Los Angeles Angels: baseball

The Albert Pujols effect on Howie Kendrick

December, 15, 2011
Remember the year Rich Aurilia became relevant?

That would be 2001, when Aurilia, a 170-pound shortstop, hit .324 with 37 home runs and 97 RBIs, became an All-Star and got MVP votes. It just so happened Aurilia batted in front of a guy named Barry Bonds, who, it just so happened, hit, um, 73 home runs.

Since we're on the topic of how Albert Pujols can make the other Angels hitters better, this is a good time to visit the topic of Howie Kendrick, who might be the perfect candidate to hit in front of the Angels' new Machine.

Kendrick already broke out, kind of, last season, recording career highs in home runs (18), runs (86), slugging percentage (.464) and making his first All-Star team. He has yet to live up to the expectations that all those .360-hitting seasons in the minor leagues suggested, however.

Could this be the year his talent finally arrives and stays? Kendrick is a good fastball hitter who has struggled his whole career recognizing and laying off sliders and other off-speed stuff. With pitchers scared of putting on runners for Pujols, Kendrick figures to see more fastballs than ever. More, certainly, than he saw when 37-year old Bobby Abreu was hitting behind him.

"You don't want to get behind with a lot of breaking stuff. I think pitchers are going to have to be very, very aggressive against the No. 2 hitter in that lineup," said one veteran scout, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Kendrick has a short, compact stroke and uses the whole field. I think he'll feel less pressure to drive the ball for power than he did before. The pressure will be to get on base and in scoring position. The way he uses the whole field, I think he's going to benefit by seeing a lot of fastballs."

Given the lack of off-speed pitches, Kendrick might run into more home runs without much trying. So, just for fun, here's one projection of how Kendrick might perform in his year 28 season, typically the very prime of a player's career: .315 batting average, 21 home runs, 84 RBIs, 105 runs, .366 OBP, .475 slugging percentage.

That would get him some MVP votes, probably an All-Star berth and a mention from the next person writing about Rich Aurilia. It would also give the Angels a nice launching pad for their fancy new toy.

Good time to right a wrong

October, 26, 2011
One of the biggest mistakes under outgoing general manager Tony Reagins happened about a year ago, well before the Vernon Wells-for-Mike Napoli trade that might have cost him his job.

Reagins fired scouting director Eddie Bane. At the time, it seemed like a fine-print transaction, causing barely a ripple. Bane moved on to the Detroit Tigers, where -- as a pro scout -- he helped them get back to the playoffs. The Angels moved on.

Only with hindsight did the move prove ludicrous. Virtually everything that went right for the Angels last year went right because of players Bane scouted and drafted. The offense was kept afloat by youngsters Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo when it wasn't being weighed down by players Reagins acquired, like Wells and Bobby Abreu.

The pitching survived because of Jered Weaver and, at times, Jordan Walden. It got little or no help from Reagins acquisition Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro. (Reagins did acquire Dan Haren, but one of the players he gave up, lefty Tyler Skaggs, is now the Arizona Diamondbacks' top pitching prospect.)

The Angels have an opportunity that is so rare in life: They can fix a mistake without admitting they did anything wrong. The Angels, who are narrowing their search for a GM as we speak, can bring back Bane, who has a good relationship with team president John Carpino and owner Arte Moreno.

In fact, if the Angels hire New York Yankees uber-scout Damon Oppenheimer as a GM, this just might happen. Bane and Oppenheimer have a great deal of mutual respect even though they attended rival Pac-12 schools (Bane at Arizona State, Oppenheimer at USC). The Angels have plenty of jobs that might Bane return to, including an assistant GM opening, a farm director spot. You can always create a position, give it a long, boring title and simply let Bane sit in on important meetings.

If the Angels really are committed to fresh thinking, they'll consider fixing one of the last regime's most glaring errors.

Wild card: second glimmer of hope

September, 12, 2011
Suddenly, the Angels' chances of getting into the playoffs as the wild card have sprouted to life.

The Boston Red Sox are battered and, lately, beaten. Boston has lost five in a row and 10 of its last 13, including the past three to the Tampa Bay Rays, whom they play in a four-game series starting Thursday in Boston. Meanwhile, Kevin Youkilis has hip and groin injuries, Josh Beckett is coming off a sprained ankle and John Lackey has been the worst starting pitcher in the American League.

Maybe the super team is in the midst of a spectacular September collapse? It's worth noting, because the Texas Rangers are 27-9 this year against the teams they're playing before they reach Anaheim later this month.

The Rays trail Boston by 3 1/2 games in the wild-card standings. The Angels are five back.

It's possible the Rays could take it from the Red Sox, then hand it to the Angels. Tampa plays six of its final nine games against the first-place New York Yankees. The key for the Angels in any playoff-push scenario is to do well on this dominate-able road trip, which begins tonight in Oakland, moves to Baltimore and finishes in Toronto. Anything less than 6-4 could end their hopes.

Hey, it's possible. Just saying.



Howie Kendrick
.293 7 75 85
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169