The offseason addition of slugger Josh Hamilton to a lineup that already included Mike Trout and Albert Pujols put the Angels on a short list of World Series favorites, according to oddsmakers.
Through the quarter mark of the 2013 season, the Angels have looked like anything but the 17/2 powerhouse that Vegas predicted them to be.
But that's why they play the games. In a sport as fickle as baseball, nothing is guaranteed.
With the anything-can-happen mantra in mind, let's allow our speculative imaginations to run wild and predict five bold outcomes for the remainder of the Angels' season.
Mark Trumbo has been the best home run hitter in the Angels lineup through the first 40 games of the season. With nine home runs in 164 at bats, he is averaging one dinger for every 18.2 plate appearances.
For comparison's sake, Pujols and Hamilton have been hitting one home run for every 25.5 and 31.8 at bats, respectively.
Trumbo currently leads the Angels in long balls and is on pace for 36.4 home runs this season. In his first two full seasons with the Halos, Trumbo belted 61 homers (29 in 2011 and 32 in 2012).
His power is clearly here to stay.
According to FanGraphs.com, Trumbo's home runs per fly ball rate is 24.3 percent, a number that dwarfs Pujols' 12.2 percent and Hamilton's 11.4 percent. His slugging percentage (.491) is also much higher than both Pujols' (.418) and Hamilton's (.358).
These numbers figure to hold steady for the remainder of the season should Trumbo remain healthy. His uppercut swing combined with his tremendous power make him a viable candidate to perennially surpass 30 home runs.
Look for the Angels' burgeoning slugger to hit 32-36 home runs this season, a number that will slightly eclipse the totals of Pujols and Hamilton in 2013.
Approximately a fourth of the way through the season, the Los Angeles Angels trail the Texas Rangers, the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners in the A.L. West standings with a record of 15-25. The Angels are 8-11 at home and 7-14 on the road — leaving them a whopping 11 games behind the division-leading Rangers.
Not only are the Angels losing, but they are losing by large margins. Through the first 40 games of the season, the Angels have scored 167 runs while allowing 208 runs. Their run differential currently stands at -41, fourth worst in all of baseball.
The return of ace Jered Weaver from the disabled list within the next week or two should lend some stability to the team's below-average starting rotation.
But he won't be able to dig the Angels out of their hole by himself. Making up 11 games in a competitive division appears highly unlikely with a surrounding pitching staff that currently ranks second worst in the majors with a team ERA of 4.77.
Look for the Angels to finish behind both Texas and Oakland for the second consecutive year.
Mike Scioscia's credentials with the Angels are undeniable. He holds franchise records for all-time wins (1,168) and games managed (2,144). He is also the first manager to reach the playoffs in six of his first 10 seasons with a team. In addition, Scioscia is a two-time A.L. Manager of the Year award winner (2002 and 2009). He also led the team to a World Series crown in 2002.
But in the cutthroat world of professional sports, the "What have you done for me lately?" question is ever-present.
A second disappointing start (in as many years) has some fans in Southern California wondering whether Scioscia's stay as manager has run its course.
The Angels entered the season fresh off their five-year, $125 million free-agency signing of Josh Hamilton. The slugger's contract expanded the team's 2013 payroll to $127 million, seventh-highest in all of baseball.
The Hamilton acquisition brought together three of the best and most feared hitters in the game, creating a star-studded trio that could rival any in history. The combination of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton account for 15 All-Star selections, 10 Silver Slugger Awards, four MVP awards, two Rookie of the Year honors and two batting titles.
But with talent comes high expectations.
And the Angels have certainly not lived up to them. The team has stumbled out of the gate in 2013 with a disappointing 15-25 record and find themselves 11 games behind the Texas Rangers in the A.L. West standings. To make matters worse, the franchise is currently experiencing a three-year playoff drought (its longest dry spell since 2001).
Although a large part of the blame for the slow start goes to the players (and deservedly so), Mike Scioscia also deserves some heat.
The longest tenured manager in baseball appears to be having trouble lighting a fire under his slumping team. He has also shown poor judgment of late by giving up on ex-Angel Vernon Wells (who couldn't crack Scioscia's lineup in Anaheim). Wells is currently experiencing a late-career resurgence in New York with 10 home runs and 23 RBI.
If the Angels don't make up serious ground on the Rangers by the All-Star break in July, look for owner Arte Moreno to replace Mike Scioscia at the helm.
Josh Hamilton's start to the 2013 season should be called nothing short of a nightmare. The five-time All-Star is currently batting .214 with an on-base percentage of .264 and a slugging percentage of .358. Against left-handed pitching, Hamilton is batting an abysmal .171.
With 45 strikeouts through 40 games, Hamilton is averaging 1.12 Ks per game—a number that puts him on pace for 181 this season. This number is particularly alarming when considering the fact that Hamilton has only struck out 100 or more times in a season just twice in his career.
According to ESPN, Hamilton equates his early season slump to sinus congestion. The 31-year-old slugger said the congestion has him feeling "off upstairs."
The numbers tell us a different story. They link the root of the problem to Hamilton's swing-happy approach at the plate.
Per FanGraphs.com, Hamilton is currently sixth worst in baseball with his plate discipline, swinging 42.4 percent of the time at balls thrown outside of the strike zone. The league average this season is 29.5 percent.
Not only does Hamilton's lack of discipline lead him to swing at bad pitches, but it also raises the incentive for opposing pitchers to throw outside of the zone.
So far this season, the overall percentage of pitches Hamilton sees inside the strike zone sits at 43.0, which is below the league average of 46.1 percent.
In a nutshell: Hamilton is seeing a lot of bad pitches and he is also swinging at a lot of bad pitches.
If Hamilton doesn't drastically change his approach at the plate and stop swinging at balls outside of the zone, his batting average will continue to suffer.
Look for Hamilton to bat under .250 in his inaugural season with the Halos.
Albert Pujols' career accomplishments are sure to land him in Cooperstown one day. With 2,282 career hits, 481 home runs and 1,456 RBI, there is little Albert Pujols hasn't done with a bat in his hand.
In what may be his most astounding stat of all, the right-handed slugger has never hit fewer than 30 home runs in a single season.
That, however, is about to change.
Whether it be because of advancing age or his nagging plantar fasciitis injury, Albert Pujols hasn't been his vintage self this season. As was mentioned in a prior slide, Pujols is averaging just one home run per 25.5 at-bats this season.
This statistic shows a particularly large drop-off when compared to the numbers he posted between 2010-2012—in those three seasons, Pujols hit 109 home runs in 1,773 at bats (one per every 16.2 plate appearances).
In addition, according to FanGraphs.com, the slugger's eye for the ball is simply not as good as it once was. Through 40 games this season, Pujols is swinging and missing on 8.9 percent of all the pitches he sees, a dramatic increase from his 5.8 percent career average.
He is also now swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone than in previous years. His 2013 number stands at 35.8 percent while his career average is much lower at 23.2 percent.
If the 33-year-old slugger can manage the pain of his foot injury and play in 140-155 games this season, look for him to still produce a solid amount of home runs (in the range of 25-29). According to the numbers, however, Pujols will likely fail to break the 30 homer plateau for the first time in his career.
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