Coming off a tough defeat to the Pirates, and heading into a road series against the first-place Tigers, the reality surrounding the Angels continues to look grim, at 10 games below .500 and 11 games out of first place. To sport a winning record by the All-Star break, they must win 14 of their next 17. To finish the season with 90 wins, they must play .663 baseball the rest of the way (57-29).
The good news is, more than 53 percent of the season remains. And with time -- not to mention talent -- comes hope.
Besides, I'd rather start the Inbox on a positive note.
Will the Angels be sellers or buyers at the Trade Deadline?
-- Gustavo B., Santa Ana, Calif.
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That's the prevailing question, even though we're more than five weeks away, because the Angels are seemingly at a make-or-break point. How they fare over these next couple of weeks could basically determine what route they take leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But -- and this is the important part -- I'm told nothing will cause them to blow up the roster and start all over again, a la the 2012 Marlins.
First off, they really can't. When Albert Pujols (owed $212 million over the next eight years) and Josh Hamilton ($106 million over the next four) are on your payroll, you can never truly rebuild. Second, the front office still believes it has a contending roster for years to come and would essentially look to tinker over the offseason if the team falls short. That, at least, is the thinking right now.
So, if the Angels continue to struggle and it looks like they have no chance of even sniffing the playoffs by mid-July, look for pending free agents like Jason Vargas (if healthy) and Scott Downs to be dangled. There could be others, sure. But big trades, the type that would significantly shed payroll and make this a non-contending team in 2014 and beyond? I'd be shocked to see that. I don't think they'll throw out the blueprint based off three months, painful as that time has been.
How much has defense cost the Angels this season?
-- Greg B., Fullerton, Calif.
Shocking as this might be to many of you, the Angels' record is not all Joe Blanton's fault. (In fact, Blanton has a quality start in five of his last six outings). There are obvious big reasons why the Angels aren't winning. The big free-agent signing who was supposed to take the offense to the next level (Hamilton) is slugging .378. The two new relievers who were supposed to make the bullpen a strength (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett) have totaled 13 appearances.
But this team also isn't doing the little things. Consider ...
• As Greg pointed out, the Angels' defense has been bad. Very bad. Last year, the Angels ranked second in the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved, at 58. This year, they're dead last, at minus-57.
• They're also making way too many outs on the bases -- again. They led all of baseball in that department last year with 72 and they've made 31 outs on the bases this year, tied for third-most in baseball.
• At 12-17, they're among only five teams (also the Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox and Cubs) that are at least five games below .500 in one-run games. A big reason for that are the flaws mentioned above. And nobody has played more one-run games than the Angels this season.
Is there anything the Angels can do to get Hamilton going?
-- Sarah D., Mesa, Ariz.
Manager Mike Scioscia has tried everything, from four mental days off to four different spots in the lineup (fourth, fifth, second and seventh). Hamilton himself has tried everything, from going back to the simpler swing of 2008 to the pregame routine of his American League MVP season in 2010. Nothing has worked. And over the weekend, he was sidelined because of a sore right wrist (though he plans to return on Tuesday).
I heard an interesting theory recently: Perhaps Hamilton's weight loss has had an impact. He arrived in Spring Training down to 225, the weight Hamilton said he normally finishes a season with. Maybe the weight loss has diminished his power, which has subconsciously prompted Hamilton to feel the need to over swing to generate it, which means more moving parts for a load and a swing that has a lot of moving parts to begin with. But that's just one man's opinion, and there are plenty of theories these days.
I'm worried about Jered Weaver. He hasn't looked like himself all season. What's going on with him?
-- Alex R., Las Vegas
Through seven starts, Weaver is 1-4 with a very pedestrian 4.65 ERA. Through his first seven starts each of the previous four years, he's had no more than one loss and his ERA has been no higher than 2.66.
Some of it -- though Weaver won't use this as an excuse -- could be that he's simply out of sync after missing more than seven weeks from early April to late May with a broken left elbow. But it's hard to ignore the velocity component of it, even though Weaver hasn't really been a velocity guy.
Weaver's average fastball velocity is a career-low 86.6 mph. In '12, it was 88. In '11, it was 89.2. In '10, it was 90.1. A couple ticks off can make a world of difference, even if you have the kind of command Weaver typically has.
Asked recently why we haven't seen the dominant Weaver this season, Scioscia pointed to command and not velocity, saying: "Once he starts commanding counts a little bit better and being able to really open up counts for his secondary pitches, he's going to be fine. Right now, he's just battling to get back in counts and missing up with his fastball. And his command of his fastball, when he's on, is as good as there is."
Who, besides Mike Trout, will represent the Angels in New York?
-- Chris R., San Diego
Trout, holding steady at second place among AL outfielders in fan votes, looks like a near-certainty to be the first Angels position player to start the All-Star Game since Vladimir Guerrero in 2007.
Besides Trout, I think Howie Kendrick deserves to be at Citi Field on July 16. He won't start over the Yankees' Robinson Cano, who led second-place Dustin Pedroia by roughly a million votes when the latest results were revealed Saturday. But Kendrick may earn a spot on the bench if he keeps hitting. He leads AL second basemen in batting average (.323) while ranking third in OPS (.837) and third in Wins Above Replacement (2.6).
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.