December 29, 2009

True Grich's Angels All-Decade Team

As the decade comes to a close I thought it would be a fun exercise to pick the Angels All-Decade Team. As I started this process, I found myself picking players mainly from the 2002 squad, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, that team had a nucleus of players who were a part of the organization for a good part of the decade and contributed to the team’s overall success to start the new millennium.

To make things more interesting, I thought I would pick a team based on the best single season performance of a given player. What’s the big deal? Well, it means Darin Erstad’s performance as a left fielder in 2000 trumps any season by Garret Anderson, who gets left off the all-decade team. Now any knowledgeable Angel fan knows Anderson is one of the all-time Angel greats; however, based on my criteria he’s being left off the squad.

So here we go…

At first base – Kendry Morales. Morales put up monster numbers in 2009. Morales’ 34 homeruns, 108 RBI’s, .306 batting average with a .924 OPS were absolutely stud-like. It even beats Mo Vaughn’s 2000 season even though Vaughn had more homeruns and RBI’s; Vaughn struck out 64 more times than Morales and actually led the league with 181 strike outs. Ouch. His OPS was also 70 points lower.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think I could live with myself if Mo Vaughn ended up on my list. More ammo for Morales - he had a slightly better fielding percentage in 2009 than Vaughn did in 2000 and to top things off Morales finished 5th in the AL MVP voting. That’s good enough to get the top spot at first base for the True Grich Angels All-Decade Team.

At second base – Adam Kennedy gets the nod for his 2002 season; easily his best as an Angel. That year Kennedy hit .312 with a career best .795 OPS. His three homerun performance in the ALCS that year doesn’t hurt his case either. Kennedy’s competition - Howie Kendrick is a fine player and may ultimately have a better career, but for this decade Kennedy is The Man.

Third base is a contest between two contrasting players in Troy Glaus (who was known for his power) and Chone Figgins (who is known for his speed). True Grich gives the nod to Troy Glaus for his 2000 season. There’s an old commercial touting “chicks dig the long ball” and well, True Grich digs them too. In 2000 Glaus lead the league with 47 homeruns and had an outstanding 1.008 OPS. He also made his first all-star team and captured his first of two Silver Slugger Awards.

I suppose one could make a case for Figgins’ 2005 season when he lead the league with 62 stolen bases or his 2009 season when he scored 114 runs and lead the league in walks with 101, but Glaus’ overall performance in 2000 still beats him in my opinion. Glaus even walked 112 times (which bests Figgins' 2009 total) in 2000 and didn’t even lead the league.

This past decade gave us three shortstops in David Eckstein, Orlando Cabrera and Erick Aybar. No question, the sentimental favorite is Eckstein, but who had the best single season? Erick Aybar’s 2009 season pales by comparison to both Eckstein and Cabrera’s best years; however, it’s very close between the latter two. Cabrera’s best season as an Angel was clearly 2007. He posted his best OPS as an Angel at .742, scored 101 runs, drove in 86 and won a gold glove. Cabrera made three fewer errors than Eckstein while handling 47 more opportunities.

Eckstein’s 2002 season bests Cabrera’s OPS with a .752, and he scored more runs 107 while driving in a respectable 63 runs from the lead off spot. Then there are the intangibles… Yeah, that’s right; I’m playing that card and giving the edge to Eckstein. Eckstein was the catalyst in the Angels drive for a world championship. Eckstein had a knack for getting on base when the Angels’ needed him to do exactly that. Known for his ability to make pitchers throw a lot, he saw 3.69 pitches on average per at-bat compared to Cabrera’s 3.39. True Grich’s Angels All-Decade Shortstop is David Eckstein.

When comparing catchers, you almost have to compare Bengie Molina to the tandem of Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli. For the record I compared the 2008 season of Mathis/Napoli to Molina’s 200e season.

Offensively, Napoli alone bests Molina in most categories; however, defensively neither holds a candle to Molina who won gold gloves in 2002 and 2003. In 2003 Molina made only 5 errors compared to 13 by Mathis and 7 by Napoli. Molina threw out 44% of those attempting to steal a base against him. That’s a number that neither Mathis nor Napoli has ever come close to matching.

In 2003, Molina hit14 homeruns with 71 RBI and a .281 batting average. Molina drew fewer walks than Napoli/Mathis, but didn’t strike out nearly as much.

Molina was #1 in our programs and #1 in our hearts and is easily the True Grich Angels Catcher of the Decade.

