Thursday, April 26, 2012
Reasons for hope
By Mark Saxon
Since the Angels aren't giving their fans much reason for optimism these days, we figured we would chip in with a few reasons to think these bad times won't last forever:
Bad Albert. It's hard to imagine Albert Pujols can struggle this badly much longer. April is traditionally his worst month and, last year, he batted .245 with seven home runs before May 1 and .311 with 30 home runs thereafter.
Pujols is the kind of hitter who breaks out of slumps in spectacular ways. Advance scouts will tell you they are hesitant to note that he is in a slump because, as soon as they do, Pujols will pick up eight hits and three home runs in a three-game series against their team.
The law of averages suggests he's due. When you play a six-month season, you have to respect the law of averages.
Deuces wild. With two wild cards, you're never really out of it. The Angels may be an absurd 8 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers already, but they're only four games out of a wild card berth. And, frankly, does anyone believe there is another possible wild card team in the AL West or even the AL Central?
The Angels need to keep an eye on the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays as much -- or more -- than on Texas. Those teams could be their biggest competition for a playoff berth. The hunch here is that, if the Angels don't qualify for a wild-card spot, the East will snatch up both. That would be a bit silly, wouldn't it? Three playoff teams from one five-team division.
Action/reaction. For now, the front office is taking a wait-and-see approach, but May tends to bring more action.
Why? Many people view the 100 at-bat threshold as the first time you can begin to make reliable evaluations of how a hitter's season will go. If one of the Angels outfielders is still struggling in a week or so, don't be surprised to see the Angels call up top prospect Mike Trout, who is -- by the way -- hitting .419 after 19 games at Triple-A Salt Lake.
The later things get, the more likely it is the Angels would be willing to take a financial hit and release a veteran player such as Bobby Abreu and the more likely it is the bad teams (eg., Kansas City, Oakland) would be willing to trade off veterans for prospects.
In short, if the Angels players don't figure this thing out soon, expect general manager Jerry Dipoto to spring into action.