That dubious time has come again.
There's always those guys that we tear our hair out watching play in person, or post flag-worthy comments about in game threads. Sometimes, it's because we simply know that they're good against us, while other times, we despise them AND we know that they're good against us.
Most years, I can gather up one, sometimes two, representatives from each position to comprise the team. This year, however, there's an entire 34-man roster's worth of Angel killers out there. Some are already residents, while others might simply be passing through amidst a career of the team typically owning them. I did NOT adhere to the All-Star Game rule of complete inclusion (i.e. one player representative per team), because let's face it, there are some teams the Angels flat-out OWNED this year, all-around. Let's get a look, first, at the position-playing reserves of this year's team.
2014 ANGEL KILLER ALL-STAR RESERVES, POSITION PLAYERS
Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves: .538/.571/1.000, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 14 PA
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox: .450/.538/.850, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 9 H, 17 TB, 26 PA
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: .371/.443/.514, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 26 H, 11 R, 79 PA
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians: .316/.381/.632, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 21 PA
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: .333/.417/.524, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 7 H, 4 R, 24 PA
Brandon Guyer, Tampa Bay Rays: .417/.563/.667, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 17 PA
Logan Morrison, Seattle Mariners: .297/.409/.486, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 BB, 8 R, 44 PA
Jake Smolinski, Texas Rangers: .292/.346/.542, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 XBH, 26 PA
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles: .269/.296/.731, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 27 PA
Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins: .444/.474/.667, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 8 H, 19 PA
Chris Parmelee, Minnesota Twins: .400/.438/.600, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 16 PA
Corey Hart, Seattle Mariners: .250/.308/.625, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 26 PA
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians: .333/.448/.708, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 29 PA
A pretty diverse bunch. Perennial Angel killers Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz find themselves out of the starting lineup and onto the bench, displaced by two guys that embody the more typical Angel killer. Other guys, such as Jake Smolinski and Danny Santana, are newer guys who simply took advantage of their lack of familiarity with the Angels among their first targets (Smolinski's 7 RBI against the Angels made up 62% of his overall season total). Not to discredit Beltre or Ortiz any, nor Smolinski or Santana; they, however, were simply men enjoying good seasons, and the Angels simply stood in their tracks when the train came through.
So what is the "typical Angel killer"? Well, an Angel killer is someone a la 2012 Mike Napoli. Napoli in 2012 had a terrible year, batting near the Mendoza line all season. However, against the Angels that year, he batted over .400 and destroyed anyone who stepped on the mound or on the field. So, what does that mean? The typical "Angel killer" is someone whose overall season didn't look the greatest, but against the Angels, they stepped up BIG. (For those curious, Mike Napoli was held to a .105 batting average and .583 OPS against the Angels this year, so it seems we finally got his number.)
Before we get to that starting nine, let's look at the 11 pitchers that cracked the roster this season.
2014 ANGEL KILLER ALL-STARS, ROTATION AND BULLPEN
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: 3-0, 0.79 ERA, 0.676 WHIP, 47 K, 9 BB, 34 IP
Collin McHugh, Houston Astros: 2-2, 1.90 ERA, 0.845 WHIP, 23 K, 23.2 IP
Jeff Samardzija, Oakland Athletics: 1-1, 0.60 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, 12 K, 0 BB, 15 IP
Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers: 1-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.786 WHIP, 10 K, 1 BB, 14 IP
Bud Norris, Baltimore Orioles: 1-0, 0.66 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 12 K, 3 BB, 13.2 IP
Dan Otero, Oakland Athletics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, 8 K, 3 BB, 9.2 IP
Yoervis Medina, Seattle Mariners: 0-0, 1.23 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, 7 K, 5 BB, 7.1 IP
Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, 2 H, 6 IP
Josh Fields, Houston Astros: 0-0, 1.08 ERA, 0.840 WHIP, 15 K, 1 BB, 8.2 IP
Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners: 1-0, 0.82 ERA, 0.818 WHIP, 11 K, 6 H, 11 IP
Luke Gregerson, Oakland Athletics: 1-0, 0.73 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, 1 SV, 9 K, 12.1 IP
A studly bunch on the statistical end of things. Fields struck out more Angels than any other reliever in baseball this season, while Dan Otero (and fellow A's reliever Fernando Abad, whose 3.2 IP against the Angels kept him off this list) did not allow a single earned run to the Angels the entire season. Guys such as Bud Norris, Otero and Yoervis "Funky Cold" Medina made this list due to an uncanny ability to get in and out of trouble, all on their own, exposing the Angels' occasional moments where clutch was mysteriously gone. Meanwhile, Porcello makes this list after the Angels obliterated him in 2013, while the three-headed beast of Hernandez, McHugh and Samardzija combined for 10.2 K/9 against the Angels, with just a 1.12 ERA and a 0.716 WHIP.
Now, it's time: THE STARTING LINEUP.
2014 ANGEL KILLER ALL-STARS, STARTING LINEUP
SECOND BASE: JOSE ALTUVE, HOUSTON ASTROS (.338/.369/.475, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB, 9 XBH, 84 PA)
In Altuve's batting-title-winning, Astros-hit-record-setting 2014, he and his miniscule frame rose to national prominence even further than before. The Astros, who performed markedly above expectations in 2014, clawed their way out of the AL West cellar (coupled with an epic Rangers collapse), and Altuve was in no small way (no pun intended) a part of that.
