Purgatory Online

Friday, September 30, 2005

Cindy Fluffykins hasn't published in over a month, so I'm thinking a revision to the History of the Halosphere is due soon.

The Yankees' win last night considerably lengthened the odds against Curt Schilling pitching in the ALDS any earlier than Game 3, meaning he'd get just one start if the Angels face the Red Sox. The only way the Red Sox can head into Sunday's game guaranteed of making the postseason without a one-game playoff would be if they were to win Friday and Saturday while the Indians lost Friday and Saturday. If that were the case, however, the Red Sox would be playing Sunday for the division crown. They could hold Schilling and start Arroyo on short rest (or get a spot start from someone), but would they?

Interestingly, though, that might set up a perverse incentive for the Red Sox - that is, they might actually be better off losing, depending on whether they'd rather play Chicago on the road or the Angels at home. My suspicion is that, right or wrong, the Angels are going to be regarded as the slightly more dangerous team, so maybe they'll figure that having Schilling available for Game 1 is worth going on the road to Chicago. Personally, I'd take my chances at home, even though there's no guarantee you win on Sunday even if you do start Schilling, who's not exactly been dominant this year.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

You know what would be awesome?

I don't even know if it's technically possible, but if the Angels were to activate Tim Salmon for one last at-bat this weekend, that would be pretty amazing.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

For your consideration, here are the remaining AL playoff contenders' scheduled starters for the rest of the season:

White Sox
Wednesday - Contreras
Thursday - Garcia
Friday - Buehrle
Saturday - Garland
Sunday - TBA - likely to be Orlando Hernandez if they've clinched, Brandon McCarthy or Contreras on short rest if they haven't.

Wednesday - Lee
Thursday - Sabathia
Friday - Millwood
Saturday - Westbrook
Sunday - TBA - either Elarton or Lee on short rest.

Wednesday - Chacon
Thursday - Small
Friday - Wang
Saturday - Johnson
Sunday - Mussina

(heh, heh: "small wang johnson")

Red Sox
Wednesday - Arroyo
Thursday - Clement
Friday - Wells
Saturday - TBA, but probably Wakefield on short rest
Sunday - TBA, but probably Schilling on normal rest

Yesterday's double-header kind of mucked with the Red Sox rotation, but Wakefield's a knuckleballer and won't have a problem with short rest.

Both of the ALDS series start on Tuesday, October 4. Obviously, there are a lot of variables involved, but it would seem that the Angels will probably get one of the Wednesday starters on extra rest, one of the Thursday starters on regular rest, or one of the Friday starters on short rest. Of course, if the Red Sox clinch before Sunday, they probably hold Schilling for Game 1, so right now the best thing that can happen for the Angels is a Yankees-Red Sox dogfight to the bitter end.

So it turns out that Angels blogger and noted Morrissey apologist Reverend Halofan somehow wrangled his way into the party at the team hotel last night. Pictures are supposedly forthcoming, though a part of me suspects he's making the whole thing up just to distract us from the fact that he didn't run naked across the field, as promised.

Oh, and prior to that party, the Angels won the A.L. West for the second year in a row. For the second game in a row, they got some runs early and made them stand up with strong starting pitching, crisp defense, and a resurgent bullpen. The Angels are now 10-1 in their last 11 games, and have picked a pretty good time of year to get hot. Although the A's deserve credit for putting together yet another winning season in a year in which they were expected to be rebuilding rather than contending, the last couple of weeks have made it clear which was the better team.

This year, Mike Scioscia will have the twin luxuries of resting some of his everyday players and aligning his pitching rotation, luxuries that will probably not apply to any of the other AL playoff teams. At the moment, the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians are all tied up, with the White Sox two games ahead. Since the last weekend of the season sees the White Sox in Cleveland and the Yankees in Boston, those clubs are going to have no choice but to use their horses heavily over the next few days.

Of course, this guarantees the Angels exactly nothing. It is an advantage, but in the end the Angels will still need the pitching and defense they've gotten all year, plus some stepped-up offense from the hopefully rejuvenated lineup.

There is, I suppose, a little bit of a quandary for the Angels at the moment, since they're just a game behind the Yankee-Red Sox-Indian troika; a strong finish could propel them into a situation in which they would have the home field advantage in the first round. A strong finish coupled with a White Sox collapse could even give the Angels the top seed. But I think having rested, focused players trumps home field advantage any day; I'd guess that, over the next five days, we'll probably see the starters make some appearances, but strictly on a five-and-fly basis or a pitch count in the 60's or 70's. Meanwhile, look for Zach Sorensen to play quit a bit, since reports are that he's being considered for the postseason roster in the pinch-runner/superutility role that Chone Figgins played in 2002.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ness: Never stop! Never stop fighting 'til the fight is done.
Capone: What'd you say? What're you saying?
Ness: I said, never stop fighting 'til the fight is done.

-- The Untouchables

The fight's not done.

Toute le Halosphere seems to have exhaled en masse after last night's 4-3 victory, but a five game lead with six to play is not safe. Consider the momentum the A's would have if they managed to win the next three games; consider the Angels would need to take two out of three in Texas at that point to guarantee themselves a playoff spot. That goal is in front of the Angels now, right there in front of them, and it's never been more important for them to bear down. When the Angels slipped into second a month ago, it was time to loosen up. When Frankie flubbed that return throw and let the winning run score, it was time to lighten up. Now, however, is the time to focus on landing the next punch.

The target of tonight's haymaker is left-hander Joe Kennedy. Though his overall numbers are unimpressive, Kennedy spent the first half of the year pitching for Colorado, which isn't actually Hell but an amazing facsimile. Here are his splits after coming to Oakland:

vLHB - .220/.286/.320, 1.07 G/F, 1 HR, 56 PA, 3.38 BB/9, 7.43 K/9, 7.43 H/9
vRHB - .279/.350/.463, 1.12 G/F, 5 HR, 163 PA, 3.68 BB/9, 6.63 K/9, 10.06 H/9

Despite Steve Finley's new "Jack Frosty" persona, I think those numbers are enough to justify benching him today in favor of Robb Quinlan. Doing so also gives the Angels another left-handed bat off the bench in addition to Kochman, which could be important in the late innings, since lefties hit Kiko Calero and Keiichi Yabu at .310/.383/.493 and .294/.380/.412, respectively. My suggested lineup:

Figgins - CF
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - DH
Guerrero - RF
Rivera - LF
Erstad - 1B
Molina - C
Quinlan - 3B
Kennedy - 2B

No easing up, no victory laps - just solid, focused baseball to get win number 91.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The magic number is four. Any combination of Angels victories and/or A's losses totaling four over the next seven days gives the Angels the division. Angels go 4-3? Check. Angels go 2-5 and the A's 5-2? Check. Angels go 0-7 and A's go 3-4? Check.

