The month of April has come and gone and while it was somewhat of a roller coaster ride, it did turn out to be a positive month for the Angels. When things start of as well as it did for the Halos, sprinting out of the gate with a 6-2 mark that included multiple come-from-behind wins in dramatic fashion, you begin to feel pretty good about yourself. Then you run into a stretch where the team immediately goes through a 1-9 stretch that punches you square in the jaw and jars you back to reality. The Jekyll & Hyde 2017 season was off in full swing which ultimately swung back to a more positive way with a strong finish at the end of the month. So what type of team are the Angels going to be the rest of the season? Beats the heck out of me because I just can’t figure it out and don’t know that we will.
This doesn’t necessarily mean this is going to be all gloom and doom the rest of the year, we’re just not sure what’s going to happen on a daily basis. This we know, it’s a resilient team that won’t quit until the final out of the game. It’s also a team that’s not going to stop and lick it’s wounds just because guys are dropping like flies due to injuries…others are stepping up. And when you’re going through a stretch like the Angels are currently on by playing so many divisional games (29 of first 36 games) early in the season, you need to keep your head above water while the other teams in the division continue to flounder (except the Astros).
The Halos finished April with an 14-13 record. As we were getting through the last week of the month, many scouts and broadcasters would talk to us about the team and each would say something like, ‘you guys are playing well.’ Yeah, sort of. When you go 6-2, then 1-9 and finish 7-2 in the month of April, you end up shrugging your shoulders and responding to those guys with, ‘I guess so.’ Just like fans sitting at home, we go through the same roller coaster ride as you do. We obviously prefer the team win games…everyone’s happy and it makes all of our lives a little better. As you run through a season such as 2016, it becomes increasingly more difficult to come up with storylines through the course of what essentially becomes a lost season. As I’ve said before, the saving grace in either scenario is getting the opportunity to watch Mike Trout do his thing on a nightly basis regardless of how the team is performing.
Speaking of Trout, the guy’s coming off the best April of his career. Trout finished with .364 AVG/ 7 HR’s/ 18 RBI’s/ 9 2B/ 2 3B/ .443 OBP/ .707 SLG/ 1.151 OPS. The only time he had a better number than the ones listed above is when he carried a .447 OBP in April of 2015. That’s it! So the kid has won 2 A.L. MVP awards and has finished in 2nd place every other time and in 2017, he’s off to his best start of his career? Seriously? Are we done playing the ‘who’s the best player in baseball?’ game that still continues to get spewed out periodically just because they seem to want to prop some other player up? I guess in our ‘everyone gets a medal’ society, they have to name others so it’s not so one-sided but there’s absolutely no denying Mike Trout was the greatest player in the game yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow. I’m not saying the talent in baseball isn’t ridiculous because it really is…perhaps the greatest collection of young talent in the game at one time. All I’m saying is that after watching this cat day in and day out for the last 6 seasons, he’s on a slightly different level than the other guys and that’s saying a lot.
As for other positives for the Angels in the month of April, the pitching staff certainly turned things around in grand fashion. As the first couple of weeks of the month played out with starters struggling to get through 5-6 innings and allowing early-game runs, they settled down the last couple of weeks of the month. From April 15th onward, Angels starters sported a 2.41 ERA (tops in MLB during that stretch), .230 BAA (T-3rd in MLB) & 3.01 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching – 2nd in MLB). An impressive turnaround considering from April 3rd-14th, Angels starters were 29th in MLB with 6.27 ERA and dead last with a 5.69 FIP. To say they needed to step up would be an understatement considering how up and down the offense has been…during the stretch the pitching was fantastic, the Halos offense managed a .222 AVG/ .292 OBP/ .262 BABIP. There have been a few games where they’ve both clicked together but it hasn’t been to a point where they’ve been able to sustain for a long period of time. Maybe the month of May will be that time.
Specific positives for the Angels include the emergence of JC Ramirez as a starter filling in for Garrett Richards and Bud Norris closing things out in place of Cam Bedrosian. As a starter, Ramirez has posted a 1-2 record with a 3.97 ERA. Overall, his current WHIP of 1.16 is the lowest of his career and his FIP of 3.01 is as well. He’s been a pleasant surprise and looks to be getting more and more comfortable with each start. As for Norris, well he’s picked up 5 Saves in his first 5 opportunities (he blew the Save on Tuesday in Seattle) and during that stretch, he worked 5.1 IP, struck out 9 while allowing just 2 hits and no runs and limiting the opposition to a .125 BAA. Needless to say but he’s been a shot in the proverbial arm to the Angels ‘pen since Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey and Mike Morin all went down with injuries.
Speaking of injuries…they suck. For the second consecutive year, the Angels have had to deal with big time injuries in the month of April. Add Tyler Skaggs and CJ Cron to the guys listed above and it’s amazing this team was able to finish on the plus side in April. Credit the guys stepping up and getting clutch hits when needed. Albert Pujols, who’s chasing 600 career HR’s and 3000 career Hits, has started to pick up the pace a bit (.289 w RISP). Andrelton Simmons is coming off one of his better months of April of his career and seems to not only driving the baseball more but also willing to take a base on balls (12 already this year, had 28 all of last year). Hopefully others will begin to follow suit.
As we continue into May, let’s keep our fingers crossed this team continues to battle the way it has and can find a way to maintain the good times while limiting the bad ones. After the second week of the month, the team is out of the division for a bit and also starts some interleague action. It’d be great to be on a roll when both of those occur.
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Livin’ the dream…