Results tagged ‘ Erick Aybar ’

2010 Forecasts: AL West

We’ll wrap this up tomorrow night with some thoughts on individual players and awards, but let’s do the last of the six divisional previews first.

Does it
seem to you as if Brandon Wood has been on the verge of breaking in to the LOS
ANGELES line-up since Mark Langston was the Angels’ pitching ace? Whether it’s
been four years or forty, this is the first time the team is actually relying
on Wood, and the
pressure is probably a lot more intense than generally understood. If Wood does not produce
a power-filled season, or doesn’t hold on to the job, the Angels will have to
revert to the Chone Figgins-driven line-up, only without Chone Figgins. It’ll
be tough enough adjusting to Erick Aybar at the top of the line-up, without the
Halos also failing to add the last layer of punch they missed so dearly in the ALCS
last year. The emergence of Kendry Morales and the resuscitation of Howie
Kendrick gave life to the club last year, but face it, four key positions are
beginning to creak a little bit with age, including the now three ex-Yanks in
the line-up. Torii Hunter should be terrified at Mike Scioscia’s insistence that
he may occasionally use Hideki Matsui in left. If placed between Matsui and the
periodically mystified Bobby Abreu in right, MLB might consider letting Hunter
ride a Razor. Pitching is deep but once you get past Jered Weaver, not very
intimidating, and Joel Pineiro might have been the off-season’s most overrated
signing (Fernando Rodney might have been the second, but with or without him,
the bullpen is the team’s top asset).

OAKLAND
looks like an all-or-nothing proposition. Anderson, Braden, and Cahill might
emerge as world-beaters. Sheets and Duchscherer could make remarkable
comebacks. Bailey could expand on a ROTY season. Or literally any one of the
six could lose his job by June 1. The ailments of Joey Devine and Michael
Wuertz thin out an already thin pen, and the line-up, while energetic and
dynamic, does have to play 81 games on the road against teams that actually hit
those things where, you know, the ball goes past those walls behind the gents
standing on the far lawn – what are those called again? Honestly, if your
line-up looks like it could be beaten up, man for man, by that of the Royals,
you could be in for a long summer, even if every one of the pitchers come
through.

With the
strategic building in SEATTLE over the last two years – Figgins, Wilson,
Gutierrez, Lee, even Byrnes and Snell and League (to say nothing of Wakamatsu)
added to the Ichiro/Felix base, it would seem it would be almost impossible for
the Mariners not to be favored. But as I have suggested before, Jack Zduriencik
managed to make the one move that could undo all the good ones. Ask the 2004-05
Dodgers, who thought he was the guy who could take them over the hump. Ask the
2006 A’s, who thought he was the missing piece (and surrendered Andre Ethier to
get him). Ask the 2007 Padres, who brought him in for the stretch run (and
infamously coughed up the division to the Rockies). Ask the 2008 Rangers, who
signed him, only to start shopping him at mid-season. Ask the 2009 Cubs, who
gave him $30 million for three years and sent him home before the first year
ended because nobody could abide his presence any more. Ask the fans he’s
confronted, the reporters he’s confronted, the play-by-play man he ran up
several flights of stairs in hopes of knocking silly. It’s not as if Milton Bradley
has had a few problems. This is six clubs in six seasons and the longest he
lasted with any of them was until June 29th of the second year. I
don’t know what it will be, I don’t know when it will be, but Bradley will do
something to cost the Mariners the division. And if this somehow does not come
to pass, he will have earned an apology from me – but probably will not have
asked for it, because he would have already experienced an epiphany in which
his consistently uncontrollable behavior would have appeared as unacceptable to
him as it has to everybody else, and he
would have apologized to the Cubs. And the Rangers. And
the Padres. And the A’s. And the Dodgers (and just for good measure, Cliff Lee
is not only hurt – he has the most nagging and unpredictable of injuries for a
baseball player, ‘something in the abdomen.’)

The
line-up in TEXAS frightens me. I know Josh Hamilton is not going to hit 57
homers. I understand Vlad Guerrero has aged. I’m sure Chris Davis could repeat
the first half of 2009. I noticed Ian Kinsler’s on the DL. Without them this
is still the most potent batting order in the division.
So the Rangers’ questions are, as
ever, on the mound. But in addition to reclaiming Darren Oliver and bringing
back Colby Lewis from banishment, Texas has one other answer to those
questions: Neftali Feliz. It is impossible to watch him pitch and not see
either a super closer, or a 250-strikeout starter. Either one of them will do
the Rangers fine upon his maturation; for now, a dominating 8th-inning
presence will probably win them the division. And it will be fascinating to
watch any player struggles completely overshadowed by the good or bad conduct
of a manager – not to make a comparison that would be slanderous to the
good-hearted Ron Washington, but we haven’t seen that since Billy Martin died,
and it occasionally helps a team get on with its business while the skipper
takes the heat.