Of course, considering that the two clubs go head-to-head over the next four games, every Angels fan out there is coming into this series with one thought: even a split's good enough. Just two games out of four and the division is won.

I am not interested in a split.

After bobbing around for nearly the entire season, the Angels finally seemed to put it together on this just-ended home stand, going 8-2 in the midst of comebacks, clutch hits, and bullpen performances the likes of which we thought gone for good. With no dominant team in the AL this year, the club that we've seen over the last 10 games is good enough to win the pennant, and I, for one, am not interested in shooting for .500 again; neither should the Angels be. In Oakland or in Anaheim, the Angels are the better team and ought to be thinking about proving it for good. Running out the clock may win football games, but there is work left to be done here, tonight and every night until that number hits zero.

And so we consider tonight's starter, Joe Blanton. Corky's splits:

vLHB - .231/.294/.357, 412 PA, 7 HR, 2.95 BB/9, 4.74 K/9, 7.78 H/9
vRHB - .246/.319/.440, 369 PA, 14 HR, 3.43 BB/9, 5.61 K/9, 8.31 H/9

It's not much to hang your hat on, but Blanton's a righty who has a tougher time with right-handed hitters, meaning that Juan Rivera - a right-handed hitter who hits right-handed pitchers well - should bear watching tonight. Blanton's got a fastball that normally tops out at around 93 mph with decent movement, and has a fairly good curve, an average slider, and an indifferent changeup. He's a rookie, and has now thrown more innings in the AL than he did last year in Triple-A, so fatigue may be something of a factor for him at this point in the season (though it hasn't really shown so far). He's also not especially athletic, and the Angels may want to put pressure on him by bunting for hits in certain situations.

I'm not sure which way Scioscia will go with Figgins tonight; both Finley and Izturis seem like possibilities in the lineup. Given Finley's home run and double on Saturday, I suspect he gets the nod:

Figgins - 3B
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - DH
Guerrero - RF
Rivera - LF
Erstad - 1B
Molina - C
Finley - CF
Kennedy - 2B

Neither tonight's Angels-A's game nor tomorrow's is available on Extra Innings. How retarded is that?

Guess I'll end up springing for the mlb.com video and squinting at the damn computer screen all night...

Friday, September 23, 2005

With the magic number down to eight, the last thing the Angels need is complacency, which may mean that being swept by the Devil Rays earlier in the season will have the side benefit of keeping the boys sharp this weekend. Nothing like the lingering smell of humiliation to put a little more fizz in your soda, right?

Adam Kennedy, at least, is singing the right tune:
"It's better to be up three games than down three, but we have three tough games
against Tampa Bay [beginning tonight] and four at Oakland [beginning Monday],"
said Angel second baseman Adam Kennedy, who had two doubles, a single and a run
batted in Thursday. "A three-game lead seems like a lot to some, but it's not."

Tonight, the Angels will face Casey Fossum, a lefty with a fastball, a slider, and a couple of curveball variations. This would probably be a good night to give Darin Erstad the night off, but I think the lineup will probably look something like this:

Figgins - CF
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - DH
Guerrero - RF
Molina - C
Erstad - 1B
Rivera - LF
Quinlan - 3B
Kennedy - 2B

...with Molina and Rivera possibly swapping spots in the order. If Garret Anderson is held completely out of the lineup for another day, I think we'd likely see Bengie moved to DH while Jose Molina catches. Jose is a good candidate to get a start on Sunday, since (1) on Sunday the Angels play a day game after Saturday's night game, (2) they face a left-handed pitcher, and (3) John Lackey - he of the 18 wild pitches this year - will very possibly be starting on short rest.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Agh - swamped with stuff to do today, just just some quick notes:

* That little chess match between Scioscia and Showalter last night was excellent. Give Scioscia credit for being unafraid to pinch-hit Quinlan for Kennedy, the right move regardless of Kennedy's veteran status, and for making what turned out to be the right decision by not pinch-running for Bengie Molina in the seventh, preserving Jose Molina to pinch-hit for Kotchman.

* Tonight's Rangers starter is Chris Young, who hasn't pitched in a game in about two weeks. In his last start, he left after one inning due to arm fatigue; he's right around his career high for innings pitched, and is expected to go no more than five innings today. Originally, the Rangers were expected to use Ryan Rupe in long relief today, which may be out the window after they had to use Rupe last night for 1.2 innings.

* Young is somewhat similar to Loe in that he's a very tall right hander - 6'10", in fact, which makes him the tallest pitcher in Rangers history. He lives off his fastball, but mixes in a changeup, a curve, and a slider, none of which are better than average. Lefties hit him better than righties, but, most importantly, he's an extreme flyball pitcher - about 0.60 grounders to every fly ball. Hence the lineup will be heavy on the lefties again, and hopefully Anderson will be in good enough shape to at least swing the bat. After putting a charge into a couple of pitches last night, Finley is a distinct possibility if GA can't play.

* Expect to hear all about that nighttime marine layer keeping balls in the park from Hudler and Physioc.

More detailed thoughts tomorrow, but for now, three observations:

1. The Angels are now 21 games over .500 for the first time all season. They'd hit the 20-game mark three or four times, but went into a skid each time.

2. Although the Rangers were already mathematically eliminated from the division race, tonight's win guaranteed that they won't be able to pass the Angels.

3. The Angels now have the same lead as the White Sox.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Last night, Mike Scioscia started almost exactly the lineup I would have preferred, opting only to swap Erstad and Molina in the 5 and 6 spots. At first, I thought that things were going to go pretty well - particularly after Orlando Cabrera laid off a few fastballs below the zone and drove a changeup back through the middle for a base hit in his first at-bat. Eventually, however, Dominguez started locating his fastball, and kept the Angels off-balance for most of the rest of the game.

Fortunately, in a game that was all about pitching, Bartolo Colon continued to show why he's the first true ace the Angels have had in a long, long time. Until his back stiffened up in the sixth, Colon was almost unhittable, craftily inducing several desperation swings that ended up being soft grounders. He may or may not end up winning the Cy Young Award this year, but he's definitely the club's first 20-game winner in 31 years, and for that he gets huge props.

Somewhat parenthetically, how amazing is it that the four Angels' starters with enough innings to qualify for postseason awards are all in the top 13 in American League ERA?

Colon - 3.34 (4th)
Washburn - 3.35 (5th)
Lackey - 3.46 (8th)
Byrd - 3.62 (13th)

And then there's Maicer Izturis, whose inexplicable case of the yips resulted in three errors in two innings at third base. I think we'll just chalk that one up to bad luck and move on.

