It’s hard to grasp just how terrible this season has been for the Angels.
Nearing the halfway point, the Angels own baseball’s second-worst record at 8-19. Their playoff odds have all but evaporated down to 6.6 percent. In the past nine games, a stretch where they have lost eight games, the Angels have been outscored 65 to 35. In nearly 30 games, the Angels have managed to win back-to-back games just one time (August 10th-11th against Oakland). Even the Angels worst critics likely didn’t envision the club legitimately competing for the first overall pick in the draft.
Just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Angels. Following a familiar trend, the pitching has been an unmitigated disaster. After a historically bad 2019 pitching performance, where the club had a 5.12 ERA, the Angels have doubled down this season with a 5.29 ERA. Sans the Tigers and Red Sox, Angels starters have the worst ERA (5.97) in baseball. The bullpen is in the middle of the pack with a 4.62 ERA. Even the position players, who were supposed to be a huge strength, rank in the middle of the pack in fWAR (13th), wRC+ (15th), and runs (15th).
It’s not as if this team is deprived of strong individual performances. Mike Trout is crushing baseballs even if he’s a notch below his usual production (158 wRC+). Anthony Rendon ranks second in the AL with 1.7 fWAR and has been baseball’s best player by WAR (1.5) in the month of August. David Fletcher has been a revelation both on the field (1.2 WAR) and in the social media world. Dylan Bundy has been a frontline-level starter who has a 2.48 ERA through his first five starts. Even other role players like Tommy La Stella (135 wRC+), Brian Goodwin (127 wRC+), Jason Castro (0.4 WAR), and Max Stassi (126 wRC+) have produced.
But there is still the stars-and-scrubs foundation that has sunk the team as it has in the past decade of Angels baseball. There are just too many performers dragging the team down. Justin Upton’s decline took a sharp turn this year as he has been worth minus 0.8 WAR and has a 0 wRC+. Albert Pujols has sunk to his all-time low in his age-40 season (65 wRC+). Shockingly, Shohei Ohtani has been a complete zero at the plate (68 wRC+), not to mention his failed return to the mound that ended with a season-ending (pitching) injury. Top prospect Jo Adell, perhaps not surprisingly, has struggled mightily in his first cup of coffee (minus 0.6 WAR). Other players such as Andrew Heaney (5.52 ERA), Julio Teheran (10.38 ERA), Matt Andriese (7.47 ERA), Luis Rengifo (25 wRC+), and Taylor Ward (19 wRC+) have been well-below average.
Without sugarcoating things, it’s been a disaster of a season and difficult to watch at times. I’m sympathetic to the notion that this is a quirky season that is being played in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a hard time to juggle playing baseball and ensuring that you and your family are safe. Beyond the added stresses of trying to play a virus-free season, the Angels have also been disadvantaged by the unusual timeline messing with Shohei Ohtani (as a pitcher) and Jo Adell’s development, just to name a few. But these same principles can apply to every other team in baseball, who are all going through the same hurdles in this strange season. It’s fair to acknowledge that the Angels have been both impacted by the COVID season and have continued showing similar trends from past years.
As for what’s next, it’s pretty clear that this team won’t make the playoffs. What’s more, the club is actually in a spot to hold their highest draft pick of the century in the 2021 draft. The Angels tanking never once crossed my mind coming into the 2020 season but given the spot they’re currently in, selling players at this upcoming trade deadline and trying to obtain a high draft pick next summer is a plausible option. The offchance that they erase a 6.5-game deficit to grab a playoff spot probably doesn’t outweigh the chance of obtaining prospects this year and grabbing an elite talent in the draft next year. Beyond moving players such as La Stella, Goodwin, etc, the potential to grab someone akin to Kumar Rocker in next year’s draft already has Angels fans excited.
It’s been a rough season for the Angels, one that will likely end in less than two months. It’s a tough proposition to swallow for Angels fans, who already missed out on the usual amount of games this season. It’s even more disappointing given the higher expectations for this season following the signing of Anthony Rendon and the promotion of Jo Adell. If there’s any solace in what has transpired, it’s that you still get to watch Trout, Rendon, Fletcher, etc. play every day and watch the development of Adell. Perhaps, if current trends continue, Angels fans will even have the chance to dream about someone like Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter in next year’s draft.
Hang in there, Angels fans. Better things are (hopefully) on the way.
noting that the Chicago White Sox, terrible last season, 72-89 (or almost exactly what we were), are now 17-11 and remembering that they signed a whole bunch of free agents that we could have signed, I looked at their stats and see it’s a mixed bag.
Jose Abreu is tearing it up. But Anthony Rendon is, too. Dallas Keuchel is pitching very well. So’s Dylan Bundy. Yasmani Grandal has not been super but has a positive OPS+….but not as good as Stassi’s. Shohei is struggling but no worse than Edwin Encarcion. Gio Gonzalez currently has a 5.11 ERA and a 1.865 WHIP.
