Are the Angels a Playoff Team?

With the Dodgers in the midst of a season for the ages, it’s been awfully easy to overlook the Angels, who most people wrote off for 2017, figuring their only battle would be to avoid the American League West cellar. With what looked like a pretty decent offense and an excellent as always and actually much improved defense, it was the state of the pitching staff that seemed to be the one giant elephant on the field of dreams. Those pitching prognostications were correct, and reality was even worse, with a starting staff going into the season riddled by serious injuries and a likelihood that substantial starts and innings would have to be taken by journeymen and never-weres. That reality has proven even gloomier when some of those who were healthy and counted on at the season’s start were themselves then injured, necessitating the addition of several untried and likely not-yet-ready (if ever) fill ins.

And then only a few weeks into the season, the worst possible event that could happen happened, an injury to Mike Trout, keeping him off the field for several weeks. But

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amazing things have happened since, and today, in early August, two-thirds into the 2017 season, the Angels are smack-dab in the heat of the AL Wild Card race. And that with a starting staff whose three top members over the past several weeks have been Parker Bridwell, Alex Meyer and JC Ramirez, and with former wash-out starter Bud Norris as the closer.

Will wonders never cease?

Last night marked the return of one of the recovering injured, Tyler Skaggs, who after missing almost all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery went into 2017 projected to be one of the team’s reliable starters, ready to fulfill the promise of his great left arm. But after only five starts, he again suffered an injury that was to keep him out for three months. Making his return against Oakland last night, with the Angels having reached the .500 mark and sitting only three teams and a couple of games in the standings away from a playoff spot, Skaggs did not pitch well enough to win, but very well indeed to show that he was healthy and hopefully set to remain in the Angels’ rotation for the duration. He made 83 pitches over four innings, and he was impressive at times, but inconsistent.

With Skaggs back in the rotation and with Andrew Heaney having made an excellent Triple-A rehab start this week – five innings with no walks and seven strikeouts – the last couple of months for the Angels with Skaggs and Heaney hopefully in that rotation ahead of Bridewell, Meyer and Ramirez, could be exciting. Of course, given the Angels’ long history of everything that can go wrong going wrong, right now Meyer is himself inactive, but hopes are than he will be back very soon, while the word on former ace Garrett Richards and last standing ace from earlier this season, Matt Shoemaker, is not so promising. Richards, out since his one 2017 appearance on April 5 after not pitching after May 1 of 2016, has apparently not progressed too well in his latest recovery, though he has

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now been doing some throwing. Shoemaker, on the other hand, is now contemplating surgery and he is unlikely to return this season and doubt is cast over just when he might be available in 2018.

The hot Angels are winners of six of their last eight, in great part due to the total return to form of Trout, the end of the year-and-a-half slump of Ben Revere who is hitting .471 in August and who has raised his average over 50 points since mid-June, and the seemingly substantial upgrade at second base with Kaleb Cowart hitting .375 since his return from the minors the last week of July. And perhaps tomorrow the team will see the return of outfielder Cameron Maybin, who was doing a decent job in the outfield and at the plate and who was leading the American League in stolen bases when he went on the DL back on July 19.

Are the Angels a playoff team? Astoundingly, that answer to that question could be “yes”.

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