Thanks to the inspiration of one of the Fan's favorite regular readers (whose comments are always a hoot too), the Fan thought it would be appropriate at this point in the season to write an ode to the Angels...or as bobook calls them, the Los Angeles de El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula de Anaheim de los Estados Unidos. The Fan has to admit that the comment caused a wicked case of the snickers. Anyone who has spent some time here knows that this writer cannot stand the Angels' full name as listed by Major League Baseball. It's stupid, frankly. The name is hated so harshly here that this writer has never typed it. It's akin to calling the SkyDome the Rogers Center. But this post is getting off on the wrong foot. The full intention of this post is to write something nice about the reigning AL West champions before they smilingly hand the crown to the Texas Rangers. It's been quite a run.
As much as the Angels run as the cream of the AL West crop (there are only four teams, so someone has to be) has been impressive, it's also been improbable. The Angels somehow found a way to win every year despite the team they put on the field and not because of it. Last year's version won 97 games. According to their run differential, they should have won 92. They had the best batting average in baseball and at one point, a picture was taken of their line up as shown on the scoreboard because every person in the line up was batting .300 or better. Even Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick had good years. Every position starter on that team finished with an OPS+ over 100. But their pitching was far from special. Joe Saunders made 31 starts for them and won 16 games despite a 4.60 ERA and a WHIP over 1.4 (plus 29 gopher balls). Santana was awful and had an ERA over 5. But he still broke even on his record. The bullpen was adequate at best.
The 2009 Angels then steamrolled the Red Sox in the division series before falling to the Yankees. The 2008 Angels won even more games. They won 100 games that season despite the incredible fact that their run differential suggested that they should have only won 88 games! The 2008 team featured only three regular position players with an OPS+ over 100. All the rest were under. They were 11th (out of 14) in On Base Percentage and 10th in OPS. Mark Teixeira gave them a mighty boost at the end. They had a solid (if not spectacular) rotation and four of their five starters made over 30 starts. Lackey made 24. The rest of his starts went to Dustin Moseley, now toiling for the Yankees (and that is the right word). That team had an excellent bullpen led by K-Rod and Arredondo. But they had five pitchers in the bullpen that had good years. K-Rod went to the Mets. Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver went to the Rangers where they helped dethrone their old team.
The 2008 team lost to the Red Sox in the divisional series. The 2007 version of the Angels won 94 games and should have won only 90. If you are keeping score, they won 21 games more than their Pythagorean won-loss record said they should have won over that three year span. This version of the Angels hit well for average but lacked power. They didn't strike out much. Garrett Anderson was still decent. Their entire infield except for first base, hit over .300. Figgins and and Kendrick were way over .300 but even Orlando Cabrera hit .304. That team had a strong rotation with the exception of Santana, who did not have a good year. The bullpen was again solid if not super.
The 2007 team got swept in the division series by the Red Sox. The 2006 version of the Angels came in second place and didn't make the playoffs, but both the 2005 and 2004 versions came in first. The 2005 team got tot he League Championship Series and lost. The 2004 team lost the divisional series.The 2003 version of the team was the worst in this present era besides the present one. They lost 85 games and finished third in the division. This was the year after they won the World Series in 2002 despite winnin 99 games and coming in second in the division. Those were the Erstad years when he was crashing into walls and playing dynamite baseball.
So the Angels have had a good run. They made the playoffs six times in eight years and won the championship in one of them. If there is anything that can give Angel fans hope is that year after the World Series win. They had a down year much like this one and they bounced right back and won 94 games. Any team led by Mike Scioscia is going to have a great chance to be competitive. They didn't get the pitching they needed, the bullpen was ugly and their infield was a mess.
But don't count the Angels out next year. They will have a full year of Dan Haren along with Weaver and Santana and that is a pretty darn good start to any rotation. They will get someone to play the infield. They will be back. So give a hand to those Angels as they have represented their division well. It just didn't go well this year. As refreshing as it is to have the Rangers in the post season, that freshness is a direct result of years of classy baseball by the men wearing the halo uniforms.