Five Things the L.A. Angels Can Do to Save Their Season
The Angels had the second best record in all of baseball for the month of June.
The problem is, the Texas Rangers were the only team better, and they are the team the Angels are trying to catch.
July has not started out with as much promise.
The Angels now find themselves 5.5 games back in the AL West after being swept by the Chicago White Sox during a four-game series in Chicago for the first time in 27 years.
Many are ready to push the panic button and start the fire sale. However, all is not lost with the Angels. One major move, accompanied by some minor tweaks, could manage to save their season.
Here are five things the Angels need to do going forward.
Get Rid of Brandon Wood Any Way You Can
Am I the only one who has noticed that the Angels became the hottest team in baseball the moment Brandon Wood went on the DL?
Am I also the only one who has noticed that the Angels offense immediately started struggling the minute this overrated, over-hyped scrub returned?
The Angels had a record of 14-6 while "The Savior" was on the DL. They have gone 7-6 in games he has played in since his return.
Maybe that was because they replaced a guy whose batting average is 32 points lower than pitcher Jered Weaver's with Kevin Frandsen, who is hitting .306. Frandsen has also looked better than Wood in the field.
Frandsen has risen to the moment and should be rewarded by being named the everyday third baseman.
Wood has been given more chances than most players ever get to make it in the majors and has shown absolutely nothing.
At least when pitchers bat, they make productive outs. Wood's .228 slugging percentage and 49 strikeouts to four walks in 167 at-bats is too big of a blow for any American League team to take if they expect to win.
At this point, Wood has become such a distraction and liability to the club that they need to get rid of him by any means necessary.
If you can't trade him, release him.
I'll take my chances with Frandsen, who was the all-time hit leader at San Jose State.
Mike Scioscia needs to start trusting his own eyes over scouting reports.
Trade for Roy Oswalt
The Houston Astros are looking to shed $15 million off their payroll by trading Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt has said he will waive his no-trade clause if he is traded to a contender.
The Texas Rangers are currently heading Oswalt's wish list of teams where he would like end up.
If the Angels could put a package together to land Oswalt, who has returned to elite pitcher status this year after having a frustrating 2009, it would kill two birds with one stone.
It would preempt a trade to Texas, which would mean the death knell for the Angels' chances to win the AL West.
It would also mean the Angels could move Scott Kazmir, who has struggled mightily to pitch more than five innings per start, to the bullpen.
That could also mean the Angels would simultaneously find help internally for their middle relief woes.
Kazmir can still get guys out. He simply runs out of gas too quickly to be a starter anymore.
In his last three starts, which have all been losses, Kazmir has pitched well until the fourth inning. In those games, he gave up an average of four runs after the fourth inning.
In the first three innings of those starts, he gave up a grand total of two runs over nine innings.
Kazmir could potentially be another Scot Shields-type setup guy if he reinvented himself and moved to the pen—something the Angels desperately need him to do right now.
Solidify the First Base Position
As soon as Kendry Morales went down for the year with a broken ankle, the rumor mill started pumping.
Mainly the buzz was the Angels would make a play for Adam Dunn to replace their best power hitter.
I couldn't think of a worse panic move.
Morales, 27, will be back next season and will be a star for years to come. To sacrifice any prospects or current players for a two-month fill-in would be short-sighted and totally unnecessary.
The Angels have two highly viable internal options.
Play Mike Napoli at first base every game for the rest of the season.
This might be a move that Napoli eventually will make in his career anyway.
His defense behind the plate has been mediocre at best, and the Angels' pitchers prefer to throw to Jeff Mathis.
Most of all, you can't have a power bat like that sitting on the bench twice a week.
We are talking about a guy that is capable of hitting 30 homers per year. Do yourself a favor, Napoli. Prolong your career. Save your legs and move to first base.
If the Angels happen to include Napoli in a trade for Oswalt or some other piece to the puzzle, they could turn to AAA Salt Lake prospect Mark Trumbo.
Trumbo has been ripping it up in the Pacific Coast League and is currently second in home runs with 20.
