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Mike Scioscia doesn't need to look at the stats to see defensive blunders

ANGELS FYI

The team has the fourth-worst fielding percentage in baseball this season. 'We haven't played to the level we need to, but it's there,' the manager says.

April 30, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

BALTIMORE — Mike Scioscia doesn't need fancy statistics to tell him what he sees with his own two eyes: The Angels have not played very good defense this season.

In case the manager needed some numbers to support his belief, there are plenty. The Angels have a .979 fielding percentage, fourth-worst in baseball, and they've committed 16 errors, leading to 12 unearned runs.

They have an ultimate zone rating of minus 9.0, second-worst in baseball. For those unfamiliar, UZR measures the value of a fielder's performance expressed as runs saved or cost, in comparison with an average fielder at that position.

"I've looked at a lot of defensive statistics, and I haven't found one that compares to visual evaluation of a player," Scioscia said. "We can see the jumps guys are getting, plays that are being made or not made.

"Some of the stats are interesting . . . but we don't need numbers to see that some guys aren't playing to their potential defensively."

Twenty games into the season, shaky defense has become a disturbing trend. The last time the Angels struggled to this extent defensively was 2006, when they committed a league-high 124 errors and gave up 80 unearned runs, second-most in baseball. That was the only Angels team that didn't make the playoffs in the last five years.

"Our defense should be an asset for us," Scioscia said. "We haven't played to the level we need to, but it's there."

The infield has committed 12 errors, and shortstop Erick Aybar has been particularly erratic after showing flashes of brilliance for long stretches of 2008.

The right side of the infield -- first baseman Kendry Morales and second baseman Howie Kendrick -- has been anything but airtight.

"Any player has to get into the rhythm of the game, and you're not always going to be locked in -- defense is part of that," Scioscia said. "We need to concentrate on making plays and not worry about mistakes. I'm not sure we're turning the page like we need to."

Wood on the pine

It will soon be time for a decision on Brandon Wood, who has started one of eight games and made one pinch-hitting appearance since being recalled from triple A on April 21.

Wood is the team's top prospect, a third baseman/shortstop with power, and there was a hope among Angels fans that he would be given a chance to replace some of the offense lost when Vladimir Guerrero went on the disabled list April 18.

But Scioscia has stuck with Chone Figgins at third, Aybar and Maicer Izturis at shortstop, and Izturis or his extra outfielder at designated hitter, choosing table-setting ability over the power Wood might provide.

Though Wood prefers to be in the big leagues, the Angels think he'd be better off playing every day in triple A rather than sitting on their bench.

With a pair of left-handers -- Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia -- starting two of four games for the New York Yankees this weekend, Wood could get a start or two.

"If playing time doesn't show up for one or two weeks, we're going to have to make a decision one way or another," Scioscia said. "We'll see how this weekend goes. . . . We'll weigh the limited role of him being able to contribute with the long-term goal" of Wood developing as a player.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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