Arguably the biggest surprise in baseball this season has been the Los Angeles Angels. After being a trendy pick to win the American League, the Angels have stumbled mightily out of the gate.
They currently sit at 10-15 overall, and in last place in the AL West. They were 7-15 a few days ago, but a sweep of the lowly Twins helped spruce up their record a bit.
So what in the world is wrong with this club? Well, there's a number of areas you could focus on, but I'm going to start by looking at the lineup.
The biggest problem with this lineup by far is that they don't hit for power. Yes, Albert Pujols deserves a ton of the blame as he has not yet hit a home run, but there are plenty of other players who deserve a share of the blame as well.
This may sound extremely odd, but I think Mike Scioscia is partly responsible for the Angels' lack of power. Scioscia is looked at as one of the best managers in the game, and has seldom been criticized over the last few years, but some of the choices he has made so far this year have just been downright strange.
The biggest one that I have a problem with is how he continually sits two of his biggest power threats, Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales.
Both of these guys have proven that they are everyday players, and the Angels need their bats in the lineup.
As a rookie last year, Trumbo had 29 home runs and 87 RBI while not even playing in 150 games! So why in the world would Scioscia not start him every game this year?
It's not like Trumbo is struggling in 2012; he is currently hitting .296 and has three home runs, which is not bad considering the limited amount of at-bats he's had.
Morales, on the other hand, has finally returned from his long road to recovery, and looks like his old self again. He is currently hitting .319, but hasn't found his power stroke yet as he has only hit two home runs.
I think Scioscia also deserves some of the blame for Morales, as he has only had 72 at-bats this season. However, not all of the blame can be put on Scioscia, as Morales simply needs to hit for more power.
The Angels did begin the year with a few too many position players who were capable of starting, and I can see why Scoscia wanted them all to see time, but Trumbo and Morales have separated themselves from their backups.
Neither Maicer Izturis nor Alberto Callaspo should be starting over Trumbo at third, as Izturis hasn't done much so far and Callaspo has been downright awful.
Releasing Bobby Abreu helped clear up some space, so there's no reason Morales shouldn't be starting everyday at DH.
Those aren't the only problems in this lineup though, as there are a number of players who aren't hitting for average either.
Chris Iannetta and Vernon Wells have terrible averages so far, but honestly that's not too surprising. Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols all have no excuse for their sub-par performances. If Bourjos doesn't come around soon, I don't think it'd be a bad idea to have Mike Trout take over in center full time.
I definitely don't think Aybar will lose his starting job, but it wouldn't be a bad idea for Mike Scioscia to start letting Maicer Izturis see more time at shortstop.
Pujols, on the other hand, just needs to hit his way out of his slump.
You really can't complain about the rotation much, since it's been very good so far. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren have all been solid; even Jerome Williams has pitched decent.
There is no question that Ervin Santana is the weak spot in the rotation right now. He's winless and has an ERA over 6.00. However, he is a veteran, and I think he just needs to pitch his way out this slump.
Now, onto arguably the biggest problem with this team: the bullpen. I'll start at closer, where Jordan Walden has already been relieved of his duties. It was the right thing to do, as there is no reason to think Scott Downs won't be successful.
Downs was easily one of the best three or four relievers in the game last year, and currently has a 0.00 ERA this season.
However, the problem lies with the rest of the 'pen. It has been so bad that changes have already been made, as Rich Thompson is no longer with the team.
Kevin Jepsen is the next one that needs to go. He has been horrible this year, and a stint in the minors would really do him good.
Hisanori Takahashi has also been awful. This may be a bit bold, but I wouldn't be surprised if Takahashi doesn't last the entire season with the team.
As mentioned earlier, Walden is no longer working as the closer, but what can be expected out of him as a reliever?
Jason Isringhausen has been a bright spot, but he's approaching 40 and I don't think his success will last.
Where do the Angels turn for answers? They do have Trevor Bell and Bobby Cassevah in their minor league system, and both of those guys have lots of experience with the team. If Jepsen, Takahashi and Walden continue to struggle, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bell or Cassevah get a call-up.
With all the problems that the Angels currently have, is it time to panic? Absolutely not. In fact, I don't know why people are even discussing that, seeing as it's the very beginning of May. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Angels make the playoffs as a wild card.
Heck, the division should still be their main goal. The Rangers will hit their rough patches, leaving the door wide open for LA.
With that being said, Pujols will need to break out of his slump, which I think is only a matter of time. Ervin Santana also needs to regain his form, and major changes need to be made to the bullpen.
This is still a 90-plus win club, and a potential playoff team.