The identity of the Los Angeles Angels before the last couple of seasons was one based on the offensive strategy in baseball known as small ball, which encourages getting runners on base and moving them into scoring position by using sacrifice bunts or fly balls, stolen bases and walks rather than relying solely on home runs and extra base hits to score runs.
This brand of baseball for the Halos organization has been mostly associated with manager Mike Scioscia, who had used this offensive method for several seasons as the means of scoring runs for the ball club. In the last two seasons, there has been a shift in the Angels offense due to the fact the team now features big bats in the lineup such as Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Josh Hamilton.
Since the Angels switched to an offense relying more on power and extra base hits, the team has been in the top ten in the league in several offensive categories such batting average, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored. For example, this year the Angels offense ranks fourth in the league with a .267 batting average, fourth in on-base percentage at .753, ninth in RBIs with 476, fourth in slugging percentage at .423. 10th in home runs with 119, and ninth with 504 runs scored. This year’s numbers are all with an offense that has an under performing Josh Hamilton and a declining Albert Pujols, who may miss the rest of the season due to a torn fascia in his left foot.
The real root to team’s problem this year does not lie with their offense rather it stems out of their inconsistent pitching staff. This season, the Angels’ pitching ranks 26th in the league with a 4.32 ERA, 24th in opponent batting average at .261, tied for seventh with 117 home runs allowed, eighth with 354 walks, and is sixth in allowed hits at 1003.
The Halos pitching has not been consistent or healthy at any point this season. Their pitching woes can be exemplified by Joe Blanton, who this year in 119 innings pitched has a 5.52 ERA with a 2-13 record, an opponent batting average of .313, and has allowed 158 hits and 24 home runs. Blanton’s inconsistency this season has subsequently cost him his spot on the starting rotation and has been relegated to the bullpen.
One key factor in using small ball is that the team must be confident that their pitching staff will only allow a few runs per game. The problem that exist here with the Angels is that they do not have a pitching staff that they can rely on to hold opposing teams to low offensive production on a consistent basis. Their pitching has not proven that is capable of gaining the team’s confidence due to the fact it has been erratic all season long.
Adding to their inconsistency,the pitching staff has experienced a flurry of injuries throughout this season which include losing Jered Weaver for six weeks because of a broken left arm, Tommy Hanson for about a month due to a forearm injury, and Jason Vargas who is still rehabbing from surgery that removed a blood clot in his left armpit. This is not to forget to mention that the Halos still have two injured relief pitchers they signed this past offseason in Sean Burnett, who has only pitched 9.2 innings this season and is out for the rest of the year with a torn left flexor tendon, and Ryan Madson, who has yet to appear in a game this year because he is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery he had in April 2012.
This Angels’ offense does not need to revert back to the small ball strategy to jump start this team, because their problem is lack of consistency out of their pitching staff. It has been their pitching that has put them in this deep hole this season, so if anything needs to change it is their pitching not their offense.
Bob Garcia IV
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