I get a lot of weird looks from people, usually after I tell them where I work, what I study, or what I write about every day. Something I've noticed over the past few years, though, is that I tend to get some of the weirdest looks when I say that I hate the Angels more than the Yankees. After all, New York is the team that's cool to hate, on account of its fans, its payroll, and it's overwhelming success. How can you hate the Angels, they ask me, when they stand for everything that's good and pure in the game?
My answer invariably consists of some haphazard organization of the terms "Rally Monkey", "smallball", "Disney", "Thunderstix", and "Buster Olney", with all the gaps in between plugged by assorted filler. Anaheim's run to the title in 2002 should be blamed for all that is wrong with baseball writing today, be it Olney's infatuation with "productive outs" to John Kruk's insistence that Chone Figgins was last year's Major League MVP to the mistaken perception of Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad as underrated superstars. These are dumb theses, leading to dumb articles and dumb analysis. The 2002 Anaheim Angels won the World Series because they had a terrific offense (#5 in EqA), a good rotation (#8 in starter ERA), a terrific bullpen (#3 in reliever ERA), and a terrific defense (#1 in Defensive Efficiency). They didn't win because they laid down 13 more successful sacrifice bunts than the league average, or because they stole a lot of bases at a clip below the break-even percentage, or because they swung early in the count, got their uniforms dirty, and "played the game the way it was meant to be played." It bugs me that people point to the 2002 Angels as an example of a team that won the Series by playing "stathead-unfriendly" baseball, because they were an excellent team, and said excellence is made abundantly clear by the numbers. Nevertheless, we're still hearing about Mike Scioscia's tactical brilliance and Darin Erstad's heart to this day as a direct result of that championship run, and it gets under my skin. All that garbage about the fans and the team rallying behind a dancing monkey and artificial plastic noisemakers is just gravy on top of a steaming pile of crap.
That's why I hate the Angels more than the Yankees. Hell, New York isn't even in our division, and they haven't ended our season for more than three years, now. In fact, I don't think I have anything against the actual Yankees at all, unlike so many other people - it's the lapdog media and broadcast crews that get on my nerves. Still, New York has been really really good for a really really long time, so they probably deserve the attention they get. Anaheim doesn't, which is why games like today's taste so, so sweet. 40 minutes into the action and we're well on our way to beating their ace with our worst starting pitcher? Color me ecstatic. There's nothing I like better than watching the Mariners beat the crap out of the ball in front of 44,000 speechless Anaheimers (or whatever they're called). Who says that following a bad baseball team can't be rewarding?
Let's go to the chart, which is pretty friggin' sweet:
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +20.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Miguel Olivo, -7.4%
Most Important Hit: Reed double, +18.1%
Most Important Pitch: Guerrero double play #1, +6.5%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +9.7%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +41.3%
One of the questions I get a lot after charts like this is "how can the win expectancy be 100% at one instant, then drop back below?" The answer is that it's never really 100% until the final out is recorded; up until that moment, there's always a chance, no matter how small, that the losing team stages an historic rally to grab the win. However, the odds of this happening are so small that it's easier to just round to 100%, rather than counting out to a bunch of decimal places. So the charts aren't totally precise and accurate. Sue me.
It's ironic that the one time Joel tosses a real gem, the team doesn't need it. His Win Probability Added is low because it was the offense that did most of the damage - Joel was pitching with a lead of at least four runs for the entire game. Put another way, pretty much any random jabroni could've come in and protected the Mariners' lead, so Joel shouldn't get too much credit for his complete game win. It's at times like these when it's important to remember that this stuff is all context-dependent, and shouldn't be used to gauge a player's raw performance so much as it should be used to assess the impact his performance had on the winning (or losing) effort. In this case, Joel was terrific, but wasn't the main reason the M's wound up on top. So, there you go.
