Should A.L. Contenders be Worried about the Angels?

On August 17th, the Texas Rangers opened up a seven game lead over the Angels by winning the first three contests in a four-game series played in Anaheim.  It was beginning to look like the fellas from Arlington were grasping a tight hold on the AL West, something that most baseball experts assumed they would do when the season started.

But the Angels wouldn’t go away.  They reeled off seven victories in their next eight games to pull to within two games of the Rangers, and almost a month later, they are still hanging around.  With 13 games left to play, the Angels are still only three games back.

The Angels’ bread and butter is without a doubt their starting pitching.  Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana present a 1-2-3 that quite frankly no team in the American League playoff picture can match other then perhaps the Rays(Price, Shields, Hellickson), who at the moment are still on the outside looking in.

When taking into consideration the make-up of the 2010 San Francisco Giants, which happens to be quite similar to this year’s Angels squad, are teams like the Tigers and the Yankees rooting against their potential postseason presence?

The Giants won it all last year with a phenomenal rotation.  Minus a solid #4 guy, the Angels boast a pretty strong rotation.  While I don’t see Joel Pineiro or Tyler Chatwood duplicating what Madison Bumgarner did at the end of last year, it’s fair to say both rotations were/are good.

San Francisco was also strong at the back end of the bullpen last year.  This years Angels are no different with Scott Downs and the promising rookie Jordan Walden closing out ball games.

Last years Giants struggled offensively like this years Angels squad.  Last year San Francisco finished 17th in the MLB in runs scored.  The 2011 Angels are currently sitting 19th in that department.  But it didn’t matter, with just a pinch of timely hitting, the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain would carry the Giants over the top in 2010.

If you’ve taken in a few playoff baseball games before, you begin to notice the trend that pitching and defense is a big deal in the postseason.  But just because the Angels have a loose resemblance of last years champions, doesn’t necessarily mean their opposition should be ready to give up come playoff time.

The Giants when it was all said and done had a great team last year.  But literally everything that needed to go right went right for them come October.  For instance you got Cody Ross, a guy who on certain days I’d consider a fourth outfielder type, is going absolutely nuts at the plate.  Florida’s trash becomes the Giants’ treasure, and next thing you know you can’t keep him off base, he’s blasting homers, and he’s earning MVP honors in the NLCS.

Then you got Aubrey Huff.  I’m pretty sure he had like three hits as a Tiger but, once he gets to AT&T Park he’s freaking Teddy Williams.

And then you got Buster Posey who doesn’t look a day over 19.  He comes up and he plays like he has more courage then anyone on the face of the Earth.  He’s behind the plate, guiding the pitching staff along in their enormous success while racking up a multitude of clutch hits.  And he was doing this despite the fact he had logged way less then a year of MLB playing time.

The good fortunes continued in game one of the World Series – Cliff Lee is going for the Rangers, who at that point was 7-0 in eight career post season starts.  He was totally dominant.  If it wasn’t for Lee, the Rangers probably would of lost to the Rays in the opening round last year.  And for whatever reason, Cliff just didn’t have his best stuff in the two games he pitched against the Giants.  He was off.

Even though the Angels boast the nastiest trio of pitchers in the AL, there are too many holes in their team for the other contenders to start freaking out.  New York, Detroit and potentially Boston have so much fire-power offensively, they shouldn’t worry about three great starters holding them down.  They aren’t on the same level as Halladay, Lee and Hamels.

Mark Trumbo is probably Anaheim’s closest thing to Posey, but leading into today’s action Trumbo has been hitting a quiet .209 in September.  However, he did hit a two-run blast in Oakland today that turned out to be the deciding factor in the game.  Trumbo’s a nice player, but not every solid rookie is going to do what Posey did last year.

You’ve also got a DH in Bobby Abreu who can’t hit for power and an outfield that either lacks experience or has a substantial amount of mileage on the legs.

Lastly you have a catcher in Jeff Mathis who struggles defensively and has some work to do in terms of getting his average over .200.

Howie Kendrick is a solid player, but he can’t be the penultimate force of a team seeking a championship.  History probably won’t repeat itself this year.  That is, the Angels shouldn’t make too much noise even if Texas can’t hold on to the West.

Tags: Dan Haren Detroit Tigers Ervin Santana Jered Weaver LA Angels Mark Trumbo MLB Playoffs New York Yankees San Francisco Giants

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