No matter how hard the baseball world tries to ignore the California Angels, they demand our attention. No matter how badly they start the year, no matter how overwhelming a tragedy they face, the Angels just keep coming. We've reached the point where we should concede this team is benefiting from divine interventions, concede they're a pious force to be reckoned with. Let's join together for 50 Hail Marys, hand the Halos the pennant, and move on to breakfast.
The Angels continue to defy expectations, defy math, defy logic, and defy physics, biology, and philosophy too. The "how do the Angels do it" topic grew quite hot around the nerdier ends of the blogosphere this week, with predictably hilarious results. Angels die-hards dismiss the numerical mumbo-jumbo as just that, demanding the SABRnerds wake up and take a look around the real world. The nerd herd scramble and shuffle their pages, eventually pointing out the Angels aren't quite as lucky as it seems. Jeff Passan suggests the Angels owe a deep measure of their success to keeping a strong core intact, augmenting it with the odd free agent or trade. Me, I'm somewhere in the middle.
Watching the Angels play can be a maddening experience. When your team beats them, it seems logical and inevitable. When they beat your team, you scratch your head and shout at the incompetent fools wearing your colors. There is no third scenario here because no single human alive actually likes the Angels. It's science.
The Angels run and run, putting pressure on the defense, goading you into errors. This works wonders against bad defensive teams, but doesn't seem to work so well in the playoffs where the good teams tend to hang out. As a team they perform frighteningly well in the clutch, which if you believe to be a repeatable skill gives weight to Passan's continuity theory. A group of players who thrive in high leverage situations stay together to continue overachieving together. It warms the heart while defying the odds. Impressive.
So the Angels keep on winning, they keep on running (26 steals for Bobby Abreu! He must wear special issue lead shoes into the field) and now they're scoring at a
tidy league-leading clip. So tidy is the Angels offence, they could field an entire starting lineup of regulars with batting averages above or slightly below the .300 mark. The pitching staff is pretty weak behind Lackey & Weaver so the Angels better keep scoring runs.
The defenders of the faith get mighty defensive over the club's lack of respect, demanding all non-believers bow and genuflect before the mighty Scioscia while turning up their noses at the thought of the Toronto Blue Jays being a "better" team (which, by third order wins and third order wins only, they are. Suck it, rally monkey.) They make a good case for the little guy if you conveniently look past the $113 million dollar payroll, keeping them in Hunters, Abreus, and Fuentii while big money busts like Gary Mathews and Justin Speier brood in the background.
In the end, the Angels win baseball games. All day long we could go back and forth debating whether the math checks out versus the vagaries of a game played by humans. If I were an Angels fans, I'd be much more concerned with the paucity of pitching than aspersions cast by the cognoscenti.