Posted on: May 19, 2009 1:55 pm

Morales making many Angels fans say, "Casey who?"

One of the big "what ifs" surrounding the Angels big deadline deal for Mark Teixeira last season was, "what if they can't re-sign Tex?" Casey Kotchman established himself as a solid Major League first baseman in 2008 and he was sent to Atlanta as part of that deal, so much of the talk centered on who would play first base if (when, really) Teixeira signed elsewhere. I can honestly say I wasn't one of those really worried about losing Kotch. Not that I didn't like his game and his Gold Glove-caliber defense, I just had faith that our switch-hitting Cuban defector, who was quietly putting together back-to-back seasons of .341 hitting at Triple-A Salt Lake wouldn't be a step down, offensively, at least.

It was a tough sell for many in Halo Nation, as Kendry never really impressed numbers-wise in his brief stints with the big club. He hit just .234 in 197 ABs in 2006, his first taste of Major League pitching. He got only 119 ABs the following season, but posted a .294 average and 4 HR. Last season, with Kotchman pretty much entrenched at 1B, Morales got only 61 ABs with the Angels posting a meager .213 average. So when Teixeira did what many expected and headed East to play with the Yankees, the Angels were seemingly left with a gaping hole at 1B with not much available on the free agent market. But Mike Scioscia and Tony Reagins knew the answer was already in the organization, patiently biding his time becoming more and more accustomed to baseball in the States. Kendry Morales was ready.

After last night's game in Seattle, Kendry has played in 163 Major League games with 513 ABs. He has career numbers of .259-20HR-71RBI. Not bad for a guy who defected from Cuba, had to get acclimated to life in the U.S. without his family, and then spent most of his time bouncing around the different levels of the minors before getting sporadic ABs at the big league level. Now the Angels everyday first baseman, Kendry has had a solid start to the season, hitting .287 with 8 HR and 26 RBI. His defense hasn't really been an issue either. While he has committed 2 errors, he's looked pretty comfortable and is making all the digs you'd expect a Major League first baseman to make.

The obvious knock on Kendry is that he doesn't walk much. He's up there to put the ball in play and he does that on a pretty consistent basis. He strikes out a bit too much, but nothing too alarming, 28 times so far this season, and his lowly .327 on-base percentage will probably keep him down in the order, 5th or lower. But this Angels team has plenty of middle-of-the-order guys with Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and the red hot Torii Hunter. Kendry is doing his best to make the Angels lineup more potent from top to bottom, along with Mike Napoli, and with his nice start, is putting many Angels fans minds at ease as far as first base goes.

Posted on: May 15, 2009 4:03 pm

Palmer's Perseverance Paying Off

It’s a well-worn story: journeyman pitcher toils away for years in the minors, gets a cup of coffee in the bigs here and there, but never quite establishes himself as a major leaguer. As the bouncing around from organization to organization and small town to small town continues, he begins to think maybe it’s time to call it a day, give up the dream.

Such was the case with the Angels Matt Palmer; a 30-year-old would-be landscaper who was thrust into the team’s starting rotation due to injuries to John Lackey and Ervin Santana. With the urging and support of his wife, Palmer continued to chase the dream, and instead of putting his horticulture degree to use, he’s putting his years of experience pitching in cities like Fresno and Norwich to use. Through four starts, Palmer is 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA. While there’s no telling if he’s going to continue pitching this well, and some sort of regression should probably be expected, his numbers to date are no fluke. He’s allowed only 16 hits in his 26.2 innings pitched and he’s held opposing batters to a miniscule .168 batting average. For all you fantasy players out there, Palmer’s WHIP currently stands at .97 – ridiculous to say the least.

Palmer attributes much of his recent success to Salt Lake Bees pitching coach Erik Bennett and Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, but all you have to do is watch him pitch and it’s easy to see how he’s getting major league batters out. Palmer moves the ball effectively to both sides of the plate with a cutter and sinker, both around 85-88 mph, and occasionally mixes in a tight little slider. He’s generally around the plate, which was not the case when he made three starts with the Giants last season and walked 13 batters in just 12.2 innings. Whatever adjustments he’s made from then to now, they’ve obviously paid off.

With rotation mainstays John Lackey and Ervin Santana returning (Santana started yesterday, Lackey goes Saturday), there is still one spot open and it appears that Angels manager Mike Scioscia would be hard-pressed finding a reason not to send Palmer out there every fifth day. For now, the journeyman is doing yeoman’s work and helping the team win games and stay afloat in the AL West.

