Monday, May 16, 2005

Byrd IS the Wyrd as Halos Win

The promise that was Paul Byrd is finally coming to fruition for the Angels. The veteran right-hander threw a 3-hit shut-out over seven innings and was visibly upset when Angel Skipper Mike Scioscia gave him the hook in eighth. Brendan Donnelly took over and immediately spoiled the shutout by giving up a run but escaped further damage to preserve the Angels' 2-run margin. Scot Shields, filling in for the injured Francisco Cordova, closed out the ninth with a K-Rodesque fastball (mid 90's) striking out two of the three batters he faced to earn the save (3).

The Angels offense is still stuttering, they manufactured three runs on just 7 hits Monday with Vladimir Guerrero providing the lone extra-base hit (an rbi double in the fourth). The only good news was that Guerrero and Anderson both seem to be seeing the ball extremely well, collecting two hits apiece. But Figgins, Rivera, Quinlan and Josh Paul all had 0fers to keep the Angels alleged high-powered offense in neutral.

LA has been getting some stellar pitching of late as the starters and bullpen have held opposing teams to 3 runs or less in their past four games. Unfortunately other than the anomoly that was the 9 run offensive explosion on Sunday, the Angel bats remain quiet. Whats worse, they are quiet against teams with questionable pitching such as Detroit and Cleveland.

So whose to blame? Well a quick perusal of the stats tells the story pretty quickly. The offense, as it is, is being carried by Guerrero and Anderson who are batting .317 & .302 respectively and are ranked #1 and 2 in RBI's, doubles and hits (tied at 45). Darin Erstad is an anchor at the top of the line-up, hitting an abysmal .237 with an even more abysmal on-base-percentage of .283. Steve Finley, who sat out Monday with a sore groin, is right on the Mendoza Line hitting .200 while third baseman Dallas McPherson continues to look lost, hitting just .214 with 1 HR. The reserves are also not picking up the slack with Jose Molina batting .186, Robb Quinlan flailing about with a .170 average and Josh Paul not even hitting Maicer Izturis' weight with a .130 average.

Is it time to panic? Not yet. The pitching (and a horrible division) is keeping most Angel fans and likely Mike Scioscia, from losing it completely. So there are two perspectives: (1) This team is barely hanging on and the end is near; or (2) When this team starts to hit, look out. At this point I opt for #2 though I am starting to get concerned. The Angels need to get the following three things done to remain atop the AL West:

1. Keep Bengie Molina healthy. That's Bengie, with a 'B' -- Not Jose (with a 'hosed'). Bengie, when healthy, is one of the elite catchers in the game. Yeah I know, when he gets a hit I can go all the way to my garage, get a cold beer, take a couple of swigs and still be back on the couch before Big Ben chugs around first base. But the man is hitting .282 with 2 HR and 11 RBI in just 13 games. For persective, Orlando Cabrera has 3 HR and 12 RBI in 38 games.

2. McPherson needs to become a big leaguer already. I'm not asking for 40 HR but I would expect our starting third baseman to hit .250 and have 20 HR's before the year is through. McPherson is not even close to being on track to do that yet. But there is hope as D-Mac has four hits in his last 16 AB's and raised his average from a dismal .190 to a pathetic .214.

3. Table setters need to set the damn table. Our #1 (Figgins) and #2 (Erstad) hitters on Monday are both hitting below .245. For his part Figgins did not even get a sniff of first base, going 0 for 4. Erstad had a hit and a walk while scoring two of the Angels three runs. Bottom line is we need more production out of these guys and more quality AB's.

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