a police officer cruise us around until we found our car. We were very thankful, but he was humble. “It’s my job,” he said. But dam, things were looking drear. The stadium is a bowl, and looks the same all around. Easy to get disoriented in the parking lot, but I can’t wait to go back tomorrow to see Cain hopefully finish the sweep on these fish, and part of me wants to come back next year, because where else can you sit right behind the dugout for under $30. For tomorrow’s game, we’re right behind the Giants dugout for $12!
I love watching ballgames in warm places.
Given out annually to the manager with the most reasonable sense of calm in the face of his young players’ struggles. In this instance, we have Mike Scioscia responding to a Brandon Wood’s terrible offensive first few weeks with clarity:
“Come on, it’s only fifty at-bats!”
When his Cooperstown plaque is etched (do they have plaques for entrants to the Hall of Fame on display?) it will read: He let his players play.
All of which is to say: congrats, Brandon, on shaking off the cobwebs; looks like you’re not a basket case after all. We’ll continue to be patient and hope for a solid season of learning; and for 40-50 extra base hits, and maybe a few walks to go with all those strikeouts.
When I went to sleep last night, the Tigers were leading 5–4 as the top of the sixth began, and I assumed that a whole lot of offense would happen to four innings of relief pitching — Matt Palmer had been pitching for the Angels since the 3rd inning, after all. In the end, all that happened were lots of LOBs. Joe Saunders served up hit after hit, and eventually adapted by walking two of the last batters he was allowed to face. Not an impressive showing from the Angels nominal number 5 starter.
Bobby Abreu committed a baserunning gaffe, getting doubled-off first on a looping line drive to right field with a runner on third; thus, a probably run was lost. That run was given back, however, when Carlos Guillen pulled a hammy or something — what do you call suddenly collapsing to the ground after rounding 3rd base, gingerly standing up, and finally submitting to being tagged out 45 feet from home without contest or forward locomotion?
This AP article also describes the injury as a hamstring pull. I double-took as I first read the writer’s connecting last night’s bad luck with Guillen’s history of injuries: “The three-time All-Star spent almost three months on the disabled list last season because of inflammation in his right shoulder.” One can’t help but imagine that his shoulder was inflamed because one of those Star Trek 2 bugs had penetrated his serratus anterior; then, gradually over the course of the year, the little guy progressed down Carlos’s anatomic highway, finally arriving at his hammy during a 90-foot sprint to home plate. Let’s hope the veteran is alright.
Some good news: Mike Napoli threw out the only attempted base-stealer of the night, and contributed a hit and a walk as well. Welcome back to the starting lineup, big guy.
It’s as if Brian Fuentes returns to the big club to remind them that this is His Inning. After all, if he had simply retired the side in order, how would he have distinguished himself from suddenly super Fern-Rod?
At least Rodney had pitched four of the previous five ninth innings prior to yesterday, and could be reasonably described as “unavailable” for last night.
The AL West is resolving itself quite nicely into a tight race so far, crossing fingers for an exciting summer of Angels-relevant baseball….
After falling behind early to the Blue Jays on Friday, I made the observation while listening to the radio broadcast that the announcers were losing the storyline — it wasn’t simply that the starting pitching had disappointed, or that the offense was ineffective, or that the hit-and-run mojo was non-existent, or that Brandon Wood was struggling (though that note was recapitulated throughout the weekend series). The vibe in the booth seemed to cross into the WTF?? frontier, and I sensed that the apprehension and stilted narrative reflected a suspicion that the Angels just weren’t going to be very good this year, but that no one could express things as such.
Then Jeff Mathis walked, stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on John Buck’s throwing error, and scored on an Erick Aybar infield-single-because-of-a-drawn-in-infield. Et voilà, the Halos as little ball assasins stormed the play-by-play palace and order was restored.
Truly, a Kendry Morales home run and a few doubles didn’t hurt matters, but I’m not smart enough to explain in any other way the je ne sais quoi that explains — once again — this team winning more games than Pythagoras predicts. Last week we lamented the Angels’ league-worst running game. We’re in better territory now:
- The Angels rank 14th in baseball with 9 stolen bases thus far.
- The Angels rank 21st in baseball (tied with the Dodgers) with a 69% stolen base success percentage (9 for 13).
And a few days later, the Jays flew away to Kansas City having been swept. More surprising than the re-introduction of the running game during this series were impressive, efficient outings by both Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana. Maybe the starting rotation will be a strength after all. Let’s add an Ervin Santana ticker to the list of Metrics That Will Probably Indicate A Playoff Team.
Ervin Santana 200 innings/4 earned runs per 9 innings ticker — on pace for 230+ innings, 4.35 ERA.
Howie K .330/.450 ticker — currently hitting .340 and slugging .468.
E Aybar 35% get-to-first-base rate/100 runs scored ticker – reaching base 36% of the time and on pace to score 111 runs for the season.
Considering that the Angels wouldn’t be a playoff team if the season ended now, I may want to conjure up some additional metrics that reflect this (metrics that are as-of-now unfulfilled, in other words).
To respond to the question: Is Scott Kazmir the answer?
4 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 6 ER, 3 HR, 2 K
It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Using the little 2010 data that we have, the Angels now evidentially possess a plethora of borderline major league average starters.
I suppose there may be objections to Santana’s inclusion in such a category, but a 27-year-old with a 5+ year major league track record and career 4-and-a-half ERA strikes me as a known quantity: borderline major league average. Weaver and Pineiro can be reasonably described as a cut above, though the latter only tenuously so. (And perhaps I’m inclined toward sinkerball optimism solely because he has pitched well in his first two starts against good teams.)
