Friday, April 27, 2012

Angels Off to a Terrible Start

 Big things are expected in Anaheim after they spent $330 million on the CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols contracts. Granted the season is early and its still April, but they are off to a 6-13 start and are already 9 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West. That is the farthest back of any team and its only the end of April.  Pujols is off to the worst start of his career, batting only .224 with a .280 On base pct. Pujols has also went 82 plate appearances without a home run. He got off to a slow start last year as well, but not this bad. After 19 games last year, Pujols was batting .247 with a .314 OBP, 6 home runs, and 14 RBIs. He didn't fully lock in until the second half in 2011.

After a 0 for 21 stretch, Pujols finally got a hit in yesterday's game against the Rays. He was then thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. The Rays ended up coming back from behind to win and swept the Angels. The pressure of living up to the contract could be getting to him, or its possible he realizes he made a mistake signing with the Angels. Not being used to American League pitchers could also have something to do with it as well. The Angels don't have as good of a complementary cast of hitters like the Cardinals do either.

I do expect Pujols to snap out of it, but he may never again be the hitter he was between 2001 and 2010. Since winning back to back MVPs in 2008 and 2009, Pujols numbers have slipped a bit. His average, OBP, and slugging pct. dropped in 2010 and quite a bit more in 2011. At the end of the year, Pujols will still probably have a good season but nowhere near the level he once was. Pujols also still deals with a partially torn UCL, which he has had to have cleanup surgery twice for in past offseasons. He has had the condition since 2003, but has been able to avoid Tommy John surgery to repair it fully. Pujols also deals with plantar fasciitis, a injury that slowed Mark McGwire and Frank Thomas later in their careers. Glad the Angels signed him to a ten year deal instead of the Cardinals.

This a team with alot of talent, but a somewhat poorly constructed team. They had to move power hitting youngster Mark Trumbo from first to make room for Pujols. They've tried him at third, but he's made 3 errors in 4 games there. Weak hitting Alberto Callaspo and utilityman Maicer Izturis have played the majority of time at third instead. Mike Scoiscia has also used him a DH and the corner outfield spots, but there's a logjam there as well. Kendrys Morales has finally recovered from a broken leg suffered two years ago celebrating a walk off home run, and has been the primary DH. In the outfield, Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos, and Torii Hunter are the primary starters. Bobby Abreu is also an option for outfield and DH, and super prospect Mike Trout had to be sent to the minors.

Wells has actually been one of their better hitters so far after a terrible season in 2011 when he batted .218. He came over in a trade with Toronto for Mike Napoli and the Angels picked up the rest of his giant contract until 2014. Trading Napoli created a big hole at catcher, and Chris Ianetta was traded for this offseason to fill. He's a improvement over last year, but not nearly as good as Napoli. The Angels middle infield is pretty solid with Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, although Aybar is off to a slow start. As a team this year the Angels offense has been weak, batting .250 total with a .301 OBP so far. In 2011 the Angels batted .253 with a .313 OBP.

The Angels pitching is the strong point of this team, but some of their pitchers are off to slow starts. Their bullpen was a weak spot last year, and may be again this year. They added veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen to their bullpen, and they have pitched decently well so far. Lefty Scott Downs is still pretty sharp. But their closer Jordan Walden is off to a terrible start with a 8.31 ERA in 6 games. Walden blew 10 saves last year and has already blown one this year. The rest of their bullpen is shaky as well, especially with Izzy being one of their better relievers. Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson have started off very well, but Ervin Santana is off to a rough start. Dan Haren had a couple of bad starts, but is starting to turn it around.

This is a team that hasn't hit its stride yet, and they have alot of talent in Anaheim. However, just because you make a big splash in the offseason doesn't mean you win the pennant. The Red Sox added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford before the 2011 season, and they collapsed down the stretch. The American League is tough, with the Rangers, Rays, Tigers, and Yankees. The Halos are going to have to get it in gear to compete with these teams. Personally, I hope to see the Angels miss the playoffs and for Pujols to watch the Cardinals win in October without him.

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