So their free agent signings haven’t really been the reason they’re winning.
Yep. Draft and trading for prospects. Which means scouting.
But I think it’s interesting in that we’re further screwed if we think signing guys in the off-season will get it done, especially with our budget.
After reading all these post l will add, l think it is 2 things going on
Just flat out BAD LUCK.
Coaching, at the major league level the veterans are expected to know how to practice, train,know how to be ready on
time, how to warm up, even how to dress. But if those same coaches say we are new here and we will look the other way with the Veterans then the MoJo is going to be missing. How does a veteran like JUp not be able to turn things around?
Here’s another wierd thing, part of the reason I was excited for Maddon and Calloway was my belief that with their communication skills they could get more out of the players than Sosh or BBB. But it appears to be the opposite. The atmosphere seems to be more oppressive than less.
Now some of that could be Covid, some the lack of any real preparation or coming together for the season, some of it the frustration of losing. But well managed good teams usually get over those things. That’s why I say there is something unknown/intangible that is going on.
As bad as it has been here in 2020 I would not give up on Maddon and Calloway if I were you.
I won’t. But they need to act fast and there is a lot to solve.
Since we’re going nowhere it’s time to jump on the Padre bandwagon
You are correct that the pitching has been “an unmitigated disaster.”
Even a team like the Tigers (also with bad pitching) has managed to perform a lot better than we have.
It is hard to fathom how a team with as much offensive talent as we have could be playing this badly. Surely, even with our bad SP and horrid middle relief we could manage to win more games than Texas, Detroit and Seattle. Right?
I mean, look at the Mariners roster; they are crap! And yet the best we could do is split six games with them. And we get swept by a crappy Texas team that has now lost six straight.
This is indefensible.
I am starting to wonder if there are some deeper unseen problems here that go beyond baseball.
For instance, what if Eric Kay was “helping” more players than Tyler Skaggs?
An opioid stupor would potentially explain why so many of our players seem to be sleep-walking through this 2020 campaign,
Only Trouty and Fletch are beyond suspicion of the returning Angels. SOMETHING is going on.
I just don’t know what yet.
This lack of fire goes beyond crappy starting pitching, which we certainly do have (save for Dylan Bundy).
I fully agree. Something we don’t know about is going on. There is something intangible involved. I’m not sure it’s drugs. But it is something.
The starting lineup is probably overrated
Justin Upton is officially a disaster in LF, LaStella is a bad defensive player at 2B, 1B isn’t very good ( unless Albert is on a hot streak.). Jo Adell is still just a young wet behind the ears guy….OTJT. It all goes back to our shitty player development since 2010, right now only 3 of the 8 starting positions are our own homegrown guys ( Trout, Fletcher, Adell ) that accounts for a lack of camaraderie.
I’d hate to dive into the Kay/opioid issue without knowing more. I’d like to think it was limited to Skaggs but the original report did mention the possibility of others using it.
That said, I do agree about the underlying issues plaguing the team. It’s hard to measure these types of things but there’s no real justification for them underperforming THIS drastically. They might not be a good team but second-worst in baseball bad? That’s hard to believe,
Correction: Pujols’s age 42 season.
I couldn’t resist
Even with the Tank wish list you still have 2 factors going into next years draft. 1st is who is going to be your GM and 2nd will there be a change in draft philosophy to drafting by need or best player available.
Agree but the future draft doesn’t solve things on the short term and/or answer the question of why this team has so many players playing at such a crappy level. Why is this team failing? That is the question presented.
Before it is clear how to fix something, you need to know what is broken. There is something clearly broken when you are losing so often with players like Trout, Rendon and Fletch in the lineup. So what is broken?
To your point, scouting and developing quality pitching could easily be one of the things that is broken.
If the Angels aren’t going to make the playoffs, this is as close to an ideal situation as I can imagine for the year.
They are underperforming Pythag, so they’re actually better than their record. Trout, Rendon, Fletcher are good. The catcher situation seems to finally be solved. Adell gets ABs. Ohtani is struggling, but that can be explained away by injuries and lack of timing. La Stella and Goodwin are showing that last year wasn’t a fluke. Bundy can be an ace. Sandoval has been positive. Peña is dominant and could compete for a rotation spot next year. Richards looks good for San Diego.
Yes, the draft pick won’t help us in 2021, but we’re not in dire straits, either. If you told me we were 8-19 27 games into the season, this would be the path I chose.
I think that is overly optimistic. And it does not necessarily answer the question of why this team (with players like Trout, Rendon and Fletch) is sucking to this extent? You do suggest a future path (i.e. suck this season, get a high draft pick and stay the general course). I respect your thought process but it still does not posit on the why?
