As many expected going into the season, the Angels have one of the top offenses in the American League. Going into Wednesday, they have scored the fourth most runs in the AL (193), have the third highest wOBA (.330) and the second-highest wRC+ (112). That’s pretty dang good and the best part is that they should only get better.
That might also be the weird part because, according to my completely unscientific research, the Angels offense is actually a source of frustration, at least according to Angels fans. Just ask them and you will get on of the following responses:
- How the hell does this team score? Half the lineup started the season in Triple-A!
- Gah! This team is the WORST with RISP!
- Mike Trout is human and it has made me question everything I know about baseball and life in general.
These are all hyperbolic, but they are, at their base, valid complaints. They are also good news!
Yes, half of the current lineup did start the season in Triple-A. Technically, it is one-third (Green/Navarro in left, Lucho at third, Cron at DH) and that doesn’t count Collin Cowgill playing right field full -time for the last few weeks. It is a wonder that the offense hasn’t cratered. Cowgill has been shockingly productive with a 153 wRC+ and Grant Green, C.J. Cron and even Efren Navarro have produced in the very small samples in which they’ve been with the team. But before them, they were getting dreadful performances out of J.B. Shuck (19 wRC+), Luis Jimenez (34 wRC+), Ian Stewart (65 wRC+) and Brennan Boesch (47 wRC+), so it isn’t as if every single guy they’ve called up to replace injured players has been playing over their head.
So the bench hasn’t been good, but that’s OK because the team is about to get healthy. Josh Hamilton, David Freese and Kole Calhoun are all on track to be back by the end of the month. Even with Freese’s early season struggles, he should be better than the woeful production they’ve gotten from his fill-ins at the hot corner. Hamilton and Calhoun are quite obviously huge upgrades over their substitutes, even with Cowgill playing out of his gourd. Better players = better production!
The Angels are also the worst with RISP, almost. They are 12th in batting average in the AL with runners in scoring position at .223, certainly a poor mark. They are, however, seventh in terms of wOBA at .309, so it isn’t as if they are totally inept. If anything, they are unlucky with a .268 BABIP with runners in scoring position, almost 30 points lower than their overall BABIP of .295. That mark is, say it with me now, unsustainable. Just looking back at last season, the lowest BABIP any AL team had with RISP was .278 and the worst batting average was the talentless Twins at .225. Unless Angel batters are walking under ladders indoors while using an open umbrella to smash mirrors and swat black cats crossing their path, their bad luck will dissipate and their RISP numbers will better reflect their true talent. They don’t even need to be the second coming of the 2013 Cardinals, they just need to see some marginal improvement to make the Red LOBsters moniker irrelevant.
Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Michael Nelson Trout. Much internet ink has been spilled and many a pair of hands wrung over Trout’s strikeout issues and recent slump. This has forced us to confront the possibility that Trout may not be able to play at a 10+ WAR clip every single season. His wRC+ is “all the way” down to 142 wRC+ due to his little skid. If only we could all have that problem. But this will not last. Even if Trout doesn’t bounceback to superhuman levels and his strikeout issues persist, he is too talented and too good at making adjustments for him to move forward with the .538 OPS he has in May so far. Everyone slumps, even the best player in baseball. Provided there is no secret injury he is nursing (and there is no reason to think that is the case), Trout should begin producing at elite levels any day now.
You could even apply the same principals to other struggling Angels. Raul Ibanez has been so dreadful that he has nowhere to go but up (or to the bench in favor of a more productive player) and David Freese was showing signs of life before his unfortunately timed injury.
Improved health, improved luck and improved performance from struggling players all adds up to the already very good Angels offense getting better, possibly even bumping it to elite levels. That bodes quite well for the Angels future. Now, if only the same could be said for the bullpen…