As Angels fans, we have more time on our hands than usual with no baseball for the foreseeable future. Why not take a trip down memory lane and reflect on all of the postseason appearances in Angels franchise history?
Today marks the eighth part in a 10-part series documenting every Angels playoff appearance. I’ll go chronologically, going from the first playoff appearance all the way to their most recent appearance. Next up on the list is the 2008 team that set a franchise record with 100 regular-season wins.
PART 1: The 1979 Season
PART 2: The 1982 Season
PART 3: The 1986 Season
PART 4: The 2002 Season
PART 5: The 2004 Season
Based on the pure win total, the 100-win Angels were the best in franchise history. After a slow-ish start, the Angels took the division lead on May 13th and never gave it back. When they clinched the AL West on September 10th, they became the quickest team to clinch the division in franchise history. With all of this said, the Angels were not quite as good as their record indicated. While playing in the worst division in baseball (the next-best team was the 79-win Rangers), the Angels outscored their opponents by 68 runs. Their Pythagorean record of 88-74 suggests that this was a good but not great team. Still, this was a very fun team that made some new additions and saw their star closer set an MLB record en route to a dominant regular-season performance.
Other than the superb defense in 2008 (fifth in Total Zone Runs), the Angels position players were average across the board. Whether you look at runs scored (15th), wRC+ (16th), home runs (18th), baserunning runs (17th) or WAR (16th), the position players hovered around league-average. For a 100-win team, it’s surprising that the entire position player group produced at the rate they did.
The most telling tidbit about this group is that the most productive player was a trade deadline acquisition that appeared in just 54 games for the Angels. Mark Teixeira, acquired in a package deal for Casey Kotchman, was an absolute monster in 234 plate appearances, posting 3.5 WAR and a 183 wRC+. Teixeira and Chone Figgins (3.2 WAR) were the only two players to finish above 3 wins. Vladimir Guerrero’s offense took a step back (129 wRC+) which, combined with his poor defense, led to his worst year with the Angels to date. Torii Hunter, in his first year of a 5-year $90 million contract, was worth 2.4 WAR. Erick Aybar (2.1 WAR), Mike Napoli (1.8 WAR), and Howie Kendrick, a trio of young talents, supplemented the rest of the group.
The Angels pitching staff was a top-10 unit pretty much across the board. Whether you look at WAR (17.5), ERA- (93), FIP- (96), or K-BB% (10.5%), Angels pitchers were very good. Both the rotation and the bullpen performed admirably, with the rotation carrying a huge workload. The Angels rotation was just one of two teams (Blue Jays) to reach 1,000 innings and they were very good doing so (96 ERA- and 98 FIP-). The bullpen, meanwhile, finished with the second-fewest innings but still finished 11th in WAR thanks to strong run prevention and peripherals (85 ERA- and 93 FIP-).
The Angels 2008 rotation seems like a long-extinct species. Five starters made a bulk of all of the rotation innings, with all five of them tossing at least 163.1 innings. Ervin Santana was marvelous in a breakout season where he accumulated 5.3 WAR and a 3.49 ERA in 219 innings en route to a sixth-place finish in Cy Young Award voting. Joe Saunders (79 ERA-) and John Lackey (87 ERA-) were superb run-preventers. Jered Weaver was roughly league average (100 ERA-) while John Garland provided mediocre back-end innings (113 ERA-). Just two other starters, Dustin Moseley and Nick Adenhart, made starts for the Angels in 2008.
As you’d expect, the Angels relievers didn’t toss many innings but they sure made the most of it. By ERA- (85), they were the sixth-best bullpen unit. By FIP- (93), they were the 10th-best unit. It was a special year for two relievers who were electric in the late innings for the Angels. In his last year in Anaheim, Francisco Rodriguez went out in style by saving an MLB-record 62 games while posting a minuscule 2.24 ERA. In his rookie season, Jose Arrendondo had the sixth-lowest ERA (1.62) by any reliever in baseball. Arredondo’s 38 ERA- was the third-lowest by a reliever in franchise history. Scot Shields (63 ERA-) and Darren Oliver (67 ERA-) provided superb depth behind those top two options. Were it not for Justin Speier’s disastrous and large 68-inning stint (117 ERA-), the whole group’s performance would’ve looked much better.
ALDS vs Boston
Losing to the Red Sox in the ALDS was practically becoming an annual tradition now. This series was particularly frustrating because the Red Sox didn’t dominate the Angels like in years past. Boston outscored the Angels 18-13 in four games, with the Angels losing two of those games in the 9th inning. Boston took Game 1 in Anaheim rather easily thanks to a strong performance from Jon Lester. In Game 2, after crawling their way back to tie the game in the 8th inning, the Angels lost the game on a two-run home run from J.D. Drew in the 9th inning. Mike Napoli’s two-home run performance in Game 3 in Boston helped secure an extra-innings win for the Angels. Game 4 was the culmination of a disappointment for the Angels when Jed Lowrie’s walk-off single sent Boston to the ALCS.