Purgatory Online

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Oh, God, that's sweet.

Congratulations to the Oakland A's, who've won 90 games for five years straight, on a well-fought season.

No matter what the voters say, The Monster is the American League's Most Valuable Player. He may have had his ups and downs this year, but when it counted, he came through.

And so did Darin Erstad and Garret Anderson. Were you watching, Rob Neyer? THAT's why they make what they make. And that's why your spreadsheets will never tell the whole story.

More eventually. Right now, I'm gonna drink some beer and smile at everybody I see.

Update: The following seem probable:

1. Galarraga starts at 1B tomorrow.
2. Ortiz or Sele pitches.
3. ALDS rotation: Washburn, Colon, Escobar.

That's one.

1-0, 10-0, or 24-0, one win counts for one win. Tonight the Angels were dominant in all aspects of the game - starting pitching, relief, offense, defense, you name it. Hell, they're better-looking and have better uniforms, too. They had the help of one moderately bad call (Anderson being called safe at the plate), two calls the umps got right but A's fanboys will complain about anyway (Chavez being tagged out after oversliding and Scutaro coming off the bag before taking the relay on a potentially inning-ending double play), and the Baseball Gods, who decided they wanted to see Alfredo Amezaga hit another grand slam, and Andres Galarraga get career dinger #399. Mostly, though, this one is to Bartolo Colon's credit. You'd have never known he was on short rest; in fact, his normal four innings of topping out in the low-90's were cut to just one or two. From the third on, he was humming it up there at 94-96.

All of that becomes ancient history starting right now. The Angels have a shot at winning their first division title in eighteen years, and right now I'm guessing they're starting to think about Barry Zito.

As a fan, all I can say is that it's been a hell of a ride - especially the last few weeks. There's one more win to get. I don't for a second believe that it'll be as easy as this one was; I don't for a second believe that it won't involve Octavio Dotel versus Vlad Guerrero, or Troy Percival versus Eric Chavez (or both). There will be drama, heartbreak, and triumph. It's gonna be great.

Go get 'em, guys.


Friday, October 01, 2004

Here is the press release regarding Guillen's arbitration hearing this morning:
The Angels and Jose Guillen have resolved the grievance filed over the Club's discipline of Mr. Guillen for his actions during and after the game against Oakland on Sept. 25, 2004. The parties reached a financial settlement, the terms of which will not be disclosed. By agreement, Guillen will not rejoin the Club for the balance of the championship season.

All told, probably the best result for the team - they won't have the distraction of a disgruntled and smug Guillen on the bench, or the temptation to give in and play him when things get tight.

Halofan, normally the unrestrained id of Angels blogdom, gets all inspirational on us today. Go read it. It's good.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Angels dropped the finale of their four-game set with Texas, which is disappointing. But if you'd told me going in that they'd take three of four and be guaranteed at least a tie for the division lead heading into Oakland, I'd have been doing the happy dance, so I'm not too upset - and I suspect the Angels aren't, either.

I didn't get a chance to see the game, but listened to most of it on the radio. It sounds as if Lackey was off, possibly because he was on short rest, and possibly because he's John Lackey, and this game was in Texas. Either way, the good news is that the bullpen horses got rested - Kevin Gregg and Ramon Ortiz were used in relief, with Gregg soaking up the vast majority of the pitches after Lackey left. Shields, Donnelly, Rodriguez, and Percival should all be available tomorrow.

One final note: if I were a Texas Rangers fan, I'd be damn proud of my team right now. Nobody gave them a snowball's chance in hell of doing anything more than finishing fourth at the start of the year. Most folks - including me - thought they lacked the starting pitching depth to contend this far, even after they were still in the mix through the summer. Given their incredible offense and a bullpen that's seemingly come out of nowhere, they're about two decent starters away from being a championship-caliber ballclub. Depending on what they do over the winter, this may be the team to beat in 2005.

But that's then, and this is now. It's time to go get Oakland.

Buster Olney has a breakdown of all the bullpens left in the hunt, ranking the Angels' as tops in the majors.

