Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Richard Ceccarelli is back for another round of questions. Rich's blog, Pearly Gates focuses on the Anaheim Angels from the O.C. The self proclaimed “all knowing one”;) was kind enough to answer a few questions on the Sox upcoming opponent.
El Guapo's Ghost: Both the Sox and Angels are on fire heading toward the critical series. Both have been winning primarily with the wood. Erstad and DaVannon have been red hot of late. Anderson appears to be back in the everyday lineup. Glaus is on a rehab assignment and looks like he isn’t too far off. Do you feel Angels are in a good position to put up big offensive numbers through September?
Rich Ceccarelli: Keep in mind that I’m writing this a night after the Angels dropped 21 on the Royals, but yeah, I do expect the offense to play at a high level down the stretch. Lack of power is the only thing that stalls this offense, and the power really has no where to go but up.
Consider that Vlad hasn’t been Vlad for the past couple of months (.837 in July). He’s been merely "good", not his usual jaw-dropping great. Now he’s starting to get into that groove. I would expect him to catch fire down the stretch.
Anderson, while still not getting many balls over the wall, is hitting the ball harder than he did when he came off the DL. I’m still not confident that GA will ever hit for much power in the future, but he’s certainly not the player who went 39 games without a homer.
And the imminent return of Glaus (who is currently tearing it up on a rehab assignment) can only help. I’m not expecting much from a guy returning this soon from what was considered a career-threading shoulder injury, but the Angels’ have received anemic power production from the DH slot, so literally anything Glaus can give them will be an improvement.
This was a team that was expected to be near the top in homeruns when the season started, but has fallen well short of expectations. They’re going to live up to those expectations down the stretch.
EGG: As you mentioned in our last Q&A, Anaheim relies heavily on AVG (although the power numbers should improve) instead of the en vogue power and patience formula for scoring runs. The club doesn’t walk much, but the lineup does not strikeout often either. It seems like a tough match up for the Sox even with their improved defense. It reminds me of the Anaheim-MFY division series a few years back. What’s your take?
Ceccarelli: The Angels are going to put the ball in-play a ton, and their speed is going to pressure on the new-and-improved Sox defense. It’ll be a good barometer for Epstein’s deadline moves.
EGG: Reports have Anaheim going to a four-man rotation and with Washburn looking like he’ll start next weekend, it places Lackey, Sele and Escobar on the mound for the Sox series. How have the trio pitched of late? Is Escobar’s blister issue under control?
Ceccarelli: As far as I know, Escobar is feeling no ill effects of the blister. Outside of the one game in which he was forced to leave early because of the blister, Escobar has been nails as of late (2.81 ERA in August).
Lackey is a bit of an enigma, as he’s put in several of the Angels’ best pitching performances of the season, but he’s also a candidate to get blown off the mound in every start. August has been particularly unkind to him (7.06 ERA in 5 starts). I do like the fact that he’s striking batters out at a 9.51 K/9 over that span (very un-Lackey like) but it doesn’t seem to be a recipe for successes thus far. I trust that he’ll break out of it sooner rather than later.
I’ll say this about Aaron Sele- I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him. He’s done- running on fumes. Every quality start is a bonus at this point.
EGG: The Sox will likely counter with Schilling, Arroyo and Lowe. How does the Anaheim lineup match up against the three very different starters?
Ceccarelli: It’s hard to say how the Angels will perform against Shilling, having only faced him once in the past. He did make them look pretty silly earlier this season in a game in Anaheim. Over his career he has done an excellent job of holding both Vlad Guerrero (.891 OPS vs. Shilling) and Jose Guillen (.235 OPS) in check- those are the only two Angels hitters he’s faced a substantial amount of times. Fortunately for Shilling, they’re also the core of the Angels’ lineup, so I’d say it bodes well for him.
As a team, the Angels tend to have a problem with pitchers with good off-speed stuff (guys like Jamie Moyer tend to tie them up in knots), so I would imagine that Arroyo has a pretty good shot. And I just don’t know about Lowe. The Angels have had good success off him in the past, and seeing as he doesn’t seem to be the same pitcher he was in those days, I like my boys’ chances. Although he has been on a bit of tear as of late, so who knows?
EGG: The return and dominance of Donnelly gives the Angels the best and deepest pen. They all strikeout hitters, rarely walk anyone and are stingy when it comes to the tall jack against all comers. Do Sox hitters have any hope? Do any of them have a weakness?
Ceccarelli: You’re right- the Angel’s bullpen can be downright un-hittable at times. In my opinion (I’m not just being a homer here) this is the best assemblage of arms I’ve ever seen. Everyone knows about K-Rod and Donnelly, but a lot of people sleep on Scot Shields, who’s probably one of the ten-best relievers in baseball. An let’s not forget Kevin Gregg, how is a more than serviceable long-man, and Percival has still got a little bit left.
I do see a couple of weaknesses however. First, Percival is clearly the weak-link here. His velocity is down, though he has shown that he can still be effective in the 92-94 MPH range. The problem is that his control has been wildly inconsistent at times, meaning he is no longer a premier Major League closer. Unfortunately it looks like he’s still cemented into that 9th inning role, no matter how rocky things get.
Also, as a unit, these guys have been working virtually non-stop for the last three seasons. Nearly 400 IP so far this season, on top of 500+ IP in 2003 and 450+ the year before. That’s a ton of innings, and the workload doesn’t look to be getting any lighter.
Now, the relief corps has seen quite a turnover in the last couple of seasons, so I’m not too overly worried about the wheels falling off. But if it did happen, I wouldn’t be shocked.
EGG: Thanks for the insight. It is appreciated. The Lowe game is going to be very interesting. He has been pitching better using his four-seam, curve and cutter more often. Lowe is actually striking hitters out again. Since the Sox will not be able to have their all glove infield (it appears Pokey will be rehabbing) and given your reply, Lowe should use his curve and cutter even more on Thursday. It should be a good series.