2009 MLB American League West Notebook
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's 9-12 record for April snapped a string of 15 consecutive months where they played .500 or better.
It's pretty easy to see why. Their pitching is really floundering, especially in the bullpen. Closer Brian Fuentes has five saves and has looked really rocky doing it with a 5.63 ERA. The ever reliable Scot Shields has really hit the skids. In his first 11 games, he has 8.04 ERA with 10 walks. That's just staggering for a guy who has a career 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Meanwhile long man Justin Speier has been nothing special with a 5.00 ERA, and he just took the loss on April 30 in New York. Then there's Jose Arrendondo who was thought to be the heir apparent closer until the Angels signed Fuentes. Arrendondo is now used in the seventh inning in set up mode. He really hasn't set up anything. Right-handed hitters are torching him at a .368 clip.
Truth be told, the Angels aren't missing many bats these days, either. Opponents are batting .297 against them. That ranks second to last in the American League.
The young pups in the starting rotation -- Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Dana Eveland and Brett Anderson -- have hung in there through the first month of the season.
Between them, they carry a respectable 4.31 ERA. By today's standards, that isn't bad at all. Remember the quality start (6 IP, 3 ER) is a 4.50 ERA. The front office is hoping these guys will develop as the year goes along in a wide open division race.
Before the season started, the four had combined to win only 17 games. Cahill and Anderson never pitched in the big leagues until this year, Braden had six wins prior to this season while Eveland was the "veteran" with 11 wins prior to this season.
And the A's have had to live with some command issues. Between the four, they have walked 47 and struck out 51. Cahill has had the most problems with 15 walks and only seven strikeouts.
It's getting to the point with the Mariners' offense that if somebody does walk, that's news. That was the case when Ichiro Suzuki drew an intentional walk against the White Sox earlier in the week. It was the first by a Seattle leadoff hitter this season.
But the Mariners aren't showing much patience at the plate. Going into their weekend series with Oakland, they were last in the league in drawn walks with 52. Thus, that doesn't help when the team on-base percentage is a really poor .311 -- last in the American League -- and the team batting average of .262 is running 13th in the AL.
Their walk leader is the hometown hero Ken Griffey Jr. with 13. But Jr.'s only hitting .200.
It really looked like Andruw Jones' career was about to go into the abyss. He had little choice but to sign a minor league contract with the Rangers on Feb. 11.
He wasn't guaranteed a roster spot, but he played his way on to the squad. Jones also isn't guaranteed every day playing time. But he's making the most of his opportunity. Through his first 11 games, Jones is hitting .344 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. The three home runs already equal his home run total last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And this was one of the games best players. He hit 368 home runs in his first 11 seasons and won 10 Gold Gloves with the Atlanta Braves.
Jones has played some outfield and DH. Injuries and his refusal to shorten his long swing made him an easy target for pitchers. Working with Rangers hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo has appeared to revive the career. He has walked more times (11) than struck out (9).
And he's playing pretty solid defense, but he has been put in left field instead of his trademark center field. Of course, injuries have slowed him down.
It will be interesting to see how Jones continues on this season.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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