Waiting on Albert and Josh …
The reason is very, very simple: They’re still waiting for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to get going.
The starting pitching (particularly Jason Vargas) has been much better. The bullpen (minus Ryan Madson) has some depth again. Mike Trout (.327/.409/.664 in May) has rounded into form. And several guys (Jered Weaver, Tommy Hanson, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett, Peter Bourjos) have either made their way back or are seemingly on the brink.
But Pujols and Hamilton still haven’t hit full stride just yet. There have been times — Pujols’ four-hit, two-homer, 19-inning game on April 29; Hamilton’s four-hit game on April 22 — when you thought, “OK, here it comes.” And then they just go back to being, well, quite average.
When will it finally happen? And when it does — if it does — will it be too late?
Right now, neither Pujols (105th) nor Hamilton (141st) even rank in the top 100 in OPS in the Majors through the team’s first 57 games.
Pujols, with a .248/.320/.416 slash line, isn’t healthy. The plantar faciitis in his left foot and his surgically repaired right knee have prompted him to start 28 of his 55 starts at designated hitter and forced him out of the lineup on Friday. It’s a testament to his toughness that he’s even out there, frankly. But it’s hard to drive the ball with much force when your lower body ails like that, and we’re seeing it.
Hamilton, .216/.277/.380,can’t use injuries as an excuse. He just isn’t right; hasn’t been since the start of the season. He’s already struck out 61 times –on pace for a career-high 173 — and has yet to establish any sort of consistent rhythm.
You can lament the starting pitching acquisitions the Angels didn’t make, or pray Madson’s elbow fully heals, or even curse Mike Scioscia. But this is a team built around Pujols and Hamilton, the two big-ticket signings that brought with them championship aspirations.
Without them at their best, the Angels will go nowhere.
“Those two guys are critical for us,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re seeing Albert hopefully start to get more comfortable. As his base, when he hits, feels stronger, you’re going to see him get where he needs to be. And Josh is really important to what we need to do. You have to keep playing ball, though. We just won eight in a row without those guys doing what they can do, so it’s not that your whole season is contingent on what those two guys can do. But they are really important to us, no doubt about that.”
Below is a statistical comparison between the Angels in April and May. As you’ll notice, it’s just the offense that basically stayed the same …
April: 5.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 1.62 SO/BB, 5.73 IP/GS
May: 3.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.63 SO/BB, 6.13 IP/GS
April: 4.26 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1.88 SO/BB, 3-8 SV
May: 3.97 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.30 SO/BB, 11-12 SV
April: .262/.321/.402/.723, 4.27 R/G, .92 HR/G, 10-16 SB
May: .259/.326/.443/.769, 4.69 R/G, 1.28 HR/G, 13-23 SB
April: .81 E/G
May: .48 E/G
Times using the DL
Here’s a quick look at who’s hot, and who’s not, in the Minor Leagues …
1B/OF Brad Hawpe (AAA): .303/.336/.422, 6 HR, 26 RBI
1B C.J. Cron (AA): .314/.356/.479, 5 HR, 30 RBI
SP Mark Sappington (A+): 5-2, 3.97 ERA, 12 GS
SP A.J. Schugel (AAA): 2-4, 7.46 ERA, 12 GS
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .218/.283/.330, 3 HR, 14 RBI
RP Nick Maronde (AA): 5.12 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 14 G