Purgatory Online

Friday, October 14, 2005

Enough of this bullshit. Let's be clear: if you are seriously thinking of going to tonight's game to throw things at an umpire, or threaten him, or are obsessed enough to vow revenge, then you are functionally retarded and need to quit worrying about a damn game and find the proper pharmaceuticals. Holler and make signs if you want - I mean, I still think that's a waste of time, but whatever floats your boat - but anything beyond that and I hope you go to jail. The Angels have a pennant to win, and the last thing they need is for this nonsense to interfere with how they go about doing it even more than it already has. Let me put it another way: if you were a ballplayer, which would you rather have: 45,000 fans cheering you on in a game that's being played right now, or 45,000 fans booing an umpire for a terrible call in a game that's already over?

Let's look at Jon Garland.

vLHB - .276/.314/.453, 464 BF, 2.02 BB9, 4.04 K9, 9.46 H9
vRHB - .234/.281/.336, 381 BF, 1.68 BB9, 4.95 K9, 7.75 H9

Garland doesn't walk many batters, which is a boon to the Angels since they don't take many. Instead, he relies on a sinker that induces groundball outs, producing a 1.26 G/F ratio versus lefties and a 1.59 ratio versus righties. The Angels may also have something of an advantage in that Garland hasn't pitched since October 1. Sinkerball pitchers are often said to be more effective when they're a little tired; extra energy on the ball tends to keep it up in the zone a little longer. Frankly, I'm not at all convinced this is so, but I'm sure we'll hear it a few times as the game goes on.

With the splits clearly favoring lefties, we can expect to see Steve Finley back in center and Chone Figgins at third. I would also not be at all surprised to see Casey Kotchman DHing tonight, leaving Juan Rivera on the bench for a second straight game. Although I am convinced that Rivera is now an everyday player in Scioscia's eyes, those splits are very tempting. I'd put the odds of a Kotchman sighting at about 40%.

The last time the Angels faced Garland, Guerrero DHed and DaVanon played right field. That's an...unlikely alignment tonight. On that occasion (September 10), both Anderson and Finley went deep off Garland, and the Angels shanked him for seven earned runs in six innings.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mark Buehrle pitched very well last night, and it's entirely possible that the White Sox would have won even without the benefit of Doug Eddings giving A.J. Pierzynski first base on a blown call. Of course, it would've been nice to find out, but that's just not how it went down.

As anyone who's interested knows by now, Eddings incontravertably blew the call in terms of whether Escobar's third strike was caught or not. The replays show it in the webbing of Josh Paul's glove; there's no real way to look at those pictures and see anything different. In real time, of course, it's not an easy call to make, especially from behind the catcher, so if it was simply that Eddings missed the call, that would be unpleasant but understandable. The truly shameful bit is that Eddings clearly made the fist-pump motion he'd been using all night to signal an out, then claimed that he was merely signaling a strike. Chronicles of the Lads has already done the work on this, demonstrating that Eddings had repeatedly made that same motion to indicate an out, while never making it on third strikes in the dirt.

Should Josh Paul have tagged Pierzynski, just to be sure? Obviously, yes. It can't hurt, right? But when you know you've caught the ball, and you see your teammates start trotting off the field because the umpire has signaled the batter out, at some point you're entitled to assume the umpire isn't, you know, kidding.

But here's the thing: it's over. The deed is done, the game is lost, and there's no functional difference whatsoever between being tied at one game apiece because of a blown call and being tied at one game apiece because the Angels got blown out. After watching the last couple of games, I don't think the White Sox have a whole lot to celebrate, but the Angels have every right to be proud of coming in and very nearly winning two games on the road after their intensely grueling travel schedule, losing their ace pitcher, and sending a guy with step throat to the mound during Game 2.

I was also very impressed with Scioscia during the postgame press conference. Moments after losing a game like that, he said exactly the right things in a very measured manner. He made it clear he disagreed with the call, but also made it clear that the Angels simply didn't play well enough to absorb that kind of thing, which is what championship teams do. He took responsibility in a way that is the hallmark of this team. There won't be any excuses or whining in the clubhouse, because guys like Scioscia and Erstad have spent years establishing a culture that says that you don't get too high or too low, and when you take a tough loss you turn the page. That's why a guy like Jose Guillen never fit in with them, and it's why they'll play Game 3 without any carryover from this.

