The Angels made some huge splashes this off-season with the acquisition of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. After many years of the Angels always being contenders for high-profile players but almost always coming up short, the Angels pulled the trigger and landed Pujols. It helped that the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox were out of the race. Nevertheless, it came with a hefty price tag but that was the going price for the leagues best hitter. The also got Chris Iannetta and in turn, finally got rid of Jeff Mathis who is one of the worst hitting players ever to play Major League baseball. That’s not hyperbole either. You can back that up with stats. In addition, they padded the ‘pen with solid, 38-year old veteran LaTroy Hawkins.
All these moves are good moves. Wilson makes our already strong rotation now one of the best in baseball. Iannetta has a great on-base percentage despite not yet living up to his potential offensively but he’s young so even that might come around. Then there is Pujols who, as half the world knows, is a monster. He’s possibly one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen. No, really! Do some research. The guy is a freak of nature. They don’t call him “The Machine” for nothing.
That being said, my expectations are tempered. Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series twice last year. Somehow, they blew it. That was their second straight appearance there. Don’t kid yourself, this team isn’t just going to roll over and lose the division. They lost CJ Wilson but they picked up Yu Darvish, Japan’s best starting pitcher for the past few years. Who knows how well he will make the transition but most scouts agree he will definitely be a solid #2 starter. Furthermore, the Angels really only added one offensive weapon this year — Albert Pujols. Mind you, that’s a massive offensive addition but he can’t carry the team on his back. Last year, the Angels didn’t have a single player bat over .300, one player with an on-base percentage over .360 and didn’t have a single player hit over 90 RBIs with only 2 breaking 80. Compare that to the insanity of Texas’ offense and its just downright embarassing.
Kendrys Morales, the Cuban Missle, is back for the Angels this year after missing an entire season due to a freakish ankle injury and will undoubtedly add some offensive spark if his ankle can stay in place. Plus, Howie Kendrick, who will most likely be hitting in the 2-hole and in front of Albert Pujols will be likely hitting third. That means HK will be getting a lot more strikes this year since pitchers don’t want to be pitching to Pujols and/or pitching to him with a man on first. So they will throw strikes at Kendrick. If a pitcher throws more strikes then theoretically the batter sees better pitches to hit. That’s a good thing for HK who seems to have a medical aversion to taking a walk. He once was praised as a future batting champion but his inability to take a walk has revealed that such predictions were a bit far-fetched. Nevertheless, HK is a good hitter who has shown increasing pop over the last three years. This could be advantageous for HK and the Angels offense. Same goes for whoever bats after Albert (likely Torii Hunter or Kendrys Morales). So expect a better Angels offense. It will not be as powerful as the Texas Rangers but hopefully, as years past have proven, we will be able to win the division and keep the race close with our excellent pitching staff.
Other concerns exist, though, when it comes to pitching depth. The Angels don’t have really anyone to replace a starter if one of them gets injured. In the off-season they acquired to young hurlers name Eric Hurley and Brad Mills. Both have been excellent in spring training but aren’t much to write home about. If an Angel starter goes down for a significant time, it will be on our offense and bullpen to really step their game up. If they don’t, the season could be lost. As for offensive depth, new GM Jerry DiPoto did a great deal to add depth to almost every position. Even if, GOD FORBID, Pujols landed on the DL, the Angels have Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo (who hits 29 bombs last year) to play 1st. Hell, even journeyman Jorge Cantu and his low average but high-power batting approach, is waiting in the wings to fill a spot. Both are power hitters with a lot of upside. If everyone stays mostly healthy and Mark Trumbo makes a smooth transition to third, the Angels have potentially six 20+ HR hitters in their lineup. They gotta stay healthy though and show more consistancy at the plate than they did last year. Plus, the one weak spot from last year that didn’t get entirely patched up — our bullpen — is still a question mark. Finally, not to be a downer, but expect injuries this year at least a bit. Two of our outfielders are on the wrong side of 35. Its a long season, people get hurt. Fortunately, this year, our depth is a lot strong on the offensive side of things, though.
I don’t like to make predictions about a season. It really messes with one’s emotions over the course of a year. It’s already a long and emotional game! Obviously, though, I expect the Angels, even if they suffered injuries, to do a lot better than they did last year. However, I think Texas is going to give them a run for their money a lot more than people think. The biggest blow to the Angels season would be one of their aces — Weaver or Haren — getting hurt for significant amount of time. If those two studs can stay healthy, I don’t see anything getting in the way of the Halos making the playoffs this year. Where they go from there…well….I won’t predict that. That’s the whole reason for watching the game.
You make have heard a lot of sports and baseball writers talk about the huge risk the Angels took signing Albert Pujols, who is 32, to a 10-year deal worth over 200+ million dollars. All I heard the week he was signed was, “its a huge investment, it’s a big risk, it’s a lot of money,” blah blah blah. It’s stupid, lazy journalism and this is why: No matter who signed Albert Pujols this off-season, the writers would be saying that. That was the going price for Albert Pujols. SOME TEAM was going to pay it. No matter what. The market deemed Albert worth over 200 million dollars and so no matter who signed him that was the price they would have to pay. So in other words, all these sports writers were essentially spewing canned-responses. It probably looked something like this:
“The (INSERT TEAM HERE) signed Albert Pujols for the amount of (INSERT AMOUNT). Well, it’s a great signing but definitely a lot of money and a risk for the (INSERT TEAM NAME).”
Yes, it is a bit ridiculous to sign someone until they are 42. Especially when future Hall of Famers Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon (both under 40) can’t find teams to play with this off-season. However, as stated before, that was the going price and someone was going to do it. In fact, three or four teams were trying to but the Angels won.
Also, this is something that so few writers wrote about which is shockingly stupid to me. Simple question: Do you think that Albert Pujols is going to play first base at age 38,39, 40, 41 or 42? Hell no! He’s going to DH! What were the other two teams bidding on Albert? Cardinals and Marlins, who are both in the NL, which has no DH. So essentially, its actually SMARTER for the Angels to have signed him than either the Marlins or the Cards. They would be stuck with a 40 year old first basemen. The Angels have the flexibility to put him in the DH spot and clearly…CLEARLY Albert was thinking about that. By signing with the Angels, Albert will likely get 300-500 more ABs over the span of his last four years with the Halos than he would’ve with the Marlins or Cards and he’ll save himself the wear and tear of playing first. It’s a lot of money and clearly too much. BUT that was the market price, if it wasn’t the Angels, it would’ve been someone else. The Halos made the move and landed one of baseball best hitters who will likely shatter a few records while in Anaheim and hopefully, get us another ring or two.
I am excited for 2012…but my expectations are tempered. Baseball is very unpredictable game. Players get injured, stars suddenly decline like a ball rolling off a shelf. You never know. That’s why we watch, though!
PS. I raised my first son on baseball. We went to games, played baseball video games, we collected thousands of baseball cards, and he played in in all the youth leagues. Today at 28, he still plays on New York City teams. — Trying not to be prejudice, I think he is one of the best sports writers in the country. — What do you think? — Mark Baird