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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Several weeks ago, the LA Angels looked to be a lock for the playoffs. They had righted the ship after a shaky start…and moved to 10 games over .500 for the first time on June 28th. A team that had once been 18-25 had surged to 43-33 thanks to a 25-8 tear that had seemingly established the Angels as a true American League power.

They were certainly in the discussion with the Yankees and Rangers for best team in the league. You could make a reasonable case that they had a brighter future going forward unless Albert Pujols forgot how to hit.  

A team at 43-33 is on pace for about 91-92 wins. But, a team that’s ON FIRE after fixing what had ailed them would be more likely to make a run at 95-100 victories. And, that’s before the Angels acquired ace caliber starter Zack Greinke for the stretch run! So, where are the Halo’s now? Have they moved up to 15 games over .500? Are they now 20 games over .500?

Somehow, against all odds, the LA Angels have reversed form and slumped to 60-56 in the standings. They have, at least temporarily, given away control of the Wildcard race to teams like Tampa Bay (who they host this weekend), and Detroit. They trail Oakland and Baltimore too! Only five teams make the AL playoffs. The Angels currently have the 8th best record of 14 American League teams.

What happened? Well, Mike Trout continues to play great baseball…encouraging comparisons to many of the All-Time greats because it’s so rare to post huge offensive numbers at such a young age. Plus, he keeps making the highlight reels for DEFENSE too. Trout is truly a special talent.

EVERYONE ELSE IS CRASHING AND BURNING AGAINST A TOUGH SCHEDULE!

That’s most clear with the starting pitchers. Some guys have fallen off the pace a little. Others are battling nagging injuries. Greinke, who pitches at home tonight against Cleveland, has an ERA of 5.68 in his new uniform. He was supposed to shore up the back end of the rotation. So far, he’s sunk the front end!

In fairness though, since the All-Star Break…the LA Angels have played a tough schedule featuring several playoff contenders:

1-2 at New York

1-3 at Detroit

2-1 vs. Texas

2-1 vs. Kansas City (a bad team)

1-2 vs. Tampa Bay

2-2 at Texas

1-2 at Chicago

1-2 at Oakland

1-2 vs. Seattle (a bad team)

0-1 vs. Cleveland (a bad team)

Yes, 3-4 vs. the likes of Kansas City, Seattle, and Cleveland is a bit embarrassing. But, the rest of the slate has 7 games against Texas, 13 games against teams who are currently in first place in their divisions, and 23 games against legitimate playoff caliber teams in the tough AL race. Not everyone the Angels have faced in this tough stretch will ultimately make the playoffs. Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Oakland are qualified.

It’s a bad sign indeed that LAA is 9-14 in their games vs. playoff contenders. If you’re not beating playoff contenders, you’re not a serious championship threat any more. It looks like the Halo’s cooled off at the worst possible time. They slowed down just as the other contenders were speeding up.

And, as a result of that, the Angels may be in danger of falling out of the playoff picture as early as this weekend! They’re only four games over .500 now…and they have a four-game series with red hot Tampa Bay starting Thursday Night. You can’t get to 90-72 from a .500 record on August 20th. If this recent slump continues (3-9 the last 12 games), the other horses in the race are going to build leads that can’t be overcome (particularly since one of those horses would be Tampa Bay!).

Big night for Zack Greinke and the Angels vs. Cleveland this evening. It also looks to be a big night for VSM handicappers. Let’s see what’s on tap.

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Be sure you visit the VSM home page every day for big play announcements and early bird football bulletins. Additional information is available on the “Buy Picks” page. Make a few clicks and have your credit card handy. Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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