Given Scot Shields's pair of scoreless innings in relief last night, I hereby cease my wondering about why he was removed from Tuesday's game. However, it's undeniable that the four-man rotation has put some stress on the bullpen. Here's where we stand:

Donnelly threw 21 pitches last night and 24 the night before.

Shields threw 31 pitches last night and 18 the night before.

Rodriguez threw 42 pitches last night. He did not appear in either Monday or Tuesday's game.

Kevin Gregg threw four pitches last night, but is otherwise fresh.

Additionally, the Angels do have Ramon Ortiz and Aaron Sele in the pen for long relief, as well as Scott Dunn and Matt Hensley, neither of whom has pitched since September 22.

Lackey has gone at least six full innings in each of his last five starts, and has gone at least seven in three of those. In each of those five starts, he's given up either one or two runs.

Realistically, the goal this afternoon is to get Lackey through six, throwing around 90 pitches or so. If he's pitching well, however, a seventh or even eighth wouldn't be out of the question, since Lackey is the one Angels pitcher who will not throw again in the regular season unless there's a one-game playoff. I suspect that every reliever but Shields will be available if it comes down to it, but it would obviously be kind of nice to go into Oakland with those weapons primed and ready to fire.

I've had myself a good, self-satisfied chuckle or three over Clay Davenport's quixotic attempt to predict the final standings (via Rob) by simulating the remaining games of the season a million times (as if that's going to iron out the errors that would show up in a paltry 100,000 simulations). A couple of days ago, the supposed odds on the Angels were a ludicrious 8% or so, and if you got those kinds of odds in Vegas you'd've been brain-dead not to snap them up. Today's batch of simulations put the odds at:

Angels - 47.23610%
A's - 52.76390%

The only problem is that Davenport apparently forgot to add last night's Oakland loss to the mix; he still has them as 89-68. Hence, while the A's currently have 69 losses with four to play, his simulation puts them as averaging 69.7 losses. Whassamatta, Clay, didn't have your coffee this morning?

Update: Oakland's won-loss record has now been fixed in the simulation. The new numbers give the computer Angels a 57.9853% chance of winning the division. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the division will continue to be won exactly once.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Angels pulled out another thriller tonight, 8-7 in 11 innings. Down by a run with two outs and nobody on in the ninth, Guerrero singled off of the previously nigh-untouchable Francisco Cordero. The next batter, Curtis Pride, cranked one off the wall in dead center, scoring The Monster and tying the game. In the 11th, with Erstad on first, Glaus and Cordero engaged in an at-bat for the ages, until finally Glaus knocked one out of the park. Percival gave back one of those runs in the bottom of the 11th, but in the end got Michael Young, who had earlier tied and broken the Rangers' single-season hit record, to ground to third to end it.

More tomorrow, but for now, the one bit of bad news to come out of the game is that Garret Anderson had to leave with an irritated patella tendon near his left knee. Hopefully this won't keep him out more than a game.

...The Monster took ball one in every single at bat last night. It was great. Sure, he could go back to waving at pitches two feet outside tonight, but for the moment I was reminded of the scene in Happy Gilmore where Adam Sandler's character, who is notorious for mammoth drives and a terrible short game, sinks a long putt.

"Happy learned how to putt!" he says. "Uh-oh!"

The difference between Monday's game and last night's 8-2 pasting of the Rangers wasn't just the difference between a hard-fought victory and a blowout. It was the difference between wild creativity and solid production; the difference between a novel that pushes the boundaries of literature and a well-thought-out business proposal. The former lives forever in our memories, but the latter's how you pay the bills over the long term.

I actually had a premium seat for last night's game - six rows back, one section to the first-base side of the plate. My wife, hallowed be her name, ponied up the ludicrious $55 they charge for that seat as a birthday present. I may be spoiled for upper deck seats now; the fairly small amount of foul ground behind the plate at Ameriquest Field meant that I could see the speed and break on every pitch even better than I could've if I'd watched it on TV.

