MLB: Los Angeles Angels may have started too late, success a relative term

By By Jeff Fletcher

The Orange County Register (MCT)

Published: Thursday, July 18 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Success can be a relative term. If you heard in spring training that the Angels would hit the All-Star break with a record of 44-49, in third place, you’d have deemed the first half an utter failure.

But if you also knew that they would have had three starting pitchers on the disabled list and — most important — their two superstar sluggers in the middle of the order playing far below their career norms …

Well, let’s just say it could be worse.

The glass-half-full way to look at the first half for the Angels is that they’ve endured stretches in which just about everything went wrong, yet they pulled it together and played well enough over the past month to get to two games from .500 before losing the last three games before the break.

“I think this is pretty close to the team we expected,” Mark Trumbo said on the heels of a stretch in which the Angels won 11 of 14.

The blueprint was for the Angels to have a powerful, dynamic offense, a starting rotation that was just good enough, a solid bullpen and good defense.

They had just that — with the possible exception of the defense — for most of the past six weeks. During the past 51 games, the Angels were 29-22, a .568 winning percentage that would yield 92 victories if they sustained it over 162 games.

“If you have good components, and the right pieces, there is no way at some point you won’t all click together,” Howie Kendrick said.

The problem, however, is the Angels started late. The first 42 games, when they went 15-27, might still prove to be too much of a deficit to overcome. If the Angels continue that .568 percentage through the final 69 games of the season, they’ll end up with 83 wins, far from what they’ll likely need to make the playoffs.

A combination of injuries (Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols, Sean Burnett) and underperformance (Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton) are to blame for sinking the Angels into this hole.

Angels starters have a 4.57 ERA, which ranks 11th in the league. Of the five spots, the only one that has given them consistent production is C.J. Wilson’s. Jered Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson have all been injured or unavailable for stretches. Joe Blanton has a 5.53 ERA.

Offensively, the Angels rank sixth in the league in runs per game, but they need to be better than that with this pitching staff.

Because of the struggles of Pujols and Hamilton, the Angels rank 10th in OPS out of the No. 3 spot, and 13th in OPS out of the cleanup spot. Both Pujols and Hamilton showed signs in the first half, but nothing sustained for more than a few weeks.

It adds up to a team that reached the break with, as Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged “not a huge margin for error.”

They exhausted that long ago.

A breakdown of the good and bad in the first half:

MVP: Mike Trout was supposed to have set an impossibly high standard for himself in his rookie season, doomed almost certainly to have some sort of decline. Right? Not so much. Trout’s numbers are almost identical or better than last year’s numbers in most areas except for power, in which he’s down slightly. Still, he’s been one of the few consistent fixtures in the lineup and in the field. Hard to imagine where the Angels would be without him.

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