Today, the Angels face Kameron Loe, a 6'8" righthander who's been in and out of the rotation for Texas this year (and only pitched 7.2 innings for the big club last year). In his most recent stint as a starter, he's been very good, with a sub-3.00 ERA, though he hasn't faced any high-octane offenses in that period.

In Loe, the Angels face another starter with some pretty glaring splits. Lefties hit Loe pretty dang good:

vRHB - .218/.265/.308 (168 PA), 1.93 BB/9, 6.21 K/9, 7.29 H/9
vLHB - .290/.357/.464 (156 PA), 3.67 BB/9, 2.88 K/9, 10.49 H/9

I mean, whoa. That's pretty extreme. The really interesting bit comes when we look at the grounder-to-fly-ball ratios:

vRHB - 3.13 G/F
vLHB - 1.49 G/F

Loe relies heavily on a hard sinker, and it shows in the numbers. This spells particular trouble for Guerrero, who has a 1.86 G/F ratio in September, by far his most terraphiliac month of 2005, and for Bengie Molina, who becomes even more of a double-play possibility than usual.

What does this mean in terms of lineup construction? Principally it means that there are even more competing interests at work than usual as well. You want a lot of lefties in to take advantage of Loe's splits, so Kotchman is a strong possiblity. Rivera hits righties well, and seems to have won Scioscia's confidence by playing well lately, so he's probably in. Izturis is a switch-hitter, and would be a stolen-base threat that could hit in front of Molina to minimize double-play opportunities.

There's just not enough room for all of them. In the ideal world, I think the lineup would look something like this:

Figgins - 3B
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - DH
Guerrero - RF
Erstad - CF
Kotchman - 1B
Rivera - LF
Molina - C
Kennedy - 2B

But that's not going to happen, because Scioscia is not going to put Erstad in center. I think it's slightly possible that Rivera may play center - he's got 130 innings there in his career, 30 of which have come this season - but it's also possible that Scioscia will opt to play Figgins in center, DH Erstad or Kotchman, and put Izturis in the 7 spot. Scioscia has shown a tendency to show confidence in guys who've had bad games by putting them right back on the horse (which he did to good effect with Donnelly after game 1 of the 2002 ALDS).

The possibility of Steve Finley starting in center should probably be acknowledged as well, but the prospect makes me too depressed to go on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ken Macha all but concedes that Rich Harden won't start again for the A's, but...
Harden might, however, be well enough to pitch out of the bullpen down the
stretch and -- should the A's qualify -- in the postseason. With a less
aggressive throwing program, Harden could be ready to throw 40-45 pitches by the
final week of the season. If he is ready, the A's will use him as the Angels
have used Kelvim Escobar, a starter whose rehab from an elbow injury landed him
in a relief role with the American League West frontrunners.

"I would think that's what we'd do with [Harden], yeah," Macha said.
"Escobar's given their bullpen a big boost."

That's it. No more off days, just baseball now: thirteen games to make it or blow it. A two-game lead in the loss column to defend, all the pieces they're going to have, gut-check time.

It starts with Texas, a team that's played the Angels tough over the last couple of years. Though the Angels seem to usually come out on top, the games have been incredibly tense. Tonight's should be no exception, as the Rangers would like nothing better than to play the spoiler role here. In addition to derailing the Angels' season, they've also got to be gunning for a couple of individual streaks: Bartolo Colon's 9-0 record versus the Rangers, and Vladimir Guerrero's 31-game hitting streak against them.

Texas starts Juan Dominguez tonight, who's never started against the Angels but did pitch effectively against them in relief earlier this year. Dominguez is kind of a mirror image of Jason Johnson, in that he's substantially worse against righties:

vLHB - .230/.322/.410, 1.29 G/F, 115 PA, 4.39 BB/9, 6.08 K/9, 7.76 H/9
vRHB - .297/.344/.432, 1.03 G/F, 129 PA, 2.51 BB/9, 6.59 K/9, 10.99 H/9

The interesting bit is that Dominguez is himself a right-hander, so his splits are the reverse of normal. Looking at the numbers, we see that a fairly substantial number of the walks he issues to lefties are being transmuted to hits by righties. Dominguez is a fastball-changeup guy who mixes in the occasional curve, so I'm not really sure what's going on there, but if I had to guess I'd say that right-handers have been hitting that changeup, which they see just a tiny bit later than lefties do (making the functional difference between the change and the fastball that much less).

This makes things interesting in terms of the lineup. Obviously, the usual righties will need to step up and drive the ball - Guerrero, Cabrera, and Bengie Molina, front and center, please. I would hope, as well, that Juan Rivera will be in the starting lineup; Rivera actually hits righties better than he hits lefties (.293/.335/.494 this year), so things are really set up for him to perform. The real questions, as always, will be at third base and center field. Figgins is a given to play one of those spots. If he's in center, Robb Quinlan (a righty) could play third - but I think Quinlan's .152/.204/.196 line against righties makes him suspect, even against Dominguez. If Figgins plays third, Finley or DaVanon could play center, but both of them have been terrible against righties as well.

Instead, I think the best of a set of bad options is probably to start Figgins in center and Maicer Izturis at third. Izturis is a switch-hitter currently batting .269/.310/.381 against righties, and he's about as good a third-baseman as either Quinlan or Figgins.

My preference would be to see something like this:

Figgins - CF
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - LF/DH
Guerrero - RF/DH
Molina, B. - C
Erstad - 1B
Rivera - LF/RF/DH
Izturis - 3B
Kennedy - 2B

Why Molina fifth instead of Rivera? Simply put, protection for Vlad. Rivera may be hitting well, may even be expected to hit better than Molina if you're just going by the splits. But protection isn't just about being a better hitter on a given day, it's about having a reputation. True, Rivera might have as good or better a shot at making the Rangers pay for walking Guerrero, but the Rangers don't really know him well enough to respect him. They know Molina, though - and they damn sure know he's hit .393/.486/.643 off Texas pitching this year. With Molina hitting fifth, Guerrero will see more pitches. Erstad, meanwhile, hits ahead of Rivera solely to break up the righty-lefty matchups in the late innings.

Of course, it's also possible that Jose Molina will catch tonight; Colon often throws to Jose, in which case I'd bump Rivera, Erstad, and Izturis up and bat him eighth (ideally, you'd want Izturis to get on base, Molina to bunt him over, and Kennedy to drive him in). Considering the Angels are coming off an off-day, though, I suspect Scioscia will opt for Bengie.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A couple of items:

* Troy Percival will not need elbow surgery. It's still unclear whether he'll be able to pitch next year; if not, he's expected to retire.

