With most everyone has been focused on the success of the Oakland A’s so far this season, not many people have realized that the Los Angeles Angels are only two games behind the Athletics and currently have the second best record in baseball. This AL West race has heated up quickly and the Angels were the hottest teams in baseball in July. What are the chances that the Los Angeles Angels could knock the Oakland A’s from their first place spot in the AL West?
The Los Angeles Angels have won 18 out of the 25 games they played in July. This includes three wins in a four game series against the Detroit Tigers – the Oakland A’s achilles heel. Even though the Angels bullpen was not so hot through June, they recently have found success. In the month of July, four out of the five starters have winning records. The Angels also picked up San Diego Padres closer Huston Street who has a 0.97 ERA with 27 saves for 2014, which will add some security to their bullpen.
When it comes to batting, the Angels are currently second in the MLB for runs – the Athletics are first – and third for batting average. Their ballplayers are nothing to be messed with. Mike Trout, the Angels center fielder, is first in the AL for runs and OPS with 73 and .982 respectively. At only 22 years old, Trout has been the breakout star for Los Angeles.
In addition to Trout, the Angels have some stars on their team including pitcher Garrett Richards who has 2.62 ERA and a 11-3 winning record, Howie Kendrick who has a .296 batting average and has had at least one hit in nine of his last 10 games, and first baseman Albert Pujols who has 13 years of MLB experience, three NL MVP awards, and two world series rings. To say the Angels lineup is a little scary is an understatement.
Even though the Angels have some big name stars, the Oakland A’s have some power hitters as well. First baseman and outfielder Brandon Moss is leading the team in homeruns with 23, catcher Stephen Vogt is batting .351 with a .907 OPS, and third baseman Josh Donaldson is third in the AL for runs. Besides having power bats throughout their lineup, the Athletics also have versatile players who can play numerous positions well, which has allowed manager Bob Melvin to mix and match the line up perfectly depending on the opposing pitcher.
The Oakland A’s have a stronger starting rotation than Los Angeles especially after acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Additionally, the A’s have depth in their starting rotation and could easily replace a struggling starter with Tommy Milone. However, the Angels do have an experienced closer now – who was once an Oakland Athletic from 2005 to 2008 – and the recent addition of reliever Joe Thatcher from the Arizona Diamondbacks to beef up their bullpen.
Both teams’ schedules in August could potentially allow for a lot of wins. Next month, the Oakland A’s only face three teams that are above .500. This includes the Angels, Kansas City Royals, and the Atlanta Braves. However, the Angles seem to have the better schedule in August since the only teams that could challenge them are the Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The rest of the teams they face all have losing records. It will be interesting to see how the Oakland A’s and Angels match up since they face each other twice during August. The results of those games could ultimately give a pretty good idea of who will come out on top.
Currently, the Oakland A’s are now in the market for a second baseman AND a center fielder, especially is Billy Burns – a Double A player brought up as outfield backup – does not succeed in the big leagues. If the Athletics do not find either before the trade deadline, both their defense and offense could suffer. The Angels are working well together as a team, they have young bullpen, and they have all the tools to succeed. If the Oakland A’s slip up just a little bit, Los Angeles could overtake the number one team.
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