The average batting average across the major leagues this season is .255.
Of the 14 position players on the Angels’ roster, only three entered Sunday’s first-half finale above that average: shortstop Andrelton Simmons (.290), third baseman Yunel Escobar (.288), and reserve outfielder Eric Young Jr. (.260).
Most of the rest of their roster is far below that mark. Designated hitter Albert Pujols is hitting a career-worst .239. First baseman Luis Valbuena owns a career-worst .183 mark. Sometime second baseman Danny Espinosa, who did not start Sunday, is hitting .162, not a career worst. His replacements, Nick Franklin and Cliff Pennington, are in the low .200s.
Their players remain insistent they are capable of much more and encouraged of the wiggle room that remains in the 2017 season.
“You can look at our lineup up and down,” Pujols said Sunday. “The team hasn’t swung the bat the way that we know we can. It’s a little bit scary because we’re right there in the wild card.”
The Angels’ starting pitching is following a troublesome trend line, but their offense may be the bigger culprit for their fade in the first half’s final weeks. The coaching staff desperately covets some sort of fix, something it can change, and come up with nothing on a large-scale basis.
“We’ve gone over this as a staff the last two weeks ad nauseam, and we just don’t see any shuffling that’s going to get our offense where it needs to be,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Sunday. “We need some guys that have been underperforming to get into their game.”
At 4.1 runs per game this season, the Angels’ offense is the American League’s worst. When Mike Trout returns Friday against Tampa Bay, he will be tasked with resuscitating the offense. He will also return in the same spot he vacated.
“If Mike was in the lineup today, he’d be hitting third,” Scioscia said. “But there’s always a case for looking at some other options where he would hit second. It would be second or third. We’ve explored both of them. We looked at it from every angle over the winter and I think when guys are performing to their capabilities, third’s the perfect place for him.”
Trout started again Sunday for Class-A Inland Empire, in the fourth game of his rehab assignment from a torn thumb ligament. He’s due to play again Monday. That may conclude his assignment, as the 66ers are off Tuesday and on the road thereafter. … The Angels will start right-hander Ricky Nolasco in their first game of the second half, Friday against Tampa Bay, and JC Ramirez in their second. They did not name a No. 3 starter, but it appears likely to be rookie right-hander Parker Bridwell.