The Texas Rangers dropped two out of three in their last series against the Los Angeles Angels. To be honest, Texas didn't exactly play their best baseball so it isn't time to push the panic button. They still own a 4.5 game lead in the division despite only playing around .500 ball over the last month.
Still, the Angels' winning streak and series against Texas has showed a few things that might concern the Rangers over the course of the season.
It was supposed to be a close race in the division, and things are finally starting to look that way. This should definitely make the rest of the season more interesting.
The other rookie phenom who is not getting quite as much publicity as Bryce Harper is Angels’ centerfielder Mike Trout. The 20-year-old is having a great season, hitting .318 with five homers and a .374 OBP from the leadoff spot.
So far, Trout is looking a little like another former Ranger killer who wore number 27 for the Angels—Vladimir Guerrero. For a team that has needed some help on offense, Trout has done his part by hitting .417 with 7 RBI against Texas.
Also blessed with great speed, Trout is a nightmare on the bases. He looks like a future superstar already, so the Rangers will have to find better ways of getting him out.
The other young player heavily contributing to the Angels’ lineup is Mark Trumbo. He is taking the next step after finishing runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting last season.
In his second full season, Trumbo has arguably been the team’s best hitter. He leads the team in batting average (.331), homers (10), hits (55), and OBP (.381).
With some underachieving sluggers in the lineup, the Angels’ have needed every bit of Trumbo’s contribution.
Should he continue the season he is having, Trumbo provides an excellent middle of the order player who can provide some needed protection for Albert Pujols.
The Angels’ bullpen was a weakness last season and was definitely a question mark coming in to this year.
Things didn’t start out very smoothly, causing closer Jordan Walden to lose his job. After some shuffling, it looks like manager Mike Scioscia has found a winning formula. With the rotation the Angels already have, this could be trouble for Texas.
The trade for former Padres reliever Ernesto Frieri has been a huge addition to the bullpen. He has been virtually unhittable since his arrival, and along with Scott Downs, has provided the Angels with the late inning stability they desperately needed.
Defensive miscues have been an issue this season for Texas. They lead the American League with 30 unearned runs on the season.
Some of these errors in the field have had direct impacts on the results of games, the two losses in LA in particular. The Rangers have a great offense, but every run counts in the MLB, especially in tight games against division rivals.
The good news is that this is something the Rangers can control. The problem is not lack of talent. Should the team play to the level of their ability, this won’t be an issue. But for now, it needs to be mentioned.
It’s tough to find a player who has been more consistent over the last decade than Albert Pujols. He has a averaged a batting average of .325 with 37 homers and 113 RBI a year since his rookie season in 2001.
Pujols is simply too good a player to continue the poor season is having in 2012. That is what has to concern the Rangers. When he gets things going, it can spell bad news for pitchers across the American League.
It takes a team to win, however. Some of the young players mentioned earlier are going to have to continue their great seasons for Pujols to really have the championship-level impact the Angels are hoping for.
It’s always an intriguing matchup when the Rangers lineup faces the Angels rotation because these areas are probably the biggest strengths on both teams.
Led by Jered Weaver, the Halos have a stable of workhorses who are tough to hit and don’t give up a lot of runs.
It’s tough to say Texas is worried sick about the Angels rotation because they have had their fair share of success against them.
But the Rangers lineup can't afford to sleepwalk through games when Weaver, Haren or Wilson is on the hill. Texas needs to bring their A game every time they face one of these guys.