Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Playoffs Primer: Angels of Anaheim

Eight notes and observations on each of the eight playoff teams ... today, the Angels.

1. Save us from K-Rod

There was much to-do over Francisco Rodriguez's breaking of the single-season saves record (previously 57 by Bobby Thigpen in 1990), but on its own, it's not all that impressive.

50-save seasons are common now, but never happened before Thigpen did it. The highest saves total in the 1970s was a relatively piddly 38, which nine pitchers reached last year and just as many did this year. We know better than to evaluate Barry Bonds' 73 homers directly with Roger Maris' 61; just as we know better than to evaluate K-Rod against relievers like Mike Marshall or Dan Quisenberry or Tom Henke.

2. Teixeiring the love

Texas came out pretty well when they traded Mark Teixeira to the Braves, but they've got to be cursing Atlanta just a little bit for trading him back to the division. In one way, he's already contributed more offence in 48 games than Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero combined during the season. In another, more accurate way, he's only 5th. Either way, he's dangerous.

3. Howiewood

Howie Kendrick, hopefully still nicknamed Howiewood, was chugging along hitting .300 out of the 7-spot until a hamstring pull. Kendrick's not much of a second baseman, so it may be a good move defensively, especially considering how the Angels' middle infield situation has jumped all over the map lately. Macier Izturis went down on August 13, Kendrick on the 27th, then until Erick Aybar came back on September 16, Los Angeles of Anaheim had two rookies up the middle.

4. Not as good as Toronto?

2008 is the fifth winning season in a row for the Angels. Which is impressive, but the 2004-2006 period was the first time they even had three in a row since they started in 1961. The Blue Jays had three winning seasons in 1983-1985, merely eight years after joining the league, and have run off similar three-year streaks twice since the strike.

5. Some predictions were way off-base (or not)

From Batter's Box in late March: "Do we really need a preview? They're better than the Athletics, Mariners and Rangers. Again. They're worse than the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, and Cleveland. Again. They will make the playoffs. Again. They will be a fashionable sleeper pick on account of their good starting pitching and general fundamental soundness. Again. But although anything can happen in the playoffs, no amount of fashionableness can overcome the fact that Anaheim's OBP skills are usually a teensy bit subpar by AL playoff standards. Chances are they'll just get rolled by the dreaded Red Sox in the first round. Again."

Sure enough, the Angels' team OBP is 11th out of 14 AL teams. The Red Sox and Rays are at or above .340, with the White Sox and Angels in the lower-middle class. If the Twins pull off an upset this week, Anaheim's OBP will indeed be quite a bit lower than any other playoff team.

6. The other Johan Santana

Ervin Santana hasn't always been called Ervin. When the more famous Johan was coming into his own as a dominant starting pitcher, this young Johan decided "Ervin" sounded better and changed his name. Not really necessary: Johan's a lefty with a nasty curve. Ervin is a fastball-slider righty. And baseball fans have been able to differentiate Ramon Martinez from Ramon Martinez, or Bobby Jones from Bobby Jones, without much difficulty. Anyway, despite the nomenclature, Santana was a top-10 pitcher in the AL this year.

7. He knew how to Justin Speier

Recovering Expos fans remember Chris Speier. Blue Jays fans remember Justin Speier as the pitcher who put together three good relief seasons, but those years combined with four effective years with Cleveland and Colorado are about all you can expect, consecutively-speaking, from a reliever and they were right to let him go. Batters have a .510 slugging average against him this year, which is higher than anyone on the Blue Jays. (Says as much about the local nine as it does about him, but a 5.18 ERA for a reliever is beyond bad.)

8. Random note from top Ballhype story as of this moment

John Lackey considers toast to be "too much effort" and is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Red Bull.

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