The last place team referred to in the title is the 3-6 Angels, sole 4th place occupiers in the AL West. And while it’s early and catchphrases like “small sample size” are certainly applicable, that doesn’t make the start any less disheartening for a team with World Series aspirations.
The way the Angels have lost has been especially troubling. The starting pitching, save both CJ Wilson starts and Jered Weaver’s start on Opening Day, has been brutal. The offense at times has been sluggish, but there are bright spots and many problems will be worked out eventually; Pujols will find a consistent swing, Trout will come up, Iannetta is providing offense from the catcher position.
But the pitching has been concerning. Weaver is likely to regress anyway (scroll down to #1), Haren has been rocked twice after having bouts with dead arm in the spring, and Santana has always been an enigmatic ace, capable of dominance or mediocrity, depending on the season. The 2 losses in Minnesota last week are symptomatic of these problems. Last year, Weaver and Haren would have killed for 5 runs and if they got it, that meant the Angels won. However, in Minnesota Weaver was spotted 5 runs and Haren was spotted 9 runs (including a 6-0 lead) and the Angels blew leads both games. The bullpen received the brunt of the blame for both losses. The bullpen was awful, but in both games the two aces were on the mound when the bleeding began.
It’s still obviously way too early to call the Angels a bust. The Dodgers aren’t going to win 130 games and Ryan Sweeney isn’t going to bat .400. But the games still count and spotting an elite team like Texas a 4.5 game lead is asking for future trouble.
This will be an important week for the Angels to get on track in this 2012 season as they face two teams that figure to finish at the bottom of their respective divisions. First up in the 7-game home stand is four games against the A’s. The A’s gained some public recognition during the offseason from the excellent film Moneyball, which garnered 6 Academy Awards nominations. On the slim chance you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, it chronicles the A’s 2002 season under progressive-minded GM Billy Beane. This offseason, Beane was up to his usual renegade tricks, perhaps exploiting a new market inefficiency: selling off cheap young talent that is under team control for a number of years. Beane traded two prominent rotation fixtures (Trevor Cahill to Arizona, Gio Gonzalez to Washington) and the closer (injury prone Andrew Bailey to Boston) in order to bolster the farm system. The strategy seemed to pay off for the time being, as Baseball America ranked the A’s 7th in their annual organizational talent rankings. This season, the A’s will struggle to score runs and they’ll lose most of their games. Yet they are worth watching because of their raw, Cuban-import center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who does things like this.
After the A’s, the Angels take on the Orioles in a 3-game weekend set. The Orioles have the misfortune of playing in the AL East, where they’ve been a doormat since their last playoff appearance in 1997. The O’s have solid, young talent up the middle with center fielder Adam Jones and catcher Matt Wieters, former #1 overall prospect and a first time All Star in 2011. However, barring a miraculous surge or unexpected collapse from a division rival, the Orioles are all but assured of last place this year. To get out from under the oppression of their powerful division rivals, the Orioles will likely have to go the way of the Rays and Blue Jays: excel in the draft, build a loaded farm system (currently ranked 21st in organizational talent by Baseball America), and not waste dollars on washed up DH-types like Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero. It will take a long, long time, but the Orioles need to be patient if they want their once-proud franchise to return to prominence.
Probable Pitchers, according to Angels official team site
Monday: Weaver vs Brandon McCarthy
Tuesday: Haren vs Tyson Ross
Wednesday: Santana vs former Angel and 2005 Cy Young winner (even though Johan Santana was robbed) Bartolo Colon
Thursday: Wilson vs Tommy Milone
No probables yet for the Orioles series. After his poor start against the Yankees, it will be interesting to see if the Angels give Jerome Williams another shot or if they call up Garrett Richards. My money is they give Williams another crack at it.
3 Not Very Bold Predictions
1) Pujols will hit a home run.
2) Walden will get a save.
3) Haren will rebound and pitch well against the A’s.
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