The Anaheim Angels clinched the American League West decisively in 2009, posting a record of 97-65. The second place Texas Rangers finished a full 10 games back at 87-75. The Angels were equally good on the road (48-33) and at home (49-32).
The stats for 2009 were solid, although not spectacular. The team ERA was 4.45, and batting was.285. The nucleus of that team is intact, although they lost designated hitter, Vladimir Guerrero, to Texas and pitcher John Lackey to Boston. however, off-season acquisitions of Joel Pineiro, who went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA for the Cardinals, and hitter Hideki Matsui, should fill any gaps left by their departure.
Bobby Abreu, who batted.293 in 2009, has been granted a two-year extension, and Jered Weaver (who ended the year with a 3.75 ERA and 211 inning pitched), Reggie Willits, Howie Kendrick, Mike Napoli (a.272 hitter in 2009), and Fernando Rodney have all signed. Players who were not offered a contract and thus became free agents include Dustin Moseley, Matt Brown, and Jose Arredondo (who had surgery on his right elbow two days before going free agent). Darren Oliver, who gave the team 73 solid innings with a 2.71 ERA in 2009, has declared free agency, as have Kelvim Escobar (who had only 5 inning pitched in 2009), Chone Figgins (who hit.298 for 2009), and Robb Quinlan.
If the Angels can stay healthy, particularly in their starting rotation, they have a good chance of taking the AL West again in 2010. Their most serious competition will likely come from the Texas Rangers, who have been making some quiet off-season acquisitions to bolster their team. Unresolved issues regarding the sale of the Rangers, however, may prove a distraction to the team and make it easier for the Angels to repeat as division champions.
The Angels eliminated Boston from the 2009 playoffs, but ultimately fell to the Yankees. And while prospects for their division look good, with many giving them an edge over Texas while some are calling it a toss-up, the Angels taking the pennant in 2010 does not seem likely. The American League has teams that are stronger in all areas, and currently the Yankees seem the most likely to dominate in 2010.
In 2009, the Angels ranked second in stolen bases, but in every other category they were, at best, mid-pack. Overall, the team was solid enough to win the West and is probably good enough to repeat. But merely being a solid team is seldom enough to win pennants. The Angels have no bankable players, such as a Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera, relying instead on a nucleus of dependable, if not particularly explosive, players to get the job done.
The bullpen is questionable for 2010, causing significant damage to the team ERA during 2009. The starting rotation is a good one, without major weakness but also without a major star. It remains to be seen how much impact the loss of Lackey will have, and whether Pineiro can offset the effect.
As 2009 division champions, the fans will be expecting, perhaps demanding, a repeat. The increased pressure will likely not be felt by the seasoned veterans, but some of the younger players may have problems coping with it.