April baseball rarely provides a clear window into the state of the game by October.
Teams that struggle to find their way early on suddenly become high-powered contenders late in the season, and those who led their respective divisions in the first month rarely sustain that dominance into the sixth.
However, while 20 or so games may not be enough time to accurately predict a team's path through the season, it is plenty of time to notice trends.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are trending poorly.
With all of the movement in the AL West—big trades, free agent signings, and the loss of certain key players in the division—many had picked the Angels to be overwhelmed by surging competitors in the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
But after slogging through a 9-10 start, it seems the Angels aren't being overtaken so much as they have fallen back in the pack.
Confidence in the middle relievers is shaky at best, third base has become a black hole as far as power goes, and speed and anticipation in the outfield has been, frankly, non-existent.
A .500 season seems sadly within reach for the once-mighty Halos in 2010, a season of mediocrity the likes of which fans haven't seen in nearly four years.
That is, unless manager Mike Scioscia and GM Tony Reagins recognize their team's shortcomings and act quickly to restore the halo atop the division crown.
Take a look at the top five trades the Angels should consider in order to save our season in Anaheim.
It's a shame to say, but Brandon Wood has about one more week to show what he can do before Scioscia gives him the old “we'll play you when we can” speech.
Wood is batting .102 with five singles and zero RBI in 49 at-bats. He's also fanned 16 times in 14 games.
The natives are starting to get restless, and after this month, it will be time to say good job, nice try, and send him out for some retooling.
In the meantime, the Angels continue to be in need of a power bat from the hot corner. Ty Wigginton may be that bat.
At just 33, Wigginton is at the perfect age, as he is young enough to fill the position until prospects like Freddy Sandoval and Mark Trumbo are ready to move up, but old enough that the Angels won't have to commit to him long term.
He also provides the added benefit of versatility, having played first, second, and third already this season for the Baltimore Orioles.
At present, Robb Quinlan represents the Angels' only backup option for Kendry Morales at first.
Wigginton, a .272 career hitter, is batting .333 with six home runs and 12 RBI to start the season in Baltimore. Despite his efforts, the Orioles are off to a miserable start with just two wins in their first three weeks.
Again, trends are evident, even this early in the season. If the Orioles' trend continues, look for them to be big sellers before the trade deadline.
Wigginton, in the final year of his contract and looking to secure bigger bucks next season, may be first on the block.
The Orioles could make Miguel Tejada available this season and for many of the same reasons as Wigginton.
Tejada, who lead the National League with 46 doubles in 2009, is working on a one-year deal in Baltimore and has been on the Angels' radar for years, going back to his days in Oakland.
At one point, the Angels were even going to move shortstop Orlando Cabrera to third to make room for the former MVP, before the trade ultimately fell through.
Now, at age 36, Tejada's dwindling range has finally pushed him over to the hot corner, where he would have plenty of value in Anaheim.
What makes him even more attractive is his unshakable consistency at the plate.
Tejada hasn't batted under .270 for a season since 2001, and not below .280 since '03.
This season, he's off to a bit of a slow start, but only by his standards, as he is batting .273 with two home runs and seven RBI—solid numbers for just about anyone else.
His veteran leadership and experience could also pay dividends for the Angels if he can counsel Wood the same way Bobby Abreu mentored Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick last season.
And of course, the Orioles would be more than happy to swap an aging slugger for a few prospects to help rebuild their once-proud organization.
Trends are contagious, aren't they?
As the Angels trend downward from 100- and 97-win seasons, their best opportunity for redemption continues to be an immediate and significant change at third base.
Maicer Izturis has performed admirably in his limited starts this season, coming through in clutch situations and driving in seven runs in just nine games.
Still, he is most valuable to this club when he is free to bounce back and forth as a utility infielder, spelling Kendrick, Aybar, and the third baseman when they need days off.
In fact, with Izturis, the Angels are perfectly designed for a player like Mike Lowell.
Lowell is past the point in his career when he can be an everyday starter, but his abilities in the field and at the plate have far from disappeared.
An injury to his thumb prevented an offseason trade to the Rangers, and the Red Sox were forced to hang onto Lowell as a reserve infielder, at least until they can complete a new deal.
As I discussed in my previous article here, Boston is in the market for a more reliable defensive catcher—the one position for which the Angels have an endless supply.
Jeff Mathis, the ideal trade candidate for the Sox, could be part of trade talks when he returns next month from his wrist injury.
With Bobby Wilson and Hank Conger waiting in the wings, Mike Napoli's name might also come up in discussions for Lowell.
Third base is hardly the only area of need for the Halos this season.
After being touted as one of the best bullpens in the majors in the spring, the Angels relief corps has been inconsistent at best, and frightening at its worst.
Right-handers, in particular, have struggled this season.
Jason Bulger is still looking for that stellar stuff he featured in the second half last season, and Scot Shields couldn't hit the strike zone twice in a row if you paid him—and they do.
But with the market for righty relievers looking a little thin at the moment, the Angels may look to a strong left-hander already rumored to be on the trade block.
Scott Downs hasn't had the strongest start to 2010, putting up a 6.43 ERA in only seven innings of work. His previous three years of work, however, suggest his best is yet to come.
Downs posted tremendous numbers for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2007-2009, both in terms of ERA and the number of innings pitched, especially in that tough, middle-relief role.
Apart from closer Brian Fuentes, the Angels have no one to toe the left side of the rubber in key situational match-ups.
Like their division-rival Red Sox, the Jays may also be in need of some support behind the plate. Napoli's youth and power bat could be just what the Angels need to bolster a troubling bullpen thus far.
This is going to be the big name to watch for this year.
Carl Crawford's immediate future depends entirely on the Tampa Bay Rays' season. If they look to be in the hunt in the AL East, it's unlikely Crawford and his expiring contract will dealt before the July 31 trade deadline.
However, if the Rays fall significantly in the standings, the dynamic outfielder will almost certainly be on the move.
Either way, Anaheim is his ideal destination.
Crawford is an incredible talent who hits for average, has some power, and whose blinding speed and agility fits perfectly into Scioscia's run-and-gun style of play.
The Angels may choose to wait until the offseason to pursue Crawford.
If the Rays do entertain trade talks for him this summer, it will likely take a significant offer to win his services, which would only be secured for the remainder of the season.
If Mark Teixeira taught this team anything, it's that high-profile, highly valued players are rarely worth the two-month rental fee.
That said, Crawford is the kind of player who can help this team right now.
The Angels in the outfield are rapidly aging, and every ball hit into the alley is a nerve-wracking affair to see if they can hold the batter to a triple.
The Rays are well-acquainted, too, with the Angels' farm system, after having poached Sean Rodriguez in return for Scott Kazmir.
It's not unreasonable to assume they might be interested in one or two more pieces in exchange for their All-Star outfielder.