Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can They Win?

The 2011 Angels have had their fair share of struggles so far in the year. While the pitching staff led by Jered Weaver and Dan Haren is quite possibly the best 1-2 punch in the majors this year, the offense has barely scored enough runs to win games and get "W"s for their co-aces. Currently the Halos sit three games out of first in the AL West despite having a terrible beginning to June. It's starting to get to the point in the season where teams have a good sense if they will be in the race to the end, or if they should start selling players and preparing for next season. Now we have to ask , do the Angels have the ability to win?

This is not the first Angels team that has not been an offensive powerhouse. The 2008 Angels that won 100 games did not score runs like the Yankees and Red Sox do now. The 2008 closer Francisco Rodriquez had 62 saves that year, breaking the MLB record for most saves in a single season. That means 62 of one hundred wins were settled by three runs or less. That year the Angels scored enough runs to get by, and finished the season tenth in runs scored.

With the Angels recent success of winning two straight series, I started looking at some of the comparisons to the 2008 club. Until the deal that brought Mark Teixeira to Anaheim, the Angels main offensive force was Vlad Guerrero. He had a more than fine season, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece like his 2004 season. Vlad posted a .303 average with 91 RBI.

The 2011 Angels appear to be similar to the squad in 2008, but without even a Vlad-like to carry the team. Torii Hunter is a fantastic player, but he is not the guy that you center the team around, and Vernon Wells has faltered thus far in the season. But the Angels remain only three games out. That is because they have scored just enough runs to win. It may be frustrating for our starters in that they may not get the win and probably not likely to pitch with a significant lead on most nights.

But as June comes to a close, Vernon Wells seems to finally be heating up, and the team seems to be hitting its stride. There is still a chance for them. The league is currently in the middle of its second "Year of the Pitcher" and it is clear that the league is no longer offensive minded. A team can win with a good pitching staff. There may be better staffs out there, but the Angels currently lead the AL in quality starts, and are behind only the Phillies in that category. They have the pitching necessary to carry them through a postseason. But they need to find consistency in the offense. Now that players seem to be heating up, it is possible to score enough runs, but not necessarily enough to put them among the top five run scorers in the league. But a win is a win now matter how it gets put on the board.

We saw the Giants win the World Series last year with a bare bones offense, and if the Angels make the playoffs that's the kind of team they will be. They will look to prevent runs from being scored and not necessarily blowing their opponents out of the water. The Angels have the potential, but it is a matter of unlocking enough of that potential to remain competitive in their division. But so far they have only done enough to be three games back. They have to bring a lot more to the plate if they want to play baseball in October.

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