It was an eventful 2012 for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Let's start with the good.
Rookie Mike Trout put up video game numbers (.326, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB), Jered Weaver threw a no-hitter and Albert Pujols was brilliant from May 1 on (.297, 31 HR, 101 RBI after hitting .217 in April).
Now for the bad. C.J. Wilson (13-10, 3.83 ERA) and Dan Haren (12-13, 4.33) both underachieved, Mark Trumbo's bat disappeared in the second half (.227 after the All-Star break) and ultimately the Halos missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
Watching the postseason on television instead of playing in it couldn't have felt good but it wasn't all Anaheim's fault. The Angels' record of 89-73 was actually a three-game improvement from 2011. And who could have predicted Oakland's stunning turnaround?
Though the Angels were too far back in the standings to catch Oakland or Texas, they finished the year on a high note by winning 19 of their last 30. Only Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee and San Francisco finished with better records over that stretch.
The Angels re-tooled in a big way this winter and expectations are once again through the roof, particularly due to one signing.
Just as they did the previous winter, the Angels stole the show this offseason, signing former MVP Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 million deal.
The 31-year-old Hamilton hit .285 with a career-high 43 homers and 128 RBI in 2012 for the Rangers. He along with Pujols, gives the Angels as potent a 1-2 punch in the middle of lineup as perhaps we have ever seen.
Pitching wise the Angels will also have a new look, as Zack Greinke left as a free agent, Ervin Santana was traded and Dan Haren's option was not picked up. Instead Weaver and Wilson will now have Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton following him.
In other words, it's World Series or bust for these Angels.
Angels Projected Lineup
(89-73) - Third Place (AL West)
Key Offseason additions
Joe Blanton (SP), Sean Burnett (RP), Josh Hamilton (OF), Tommy Hanson (SP), Ryan Madson (RP), Jason Vargas (SP)
Key Offseason subtractions
Zack Greinke (SP), Dan Haren (SP), LaTroy Hawkins (RP), Torii Hunter (OF), Jason Isringhausen (RP), Kendrys Morales (DH), Maicer Izturis (IF), Ervin Santana (SP), Jordan Walden (RP), Vernon Wells (OF), Bobby Wilson (C)
IS TROUT REALLY THIS GOOD?
Awesome, spectacular, mesmerizing, super-human ... none of those adjectives do it justice.
If William Shakespeare were alive today, he'd have had to invent a new word to describe what Mike Trout did last season.
His .326/.564/.963 slash line was absolutely incredible.
If Trout, who was called up to the majors in late April, had played a full 162- game schedule, his numbers could have looked something like this: 35 HR, 97 RBI, 57 SB and 150 runs scored.
One hundred and fifty runs scored? That's the craziest thing this side of Barry Bonds.
If Trout can keep up this impossible pace, he'll make Bonds look like an amateur.
But is that a realistic expectation?
Trout is human after all ... right?
His .257 average in September does suggest that Trout may indeed have the DNA of an actual human being. He also seemed to tire on the base paths, recording just seven steals in September and October after swiping 34 bags between June and August.
So maybe he's not a robot super-hybrid. Call him what you want. The 21-year- old is hitting .373 this spring with 10 RBI and five steals.
IS BOURJOS THE ANSWER IN CENTER FIELD?
Not long ago, Peter Bourjos was the hot prospect and Trout was the guy nobody had ever heard of.
After earning 502 at bats at the big league level in 2011, Bourjos returned to wall flower status last season. He logged 168 at bats, mostly appearing as a pinch runner or a defensive replacement late in games.
Now that Torii Hunter has moved on and Trumbo is becoming a full-time DH, Bourjos should have a chance to contribute again in 2013.
But what exactly will he be contributing?
On offense, probably not much.
His career batting average is just .247 and even when he did play a lot in 2011, he only went deep 12 times.
Bourjos has speed but nobody would ever confuse him for Rickey Henderson (22 thefts in 2011).
This might be one of those instances where stats don't tell the entire story.
Bourjos will probably never hit .300 or drive in 100 runs.
But the Angels aren't asking him to. They already have Pujols and Hamilton for that.
If Bourjos plays well in center field and gets on base every now and then, that should be good enough for Anaheim.
Anything extra is just icing on the cake.
IS ALBERT PUJOLS IN DECLINE?
The short answer to that question would be yes.
Pujols averaged 40.8 HR, 123 RBI and a .331 batting average during his first 10 seasons in the league. Over his last two, those averages have dipped to .292, 33.5 HR and 102 RBI.
Let's get one thing straight though: Pujols is still a spectacularly productive offensive player. You can hardly call it a free-fall when the guy?s knocking in 100 runs and leading American League first basemen in wins above replacement (4.6).
But the concern still exists, especially after Arte Moreno sunk a $250 million investment into Pujols back in December of 2011. The slow start Pujols got off to last season hasn't been forgotten and it's no secret that his 33-year-old body isn't as resilient as it used to be. Pujols needed knee surgery in the offseason and he's been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot all spring training.
Pujols' second half resurgence would suggest that he's still got plenty left in the tank. For the Angels' sake, let's hope so because there really isn't anybody who could replace him at first base now that Kendrys Morales (.273, 22 HR, 73 RBI for Anaheim last season) is with the Mariners.
X FACTOR: MARK TRUMBO: It was a tale of two seasons last year for Trumbo.
In the first half, Trumbo knocked the stuffing out of American League pitching (.306, 22 HR, 57 RBI) and received an invite to his first All-Star game.
After the break, he slumped to a .227 average and struck out 88 times, a rate of one punch-out every 2.91 at bats.
With the departures of Hunter and Morales this offseason, the Angels are losing roughly 40 HR and 170 RBI. That puts added pressure on Anaheim's power hitting core of Trout, Hamilton, Pujols and Trumbo to drive in runs.
That's a pretty formidable foursome and out of the four, Trumbo will probably see the most pitches to hit. But that won't mean anything if Trumbo can't make consistent contact.
In a division with three legit playoff contenders, Trumbo will have to pull his own weight if the Angels expect to win the AL West.
If the Angels don't win the AL West in 2013, they never will.
Last year, two teams (Detroit and Texas) had a pair of players go for at least 30 HR and 100 RBI. This year, it's conceivable that four players on the Angels roster could reach those numbers.
Offense won't be an issue for Anaheim this season. Starting pitching might be.
Weaver is terrific and Wilson should be able to bounce back from a rough second half (4-5, 5.54 ERA post All-Star break). Hanson, Vargas and Blanton are all wild cards though.
Luckily, the duo of Ernesto Frieri and Ryan Madson (when healthy) will make it tough to come back against Anaheim in the later innings.
Even if Trout regresses and Pujols begins to show signs of wear and tear, Hamilton's bat should be enough to propel Anaheim to its first postseason berth since 2009.