Vernon Wells runs away from the reminders of how he should have aged (left) and the looming specter of his impending doom (right).
A brief look at an opponent we play in a very confusingly timed series.
Offense: Mike Trout-CF, Alberto Callaspo-3B, Albert Pujols-1B, Kendrys Morales-DH, Mark Trumbo-RF, Howie Kendrick-2B, Vernon Wells-LF, Erick Aybar-SS, Bobby Wilson-C. Bench: Maicer Izturis-INF, Peter Bourjos-OF, John Hester-C.
LAA R/G: 3.62. CHW R/G: 4.05.
In case you hadn't heard, the Angels finally got around to cutting one of their endless supply of veteran outfielders to call up Bryce Harper's competition for the title of "Young Outfield God of All He Surveys", or Mike Trout as the MSM like to call him. The only problem is that they cut the wrong guy. Sorry Bobby Abreu, but the Angels don't like to make sense. But back to Trout. He's faster than lightning, which makes playing center field quite a bit easier. His current homerun ceiling is around twenty homeruns, but that should go up seeing as he's currently too young to buy alcohol. If not for Albert Pujols, Trout would easily be the new face of the franchise. And then we have Alberto Callaspo. Alberto is the type of player the casual fan might not care much for and would call for to be replaced, which would be silly. Is he a world-beater? Nope. But he's a league-average bat that plays good defense at a key position. His plate discipline is a bit off so far this season, but should fix itself shortly.So yeah, Albert Pujols is currently the worst position player on the Angels when it comes to fWAR. It's way too early to declare anything, but if I had to bet on this being the end of his career or some bizarre Adam Dunn's 2011 season kind of thing I would bet the house on the latter. Yes, his batting numbers had been on a slight decline from 2009 to 2010 with a bit more of a dropoff in 2011, but there's no logical reason for this free fall (I was very tempted to use Tom Petty's "Free Fallin" as the post title). I do find it hilarious that his updated ZiPS projections still has him hitting 26 homeruns though. We're about a quarter of the way through the season and he has one. Strange days, indeed. Kendrys Morales is finally back from his leg exploding in 2010. So far he's looked like the exact same player, just with a bit less power. I find that pretty impressive seeing as he essentially took two years off. It's going to be interesting seeing just how much Mike Scioscia plays him.
Mark Trumbo is playing in right field, as Torii Hunter is dealing with some family issues right now. You might remember Trumbo as the guy who somehow hit 29 homeruns last year and managed an OBP under .300. Well, he already has six homeruns and thanks to a .381 BABIP an OBP of .392. He'll likely go back to DHing when Hunter returns, along with filling in on the corners occasionally. Howie Kendrick established himself as one of the better second basemen in the AL last season, playing stellar defense to go with his .349 wOBA. He does not draw walks very often (4.2% career BB%), but should finish the season with homerun and stolen base totals in the mid-teens.
Vernon Wells is bad. He's more or less abandoned every part of his game except trying to hit homeruns, which is kind of working. I mean, yeah, he has five homeruns. But his wOBA is sitting at .296 and isn't likely to get too much higher. He can only play in the corners now, but realistically the Angels just need to cut him. If you have to pay him either way, you might as well pay him to not block either Trout or Peter Bourjos, who are both far better fielders and have more offensive upside than this shell of Vernon Wells. Erick Aybar reminds me a lot of Callaspo. Not that they're similar players, but that they're both kind of there. Neither will hurt the team, but neither is anything close to an All-Star. Aybar stole 30 bases last season, though he's going to need his BABIP to regress back to normal if he expects to even pass twenty this year. He'll hit a handful of homeruns and play good but not great defense. Chris Ianetta got hurt, so something named Bobby Wilson is now playing catcher and batting ninth. Wilson appears to be the Chris Stewart (remember him?) of Anaheim, having been shuttled between LAA's minor league affiliates and riding the end of the bench while in the majors. Wilson has never managed to be a threat with his bat and is sub-par at throwing out runners.
LAA R/G: 4.00. CHW R/G: 4.08.
One through four, that is one of the sexiest rotations in baseball. Hell, it's not even bad at five. Jered Weaver is on pace to have the best season of his career. He's striking out 4.9 hitters for every one that he walks. He's thrown two complete games (one a no-hitter) and only given up three homeruns in 54 innings. Yeah, he's kind of killing it right now. Thanfully, we miss him on this weird two game road trip. He's been relying heavily on his sinker this year, throwing it 40% of the time. Weaver also throws a four-seamer in the low-90s, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. Dan Haren (whom we also miss) is looking almost John Danksian in his inability to win (1-4 on the season). He's been a bit unlucky with BABIP and walking a few more hitters than usual, but I think both of those things will correct themselves soon enough. Haren will still finish closer to 200 strikeouts than 150 and should give LAA another starter who will easily pass 200 IP. His main pitch is a cutter, but he also mixes in a sinker, a four-seam fastball in the low-90s, a splitter, a curveball, and a changeup.
Ervin Santana has been the unexpected weak link in the rotation thus far, which is weird considering he's only sporting a .240 BABIP against him. But when you remember that homeruns aren't counted towards BABIP and you see that he's already somehow given up as many as Adam Dunn has hit (12 for the lazy or ill-informed), things start to make a lot more sense. Other than what you almost have to believe is unsustainable bad luck in giving up homeruns, Ervin's peripherals are pretty much right in line with his career averages. 87% of his pitches are either a mid-90s four-seamer or a biting slider. The other 13% is a mixture of changeups and sinkers. C.J. Wilson is working out much better than Los Angeles' other highly priced addition has been so far, which is encouraging news for Angels' fans at least. I'm still amazed he managed to have an ERA under three last season pitching for the Texas Rangers, depressed run scoring environment and all. Wilson will strikeout more hitters than Haren, but will also walk more as well. He should also be able to give LAA their fourth starter over 200 innings on the year, which is very impressive. He's been most reliant on a sinker and a four-seam fastball in the low-90s thus far this year. He's also been using a cutter, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup.
Jerome Williams was drafted in 1999. Before last season, he hadn't pitched in the majors since 2007. He has never pitched more than 131 innings in any season during his career. They can ride him as long as he lasts, as he won't likely be any worse than league average and the bullpen should be well-rested thanks to the other four starters. Jerome throws a low-90s four-seamer, a cutter, a changeup, and a curveball. Scott Downs became the closer when Jordan Walden was demoted. He's been in the majors since 2000, which blows my mind as well. He pitched for the Expos, meaning I love him. Downs does not get strikeouts, opting to keep the ball on the ground using a heavy sinker and a curveball.
Outlook: Despite coming into the season as World Series contenders, the Angels have stumbled out of the gate and haven't yet stopped losing ground to the Rangers. 4-4 season series split.
All apologies for the lack of links and humor.