In the end, the White Sox aren't going to win a seven-game series because of one blown call. Both clubs need three more wins, and, from what I've seen during the season and in the last couple of games, the Angels are simply the better team. They'll have every opportunity to prove it starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Angels used good pitching, (mostly) sharp defense, timely hitting, perceptive managing, and a couple of White Sox miscues to steal Game 1 in Chicago last night, a game that was perhaps more important that the usual first game of a best-of-seven series. The Sox needed it to take control and pounce on the Angels' decimated pitching staff, while the Angels needed it as a hedge against what might happen if Kevin Gregg or Jarrod Washburn barfed up Game 2 (possibly literally, in the latter case).

Fortunately, the boys managed to pull it out, leaving them with one more to go before that much-needed off day. The Angels now have "home field advantage," but of course that means next to nothing without a win tonight, since the Sox could get it right back again by winning just one game in Anaheim. Going back to California up 2-0, on the other hand...well, that's a serious advantage, right there, and that should be all the motivation they need tonight. I seriously doubt anyone is thinking, even privately, that a split of the first two games puts them in charge of this series.

Tonight's game, like last night's, will hinge quite a bit on how much the Angels are able to extract from their starting pitcher, the still-wobbly Jarrod Washburn. Although Washburn's been eating solid food again for a couple of days now, anyone who's had strep throat (and that's pretty much everyone, right?) knows that recuperation takes a few days. Both Washburn's command and velocity will be under the microscope, and it shouldn't take too long to see what he's got.

With Scot Shields going two innings last night, Kelvim Escobar would seem to be the logical guy to turn to if Washburn makes it past the fifth and the score is close. I'd also not be surprised by a Brendan Donnelly sighting, even though I'm sure at this point that Scioscia and Black have little confidence in him, simply because there may be no alternative.

The White Sox, meanwhile, send up Mark Buehrle. Buehrle took something of a back seat to Contreras down the stretch, but for much of the season was Chicago's ace. The Angels have seen him three times this year already, with varying success - one earned run in nine innings on May 24, three earned runs in 8.1 innings on May 30, and five earned runs in six innings on September 9. Washburn came within one day of pitching for the Angels on all three of those occasions, facing the White Sox on May 25, May 30, and September 9. On the two occasions they matched up against each other they performed fairly similarly, with a slight advantage to Buehrle.

Buehrle's splits:
vLHB - .271/.290/.396, 215 PA, 0.70 BB9, 6.10 K9, 9.75 H9
vRHB - .260/.296/.375, 756 PA, 1.75 BB9, 5.55 K9, 8.95 H9

At first glance, Buehrle appears to be one of those lefties who actually fare worse against left-handed hitters, albeit only slightly. But, looking at those plate appearance numbers, it's clear something else is going on here. That's too many appearances for the numbers to be a sample size artifact - at least as a first explanation - but the huge difference between left-handed plate appearances and right-handed plate appearances does imply to me that selection bias is playing a big role in the numbers. In other words, managers are sending only their best lefties to the plate against him, so his numbers versus LHB are worse than they would be if he faced average hitters. Thus, there is no potential advantage to be gained by stocking the lineup with lefties tonight; that PA number tells us that the normal lineup versus left-handed pitchers should obtain. To wit:

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

Rivera and Erstad could trade places, but the above is more or less how Scioscia sent them out there when the Angels faced Buehrle a month ago (Sorensen actually started at second in that game). It's also possible, I suppose, that Izturis could play third, since Washburn has evolved into a groundball pitcher and Izturis's defense is perceived as better than Quinlan's, but I doubt it.

As usual, the Angels will need to play excellent defense and execute well on offense to win this game. If they can fight off exhaustion for one more night, they'll have a shot.

So the Angels and White Sox coaching staffs debuted some new outerwear last night, wool and leather jackets that recall my favorite Angels jacket of all time, the blue wool body/gray sleeve number with red lettering they wore in the mid-90's. At $200 it's a little steep, and those buff-colored sleeves take some getting used to, but I suspect one is in my future at some point.

