Hello, it’s Ivan, aka AngelsFan. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a bona fide lifelong Angels fan now living in New York, and occassional YFSF contributor on all things Angels related. Because the folks around here might not be too familiar with the team from the Left Coast, YF asked me to put a little something together. So:
The Angels have, of course, had their asses handed to them by the Red Sox in the postseason in 2004 and 2007, but there’s reason to believe things are different this year. For starts, this year the Angels are 8-1 in the season series, a dramatic turnaround from previous losing seasons against a team that seemed to have their number. Their home record is identical to their road record. And they’re a healthier, better-rested, and more well-rounded team than in years past, and though they clinched their division a full three weeks ago, they continued to win even as manager Mike Scioscia rested the starters, resulting in 100 victories.
The Angels have made the BP staffers’ heads explode this year, due to their unspectacular offensive numbers and miniscule run differential. In other words, they haven’t scored many more runs than they’ve allowed (unlike the Red Sox, who lead the league in run differential). This is because when they lose, they lose big, and when they win, they win small. That’s how closer Francisco Rodriguez, a.k.a. K-Rod, got 62 saves this year; only once had anyone had anything near K-Rod’s 69 opportunities before.
Anyway, that run differential business has led to a plethora of articles declaring the Angels the “luckiest” team in the majors, the most “overperforming” team of all time, etc. Just today, Joe Sheehan, who’s been hatin’ all year, declared this series “the team with the best record versus the best team”. To this, I laugh. This year, the Angels are just winners. They’re clutch. They’re all of those despised “intangibles” the analysts loathe, as befits an outfit often referred to as the anti-moneyball team. At they end of the day, they got 100 wins, and I fully expect them to have three more in short order.
The Angels are simultaneously thrilling and dull. Off the field, there’s an almost calculated blandness; you’ll never learn much from an interview, and least of all from Scioscia, who says things like “we’re talking about some stuff with the guys.” There are no outsized personalities. But on the field, it’s another story. They’re very much a team — another “intangible” there — and that’s how they express themselves, in the form of constantly putting the ball in play (the Halos don’t walk or strike out much), and aggressively advancing runners (first-to-third on a single is becoming their trademark).
The Halos do have more scary parts than they’re given credit for. A highly effective bullpen consistently seals a lead after six. Anderson-Teixera-Guerrero-Hunter make for a pretty mean 2-3-4-5, and their starting rotation doesn’t have a weak link — all won at least 10 games this year (and so did their 7th inning man, Jose Arredondo). John Lackey, who’s pitching tonight, has had trouble against the Sox before, but made short work of them last July in Fenway.
I’ll profile some of the players in a later post. In the meantime, AngelsFan says: Angels in 4. I think they have been quietly building the strength and momentum to surprise a lot of people this first round. It’s been a great year to be an Angels Fan, and I don’t see any reason for that to change. The Sox will soon have their comeuppance.