2009 Los Angeles Angels Baseball Preview
The Los Angeles Angels (100- 62) simply dominated the American League West in 2008. And that was nothing new. In four of the last five seasons, the club has taken the division crown. The team's pitching is some of the best in the game and their hitting is certainly good enough to win. However since 2002, when they won the World Series, they've had a tough time making it out of the first round of the playoffs.
John Lackey (12- 5 W/L, 3.75 ERA, .260 BAA), the team's number one starter, spent time on the DL last season with a strained right triceps. Lackey controls his 89- 92 mph fastball nicely. He keeps hitters guessing with a tightly spun, late breaking curve. The next two starters could be number one guys on other teams. Ervin Santana (16- 7 W/L, 3.49 ERA, .237 BAA) throws a dominating fastball that runs 91- 96 mph. His curve changes speed and breaks late. Lefty Joe Saunders (17- 7 W/L, 3.41 ERA, .253 BAA) can place his sinking fastball on either side of the plate. He shows great finesse in changing speeds and spotting the ball. Jered Weaver (11- 1 W/L, 4.33 ERA, .254 BAA) and Kelvim Escobar (Did Not Play in 2008) round out the rotation. Weaver has a flurry of pitches but can be a head case. Escobar, who can be dominant, is coming off of major arm surgery and will not pitch until July. The closing role goes to former Rockie Brian Fuentes (2.73 ERA, 30 SV, .205 BAA). Fuentes fastball shows fine movement and his breaking ball and changeup keep hitters off balance.
If anything, the Angels could use some more hitting. Vladimir Guerrero (.303 BA, 91 RBI, 27 HR) is the Yogi Berra of his generation, turning bad pitches into massive hits. Unfortunately, he's has chronic knee trouble. Chone Figgins (.276 BA, 22 RBI, 1 HR, 34 SB) is a speedy and aggressive leadoff man. Howie Kendrick (.306 BA, 37 RBI, 3 HR) hits for average and Torii Hunter (.278 BA, 78 RBI, 21 HR) and Mike Napoli (.273 BA, 49 RBI, 20 HR) offer power.
The infield includes the skilled Maicer Izturis at short and the rangy, sure-gloved Brandon Wood at third. The other side of the infield is questionable. Catcher Mike Naploi calls a fine game but is lacking physically. In center, Hunter gets an excellent jump and offers a fine arm. Juan Rivera in left and Guerrero in right are both fringe defenders.
Mike Scioscia is a popular manager with fans, players and ownership. He's got a lot of power, which he utilizes smartly. Last season, owner Arte Moreno saw GM Bill Stoneman depart. Moreno hired farm director Tony Reagins as the new general manager. Reagins made some good moves that included bringing in Mark Teixeira, John Garland and Torii Hunter. At the end of the season, he didn't resign Teixeira, who went to the Yanks, nor did he ink a new deal with master closer Francisco Rodriguez, who went to the Mets. If those moves backfire, it could be a long season for Reagins.
2009 will be a test of this club's determination to go deep into the playoffs. Fans want more from this club than they've seen over the past five years. Additionally, the Angels are going to start seeing some competition within their division from Texas and Oakland. This year could be make-or-break for the team.
For more info on Los Angeles check out the MLB website for the Angels Clubhouse.