Angels have been maddening with their consistent inconsistency
He was 11 for 19 over four games in early May, a ridiculous run that spiked his batting average 44 points.
Then he went 21 at-bats without a hit, the longest such drought of his career.
He homered twice in back-to-back games the last time the Angels were here at Safeco Field, flexing for some 1,600 feet of raw power.
Then he went 13 games without an extra-base hit, his weakest stretch ever.
For two brief but undeniable spans, Mike Trout never has been worse as a baseball player while putting together what might be by some measures the greatest season of all time.
This isn’t absurdity, folks. This is the 2018 Angels, a team that in the era of true outcomes continues to produce outcomes so pocked with inconsistency that they seem almost unreal.
“That’s what we’re dealing with right now,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Some guys have not gotten into their consistent game and some guys are playing extraordinarily well.”
Often times, it’s the same guys doing both, one right after the other, sending the Angels headlong through a progression of peaks and valleys in a sport that preaches the importance of everyday steadiness.
Already this season, they’ve had winning streaks of seven, six and four games and five losing streaks of at least four games.
They opened June with a win and a loss and then won six in a row before losing four straight. After a victory, they dropped three consecutive, won back-to-back-to-back and then fell six times in succession at the end of the month
“We’ve had a hard time putting everything together,” pitcher Andrew Heaney said. “We really have.”
Part of the problem has been the inability of several Angels to maintain any sort of momentum at the plate. Kole Calhoun, Ian Kinsler, Luis Valbuena and Zack Cozart (before he was hurt) in particular have sputtered.
Scioscia’s exhaustive search for something reliable is perhaps best exhibited by the fact that, over the weekend in Baltimore, Calhoun became the fifth Angel to hit in the leadoff spot.
For a team that too frequently has failed to keep things going, the Angels have had an even harder time getting things started. From the No. 1 position in the lineup, they have a batting average of .213, the worst in baseball. Their .280 on-base percentage also ranks last.
Yet, the Angels are 12th overall in runs scored and still have a differential of plus-17, compared to plus-8 for Oakland, a team they trail by three games.
The Mariners aren’t much better than the Angels at plus-22. But the difference between the teams in the standings, at the moment, is monumental: 11 games.
“If you look at runs scored, we’re not too far off from what we anticipated, even with some of the streakiness,” Scioscia said. “For us to get consistent, though, we do have to do some things on an everyday basis better.”
Every Angel asked is quick to note that baseball players don’t make excuses. The theme is rich enough to be a genuine clubhouse chorus.
But 14 players on the disabled list isn’t an excuse as much as an explanation. Twenty-eight pitchers used isn’t a cop-out as much as a fact.
The pursuit of consistency can’t be made any easier when the players doing the pursuing keep changing. Very little about the 2018 Angels has proved to be dependable, and that includes the identity of the 2018 Angels themselves.
Only Texas has made more DL moves, and the Rangers started looking toward next season shortly after opening day.
And only the Angels have had one news release announcing that four players were being disabled and another announcing that three players had undergone season-ending surgery.
Sure, a team might have to issue such an outrageous announcement once every other decade or so. The Angels did both within two weeks.
“As far as continuity, it makes it tough,” Kinsler said. “But you still need to perform as an individual. You never want to ask ‘what if’ or have a built-in excuse.”
They’ve suffered injuries from A (Andrew Heaney) to Z (Zack Cozart), with several of them serious. The Angels have seven players on the 60-day DL. The Astros have none.
“It happens so much that you honestly become numb to it,” Kinsler said. “You don’t really even think about it. If you’re healthy and available, you can’t let that weigh on your mind.”
So, here the Angels are, considered preseason playoff contenders but solidly fourth in their division, once 10 games above .500 but now only one.
They have 77 games remaining to find some consistency and then hang on to it this time. The task won’t be easy, not based on what the Angels have shown so far, not given their best player’s historic season to date.
After all, in baseball, how hard must something be to do when even Mike Trout struggles to do it?
Go beyond the scoreboard
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