As we are now four years removed from the Angels last postseason appearance, reflecting on the Angels teams that won five division titles and a World Series Championship in the 2000s, has a very warming effect. And now is as good a time as any, as the Halos are gearing up (Hamilton, Pujols, Wilson, etc.) for a possible return to their former glory days by reaching the postseason for the first time since 2009.
In the decade beginning in 2000 and ending in 2009, the Angels were perhaps one of the most successful organizations in all of baseball. During that 10-year span, the Angels went 900-720 with a .556 winning percentage while reaching October six times, the ALCS three times, and winning the 2002 World Series. In that span, many of the greatest Angels players of all time were active and productive. Some are even still enjoying success as Angels today (Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, and Jered Weaver), while players like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo are products of the Angels excellent drafts of the 2000s.
For the purpose of this exercise, I am going to name a 25-man roster consisting of the best Halos’ of the past decade. Players are judged by how much they contributed as a member of the Angels franchise during the years between 2000 and 2009, and longevity does provide a bonus. I will be listing nine starting position players, a 12-man pitching staff (five starters, seven relievers), as well as four reserve position players. The 2000s were the glory years of the Angels’ franchise, and here are some of the names that made it happen.
Catcher: Mike Napoli (2006-2010)
Before his breakout 2011 season with the Rangers, Napoli was a consistent power and on-base threat for the Halos. During his time as an Angel, Napoli was worth 10.1 WAR (8.4 when you exclude his 2010 season, which misses the cut-off). From 2006 to 2009, Napoli hit .256/.358/.493 with 66 home runs. He was a valuable asset for the Halos, and it’s a shame Mike Scioscia didn’t play him more (he didn’t crack 100 games in a season until 2008).
Bengie Molina and Jeff Mathis (yes, him) are the only other catchers of the decade worth mentioning. Molina won two gold gloves in his time as an Angel and caught for the 2002 World Series winning squad. Mathis never did anything with the bat (he never had a positive offensive WAR in his time as an Angel), but his defense more than lived up to its’ reputation, making him a personal favorite of Scioscia’s.
First Base: Scott Spiezio (2000-2003)
First base was a position with quite a bit of turnover later in the decade, but in the early years, Spiezio held the fort. Aside from his postseason heroics, Spiezio hit .268/.341/.446 as a member of the Angels and was a stable force in the Halos’ lineup for the better part of four years.
The Angels had four other guys who were at least worthy of a mention here. Mo Vaughn hit 36 home runs with 117 RBIs in 2000, his second and final season as an Angel. After being acquired from the Braves at the trade deadline in 2008, Mark Teixeira proceeded to hit .358/.449/.632 with 13 home runs and a 3.6 WAR in just 54 games, as he led the Angels to a second consecutive division title. Casey Kotchman, who was used to acquire Texeira, was worth 4.3 wins from 2004-2008. And Kendrys Morales enjoyed a monster 2009 season (.306/.355/.569 with 43 doubles, 34 home runs, 108 RBIs and a 4.0 WAR) in the final year of the decade.
Second Base: Adam Kennedy (2000-2006)
Second base was a pretty steady position for the Angels over the decade as Kennedy held it down until 2006, with Kendrick taking over in 2007. Kendrick is a deserving candidate here, but I’ll go with Kennedy who enjoyed the prime of his career as a member of the Angels and was a key cog in the club’s 2002 postseason run. During his seven-year run as the starting second baseman, Kennedy hit .280/.334/.398 with 16.5 WAR. He hit .300 twice, stole 15+ bases six times, and was arguably one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball at the time. Kennedy also hit .308/.317/.526 in 25 postseason games with the Angels. I also gave consideration to Maicer Izturis here.
Shortstop: David Eckstein (2001-2004)
Like first base, shortstop was a position of quite a bit of turnover in the decade. Eckstein, known for his impossible work ethic and small stature, came up and played the best years of his career with the Anaheim Angels. From 2001-2004, Eckstein was the primary shortstop and accrued 12.0 WAR. While he wasn’t outstanding with the bat (he was solid though), Eckstein was a whiz on defense. His intangibles embody the aura that surrounded the Angels during their title run.
