Mar 25, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Big Question: After two years of disappointments, do the Angels have a shot?
There has been no bigger disappointment in baseball over the past two years than the Angels. After signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson before the 2012 season and after signing Josh Hamilton a year ago, the Angels missed the playoffs both years. By a wide margin last season. And while Wilson has been solid, the two biggest bats on the market in those two seasons have been busts. Apart from promoting Mike Trout and watching him dominate baseball and apart from nearly single-handedly scaring teams away from long-term contracts for big sluggers, the Angels haven’t done anything of significance over the past two seasons.
But there is at least some reason to hope this year. It’s only modest reason, and it’s based more on unscientific things like the law of averages than anything truly tangible, but at the very least it’s too early for Angels fans to throw in the towel.
Simply put: it’s really hard to imagine Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton putting up two more dreadful seasons between them. Pujols was famously hampered by injuries last year and is supposedly healthy again. Hamilton was less famously aggravated by injuries. While it’s entirely possible that each of them has hit a Dale-Murphy-in-1989 kind of wall, it would be maddeningly improbable for a future Hall of Famer and a recent MVP to both do so at once. It could happen, but for me to believe it will require me seeing it. And if they do bounce back — even part of the way back, to respectability if not dominance — the Angels offense should be in fantastic shape.
Mike Trout is the best all-around player in the game and should continue to be so for a long time. While they lost Mark Trumbo‘s homers, they also lost his nearly unprecedented out-making abilities. David Freese fell off a bit last year, but is capable of solid contributions. Kole Calhoun hit well in 58 games last season and has a nice minor league track record. Raul Ibanez can’t be expected to go on forever, but he had a fantastic season in 2013 and should contribute as well. The upshot: the Angels were third on-base percentage, fifth in slugging and sixth in runs in the American League last season with Pujols and Hamilton doing close to nothing for them. It’s not hard to imagine the offense being among the best in the league with even a reasonable rebound from those two and expected contributions from the rest of the lineup.
So many ifs, obviously. And the “they look good on paper” thing hasn’t worked out too well for the Angels in a while. But the Angels could very easily have a playoff-caliber offense. And that’s reason to hope.
What else is going on?
- Obviously offense isn’t everything. What really sunk the Angels last year was the pitching. The Trumbo trade did a lot to address that, bringing in Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, who should help bolster the back end of the rotation, which was hideous last season. Neither should light the world on fire — and while Skaggs has some upside, we pretty much know what Santiago is — but after the Joe Blanton experience in 2013, Mike Scioscia will probably welcome modest expectations reasonably-met.
- The top end of the rotation is nominally OK with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson — they’re big stars and at times have been among the best starters in baseball — but Weaver’s diminished velocity and some late-season forearm issues have to be cause for concern.He’s lost a good four miles per hour off his heater since he came up and has become more hittable. While there’s no reason to panic, if he declines more quickly than expected, all bets are off for the rotation.
- The bullpen sucked eggs last year too, but it should be improved. Bringing in setup man Joe Smith from Cleveland is a big help. And, while Sean Burnett and Dane De La Rosa will likely start the season on the disabled list, their presence for most of the season will represent a big improvement over last year. More generally, Jerry Dipoto brought in a ton of organizational bullpen depth via minor league signings that, unlike last year, won’t require him to repurpose starting pitchers and generally scramble if and when the relievers who start the season in Anaheim falter.
- Hot seat watch: It’s been a long time since a major league manager did less with more than Mike Scioscia has done over the past two seasons and not paid for it with his job. Not that the Angels’ problems have been his fault — who bet on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton forgetting how to hit? — but managers do usually pay for such struggles. If the Angels limp out to a slow start for a third straight year, it’s going to be hard for Scioscia to avoid the hot seat. In his favor, though, are the lack of 2012 or 2013-size expectations.
Prediction: They could surprise and, for once, exceed expectations. But with the Rangers and A’s as stocked as they are, it’ll be hard to see the Angels finishing above Third place, American League West.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Off-balance, running the other way, across his body, deep in the hole and he STILL got the speedy Brett Gardner.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:44 AM EDT
The F-bombs were hilarious, but the substance of Price’s rant was far more telling.
Apr 21, 2015, 12:40 AM EDT
The future is now in Chicago.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy landed on the disabled list after exiting his season debut on April 9 with a mild left hamstring strain, but he’s on track to return Saturday against the Dodgers.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:35 PM EDT
Things are quickly going from bad to worse for the Brewers.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT
This from Reds manager Bryan Price is not a good look at all.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:49 PM EDT
Tonight’s Cubs-Pirates game was delayed for 23 minutes after a woman was hit in the back of the head by a foul ball in the top of the second inning.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
The Rockies are calling him day-to-day.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:55 PM EDT
Ben Zobrist left Sunday’s game due to left knee soreness and he’s now slated to miss at least another couple of days after receiving a cortisone shot.
Apr 20, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander had to cut a simulated game short last Wednesday and he’s currently in shutdown mode due to continued soreness in his throwing arm.
Apr 20, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
The Mets won their eighth straight game Sunday against the Marlins to improve to 10-3 on the year, but it came as a cost, as catcher Travis d’Arnaud and left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins were forced to leave the game due to injuries. Today we learned a little bit more about how long they’ll be sidelined.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT
It’s been a facility in flux since the Dodgers left in 2008, but it has a new life under new management.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
It was bad enough that he needed stitches.
Apr 20, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
Last season he threw 184 innings with a 4.11 ERA and 139/67 K/BB ratio.
Apr 20, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
And he actually owns up to taking stuff. None of that “I have no idea how that got in my system” rebop from him.
Apr 20, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
People from El Paso are still mad about that. Oh well.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
Allen Craig replaced him in left field against the Orioles.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Beachy is 28 years old with a 3.23 ERA and 275 strikeouts in 268 career innings.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
The greatest trick baseball columnists ever pulled was convincing the world that the way they frame a topic is the only way to approach the topic.
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 10
- Report: Cubs calling up prospect infielder Addison Russell 14
- Jonathan Lucroy headed to disabled list with broken toe 8
- Reds manager Bryan Price goes on profanity-laden tirade against media 57
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 75
- Report: Marlins manager Mike Redmond is on the hot seat 41
- Five Royals ejected in Sunday’s series finale against the Athletics 88
- White Sox will promote Carlos Rodon on Monday 14
- The Commissioner’s Office thinks that the Angels could indeed go after Josh Hamilton under his contract (153)
- “We no longer need the terrorists. We’re now so good at terrorizing ourselves.” (143)
- Another argument in favor of making the DH universal (129)
- When it comes to Josh Hamilton, Arte Moreno is a craven opportunist, not a “smart businessman” (116)
- Joe Buck has a truly awful suggestion about how to improve MLB broadcasts (111)