Purgatory Online

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

I stopped watching last night's loss to the Yankees after Hideki Matsui's home run in the seventh made it 6-1. Apparently, I missed a Garret Anderson home run. Whatever.

It's getting hard to write about this team, particularly when the game you just saw is just another in a string that look exactly alike. Starting pitching bad. Relief pitching good. Offense incapable of the timely hit. Loss. So, in the words of Bill Hicks, excuse me while I slap a fake smile on my face and plow through this shit one more time.

Kevin "Velveeta" Appier lasted a magical 0.2 innings last night. In fairness, he might have had a 1-2-3 inning except for (a) a pitch that may or may not have been strike three to the #2 hitter, Derek Jeter, but was, in any event, called a ball, that kept Jeter alive long enough to (b) hit a bloop single to center that Darin Erstad got an uncharacteristically late break on and couldn't get to in time to make a play on. That was the first of six two-strike hits Appier allowed in the course of his 42 pitch outing, the last five coming with two outs. And three of those hits were by guys who were down 0-2 in the count. So, on second thought, screw "in fairness." If you can't get an out with two strikes five straight times, that's not the umpire's fault. It's true what they say: nothing melts like Velveeta.

And then Scot Shields came along, got that third out, and proceeded to pitch a total of 4.1 innings while giving up one run. Which actually raised his ERA slightly, from 1.77 to 1.79. Shields has pretty much made his living by pitching long relief for craptacular starters this year, and has done a damn good job of it. Here are his innings pitched and earned runs in 2003:

April - 23.1 IP, 2 ER
May - 20.1 IP, 5 ER
June - 16.2 IP, 4 ER
July - 20.1 IP, 5 ER

Got that? Scot Shields is actually giving up fewer runs per month than Kevin Appier does per nine innings. Shields is used to pitching a lot of innings at a stretch, and, in fact, made two starts early in the year in which he gave up three earned runs in 11.0 innings. The bullpen is the Angels' greatest strength; the starting pitching a glaring weakness. Appier has had rough starts before and bounced back, it's true, but this is three of his last five that have been absolutely atrocious, and 35-year-old pitchers aren't known for their sudden resurgences. As a practical matter, Appier is probably wedged into the rotation for the rest of the year, since he makes 11.5 million dollars, but in a sense that's just throwing good money after bad. Hopefully Shields will get another audition as a starter in the next couple of months, and earn a chance to compete for a rotation slot next spring. Of course, I don't even know if Shields wants to start. But right now, I know that I want Appier to stop.

Just a couple of other quick notes: Robb Quinlan, after looking silly against Barry Zito's twelve-to-six curveball during his debut Monday, got three solid base hits in last night's game. The look of sheer giddiness on his face after he came around to score following his first hit was nice to see. Good job, rook.

As I mentioned, the Angels want to get a good look at Quinlan to see how he fits into their 2004 plans. They also may have no choice over the next few days; Tim Salmon, a late scratch last night due to a strained lower back, is scheduled for an MRI today.

Finally, the Angels traded Scott Schoeneweis to the White Sox yesterday for reliever Gary Glover and a pair of minor-leaguers. Everyone seems to think that this is a pretty meaningless trade that did neither side any particular good or harm. I disagree; I think that it actually did everyone some good, and no one more so than Schoeneweis himself. Schoeney made no secret of the fact that he wanted to start, and it would certainly be understandable that someone watching the current crop of Angels starters would get frustrated if he didn't get a chance to break in. But, though obviously itching to get out there, Schoeneweis always treated the issue with class, and pitched very well in relief. An a squad full of team players, he may have been the one who most sacrificed his own ego. Good luck in Chicago, Scott.

Tomorrow: why this deal is good for the Angels. See you then.