The votes aren't in yet, but the leader in the clubhouse in the Most Disappointing Team of the Year has to be the Los Angeles Angels. After spending a gazillion dollars, give or take, in the off-season to shock the world by signing Albert Pujols and then adding C.J. Wilson to boot, the Halos had sky high expectations entering the 2012 season, and that was before they promoted Mike Trout, who turned out to be Superman. Despite all that, the Angels fell on their face the first month of the season and dug themselves a hole that they couldn't quite dig themselves out of, though they did come awfully close.
If you're new here (which about 90% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from the playoffs, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated.
What Went Right: Is it OK if I just write "Mike Trout" two hundred times for this section? No? Alright, fine. If you aren't aware of the phenomenal season Mike Trout is completing, then you are hereby banned from following baseball (although you did luck on missing the AL MVP Holy WAR arguments that he helped spark along with Miguel Cabrera). Despite being just 20 years old when he got called up, Trout wen on to be the youngest player ever to hit 30 homers and the first rookie ever to pair that with 40+ steals (he has 48 as of now) all while challenging Cabrera for the AL batting crown. He also blew away the rest of the league in runs scored with 127, you know, if that's your thing. To top it off, he averaged one eye-popping home run robbery per month. Oh, and did I mention that he accomplished all this despite not getting promoted until the very end of April? All in all, Trout turned in what is almost certainly the greatest rookie season of ever, as represented by him posting the first 10+ rWAR since Barry Bonds. As disappointing as the season was for the the Angels, they have to get a great deal of consolation from the fact that they have what may very well be the best player of a generation on their roster for the next several years.
What Went Wrong: Remember all the talk before the season about how the Angels might have the best rotation in baseball? Umm… oops! Jered Weaver was his usual excellent self, but he ended up missing a handful of starts due to two different injuries. The uber-reliable Dan Haren struggled most of the year before making his first ever trip to the DL for a back problem that he tried and failed to pitch through. Ervin Santana was on of the worst pitchers in all of baseball in the first of the season before (mostly) rebounding in the second half. C.J. Wilson was almost the opposite of Santana (only without all the home runs allowed), looking great in the first half before the wheels came off after the All-Star break. You'd think with all that talent they would be set in the rotation, but the combined struggles of Haren, Santana and Wilson led the Halos to swing a deadline deal to add Zack Greinke, but that proved to be too little too late.
While the rotation was up and down for the Halos, it was still better than their miserable excuse for a bullpen. Even with the mid-season addition of Ernesto Frieri, the Angels relief corps had the third-worst ERA in the AL and is currently tied for the most blown saves. For the more sabermetrically inclined, the Angel relievers were dead last in shutdowns by a full thirteen shutdowns. When the Angels reflect on their disappointing season there is no doubt that there biggest regret will be not finding a few more dollars lying around that they could've invested into their bullpen.
Most Surprising Player: In a lot of respects, this could be Mike Trout. Everyone knew he would be good but nobody thought that he would be this good this fast. After Trout though, it is probably a tie between Torii Hunter and Kendrys Morales. For Hunter, his season was surprising because of the general assumption that he was old and washed up. Instead, he hit over .300 for the first time in his career and posted the third-highest wOBA (.358) of his long career despite turning 37 mid-season. As for Morales, the fact that he was able to play in a game at all qualifies as a surprise after the freak accident that left him with a splintered ankle back in 2010. Kendrys exceeded all expectations by loggin over 500 plate appearances, smacking 20+ homers and providing at least a glimmer of hope that he could eventually return all the way to his pre-injury form.
Most Disappointing Player: Because of his contract, C.J. Wilson comes off as very disappointing. But with a semi-respectable 3.86 ERA, he wasn't a total bust. You know who was? Ervin Santana. Santana finishes the season with a 5.16 ERA thanks in no small part to his league-worst 39 home runs allowed, roughly 17 of which were hit by Mike Napoli. The worst part of his brutal season is that the height of Santana's struggles came in a stretch when the Angels were dealing with injuries to Weaver and Haren, but before they acquired Greinke, so they didn't have any internal options to turn to as replacements for Santana. Now the only question that remains for Ervin is whether or not you should bet the over or the under (which is set at 8.5) on how many seconds after the season elapse before the Angels announce that they will pick up his 2013 option.
Prospects Up: The Angels largely gutted their farm system by trading away three top prospects for the rental rights to Zack Greinke, but they do still have a few potential jewels left. One you can see for yourself right now is southpaw Nick Maronde. In just his first full year of minor league ball, Maronde shot all the way up to Double-A and looked fantastic at every step. In fact, he looked so good that the Halos made him a September call up and converted him to a reliever who has thus far been death on left-handed hitters. At best, Maronde could be a key part of the 2013 Angels rotation, at worst, he will be a major shot in the arm to their beleaguered bullpen. On the position player side, the new darling of the Angel farm system is switch-hitting third baseman Kaleb Cowart who went from raw prospect to potential monster this season. He made great strides at the plate displaying an improved approach and tapping further into his natural power all while showing the potential to be a very good defender at the hot corner.
Prospects Down: There were no real flops from any of the Angels better prospects this season, largely because they had so few players that they could call quality prospects. The worst bust they had was Daniel Tillman, arguably their best relief prospect entering the year. Tillman fell on his face in half a season at Double-A before having to get dropped down a level so that he could work on his wayward command. The real issue though is that dealing top prospects Segura, Hellweg and Pena for Zack Greinke left the Halos with almost no good prospects in the upper levels of their system.
The Future: You can rightfully rag on the Angels for being disappointments this season, but with them winning at least 88 games, it isn't like they were giant disasters like their big spending counterparts in the NL, the Miami Marlins. This is still a team with a great foundation and deep pockets that is in good position to use their resources to fix the flaws in their roster and make another run at becoming top contenders in 2013.