Bold Predictions for the Remainder of LA Angels' Season
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are on fire, winners of four of their last six games! Okay, so maybe it isn't exactly a streak worth celebrating, but there are signs that this team is beginning to get back into the thick of the AL West title race.
Splitting the four-game series with Houston was satisfactory, albeit not terribly satisfying. Nevertheless, L.A. has hung onto second place for another week.
But the 2015 season shouldn't just be about hanging on for this team. Coming off of last season, hopes and expectations were sky-high. That shouldn't change less than two weeks into May.
With that, here are some bold predictions for the Angels the rest of the way as they attempt to overtake the division lead and set themselves up for championship contention.
Garrett Richards Will Win the AL Cy Young
Right now, the man who leads all American League pitchers in WAR is Houston's Dallas Keuchel. Let's just say I'm not exactly trembling over the prospects of Keuchel finishing as the league's best arm.
Felix Hernandez is looming close behind, but other than the King, few of the biggest AL arms have performed so far this year. Overtaking Hernandez won't be easy for Garrett Richards, but the latter has the stuff to finish as the league's best.
Last year, Richards was special in 26 starts before succumbing to injury. He got a bit of a late jump on 2015 as well, but he seems to be picking right up where he left off.
His most recent start was a gem against rival Houston in which he pitched 6.2 innings, giving up one hit and one run while striking out 10.
Taking anyone against the field in award balloting is an idiotic bet, Richards being no exception. However, there is a fine line between being bold and idiotic. With the way the rest of the AL pitchers are shaping up, I like his chances.
Albert Pujols Will Make the All-Star Team
With a .230 batting average and .682 OPS, Albert Pujols isn't exactly putting together the start of an All-Star campaign. Of course, if he was slugging the cover off the ball, predicting an all-time great first baseman will make an All-Star team wouldn't be very bold at all.
The All-Star bid may seem far-fetched, but it actually isn't as far away as it seems for Pujols. In May, he has begun to turn things around. Pujols has a .313 batting average and .833 OPS thus far this month. He also hasn't really been as bad as the season average would indicate.
Pujols may have just the 26 hits, but he's struck out just 14 times compared to nine walks. He is seeing the ball well, meaning the hits will drop in more often as he continues to put balls in play.
Also—and perhaps just as importantly—the rest of the AL first basemen aren't playing all that well.
With the exception of Miguel Cabrera, there isn't another player at Pujols' position who is assuring himself of an All-Star bid. Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira are off to nice starts, but neither seems destined to continue his hot hitting. Teixeira especially has been buoyed by an unsustainable isolated power mark.
Normal All-Star candidate Edwin Encarnacion and up-and-coming batters like Chris Carter have arguably been even worse than Pujols on the year.
It's a thin field, and if Pujols takes off like he's shown glimpses of doing, he is going to be an All-Star.
Jered Weaver Will Be out of the Rotation
Based off his 2015 numbers, it may not seem overly bold to predict the demise of Jered Weaver. However, considering his stature and past success, it's easy to see why his rope may be very long for L.A.
It just won't be long enough. Weaver has been an unmitigated disaster on the mound this season. Worse, there are no signs that this will change anytime soon.
He already has more losses than quality starts. He has more earned runs allowed than strikeouts. The only redeemable quality to his game right now is his ability to limit walks, but his penchant for throwing the ball over the plate is also crushing him.
His eight home runs allowed put him in the bottom 10 in all of baseball in that category among qualified pitchers. His strikeouts per nine innings also slots him in the bottom 10. His .288 batting average against puts him in the bottom 25.
After a steady decline over the years, it appears as though the floor has finally fallen out. Weaver will not be in the Angels rotation for the entirety of this season. It helps Los Angeles that it has some possible replacement pieces in the high minors and already in the majors, such as Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano.
Kole Calhoun Will Top Mike Trout in Hits
Mike Trout owns every category in the American League, not to mention on his own team. The man has been a monster since his first full season. This is more a pick based on the potential upside of Kole Calhoun than it is anything against Trout.
This also may be the most ludicrous prediction of them all.
Currently, the two players are within three hits of each other, ranking first and second respectively on the Angels. Trout has garnered a few more at-bats and played in a couple more games to this point, but the two are pretty equal.
The funny thing is 2015 has been a coming-out party for Calhoun, who's been tremendous at the plate, yet it's just been another year for ole' Mike Trout. Regression towards the mean would seem to hint that Trout will surely crush Calhoun in total hits by year's end. But following mean regression isn't very bold.
Calhoun's main problem thus far in his career has been staying healthy. He has only played in what can be considered a full season once during his three prior years in the majors, and even then he missed 35 games.
But a full season in 2015 could mean more than 200 hits for Calhoun; he is that good with a bat. Combined with Trout's high walk rate, strikeout totals and the fact that he has never reached 200 hits in a season, Calhoun wins this one, and everyone in L.A. celebrates a new star.