Erick Aybar was the runner-up at this position (and was my last cut to the 25 man roster). Over the past couple of seasons, Aybar has emerged as one of the best shortstops in the game, but from 2006 to 2009, Aybar was an up-and-coming young big leaguer with the Angels. In his 2009, his first year as the full-time starter, Aybar hit .312 and had 3.2 WAR. Orlando Cabrera, who succeeded Eckstein and preceded Aybar, also got some consideration as he spent three seasons in the middle of the decade as the starting shortstop on playoff teams. Cabrera’s best season came in 2007 when he hit .301 with 20 stolen bases, 101 runs scored, and 3.9 WAR. Benji Gil and Maicer Izturis also spent time as the Angels shortstop during the decade.
Third Base: Chone Figgins (2002-2009)
Before signing his disastrous contract with the Seattle Mariners, Chone Figgins was, well, amazing. During his career as an Angel, Figgins was worth 20.8 WAR and hit an impressive .291/.363/.388. While playing for the Halos, Figgins scored 90+ runs three times, scoring a robust 113 and 114 in 2005 and 2009, respectively. He never stole fewer than 34 bases in a full season, and led the AL with 62 steals in 2005. He hit at least .290 five separate times including 2007, when he hit .330. Figgins had an OBP over .350 five times, making himself an ideal leadoff hitter. His phenomenal tenure as an Angel culminated in a monster 2009 season in which he hit .298/.395/.393 while leading the AL in walks and stealing 42 bases with 7.5 WAR.
This was probably the toughest decision for me, as Troy Glaus was just as deserving (I’ll go into more detail on him down below). The only other 3rd basemen worth mentioning are Brandon Wood and Dallas Mcpherson, only because they were each colossal busts. The Angels have actually been quite solid at third base for roughly the past decade, with Glaus, Figgins, and now Alberto Callaspo manning the hot corner. Top prospect Kaleb Cowart is waiting in the wings.
Left Field: Garret Anderson (1994-2008)
If Tim Salmon wasn’t Mr. Angel, then Garret Anderson probably would be. From 1995 to 2008, Anderson was a fixture in the Angels’ lineup, never playing less than 106 games in a season. While the metrics didn’t like him too much (23.6 WAR as an Angel), he stood out by traditional standards. Anderson was a doubles machine, collecting 30+ doubles 10 times, and 56 in 2002 alone. During his peak, from 2000 to 2003, Anderson averaged 194 hits, 46 doubles, 30 home runs, and 120 RBIs with an .843 OPS. He also made a trio of All-Star teams and won a pair of Silver Sluggers as an Angel. Anderson had no shortage of great Halo moments, including the 2003 Home Run Derby, his 10-RBI game, and his three-run double that led the Angels to victory in Game 7 of the ’02 fall classic.
Following Anderson’s move to Atlanta, Juan Rivera took over in left and provided some steady power, including 25 home runs in 2009. The Angels acquired Rivera in the Jose Guillen trade. After signing with the Angels in 2004, Guillen replaced Anderson (he moved to center) in Left field and hit 27 dingers and 104 RBIs.
Center Field: Darin Erstad (1996-2006)
Erstad holds perhaps the most defining moment in Angels history; he caught the final out in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. From 2000-2006, Erstad was worth just over 22 WAR, as he won three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and earned All-Star honors. Erstad was quite a threat on offense, but as those three Gold Gloves suggest, a ton of his value came on the defensive side of the ball. From 2003-2006 (when defensive runs saved were first recorded), Erstad combined to save roughly 25 runs on defense. In 2002, Erstad had 4.2 WAR on defense alone. dWAR is by no means a perfect measure of defensive ability, but that number still rates as the 5th best defensive season of all time since 1930.
In 2000, Erstad delivered what arguably might have been the greatest season ever by a Halo until Mike Trout showed up. In 2000, Erstad hit .355/.409/.551 with 121 runs scored, 39 doubles, 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, 28 steals, and a 8.8 WAR. He also had an astounding 240 hits that season.
Aside from Erstad, Garret Anderson spent a couple years in center. Steve Finley was the 2005 starter at age 40. The train-wreck that was Gary Matthews jr. played three seasons in Anaheim, and had an alright 2007 season (2.0 WAR) before unraveling. During the final two years of the decade, Torii Hunter made Angels fans forget about Matthews by making the 2009 All-Star team, winning two Gold Gloves, and the 2009 Silver Slugger. Hunter also produced an 8.1 WAR during those two seasons, hitting .287/.354/.485.
