Game 1: Angels 8, Mariners 1 | Game 2: Mariners 13, Angels 2
Game 3: Angels 5, Mariners 0 | Game 4: Mariners 3, Angels 1
Runs Scored: 16
Runs Allowed: 17
YTD Record: 95-58 | 1st in AL West | Magic Number: 0!
Up Next: Friday vs. TEX
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the American League West Division Champions! In 2014! That’s, like, right now! How cool is that?
I’ll be the first to admit I did not expect the Angels to come away with a division title this year. From Spring Training well into August, the common refrain is our series recaps was something to the effect of: “The A’s are out of reach, so let’s temper expectations and focus on maintaining Wild Card position.” Even as September approached and the gap between Anaheim and Oakland closed I had a hard time believing the Halos could keep the good times rolling. But then the Angels and Athletics did the whole ships-passing-in-the-night routine and now I look back and wonder how I ever doubted that the team couldn’t hang with Billy Beane’s band of brigands. Not so much because the Athletics seem to have fallen into the Springfield Mystery Spot — though, holy hell what is happening up there?! — but because the Halos have been otherworldly for three-plus months now. They are 64-30 since June 6, which is good for a .680 winning percentage. Over the course of an entire season, that’d put them on pace for 110 wins — only six teams in MLB history have ever won that many. We can’t just ignore the first two months of this season, of course, but it’s plainly evident they are a very different team now than they were in May, in both persona and personnel.
Considering that the Halos get to coast for the next two weeks while their four potential ALDS opponents duke it out to determine three playoff spots, it’s natural to worry that the Angels might lose their “edge” by the time October arrives, or that one of the Royals/Tigers/A’s/Mariners quartet will have momentum on their side. Of the myriad clichés about the playoffs — i.e. players with prior postseason experience are more likely to succeed; home-field advantage is huge; teams who can’t play “small ball” don’t to well in the postseason; etc. — the only one that has actually stood up to any sort of scientific scrutiny is, unfortunately, the maxim I’ve already primed you for: that teams perform better in October if they have to fight for a playoff spot down to wire.
As you’d expect, it’s not so simple as “teams in tight races are better playoff teams,” it’s a more nuanced “teams whose playoff hopes come down to the final days of the season tend to get a slightly better performance from their pitching staffs in the postseason than would normally be expected.” (Hitters aren’t afforded that same advantage, for whatever reason.) This little statistical quirk could potentially spell bad news for the Angels, as all four of their potential opponents already boast some of the strongest rotations in the American League, but having the best offense in baseball should help mitigate the effect some.