07 September 2012

Can the surging Angels get into the playoffs?

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are one of the hottest teams in baseball, going 8-2 in their last ten. They just completed a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics in Oakland. They sit 2.5 games back of the Wild Card, can they get themselves into the postseason?

If there is one thing the Angels have been really good at this season, it is hitting the baseball. Anaheim is second in average (.275), fourth in on-base percentage (.333), fourth in slugging percentage (.437), third in OPS .769), seventh in homers (166), fourth in RBIs (626), second in runs (658) and third in hits (1290). Albert Pujols rebounded from his poor start and has been red hot after the All-Star break, batting .321 with a .668 slugging percentage (as opposed to a .460 slugging percentage before the All-Star break) and 15 homers. Mark Trumbo brought the power again, leading the team in homers for the second straight year, and has improved his average from .254 to .271. Kendry Morales has rebounded from not playing at all a year ago to put together a solid season. Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick bring solid bats to the middle of the infield. How about Torii Hunter this season? The power has not really been there but he has been doing a great job hitting the ball, batting .346 over the last thirty games. And what has not been said about rookie sensation Mike Trout, who has become a lock for Rookie of the Year and the big favorite to be AL MVP with his godly season (.330/.394/.563, 25 homers, 44 steals).

But the offense has been there all season, the pitching has been a different story. Jared Weaver has put together a really strong season, going 16-4 with a 2.86 ERA. C.J. Wilson was pitching well before July and he struggled in July (0-3, 4.23 ERA) and he was god awful in August (1-2, 7.99 ERA and a .326 opposing batting average). Dan Haren has been inconsistent all season, although he seems to be picking it up of late, going 2-0 in his last starts with a 0.69, a 10-3 strikeout-to-walk ration and a .178 opposing average. Ervin Santana has also been inconsistent all year, not surprising considering his career. And the Angels were the only team to make a big move at the trade deadline, making a move for Zach Greinke but he has been shaky at times since coming to Orange County, going 4-2 with a 4.36 ERA. The Angels have the 19th best ERA in baseball with a 4.09 team ERA.

Even with the inconsistent pitching, the Angels have been hot of late and sit 2.5 back. But also, you cannot deny that the Angels have been a disappointment. I had the team winning the division and I'll admit, I underestimated Texas, who look like the top team in the American League. But still, who thought that they would be fighting for the Wild Card spot, behind the Athletics, behind the red-hot Orioles.

But I tell ya, if the Angels continue to play like they are right now, they have a good shot to get the postseason. And of the clubs in the AL Wild Card race, they have the most talent in my opinion. So they are a tea, that if they get hot, I do not think anybody will want to play them. That would also set up a tantalizing matchup with the Rangers if Anaheim gets the Wild Card and advances to the ALDS, who would not love to see that? The winners there would probably win the league.

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