After winning 98 games in 2014, the Los Angeles Angels took a step back last season, going 85-77 and falling one game shy of a Wild Card berth.
The Angels head into 2016 hoping to make the playoffs for the second time in three years, but they’ll need to shore up their rotation. Garrett Richards is a stud, but Tyler Skaggs is coming off Tommy John surgery and C.J. Wilson and Jered Waver were a tad inconsistent last year, going a combined 15-20 in 47 starts.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, however, is confident that his starters can get the job done over a 162-game season.
“I think we’re 8-deep with guys that we feel can go out there and give us a chance to win every night,” Scioscia said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “We’ll narrow it down to five. A couple guys are banged up right now, just a little slower in spring training – C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs – but they’ll catch up quickly. As we make the turn into April, we’ll have a rotation that can get us to our goal.”
The Angels started 54-40 last year but went 11-26 over their next 37 games from late-July through August. Granted, they went 20-11 down the stretch, but where do the Angels go from here? What is their identity heading into this season?
“I think this team is built more in the image of a team that can play team baseball,” Scioscia said. “Certainly on the offensive end we’ve (got) more contact hitters. We’ve got a little more speed. I think from the offensive end, where we really struggled last year with a lot of things that became an anchor for us, I think we’re going to resolve a lot of this issues and play an exciting type of offensive baseball that will pressure other teams. So I’m excited about that.”
The Angels are expecting yet another MVP-type season from Mike Trout, who last year hit .299 with a .402 OBP, 41 homers and 90 RBIs. He did, however, steal just 11 bases in 18 attempts. In fact, Trout has just 27 steals over the last two seasons, this after stealing 82 bases in 2012-13.
Will we see Trout run more this season?
“I’m a firm believer you have to play the game,” Scioscia said. “You got to play baseball. If you have the talent to do something, you want to apply it and try to help your team in a game. You’re never thinking about injuries; you’re thinking about making plays. I think if you do get tentative, that’s when you take away your athleticism. When you talk about Mike Trout, you’re talking about a guy that can beat you in so many ways. He’s one of the fastest guys in the league. He has the power. And on the base paths, if he has the opportunity to steal and it’s going to put us in a better position in that game, we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Albert Pujols, meanwhile, continues to defy Father Time. The 36-year-old hit 40 homers last season – fifth-most in the American League.
Still, it’s possible that Pujols, who has battled foot and knee problems in recent years, could hit DH a bit more this year.
“We need him in the batter’s box for sure,” Scioscia said. “We’re a better team when he plays first base, no doubt, but we don’t want to comprise the fact of what we need him to do in the batter’s box. So we’re going to err on the side of caution. When he’s ready to play first base, he will play first base. If it means that he’s DH’ing more this year, so be it. I think Albert is a great example. You talk about Mike Trout and his speed is obvious. Well, Albert, who is obviously not running in Mike Trout’s category, does so many little things and isn’t worried about getting hurt. He was 13-for-13 going first-to-third last year. He stole some big bases for us when people (didn’t) even think he was going to run. He plays the game of baseball. That’s why he’s so much fun to be around.”