Posted on: May 11, 2009 3:58 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2009 6:52 pm

Halos streaking, reinforcements coming

The Angels won their fourth straight game (and 6th of last 7) yesterday in completing a sweep of the Kansas City Royals. They are now 16-14 and just a half game behind the Rangers for the top spot in the AL West. The makeshift starting rotation has been one of the best in the AL all season without studs John Lackey and Ervin Santana, who are both set to make their debuts later this week. Fill-ins Shane Loux, Matt Palmer and Anthony Ortega have performed very capably, especially Palmer (pictured left) who has gone 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA. His solid work has probably earned him a chance to remain in the rotation when Lackey and Santana return, with Loux probably heading back to the bullpen and Ortega, who got roughed up by the Blue Jays in his last start, heading back to Salt Lake.

While the youngsters have been doing their part, it's been mainstays Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver who have led the way. Both sport tidy 2.66 ERA's with Saunders going 5-1 and Weaver 3-1. These two were counted on to hold the rotation together with Lackey and Santana out, and both have answered the bell. It's beginning to look like Saunders' All-Star 2008 season was not the fluke many made it out to be. He's beginning to remind me a bit of Mark Buehrle, a guy who's not everpowering, but just knows how to pitch and get guys out. On Saturday night, he outdueled Zack "Cy Young" Greinke, matching him pitch-for-pitch and making a single Angels run hold up in a complete game shut-out. Greinke had all the headlines coming in, and he was as good as advertised, but Joe did what top of the rotation guys need to do. It was an impressive start to say the least. Weaver is also coming off a CG, his perhaps even more impressive than Saunders's, as he surrendered only 1 run to the scorching hot Blue Jays in a 6-1 win. All the Blue Jays did the previous night was score 13 runs on 15 hits. Weaver cooled them off in a hurry.

The bullpen has looked better as of late, but still not the rock-solid, lock-down pen of past Angels teams. Closer Brian Fuentes has looked better of late, though he got bailed out big time yesterday by Torii Hunter, who snatched what would have been the game-tying HR off the bat of Miguel Olivo 2 feet over the centerfield fence. If you haven't seen it, YouTube that was AWESOME. Fuentes has 9 saves in 11 chances, and while his 15 K's in 11.2 innings is nice, his .298 BAA is not. He hasn't walked a ton of guys, but his location isn't quite where it needs to be. Closer-in-waiting Jose Arredondo has looked better lately as well. He's K'd 19 in just 13.2 innings of work, but also has an Saunders and Weaver have led the way.uncharacteristically high BAA of .288. His ERA has been slowly shrinking, but still stands at a putrid 5.27. It looks like Arredondo will be just fine, though. Scot Shields, on the other hand doesn't look fine. He had a nice outing yesterday, but has not shown any semblance of consistency. In 11.2 innings, he's issued 12 BB while striking out 8 batters. His .195 BAA suggests he still has the stuff to get guys out, when he's not issuing walk after walk, after walk. Jury's still out on Shieldsy, and the team desperately needs him to turn it around.

With Seattle coming back to reality and the A's not hitting, the Rangers have emerged as the Angels chief competition in the division. While not entirely unexpected, the offensive powerhouse Rangers have gotten solid work from starters Kevin Milwood (hello, contract year) and Vicente Padilla, along with Matt Harrison. They've also been without slugger Josh Hamilton, who returns this week. Look out.

Along with the returning pitchers, the Angels offense should get a shot of Vlad in a few weeks. He's going to be the team's full-time DH when he returns, it appears, which is the right play in my opinion. Keep Vlad as healthy as possible. The offense continues to be OK without him, as Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli have been hot. Also, there's been a Gary Matthews sighting...he's playing very well lately and will probably continue to start somewhere in the OF when Vlad returns.

