I thought we were in the year 2013. After all, the Los Angeles Angels were supposed to cruise through the American League West on their way to a possible World Series appearance. After signing away Josh Hamilton from the rival Texas Rangers, the Halos had assembled one of the most potent lineups of the past decade with Hall of Fame lock Albert Pujols and megastar Mike Trout joined by Hamilton in the middle of the lineup. What doomed LA in 2012 was a poor April as they finished the first month 8-15 on their way to a third place 89-73 record. 2013 would be different.
Well, not quite.
The Angels are 9-15 heading into tonight’s opening game against the (once again) first place Oakland A’s. Much like the 2012 club, I don’t expect the team to make the playoffs. However, I also don’t expect this Angel team to match last year’s 89 win output. For one, LA does not have Jered Weaver pitching every fifth day. The ace right-hander, who went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA, finishing third in the Cy Young race won’t be back until at least the end of May with a broken left elbow. Last year, Weaver’s superb 1st half stats (14-1 through July 31st) kept the team afloat until Pujols started hitting and Trout became well, Mike Trout. This year, Trout is ordinary at the moment (2 HR’s, 12 RBI’s, .263) Pujols has hit another April skid (2 HR’s, 13 RBI’s .244) and Hamilton has been brutal (2 HR’s, 8 RBI’s, .211). Free agent signing Sean Burnett, expected to bolster the bullpen, just went on the 15 day DL with forearm stiffness. The lefty was off to a great start with a 1.04 ERA in 11 games. Without Weaver, the rotation does not strike fear into anyone and right now, Garrett Richards is the only starter to have an ERA lower than 4.00. Other key injuries include shortstop Erick Aybar who could be back by the end of the week and reliever Kevin Jepsen who is out until at least mid-May with arm trouble.
Although I expect the lineup to start hitting better, I don’t think any of the three guys mentioned earlier will duplicate their 2012 numbers. Outfielders Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos have been great but won’t be able to make up the loss of production of the other guys. The pitching is not as good as last year which spells trouble for a team without its best arm. You have to wonder with the advancing age and declining numbers of Pujols and Hamilton if the window for LA is starting to close. I predicted the Angels would finish in third place. So far, I see no reason to change my mind.
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