Sep 24, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo bats in a game against the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Although this off-season didn’t entail any huge free agent signings like the last two (at least yet) for the Angels, their fellow American League West opponents haven’t been nearly as quiet. With these three players being added into the AL West, let’s examine how much they’ll affect the Angels in the 2014 season.
When Will Prince Fielder Come Out of His Slump?
Fielder grounded into 20 double plays in 2013, good for 7th in the American League. His .279 batting average is also his lowest since 2010. He did however have 106 RBI and 25 home runs during the regular season. His slump was most noticeable during the 2013 postseason where he went 9 for 40 (.225 BA), striking out 7 times with no RBI. So now for the question at hand: how successful will Prince Fielder be against the Angels in 2014? Not massively. The Angels’ predominantly right handed bullpen and starting rotation spells trouble for Fielder. The only pitchers that he’s found significant success from are lefties Hector Santiago and C.J. Wilson. Fielder is also hitting a career .269 average against right handed pitching, along with his low .261 average against the Angels in 2013. Despite the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington having a very hitter friendly reputation, Fielder did not hit any home runs in 14 plate appearances during the 2013 season there. All the Angels have to do to contain Fielder is to continue to keep his hits in the ballpark, and they should have no problem with facing him during the regular season.
Speedy Shin-Soo Choo
Shin-Soo Choo’s ability to get on base was on display in 2013. His .423 on-base percentage was good for fourth in Major League Baseball. He also walked 122 times, good for second place in Major League Baseball, and his 20 stolen bases ranked in the top 20 in the National League. His .317 batting average against right handed pitching spells out trouble for the Angels. So, will Choo be trouble for the Angels in 2014? I predict yes. His speed is one of the major, if not the biggest factor that will give him the edge over the Angels. Anaheim allowed 131 stolen bases in 2013, coming in second in Major League Baseball only to the Boston Red Sox. Choo’s career average against Angels pitching is also .333, with a .425 on base percentage. If the Angels want to corral Choo, they’re going to need to be able to keep him off the bases, or at least prevent him from stealing them.
Putting Pressure at Safeco
Robinson Cano’s success against the Angels isn’t a secret. His .480 batting average (12 hits in 25 plate appearances) and .552 on base percentage against the Angels in 2013 are his highest against any other team in the majors. He also has found a lot of success in his career against the Angels’ best starting pitchers Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Garrett Richards. Will Cano come out on top against the Angels in 2013? I say both yes and no. Despite his overall success against the Halos, he hasn’t done much against the them at Angels Stadium. His .182 batting average is his third worst against all other major league teams. More than half of the Angels’ games against the Mariners are at home, so this is good news. If the Angels want to keep Cano in check, they have to hold him down better when they travel to Safeco, and continue to shut him down in Anaheim.
The Angels don’t have too much to worry about with the recent additions to the American League West. Should their pitching staff step it up this season after a disappointing 2013 season (5th worst in opponent batting average in MLB, 7th worst team ERA in MLB) they should be able to keep all three under control.