By Brent Hubbard - Angelswin.com Columnist
This year’s Angels have dominated in Tempe to the tune of a 18-4-1 record to this point, has divided fans into two camps.
100 wins again this season? Or not?
Though I think the “nots” are far more extensive because it is easier to be a pessimist than an optimist, I would like to offer the following argument.
Yes we can.
This off-season had a number of subtractions from last season’s 100-62 winning club, but the team has also added a few pieces. Most are focusing on the Hot Stove success as a prediction for the upcoming season, but I would like to make my case for the 2009 Angels joining the 100-Win Club once again.
Yes we can.
And it’s really because our strength of schedule is dramatically better than last.
Here’s the extended run down.
NEW YORK YANKEES
2008, 10 games, 7-3 (5-1 H, 2-2 A)
2009, 10 games, 7-3 (4-2 H, 3-1 A)
The Yankees improved their lineup, but they are without the game’s best player for at least the four road games vs. the Angels at the end of May. I am projecting the same record in the same number of games.
BOSTON RED SOX
2008 9 games, 8-1 (DOMINATION IN FENWAY 5-1 Away, 3-0 Home)
2009 9 games, 6-3 (4-2 H, 1-2 A)
Boston's pitching is going to be suspect; at least more than last year, and without Manny are they going to be as good in the regular season? 61-48 before the deadline, 34-19 after. Yet I don’t know if that trend was due to Manny being Manny in Los Angeles. The Red Sox played Tampa Bay, Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago, Texas, Toronto, Baltimore, the Yankees and Cleveland in the two months following the trade. They piled up a 15-3 record sans Manny against four teams with losing records after the break. Against five teams with a winning records after the break, they were 19-16. I do not expect the overall record without Manny to be as good as it was in the latter part of 2008. I expect a decline in wins from 95 to the 89-90 range for the Sox. Too many questions. I do think the domination the Angels showed in Fenway was a fluke, and the Red Sox will even things out a bit.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2008 9 games, 6-3 (4-2 H, 2-1 A)
2009 8 games, 4-4 (2-0 H, 2-4 R)
Toronto lost one of its more reliable pitchers, but the Angels did play well against a team they don’t normally do so. They play six games in Toronto and only two at home, so I think the Angels may lose a few more games against Toronto than they did in 2008. Yet they also face them one less time.
2008 9 games, 6-3 (4-2 H, 2-1 A)
2009 10 games, 7-3 (4-0 H, 3-3 R)
The Angels play one more game against Baltimore than in 2008, and though more games are at Camden Yards this season, I think the Angels will do as well as they did in 2008.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
2008 9 games, 3-6 (2-1 H, 1-5 A)
2009 6 games, 3-3 (2-1 H, 1-2 R)
Tampa Bay is definitely a club on the rise and I think they will repeat as the AL East division champs. They were the only team to sweep the Angels in 2008 and were the only team against which the Angels had a losing record. Yet they play the Angels three fewer times in 2008, so I am predicting a simple split. I do not think either team sweeps.
Totaling it all up, 7-3 vs. NYY, 6-3 vs. BOS, 4-4 vs. TOR, 7-3 vs. BAL and 3-3 vs. TB = 27-16 record versus the AL EAST. In 2008, the Angels went 30-16 in three more games.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
2008 10 games, 5-5 (2-2 H and 3-3 A)
2009 9 games, 6-3 (4-2 H, 2-1 A)
One less game against the AL Central Champs and more games at home in 2009 than 2008. Chicago is a team that is always there, even when you predict a downfall. I do think the Angels win the season series, based purely on the fact that they have more games at home.
2008 8 games, 5-3 (2-2 H, 3-1 A)
2009 10 games, 5-5 (3-1 H, 2-4 A)
Two more games against the Twins in 2009, as well as more games on the road do not bode well for the Angels. They have another year to improve their young pitching and to develop young players such as Carlos Gomez. Joe Crede also adds to their punch and solidifies third base. I predict the AL Central title for the Twins and an even split against the Angels.
2008 9 games, 5-4 (4-2 H, 1-2 A)
2009 6 games, 3-3 (2-1 H, 1-2 A)
Three fewer games against the Indians in 2009 is a good thing, as this team stumbled badly after leading the league in wins in 2007. They lost CC Sabathia, but Cliff Lee won the AL Cy Young Award. And big time slugging prospect Matt LaPorta is going to be a big addition to their lineup. Add in a more reliable closer in Kerry Wood, and fellow ex-Cubbie Mark De Rosa, and you have a wild card and division contender for 2009. They also are building on big successes after the trade deadline in which they put together a 34-21 record.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
2008 5 games, 3-2 (1-1 H, 2-1 A)
2009 10 games, 8-2 (3-0 H, 5-2 A)
The Angels play five more games against the Royals than they did in 2008 and that is also a good thing. The Royals are still a young team in development under second year skipper Trey Hillman. They added some pieces and continue to try and change the position of 3B/2B/1B/OF Mark Teahan, but a 3-2 record was an odd deal in 2008 and I expect a big change in 2009.
2008 9 games 6-3, (2-1 H, 4-2 A)
2009 9 games 6-3 (4-2 H, 2-1 A) E
One of the Worst teams in Baseball for a long time, then a short few seasons of being one of the best, then a 74-win season in 2008. I don’t know what to think here, but I doubt the Angels will do any worse. They play more games at home than last season, but 6-3 is about right.
