What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here …
- The Angels won’t be contenders for the American League West championship. But this might be the most-fun-to-watch .500 team in club history.
- It’s an entertaining team, with a lot to like: baserunning that is aggressive and borderline psychotic, timely hits coming from all over the batting order, unexpected fine outings from the mishmash starting rotation, strong fielding at most positions and a bullpen that has developed into one of the deeper units in the game.
- Through Monday the Angels were 27th among the 30 MLB teams in slugging percentage, so they’ve chosen other methods. They were leading the majors with 74 steals. The Angels’ .985 fielding percentage was fifth in the majors and their 35 steals allowed were the fifth-lowest.
- The Angels are underdogs in almost every game, the players know it and have shoulder chips from it. Massive credit goes to Angels general manager Billy Eppler and his staff for finding guys to fill the starting rotation and bullpen, and to Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Charles Nagy for blending it together.
- Eppler trades that have been one-sided to the Angels’ advantage: getting shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Braves for Aybar and pitchers Chris Ellis and Sean Newcomb, trading catcher Jeff Bandy to Milwaukee for catcher Martin Maldonado (a first-half team MVP candidate) and getting Cameron Maybin (also a first-half MVP candidate) from Detroit for pitcher Victor Alcantara.
- Simmons, yet another first-half MVP guy, might be the best-fielding shortstop in Angels history – the competition there starts with the slick and rangy Jim Fregosi and includes Erick Aybar, Gary DiSarcina and Dick Schofield. Calm down, you legion of David Eckstein fans – gritty guy and all, but defensively not in that group. Simmons has the best arm of the bunch, and maybe gets to balls Fregosi could not.
- Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa is the same player he was with the…