A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 4/15-4/17 at home, 5/9-5/11 and 8/23-8/24 @ LAA
Offense: Maicer Izturis-SS, Howie Kendrick-2B, Bobby Abreu-DH, Torii Hunter-RF, Vernon Wells-LF, Alberto Callaspo-3B, Mark Trumbo-1B, Jeff Mathis-C, Peter Bourjos-CF. Bench: Erick Aybar-SS, Brandon Wood-IF, Reggie Willits-OF, Hank Conger-C.
As long as Mike Scioscia runs this team, they're going to have a bunch of meh infielders and an overabundance of aging outfielders. He likes to place an extreme emphasis on defense and speed, but doesn't seem to use much more than the eye test when evaluating talent. Maicer Izturis has made quite the career out of of being an sub-average hitter and a fairly decent defender. Izturis is more of a utility guy than a true starter, as he has never had more than 400 AB in a single season. His weak bat plays better in the middle infield, but the Angels seem to think he'll make a worthy third baseman. Fun facts: he is only Cesar Izturis' half-brother and he is the longest tenured Angel. Howie Kendrick is off to a torrid start so far this season, already hitting 40% of his career high for homeruns in a season. Kendrick is another good defender with plus speed, but has more pop than Maicer. If Kendrick can keep healthy for the second time in his career, this could be his true breakout season. It seems like people have finally realized that Bobby Abreu was never actually that good defensively, as his glove has mercifully been requisitioned by the front office this season. The 37 year old Venezuelan has had a pretty good career, amassing 277 homeruns and 374 stolen bases over his 16 season career. Despite his age, he is still a legitimate 20-20 threat, though his days of hitting in the .290's are most likely over. He will not swing at junk. Hell, he swung at less than 1/3 of the pitches thrown to him last season.
Torii Hunter (whose mom cannot spell) is developing the old age skill set just like one would expect. His BB% has increased over the past three seasons. Moving Abreu to DH has also allowed for Hunter to be moved out of center and into right. This move has been a long time coming, as Torii hasn't been a good defensive center fielder since Aaron Rowand played for the White Sox. Hunter can still hit 20ish homers, but his days as an effective thief are over. It's going to be pretty nice when he finally falls off the cliff. Meet Vernon Wells, Tony Reagins' big offseason move after he swung and missed on getting Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this winter. Close enough, right? Not every move has to make sense. Wells should make a respectable enough left fielder, but it's unrealistic to expect him to post a SLG over .450 again. I feel bad for Wells. He never had a chance of living up to that contract. He doesn't steal well anymore and will hit somewhere between 15-20 homeruns. He's a very expensive average man. Kansas City expat and alleged wife-beater Alberto Callaspo won the starting job at 3B by default. He is yet another .720ish OPS, kind of above average defender residing in an infield full of his ilk. Callaspo has been hitting and seeing the ball well so far this season, so it would be nice to put an end to that hot streak.
Mark Trumbo is the best power hitter the Angels minor league system has produced since Troy Glaus (or Brandon Wood if you want to be a dick about it). Trumbo is filling in for Kendrys Morales (he decided to spell his name properly again this winter) who still hasn't fully recovered from his walk-off grand slam injury of last May. He's shown a reluctance to draw walks in the minors, so he doesn't have the highest of ceilings despite his good power. He'll get more time with the Salt Lake Bees as soon as Morales can use his leg again. Jeff Mathis is absolutely terrible at baseball (which still makes him better than almost everyone alive at baseball). Seriously though, for some reason Mike Scioscia thinks catcher's ERA actually matters and that is why Mike Napoli was traded away for Vernon Wells. So that a man with a lifetime .577 OPS could get the lion's share of time behind the plate while playing questionable at best defense. On April 3rd this year, he went 0-6 both at the plate and behind it. He let Kansas City steal six bases on him. Ozzie probably went from six to midnight when he found that out. Hank Conger absolutely needs to be allowed to take the reins from Mathis. Peter Bourjos (whom I hope and pray is Cajun. They could call him Gambit!) gives the Angels their first legitimate center fielder for the first time in years. He has damn near 80 speed and will get to just about every fly ball he sees. He won't get as much of a chance to use that speed on the bases though, seeing as he's probably going to have a sub-.300 OBP again this year. Until Bourjos learns to draw a walk (this is starting to sound repetitive), he's ceiling is that of a role player and one that hits in the bottom third of the order.
Pitching: Jered Weaver-RHP, Dan Haren-RHP, Ervin Santana-RHP, Matt Palmer-RHP, Tyler Chatwood-RHP, Jordan Walden-CL.
Jered Weaver is picking up right where he left off last season, as he refuses to give up his title of AL Strikeout King (trademark pending. I'm designing a sweet crown). Don't let the girlish looks fool you, Jered Weaver has absolutely dominated the White Sox since being called up. It just seems fair that he's decided to do that to the rest of the league as well now. If he keeps his K/BB ratio around 4, he will be an annual Cy Young contender. He throws a good low 90's fastball, a great curveball, a great changeup, and a good slider. He also inspires girls to write songs about him. I really like Dan Haren. I also really like this picture of Dan Haren. Neat. After a two and a half year sabbatical in the NL West, Haren returned to the AL West. Haren took a slight step back last year, dropping to a mere 4.5 WAR after two consecutive seasons above 6. Weaver and Haren are easily one of the best 1-2 combos in the game. Haren walks less than 60 hitters a year while striking out over 200. He does struggle with the long ball and has a tendency to weaken as the season goes on though. Unluckily for us, we play the majority of our games against the Angels in the first half. Haren throws a low to mid 90's fastball, a cutter, a curveball, and a devastating splitter. He used to throw a great slider, but seems to have abandoned it. Ervin Santana is a middle of the rotation pitcher who is always going to get another chance thanks to his great 2008 season. That magical outlier wasn't really a BABIP fluke, but he somehow spiked his K/9 up during it while keeping the rest of his peripherals near their career levels. Weird. Santana averages a homerun a game, so look for the White Sox to capitalize on his flyballing ways while in Chicago. Ervin has a low to mid 90's fastball, a great slider, and a changeup.
Matt Palmer is organizational filler. I am actually shocked that he is the fourth starter on a team trying to compete this season. The 32 year old has spent parts of four seasons in the majors and was hardly impressive in any of them. He doesn't strike hitters out and walks too many to be truly effective. He induced a lot of groundballs though (50% GB rate for his career), so he can be a serviceable innings eater. He throws a low 90's fastball, a decent cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. I think he should throw a palmball, but I'm just a firm believer in letting your last name affect your destiny. Tyler Chatwood is the Angels' second best prospect, behind only mega-prospect Mike Trout. Chatwood made his major league debut three days ago, losing to the Cleveland Indians. Looking at his minor league numbers, Chatwood seems to have control issues, as he didn't manage a K/BB ratio above 2.00 until last season. He's a groundballer though, so he can negate some of the damage by inducing double plays. He throws a mid 90's fastball, a changeup, and what Baseball America calls the best curveball in Los Angeles' farm system. Jordan Walden replaces the maddeningly inconsistent Fernando Rodney as closer this year. This is only Walden's second season as a closer and the switch from being a starter seems to agree with him very well. His K/9 has jumped considerably, despite moving up from AAA. Walden throws a high 90's fastball and a strong slider, so it seems he really was meant to be a reliever anyways.
Outlook: I do not like the Angels. I do not generally care much for their fans. I certainly do not care much for their SBN site. I'm siding with hate on this one: Sox win season series 6-2. Thanks Warren Zevon.