So the Angels weathered the storm of injuries and are playing the best ball they've played all season. If the return of the starters can help to settle the bullpen, with Loux and Palmer heading down, the team should look like the Angels teams we've seen the last few seasons. It won't be a cakewalk, however, as the Rangers don't look like they're going to fade anytime soon and the A's bats have woken up a bit lately. The AL West is more up for grabs than it has been the last few seasons, and it could be a 3 or 4 horse race all season.                                                                                                                                     

Posted on: May 5, 2009 1:53 pm

Can't Take Naps Out of the Lineup

Napoli's strong start is reminding Angels fans of his breakout 2008 season

Angels catcher Mike Napoli has been on a tear lately. A Pujols-like tear, really, that has seen him reach base in 13 of his last 14 at-bats. After last night's 4-for-4, 2 RBI performance, his average sits at .364 to go along with 4 HR and 11 RBI in just 55 at-bats. I'm guessing those AB's are going to skyrocket over the next few weeks, as manager Mike Scioscia just can't afford to take him out of the lineup. He's been the primary catcher all season, getting slightly more playing time than counterpart Jeff Mathis, but many of his upcoming plate appearances may come in a DH role, as he was in last night.

The Halos' offense has been rolling lately, as Napoli, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales have all been driving in runs, and after stumbling a bit, 2B Howie Kendrick has found his stroke and has been hitting the ball much better lately. We all saw Napoli's power potential last season when he belted 20 HR's in just 227 AB's, a staggering pace that lead the majors. He also got hot down the stretch to finish with a .273 batting average (he's a career .250 hitter).

That ungodly HR rate was impossible to expect Naps to repeat, or even approach this season, but Angels fans were still expecting big things from Naps big bat. The 4 HR so far are nice, but what I've seen is a shorter, quicker swing, especially when he's down in the count, making him a really tough out. He can, and does, still turn it loose early in the count and when he's ahead, but even when he does, he still looks more under control than last season. He's always been a patient hitter with a good eye, but a long swing lead to a few too many strikeouts. He'll still strikeout a bit, but he looks like a much more complete hitter so far this season. I'm guessing a .265 average with 25-plus HR's isn't out of the realm of possibility. For now, Scioscia just has to put that bat of his in the lineup and ride out this hot streak.

Posted on: May 4, 2009 12:57 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2009 1:12 pm

Bullpen bullied in the Bronx

The Angels arrived at the new Yankee Stadium with a three-game win streak, and it looked like the bullpen was starting to settle down a bit. Well, looks can be deceiving. With the first game deadlocked at 4 in the 8th inning, Justin Speier took one more step toward his outright release, surrendering 3 runs and letting a pretty gutty outing from rookie Anthony Ortega go by the wayside. In a positive note, Scot Shields got a few batters out earlier in the game, so, there's that...I guess.

Game 2 in the series was an epic bullpen meltdown in what has been a season full of them. Apparently a 5-run lead heading into the 8th inning isn't quite enough of a cushion for the Halos bullpen. The Yankees scored 4 in the 8th and then 2 in the 9th off of Brian Fuentes to complete the collapse. This game ruined my night. My perfectly seasoned, perfectly grilled NY steak couldn't even salvage it for me. I went to sleep counting Yankees crossing home plate instead of sheep leaping over fences. OK, slight exaggeration, but it was bad.

Well, the team did establish the next day that a 7-run lead heading into the 9th was enough of a cushion to scratch out a win. Rookie Matt Palmer pitched his ASS off and earned the win and the offense was great in the late innings. The Yanks looked like they were going to make it interesting again in the 9th, but even a blind bullpen finds a nut every now and then. It's probably just as well that Sunday's finale was rained out. The team needed an off day. Now off to Oakland for another 2-game series. What's with all these mini-series?
Posted on: April 30, 2009 12:19 pm

3 wins in a row, headed to the Big Apple

The Angels completed a mini-sweep (2 game series) of the Orioles yesterday behind a pretty gutty performance from Shane Loux. The righty was in trouble a bit early, but was able to minimize the damage and give the Halos' bats a chance to come around. The O's Uehara kept the Angels bats pretty quiet till Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales went back-to-back in the 7th inning. Hunter's power stroke has been nice (his 8th HR already) but Kendry has been the Angels best hitter the last week or so, driving in runs and coming through with big hits. He's now hitting .288 with 3 HR and 14 RBI and a .534 slugging %. Kendry's obviously not going to put up Mark Teixeira numbers, but I thought going into the season that he would out-produce Casey Kotchman. Kendry can hit, and he's starting to show it.