Why am I tempted to draw even superficial conclusions based on ten games? It might be because each starting pitcher enters 2010 with a question mark.
- Is Jered Weaver an Ace?
- Who is the real Joe Saunders?
- Who is the real Scott Kazmir?
- Who is the real Joel Pineiro?
- Who is the real Ervin Santana?
After two weeks of playing good teams, we’re tending in the direction of disappointment. Weaver and Pineiro have pitched well enough, but everyone else has done their part to make the Angels starting staff one of the worst in baseball so far. Once again, I didn’t watch the game, but Kazmir’s line from last night looks ghastly. More home runs than strikeouts? Gag me with pine tar and cork. The starting pitchers throwing baseballs like they are, let’s revisit the offensive output tickers that I’ve developed so far, as we’re gonna need the runs:
Howie K .330/.450 ticker — currently hitting .281 and slugging .375.
E Aybar 35% get-to-first-base rate/100 runs scored ticker – reached base twice in five chances last night, reaching base 39% of the time and on pace to score 125 runs for the season.
As I have writ in the space before, I’ll be watching Scioscia’s response to his team’s performance very closely as the season progresses. Whether or not the Angels put together another playoff run, they should play Brandon Wood more or less full time. I think Scioscia’s smart enough to realize that he doesn’t have a championship team on his hands; I just hope that as he tinkers around the edges to create a playoff contender, he doesn’t throw away the opportunity to develop a potential plus position player for several years in an effort to gain a few more — ultimately — meaningless wins. Last year’s team was a different, better one, and keeping Wood in AAA made more sense than not; this year, however, the team won’t be threatening to lap the field, and however ugly it gets, the losses won’t be because Brandon Wood struggles to hit .200.
What, does the body contort while napping in the bullpen? Fuentes last pitched to baseball players on April 5th, breezed through three batters, and now this?
In other news, Fernando Rodney retired the side in order to secure a victory over the Yankees. He and Fuentes are tied for the team lead in saves at 1, and the who-will-be-the-Angels-closer-every-week-and-a-half (you know, because the Angels haven’t been winning with frequency) debate commences.
Has everyone seen this?
And here’s more fun. Speaking of writer Craig Calcaterra, I heartily recommend beginning your morning of online baseball consumption with his daily article “And That Happened”. Here is this morning’s.
Not that this assessment is original to anyone who has remotely followed the first week of the season. Due to a very full vacation schedule, I have, in fact only remotely followed opening week; and based on that alone it’s evident that the Angels are capable of being the mediocre team that many suspect they are. It looks like this is the formula:
- Starting pitching throws up a 3 or 4 spot for 5 innings and then Scioscia pats palm on butt.
- Offense throws up a 1 or 2 spot against the opposing starting pitcher.
- Middle relief is asked to come in for a few innings to maintain a surmountable deficit. The deficit grows insurmountable.
- Available innings elapse according to nine-inning rule and several runs differentiate the victor (Twins, A’s, Yankees) from the vanquished (The Angels Angels d’Anaheim).
Two telling statistics:
- The Angels rank last in all of baseball (tied with Houston) with 1 stolen base thus far.
- The Angels rank last in all of baseball (tied with Colorado) with a 33% stolen base success percentage (1 stolen base in 3 attempts).
Folks, these are not your older sibling’s Angels. I don’t have the time to go into a detailed analysis, but the signs so far indicate that this year’s offense is built to generate runs by way of high batting averages and extra base hits. Looking down the lineup, I see hitters capable of producing an average of 4-5 runs per game using such a strategy. Unfortunately, I see pitchers capable of giving up the same or more.
Last year, the Halos stood at 29–29 after 58 games. I expect this year’s initial two months to be even worse if we assume a 2–6 start means something; and I look forward to writing about Scioscia’s tactics to adapt a mediocre team to an improved league. He must realize now that he’s not going to have an exceptionally good offense, and I expect his focus will be on exploring ways to turn his pitching staff into an asset. It’s very unlikely that he’s going to have two starters who will post top-ten AL ERA numbers like he’s had during the past three years (well, I’m fudging a bit: in 2007 he had a #1 [Lackey] and a #8 [Escobar]; in 2008 he had a #7 [Saunders]and a #11 [Santana]; in 2009 he had a #9 [Weaver] and a #12 [Lackey]). Only Weaver has a career trajectory that superficially suggests he’s likely to pitch 200 innings and post a 3-and-a-half ERA this year. The potential of both Saunders and Santana rests on a single year’s success (2008 for both of them, coincidentally), and both of them followed up that breakout year with regressive performances; imagining that 34% or 25% of a player’s career as measured by innings pitched (of which Saunders’s 2008 comprises the former, and 2008 Santana the latter) amounts to wishful thinking (not that I don’t engage in a good amount of penny-in-fountain-tossing outside this space!). Pineiro and Kazmir fall into a similar category, though distinguish themselves by being relatively expensive pitchers whose potential value rests in the bet that of their divers past performances, the best ones are indicative.
Scioscia has to figure out a way to turn his starting rotation into a strength. Will we see Trevor Reckling be asked to do a Jered Weaver 2006 impression? Will we see a trade for The Other Santana?
As it stands now, I’m hoping that Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir collect zeroes against the Yankees in the Bronx. So you could say that as it stands now, I’m likely to be sitting very soon.
Is it still relevant to thank the heavens that we compete against the AL West? Having not watched any baseball, I can’t weigh in on what American Baseball West looks like this year.