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Champs of the Recent Past (1 of 5)

Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a look at each of the past five World Series champions to find out what they did well, who was on their team, and why they won. Since doing so chronologically makes the most sense that's exactly what I plan to do.

Today's team: the 2002 Anaheim Angels.


The Basics
Record: 99-63
Pythagorean Record: 101-61
Manager: Mike Scioscia
General Manager: Bill Stoneman
Inspirational Symbol: Rally Monkey

It's safe to say the 2002 Angels area of expertise was run prevention. The Angels finished at the top of the league with a .726 defensive efficiency, in 2001 they ranked fifth overall and in 2000 they lead the league again. Interesting the Angels pitching staff relied heavily on that defense since the staff was void of strikeout pitchers. 20th overall in team strikeouts and 12th in K/BB ratio (1.96).

Of course that's not to say the Angels were only good at stopping the other team from scoring, they did finish top ten in team on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and stolen bases. What's perhaps far more interesting is the perception that surrounds Scioscia's strategy concerning the sacrifice bunt. You'll hear how the Angels way of baseball is bunts and stolen bases during any given nationally televised game, yet the Angels were hardly a huge bunting team in 2002. In fact they tied for 15th overall and as far as I could tell they never ranked above 14th since 2000 - the year Scioscia took over - which makes me question who actually started the idea that Scioscia's teams bunt (successfully) a lot, or at least more than the average team.

The Roster (note: only positional players with 50 or more innings and pitchers with 30 or more innings were covered, with few exceptions.)

Bengie Molina

Looking back it's still a bit odd that a pair of brothers were actually on the same team, at the same time, and played the same position. I didn't research other occurrences of the brother phenomenon but let's assume it's in the ballpark of meeting a pterodactyl for dramatic purposes. Bengie provided less offense than Jose, which is to say none at all, but still got the majority of playing time for his snazzy 45% caught stealing rate.

Jose Molina
Most of the juicy background info is above, but Jose was 27, just like Bengie, and offensively inept as well. He wasn't quite as good defensively as Bengie, but he was better than the guy he replaced, Jorge Fabregas (you'll read about his faith below), which was apparently enough for the Angels to make Molina his brother's backup. I suppose he fits into the ideology that a reserve catcher must be a defensive stalwart no matter what the starter does well.

Sal Fasano
Fasano was acquired in the Angels lone July 31st deal which sent Jorge Fabregas, Johnny Raburn, and Pedro Liriano to the Milwaukee Brewers for Alex Ochoa and the great mustached one. Fasano only appeared in two games for the Angels, both in late September and as a substitute. There's not a ton to say about Fasano, in his only plate appearance he struck out swinging on four pitches from John Halama. Defensively he allowed one stolen base and threw out two fools who dared to run on him. As lackluster as his Angels bio will read, this is pretty much what you'd expect from a non-prospect third catcher on a playoff bound team.

First Base
Scott Spiezio

The first of the seasons that came out of nowhere. Previously Spiezio had been an average player useful off of the bench as long as his price tag wasn't too high, yet the Angels gave him back-to-back seasons of 450+ at-bats and saw their efforts rewarded with a career season for them. Nobody saw a .285/.371/.436 line coming, and he would never come close to replicating it during a season with 300 or more at-bats. Usually fluke seasons carry traits of extra high (or low) BABIPs in the upper .300's, but here's the thing; Spieizo's BABIP was .300 on the dot and he had a 21.8% line drive rate to match. His career BABIP was only .275 despite hitting a good percent of liners. Spiezio would also walk the most and strike out the least of his career which was just gravy for the best offensive season of his career.

Brad Fullmer
Another offensive breakout for a player who never really put it all together again. In Fullmer's case he didn't get another 300 at-bat season in the majors, a bit odd until you consider he came down with a rash of injuries. Before 2002 he played in four full seasons and received 300 at-bats in each, the majority of them coming in Canada for either the Montreal Expos or the Toronto Blue Jays. Fullmer spent most of his time as a designated hitter and hit 19 homeruns with a line of .289/.357/.531. For some perspective Frank Thomas hit .252/.361/.472 in 2002.