* A's ace Rich Harden "has no idea" if he'll be able to pitch again this year, according to the San Jose Mercury-News. In the same article, we learn that A's shortstop Bobby Crosby's return is being delayed, in part, because he is unable to take infield/batting practice today because McAfee Coliseum is being converted from football to baseball configuration, and is hence unavailable. (Update: Rob sez that Will Carroll sez that Harden is very likely done for the season. Also, Brad told Ashley that Tiffany totally saw Tyler making out with Courtney under the bleachers during halftime on Friday, OMG!)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

It's late here in Dallas, but it's so ridiculously nice to actually win a close game that a quick post is called for. In essence, the lefties did, in fact, do pretty well against Jason Johnson, keeping the Angels in it when Lackey stumbled in the sixth. And then Shields was good, Rodriguez tottered and stumbled but didn't fall down, and Escobar was golden for three innings, long enough to bring around an inning that included a Guerrero single, an error, a sacrifice bunt, and a little single by Robb Quinlan through a drawn-in infield to win it. And so the Angels go back up by a game, with fifteen to play.

The A's, meanwhile, lost in the bottom of the tenth in Fenway, when Keiichi Yabu plunked Manny Ramirez with the bases loaded to force in a run. See, they suck too!

The Angels' win tonight was their 82nd of the year, guaranteeing them a second straight winning season. This is only the fourth time in team history they've had back-to-back winning seasons; the others occured in 1997-98, 1985-86, and 1978-79. They've never had three consecutive winning seasons, though they did finish exactly at .500 in 1984.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Shockingly, Jose Guillen has thrown a temper tantrum, tossing equipment onto the field after being called out for arguing balls and strikes, and may be disciplined by the league - making him unavailable as the Nationals try to capture the NL wild card. Most embarrassingly clueless quote from Frank Robinson:
"You'd like to see him a little bit more in control," Robinson told the
Washington Post on Thursday, "and understand, especially in this situation, the
importance of having everybody available here and not being without one of your
better players for any type of time, even if it's one game."

Riiiiight. 'Cause the guy who went off on a screaming tirade for no apparent reason at Angel Stadium last June, then sulked in the dugout like an eight-year-old for the rest of the series, has all kinds of business talking about how folks should be "a little bit more in control."

Hey, Nats fans? Guess what? You're NOT different from everybody else - turns out Jose Guillen's a selfish prick when you're concerned, too. Boo hoo for you.

Jason Johnson, pitching for the Tigers tonight, has been considerably worse versus lefties than righties this season:

vLHB: .315/.360/.491, 12 HR, 184 TBF
vRHB: .254/.286/.357, 8 HR, 124 TBF

Johnson is also much more of a ground-ball pitcher against righties, with a GB/FB ratio higher than 2.0, while lefties put the ball on the ground against him only slightly more than they put it in the air.

With this in mind, I expect the left-handed contingent to feature prominently in tonight's lineup; I think we probably have to resign ourselves to seeing Steve Finley in center. If Guerrero is able to play tonight after jamming his shoulder last night, this sounds about like what Scioscia is likely to do:

Figgins - 3B (S)
Cabrera - SS (R)
Anderson - LF (L)
Guerrero - RF (R)
Erstad - 1B/DH (L)
Kotchman - DH/1B (L)
Molina, B - C (R)
Finley - CF (L)
Kennedy - 2B (L)

If Guerrero is not in the lineup, Scioscia will have to choose between leaving Figgins at third and moving him to right, a position he has played 10 times in his career (8 this year). Given his escapades last night, third base might be the better bet. Additionally, the other options Scioscia has at third are Robb Quinlan, who hits righties to the tune of .152/.204/.196, and Maicer Izturis, who's at a relatively respectable but not spectacular .266/.309/.383.

So that leaves us with the choice of who to play right field in Guerrero's absence, if indeed he is absent. Jeff DaVanon switch-hits, but is hitting .209/.324/.278 versus righties this year. Juan Rivera is a righty, but actually hits righties better than he hits lefties - .276/.318/.485. Given that he's been pretty obviously outshining DaVanon recently, Rivera would seem to be the logical choice. In that case, the lineup could get interesting. It's possible - maybe likely - that Rivera would just hit fourth, in Guerrero's place. It also seems possible, though, that the right thing to do would be to move Erstad up in the lineup to third, bat Anderson cleanup, and use Rivera - who did homer last night, after all - as protection for Anderson.

In any event, the one thing that seems clear is that if the Angels are going to turn things around tonight, they're going to have to get the guys who've been most obviously missing - Anderson, Erstad, and even Finley - to contribute. This game gives them just about the most favorable conditions they could have. In that sense, this game is a test, and the Angels damn well better pass, or get ready for a winter's worth of "what went wrong?"

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lest anyone think that just getting off the road and settling down to face Detroit is much of an incentive...

Tonight's pitcher for Detroit is Mike Maroth. The Angels have faced him twice this year, and lost those games 10-1 and 3-2.

The lineup is likely to feature the following:

Placido Polanco - would be second in the AL in batting average if they counted the games he played for the Phillies before being traded in June; hitting .361 since July 14.

Magglio Ordonez - power threat hitting .328 since coming off the DL July 1.

Ivan Rodriguez - future Hall of Famer with a little gas still left in the tank.

Curtis Granderson - speedy son of a bitch who's 8 for his last 16.

Plus power from Dmitri Young, speed from Nook Logan, and occasional contributions from guys like Brandon Inge, Carlos Pena, Chris Shelton, and Omar Infante.

Buckle up, gang. Bear down, Halos.

Rob's on hiatus, so it falls to me (okay, me and Stephen Smith, no relation) to point out that the Arkansas Travelers' season may end tonight. Down 0-2 to the Midland Rockhounds in the Texas League championship, the Travs will start Jered Weaver tonight in an effort to stave off elimination in the best-of-five series.

Meanwhile, the Pioneer League Orem Owl* (actual name too stupid to fully spell out) have a 2-0 lead in their championship series with the Helena Brewers, and will look to wrap things up tonight.

Stephen has links to webcasts for both games on his site.

For Christ's sake, does nobody want to win this godforsaken division?

For the second straight game, the Angels lost a walk-off to Seattle, the worst team in the division, on a day in which the A's lost to the Indians. And, for the second straight day, the A's blew a winnable game on a day in which they had an opportunity to tie the Angels in the standings. You know, the Rangers aren't eliminated yet...

