It took the Los Angeles Angels some time to get on track this Major League Baseball season. The Angels won 98 games last season en route to winning their first American League Western Division Title since 2009. The Angels were expected to do big things in the playoffs last October, but in the American League Divisional Series, they were swept by the eventual AL Champion in the Kansas City Royals. As a result the Angels came into this year with a bit of a hangover from that along with personnel issues that sidetracked them.
The Angels had signed outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal prior to the 2013 MLB season. But Hamilton never came close to being the player that was the American League MVP in 2010 as a member of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton had relapses with drug and alcohol abuse which led to the Angels trading him to the Rangers this past April. Jerry Dipoto was named as the Angels general manager in 2011. But Dipoto inherited manager Mike Scioscia who has been with the club since 2000. Dipoto and Scioscia were never on the same page as their baseball philosophies were totally different and their rift negatively affected the Angels team. And on July 1, Dipota resigned from his post with the Angels as it finally appears to be all systems go for this team.
On June 26, the Angels were 37-37, but since then they are 17-4 including winning their last seven of their last eight games. In late June, the Angels were tied for second place in the AL West as they were trailing the first place Houston Astros in the division by five games. But with the Angels improved play along with the recent struggles of the Astros, Los Angeles has turned that five-game deficit in the AL West into a one-game lead and by the looks of things, they don’t appear ready to slow down.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the reigning American League MVP and he is in the running to once again win the award. Trout is currently batting .303 with a .395 on-base percentage to go along with 28 home runs and 57 runs batted in as he is one of the most exciting players in baseball. The Angels lineup has also be helped out by the resurgence of first baseman Albert Pujols. Pujols joined the Angels in 2012 after being a three-time National League MVP with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols is now 35-years of age and whereas he may no longer be a .300 hitter, he still has plenty of thunder in his bat as his 29 home runs lead Major League Baseball this year.
Aside from Trout and Pujols, the Angels are getting contributions in their lineup from the likes of shortstop Erick Aybar who has an on-base percentage this season of .322 and outfielder Kole Calhoun who is coming into his own offensively and defensively.
Pitching wise the Angels team earned run average of 3.46 is second in the American League and they have more depth in their starting rotation this year. Last season starting pitcher Garrett Richards was cruising along for the Angels with a record of 13-4 until a crippling knee injury ended his run. But Richards has returned healthy this year for the Angels and he is currently sporting a record of 10-7 with a 3.25 earned run average. In 18 starts this season, starting pitcher Hector Santiago has posted a 7-4 record with a 2.30 earned run average as he earned his first appearance in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game earlier this month. Relief pitcher Huston Street has been one of the top closers of this era. The Angels acquired Street from the San Diego Padres last season and he continues to be a dominant closer as he picked up the 300th save of his MLB career this past Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles will need him coming down the stretch of the regular season if they want to entertain a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
And now that the Angels have dusted themselves off of the canvas, they can become buyer’s with the MLB trade deadline rapidly approaching next Friday. The Angels could be in line to acquire another arm for their starting rotation; especially since the Astros were able to make a trade with the Oakland Athletics to get starting pitcher Scott Kazmir yesterday. And as far as the Angels go, you’ll here the names of Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher David Price, and Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels as potential trade targets. The Angels could also be in line for another bat and the names of Oakland Athletics utility man Ben Zobrist, Miami Marlins utility man Martin Prado, and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce could be floated around as Los Angeles could be ready to make another World Series push.
Angels owner Arte Moreno believes in Scioscia as he is the only manager in franchise history to win a World Series Championship and his old-school approach is still effective. The players on the Angels have rallied around Scioscia and there is no longer a contrast in styles and philosophies between he and Dipoto. The Angels are rolling right now and their next three series could tell the tale of where this team is headed. The Angels host the Rangers this weekend which will be followed by a three-game road series against the Astros that should be very intense. The Halos will then travel to meet the Los Angeles Dodgers and if they continue on the current pace that their on, the Angels could soon have a strangle hold on things in the American League West. The 2015 version of the Angels are proving that it isn’t how you start, but more about how you finish.