Like the Dodgers, the Angels win with very good pitching and average offense. They're about average in the AL in run scoring, but third from best in team ERA. They have a record of 24-18, with a 186-162 run differential.
Friday: Penny v Santana
The Dodgers better win this one, because the next two games look very iffy.
Saturday: Hendrickson v Weaver
How soon until Jered Weaver turns into his brother? Probably not soon enough.
Stupid Dodgers, juggling pitchers at the last minute. Now it's Lowe, but I'm still worried. He's been a bit iffy at times this season.
LF -- Willits
SS -- Cabrera
RF -- Guerrero
CF -- Matthews
1B -- Kotchman
After the first five, you get a randomly assembled crap casserole made of some combination of the following:
2B -- Aybar
2B/3B -- Izturis
3B -- Figgins
DH -- Hillenbrand
DH -- Quinlan
C -- Napoli
C -- Molina
Vladimir Alvino Guerrero
AVG -- OBP -- SLG
0.351 -- 0.461 -- 0.664
Vlad's weakness has always been that he was a free-swinger, that he would swing at pitches anywhere, and so wouldn't take as many walks as he might otherwise get with his power and batting eye. But this has also been his strength: there is really nowhere safe to pitch him. Checking espn.com's scouting report on him, the only semi-safe places to pitch him are down and away and up and in, while he chases at least 30% of pitches in every non-strike batting sector.
It's not that Vlad doesn't walk, though. Over his career he's walked about 9% of the time, which is respectable. Coupled with his usual batting average of around 0.325, this has given him an on-base percentage of close to 0.400 every year, which of course is great, especially to go along with his power numbers. But this year he's doing even better. On his current pace he'll draw over 100 walks for the first time in his career; if he keeps all his current batting percentages they'd be the best of his career as well. Of course we've only gone through a quarter of the season, so he probably won't keep up these paces.
Nevertheless, Vlad comes into this series against the Dodgers in a state opposite that of the last great slugger the Dodgers faced. Pujols was out of sorts, and didn't do much in the series against the Dodgers, going 3-14 with no walks and no home runs.. They'll have a much harder time containing Vlad.
Gary Nathaniel Matthews Jr.
0.297 -- 0.358 -- 0.468
He started the year batting leadoff, but he's since been moved down to cleanup to bat right after Vlad. I think this is the right move, to take advantage of all of Vlad's walks with some power behind him. Other than Matthews and Vlad there really isn't much power on the Angels: they account for 16 of the team's 29 home runs.
So far Matthews is following up his career year of 2006 nicely. Is it the HGH? Well, by most accounts I've read there's no evidence that HGH actually helps you play baseball. If Matthews really has used it, he's guilty of cheating, but not necessarily guilty of unnatural performance. I'm not even sure I consider his jump in performance last year to be that big. His OPS's since 2002: 0.782 -- 0.675 -- 0.811 -- 0.756 -- 0.866. Sure, it looks like the Angels overpaid for him, but those numbers look a lot like regular career fluctuation to me. Of course most players don't have their best year at age 31, but it does happen.
Casey John Kotchman
0.254 -- 0.326 -- 0.405
He has Snakes' prospect disease! An aged 24 can't miss prospect struggling to start the 2007 campaign, just like the big four of Arizona.
He's not hitting that poorly, but these aren't the numbers you want from your first baseman. His line is actually very close to the line Angels allow their opponents: 0.251 -- 0.317 -- 0.390. The Angels are a winning team because of their pitching, so this isn't a good sign. He doesn't hit much or play much against lefties yet. Robb Quinlan gets most of the starts against southpaws.
Orlando Luis Cabrera
0.293 -- 0.346 -- 0.390
These are servicable numbers from a shortstop and number 2 hitter. They're a lot better than the stats of the guys who flank him on the infield.
Reggie Gene Willits
0.366 -- 0.449 -- 0.409
He put up a 0.448 OBP in AAA last year. For the moment the Angels have found their leadoff hitter, though he's still only had 109 plate appearances. There's still plenty of time for him to turn into a pumpkin; when that batting average drops his line won't look that good for a corner outfielder. In the meantime the Dodgers big task is to keep Willits and Cabrera off the bases ahead of the Angels' only real power threats in Vlad and Matthews. Willits has no home runs and a mere four doubles so far, so there is simply no excuse for walking him; make him beat you with a single rather than put him on.
