There’s been a different look about this Los Angeles Angels (75-78) team over the past month, a period in which they own the best record in baseball (20-7, tied with the Washington Nationals) and appear determined to reach .500 before time runs out in the 2013 regular season.
Injuries to Albert Pujols, Peter Bourjos and Howie Kendrick since the All-Star break have forced the Halos to cobble together lineups that change daily, leading to several call-ups and opportunities for players previously unknown to even the most devout Angel fans.
With the playoffs far out of reach and Mike Scioscia likely on his way out after the season, there was little reason not to experiment with this lineup; to shake it up, manipulate it and play around with it until the Halos hit on a winning combination.
A winning combination is exactly what Los Angeles has found since August 22. Since that date, the Halos have displayed some of their most impressive offense of the season, but they haven’t been scoring their runs in the way they had imagined heading into 2013.
With Pujols out for the year, Josh Hamilton has hit .326 during the team’s streak. Sure, the Angels were hoping he would have more 40-plus home run seasons like he did in Texas when he was signed to a $125 million contract this past offseason, but Los Angeles will take timely hitting any day over the occasional home run.
The offensive improvement has been evident from the top to the bottom of the Angels’ order: in addition to Hamilton, J.B. Shuck (.300), Chris Iannetta (.308), Mike Trout (.316), Kole Calhoun (.337) and Andrew Romine (.327) have all hit at least .300 to keep the streak going.
With only 24 home runs in those 27 games, it’s clear the Halos are finding many different ways to score, and that is exactly what the 2002 and 2009 Angel teams excelled at.
Once Pujols and his big bat return to the lineup next year, it will be interesting to see how Los Angeles reshapes its offensive identity. In the meantime, the Angels we’ve seen over the past month resemble the very best Angel teams of the past decade, and that is an encouraging sign heading into the offseason.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker and on Google.