Report Card: Infield …
We’re in purgatory here. The Angels’ season is over, but the postseason is ongoing — and wow, what a postseason it’s been — while the offseason remains on hold. So, let’s look back, shall we? Through October, I’ll hand out individual letter grades from the 2012 regular season, starting with the infield, then the outfield, starting rotation and bullpen, respectively.
Here goes …
Chris Iannetta, C
2012: .240/.332/.398, 9 HR, 79 G
2007-11 avg: .234/.357/.433, 12 HR, 87 G
Jerry Dipoto said it perfectly as the season was winding down: “I think it’s an absolute shame that Chris had to deal with the injury he had to deal with, because what we’ve seen since Chris came back from the disabled list is Chris Iannetta.” Iannetta was sidelined from May 8 to July 29 due to right wrist surgery and a right forearm strain. But shortly after his return, he was, as Dipoto said, Chris Iannetta, batting .279 in his last 35 games, working deep counts in the No. 9 spot, building a good rappport with the pitching staff, catching almost every day and, shortly after the season’s end, earning a three-year, $15.55 million extension.
Albert Pujols, 1B
2012: .285/.343/.516, 30 HR, 105 RBI
2001-11 avg: .328/.420/.617, 40 HR, 121 RBI
It seems there are two drastic perspectives you can have on Pujols’ season. (1) Positive … Pujols’ final numbers were very solid, and awfully close to that .300-30-100 threshold that was automatic for 10 straight years, despite a brutal first four weeks. Next year, he’ll be more comfortable with American League pitching and less desperate to make a good first impression, allowing him to get off to a good start and do even better. (2) Negative … For a third straight year now, Pujols’ numbers have dropped. And this year, while battling a sore right calf that prompted him to miss a week and played a big part in those 34 starts at DH, he seemed another step slower and a tad less athletic. In January, he’ll be 33, and he’s owed $228 million over the next nine seasons.
But we’re not projecting forward just yet. Pujols was a big contributor this year. And that’s all we’re looking at right now.
Howie Kendrick, 2B
2012: .282/.325/.400, 8 HR, 14 SB
2010-11: .282/.325/.434, 14 HR, 14 SB
Kendrick, in tune with practically the rest of the offense, struggled mightily at the start of the year, batting .257 through the first two months. But as the year ensued, Kendrick started to produce, and in the end — GIDP frustrations aside — he gave the Angels what they expected when they signed him to a four-year extension in January. It seemed to be a rather quiet production, though. Probably because Kendrick was a lot more comfortable batting sixth (.305 BA) and seventh (.322) than second (.273) and fifth (.242).
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
2012: .252/.331/.361, 10 HR, 53 RBI
2009-11: .285/.341/.404, 9 HR, 58 RBI
Callaspo was way down from his .288 batting average and .366 on-base percentage from last year. But on a team that gets its power from several other positions, and saw the Mark-Trumbo-at-third-base experiment end rather quickly, Callaspo made himself serviceable by playing solid defense and working good at-bats, his 56 walks ranking second only to Mike Trout on the team. Down the stretch, with Trumbo relegated to the No. 8 spot, it was Callaspo who was counted on to bat fifth.
Erick Aybar, SS
2012: .290/.324/.416, 8 HR, 20 SB
2009-11: .280/.327/.391, 7 HR, 22 SB
As Aybar struggled through the first couple of months of the season, batting below the Mendoza Line as late as May 18 while making an inordinate amount of errors, the 28-year-old switch-hitter seemed to keep cool. Asked if lingering contract talks — finally resolved via a four-year extension in April — or mechanics, or pressing was an issue? He shrugged. “I always struggle early,” he said. It’s not that he wanted to struggle, of course. It’s just that he’s been down this road before. In the second half, he showed why there was no reason to panic, batting .326 and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.