The post-season has begun, but alas, there are no Angels to be seen. How very sad that is for Angel fans, but let’s not get caught up in this depressing scenario and instead use it to learn some lessons to get the team back on track.
Hmm, maybe the Angels should’ve traded for Halladay after all.
- The Angels really should’ve traded for Roy Halladay – Hindsight is 20-20, but Halladay definitely looks like he is going to be worth whatever price the Phillies paid for him. The sad part is that the Angels had a chance to pay a similar price to get Doc, but declined to do so. Though no exact trade package could be confirmed, it was well known that the Jays demanded Erick Aybar in any deal for Halladay, something the Halos (specifically Arte Moreno) adamantly refused to do. Aybar ended up having a hugely disappointing season and Halladay proved to be so dominant that he threw just the second no-hitter in post-season history. Yeah, that could have been useful.
- The Halo offense needs to get better if they want to win in the post-season, much less reach it – At this point, you are saying, “tell me something I didn’t already know.” Point taken, but let me pile on just for a little bit. It is really hard to score runs in the post-season, as we saw when the Reds, the best offense in the National League, got no-hit and the Rays, the third-best offense in the AL, was limited to just one run. Facing the kind of high caliber starting pitching that post-season teams possess, this current Halo lineup wouldn’t stand a chance. They need to do some major upgrading if they don’t want to suffer another early playoff exit when (not if) they make it back to the playoffs.
- The offense doesn’t actually need to get THAT much better – At this point, you are now confused, and understandably so. Like I just said, good pitching wins in the post-season and that is something the Halos already have in spades in the starting rotation, even without Halladay. Compare the Angels rotation to those of the current 2010 playoff teams: Weaver-Haren-Santana-Pineiro (and mercifully NOT Scott Kazmir). A few teams might have a better #1 starter (though not by much), but I’m not sure I see any team that has a better set of starters one thru four. Having that kind of starting pitching would give any team a puncher’s chance at making some post-season noise, especially if they got hot offensively at the right time (a la the 2002 Angels). What that tells me is that the Angels don’t need to go out and sign every big bat possible this winter, but rather give the lineup enough punch and depth to be at least decent, and then they just have to hope to get in a groove in October. The rotation should take care of the rest.
- Catch the damned ball – A much overlooked factor in the Angels’ demise this season was their poor work in the field, finishing with a team UZR of -1.4, ranking them as the 15th best fielding club in the majors (and they were MUCH worse before they had the intelligence to call up Peter Bourjos). Good teams are almost always solid fielding teams, which is why six of this year’s post-season clubs ranked in the top 11 fielding teams in the bigs, all with UZRs over 15.0. The Halos better not forget to address their fielding concerns this off-season, otherwise they are going to leave themselves vulnerable to more post-season fielding gaffes (much like the ones that doomed them in the 2009 ALCS).
- The Angels are in good shape at manager – The impact of a manager in a post-season series is certainly open to debate, but what isn’t debatable is that good teams need good managers. Just look at this year’s post-season qualifiers. Atlanta is led by Bobby Cox (a legend), Minnesota has Ron Gardenhire (a blue collar version of Scioscia), New York has Joe Girardi (NL Manager of the Year in 2006 and 2010 WS winner), Philadelphia has Jerry Manuel (two straight WS appearances), Texas has Ron Washington (questionable, but he might be MoY this season), Tampa has Joe Maddon (Scioscia’s well-regarded protege), Cincinnati has Dusty Baker (3-time MoY) and San Francisco has Bruce Bochy (wildly underrated). There really isn’t a weak manager amongst them (except maybe Washington, the jury is still out on him as he is the only guy who has never won Manager of the Year, yet, or made a World Series appearance). I’m not saying Scioscia guarantees post-season success, but he at least meets the minimum requirements necessary.
While we are talking playoffs, I just wanted to go on record with my personal predictions for the post-season (which I meant to do yesterday, but I wound up taking the day off to stay home with my daughter who has the flu):
- LDS round = Twins over Yankees in 5, Rays over Rangers in 4, Phillies over Reds in 3, Giants over Braves in 5
- LCS round = Twins over Rays in 6, Phillies over Giants in 5
- World Series = Twins over Phillies in 7
And, yes, I am fully prepared for those predictions to be horribly wrong.