The Anaheim Angels are visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine for a brief two-game series on Monday and Tuesday, followed by two more contests in Anaheim. Comparisons of the two struggling clubs are quite inevitable.
Mike Scioscia's team has won eight straight, but still sits at 23-27 and nine games back of the Texas Rangers in the American League West. The Dodgers are also treading on thin ice, sporting a 20-28 record and seven games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
To put the disappointing starts into perspective, Las Vegas preseason baseball oddsmakers listed the Dodgers and Angels as the fourth most likely teams to win the World Series at 9-1. Instead, a playoff appearance could even be out of reach, despite having more than 110 remaining. Just ask Sergio Garcia, some divots are impossible to escape.
The similarities between the two are obvious: star players underperforming, expensive payrolls, managers sitting on the hot seat and so on. Now, let's debate which team has been better, category by category.
Star Player Production
Josh Hamilton signed a five-year $125 million deal to take the burden off of young phenomenon Mike Trout and provide support for the aging Albert Pujols. The plan sounded good in theory, yet Hamilton's numbers indicate otherwise, batting .223, with eight home runs and 18 RBI. Hamilton's career average sits at a solid .299 clip, and that statistic alone exemplifies his current problems.
Meanwhile the face of the Dodgers franchise, Matt Kemp, hasn't come close to regaining form since injuring his hamstring and shoulder. Kemp is currently hitting .260, with only two long balls and 17 RBI. When manager Don Mattingly has needed Kemp most, the center fielder has let him down because of a .167 average with runners in scoring position. Kemp's failures in clutch situations define the Dodgers, and may be foreshadowing one grandiose season-long missed opportunity.
The struggles doesn't end with Hamilton and Kemp, as Albert Pujols and Andre Ethier have disappointed too. Pujols stats are well below everyone's expectations, batting .244, clubbing eight home runs and 30 RBI. At 33, Pujols is showing some omens of rapid decline. For the Dodgers, Ethier hasn't lived up to his five-year 85 million dollar deal. The former Arizona State product is batting .253, with four home runs and 15 RBI.
Verdict: None of the slash lines above are pretty, yet the Angels middle of the lineup guys are doing significantly better. At least Hamilton and Pujols still combine for 16 home runs and 48 RBI, while Kemp and Ethier have a total of six home runs and 32 RBI.
Highlights Of The Season
Finding bright spots for the Dodgers and Angels was an exhausting task. The Dodgers best moment came on opening day, as Clayton Kershaw single-handedly defeated the reigning champion San Francisco Giants 4-0. Kershaw pitched a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts, and also hit a home run to untie a scoreless game in the bottom of the eighth inning.
For the Angels, the good times keep on rolling lately, cruising into Los Angeles on a eight-game winning streak. The victories are over the Chicago White Sox twice, the Seattle Mariners twice and the Kansas City Royals four times. None of the previously mentioned teams are playing above .500, but then again, neither are the Dodgers.
Verdict: No brainer decision here, the Angels winning eight straight trumps Kershaw's dominant outing. I'll take sustained success and progress over one incredibly special night with practically nothing else to be proud of.
Money doesn't grow on trees, but the Dodgers and Angels could believe otherwise. The Dodgers over $230 million payroll is the highest in baseball history, surpassing the George Steinbrenner Yankees. The Angels are dishing out approximately $137 million in salaries for the 2013 season, 7th-highest in baseball.
Dollar for dollar, both teams have way too many flaws. The Dodgers have a third baseman (Luis Cruz) batting under .100, have an unreliable bullpen and can't stay healthy. The Angels pitching staff is on the bottom half of almost every relevant statistic: 23rd in ERA at 4.38, 27th in WHIP at 1.43 and 24th in batting average against at .264.
Verdict: The results are similar but the payrolls aren't. The Angels spending is nothing to scoff at, but teams have been down this road before. On the contrary, the Dodgers are entering uncharted waters at over $230 million.
The good old "what ifs," otherwise known as the Los Angeles Lakers. Coaches and players normally refuse to make excuses, and nothing constitutes as a quality excuse. Fans disagree, happily playing the injury bug as a get out of jail free card.
The Dodgers have a couple quality excuses, and as mentioned before, injuries can be attributed. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez may be able to see us, but we haven't got to see him, playing in a mere four games with 11 total plate appearances.
In addition, Zack Greinke broke his collarbone in a fight with Carlos Quentin, forcing him to be sidelined for slightly over one month. The saying "momentum is only as good as the next day's pitcher" shows the Dodgers troubles probably would't have been this bad with a healthy Greinke.
Last but not least, Matt Kemp's shoulder is still bothering him. Kemp's lack of swing extension is the main reason for the rumors, although he personally downplayed the conversation.
For the Angels, losing staff ace Jered Weaver for over seven weeks with a fractured elbow qualifies as a quality excuse. Despite the Angels' hitting challenges, pitching has presented the biggest obstacle, and a healthy Weaver provides the answer.
Besides Weaver, the Angels aren't at a significant disadvantage. Outfielder Peter Buorjos was a tough loss, but his production is far from irreplaceable. Closer Ryan Madson hasn't thrown one pitch since signing for the Angels, as injury concerns were a pre-existing issue. Fill in closer Ernesto Frieri has been solid in Madson's absence, meaning the loss doesn't matter too much.
Verdict: Simply put, the Dodgers have more quality excuses than the Angels.
Overall Bigger Disappointment
I thought the Angels were better than the Dodgers prior to opening day. Therefore, up until about two weeks ago, the Angels demise was more disappointing. But with the Halos winning their last eight, the Dodgers take the title of biggest disappointment to date.
Looking ahead both teams will need to improve dramatically in order to meet lofty expectations. Can they do it?