Entering Thursday, the Los Angeles Angels boast a 29-23 record and +43 run differential. They have the seventh best RPI in baseball, and PECOTA projects them to go 60-50 the rest of the way. If PECOTA’s projection holds true, the Angels will finish the year with an 89-73 record, which suffices for first place in the American League West.
The Halos have the fourth best team slugging percentage (.417) and eleventh best team on-base percentage (.323). Offensive potency with guys like Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Raul Ibanez, Kole Calhoun, and Howie Kendrick in their lineup, was not expected to be an issue coming in to the season. The problem, rather, would be courtesy of their mediocre pitching staff. Well, on May 29th, the rotation has compiled the 8th best ERA in baseball at 3.42.
They’re playing stupendous baseball around the diamond, albeit the bullpen could admittedly use an arm or two. And while I am not surprised this team is flourishing, I am beyond bewildered on how they’ve done it.
Kole Calhoun, the highly touted youngster, was a surmised vital piece if these Angels would bounce-back and prosper this season. However, an influx of injuries and struggles has forbidden that from coming to fruition. In 84 plate appearances, the left-handed swinging outfielder has churned a weak .203/.250/.392 slash line. To his credit, he’s been the victim of BABIP’s evil ways, accumulating an unsustainable .224 BABIP — the worst on the Angels — sans J.B. Shuck.
David Freese (58 wRC+ and -0.2 fWAR), Raul Ibanez (59 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR), and Ian Stewart (66 wRC+ and -0.2 fWAR), who were the Angels’ offseason acquisitions, have been worse than replacement-level players. None of them are playing well by any stretch of the imagination, yet the Angels are fine.
I mean, I guess this make sense. Mike Trout is Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have the aptitude to do big things. If they rejuvenate their old selves, that’s a potent lineup regardless of the other six hitters. So, how have they done? Can they offer us a rational explanation for the offensive potency? Let’s see:
Albert Pujols: .262/.325/.529 slash
Josh Hamilton: .444/.545/.741 slash
Ah. It all makes sense. By the way, Hamilton is doing extraordinarily well — almost Troy Tulowitzki-esque. But wait. Hamilton’s only played in eight games this season, after injuring his thumb in the beginning of the season.
An ailing Hamilton, and Calhoun, Freese, Stewart, and Ibanez not producing whatsoever. How the heck are they getting it done?
To start, Collin Cowgill (1.2 fWAR), Hank Conger (1.0 fWAR), Grant Green (0.4 fWAR), C.J. Cron (0.3 fWAR), and Efren Navarro (0.3 fWAR) have amassed a collective 3.2 fWAR. That number trumps what the San Diego Padres (2.8 fWAR), Chicago Cubs (2.6 fWAR), and Houston Astros (2.3 fWAR) total position players have compiled. None of those guys were in the Opening Day lineup, and only Cowgill and Conger made the Opening Day roster. Incredible. You really can’t predict baseball.
Anyway, as aforementioned, Albert Pujols really has come back and is hitting the ball with force. Chris Iannetta has been a pleasant surprise offensively with his .257/.378/.467 clip. Mike Trout’s pretty good (sarcasm). And Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar forge one of the best middle infield combos in baseball.
Now, let’s delve into the Angels’ starting pitching.
The veteran 1-2 punch of Jered Weaver (2.99 ERA and 4.14 FIP) and C.J. Wilson (3.05 ERA and 3.69 FIP) has been stupendous thus far. It’s worth mentioning Weaver is notoriously a guy who outperforms his FIP, so don’t be too worried about regression.
While the two veterans’ success appeared realistic heading in to the season, the blossoming of young pitchers Garrett Richards (3.00 ERA and 2.50 FIP) and Tyler Skaggs (3.97 ERA and 3.43 FIP) has really made a difference.
Although guys like Collin Cowgill and Chris Iannetta are likely bound for regression, there are players such as Kole Calhoun, Raul Ibanez, and David Freese whose track-record suggest they’ll resurrect their old self. Further, Hector Santiago, who was sent down to Triple-A a week ago, has the talent to be an impact middle-of-the-rotation starter. Finally, Josh Hamilton should come back at some point. The Angels have all the reasons in the world to be optimistic, and seem poise to contend all year-long.