Fresh off the free agency signing of Josh Hamilton, the Los Angeles Angels were on a short list of betting favorites to win the World Series in 2013. However, through 82 games, the season hasn't exactly gone according to plan.
At 39-43 (third place in the AL West), the Angels are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Their second slow start (9-17 in April) in as many years has them currently nine games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers.
While Josh Hamilton has received the lion's share of criticism this season, he isn't the only Angel to underperform in the first half. The starting rotation has been less than dependable and the quality of defense hasn't done the team any favors either.
Despite some uninspired play and a sub-.500 record, a few players on the roster have actually exceeded expectations.
Let's take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the first half of the Angels' season.
*All statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through July 1.
Analysis: Through the first three months of the season, Howie Kendrick has been the Angels' second most valuable player (behind Mike Trout). His numbers have consistently improved from April to May to June. He currently ranks second on the team in both hits (99) and steals (6) and fourth on the team in RBI (38). Through 81 games, Kendrick has been a mainstay in the lineup, suiting up for every contest but one.
At 29 years old, Kendrick is experiencing a resurgence. Most notably, the second baseman is slugging .471 for the season, up .071 points from last year (.400). His on-base plus slugging percent currently stands at .833 (.725 last season).
If the second baseman's production stays at its current level, expect to see him in New York for the All-Star Game.
Analysis: Despite his defensive shortcomings as an outfielder and a first baseman, Mark Trumbo's form at the plate in the first half of the season lands him in the proverbial winner column. Trumbo currently leads the Angels with 18 home runs and is second on the team with 51 RBI.
Because Trumbo's power has been such a game-changer this season, Mike Scioscia decided to replace the slumping Josh Hamilton at cleanup.
Although a cold month of June may have cost Trumbo a shot at 20 home runs before the All-Star break, look for the 27-year-old to drive in plenty of runs in the heart of the Angels' suddenly emerging offense (44 runs in the last 7 games).
Analysis: It is safe to say that Mike Trout is immune to the infamous sophomore slump. In his second season with the Halos, Trout just about leads the team in every major offensive category; he is first in runs (57), first in hits (104), first in doubles (25), first in triples (6), first in RBI (52), first in stolen bases (20), first in on-base percentage (.392), first in slugging percentage (.545) and (naturally) first in on-base plus slugging percentage (.938).
Trout deserves plenty of credit for jump-starting the Angels' once sluggish offense. The team is currently riding a six game winning streak and will look to make a serious playoff push in the final months of the season.
The front runners for the A.L. MVP Award are currently Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis, but don't be surprised if Mike Trout makes a late push as the Angels become more relevant in the standings.
Analysis: Josh Hamilton's extended slump has baseball enthusiasts wondering if his days as an elite player are over.
His split stats aren't pretty. In the last 365 calendar days, Hamilton has started 148 games with the Rangers and Angels. In those games he has 137 hits, 169 strike outs, 50 walks, 28 home runs and 83 RBI.
On a per game basis, his stats during the last calender year are as follows: 0.92 hits, 1.14 strike outs, 0.33 walks, 0.18 home runs and 0.56 RBI.
With no signs of improvement on the horizon and a steep fall in the batting lineup, Josh Hamilton has been a huge disappointment for the Halos in 2013. And with a 5 year, $125 million contact in tow, Angels fans are left wondering if the signing was a big mistake.
Analysis: Joe Blanton got off to a horrible start as the Angels' No.3 starter this season. His record currently stands at 2-10 with a 4.42 ERA. Despite the ugly numbers though, Blanton has actually pitched well in the month of June.
On the season, Blanton has been a pitcher of two narratives. In his 10 losses, he has given up 81 hits and 13 home runs. In his two wins and four no decisions, he has given up 45 hits and just 4 home runs.
So far, the 32-year-old has been a disappointment when taking into account his $7.5 million dollar 2013 contract.
On the bright side, however, Blanton's stock is trending upward as the Angels reach the halfway mark of the season.
Analysis: Despite having better-than-pedestrian numbers this season, Jered Weaver falls under the loser category simply due to his workload.
As the Angels' ace, the team and its fans expect Weaver to pitch into the late innings of games in order to give the team the best chance to win. In eight starts this season, Weaver has managed to pitch seven innings just once. Although a broken left elbow kept the right-hander out of the lineup for a month, Weaver should be expected to carry more of the load.
The formula is simple: the more Weaver pitches the less the bullpen has to.