Duo at shortstop proving critics wrong

Duo at shortstop proving critics wrong

ANAHEIM -- When Tony Reagins, engineering his first big deal as Angels general manager, sent shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for Jon Garland in November, the general reaction among fans was one of grave concern.

Veteran left fielder Garret Anderson, never by nature one to overreact, recognized Cabrera's value, but wasn't disturbed by the move.

"I knew those two guys could play," Anderson said, nodding in the direction of Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar, who locker in the same corner of the home clubhouse at Angel Stadium.

"Izzy is a lot like O.C., same type of player. All he needed to do was stay on the field. Aybar is a great athlete, and he should keep getting better as he matures."

Izturis, an Angels role player since 2005, and Aybar, one of the club's most valued prospects over the same period, have silenced the critics with their superb play.

"Izzy and Erick have really done the job for us, offensively and defensively," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We were confident they could get it done when we traded O.C. -- and they've been terrific."

Izturis has been an unconventional No. 3 hitter, delivering during a four-game winning streak that has lifted the Angels' American League West lead to eight games over the A's. Aybar's three-run pinch-hit triple was the difference in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Red Sox.

Cabrera has continued to play at a high level for the White Sox, helping them seize the lead in the AL Central. Statistically, it's clear the Angels have not suffered in his absence. They have received comparable production from Izturis and Aybar with the significant bonus of Garland's consistently solid work in the rotation.

Cabrera is batting .264 with .324 on-base and .355 slugging marks. The AL's reigning Rawlings Gold Glove shortstop committed six errors in 448 total chances for a .987 fielding percentage.

Izturis (.275 BA, .336 OBP, .368 SLG) has been superior offensively. Coming into Sunday's series finale, with the Angels shooting for a three-game sweep of the Red Sox, he had not made an error in 174 chances at shortstop with only two errors overall in 68 games.

Aybar (.284 BA, .314 OBP, .399 SLG) also has produced with the bat while making 10 errors in 281 chances for a .964 percentage. Adding Brandon Wood's five errorless chances at shortstop, the Angels have a highly respectable .979 percentage at shortstop.

Aybar (4.84) has the highest range factor of the three, followed by Cabrera (4.79) and Izturis (4.47).

Most of Aybar's errors, like the dislocated right pinkie that cost him 25 games, have come when he's used his remarkable quickness to reach balls few shortstops could glove. Jumping to his feet to finish plays, he has forced a few throws that have gotten away from him.

"He's got all that athletic ability, and he's getting after it," Anderson said. "You don't want to harness that. Izzy will make all the plays and not try to force things. That comes with experience."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.