Right Field: Vladimir Guerrero (2004-2009)
The signing of Vladimir Guerrero was Arte Moreno’s first big mark on the organization. During his six years as an Angel, Guerrero left a significant impression on the Angels’ franchise and their fans. To this day, number 27 is one of the most common seen jerseys at Angel Stadium. From 2004-2009, Guerrero was one of the greatest offensive forces in the game, posting 22.6 WAR during his tenure in Anaheim. His 2004 MVP campaign immediately won over fans’ hearts, as he hit .337/.391/.598 with 124 runs scored, 39 home runs, 126 RBIs, and a 157 OPS+. He followed 2004 with seasons of OPS+ totals of 154, 138, 147, and 130 before tailing off to 107 in his final season with the Angels. Guerrero finished in the top three in MVP voting three times, made four All-Star teams, and won four Silver Sluggers as an Angel. Guerrero has a decent shot at the Hall of Fame, and if he doesn’t go in as an Expo, he could become the first player to wear an Angels cap on a plaque in Cooperstown. His name remains a common theme throughout the Angels’ record books, and with his talent, production, and abundance of memorable moments, Guerrero was the defining face of the franchise for the latter part of the 2000′s.
Following Guerrero’s departure to Texas, it should be noted that Bobby Abreu had a fantastic 2009 season to close out the decade. Abreu hit .293/.390/.435 with 15 home runs, 103 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in ’09. He followed that with a tremendous 2010, and a decent 2011 season before being released in April of 2012.
Designated Hitter: Tim Salmon (1992-2006)
Mr. Angel. The King Fish. Whatever you call him, Tim Salmon is the defining player of the Angels franchise. And although Salmon was on the downside of his career in the 2000s, he was still productive. In 2000, Salmon enjoyed one of the best years of his career, hitting .290/.404/.540 with 34 home runs, 97 RBIs, 104 walks, and 108 runs scored. He hit .262/.366/.437 in the following four seasons before he missed all of 2005 with injury. Salmon was on the downturn of his career following 2000, but he still managed to hit .286/.380/.503 in 2002 as he led the Angels to the World Series. Salmon had one last hurrah in 2006, playing in just 76 games while posting a 109 OPS+ before retiring. Tim Salmon embodies the Angels’ spirit, and this list would not be dignified without him.
Reserve: Bengie Molina (1998-2005)
Two of the three Molina brothers played for the Angels (Bengie and Jose) and each was a member of the 2002 squad. Bengie, who is probably the second most accomplished of the brothers (behind Yadier), won two Gold Glove awards in his time as an Angel as he was arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball at the time. He provided some pop with the bat as he hit .274 from 2000 to 2005 while also hitting double-digit home runs four times.
Reserve: Troy Glaus (1998-2004)
Glaus is without a doubt the best third baseman the Angels have ever drafted and developed. Glaus had a breakout year in 1999, but he really hit his stride as he entered the 2000s. From 2000 to 2004, Glaus averaged 30 home runs per season while hitting .258/.368/.524 with a 130 OPS+ and 18.7 WAR. He was truly dominant from 2000 through 2002 as he averaged 39 home runs and 107 RBIs per season in that three-year stretch. 2000 was arguably his best season as he hit .284/.404/.604 with 47 home runs and an astounding 7.5 WAR. His 47 home runs that season remain an Angels single season record.
Reserve: Howie Kendrick (2006-present)
While Howie Kendrick wasn’t the same guy we know and revere today, he was worth over 8 wins above replacement in the 4 years to close out the decade. He hit .302/.333/.434 during that span, including a .322 average in 2007, albeit in just 88 games.
Reserve: Maicer Izturis (2005-2012)
Izturis was the longest tenured active Angel before he signed with Toronto earlier this offseason. Izturis was never really a full-time starter, playing over 110 games just twice in his eight years with the club. However, he was the ultimate super utility man, playing left field, center field, second base, third base, and shortstop during his time with the Halos. From 2005-2009 he was worth 8.2 WAR and hit .283/.346/.398. He also provided value both on defense and on the base paths as he averaged 11 stolen bases per season. Izturis was a constant for the Angels, as he was a key player on four division winning teams.
