Following an abysmal 72-win season last year, the Angels’ 2020 season shaped up to be far more promising.
While the club didn’t land the top-tier free agent in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, owner Arte Moreno pivoted to superstar slugger and World Series champion Anthony Rendon, arguably the best third baseman in the league. Lackluster starters in Trevor Cahill (5.98 ERA) and Matt Harvey (7.09 ERA) were replaced in the rotation by two reliable back-end arms in Dylan Bundy and Julio Tehéran, set to provide durability to an injury-ravaged staff that didn’t see a single starter reach the qualifying innings threshold in 2019. Noted savant Shohei Ohtani’s return to the mound had third-party observers excited. Fans even more so.
And while the nixed trade with the Dodgers was a baffling move—one that would have added pitching and first-base depth the club desperately needed—that made waves across baseball for Moreno’s painstaking irrationalities, the Angels were prime beneficiaries of a shorter season. The Angels’ 9.4% increase in playoff odds were second only to the Rangers’ +10.8%. Expanded playoffs saw LAA’s postseason odds more than double from there.
|Angels’ Playoff Odds, via FanGraphs||Odds||Change|
|60-game season with default playoff format||27.1%||+8.4%|
|60-game season with extended playoffs||57.4%||+38.7%|
This season was supposed to be the most exciting in a long time for Angels fans, but it has been anything but a nightmare.
Less than two weeks into the season and the Halos had dropped series against three AL West rivals in unremarkable fashion, slumping to a 3-7 record. Mike Trout was on paternity leave, and Anthony Rendon had missed a chunk of games. But a closer look revealed those peripheral observations masked deeper, underlying issues under the hood.
Today, the Angels enter play 8-17 with a .320 winning percentage, the lowest in the franchise’s 60-year history. Their cumulative offensive production ranks middle of the pack on a rate-basis (101 wRC+) and are a mediocre 20th in pitching fWAR (1.7). Breakout-star Bundy and Andrew Heaney combine for a mind-boggling 94% of the club’s pitching contributions. Justin Upton is playing his way out of the majors with a 0 wRC+ (meaning he’s 100% worse than league-average at the plate) and has a lower OPS (.357) than Brian Goodwin does OBP (.359). Over half his plate appearances end in a strikeout or an infield popup. There are no shortage of black holes for the Angels.
|Angels’ Playoff Odds, via FanGraphs||Odds||Change|
It’s not as bad as it looks for the Angels. Just mostly. Run differential-based Pythag states the club deserves a 10-15 record. BaseRuns, which provides a record by stripping out sequencing, has the team deserving of a 12-13 mark.
That said, it’s hard to see many silver linings in 2020. As I write this, the Angels trail the Baltimore Orioles by 4.5 games for the 5th wild card spot in the AL. Even in the most optimistic of scenarios, replicating the Dodgers’ league-best 69% winning percentage (Ed. Note: nice) to-date over the remaining 35 games would yield a 32-28 record, still not enough to guarantee making the postseason. And with rostered talent higher than other bad teams (definitely better than the Mariners, Giants, Royals, and Tigers, for example), it’s difficult to fathom the Halos improving or even maintaining their draft position despite the toughest strength of schedule in baseball.
In another article, I’ll address where the Angels go from here. For now though, barring a miracle, 2020 will be the 9th year in the last 10 where the club misses the postseason—just another painful reminder of what could have been.
One bit of truthtelling that’s worth airing is that, despite all its seeming wonderfulness, the Stripling/Pederson trade wouldn’t have helped the Angels a bit. Stripling has utterly lost his slider, and the lack of it has allowed hitters to sit on his fastball and destroy it – he’s been an utterly different pitcher, and ineffectively so. Meanwhile, Pederson is the least valuable position player on the Dodgers, and his HardHit% has declined to the lowest mark of his career.
It’s a short season, so it may not be representative, but there may be a reason the Dodgers were willing to cut bait – they’re a deeply analytical org, and maybe their predictive models threw up some red flags on the two.
This team is just hard to watch as other than a few stand outs they don’t execute in any aspect of the game. Hard to tear down something this broken with the salary commitments they have but something drastic will need to take place. Too bad that the holes in Adell’s game have been exposed as he’s not going to draw in trade what he might have otherwise.
Different year, same gamble… but at the moment, significantly a worse gamble. This is going into year five of Eppler.
I recall Turks identifying how we were worse under Eppler than Dipoto a couple of years ago, but a lot of people were enamored with flashy stuff such as trading for Simba, trading for Upton, and winning the Ohtani sweepstakes. Two more sub .500 seasons came and gone. Today, we’re still paper tigers.
I can’t really blame Eppler because you can see Arte’s gangling hands micromanaging everything, ensuring he’s the top boss. But you can blame Eppler for not calling it out like his predecessor, Dipoto.
Dipoto’s club is going through a massive rebuild, but the Angels are only slightly better than Mariners. That’s scary for all the capital we have tied up into the club with while missing substantial pitching as well as having a weak farm team.
