This is a blog I never wanted to write, but I feel it is important to address. For those of you who may have read my early winter rantings, you know that I made predictions — many of which ended up being wrong.
I hate being wrong.
That being said, I think it is time to address our biggest American League threat, and no, I’m not talking about those bums from Beanville. Let’s take a trip across the country to the pollution capital of the United States, Los Angeles. Because our number one threat in 2009 is those stinkin’ Angels.
I’ll give you three reasons why we need to keep our eyes on these guys not only for this year, but for the next few years.
#1 – The Angels in the Outfield.
Sorry for the cliche’, but seriously. What more of an offensive threat to boast in your outfield than Vladimir Guerro, Torii Hunter, and our former Bobby Abreu?
We should be familiar with Bobby’s abilities already, but for those of you just now tuning in we have one of the most patient hitters in baseball. Bobby can make a pitcher throw many times. He isn’t afraid of taking a walk. (73 times in 2008). He knows how to steal (22). He has a career .300 average (.296) and he plays very cautiously, which gives him full season endurance (156 games). Bobby is a very talented player, an offensive force, and will make a great #2 or #3 hitter.
Before coming to the Angels last season, Torii Hunter wasn’t much to worry about. The Minnesota Twins were never a real threat to anyone. They had their streaks, mostly built on the back of Hunter’s bat. (I’m editorializing pretty hard here, I know.) But put a potent hitter on this Angels team and you have a reason to swallow the lump in your throat. In 146 games, he collected 551 AB and 153 H, giving him a hearty .278 BA. All total, he carried 60 extra base hits, 21 of which got him around the bases. Oh, and there’s the whole 1.000 FPCT.
I can’t even say his name with conjuring up images of burning villages, but this dangerous trio is led by 32 year old Vladimir Guerrero. The 12-year veteran is like Yogi Berra — he’ll swing at, and typical hammer off, anything. He is difficult to pitch to. I recall a scene where a pitcher attempted to walk him, so Vlad stepped across the plate and cranked the ball into the field anyway. He is a career .323 hitter (.303) who brought in less than 100 RBIs off of his 164 H for only the second full season in his career(91).
But these three men do not stand alone as an offensive threat. Chone Figgans and Howie Kendrick. I get chills thinking about these five members of a very potent Angel lineup that has dominated the American League over the span of the past few years. It is no wonder, to me, why the Angels did not persue some of the more costly free agents. They have no need to. Which brings me to my second point.
#2 – They Go Deep
And I’m not talking about just the offensive hitting ability either. Take a look at the Depth Chart. RIDICULOUS. It’s like a circus of talent, competing for every position.
Infield depth has three guys, Izturis, Wood, and Quinlan, with a great deal of talent being availible to back up at every infield base position with a near perfect FPCT and mostly respectable batting averages (.269, .200, .262).
The offensive weakness may come from their catchers, but they have two guys have can handle the backstop with Napoli and Mathis (.273, .194). Napoli is yet another 20+ HR guy, of which the Angels have too many (4).
The outfield has protection for their big three if an unfortunate injury would occur. G. Matthews and Juan Rivera have acceptable BA’s and can fill in as needed and help to platoon either Vlad or Bobby in the corners with the DH role.
I’m not even going to address their pitching. It is sufficient and deep. The Angels are an island unto themselves with their throwing programs. Their farm system has made them almost entirely self sufficient and will be a model many other teams follow for the future.
#3 – 3-7
The Yankees and the Angels played each other ten times. Of those ten times, the Yankees only mustered up three wins. If the Yanks could have pulled those seven losses, the post season would have been written differently. But the fact remains that in that ten game series, the Yankees were outplayed by the Angels. the lineups look different now, so only time will tell how 2009 plays out.
Those are the reasons why I see the Angels as the team to beat for the New York Yankees. The rest of the AL West is still weak, despite a growing strength this year. 2009 will undoubtedly be a great year for baseball.