Totaling it up, against the AL Central: 6-3 vs. CHI, 5-5 vs. MIN, 3-3 vs. CLE, 6-3 vs. DET, 8-2 vs. KC = a 28-16 projected record against the AL Central in three more games than 2008, when they posted a 24-17 record.
The Angels dominated the AL West last year, particularly on the road, where they had a winning record against all three teams.
2008 19 games, 12-7 (5-5 H, 7-2 A)
2009 19 games, 11-8 (6-4 H, 5-4 A)
Texas’ story is always the same; the lack of pitching depth and a smash mouth powerful offense. Texas will probably pick up a few more games overall, but against the Angels I see just one game.
2008 19 games, 14-5 (7-2 H, 7-3 A)
2009 19 games, 13-6 (7-2 H, 6-4 R)
Seattle was picked by many to win the AL West after their addition of Erik Bedard, tet they finished 61-101 as I knew they would. They lost Raul Ibanez, Richie Sexson and J.J. Putz from last year’s team. A much different lineup awaits M’s fans in 2009, with many small additions and subtractions on top of those mentioned above. Don Wakamatsu takes over as manager and Russell Branyan replaces Sexson, I assume. It’s tough to see this team get better, but its pitching could be, even without Putz. Hernandez stays healthy and a Cy Young could be in his future. And I like Bedard to improve, if he can actually stay on the mound.
Yet maybe a return from 61 wins to the 78 they had in 2006 is about the limit. Against the Angels they were horrible at home and on the road. I think this continues.
2008 19 games 10-9 (5-4 H, 5-4 A)
2009 19 games 11-8 (7-3 H, 4-5 A)
They had a much better pitching staff going into 2008 than they do in 2009 and although their offense is better, it’s tough to see these young guys carrying them very far upward in the standings. A 75-86 record maybe goes to 81-81, but against the Angels I see them doing worse, as in the beginning of the 2008 season the A’s played well, and then they traded 3/5 of their rotation. And even one of the guys who was either in that remaining 2/5 or filled in when they moved the others is now gone. Even with Jason Giambi, Matt Holliday and Orlando Cabrera, I see the Angels picking up a game.
And in the AL West: 11-8 vs. TEX, 13-6 vs. SEA and 11-8 vs. OAK = 35-22 against the West. In 2008, they went 36-21.
This season’s 12 rotating division games are against the NL West and, if anything, that should make it easier in regard to travel. The Angels also have the usual six-game home-and-home series against the Dodgers. They’ll take on Colorado and San Diego at home and travel to Arizona and San Francisco.
The 10-8 Interleague record from last season was a very strange one. They split with the Dodgers, 2-1 at home and 1-2 away. One of the two losses in Dodger town was the 8-inning no-hitter loss by Jered Weaver and Jose Arrendondo.
I can see this rivalry being a similar 3-3 split, a 4-2 win or a 2-4 loss. The Dodgers have made a lot of changes. I’ll just say we’ll stay even.
Against the Braves and Mets in Anaheim, the Angles went 2-4. That’s just odd. They then went to Philadelphia and Washington and swept them both.
San Diego will battle Washington for the worst record in the league, along with Detroit, so I am predicting a 3-0 sweep at the Big A. Colorado may not return to ’07 form, but I do expect the Rockies to be better, just not on the road as they are not a great team away from Coors Field. And minus Holliday, well … 2-1 Angels series win
The Giants will be better than last year, but I still like the series win in San Francisco at 2-1. And to be fair, I see the Angels dropping the series to the Diamondbacks. They’ll be right with the Dodgers all year for the division and like in 2007, when everyone thought the NL West was the NL’s weakest division, I think they’re a second place team and the D’Backs will take the wild card. They’ll take two of three from the Angels in Arizona.
All of this adds up to an 11-7 Interleague record. Which is +1 from last year.
So, AL EAST 27-16 + AL CENTRAL 28-16 + AL WEST 35-22 = 90 wins
Add the NL Interleague projection at 11-7, one game better than 10-8 from 2008.
This means I have the Angels winning 101 and losing 61.
The offense relies on the young players more than ever, but while they lost a pair of bats in Garret Anderson and Mark Teixeira, as well as the single season saves Leader in Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels could actually have a better offense by the numbers.
They did pick up a pretty good replacement closer, are hoping for a successful season from a resurgent dominant pitcher and picked up a solid bat in Bobby Abreu. Their pitching will be better much better in 2009 than in 2008.
The Angels should drop a few more games in the Pythagorean standings, but they will win the AL West for the fifth time in six seasons; against an easier schedule, yes. They play fewer games against what I figure to be a resurgent Indian team, the AL champ Devil Rays and perennially difficult Chicago and Toronto. They play more games against cellar dwelling Baltimore and Kansas City, but also Minnesota, who figures to be in the hunt for the playoffs.
They also have the advantage of playing fewer games against tough teams on the road, with the exception of Minnesota and Toronto. They won games against the big boys in the East last year, taking seven of ten in Fenway and Yankee Stadium. This year, they play just seven games there, and I see them taking four.
They also don’t have a long East Coast trip for six interleague games. Playing San Francisco and Arizona instead of Philadelphia and Washington. (Though they did well on that swing.)
But taking six road games against the Rays and Indians and replacing them with games against Kansas City and Baltimore makes me believe that even though the Angels may not be as bountiful with Pythagorean luck, they will win 100 games for the second time in club history.