The Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has helped assemble the best MLB team not only in the AL West, but in all of baseball. Even though the Angels will easily win a 100 games this season, anything short of a 2013 World Series Championship will be considered a failure, especially with a team full of MVP candidates. Team owner Arte Moreno has one of the best managers in the game, Mike Scioscia, who will have no problem handling his team of stars.
The Angels have had a busy and productive off-season adding the top free agent again, as well as a few important pieces to their championship puzzle. This year, the player they hope will help bring a title to Anaheim is Josh Hamilton. The team didn’t just add another bat to their very impressive lineup; they went after pitchers too, attempting to repair the bullpen, the teams’ biggest weakness last season.
The Angels knew they needed more than another big name and went out and grabbed two bargains to sure up the pen. The two smart acquisitions they inked were Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson. Burnett pitched last season for the Washington Nationals, going 1-2 with two saves and a 2.38 ERA with 56.2 innings in 70 appearances. He has remarkable control, a very good change-up and is a man who is confident, with a presence on the mound. These are qualities the Angels didn’t have last season with a bullpen that led the league with 17 blown saves.
Madson, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, will be the pitcher he was before the surgery and should help a bullpen who single-handedly kept the Angels out of the playoffs in 2012. Just an idea of how bad the Angels bullpen was last year, during a 10-game road trip, against all playoff contenders the bullpen had a 10.54 ERA (32 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings), 11 home runs allowed, five blown saves and five losses.
The pressure will be on Scott Downs who took over for Jordan Walden early in 2012 as the Angels closer, because if Downs fails, the two moves made to sure up the bullpen won’t make much of a difference. The moves to sign middle relief pitchers won’t make the front page when the Angels make the run for a ring, but they will be as important as any player on this loaded roster.
The Angels roster is impressive and should easily get past the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers in 2013. The Angels 21-year-old lead-off hitter, Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, is already the best in the game and he has yet to play a full season in the majors. Trout began the 2012 season with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees before being called up on April 28. Trout may have come up a little late, but it didn’t take long for him to shatter just about every rookie record in MLB, as well as almost winning the American League MVP.
Two big bats that will help Trout avoid a sophomore slump; Albert Pujols and Hamilton. Having these two players hit behind anyone would make them better. Hamilton may have been the big signing this off-season, but he wasn’t brought in to save the team, as he would have been if he would have gone to many of the other teams that went after him. As much as Hamilton and Pujols will take the pressure off Trout, Hamilton and Pujols will also benefit from each other, as well as Trout. Having to face those three at the top of the order could rattle even the most composed pitcher.
The two biggest concerns for the Angels in 2013 are getting production from the bottom of the lineup and pitching. Neither should be that big a deal, but to play “devil’s advocate”, it would be unrealistic to say the team has no weakness, because they do. Although the pitchers are led by Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson and newly acquired Tommy Hanson, if anything, the back end of the rotation may be a problem, but with the runs the Angels put up, not even the bullpen should be able to blow their chance at a very long run in the 2013 playoffs.