The lineup is a bit in flux after the winter departures of three pieces of the Angels' 2009 everyday order. Manager Mike Scioscia may not run as much without treasured leadoff hitter and base-stealer Chone Figgins. However, the team remains versatile, and the skipper has always believed in his aggressive tactics.
Inexplicably, but importantly, Angel Stadium has encouraged flyballs ... at the expense of line drives. The batting averages on balls in play for many Angels have been lower than the mean. It also decreases the value of flyballs hit there, especially because the park consistently suppresses home run totals.
Role adjustments will be important considerations this season. Either Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis or perhaps Howie Kendrick stands to move up in the order to fill the void left by Figgins; Brandon Wood is expected to take Figgins' place at third base and will bat near the bottom of the order.
Losing John Lackey hurts, but the Angels still have a bevy of talented starters. The team's philosophy is to give up the occasional strikeout opportunity in the name of avoiding walks, and free-agent newcomer Joel Pineiro fits perfectly into that paradigm.
Scioscia is generally more relaxed than most managers in his restrictions of his pitchers in terms of pitches per start. That's in spite of usually having one of the better bullpens in the AL, although that rep took a hit last year.
Scioscia has relied on one man as his closer, but he hasn't hesitated to give him a night off. Brian Fuentes may have shaken his manager's confidence more so than any of Scoscia's past horses, though, which spells trouble because of the presence of newcomer Fernando Rodney.
This team can glove it. Bobby Abreu can be rough in right field, but Juan Rivera is more than adequate in left. Torii Hunter is still as good a defensive outfielder as can be found west of the Mississippi River, which balances any of his mates' shortcomings. Wood is not the wizard Figgins was at the hot corner, but alongside the highly adept Aybar and the solid Kendrick and Izturis, he should adjust.
The difference between Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli as defensive catchers is so large that Scioscia began giving Mathis regular at-bats despite Napoli's far superior offensive skill set. Because Scioscia is himself a former catcher, the smart money says that trend will continue.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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