Three takeaways from the Angels’ season thus far

Amid nature’s tempest of the coronavirus outbreak (and the effects of such outbreaks on baseball, cough cough Marlins and Cardinals), baseball’s interested parties charge on. Much has changed in regards to the baseball season, including safety protocols, roster sizes, and expanded playoffs. In the wake of the ballyhoo, the Angels find themselves with a 3-7 recordtied for the league’s second-worst recordin a shortened season with 83% of games left to play.

The Angels are 5th in the AL West.

How has a team floated to make waves already flailing in a part of the schedule that was supposed to be smooth sailing? Here is what we’ve learned, nearly a fifth of the way through this abbreviated season.

Good lord, relief core

Truly, it’s difficult to quantify how disappointing Angels relief pitchers have been as a unit. At a high level, a bullpen’s job is simple: limit the damage, hold leads, and lock down the game. The Angels’ have not done that.

Their relievers are walking 5.4 batters per nine innings (5th-worst among relief units) with a 5.18 ERA (9th-worst). The Angels sport the lowest (K-BB)/9 among all teams, save for the Marlins, and they weren’t expected to be even remotely competitive, even before over half tested positive for coronavirus. (K-BB)/9 for LAA relievers is 3.02; the league’s median is 5.76, nearly double the Angels’ figure.

Now, keep in mind, the sample size (n) is understandably small. Relievers are as fickle as a weatherman’s forecast! However, the Angels will have no chance to be i(n) the playoffs if this is to continue for much longer.

Of the Angels’ seven losses, the following can be designated as carnage:

  • 7/24 against the A’s: Hansel Robles returns to the mound in the 10th for the second inning, only to be ineffectively wild. This sets up a Matt Olson walk-off grand slam off lefty Hoby Milner.
  • 7/29 against the Mariners: Mike Mayers flails through nearly 30 pitches and can’t command against a rebuilding team of youngsters and journeymen. He gave up 4 runs, including a 3-run tater to Dylan Moore. Jacob Barnes followed up the next inning and let three hitters reach base, of which two went on to score. The Angels lost this one 10-7, of which Andrew Heaney gave up just two.
  • 7/30 against the Mariners: The Angels keep it close all game, only to get blasted to smithereens in the last frame. Hansel Robles and Kyle Keller surrender 5 runs, all earned. Dylan Bundy’s quality start and Shohei Ohtani’s 3-run jimmy jackwhich would have otherwise been given LAA the leadwere all for naught.
  • 8/2 against the Astros: One of the most demoralizing due to length of game, relievers did a nice job to keep the squad in the game following Ohtani and Blue’s kerfuffles. Room for error small vs. the Astros, and a Bregman HR + Brantley 2B loomed large in HOU forcing extras.

What’s up with Shohei Ohtani?

When he’s not sporting his dashing good looks on the streets of Orange County, two-way sensation and baseball extraordinair Shohei Ohtani razzles and dazzles on the mound. But not this season. At least, not yet.

Ohtani, now 26, has now made two starts since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2018. Neither of them can be characterized as good, even if the umpire didn’t do him any favors on Sunday. He’s recorded five outs, walked eight batters, given up three hits, and given up 7 earned. Sunday’s five-out boogaloo, remarkably, allowed Ohtani to have an ERA.

It’s likely that in this pandemic-shortened season, Ohtani hasn’t had enough repetitions against live hitters to feel comfortable, and this is rearing its ugly head on the bump. Velocity returned in his most recent start but dipped dramatically at the end of his outing, fueling injury speculation (including an MRI) and outcries against the org for allowing him to throw 42 pitches in a single inning.

The Angels can make do without Ohtani this season. In fact, they’ve been able to hold their own. Sans Ohtani, Angels starters have a 3.57 ERA in 8 starts, with no starter putting up a negative fWAR. Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, and Patrick Sandoval have all flashed breakouts, with much-improved offspeed offerings keeping hitters at bay. That’ll play.

But, in the bigger picture, the Angels need Ohtani to be productive, and his penchance for pitching-related ailments doesn’t portend positively for a potential postseason push.

Lineup protection: a grab bag o’fun!

Raise your hand if you had Max Stassi above Mike Trout in wRC+ through 10 games. Not me, I would never!