Starting Pitcher: John Lackey (2002-2009)
Before he left Anaheim for a pile of money in Boston, and before Jered Weaver became the Angels’ ace, John Lackey was the man who ruled the roost of the Angels rotation for seven and a half years. All Angels fans know of Lackey’s spectacular five one-run innings in Game 7 of the ’02 Fall Classic, but did you also know that he had a 3.12 ERA in 14 overall postseason appearances with the Angels? In the Angels record books, he ranks fourth in career wins above replacement (31.3), fourth in wins (102), third in winning-percentage (.590), and fifth in both innings pitched (1,501) and strikeouts (1,201), easily making him one of the top pitchers in Angels history.
Lackey broke into the big leagues in 2002, making 18 starts during the regular season and putting up an adjusted ERA of 121. For the next four years (2003-2006), Lackey averaged 13 wins, 207 innings, 171 Ks, a 109 ERA+, and 3 WAR per season. He was quite a valuable pitcher, but he took a step to another level in 2007. That year, he went 19-9, leading the league in both ERA (3.01) and ERA+ (150), while posting 6 WAR in 224 innings. He made his only All-Star team and finished third in Cy Young voting that year. The final two years of his career in Halo red (2008 and 2009), Lackey struggled through injuries, averaging just 170 innings per year, compared to 211 over the previous 5. While he still averaged 2.5 WAR per season, he wasn’t pitching at the same level that he did in 2007, or even pre-2007, and he went on to post a mediocre year with the Red Sox in 2010 before collapsing in 2011. But as an Angel, John Lackey was a consistent bulldog for most of the 2000s and is the leader in almost every significant statistical category for the decade among pitchers.
Starting Pitcher: Jarrod Washburn (1998-2005)
It’s easy to forget just how good Washburn was in his days as a Halo, especially considering he settled into mediocrity once he left Anaheim for Seattle. From 2000 to 2005, Jarrod Washburn accumulated 65 wins, a 3.80 ERA (117 ERA+) and a 17.0 WAR in over 1,000 innings pitched. His brilliance peaked in 2002 (everything for the Angels seemed to click that year) when he went 18-6 with a 3.14 ERA (141 ERA+) and 4.3 WAR. Fangraphs rates Washburn as the 12th best pitcher in Angels history, and that seems pretty accurate.
Starting Pitcher: Jered Weaver (2006-present)
Before Weaver was the ace he is today, he was a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Angels in the late 2000′s. Weaver was electrifying when he first came up in 2006, going 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA (177 ERA+) and 4.6 WAR in just 19 starts. The next season, he came back down to earth, but was still productive, posting a 3.91 ERA and 2.5 WAR in 161 innings. In 2008, Weaver regressed slightly, pitching to the tune of a 103 ERA+ in 30 starts. The following year, Weaver began to mature into the rotation anchor he is today. In 2009, Weaver went 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA (117 ERA+) with 174 strikeouts and 3.2 WAR in 211 innings. All in all, Weaver’s 12.8 wins above replacement during the decade ranks fourth among all Angels starters.
Starting Pitcher: Kelvim Escobar (2004-2009)
Escobar only enjoyed brief success with the Angels, as he could only stay healthy for a full season in just two of his campaigns with the club. But during his four-season stint from 2004 to 2007, he was quite solid, collecting 13.2 WAR with a 125 ERA+. He was especially good in 2007, as he teamed up with Lackey to make one of the best 1-2 rotation punches in all of baseball. That year, he went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA, 4.7 WAR, and a 7.4 K/9 rate.
Starting Pitcher: Ervin Santana (2005-2012)
Santana enjoyed some decent success in the late 2000′s as he compiled 7.0 WAR, averaged 12 wins per season, and made an All-Star team. His 2008 was particularly great as he went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA, a 127 ERA+, and 214 strikeouts in 219 innings.
