5 Teams That Could Challenge the New-Look Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels—game over, right?
Despite the addition of the biggest name in MLB free-agency history and stealing the ace of a rival team, could the Angels still not be considered the favorites in the American League?
Here are five teams (kind of) that could prevent the Angels from competing in the World Series in 2012.
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It's hard to ignore a team that boasts the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. The prediction is that Justin Verlander will carry the Tigers to another AL Central division title, but the truth is he doesn't have to.
The Tigers have one of the toughest offensive lineups in the American League. In 2011, the Tigers finished third in the league in batting average, fourth in OPS and third in OBP.
This lineup featured five players who batted above .290. Combine this with one of the toughest bullpens in the league (Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel) and you have one of the most solid teams in the AL.
The only flaws with this team are that it does have a significant drop in the rotation after Verlander and Max Scherzer, as well as a need at second. If rumors are true about the possibility of adding a Gio Gonzalez or Wandy Rodriguez, then this team will be about as solid as you can get.
Boston Red Sox
Let's forget the total collapse of 2011. Let's forget the change at the manager and general manager spots. Let's forget the fried chicken and beer...and John Lackey.
The Red Sox are still a scary team to face and have had the Angels' number during regular-season and postseason games.
With the subpar performance of Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford last season, the BoSox still managed to finish first in the league in OPS, OBP and runs scored and second in batting average. Boston also has the most terrifying home-field advantage in the game. In short, it is poised to win if it wasn't for such a glaring problem.
Boston pitching was decent at best this past year. Finally the Red Sox will get Daniel Bard and Clay Buchholz back, which is definitely a plus. Josh Beckett will need to put up at least 16 wins and an ERA of 3.00, which is definitely realistic. Jon Lester should continue to put up the numbers he put up last season, but after that they have Alfredo Aceves, and after him they have question marks.
The Angels definitely have an advantage over the pitching staff of the Red Sox, which is exactly why they will not have a similar end-of-the-year destruction that the Red Sox had.
I expect the Red Sox to be in the running for Yu Darvish, as well as Andrew Bailey and Gio Gonzalez. Also, it is time to move on from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek for the sake of the organization. I could see adding them to the coaching staff, but other than that, they have become liabilities.
New York Yankees
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If Derek Jeter and the Yanks beat the Angels, will Jeter give Albert Pujols a signed baseball and jersey?
The question with the Yankees and their slew of stars is the difference between aging and timeless. The Yankees simply have the best offense money can buy. Do the Angels finally have enough to get back at the Yankees for stealing Mark Teixeira from them?
The Yankees will remain a top-five offensive team in the American League by simply staying the same with Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Jeter, Russell Martin, Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano, obviously not in that order.
There are also rumors of the Yankees being one of the early front-runners for Yoennis Cespedes and another destination for Yu Darvish. If this comes to fruition, then the Yankees may very well be the top-ranked team in the power rankings.
The only problem that this team must address is the pitching rotation. CC Sabathia, then Ivan Nova, then Freddy Garcia and then I fall asleep. The back end of this rotation is definitely something to sleep on. They need an impact player at the back end, someone like Gio Gonzalez (who would end up being the No. 2 guy) or Darvish (same deal).
With young stars rising like Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez, the Yankees definitely balance age with youth. Be careful when the Bronx Bombers come to town!
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As much as I disagree with the following statement, it must be said:
The Angels may not even be the favorites in their own division.
Numbers aside, the Rangers may have the most explosive offense in all of baseball. There is no one in that lineup you can walk without the possibility of paying for it with the next batter. Five players had 25 HRs or more last year, with five players batting .295 or better. That is something the Angels definitely don't have (Alberto Callaspo led the team with a .288 average).
There is one advantage the Angels have over the Rangers, though: They stole their No. 1 pitcher to add to their collection of aces. The Rangers' No. 1, Derek Holland, would probably be the Angels' No. 5 (behind Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana).
There is a way that the Rangers can answer Pujols and Wilson. That is with the acquisitions of Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder. These rumors seem to be just that—rumors. But the Rangers have been linked to both players.
The Rangers are one starting pitcher and one reliever away from being the favorite in the West. Now with the addition of Joe Nathan, they are only one starting pitcher away from being the best team in the American League. Pitchers linked to the Rangers have been Roy Oswalt, Matt Garza and Gio Gonzalez.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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This is so cliché I should be fired.
On paper, the Angels are the perfect balance of experienced veterans and young players. The Angels have the best rotation in baseball and the best player in baseball. The Angels also have the most underrated offense in baseball.
The truth is that Angels pitchers are only going to allow an average of three runs a game yet have an offense that can produce five a night. How can they lose?
A weak bullpen and the pressure of expectations.
If there is one thing we know about this team, it's that they are not the Red Sox of 2011. Regardless of that notion, there is a weakness in the bullpen that must be addressed to move forward. There is a very strong possibility of having a bullpen that will allow more runs than the starting pitchers. The best option out there is Ryan Madson, but after spending about $330 million, that seems like only a dream. If the Angels have a weakness, it will be the late innings.
Regardless of any problems, there is no reason that the Angels should not win the World Series in 2012. The pieces are in place for a very serious run in the postseason.