It's a scenario White Sox fans are all too familiar with: team makes a splash in the offseason, is picked by nearly everyone to make the playoffs, struggles out of the gate early and never recovers.
The Angels have hit three of those first four points in 2012, just as the White Sox did in 2011. At 16-21, Los Angeles is two games ahead of the White Sox pace through 37 games in last year's disastrous All In campaign. It's far too early to bury them, especially with a second wild card at their disposal.
There's still plenty of time for players to turn around slow starts. Pitching isn't the Angels' problem -- sound familiar? -- and the rotation will only get stronger as Dan Haren's 4.41 ERA improves. The bullpen has been a little shaky in the early going -- again, sound familiar? -- but it has enough good arms that it'll probably be okay.
The real concern here, though, is offense. The Angels are on pace to be shut out more than any team in baseball history, which, by the way, includes the dead ball era. There's little chance the Angels will actually be shut out 36 times this season, but that about one in every five contests has seen Los Angeles' offense fail to score is, well, awful.
The Angels have scored 134 runs, the third-lowest total in the American League behind the paltry offenses of Minnesota and Oakland. By any stat, the Angels have a below-average offense, with a few high-priced culprits shouldering the blame.
Frustrated with Brent Morel's slow start to the season (.178.214.196)? He has some company in the offensive depths of baseball, as Angels shortstop Erick Aybar is hitting .187.213.228. While Aybar is mainly known for his defense, he started the season as the Angels' leadoff hitter and signed a four-year, 35 million contract extension on April 19. That's not the kind of money you shell out to a No. 8 hitter, which is where Aybar has hit in all but one game in May.
Vernon Wells is making 21 million every year from 2012 through 2014, and he's proven to be little more than an expensive roadblock on Mike Trout's path to the majors. Since joining the Angels last season, he has a .251 on-base percentage -- 21 points lower than Morel's OBP since the start of 2011.
And then there's Albert Pujols, who's doing a spot-on Adam Dunn impression through his first 36 games with the Angels. The smart money is on Pujols pulling out of his malaise at some point -- unlike Dunn, there was no rushed return from an appendectomy to mess up his swing -- but until he does, stats like this are going to keep being brought up:
Players with more home runs than Albert Pujols
Jose Altuve (note: he's listed as 5-foot-5)
Miguel Olivo (in 17 plate appearances)
And many more!
Pujols' .536 OPS is bested by Beckham (.576) and Dayan Viciedo (.591) and, if it doesn't improve, would be topped by the 2011 OPSes of Dunn (.569) and Alex Rios (.613). And, currently, Juan Pierre is out-slugging Pujols by about 70 points. Juan Pierre.
The Angels are not this bad. Pujols is not this bad, Aybar probably isn't this bad -- although Wells may be this bad -- and as a team, they can't seriously be this bad as we near the 14 mark of the 2012 season.
But hey, we were saying the same things about the White Sox last year.