This was easily Joel's best start of the season. His line score doesn't exactly imply a high degree of dominance, but he threw a bunch of strikes, kept Vlad off the board, and had his secondary pitches working most of the night. You'd like to see a higher number in the K column, but the Angels have the third-fewest strikeouts of any team in the league, so I think that's excusable. You could count on one hand the number of times one of his pitches got drilled. This was as close to Vintage Pineiro as we've seen all year.
Realizing this, I started to flip out during the game, wondering why Joel was being sent back out there to pitch the eighth and, later, the ninth. At the time, I was okay with the former - he was at 93 pitches after 7 - but umcomfortable with the latter, as he had already tied his second-highest pitch count of the season (109). By now, though, I've cooled off and come to my senses. For one thing, spreading out 119 pitches over 9 innings is nowhere near as bad as throwing the same amount of pitches in, say, six innings. It's actually rather conservative. For another, it's not like he was throwing many high-leverage/high-stress pitches once he had a big lead - he could go out there and pitch without having to worry about being perfect or reaching back for a little more oomph. In fact, based on his strikeouts, you could make the argument that Joel was pitching to contact and trying to ease his own stress by letting the guys behind him do most of the work, and that's pretty much the most low-risk approach any pitcher can have. Bottom line: I'm not too worried about this start having a negative effect on Joel's performance or his body. Too often we get blinded by raw pitch counts, when in actuality there's a lot more that goes into determining what is and isn't a damaging start.
Look at this picture and tell me that it doesn't look like Joel is about to fall down towards first base. That's a lot of upper-body lean to the glove side, presumably to make room for his directly-over-the-top arm slot. And hey, if you could tell me why his plant foot is pointing out to the side, rather than right at home plate, that'd be great.
Daily^ Adrian Beltre Update:
Q: Adrian Beltre is doing which of the following?
(A) Hitting for power
(B) Hitting for average
(C) Hitting the other way
(D) Laying off bad pitches low and out of the zone
(E) All of the above
His double tonight was a thing of beauty. How long have we been waiting for that hit?
Miguel Olivo is 1-10 with four strikeouts since returning from Tacoma. Aside from the superficial (batting stance), it doesn't look like he's changed at all - he still can't recognize anything that isn't a fastball out of the pitcher's hand, and he's still either completely missing or popping up anything that's up in the zone. After striking out looking in the top of the sixth, he walked back to the dugout with a smile on his face - either it was his response to what he thought was a bad call, or he was having a laugh at his own expense over just how bad he's been. Olivo's done nothing but get progressively worse since coming over in the Garcia trade, and it's becoming more and more clear with each passing moment that his days with the organization are numbered. While it'd be nice to see what he could do with a competent coaching staff (perhaps one that tries to help him recognize different pitches instead of changing his stance whenever anything goes wrong), he'll almost certainly have to go somewhere else to try and resurrect his career. A shame, because a year ago, Miguel stood a reasonable chance of becoming the most valuable player of the three we got in the trade.
A higher percentage of Willie Ballgame's hits this year have gone for extra bases than Adrian Beltre's.
Including tonight, Jose Lopez has amassed a career .229/.255/.359 line over roughly 250 plate appearances in the Majors. The good: he's not striking out very much, and he's showing some pretty good doubles power for a kid his age. The bad: he's not walking, and he's not hitting the ball very hard very often. What this tells me is that Lopez is both an aggressive hitter and one with quite a bit of plate coverage and bat control. He's not getting fed too many fastballs right now, instead facing breaking balls and offspeed stuff better than anything he saw in the minors. He's still making contact, though, suggesting that, with a little more patience and a better idea of which pitches will and will not end up in the strike zone, he could become a pretty nifty .300/.340/.500-type middle infielder in his peak, the kind of player Mets fans wish Jose Reyes would become. Of course, there's also the chance that he stalls and turns into Deivi Cruz, but Lopez wouldn't have made the Majors at 20 if he didn't have the potential for a whole lot more. Be patient with him; the growth curve is going to be slow, but the reward could be spectacular.
Jamie Moyer faces off against Jarrod Washburn tomorrow at 7:05pm. Willie Ballgame's going to have trouble sleeping tonight.