As another Yanks/Angels showdown looms, I, AngelsFan, am once again here to answer the question that you, Yanks fans and Sox fans, ask yourself every day: So what’s up with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this year?
Thanks for asking! The Angels of 2007 have the same look and feel as the Angels of 2006 and 2005: Excellent starting pitching, very fine seal-the-deal relief, decent middle relief, Vladimir Guerrero, and a bunch of guys who swing at the first pitch like Vlad but don’t make contact nearly as hard or as often as he does. The Halos got off to a slow start, but have won 13 of their last 17 (I think) and are comfortably leading the AL West. And new this year: occasional red shirts. Progress!
While we’re on the topic of uniforms, if I may digress, which it is the prerogative of the blogger to do, I’m glad to have seen the Angels so far resist an insidious trend: the adoption of cheap-looking patches on players’ backs which display their names, rather than the individual letters being applied directly to the shirt. What’s up with that? Red Sox, you are guilty, as are what seems at least half the teams playing. How much money could they possibly be saving? This ain’t Class A ball, this is the bigs, and uniforms should look good. It looks particularly appalling on teams with pinstripes, because the patches aren’t pinstriped. So I, for one, appreciate the Angels keeping their uniforms classy. You know this is only the first step towards NASCAR-style head-to-toe ad patches, so write your congressperson or something.
Back to the Angels: Career Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia may well be turning into a career Angel manager, this being his eighth year on the job and the Angels having been in contention for most of those. Mike makes the game entertaining: he likes to hit-and-run, double-steal, take an extra base, swing at the first pitch, and generally keep the pressure on. The Angels don’t walk a whole lot.
The problem the Angels have is that they don’t hit consistently enough to make this strategy fully work — it’s hard to steal bases when you don’t have guys on base. And they have no power in their lineup besides Vlad; they are probably the only division-leading team without an actual cleanup hitter. Vlad hits third, and backing him up are the Rotating So-So’s: the sadly faded Garret Anderson (currently hurt, keeping with his pattern of the previous two years); the better-suited-to-leadoff Gary Matthews Jr.; the impulsively acquired, nearly worthless Shea Hillenbrand. The rest of the lineup includes several kids from their system who are starting to make names for themselves, but are hardly consistent. With that said, the Angels are deep, and have no real weak spots on the bench; don’t be surprised to see Scioscia juggling the lineup from one game to the next.
The Angels primarily win through run prevention: they have, in my opinion, the best starting rotation in the game, yesterday’s 12-0 loss in Detroit notwithstanding (Ervin Santana’s road game doppelgänger was pitching). The Yankees will face Jered Weaver (Jeff’s superior younger brother), Kelvim Escobar, and John Lackey, and all are solid, though they do have their bad days. They are backed up by a strong defense (back to form after an apparent holiday last year) and a superb 7-8-9 crew in Dustin Moseley, Scot Shields, and K-Rod, who is as exciting and effective a closer as any in baseball.
It’s well known among Yanks fans that the Angels consistently give them grief — we’ll see if that still applies in a year where everyone seems to be giving the Yanks grief. I’ll be at Yankee Stadium for at least two games, dodging insults from the Bronx faithful. I’ll let you know what I find over the next couple of days. Go Halos!