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Star-Studded Anaheim Angels Sputtering Out of Gates

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Minnesota TwinsThere’s always a risk about writing about baseball in April. It might even be foolish to draw any conclusions prior to Memorial Day.

It’s almost surprising a blue screen hasn’t popped up on my monitor flashing: DON’T BLOG ABOUT BASEBALL IN APRIL.

That said, we’re probably about a week or two away from a lot of headlines all over the place along the lines of “What’s Wrong with the Angels?”

After Tuesday-night’s lose in Minnesota, Los Angeles’ record stands at 4-10. The Angels have been sitting around the last two days thanks to snow along with a scheduled off-day and welcome the defending American League champion Tigers to Anaheim tonight.

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Again, small sample size but the 27-run differential stands out.

In theory a team with a $142 million payroll and three of the sports biggest individual “name” players: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout should always be a contender. In practice, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

There are some reasons to worry beyond (small sample alert!) 14 games of baseball.

For one, without looking it up do you know who starts at shortstop for the Halos? (That would be Andrew Romine, or occasionally ex-Twin Brendan Harris filling in for the injured Erick Aybar.)  This means any Angels fan who wasn’t is in full-on grumble mode about the Zach Greinke/Jean Segura trade, probably is by now .

Also did you know somebody named J.B. Shuck (no, not Larry David’s former houseguest) has led off a game for Los Angeles?

Looking over the Angels daily lineup it has the feel it was put together by somebody participating in his first auction draft. After blowing his wad, the rest of the team had to be filled out with $1 options.

That’s not even mentioning the Angels pitching staff — which wasn’t great to begin with and is going to be without ace Jered Weaver for another 4-6 weeks with a fractured elbow.

The back end of the Los Angeles staff will need to the offense to put up a lot of crooked numbers. In 40+ innings Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas — each acquired over the winter — have combined for 22 strikeouts. That’s putting a lot of pressure on C.J. Wilson to carry the staff or the mediocre bullpen, which is waiting on Ryan Madson to recover from Tommy John surgery.

The good news for the Angels is, after a slow start, Trout looks like he’s getting back into the groove with two hits in each of his last four games. (Why worry about Trout anyways? He eats at Subway. That’s where winners eat.)

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More concerning is whether or not Hamilton is going to rediscover his MVP-level play that we saw during most of his tenure in Texas, or if his 2012 post All-Star break line of .255/.323/.510 is more on par with what the Angels should expect over the next five years of his $125 million contract. Most players would die (or inject themselves with something) for a slugging percentage over .500, but it’s nearly 50 points below Hamilton’s career mark. It’s not exactly a red flag, but it’s trending in the wrong direction for a soon-to-be 32 year old outfielder.

Then there’s Pujols, who’s been hitting okay but, as Baseball Prospectus breaks it down in series of handy GIFs, is playing through a lot of pain in his foot, which has left him with Molina-esque speed down the first base line.

If you’re an Angels fan you have to hope Pujols, Hamilton and the rest of the squad bounce back like their manager Mike Scioscia after his bout of radiation poisoning following his brief stint working in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant 22 years ago.

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