I suppose the good news for the Angels is that they actually seemed to show a little bit of sack yesterday, coming back from 6-0 early and 9-7 late, before finally boning themselves in the ear enough times to hand a series sweep to the Mariners. I wasn't able to watch this game until the very end - I saw Frankie intentionally walk Dobbs and then give up the game-winning single - but from all accounts the game turned on Maicer Izturis inexplicably being sent home on an attempt to score from first on a botched throw following a bunt. Ron Roenicke isn't exactly known for screwing up that kind of call, so I guess this one gets chalked up to simple bad luck and failed execution.

The other silver lining, I suppose, is that no one on the team can now possibly believe that they have the division won. I mentioned at the start of the roadtrip that these three games with the Mariners were dangerous, since the Angels might have a little letdown effect following their games with the Red Sox and White Sox, and maybe that's just what happened, serving as a stark reminder that they can lose to anyone, anytime.

We'll see tonight, I suppose, when noted burly individual and putative staff ace Bartolo Colon takes the mound looking for his 20th win, which would make him the Angels' first 20-game winner since God wore short pants. It would also solidify Colon's Cy Young campaign, a consideration that I suspect may keep him pitching regardless of how his back is feeling.

Meanwhile, the A's start a four-game series in Boston, and the Rangers host Seattle. I fully expect a Texas sweep of that series, adding the maximum amount of insult to injury.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Angels still lead the West by a game.

The Angels still lead the West by a game.

The Angels still lead the West by a game.

The Angels still lead the West by a game.

Last night's 8-1 loss to the Mariners was one of the few I turned off early; in this case when it hit 6-1 and it was clear that Piniero was going to continue his little run of giving the Angels fits. Fairly frustrating, since the Angels seemed to have several hard-hit balls, they just found gloves.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The coin flipping has started. If the A's and Angels tie for first in the A.L. West, a one-game playoff will be held at Angel Stadium.

Interestingly, they have not yet seen the need to determine the site of a potential playoff in which the Angels would be vying for the wild card.

On the morning of September 6, the Angels found themselves in Boston about to begin back-to-back series with the other division winners. Though they led Oakland by 1.5 games, they also knew that the A's would be playing Seattle and Texas over that stretch, meaning that there was a good chance they'd come out the other side with a diminished lead, or even having given the lead up entirely.

Instead, here on September 12, the lead is 2 games. The Angels swept the White Sox in Chicago over the weekend with a tense extra-inning victory on Friday followed by a pair of games that were not much in doubt past the third inning or so. The Chicago series may have washed some of the bad taste out of the Angels' mouths after they played poorly at Fenway, where they were seemingly lucky to win one out of three, and now, from all indications, they need only continue to play well against a significantly easier schedule than the A's will face.

But how can you possibly follow baseball and expect things will be as easy as that?

The greatest advantage the Angels have right now is simply that they are in control. While the A's will be forced to watch the scoreboard, regardless of whether or not they win, the Angels just have to win and everything else will take care of itself. The A's have to worry about their best pitcher, who will miss at least another week and possibly the rest of the season. The Angels have a spare starter in the bullpen. The A's have to worry about Bobby Kielty and Mark Kotsay, both of whom will probably miss time with injuries, while the Angels have trouble getting at-bats for Quinland, Rivera, and Kotchman.

There are twenty games left in the season, and the Angels are in a position to begin stepping on some necks. If they can keep the intensity they've shown over the weekend, they'll be in fine shape.

The Seattle Mariners have been eliminated from postseason contention; though they could mathematically tie the Angels, the Angels would have to lose all four of their games to Oakland - which would put the A's out of reach for the Mariners. They are also mathematically unable to catch Cleveland in the wild card race.

Friday, September 09, 2005

According to Mike Scarr on the Angels' website:
If Colon cannot go Saturday in a potential Cy Young battle with Jon Garland,
left-hander Joe Saunders will likely get the nod. The rookie was called up Aug.
16 and made a spot start against the Blue Jays. Over 7 2/3 innings, Saunders
allowed two runs on five hits and two walks.

I'm not sure why Scarr says this, since he doesn't back it up with anything from anyone in a position to know who's likely to start on Saturday. He quotes Scioscia as saying that if Saunders starts, he'll surely do a good job, but that's neither here nor there. Escobar did warm up briefly in the bullpen last night, but was not used in the game.

In the same article, we learn that Maicer Izturis, while not back at full strength, should now be available as a late-inning defensive replacement.

Update: Things get clearer on the Escobar/Saunders situation. DiGiovanna in the Times says:
If ace Bartolo Colon (pain in lower back) can't make Saturday's scheduled
start against the White Sox, rookie left-hander Joe Saunders — and not Kelvim
Escobar — will probably pitch.

Escobar, who could emerge as one of the Angels' primary set-up men, warmed
up in the eighth inning Thursday night, and Manager Mike Scioscia said he would
be available in relief tonight.

"He could be a valuable piece to the bullpen, and you'd hate to bypass that
for an opportunity to start Saturday," Scioscia said of Escobar.

MLB.com's probable pitchers page agrees:
Colon is tentatively scheduled to start against the White Sox. The right-hander
left in the sixth inning of his last start with soreness in his lower back. If
Colon does not start, rookie left-hander Joe Saunders will get the call.
Saunders is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in one start with the Angels this season.

I still think they should wait and see what happens tonight before making the call, though.

After last night's Angels win over Boston, both the Angels and A's have 23 games remaining. Both teams have 10 home games and 13 road games left.

LAA: CWS (3), SEA (3), DET (4), TEX (6), TAM (3), OAK (4)
OAK: TEX (6), CLE (3), BOS (4), MIN (3), LAA (4), SEA (3)

Angels' opponent winning percentage: .497
A's opponent winning percentage: .527
Angels' unique opponent winning percentage: .513
A's unique opponent winning percentage: .562

(all OWPs weighted for number of games against)

This weekend, when the Angels take on the White Sox and the A's play Texas, represents the second-to-last point in the season at which the Angels play a team with an OWP (currently) higher than that of the A's opponent. The last such point will come on the very last weekend of the season, when the A's are in Seattle and the Angels are in Texas.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's looking more like Colon will miss his start on Saturday, apropos of which Mike DiGiovanna in the Times notes the following:

Would the Angels be better off using left-hander Joe Saunders as an
emergency starter and keeping Escobar, who threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings and
escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh inning against the Red Sox on
Tuesday night, in the bullpen?

"Some guys [in the bullpen] have struggled, and
having a power arm like Kelvim's could take some pressure off the other guys,"
Scioscia said. "But you have to balance that with the impact he could have

DiGiovanna coyly does not indicate whether or not Scioscia was actually asked that question, and, if so, whether his quote was in response to it. Stating that Escobar could be used in two different ways is, of course, utterly non-responsive to the question of which of those two ways serves the team best.

