Pujols and the Angels will try to dominate in 2013
After stumbling down the stretch in 2012, the Los Angeles Angels will look to rebound against a new-look AL West in 2013.
There is a lot to look forward to for Angels fans this coming year. Mike Scioscia returns to the helm with a renewed contract, while Mike Trout will compete in his first full season at the major league level. On the mound, Jered Weaver will look to make another run at the AL Cy Young.
The Angels’ rotation will also see some changes in 2013.
Ervin Santana was also traded to the Royals for prospects.
Luckily for the Angels, they are not the only team with questions in the West. Here are four reasons the Angels outplay the field in 2013.
Cespedes and Oakland can go deep, but make a lot of outs.
The Oakland Athletics may have won the AL West on the last day of the 2012 season, but that was helped along by a perfect storm of slumps and scheduling.
Facing the Texas Rangers seven times in the final two weeks of the season was a godsend for an Oakland team that trailed the division by five games. It helped that the Rangers could not manage to win more than two games in a row in September.
The A’s took care of business with a team ERA of 3.48 and the most home runs in baseball over the second half of the season. However, as their 2002 predecessors proved, sabermetric baseball can only be sustained for so long.
Oakland led the league in home runs, though they also led in strikeouts. Combined, the team batted .252, while Oakland’s top home run threat, Josh Reddick, hit just .242.
In that same time, the Angels led the league in batting average (.281) and struck out 147 times fewer than the A’s while still reaching the top 10 in home run production.
Overall, the A’s and Angels were second and third in RBI last year, so the production is there for both teams. Still, the Angels have a more sustainable blueprint to repeat in 2013.
C.J. Wilson took the Rangers to the World Series and will try to do the same with LA.
It takes so much to reach the World Series once, yet the Rangers managed it in back-to-back years. After missing a championship by one strike in 2011, the Rangers were unable to repeat in 2012, losing the division and ultimately the wild card.
Inevitably, players leave and that unique playoff chemistry is disrupted.
The Rangers found that out with C.J. Wilson, who signed with the Angels in free agency. Colby Lewis took Wilson’s place, but was injured for a good part of 2012.
While Nolan Ryan has still managed to put a quality rotation together with Lewis, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish, the health of these starters will be the key to their success moving forward.
Still, while players migrate out of Texas, the Angels have seen an influx of talent.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols should make for a dynamic top of the lineup in their second year together. The Angels also traded for Tommy Hanson to join a rotation already anchored by Wilson and Jered Weaver.
At the back end of the bullpen, L.A. took a risk by signing Ryan Madson (who is coming off Tommy John surgery) to close out games.
The Angels finished poorly against Seattle, but will rebound in 2013
Seattle is in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes, but whether signing him is worthwhile remains debatable. Hamilton, though a fearsome hitter, is not the solution in Seattle.
Rather, the problem is producing runs. In 2012, the Mariners were 27th in RBI with 266 and 25th in batting average, hitting .239 as a team. Even with Felix Hernandez as their ace, the Mariners' pitching staff was 22nd in strikeouts.
Hamilton would absolutely help increase run production, but with the Mariners also last in the league in OBP, the RBI totals Hamilton had with Texas would be hard to replicate.
Seattle finished the season 18 games out of the wild card and 19 games out of the division. The Angels, though they slid to an eight-game deficit in August, finished the season just three games out of the AL West. They have a smaller gap to bridge in 2013.
The Angels will look to exploit a Houston team unfamiliar with the AL West.
The Houston Astros will move into the American League in 2013 having finished at the bottom of the MLB with just 55 wins in 2012. In 15 interleague games, the Astros were 6-9 against the AL and just 1-5 against their only AL West opponent, the Rangers.
The move is good for baseball because it balances the six divisions, but it is bad for the Astros because their hitters will struggle in a strong AL West.
Each of the other four teams in the AL West has a Cy Young-caliber ace, not to mention an extremely well-rounded rotation that follows.
The Angels are no exception and it starts with Jered Weaver. Behind him, Wilson and Tommy Hanson give the Angels a rotation that can dominate the Astros’ NL-worst offense from last year.
Look for them to compete against Curt Young’s dominant Oakland staff as well as Darvish in Texas and Hernandez in Seattle.