Bartolo Colon deserves a mention here as he did win the 2005 AL Cy Young award (although he was undeserving), which was only the second time that an Angel won the award. That season he went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 222.2 innings pitched. Ramon Ortiz enjoyed a solid three-year run from 2001-2003, averaging 15 wins, 202 innings, and a 4.40 ERA per season. Paul Byrd had a strong 2005 with the Angels as he logged a 3.74 ERA in 204.1 innings. While injuries hampered his run with the Halos, Aaron Sele was a reliable back-end starter from 2002 to 2004. Finally, Joe Saunders had a solid two-year stretch at the end of the decade for the Angels, making an All-Star team in 2008 while going a combined 33-14 with 4.7 WAR in 2008 and 2009.
Reliever: Brendan Donnelly (2002-2006)
Reliever: Darren Oliver (2007-2009)
Reliever: Ben Weber (2000-2004)
Reliever: Kevin Gregg (2003-2006)
Middle relief was definitely a position of weakness for the Angels during this decade. The front of the bullpen was a revolving door as 69 different pitchers made an appearance in relief between 2000 and 2009. Brendan Donnelly was one of the best as he was a focal point in the Halos’ bullpen for a five-year stretch beginning in 2002. As an Angel, Donnelly had an impressive 154 ERA+ and 6.7 WAR. His 2003 season was one of the better relief seasons in Angels history as he posted a 1.58 in 74 innings. He even made the All-Star team that year, something that is quite remarkable considering he had just three saves all season (it is historically difficult for non-closing relief pitchers to make All-Star teams).
Oliver pitched just three seasons in Anaheim, but he had a nice run, posting a 144 ERA+ during those seasons. Weber pitched four and a half years with the Angels including an outstanding 2002 season in which he went 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA. Before Gregg became a prominent closer for the Marlins, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Orioles, he pitched four solid-but-unspectacular seasons for the Halos, posting a 4.31 ERA in 255 innings. Gregg’s inclusion should really clue you in on how weak the Angels’ middle relief was.
While middle relief was a weakness, the back-end of the bullpen was a consistent strength:
Set-Up: Scot Shields (2001-2010)
Excluding his final two years (he posted a 5.65 ERA in ’09 and ’10), Shields was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball during his career. From 2002-2008, Shields averaged a 149 adjusted ERA and a 1.7 WAR in 89 innings. Phenomenal numbers for a reliever, especially considering the generally short shelf life of a relief arm.
Set-Up: Troy Percival (1995-2004)
Percival peaked in the late 90′s, but from 2000 through his departure in 2004, he was still one of the best closers in baseball. For the first half of the decade, Percival averaged 35 saves and a 150 ERA+ per season. He earned All-Star honors in 2001 and posted a 1.92 ERA (232 ERA+) during his lights out 2002 campaign. Of course, we will all remember him for closing out Game 7.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (2002-2008)
As Percival’s successor, Rodriguez ensured that the Angels continued their string of having a top-flight closer. Rodriguez first emerged in September of 2002 and made his name known during his remarkable postseason run that year, as he allowed just 4 runs in 18.2 innings while striking out 28. The Angel’s success with K-rod (as he came to be known) that season spurred teams like the 2008 Rays to use promising young starting pitching prospects (see David Price) out of the bullpen during their postseason runs.
Following his heroics of 2002, Rodriguez spent the next two seasons setting up for Percival and he became one of the games premier relief pitchers. During his two seasons in the set-up role, Rodriguez averaged an astounding 109 strikeouts and a 2.44 ERA in 85 innings per season. Following 2004, Rodriguez was cemented into the Angels’ closer role and he continued to take off. From 2005-2007, Rodriguez posted three seasons of 40+ saves, leading the AL in two of those seasons. He posted WARs of 2.2, 3.6, and 2.1, respectively. In 2006 alone, K-rod posted a 1.72 ERA along with 47 saves. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting that year. Rodriguez was terrifying to face during those first 5 years of his career, but in his 6th and final season as an Angel, he put up arguably one of the greatest relief seasons of all time. In 2008, Rodriguez recorded an MLB-record 62 saves. Saves are a particularly flawed statistic, but it is still quite noteworthy when one bests the previous record by 5 saves and tops the 60-save mark for the first time in history. All together, Francisco Rodriguez was worth 15.5 wins above replacement in his 6 seasons donning a Halos’ uniform.
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