Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Light Up the Halo!

Here it is...the baseball season is finally upon us. Finally. Actually, did baseball ever really stop? The World Series extends into November now, then the free agent period starts in December, and then Spring Training picks up in February, and now we're at opening day. So...yeah...

Anyway, they opened up the season last night and looked awesome. Jered took the ball as our #1 and pitched a solid six innings, giving up three. We had three home runs supplied by 3M - Matsui, Morales, and Mathis. Fernando Rodney made his debut as our new setup man, and Scot Shields still is on the road to recovery.

This is very early, based on only one game, but...I like our chances. I know, Kent, ever the pessimist with crazy high expectations, you are still sore about losing Figgy. But consider these points:
  • Our stable of starters, 1-5, are all very solid. Everyone around the league is talking about our pitching depth. We don't have a clear #1, but we have about five #2s, and that will keep us competitive throughout the season.
  • We lost Darren Oliver, which I think will be a big loss, but we got Fernando Rodney. He gave up a lot of runs last year, but he's a capable setup man, and could be someone we could turn to if Fuentes can't get it together. We still have Kevin Jepsen, who I think may turn into our closer. Shields is on his way back, and I kind of love him. And if Arredondo can recover his 2008 form, then our bullpen will be pretty amazing this year. Plus we have Jason Bulger...I just like that guy. I think our bullpen is looking pretty deep actually, and that's before considering Shields fully recovered from last year, or assuming that Arredondo will return to form.
  • Morales had an awesome year last year, but I kind of think sky is the limit with this guy. His 2009 stat line of .302, 34 HR, and 108 RBIs is not far off the 2006 MVP year Vlad had with .329, 33 HR, 116 RBIs. I think he had an awesome year, but I don't think we've seen his career year yet.
  • I think Aybar is going to be better than Figgins. I just said it. Aybar plays better defense, has already settled into his position, and already put up awesome numbers last year. It would be nice if we had both of them, but I think Aybar will fill in nicely as his replacement.
  • I know it's only one game, but I think Matsui will more than fill the shoes that Guerrero left behind. I think he's got more shelf life than Vlad does.
  • Jeff Mathis looks like he's continuing on his hot streak from the ALCS. Admittedly, I've always loved him more than Nap, even though Nap gives us more power (probably). But his defense is awesome, and I think he's finally getting comfortable at the MLB level. Either way, I'm feeling good about that position.
  • I know you don't love him like I do, but I think Howie is going to be great for us. Did you know he's actually a career .302 hitter at the MLB level? He started off weak last year, but from the time he came back from Triple A, he batted over .350. Pretty awesome. And he hit as well as anyone else in the postseason.
  • Did you know Juan Rivera hit 25 HR last year? And in the other full season he played for us, he hit 23 HR and batted over .300. The guy is a decent player, especially for someone who is going to hit in the 6 or 7 slot for us.
  • You can pretty much pencil in Hunter and Abreu being solid for us this next year.
  • The only real question mark we have is Brandon Wood. And even if he doesn't work out, we have Izturis to fill in who is a very capable back up. I don't think we'll stand pat with just him there if Wood doesn't work out, but I like our chances with these guys.
So our opening day lineup looked like this:
  • Erick Aybar - SS
  • Bobby Abreu - RF
  • Torii Hunter -CF
  • Hideki Matsui -DH
  • Kendry Morales -1B
  • Juan Rivera - LF
  • Howie Kendrick -2nd
  • Brandon Wood - 3rd
  • Jeff Mathis - C
You have guys 1-7 that can potentially hit over .300. Guys 2-8 can potentially hit 20+ HRs, and I think out of the catcher position we'll also get more than 20 HR. We have Weaver, Saunders, Santana, Piniero, and Kazmir as our starting pitchers. Within the last 2 seasons, each of those guys has had at least one season with 15 Ws, and respectable ERAs. Our bullpen has competent setup men, with a couple of guys who can close.

And get this...I just read this article that started off this way:
Imagine the worst.

The Angels might trail the American League West in ERA and wind up tied for 11th in the league in opponents' batting average.

They might need 45 starts from pitchers outside their opening-day rotation.

Their closer might post a WHIP (walks, hits, per innings pitched) of 1.40, second-worst among the top 15 American Leaguers in saves.

The whole staff might post a 1.489 WHIP, fourth-worst in franchise history.

Their bullpen might trail the AL in ERA through much of the first half.

Their DH might play 100 games and drive in 50 runs.

They might have only one 200-inning pitcher.

They could lose eight of their first 12 and stand at 29-29 on June 11.

Howie Kendrick could get demoted to Triple-A for three weeks. Torii Hunter could miss 43 games. Ervin Santana could make only 23 starts and go 8-8.

If all of those plagues descend, the Angels will have difficulty winning 97 games.

But all of that happened in 2009, along with a midnight tragedy, and the Halos notched the third-most victories in their history and then swept Boston in the AL Division Series.
And then had this part:
You can only go with what you know.

Seattle can be a devastating short-series team because of its 1-2 combos: Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins at the top of the lineup, Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee on the mound. But in what amounts to maybe 54 short series, can Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley drive in enough runs? They certainly wouldn't be hitting 3-4 for the Angels.

Texas is the coming power in the division. But if Rich Harden doesn't pitch 200 innings, which he has never done, can the Rangers really win?

Oakland, a Caltrans project perpetually under construction, has terrific pitching and is apparently buying into baseball's sudden preoccupation with defense (or, rather, the sudden illusion that it can be quantified). The A's will be very competitive. For how long is the question.

Really, the Angels have fewer riddles to solve than anyone.
So tell me, why can't we win our division this year? Seattle was the favorite in both 2005 and 2007, and who won both of those years? Last year we lost Mark Texeira, had no significant FA signings, lost one of our rising star pitchers in a tragic accident, yet we still were two wins away from the World Series. So enlighten me...why can't this team also win 95 games year and take the division?

...if he command me that I should say unto this water, be though earth, it should be earth...

Yeah, I just went scriptural...so why can't it happen for this team? I believe in Mike Scioscia, and I believe in our guys. Go Angels!

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