The team is the functional equivalent of 20-50 in a regular season format. That is beyond awful. So why with the stars that they have who are playing well, with Bundy and with players such as Goodwin and Stassi/Castro playing their roles, do they suck at historic levels? Why are they this bad? That is the question.
Because bullpen, which is volatile, and because Heaney and Teheran have not been as advertised. I do think Heaney is a bit of a lost cause, but there is a strong foundation for next season. If we roll out a rotation in 2021 of Bundy-Richards-Peña-Canning-Sandoval/Heaney with an average bullpen, we’re back to where we were in 2018 in my opinion, which is a shade outside the playoff bubble. We haven’t “fallen off a cliff” or anything.
Why do they suck at historic levels? Because of variation and luck. This team, objectively, looking at the numbers and potential, should be .500 or a shade under it. Would you disagree?
It’s an interesting question , and one to me that goes beyond probability and math. Yes those things can help explain, but they do not account for intangibles.
I’ll start by answering your question. Yes, by looking solely at the roster, I would think this team would play at least .500 ball. But they are not even close to that. In fact they seem to be declining despite the addition of Rendon, the continued development of Fletch and Trout being Trout and then getting nice contribution from role players like Goodwin and LaStella.
The pitching has been an unmitigated disaster. Way below expectations for several seasons. And I have no real optimism with regard to the staff you suggested for the future. Any of those guys could disappoint at any point. So by your probability analysis, some will pitch well, some won’t. The team never really puts it together.
I suspect there is something intangible at work here that is causing the team to continue to suck well below the probabilities. A computer cannot account for human emotion and/or intangibles affecting success.
So yes – on paper, I agree with you. In reality I think there is something missing from your analysis. Something is just not right with this team. You can feel it.
How does one account for the fall-off-the-cliff performance by Upton? Pujols is 42 errr 40, one expects his skills to precipitously decline. But Upton at 32? Something is up. It reminds me of the show Stranger Things. You just know there is something wrong. But until you see the monster it is guess work. Probabilities do not always work.
In other words, I don’t think you can analyze this with math. There is something intangible that we are missing.
Yes, I definitely agree with you here.
And thus this logic shapes my ultimate opinion: if what we think we can quantify has the Angels has a .500 team, with some pieces needed to be added to make a push for the playoffs, I would rather chalk up the difference to luck rather than some unquantifiable entity. Thus, though this season is lost, I have hope for 2021.
“Thus, though this season is lost, I have hope for 2021”. This makes you a baseball fan. The ‘wait til next year!’ mantra is a real thing. Hope springs eternal on the next spin of the roulette wheel even though the last 20 bets have been lost.
Honestly it’s hard for me to be optimistic about anything right now in this Pandemic. I looked forward to baseball and this team to be a much-needed escape. However, the Angels have only added to my frustration and sadness. It’s as though we are being punished for being optimistic about anything.
So I’m putting optimism to bed and looking for deeper reasons why this team has underperformed to historic levels and far below any of our expectations. It helps me to try and figure out what is wrong rather than taking a more Pollyanna-ish approach that nothing is wrong and this is just an aberration and next year will be great.
So that is just my perspective- just like I don’t see anything that makes me optimistic that Covid will be gone in 2021, I see nothing to make me objectively believe the Angels will be better next year.
And therefore I go into the ‘I want answers’ mode.
I thought I explained my logic very clearly, and then you hit me with the “this makes you a baseball fan.”
Haha! You did explain your position well. That said it also had a lot of baseball-fan-optimism.
This is not a .500 team because it is not and hasn’t been for 3 seasons. So the premise that it is a .500 club is based on something other than fact.
In being a sports fan you always believe in next year. It’s not just because your team ia a
losing team and next year will automatically going to magically be better, it’s the hope that you believe in your team. BTW I proudly an a fan of baseball from bottom to the top.
I don’t see Sandoval as a long term answer, not yet. And if Richards is healthy I think he’ll be re-upped by San Diego. For the last few years we’ve looked the “available” pitchers and built all these fantasies about a “Strasburg/Cole/Heaney/Ohtani etc.” rotation and then, as you well know, signed Harvey, Cahill, Teheran, Andriese. Let’s hope Bundy is the real thing.
We have to start scouting and signing pitchers, and developing them in our farm system. We have to home grow them because Arte will not spend the money to get established pitchers.
I can’t say he’s wrong on that. If we had Cole instead of Rendon we’d lose a low-scoring game followed by 4 blowouts instead of losing 5 high scoring games. It would have been more money for the same results in the standings.
I understand your logic but I am not sure I agree. A pitcher as good as Cole is can often transform a staff. Being able to totally shut down an opponent is a great weapon. Remember, Rendon did not hit a lick the first three weeks, and by that time we had dug a deep hole. So his terrible start did hurt us.
