The outfield is too old.
The infield is too young.
They don’t have a real ace starting pitcher.
Too many of their players are coming off career years in 2009.
The Mariners have improved too much.
The Rangers are only going to keep getting better.
Scioscia’s offense won’t be the same without Chone Figgins.
Sooner or later the Angels are going to play down to the lowly projections of PECOTA and other statistical systems.
To put it mildly, there are a whole lot of reasons for the Angels to not succeed this year. So-called experts are climbing all over themselves to declare 2010 the demise of the Angel era of dominance in the AL West. Apparently all we Angel fans can do is sit back and await the fate that everyone expects for the Halos.
Or we can expect the unexpected.
Why are the Angels going to win the World Series? Because nobody expects it.
Since everyone is writing the Angels off already even though they don’t play their first game until later today, why not dream big? Since most media experts believe the Angels will have outdone themselves by winning the AL West yet again, there is virtually no pressure on the team to return to finally make their return to the World Series and that might just be the break the team needs to get over the World Series hump.
By all rights, the Angels should be the heavy favorites to win the AL West, but since the Mariners have somehow turned into the sexy sleeper pick of the year and the Rangers burgeoning young talent has analysts salivating, the Angels might actually be able to fly under the radar for the first time years, something that could pay off for them in a big way. Expectations have a way of dragging people teams down if they are as heavy and long-lasting as the ones the Angels have been burdened with ever since they won their only World Series in 2002. But now that burden has been lifted, at least partially, for the first time in a long time. That is great news to a guy like Brandon Wood who is just trying to earn his place in the bigs. The last thing he needs to worry about is trying to keep the Angels’ at contending status at the same time. Even an established player like Erick Aybar will appreciate the lighter atmosphere as he looks to fill the big (metaphorically) shoes of Chone Figgins at the top of the Angel order.
But less pressure isn’t the only reason to think that the Angels could return to championship glory this year. Let’s not forget (like all the baseball experts apparently have) for one second that this team is still very, very good. Compared to last year’s team, a team that came a lot closer to upsetting the Yankees than most people realize, the Angels match-up quite favorably. Sure, Vladimir Guerrero is gone, but he was on the decline anyway and Hideki Matsui now takes his place and, at this point in their careers, is a more reliable and productive batter. John Lackey has left as well, but he is effectively replaced by Scott Kazmir, a guy with better overall stuff who just needs to stay healthy and the black hole of a fifth starter the team had last season is going to be capably filled by Joel Pineiro, a top pitcher in the National League last year. Also off the roster is Darren Oliver, but his loss is more than made up for by the return of a healthy Scot Shields and (begrudgingly) Fernando Rodney. Really the only obvious downgrade is going from All-Star Chone Figgins to long-time prospect Brandon Wood and even then, Wood could fulfill his once bountiful promise and make the move a wash. Most of all, the Angels can’t possibly be forced to deal with the nearly cataclysmic levels of injury problems they faced last season. I fail to see how this team is anything more than two or three wins worse, much less 21 wins worse as PECOTA insists.
Funnily enough, the biggest reason the Angels are expected to fail might be the thing that pushes them over the top in the post-season. The departure of Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero is supposedly the death knell for Mike Scioscia’s speedy, defensive-pressuring offense. While the Angels may not run the bases like rabbits this season, letting Figgy and Vlad go allows the Angels to incorporate more patience and power into their line-up, giving them a nice blend of speed, power and patience also known as three offensive attributes that play exceptionally well during the post-season where the old Angel offense typically fell on its face.
I’m not saying that the Angels are in anyway a guarantee to win the World Series, but it is surely just as likely this year if not more so and all because nobody expects them to pull it off.