Here we are again. 70 games later.
And oh, how things have changed!
I got a fancy new job that pays significantly more than unemployment and freelance writing. I graduated from college with another degree in English. And the Angels finally decided to play some baseball!
When last we looked in on the State of the Halos, the future seemed somewhat bleak.
In the midst of what can only be described as outrageous expectations from the fan base and major media outlets, the Angels started the 2012 season with a modest 4-6 record. Despite scoring 4.8 runs per game and posting a .270 average over their first 10 games, the Halos still struggled to click on all cylinders.
While new offseason acquisition C.J. Wilson combined with staff ace Jered Weaver to go 4-0 in their first 5 starts, the Angels bullpen repeatedly blew leads for Dan Haren and Ervin Santana who at one point shared a 1-9 record to start the season.
The bullpen struggles were amplified by Albert Pujols and his lack of presence in the middle of the batting order. Through the first 10 games of the season, Pujols hit a deceptive .268 with 4 RBI, 6 strikeouts, 4 doubles, and no homeruns. The offensive force that the Angels had been looking for since parting ways with Vladimir Guerrero was still nowhere to be found. In fact, it took Albert another 19 games and a .072 point drop in batting average before he finally hit his first HR as a member of the Halos.
Since that first HR, Albert is hitting .294 with 11 HR, 48 RBI, and 21 walks. His overall numbers still show signs of underachievement, but the big man is no longer rolling over on every pitch to shortstop or consistently swinging at balls out of the strike zone. His plate discipline has improved, his mindset has changed, and the results are being felt throughout the clubhouse.
Perhaps nobody has made a bigger impact on the Angels than Mike Trout. The twenty-year-old phenom was called up following a 2-1 victory over the Indians which pushed the Halos’ record to 7-14. The move also coincided with the Angels severing ties with veteran OF Bobby Abreu. At the time, Abreu was hitting .208 with 1 R and 5 RBI while arguing for more playing time in an already crowded outfield. Rather than allowing the relationship between Abreu and the Angels to deteriorate any further, GM Jerry Dipoto granted the potential future-Hall-of-Famer his release and called up the young man now affectionately known as “Kid Fish.”
And Trout has injected life into the Angels like nobody could have expected.
Following a rough 2-for-14 stretch to start his 2012 debut, Trout has unleashed an offensive display unrivaled by most players in the game today. Through 48 games, the speedster is hitting .338 with 6 HR, 28 RBI, 19 walks, and 19 stolen bases. He has had twenty-one multi-hit games, including six 3-hit games and two 4-hit games: one of which happened just this past Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants when Trout went 4-for-4 with 4 runs scored. The New Jersey native has also taken to the lead-off spot as well as anyone could have hoped. His .397 OBP leads the team and places him 3rd in the American League.
But you can’t talk offense without talking Trumbo!
The quiet kid from Villa Park known for his monster shots and love of hardcore music has taken a gigantic step this season: going from batting practice powerhouse to legitimate major league batter. Trumbo, who finished 2nd in AL Rookie of the Year voting last year, has greatly improved his plate discipline. His 19 walks this season is already just 6 shy of his total for all of 2011. He’s seeing more pitches, working pitchers deeper into counts, and coming through big at the plate. In 61 games this season, the slugger is batting .324 with 17 HR, 48 RBI, and an OPS of 1.014. Despite having played 5 different defensive positions and hitting all over the batting order, Trumbo continues to thrive. He is currently hitting .322 with 11 HR in his past 22 games.
No look back would be complete without getting a little nasty. Er-nasty, that is!
In the 12 games since the Angels acquired Ernesto Frieri from the San Diego Padres, the young right-handed reliever has been nothing short of spectacular. Frieri has given up just 3 hits, 13 walks, and 35 strikeouts in 19.2 innings for the Halos. He has 5 holds, 7 saves, and an ERA of 0.00. That’s right, 0.00! The man has not given up a single run in almost 20 innings! With the promotion of Frieri to closer and Scott Downs firmly in the set-up role, the Angels bullpen has found its footing: lowering their collective ERA to a respectable 3.22 for the season.
In the 65 days since we last looked in on the Angels, the team has taken their record from a meager 4-6 to a decent 38-32: including a major league best stretch of 32-18 since April 28th. (You might recognize that as the day when Trout was promoted for the last time.)
So, while the Angels still sit 5 games back of the Texas Rangers and the club is still far from perfect, I can’t but feel like there is a bit of an “I told you so” in order to all the impatient fans who jumped ship and counted this team out before the season really started. This is a talented team that just needed a little time to work out the kinks. And that’s what they’ve done.
The offense is clicking, the starting pitching has been stellar, and the bullpen is one of the most effective in baseball.
The Angels may not hold the top spot in the league or even in their division, but you’d be wrong to say that they aren’t trending in the right direction.
And that’s all we can really ask.
After all, it’s a long season.
Despite what some of the naysayers might say.