Learning From The Los Angeles Angels

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Still, there are some problem areas. Alberto Callaspo, who is splitting time with Trumbo at 3rd, has a .161 average, with 5 hits through 32 plate appearances, all singles. Peter Bourjos has not exactly been a luminary at the plate either, hitting for a 40 wRC+, just half of Kendrys Morales and his 78 wRC+, who has not regained his explosive bat from 2009 and is showing how no matter how talented you are, it takes a while to come back to the game after a two-year injury break. Nevertheless, Howie Kendrick has been his excellent self, Chris Ianetta, as I mentioned earlier, has been better than expected, and Mark Trumbo has been explosive, hitting for a 214 wRC+, and improving his sub-.300 OBP from last season to a .467 OBP so far this season. Unfortunately, his plate appearances have been limited to just half of his brethren who are consistently starters.

I’m interested in the Angels’ performance this season because they were expected to be our primary competitors for the AL West title, and in fact in an ESPN poll of their MLB staff, were the team picked most often to win the World Series. So far, they haven’t really looked the part, while the Rangers have gotten off to a roaring start. With only ten percent of the season in the bag its too early to be drawing definitive conclusions either way, but these things still matter. The more pressure the Angels are to succeed, the more some guys are going to press for a big hit, which will inevitably lead to some big whiffs, instead.

More importantly, the Angels experience so far this season is instructive. First, it shows how vital a bullpen is to the success of a team. In their now-legendary offseason the Angels addressed the bullpen by bringing on Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins, ignoring the plethora of high-profile closers available. The only way to fix the bullpen now is through a trade, and with the 23rd-ranked farm system (according to Baseball America), the Angels are not in a strong negotiating position. Second, it highlights the importance of avoiding an excess of players at any one position. Between Trumbo, Pujols, Morales, Abreu, the Angels have too many players who are limited to 1B or DH, or a limited capacity in LF. As a result, Trumbo team-leading bat has been utterly wasted this season. Finally, it confirms that having a solid rotation all the way through the fifth starter can be just as valuable as having a rotation headlined by a couple top-5 AL pitchers, followed by a trio of struggling pitchers. The worst starter for the Rangers so far, Yu Darvish, has a better ERA than the Angel’s 3rd through 5th starters, and he has been showing tremendous improvement, giving up just one run in his last start.