In short, yes, there have been 30-game stretches as bad as this one. Is this good news or bad news? This chart represents the Angels' record over the last 30 games after any game since 2000. In other words, a point shows how well the Angels have played (in games over or under .500) during the 30 games preceding that point. The dashed horizontal line is the median.
The early season can be deceiving. Teams run hot and cold over the course of a year, but after 30 games your perception of a team is based entirely on its performance out of the gate. There's no doubt that the Angels have been bad, really bad. It hasn't escaped notice that they're off to their worse start ever under Mike Scioscia. But Angels fans have had it so good in the last decade, I wondered if there have been any other 30-game stretches in the Scioscia era (not necessarily at the start of a season) where the team has performed this poorly. Here's what I found.
(Click on the image if the values are too small to make out.)
The Angels are currently 6 games under .500 in their last 30 games. They've crossed that threshold a few times before, in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2006. Unfortunately, only the 2004 team ended up in the postseason, but the 2006 team did win 89 games in the end, which might be good enough to win the AL West this year.
Note: You might have noticed a dip under the current fail level at the start of the legendary 2002 season. This is really just an artifact--a 30-game streak measured during the first 29 games of a season will include games from the previous season. But the 2002 team really isn't responsible for how horribly the 2001 team played in the second half, it was a different roster and more importantly, a different win-loss record. I've charted these "artifact regions" in a thin black line in all of these graphs so you can use them to get a sense of how successful a team was at the start of the season, but keep in mind that it really doesn't reflect ultimate success.
There's more than one way to lose, however. Sometimes you get unlucky and lose a lot of close games, and sometimes you just get pounded night after night. Obviously the latter case reflects poorer play than the former. The Angels have been outscored by an enormous 48 runs so far this year. Have they ever been hammered this badly? Let's look at 30-game run differential (runs scored - runs allowed) during the Scioscia years.
As you can see, yes, they have been hammered, but not very frequently. They haven't come close during the last three seasons. They had it almost as badly at the end of 2003 and the start of 2006. Neither of these teams made the playoffs. The only time the Angels have had it worse under Mike Scioscia was the second half of 2001, and that team lost 87 games. (The dip at the start of 2002 is, again, an artifact.)
So the natural question to ask is who is failing more, the offense or the defense? Hitters have streaks, pitchers have streaks, and sometimes they both just happen to be running cold. Maybe we've even seen hitting this bad and pitching this bad recently, but not at the same time?
This one is a little messy, so you might want to check out the magnified image. The blue line represents runs scored, the red line represents runs allowed. A blue line in the blue region means the team is scoring as few or fewer runs than the team is now, and a red line in the red region means the team is allowing as many or more runs as the team is now.
The Angels have been offensively challenged over the year. We see that the current hitting woes are nothing new. Every Scioscia team has had at least one 30-game offensive slump as bad or nearly as bad as this team, with the exception of 2000 and 2002 teams (during the peak of the crazy high-scoring steroid era) and the quietly awesome 2009 team. So there's good reason to believe this lineup will become productive sooner or later.
Now if we look at the defense, it jumps out immediately that last year's team had a 30-game stretch even worse than this team has been so far this year. They just happened to be scoring buckets and buckets of runs at the time, so it's been mostly forgotten since they were still winning games. That team then turned it around and then had the best 30-game stretch of run prevention in Mike Scioscia's managerial history. That's really weird, and I'm guessing very unlikely to happen again.
The other teams to pitch this badly at any point were mostly not playoff teams: 2000, 2001, 2003 (all steroid era again), 2006, and surprisingly the 2007 team, which did win the division. But only two periods have been as bad or worse on offense and defense at the same time: the second half of 2001 and the first half of 2006.
So this is a really ambiguous situation. It could be an unfortunate coincidence of bad hitting and bad pitching. Obviously this roster is most similar to last year's team, and that team did pitch this poorly at one point, although they never hit this poorly (but the 2008 team did). The last time the team did this badly as a whole was 2006, and they did contend in the end. The one fortunate thing is that the Angels have played only 3 games in their division thus far, so by losing a lot now they are at least not giving many wins to their direct competitors.
The point is, all bets are pretty much off. Recent franchise history could be used to argue that the Angels will turn it around and compete (2006), that they're the same good team that happens to be slumping at both ends simultaneously (2008 and 2009), or that they just suck (2001, 2003). In any event, the fact remains that the team is in a pretty exceptional situation right now. We should at least be thankful that no one is running away with the division.
Now on to Seattle and the battle for last place.