Unless you’re name is Mike Trout, or you live within the fictional television world with perfect wealthy parents and a perfect home-life, no one is going to hand you the keys to a car. Neither am I. But I hope this makes you feel better. If the second half of the season were a vehicle, I’m handing you the keys to this metaphorical vehicle so that you may know where success and failure may come from. Better? No? I figured as much. Still, here at MWAH we’re all about “give”. I give to you, the keys to second half success.
1. Grant Green and Efren Navarro. Is it coincidence that I chose the two walk-off heroes from this week? Yes actually, it is. Before this week I intended to title this section “depth” but naming individuals like Green and Navarro just makes it more singularly focused. The second half is upon us and if you’ve paid attention to the schedule, the Angels will be flying a lot more miles and won’t have as many off-days as their East Coast counterparts. This means players are going to begin to wear down. Players are gong to be injured. The Angels offense should still be functional, but in order to compete at a high level, they’ll need high level depth. This is what Green and Navarro are. With Aybar down, Green has shown he can play a better than adequate shortstop at the major league level. Green also happens to be able to hit the ball. He’ll be important not only in Aybar’s stead but also in place of Kendrick over at second base, Freese at third base and at DH as well. Navarro’s beautiful lefty swing helps balance out the lineup. His superb defense in the corner outfield as well as first base will make him a key compenent moving forward. With Cron struggling, Navarro also has the chance to carve out a niche for himself at DH or allow the Angels to rest Pujols and Hamilton at DH. Who would’ve thought the Angels minor league would provide them with such depth? All we heard about in the offseason was about how there was no depth.
2. The Joe’s. Joe Smith and Joe Thatcher of course. The bullpen has received a face-lift of Kardashian-like proportions. Frieri’s are gone and so are Garrett’s (our Supreme Commander at MWAH) ulcers. Huston Street‘s acquisition, horribly over-paid as it may have been allowed the Angels to move Smith around where he’s needed. Smith can now be used for two innings at a time if necessary, or can be brought in for the most important spots in earlier innings. Judging by the back-end of the Angels pitching staff, there are probably going to be some early inning rescues Smith will need to undertake in the second half. The Angels should also be playing a lot of close games, as evidenced by the Mariners series. Smith will be needed to shut down the 8th inning on a consistent basis but is like to be brought in earlier if needed when the rubber hits the road in the playoffs. Joe Thatcher on the other hand has more of a defined role than Smith. He has one job and only one job, get lefties out. Unfortunately, Thatcher (and every Angels RP this year) has had a really hard time doing that. If Thatcher gets back to his lefty dominating ways of the past, the Angels should finally have a compete bullpen.
3. C.J. Wilson. Consider this for a moment, the Tigers will likely head to the playoffs (I confortably say this because the rest of the AL central is a pathetic mess) with Cy Young winner Scherzer, Cy Young candidate Sanchez and some combination of Verlander, Porcello or Smyly (who has been quite good) in the playoffs. The A’s will likely head into the playoffs with Samardzija, Sonny Gray and the somehow good Scott Kazmir in the rotation. The Mariners, who are currently the second Wild Card would have a playoff rotation with King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Orioles have a plethora of average starters they’ll deploy in hopes of smashing teams to death. But what do the Angels have? Garrett Richards showed he can go toe-to-toe with Felix Hernandez any day of the week (he really should’ve been an all-star and may have a shot at the Cy Young by the end of the year). Weaver has smoke and mirrors on his side, but a three and a half ERA and 86 mph fastball doesn’t inspire confidence. Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago are all necessary peices to make it to the playoffs but once there, their role diminishes.
Now consider this: CJ Wilson’s ERA his last four years as a starter reads as follows: 3.35, 2.94, 3.83 and finally 3.39. While logging an excess of 200 innings and a K/9 around 8 every year, C.J. Wilson has been the idea #2 starter in a rotation. But he’s hurt right now, and this year he’s posted a 4.33 ERA. now clearly, ERA isn’t the be all end all of statistics but it paints a picture of the final product and C.J.’s final product has been spectacular.
With Wilson returned to form, the Angels should have a shaky but adequate playoff rotation. Without Wilson returning to form the Angels playoff rotation would prevent them from doing any real damage. It is imperative that C.J. Wilson regain his mojo as the starter he’s always been, otherwise the Angels are in trouble come October. They might even be forced to trade for Cliff Lee.