Shawn Wooten
At least I don't have to sound like a broken record because Wooten's career season came in 2001. Most of his value came in the form of his slugging percentage and his ability to play third, first, and catch, but otherwise Wooten is a pretty irrelevant player.

Second Base
Adam Kennedy

Consider 2002 the coming out year for Kennedy as well. He put up a .449 slugging that he hasn't came close to before or after. In Kennedy's nine full seasons he's only had a .400 or better slugging three times, and only once over .410. Most of Kennedy's value derived from his excellent fielding ability.

Benji Gil
Gil saw his at-bats halved in 2002 and his production dropped quite a bit as well. Predominantly a shortstop Gil played 12 more games at second base during the season.

Jose Nieves
After getting less than 200 at-bats for the Cubs in 1999 and 2000 Nieves was dealt to the Angels for Mike Fyhrie and money. In his two seasons with the Angels he saw even less playing time.

Third Base
Troy Glaus

One of the three (only?) implicated steroid users on this team Glaus actually had a bad season by his standards, reaching base 35.2% of the time and slugging .453. He still belted 30 homeruns and actually played a little shortstop - read little - during the season. Glaus would of course go on to win the World Series MVP award, I imagine thanks to a slugging of .846(!) in 26 at-bats and he also won the Babe Ruth Award which is given to the player who is good at baseball and the community.

David Eckstein

The first real national exposure for Eckstein he was presented as a gritty hard working...well, you know. You really can't blame Eckstein for that stuff though and he did get on base at .365 clip, a current career high, and was a spark plug (sorry) for the Angels at the top of their order. Eckstein also stole more than 20 bases for the second consecutive season, he's never stolen more than 20 since.

Garret Anderson

Arguably his second best season Anderson absolutely crushed the ball in 2002 and did much of the same in 2003. 2002 would be the second to last of Anderson's five consecutive 20+ homerun seasons. Anderson's on-base percentage left a lot to be desired, but he made up for it, as he has throughout his career, with a good slugging percentage. He would finish fourth in American League MVP voting behind Miguel Tejada, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano.

Darin Erstad
Did you know he used to be a football player? He was a punter, that means he's tough! Not much is to be said of Erstad's offense in 2002 because there wasn't much. He did man centerfield and did so at a Gold Glove worthy level. He filled in at first a few times, for what it's worth.

Tim Salmon
Good ol' Kingfish. It wouldn't be an Angels run without Salmon contributing at a pretty good rate with a team leading .883 OPS. Salmon only DH'd in 25 games and played right in 111 marking 2002 as the last season he'd appear in the outfield a ton more than he would be used solely as a hitter.

Alex Ochoa
The other part of that deadline blockbuster with the Brewers. Ochoa would appear in 37 games with the Halos and hit 277/.373/.477 while providing some pop. After 2002 Ochoa would bounce to Japan and play for the Chunichi Dragons until returning on a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He'd return to Japan later in the year and plate with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp where he's still playing.

Orlando Palmeiro
Outside of getting on-base at decent rates Palmeiro wasn't especially good at any one thing. In fact of his 12 career homeruns nine came within a three year span, he played for 13 seasons. He wasn't an awful defender, and was actually a pretty nifty pinch hitter and overall sub.

Ramon Ortiz

A decent season thanks to a .247 BABIP Ortiz had his best K/BB ratio of his career but still gave up nearly 1.7 homeruns per game. It's hard to imagine most pitchers could give up next to nothing in hits or walks and still have a FIP above 4, but Ortiz managed to accomplish just that.

Jarrod Washburn
What I was bound to find out is that a ton of the pitchers were overrated. Jarrod Washburn actually had his best season, keeping his K/BB and homerun rates in check. 2002 remains the only season Washburn had a FIP of sub-4.

