Daily Distractions: The ugly signifiance of 9-15 for the Angels.

Josh Hamilton

The Angels couldn’t come back from a 9-15 start last year. Will Josh Hamilton make the difference this year? (Associated Press photo)

The Angels are 9-15.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because that was the Angels’ record on May 1 of last year — otherwise known as The Day The Angels Turned It Around A Little Too Late.

The Angels went 80-58 after May 1, 2012. Will that be enough for them to catch at least two of the three teams ahead of them in the American League West standings? (And would a wild-card berth even be a satisfying outcome for this team?)

History says the answer is no.

Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe wrote today about the Toronto Blue Jays’ odds of overcoming their 9-17 start, which leaves them a distant fifth in the American League East. He threw out a series of dire stats, all of which are applicable to the Angels:

• Since 1995, the first year that the postseason included wild card entrants, only six teams have gone 11-15 or worse through their first 26 games and still made the playoffs. That’s six out of 146 (4.0 percent) who either won the division or a wild card spot.

• Only one of the six teams, the 2001 A’s, had a worse record than the Blue Jays [and Angels] at this juncture, yet they still finished with more than 100 wins, offering a sliver of hope that Toronto might still be a juggernaut.

• Three of the six reached the postseason by securing wild card slots (something that’s even easier now given the expanded format that added two playoff teams last year). Two of those teams, the 2005 Astros and 2007 Rockies, went on to win pennants, though they were both swept in the World Series.

Any way you look at it, the Angels’ odds aren’t good. If you desire a dose of optimism, Baseball Prospectus still gives the Angels a 37 percent chance of making the playoffs, and a 3.7 percent chance of winning the World Series. Study the chart, and BP’s simulated seasons also acknowledge that the Angels are in a really tough division.

My Monday bullet points:
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Angels’ Tommy Hanson might miss more than one start.

Tommy HansonWhen Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson was placed on the bereavement list Monday, it was guaranteed that he would miss at least one start. That’s because major-league rules dictate that any player on the bereavement list must miss at least three days and at most seven.

Today is Hanson’s third day on the bereavement list and rookie Michael Roth is starting for the Angels against the Texas Rangers.

Assuming the Angels’ other four starters take their normal turn in the rotation, Hanson’s spot would not come up again until next Monday in Oakland. Even if Hanson misses the maximum seven days, he’ll be back with the team by then.

However, it’s not guaranteed that Hanson would start the game.

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Tommy Hanson placed on bereavement list; Jerome Williams could start for Angels Wednesday.

Tommy HansonTommy Hanson was placed on bereavement leave on Monday, leaving the Angels without their scheduled starter for Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers — and maybe beyond. The reason for Hanson’s absence was not immediately disclosed.

The right-hander can miss between three and seven games under MLB rules. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he is leaning toward using Jerome Williams in Hanson’s place on Wednesday.

Williams, who threw three innings to close out the Angels’ 13-inning win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, said his availability will be determined “the next couple days, how I feel. If (asked to start), I’ll be ready.”

Monday, hours before the Angels were set to play the Rangers, Williams said his arm felt fine. He’s 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in five appearances, all out of the bullpen. He was 6-8 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 starts for the Angels last season.

Hanson, who starred at Redlands East Valley High School and Riverside Community College, is 2-1 with a 4.24 earned-run average in three starts with the Angels. He would be eligible to return to the team as early as Monday, April 29, when the Angels visit the Oakland A’s. Coincidentally, that game is Hanson’s next scheduled turn in the rotation.

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Tommy Hanson scratched from start against White Sox, will throw minor-league game.

Tommy Hanson

Angels starting pitcher Tommy Hanson throw to the Cleveland Indians during the first inning of a spring training baseball game in Tempe, Ariz., on Wednesday. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

Tommy Hanson is healthy and is scheduled to throw six innings and 80-90 pitches today.

It just won’t come in the Angels’ Cactus League game against the Chicago White Sox. He’ll pitch in a minor-league game instead, as manager Mike Scioscia wanted to ensure that Hanson, the Angels’ projected fifth starter, gets fully stretched out in his second-to-last start of the spring.

“We need to get him into a controlled environment,” Scioscia said. “It’s an important outing to get him into a little more — not only length as far as pitches — but innings. It’s difficult if you’re up to 90 pitches.”

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Angels spring training preview: Starting pitchers.

Jered Weaver

The Angels’ five-man rotation is all but set. Two familiar faces, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams (whom I included with the relievers), are vying for “sixth starter” status. Of course, just because a rotation is set doesn’t mean it’s good, and many see this group as the Angels’ Achilles heel beyond ace Jered Weaver.

The other four starters — Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and C.J. Wilson – were flat-out bad for stretches last season. Will Wilson snap back to his old self following elbow surgery? Can Hansen, Blanton and Vargas benefit from a change of scenery and a star-studded defense?

Those are the biggest questions facing the rotation, and maybe the team, going into camp. Unless there’s an injury, don’t expect the Angels’ five-man rotation to change in spring training.

(Non-roster invitees listed in parentheses)

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