Tuesday, October 2, 2012

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By Robert Cunningham - AngelsWin.com Columnist

Whether it was rotation issues, hitting woes, or a shaky bullpen, the title, above, effectively summarizes the Angels 2012 season. Here is a sample of what went wrong:

1) An early April slump that saw the Angels go 6-14 in their first 20 games. If they had even played .400 baseball that would be 2 more wins on the season.

2) Offensively, an early no-show by Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar, a late no-show by Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick, and a continuous no-show by Vernon Wells.

3) At times, bad decision making by the players on the field (poor execution) and even by management in a handful of situations.

4) A bullpen that essentially imploded at the beginning of the season, found its footing after Frieri arrived, and then stumbled again down the stretch, resulting in several blown leads.

5) A heralded rotation at the beginning of the year that, unfortunately, only had one truly reliable starter in Jered Weaver. The remainder had flashes of brilliance (Wilson’s first half) but were otherwise inconsistent (Haren) or abysmal (Santana and Wilson’s second half) during a majority of the other starts.

6) A post All-Star Break August where the team was 5-12 over a 17 game stretch (thanks to DVol78 for the information!). If they had played .400 baseball in that stretch it would have added 1 more win to the season.

7) Although I sincerely believe this team wanted to win, and the players have a lot of heart, there seemed to be a lack of urgency, determination, and grit at various points in the season (although in the end, during these last two weeks, they seemed to have found it just a little too late).

8) The Angels were a league-leader in shutouts against.

The offense struggled initially and then picked up in May. However, if you look back, there were a series of games where we would blow out the opposing team, scoring several runs, and then we would follow up that performance by being shut out. On paper, during the first half of the season, it looked like the offense was putting up good numbers but it wasn’t necessarily doing it on a consistent basis.

Really, though, the offense wasn’t the main issue. Our rotation woes and, just as importantly, our bullpen issues, were inconsistent throughout the year. The bullpen gave up to many leads and couldn’t close out games, especially earlier in the season and in August. Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson both fought injuries during the season (Wilson is having surgery soon) and Ervin experienced some serious command issues that saw him give up a career high 39 home runs.

Although Mike Scioscia made some questionable decisions, in-game, the players also failed to execute good base-running and there was occasional confusion on hit and run plays and general player focus seemed off at certain times during the year. Although these types of things happen every year, the microscope of fans and the media really focused and exacerbated these decisions and their outcomes, sometimes rightfully so.

Be that as it may, I’m not here to be a Debbie-downer so I’d like to focus on several bright spots, too. Among them:

1) An elite and historic rookie campaign by Mike Trout which will easily net him Rookie of the Year honors and places him in consideration for the American League Most Valuable Player award.

2) A resurgence by Albert Pujols (.316 BA, .968 OPS) following his horrid 50-game start (.232 BA, .667 OPS).

3) The brilliant first half put up by Mark Trumbo (.306 BA, .965 OPS) and the remarkable second half put up by Erick Aybar (.326 BA, .845 OPS).

4) Youthful, clutch-hitting performances by Torii Hunter throughout most of the season.

5) The trade and emergence of Ernesto Frieri in the back-end of the bullpen and, perhaps, an even more remarkable rebound from Kevin Jepsen.

6) Yet another masterful pitching season from our ace Jered Weaver putting him in consideration for the Cy Young award…. again!

7) Excellent all-around team defense which helped keep our playoff hopes alive for 98% of the season.

8) A second-half comeback from Kendrys Morales (.270 BA, 22 HR, .829 OPS) showing the team that although his speed and base running is still limited his bat is returning to form.

9) A late August/early September run where the Angels were 15-3, showing off how good we can be when we are “running right”.

You can’t help but be excited that Mike Trout will be with us for a few more years! A core of Trout, Pujols, Weaver, and Frieri gives me a lot of hope that the 2013 Angels will come in to the new season hungry and ready to get back into the playoffs.

If we are able to sign Greinke and keep one of Haren/Santana I think we will have a strong starting rotation and I’m sure we will be able to re-build the bullpen through trade, free agency, and the farm system. Our offensive core of Trout and Pujols should continue to produce and keep us competitive in the games we play throughout the season.

So, perhaps, there was more good than bad this season but it was not enough to mitigate the problems. There were things to be proud of, for sure, but the net result was just not enough to nudge us into the playoffs.

The result is your 2012 season: A good team with good players but inconsistent, scattered with missed opportunities.
Love to hear what you think!

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