When Arte nixed the Dodgers’ trade, the outcome for this season seemed inevitable and would follow the same pattern as previous years. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
I can’t disagree with the argument. The organization is thin. There are very few adequate to pretty good players in the system who can come up and provide inexpensive depth. But could it be possibly that the prospects we have are lousy? Could the likes of May or Bieber have become May or Bieber had they been drafted by us, or Clevinger, if he didn’t get dealt for Pestano, have become a top flight pitcher? Something’s just rotten in Anaheim. The baseball foundations just seems lacking.
I see all the disparaging comments below but who’s idea was it for Eppler to totally ignore pitching in the first two rounds of most of his drafts and to just draft HS OF’s? His or Arte’s? In fact as I pointed out in a recent past post, he almost also ignored the infield as well, the infield is crucially important to a team’s success. Back at the old place ( HH ) another member summed it up best last summer that he believes that Arte just doesn’t hire the best people that he can and should ( don’t know if it’s because he’s being cheap or because he wants a pushover yes man. ).
This season is showing that the Angels need depth. Rendon has actually been great. But when you support him with guys that are literally doing worse than replacement players you get a bad to mediocre team at best. Besides playing too many AAAA players, they simply can’t play players who are slumping as bad as Upton is. He’s at -1.1 WAR on the season. If you take his numbers and Trout’s numbers you’d be better off getting 2 replacement players. That’s how bad he’s been. But the Angels have always played guys because of their contracts and not their current level of talent. And yes I know all teams do that to some extent, but really nothing has changed from the days when the Angels sent Jered Weaver down to the minors in the midst of him setting rookie pitching records so that his older brother could come off the DL and predictably suck. I really have little idea how bad Eppler is because NO ONE could have come in here and rostered a consistently winning team with how much having Arte sets them back. 100% he’s behind trading their 1st round pick for cash. 100% he’s behind putting a complete intern in charge of the team because he thought Scioscia had mastered baseball even though technology and the use of statistics in baseball had passed him by leaps and bounds. That’s the hole the Angels have never gotten out of. Trade talent to get Vernon Wells. Wells sucks. Keep paying money to crappy FA to try to dig out of that hole. I hope Trout opts out and the Angels get the #1 or #2 pick. Kumar or Leiter is the only way right now I see this team having any relevance in the near future.
I know everybody wants to crush Arte but I still haven’t forgotten our massive run of success when he took over the team. It is unfortunate that it’s now a distant memory.
Stoneman was respected by Arte and he was allowed to do his thing with the team. Those 2000’s teams were filled with home grown talent and a good free agent every so often.
But after he left you can see the guys Arte likes. Cheap people and yes men. That’s so he surrounds himself with. Soth stayed around because Arte liked it. Del Taco did whatever Arte told him. You start seeing a change in philosophy as Arte fired the 2009 draft staff. It is sad.
Correct. The success in the 2000s was the old regime. Arte’s reign has been a slide down from the start.
I hate to be negative, but we are not one Kumar away from contention.
See I disagree, the Angels could turn things around pretty quickly I think. Replace Pujols and Upton’s money with like 4 or 5 depth pieces instead of playing AAAA guys. Kumar, Detmers, maybe Ohtani. The Angels holes offensively are positions where it isn’t that hard to get guys playing at a respectable level. The Angels biggest problem is that they let players have way too long of a leash partly because they construct their team with little to no depth. If that was built into the roster we wouldn’t have 3 or 4 guys hitting 120 seemingly every other day.
also we have to be somewhat optimistic of Adell turning into at least a decent player. He is what only 21? I’m not sure at all he’ll be a star, but he should provide at least some value.
Agreed with everything, but that ‘higher roster talent’ could easily be fixed with a Trout opt out and a Rendon injury. 😉
After Rendon’s wrist injury at the plate yesterday and Ohtani subsequently fouling a ball off his front foot, I found myself saying “Hope he’s okay, but this will help the tank.” 😂
Right, at least then something positive would come out of this season.
nice, Rahul. Everything you say resonates deeply.
For some reason I read that as “detonates deeply” to which I solemnly nodded my head in agreement.
I think you mean hospice care. But yeah this season is really proving how terrible our player development is. I imagine that dozens of scouts and cross checkers can’t all be wrong so more likely our development is worst in the league. I’m thinking Eppler’s drafting is probably more like 50/50. But since our development sucks we don’t get results. We are on the verge of ruining Adell. He’s up their blind and with no support so he’s going to start building bad habits and could destroy his potential. Look at our pitchers.
If you want to help Adell do not let him watch or be any where hear Upton
I think it’s kinda hard for Upton to help anyone with Covid19. With no fans in the stands, he doesn’t have to wait in the clubhouse and he’s probably out of there after he’s showered and changed. He certainly isn’t sticking around to practice.
Well written. This season has been a massive kick to the groin, easily the worst season of Angels baseball in quite a while (and we’ve had some bad ones). What’s worse is the future isn’t looking all that rosy, either. The one thing the Angels need most desperately is also the one area of greatest weakness on the farm.
