Monday, March 14, 2011
Let's jump to conclusions
By Mark Saxon
The Angels are more than halfway through their spring schedule and, believe it or not, the season starts two weeks from Thursday. It's a good time to examine some trends this spring to see how they might affect a summer of baseball in Anaheim:
Mark Trumbo is pushing hard. He's clearly the guy this spring. It's funny because when I talked to Trumbo a few days before spring training began, he sounded fairly resigned to starting the season at Triple-A. He's not playing like that. He leads the majors in at-bats (43), total bases (32) and is tied for the lead in RBIs (11). Only Ian Kinsler and Michael Morse have hit more home runs.
Upside: At the very least, the Angels have a power-hitting first baseman in reserve if Kendry Morales can't get all the way back. At most, they have a guy they absolutely have to find a spot for.
Downside: There's always a Triple-A guy who puts on a show in spring training, when the pitchers aren't quite as focused. He has to do a little more in the minors to really make the Angels' front office scramble.
Getting on base could be a problem. The Angels have neglected this aspect of hitting for years and it cost them in a big way last year. The team's on-base percentage was .311, which is, quite frankly, awful. The trend has continued this spring, with the Angels' .327 OBP ranking 23rd out of 30 teams. The Angels are perfectly willing to be out of step with the rest of the statistically driven teams in the league, but in this regard it seems self-defeating. If Bobby Abreu ever got hurt, the Angels might go a month without drawing a walk.
Upside: Shorter innings and quick games (thank you, free swingers!).
Downside: The Angels' disdain (or is it lack of interest?) in walks means they're unusually batting average-dependent and sometimes easy fodder for control pitchers.
They should pitch the ball well.Dan Haren and Jered Weaver look like a couple of top-of-the-rotation veterans getting into season mode. They've combined for 17 strikeouts in 19 innings. Joel Pineiro and Ervin Santana have looked great and Scott Kazmir has looked, well, about how he usually looks. Does anybody other than Philly have a No. 5 starter they're sure about?
There's spirited competition for some final bullpen roles, with Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson out of options and young guns like Jordan Walden and Michael Kohn making noise. This might be the Angels' deepest bullpen since 2002.
Upside: It's the name of the game.
Downside: They still have the Fernando Rodney question at closer.