Los Angeles Angels: Winners and Losers from First Month of Action
The month of April was 30 days too long for the Los Angeles Angels and their fanbase.
Following the team's horrid start, what was set to be a blockbuster, history-making season for the club in 2013—a loaded lineup, loaded bank account and Cy Young talent at the front of the rotation—has quickly become more of an unrehearsed catastrophe.
Impressive—it only took the first month of the season to accomplish such chaos.
Now, as the team limps into May baseball at 9-17, more doubt surrounds the organization than anyone could have predicted. Whether it is injuries or the lack of offensive power from portions of "The Trio," the only good point to come out of April for the Angels is that the month is now history.
It's history, however, that the organization can learn from. With that in mind, as painful as it may be for the Halo faithful, let's take look back at the players who achieved for the Angels in the opening moth, and those who still need a little work.
Note: All stats were provided courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
Winner: Mark Trumbo
Is there any player that is more exciting to watch at the plate than Mark Trumbo? I can't think of one. He is the type of hitter that will make you stop whatever you're doing and take notice. You don't want to miss a swing.
The first month of the season is only solidifying Trumbo as a true talent in the MLB.
Though his defense—at first base or in the outfield—has been shaky, at best, Trumbo has provided the offensive spark the team desperately needed in April. And he has taken a large portion of his swings with zero protection around him.
Winner: Peter Bourjos
The fact that his hamstring injury will really change the dynamic of the lineup is a testament to how good of an April Peter Bourjos had.
His defense has always been there—it's what has kept him around the big-league level—but it's his offense this year that has really helped the team. His .313 average is tied for second-best on the team, and he is in the top three in runs scored (12).
The stolen-base numbers are unexpectedly low (one). However, he has managed to do a nice job at the leadoff spot while Erick Aybar was out and the lineup was being shifted here and there by manager Mike Scioscia.
Winner: J.B. Shuck
J.B. Shuck has been simply impressive. A non-roster invite to spring training who earned a spot on the team, Shuck has proven his worth. He has the bat control and the approach at the plate. He has the speed and quick first step on the bases and out of the batter's box.
While role players can sometimes struggle early on due to lack of consistency, when called upon, Shuck has taken every opportunity and capitalized. Though he only has 17 at-bats, his .471 average led the Angels in April.
Winner: Howie Kendrick
Late-inning heroics and solid defense have made this April a good one for Howie Kendrick—maybe with the exception of the 19-inning marathon against the Oakland A's on Monday night.
Kendrick is hitting .282, while displaying some of the power we saw in spring training. However, it's his reassuring demeanor in the dugout and in the infield that deserves recognition. With the absence of Torii Hunter, someone needed to step up as a leader, and it looks as though Kendrick has slipped into that role—regardless if it was voluntary or not.
Loser: Albert Pujols
Some may argue that Albert Pujols has performed above expectations so far (.252, four home runs and 17 RBI), especially considering the injuries he had coming out of spring training and the plantar fasciitis he has now.
But his defense has suffered. And though fans may still have held out hope to see Pujols rip though another April like he was a baseball immortal, those days are seemingly gone. Sure, he did improve from last year’s dismal April numbers (.217 average with zero long balls), and he is showing signs of the pre-Angels Albert.
It's just impossible to call a mediocre rise in numbers positive.
Loser: Josh Hamilton
If you were to tell me a few months ago that an Angels player who is making $20-plus million this year would end April hitting .204 with 32 strikeouts, I probably would have guessed the culprit to be Vernon Wells—not an offense-yielding force like Josh Hamilton.
My, how times have changed around Anaheim.
Had there not been interleague play tormenting the batting skills and averages of the Angels' rotation guys, or the struggles of Andrew Romine, Josh Hamilton would have the worst average on the team. And that doesn't seem like it is going to improve heading into May.
Through the entire month of April, Hamilton's aggressive style—free swinging on the first pitch or anything thereafter—has caused him to be a non-factor in the lineup. Pitchers are able to go soft and away on the left-hander with almost absolute certainty he will swing over top of the ball—resulting in a grounder to the right side or a swing and a miss.
Usually, it’s the latter of the two scenarios.
Loser: Mike Trout
Mike Trout…a loser? Not personally, though I can see this being the player that fans would rush to defend the most. So, with all of you in mind, I will make it simple.
Trout is getting on track. I doubt he will strike out another 25 times in any month moving forward like he did in April. His defense is solid. He is the future (and present) of the Angels.
However, he is also young. And the month of April shed light on some of the immaturity he still possesses: trying to make an amazing catch, when one extra step would make it a simple one, thus avoiding injury. Or over-swinging for the dramatic home run, when putting the ball in play is more important.
Regardless, he still has a lot to learn. And he will learn, no question. A month where he goes .261 with two home runs and four stolen bases will help with that tutelage.
Loser: The Pitching
It was not a hidden secret that the pitching this year would be the weaker aspect for the Angels. However, following an April where the team finished second to last among AL teams in ERA (4.91), it's safe to say that weak is a possible understatement.
And yes, that goes for the starters as well as the relief. Even the pitchers that have gotten praise for their efforts—like Scott Downs and Dane De La Rosa—are responsible for meltdowns during crucial games. (The bullpen has blown five leads already this season, which is on pace to break their horrid number of 19 from last season.)
Is there hope? Probably not, though for the time being the Angels front office can blame it all on injuries.
But that won't last.