So I was actually in pretty good position to see Escobar's pitches as he became the first member of the rotation to go on short rest. And I have to say that, initially at least, I was unimpressed. During his first time through the lineup, he seemed to fall behind hitters too often, and got a couple of outs on balls that were pretty much smoked right at someone. During his second spin through, though, he was nearly unhittable, finding his spots and changing speeds well. The Rangers got back on him a little by the time the sixth inning rolled around, but by that time the Angels had a comfortable lead. I think, all things considered, Scioscia pulled him at exactly the right time - six innings pitched, 80 pitches thrown.

Shields, in throwing two perfect innings of relief, was fantastic. He had the best movement on his pitches of anyone throwing last night, and, to be honest, I'd like to know why he didn't just finish up the game. Three innings is a bunch for a reliever, but Shields has certainly done it before, and had only thrown 18 in the first two. Instead, the Angels used Donnelly, who ended up throwing 24 pitches to get through just the ninth.

About the hitting, it was obviously nice to see so much offensive production. They took care of business, wrote the business proposal, covered their bases (so to speak), and closed the deal. Let me say this, however:

Vlad Guerrero is a monster.

Yeah, yeah, what else is new. But lookit: none of the home runs hit in last night were particularly in doubt. They all had the right sound and the right trajectory off the bat; there were no cheapies. But that second homer of Vlad's just shocked the crowd; there was a palpable sense that, even for a home run, that ball had been obliterated.

Perhaps the most interesting move of the night, though, belonged to Buck Showalter when he brought in Joaquin Benoit to pitch the final three innings of an 8-2 ballgame. I can only surmise that he was trying to hold the Angels down to give the Rangers' bats a chance, which is to some extent understandable. And the "hold the Angels down" part worked out, at least - Benoit threw three scoreless, albeit not brilliant, innings. The problem for the Rangers this presents is that Benoit had been scheduled to pitch against the Angels on Wednesday night. If you'll recall, Benoit had the Angels completely flummoxed two starts ago, September 18 in Anaheim. On that occasion, he went four innings, giving up two hits and no runs while walking three and striking out six. He had also pitched in Anaheim on July 27, going two innings and giving up no runs on three hits, walking none and striking out three. In fact, his lone run surrendered to the Angels this year was back on April 11. His 2004 numbers against the Halos:

8.0 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 10 K

So, instead of facing Benoit, who apparently has their number this year, the Angels will draw Kameron Loe, the recipient of the Rangers organization's 2004 Nolan Ryan Award for minor-league pitcher of the year, who split most of this year between Double-A and Triple-A. I'm sure he's a talented guy, but that sounds like good news to me - although, of course, the Angels have a troubling history of hitting poorly off guys fresh up from the minors.

At this point, the Rangers are not mathematically eliminated. In addition to winning the rest of their games, they need the A's to lose both of their remaining games with Seattle, and for the A's and Angels to split their final three-game series - at which point the Rangers would be tied with whichever team won two of those three games. The speculation on the call-in show last night was, therefore, that if the Rangers manage a win tonight, and the A's lose to Seattle, the Rangers would bring Ryan Drese back on short rest for Thursday afternoon's game instead of starting Chris Young. This may be a case of pick your poison - Young dominated the Angels in Anaheim last week for six innings, while Drese, though Texas's best pitcher this year, got slapped around in his last start.

Troy Percival, on being ready to pitch for a fourth consecutive day:
"I told him I'm fine," Percival said before the game. "If it's a one-run game, and he needs [Brendan] Donnelly and Frankie [Rodriguez] in the seventh and eighth inning, throw me out there. I've got nothing to save for. I can drive my boat left-handed."

I dunno...I sure don't want to see the Angels locked into paying huge dollars for Percival for the next several years, and I think Rodriguez is clearly the future closer. And, of course, Percival wants nothing to do with being a set-up man. But the way he's pitched the second half of this season is going to make Stoneman's decision pretty damn tough. Probably the best-case scenario in terms of re-signing him would be to get Percival to agree to a two-year deal with a mutual option for a third, at something significantly less per year than the eight million he's getting now (say, $3-4 million per year), or a one-year renewal for $5 million or so. I doubt that either of those would tempt Percival into foregoing free agency, especially now that he's looking like he might be developing along the lines of a Nolan Ryan-type career path, but you never know.

