Is the Angels’ ammunition of arms enough?

It’s no secret that the Angels have had intentions to contend over the previous half-decade with an underwhelming pitching staff that has consistently fell short. In each of the last three seasons, LAA starters have ranked 27th (’17), 18th (’18), and last (’19) in Fangraphs’ WAR. I will save you the specific stats to preserve your feelings but here’s a warning: they aren’t much better.

Before a closer look, have fun engaging in the following brief exercise designed to frustrate you.

After limping to the 2019 finish line with just one pitcher to eclipse the 100-inning mark, the Angels wisely acquired durability tanks Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran, who have combined to average 347 innings across 62 starts in each of the last three seasons. However, after placing runner-up in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes and passing on a bevy of capable mid-tier options in Kyle Gibson, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu — whom Steamer project for 3.0, 2.5, 2.3, and 2.9 fWAR, respectively — it’s yet to be determined if they’ve assembled enough quality options that can last the season.

Similar to previous seasons, the club has assembled a high quantity of arms — Shohei Ohtani notwithstanding, the Angels sport Andrew Heaney, Bundy, Teheran, Griffin Canning (now IL-destined), Matt Andriese, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Jaime Barria among starter competition — but has yet to parlay such a strategy into results due to near-chronic malaise to ineffectiveness, pitchers’ ligaments, and arguably poor pitching strategy. Mickey Callaway’s bold new pitching strategy of “just throw strikes” should improve the mindset for younger hitters, but a more significant change is needed for a team whose best additions are historically back-end starters.

It’s true that Angels starters have combined for a 2.80 ERA, and one is allowed to get excited. But remember that traditional statistics simply don’t offer the predictive power that fans ascertain from them: BtBS found that average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage from spring training had a less than 5% predictive power in correlating to the identical regular season statistic.

Allow me to frame the importance in this way: the ten teams that made the playoffs last year received an average of 10.8 fWAR from their top 3 starters. Likewise, the division winners received 11.1 fWAR from such a group, while the second WC had 6.6 fWAR. While an overly simplistic high-level analysis, such an approach underscores that a team should:

  • assemble gobs of talent in starters and if not they should…
  • have more mid-tier starters to redistribute talent among all games, as opposed to just the first three starters or
  • forego pitching and do other things extremely well (a la the Brewers bullpen or the Twins’ vaunted lineup)

Based on the approach Eppler took this winter, it’s clear the Angels are gearing towards the third bullet point, with a stacked lineup to outmash opponents. But, even the Twins averaged 3.8 fWAR from their top three starters.

A Bundy breakout is certainly plausible, as our very own Brent Maguire wrote, but with only ~20 Ohtani starts, it’s hard to reasonably imagine where else the Angels can pair innings with above-average production to match the output of 2019’s division winners.

The Angels are going to need veterans and underlings alike to break out to have a fighting shot this season. One thing is for sure: they could sure use Ross Stripling right now.

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jcstein
Trusted Member
4 years ago

It probability isn’t the “hot take,” but I expect Suarez to show much more than he did last year. It’s no secret he and Doug White didn’t gel (nor Doug White with virtually any of our young pitchers), and his change up should be good enough to play in the bigs. Having Suarez produce even 100 innings of league average ball would go a long way, but then again having virtually any Angel pitch 100 innings of league average ball would go a long way.

TheOrangeCurtain
Trusted Member
4 years ago

Had Canning not been hurt, I’d have been satisfied with what they had to start the season. Unfortunately, a guy like Andriese (or Pena when returned) should be the 5th starter. Now he’s #4 and they’ve got another glaring hole again.

