Record: 78-84 (Third place in A.L. West)
What went right?
1. Mike Trout:What sophomore slump? The 2012 MVP runner-up followed up his phenomenal rookie year with an arguably better effort. The 22-year old knocked in 97 runs and walked an outstanding 110 times. His performance at the plate, on the base paths, and in the field have Trout seen by many as the best player in baseball. Unfortunately for Trout, these two years also has seen two of the best offensive years ever, thanks to Miguel Cabrera. Trout finished second in the MVP again behind the Detroit Tigers slugger. Trout’s day is coming and it appears there will be several of them in the near future.
2. C.J. Wilson:When Wilson was signed as a free agent by the Angels following the 2011 season, expectations were high. Wilson had just completed two great years in Texas and those campaigns led to a 5 year, $77.5 million contract with L.A. In 2012, Wilson pitched pretty well, but was seen as a disappointment nonetheless. This year, the 33-year old lefty lived up to his contract. He finished with a 17-7 record with a 3.39 ERA, 188 strikeouts and his fourth straight year of pitching in at least 200 innings. Wilson doesn’t get much media attention, but he belongs in the conversation as one of the best starters in the American League.
3. Offense: The lineup as a whole had a pretty good year. The Angels finished third in the league in team batting average (.264) and led the league in runs scored (733). Players like Mark Trumbo, Trout, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar continued to progress and make this lineup one of the most formidable in the league. Trumbo, especially, is making a name for himself. The 27-year old smashed 34 homers and has hit 95 dingers in his three years in the majors. His homers and RBI have gone up every year, although his strikeout numbers have followed suit.
What went wrong?
1. Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols:If these guys would put together a season in which they’re capable (or used to be in Pujols’ case) the Angels’ offense would be lethal. Hamilton signed a 5-year, $133 million contract with the Angels following the 2012 season and expectations were sky-high and rightfully so. The ex-Texas Ranger had just completed a 43-homer campaign with Texas and had finished fifth in the MVP voting. Hamilton struggled throughout the entire year this past season; he played 151 games, but only managed to hit 21 homers and knock in a pedestrian 79 runs. His batting average dipped to .250 and the $17 million owed to him in 2014 looks pretty daunting to GM Jerry Dipoto and the Angels’ front office.
Speaking of daunting, the 10-year, $240 million contract for Pujols must look like Mount Everest to the Angels brass. They are only two years into the deal and The Machine just completed his worse season in the majors by far. For the first time in his career, Pujols was unable to play at least 140 games, he only played 99 before he was lost for the season with a foot injury. In his 99 games he hit .258 with 17 homers. This contract is not going to look better all of a sudden. This has the potential to handcuff the Angels for many years to come, possibly after Pujols retires (see New York Mets and Bobby Bonilla).
2. Joe Blanton:Before 2013, Philadelphia Phillies fans would have said that Blanton will never be the ace of any staff, but he won’t be the worse pitcher on your staff either. Wrong. The right-hander was dreadful this season: 2-14 record with an astronomical ERA of 6.04 in 132 innings. He gave up a jaw-dropping 29 home runs and in July, Blanton was moved to the bullpen. With only one year left on his contract, don’t be surprised if the Angels try to trade him at some point in 2014.
3. Pitching: With the exception of C.J. Wilson, the Angels did not help themselves in the pitching department. The staff finished with a 4.24 ERA (11th in league) and was 13th in walks surrendered. Even Jered Weaver, usually the ace of the staff had a mediocre year and the bullpen was lackluster at best. While L.A. was 18 games back in the division, a better pitching staff might have at least got them within sight of Oakland and Texas.
Overall Team Performance
This is a simple case of not enough pitching to go along with a good offense. As mentioned before, the lineup could have been even better provided that Pujols and Hamilton have their typical seasons, but the main culprit for the disappointing season is pitching. The A.L. West has turned into a very tough division in the last couple seasons and teams need to be strong in all facets in order to compete.
Winter Meetings Goals
Thursday is was announced that Jason Vargas, who spent 2013 with the Angels, had signed a 4-year deal with the Kansas City Royals, Vargas did not add much in his short stint with the Halos, but it will be another spot that needs to filled in an already mediocre rotation.
Obviously the Angels need to focus on pitching. One can expect Jered Weaver to have a better year than he did in 2013 so finding a viable third starter would be a good starting point for the Angels. Bronson Arroyo has several teams he’s interested in and the Angels are one of them. Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett, and Dan Haren would all be good options.
Looking Ahead to 2014
The Angles are not far away from contending for the division, but it won’t be easy. The Rangers and Athletics are not going anywhere and the Angels have plenty of work to do this off-season before the postseason could become a reality. The Halos have some great players on their team, if all play up to their potential, then good things could happen. Nevertheless, finishing .500 would be a realistic goal, but anything better is not beyond the realm of possibility.