The Angels suffered yet another shutout last night, their second at the hands of the Oakland A’s, when the fell 5-0 at home. The Angels offense was stymied by young Tyson Ross, who had been on the verge of falling out of the starting rotation because he couldn’t get anyone out. It was the eighth shutout through 36 games for Los Angeles, far and away the most this season and tied for the most through the first 36 games in the last 96 years of baseball. Yeah, not the kind of history that this team was hoping to make.
The Angels became the third team since 2000 to get shut out in eight of their first 36 games. The Tigers did it in 2003. They would go on to lose 119 games that year. The Padres also did it last season, but they had just traded away their best offensive player in Adrian Gonzalez and had a team payroll of $46 million. This Angels squad is spending $54 million on the trio of Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells, and Torii Hunter alone. This wasn’t the company that L.A. was supposed to be keeping this season.
When the Angels went out and gave Pujols that 10-year, $240 million deal, it was supposed to give this offense a boost. When the team got Kendrys Morales finally back from that broken leg, it was going to put them over the top. Instead, Pujols is batting on the wrong side of the Mendoza Line, with a putrid slash line of .197/.235/.275 and he’s gone 3-for-31 (.097) when the team gets shut out. His .510 OPS is third worst in baseball among the 134 players in the majors with 125 or more at-bats, ahead of only Alexie Ramirez of the White Sox (.497) and teammate Erick Aybar (.455). That’s the same Aybar who just signed a $35 million, four-year extension last month.
The missing offense has also been killer for some of the Angels’ most consistent starters. Dan Haren and Ervin Santana were anchors of a rotation that ranked second in all of baseball last season, but have just two wins between them as they’ve been on the hill for all eight of the Angels’ shutouts this season. While neither pitcher has been exceedingly sharp to start the season, the offense giving them zero margin for error has only made their struggles look worse. Yes, Santana started out terribly, giving up five runs per start over his first four starts, but the offense did him no favors by failing to score a run in five consecutive Santana starts. Haren has been suffering some stiffness in his back in his last couple of starts, which has taken some of the crispness off his stuff, which looks even worse when a single run earns you a loss.
Manager Mike Scioscia and the Angels seem perplexed about what the team can do to get his offense started. Scioscia has shuffled the lineup, he’s found places for Mark Trumbo to hit, they’ve released Bobby Abreu and called up Mike Trout…they’re willing to try just about everything and nearly have. They’ve gotten some sparks (Trumbo leads the team with six home runs and Mike Trout hit .421 with a home run and five RBI on their last road trip) but nothing seems to be catching and starting a fire under this group. The constant tinkering and shifting has been frustrating and annoying to watch, but the team is trying to find something that will be the magic fix-all for the offensive woes.
The offseason moves were supposed to revitalize the Halos offense, which finished 10th in runs scored in the AL in 2011. Instead, they’ve slid back to 13th in runs scored in the league this season, ahead of only the offensively challenged Minnesota Twins. Their eight shutouts are by far the most in baseball. The lowly Twins have had the decency to spread out their paltry run total and have only been blanked three times this year. No team in the majors, other than the Angels, has been shutout more than four times this year. The all-time record for shutouts in a season is 30, held by the 1963 New York Mets, so the Angels have a ways to go before catching that dubious mark, but even that terrible Mets team was only shut out five times in their first 36 games, so the Halos have a good jump on them. Let’s hope something changes soon because there would be nothing worse than this team, with this payroll and all those expectations, setting that kind of record.