I really wish I knew WTH happened to the Stripling trade. Honestly Pederson felt like a throw-in, but if the Dodgers were essentially willing to give up Stripling for Rengifo, wouldn’t you be patient enough to pull the trigger on that deal? Could really be using a guy like Stripling right now.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend

It sounds (from what Eppler said at that season ticket folks thing) like the FO didn’t ignore SP…. they just got ignored. I mean, unless we are supposed to be super pissed about not beating out Keuchel or Ryu’s deals, which I’m not. So they were kind of stuck with bullet point 3. I guess I’m glad they did the shit out of point 3. I’d rather have Rendon and no pitching than Dallas Keuchel and…. Todd Frazier?

But I’ll be annoyed if it turns out blowing money on Rendon precludes spending on pitching. It doesn’t sound like it will, since Arte said our trade targets will be premium arms…. which cost money. I don’t think anyone wanted to be stuck with the arms we have. I think if Teheran, Bundy and Wheeler had been our offseason pick ups that would have been nice, but that asshole wants to pitch where he’s happy and stuff. Lame.

Cowboy26
Legend
4 years ago

The only other FA starting pitcher Eppler specifically mentioned at the Chalk Talk was Strasburg. Neither Keuchel, Ryu or Mad Bum were specifically mentioned but considering his new found love of the concept of pitcher availability he may not have been that interested in the high mileage or frequent IL visiting pitchers . Another interesting tidbit is Billy seemed pretty confident that Andriese would be one of the starters . But of the other 3 candidates for the 5th spot ( Suarez, Sandoval or Barria) he mentioned Suarez before the other two ( more than once) and temporarily had forgotten Barria when naming the group ( maybe I’m reading too much into It and it was just a brain lapse )

The other interesting comment he made was when talked about relief pitchers who can bridge the gap between the Starters and the backend of the bullpen he mentioned Noe & Feliz Pena. So maybe they are abandoning the idea of using Pena as a starter? I actually thought he did pretty good last year in that role. Maybe the rehab has impacted this decision?

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  Cowboy26

Dunno. Felix will be useful as a “long man” if his arm is solid. He was definitely not a guy who could get through a line up 3 times though. Of the 3 FAs he didn’t mention chasing I am not particularly interested in any of them, especially not at the contracts they got. Maybe MadBum, but again, it sounds like he had a pretty clear idea of where he wanted to go, so we’d only be adding him to the list of “misses” that aren’t really misses.

Most of the tantrums regarding FA pitchers is just grown children yelling about not getting what we wished for. Some people need someone to blame for everything (like not having enough testing supplies on hand for a disease that didn’t exist until this past January) thus, when it comes to FA pitchers, they need to cling to the idea that just offering them a few million more dollars would have swayed them to come here when, over the last few years, it has become obvious that pitchers who are going to receive generational wealth no matter where they go seem to make choices based on a lot of other stuff.

Which leaves these sad sacks pining for Dallas Keuchel….. which is sad and doesn’t make sense. At some point an FA pitcher will come here, but given that there are only 2 or 3 per winter that are really someone we want it may not happen all that often. I think Arte’s money will come into play much more favorably if we ever DEVELOP some pitchers. His cash means we can extend good young players instead of trading them away, and that’s nice.

2002heaven
Super Member
4 years ago

Only if they fit the profile ( 26-28 yrs old, on their third team and have no command to speak of ) knew a guy in my youth who was always buying jalopies with fading paint.

Cowboy26
Legend
4 years ago

Welp if this most recent turn around the spring rotation is any indication we’re in deep shit trouble. Since Last Friday The Angels magnificent seven of prospective starters ( Heaney, Bundy, Teheran, Andriese, Sandoval, Barria & Suarez) has an ERA of 7.04 and a WHIP of 1.52 in a total of 23 innings. If you take out the somewhat respectable outings by Suarez, Bundy & Andriese in that sample size, the remaining four horsemen have a combined ERA of 12.27 and a WHIP of 2.54 in 11 innings . Yikes

UnrealisticOptimist
Trusted Member
4 years ago

“Is the Angels’ ammunition of arms enough?” Hell no, Rahul… NO

losangel
Trusted Member
4 years ago

I think we will be fine until the All-Star break but then we play 30 games in 31 days. If we lose the off day due to a makeup, no way this pitching staff lasts. Basically, the same thing that happened last year, I can’t see the bullpen holding up all year.