DIVISION FORECAST:
As suggested, I like Texas. Oakland’s pitching could jell to challenge them;
Milton Bradley could go AWOL on May 1 and save Seattle’s season; Brandon Wood
could be everything the Angels ever wanted from him. But I don’t think any of
those things are going to happen. Rangers by a five or six game margin, with
the others following in a jumble I can’t quite yet discern.

LEAGUE
FORECAST: I think Tampa ends up with the best record, Texas the worst, and the
Rays will handle the Rangers easily. The Wild Card will go to Boston, most
likely, and they should probably dispatch Detroit, setting up a re-run of 2008,
including the TB victory. This time I like the Rays to win the Series, five
years after other owners seriously murmured about moving them or contracting
them.

Notes From A Sickbed

OK, not that sick. Just enough.

As you watch the rest of the Yankees’ post-season, especially these first two games against the Angels, consider this: What do these guys have in common? Wilson Betemit, Johnny Damon, Shelley Duncan, Morgan Ensberg, Juan Miranda, Chad Moeller, Jose Molina, Xavier Nady, Jorge Posada, Cody Ransom, Richie Sexson, and Jason Giambi?
They played first base for the Yankees last season. Where would the Yankees be right now – just from a defensive point of view – if any of them were still playing first base for them, and were reaching for the high-degree-of-difficulty throws of CC Sabathia, Molina, Robinson Cano, et al, instead of Mark Teixeira? Apart from the likelihood the Angels might be leading this game and might’ve won last night’s, I wonder if the Yankees would even still be playing.
Two other notes. Interesting that given my speculation last night that Erick Aybar might have had an auditory awareness problem because he had been dressed “like a teletubby” – as Joe Buck put it – that Aybar went with just an ordinary cap tonight. 
Also, credit to Fox for an intriguing innovation following a Tim McCarver query – a measurement of the speed of pitches as they leave the pitcher’s hand, and, separately, as they arrive at the plate. For A.J. Burnett’s supposed 93 MPH fastball, it was 93 at his hand, and “only” 86 at the plate. It’s pure guesswork, but the differential might explain the concept of the “heavy” pitch catchers and hitters talk about, as one that somehow partially overcomes the aerodynamic drag that affects any object in flight. If another pitcher’s 93 MPH fastball actually hits the glove at 87 or 88, it might  explain the otherwise anecdotal concept of a “heavy ball.”

Blame The Hat

Hate to see pitchers show up their fielders, even on a dumb play. But even in that context, more power to John Lackey. If he’d gone over and thrown either Erick Aybar or Chone Figgins to the ground after their collective moronity in the bottom of the first in the Bronx, I wouldn’t have made a citizen’s arrest.

What Lackey might have done is to check just how thick the hood is, that Aybar is wearing under his hat and over his noggin. I’m not kidding around here; last year a college classmate of mine who happens to be the wife of the owner of the Rays gave me one of the Elmer Fudd Earflap Hats that Tampa Bay and the Phillies wore in the Series, and the first thing I noticed about them was how thoroughly they muffled sound and create an audio disconnect for the wearer. Not quite to the degree earphones or earplugs might, but significantly – and I think it’s safe to assume that the taut headgear Aybar was wearing as he stared at Figgins and they let Hideki Matsui’s pop-up drop between them had the same effect.
It isn’t just a question of volume being reduced, but of the creation of the same fishbowl sense you get when you’re really stuffed up, or if you were to climb in the old “Cone Of Silence” from Get Smart. Your head feels like it’s in a cocoon, and you thus feel very detached from what’s going on around you – and sometimes you adjust accordingly. This is not to excuse Aybar but he might have assumed he just couldn’t hear Figgins calling for the Matsui pop.
As to Figgins, I have no clue. Maybe his ears had frozen off.
Blogging time has been limited here of late but I’ll point out two truths about the Championship Series before they get too far along to make any stupid predictions worthwhile: I still don’t like the idea of starting Sabathia in Game Four (or if the weather is utterly uncooperative, maybe Game Three) but I think the Yankees are the better of these two teams. And as to the Phillies, I’ll point out here the dumbest reason of all time to pick the Dodgers.
In my lifetime, the Phillies have made the World Series on three occasions: 1980, 1993, and 2008. I, meantime, have only traveled to Philadelphia to see a Phillies game in person in three years: 1980 (as a fan, and photographer), 1993 (to do play-by-play for ESPN), and 2008 (as a fan).
I did not go to a Phillies’ home game this season. I was kinda surprised they didn’t send me a bus ticket or something.
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