Entering the season it appeared as though the Los Angeles Angels might have the best starting rotation in the league with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
The Angels further bolstered their staff by trading for Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke, and are now the team to beat in the American League.
The Angels got off to a slow start this season and haven't exactly lived up to expectations. They have a 1.5-game lead in the AL Wild Card race and are four games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. The Rangers and New York Yankees both have a better record than the Angels, but neither can match L.A.'s pitching depth.
Although you have to score runs to some degree in order to win in the playoffs, pitching is always the name of the game. Haren has had a rough season for the Angels, but if they can roll him out as a fourth starter behind Weaver, Wilson and now Greinke, then they are going to have an absolutely massive advantage over the competition.
The Angels haven't been quite as good as expected offensively, but outfielder Mike Trout is a Rookie of the Year and MVP candidate, Mark Trumbo is having a big power year and prized free-agent acquisition Albert Pujols has been improving throughout the year.
Los Angeles has enough offense to win games, and now it has elite pitching.
Who is the team to beat in the American League?
It's difficult to imagine another American League team matching up with the Angels in the pitching department, so fans ought to feel really good about their team's chances. The only thing that could possibly be an issue is the bullpen, as Ernesto Frieri is inexperienced as a closer and could conceivably fold come playoff time.
With so many workhorses in the rotation, the Angels figure to leave their starters in the game fairly late on most occasions. Perhaps starting pitching wasn't the Angels' biggest need, but now they have an abundance of it and it simply isn't possible to have too much good pitching.
Great pitchers generally beat great hitters in the playoffs, so the Rangers and Yankees will face a tough challenge if or when they take on the Angels. The Rangers and Yanks have decent rotations, but they are predicated on offense as they have two of the best lineups in the game.
Los Angeles may have found a way to neutralize them.
A lot of this also will have to do with how Greinke responds to the trade. He has been somewhat inconsistent this season with a 3.44 ERA, but Greinke has the ability to take over a game. At the same time, he suffers from social anxiety disorder and could possibly find it difficult to play in a larger market, as he is accustomed to Milwaukee and Kansas City.
Greinke has managed his psychological issues well and has been a top pitcher for the past few seasons, so he should be able to handle it. The Angels haven't been as dominant as originally hoped this season, but with Greinke in the fold, they will be a difficult hurdle to clear moving forward.
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