2012 was supposed to be a historic season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They added the greatest hitter of our generation, Albert Pujols, to an already fairly potent lineup that was also welcoming back slugger Kendrys Morales. Adding a legend wasn't enough for Arte Moreno's organization. They also went ahead and added the premier free agent starter, C.J. Wilson, to their pitching staff.
The Angels were one of the odds-on favorites to win the World Series. They looked like the West Coast version of the Yankees; adding any superstar that money could buy. They were supposed to battle the Texas Rangers for supremacy in the AL West, and some even argued that the two were the best teams in the entire American League.
Well, none of that has happened.
The Angels currently sit 8.5 games behind the Rangers in the AL West standings, with just 12 games to play. Their shot at a Wild Card spot is also dwindling, despite the addition of a second Wild Card team. The Oakland Athletics, a team who was not supposed to compete in the AL West, lead Los Angels by 4.5 games for the last spot in AL playoff picture.
Why haven't the Angels been as good as everyone expected?
The finger of blame shouldn't be pointed at their offense. The Angels rank first in the majors with a team wRC+ of 113. The Angels have received above-average production from Mark Trumbo, Torii Hunter, Pujols, Erick Aybar and Morales. They've received otherworldly production from Mike Trout, and decent production from Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo.
Sounds like a really solid year, right?
How about the greatest offensive season in Angels history?
The graphic at the top of this article shows the Angels' year-to-year wRC+ over their club's history, which dates back to 1961. The three top seasons -- 1979, 1982, and 2012 -- are labeled.
The 1979 California Angels had eight hitters who played in over 100 games and had an above-average wRC+. Those hitters included Brain Downing, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor and Rod Carew. The '79 Angels reached the postseason for the first time in team history, winning the AL West before losing to Baltimore in the ALCS.
The 1982 Angels were the second team in Halos history to reach the playoffs. The '82 squad also had a great lineup that featured Doug DeCinces, Reggie Jackson, Fred Lynn and the four stars from the '79 team: Downing, Grich, Baylor and Carew. They also failed to reach the World Series, losing in the ALCS to the Brewers.
The 2012 Angels offense has been just as productive as these two top offenses. But unlike those teams, this year's team isn't, likely to make the playoffs.
What has been their flaw? Starting pitching.
If I told you before the 2012 season that the Angels would have the best offense in baseball, I'm 99% positive you'd ask me how many wins over 100 they finished the season with.
The Angels starting staff was supposed to be their strength. Putting Wilson's name alongside Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana made for a formidable rotation on paper. In FanGraphs' preseason positional rankings, their staff was ranked as the best in baseball.
According to that article, their rotation was projected to be worth 19 wins above replacement. The group of pitchers who made up the Angels rotation at the beginning of the season have only been worth 8.2 wins, over 10 wins less than what was expected out of them.
Baseball like any other sport, isn't played on paper, but a difference in 10 wins is severe gap between outcome and expectations.
Up until this point, I've failed to mention that the Angels added star starter Zack Greinke at the trading deadline.
This move just adds to absurdity of the Angels season. It's literally unbelievable that the Angels could have a rotation with Haren, Weaver, Wilson, Santana, almost half of a season from Greinke and the best offense in baseball, yet fall short of the postseason. And at this point, they're probably not even going to come close.
I'm not a huge fan of using any metric other than simply looking at strikeouts and walks to evaluate the true-talent level of pitching. At the same time, true-talent is not revealed over the course of just one season. So, I checked to see where the Angels' 2012 starting rotation ranks in terms of ERA- and FIP-:
A rotation that was supposed to the best in baseball has not even been average.
As the Angels playoff chances have become slimmer and slimmer, writers have begun to suggest that this could be one of the most disappointing seasons in Angels history. In late August, Dave Schoenfield of ESPN Sweet Spot wrote that the Angels have been so disappointing because they made major moves in both the offseason and midseason and received an MVP-caliber season from Mike Trout, yet they haven't had enough success.
Schoenfield wraps up his post with this conclusion:
The Angels lost again and it's time to start analyzing why. And asking the obvious follow-up question: Are there chemistry issues in the Angels' clubhouse?
I agree with Schoenfield -- the combination of the signings of Pujols and Wilson, the Greinke trade, the return of Morales and an MVP season from Trout is enough of a reason for the Angels season to be a disappointment. But I really don't think they've been disappointing because of any "team chemistry issue."
The 2012 Los Angeles Angels have been a disappointment because their starting rotation has colossally failed one the best (if not the best) offenses in team history.