Now the club heads to the new and improved Yankee Stadium for a 4-game set with the bombers. A split would be just fine with me, but we'll see what happens. The bullpen's starting to coming around a bit (knock on wood) and the middle of the order guys continue to hit. The biggest concern right now for the offense is Chone Figgins. The Halos' lead-off man has looked terrible at the plate lately, and the club desperately needs Figgy to get on base. He can be streaky, so let's hope he gets a streak going in the opposite direction - soon.

Angels have a tough test today, facing A.J. Burnett, who has the ability to shut down any lineup. Anthony Ortega gets the ball for the Halos coming off a shaky but not horrendous first start against the M's.
Posted on: February 25, 2009 7:26 pm

2009 Angels Season Preview, continued...

Now for the pitching, the strength of the club the last few seasons.

This looks to be the Angels strong suit, once more, with three starters who ended last season with an ERA under 4.00 and four guys who won 10-plus games. Both Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders enjoyed breakout seasons in '08 and were probably the biggest reason for the team's success, as ace John Lackey missed the first month or so the season. While I think Saunders will be hard pressed to repeat his success, I think Swervin' Ervin is the real deal. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he improved on his outstanding 2008 numbers, but I think he'll do about the same. The bullpen looks to be one of the stronger ones in the AL, even with the departure of Francisco Rodriguez. Let's take a look at the numbers.


John Lackey (R): 2008-12-5, 3.75. 2009 Proj.-15-7, 3.65

Ervin Santana (R): 2008-16-7, 3.49. 2009 Proj.-18-5, 3.40

Joe Saunders (L): 2008-17-7, 3.41. 2009 Proj.-13-10, 4.05

Jered Weaver (R): 2008-11-10, 4.33. 2009 Proj.-12-8, 4.20

Dustin Moseley (R): 2008-2-4, 6.79. 2009 Proj.-6-8, 5.00

Big John is still the ace of the staff and the leader of the pitching corps, but I think Ervin will establish himself as the club's best pitcher this season. Saunders will probably come back down to earth a bit, but still be very effective. Weaver is what he is - a 5-6 inning guy who is gonna battle and keep the team in games. He's one of the better #4 guys in the league. As of now, Moseley is 'penciled in' as the 5th starter, and I'm not too thrilled about it. He has a below average sinker and a way below average breaking ball and not much else. He's better suited as a long man and a spot starter, but unless someone like Nick Adenhart, Nick Green or Shane Loux really has a great Spring, we're gonna be stuck watching Moseley every fifth game. Ugh. Still though, not a bad rotation...easily the best in the division.


Brian Fuentes (L): 2008-2.73, 30 SVS. 2009 Proj.-2.25, 42 SVS

Scot Shields (R): 2008-2.70, 31 HLDS. 2009 Proj.-2.60, 30 HLDS

Jose Arredondo (R): 2008-1.62. 2009 Proj.-1.90

Darren Oliver (L): 2008-2.88. 2009 Proj. 3.10

Kevin Jepsen (R): 2008-4.32. 2009 Proj.-3.75

Shane Loux (R): 2008-2.81. 2009 Proj.-3.20

Justin Speier (R): 2008-5.03. 2009 Proj.-4.15

The Angels are going to play a whole lot of close games, so the bullpen will again be tested and called upon to hold many a 1 or 2-run lead. They should be up to it. Fuentes was signed to replace Franky as the closer, and he is very capable. Health has been a bit of a concern the last few seasons, but with Shields and Arredondo waiting in the wings, the Halos have other options. Arredondo is easily the best arm in the pen, and really, it seems like only a matter of time before he takes over the closer role. It actually wouldn't even surprise me if that happens this year, if Fuentes struggles or gets hurt. The middle-inning guys are solid with Oliver, Jepsen and Loux. Speier might be done. He looked horrible last season and really, couldn't get anyone out. I'm hopeful he'll bounce back though and be serviceable. The bullie should be solid enough to get the job done. I'm anxious to see the younger arms like Jepsen, Arredondo and Loux for a full season.


As for the AL West, I still think the Halos have the most complete club in the division and will ultimately win it again. The A's are improved with the additions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi, but much depends on how healthy Justin Duchscherer can stay. The Rangers are the Rangers. They'll score a ton and give up a ton and a half - not a factor. The Mariners are a mess, but if Erik Bedard can stay on the field, they shouldn't be too horrendous. Here's how I see it finishing:

Angels: 91-71

Athletics: 86-76

Rangers: 78-84

Mariners: 70-92

Feel free to comment and to pick my projections and predictions apart. Let me know what you think.

