Slow-starting Angels poised to make their run

Last season, the Rockies were 20-29 heading into June; the Angels were 25-24. They each went 72-41 from June 1 on, resulting in a postseason berth for each. Only the Yankees (74-38) were better during that span.

Both Colorado and Los Angeles are off to similar starts this season, but which is more likely to get hot, make a 2009-like run and reach the postseason?

Ryan Fagan says the Rockies are primed to duplicate their 2009 success, while Chris Bahr makes his case for the Angels:

The Angels need Erick Aybar to get comfortable in the leadoff role.
The Angels need Erick Aybar to get comfortable in the leadoff role.

The Angels, Sporting News‘ preseason pick to win the AL West for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, are struggling to reach .500. But that also was the case at this time last season, when they won the division by 10 games. Expect a similar turnaround this season, and expect it to happen soon. Starting Friday, the Angels play 10 consecutive games against the Mariners and Royals.

Three reasons to believe in the Angels’ ability to reverse their fortunes:

Transition: The Angels lost a trio of major contributors — Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey — to free agency this past offseason, so some struggles should have been anticipated. The Lackey-less rotation, which goes five deep but lacks a true No. 1, finally has shown improvement recently. Now, the team needs Erick Aybar to get comfortable in the leadoff role and Maicer Izturis to step up at the hot corner. Expecting a seamless, overnight transition in each of the aforementioned situations was unrealistic. The season is 162 games long, not 50, and Los Angeles already has played its worst stretch of baseball.

Division: The Rangers and A’s have failed to capitalize on the Angels’ slow start. As poorly as Los Angeles has played, it is only five games behind Texas and two behind Oakland. Not exactly insurmountable deficits, especially given the questions about Oakland’s staying power and the Rangers’ late-season fade in 2009. Also worth noting: The Angels are 4-2 against the A’s and have 17 games remaining against the Rangers. The best way to make up ground is with head-to-head wins, and L.A. will have plenty of opportunities to do so.

Mike Scioscia: Nothing against Jim Tracy, who helped spark the Rockies’ amazing run last season after replacing Clint Hurdle, but Scioscia is a two-time AL Manager of the Year who has a World Series championship on his resume. He did arguably his best managerial job of his career last season, rallying the team after the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. There will be no panic this season, and Scioscia has shown the ability to push the right buttons.

Are there concerns? Of course. Scott Kazmir must find his form, Hideki Matsui has to prove his poor May is the result of a slump and not an overall decline, the third base situation must get settled (Brandon Wood was an absolute offensive mess before his convenient trip to the disabled list Tuesday — the same day Izturis was activated), and Brian Fuentes must put an end to his habit of turning the ninth-inning into an adventure. But the Angels still are the most talented team in the A.L. West, and they will prove it by October.

Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

Last season, the Rockies were 20-29 heading into June; the Angels were 25-24. They each went 72-41 from June 1 on, resulting in a postseason berth for each. Only the Yankees (74-38) were better during that span.

Both Colorado and Los Angeles are off to similar starts this season, but which is more likely to get hot, make a 2009-like run and reach the postseason?

Ryan Fagan says the Rockies are primed to duplicate their 2009 success, while Chris Bahr makes his case for the Angels:

The Angels need Erick Aybar to get comfortable in the leadoff role.
The Angels need Erick Aybar to get comfortable in the leadoff role.

The Angels, Sporting News‘ preseason pick to win the AL West for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, are struggling to reach .500. But that also was the case at this time last season, when they won the division by 10 games. Expect a similar turnaround this season, and expect it to happen soon. Starting Friday, the Angels play 10 consecutive games against the Mariners and Royals.

Three reasons to believe in the Angels’ ability to reverse their fortunes:

Transition: The Angels lost a trio of major contributors — Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey — to free agency this past offseason, so some struggles should have been anticipated. The Lackey-less rotation, which goes five deep but lacks a true No. 1, finally has shown improvement recently. Now, the team needs Erick Aybar to get comfortable in the leadoff role and Maicer Izturis to step up at the hot corner. Expecting a seamless, overnight transition in each of the aforementioned situations was unrealistic. The season is 162 games long, not 50, and Los Angeles already has played its worst stretch of baseball.

Division: The Rangers and A’s have failed to capitalize on the Angels’ slow start. As poorly as Los Angeles has played, it is only five games behind Texas and two behind Oakland. Not exactly insurmountable deficits, especially given the questions about Oakland’s staying power and the Rangers’ late-season fade in 2009. Also worth noting: The Angels are 4-2 against the A’s and have 17 games remaining against the Rangers. The best way to make up ground is with head-to-head wins, and L.A. will have plenty of opportunities to do so.

Mike Scioscia: Nothing against Jim Tracy, who helped spark the Rockies’ amazing run last season after replacing Clint Hurdle, but Scioscia is a two-time AL Manager of the Year who has a World Series championship on his resume. He did arguably his best managerial job of his career last season, rallying the team after the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. There will be no panic this season, and Scioscia has shown the ability to push the right buttons.

Are there concerns? Of course. Scott Kazmir must find his form, Hideki Matsui has to prove his poor May is the result of a slump and not an overall decline, the third base situation must get settled (Brandon Wood was an absolute offensive mess before his convenient trip to the disabled list Tuesday — the same day Izturis was activated), and Brian Fuentes must put an end to his habit of turning the ninth-inning into an adventure. But the Angels still are the most talented team in the A.L. West, and they will prove it by October.

Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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