30 Clubs in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

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The Angels have gone through more facelifts than Joan Rivers over the years. From California, to Anaheim, to Los Angeles of Anaheim, the name has changed dramatically. But, the rich history remains in place. This offseason was one of reloading after a disappointing 2012. A year ago, all the pundits and prognosticators pegged the Angels for a postseason run. Fresh off their lucrative signings of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, Anaheim looked like titletown once again. Even a midseason trade for 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zach Greinke could not prevent the Angels from slumping to third place in a rejuvenated American League West.

Enter 2013, and welcome Josh Hamilton to California. The 2010 AL MVP signed a 5 year, $133 million deal to man the outfield in Anaheim. The acquisition gives the Angels a frighteningly talented offense, as Hamilton joins Pujols, Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, and 2012 breakout player Mark Trumbo in the heart of the order. Supplement them with veterans like SS Erick Aybar, 2B Howie Kendrick, and 3B Alberto Callaspo, and the Angels should have one of the most productive offenses in the American League.

Now, the question rests on their pitching. Greinke is gone, taking his talents down the expressway to Dodgers Stadium. Longtime Angel Ervin Santana, traded to Kansas City, is also out. As is Dan Haren, who signed a one-year contract in the nation’s capital with Washington. That is five All-Star appearances between three pitchers and 27-wins from last year’s team. To replace them, Anaheim signed former Phillies RHP Joe Blanton to a two-year contract and traded for veterans LHP Jason Vargas (from Seattle for Kendry Morales) and RHP Tommy Hanson (from Atlanta for RHP Jordan Walden). Vargas has had a couple of strong campaigns in Seattle, and should be the least of the Angels’ worries. Blanton and Hanson, however, have had to deal with injury problems over the past few seasons. If they struggle to remain durable, the Angels have RHP’s Jerome Williams and Barry Enright waiting in the wings.

Five Year Review:
2012: 89-73
2011: 86-76
2010: 80-82
2009: 97-65
Lost ALCS to Yankees, 4-2
2008: 100-62
Lost ALDS to Red Sox, 3-1

2012 Team MVP: CF Mike Trout: The runner-up for AL MVP was also the winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. A first round pick in 2009, the local Philadelphia product has emerged as the premier young star in the game. Not called up until the end of April, Trout immediately paid dividends for his team, with circus catches and clutch hits that would signify the poise of a wily veteran, not a 20-year old kid. Trout finished the season at .326-30-83 with 49 SB to just 5 CS in 139 G. Only Albert Pujols had more XBH than Trout on the Angels. Without their 20-year old leadoff hitter, Anaheim likely would have won a lot less than 89 games and Mike Scioscia’s job might have been in jeopardy.

2012 Team LVP: LF Vernon Wells: The worst contract in baseball had yet another miserable season in Anaheim. The Angels, foolishly believing that his solid 2010 season was a harbinger of things to come, traded slugging C Mike Napoli to Toronto for the overpriced left-fielder. Two years later, the Angels are licking their wounds wishing that MLB contained an amnesty clause in their CBA. Wells is scheduled to make $21 million each of the next two years. When his deal expires after 2014, Wells recently announced that he will retire from baseball. The Angels probably wish he would just quit now. His .230-11-29 mark in 77 games was a slight improvement from an even more pathetic .218-25-66 line in 131 games in 2011. 

Key Acquisitions:

CF Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers)
RHP Tommy Hanson (Atlanta Braves)
RHP Joe Blanton (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RHP Ryan Madson (Cincinnati Reds)
LHP Jason Vargas (Seattle Mariners)
LHP Sean Burnett (Washington Nationals)

Key Departures:

IF Maicer Izturis (Toronto Blue Jays)
RF Torii Hunter (Detroit Tigers)
RHP Dan Haren (Washington Nationals)
RHP Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RHP LaTroy Hawkins (New York Mets)
RHP Jason Isringhausen (Retirement)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. LF Mike Trout (.293-27-81-46 SB)
2. SS Erick Aybar (.277-8-54-20 SB)
3. 1B Albert Pujols (.293-33-107)
4. RF Josh Hamilton (.279-28-94)
5. DH Mark Trumbo (.260-27-84)
6. 2B Howie Kendrick (.276-11-67-12 SB)
7. 3B Alberto Callaspo (.268-8-48)
8. C Chris Iannetta (.230-13-45)
9. CF Peter Bourjos (.252-11-52-16 SB)

1. RHP Jered Weaver (15-9, 3.32)
2. LHP CJ Wilson (13-9, 3.66)
3. RHP Tommy Hanson (11-9, 3.97)
4. RHP Joe Blanton (10-9, 4.32)
5. LHP Jason Vargas (11-11, 4.27)
CP. RHP Ryan Madson (3-2, 3.12, 19 SV)
SU. RHP Ernesto Frieri (3-2, 3.25, 7 SV)

2013 Outlook:

The Angels have not made the playoffs since 2009. Yet, Mike Scioscia has managed to keep his job in spite of the fact that they have not even won a pennant since 2002. What direction will ownership go in if the team once again underachieves in spite of another offseason spending spree? Luckily for Scioscia, I do not think he has much to worry about. The Angels will win the American League West in 2013. The struggles that they went through last year were compounded by the fact that leadership was missing in the clubhouse. Now, with Pujols and Trout firmly entrenched as the faces of the franchise, business can resume as usual.

The bullpen is improved, with Ryan Madson at the back end of a talented corps of arms. The rotation will suffice if they can stay healthy. There is no better than Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation and Jason Vargas at the back. It is the names in between that I would be most concerned with. Still, Anaheim won 89 games despite missing Trout for a month and dealing with various distractions and disappointments. I believe the Angels will win between 93-98 games, capturing the AL West for the first time since 2009.

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