Catching up to, not catching, Texas
June, 3, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
It might appear as if the Angels and Texas Rangers are in similar places.
Puffed up with new TV money, they've both become major off-season -- and, in Texas' case, in-season -- spenders.
They both have veteran cores with good young talent around the edges. They both have solid rotations and bankable bullpens. They are the two best teams in the AL West and, who knows, they might be the two best teams in the league.
But even as the Angels closed the gap over these three games, you can see that they're really not in the same place at all. The Rangers, which have kept their core intact for years, knows exactly who they are. The Angels, who turned their roster over in the off-season and have continued to tinker with personnel in the first two months, are still getting a feel for what works.
"I think we still have to evolve as a team to be what we can be," manager Mike Scioscia said.
Texas has been playing its worst baseball of the season, giving up bushels of runs and dropping baseballs as if they were covered in axle grease. The Angels have been on their biggest tear of the season, having won eight of nine coming in. Not surprisingly, the Angels won the series, two games to one.
But the way Texas hits, the Angels probably need to find another gear to hang with these guys over the coming four months. Just when it looked like the Angels might get the sweep Sunday, creeping to within 3-2, the Rangers' No. 6 hitter, Nelson Cruz, hit a ball 484 feet, the longest shot in the majors in 2012. It clanged around near the flag poles before rolling down the hill.
And you know what it would have said if it could have talked? "Not yet." The Angels aren't yet in the same class as the class of the AL.
"Their seven, eight and nine hitters could probably hit 3-4-5 in a couple of National League lineups," said Angels starter Dan Haren, who had to fight to get through five innings. "They never let you breathe."
Even after this series, which revived the notion of a vibrant AL rivalry west of the Mississippi, here's where these lineups stack up: The Angels have scored 206 runs, 89 fewer than Texas. Their team on-base percentage is No. 12 in the AL. Texas' is No. 1. They have hit 48 home runs, 28 fewer than the Rangers.
So, while Scioscia was pleased with the series, he didn't exactly pronounce it a new era in the West.
"The first couple games set up the way we can handle them. We scored just enough runs and gave it to our bullpen, got some clutch hits at the end," Scioscia said. "We still need this offense to get to a higher level for us to start talking about the potential of our team. We're not there yet."
And until they are, they'll still be playing catch-up.