15 Keys to the Los Angeles Angels Pulling off a Wild-Card Comeback
The Los Angeles Angels are 4.5 games back in the American League Wild Card race, and they have a lot of work to do in order to have a realistic shot at making the postseason in 2012.
From starting pitching to coaching, the team has many areas to address in order to get itself into contention for one of the two wild card spots.
Here are 15 of them.
1. Ride the Weaver Express
The Angels' starting pitching has left a lot to be desired, but the one and only bright spot all season long has been ace Jered Weaver.
He's also been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and is in the middle of the discussion for the American League Cy Young Award. With a 16-3 record, .207 batting average against, and a 2.74 ERA in 23 starts, he's got a legitimate chance at winning the award.
Weaver will go for his 17th win of the season on Tuesday when he and the Angels face the Boston Red Sox. They'll need a big performance from him in that game and beyond in order to reach their playoff aspirations.
2. Mike Trout Makes an MVP Push
Mike Trout has been the brightest star in Southern California this season, and ironically, the Angels have needed his contributions to have any hope of making the postseason.
But in August, the 21-year-old has struggled, and he is now hitting below .300 for the first time this season. In order to make a playoff push, the Halos will need their boy wonder to be great again.
3. Albert Pujols Gets (and Stays) Healthy
Albert Pujols will need to remain healthy for the stretch run of the season. A calf injury that sidelined him in August provided a scare and remains a concern for Halos fans.
Injuries are a part of the game, but with the playoffs growing farther out of reach, the Angels will need Pujols in the lineup every day.
4. Ervin Santana Keeps It in the Park
Ervin Santana has had a disappointing year in 2012 to say the least, but he’s been especially troubled with respect to the long ball.
Santana is second in the American League with 31 home runs allowed. His inability to keep opponents in the park has cost his team games. He’ll need to address that for the Angels to make a late-season run into the playoffs.
5. Don't Panic
The Angels don’t have much room for error going into the season’s stretch run, but the one thing that they can’t do is panic. Should another team make a run and rattle off a series of wins, they’ll have to play their own game and avoid pressing.
Baseball is a fickle game, and having the right approach is critical.
6. Mike Scioscia Takes Control
Mike Scioscia is the longest tenured manager in Major League Baseball for good reason, but the Angels have struggled for much of 2012. He’s come as close as he ever has to being in the hot seat.
It’s time for him and the rest of the coaching staff to regain control of the lineup and start putting the team in position to win more ballgames.
7. Win on the Road
8. C.J. Wilson Gets Right
The $77 million investment that the Angels made when they signed left-hander C.J. Wilson in the offseason has not paid off, but there’s still time for the veteran to earn his paycheck if he can string together a few good outings in September and beyond.
The Angels were counting on the Southern California native to deliver when they signed him, and a 3.83 ERA with a 9-9 record wasn't quite what they were looking for. All will be forgiven, though, if he pitches well with the season hanging in the balance.
9. Greinke Gets It Going
Zack Greinke was brought in to strengthen an already-potent starting rotation, but if anything, he’s only added to the woes of the pitching staff. The right-hander has a 5.22 ERA and is 2-2 in six starts with the Angels.
The Angels probably have the best starting rotation in the American League on paper, but the type of struggles that they've had with Greinke have been a concern.
Much like Wilson, Greinke can make everything right by saving his best outings for last and pitching well throughout September.
10. Another Winning Streak
The Angels have had issues putting wins together before in 2012, and they came out of it with an eight-game streak in May.
In order to keep pace with the talented teams vying for the two wild-card spots in the AL, the Angels will need another streak to gain some ground.
11. Bats Stay Lively
Despite the Angels’ losing record in August, the team has maintained its ability to score runs as evidenced by a .285 BA in August and 126 runs scored, both good for third-best in the American league during that stretch.
If the pitchers are able to fix their issues, then the hitters will need to maintain their effectiveness at the plate.
12. The Bullpen Wakes Up
Just as important as scoring runs is holding onto the leads they create. It’s critical that the bullpen improve in its 4.15 ERA, the second-worst in the American League, in order to play in October.
13. Beat Texas
Though the division crown is nearly out of reach for the Angels, they have seven remaining games against the Rangers. Those two series, one of which the Angels will host in Anaheim, may well determine the season outcome.
The Angels have shown they can hang with the talented Rangers, and they’ll have to prove it once again come September.
14. Vernon Wells Contributes
One of the nicest surprises of August has been the play of Vernon Wells. In a bizarre win against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Wells hit a key (and controversial) home run in the ninth inning that helped spark a remarkable come-from-behind 14-13 Angels win.
If he can provide a few clutch at-bats or spot starts when the team needs him as the season winds down, he’ll be a great asset.
The Angels have shown fans magic before, and though the team is not in the position to need a miracle just yet, it does need to turn things around quickly.
What the Halos can control is their attitude and how they view the rest of their season. They could pack it in and lose hope with a string of losses, but the sky is the limit, should the team come together and make the postseason.
It all starts with that belief.