ANAHEIM -- Angels slugger Albert Pujols has been around long enough to know it's hard for a team to reach its goals when unpredictable obstacles get in the way.For the 2016 Angels, a rash of injuries to the pitching staff, particularly the rotation, derailed their quest for a second division
ANAHEIM -- Angels slugger Albert Pujols has been around long enough to know it's hard for a team to reach its goals when unpredictable obstacles get in the way.
For the 2016 Angels, a rash of injuries to the pitching staff, particularly the rotation, derailed their quest for a second division title in three years.
"It's been a rough year, but when you lose the strength core of this team, which is our starting pitchers, you can talk to any team, it doesn't matter what organization it is, if you lose that strength of that core, which is the stronger part of your team -- you lose three or four guys of that -- it's pretty hard," Pujols said. "It's just a rough year, but at the same time, you can't blame things, the injuries."
Angels need 2017 help with pitching, lineup depth
The Angels not only were hurt by injuries to key pieces of their team, but they also struggled with inconsistency in all phases of the game in the most difficult season of manager Mike Scioscia's 17-year tenure. Still, there were enough positives to give the team hope for a rebound next season.
Record: 74-88, fourth place, American League West
Defining moment: The Angels were dealt a huge blow to their rotation less than one month into the season when Opening Day starter Garrett Richards sustained an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his pitching elbow. Richards exited his May 1 start against the Rangers after 79 pitches, and doctors found a tear in his UCL four days later. He did not pitch again for the rest of the season.
So far, Richards has been able to avoid Tommy John surgery, and the Angels are hopeful he can pitch in the instructional league in October.
The rotation never fully recovered after Richards' UCL gave out after six starts.
What went right: The core position players -- Mike Trout, Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar and C.J. Cron -- all had productive seasons at the plate and in the field.
Trout put up his typical stellar numbers and is in the conversation for AL Most Valuable Player.
Pujols continued his push up the record books, becoming just the third player with 575 homers and 600 doubles, joining Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Pujols battled through plantar fasciitis in both feet to produce his 13th season with 100 RBIs or more, becoming only the fifth player in MLB history to do so.
Calhoun had his third consecutive season with 15 or more homers, becoming the first homegrown right fielder to do so since Tim Salmon (1993-03).
Simmons played his usual spectacular defense at shortstop and had his best offensive season in three years in his first season with the Angels after coming over in an offseason deal with the Braves.
Escobar proved to be a reliable leadoff hitter and locked down third base in his first season with the Angels. Cron showed he can be the primary first baseman going forward.
What went wrong: The pitching staff was decimated by injuries from the start of Opening Day through September. All told, the Angels had six pitchers undergo season-ending surgery at some point during the year, and that's not including Richards.
The biggest blows came to the rotation.
Andrew Heaney sustained a UCL tear in his first start of the season and underwent Tommy John surgery in July. C.J. Wilson did not pitch at all and had surgery to address fraying on the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder in July. Nick Tropeano experienced a medium- to high-grade tear in his UCL and had Tommy John surgery in August.
Matt Shoemaker had the scariest injury of all, when he was struck in the head by a 105-mph line drive in a start against the Mariners in early September. Shoemaker sustained a small skull fracture and small hematoma and had surgery to stop bleeding in his brain. Fortunately, he's now said to be resting comfortably at home.
The bullpen was not spared, either. Closer Huston Street underwent surgery on his right knee in August after battling through his roughest season in the big leagues. Cam Bedrosian was next up to close, but he went on the disabled list two days after Street went down and eventually had surgery for a blood clot in his pitching arm.
Biggest surprise: Cron improved his offensive production in his third season in the big leagues, was solid defensively and showed he can hit in the middle of the lineup. Cron's emergence helped ease the transition for Pujols from first base to designated hitter.
Hitter of the year: Trout is the easy choice, though Pujols produced strong power numbers as well. Trout did it all, hitting for average, power and driving in runs. Ask around the Angels' clubhouse, and the players will tell you the numbers support Trout's case for MVP.
Pitcher of the year:Jered Weaver was reliable as usual and the most consistent starter all season. He gave the team a chance to win every five days and led the staff in wins, starts and innings. It was an impressive season for the 11-year veteran, who has found a way to produce despite a diminished fastball.
Rookie of the year:Jett Bandy was a bright spot for the Angels as the rookie catcher produced at the plate and handled the pitching staff well. Bandy was promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake at the end of May and did enough to stick for the rest of the season, earning more playing time as the year went on.
**Austin Laymance** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.