This is the funniest thing The Onion has done in years:

Antonio Alfonseca Once Again Leads Major-League Relievers In Fingers
October 6, 2005 Onion Sports
MIAMI—Florida Marlins pitcher Antonio Alfonseca dominated the MLB in
appendages for the ninth straight year, finishing the 2005 season with a
league-leading 12 fingers. Alfonseca, who made his debut with the Marlins in
1997 and wasted no time making this particular statistical category his own, led
the NL for almost the entire season, only falling into a close second during an
unusual two-week period in mid-August. Alfonseca's performance will trigger a $1
million bonus, as the Marlins signed him to an incentive-laden, oft-criticized,
finger-enumeration-based contract. "Antonio has been through a lot this season,
including some elbow problems and a trip to the DL," manager Jack McKeon said.
"But in the end, he just went out there and had a lot of fingers." There was
once again a tie for second place behind Alfonseca, with 214 pitchers amassing
10 fingers each, followed by Bob Wickman, who finished last with 9.7.

"But in the end, he just went out there and had a lot of fingers." I am slain.

In possibly the most boring prank of all time, a pair of Chicago radio guys attempted to wake up the Angels by knocking on their hotel room doors yesterday afternoon. Not only were they arrested and jailed for their trouble, it looks like they were knocking on the wrong doors, too.

Fortunately, the White Sox executed just about as well as they did.

Kevin Arnovitz chronicles the rise of the Angels as "Southern California's fair-haired franchise."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Angels portion of today's pregame press conference just ended; Scioscia and Washburn took questions.
  • According to Scioscia, the team got into the hotel at about 6:30 this morning.
  • Jarrod Washburn is "likely to start" tomorrow; if he can't, Kevin Gregg will get the call.
  • Colon won't be available for the ALCS. Esteban Yan has been added to the roster.
  • Washburn looked wan and has clearly not fully recovered. He says that he hasn't picked up a baseball since Friday and had to watch Games 4 and 5 in a "quarantine room" by himself. When asked how long he'd be out if this had hit him in May instead of October, his response was "probably longer than I'm taking."

Disposing of the Yankees was nice, but it's over. Thanks to Saturday's rainout and the kiddie-fiddlers at FOX, the Angels will play in Chicago tonight, travel and pitching disarray be damned. Though I have not yet seen an updated ALCS roster for the Angels, the word is that the Angels are skeptical that Bartolo Colon's inflamed shoulder will allow him to pitch against the White Sox, and he may be done for the year. Paul Byrd will pitch tonight, John Lackey goes in Game 3, and Ervin Santana in Game 4 (if Colon and/or Washburn remain unavailable). Game 2?


Well, Washburn has strep throat, and probably won't be ready. Which means either Kevin Gregg or Kelvim Escobar out of the bullpen, or Joe Saunders, who was not on the ALDS roster. Fun times.

The flip side of the disarray is that if the Angels do manage to steal one in Chicago it puts them in a stronger position that it would otherwise, since they would be coming home starting Lackey in Game 3 against Jon Garland. But they have to, you know, win first.

Tonight's White Sox starter is Jose Contreras, who's managed to turn around a pretty mediocre season after the All-Star Break and put together a nice little run. His splits this year:

vLHB - .231/.319/.365, 445 PA, 4.11 BB9, 6.34 K9, 7.63 H9
vRHB - .233/.295/.379, 412 PA, 2.44 BB9, 7.22 K9, 7.95 H9

Not a whole lot to work with there as far as matchups go, so it's likely we'll see some version of the default lineup against righties - Finley in center, Figgins at third. Scioscia has shown a propensity to juggle Guerrero and Anderson a bit lately, so I wouldn't be surprised to see something like this considering GA's recent upswing:

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

Defensively, probably the most important thing for Byrd will be getting the White Sox to hit the ball on the ground. Since the pitching is thin, he'll be looking to throw hittable pitches early in counts, thereby making use of the defense and going deeper into the game. Byrd's not exactly a strikeout pitcher to begin with, so this shouldn't represent much of a departure for him. His average pitches per inning is a relatively low 14.3 this year; if he can maintain that pace and get through seven innings, I'm sure the Angels would have no complaints.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tomorrow. Chicago.

The chicken littles keep on cheepin'. The Angels keep on not caring.