CHICAGO, September 23, 2013 — The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. In a year where so much was expected from this team, things just did not work out. Today the column wishes the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, better luck next year.
What Went Right: There is not enough room here to say how right Mike Trout has been. With Miguel Cabrera’s injury, it is likely that Mike Trout will win the AL MVP despite committing the sin of playing for a team that did not contend, which is largely out of his control. Trout followed up one of the best seasons ever by a 20-year-old with one of the best seasons ever by a 21-year-old. He has a .326/.433/.562 slash line with an OPS+ of 181 while producing 9.2 WAR according to baseball reference. The question about Trout seems to have shifted from will he be able to maintain or improve upon these numbers to whether the Angels will be able to keep him in four years and how much will it cost?
It is hard to believe that of the free agent signings by the Angels over the last two years the best one has been CJ Wilson. Wilson has logged over 200 innings for the fourth straight year with an ERA+ of 112 while striking out 20.5% of batters faced and walking 9.1% of batters faced. The Angels’ staff has been the focus of the blame for their poor season, but it is largely the backend of the staff because Wilson, Jered Weaver, and Garrett Richards provide hope the team can fix this flaw for next year.
Jered Weaver, while not up to the Cy Young worthy levels of the last three years, posted a 112 ERA+, struck out 19% of batters faced and walked a career low 5.9% of batters faced. Garrett Richards may never be an ace, but he is under team control for five more years and has developed into a league average starter with a 100 ERA+. While a team will likely not be successful with five pitchers like Richards, he is not the issue and will allow the Angels to only have to fill two spots in their rotation for next year.
What Went Wrong: Albert Pujols and his difficulties this year were discussed in this column here. While his season, and time so far with the Angels, has been a disappointment it seems that Pujols has been playing with this issue for multiple years and if he feels better next year hopefully he can bounce back to the levels of output he had in his final year in St. Louis, if not better.
The Angels signed Josh Hamilton from their division rival Rangers this past offseason and people wondered how this offense could be stopped. Hamilton, however, struggled in his first year with the Angels, posting a .245/.302/.429 line. Many doubted that Hamilton could stay healthy, but he has played in 144 games so far this season. Hamilton struck out in 24.8% of his appearances while walking in 7.4% of his at bats. While neither is a career high, having a strike out rate above his career average and a walk rate below his career average are not positive indicators for Hamilton.
Joe Blanton posted the worst ERA+ of his career with a 62 and ugly peripherals. The Angels have him under contract next year, as well, for $7.5 million, but should have other options going into spring training. Even getting league average production from his rotation spot would be an improvement over Blanton.
Finally the Angels’ farm system entered the season ranked 30th according to Baseball America. While there have been discussions of trading Howie Kendrick for pitching help, the Angels need to explore all avenues to improve their farm system to provide help to the big club.
What to Look for in 2014: If Arte Moreno decides to open his wallet again this year he should do so for pitching help. The offense still has potential if Hamilton can bounce back, Pujols comes back healthy and Trout maintains or even improves upon his 2013 production. While there are not many great free agent pitchers available even league average production out of the fourth and fifth spots may be enough to allow the team to contend.
Free Agents/Options: Jason Vargas