For the last three years plus, the Angels’ Kole Calhoun has been one of the top right fielders in the American League, playing solid defense, hitting for power, driving in runs and averaging in the .270s. As this season began, a big year from Calhoun was an absolute necessity if they Angels were to have a shot at the post season, given the state of their pitching staff, which today features two closers and four of their best five starters all on the disabled list for extended periods, several to be there for the rest of the season.
The Angels did get off to an ok start, bolstered by the best career start of baseball’s best player, Mike Trout. After the team’s first 53 games, they were one game under .500, which put them in contention for a wild card spot. And they did this despite a very poor start from Calhoun. Over those first 53 games, Calhoun hit only .209 with five home runs and
16 RBI. But in that 53rd game, Trout injured his thumb sliding into second base, tearing a ligament, and putting him out of action for about two months.
Most people figured that the Angels would then tank, given the poor performances up to that point from several players, only one of whom was Calhoun. But a funny thing has happened: The Angels overall have played better since Trout’s injury, now posting a record in those games above .500, at 6-5. And a big part of that is due to the resurgence of Calhoun. In the team’s 11 games since the injury, Calhoun has hit .385 (15-of-39), raising his season’s average to .239, and he has hit four home runs and driven in 11 over that time.
Other players have certainly contributed, including Albert Pujols, Yunel Escobar, Martin Maldonado and 32-year-old veteran Eric Young, Jr. who was recalled from the minors to “replace” Trout and who has played in all 11 games since, and who despite his career .248 batting average over eight major league seasons has hit a solid .316, but the hottest guy has been Calhoun.
Amazingly, with Trout out and with a pieced-together pitching staff featuring Bud Norris, a 32-year-old journeyman starter with a career 63-80 record now as the closer and with a starting staff plied from the scrap heap, the Angels, approaching the mid-way point of the season are in second place in the AL West and currently are only one-and-one-half games out of a wild card spot.
Few people would have or could have predicted that with a healthy Trout, let alone under the team’s current circumstances. The Angels are around the top of the second half of American League teams in some offensive categories, including 10th in runs scored and ninth in home runs, but near the bottom in important categories such as 14th in OPS and
slugging and 13th in batting average. Team pitching stats are a bit better, with the team 10th in the league in ERA, but fourth in strikeouts and sixth in opposing batting average.
Looking forward, if Calhoun and friends can keep it up, and with Trout hopefully back late next month, who knows what might happen. The Angels thoroughly beat the league’s best team, the Astros, 9-4 tonight, and have now won three of their last four, all on the road. They are, however, in a tough part of their schedule, with two more in Houston and then three at home against the Yankees. After four at home with Kansas City, they then go to New York for three more with the Yankees, followed by three in Boston and then home and away against the Dodgers. Facing this tough part of the schedule without Trout is really tough, but you never know what could happen, especially if Kole Calhoun stays hot.