Offense: Erick Aybar-SS, Mike Trout-CF, Albert Pujols-1B, Mark Trumbo-DH, Josh Hamilton-RF, Howie Kendrick-2B, Alberto Callaspo-3B, Chris Iannetta-C, J.B. Shuck-LF. Bench: Hank Conger-C, Luis Jimenez-3B/OF, Brendan Harris-INF, Scott Cousins-OF.
As disappointing as the White Sox have been this season, at least they haven't been the Toronto Blue Jays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Seriously, the Angels are a game and a half above the Houston Astros for last place in the AL West. So what's gone wrong? Injuries, ineffectiveness, and general bad luck. An example? For the past two seasons, Erick Aybar has managed to be near a league average hitter while playing good defense, allowing him to be a solid 3-4 WAR player. But this season? He's showing no power and walking at a hilariously low 1.5% clip. He's basically a slightly less terrible Jeff Keppinger and Mike Scioscia continues to bat him leadoff.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout is one of the few bright spots in the lineup so far. While he's not maintaining his rookie year's breakneck pace, his .366 wOBA with great fielding from a 21-year-old center fielder is hardly disappointing. When Peter Bourjos went down with an injury, Trout slid over to his natural position which will only help increase his value. He's essentially the same player as last year, just with .065 fewer points of BABIP to inflate his slash line numbers. Albert Pujols depressing descent into mere humanity is tragicomic. It sucks because it's a terrifying reminder that if even superhumans can get old and slow down, so can us mere mortals. You're doomed. Shouldn't have had that third burger last night, you're not 15 anymore. It's comical though because it's happening to the Angels. So hooray and bring me more burgers. What's wrong with Albert? His strikeout rate is increasing while the past two years have seen him walking less than ever before. Add in a seeming decrease in power (.168 ISO) and hits just not falling in (.236 BABIP) and you get a very expensive below-average hitter. Will he stay below-average all year? No. Will he be worth more than 4 WAR? That's a much more interesting question.
Mark Trumbo has been the Angels best hitter this season. A DH that's the team's best hitter? Seems a novel concept I can't see catching on. Trumbo can play the corner outfield positions if needed, though it's probably better for everyone involved if he just doesn't. It's early to say that he's finally learned how to draw walks, but after 33 games he's almost accrued half the amount of walks he drew unintentionally last season over 144 games. If this is actually a change and not a springtime mirage, Trumbo could wind up being a truly dangerous hitter instead of just a fear-inducing power threat. Josh Hamilton has been the worst position player in Anaheim this season. He's not walking, he's not hitting, he's not hitting for power, and he's not playing good defense. The only thing he is doing is having the approach of one Delmon Young. He's swinging at everything and there is no reason for any pitcher to throw him something in the zone right now. Aim for the corners and miss outside. It doesn't matter, Hamilton will still try to hit it. The contract he signed this winter looked like a bad idea at the time and it's looking worse every day. But hey, it's not like they still owe him about the White Sox entire 2013 payroll over the next 4.7 seasons and can't trade him. Oh.
Howie Kendrick is like a metronome, and not in the aspect that he helps an aged Morgan Freeman's detective sleep at night in a rain and crime plagued city. Year in and year out, he seems to be the same player just quietly being a solid supporting piece at the keystone. He's good defensively, hits a ton of doubles, steals some bags, and hits double digit homeruns. He's someone most people other than Angels fans and fantasy diehards will forget about shortly after he retires, but he's put together a pretty nice career just outside of the limelight. I still misspell Alberto Callaspo as Alberto Callapso at least once a year and then proceed to imagine him as some sort of F-list superhero with the amazing power to collapse into himself. Probably not a useful talent on the baseball field, but I'm sure the Avengers could use another useless hero or two. Alberto is a good defensive third baseman, which helps make up for the odd seasons when he seems to forget that he is a pretty decent hitter. He'll give you a handful of homeruns to go with an ability to walk and strikeout at damn near identical rates. He's not amazing, but he isn't meant to be that kind of guy in this lineup. If the stars were hitting like they should be, Callaspo is one of those players (much like Kendrick) who you're happy to have there, just getting on base and playing good defense.
The Angels deserve to be mired in mediocrity or worse at the catcher position for the next decade or so due to their incredibly poor handling/inability to appreciate Mike Napoli while they had him. Chris Iannetta was average last year, but has been lesser than that so far. And then when you combine his sweet .286 wOBA with the fact that he's thrown out only two of the twenty-three runners who have taken off on him while being a part of 15 wild pitches and this has become an incredibly depressing run-on sentence. But yeah, the Angels do not have good catchers (though I will always love Hank Conger for this). J.B. Shuck played AAA baseball in the Astros' farm system all season last year without managing to play a single inning or at bat with the major league team. Which means I am not writing anything else about Mr. Shuck.
You know what the Angels' pitching staff really didn't need? An injury to ace Jered Weaver. Look at that rotation. Other than C.J. Wilson, that is a whole lot of ugly. Speaking of Wilson, I still don't know why he owns a car dealership in suburban Chicagoland. But he does. Wilson had his worst season as a starting pitcher last year, which the Halos really need to hope turns around or holy shit is that payroll bloated and ineffective. He induces a great deal of groundballs, but he needs to as he walks far too many hitters. He doesn't struggle with homeruns but he's looking like a mid-rotation kind of guy who will soon be paid far more than that. Wilson's fastball sits in the low-90s and he mixes it up with a slider, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. Joe Blanton is the number two starter in this rotation. What? This guy is deemed the second best thing that can be thrown at a team. That's not saying he can't be a useful part of a rotation. But if he's your number two, things have gone horribly wrong. Returning to the AL has not been kind to Joe though, as he's giving up more homeruns and striking out fewer hitters than he did with the Phillies or Dodgers. Joe throws a low-90s fastball, a changeup, a slider, and a curveball.
I wonder if Jason Vargas is mad that when he finally managed to escape from the Mariners that Seattle somehow pulled ahead of Los Angeles in the standings. You spend four years toiling in hell, finally able to break free only to jump off the sinking ship onto one secretly constructed out of C4. He's not bad, he just kind of exists. He gets groundballs but not many strikeouts. Which is kind of what happens when you're right-handed and your fastball sits in the upper-80s. He also has a great changeup and a curveball. I completely forgot that Tommy Hanson was traded to Los Angeles this winter. Hanson has fallen considerably far since his amazing rookie season and it looks like oft-injured innings eater will be his career path. Like Blanton, Hanson is not getting strikeouts and is struggling with homeruns. His fastball has lost a great deal of velocity, now sitting in the upper 80s which doesn't separate it tremendously from his slider. His curveball is nice and slow though.
You have to give Jerome Williams credit, he somehow managed to make it back to the majors in 2011 despite having not pitched in them since 2007. He's nothing more than filler, but he's still made a pretty impressive comeback for a guy who was never even really there to begin with. He's yet another groundballer in a rotation mostly full of them. His fastball sits in the upper-80s, and he also has a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. Ernesto Frieri is your classic hard throwing closer who gets tons of strikeouts but doesn't quite have the command to not make fans want to jump out of windows. His LOB% is a cool 98.8% right now, so look out regression. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he also has a slider.
Outlook: The White Sox play the Angels seven times this season. Right now both teams are kind of scuffling. But I'm feeling optimistic again. Sox win the season series 4-3.