The best, and I mean best, case scenario I can see for a rotation next year is Stroman, Richards, Bundy, Heaney, Detmers with guys like Canning and Sandoval as depth. Even that best case scenario involves a huge sum of money and likely gives the Angels the third best rotation in the division.
It’s been sad to see Canning struggle out there the last couple of games. I know we need pitching, but I can’t help but wonder if he was rushed to the big leagues before he could fully develop in the minors.
With Canning’s stuff, it definitely seems like an approach problem. Canning was already an extremely advanced arm when drafted and zoomed through the minor leagues with little difficulty. The health side is also worth being concerned over, as every team passed on him once despite him being a first-round caliber talent.
Not exactly true. I know Salt lake is a tough place to pitch, but Canning didn’t exactly crush it there with a 4.44era and 1.4 whip. He also only pitched 6 innings 1 time, everything else was 5 innings or less.
Question. Identify this number line:
7, 8, 6, 8, 6, 7, 8, 0, 9, 7
I believe that’s Alex Curry’s cell phone number.
number of runs given up by the bullpen in successive games?
Close! Definitely feels that way. But yeah, not just the bullpen, but that’s how many runs our pitching has given up in the last 10 games.
Hard to win that way and hard to watch a bunch of 4 hour games while getting your brains bashed in.
Is this bad? Asking for a friend who doesn’t have a thesaurus on him.
Bottomline is the farm system still sucks very badly and just didn’t get much better under Billy Eppler in 4 yrs.
Only two pitching prospects are #1 Reid Detmers and a another very green young Latin kid who’s at least another two years away. There was a article here on CTPG about how our farm system was only #25 in MLB back in March. Plus Matt Thaiss and last year’s #1 Will Wilson were wasted picks. 😫
BUT HE IMPROVED THE FARM! /s
A few days ago I wrote a short hate comment on Arte, on the topic of busting the “myth of the genius billionaire.” A couple of folks agreed but one refuted my point by pointing out that Arte’s job is making money, and since the Angels are making him a lot of money, he’s golden no matter what the team does. The observation is valid in the topsy turvy world of big business, finance, and all that, where CEOs are compensated dozens of millions for driving a firm into bankruptcy or having to resign in scandal. I’m sure Arte is respected among the rich guys he rubs elbows with, but I still say: No, owning a professional sports team is not the same as owning Walmart or Microsoft or whatever. The person who refuted me claimed that Arte is a “hand’s off” owner, and basically couldn’t care less if the team wins of loses. I disagree. Arte has wielded a heavy hand from the start, interfering with General Managers at will, always with disastrous results. Also, he hired basically everyone in the front office, starting way back when with a GM (Reagins) so extravagantly inept it boggles the mind. This teams is his, and no number of private jets or political influence or whatever else he’s into is going to shield him from a great, prevailing stink of failure that will follow him to the grave if something doesn’t change. What will he be remembered for in the end, if he continues to own this wildly disappointing franchise? The guy who made a bunch of money selling ad space on billboards, and cutting lucrative land deals with the city of Anaheim once he bought his way into influence, or the fool who purchased a World Championship team and inherited the best player of a generation, and yet, no matter how much he spent, could barely ever even hit mediocrity?
Moreno means well, but at the end of the day, he’d rather assemble a middling team that doesn’t win and make lots of money as opposed to rebuilding and inevitably making gobsmacking tons of money. Ironically, by halfheartedly trying to win every year he’s alienated the fans he so desperately wants to keep.
I hear you saying he is a short term thinker and actor, to the detriment of long term success. The LA Angels of Anaheim facilitated a boost of money, but made us a laughingstock, pretty much forever. “Big splash” signings all feel good in the moment, but pretty much none of them have paid off. Sounds like corporate thinking to me, aiming for that next quarter but not seeing much beyond it.
He has not yet proven that he has alienated the fans he so desperately wants to keep if the same 800, ooo or so fans keep returning to rack up 3mil + seats sold every year. As for us handful of diehards who post here he is snart enough to realize that we will be here no matter what. He may be smart in some areas of business he sure is clueless in how to put together a winning organization and and implement a strategy and coarse of action to provide a winner nearly every year i.e. Dodgers, Yankees and Cardinals.When Selig allowed weak ownership to buy into Boston, Miami, and Los Angeles he really hurt MLB. Bad ownership is a lot like bad fish smell in a refrigerator, it never goes away. Arte believes he has the right people in place with exception of Eppler, but he should look at how the last 3 GM’s came into play with those who supported their hiring. When the Halos drop down below 3 mil fans per then he will be in trouble as it will be hard to raise it back up again and maybe even with a new stadium. Oh that meddling Arte.
It’s true that most fans are casual fans, but there’s still a stark drop-off in actual attendance. Of course, this is buoyed by contracts with third-party resellers like Stubhub or 714tickets who are likely eating the losses of those deals. When such deals are renegotiated, the Angels may feel the pain.
Good article. Bad reality.
Ouch. That hurts. But great article!