"I think we have a better team this year than we did last year," said Pujols, who won
Pujols did not mention the offense. Whether it was an intentional or inadvertent omission was impossible to tell.
If the Angels are to improve on a season in which they had a major league-best record of 98-64 but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Kansas City, they'll need to overcome the loss of productive second baseman
"I don't think there will be one guy who steps in and replaces them," Manager
Replacing Hamilton shouldn't be difficult. He has been a shadow of the five-time All-Star he was in Texas, hitting .255 with 31 home runs, 123 runs batted in and 266 strikeouts in two unremarkable and injury-plagued seasons in Anaheim.
Matt Joyce and
Replacing Kendrick, a .293 hitter in nine years, will be a challenge.
"I don't know that we'll have one guy at second who will play 150 games like Howie," Scioscia said. "But in some combination, you have to bring some of that offense with the defensive stability Howie brought us."
There is still plenty of firepower in the batting order. Mike Trout, the reigning
Pujols appears to be in great shape after battling left foot and right knee injuries for two years. He sprayed so many line drives around Arizona that hitting coach Don Baylor thinks he could lead the league in RBIs.
Kole Calhoun is one of baseball's most productive leadoff men, switch-hitting shortstop
"This team is predicated on pitching and defense, it just so happens we have a really good offense too," Iannetta said. "If we pitch and play defense, we'll probably follow the same pattern we did last year.
"Hopefully, we delay that big hot streak for a couple of weeks and carry that into the playoffs instead of peaking in early September and trailing off at the end."
Richards looked like a
"The most encouraging thing on the pitching side is where Garrett is," General Manager
Chemistry also appears to be a strength, though it's always difficult to know how that translates to the field.
"It just feels like a group that loves each other," Street said. "And when I say love, I mean it in the truest sense of the word. Guys get mad at each other, they stay on each other. We demand a certain level of responsibility from each person, and that, to me, is much more powerful than just liking each other."
Street has played for four teams, three of which made the playoffs, in 10 years, and he likes the way this club goes about its business.