Are The Angels Done?

Can Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels turn their season around?

Can Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels turn their season around?

Preseason favorites to win the AL West and expected to compete for the AL pennant at the very least this season, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the Los Angeles Angels.

Currently residing in third place in the division, the Angels (44-49) are five games under .500, nine games behind the Texas Rangers (54-41) and 11 back of the division-leading Oakland Athletics (56-39). To put it kindly, Mike Scioscia’s side is on the outside looking in.

20130714_ALWestThe Angels have gone from an early favorite to a definitive outsider with the bookies. Leading sportsbook Bovada currently has the club at 33/1 to win the 2013 World Series, leaving the club behind 15 other teams and worlds away from those 7/2 season-opening odds. Furthermore, the side ranks seventh in the American League and third in the division.

But with 69 games still on the schedule, is it time to completely rule the Halos out?

The initial response to this question has to be yes.

The Angels have not been within eight games of the division leader – be it Oakland or Texas – since May 4, and have dropped to as many as 12 games back during that stretch.

After a 9-17 start to the season, the club has been treading water since, recording a 35-32 record. While the Angels may not necessarily need to make the full 11 games back that it currently trails by, the ultra-tough AL East is going to make it tough for the team to emerge with even a Wild Card berth.

One of the biggest problems the club has experienced is its starting pitching.

LAA_starting_pitchingAn argument could be made that C. J. Wilson (9-6, 3.37 ERA) is the only Angels starter of merit so far this season. He has taken to the mound 19 times this season, 14 times of which have been considered quality starts. However, that would be overly harsh on Jason Vargas (6-4, 3.37 ERA) who picked up nine quality starts in 14 appearances before being sidelined with injury.

Joe Blanton (2-12, 5.53 ERA) has had a terrible start to his Angels’ career, and joins Tommy Hanson (4-2, 5.10 ERA) with an overinflated ERA. Jerome Williams (5-5, 4.60 ERA) has been treading water as he fills in for the injured Hanson, while Jered Weaver (3-5, 3.63 ERA) has had a tricky time.

In fairness, the starting rotation has been beaten up this season, and could benefit from some stability. With Hanson (forearm) set to begin rehabbing this week and Vargas (arm) penciled in to return by the end of July, that stability may be forthcoming.

With a stable rotation, the Angels don’t need to look far for inspiration. Only last season, Oakland pulled off a remarkable comeback to win the division. 13 games back on June 30, the A’s shocked everybody by going 57-26 to close out the season, defeating the Rangers on the final day of the season to pick up the division crown.

In theory, the Angels still have time to duplicate this. Yes the side is about two weeks further down the line than Oakland was last year, but with huge potential in the batting order those wins could easily be strung together.

Believe it or not, in all the talk of disappointment surrounding the combination of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the Angels have actually been fairly solid at the plate.

C.J. Wilson has been solid on the mound.

C.J. Wilson has been solid on the mound.

The club is third in the American League in batting average (.267), sixth in runs scored (430) and seventh in RBIs (406). While these might not sound like amazing numbers – they’re not – they are significant in that no other AL West team has topped them. However, the 102 home runs the Angels have hit are fewer than both Seattle (115) and Texas (112).

There has been another very noticeable issue with the Angels’ hitting.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times lamented the Angels’ struggles against left-handed pitching during last weekend’s series with the Seattle Mariners. The Angels have hit .239 against left-handed pitchers so far this season, ranking 12th in the American League. The team has 205 hits (13th), 23 home runs (10th) and 101 RBIs (11th) with a southpaw on the mound. That’s a worrying trend and certainly something bettors should keep in mind when they bet the moneyline.

With the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, A.J. Griffin, Barolo Colon, and Jarrod Parker pitching in the AL West, the Angels are going to need those bats to come alive.

Perhaps the most significant statistical category we can look at is the Angels’ divisional record. With 38 of the final 69 games coming against divisional foes, the Angels are going to need to win in the division, something the club hasn’t been doing so far this season.

The Angels are 15-23 against AL West opponents this campaign, including an 8-11 record at Angels Stadium and a 7-12 tally on the road. Only the Houston Astros (14-26) have a worst record within the division.

The club has a losing record against each of its four rivals, having gone 1-5 against Oakland, 2-4 against Texas, and 6-7 against both Seattle and Houston. Those numbers are hardly conducive of a team that can turn things around.

ALWest_futuresIt appears that all roads point to the Angels being done and dusted. With both the A’s and Rangers playing well, and the Halos seemingly incapable of beating either, the AL West crown looks out of reach, which leaves one of the Wild Card berths.

Can you imagine the Angels beating out the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays, all of whom currently sit ahead of the Angels. Two of those teams will walk away with a division title. The remaining four will be vying for a playoff berth alongside the runner-up in the Rangers-A’s race and the Angels.

Nine doesn’t go into five and right now it would take a miracle for the Los Angeles Angels to push for fifth place. But then again, didn’t we think the same about Oakland last year?

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