SportsPickle is previewing each MLB team as the 2010 season opens. Today:Los Angeles Angels (2009: 97-65, AL West champion).
STARTING PITCHING Longtime ace John Lackey left via free agency to Boston, but Jered Weaver shouldn't have too much difficulty stepping into that role. The rest of the rotation Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, and Ervin Santana is a bit of a concern, however. All three have struggled with consistency in their careers. The Angels need that to change if they hope to return to the playoffs. (The Angels should also probably clarify to those guys that they want them to be consistently good, not consistently bad.)
LINEUP Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins are gone. Yet for a team that could be seen as rebuilding or at least reloading the Angels lineup is quite old. The outfield features Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu. Rivera and Abreu can still produce but, on the downside, Hunter doesn't really consider them black. The new DH is Hideki Matsui. He'll bat fourth in front of first baseman Kendry Morales, who finally broke out last year at age 26 with a .306-34-108 season. Can Morales put up those numbers again? It will be tough with Matsui's porn magazines sitting in the batter's box distracting him.
BULLPEN Brian Fuentes led the league with 48 saves last year, but he also had seven blow saves including one in the ALCS. With Fernando Rodney now in the mix, as well as Kevin Jepsen, Fuentes could be demoted to middle relief if he struggles again. Because blown holds are WAY better than blown saves.
BENCH The Angels have Freddie Sandoval, Maicer Izturis, Jeff Mathis and Reggie Willits. Torii Hunter also doesn't think Willits is really black. Because, I guess technically he isn't. He's white. But his name is Reggie Willits. Come on, Hunter. Open your mind.
OVERALL With the improvements the Rangers and Mariners have made, it looks like the Angels time atop the AL West might be over. If so, they may have to shorten their official name: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the American League West. Too bad. It really rolls of the tongue.