MLB 9s: Los Angeles Angels—Don Baylor, Vlad, Troy Glaus Make Cut

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MLB 9s: Los Angeles Angels—Don Baylor, Vlad, Troy Glaus Make Cut
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Orlando Cabrera or Jim Fregosi? Sandy Alomar or Adam Kennedy? Power or speed? The past or the present?

It all points to one question with hundreds of possibilities: Which Angel had the greatest offensive season at his position?

Major League baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.

They are calling it MLB 9s.

In the 49-year history of the franchise, the team has gone by the name of the Los Angeles Angels, California Angels, Anaheim Angels, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

They have been to the playoffs nine times and have lifted the World Series once in 2002. Did Troy Glaus and Darin Erstad have better seasons than, say, Doug DeCinces or Reggie Jackson?

Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Angels lineup, based on their one career year. Have your say by commenting below, or by voting on the MLB site here .

My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:

Diamondbacks , Braves , Orioles , Red Sox , Cubs , White Sox , Reds , Indians , Rockies , Tigers , and Marlins.

 

Catcher: Brian Downing (1979)

The catcher-turner-outfielder had a very good year at the dish with the California Angels in 1979. His 75 RBI, 77 walks and .326 batting average are the highest by an Angels' backstop.

Downing hit 27 doubles and 12 home runs, scoring 87 runs and racking up 235 total bases. He was selected to his first All-Star game and finished 14th in the AL MVP voting.

Highlight Game: Aug. 25, 1979 @ Toronto. In one of the biggest blowouts out the season, Downing went 4-for-5 with four runs, a walk, a triple, and a double to help the Angels destroy the hapless Blue Jays 24-2.

Competition: Lance Parrish (1990) hit 24 home runs and recorded 70 RBI, batting .268 and scoring 54 runs.

His 24 home runs are the most by any Angels' catcher, while his .338 on-base percentage and .451 slugging percentages both rank second.

Earl Averill had a similar year in 1961, with 21 homers and a .266 average. He would have been higher up the rankings, but he played in positions other than as catcher in 34 of the 115 games, including as a left fielder and pinch hitter.

 

First Base: Wally Joyner (1987)

There is a lot of competition at first base, but Joyner edges them out with his 1987 season.

Joyner hit 34 home runs and batted .285, recording 117 RBI and 100 runs.

HIS OPS+ statistic (a version of on-base and slugging percentages taking into account league averages) is the greatest of any Angels' first baseman, other than Don Mincher.

Joyner's 34 home runs are second all-time to Mo Vaughn who had 36 in 2000, and his .528 slugging percentage is above everyone except Kendry Morales.

The third-round draft pick finished 13th in the MVP voting.

Highlight Game: Oct. 3, 1987 vs Cleveland. In the penultimate game of the season, Joyner showed he still had a lot of fuel in his tank, hitting three home runs in a 12-5 victory over the Tribe.

He wet 3-for-3 with two walks, and it was the only time in his 15-year career that he went yard three times in one game.

Competition: Morales posted very comparable numbers in the 2009 season. He hit 34 home runs and drove in 119 runs, batting .306 (21 points higher than Joyner).

Vaughn's 36 home runs in 2000 is the most of any Angels' first bagger and, as with Joyner and Morales, he knocked in more than 100 runs and scored more than 80 times.

J.T. Snow and Lee Thomas also put up similar numbers, just with a little less power.

 

Second Base: Bobby Grich (1979)

Grich stands head and shoulders above any Angels' second baseman, from any era.

He hit 30 home runs in the 1979 season. No other second baseman has hit more than 17. He drove in 101 runs in 1979; the next best is 83. He slugged .543; Adam Kennedy ranks second with .449.

While Grich is worlds apart from other Angels second basemen, compared to the rest of the American League back in the late 70s, he was simply 'good.'

Highlight Game: May 31, 1979 @ Seattle. Grich went 4-for-4 with two home runs, a double, and five RBI in a 12-10 loss to the Mariners.

It was one of four multi-home run games for Grich in the 1979 season, and one of 13 hit in his 17-year career.

Competition: Billy Moran had a solid if not spectacular season in 1962. The All Star hit 17 home runs and drove in 74 runs. He batted .282 and had a .324 on-base percentage.

Rex Hudler also deserves mention for his 1996 season. He hit 16 homers, batted .311, and stole 14 bases.

 

Third Base: Troy Glaus (2000)

Glaus led the American League in home runs with 47 in 2000, winning his first Silver Slugger award and being rewarded with his first All-Star appearance.

The third baseman hit 37 doubles and drove in 102 runs, scoring 120 times and slugging .604.

He ranked fourth in the AL in walks (112) and total bases (340), and third in extra-base hits (85).

Highlight Game: April 21, 2000 @ Tampa Bay. Glaus went 4-for-5 with two home runs, a double, and four runs batted in.

It was one of six multi-homer games of his 2000 season, and one of 28 for his career.

Competition: Doug DeCinces batted .301 and hit 30 home runs in 1982, Tony Phillips hit 27 homers and scored 119 runs in 1995, and Chone Figgins batted .298 and stole 42 bases in 2009.

DeCinces finished third in the MVP voting in '82, and I would have no problem putting his season on a par with Glaus'.

 

Shortstop: Jim Fregosi (1970)

Back in the late 60s and early 1970s, Fregosi was a perennial All Star with the California Angels.

In 1970, Fregosi went to his sixth All Star game—his fifth in a row—and set a career high with 22 long balls.

He ranked sixth in the AL with 33 doubles and finished 12th in the MVP voting.

