Mike Scioscia leans to the bland side in his public comments. Criticism is delivered behind closed doors, not to the media. So it was startling to hear the Angels manager deliver a blunt assessment of the state of the team's offense.
"We're not going to be as good as we were last year," Scioscia said Wednesday, "but we shouldn't be as bad as we are right now."
The Angels led their league in runs last year. They rank next to last this year. They reported for work Wednesday saddled with the worst OPS (on-base plus slugging) in the major leagues.
This is not early. June is days away.
So, after the Angels added to their supporting cast Wednesday, acquiring outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the New York Mets, General Manager Jerry Dipoto was quick to assure fans the search for offense would continue.
"We'll be looking for the remainder of the trade season," Dipoto said before the Angels' 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres. The Angels have scored more than four runs in one of their last nine games.
Dipoto cannot try to solve the Angels' one glaring hole. There are too many. This has gone beyond the loss of Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton.
The OPS of every regular player — even defending American League most valuable player Mike Trout — is lower this year than last. Of course, Trout is at .929, still in the top 10 in the league. He and outfielder Kole Calhoun are the only regulars above the league average.
"If it were up to one guy, we've got as good a one guy as anybody," Dipoto said. "It takes a lineup to score runs, not one guy.
"There were no warning signs that these guys were going to go out and start throwing up seasons that were 25% below what they would ordinarily do. At some point, the other shoe will drop, and we'll start seeing some offense."
Even if the Angels got well enough to isolate one weakness and try to improve it, they might not have the ability to trade for an impact player. That the Angels have considered Ben Revere of the Philadelphia Phillies, who has the lowest OPS of any regular left fielder in the National League, speaks to their dilemma.
With the farm system devoid of quality prospects among position players, the Angels might well be forced to consider whether to trade from the pitching depth — Andrew Heaney, Sean Newcomb and Nick Tropeano at the head of the class — that Dipoto finally has cultivated.
"We're not looking to trade from our pitching depth unless we have to," he said. "We worked long and hard to acquire it.
"We're not ready to move in that direction yet. There is still so much season left. Quite frankly, you try to fix something now, you cost yourself pitching depth, and many different things that could happen along the way would tell you that was the wrong way to go."
On Wednesday, ace Garrett Richards lost the Angels' latest close game. More than half their games, 24 of 47, have been decided by two runs or less. The pitching staff cannot relax because the offense cannot deliver a rout.
"Some guys are nowhere near where they need to be," Scioscia said. "They'll get it going. In the meantime, it puts a lot of pressure on our staff, and particularly our bullpen. We're putting up a lot of zeros and not turning it into wins."
"We put together this team, and we have faith in these players," Dipoto said. "We're not ready to punt on an entire club."
The Angels (23-24) fell into third place in the AL West on Wednesday. They are 61/2 games out of the division lead, same as they were when they awoke on Memorial Day, the traditional baseball barometer.
"We're not buried in last place in the standings," Dipoto said. "We have everybody within reach."
And, he told a reporter: "It may be time for you to panic. We're not. We'll be OK."