Yes, the Angels have played incredibly poor baseball so far in 2012. They find themselves 6-13, a staggering nine games back of the AL West leading Texas Rangers and six games out of a Wild Card spot. Ultimately, it’s good it is still only April. There is a ton of time to make up ground and the Angels have yet to play the Rangers once out of their 19 scheduled meetings.
Having played so few games, the problems, there appear to be many, may correct themselves by averaging out as the season progresses. I mean, Albert Pujols could not be much less of a presence at the plate. Ervin Santana is bound to give up less than two home runs per start (one would hope). The bullpen will probably be good enough to secure some wins for Dan Haren. Given the Angels current roster, I’m not sure how much can really be done. This is a team that is more or less set roster wise – although every team is capable of making bullpen moves. The Angels made a bullpen move today making Scott Downs the closer (on a temporary basis) and moving Jordan Walden into the 7th and/or 8th inning.
What other options do the Angels have?
There is one big card to play. That would be Mike Trout. The Angels top prospect is tearing it up in Triple A, with a batting average over .400. He may very well be forcing the Angels to call him up. And once he’s up with the Major League club, you have to expect him to get regular playing time. If/when the Angels decide to bring him up, the outfielder-heavy roster will have to be adjusted in some fashion. Calling up Trout is the most obvious internal move the team could make.
Even without Trout, the Angels are log jammed at several positions. Mark Trumbo has been the team’s most lethal hitter thus far and went through a stretch when he played five different positions in five consecutive games. Mike Scioscia is doing a good job of getting him in the lineup because right now it looks like the team can’t afford to have him on the bench. Trumbo needs to play regularly right now even if it takes playing time away from everyone not named Albert Pujols.
The Angels are pretty set in the starting pitching department, at least at the top, with Jered Weaver, Haren, and C.J. Wilson. Ervin Santana has not pitched well at all so far but it will likely take several more bad outings before the team really thinks about replacing him in the rotation. Considering the battle that went down for the last spot in the rotation, the Angels will almost have to let Santana figure out what’s going wrong. Santana has only started four games this season so now is no time to give up on him. If ownership is open to adding payroll they could make a run at Roy Oswalt for a rotation spot.
The bullpen has been one of the biggest problems, blowing leads left and right. It is also the area that is easiest to fix. As previously stated, Scioscia has already changed the closer with an internal option. More role changing could be on the way. Improving the bullpen could come via trade, farm system or even free agency. There is a lot more flexibility to make a move that won’t make a major impact financially or long term roster wise.
The options appear to be somewhat limited. The move that would likely make the most impact is calling up Trout and having him play regularly. Scioscia could decide to play the hot hands, keeping players like Trumbo in the lineup as much as possible. There is little that can be done in the starting rotation because there are entrenched arms and a lack of options.
Really, it might just take time and allowing the current group to figure it out. This is a roster still with enough talent to compete for a championship (at least a playoff spot) this season. There are still over 140 regular games to be played. If the struggles continue though, changes will likely have to be made.
What should the Angels do to change their fortunes in 2012?