Angels: Lots of problems, no energy
For all their problems — and when you’ve just lost the first four games of a road trip, the final one by the embarrassing score of 17-8, you’ve certainly got problems — the thing that bothers you most about these 2010 Angels is their energy.
They don’t have any.
They seem perpetually flat, with no emotion, no aggressiveness, no passion. They routinely let opponents get the jump on them, whether it is scoring first, standing there taking first strikes, or failing to throw inside even when opposing hitters are hammering away at them.
The Big A on their caps stands for Apathy at the moment, and that’s not good. It is something both Manager Mike Scioscia and GM Tony Reagins need to address.
In the meantime, let’s just stop and assess some of their many woes:
1. The starting pitching has been a huge disappointment. Take away Jared Weaver and this has looked like your basic in-and-out, non-contending staff. Joe Saunders’ isn’t the same guy, Joel Piniero’s sinker has stopped sinking, Ervin Santana has the best stuff but remains the biggest enigma and Scott Kazmir throws so many pitches he can barely make it to the sixth inning. What’s the one thing they lacked after last season? Oh yeah, an absolute No. 1, lock-down starter. Guess what? They still don’t have one.
2. The offense has no chemistry. Erick Aybar is making a valiant attempt to become a capable lead-off hitter, but so far it’s not working. The result is, he is taking so many pitches, he’s not getting nearly as many hits as he did a year ago. The middle of the order will hit better than it has, but it’s also heavy-legged, with Hideki Matsui and Juan Rivera both double plays waiting to happen. And the bottom of the order has been about as excititng as a Donald Trump reality show, with both Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood looking like something less than big league hitters. Oh yeah, can Mickey Hatcher or someone please tell Wood he doesn’t have to take every grooved first pitch for a strike? Once he’s behind in the count, the kid just becomes overmatched.
3. The middle bullpen is a disaster area. Scioscia is a loyal guy, but sometimes he takes loyalty too far. Isn’t that right, Scot Shields? The veteran who was the set-up man of the last decade just isn’t the same pitcher right now. You can’t — absolutely cannot — put him in when the game is on the line. Not until he straightens himself out, if that’s still possible. Everyone else, Bulger, Stokes, even Palmer, is scuffling. Talk about off-season mistakes. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Darren Oliver back about now?
4. They miss Jeff Mathis badly. Napoli not only isn’t hitting, he is showcasing all his flaws defensively. Is it really a coincidence that the starters haven’t pitched nearly as well since Mathis went down with his injury? I doubt it.
So where do they go from here? Fortunately for them, they are in the AL West, not the East. In this division, no one is strong enough to run away, so the Angels can hang in there for a while longer.
But the schedule won’t do them any favors. They play six games this month against the Rays and Cardinals, only the two best teams in baseball at the moment. Lots of luck with those, fellas.
Before June arrives, the Angels need to do something to shake things up. Making a deal of some kind would be advisable. But it’s not like they have a surplus of talent, or a collection of top minor league prospects on the verge of busting through.
Maybe you package Rivera and one of your three capable late-inning relievers (although Kevin Jepsen should be untouchable), mix in a prospect or two and take your best shot.
I know it’s still early, but now is the time to start thinking about this. You can’t wait too long.
Or that July 12 All-Star Game is likely to be the only highlight of the year at Angel Stadium.
— Steve Bisheff