It seems fans have reached (or are at least close to reaching) their boiling point with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s slow start. And by slow start, I mean tied for the worst record in franchise history through 13 games. A team with so much promise has not lived up to much in the early going. The 4-9 Angels find themselves 7 games back of the AL West leading Texas Rangers. They are tied for the fourth worst winning percentage in Major League Baseball. As a team, the Angels rank in the bottom third in MLB in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage. On the pitching side, the team ranks 24th in ERA. It’s alarming the team has yet to win a series, going 0-4. Worse yet, the Angels haven’t played that tough of a schedule. Sure, playing the New York Yankees on the road is about as tough as it gets, but their other series have come against the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland Athletics. Some prognosticators picked the Royals to surprise this year, but most expect the Twins and Athletics to be two of the worst teams in the American League.
There are a variety of reasons for the slow start, but to put it in simple terms, the team isn’t playing good baseball. The Angels have been inconsistent thus far. When the team puts runs on the board, pitching lets them down. When a starting pitcher has a good outing, the bullpen blows the lead. And so on and so on. Yesterday against the Athletics the offense left 11 on base, going 3-12 with runners in scoring position. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The Angels have played few games where all facets have come together.
When all the facets of the game have come together, in the Angels’ four wins, it was either Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson on the mound. Weaver and Wilson have each had two good (or better) starts out of three, resulting in the four wins. Dan Haren has yet to pitch into the seventh inning, but had a strong outing in his last start against Oakland – which was blown by the bullpen. Haren should be just fine. Ervin Santana has struggled going 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA through his three starts. The right-hander has had problems keeping the ball in the yard as he’s given up two home runs in each of his three starts; he’s also struggled with his control, allowing more walks than normal. Jerome Williams has only started one game (against the Yankees) and was roughed up allowing five runs in less than three innings. The Angels strength is their starting pitching but thus far they have been less than effective in more than half of the team’s games.
The Angels inconsistent beginning might have something to do with the varying starting lineups Mike Scioscia has thrown out there. The Angels have had 11 different batting orders in 13 games. There was much discussion in the lead up to the season about the team having too many quality players and not enough positions. The result has been a lot of shuffling. It would be hard to peg down the effect that has had on the team’s performance, but it would be difficult to argue that having so many different lineups is a good thing. Consistency in the starting lineup is something I imagine teams strive for. It would allow players to get into a rhythm and know what to expect when they come to the ballpark every day. The way it stands I wouldn’t be surprised if some players are wondering what their role is. Looking at it from a different vantage point, if Scioscia wants to experiment and see what he has on his roster it would be best to do it now and not later in the season. Still, I have to think a relatively consistent lineup would benefit the team.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating, yeah, it’s rough, but that’s why you play 162 games,” Pujols said after coming within a foot of his first home run as an Angel in the fifth inning. “We can get a good streak going and forget about what happened in April. To be a championship club, you need to go through some tough times.”
Even with the poor start and being seven games back in the division this early in the season, it’s not time to panic. The team is only 9.2% into the regular season. Albert Pujols seems to be looking at the big picture as he and everyone else invested in the team should. There is still a lot of season left to be played. The pieces are still in place. What you would like to see is the team moving in the right direction. That would mean playing cleaner games and being more consistent as a whole. It’s time to be concerned, not panicked.