Larry usually writes these previews, but he is on vacation, so I am going to take a stab at it. Try not to point and laugh at any ineptitude you may perceive on my part.
The Angels have struggled to score runs all season, and are 13th in the AL in runs per game at 3.83. On the positive side, Howie Kendrick is having an excellent year, coupling a 126 wRC+ with excellent defense at second base. Additionally, Peter Bourjos has been slightly above average at the plate, which is a huge boon for Angels as it allows them to play his excellent glove on an everyday basis. First baseman Mark Trumbo has shown very good power, with his 22 home runs somewhat offsetting his .301 OBP. Finally, their collection of infielders (Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis) has been quite solid, allowing Mike Scioscia to mix and match based on pitcher handedness and game situation.
On the negative side of the ledger, catchers Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson have been atrocious at the plate (27 and 37 wRC+ respectively) and Vernon Wells has performed at replacement level (71 wRC+), making the Wells for Napoli trade look about as absurd as we expected it to be. Napoli having a strong year for the team that the Angels are chasing in the standings does nothing to dispel that impression. Two guys who are supposed to be the keys to this lineup, Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter, are having decidedly mediocre years, with Abreu slightly above average at the plate (105 wRC+) and Hunter slightly below average (96 wRC+). Considering that Hunter, Abreu, and Wells often bat 3-4-5 in the Angels batting order, it is easy to see why the club is among the lowest scoring in baseball.
Starters For The Upcoming Series
Tonight’s game is being started by Dan “the one who got away” Haren. Haren is having a spectacular year for the Angels, with a 2.81 ERA and 2.72 FIP in 169.2 innings. Haren throws three types of fastballs, a typical fastball, a cutter, and a splitter, as well as a curve that he mixes in on occasion. The cutter is his go-to pitch and then one that he gets most of his outs on, although the curve is fairly effective as an out pitch as well. He does not walk very many hitters (1.27 per 9) and throws a lot of first pitch strikes (66% compared to league average of 59.2%), so waiting him out might be a poor strategy, as you are likely to look up in the 8th inning and still see Haren on the mound.
Wednesday’s game is being started by either Hisanori Takahashi or Garrett Richards. Keith Law mentioned on Twitter that Richards was being called up, and it is presumed that he will be making the spot start rather than Takahashi. Let’s quickly preview both pitchers, just in case Richards is not in fact tapped for the start. Takahashi is a lefty who has been a reliever all year, and has a 4.15 FIP in 48.1 innings. He has walked 3.54 batters per 9 innings, and has been bitten by the home run bug (6 allowed). He throws a fastball, a slider, and a change, with the latter being his only really effective pitch. He has a reverse platoon split this season, but overall seems to be about equally decent against righties and lefties.
As for Richards, I do not know much about him, but John Sickels wrote about him just a few days ago:
Richards has spent all of 2011 with Double-A Arkansas, with strong results: a 12-1 record, 3.04 ERA, with a 98/39 K/BB in 136 innings with 111 hits allowed. He’s posted a 1.27 GO/AO and allowed eight homers. He’s been especially sharp lately, going 7-0, 2.42 in his last 11 starts, with a 58/16 K/BB in 78 innings and 63 hits allowed.
A 6-3, 215 pound, 23 year-old right-hander, Richards works with a 91-94 MPH sinking fastball, topping out at 95-96. His secondary pitches are a slider, curveball, and changeup. All three show promise, but all three were very erratic in college and have gradually improved in pro ball. Texas League reports confirm this steady improvement, but the fastball remains his bread-and-butter. His control is generally quite good, and his command has improved: keep in mind that control (throwing general strikes) and command (hitting your spots within the strike zone) are not the same thing. Some scouts question his mechanics and worry that his delivery places stress on the shoulder, but so far he’s been very durable.
Thursday’s contest, the lone day game in the series (1:05 start time) is being started by Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood is a rookie who has not been very good at all, with a 4.48 FIP in 123 IP. While that seems far from atrocious for a rookie, his peripherals are not encouraging, with a 4.83 K/9 narrowly outstripping a 4.32 BB/9. Chatwood does not miss bats and puts plenty of people on, with the only saving grace being his decent ground ball rate. Chatwood lives off his fastball, which he throws at 93, and also has a curveball and a changeup. The Yankees should feast on this sort of pitcher, which of course means that he will pitch 7 innings of shutout ball.
I have no inclination to actually predict outcomes, as we all know that you cannot predict baseball, Suzyn. But I will point out that the pitching matchups favor the Angels tonight, with Burnett facing Haren, and then the advantage swings to Nova and Colon against Richards/Takahashi and Chatwood. With the series being in New York and the Angels struggling to score runs, the Yankees need to take at least 2 out of 3 from their scrappy, aggressive, annoying nemesis from the West coast.
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