I’m not totally sure where I got this idea, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t an original with me. But, as we approach the end of the season, and the playoff picture comes more clearly into focus, I’m going to give a brief review of every team in contention for the World Series. I’ll give you three reasons why they can win the World Series, and three reasons they can’t. I’ll start with the teams that are on the playoff “bubble” so that as the end of the season approaches, I’ll be looking more at the teams that clearly are going to make the postseason.
Today, we’ll start with the L.A. Angels. Of all the legitimate Wild Card contenders, they have the most work to do (though, they’re only 3.5 games behind Baltimore). They’re one of 5 teams battling for the two AL Wild Card spots, and there’s almost no chance they would be able to catch their division leader (Texas holds a 9-game lead). So, here we go:
3 Reasons Why
- Plate Discipline – the Angels rank 23rd in MLB in strikeouts, which has led them to rank 5th in all of baseball in OBP. With some of the best pitchers in the game facing your team in the playoffs, you need a team that isn’t going to swing at a lot of bad pitches.
- Late season push – consider the last two World Series winners: St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. What did they have in common? One of the key factors was they got hot at the right time. The Cardinals barely even made it into the playoffs, but rallied from a big deficit to overtake the Braves for the Wild Card. The Padres had led the NL West in 2010 for the majority of the season (and frequently held the best record in the NL). But, the Giants made a push in the last month of the season as the Padres faltered. The Angels don’t have quite as big of a gap to make up as the Cardinals, but if they were able to surge into the playoffs the last few weeks of the regular season, it would be exactly the kind of momentum a team needs to carry them to a championship.
- Mike Trout – ROY and MVP candidate? Yep. Legitimate 5-tool player? Yep. He’s well on his way to a 30/30 season, plays an excellent center field, and runs the bases with the kind of enthusiasm and determination we have come to expect from Mike Scioscia’s teams. It’s no coincidence that this team has played significantly better since he was called up from the minors.
3 Reasons Why Not
- The Bullpen – 20 blown saves. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Only the Rockies and Brewers (two below-.500 teams) have blown more save opportunities. And, only the Indians and Blue Jays have worse bullpen ERA’s in the AL. Remember the Angels teams that were so good 10 years ago? One of the key ingredients was a bullpen that allowed Scioscia to shorten the game. Once you got past the 6th inning, opponents were simply out of luck if they didn’t already have the lead. Not so with these Angels.
- Inconsistency – they’ve had one legitimate winning streak all season, and it was an 8-game streak at the end of May. Since then, they’ve not been able to string together more than 4 wins in a row at any point – and they’ve only had four in a row twice! This, against a lot of mediocre competition like the Mariners, Red Sox, Indians, etc. If they can’t put together more wins against those teams, how could they possibly expect to win 4 of 7 against legit playoff teams?
- Batting w/RISP – the Angels have had the 4th most AB’s in the AL with runners in scoring position. But, what has that led to? – the 12th best OBP in the AL w/RISP. Only the Orioles and Indians are worse. With all those opportunities, you would hope for better than the 9th best OPS in the AL w/RISP. They’re getting their guys in position, but if you want to win a championship, you’ve got to knock those guys in.
That’s it for the Angels. They currently are 3.5 games behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot. Certainly not an insurmountable deficit with a month left in the season. But, they definitely have their work cut out for them.