Commentary

Angels midseason report card

The Halos have too many holes to fill to catch the Texas Rangers

Updated: July 13, 2010, 9:53 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

A position-by-position breakdown through the first half of the season:


C Jeff Mathis
C -- His hot hitting to start the season seemed a bit unusual given his usual production and it proved to be a fluke. After returning from a broken wrist, his offense has dive-bombed and he has been a bit more spotty behind the plate, especially with his throwing. When you bat ninth in this lineup, the manager doesn't have much faith in your bat. At times, the pitching has thrived more with Bobby Wilson catching.

[+] EnlargeAngels Celebrate
AP Photo/Ben MargotThe Angels dug themselves too far in a hole and had too many injuries to catch a surging Texas Rangers club.

1B Mike Napoli
C -- He was thrust into an unfair situation, taking over for an MVP candidate, and a batting slump has coincided with his shift from catcher to first base. Since taking over for Kendry Morales, Napoli is batting .247 with a .416 slugging percentage. He's also been brutal in the clutch, stranding runners by the bushel. The Angels will need a lot more production from the corners of the infield to stand a chance.

2B Howie Kendrick
B -- He has been a lot more solid this season than he was last year, but the Angels feel he has a lot more offensive potential than he has shown. He can't hit sliders, which isn't a problem in the minor leagues but is at the top level. His defense has improved dramatically from his younger days. Overall, he's a good, solid player and not the reason the Angels struggled.

3B Brandon Wood / Kevin Frandsen
F -- The Angels gave Wood, their erstwhile uber-prospect, all the time in the world to grab this position and run with it. He couldn't have fumbled it more badly. For a while, Frandsen, a waiver claim from the Boston Red Sox, was a nice little story, but now he's being exposed as a marginal talent. The Angels don't need Hall of Fame production from third base, but they'd like something. Anything?

SS Erick Aybar
A -- Somehow, he managed to ride out an eight-game absence with a knee injury and not miss a beat. He and Torii Hunter have been the Angels' only consistent hitters lately, and they missed his defense while he was out. He seems to have abandoned a more patient approach at the plate and it's working for him. One day he'll win a Gold Glove. Maybe this year?

LF Juan Rivera
D -- He's been a major bust at the plate, but his defense has been worse. He barely tries on most balls hit to him. Just when the Angels were desperate for any offense he could provide, he missed six games with what he described as blurry vision. Asked what caused the problem, he cited stress. Imagine how his manager feels watching him.

CF Torii Hunter
A -- He's leading the team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and team leadership. Yeah, his defense has slipped and his string of nine straight Gold Gloves is in jeopardy, but it's not like he's not running hard after everything. Without his steady production in the past few weeks, nobody would be taking this team seriously as a playoff threat.

RF Bobby Abreu
C -- Eventually, age catches up with players. The Angels might be regretting that two-year deal they gave Abreu, 36, given his steep decline from his career norms. He's been one of the most consistent players in the game for 14 years, but the Angels needed more than .257 in the first half. His defense is mediocre at best.

Starting pitching
B -- All-Star Jered Weaver leads the majors in strikeouts and gave the Angels quality starts 75 percent of the time. He's become an elite pitcher without much recognition. Joel Pineiro and Ervin Santana were solid, if unspectacular, middle components of the rotation. Joe Saunders showed flashes, but will have to live up his self-described "back-nine player" label to give the team a fighting chance. Scott Kazmir has been an unmitigated disaster and might be pulled from the rotation soon.

Relief pitching
C -- Closer Brian Fuentes and setup man Kevin Jepsen have been good enough lately to give the team some sense of relief, but this group is nowhere near as good as the Angels thought it would be. At times, faulty relief was at the root of what ailed the team. Lately, the spotlight has fallen to a misfiring offense, but the potential for further late-inning disaster looms.

Bench
F -- The Angels have one reserve player with a modicum of major-league experience and that player, Reggie Willits, has never hit a major-league home run. It is rare for Willits to hit a ball hard enough to carry to an outfielder. Other than him, the Angels are relying on journeymen minor-leaguers approaching middle age. This team seriously underestimated the need for depth last winter.

Manager
B -- Because Mike Scioscia is so involved with player personnel decisions, he has to take some of the blame for going into the season with such a thin team. But somehow the Angels are three games over .500 despite having allowed 24 more runs than they have scored. Because Scioscia's teams consistently overperform, you have to give him credit.

Overall
C -- Most people will view the first 3 months as a major disappointment, but it's entirely possible this team just isn't that good. Feeble at the corners, the Angels hit sporadically and rarely create action on the bases. Their defense is the worst in the AL West and it's not even close. The pitching is the strength of the team, but it's solid without being imposing. The Angels' best days might be in 2011 and beyond.

Second-half outlook
You can never write the Angels off, mostly because you can never write the Texas Rangers in. But even if Texas collapses again, the Angels aren't looking like they'll be there to catch them when they fall. This team has too many holes. A move at the trading deadline can't patch problems at first base, third base and at the back of the rotation. The Angels would be better-served to save their prospects and dollars, make better decisions next offseason and enter 2011 with renewed hopes.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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