Although coming off a nice series win against a depleted Yankees team, the popular conversation among many Angel fans is how to get this team within striking distance of the AL West title by the All-Star break. From firing Manager Mike Scioscia to shuffling around the batting order, unrest in Angels nation is rampant.
The unrest is a result of an under-performing roster picked by many MLB experts to reach the World Series. Free agent acquisition Josh Hamilton is only batting .213 for the 2013 season, and fellow slugger Albert Pujols has not adjusted as many had hoped in his second season in halo red with a batting average of .256.
In addition to the magnified struggles of the two Angels sluggers, the Angels’ pitching staff possess the 3rd worst ERA in Major League Baseball at 4.71. The woes of the pitching staff are felt the strongest by starter Joe Blanton. Blanton is 1-10 with a 5.87 ERA in 13 starts this season and could be the first pitcher in MLB history to lose more than 20 games.
However, this team is too talented to continue with these monumental struggles. Sometimes things must get worse to get better. Here are why things will get better in the next couple weeks:
1. Replace Joe Blanton with Jerome Williams in rotation. Much of the argument to relieve Blanton of his starter role is revealed above. Nine games under .500, Blanton should shoulder some blame as he has allowed three or more earned runs in 10 of his outings. In seven competent starts this season, Williams has shown he has what it takes to be that 5th arm for the Angels. If Blanton struggles in his next start Tuesday vs. the Mariners, fans could see his spot given to Williams.
2. Reinforcements. For the Angels, the return of Peter Bourjos and Ryan Madson should provide some additional reinforcement to the lineup and bullpen. Bourjos will man center field and bat 9th, providing that second leadoff hitter for the Angels at the bottom of the order. The 1-2 punch of him and Mike Trout from bottom to top can cause nightmares for catchers and pitchers alike with their speed. Bourjos made a huge impact in the two victories against the Yankees this weekend. Lastly, the Angels will receive help in the bullpen with the progressing rehab of closer Ryan Madson. Madson can provide the Angels with additional bullpen depth, and in my opinion should receive a shot at closing. Current closer Ernesto Frieri has shown he can be too shaky at times and would be better suited for an 8th inning role.
3. Ride Your Studs. The struggles of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton surely can’t continue or be as woeful. In the designated hitter role, Angel fans have to like the fact that Albert can still possess a .766 OPS (On Base+ Slugging %), and doesn’t have to play in the field. For Hamilton, his days as a .300 hitter might be over, but the raw talent is still there. Hamilton hopefully will heat up as the weather heats up for the Angels faithful. Hey, when you have Mike Trout on your team, anything’s possible. The best all-around player in the game is batting .305 and will continue to flourish in the leadoff role.
The Angels are starting to show glimpses of how they can play in recent weeks, and with some minor changes, and reinforcements, you better believe this is a team far from finished.