losangel
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Rahul Setty

Yep, exactly. Force these guys to throw too many innings or too many days in a row and sometimes they don’t recover. We don’t have a rubber arm Scot Shields anymore.

benjiface
Trusted Member
4 years ago

Clearly Callaway stealing wisdom from our Podcast (JDL, HTennis, Rahul) that the key to pitching is “throwing strikes.” Revolutionary Mickey, except I heard it there first!

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
4 years ago

Of course it is not enough. My plan was to spend all the money on sp. But instead Billy has min maxed offense at the expense of pitching. The only way this team makes the playoffs is by winning those slugfests at a consistent rate. If Joe can somehow out manage the other team into a 12-11 victory on a regular basis I will be satisfied.

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
4 years ago

unfortunately I suggested such a thing when we signed Cokehead.

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
4 years ago

Well, this time he can play defense too so maybe it goes well this time

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend

I still say the Angels should employ the Putin method of FA/trade negotiation. When Zach Wheeler or whomever declares that his wife wants to live in New Jersey all season just have a guy who looks like Danny Trejo plop down a folder full of photos of Mrs. Wheeler visiting all her habitual stops every week and say, ” No no, Zach…. the Mrs just doesn’t know how much she actually wants to live in Orange County…. it’s so….. safe.”

Judging by what Eppler said at that fan day thing he planned to spend most of his money on SP too. Problem is, you just can’t force SP to take that money…. at least not good ones. Sure, you can spend way too much on bullshit like Dallas Keuchel if you’re stupid. But I think the Putin method of just declaring what you want to be the best idea and then making sure everyone comes around to your way of thinking is the Angels best option.

It’s also based in about as much reality as most of the “shoulda woulda coulda” sad bitch ideas most armchair GMs seem to declare they would have somehow seen to fruition if they were only the GM.

steelgolf
Super Member
4 years ago

The only scenario I can see where The Angels truly make a run, is if EVERY #1, #2,#3 pitcher, on EVERY other American League team goes down to injury, and they are replaced by the same level of meh that makes up The Angels rotation. Then it comes down to offense and a good infield defense which gives them a chance.

H.T. Ennis
Admin
Super Member
4 years ago

That’s the first Sporcle quiz I think I’ve ever completed! Go me!

benjiface
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  H.T. Ennis

Me too, fortunately, I had mind-blocked the Trevor Cahill era; so I guessed Heaney. I hate everything, but nothing more than the 2019 Ångels pitching staff

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
4 years ago

Next year’s GM should do better. As I see it, the pool might not be as deep as this year’s was but our emphasis on pitching will be stronger.

benjiface
Trusted Member
4 years ago

Zinnnngggg!

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
4 years ago

The good thing is that unlike in years past, the drop off from the projected starting 5 to guys to the depth (Sandoval, Barria, and Suarez) doesn’t seem to be too steep.

The bad thing is that the drop off from the projected starting 5 to guys like Sandoval, Barria, and Suarez doesn’t seem to be too steep.

Brent Maguire
Editor
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

Right now, it looks like they’ll be relying on those younger guys (Sandoval, Barria, Suarez) a lot, which is problematic. There is too much uncertainty and variance in those three to fully trust that they’ll be reliable all season long.

benjiface
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

Especially since neither Barria nor Suarez looked like a ML pitcher last year and the jury is very much still out on Sandoval

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
4 years ago
Reply to  benjiface

I’m willing to grant both of them the possibility, even likelihood, of upside. Barria was a decent pitcher in 2018. Yes, he out pitched his peripherals, but it seems like last year he paid for all of that luck and then some. Maybe he’s not the 123 era+ guy or the 70 something, but a 100ish.

Suarez and Doug White just didn’t mesh. He was tinkered with too much and he’s still young.

