Hey all, how’s it going? Long time no talk huh? I just had some things to get off my chest regarding the 2007 season and the Chuckster was gracious enough to lend me this blog to do so. I hope everything is going well with all of you. I’ll break this post down into three sections: Predictions, Performance, and Future. Without further ado…
In the spirt of fairness, I’d like to address some of my personal predictions that I made before this season started. In the offseason my two huge gripes were the offense and Gary Matthews Jr’s contract. With hindsight being 20/20 and all, I feel confident saying that I was wrong about the offense but right about Matthews. So let’s scope those two issues out.
Let’s start on the positive note: the offense.
I must say that looking at the runs scored I’m still a bit perplexed. My pre-season prediction was 748 runs. I came to this conclusion because simply we didn’t have the ability to score runs in bunches with the combination of our low on base percentage and anemic power. So what’s changed?
After reviewing the team statistics for the AL, the answer is on base percentage. The Angels are currently 4th in the AL in runs scored, only the second time since Mike Scioscia has been here that they’ve been above 7th of 14 teams. What’s more, the Angels are also 4th in the AL in on base percentage. A breakdown of Scioscia’s tenure is listed below:
2000 – 7th in Runs Scored, 6th in On Base Percentage.
2001 – 12th in Runs Scored, 9th in On Base Percentage.
2002 – 4th in Runs Scored, 4th in On Base Percentage.
2003 – 11th in Runs Scored, 8th in On Base Percentage.
2004 – 7th in Runs Scored, 6th in On Base Percentage.
2005 – 7th in Runs Scored, 9th in On Base Percentage.
2006 – 11th in Runs Scored, 10th in On Base Percentage.
2007 – 4th in Runs Scored, 4th in On Base Percentage.
Who can deny the relation at this point?
So why was I wrong? I didn’t think this team had any chance to make as drastic of an improvement with the bats as they have in one season. How did it happen?
Chone Figgins – .341 batting average?
Who knew? His career high to this point is .296, so it’s been quite the leap. But his refined approach (and likely a fair share of luck) is to thank. He has been the absolute engine of this team for months now. Like a hurricane churning over warm water, Figgy has driven our offense. Amazing.
Reggie Willits – It seems most want to write him off because he’s struggled a bit in recent months. But even struggles included, many teams would like a 26 steal .394 OBP guy at the top of their order. We just have the luxury of playing him down on the bottom because Figgins has been so phenomenal.
These two players have had massive beneficial effects on the offense. Honorable mentions for the OBP category: Kendrick and Kotchman. They are each marked improvements over their predecessors at their respective positions, though their contributions have been dampened by injury.
And I can’t forget the man in LF. In the absence of the legitimate power bat I think we still need, Garret has looked like the Garret of old. That Yankees game was fun, huh?
Now that’s over, the negative. Matthews’ recent stats:
In 2005, no one regarded Matthews as anything more than a capable 4th outfielder. Yet here we are paying for 2006 performance and getting 2005 4th outfielder performance instead.
People laud his glove, I just don’t think he’s the bee’s knees after watching him all season. Statistically, he’s having his best season with the glove. It would be an outright lie to say he isn’t a sizable improvement over our defensive situation in CF last season. Still, he’s prone to his fair share of boneheaded plays. He’s unrealistically aggressive on unreachable balls off the wall, and he gets WAY too much credit for robbing 3 homers a year. It’s cool, but it doesn’t define his defense.
If defense was the goal, we could have had the best CF in baseball, Willy Taveras, for practically nothing. And he’s hit well to boot (even if it’s in Colorado). And if trades are out of the question, I said at the beginning of the year I would have been fine with giving Willits or Figgins the job until 2008. I still stand by that. (Come on, Willits isn’t *THAT* bad with the glove. He made a great catch in the gap just the other day).
I don’t think Figgins is a .340+ hitter. With his new approach (thank you Nate Haynes), I think realistically he can hit somewhere in the .310-.320 range. WIth his speed that makes him quite a produtive player.
Garret’s production should be viewed as a pleasant and welcome surprise rather than being relied on for a repeat in 2008.
But I’ll leave this long winded post on a final topic: Bill Stoneman. I’m not Stoneman’s biggest fan. I still think his refusal to land an impact power bat in the middle of the lineup is ridiculous. Even with our success, this lineup would be that much better if we had a difference maker in the middle. And I think the strategy of signing slowing veterans for huge contracts with the attitude that if they don’t produce Arte will just eat the contract is dangerous and cavalier.
But Stoneman has produced. I just can’t deny it. He’s a genius with the pitching staff, he’s conservative with the development of the youngsters, and he doesn’t re-sign unproductive veterans. Most of all, he wins wins wins.
Stoneman deserves that extension.
Now let’s kick some ass in the playoffs.