The Los Angeles Angels this season have been nothing short of a disappointment. Heading into this year the Halos were expected to be a playoff contender but the exact opposite has happened as they lie near the bottom of the American League standings with the fifth worst record at 53-62.
At this juncture of the season, they are 13 games behind the AL West division-leading Oakland Athletics and do not fare much better in the race for the second wild card spot trailing by 12 games. So with that said, who is to blame for the Halos struggles this season? Here are the top five areas to place the fault for this horrendous season:
1. Pitching woes
Is there even a counter-argument for what could a bigger problem for the Angels this season? Their pitching staff ranks 28th in ERA at 4.33, 24th in opponent batting average at .261, eighth with 371 walks, tied for eighth with 121 home runs allowed, and are tied for sixth with 1052 hits allowed. These numbers do nothing but underline the struggles the team’s pitching is having this year, which has been one of worst years in recent memory.
Pitching was one of the areas that the team needed to improve going into this past offseason and they attempted to address the issue by making free agent signings and trades but the players they have acquired have been mediocre at best this season. The three starting pitchers they acquired in Joe Blanton
, Jason Vargas
and Tommy Hanson
have all either been ineffective, injured or a combination of both.
As for the two other pitchers the Halos signed, who are Sean Burnett
and Ryan Madson
, in hopes of strengthening their bullpen have also been big misses. Burnett, who signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Halos this past offseason, has pitched a total of nine innings this season and was recently ruled out for the rest of the season due to a small tear in the flexor tendon near his pitching elbow. As for Madson, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Halos in hopes of becoming the team’s closer, he has had multiple setbacks in his attempt to return from Tommy John surgery that he had performed in April 2012 and was released by the team on August 5.
And to add to this problem the pitching staff has not been consistent at any point during the season. Their pitching was seen as a possible question mark going into the year and now will be one heading into next offseason.
2. Losing to divisional opponents
Defeating teams within the same division should have been a given if the Halos were hoping to claim an AL West title this season but that has not been the case as they hold a 18-33 record against divisional opponents. Their divisional record also includes being swept by the Houston Astros who hold the worst record in the majors this season at 37-78.
The Angels were expected to compete against the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers for the AL West division crown but their inability to win games against their divisional rivals this year has made that a very difficult task. They currently hold a 4-9 record against the A’s and are 2-10 against the Rangers, which includes a three-game sweep in late July by three consecutive walk-off wins via home runs.
The bottom line is that the Angels have not taken care of business within their division and that has been a major factor into why they are struggling to even make it to a .500 record.
3. Defensive Issues
Remember that old adage, defense wins championship? Well for this year’s team that does not apply here as they have one of the league’s worst defenses. Their defense is tied for last in the league in fielding percentage at .980, tied for second most errors committed at 85, 25th in defensive efficiency ratio, and is second highest in stolen base against percentage at .815.
This deficiency has been a major cause of the team’s struggles this season. It has created a very unreliable defense that has difficulty aiding their pitchers tough situations and often times worsen their pitching problem. This Angels’ team was expected to be a decent defense with a very athletic outfield in Mike Trout
, Peter Bourjos
and Josh Hamiton
with a promising infield that features two former gold glove winners in Erick Aybar
and Albert Pujols
Like their pitching, the defense has not been as sharp and sure handed as it should be.
4. Josh Hamilton’s lack of production
The Angels made the unexpected move last offseason to sign former Rangers outfielder Josh Hamiton to a five-year, $125 million contract and this season he has not come close to the high level of production he had in Texas over the last couple seasons.
This year he is batting .220 with 17 home runs, 54 RBIs, 113 strikeouts, a .276 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage. To simply put it, Hamilton is not putting up the numbers that have earned him this huge contract he has with the Halos. The team made the decision to spend big money on the 31-year-old left-handed hitter to help add to the offense instead of addressing their biggest need which was to improve their pitching staff. The addition of Hamilton was not necessarily needed as the team ranked in the top 10 in several offensive categories last season.
The Angels’ priority last offseason should have focused on their glaring pitching needs by putting all their effort into re-signing pitcher Zach Grienke
but the team chose to let him go and settle for second-tier free agent pitching replacements. The result of that choice has landed the Angels in an even worse position than last year and has made the decision to sign Hamilton rather than retain Grienke look like a very foolish move.
5. Mike Scioscia managing
This is the second consecutive season that Scioscia
has failed to meet the high expectations of leading his talented ball club into contention for the playoffs and the AL West division crown.
For the Angels skipper the postseason seems like a distant memory as his last playoff berth was in 2009, when the team claimed the AL West division title and made it as far the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. In his 14-year career as the Angels manager he holds a 1207-1013 record and was the first manager to make the postseason in six of his first ten seasons.
Part of the blame for this season’s struggles do lie with Scioscia because as the team’s manager it is his responsibility to lead the Angels in the right direction and for this team that features so much talent the postseason was expected. His inability to meet expectations over the last couple of seasons only gives way to speculation that the team has tuned him out and that he may be nothing more than just a talking head.
Regardless if that is the case, Scioscia has an underachieving Angels’ team this year and that may very well cost him his job.
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Bob Garcia IV is a sports journalist from Southern California. He's currently the Los Angeles Lakers beat writer for Sports Out West. He is also currently covering the NBA and NFL for ClutchPoints. He was previously the beat writer for LA Rams Report for Scout.com, which is a website dedicated to covering the Rams. Lastly, he was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarciaivsports