Albert Pujols was the biggest free agent signing of the winter and one of the biggest free agent acquisitions of the last 25 years. He will settle in as the new hope for the Los Angeles Angels.
To get a quantifiable gauge on what his impact has already meant to the Angels, one just must look at the fact that last year they entered the season as 30/1 long shots to win the World Series and this season they open Spring Training as 8/1 blue chips.
But Pujols hasn’t been brought in to “change the culture” or “give the franchise credibility”. The Angels have been one of the best organizations in the sport over the last decade, winning a World Series and five division titles while winning 90 or more games six times.
However, that World Series was 10 years ago. And after back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs it was time for a change. I think that signing one of the best hitters of the last two generations for $240 million qualifies. And the Angels should be back to grinding out winning seasons with the cool efficiency that a cyborg like Pujols can appreciate.
Doc’s Sports’ predictions for the 2012 Los Angeles Angels future book odds appear below.
2010 Record: 86-76 2012 Wins Over/Under: 92.5 Odds To Win 2012 AL West: 1/1.2 Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 4/1 Odds To Win 2012 World Series: 8/1
Besides Pujols the Angels also solidified their rotation with the addition of C.J. Wilson in free agency. The fact that they stole him from division-rival Texas only sweetens the pot. Los Angeles was sixth in the Majors last year with a 3.57 team ERA and their starters had the fifth-best mark in the league. Wilson went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA last year…and now he’s the third-best starter in the Angels stable.
Jered Weaver would have won the Cy Young in any other year with his stat line (18- 8, 2.41, 198 K’s) and Dan Haren may be the most consistent arm on the staff. Ervin Santana had four complete games and electric stuff. He is on the short-list for the best No. 4 starters in baseball. The fifth slot will go to a young arm in the organization that is yet to be determined.
The bullpen will benefit from the rubber arms in the rotation. L.A.’s four known starters combined for 15 complete games and all four logged more than 220 innings. That’s excellent; because the Angels blew the most saves in the A.L. (25) and their 26 relief losses were among the worst in baseball. Rookie Jordan Walden (10 blown saves) has to get better. And they only added Latroy Hawkins in the offseason, so Walden is not the only one that has to improve if this team is going to overtake the Rangers.
If the Angels were going into April with this lineup in about 2007 or 2008 they would easily be the favorite to win the World Series. The problem is that while guys like Bobby Abreau, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells are professional hitters with multiple all-star appearances each of them is past their prime. How that crop bounces back (none of them hit over .265 last year) will be a key for this team, especially considering that because the Angels have a lot of hitters looking for opportunities every one of them may see reduced at-bats.
There is a logjam of sluggers at corner positions for this team. Pujols may have an adjustment period to A.L. pitching but he is a hero. Mark Trumbo led the team in home runs (29) and RBI (87) and may now be coming off the bench. And Kendrys Morales – who went .306-34-108 in 2010 and was on pace for that again last year before a freak leg injury – is also going to demand at-bats. But having too many sluggers is a good problem for a team that was mediocre across the offensive board last year.
Los Angeles Angels Predictions
I actually think that the Angels have the least number of question marks, from top to bottom, of any team in the American League. Their biggest issues all seem to be about how to handle their overabundance of talent.
Those are good problems.
I believe they have the best starting pitching in the American League. And the only two lineups that I believe are better are in Boston and Texas, but the gap isn’t huge. Mike Scioscia is one of the best in the business and I think that this veteran team is going to have a level-headed, business-like, aggressive approach this year that will keep them on the path toward 100 wins. I think the Angels will win the West and I think that they will earn home field advantage heading into the postseason.
Win Totals Predictions
Take ‘Over’ 92.5 Wins. I feel pretty bad for the Mariners and A’s this year. The Angels and Rangers should absolutely throttle their other two division rivals and I think that L.A. will pick up at least 24 or 25 wins from those two teams alone. I also think that they will have their way with the teams in the Central – most of which are rebuilding – and the Halos always manage to play .500 ball against the East. When the Angels have made the playoffs they have averaged 96.2 wins and they won less than 93 games and made the postseason just once. I think this team is headed back to playing October baseball and I think that – as long as the bullpen holds up – they will win at least 95 games en route.
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