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ANGELS FYI

Chone Figgins has become an offensive force

The Angels' leadoff hitter says a dismal 2006 season turned around his career, and he now leads the American League in walks and runs and ranks among the leaders in on-base percentage.

September 13, 2009|Kevin Baxter

Look at the back of Chone Figgins' baseball card and the statistics from the 2006 season stand out -- for all the wrong reasons.

He hit a career-low .267 that summer and struck out 100 times. Yet Figgins said that was the year that turned his career around.

"I needed to find ways to get on base without getting hits," he said. "You're not going to get hits all the time, so I had to find another way to get on base if I wanted to be a legit leadoff hitter."

So Figgins became more selective at the plate, began drawing more walks and as a result, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, he's become arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball.

"He sets a tone because he sees so many pitches," Scioscia said. "Guys on the bench get a look at maybe what a pitcher's trying to do. Or just his delivery, seeing the ball coming out of his hand. He's not afraid to hit in a deep count.

"He's become a force offensively."

The numbers bear it out. Not only has Figgins seen more pitches than any hitter in the majors, he also leads the American League in walks (91) and runs (106) and ranks among the leaders in on-base percentage (a career-high .401).

"Walking and being more patient was a big key for me," he said. "I'm not trying to take that much, but if they're going to give me the base I think I should take it as a leadoff hitter."

However, the grind of the season may be taking a toll on Figgins, who has sat out only two games this season. Although he went two for five Saturday, he's hitting only .211 in September -- yet he's second on the team with six runs scored this month and, with a stolen base Saturday, he has 40 for the season.

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Perfect rivals

The last time Scott Kazmir squared off against Chicago's Mark Buehrle, the White Sox pitcher threw a perfect game. So when the two lefties meet this afternoon at Angel Stadium, Kazmir said he'd like to return the favor.

"I want to get one of those," he joked. "[Today's] my chance for redemption."

Kazmir was pitching for Tampa Bay on that July day when Buehrle, with the help of an acrobatic ninth-inning catch by substitute outfielder Dewayne Wise, rolled through the Rays' lineup. The game wasn't nearly as memorable for Kazmir, who gave up five runs in six innings.

"It's kind of bittersweet to be on the other end of a perfect game," he said. "It was an amazing accomplishment so you're just excited that you were there at the time and actually involved in the game. But when you think about it, you really don't want that ever to happen."

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Short hops

Angels minor leaguer Trevor Reckling scattered three hits over seven shutout innings, striking out 11, to lead Team USA to an 8-0 win over China in its final game of pool play Saturday at the IBAF World Cup of baseball in Regensburg, Germany. The 11 strikeouts is a record for a U.S. pitcher in World Cup play. The 20-year-old left-hander went 9-9 with a 2.68 ERA in a season split between Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and double-A Arkansas.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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ANGELS TODAY

VS. CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Time: 12:30.

Where: Angel Stadium

On the air: TV: Channel 13. Radio: 830, 1330.

Probable pitchers: Scott Kazmir vs. Mark Buehrle

Update: Although Kazmir doesn't have a win with his new team, he has pitched brilliantly in his two starts for the Angels, giving up three hits and an earned run each time. Going back to his days with Tampa Bay, Kazmir has made quality starts in seven of his last eight outings and has given up fewer than two earned runs in half those games. Buehrle has won only once in his last nine starts despite giving up two or fewer runs in four of them.

-- Kevin Baxter

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