Tempe Angels Clinch First-Half Title

The Tempe Angels have clinched the Arizona League’s first-half title, which means they’ll play in the title game August 31. Tempe is currently 20-7 (.741) with a three-game lead over the Mesa Cubs and Surprise (a town, not an exclamation) Rangers. The Angels knocked off the Rangers yesterday 11-5, clinching the first half.

Tempe isn’t a team loaded with “name” top prospects. Their best hitter is first baseman Chris Garcia, who’s repeating the league after splitting 2007 between Tempe and Orem. Garcia was selected in the 15th round of the June 2007 draft out of St. Petersburg College — which means he was yet another Tom Kotchman signing.

Garcia’s current AVG/OBP/SLG are .418/.519/.537. Out of 28 hits, five are doubles and one is a homer. Yet he walks more than he strikes out — a SO:BB ratio of 12:13 in 67 AB — which fits in nicely with the Angels’ “Contactball” style of play.

Third baseman-center fielder Terrell Alliman is a Canadian selected in the 43rd round of the June 2007 draft. Milwaukee drafted him in 2006 out of high school, but he went on to community college. Alliman’s numbers are .368/.419/.487, but again there’s not much power so far. Alliman has five doubles and two triples in 76 AB but no homers.

Infielder Kevin Ramos is 10th in the AZL in slugging percentage at .542, the only Tempe Angel in the league’s Top 10. Ramos, a Panamanian, turned 22 on June 6 which is pretty old for this league; he’s 15 months younger than Brandon Wood, to give you a contrast. But Ramos also plays Contactball — in 72 AB, he has a 6:4 SO:BB ratio. He also seemed a pretty savvy ballplayer to me. When I was in Tempe, he was standing on second when the Peoria Padres pitcher went into a stretch. The pitcher was ignoring him, so Ramos just took off for third and made it standing up. You can see Kevin steal third in the July 22 Game #1 video link.

The Mesa Cubs lead the AZL in homers with 30. The Angels have 7. Yet the Angels are second in runs scored, 186 to the Cubs’ 212. Tempe generated runs by doing what we always do — play Contactball. The Angels have the fewest strikeouts in the league, tied with the Cubs. The Angels’ SO:BB ratio is 182:125, the Cubs’ is 182:115. But as you might suspect, the Angels are far more aggressive on the basepaths. The Angels’ SB:CS ratio is 50:14, while the Cubs’ is 28:15.

The Angels’ pitching staff is one of the best in the league. The team ERA is 3.64, second only to the Rangers at 3.37. We lead the league in strikeouts at 234 and our 1.29 WHIP — (Walks + Hits) / (Innings Pitched) — is the league’s best.

19-year old right-handed starter Manaurys Correa leads the AZL with a 1.59 ERA, in strikeouts with 50, and in innings pitched at 39 2/3. He’s walked only six.

Before he was sent to Rancho, 20-year old Alexander Torres had a 1.54 ERA in four starts and a 24:10 SO:BB ratio in 23.1 IP.

Tyler Chatwood, the Angels’ first 2008 pick in the 2nd round of the June draft, is still rounding into pitching shape but should be dominant as the second half comes to a close.

When I was with the team earlier in the week, it was so exciting to see them buy into Contactball at such an early stage in their careers.

Upstream, the Orem Owlz (23-13) finish their first half today with a 1/2 game lead over Casper. Orem’s game last night was suspended due to rain, and will be completed before today’s regularly scheduled game. If Orem wins both games today against Idaho Falls, they clinch the division. The Owlz were trailing 4-3 last night after four innings when the game was suspended. If the Owlz lose one of the games, it gets murkier unless Casper loses to Ogden. Should the Owlz and Ghosts finish tied, Casper gets the post-season nod because of their superior record head-to-head.

The Salt Lake Bees remain comfortably in first place in the PCL’s Pacific North with a 63-44 record and a seven-game lead over Portland. Down in the Cal League, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes seem to be finally kicking into gear, with a 20-15 record and a one-game lead over Lancaster in the South Division.

And the parent club has the best record in baseball at 64-39. Their .621 pace projects to 100 wins, one better than the 2002 championship year.

For all the crap he took from fickle fans, press pundits and the statheads who blindly believed in Billy Beane, recently retired Angels GM Bill Stoneman deserves a lot more recognition and gratitude than he’s received. The Angels should be the early favorite for the Organization of the Year award. While other teams are out flushing prospects for a quick-fix, the Angels just sail along in first place, protecting their prospects for the future. They’re able to do that because Bill Stoneman was smart and patient, while his critics were neither.  Beane, meanwhile, is dismantling his roster to replenish a farm system depleted by his failed Moneyball theories. The A’s should sink below the .500 mark any day now.

From top to bottom, the Angels are a finely-tuned organization, a business model left behind by Stoneman.


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