At 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, Chone Figgins, the Angels’ leadoff hitter, usually goes unnoticed. That said, if you’re a pitcher, it’s imperative to keep him off base because, once aboard, he creates havoc.
This past weekend in Phoenix, Figgins went one-for-twelve but the Angels still swept Arizona and concluded inter-league play with a major-league best 14-4 record.
In the process, the Angels (41-32) moved past the Texas Rangers into first place in the American League West.
On Sunday, Figgins, batting .313 (seventh best in the league), had an infield single, and scored when Maicer Izturis lined a homer to right field, securing the 12-8 victory. Earlier, Figgins had a run-scoring grounder.
Figgins has never made an All-Star team but has an outside shot this season. Angels’ center fielder Torii Hunter said before Saturday’s 2-1 win, the “Little Man,” should be in St. Louis.
“I definitely want Figgy there,” said Hunter, who has made numerous All-Star appearances. “It would be good to have someone as versatile as him in a National League park. If you’ve got to play an NL style of baseball, Figgy would be even more valuable.”
That’s putting it mildly since Figgins, eighth in on-base percentage, hits and sacrifice bunts, fourth in stolen bases and sixth in triples, has played second base, shortstop, third base—all three outfield positions and designated hitter.
Figgins is unimposing, with a laid-back disposition, and prefers doing his talking on the diamond where he made his big-league debut August 25, 2002, the same season in which the Angels won their only World Series title.
That season, the 24-year old Figgins was still learning his way around the plate, getting only 12 at-bats, and finishing with a .167 batting average. Figgins did score six runs and stole two bases.
Even though, Manager Mike Scioscia had enough confidence in Figgins to keep him on the playoff roster. Some managers would have declined, favoring a veteran. What the Angels’ front office and Scioscia saw was raw speed, and the ability to disrupt a pitcher’s concentration.
In three playoff series, including the seven-game finale with the San Francisco Giants, Figgins scored four runs. Figgins became a regular two years later, and owns a .293 lifetime batting average. It’s with his legs, though, that he’s made a name for himself.
Presently 17th among active players in stolen bases, Figgins has swiped 262 bags in 347 attempts. Figgins stole 62 bases in 2005 to lead the AL, 52 the next season for second, and 41 in 2007 for third place.
Figgins has driven in as many as 62 runs in 2006, and 60 in 2004, and scored 113 runs in 2005. Not bad for a guy selected in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies.
For Figgins, it’s get on base, steal second, advance to third on a hit or grounder, and score.
Though undersized, don’t be fooled because Figgins is capable of driving a ball over the fence, which he’s done 27 times, including eight homers in 2005, and nine the following season.
The Angels have been in the postseason five times since 2002, and hope for a return engagement.
With Figgins at the top of the lineup, and the Angels playing like they did against the Diamondbacks, it looks pretty good they’ll be there once again.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.