But these are the types of guys the team should be developing with an eye toward the future, not depending on helping in a year they’re claiming to contend.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Rahul Setty

But, unlike last year, they are further down the depth chart now. One can presume that they don’t see service right away, no?

Heaney, Teheran, Bundy, Andriese, Peters (Ohtani, Canning, Pena) are all higher on the list than Suarez, Sandoval, Barria, no? That is more depth than we even pretended to have last year (if my memory serves).

benjiface
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

You’re absolutely right Jeff. I was simply talking in terms of the early returns on these guys. I’m hopeful on Suarez and Sandoval, and less so on Barria. Less hopeful on Barria because he’s been shelled hard since his breakout rookie year. Just worried teams have him figured out. Hope I’m wrong there.

El_Duderino
Trusted Member
4 years ago

A bunch of back-of-the-rotation starters and Shohei Ohtani.

That said, better than last year, and the hope is that we have enough arms who can extend games for our bullpen.

It is possible that we have just enough arms to get us into the playoffs, but likely not enough to allow us to go very far (when looking at the aces other teams will bring) … unless Ohtani has a miraculous comeback and someone like Bundy breaks out. Which is a tall order.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  El_Duderino

Or, if things are going well, we trade for someone at the break.

Jessica DeLine
Admin
Super Member
4 years ago

Not nearly enough. Once again we are in the position where everything needs to go right, though slightly better off than last year. Ohtani is back which is great, but 100 IP is probably his absolute max this year. Bundy, Teheran and Heaney really need to show up. Canning may be lost for the season or much of it. Andriese, Sandoval, Barria, and Suarez are not even #5 guys on the good teams.

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Jessica DeLine

Maybe if we wait out long enough we can get pitching machines

benjiface
Trusted Member
4 years ago

And catching nets. Oh wait, we still have Stassi! One and the same

Brent Maguire
Editor
Trusted Member
4 years ago

Right now, Matt Andriese is slated to either be the #4 or #5 starter. I think that’s pretty telling about the current state of the rotation. I’m worried about both the quality of arms and quantity of arms, even though I’m pretty bullish on guys like Bundy and Ohtani this year. I’d like to believe that the rotation will perform adequately or at a league-average level but I can’t bring myself to believing that.

The position players, however, are talented enough to keep this team above .500 IMO. I think a potential top-3 position player group and an average-ish bullpen could make up for the lack of arms in the rotation. Hopefully, I’m wrong about the rotation and some guys have some positive regression and some fortunate health.

NorCalHalofan
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Rahul Setty

Rahul, I am a little bit more optimistic. I was really down on Ausmus and White last year. Sometimes they did not let the kids try to pitch out of trouble or learn on the job. I think it was Barria or Suarez that complained about that after the season. With Maddon and Callaway I am hoping that they can offer more consistent instruction and build the confidence of some of these guys. I am still mystified why a healthy Andrew Heaney is not a a more effective and consistent pitcher. I’m going to start the season with an open mind.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Rahul Setty

So, I am curious how true this is, or if we are just jaded by the Angels not having anyone who even pitched 100 innings last year (did we?, at least not as starters)?

I also wasn’t sure how to figure this out. What I did was look at the AL West, chose starters who pitched more than 100 innings, and divided IP by Games.

It works out like this: (Name of Player (Average Innings per Game)

As – Fiers (5.5), Anderson (5.7), Bassit (5.6).
Astros – Cole (6.4), Verlander (6.5), Miley (5)
Mariners – Gonzales (6), Leake (6.22), Kikuchi (5)
Rangers – Minor (6.5), Lynn (6.3).

I guess the question is how often did a pitcher take it deep into the game, or if they have the potential to do so. Seems like the better teams can (1-2 pitchers like this, as Rahul mentioned) but not all (see the As, Angels).

I wonder how the ‘weaker’ divisions would fare in this, or tanking teams?