Willits got his chance when Garret Anderson went on the DL; he may keep the job even when Garret comes back.
Desmond DeChone Figgins
0.121 -- 0.177 -- 0.172
I'd say the most rewarding part of doing this blog is seeing all the goofy middle names players have. DeChone is my new favorite, easily.
Figgins started the season on the DL with two broken fingers. He says his fingers are still sore, and has struggled both in the field and at the plate with a line that looks like it belongs to Kevin Kouzmanoff.
If you hit like a pitcher, you get to bat where a pitcher bats. That's why he normally bats ninth. The Dodgers better not let him get on base more than once in the series.
Erick Johan Aybar
0.262 -- 0.296 -- 0.291
He's more or less the regular second baseman while hot-hitting Howie Kendrick is out with injury. Pity, because Aybar isn't much of a hitter, at least not yet. Kendrick is on a rehab assignment in AAA right now, but Scioscia has ruled out Kendrick appearing with the big club anytime in the Dodger series.
Michael Anthony Napoli
0.221 -- 0.295 -- 0.395
More than half of his hits go for extra bases so far this year. Last year he had an OPS of 0.815 with a 0.228 batting average; this year he's not quite managing the same trick. The Dodgers need to watch out for him, though. He could easily turn one of these games by doubling in a couple runners. Since it will usually be some combination of Aybar, Hillenbrand and Izturis batting in the two spots ahead of him, there won't ever be an excuse for letting him double with two men on.
Jose Benjamin Molina
0.214 -- 0.228 -- 0.250
This looks like a Cardinal's batting line, though to be fair it's much worse than his brother's. I think the Dodgers will be happy when he starts instead of Napoli.
Shea Matthew Hillenbrand
0.226 -- 0.244 -- 0.266
When asked about Shea's sorry production in the DH spot, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said: "I'm still confident that Shea's upside is our best option, and our goal is to see if Shea can be the player we think he can be."
Maicer E. Izturis
0.241 -- 0.292 -- 0.322
Another Angels switch hitter. A lot of good it's doing most of these guys.
Is there a problem with getting the full middle name of players from the Carribean and Latin America? I think the State Department needs to look into this. That E is so enticing. Does it stand for Eliezer? Elpido? Elrond? Elthazaar? I want to know, dammit.
Little Izturis has a home run this year, by the way. Good for him. Come on, Juan Pierre! If this squib can hit one, so can you.
Robb William Quinlan
0.244 -- 0.261 -- 0.400
He's like, the back up DH in case the regular DH sucks. The regular DH has an OPS of 0.510, and he's only had 45 at bats. Hey, wait a minute!
Kelvim Jose Escobar
ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.35 -- 43 -- 32 -- 12 -- 2
I had no idea: he's had a sub-4 ERA since 2004 when he came to the Angels. Just a solid pitcher.
He got hammered in his last start, giving up 8 runs to the Mariners. His quote about his performance: "It seemed like everything I threw, they hit." Sounds like a good plan for the Dodgers.
Ervin Ramon Santana
ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
5.51 -- 47.1 -- 37 -- 19 -- 11
Let me just say again what the line above says: he's given up 11 home runs. Ouch.
His pitching hasn't lived up to the name Santana so far. Heck, it hasn't lived up to the name Ramon. Ervin's home/road splits are by now legendary. This season his home ERA is 2.57; on the road it's 7.86. It's a similarly wide gap for his career stats. His strikeout rate doesn't change when he goes on the road; it's the walk and home run rates that shoot up.
Freaky stat of the moment: Santana pitched 204.0 innings in 2006 and 133.2 in 2005. In those two years, he pitched 204.0 innings at home and 133.2 on the road.
The bad news for the Dodgers is that Santana will be at home for this start. The good news is they will counter home-Santana with first-half-Penny. It's a battle of the Jekyll and Hyde pitchers!
Jered David Weaver
ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.62 -- 32.1 -- 30 -- 12 -- 3
He's been great his last four starts. The Dodgers counter him with Hendrickson. Not good times.
He's a fly ball pitcher. If the Dodgers have a hope of getting to him, it might be with some home runs. I'd like to see both Betemit and Saenz play in the game against him; LaRoche and can ride the pine for this one.
Prediction for Series:
Dodgers win 2 of 3 behind wins by Penny in game 1 and the bullpen in game 2. Betemit and Saenz homer in the series.