It’s Early, But It’s Do or Die Time For the Angels

The 2012 Los Angeles Angels entered the season loaded for bear, with new acquisitions C.J. Wilson, Chris Iannetta, and Luis Pujols. Wilson had a fast start, but as summer approached, he hit the skids, at one point going almost two full months without a win. Iannetta also started strong, but missed almost three months with an injury. And Pujols began the season in the worst slump of his career, and put up the worst numbers of his career. As a whole, the team had a disastrous start from which it never recovered, and finished the season by missing the playoffs by four games.

This off-season, the team parted ways with several veteran players who had played key roles, some for many seasons. Gone were Kendrys Morales, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis, and eventually even the worthless Vernon Wells. But, the team, in many respects, looked greatly improved, with a high powered offense and sterling defense, thanks to starting the season with Mike Trout, with Peter Bourjos returning to an everyday spot, and with newcomer Josh Hamilton, and a slew of new pitchers. The everyday lineup looked stellar, but those guys do not pitch.

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The Angels, unquestionably, improved their bullpen, by adding Scott Burnett and Ryan Madson, even though it will ikely be 60 days until Madson can pitch. However, newcomers to the starting staff are giant question marks, and the big weakness of last season has again raised its ugly head, especially now with the injury to ace and the ONLY reliable starter on the squad, Jered Weaver.

The team has started off 2-4, and it cannot afford to continue playing .333 ball. If the team is to get to the playoffs, they need to start winning now. As is often said, you cannot win a playoff spot in April, but as

last season was proof, you CAN lose a playoff spot in April.

But, I digress. Back to pitching: The Angeles signed Tommy Hanson, who is a solid middle of the rotation guy, and he should be a major plus. However, the other moves raise big questions. Trading Morales for lefty Jason Vargas was a real gamble. At 30, and after eight seasons at four major league stops, he is coming off his best season, but a season that, after eight years, was his ONLY winning season (14-11, after compiling a 28-39 record up to then). Hopefully he also will be consistent and a good middle of the rotation guy, like Hanson. But without Weaver, where is the top of the rotation? It starts and ends, for now, with Wilson.

And then, there is the other guy. The fifth starter, who I have avoided mentioning until now. That same guy who received well-deserved criticism when the Dodgers picked him up during the stretch drive last season; the guy who they depended on and who responded with a 2-4 record over 10 starts, with a 4.99 ERA, the one, the only, Joe Blanton. In his first start for the Angels, he gave up five runs in five innings, including three home runs. He is not good enough for the fifth spot in the rotation, and the Angels cannot go past April depending on him. With Weaver out for at least a month, Jerome Williams and/or Garrett Richards will be getting starts in his place, and the other one will likely be replacing Blanton as well, at some point, unless the front office can pick up a legitimate starter somewhere. How long was it that Kyle Lohse remained a free agent? He should have been the guy.

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