SHORTSTOP: JOSE REYES, TORONTO BLUE JAYS (.480/.519/.760, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 12 H, 7 R, 27 PA)
This is not Reyes' first appearance on this list. Ever since arriving in Toronto, Reyes has been quite unkind to the Angels, posting similar stats against the team in 2013. This season, his thorn-in-the-side consistency against the Angels continued, to the tune of a 1.279 OPS.
DESIGNATED HITTER: CHRIS CARTER, HOUSTON ASTROS (.291/.418/.618, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 11 BB, 34 TB, 67 PA)
Nobody hit more home runs against the Angels in 2014 than Chris Carter. Carter's 2014 season was characteristically paltry; aside from his power, he had virtually no redeeming qualities. However, against the Angels, it was like Kal-El, Ben-Hur and Popeye all banded into one terrifying baseball player. He seems to be ascending to the Ultimate Angel Killer throne, that which Mike Napoli christened two seasons ago.
FIRST BASE: JUSTIN SMOAK, SEATTLE MARINERS (.341/.442/.636, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 28 TB, 8 BB, 10 R, 52 PA)
Smoak, another veteran Angel killer, appeared the consummate cleanup man this season--at least, whenever an Angels pitcher was on the mound. His slash this season of .202/.275/.339 was pathetic enough to where he was platooned at first base by the upstart Mariners this season. If the Angels came to play, however, it was Smoak in that lineup, and this is why. His performance and reputation against the Angels is a key reason why his Mariners were in contention for all but one game of the entire season.
LEFT FIELD: ALEJANDRO DE AZA, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (.538/.588/1.000, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 XBH, 17 PA)
No player in baseball with at least 10 plate appearances against the Angels possessed a higher OPS than De Aza's 1.588 against the team this season. Granted, De Aza's 17 plate appearances make him a questionable choice to go into the starting lineup, but De Aza's career resume against the Angels--a slash of .324/.388/.527 with 3 home runs, 24 hits and 12 runs scored in 87 plate appearances--was enough to validate De Aza's success against the team this season. This season overall, De Aza put up an OPS+ of 98, splitting the season between the White Sox and Orioles (though all his playing time against the Angels came with Chicago).
CATCHER: SALVADOR PEREZ, KANSAS CITY ROYALS (.318/.348/.364, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 23 PA)
One thing about this season--the Angels basically obliterated all opposing catchers; the only three to post averages above .300 against the team are both Gattis and Perez, as well as the Astros' Jason Castro, whose OBP was lower than his average, a motivating factor in his exclusion from the list. The likes of Derek Norris, Yan Gomes, Brian McCann and others, were all slaves to Angel pitching all season long. Perez, however, amidst a season with a sub-.300 OBP, managed to hit the Angels better than any other American League catcher. In spite of his lack of power against the team, he was, realistically speaking, the best American League catcher against the Angels in 2014.
THIRD BASE: CONOR GILLASPIE, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (.421/.476/.632, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 8 H, 21 PA)
Now, Gillaspie and Beltre gave me a considerably tough decision in who to place as a starter and who as a reserve. Beltre has been the supreme potentate amongst third basemen against the Angels in recent seasons, so why does he ride the bench this year? Well, Beltre plowed through the Angels on his way to a 7.0 bWAR season, and would likely be in AL MVP conversation had the Rangers not tanked this season. Gillaspie's 1.5 bWAR and inferior performance to Beltre this season is what earned Gillaspie a starting spot on the team, in spite of less playing time against the Angels. Increased to Beltre's playing time, Gillaspie's stats pace out as this: .417/.475/.639, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 4 2B, 8 BB, 46 TB. Yeah, he was pretty good this season.
RIGHT FIELD: MICHAEL SAUNDERS, SEATTLE MARINERS (.360/.455/.800, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 BB, 6 XBH, 33 PA)
Like his Seattle counterpart Justin Smoak, Saunders played in a platoon role this season. But, if he was in the lineup against the Angels, it was war. Saunders' overall slash of .278/.341/.450 wasn't bad at all, nor were his 128 OPS+ or 2.4 WAR. But against the Angels, he was other-wordly by comparison. He played in just 12 of a possible 19 games against the Angels this season, and started just 7, but made the most of each plate appearance he got. As a trivial aside, he is the only Angel killer on the roster to have notched a triple against the Angels during the season.
CENTER FIELD: DEXTER FOWLER, HOUSTON ASTROS (.444/.556/.611, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 16 H, 10 R, 45 PA)
Fowler's first season in the American League brought forth an average season, posting 1.7 bWAR and a slash of .276/.375/.399. However, whenever the boys in Halo red were his opponents, Fowler cranked it UP. Fowler showed an uncanny ability to get on base against Angel pitching, with 16 hits and 9 walks leading the way (though it translated to just two stolen bases). His WAR was brought down by an uncharacteristically atrocious year on defense, no doubt effected adversely by Tal's Hill.
This is a deadly starting lineup. These nine combined for a slash of .367/.444/.605 and, in 319 AB: 117 H, 30 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 53 RBI, 9 SB, 43 BB, 66 SO and 193 TB, with a .429 BABIP.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are...your Angel Killer All-Stars.