angels, mike trout

Is the Angels’ Championship window closing?

Every team has had a window to win a World Series Championship at some point during their history. By window, I mean having the right collection of great players at the right time. For the most part, a team needs a superstar along with a good collection of supporting players, a solid pitching staff and a bullpen that won’t blow the game in the late innings. This is also most often combined with having a strong farm system in case of an emergency, and young players to bring up to replace aging ones. Windows can stay open for a few years or just one, but once they close, it is usually for good.

So what about the Los Angeles Angels? What’s their window? Is it even still open? It seems like a silly question to ask given they have arguably the league’s best player in 24-year-old Mike Trout. Then there is  Albert Pujols, who may be having a comeback year, at least in his home run numbers, but two players cannot win a championship on their own no matter how good they may be.

Albert Pujols, angels
Albert Pujols. Getty Images.

Then there is the question of how long Pujols can keep this kind of production up. The two seasons prior to this one, where he has had a renaissance of sorts when it comes to home runs, Pujols failed to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career. Now he is battling a nagging foot injury and his production has already slowed. How long will the 35-year-old slugger stay healthy enough to hit 30-plus homers a season, and will he be valuable when he isn’t?

It’s possible he will be fine, but the more likely scenario is that his numbers will inevitably begin to decline whether due to age or injury. A career .313 hitter, his batting average is also suffering immensely. He’s currently hitting just .248.

Without Pujols to back up Trout, who else do the Angels have to supply hits and runs? Kole Calhoun would have to be the team’s next best hitter, batting .269 with 23 home runs and 72 RBI. While those numbers are not bad, they aren’t enough to take over or supplement Pujols should he start to decline. Together, Trout and Pujols have combined to hit just about half of the team’s home runs and almost one-third of the team’s RBI. When you add Calhoun’s numbers, the three players together have driven in over half of the team’s runs and hit just over 60 percent of the team’s home runs. This is not a good sign for the Angels; championships are not won based on the offensive production of three players.

The Angels’ pitching, while not a complete disaster, needs help sooner than later. Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago have been good for Los Angeles in 2015; each are in double-digits in number of quality starts, but Santiago still has a losing win-loss record (8-9) and not one of the Angels starters has an ERA under 3.00.

Matt shoemaker, angels
Matt Shoemaker. Getty Images.

Santiago leads the team in ERA with 3.44 and Richards is second with an ERA of 3.77. The rest of the rotation has been spotty at best. Both Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have battled injuries, with Wilson’s being season-ending. There are no guarantees as to what form the almost-35-year-old will return in next year.

Prospect Andrew Heaney has shown promise going 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 14 starts for the Angels, but he still needs to develop. He’s pitched just 84.1 big league innings. The Angels’ other “fill-in” pitcher, Matt Shoemaker, has been inconsistent at best and it’s impossible to predict which Shoemaker the team will see from start to start.

Lucky for the Angels, they have no shortage of pitching in their farm system, although at the beginning of 2015 their minor league system was ranked 28th out of 30 by Baseball America, which doesn’t say much about the pitchers on that list.

The Angels farm system is so pitching-heavy that they have been unable to fill some much needed holes at second base, catcher, the DH position and left field. On their list of top-ten prospects at the beginning of 2015, the first five were all pitchers and there were just three position players, all infielders, rounding out the top ten.

Taylor Ward, Angels
Taylor Ward. Getty Images.

The Angels began to right the ship this year with eight out of their top ten draft picks being position players, but as previously mentioned, when windows close they can close for quite some time. It will take the Angels years to develop these 2015 draft picks and that is assuming they all end up making it, although their top pick, catcher Taylor Ward has been a pleasant surprise so far for Los Angeles. Still, his MLB ETA is likely a year or two away at best, meaning he may not factor in before that window slams shut.

The only real positive on the Angels’ side is Trout’s age. He is still young enough to potentially play with some of these new draft picks, but again, that’s assuming these kids are able to develop into big leaguers at all. It’s anybody’s guess when the Angels’ next window to win a championship will be. 

The current window isn’t closed. The Angles could still make the postseason, though they are falling fast. But if they don’t, it’s time to re-tool. That window is creeping shut, and once it is, it can be really hard to open.

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  • Phillip Richardson

    Hi Jen! I hope all is well with you and your family:)
    -I don’t really know how prevalent my opinion is with Angels’ fans, (or knowledgeable baseball fans,) but I sincerely believe this team will continue to underachieve with Scioscia and his staff, especially the pitching coach, at the helm. The game has evolved. A team with a manager, GM, and/or leaders in the front office who still refuse to put in the effort to understand the benefits of Sabermetrics will never get as much out of their roster as teams that do. What happened with Dipoto, the former GM was an embarrassment.(And happening so soon after the Josh Hamilton fiasco makes it even worse.) The GM was fired because Scioscia refuses to even consider trying to put in a little effort to at least try to have a remedial understanding of why pretty much EVERY TEAM IN ALL OF MLB has implemented the use of advanced stats analysis in some form. This archaic notion that the only way to manage in-game decisions and strategy is by “gut-instinct,” and absolutely, positively nothing else is stupid and lazy. Not only that, but Scioscia has been the de-facto GM pretty much since Moreno bought the team. Virtually no move gets made without Scioscia’s approval. Who else would insist on trading Mike Napoli, with a few more years under control, for Vernon Wells and his stupid contract nobody wanted any part of? The reason? Scioscia just had to have his way and wanted a player that was more like him, (above average defensive catcher, not expected to do much at the plate,) have a clear shot to be the starting catcher. This guy was Jeff Freakin’ Mathis. I don’t have to go on about some of the other dumb decisions.
    -The thing that really frustrates me, and is a sure sign that my favorite team has become the embodiment of what I hate, is that all reports show that Scioscia has become complacent. Moreno showed whose side he would take and his unquestionable loyalty and obedience to his manager with the Dipoto situation. The amazing Jonah Keri did some extensive digging into the situation, and a bunch of insiders say Scioscia and Butcher don’t want to take the extra time to learn about Sabermetrics. All indications point to them just being content to do what they’ve always done since there’s no need to put in the extra work out of fear of losing their jobs. Any leader who stops trying to learn and thinks that they’ve known everything they need to for the last 10+ years is going to fail; and look like stubborn, irrational idiots while doing so. Any of you who will read this angry rant can see what’s happening with teams like the Astros, Cubs, Mets, etc. that are having much more success relative to their resources. And these teams will be really good for years to come; just look at the depth of amazing talent these teams have.
    -I really, truly hope the Angels crash and burn like the Hindenburg the rest of September. (They’re well on their way and they don’t have the staring pitching to scare anybody in the playoffs.) That way Moreno will have no choice to fire Scioscia. Then, if the Dodgers fail to make it past the NLCS again and fire Donnie Baseball, they can have their old catcher back…and then watch as he calls for squeeze plays on the first pitch with men on 2nd and 3rd and nobody out when down by 2 runs. (He did this at the game vs. the D-Backs I went to a couple months ago.)
    —In case anybody actually reads my entire, hopefully mostly coherent comment, thanks for letting me vent. I’ve had a few beers and I needed to get this out of my system. Whew…I feel better. Cheers!!

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