To say that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim off-season started off rather tumultuously would be a bit of an understatement. The Angels started off their off-season by losing some of the most important players on their roster including their number one pitcher and ace in John Lackey, their leadoff hitter in Chone Figgins and finally their cleanup hitter and probably the most recognizable face of the franchise for the past few years in Vladimir Guerrero. despite those losses the Angels rebounded, made some excellent free agent signings and look to compete for the World Series trophy once again.
Whenever you lose a pitcher the caliber of a John Lackey it’s going to hurt but if any team can take a loss like that it’s the pitching deep Angels. In addition to Jered Weaver, who went 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA, Joe Saunders (16-7, 4.60 ERA) and Ervin Santana (8-8, 5.03 ERA) the Angels also went out and signed Joel Pineiro from the St. Louis Cardinals and Pineiro won 15 games for the Cardinals with a 3.49 ERA last season. Pineiro should be a great addition to the Angels this season. And there’s of course Scott Kazmir whom the Angels traded for late in the season last year and if he can pitch the way he has in the past the Angels will have one of the deepest starting rotations in all of baseball.
The bullpen for the Angels is also pretty strong. The angels went out and signed Fernando Rodney from the Detroit Tigers and while he will be used in s et up role for the Angels he was a closer for the Tigers so he has experience with pressure situations. The Angels also brought back their closer from last year, Brian Fuentes, and he was pretty solid last year saving 48 games with a 3.93 ERA. what should really have you excited about this years bullpen is the return of set up man Scott Shields. Shields is just lights out out of the bullpen and if he can come back from an injury plagued 2009 the Angels have an awesome bullpen.
Offensively the Angels are pretty much the same as last season with changes to the DH/cleanup spot and the leadoff spot in the lineup. Chone Figgins is gone and he will be replaced at third base with Brandon Wood a power hitting prospect who has to prove himself at the major league level. Replacing Figgins in the leadoff spot will be shortstop Eric Aybar who should fill in quite well.
Replacing fan favorite and clean up hitter Vladimir Guerrero will be Hideki Matsui and I think this was a great signing by the Angels. Matsui is clutch and he has a great work ethic which should fit right in the Angels clubhouse.
The rest of the lineup is much the same as the 2009 version and it’s filled with younger guys that have a lot of pop and potential. first baseman Kendry Morales hit 34 home runs with 108 RBI and a.306 batting average. Juan Rivera hit 25 homers with a.287 average. And of course there are the veterans that hit for power and pop and have a discerning eye at the plate like Bobby Abreu, Torri Hunter and you can now add Hideki Matsui to that list.
The Angels have a fearsome lineup of guys that have both pop and can hit for average that should keep them in most games but the Angels challenge this season may be with their pitching. although they have a talented and deep core of starting pitchers they don’t have an ace since they didn’t replace John Lackey and it’s dominant pitching like this that propels a team in the playoffs. I predict the Angels will do well again this regular season only to lose again in the playoffs against much superior teams unless they pick up a dominant pitcher.