In all seriousness, the Angels are a truly fascinating team on offense. They’re a whopping 3rd in the AL in runs scored (49) yet are a middling 7th in wRC+ (103). Mike Trout’s pedestrian .815 OPS pales to his fellow backstops’ herculean .937 OPS. It’s no contest to Brian Goodwin’s 1.079 OPS, .313 isolated slugging, and 202 wRC+. Or Anthony Rendon’s league-leading 33% walk rate.

In fact, the Angels have the 2nd most walks (min. 250 PA), with six players with an OBP north of .348 (min. 20 PA). But they’re unable to cash them inSunday’s contest saw them hit just 2-for-16 with runners in scoring positionproducing more cRISPy LOBsters than are present at a Maine lobster festival.

Justin Upton, most-oft at the plate following Rendon, has struck out 34% of the time with a .108/.171/.270 slash line. His wRC+ indicates he’s 77% below league average, with eroding plate discipline. Albert Pujols has not driven in runners either, as indicated by a .583 OPS. Ohtani (.586 OPS), Jared Walsh (.000 OPS, not a typo), and Taylor Ward (.612) are black holes, too.

While the Halos have a stellar output from position players (7th in baseball), their stars-and-scrubs approach to lineup production hasn’t made it feel like it. Joe Maddon can configurate the lineup a trillion different ways. It won’t matter if the Angels don’t tap into their capabilities.

Look, much can change. It’s been ten games. Half the league will make the playoffs. And, for what it’s worth, FanGraphs gives the Angels a marvelous 44% chance to make it. It’s certainly not lost, but 17% of the season has been played, and there’s no time for an already fringy team to figure it out on the fly. Here’s to the Halos doing just that.

Photo credit: Angels/Twitter

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Trusted Member
3 years ago

Didn’t know where to share this – so I thought I’d just pick a post. My son played in big baseball tournament last week in Viera, Florida at the USSSA Space Coast Complex. Super group of kids from around the country came together. I got to coach my son’s 11u Team of kids from TX, OK and LA. One day I’m watching one of the other teams and see Juan Rivera coaching them. (His son was their catcher and could rake.) Anyhow, talked to him for a while and he was such a nice guy. Took a picture with my son and talked to him about the Angels for a few. We met them in the finals and they took it to us pretty good. Still a lot of fun.

Trusted Member
3 years ago

Adell just got promoted. Hopefully that means Upton has opted out of this season.

Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  JakeTaylor

Yeah Goodwin has been great. Upton has been an embarrassment. I’m thinking maybe Ohtani won’t be DH’ing much per MRI?

Trusted Member
3 years ago
Reply to  ihearhowie3.0

As anyone ever asked Upton about glasses? If not, how can we make this happen, does anyone know Rick Vaughn?

Jessica DeLine
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  JakeTaylor

34% K rate this year. So terrible. 10 games out of 60 is no longer a smalls sample size.

3 years ago
Reply to  Rahul Setty

With a 60 game schedule, there seems to be no patience for players getting off to a slow start.

Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Jessica DeLine

Wow, 34%! I didn’t realize it was that high. He.’s striking out one of every three times he comes to the plate.

You know, I predicted a bounce back year for him, so thus far I have been wrong on that. Unfortunately this is a big reason that Rendon is being walked so much and in general is not seeing good pitches to hit. Albert struggling is of course part of that.

I like Justin so I hope he can turn it around. But with Adell chomping at the bit to see big league playing time one wonders what the future holds for J-Up,

Jeff Joiner
3 years ago

There are a couple of wins in spite of the bullpen. Robles has been mortal, Buttrey has continued his second half slide, Key isn’t being too key right now, and I have no idea why Keller kept getting into games. Hopefully this week or so has been guys getting back into game shape and they start to click. If not, we’re toast.

John Henry Weitzel
Super Member
3 years ago

If the team get go 7-3 the next 10 games we will be right at .500 again! Just have to face Seattle Texas Oakland and the Dodgers… Well shit.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Henry Weitzel
3 years ago

Seattle Mariners
LA Angels
Oakland A’s
Texas Rangers
Houston Astros

3 years ago
Reply to  DowningDude

Sometimes when the TV broadcast lines up the logos of the AL West team just right and they have it go:

A’s – Mariners – Astros – Angels – Rangers

The logos line up to spell “asshat”

A’s S H Å T

okay that’s my juvenile thought for the day (minute)