Trumbo, 24, is batting .272. If Trumbo came up and hit 12 HR and batted .250 in the second half, the Angels would take that and be in great shape.
The Angels have been careful to not bring him up and ruin his progress, but to a fault.
When you are 24 years old and mashing at the AAA level like that, you are ready.
If they can give this much of a chance to Wood, who is only a year older than Trumbo, I think they can give this Anaheim native his shot.
It would behoove the Angels to bring the kid up now and see how he handles the pressure before making any other moves.
Quit Running Yourself Out of Innings
There is a fine line between being aggressive and being stupid.
The Angels have gone from being one of the best baserunning teams in baseball to a joke in one year.
They have been caught stealing 32 times and have the second worst base-stealing percentage in the league.
If one more person tries to steal third with two outs and gets caught, Angels fans will be making a lot of visits to "Howards" to replace a lot of damaged flat-screen televisions.
It's hard to remember an Angels team that got picked off base more than this one.
Can somebody tell Bobby Abreu to quit making small talk with the defense and try actually paying attention? This isn't a beer league.
Will somebody please inform Torii Hunter that he is 35 and not 25?
Hunter has been caught stealing 10 times—tops in the AL. He has only stolen successfully seven times.
Will somebody tell Erick Aybar to quit bunting for hits with two out and nobody on?
There is a reason why nobody is expecting that, Erick. It's a dumb, low-percentage play that rarely works.
I'm not sure if the Angels players have been given carte blanche to execute these bone-headed maneuvers whenever they feel the urge or if these directives are being handed down by management.
If it is the latter, the Angels should be in the market for a new third base coach to replace Dino Ebel. If the Angels are making these moves on their own, they need to have their decision-making privileges revoked by Scioscia.
Catch the Ball!
The cornerstone of the Angels' success during the past decade has been pitching and defense.
They have become known for consistently making the plays that should be made.
Until this season.
The Angels have made 59 errors so far—only Cleveland and Detroit have made more in the American League.
Only Baltimore, Cleveland, Seattle, and Detroit have a worse fielding percentage.
Part of this can be blamed on the merry-go-round platooning at the corner positions. Part can be blamed on injuries to key defensive players like Aybar and Mathis.
However, how do you explain your starting three outfielders, Abreu, Juan Rivera, and Hunter, combining for 11 errors at the All-Star break?
Abreu's six errors top all outfielders in both leagues.
Just like with the baserunning issues, the Angels need to pick up their mental toughness and intensity.
Once again, I place the responsibility of making that happen squarely on the shoulders of the coaches and management. It is their job to keep their players focused and disciplined over the course of a 162-game schedule.
Right now, the atmosphere seems a little too laid-back, and it shows in the results.
It might be time to start benching guys.
It's Not Over, Angels Fans
The fat lady hasn't sung on the Angels' season, but she has taken the pork chop out of her mouth and begun warming up her vocal cords.
The next two weeks may decide the fate of this franchise going forward.
If the Angels are within five games at the end of that time, they still have a chance to win the division for the fourth year in a row.
Any more than that, and Arte Moreno, Tony Reagins, and Mike Scioscia will have some serious decisions to make.
The decision might be made a little bit easier if Texas pulls the trigger on the Oswalt deal. The chances of the Angels catching the Rangers in that scenario seem to be slim and none.
A wrench may be thrown into those plans if Nolan Ryan's bid to complete the purchase of the team hits any more snags.
Keep in mind, though—for all that has gone wrong for the Angels this year, they are still in it.
One has to think things can only get better for them in the second half. At some point, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero will cool off.
Conversely, it is hard to believe Juan Rivera is going to hit .230 for the rest of the season.
The Angels' starting rotation has been getting it together of late, and even closer Brian Fuentes has started to look more stable.
As for the Angels offense, they aren't in the dire straits that many have lamented about.
Until a week ago, they had hit more home runs than Texas, and they are currently seventh overall in RBI.
However, if the Angels slump over the next two weeks, it could mean a swap meet.
Goodbye Fernando Rodney.
If the Angels are seven or more out by July 24, that might be the best thing for their future.