They may be three games under .500, without Kendrys Morales all year long and hampered by a punchless lineup, but the Angels have the rest of the league right where they want them. Where do they want them, exactly? On the road, of course.
Perhaps I am just grasping at straws here, but sometimes you have to do that to keep hope alive in a season where not much has gone right for the Halos, but one aspect of this team has buoyed my spirits: they perform well on the road. OK, maybe well is relative in this case, but at 20-18 away from Anaheim, the Angels are one of just nine teams with a road record over .500. Historically speaking, that is good news for any team. Let's take a little stroll through the past five seasons, shall we?
In 2010, nine teams in the league had a .500+ road record, six of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
In 2009, eight teams in the league had a .500+ road record, six of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
In 2008, eight teams in the league had a .500+ road record, six of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
In 2007, seven teams in the league had a .500+ road record, four of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
In 2006, ten teams in the league had a .500+ road record, six of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
In other words, if you have a winning record away from home, you stand a pretty good chance of playing in the post-season. Like I said, good news, not great news.
The Angels barely have an above-.500 road record locked up just yet, but the fact that they stand above that line right now should at least give us some kind of indication that the team has thus far underachieved. Really, it should come as no surprise if you look at the teams home-road splits. In Anaheim, the Halo hitters can muster a pitiful .235/.304/.332 slash line, but once they escape the shadow of the Big A, the offense comes alive, by their standards, to the tune of a .265/.324/.415 slash line. Now, that road line looks perfectly reasonable and, more importantly, sustainable. As for the home line, well, even with the cast of misfits that Mike Scisocia pencils into the lineup everyday, hitting that poorly as a team in your own stadium all season long is almost unfathomable, unless somebody pushed the walls back 30 feet in Anaheim and somehow none of us have noticed yet.
Even without that minor trip though the stats, baseball common sense dictates that almost every team is better at home than they are on the road, but the Angels haven't held to that axiom yet. In my glass half full viewpoint, that makes me think that the Halos will eventually regress to the mean at home as they continue to perform at what seems to be a sustainable level on the road, thus giving the team a good shot at the post-season.
There is one small problem. And by small, I mean not small. And by not small, I mean kind of big.
If you flip the spectrum and take a glass half empty view of the Angels and look isntead at their home performance rather than road, you see a team that could be totally screwed. Finishing over .500 on the road gives teams a better than 50/50 shot at making the post-season, but finishing under .500 at home gives them an infinitesimal chance at moving on to the playoffs. Since 2002, not one team has won their division or the wild card with a losing record at home. And, really, I only say "since 2002" because I got tired of scrolling back through the standings, besides the point was clear, if you don't win at home, you don't play in October.
With the Halos already five games under .500 at home, they have some real work to do, but they've still got plenty of time to get that work done. Once they fix that though, they've already got the other half of the equation solved with their road play. Yup, the Angels making the 2011 post-season, it really is just that easy.