ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Our buddy Mark Saxon at ESPNLosAngeles.com answered some questions about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, currently second in the AL West. He helps us size up this big four-game series at Angel Stadium.
Q: Give us your assessment of the club since the rangers last saw them a few weeks ago. What's going well? What's not?
MS: It's exactly the same. They pitch as well as anybody. Their fielding might be the best in the league, certainly in the outfield. Ervin Santana has been the best pitcher in the game for the last few weeks, which gives them a fearsome threesome with Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. The back end of the rotation, however, has started getting a little wobbly with two rookies holding it down in Tyler Chatwood and Garrett Richards. The offense, frankly, is awful most games. They rank 23rd in baseball in runs scored. The bullpen is hit-or-miss. It's not as deep as previous Angels bullpens, but generally is solid if the starter goes seven innings.
Q: Who has been the club's second half offensive MVP and why?
MS: Man, that's like saying who was Custer's MVP at Little Bighorn. It hasn't been pretty. They're hitting .223 or something since the break. Torii Hunter has been quite hot lately. Mark Trumbo has been the only guy driving the ball. But it's probably been Alberto Callaspo in terms of clutch hitting and consistency. That tells you all you need to know about this offense.
Q: Jim Bowden wrote recently that Peter bourjos was one of the more under the radar players in the AL. You agree? Give us a report on him. Is there anyone faster in the league?
MS: I think Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Info is about to launch an in-depth analysis of Peter's defense. I can tell you from watching him every day, I've never seen anything like it. He gets to balls you think he has no chance on and he typically runs good routes on more routine balls. He's probably the fastest guy in the AL (when Mike Trout's in the minors), but I've heard a couple guys in the NL have faster times. Combined with Hunter in right and Vernon Wells in left, it has been a big reason why Angels pitching is so much better. They have a lot of fly ball pitchers and last year made for a bad combination before Bourjos arrived.
Q: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers slated for this series?
MS: If it's Richards in the first game, you'll see him work a lot off a mid-90s fastball and gradually mix in a slider, curveball and changeup, which is still developing. He was nervous making his debut at Yankee Stadium and walked the first two guys before giving up a three-run homer to Curtis Granderson. Not the start to a debut you're looking for. Command is definitely the thing to worry about with him, but his stuff is well above-average.
Chatwood works with a power sinker and a curveball. He also is prone to wildness, which has been his undoing at times. He's probably a little bit above average for a fourth starter, but not much.
Santana has been unhittable lately. He's got excellent command, is getting tons of groundballs with his slider and is throwing as hard as he has in a few years, touching 97 mph.
I believe you're acquainted with Mr. Weaver from past conversations. He's coming off his worst start of the year, but I think it had something to do with the rust of working on seven days' rest. He was suspended six games for throwing at Detroit catcher Alex Avila.
Q: How has the Angels defense been?
MS: As I mentioned above, it's been great. Bourjos is the key to the outfield and Erick Aybar has been as solid (and occasionally spectacular) as any shortstop in the league. Howie Kendrick is a better second baseman than most people thought he would be and Maicer Izturis is a very smooth utility guy. The corners are just OK with Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo, but who cares?
Q: Anything else about the Angels and this series we should know?
MS: I think the schedules are worth checking out. The Rangers would do well to take care of business in these seven upcoming head-to-head games, because the Angels' schedule is soft through mid-September. They've got lots of series with the Orioles and Mariners coming up. If Texas doesn't win four of seven, at least, in this head-to-head games, I expect this thing to go all the way to the wire.