Halos add power to formidable repertoire
Known for their small-ball ways, long ball now a big threat
NEW YORK -- The familiar perception of the Angels is out of whack with the current reality.
Those Angels were about pitching, defense, speed, small ball and the occasional long ball, just to let the world know it was possible.
These Angels mash.
The pitching -- healthy and deep after five months of struggle -- and defense remain first-rate. And they still have a sprint relay team that wouldn't embarrass itself in the Summer Games.
But there's something new. Manager Mike Scioscia will send out a whole lot of muscle against CC Sabathia and his Yankees on Friday at Yankee Stadium at 4:57 p.m. PT in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
It might not be quite as lethal as the Bronx Bombers' modern-day murderers' row, but the Angels can bring the thunder as well as the lightning.
A look at comparative offensive numbers in their evenly-split 10 meetings this season reflects how the Angels have held their own with the power-laden pinstripes.
The Yankees out-homered the Angels, 15-9, but that's the only category where the Bombers prevailed in the season series.
The Angels scored more runs (65 to 55), hit for a higher average (.315 to .272), had a higher slugging percentage (.473 to .456) and a higher on-base percentage (.386 to .355).
The Angels' 173 homers this season were their most since 2000, when they hammered 236 bombs but finished only two games above .500.
Two years later, Scioscia unveiled a new offensive design in the spring, featuring aggressive baserunning and applying pressure as consistently as possible.
- 2009 Regular Season
- Overall: 19-8, 34 GS, 3.37 ERA, 67 BBs, 197 Ks
- Overall: 11-8, 27 GS, 3.83 ERA, 47 BBs, 139 Ks
- Key stat: 18 HRs in 230 IP
- Key stat: 7.1 Ks/9 IP
- Career: 3-3 6 GS, 3.54 ERA, 22 BBs, 32 Ks.
- Career: 3-3, 12 G (10 GS), 23 BBs, 43 Ks
- Against this opponent
- 2009: 0-2, 2 GS, 6.08 ERA, 4 BBs, 11 Ks. Career: 5-7, 14 GS, 4.72 ERA, 35 BBs, 66 Ks.
- 2009: 1-0, GS, 2.57 ERA, 3 BBs, 6 Ks. Career: 5-7,16 GS, 4.66 ERA, 42 BBs, 85 Ks.
- Loves to face.: Vladimir Guerrero, 3-for-15, 3 Ks.Hates to face: Maicer Izturis, 5-for-10, 2 RBIs.
- Loves to face: Alex Rodriguez, 9-for-51, 23 Ks. Hates to face: Derek Jeter 15-for-44, 5 RBIs
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Big game pitcher
- Why he'll win: Won't be phased by moment
- Pitcher beware: The Angels have owned the Yankees
- Pitcher beware: Facing potent offense
- Bottom line: Go deep into game
- Bottom line: Can't fall behind
It paid off in the Halos' 2002 World Series title, with the Yankees going down in four games in the American League Division Series as the Angels scored 31 runs in four games, batting .376 with nine homers and four steals.
The Angels have continued to hold the upper hand against New York -- until this season. The two clubs were dead even, splitting 10 games, after the Yanks won three of the last four.
The Angels were only 1-3 at new Yankee Stadium, but their hitters have a history of lighting it up in the Bronx.
"We have a lot of guys who love playing in New York," leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins, a .327 career hitter against the Yankees, said. "Bright lights, big city, all that. It's a great environment to play in, and we enjoy the challenge.
"They're a great ball team. They have a lot of veterans and some young guys who can play. And they have some guys who can really pitch. But it's the playoffs, so you never know what's going to happen."
Scioscia has by his own definition the best rotation -- enhanced by the Aug. 28 arrival of Scott Kazmir -- he has showcased in his decade. John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and Kazmir are lined up, in that order, for the Yankees, with Ervin Santana adding a live arm to the bullpen.
The defense, featuring eight-time Gold Glover Torii Hunter in center field and Gold Glove candidates at third base (Figgins) and shortstop (Erick Aybar), has been steady and spectacular.
But make no mistake, it was the versatile offense, raising its on-base percentage from .330 to .350 largely because of the arrival of Bobby Abreu, that carried this club while the pitching staff was unhinged by injuries and tragedy (Nick Adenhart's death).
Emerging star Kendry Morales (34 homers, 108 RBIs) led the power parade that included five teammates with 15 or more homers, including Juan Rivera (25), Hunter (22) and Mike Napoli (20).
The Angels go first-to-third on singles more often than any team in the Majors, and it sets a dynamic tone.
The running game flows through Figgins and Abreu, who combined to produce 348 hits (183 by Figgins), 195 walks (101 by Figgins) and 210 runs (114 by Figgins).
Hitting second and third in the order, Abreu got the green light from Scioscia and took flight. His 30 steals were 12 fewer than Figgins.
Abreu, the ex-Yankee who reached $6 million in his one-year free-agent deal with incentives met, became the fifth man in history to combine at least 30 thefts with 100 RBIs in five seasons. The other four are three Hall of Famers (Hugh Duffy, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb) and one very recent figure of prominence, Barry Bonds.
Eight Angels hitters have batted .300 or higher in their careers against the Yankees, led by Howard Kendrick (.426, 108 at-bats) and Napoli (.407, 54 at-bats).
Batting .320, Vladimir Guerrero has 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 253 career at-bats against the Yanks.
The one Angels regular who hasn't flourished in the regular season against the Yankees -- Hunter -- has done his damage in postseason play.
A .235 regular-season hitter against the Yanks, Hunter was 12-for-31 (.387) with eight runs scored, two homers and four RBIs in eight playoff games against New York during his Twins days.
"We've had some success [against New York], but it was before I got here," Hunter said. "But I promise you, this Yankee team isn't worried about the past, just like we weren't worried about it when we played the Red Sox. You have to go out there and play the game."
Hunter, the emotional leader, spreads his mantra through the clubhouse: play with passion, purpose and intelligence, but have fun. Treat every game as an opportunity, not an obligation.
Enhanced by some new-found power, it seems to be working just fine.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.