The Halos 2008 season is six games old and the team is off to a nice 4-2 start despite injuries to their two best starters from last season, John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar. Lackey should be back in three weeks or so but Escobar may be done for the season with a tear in his pitching shoulder...not good. What this means is that the guys in the starting rotation need to step up big time and take it upon themselves to carry the load.
Jered Weaver is thrust into the role of the Angels' number one starter, and after an outstanding Spring and a nice outing tonight against the Rangers, he looks pretty good. Newcomer Jon Garland, who was acquired in a trade with the White Sox also needs to step up and give the team some quality innings.
The two guys mentioned above should be fine, Weaver is a young ace in the making and Garland a solid innings-eating vet who has twice won 18 games. The real question marks lie with the other three starters - Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Dustin Moseley. Saunders had a decent season last year, making spot starts here and there and is coming off a gem in Minnesota last week, throwing eight scoreless innings. Santana has a golden arm, but had an absolutley atrocious 2007 season and seems averse to pitching quality games on the road, although he did just that in Minnesota last week.
The offense looks good to me. Many think the Angels were offensively challenged last season, and that really wasn't the case. They finished in the top 5 in the AL in runs scored, but near the bottom in home runs. Don't get me wrong, dingers are nice and I think we will hit more this year than last (I know, not a brash statement), but our offense still isn't predicated on the long ball. We're still a speed club that needs to string hits together and steal bases and move runners over and take the extra base, yada yada yada...and that's what we'll need to do to be successful this season.
I like how the team looks right now. I'll like it better when Lackey and Shields and get back, but I think our offense is good enough to carry more of the load this year. Hunter was a nice offseason signing and he should hit 25 or so HR and drive in 90 or so runs. Vlad is...well Vlad, his HR totals were down last year, but his doubles were way up. I'm looking for more of those balls that hit off the wall last year to clear it this year...hopefully to the tune of 35 or so HRs.
Howie Kendrick is an absolute hitting machine. He'll hit .315 or so, I think, with a ton (30-40) of doubles and maybe 15 or so jacks. As long as Casey Kotchman stays healthy, I think he'll hit around .300 and sniff the 20 HR mark.
The big key is Figgy. He needs to have the kind of second half he had last season, OBP-wise for the offense to stay consistent. and so far, he looks really good.