Things to Know about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Mets return home tonight to begin a three game set with the LA Angels of Anaheim from Los Angeles near Anaheim. Here are some things you might want to know about them:

Record: 33-37, third place AL West
Manager: Mike Scioscia. 1013-839 (.547%) lifetime managerial record.
Park: The Angels are coming out to the east coast. Games at Citi Field.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Not so much
Can they pitch? Yup
Can they field? Yup
Who’s their best player? The Angels’ strength is their pitching, but the Mets miss Jered Weaver, one of the best, this time around. So let’s say that Dan Haren, who pitches on Saturday, is their guy to watch.

Lineup:
SS – Erick Aybar – S
RF – Tori Hunter – R
DH – Bobby Abreu – L
LF – Vernon Wells – R
2B – Howie Kendrick – R
3B – Alberto Callaspo – S
1B – Mark Trumbo – R
CF – Peter Bourjos – R
C – Jeff Mathis – R

The Angels, who play in the league that doesn’t let pitchers hit, have been outscored by all but two NL teams this season. That’s probably a sign their offense is struggling. The Angels are ranked 12th (out of 14) in the AL in runs per game, 10th in on-base percentage, and 11th in slugging percentage. The infielders – Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Alberto Callaspo from right to left, along with Macier Izturis, basically a full time player – have hit decently: Trumbo leads the team in home runs, Kendrick leads in OPS, and all five players have an OPS better than AL average. Bobby Abreu, the DH, is managing a .403 OBP at age 37 and trails just Jose Bautista and Miguel Cabrera for the AL lead in walks drawn. So none of these players are the problem on offense.

The problem is catcher Jeff Mathis (.499 OPS) and the pair of well-paid veteran outfielders. Tori Hunter, now a right fielder, is hitting .225/.303/.360, has grounded into 18 double plays, and leads the AL in outs. The albatross himself, Vernon Wells, has been worse in left: He’s hitting .193/.235/.327. Add in Peter Bourjos, a defense-first center fielder, and the Angels are getting nothing offensively from their outfield and backstop. Which is why they’re not scoring, and why they’re not winning games.

By the way, Mike Napoli, the catcher the Angels traded away in the Wells deal last offseason, has an .836 OPS for Texas. Mathis and Wells have a combined OPS of 1.061, but that’s only if you add their numbers together instead of averaging.

Rotation:
6/17: RHP – Joel Pineiro (vs Chris Capuano)
6/18: RHP – Dan Haren (vs Mike Pelfrey)
6/19: RHP – Tyler Chatwood (vs Jon Niese)
Miss: RHP – Jered Weaver
Miss: RHP – Ervin Santana

The Angels’ starters have a 3.46 ERA, third best in the American League, and they’re second in ERA-predictors FIP and xFIP. But that’s misleading: Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro, and rookie Tyler Chatwood have ERAs above 4.00, a bit below the AL average. The real reasons behind the low total ERA are aces Jered Weaver (2.06 ERA) and Dan Haren (2.54). The Angels are 16-13 when Weaver or Haren have started this season, and 17-24 for anyone else.

Also worth noting: The Mariners and Athletics, two of the worst offenses in baseball, also play in the AL West, and the Angels have three center fielders running around in the outfield. Both of those things are helping drag down the team ERA.

Joel Pinerio starts Friday night. He hasn’t been missing many bats (just 24 strikeouts in 58 innings) and his sinker hasn’t been sinking, leading to a 4.03 ERA. Dan Haren starts Saturday; after a down year (for him) last season, he started throwing his cutter more and the results have been career-bests. He still looks like a twitchy caveman on the mound. Sunday’s starter is Tyler Chatwood, who began 2010 in High-A ball, worked his way to Triple-A, and broke camp with the big league team this spring. Ground ball pitcher, lots of fastballs, doesn’t strike out many batters and has had problems with walks on every level.

Bench:
C – Hank Conger – S
C – Bobby Wilson – R
1B/OF – Russell Branyan – L
IF – Macier Izturis – S
IF – Andrew Romine – S

Yes, the Angels’ carry three catchers, none of whom can hit. Switch hitting Hank Conger is batting .225/.295/.350 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI, which is bad even for a back up catcher. But all of those numbers are significantly better than Jeff Mathis’, so they’ve sort of worked their way into a platoon. As mentioned above, infielder Macier Izturis is almost a full time player, splitting time all over the infield with Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Alberto Callaspo. Russell Branyan somehow ended up here. The guy hit 25 home runs last season, and this is his fourth team since the beginning of 2010; he must make really unpleasant small talk or smells bad or something.

Bullpen:
RHP – Jordan Walden
LHP – Scott Downs
RHP – Rich Thompson
LHP – Hisanori Takahashi
RHP – Trevor Bell
RHP – Bobby Cassevah

The Angels carry just six relievers right now – because, really, you gotta have that third catcher – but the starters eat enough innings where it’s not an issue. The 3.51 ERA ranks them 5th among AL bullpens, but again, the relievers face the A’s and Mariners hitters a lot and they have three center fielders running around in the outfield. The Angels’ pen is probably more middle of the pack than their ERA shows, and it’s a little of a top heavy group. Closer Jordan Walden (2.76 ERA) has more strikeouts than innings pitched and hasn’t allowed a home run all year, while lefthanded sinkerballer Scott Downs (1.31 ERA) and Rich Thompson (3.07 ERA) have set up him well. (Also of note: Jordan Walden, Scott Downs, and Rich Thompson sound like three guys more likely to be members of the Harvard poetry club than the LA Angels.) The back end of the pen is messy or injured: Old friend Hisanori Takahashi has struggled this season, though has been pitching better of late, while Fernando Rodney and the other Francisco Rodriguez are both on the DL.

And those are some things to know about the Angels.

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