Los Angeles Angels pitching and base running looking like 2002

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia says wait a minute before you write off the 2016 Angels. : Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia says wait a minute before you write off the 2016 Angels. : Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

Watching the Los Angeles Angels game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday afternoon I was transported back to 2002 the most magical season in Angels history.  There was clutch-hitting, good pitching, excellent defense, and aggressive base-running.  I know in the end of the game the Angels lost 4-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers thanks to a three-run 9th inning as rule 5 draft pick Deolis Guerra gave up two home runs and the game by allowing two home runs.

In the first inning Johnny Giavotella hit a one out double and then a walk by Mike Trout made it first and second. Kole Calhoun hit a single to right to drive in Giavotella for a 1-0 lead.  C.J. Cron then followed with a single scoring Trout for a 2-0 lead.  Calhoun went to third on the single which perfectly placed through the vacated hole that was made by Calhoun running on the pitch.

In the third inning the Angels took a 3-1 lead in the third again using their aggressive base running as Giavotella and later Trout went from first to third on singles by Trout and Calhoun.  This is reminiscent of 2002 where the Angels always seemed to take the extra-base.

Defensively the Los Angeles Angels made some spectacular defensive plays and throughout made the routine ones as well.  The pitching was also strong until the 9th inning as all the Angels relievers looked to be in regular season form.

So back to my original statement about how this year’s team reminds me of 2002. This not just my statement, but manager Mike Scioscia has also said this recently as well. The 2002 team didn’t rely solely on power to score runs although they still hit 152 home runs that season. However, the team that year was great at manufacturing runs by taking the extra base, stealing bases (117 that season), and 113 sacrifice hits (bunts and sac flys combined). The Angels scored 851 runs that season outscoring their opponents by over 200 runs as they allowed 644 runs.

It is way too early to compare this team fully to 2002, but I do see Scioscia’s point as this year’s team all seem to be willing to take the extra base, hit and run, and also sacrifice themselves for the team (I don’t see Albert Pujols, or C.J. Cron bunting very often, but they would be willing to hit the ball the other way on a hit and run).  This type of play has been absent over the last seven seasons since probably 2009 when the team scored 883, which is a franchise record. The team also drew 547 walks in the 2009 season.

We will have to see once the season starts if the team will perform more like the glory years of 2002 and also 2009, or if they will again struggle to produce runs like last season.  Since 2009 the Angels have not scored above the 800 run mark in a season.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mike Scioscia is actually happy that most baseball experts are pick the Los Angeles Angels to finish in third or fourth place.  Not that anyone is going to totally sleep on a team with two potential Hall of Famers leading it (Mike Trout and Albert Pujols).  However, I say let the so-called experts diss the 2016 team, even a lot of fans are very pessimistic of the Angels chances to make the playoffs.

My prediction is this team will win 92 games and make the post-season.  If they can manufacture runs at good clip and get enough pitching, especially from a somewhat revamped bullpen.  I’m looking forward to this season the more I watch Spring Training.  Remember you heard it here first.