Mickey Hatcher can put away the camera.
A year ago Wednesday, the Angels made a bit of history. On Aug. 18, 2009, they finished a 5-4 victory at Cleveland with an entire lineup of .300 hitters. All nine had at least 200 at-bats, the first time that had happened in a major-league game since the Tigers did it in September 1934.
Midway through the .300 game, the Angels' hitting coach noticed the numbers and sent a clubhouse attendant scurrying to find a camera and take a picture of the Angels' lineup (averages included) posted on the scoreboard at Progressive Field. Like a proud parent, Hatcher had copies of the picture made for each of his hitters, getting them to autograph one print as his own keepsake.
This year's lineup is much less photogenic.
"This year, I've got an all-.250 lineup," Hatcher joked. "Maybe I'll get a picture of that, too. You know -- 'Before' and 'After.'"
"How many years had it been?" Angels infielder Howie Kendrick asked, knowing it had been decades since a team fielded a full lineup of .300 hitters that deep in a season. "That's something that's special. You don't expect every guy to be at that level every year."
If anything, the expectation was for this year's team to get it done in a different way.
"More home runs," [Mike] Scioscia summarized.
Here are the players in that snapshot, with 1) their batting averages at that moment, 2) their career batting averages after the season, and 3) their 2010 batting averages:
Chone Figgins: .308 (Mariners)
Bobby Abreu: .310/.299/.266
Juan Rivera: .310/.285/.257
Vladimir Guerrero: .313 (Rangers)
Kendry Morales: .303/.283/.290
Torii Hunter: .307/.274/.290
Maicer Izturis: .300/.278/.249
Mike Napoli: .301/.256/.254
Erick Aybar: .313/.285/.271
One year ago, most of these guys were somewhat over their heads. Batting average-wise, anyway. Most everybody knew it wouldn't happen again. And really, Abreu and Rivera are the only guys on that list who might be classed as truly disappointing (again, average-wise). And Izturis, I suppose.
But there's another guy: Howie Kendrick. He wasn't in that lineup, and at the time didn't have impressive numbers. But he finished strong, with a .291/.334/.444 line at season's end. Which was roughly what he'd done in the previous two seasons. Between those numbers and Kendrick's .360 batting average in the minors, I figured he was a good hitter and bound to get better.
Instead he's regressed.
With the exception of Hunter, very little has gone right for the Angels' offense this season ... and yet they've done decently enough, eighth in the league in scoring despite losing Morales early on. Oh, and those home runs they wanted? They got them. The Angels are sixth in the league in home runs (they were eighth last year).
The Angels' pitching has actually been worse than their hitting. With the addition of Dan Haren, though, the Angels have four good starters. The bullpen's been just fair, but bullpens are the easiest thing to fix.
Their outfielders and their DH are getting old but their infield is young. They'll need to find another hitter this winter, but if Morales comes back strong there's no reason the A's can't, at the very least, make a decent showing next year.
(H/T: BTF's Newsstand)