January 27, 2010

There's something about Joe

I’m predicting big things for Joe Saunders in 2010. I know that’s probably not a big surprise since I’ve gone on record several times to tell you all that I’m a huge Joe Saunders fan. Never-the-less, in this case I’m not just saying things just to say it.

Fact is I expect big things out of the rotation as a whole. I’ve already gone over my thoughts on Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir. Now it’s time to pump up the volume on Joe.

Look we’ve already seen glimpses of what he can do. He had an all-star season in 2008 and had he not been injured last year, he probably would have duplicated and possibly even improved upon that effort in 2009. Not being able to get full extension in his shoulder was a major contributor to his struggles. That’s not an excuse; that’s just the way it is.

Even still, we saw some good stuff from Joe last year; like the night he bested CY Young award winner Zack Greinke with a complete game, 1-0 shut out on May 9, 2009. You know what I loved about that game? Joe’s reaction when he won. When the game ended, Joe had that “boy that was fun” look on his face. It wasn’t a “look at me, I’m the great K-Rod demonstration;” it was more along the lines of “how about that” as he slapped his glove in celebration.

I loved it. Cheryl (my wife) loved it. He bested one of the top notch pitchers in the game. I’m sure I was yelling “that’s what I’m talking about!”

That night was vintage Joe. That was a guy with quiet confidence finding his way into the spotlight organically. He was just doing his thing and having fun doing it. You have to love that.

If you’re not a Joe Saunders fan yet, stick around – you will be.

He’s not the kind of guy who grabs headlines. Guys who pitch to contact rarely are, but let me tell you – Joe’s got game. I’ve lamented plenty of times about the great season he had in 2008 when he lead the Angels starters in wins and ERA. If he’s healthy (and I’m assuming he will be) I see no reason why he can’t get back to having another season like the one in 2008.

Now, I may be in the minority in that thinking, as people like Bill James seems to disagree. He projects Saunders to go 10-10 with a respectable 4.15 ERA and a FIP of 4.41. Most projections have him improving on his 2009 season, but none appear to have him coming close to what he did just two years ago.

I mean 10-10? Really? Someone get Vegas on the line, I need to put down a bet.

Joe is all of 28 years old and I believe he’s about to enter into the prime of his career. He showed how good he could be when he came off the DL last season. In the 8 starts after coming off the DL on August 26, 2009 he gave up three runs just once, two runs five times, didn’t allow any runs once and gave up a run on one other start.

He was Smokin’ Joe Saunders during that stretch. He went 7-1 in those games. Yeah, yeah, I know wins aren’t necessarily the best indicator of pitching success. So relax, winning seven games is a good thing. Trust me on this.

I believe those last eight games were more indicative of Saunders’ ability than most of the prior games when he was battling injury. Now, I may be a Saunders homer, but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable assumption, do you?

Here’s another thought; Joe will most likely be the #2, #3 or #4 starter and that means he will usually be facing other #2's, #3’s and #4’s. I have to say; I like his chances against those guys on any given night. Now, I know schedules don’t always pan out that way, but it isn’t a reach by any means.

So there you have it. I’m expecting big things from Joe Saunders. The 2010 rotation is going to be something special. I believe they will push one another and that there will be a friendly competition to out do one another. These are young guys, with a great deal of confidence and talent. They may be the best 1-5 staff in the big leagues.

Even though there has been an influx of top-of-the-rotation type guys coming into the AL West; like Cliff Lee, Ben Sheets and Rich Harden joining the likes of Felix Hernandez, I’ll take the Angels starting five over any other five starters on any other given team in the AL West. Can I get a boo-ya?

Now… about that Maicer Izturis signing. I’ve read where some Angel fans are wondering if Izturis’ well-deserved three year, $10 million contract spells some sort of bad news for Howie Kendrick and/or Brandon Wood. Well, in a word – no. However, the fact that some fans are even thinking that way is a great indicator as to how good Izturis is.

Might Maicer as Rex Hudler would say, “has skills.” He’s an asset and the Angels were wise to lock him up for three years. He’s much more than a bench player; he’s a solid utility guy who will easily get 300-350 AB’s. He’s also a very…. (now, get ready for this because I’m going to use one of those phrases that drives some stat heads crazy)… a very “clutch” hitter. Ooh, I think I heard a couple of veins pop on some foreheads out there.

It was time to pay Izturis and that’s not a bad reflection on Kendrick or Wood; it’s a great reflection on Izturis’ value to the Angels. That’s it folks; so, let’s not get crazy.

By the way, some of you may have noticed that the guy I was hoping the Angels would sign to fill in for the role formerly played by Robb Quinlan; Chad Tracy was signed by the Cubs.

I’m still trying to figure out who will end up backing up Kendry Morales at 1B. Izturis has 2B, 3B, and SS covered, but I can’t see a guy who’s all of 5’8” backing up Morales. So, who’s still available?

Well, there’s Hank Blalock (a popular choice among Angel fans); however, I think he’s a train wreck defensively and hits enough bombs to probably warrant a full time DH job somewhere else. Perhaps someone like Ryan Garko (who went to Servite High School in Anaheim) could fill that role.

Oh and before anyone brings it up (actually I’m too late on this), let’s just say “NO” to bringing back Darin Erstad for that role. I think there’s some kind of unwritten rule about guys who take out ads in the local paper to thank the fans when they leave, not being able to come back to that team. Those kind of good-byes are final, even though it was a tremendous gesture on Erstad’s part.

By the way, I’m still waiting for one of those from the guy who went to Boston, but I’m not holding my breath.

One last thing... today is my late father's birthday. I miss him more than words can say. I know he would have loved this blog.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. The Saunders/Greinke duel last year was one of my favorite games of the season. Joe absolutely stepped up and pitched a gem.
    I agree that he seems to be very undervalued. As a whole I think the pitching staff is solid and barring injury they'll give us a good chance to win each night out. I just worry that if we make the playoffs, we'll run into the same problem we've had for years, no stopper/ace/stud at the front to lead us. Time will tell if Weaver can get to that level or close.

  2. James. As a fellow 514 Fanatic I never was aware you and Cheryl were Joe Saunders fans. I am quite surprised. He should dominate pitching in the 3 spot of the rotation. I hope we will get to see him match up against the "bootlicker" and pummel him in his Fenway Park. Izzy clutch? Of course he is! Glad we have him. Yes, I'm one that believes Hank Blalock would be a fine backup on the infield corners, fielding is adequate but his agent will bore us.