Kevin Appier
Appier spent a season and a half in Anaheim. He saw his homerun and K/BB rate absolutely fall to pieces along with his FIP and nearly everything else.

Aaron Sele
After being part of a magical 2001 Mariners team Sele jumped to the Angels and is given far too much credit for his performance. An awful K/BB ratio and homerun rate were only masked by playing with the league's best defense backing him for the second consecutive season.

Scott Schoeneweis
No misplacement here, Schoeneweis actually started 15 games for the Angels before Lackey took his spot. His ERA would drop in relief, but he wasn't exactly good, allowing 32 hits/walks and five homeruns in just over 27 innings. Schoeneweis apparently wasn't too happy with the move, but he hasn't started a game since, and is still in the league as a 34 year old situation reliever. I suppose money can buy happiness.

John Lackey
One of the two young guns that may have put the Angels over the top. Lackey took the aforementioned Schoeneweis' rotation spot and hasn't relinquished his death grip on rotation ace since. Lackey did about as well as you can expect from a 23 year old, although his pedestrian strikeout rate has increased just as you would hope from 5.73 up to 7.08 this season and his solid command has been refined a bit more over the past few seasons. He's also began giving up a ton less line drives, in 2002 28.5% of batted balls were liners, that number has almost steadily dropped since and now sits just above 18%.

Ben Weber

The master of the pump up, Weber is owner of the one of the more...unique windups in recent memory. Weber was the bullpen's workhorse, throwing the most innings out of the pen and second most of his career. A late bloomer Weber didn't make his major league debut until he was 30 and only played parts of six seasons, his last coming in 2005.

Al Levine
One of the elder statesmen of the bullpen Levine was prone to the walk throughout his career. Levine wasn't particularly good versus normal or odd people throughout 2002, but did give the Angels another innings eater.

Troy Percival
One of Percival's final seasons with the Angels he would pitch in 58 games, finish 50 of them, and of those collect 40 saves. Not often does a closer finish 15th in MVP voting, but that's exactly what Percival managed to do.

Lou Pote
A somewhat odd case of a reliever with control that got worse as his career progressed. After having a 2.59 K/BB rate in 2000 Pote saw it decline to 2.06 in 2001, and 1.23 in 2002. To his credit Pote was a pretty staunch groundball out producer.

Brendan Donnelly
Another late bloomer, Donnelly made his debut as a 30 year old in 2002 and promptly threw just shy of 50 solid innings. His K/BB rate were beyond solid and his goggled look gained him some notoriety.

Scot Shields
Being inexperienced - gasp - was a common theme for this pen. Yes, Shields was 26, but prior to 2002 he had all of 11 major league innings.

Francisco Rodriguez

The wunderkind, "K-Rod" popped up late in 2002 and struck out 13 in just shy of six innings. He all but took the title of relief ace right from Troy Percival's hands as a 20 year old.

I don't want to speculate too much, but there are a ton of fluke seasons here, which either suggests the Angels were the most blessed team I've ever come across, or there was something else at work here. Reportedly Troy Glaus had human growth hormone and steroids shipped to him from a California based anti-aging clinic named New Hope Health. Teammate Scott Schoeneweis was also implicated and Brendan Donnelly was named in the Mitchell Report as was 2001 and 2003 Angels pitcher Bart Miadich. Derrick Turnbow, an Angel until 2005 and was busted for Androstenedione Derivative at the 2004 Olympics. Former Angel Chuck Finley was accused of using steroids during his playing career by his ex-wife during divorce proceedings. Mo Vaughn, an Angel until 2002, was also implicated in the Mitchell Report along with 2001 Angels member Glenallen Hill and teammate Wally Joyner. Kent Mercker, who spent 2000 in the Angels system, was also named in the Mitchell report as was Ismael Valdez from the 2001 Angels.