Purgatory Online

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)