Coming into the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels were the most hyped team in baseball following the signings of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. After 18 games, the Angels are in the basement of the AL West with a 6-12 record. Only the pathetic Twins and Royals have worse records in the AL. Their -10 run differential is fourth worst in the AL, behind the aforementioned Twins and Royals, plus the Red Sox. Fingers are pointing everywhere about why exactly the Angels are playing so badly, but the general consensus is “crappy luck”. Aside from that, here are five reasons the Angels aren’t playing very well so far.
1. The struggles of Albert Pujols
It goes without saying that Pujols and his early slump is a key part of Los Angeles’s struggles. Through the first 18 games, Pujols has just a .601 OPS and hasn’t homered. The change in scenery from St Louis to Los Angeles, and in league from the NL to the AL, likely has a huge part in his struggles. There are other causes, though. Pujols has just a .262 BABIP, which continues a downward trend over the past few years for him. His BABIP has declined every year since 2008. Pujols is also walking at a career low rate this year, and striking out at a career high through 18 games. Looking at his batted ball numbers, that BABIP will soon increase. He’s hitting line drives 24.6% of the time, a career high. His groundball rate is a career low 34.4%, and his fly ball and infield fly ball rates are right around his career averages. The key for Pujols comes in his swing rates. He’s clearly pressing at the plate, swinging at 41.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone, nearly 20% higher than his career mark. He’s also swinging at a career low 58.9% of pitches in the strike zone, and all that has led to a swing rate of 49.1%, by far a career high. Pujols is swinging more, and he’s swinging at worse pitches. That’s resulting in more outs, and struggles at the plate. If he starts swinging at better pitches, he should start to succeed more.
2. Ervin Santana’s gopher ball problem
Through four starts and 23 2/3 innings, Ervin Santana has allowed ten homers. To put that in perspective, he’s only walked eight hitters. He has also only struck out 16, leading to a career low strikeout rate of 6.08 per nine innings. The homers are more of a concern than the walks and strikeouts, though. 34.5% of flyballs Santana has allowed have gone out of the park. In comparison, the general major league average is around 10.6% historically. It’s really a terrible trend, especially when you consider his career low flyball rate of 36.3%. His velocity is consistent from last year, so the general theory is that it’s just some really awful luck so far from Santana. But maybe not: Santana is getting hitters to chase a career low 23.7% of pitches out of the zone, and they’re only swinging 40.7% of the time overall, another career low. Hitters are being more selective against Santana, and they’re making better contact. That’s not a good sign overall.
3. Mark Trumbo isn’t playing enough
Trumbo has a .924 OPS this season, tops on the club, and he only has 38 plate appearances. Why is that? Well, the Angels seem committed to Kendrys Morales at the DH spot (.680 OPS in 55 plate appearances), and seem determined to give Alberto Callaspo equal playing time in comparison to Trumbo (.443 OPS in 37 plate appearances). Vernon Wells is still playing every day (though he’s showing a pulse this year), and Bobby Abreu has 27 plate appearances of .592 OPS ball this year despite being a lifeless corpse of a hitter. The Angels claim to not be playing Trumbo because of his defense at third base. While Trumbo is indeed an awful defender, he’s been roughly the same at third base as Abreu has been in left field, and his offensive prowess is more than enough to offset the defensive advantages provided by Callaspo at thrid base. Trumbo isn’t going to rake like this all year, as that .395 BABIP isn’t sustainable. But he’s destroying the ball like no one else on the team right now, and is hardly playing.
4. Peter Bourjos has been awful offensively
Bourjos’s main selling point is his amazing defense in center field, and while he’s already a +3 for the Angels, his bat has been sorely lacking. Bourjos has a .501 OPS this year, lower than all players on the team right now aside from Callaspo. He’s walked just one time in 46 plate appearances. His 12 strikeouts have given him a team-high 26.1% strikeout rate. He’s just been terrible. The problem for the Angels is that they don’t have much recourse right now, with Abreu being nearly as bad with the stick along with providing no defensive value at all. The Angels have a great defensive outfield, with Bourjos in center, Torii Hunter in right, and Vernon Wells in left, but the offense is sorely lacking. If they want to really improve, they’re going to need to eat some money in order to make room for a certain someonee that needs to be playing every day.
5. Mike Trout is still in AAA
I mean seriously, what the hell does Trout need to do in order to get called up? Over 19 games for AAA Salt Lake, he has a line of .419/.483/.649. He has five triples and six stolen bases this season. He has more walks than any Angels player in the majors this year. He’s hitting both lefties and righties equally as well. What in the name of god does he have to do? Two of the Angels three starting outfielders have OBPs of .250 or below, and two out of three of them have slugging percentages under .355. The Angels as a team have nine stolen bases, and Trout has six by himself. Just call him up and let him roll, Angels. There’s nothing else for him to prove in the minors, and your team clearly needs a boost.
So what do you think, Angels fans? Is there something else plaguing the team that I completely missed?
Photos courtesy of Daylife.com