As far as I'm concerned, it works out like this: if Saunders pitches on Saturday, the worst possible scenario is that he gets pounded and the Angels lose one game. If Escobar pitches Saturday, the worst possible scenario is that the Angels lose three or four games because they don't have him available to come out of the pen. I grant you that the former is more likely than the latter, but even so I find it difficult to believe that the comparative advantage of starting Escobar over Saunders versus the White Sox is greater than that of having Escobar available to shut down the Red Sox, White Sox, and Mariners in the late innings.

Addendum: Of course, things do change significantly if Escobar simply isn't needed in relief tonight or tomorrow. In that case, it's a much closer call. My preference, then, would be to use Escobar in relief if he's needed, and otherwise delay a decision on Saturday's starter until after Friday's game. Which seems so logical and intuitive that I despair of seeing it come to pass.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I suppose the good news out of last night's game would be that Finley can't possibly be in the lineup for any reason short of a 6-run lead or deficit, can he? Please, tell me he can't.

Angels - Santana (4.52 ERA, 97.2 IP, 102 H, 70 K, 35 BB; quality starts in 6 of his last 7 but in uncharted territory as far as innings pitched for the season)

Red Sox - Arroyo (4.47 ERA, 173.1 IP, 181 H, 91 K, 40 BB; consistently mediocre but gives the Angels trouble)

A's - Haren (3.86 ERA, 186.2 IP, 183 H, 137 K, 48 BB; previous Major League high for innings pitched was 72.2)

Mariners - Franklin (5.24 ERA, 159.2 IP, 179 H, 78 K, 55 BB; is 0-3 with 14 ER in 21.2 IP against Oakland this year)

The quotes this morning are interesting.

On pulling Escobar for Shields:
Escobar added a scoreless eighth, his pitch count reaching 27, but instead of
leaving Escobar in for the ninth, Scioscia turned to Shields, the struggling
setup man who is 2-5 with a 6.13 earned-run average in his last 14 outings.

The reason? Escobar may be needed to replace Bartolo Colon (back spasms)
in the rotation Saturday, so Scioscia didn't want to extend Escobar on Tuesday

"Bart's situation was considered," Scioscia said. "Kelvim was
close to 30 pitches. That was enough."

Fair enough on the surface. But when you think about it, this means that Scioscia has pretty much told the world that Escobar won't be used in relief as we approach Saturday unless Colon is given the all-clear. And that's a disaster.

Obviously, the ability to sub Escobar for Colon is nice. But that's one game - and a game against a weak-hitting team, when you've already got Joe Saunders on your roster, who's made one excellent spot start for you earlier in the year. Even if Escobar is available for an inning tonight, starting him Saturday takes him out of tomorrow and Friday's game, plus Sunday's, probably Monday's, and maybe even Tuesday's. How many situations are going to arise in those games in which the Angels need to protect a lead or keep it close in the late innings?

On subbing Finley for Quinlan:

Right-handed hitting Juan Rivera had three hits in seven at-bats against
Wakefield, and the left-handed Finley, the Angels' most disappointing player
this season, was hitless in three at-bats against Wakefield. But Scioscia went
with Finley, who started one game in the previous week and has a .215 average.

"I felt good with Finley driving the ball, getting the ball to the outfield,"
Scioscia said. "Rivera was an option we considered. But I thought Finley swung
the bat well his last five or six at-bats."

Steve Finley's last six at-bats:

9/4 vs. Seattle (Matt Thornton) - took a ball and two strikes before singling to right.
9/4 vs. Seattle (Shigetoshi Hasegawa) - took a strike, fouled one off, took two balls, grounded out to second.
9/4 vs. Seattle (Jeff Harris) - took two balls, fouled one off, flied out to center.
8/27 at Tampa (Danys Baez) - took a ball, took a strike, took a ball, fouled one off, fouled out to third.
8/27 at Tampa (Doug Waechter) - took three balls, took two strikes, fouled off two and struck out swinging.
8/27 at Tampa (Doug Waechter) - took a strike, grounded to short.

So that's going 1 for 6. In those six at-bats, he swung the bat 11 times, and produced something other than a strike or an out exactly once. He got the ball out of the infield twice.

It's past 1:00 in the morning, and I am unable to sleep, struck insomniac for lack of understanding. I am surpassed; the essential reasoning behind the following escape me.

One: Erstad batting fifth, behind Guerrero? As tenaciously as I will defend Erstad, this makes no sense. He's clearly not a threat to go yard. Molina, yes. Kotchman, sure. But Erstad?

Two: Steve Finley. I mean, I'm now at the point where I physically have to quell my gag reflex when I type the name. Why on EARTH do you bring him in for Robb Quinlan? How in God's name do you expect any outcome other than failure to bring the run in from third?

Three: After receiving a minor miracle from Kelvim Escobar to retire the side after Brendan Donnelly left runners at second and third with one out, why lift him in favor of Scot Shields in the ninth? I grant you that Escobar had thrown 27 pitches, but why was he being stretched out in the minors - his last rehab start went around 75 pitches - if not to enable him to provide that kind of thing? With Boston's 3-4-5 hitters up, you go to a guy who's had control problems lately over the guy who just dominated over the last two innings?

It is seldom that I blame poor managerial decisions for a loss, at least with this team. Normally it's simple failure to execute. But this! This!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tonight, the Angels begin their toughest stretch of games remaining: three in Boston, three in Chicago, three in Seattle (and don't think that letdown won't be a factor for those last three). Here, in these nine games, lies Oakland's real hope of capturing the A.L. West; they themselves will host Seattle for two more games, then go on the road to Texas and Cleveland. Though the Angels and A's do play four more games in Oakland, that series is unlikely to change the standings by more than a couple of games - and the Angels already lead by two in the loss column.

So the ability to hold serve here amounts to the ability to jump firmly into the driver's seat in this race. Once the Angels leave Chicago, the A's will be the only team above .500 left on their schedule, while the A's will have to play Cleveland, Minnesota, Boston, and, of course, the Angels.

Their makeup game against the White Sox notwithstanding, tonight's game also represents the start of a fairly brutal stretch for the Bostons - three with the Angels, a road trip to New York and Toronto, and back home against Oakland - that will probably make or break their chances to win the East. So there will be more than one team getting their gamest of game faces on for this series.

To be honest, this year's edition of the Red Sox scares me less than last year's. In 2004, Boston was the one team I feared. This year, that team is Cleveland. Even so, the Angels are vulnerable to Boston's ability to score runs in bunches, since their own offense remains locked in a funk.

