It seems we were a little hasty in our decision to eulogize the Angels last week—there may be life in this team yet. Since getting swept by the Rays and Cardinals last week the Angels have won six of seven, their only defeat this week coming at the hands of the somehow-still-improving Clayton Kershaw.
The driving force behind the team’s mini-resurgence has been the offense, which has scored seven or more runs in six of the last eight games and is now batting a much more respectable .255/.320/.382 on the year. The only number in their slash line that remains below the league average is their slugging, but even that has improved by nearly 30 points during the current eight-game renaissance. (It doesn’t hurt that Mike Trout is hitting a god-like .373/.455/.672 in May.)
Given how beat up the pitching staff is and may continue to be, a league-average offense alone isn’t going to propel this team into contention. But if the offense proves to be better than league average—say, if the team’s true talent actually lies somewhere between their present .703 OPS and the .862 OPS of the last week—then maybe they can make up for the shortcomings of the pitching staff long enough for it to get healthy again. The chance of that happening is still slim, but it’s definitely there now.
The Angels Aren’t Big On Lineup Balance Right Now
When Andrelton Simmons, Cliff Pennington, Daniel Nava, and Craig Gentry went down with injuries, the Angels had the opportunity to infuse the roster with lefty and switch-hitting bats in order to amplify (or at least maintain) their lineup balance. Todd Cunningham (S), Kaleb Cowart (S), Rey Navarro (S), Nick Buss (L), Kyle Kubitza (L) and Sherman Johnson (L) were all just a level away, waiting for their chance in Anaheim. Instead, the team went with a fleet of right-handed hitters—Gregorio Petit, Brendan Ryan, Jefry Marte, and Shane Robinson—electing to have Rafael Ortega be a token lefty rather than one of many.
The righty-heavy backups have mostly worked so far, but the Angels might want to think about giving themselves a little more flexibility in the future. Eight of their last 10 games, and at least the next three, have been/will be against right-handed starts.
The Dodgers Will Be Very Good
…eventually. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson are too good for this team to not be really good for a really long time. But so long as Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, the back half of the rotation, and the bullpen struggle, they’re going to be mired in mediocrity on a team level. I don’t expect the bad times to last much longer, but I’m glad they were still finding their way out when the Angels came to town.