Especially since ESPN goes to bed way before the West coast games are done, but the Angels are the best team in baseball the past two weeks. The last 4 series: 2 of 3 against the Dodgers, swept all three in Seattle, took 3 of 4 in Oakland and one bloop error prevented a likely sweep there, and back in Anaheim, we've taken the first 2 games of a 3 game series against Cleveland starting rookie pitchers in both games and we've got John Lackey closing out the series, making a sweep a virtual lock. Then on to KC for a great chance at another sweep.
A bad injury could change it all, but you can say that about any team.
First off, Pitching. It’s pretty clear we have 6 quality starters. No other team in the league can say that. Two of them are totally dominating every team lately. Weaver can’t seem to lose a game and nobody who’s watched Lackey pitch lately will be surprised by a no-hitter from him any time this season. With the exception of very good slap-hitting lefties, he’s making major leaguers hitters look like amateurs lately. Colon was last year’s Cy Young winner who's been out till last month and is getting better each start, and Santana has been consistently giving us 7 or 8 innings and giving up around 2 runs each start. On most any other team, that’s your #1 or #2 starter, for us, he’s our #4. Escobar, by comparison, seems almost mediocre, but in terms of the average #5 starter, he’s superior. He’s almost always good for 6 or 7 quality innings, and even on his bad days, he goes 6 and keeps us in the game. And Saunder proved tonight his minor league #s were no fluke. He was up against a good hitting team and gave 1 earned run (in the first inning when he wasn’t that sharp) but after that, he was a groundball enducing machine out there.
Shield and K-Rod are probably the best setup/closer team in the league.
Middle relief has been shaky, but Carrasco has looked good lately, and I suspect Joe Saunders is going to be in this mix soon. Plus, since our starters average around 7 innings a start, we don’t have to go to the pen as often as most teams. And having Saunders allows us to spot start to once in a while to keep our SPs fresh for the playoffs.
In the playoffs, it’s even brighter, we’ll probably go with a 4 man rotation and have Escobar in the pen as well.
Catcher – Other than Mauer, there isn’t any catcher I’d trade Napolli for. Good with pitchers, good glove, fantastic eye, patient and takes walks like no rookie I’ve seen in ages, and has serious homerun power. He’s no Jason Kendall, but he can motor around the bases real well for a big guy. Jose Molina is solid and probably the best backup catcher in baseball… And this makes prospect Joe Mathis great trade bait.
First base – Probably our weakest spot, but I suspect Morales is only going to get better, and Quinlan can fill in at times to face lefties.
Second base – Kendrick just earned a platoon role with Kennedy. Two things are likely to happen, either good for us. (1) Kennedy takes his game up a notch to hold on to his at bats, or (2) Kendrick takes over the position more and more and becomes the full time starter. I’ve seen a lot of experts say Kendrick will be one of the elite if not the best 2b in baseball in a few years. If they’re wrong at all, I suspect it might be he’s going to be that sooner than they expect.
Shortstop – OC, enough said
Third base – Izzy and Quinlan have been good platooning here, and if McPherson can come back and help, it only gets better, as it would allow Izzy to spell OC (who’s playing every single game it seems) either with spot starts at short or to come in for OC when the game is well in hand.
Left field – Juan Rivera, a notorious 2nd half player who’s off to a red-hot start.
Center – Figgy fulltime. Bad news eventually for all the fantasy baseball owners, but good news for Figgy. Just play one position and get on base. After a slow start, he’s starting to hit like he was the past few seasons.
Right field – Vladdy, nuf said.
DH – GA against all the righties. DHing will allow him the rest he needs to stay fresh and focus all his energy on hitting, which he can still do when he’s healthy, and staying out of left will facilitate more healthy days for him. And versus the lefties, Salmon, maybe Vladdy when he needs a break, Nappy on and off day, Izzy, lots of guys can help out here.
In short, this is a good team that played awful the first half but the last two weeks has them a half game out of first, and with our young guys getting better, and Figgy and Rivera heating up, this is a team that can take on anybody.