In any event, we've passed the final turn and are entering the home stretch. From here on out, these are the games you hope for when the season starts - meaningful games in September.

Angels - Lackey (3.45 ERA, 172.1 IP, 174 K, 60 BB; 3 or fewer ER in 8 of his last 9 starts)
Red Sox - Wakefield (4.41 ERA, 180.2 IP, 116 K, 61 BB; won 6 of his last 7 but somewhat rocky in his last 3)

A's - Kennedy (6.02 ERA, 121 IP, 72 K, 56 BB; just 'cause you pitched in Colorado doesn't mean you're not a pumpkin)
Mariners - Piniero - (5.59 ERA, 158.2 IP, 87 K, 48 BB; quality starts in 5 of his last 6)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Speaking of franchise winning records, something fairly remarkable will likely happen to the Atlanta Braves next year. The Braves entered play today with a franchise record (since 1876) of 9519-9542, 23 games below .500. If and when they make it to .500, it will be the first time the franchise has won as many games as it's lost since June 1, 1923.

The Braves were actually a feared and powerful team for quite a while in the 19th century, and had several good years in the early 20th century as well - they were 518 games over .500 after the 1902 season, but ended the 1922 season just six games over. I'm not certain, but it's entirely possible that the Braves had never been below .500 before 1923, since they had winning records in each of their first four seasons - if the Braves franchise spent any time at all with a losing overall record, it was limited solely to 1876 and maybe very early 1877.

On May 25, 1923, however, the Braves dropped a doubleheader to the Phillies, taking them to exactly .500 for the franchise's history. They bounced back a bit, but finally dropped below sea level on May 31, losing the opener of a three-game series with Brooklyn. June 1 would prove to be the last day they ended play at or above .500, taking game two of the series. Unfortunately for them, the bottom then dropped out: the Bostons lost their next twelve straight, and 19 of their next 21.

The Braves have been trying to get back to .500 for eighty-two years. Unless something goes seriously awry, expect this to be the feel-good story of next summer.

Ever since ESPN columnist and noted sack of crap Rob Neyer went behind ESPN's for-pay wall, I've had little occasion to discuss what he has to say about the Angels. Fortunately, Haloblog appears to have a subscription:
What I have difficulty forgetting, however, is just how ridiculous this whole
Rob Neyer thing is. It's as though the Angels are his whipping-boys. Neyer is so
biased in his coverage of the Angels and their players that it's practically
sickening. First of all, the little pencil-neck bastard couldn't even so much as
play catch with a Major Leaguer, so I've some difficulty trusting his word on
baseball. Second, his boyhood loyalty for the then AL West rival KC Royals
clouds his judgment of the Angels. He hates them, hates everything about them,
always has, and it's just too obvious these days. He's spent his "career"
tearing down Nolan Ryan and Darin Erstad, built a reputation on defining who is
and isn't "over-paid" and "overrated." Consistently, his lists include current
or former Angels. C'mon Rob, get over it. His latest,
over at ESPN Insider (registration and payment required) is no exception. First
it was Nolan Ryan, then it was Darin Erstad, now it's GA.

Right. See, all you need to know about Rob Neyer is that he thinks that Erstad's four-year, $32 million contract was "one hell of a price to pay" for their 2002 World Series championship, as if they should've saved the money and spent it on something more important.

That said, let us take a moment to pity poor Rob, whose beloved Kansas City Royals are pretty close to being the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked, and have no relief on the horizon. Even the Brewers are getting better, but not the Royals. In fact, just in this one season, the Royals' franchise winning percentage has dropped from .495 to .491, so maybe Neyer's most recent crampiness has something to do with the fact that the Angels, at .489 and rising, are now poised to overtake the Royals in the franchise success standings - probably for a long, long time.

After Santana's performance last night, I suspect that Escobar will, in fact, step into a bullpen role when he returns. Escobar's done reasonably well so far in his rehab assignment at Salt Lake:

8.1 IP, 3.24 ERA, 8 H, 14 K, 7 BB, 1 HR, 1 WP, 1 HB, .242 OBA

Escobar is expected to make his final rehab start tonight and make about 75 pitches.

(Update: in that same article, we note the passing of the Bret Prinz era; Prinz ended up pitching a grand total of three innings for the Angels, all in April. Assuming he was paid the $342,322 the Angels signed him for, Prinz made $5611.84 per pitch. I'm not sure which is more depressing to me - that fact, or the fact that Roger Clemens will end up with a very similar per-pitch earnings number multiplied over the course of an entire season.)

Twenty-nine games left, and things are again tied up at the top of the AL West. Here's how those twenty-nine look for the Angels and A's:

LAA: SEA(6), BOS(3), CWS(3), DET(4), TEX(6), TAM(3), OAK(4)
OAK: NYY(3), SEA(6), TEX(6), CLE(3), BOS(4), MIN(3), LAA(4)

Overall opponent winning percentages:
LAA - .500
OAK - .519

"Unique" opponent winning percentages:
LAA - .517
OAK - .556

It's obvious just looking at the schedule that Oakland has a significantly tougher row to hoe here, though it's not as wide a gap as the OWP numbers would suggest, since Tampa has played very well in the second half. The Angels are also at a very slight disadvantage because of the home/road splits - they play 13 at home and 16 on the road, including the four remaining with Oakland, while the A's play 16 at home and 13 on the road. If we're going to consider that, however, we might as well also consider that the Angels are a much better team at night (57-38) than they are during the day (18-20), while the A's are exactly the opposite (30-15 in day games, 45-43 at night). The Angels have eight day games remaining, while the A's have either 18 or 19 night games left (one game with Seattle is still TBD), including three of the four with the Angels.

The Angels need one thing right now, and that's offense. Although Santana is rightly being praised for his terrific start last night, I was almost equally cheered by Chone Figgins's performance at the top of the order: three for three with a walk, a run scored, and two stolen bases against a left-handed starter. Garret Anderson's three for four night was pretty nice, too. Guerrero continues to be a concern, however. He's just not over that stretch of games in which he was walked intentionally so often; he seems to be panicked that opposing pitchers will start doing so again at any time, so he needs to swing now. His double in the eighth was nice, but was probably more the result of Witasik making a bad pitch than anything else - I'm not sure whether it was meant to be more inside or lower, but I'm damn sure you don't intentionally throw Guerrero a fastball that close to the middle of the strike zone when he's looked so bad swinging at junk. Bad pitch or no, however, hopefully Guerrero gets a little confidence-boost from it.

