The Angels arlready have my ticket money, and I can't wait to take some days off and sit in the Tempe sun. Aside from the typical answers of "loyalty" or "spending time with friends," I needed to answer my buddy's question: "Why did you renew your tickets this year?
I know I'll take some grief here, and I'm not a huge stat guy, but here's why I'm looking forward to Angels baseball in 2011.
1. The Pitching Staff
Starting pitching is the obvious strength of the club, but last year's slow start had a lot to do with the bullpen. Shields, Stokes and Fuentes blew a lot of leads and games early. They're gone. Looking at baseball-reference, if you replace 120 innings of Shields, Stokes, Rodriguez, etc. with Downs and Takahashi's innings, we save around 50 runs and some demoralizing late losses.
2. The Return to Form
In two ways. Pretty much the entire roster underperformed last year and I highly doubt Rivera, Abreu, and Aybar can be that bad again. The first two are in contract or option years, and Aybar will be back in a more comfortable spot in the lineup. Also, an average performance at third base is a huge upgrade from "black hole."
Second way. Pretty much every pitcher Texas had performed way abover their track record in 2010. From a pitcher fresh from Japan to the bullpen, they pitched more innings and gave up fewer runs than ever before. Not likely to happen again. As for the outfield, how many repeat MVP winners have there been lately?
3. The Trade Deadline
No team has more in flux than the Angels right now. If we're in contention, with the money coming off the books at the end of the year, we should be able to swing a trade and make a run. If we're out of it, there are a lot of pieces that could become prospects. Huge mid-season for the franchise.
4. Wide Open AL
Boston and NYY have suspect starting pitching. Nobody knows what Tampa has. Every team in the AL Central has a hole or two. The AL West? Texas needs more pitching and the A's are a mystery. All of these clubs also have strengths, but don't think the Angels are the only team with some shortcomings.
It's been a long offseason with a lot of frustration. But Spring Training starts in a month and its time to stop looking at what we don't have and looking at what we do have. Anybody with me?