Well LA Angels fans, if a shutout loss on Opening Day and a 1-4 record wasn’t disappointing enough for you, Justin Upton missing the next 2-3 months with turf toe ought to do the trick.
Since the news broke last Friday that the LA Angels left fielder would miss more time than originally believed, everyone on Twitter is already writing the Angels off for this season. They have a brutal schedule over the first couple months of the season, and could very well wind up too far behind once Upton returns to make anything of this season.
However, in baseball, there is always a chance. In Anaheim, the players have stepped up before when stars get hurt. Remember the Eric Young Jr. month when Mike Trout was out for an extended period of time? This team has its work cut out for them, even more so than before, but these three steps can ensure the Angels survive through the next 8-12 weeks without Upton, and still have a shot at the playoffs once he returns.
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1.) Someone Not Named Mike Trout Needs to Step Up
This one is probably the biggest. We know Mike Trout will (probably) perform at an MVP level. However, much like last season, the real issue comes when producing runs from Trout’s excellence. If he gets on base but no one else can drive him in, then it is all pointless.
Of the Angels most likely to pick up the slack, Shohei Ohtani is the most obvious name. However, Ohtani isn’t set to return until early May, so the real work is providing enough offense until he can be slotted behind Trout.
Until then, the top of the lineup needs to, quite simply, produce. Justin Bour has been awful, Andrelton Simmons has hit well enough but is still better served in the bottom half of the lineup, and Albert Pujols is, well, Albert Pujols.
2.) Mike Trout Also Needs to Go Crazy
This one is obvious. It is very rare Mike Trout goes on a hot enough run to warrant national attention. However, that is only because Trout is always on an amazing streak of hitting. That being said, he needs to go on an all-time streak if he wants to keep the Angels from drowning over the next month or so.
While he can’t control what his teammates do, Trout has been slow out of the gate by his standards. While he is racking up doubles, he has yet to send a ball out of the park. With his teammates struggling behind him, Trout focusing more on the long ball over the next month might be the better option.
Moving Trout down to the #3 spot might also be the best option until Ohtani can return. You obviously want him hitting second so he gets more at-bats over the season while also having RBI opportunities. However, to really capitalize on RBI’s, Trout hitting behind Calhoun and Simmons is the best option for the Angels in April.
3.) The Rotation Needs to Be Good (Not Great, But Good)
This might seem obvious, but the rotation thus far has been…fine? There have been good starts from Matt Harvey and Tyler Skaggs, but Trevor Cahill, Felix Pena, and Chris Stratton each gave up four runs in their starts.
Whether it means these five performing better or calling up players such as Jaime Barria from the minors, giving up 16 runs in 24.2 innings is not a good enough total for the Angels rotation, especially with the offense struggling.
4.) The Bullpen Needs to Continue Their Hot Start
The best part of the Angels’ team thus far has been the bullpen. Through the first series against the A’s, they didn’t allow a single run. While Hansel Robles gave up a two-run bomb in Seattle, they have only allowed those two runs in 15.1 innings is remarkable.
The bullpen, led by Angels’ Player of the Week Ty Buttrey, has given me hope in this team. In the lone win, they showed they know how to hold onto a lead. In the losses, they have been able to have adequate damage control and give the offense the chance for a comeback late in games.
That is what great teams do. They have bullpens who can shut down opponents. However, great teams also have good rotations and exceptional offenses. The Angels are 1/3 of the way there though, so I guess there’s that.
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These four steps aren’t easy to complete. Everyone in the Angels’ clubhouse needs to bring their best stuff every game if they want to survive and then be competitive once Justin Upton returns. However, it isn’t out of the question, and this team is showing there is a (slim) hope they can make this season a good one.