The other guy the Angels need to come around is Adam Kennedy. Just as he was under the radar while building a pretty gaudy batting average, his recent free-fall seems to have been eclipsed by Vlad Guerrero's icy performance. AK's drawn the collar in six of his last seven games, going just 2 for 21 in that stretch, and had a .267/.326/.326 August with a total of three extra-base hits.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Goddamn Yeswecan for putting this in my head.




[The scene - interior, Bill Stoneman's office at Angel Stadium. STONEMAN, SCOSCIA, and VARIOUS BASEBALL WRITERS are gathered around, discussing the upcoming season]

(to the tune of "The Oldest Established")
Troy Percival wanted four mil
Now he's left some big shoes to fill
So we now need a guy in the ninth
Who can crush out the other guys' life

Why, it's good old reliable Frankie,
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie to close!
If you're looking for strikeouts, he'll furnish a few
Even with the bases full he knows what to do
Yes, it's good old reliable Frankie,
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie to close!
And the oldest established permanently kick-ass bullpen in the bigs!

There are juiced-up sluggers everywhere, everywhere
Lots of juiced-up sluggers everywhere
We don't care how much you prance
When you do your strikeout dance, no way
If we only had a rock-solid closer
Our Rolaids we could all throw away...

Why, it's good old reliable Frankie,
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie to close!
If you're looking for strikeouts, he'll furnish a few
Even with the bases full he knows what to do
Yes, it's good old reliable Frankie,
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie to close!
And the oldest established permanently kick-ass bullpen in the bigs!

[Next scene: August, at the ballpark. The Angels have a 5-3 lead on Minnesota. SCIOSCIA and FRANKIE are on the mound at the start of the ninth inning]

Now, Frankie, I now you've been having some problems recently, but that's in the past. Go out and get 'em.

[FRANKIE begins pitching. From off stage we hear "Ball one! Ball two! Ball three! Ball four! Ball one! Ball two! Ball three! Ball four! HOME RUN!" The crowd begins to boo.]

FRANKIE (to the tune of "Don't Cry for me, Argentina")
Nobody boos in Venezuela
In Venezuela, they always love me
I play December, when I am fresher
Is that the difference?

Wrong musical, dammit!

[Next scene. A trio of laptop-toting BLOGGERS are talking about Frankie's problems]

We all know Frankie's finished! He doesn't have it anymore! First thing he does every night is put guys on base!

Too many pitches out of the strike zone!

No guts!

Fortunately, I know exactly what to do to fix the Angels' bullpen woes!

BLOGGERS 2 and 3
Holy samoleons! What a coincidence!

(Sung to the tune of Fugue for Tinhorns)

I got the arm right here, his name is Eric Cyr
And there's a guy that says if the bases are clear
Can do, can do
This guy says that Cyr can do
If he says that Cyr can do
Can do, Can do

The guy is Scotty Dunn, oh boy he's number one
He's got a whole lotta strikeouts for the Salt Lake club
Live arm, live arm
That Dunn's got a real live arm
And K's keep you out of harm
Live arm, live arm

No, no, it's Escobar, the guy's a superstar
And he's got the stuff we need to get the team real far
Won't melt, won't melt
He's been around and he won't melt
Got a lot of innings under his belt
Won't melt, won't melt

Eric Cyr...

Scotty Dunn...


I've got the arm...right...here!

[Next scene: Stoneman's office]

You're all washed up, kid. Your mechanics are terrible - it says so on the Internet. Fortunately, we've got someone taking your spot who's never blown a single big-leave save: Jered Weaver!

Wha? Wasn't he playing college ball a year ago?

Oh, like that matters. Keep your trap shut, and maybe we'll let you pitch mop-up.

[Next scene: the ballpark the next night. The Angels have a 3-2 lead on the A's going into the bottom of the ninth]

Okay, Weaver, let's see some of that no-blown-save magic out there. And remember - no bad pitches! Unless they swing and miss. Then they're okay.


[He takes the mound]

WEAVER (to the tune of "I've Never Been in Love Before")

I've never closed a game before
Now all at once it's me
My God, look at the score

I've never closed a game before
I thought that I'd be used
When we were up by four

But this is noise that's all too loud and shrill
The ump I want to kill
Should I be on the hill

So please don't swing at anything I throw
I've really never closed
A game before

[The sound of many bats hitting many balls comes from offstage, as WEAVER ducks and dodges balls hit back up the middle. The crowd boos lustily and he runs off-stage, weeping]

[Next scene: the ballpark again. Frankie has been summoned to pitch the ninth in a tight game again]

Look, Frankie, the Jered Weaver thing didn't go so well. Turns out there might actually be a difference between pitching college ball and pitching in the bigs. Who knew?

That's great and all, but should I really be out here? Won't Stoneman be mad?

SCIOSCIA (chuckling)
Don't worry about him. I told him Allard Baird was on the phone wanting to trade us Mike Sweeney. Stoneman won't come out of hiding 'til November.

Well, that's good, I guess. But...

What? What's wrong?

It's my confidence, Skip. It's been shattered!


That's right...
(to the tune of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat")

Last night I dreamed I was on the mound in New York
And by some chance, I had brought a ball along
So there I stood, and I shouted "let's get started!"
But the fans knew that something was wrong...

And the people all said "sit down! Sit down, you're fanning the flames!"
The people all said "sit down! Sit down, you're fanning the flames!"
"For the Yankees will make a comeback, send you to the showers in utter shame,
Sit down sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down you're fanning the flames!"

You know, Frankie, if there's one thing I've learned through all this, it's that Sean can write some song parodies, but he really just phones it in when it comes to dialogue. But if there's two things I've learned, the second is...

(to the tune of "Marry the Man Today")
You go with the guys you got
And sometimes you just get stung
Pitchers run cold and hot
But you dance with the one you brung

Go with the guys you got
Their talent got you this far
Go with the guys you got
Minus illegal pine tar

Slowly introduce them to refinements
The strike zone...
A change-up...
Pitching to contact...

Just go with the guys you got
Rather than random youngsters
Go with the guys you got
And worry 'bout it in the winter!

Dios Mio! I feel the confidence returning!
[SCIOSCIA runs off stage right. FRANKIE winds and delivers. A stentorian voice booms "Steee-rike three!" The crowd noise crescendoes]

SHIELDS, DONNELLY, and the rest of the cast enter stage right, pick up FRANKIE and put him on their shoulders

That's just good old reliable Frankie,
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie to close!
And the oldest established permanently kick-ass bullpen in the bigs!

BILLY BEANE rushes in from stage left
Wait! Wait! I've got a song, too! [clears throat]
Long-term tendencies subject to statistical analysis be a lady tonight...