I'll tell you one thing - the other night, as the Angels warmed up on the field, the Rangers' video board was showing an episode of "This Week in Baseball" that included a long feature on Percival. The entire pitching staff, and a lot of the position players, quit what they were doing and just stood there on the field in their warm-ups, their heads tilted back, watching.

But, you know, "makeup" and "leadership" don't really mean anything. Anybody can be a closer! The smartest minds in the game all say so!

Schya. And I'm a Chinese jet pilot.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Man-oh-manimal. I'm still pretty damn tickled about last night's win.

The writeup of the day comes from the Orange County Register, which describes Colon as pitching "stoutly." As someone once said, that's not as easy as shooting fish in a barrel - it's as easy as looking at fish in a barrel.

A few impressions from last night's game: first, it's amazing how Angels fans have appeared at away games since 2002. For the first 32 years of my life, I was the only Angels fan I knew. Hell, I was the only Angels fan anyone I knew, knew. Of course, I lived in Atlanta, St. Paul, and Chicago, so it's not like I was all that close to Anaheim, but still.

Now, I go to games and see Angels fans all the time. Last night, there were at least six or eight within a couple of rows of us, including the couple right next to us. I don't know if the 2002 team made that many fans, or if it just made it okay to reveal yourself, but it's nice to see.

Second, the game attracted just over 20,000 paying customers. Okay, it was a Monday night, but the Monday before, the Angels had 39,074 in attendance when they played the also-ran Mariners. 20,000 people show up to watch a high-scoring pennant contender take on one of their division rivals in the last week of games? Shameful. And the excuse - that people were staying home to watch the Cowboys play the Redskins on Monday Night Football - is even more pathetic. Several of the people in my section were actually using their binoculars to watch the televisions in skyboxes, which were tuned to the MNF broadcast. These fans don't deserve October baseball.

Guerrero's homer in the second was a flat-out bomb. His next at-bat, he produced a little dribbler to the pitcher that probably traveled 25 feet. Sometimes you just shake your head and move on.

Kenny Rogers, man...that guy can either come back for one more year as a starter and get shelled, or move to the bullpen and be a left-handed relief specialist until he's 60. Erstad had no chance against him in any of his at-bats, and Anderson looked little better.

Bartolo Colon became the first pitcher to ever win six games in a season against the Rangers, finishing 6-0, with an ERA somewere around 2.20. Against that particular squad, that's pretty damn impressive. Whatever his struggles against other teams, he's almost single-handedly kept the Rangers behind the Angels in the standings. He was unquestionably studly last night.

I did, however, have to question Scioscia's judgment in bringing him out to start the ninth. Okay, truth be told, I kind of questioned his judgement in bringing him out to start the eighth. His pitch could was relatively low, it's true, but considering that he'll be starting on short rest in his next start, I kind of figured we'd see Donnelly in the eighth and Percival in the ninth. The flip side of that, of course, is that with EVERYONE starting on short rest starting tomorrow, the bullpen needed to be as fresh as possible, and of course Colon had been a dealin' fool ever since getting out of the fourth.

Figgins's slide to score the Angels' fourth run was brilliant. With one out and Figgins on third, Erstad grounded to Mark Teixeira at first. Figgins was off as soon as he saw it was a grounder, but I was sure he was a dead duck at home. Teixeira double-clutched for just a split second, then threw to Huckaby, but that split second was the difference. Figgins slid past the plate on the third-base side and reached back to tag it with his hand, avoiding the tag, and the Angels led 4-3. This, of course, was minutes after he tripled in the tying run, and an inning later he'd drive in Eckstein to make it 5-3. Nice game, Figs.

The Angels put the infield shift on for both Blalock and Teixeira. Blalock grounded into it in the third and lined into it in the sixth.

That bottom of the ninth...wow. Blalock and Young both had solid singles off Colon. Percival comes into the game and gives up another solid single to Teixeira, bringing up David Delucci with the bases loaded and nobody out, the winning run on first.

