The 2011 Angels have all the elements that make a great Mike Scioscia-style club. Except the part about winning regularly.
To look ahead at the 2011 Angels, we must first go back the Middle Ages and religious folklore about Angels. When it all started, God created the Angels. Then some Angels staged a rebellion. Perhaps this coincides with the scientific "big-bang", who knows, but the "fact" remains that there were a group of jealous Angels guided by Lucifer and a group of "team player" angels guided by the Arch-Angel himself, Michael. Basically, they did battle and Michael the Archangel triumphed and the fallen Angels had to go to, uh, well, for purposes of this team preview, they had to go to Seattle, Oakland and that most hellish place on earth, Arlington.
The 2011 Angels will either reach heaven or they will reach hell and they will do it based almost exclusively on the roster manipulations of Arch-Angel Mike Scioscia and the fortunes of that fallen Angel, Nolan LucifeRyan. A triumph of evil in the form of minor demons, Chone Figgins and Hideki Matsui, could also put our beloved Arch-Angel to the test.
The team as comprised is a bit faster than Angels teams of the recent past. Vernon Wells is an expensive pair of legs but he will run the bases well. Peter Bourjos hits gapper doubles that are triples. Evil will triumph if both of these guys hit .230 which is just as likely as them both hitting .280 this year. Torii Hunter and Erick Aybar try to make things happen on the basepaths and basically succeed in making them happen for the opponent. That is not going to change, but Wells and Bourjos will ameliorate last season's basepath woes just a bit.
Kendry(s) Morales is on the shelf. His ankle is better but now his feet don't fit his shoes. How fast do a grown man's feet grow? Evil is triumphing all around and the dumbest home plate celebration in baseball history still holds back good from triumphing. Kendry(s) was the power and his substitute, Mark Trumbo, had a hot spring and combined they will be good for thirty homeruns. So the 2011 Angels will have a little more power. What Mike Napoli brought to the power table will likely be substituted by Vernon Wells, and for only four times the price! We can all hope that seemingly immortal Bobby Abreu hears the call of the fences for one more season. We can worry about his vesting option another time. Nobody else on this roster will hit fifteen homers, though. Heaven and Anaheim both have an evening marine layer cloud cover that inhibits what Arlington and Hell allow to fly jetstream free.
Wells will be better than Abreu and Juan Rivera were in LF last season. And at only three times the salary! Bourjos will be considered baseball's best CF and could garner national attention if he simply makes a highlight reel grab or two against the Chowd Sox or New Jersey's Jeteaahs. Bourjos will have stunning highlight reel circus catches enough to make the All-Star Team if he just has a decent average first half at the plate. Everybody else on this team is an average to above average defender. The pitching staff will benefit from the "you-complete-me" vibe in the field.
- Jered Weaver led baseball in strikeouts last season, so is it a stretch to predict that he will be really good again this year? Don't make me break out some statistical measurement. Most strikeouts... that is biblical. Enough said.
- Dan Haren gives up a little too many homeruns to be the perfect ace, but he will deliver Anaheim from evil in most of his starts this season and would be the Ace on like fifteen other teams out there easy.
- Ervin Santana has nicknames such as "Black Magic" and "VooDoo" but he has a tattoo of rosary beads on his arm leading to the cross that is inked on his hand, so you know that divine promise trumps his career ERA+ of 99. If he can put up something better than his last two seasons it will go a long way to the '11 Angels being immortal. Magic has a way of not only disappearing, but reappearing and giving us all such faith in him. Sometimes I just wish he would be terrible and go join Adam Kennedy as a scrub on the Mariners. Other times, you would swear that he would be the great bearded pitching messiah.
- The number four starter is father time himself, Joel Pineiro. He had one of those funky phantom old man injuries in July last year, so the hope is that the random tweaks fairy will be waving her wand on some thirtysomething guy on some other team this year. A league average pitcher in your number four slot would be gold on lots of other teams. Well Joel, you will have to do a lot better than that if you ever want to be the subject of a stained glass window in our cathedral, but it doesn't mean that we would not rename a Kevin Appier chapel somewhere in the world after you if you are in the mix as we go all the way this season.
- The Angels fifth starter is Scott Kazmir, which means that their fifth starter by the middle of May will be Matt Palmer. There is a reason that Shakespeare plays are called tragedies but the Bible ends with Revelation. We'll just have to wait until the end of the season to see how this one ends.
They added Scott Downs and he promptly fractured his toe. See you in June. They added Hisanori Takahashi and now he is their lone lefty. Fernando Rodney will be closing to start the season. I predict that by June, Jordan Walden will be the closer. It is now or never for an out-of-options Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger. All in all, though, Kevin Jepsen is a critical component, as a dominating season by him in the late innings balances, oh let's say ten of the blown holds of last year's pen, and all things being equal makes this a ninety win team. Oh wait, that is not how you do baseball analysis? What do you do, pray until the lord sends you a sign?
According to the Catholic calendar, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel is September 29. Problem is the 2011 season ends hosting Nolan's Rangers on September 28. Maybe superstitious/religious Angels fans should just pray for rain.