Dipoto: Angels have to be 'patient' with bats
ANAHEIM -- Andrew Heaney's impressive debut and Taylor Featherston's timely hit carried the day, but Wednesday's series-winning, 2-1, 13-inning victory over the Astros was also a steady reminder of the offensive troubles that continue to plague this Angels team.
Last year, no team scored more runs.
This year, all but nine have. From one season to the next, offense has gone from the Angels' greatest strength to the biggest reason they have yet to take off -- and it's no easy fix.
"There is something that we can do between now and the [July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline] to help augment this team, but it's not going to change the way that we play baseball," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "There's just not that kind of market out there. We're not going to acquire Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. That's just not the way this works."
The Angels -- one loss away from sporting a .500 record for the 18th time this season -- have spent the entire year anticipating a regression toward the mean from an underachieving offense. But here they are, eight games away from the season's midway point, and it hasn't happened.
They don't get on base (23rd in the Majors in on-base percentage entering Thursday's off-day), they aren't patient (19th in pitches seen per plate appearance), they don't run (27th in steals) and, of course, they don't score often (23rd in runs per game).
Albert Pujols has been red hot and Mike Trout continues to be his superstar self, but, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "We have to be more than what Mike and Albert are going to give us in the middle of our lineup."
Chris Iannetta and Matt Joyce are on pace for their worst Major League seasons. David Freese is batting .222/.288/.397 with runners in scoring position, while leading the Angels in plate appearances in that situation. And Kole Calhoun (.230/.295/.287) and Erick Aybar (.235/.275/.259) are having a rough June.
The Angels have scored 87 runs this month, and Pujols and Trout have driven in 38 of them. That's 44 percent. It's not healthy.
"We have to expand off that," Scioscia said, "and some guys just haven't gotten into their game. It's kept us from getting a more consistent look to our lineup."
It's easy to say that the Angels this season are without Howie Kendrick (with the Dodgers) and Josh Hamilton (with the Rangers), but it's a little more complicated than that.
Actually, that's where it gets confusing.
Hamilton played in only 89 games in 2014 and was nowhere near the menacing slugger the Angels were expecting. New second baseman Johnny Giavotella (.266/.322/.361) has come close to matching Kendrick's production from last year (.293/.347/.397). And Iannetta and Joyce have actually been themselves lately, with Iannetta sporting a .337 on-base percentage since the end of April and Joyce posting a .749 OPS since May 12.
"We're right there," Calhoun believes. "We just need one or two things to go our way."
Actually, they need one or two bats to come their way.
Dipoto has been working on that all year and hasn't been able to get anywhere, even though the Angels have roughly $15 million of financial wiggle room.
Problem No. 1: All but four clubs are within eight games of a playoff spot. The White Sox, Mariners, Red Sox, Padres and Marlins have all underperformed, but they have too much stock on this season to waive the proverbial white flag, and so the Phillies and Brewers are the only true sellers right now.
The Angels would like to get their hands on both Phillies speedster Ben Revere and Brewers slugger Adam Lind, but those teams are seemingly still waiting for better offers. The Angels have dangled C.J. Wilson and can part ways with some starting-pitching prospects -- except those named Heaney, Sean Newcomb or Chris Ellis -- but there aren't many teams willing to trade bats yet.
And that brings us to problem No. 2: Offense is non-existent these days. League-wide OPS is .711, which trails only last year's mark (.700) for the lowest in 25 years.
It's a problem the Angels are very familiar with.
"The best chance we have of making an impact acquisition is if these guys click in the second half," Dipoto said. "None of them are old, none of them have shown any warning signs that this is the end of their careers. They're going to be fine; we just have to be patient."