With nearly 81 games of the Major League Baseball season – halfway through the 162 game schedule – having been played, here’s my latest assessment of Los Angeles’ two MLB teams, and though there have been some bright points, it isn’t good:
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
Current Record: 33-43, 4th place in the American League West, 11 games behind the Texas Rangers
Current Streak: Lost last four games vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates
Only the division’s newbies, the Houston Astros, have a worse record than the Angels in the West at this point, but at least the Astros had no expectations.
No team in the American League had more expectations that this Orange County club, and no team has disappointed more at this point of the season.
Mike Trout has been his superhero self with his .306 batting average, 12 home runs, 46 RBIs and 18 stolen bases, and Howie Kendrick, along with Trout, is the Halos’ co-MVP so far as his 94 hits is tied with Trout for the team lead, and his .323 average is among the league’s leaders.
But that’s where the positives end as neither of the Angels two biggest names is hitting better than .260.
Albert Pujols, who has been playing on one foot all year and can barely run, has managed 13 homers and 47 RBIs to go along with his .258 average, which is an improvement over the lat few weeks.
The first baseman/designated hitter gets a pass because of his plantar fasciitis, but Josh Hamilton can’t use that kind of excuse as he is arguably baseball’s most disappointing player after almost three months – his .207 average is indisputable proof of that as manager Mike Scioscia has given him time off and batted him as low as seventh to get him started.
The Angels’ pitching is much at fault as well, with one pitcher in particular illustrating the Halos’ shortcomings:
If there was a Charlie Brown award, Joe Blanton would be the overwhelming winner as he has won but one game to go with his ten losses, his 5.26 earned run average, and opponents hitting a whopping .316 against him.
I’m a bit surprised that Blanton hasn’t had line drives tearing his clothes off like that round-headed Peanuts kid.
Halo pitching ace Jered Weaver hasn’t been much better, sorry to say, as he hasn’t been exactly the same since he broke his elbow in April. He’s currently 1-4 with a 4.65 ERA.
And the bullpen remains an utmost mess, giving up runs late in games, including four in a recent affair against Pittsburgh that cost them in their 10-9 loss.
The Angels have been in the proverbial frying pan, and may well be dumped into the proverbial fire as they head for Detroit this week to face the Tigers and their monster hitters, Prince Fielder and triple crown winner Miguel Carbera.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Current Record: 33-42, Last place in the National League West, eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks
Current Streak: Won last two against the San Diego Padres and beat the San Francisco Giants in their most recent outing, 3-1
If the Angels are the most disappointing team in the American League, their Chavez Ravine neighbors, with their $239 million payroll, are the most disappointing team in baseball; there’s no doubt about that.
How else can you describe a team in last place with only one guy, Adrian Gonzalez, having at least ten home runs, after many pundits had them contending for the World Series?
A perfect illustration of the overall mess that the Dodgers’ season has become is the fact that Clayton Kershaw is among the league’s earned run average leaders at 2.06.
Yet he is only 5-5.
And despite Brandon League’s 14 saves, his four blown save attempts and 5.08 ERA has led to his demotion in favor of Kenley Jansen.
Not that this futility has been completely the Dodgers’ fault, as pretty much every starting position player has spent some time on the disabled list, including Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, who is still weeks away from returning.
There is one thing that has kept the Dodgers from being irrelevant and worthless, a 22-year old kid who defected from Cuba and has caused the biggest sensation around Dodger Stadium since the days of Fernando Valenzuela:
He has only played 20 major league games, but his 34 hits and seven home runs are the most for anyone in history after that number of contests.
His batting average, after being over .500, remains at .442, which although it will inevitably come down is still very impressive.
And his defensive exploits, particularly his catch and throw to first to get a game-ending double play in his very first game, are nothing to sneeze at.
Obviously speaking, this phenom cannot go back to the minors when Crawford and Kemp eventually come back, and anyone who has the ability that Puig has cannot sit on the bench, which means that one of the Dodgers’ outfielders ultimately has to go.
Because Crawford and Kemp are too valuable, that means – and I say this with regret – that Andre Ethier’s days are numbered in L.A.
This isn’t because of anything negative that Ethier has done, as he has filled in admirably in center field since Kemp went down, and he has been a good, solid player in L.A., but his .255 average and five homers signal his underachieving performance this season, which leads to him being the odd man out.
I wouldn’t trade Ethier until after the season, however, as he is sorely needed with all the injuries.
The Dodgers are currently playing another team that’s not where people thought they would be, the San Francisco Giants, who are at .500 and tied for second place with the surprising Padres as of this writing. The Philadelphia Phillies follow the Giants into Dodger Stadium after that.