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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Some ways to fix the Angels' problems

By Kenton Wong
ESPN Stats and Information


Ray Carlin/Icon SMIWith high expectations entering 2013, Mike Scioscia needs a quick turnaround for his slumping club
You hate to push the panic button in April, but if any team needs to do it -- especially in light of last season's slow start -- it is the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos are 4-10, matching their worst start since 1961, the franchise's first season.

Only two teams have been as bad as the Angels this season: the Miami Marlins and the Houston Astros. Not exactly the kind of company you'd like to keep with two former MVPs on the team and another who could have been MVP last season. The two straight days off (one due to weather, one scheduled) couldn't come at a better time.

So what areas need to be addressed immediately to start a turnaround?

Stop giving away outs
Being aggressive at the plate can be a good thing. It puts pressure on opposing pitchers and fielders. But being too aggressive can be detrimental. The Angels have swung at a league-high 33 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. Opponents realize this as well as only 48 percent of pitches to Angels hitters have been in the zone -- the fourth-lowest rate in baseball.

The Angels have also been awful on the basepaths. They have a league-worst 43 percent success rate on steals. Last season they were second in baseball at 80 percent.

Starting pitchers and defense need to step up
Missing Jered Weaver is tough, but he's only a fifth of a rotation that has been the worst in baseball with a 6.07 ERA. New arrivals Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton have combined to give up 33 ER in 40 1/3 IP.

Baseball Info Solutions tracks defensive plays and after being the third-best defensive team in 2012 according to the metric Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), the Angels rate a -16 in the stat in 2013. That is tied with the Minnesota Twins for worst in the majors.

Friday's Matchup
Anibal Sanchez (DET) at Tommy Hanson (LAA)

Hanson had a decent start to his Angels career, beating the Texas Rangers in Arlington despite giving up two home runs. His home debut against the Houston Astros didn't go well as he consistently left pitches in the middle of the strike zone. The Astros knocked him around for eight hits and five runs in five innings.

Whether it is repeated injuries or overall mileage on his arm, Hanson is not the same pitcher who dominated early in his career with the Atlanta Braves. His fastball, which used to sit in the low 90s, is averaging 88 MPH through two starts.