Two sluggish off-seasons, sandwiching a missing 2010 post-season, which had only happened once before in the previous seven seasons, is not being taken lightly out in Los Angeles.
So, can the Angels take back the division they have owned for years? Or is the AL West heading into the post-Angels era?
Let’s take a look at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim heading into the 2011 season.
From the moment 1B Kendry Morales jumped in celebration with his teammates to celebrate his walk-off homerun, things took a turn for the worst in Los Angeles. Morales spent the rest of 2010 on the DL with a broken leg and his absence showed how vital he was to the team’s success.
Morales is finally back. Maybe not at 100% yet, but Morales’ presence alone and at the plate is something that the Angels have clearly been missing.
The only move worthy of Halo headlines was trading catcher Mike Napoli, who happen to led the team in home-runs last year with 26. Napoli was sent to the Blue Jays for outfielder Vernon Wells. Wells had 31 home-runs, 44 doubles, 88 RBIs with a .273 batting average. Those are the numbers that made the Angels trade for Wells. I think he will have a great season, revived by a new city that actually likes baseball and a stadium where fans come to games.
The clear strength of the Angels is their starting rotation, as it is solid from one to five. The top trio led by ace Jered Weaver who in 2010 followed right behind King Felix’s 30 quality starts with 27, led the AL in strikeouts with 233, and posted the fifth best ERA with 3.01 over a total just shy of 225 innings pitched.
Weaver is followed by another ace in Dan Haran, who the Angels picked up in July of 2010. Haran struggled at first, but the stats over his first nine starts are not totally trustworthy because he got no run support. Haran last eight outings were terrific going 4-0, over eight starts, posting a whopping 1.70 ERA. That is the Haran, the All-Star ace that the Angels were looking for. Now the Halos have Haran for an entire season now.
The Angels #3 is Ervin Santana won 17 games in 2010, posting a 3.92 ERA and is another innings eater throwing for 222 in total. Santana is trailed by a solid Joel Pineiro and the only uncertainty is Scott Kazmir but the top four are so good that Kazmir just has to get by without imploding.
Bullpen additions Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi make this bullpen legit, which is a staple of all successful Scioscia teams. The problem is the Halos don’t have a closer and this tends to present a problem no matter the team. Scioscia is a known magician, as he is one of the best managers in the game and this might be his biggest test yet.
Trading away catcher Mike Napolli might not hurt at the plate with Wells being a better bat, but veteran Jeff Mathis as the team’s backstop is a defensive downgrade without question. Skipper and ex-catcher Scioscia doesn’t seem to think so as he praises Mathis as being able to handle their pitching staff extraordinarily well. It is hard to question Scioscia’s method or way of thinking ever, but in this case I am still not convinced.
Players To Watch:
1B Kendry Morales will not be fully healthy till May but he is the lifeline of the Halos. Morales is good enough to be a season changer, which was proven in the worst way in 2010. The Halos need to put more runs on the board and the AL West can be the team’s once again. If the Halos are going to have a successful season it demands for a healthy Kendry Morales, period.
2011 AL West Predictions:
The Angels have the foundation all set for 2011. The Halo’s OF Torii Hunter is entering his 15th season but has no signs of slowing down and is the nucleus of this team. The rotation has three top starters who are all in their primes and will win a ton of games for in Los Angeles.
The Angels are a proud franchise that is not going to take the embarrassment of 2010 lightly. The Angels have owned the AL West for the last decade and skipper Mike Scioscia will work his genius to get this team back there again.
My bet is that the 2011 Angels will win the NL West, as this is a team that knows how to win and might have lost their stride for a minute last year.
I attribute the 2010 Rangers success to just luck and I do not see it happening again.
The Oakland A’s are darn good ball-club, but still raw and not quite ready just yet. The A’s will be the team in 2012, so the Angels need to run away with the division in 2011, as forecast predicts that things will get tougher in years to come.
- Kendry Morales Is Now Kendrys Morales (withleather.uproxx.com)
- Spring training 2011: Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Scioscia pleased with Kendrys Morales’ conditioning level (sports.espn.go.com)
- Angels’ Kendrys Morales to begin season on DL (aol.sportingnews.com)
- Kendry Morales: Still Not 100% Recovered, Opening Day Status in Question (bleacherreport.com)
- DL bound Kendrys Morales “still isn’t running full speed” (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Spring training 2011: Los Angeles Angels’ Kendrys Morales: Ankle still inflexible, inflamed (sports.espn.go.com)