Despite winning more games than the AL pennant winning Detroit Tigers, the Los Angeles Angels did not make it to the post season in 2012 and were hailed as disappointments. With first baseman Albert Pujols going into his second season in the AL, Los Angeles will be better and make a run at the Western division crown that eluded them last season.
The Angels finished third five games behind the AL West champion Oakland Athletics and four behind the second place Texas Rangers who also advanced to post season play. Los Angeles’ 89 wins were one game better than the 88 that Detroit won, but the Tigers won the AL Central while the Angels lost the West and a wildcard berth to Texas and the Baltimore Orioles.
This season, Los Angeles is poised to make a run at Oakland and Texas. After getting adjusted to his new league, Pujols finished with a .280 batting average, 30 home runs and 105 RBI. This was far below the standards that he set with the St. Louis Cardinals, but one should expect those numbers to improve in 2013. Pujols is only 33 and still has plenty of good baseball left in him.
If Pujols returns to form the Angels batting order will be potent. Outfielder Mike Trout set the AL on fire last season as a rookie by batting .326 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI. Old man Torii Hunter batted .313 with 92 RBI. Josh Hamilton brings his career .304 batting average from Texas to Los Angeles. There is no question that the Angels will have a dangerous lineup as they batted .274 as a team last season.
Jered Weaver leads the pitching staff. His 20-5 record and 2.81 ERA was far and away the best on the club. The Angels could not hold on to Zack Greinke who signed with the cross town Los Angeles Dodgers. Dan Haren signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals. C.J. Wilson will have to improve on his 13-10 season. The closers role will belong to Ernesto Frieri who saved 24 games last season.
Last season, the Angels were considered the team to beat in the AL West. This season they will have to deal with a much improved Oakland team and the ever present Rangers. Los Angeles knows that it has its work cut out for them, but must be buoyed by the fact that despite a slow start they were close at the end of last season. The Angels may not win their division, but a wildcard is not out of the question.
With Pujols no longer having to adjust to the AL and Hamilton coming over from Texas, Los Angeles can be expected to contend for much more than a wildcard birth.