Team Profile – Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels made a big splash in the offseason by picking up free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson, and one of the biggest bats in baseball with Albert Pujols. Expectations were high, as the Angels were set to compete in a big way with the A.L. Champion Texas Rangers, with many believing that they will take the division when things are said and done. Currently, the Angels are six games behind the Rangers, with Texas showing no signs of slowing down. So how can the Angels get back on track down the stretch?
The Angels have, arguably, the best one-two-three pitching combination in baseball right now. Jered Weaver is one of the true elite pitchers in the game, and this season is only different in the sense that he is easily one of (if not the) front-runners for the Cy Young award. He’s 11-1, has a 2.26 ERA, and have already thrown a no-hitter this year. There are few, if any, better than him right now. It pains me to say good things about him, because I think he’s a whiny crybaby (See: L.A. vs. Detroit in 2011 where he was ejected from the game and suspended for being a whiny crybaby). Add to those numbers the great season C.J. Wilson is having in his first season as an Angel (9-6, 2.82 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), and the skills of Dan Haren (6-8, 4.86 ERA), and you have a potent combination. They’ll need Haren to get healthy, though, so that he can find his old groove again. Luckily, he should be back within the next week, ready to bring his team one step closer to full strength.
The Angels offense is a behemoth that is only going to grow larger as the years progress. Albert Pujols is locked up for nine more seasons. Once he figures out the American League pitching completely, he’ll be the same force that he was in St. Louis. But the real story for L.A. is the emergence of Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Trumbo broke onto the scene last season, and immediately put up numbers worthy of Rookie of the Year contention. Though he didn’t ultimately win that honor, he hasn’t skipped a beat in 2012, hitting .305 with 26 home runs and 65 RBIs. He is a machine, and his power is incredible. The Angels then found another player just like him in their minor league system by the name of Mike Trout. Trout is easily the forerunner for Rookie of the Year this year, with a league-leading .352 average. He also has 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. He bats leadoff, so the RBI totals will probably be down from what they could be if he were dropped further in the lineup, but since he also already has 30 stolen bases to go with his power numbers, he won’t be moving anytime soon. A player guaranteed to be both a power threat and a running threat all in the same at-bat is a rare quality that not many in the major leagues have, and it’s exactly the kind of player that a manager wants leading off for his club.
The rest of the offense has been pretty effective as well, with Kendry Morales, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, and Torii Hunter all hitting above .270 with significant power (9, 17, 5, and 10 home runs, respectively). That gives the Angels six of their nine lineup spots as power threats. That’ll give a lot of teams pause before trying to attack any one player in particular.
The L.A. bullpen is very strong at its backend, especially with Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs. Both have 11 save opportunities, and between the two have 19 saves. Frieri is perfect as a closer, giving the Angels essentially a sure thing at the end of games. LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Isringhausen, and David Carpenter are having excellent seasons as well, with ERAs under four (a 2.01 ERA for Hawkins) in at least 24 appearances each. To have five of your seven or eight relief pitchers doing a more than admirable job is the dream of every manager. Knowing that on any given night you’ll have at least two or three relievers enter the game who will shut down the opposition is more than anyone could ask for.
Keys to Success
The biggest problem the Angels face right now is that they got off to a slow start this season. They were terrible for the first month or so of the 2012 campaign, and it wasn’t until Mike Trout got to the majors in May that a real spark was put into things. The reason why that is still a problem is because the Rangers got off to a torrid start, tearing up the American League and winning 10 of their first 12 games. The Rangers never looked back, and the Angels are currently holding onto the first wild card spot in the American League. If they’re going to overtake the Rangers, the Angels need Dan Haren back, first and foremost. If Haren can find his old groove, and provide a boost behind Weaver and Wilson, then the Angels rotation will be solidified further. Trading for a manageable starter before the deadline probably wouldn’t hurt things either. Otherwise, they just need to keep playing good baseball, and wait for the Texas heat to slow down the Rangers a little bit over the next month and a half. One game at a time is all they can do to stay in the race through September.