They shared co-favorite status with the Tigers, Red Sox and the New York Yankees to win the American League pennant when the green flag dropped on the 2012 campaign. But like Boston, there would be no playoffs for the Los Angeles Angels.
It marked the third consecutive year that Mike Scioscia's club missed the postseason, and while he isn't necessarily on the hot seat to begin his 14th season in Anaheim, Scioscia likely won't survive another missed October. Another high-profile signing this past winter just won't allow that to continue as the Angels begin '13 with the 3rd-highest payroll in the AL, and once again among the favorites to go all the way.
Even with their crosstown rivals up at Chavez Ravine at 17/2 to win the World Series, the Halos are just behind the Toronto Blue Jays (15/2) on the MLB futures board. Projections a couple of weeks back here at SBR put the Angels at +475 to win the Junior Circuit, and they should be even more heavily favored to win the AL West title that has gone to Texas or Oakland the past three years.
The offensive potential of this lineup is off the charts. Even with Albert Pujols' slow start and Mike Trout not called up until late-April, the Angels scored the 3rd-most runs in the AL a season ago. Now the batting order will include Josh Hamilton, and the versatile Mark Trumbo also has a full season under his belt.
Angel Stadium has always played pitcher-friendly, so those 767 runs last year were pretty impressive. Hamilton is a .288 career hitter at the park, though he was just 4-for-28 (.143) at the park, and we all know about the baggage he's carrying. Moving on from Texas could be a godsend or a catastrophe, and I'm thinking the former...at least for the early part of his new contract.
But what about that pitching?
Mound Corps Big Question Mark Behind Weaver
Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher have three new faces for the rotation and a new arm at the back of the bullpen for 2013, and it's on the mound where the Halos' success in 2013 will be determined.
Jered Weaver leads the rotation following a campaign that was briefly interrupted by a trip to the DL. The Angels went 23-7 in his 30 starts, so his importance can't be overstated.
Neither can the importance of the arms behind him be emphasized too much. CJ Wilson was signed away from the rival Rangers before the '12 season and fell off sharply in the second half when his ERA rose nearly 1.5 runs. Filling out the rotation are newcomers Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton. Vargas, who comes over from Seattle, could be in for a solid campaign as the pitches for a free agent contract next winter.
The job of protecting late leads falls to Ryan Madson who was supposed to close for the Reds a year ago before missing the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. The Angels got him on the cheap, and all reports are his rehab has gone well. Ernesto Frieri finished 2012 as the Angels closer and gives the squad a deep group of middle-setup arms along with Kevin Jepsen plus lefties Scott Downs and Sean Burnett.
New-Look Schedule Has Halos In Cincinnati To Open Season
Betting MLB futures requires more than just looking at a given roster to determine offensive and pitching strengths or weaknesses. Equally important is the schedule, and there is going to be a radical change to the slate for all AL West teams in 2013 when the Houston Astros join the division.
There will be interleague play each day of the season, and as luck would have it, the first interleague series of the year will involve the Angels who open the campaign in Cincinnati. Sixteen of their games vs. National League clubs will be against the NL Central, with the other four vs. the Dodgers in a pair of 2-game sets in late-May.
The new divisional alignment should provide a boon for the other four AL West clubs since the 19 extra games vs. the Astros mean 19 fewer games against the likes of the Yankees, Tigers, Rays, etc. That will be crucial for wagers on season win totals, and there's every reason to expect at least one of the two AL wild cards comes from the West.
It all adds up to the Angels being a very strong choice for your MLB picks to make it to the postseason, and that gives them extra value on wagers to win the AL or even go all the way in 2013.
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