The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, as penned by Kris Liakos.
You mighta read Ol' Robbie lamenting the fact that we don't know any Angels fans. It's true. I've been to about a dozen games at the Big A, and have always found the company of Angels fans to be pleasant. They're a knowledgeable sort, not easily risible and proud of their team through most ups and downs. They seem to be developing a bit of a complex regarding the Red Sox, my favored squad, but when I was out there last summer for a Sox/Angels series, everyone was gracious and still had a good sense of humor. More than I can say for myself or John Lackey, last fall.
But to know enough about the team to provide you with a useful playoff preview I decided I needed to go one of the aforementioned knowledgeable Angels followers. Unfortunately I found this Bill Dwyre column from the LA Times instead. But what the hell, it's late and no one else is gonna write this thing. We'll use Bill's bullet points about "what the Red Sox will come to town and face." To wit:
A smiling, articulate leader in center fielder Torii Hunter, whose glass is always half full and whose bat can hit for average and power.
It's true, Torii is one of the nicer players I've had the pleasure of meeting and everyone in America loves him. Sure he's having a nice season, but I never though opposing teams would have to account for his smiley optimism come crunch time. I have so much to learn.
An at-bat artist in right fielder Bobby Abreu, who also hits for average and power, but does neither until he has worn out the opposing pitcher while awaiting the exact pitch he wants. Abreu at the plate is like your wife, picking out carpet color for your living room.
Speaking of carpets it's pretty clear that Dwyre wrote this column after huffing some Scotch Guard. I have no idea what that last sentence means. It's true that Abreu is having a solid season, especially for his bargain basement one year deal. He's posting a higher OBP than he did in either of two full seasons with the Yankees, but Dwyre's "making the pitcher work" theory is kind of stale. His MLB rank in pitches per plate appearance is slipping. Assuming he gets plenty of time off now that the Angels have clinched, he'll also tally the fewest Total Bases of his career.
A first baseman in Kendry Morales, who has hit so well, and with such power, that he has Angels fans struggling to remember that Teixeira guy.
Psst... Bill. Mark Teixeira is the guy that's going to finish 2nd in the MVP voting. Still, Dwyre is correct if he's trying to say that the falloff in production at 1B after the loss of Teixeira is much much smaller than anyone was expecting during the offseason.
A legendary power hitter in Vlad Guerrero, who is not listening to those who say he is in the twilight of a long and distinguished career.
He can ignore it all he wants but that doesn't make any less true. I tried that with the restraining order my ex filed against me. I DON'T RECOMMEND IT, VLAD.
A reserve outfielder in Gary Matthews Jr., who has a big contract and a desire to be a regular again, to the point where he will most likely depart the Angels after the season, but who has gone out of his way to not poison a clubhouse with his personal unhappiness in the midst of a successful season.
Well that's gotta be the weirdest compliment I've ever read. The displeasure he expressed all the way back in spring never really reared its head in the clubhouse, and both times I was around the team this season he was quiet, but didn't seem particularly angry or distant from his teammates. So chin up Gary, someone is real proud of you for acting like an adult!
It will be interesting to say how much, if any, playing time Matthews gets in the playoffs. For the money they're paying him it would be nice if he could contribute some pop in even just a pinch hit situation, but with only 4 HRs this season in 302 ABs, his name won't exactly be jumping off the lineup card at Mike Scioscia.
And a starting pitching rotation of John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana that gives (Mike) Scioscia all the choices a manager could ask for when creating bullpen tactics for a playoff series.
Bullpen tactics, eh? With the 11th ranked bullpen ERA in the AL, the 11th ranked LOB% in the AL, and what is likely going to be the worst relief crew in the playoffs, his best bullpen tactic might be to have those 5 starters throw as many pitches as humanly possible.
Besides all of this I'm curious to see, and Dwyre doesn't mention this, is whether or not memories of last year's epic failed squeeze play will be fresh in Scioscia's mind and affect any of the decisions he makes this year. If you were to ask him that in a press conference you'd probably get socked in the nose before a litany of "that was last year" lines came from the Coach, but still it's something I wonder about.
But by all means, go forth to the playoffs intrepid Angels fans. If you weren't playing the Red Sox I'd probably be pulling for you a little. If you pull off what will be an upset regardless of regular season records, I'll go out of my way to not poison the atmosphere in my apartment. It's the least I can do.