With Trout on board, the sky's the limit for Angels
With Trout on board, the sky's the limit for Angels
By Alden Gonzalez
ANAHEIM -- The first half of the Angels' season can be analyzed much like the Bible.
Is Mike Trout, the 20-year-old rookie outfielder who has taken baseball by storm, solely responsible for the Angels' dramatic turnaround after a miserable April? Of course not. The nature of baseball doesn't allow for such individual dominance. But he is a major part, because he's provided exactly what they needed -- a spark.
In BT times, the Angels were crumbling under the weight of expectations, tying a franchise-worst mark of 6-14 through their first 20, sporting the second-lowest OPS in the American League and getting shut out left and right while the division-rival Rangers dominated.
Then came Trout.
That changed everything.
It didn't happen immediately. Trout's imprint took a little while to form, his energy some time to rub off. But in AT times, the Angels are a completely different team. They come back into games more frequently, score runs more efficiently and just seem to have more life, more pep in their step; more belief, perhaps.
Oh, and at 42-24, they have baseball's best record since April 28.
You know, when Trout joined them.
"We knew we were a good team coming out of Spring Training," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his 48-38 club. "We obviously stumbled out of the starting blocks, but we've righted the ship and are playing good baseball. That's what's important now, not really where we are at the halfway point or what our record is. We're playing well, and that's what we're going to keep focusing on doing."
MVP: Mike Trout Where would the Angels be without Trout? They don't even want to know.
Cy Young: Jered Weaver He threw a no-hitter and boasts sparkling numbers despite a three-week DL stint.
Rookie: Trout Call him Mr. Everything.
Top reliever: Ernesto Frieri From little-known reliever to lights-out closer -- and bullpen savior.
A lot went into that.
There's Albert Pujols, who went an agonizing 117 plate appearances before hitting his first Angels home run and was below the Mendoza Line by mid-May, then reverted back to form -- batting .313 with 13 homers and 37 RBIs over his last 49 games.
There's Mark Trumbo, the overlooked slugger who has had a breakout season in a year that began with so much uncertainty, batting .306 with the team lead in homers (22) and RBIs (57) to make him an All-Star.
There's the starting rotation, a department of relative strength thanks in large part to the exploits of All-Stars Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
And, of course, there's Ernesto Frieri, the little-known reliever who was acquired from the Padres in early May and has been a saving grace for a bullpen that looked so vulnerable before him, pitching 26 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 45 batters and going 11-for-11 in saves.
But you can't talk about the Angels' resurgence without first talking about Trout. It's an injustice, really.
Trout spent the first three weeks of the season in the Minor Leagues, and still he leads the AL in stolen bases (26) and batting average (.341) while putting up a .397 on-base percentage, hitting 12 homers and making almost a nightly impact en route to being one of the youngest All-Stars in history. Since the start of May, nobody has scored more runs or has been on base more times.
"He's been a huge addition," Trumbo said, "and that's no slight against anybody else."
Players to watch in second half
Albert Pujols If Pujols can duplicate his second-half surge from last year, the Angels are deadly.
Dan Haren Bad half, but he's never really struggled for a full season. Can he get his back healthy and turn it around?
Ervin Santana His arm his healthy and his stuff is fine, but his first-half numbers have been dreadful.
"It's pretty exciting to see a young player like that, 20 years old, and just the way that he runs the bases, the way that he goes after balls," Pujols added. "And he knows the game, he knows the situation. Whenever he needs to bunt, he bunts. Whenever he needs to steal a base, he goes after it. Every time he gets on base, there's a pretty good chance we're going to score some runs."
With Trout, the Angels once again look like a team that can compete with the world-beating Rangers, the back-to-back AL champs who held a four-game lead in the AL West as the ceremonial first half concluded.
The Angels will get 13 more chances against the Rangers in the second half. To catch them, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana (with a combined 5.30 ERA) have to get right, catcher Chris Iannetta needs to get healthy (to help a position that has contributed only a .600 OPS), general manager Jerry Dipoto may need to make some magic happen before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline (pitching depth is needed) and the Angels will have to carry the momentum they've built since Trout's callup.
In other words, more AT than BT.
"I give ourselves a 'B' -- that's our grade for the first half," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "Second half, we want an 'A.' But if Texas gets an 'A,' too, all right, cool. As long as we get a chance to go to the playoffs. And we'll get in there somehow if we keep doing what we've been doing."