Right field was the home of Mr. Angel, Tim Salmon for many years and although Salmon had some fanatic seasons his best of the decade (2000) pales to Vlad’s 2004 MVP season. Had I been able to include Salmon’s 1997 season in this analysis, the decision might have been closer, but Vlad was absolutely huge in 2004.

Vlad lead the league in total bases with 366. He also led the league in runs scored with 124. He was an all-star and a Silver Slugger Award winner. He pounded 39 homeruns and drove in 126 runners. He even stole 15 bases. (Salmon’s career high was 9). He will best be remembered for putting the Angels on his shoulders during the last two weeks of the season and propelling them past the Oakland A’s for their first division title this decade.

I’m sure Range fans still have nightmares about what he did to their team that year.

Tim Salmon may be the best player in the Angels’ history, but the best Angels right fielder of this decade was Vlad Guerrero, hands down.

Centerfield is a position for the rock stars of baseball. It’s the position most likely to make ESPN’s “web gems” and a place where legends are made. The Angels have a long history of great centerfielders going back to Devon White, Chad Curtis, Jim Edmonds, Gary Pettis and others. This decade started with Garret Anderson in CF in 2000, and then saw the emergence of Darin Erstad as a Gold Glover, the debacle that was Steve Finley, the return of Anderson to CF in 2004 and the arrival of the incredible Torii Hunter.

Sorry Ersty fans, but one of the grittiest players to ever wear an Angels' uniform doesn’t make the cut here. Erstad’s offensive numbers just weren’t impressive enough and his intangibles didn’t quite make up the difference either.

The competition for centerfielder of the decade comes down to Anderson’s 2000 season and Hunter’s 2009 season. As good a season as Hunter had this past year, it could have been even better had he not been injured for part of it. That being said, he did win a gold glove and was getting MVP mentions early on.

Anderson had a wonder campaign in 2000 with a career high 35 homeruns, 117 RBI and .286 batting average. He also scored 92 runs, but his on base percentage was only .307 (he only walked 24 times). In 2009 Hunter walked more than twice that in far fewer games and had an OBP of .366 and a superior OPS of .873 to .827. In 2009 Hunter added an all-star appearance and a Silver Slugger Award. He continued being a human highlight film and covered centerfield with authority.

The True Grich Angels Centerfielder of the Decade is none other than Torii Hunter.

Anderson’s 2000 season was far from his best (he had better years in left field); but ironically 2000 was Erstad’s best, only he was playing left field. Even though Anderson had some great years in left field, especially in 2002 and 2003 when he lead the league in doubles, no other Angel performance compares to what Erstad did in 2000.

Erstad not only wins the True Grich Angels Leftfielder of the Decade award, he also wins the True Grich Angels Player of the Decade Award for his 2000 performance.

Erstad did it all in 2000. He won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award, was an all-star and finished 8th in the MVP balloting. He led the league in hits with 240. He stroked 25 homeruns and drove in 100. He had a career best .409 OBP and a career best .951 OPS. He also hit an astounding .355. He had 366 total bases (the same number Vlad had in 2004). He stole 28 bases and scored 121 runs. He probably also helped old ladies cross the street and pulled a cat or two out of a tree. If he had more time, he might have done some brain surgery as well.

Erstad was a one man wrecking machine. He could beat you with his bat, his glove or his legs and was far more compelling than the guy in the Dos Equis commercials.

There you have it. The True Grich All-Decade Team (based on their best individual single season):

1B – Kendry Morales
2B – Adam Kennedy
3B – Troy Glaus
SS – David Eckstein
C - Bengie Molina
RF – Vladimir Guerrero
CF – Torii Hunter
LF – Darin Erstad

Next time, we’ll take a look at the True Grich All-Decade Pitching staff.


  1. Nice job on the All-Decade team. As the Angels are an American League team... and the American League has a DH - I think you should be able to include a DH. Perhaps GA could be listed there even though he was not really a DH.

    But I think you should keep going and have the True Grich All-Decade team include the entire 25 man roster. Would love to see your starting pithers and relievers. Who would be on your bench? What about the True Grich All Decade Coaches?

    This is great! Keep it up.


  2. Thanks Jeffrey. I thought about doing the DH, but I want my picks to be authentic and be about specific seasons and specific positions. The only real DH the Angels had was Brad Fullmer and I chose not to do that. I will be doing the pitchers next, but the whole 25 man roster? I don't know about that.