A brief look at an opponent we play this week.
Dates we play them: 5/25-5/27 @ LAA, 8/4-8/6 at home, 9/11-9/13 @ LAA
Offense: A potential lineup: Chone Figgins-3B, Erick Aybar-SS, Bobby Abreu-RF, Torii Hunter-CF, Kendry Morales-1B, Mike Napoli-DH, Juan Rivera-LF, Howie Kendrick-2B, Jeff Mathis-C Bench: Maicer Izturis-IF, Gary Matthews Jr.-OF
Chone Figgins is someone we all know around here, seeing as we've been trying to trade for him and Casey Kotchman for quite some time now. Aging doesn't seem to be slowing Chone down, as he is off to a fast and sustainable start and has already swiped 19 bags. Expect that number to jump by as much as five against our cannon-armed backstops. He also seems to be a bad neighbor. The Angels' attempts to clone Vladimir Guerrero went horribly wrong when they instead produced Bizarro Vlad, or Erick Aybar as he is more commonly known. Other than the dreads and the refusal to be walked, nothing else was replicated. Aybar has little power and has been a below average player thus far in his career. Bobby Abreu never learned that once you cross that border into your 30s you should probably stop going by Bobby. The Angels got Abreu pretty cheap due to the terrible market this winter and so far he's been worth it, just not in ways they thought he would. Sure, he's getting on base like ha always has (.404 OBP) but his power is nowhere to be seen (7 doubles, 2 triples, 0 homers!). He has however, remembered how to steal bases (15 without being caught). This is not going to be a fun series for AJ. Torii Hunter also likes to spell his name strangely, which may be a reason he chose to go to LAA. Torii seems slightly less strange than Chone (pronounced Shawn for those who hadn't heard it), at least to me. The guy has been overrated pretty much his entire career. Yes he has been above average offensively (106 career OPS+) and has a penchant for robbing 2-3 homers a year, but he is not th ebest defensive centerfielder in baseball. And the bastard refuses to believe it (h/t to HSA).
Kendry Morales brings the Cuban Pride to Los Angeles. The Angels signed him after his eighth attempt to escape the homeland finally worked. Morales is off to a good start, showing the power he has been billed as having since his signing. The only real knock on him so far is the knock most Cuban hitters have against them, he doesn't walk much. If we keep pitches out of the zone, he shouldn't be too big a problem. If Ian Kinsler represents what Gordon Beckham could become, Napoli seems to be an apt comparison for Tyler Flowers. Napoli hits the ball both well and hard, but is the weaker defensive catcher on his team so he splits his time behind the plate and as the DH. Juan Rivera has had the misfortune of playing in crowded outfields his whole career. Rivera broke his leg after his breakout 2006 season and has pretty much been a fourth-outfielder ever since. Howie Kendrick is the definition of an injury-prone, high-potential, probable-washout. Kendrick has been raved about for years, but just cannot stay healthy (never played more than 92 games a season). His worth also depends greatly on his BABIP, as Howie also refuses to walk. Jeff Mathis should not be allowed to bat.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: John Lackey-RHP, Ervin Santana-RHP, Joe Saunders-LHP, Jered Weaver-RHP, Matt Palmer-RHP and Brian Fuentes-LHP.
John Lackey is the Angels' ace, which isn't saying so much about him as it is about the rest of the Angels' talented pitchers not being able to stay healthy. Lackey may be showing some wear and tear from pitching so many innings over the past few years, and was humorously ejected after two pitches in his first start this season. Ervin Santana finally had his breakout year last season, only to start this one on the DL. His fastball's velocity has been down, but the rest of his pitches seem the same. Fun fact about Ervin, his name isn't actually Ervin. He made that up so people wouldn't compare him to his name twin. Joe Saunders is an under-powering lefty who is currently pitching about .040 points below his career BABIP. Us being us though, I figure he won't regress til we're out of Anaheim. Jered Weaver is the Carlos Gomez of pitchers, as in we make him look better than he actually is. Do yourself a favor and click his name to see his picture. I refuse to give him more analysis than that. Matt Palmer's unbeaten start will come to an end very soon. There is no way in hell that this 30 year old journeyman will maintain his .220 BABIP or continue to win games with a 1.4 K:BB and a 1.11 GB:FB. Brian Fuentes is a strikeout machine. The lefty leads the AL in saves, mostly due to the Angels playing in so many close games. He is prone to rough stretches, so if we can hit him hard good shit can happen.
Outlook: I don't have high hopes for our season record against the Angels. We play 6 of our 9 games against them in LA and the West Coast is rarely kind to us. With that being said, I predict a 4-5 season record against the reigning AL West champs. Sorry about the lack of links today, I just wanted to get this up before heading back to Champaign.