For Angels fans it must seem like just yesterday they were the best team in baseball, with 100 wins they went into the 2008 American League playoffs with lofty expectations. With Mark Teixeira as a hired gun and arguably the best 1-2-3 pitching rotation in the league the Angels seemed poised to return to the World Series. Unfortunately for the Halos the postseason turned out to be just more of the same, as the Red Sox sent them home after their four-game ALDS series. Now in 2009 the Angels begin life without Teixeira or Casey Kotchman who they dealt for Mark. Do they have a legitimate shot at beating the AL East powers? Do they even have what it takes to reclaim the AL West for the fifth time in six years? That is the beauty of Opening Day and what it represents we will soon find out.
Much like last season the Angels hit Opening Day with several parts of their starting lineup unable to go. John Lackey and Ervin Santana were shutdown in spring training and rumors are circulating that Ervin may be done for the season. On the brighter side of things Angels starter Kelvim Escobar who missed all of 2008 is slated to return by the end of April. Like last season the Angels must stay at the very least within striking distance of their AL West rivals. A task that will likely be much more difficult with improved squads throughout the division. As things stand today the Angels rotation includes Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart and Shane Loux will start three of every five Angels games, that is not an encouraging thought. Then again most people didn’t expect much from Joe Saunders or Ervin Santana who turned their early season opportunities into All Star seasons in 2008. If the Angels can get through April at .500 they should consider themselves lucky.
In terms of an offense the Angels response to losing Tex was Bobby Abreu, a power hitter who performed quite well for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic (.348, 3 RBI, 1 HR). Although like Vladimir Guerrero his best days are past him Abreu can add quite a lot to the Halos lineup. Perhaps the biggest possible swing for the Angels lies in the potential power game of Howie Kendrick. Last season in 92 games Howie batted .306 with 3 HR and 37 RBI. With an increased role this season Mike Scioscia will need more consistent production from Kendrick.
This Angels club has potential to be just as good as last season but they must get healthy first. Last season seemed to be about K-Rod’s historic pursuit and a near obsessive mission to finish atop the standings. But in the end the Angels were left to hang a division banner, and their closer was off to the Mets. This season needs to be about postseason success. With that in mind the Angels just need to make the postseason and be in form by then. April losses will be quickly forgotten by every win October. The trick this season will be getting there.
Season Outlook: 87-75, 1st in AL West
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Written by Nich Hall