Tag:Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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 action...it 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 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: October 8, 2008 2:58 pm
 

This story's getting old

Manny is in Dodger blue, Papi looked like he aged five years since last season's ALDS, Beckett was not his dominating self and Schilling is not in uniform, off blabbing somewhere to anyone that will listen. And the Boston Red Sox still beat the Angels in the postseason. No, it wasn't Manny or Papi, heck, it wasn't even Youkilis or Pedroia that did the Halos in this time. It was Jason Bay in his first taste of playoff baseball, JD Drew with a bad back and some dude named Jed. Speaking of Jed Lowrie's game winner in Game 4, is it me or did it seem like that grounder took like 10 years to reach the outfield grass?

Nope, no Josh Beckett either. I mean, he was there and he pitched OK in Game 3, but it was not the Josh Beckett whose appearance on a mound in October generally means the opposing team has no chance. Instead, a young pitcher named Jon Lester became Beckett, allowing zero earned runs in 14 innings against the Angels.

The point to all this? Boston had players step up and rise to the occasion. It seems since 2004, they always do. For the Angels, Mike Napoli played the role of hero one night, hitting two home runs off Beckett to key a win in Game 3, and while John Lackey pitched great, he was still outdueled twice by Lester who was just that much better.

The Angels had plenty of baserunners in this series, and the team's heart-of-the-order guys got their share of hits, but in Games 1 and 2, there was no one on base when those hits came and when there were guys in scoring position, the big hit was nowhere to be found. Torii Hunter came up big in a few spots and Vlad and Teixeira got some hits, but none left the yard and none came when we really needed them. In the playoffs, clutch is everything, and the Angels have been anything but clutch in the postseason since that magical run in 2002. The team really needed a guy like Juan Rivera or Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar (even with that bloop in Game 3, he was 2-for-the-series) to come through. They didn't. Instead, a guy named Jed is a hero and we're thinking about how the team will look next season.

I'm not quite ready to resign myself to the thought that 2002 will be it. Our only taste of magic. But come playoff time, if we're matched up with a certain team from the New England area again, I may be tempted to pop in my 2002 World Series DVD and relive some happier times. If we do win another title, and I think we will, I guarantee we will not go through Boston to win it. This was our year to erase 22 years of heartache against them, and we couldn't do it. Like the title says, this story's getting old.

Posted on: September 11, 2008 4:31 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2008 4:37 pm
 

How the West was won

While it's been a foregone conclusion for a few months now, the Angels repeating as AL West champions was not exactly a "gimme" when the team broke Spring Training. Injuries to the team's two best starters from 2007, trading away a Gold Glove shortstop, and an overcrowded outfield were just some of the reasons many were picking Seattle to dethrone the Halos.

Fast forward to September 11. The two young starters who were supposed to battle it out for the 5th spot in the rotation, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, were both All-Stars and absolutely carried the team in the early going with John Lackey missing about 5-6 starts and Kelvim Escobar missing the entire season. The trade that had many Angels fans scratching their heads turned out to be perhaps the most important thing the team did in the off season. While O.C. was fantastic at shortstop and the ideal #2 hitter, the stability Jon Garland provided at the back end of the rotation, especially with the loss of Escobar, was invaluable, and Scioscia and Reagins both knew Aybar and Izturis could hold down the fort at short, both defensively and with the bat. And they did. Another head-scratcher was the signing of Torii Hunter. Although we just gave a big contract to Matthews to seemingly be the team's CF for next few seasons, Hunter was signed to a big free agent deal himself, moving Matthews into a corner outfield/DH rotation with Garret and Vlad. While Torii was not exactly the "big bat" Halos fans have been waiting for, he was another bat and has played the best center field this long-time Angels fan has ever seen at the Big A (no disrespect to Devo, Pettis and Edmonds). Besides his glove and above-average bat, Torii also brought leadership and a winning attitude to a clubhouse that was maybe in need of a veteran vocal leader.

The MLB trade deadline is an exciting time for a fan of a team in the heat of a pennant race. Heck, it's even at least mildly interesting to the fan's whose teams are already looking forward to next season, with the chance getting some young prospects for aging veterans. For Angels fans, it has recently been a time to watch other contenders grab a bat or an arm for the stretch run while we "stand pat" and "go with the players who got us here," wherever "here" is. As a result, our offensively-challenged teams have been bounced out of the postseason rather abruptly, especially last season, when the Red Sox whipped us in three straight en route to their second World Series title in four seasons.

