The Angels are having a scorching hot July. They are now 11-2 on the month and the back end of June watched similar domination of their opponents posting an outstanding 18-4 record over the last 22 games. They now trail the best record in the majors, Oakland, by only 1.5 games with 1 left to play before the break.
This team can hit. The have 2 former MVP's on the roster and a should have been MVP in Center. It's likely Mike Trout finally gets his award this season. The raking is even good at the bottom and top of the order. Our lead-off hitter has an OPS of .881. Our shortstop is an All-Star and even our #9 hitter is a catcher with a .387 OBP. That translates into the most Runs in the majors and they are basically top 3 as a team in every other offensive category.
Can they pitch? So far good enough, especially by jettisoning the under-achievers in the bullpen. But can this team continue this pace? It's presently unclear.
Here is the problem with this team: Yes they are curb-stomping the bottom feeders in the division. Yes they can mash and they will probably continue to do so. But they essentially have one bona-fide ace right now and his name isn't Jered Weaver.
Richards is for real. But the rest of the rotation is a potential implosion waiting to happen. Shoemaker and Skaggs have a tenuous hold on success at the moment. Weaver and Wilson look brittle, both in terms of performance and their ability to stay off the DL. Santiago is both unlucky and unpredictable. The bullpen has improved significantly lately, but it's still questionable whether Jason Grilli and Joe Smith are capable of pitching lights out for the rest of the season.
Why am I so negative? First our RA (runs allowed) for the season. It sticks out in the column right next to our win total. It's pretty darn high for a contender. We're basically at the bottom of the heap in pitching among the elite teams in the league, and the Angels are substantially worse than either Oakland or Seattle. This concerns me.
Secondly our previous track record against the top tier in the majors. The Angels have demolished the bad teams, which is important. But so far it's a different story against the good teams. Consider:
|Opponent||First-Half Record Against|
This is cause for concern going forward. Yes the Angels resoundingly defeated the likes of Texas, Houston and Minnesota in the first half. But the good teams? They've really struggled. Even worse, two of those teams are in our own division. It's notable that Oakland and Seattle statistically have the best pitching in the majors.
Now it's not all cut and dry of course. The Angels have done very well against the Blue Jays so far, and they did take 2 of 3 against the Nats. The above stats are also small sample sizes, or at least against the teams outside of the division.
But what about this current pace? It's not likely the Angels are going to post an .800 winning percentage the rest of the way against the bad teams. Against the good teams? They hopefully will improve. The Angels have 34 games remaining against "good" teams. Of those 34 games a whopping 20 (10 each) are against Oakland and Seattle. The remainder against the Dodgers, Baltimore and Detroit.
The Angels also have 33 games remaining against "bad" teams. More of the same in the first half, they play 14 more games against the state of Texas and also play the Florida teams, Boston and Minnesota with a couple other weaklings sprinkled into the schedule.
If the Angels go .600 against the scrubs but .333 against the quality teams like they did in the fist half they are looking at roughly 88 wins. That certainly isn't enough to win the division. If might not even secure a wild card.
So what's the consensus here? Go get David Price? Well he's worth maybe 2 wins if the Angels are lucky, possibly 2.5 if Santiago settles in nicely into the bullpen as a back-fill. That may not be enough.
Price would be helpful, but Price or not the pitching still needs to do better. Weaver needs to stay on the field. Wilson needs to stop nibbling, and Skaggs needs to show he's even better than just a quality starter. The bullpen needs to do better than the first half, and it's possible the new acquisitions will prove that out. The hitters need to continue to hit, and maybe without the likes of Voldemort and with a healthy Hamilton they will continue to improve.
Bottom line? The Angels are for real. But that still might not be good enough to break into the ALDS rounds because of their second half schedule. Right now they are headed for a near miss or if they are lucky, sitting in a Safeco field dugout against King Felix in do or die wild card game. This is alarming. They need to step it up against their divisional rivals. They can start next week.
It should be an interesting second half.