He batted .278 and recorded 82 RBI, the most by any Angels' shortstop. He still holds the franchise record for 22 home runs by a shortstop. His 95 runs is third all-time, while his 167 hits in a single season ranks sixth.

Highlight Game: May 18, 1970 @ Chicago White Sox. Fregosi went a perfect 4-for-4 with a double, home run, walk, and three runs.

His four-hit day raised his batting average from .271 to .292 and the Angels won the game 6-1.

Competition: Dick Schofield is the only shortstop who could really rival Fergosi's power. In the '86 season he hit 13 home runs and stole 23 bases, but he batted .249 which makes it hard to root for him in this list.

The more recent options of Orlando Cabrera and David Eckstein provide a decent mix of batting average, stolen bases and runs. In 2007 Cabrera batted .301 with 20 steals and 101 runs. Eckstein went .293-21-107 in 2002.

 

Outfield: Vladimir Guerrero (2004)

Vlad had a picture-perfect MVP year with the Anaheim Angels in 2004, exceeding the high standards he set himself in Montreal in 2000 and 2002.

Guerrero hit 39 home runs, batted .337, and scored a league-leading 124 runs. His 366 total bases was also the high mark in the AL that year, and he ranked inside the top five in hits (206, third), RBI (126, fourth), and OBP (.989, third).

No Angels outfielder has ever hit more home runs or scored more runs in a single season, and Guerrero's 2004 season is also good enough for the third most RBI in one year.

While he only stole 15 bases, his running game was arguably better than during his stay in Canada where he had a permanent green light. In 2004, he was caught just three times, compared to 2002 when he stole 40 bags but was thrown out 20 times.

Highlight Game: June 2, 2004 vs Boston. The Angels beat the Red Sox 10-7 and Vlad Guerrero was responsible for nine of the runs.

He went 4-for-4 with two home runs, a double, and nine runs batted in. Guerrero hit a two-run homer off Pedro Martinez in the first inning, a two-run double in the third, a sacrifice fly to deep right field in the fourth, a three-run home run off Mike Timlin in the sixth, and an RBI-single in the seventh.

 

Don Baylor (1979)

From one MVP to another, Baylor was the gold standard by which all other players were measured in 1979.

Baylor, who split time between the corner outfield positions and DH spot, led the league with 139 RBI and 120 runs.

He batted .296 and hit 36 home runs while swiping 22 bags and drawing 71 walks.

His .371 on-base percentage and .530 slugging percentage were the highest of his Hall of Fame career, while his combination of power and speed was second only to Bobby Bonds.

Highlight Game: Aug. 25, 1979 @ Toronto. In a blow-out against the Blue Jays, Baylor had a pair of home runs and eight RBI as the Angels steam-rolled the Jays 24-2.

Baylor drilled a first-inning grand slam, followed by a three-run shot in the sixth—by which point the Angels were already winning 18-2.

 

Bobby Bonds (1977)

In his second and final year with the Angels, Bonds hit 37 home runs, drove in 115 runs and slugged .520.

He also stole 41 bases, ran out nine triples, and scored 103 runs. It is not too much of a stretch to say that he was the single reason why the Angles didn't finish bottom of the AL West behind the Mariners or As.

Bonds ranked second in the American League in home runs behind Jim Rice, second in RBI to Minnesota's Larry Hisle, and fourth in extra-base hits.

Highlight Game: June 23, 1979 @ Chicago White Sox. Bonds stole three bases and scored four runs in a 10-6 victory over the White Sox. He went 2-for-3 with two walks and a pair of runs batted in.

It was the only time he either scored four times or swiped three bases in the '79 season.

Competition: There is a lot of competition in the Angels' outfield. Darin Erstad batted .355 with 25 home runs, 100 RBI, 121 runs scored, and 28 stolen bases in 2000. While that alone would normally be good enough for automatic selection, it was simply a personal preference to go with Bonds.

Taking absolutely nothing away from Erstad, his 240 hits is a result of his league-leading 676 at bats and 747 plate appearances. It was also the exception rather than the rule, although I tried to keep this fact set aside because I was looking at single seasons in isolation.

Devon White also deserves an honorable mention for his 1987 season in which he hit 24 home runs and stole 32 bases. Unlike Erstad though, he only batted .263. Reggie Jackson hit 39 home runs in 1982, and both Chad Curtis and Lou Polonia swiped more than 40 bases in 1993 and 1991, respectively.

Tim Salmon (1995) is among the power outfielders who missed out on a spot on the list, while Fred Lynn (1982) and Alex Johnson (1970) brought a little of everything, but not enough of anything to the party.

 

Designated Hitter: Chili Davis (1994)

Davis was a better hitter in Los Angeles by the time his second stint with the Angels rolled around, following a two-year detour in Minnesota.

Davis hit 26 home runs in 108 games, batting .311 and driving in 84 runs.

He went to his third All Star game—his first in nine years—and even received a spattering of MVP votes. His 1995 season was very similar in terms of overall production and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done in California if he had played 40 more games that season.

30 home runs would not be out of the question, as he proved three years later at the age of 37 with the Royals.

Highlight Game: July 30, 1994 @ Texas. Davis only had two hits but they were big ones—a grand slam home run and a two-run jack. Davis finished with a season-high seven RBI and the Angels won 14-4.

Competition: Brian Downing was good in 1987, hitting 29 home runs and recording an on-base percentage of a round .400.

He led the AL with 106 walks and scored a career-high 110 runs.

Frank Robinson also receives a fleeting mention. He was by no means the same type of hitter that dominated the National League in the early 1960s with the Reds, or the player that shone in his first taste of AL action with the Os in 1966.

Despite only playing one full year in California, Robinson hit 30 home runs, batted in 97 men, and finished with a .266 clip.

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