How high can the Angels fly?

Updated: June 14, 2002, 2:07 PM ET
By by Dan Ford, STATS. Inc.
Was it really just 52 days ago that the baseball world was ready to write off the Anaheim Angels' 2002 season as a dismal failure? Only 20 games into the season, the Halos found themselves 10-and-a-half games behind the seemingly invulnerable Seattle Mariners, and only the Texas Rangers kept the Angels from falling off the bottom of the AL West map. To the Anaheim faithful, it seemed to be an extension of the Angels' plummet at the end of last year, which saw them drop 19 of their final 21 games. Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon, hailed batsmen from the 2000 season, misplaced their Wonderboys for the entire 2001 campaign and were still in search of a magic bat as this year unfolded. And the denizens of Edison International Field were dropping not-so-subtle hints that manager Mike Scioscia should be updating his resume in preparation for an imminent job hunt.

The fact that the Angels' wings were clipped was no illusion. Through the first 20 games this year, the Angels scored 73 runs while ceding 111. The Pythagorean Theorem (runs squared divided by the sum of runs squared and opponents runs squared) of celebrated baseball philosopher Bill James extrapolates that into a .302 winning percentage, a nearly exact match to their 6-14 start.

Then something happened. The pitching staff that was strafed to the tune of a 5.22 ERA suddenly gelled, clipping two earned runs off that average. Erstad and Salmon uncovered a Savoy Special, which they seemingly shared with the rest of the team. The club has hit at a .303 pace since that inauspicious start, averaging better than six runs per game. In the eyes of Anaheim fans, Scioscia's in-game managing technique has gained him a promotion from village idiot to resident genius. It all has added up to a 32-11 record since April 23, and the Angels suddenly are knocking at the Mariners' penthouse door, one game behind the AL West leaders.