Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blowpen Issues Aside, Halos Need New-Look Lineup

Yes, yes, its a bit silly to argue for a re-arranged lineup after a 9-run outing against the Minnesota Twins, but there is still so much room for improvement in that area.  I'm going to go down the lineups and examine the problems with where guys are hitting, and try to figure something else out.

Leadoff - Erick Aybar
If you have been reading this blog for longer than a few weeks, you know my sour opinion of our gold-glove shortstop.  Since his outrageous 2009 season, he has cooled off quite a bit at the plate.  A .266 Batting Average, a .313 On-base Percentage, and an average of 75 strikeouts (already has 3 this season in 5 games).  Those aren't good numbers for a lead-off hitter on an elite team (for example, Ian Kinsler has a .366 OBP and averages about 10 few strikeouts, plus more power, per season in that span), and Aybar has never been the most patient hitter, and when he tries to be, he ends up striking out even more.  The Angels don't really have a true option here (Peter Bourjos is also a bit of a free-swinger, but has better speed).

2nd - Howie Kendrick
Yeah, this is about as appropriate a spot as any in the Angels Lineup.  Kendrick has a good mix of speed, power and patience to be a perfect 2-hole hitter on this club.  It's pretty clear now he won't be winning any batting titles in the near future, but he is still a great guy to have on a club, and hitting in this spot.

3rd - Albert Pujols
The best hitter in baseball should probably hit where the best hitter on your team is supposed to hit.  Especially with the early power outage, if Pujols can just get on for Hunter and Morales behind him, this is going to be his best spot.

Clean-up - Torii Hunter (Lefties)/Kendrys Morales (Righties)
Here is my problem with the current Angels lineup, they have 3 #5 hitters, and a guy who gets paid like a Clean-up Hitter, but hits like a #8 hitter.  Hunter shouldn't be the source of power and protection for Pujols. There is nothing that strikes fear into a pitchers eyes about Hunter.  I love having him on the team, and he is a great clubhouse guy, but he should never be the clean-up guy, especially at his age.  Morales seems like the clear choice here, but his struggles against lefties can be a concern.  I say leave him in to clean-up against everyone, and on his day's off, have Trumbo DH and hit clean-up, just to see what he can do in that spot.

5th - Vernon Wells/Mark Trumbo/Torii Hunter/Kendrys Morales
Vernon Wells should never see the top half of the lineup ever again, even with his solid game offensively today.  If you've been watching him all season, you know that is going to be the exception, not the rule.  Mark Trumbo seems like a natural fit to hit 5th in any lineup with that mammoth power (and tendency to strike-out).  My problem with Hunter hitting here is that, again, he doesn't quite have the power to put any fear into the pitcher.  You can just put Morales on and wait for Hunter to strike out or ground into a double play.

6th - Mark Trumbo/Vernon Wells/Kendrys Morales
This spot can go a number of ways, the Angels haven't been getting a ton of production out of the 6 spot (with the exception of the few times Morales has been there), and that could change if you slip Torii Hunter down here.  He isn't going to win any batting titles or silver sluggers, but Hunters still a solid hitter who could give you .275/20 HR/75 RBI hitting in the right situation, I think that situation is 6th.

7th - Alberto Callaspo/Mark Trumbo/Vernon Wells
If you are going to have Callaspo in the lineup, this is the perfect place to have him.  The Angels likely want to continue to use him on a pretty regularly basis, and with good reason (Trumbo has had his fair share of struggles defensively at third base).  His bat can be a bit streaky, but knows how to hit with guys on base.  Vernon Wells should probably hit here if Callaspo is getting the night off.

8th - Chris Iannetta
Yeah, this seems pretty perfect.  Iannetta isn't going to rock anyone's world, but he has probably been our best hitter with RISP this season, and hitting 8th, there is a good chance you will have plenty of guys on base throughout the course of the season.

9th - Peter Bourjos
Again, I can't complain too much here.  He had 124 strikeouts this year, but he also can also round the bases in 14 seconds (in a home run trot from home to first, mind you).  He has the speed of a lead-off hitter, but until he learns the patience of one, he is perfectly suited in the 9th spot.

Now, in a perfect world, here is what he Angels lineup will look like when take on the Minnesota Twins again in the beginning of May:

SS - Erick Aybar
2B - Howie Kendrick
1B - Albert Pujols
DH - Kendrys Morales
3B - Mark Trumbo
RF - Torii Hunter
CF - Peter Bourjos
C - Chris Iannetta
LF - Mike Trout

Yeah, that would be pretty outstanding.  The Angels will have cut or traded Bobby Abreu, moved up Mike Trout from AAA (where he is hitting over .400 with a Home Run, a Triple, 4 RBI and gets on base in nearly half his plate appearances.), and have him in the starting lineup over Wells, who becomes the new 4th outfielder.  Bourjos moves up thanks to his ability to hit into the gaps (and occasionally out of the park) and Trout will hit 9th until he shows he can put up those all-star numbers in the bigs.

Now, if we can get a decent bullpen, we might actually be able to hold the leads that amazing lineup would put up.


Things might be getting worse for the Bullpen.  Scott Downs, who left today because of an injury to his left ankle, and is one of our more consistent relievers, might be missing some time.  Nothing wrong internally (so it seems so far), but he was walking around with crutches.  Likely will be seeing some time on the 15-Day DL.

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