If you weren't watching last Thursday's A's-Rangers game, that may not mean much to you. But every Rangers fan watching was remembering that game, in which Delucci came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two out, two on, and the Rangers trailing by a run, then lined a double into the corner to win the game. Facing Percival with the bases loaded and nobody out, this looked like another dramatic come-from-behind win for Texas. Even a pair of sacrifice flies would score the game.

So when Percival got Delucci to pop out, it was a big deal. But then he had to face Kevin Mench, who had homered in the fourth and came within a couple feet of doing the same in the seventh.

Again, a pop out on the infield.

And then, the strikeout of Brian Jordan. Three straight chances for Texas to tie or win the game with a hit, three straight harmless outs, courtesy of Troy Percival. I give you Mr. Percival's numbers since the All-Star break:

1.57 ERA.
15 saves in 16 opportunities.
23 IP
16 H
4 ER
6 BB
18 K
.193 BAA

That, my friends, is what you call a closer.

I'll be there again tonight, cheering for the Angels to get to Chan Ho Park early, and give Kelvim Escobar some of that run support he's been patiently wating for lo these many months.

Monday, September 27, 2004

We were lucky enough to be at tonight's game, a 5-3 victory over Texas that featured stellar pitching by Bartolo Colon and the bat and legs of Chone Figgins. Next to Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, this may have been the most exciting game I've ever been to. A Guerrero home run! A Figgins triple! A brilliant slide at the plate! Percival escaping from a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth!

More tomorrow - I'm too wound up right now to do any fancy analyzin'. For the moment, let me just say this:


Here's the status of the Texas bullpen heading into tonight's game.

Carlos Almanzar, Doug Brocail, and Frank Francisco all dropped their appeals after having their suspensions reduced by a game apiece. Almanzar finished serving his suspension on Saturday, and is available, but has been experiencing tightness in his forearm. He did not pitch yesterday in Texas's 9-0 loss to Seattle.

Brocail began serving his suspension yesterday, and will be unavailable until Saturday, October 2. Francisco's suspension runs through the end of the season.

Scioscia has announced that the Angels will go with a four-man rotation for the rest of the regular season. Since they had an off-day Thursday, Bartolo Colon will be pitching on his usual rest tonight. Beginning with Kelvim Escobar's start tomorrow night, however, the Angels starters will be on three days' rest.

Well, I guess Jose went and crossed the line, finally. As most of the baseball world knows by now, Jose Guillen has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season and any possible postseason appearances for his conduct after being removed for a pinch-runner in Saturday's game against the A's. I've still not seen video of what Guillen did, except for the obvious displeasure he displayed while still at first base, but it's described as:
Guillen threw his arms into the air at first base, walked slowly off the field, tossed his helmet toward the side of the dugout Scioscia was standing in and walked to the opposite side of the dugout before entering. He then fired his glove against the dugout wall.

Guillen has seemed to be walking a fine line for much of the season. When things were going well for him at the plate, he's appeared jovial and prankish; when he's struggling, he's been sullen and prone to pointless outbursts. Seeing Jose slam his bat to the turf in frustration after yet another pop-up has been one of the recurring images of this September. Obviously, judging Guillen based only on what you see on television or read in the papers is foolish. At this point, however, if Scioscia and Stoneman are saying that Guillen has been putting himself ahead of the team, I've got no problem believing it. This club is founded on the philosophy that the W is more important than anything else, and - at this time of year especially - the distraction of dealing with churlish displays like Guillen's is simply intolerable.

Is the punishment too harsh? Perhaps. There's no way to judge that without knowing what's gone on behind the scenes. But right now, the question is irrelevant. The Angels will put this behind them, just as they've put every setback they've had in the last couple of years behind them. If they lose one, you won't hear "if only we had Jose Guillen, we could've won that game," but "how are we going to use the pieces we have to win the next game?" That's the attitude that any team needs to win when the chips are down. If Jose Guillen is listening, and can take it to heart, he's got the talent to not just contribute, but lead.

In 2005.

Right now, the Angels will worry about the Texas Rangers, like the professionals they are.