For one reason or another, Angel fans have been treated lately to the sight of Bobby Abreu striking out looking in the cleanup spot.
I say “one reason or another” because it is honestly impossible for a rational human being to decipher whatever stroke of madness has led Mike Scioscia to keep Abreu batting fourth.
I know this is a blog, and as such, I have a little license to fly off the handle here and there. But I prefer take a cold, statistical look at this mess.
Since July 1, Abreu has been one of the worst batters on the Angels, period. He is batting a paltry .155 over that period, and his coveted on-base percentage for that window is only .263. He amassed 16 hits and 10 RBI over that frame, as well. This is clearly not the Bobby Abreu Angel fans have come to know and love. And since he has struggled for so long, it’s clear Abreu is not quite right at the moment. The last place I would put Abreu is in the cleanup spot.
Slugger Vernon Wells is also languishing lately, averaging .207 at the plate with a .242 OBP since the beginning of July. At the beginning of that stretch, Wells was red-hot, blasting six home runs in the month of July. However, he has yet to belt one out since July 23. He has only hit one double since July 10. Despite all of Vernon’s recent struggles, Scioscia has deemed it appropriate to keep Wells batting fifth or higher in the lineup. Wells is certainly always a threat to launch one deep, but there are more consistent players available to take his spot in the meat of the order.
There are players like Mark Trumbo, who broke up a scoreless tie with a home run off Felix Hernandez Sunday. While he may not have a fantastic 2011 batting average at .261, he has been good enough at the plate to lead the Halos in home runs and runs batted in. From July 1 to the present, Trumbo’s figures are a little better: .268 BA, .303 OBP, 28 RBI, 9 HR.
He has gotten consistently better as the season progresses. Unthinkably, Trumbo has often been relegated to fifth or lower in the lineup while Abreu and Wells continue to kill rallies. His talent and ability to improve are far too valuable to waste. I’m sick of seeing Trumbo hit solo home runs. Give the guy an opportunity!
If Scioscia is bent on putting one of his overpaid veteran acquisitions into the cleanup spot, it seems like a no-brainer to let red-hot Torii Hunter take a whack at it. Hunter has been a maniac with the bat thus far in August, amassing 12 hits on his way to a six-game hitting streak. He has yet to ground into a double play this month, and he once led Major League Baseball in the statistic.
Scioscia will always and forever have a nearly unbreakable faith in his players, so it’s not surprising to see struggling veterans placed in such important spots in the lineup. He is giving his guys a vote of confidence, and nine times out of 10, it pays off. Don’t forget also that these older players are the highest-paid members of the club, so the team needs to get some payoff for its investments.
This, however, is starting to get ridiculous.
Abreu is on the tail end of his career, and it’s clear he can’t see the ball as well as he could in his prime. Wells is also on the down-slope of his career, so it makes more sense to give the young guys a taste of the big time.
With the stellar pitching staff Scioscia has fielded, there is plenty of wiggle-room to retool the offense in a big way. Until Scioscia puts talent over payroll, the Angels will continue to struggle offensively.