And Go HALOS!!!


Posted on: February 25, 2009 3:49 pm

2009 Angels Season Preview

The Angels won a franchise-record 100 games last season before their annual ousting from the playoffs by the Boston Red Sox. They didn't go down near as easily as they did in '07, but down is down. Too few extra base hits and hits with RISP - it's a pattern we Halos fans have come to almost expect.

Last season was a little different than the previous few, as the team made a big deadline deal to land "the big bat" to hit behind Vladimir Guerrero in Mark Teixeira. To land Tex, the Halos had to part ways with talented first baseman Casey Kotchman, and even though the trade didn't bear the results Angels fans hoped for, I still think it was a good deal. They had to roll the dice with the team they had, especially the way the pitching staff was performing. Now with Tex donning pinstripes and Kotch across the country in Atlanta, the team looks to Kendry Morales to hold down the fort at 1B. Kendry only got a handful of AB's at the Major League level last season, but has had enough time with the big club the last few seasons to not be considered a complete question mark. He can handle the bat. Even though he hit just .213 last season (in just 61 AB's) he was never over matched. He's hit better than .340 each of the last few seasons at AAA Salt Lake, and, even though AAA's not the bigs, .340 is still impressive. Kendry will hit. His glove may be the biggest question.

The Angels also parted ways with some guy named Rodriguez...the kids called him K-Rod, I think. Yes Francisco Rodriguez saved a Major League record 62 games last season, but if you watched him day-in, day-out, you know he was less than dominant. In reality, he probably was barely a Top 5 closer last season. He blew 7 saves and ended the season with a 1.29 WHIP. He walks WAAAY too many batters and allows more base runners than a top-flight closer should. His replacement, Brian Fuentes, should be just fine. I honestly don't think the loss of Franky will affect the team at all. Thanks for the memories, though.

One of the greatest Angels of all time played his last game with the club last season. Aging left fielder Garret Anderson had another solid season (also his healthiest in years) but the crowded Angels outfield left no room for GA to return. Juan Rivera was re-signed, and looked to be team's every day LF until the club signed veteran Bobby Abreu to a 1-year, $5 million deal. A steal, really, considering Raul Ibanez got 3-years/$30 million from Philly earlier in the off season. Abreu will be a good addition to the Halos' lineup. He is a high on-base guy, has some pop with mostly gap power and can still run a little bit. He should fit right in. Speaking of the Halos' lineup, let's take a look. I'll include last year's relevant stats and what I expect this season.

1. Chone Figgins 3B: 2008-.276/.367OBP/72RUNS/34SB (116 gms). 2009 Proj.-.290/.380/105RUNS/55SB

2. Howie Kendrick 2B: 2008-.306/3HR/37RBI (92 gms). 2009 Proj.-.310/10/55/85RUNS/15SB

3. Bobby Abreu LF: 2008(NYY)-.296/20/100/100. 2009 Proj.-.300/18/90/80/20SB

4. Vladimir Guerrero RF: 2008-.303/27/91. 2009 Proj.-.315/28/110

5. Torii Hunter CF: 2008-.278/21/78. 2009 Proj.-.275/20/80

6. Juan Rivera DH/RF: 2008-.246/12/45 (256 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.285/22/65 (475 ABs)

7. Kendry Morales 1B: 2008-.213/3/8 (61 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.280/13/60

8. Mike Napoli C: 2008-.273/20/49 (227 ABs (WOW!)). 2009 Proj.-.250/25/55 (350 ABs)

9. Erick Aybar SS: 2008-.277/3/39/53RUNS (346 ABs). 2009 Proj.-.275/5/40/65


Of course, all these "projections" are assuming fairly healthy seasons. I still see Naps splitting time with Jeff Mathis, and you can't expect him to keep up last year's HR rate. Aybar will be spelled by Izturis a little bit, but I don't think Aybar did anything last season to not come into '09 as the starter at SS. If Rivera gets more ABs, look for him to sniff 30 HR. We'll see.

If things just go according to plan and the young guys grow up a bit, I think the Halos will score enough runs to win 90-plus games. Now, they're no offensive juggernaut, but Abreu's OBP ability in front of Vlad makes the team much better than it was before his signing. They'll probably finish in the middle of the pack of the AL in runs scored.

I'll take a look at the pitchers in a different post and make a prediction on how the AL West shakes out.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or