Anaheim, Ca. When the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim went shopping in the free agent market following a disappointing 2011 season, the Club hit a homerun acquiring first baseman Albert Pujols from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and left handed pitcher C.J. Wilson from the Western Division rival Texas Rangers, both on the same day during the Major League winter meetings. In an attempt to add power to the lineup, the Angels projected Pujols, a three-time National League MVP to go along with his two World Championships and nine All Star appearances, to produce numbers similar to last seasons .299 batting average where he collected 105 RBI’s and 37 homeruns. To bolster the pitching corps Wilson, who in 2011 recorded a 16-7 record with a 2.94 ERA in 34 starts and earned his first All Star game invitation. Wilson returns to Orange County where he started his baseball career at Fountain Valley High School and Santa Ana Junior College. He has been a bright spot early this season for the Angels, being named to his second strait All Star game last month.
These roster moves were orchestrated under the direction of newly appointed General Manager Jerry Dipoto who the Angeles tapped from the Arizona Diamondbacks. With an annual player payroll of $154 million, the Angels have been busy overhauling their roster as the team has not advanced to the play offs in each of the last two seasons. Additional player moves included awarding shortstop Jean Segura a spot on the 25 man roster being promoted from the Angels minor league system before being dealt, trading for catcher Chris Iannetta from Colorado and acquiring three right handed pitchers; Ernesto Frieri, Jason Isringhausen and La Troy Hawkins while parting ways with Bobby Abreu , Trevor Bell, and Tyler Chatwood. Catcher Hank Conger was sent back to the minors. An in season roster move included adding right handed pitcher Zack Greinke. The Angels also found a starting outfield roster spot for the teams 2009 first round pick rookie Mike Trout who appeared in 40 games for the Angels last season. Trout’s outstanding play has been compared to the late Mickey Mantle, the Hall of Famer from the New York Yankees. The 20 year old emerging star has been named American League player of the month in July and rookie of the month in May, June and July and was named to the All Star squad, the first player under age 21 to receive that honor since Alex Rodriguez in 1996. Trout carried a .350 average at the season’s half way point and leads the League with a .354 batting average. In his first 77 games, Trout had 111 hits, 49 RBI’s and a league leading 31 stolen bases. Asked if Trout could be considered for the leagues MVP, Manager Mike Scioscia said “He has the potential to do it, he is not playing over his head, that is for sure,”
With wholesale changes made to this season’s team, many baseball experts picked the Angels to be champions of baseball this season as the team celebrates the 10 year anniversary of their one and only World Series Championship. Only Scioscia remains along with first base coach Alfredo Griffin from the 2002 club that entered the play-offs with a wild card birth and without a single player having World Series experience. Scioscia, in his 13th managerial season, now has the longest tenure as a Major League manager and he has recorded over 1,000 victories.
This seasons Club is on pace to draw three million fans at home for the tenth consecutive year however, the Angels started off the season unexpectedly in the cellar after a disastrous April. As the Angels got off to one of their poorest starts, Pujols, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Erick Aybar and outfielder Tory Hunter have all missed games with nagging injuries .Starting pitcher Scott Downs ended up on the 15 day disabled list and fellow pitcher Ervin Santana , who tossed a no hitter last season in Cleveland, has had a rough start going 5-10 chalking up a 5.83 earned run average. Scioscia limited Santana playing time allowing him to record only 15 outs during his last start in attempt to get him out of his funk. Pujols, who has never hit less than 32 homeruns in a season and had carried a batting average of over.300 for 10 consecutive campaigns, started this season going 110 at bats without a homerun . Since May 15, Pujols had found his grove with a .333 batting average, 12 homeruns, 59 hits and 37 runs batted in as the Angels have gone 31-16. “ I don’t play with pressure, I expect myself to come through,” said Pujols. “I don’t get caught up in numbers, you start forgetting what your main focus is, and that’s winning and helping your ball club win,” he said. “I am enjoying it here; I’m going to be here for the next 10 years.” years.”
Following the All Star game, Pujols has hit for a .340 average with 4 doubles and 4 homeruns.
Pitcher Jered Weaver has been dominating all season long and threw a no hitter at home against Minnesota. In his seventh Major League season, Weaver is coming off last seasons 18-8 record. Weaver has been brilliant, posting a 15-1 record, now only three wins short of 100 career wins and earned his third strait All Star game appearance. Weaver is baseballs first 15 game winner this season.
Also playing a major role in the teams’ success is outfielder Mark Trumbo, 26, the Angels MVP last season as a rookie. Trumbo led the Angels in home runs and runs batted in, the first rookie to leas the Angels in both categories. He was the fourth Angels player named to this seasons All Star game with a .304 batting average and 27 homeruns.
Since the half way point in the season, the Angels have come alive and have taken advantage of playing in Anaheim, posting a 13-5 record in the last 18 games played at home.
The Angels trail Texas and Oakland in a tight American League Western Division race. With the addition of a second wild card team making the post season, the Angels, with a .527 winning percentage at 59-53, would earn the right to play Oakland in a one game play off if the season ended today. The next six weeks are becoming increasingly important as the Angels face Oakland on the road and have a home and home series with Texas culminating the final weekend of the season.