Not this year. The normally gun-shy Angels finally pulled the trigger on a deadline deal, landing slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Braves. While it was tough seeing home-grown youngster Casey Kotchman go, it was clearly the right move and a move the team had to make if they wanted to avoid another early exit from the playoffs. And when Tex started hitting, I'm sure many a Casey-who? was heard around the Big A. Kotch was a nice young talent. Tex is a big-time, switch hitting masher and an ideal guy to hit in front of Vlad in the Angels lineup. Even if the free-agent-to-be walks after this season, I applaud the team for making the right deal in order to win now.

In my view, the hallmark of this Angels team has been balance. As of right now, the team is 45-29 at home, 43-28 on the road (by far, the best in the bigs), 30-16 vs. the East, 24-17 vs. the Central and 24-16 vs. West. They haven't had many prolonged winning streaks or losing streaks. They just went about winning series after series. Two of three here, three of four there, and before you knew it, they had one of the best records in baseball and had opened up a chasm of Grand Canyon-like proportions in the AL West over the disappointing Mariners and the young A's, who had since traded away many talented vets for prospects. Starting pitching has once again been the team's biggest strength, with all five starters reaching double-digit win totals. Francisco Rodriguez has been the anchor to a solid bullpen, and is closing in on the single-season saves record of 57. He has both done a great job and has been the beneficiary of many close Angels wins, but the results are hard to argue with.

I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but the Angels will have a few weeks to rest up and prepare for the playoffs while many teams continue to duke it out, night-in and night-out for a spot in the postseason. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are both battling hamstring issues, and while youngsters Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez have filled in admirably, it is important the two starters get back in time to get a week or so worth of at-bats leading into the playoffs. The Angels don't have the most explosive offense, but with everyone healthy, do have balance and guys that can contribute up and down the lineup.

On paper, this is the best-equipped Angels squad we've seen in a while. Perhaps even better than the team that won it all in 2002. But the games are not played on paper and if the Halos are to win it all this year, they'll need some of the magic that '02 team had. Maybe not a three-homer game from a light-hitting second baseman or a three-run homer in Game 6 of the World Series to cut into a huge deficit, but a 2-out RBI hit here and sac-fly there could be the difference between celebrating another championship and thinking, "wait till next year."

Posted on: July 16, 2008 5:08 pm
 

Adios, Franky?

 I posted this on the main baseball board in response to a thread about Francisco Rodriguez filing for free agency after the season. Here are my thoughts on the matter...

 

This is something that most Angels fans knew was coming since last season, maybe even the season before. The Angels have made fair, market value offers for Franky the past few seasons, but obviously, nothing that bowled him over. He's a very good and still very young closer who I'm guessing will become the ML's top paid reliever after this season. I don't think the Angels will be the team to give him the dough, however.

You can't predict these things, but he looks like a candidate for arm troubles, and may already be experiencing some, as his velocity has dipped 2-4 mph this season. His violent delivery and the amount of sliders he throws has and will take their toll. The pitch that has sort of re-invented him is his changeup, that he only throws to lefties. I think it's his best pitch, as his slider has become predictable and inconsistent.

If he leaves, the Angels have a couple candidates in Scot Shields and youngster Jose Arredondo, who, if you haven't seen him, is pretty nasty. They may also try to find a cheaper option through free agency or a trade. We'll have to wait and see.

It's not so much the dollars per season I have a problem with, it's the length of the contract (probably 6 or 7-plus seasons) he's looking for that makes me say: adios Franky, thanks for the memories.

Posted on: May 12, 2008 6:40 pm
 

Scuffling

No sooner did I hit the "enter" key on a previous blog post singing the praises of the Angels success on the road then they go and get swept in Tampa Bay by the Rays. Timing, as they say, is everything. The Halos have now lost four straight, and to say they have been offensively inept is an understatement of colossal proportions. James Shields, Scott Kazmir and few of the Rays bullpeners, including ex-Angel Troy Percival, held them scoreless for the first two games of the series, and really, the Angels didn't even come close to anything resembling a rally. This, along with the two Lakers losses in Utah (home to more white people than anywhere in the world) made my "sports weekend" less than enjoyable. Throw in the fact that both my fantasy teams got utterly destroyed, and I found myself looking for excuses not to watch television or use the computer -- two of my favorite pastimes. Not my favorite weekend ever.

Well, hopefully some home cooking can get the boys right. We have four games against the Pale Hose starting tonight and then the Trolley Dodgers head South to renew the Freeway Series rivalry over the weekend. The team needs youngster Nick Adenhart to step up big time in his third big league start tonight and play the role of stopper, as in losing streak stopper. Good news, Lackey is back and will make a start Wednesday, I believe. Other youngsters that need to step up include Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez.

Here's hoping for more than 3 or 4 hits...

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