After two straight disappointing one run losses to the awful Orioles, the Yankees head out west to play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The series is especially important for the Angels, who are only 2.5 games behind the first place Texas Rangers. To get ready for the series, I gave Halo Hangout writer Kalup Alexander a six pack of questions to answer. Please check out Halo Hangout for my Yankee related answers to his questions.
1- Which player must step up most if the Angels were to overtake the Rangers for the division and make the playoffs?
Vernon Wells. Not that his play has any direct correlation with the Angels play-off chances, but of the three slumping veteran Amigos (Hunter, Abreu, Wells) Vernon is the lone player who has yet to have his situation change. Torii Hunter has been himself for the entire second half (.834 OPS), while Bobby Abreu has seen reduced playing time. That leaves Wells as the most likely candidate. If he can improve on his dismal (.218/.252/.396) slash line he could help bridge the 2.5 game gap. I wouldn’t count on that happening though.
2- How do you think the “older” Angels (Abreu, Hunter, Wells) will perform in September?
The Angels have been counting on this trio to produce all season long. If you take away the second half that Torii Hunter has been putting together the Angels have gotten very little offensive production from these core veterans. I wouldn’t count on Wells or Abreu turning it on down the stretch. Abreu while still a disciplined hitter has lost his ability to drive the ball and catch up to fastball on the outer half. Wells meanwhile has displayed an extreme pull happy approach that has produce seemingly a careers worth of weak ground balls to the left side and infield pop ups. That leaves Torii Hunter as the only Angels veteran the club can rely on down the stretch.
3-Up until 2008, the Angels clearly had the Yankees number. Did the 2009 ALCS change that or do the Angels still have a lot of confidence when playing the Yankees?
I think the Angels historical confidence / good play against the Yankees is really a matter of personnel more than anything else. The Angels during the Mike Scioscia era have featured versatile offensive clubs with a combination of speed and a sprinkle of power bats. Couple that with what has largely been a great back end bull pen, solid defense and starting pitching and you has the tools to beat what has been an offensive juggernaut from New York. Since 2009 the Angels have lost a lot of offensive fire power to free agency (Vlad Guerrero , Chone Figgins) and injury (Kendrys Morales) so it’s the failure to make up for that offensive firepower ( Hunter and Abreu have only aged) more so than any mental edge that gives these Yankees a noticeable advantage over the Halos.
4- How shocked do you think the Angels and their fans are to see Bartolo Colon have the season that he is having? -
I can’t speak for the entire fan base but personally I have been fairly surprised with Colon this season. This was a guy who couldn’t get anyone out when he last pitched for the Angels in 2006 and 2007. The fact that he has turned himself into a solid back end rotation guy some five years down the line is certainly eye opening.
5- Which player has been the biggest surprise this season? Positive and Negative?
On the positive side the choice is Mark Trumbo. While his OBP leaves a lot to be desired (.295) Trumbo has filled in for injured slugger Kendrys Morales and been the Angels best power threat (26 HR’s, .220 ISO) all season. Trumbo’s emergence will give the Angels a nice depth problem to address when and if Kendrys returns to a healthy and productive state. On the negative side the choice is split between Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu. While not even the blindest of Angel homers expected Wells to put up the MVP type numbers his contract warrants Wells dismal offensive season has come as a down right shock to most. I don’t think even the most ardent Wells hater could have projected (.218/.252/.396) but somehow some way that is what the Angels have gotten. As for Abreu, sure he’s now 37 years old and his age was bound to catch-up with him at some point, but this year has seen father time get all crazy with the fast forward button. Abreu is .120 points off of his career slugging percentage, and almost .150 points off of his career OPS. Had the Angels gotten even a slight uptick in performance from these two vets, their season would likely look a lot different right now. Or they just could have not traded Mike Napoli. But I digress.
6- The Angels end the season with a 3 game series at home with the Rangers. The series can possibly decide the division title. Where do you think they will be in the standings when they play and what is your prediction on them winning the division?
The Angels will likely be within striking distance of the Rangers I’d wager maybe even 1 or 2 games back by the time this series rolls around. While anything can happen in a short series I do not see the Halos winning the division this year. The Rangers are the better ball club and their advantage on offense and in the bull pen will prove too much for the Angels to match. The Rangers also appear to have that mental swagger advantage (like the Angels use to have over the Yankees) over the Halos. In the past 7 games all with direct divisional implications the Rangers have gone 5-2. Enough said. Frankly with the Angels offensive shortcomings it’s a modern miracle that they have even kept the race
By Rob Bonanni