I can’t put my finger on exactly what (but hey, I’m only a fan) but that’s my thinking, too. I don’t think we have done that badly with FA’s: there are big flops everywhere and many are risky. The difference is that we expect big and magical things to happen with them b/c the rest of the org is pretty barren. We NEED big things out of a Rendon or Upton b/c we have no one else (not literally for these players, but generally true, I think). I don’t think the apparent near total inability of the org to turn out OK players through whatever means is quite normal. I mean we can point to a Goodwin or Fletcher, but we need more (even if less effective) players to round out the roster. And instead, we are getting next to nothing from Thaiss, Ward, Rengifo, Barria, etc. Are they being poorly developed so that they wilt when exposed to the bigs (Barria didn’t the first time, but he didn’t look right last year.)? Not talking about all stars or even full time starters, but good/useful role players who can do good things in appropriate situations. We just don’t have them in the org. What’s stopping us?
Paying 25 to 30+ million per year from FA’s then yes we do expect a lot and rightfully so.
I like the idea of bringing Richards back. I think he and Mike are still close so we have that going for us…
The GM thing is going to be the biggest story in the coming months. I’m struggling to believe that Eppler will get another chance but I do wonder if the weird circumstances give him one more shot for 2021 with a very short leash. As far as who would replace him, that’s a question I have not yet fully explored yet.
It’s funny. I was angry and frustrated last night but woke up this morning with a much broader perspective wondering ‘why’? The timing of your article could not have been better. Thank you.
Of the reasons you give, I believe the stars and scrubs explanation works best. It’s particularly true when three of your ‘stars’ (Upton, Ohtani and Pujols) turn out to be scrubs to a level that is shockingly below replacement. The result is no continuity in the lineup and no consistency on the mound or from a winning perspective.
Top teams can be built with a minimum of stars. Arguably the Angels have an abundance of offensive riches with Trout, Rendon and Fletch. But without competent players playing a complementary role, rallies are started and then killed. And with a scrub like starting staff and bullpen, they way outnumber the stars.
Great teams can be built with a couple stars and lots of role players. But they have to play their role at least at major league average.
So why are there so many scrubs on this team? Or shall I say Uber-scrubs? That is, I think the real question. Arguably if the non-stars played at even major league average, this team would be winning. Why do the Angels consistently have players turn into Uber-scrubs? That is probably the subject of another post but I suspect it has something to do with player development, scouting and sheer bad luck. I mean look at Upton. He is the poster child for this conundrum.
Why do the Angels consistently have players turn into Uber-scrubs?
The other part of that is why we release or trade so many future stars or really good players.
Look at what Grichuk is doing now. I watched three minutes of a batting practice that dude had in Tropicana Field before the Majors and I KNEW he would be a stud. He was a little slow to develop, but the Jays are reaping the fruits of that patience right now. Why could our people not see what was clear?
There are ALOT of examples like that with the Angels; Segura off the top of my head is one, Clevenger is another. Occasionally all teams lose guys like that, but it seems we do it MORE.
lol you would’ve been fine playing Grichuk for 6 years with the production he gave, and THEN re-signing him to another big deal? Fanbase would’ve gutted management for that
Six years? I didn’t realize it had been that long. But my overall point still stands. We let a lot of really good talent pass through our hands. Grichuk is just one example. Others, like Segura, produced within a year or two right after they left, This is an organizational issue.
The other part is letting go of guys too soon, which there are MANY examples of, Napoli being the most notable.
To me, it sounds you formulated your opinion, and then you went hunting for examples. Segura hasn’t been anything special.
Pitching development is true though, the pitchers traded to other teams have turned them into something good. well except Nuke.
Nuke would still be starting every 5th day for us. And that says a lot about our situation.
I look at other orgs, specifically big spenders like the Dodgers and Yankees, and wonder how the Angels get to their level in terms of organizational depth. What is most impressive about those two teams is the ability to acquire the big names but also develop players from every which way. Every season, we see the Angels get hit with injuries or underperformances and struggle to find competent replacements pretty much across the roster. Eppler or the next GM will need to find a way to start providing depth at the upper minors and the back-end of the roster to avoid this stars-and-scrubs approach.
Our starting pitching really is that bad. As stated above, we’ve placed large expectations on 1 yr hope and prayer deals like Cahill/Harvey/Teheran. Somehow we let our GM tell us Heaney is a #2 with his 5.5 ERA. Heck, wearelucky Bundy has been so good! (Minus that last start). Maybe we just don’t get a quick turnaround as much as it sucks to think about. I think we need to quit spending money until Hector Yan and company make it up, and definitely put a freeze on trading any low lever arms for the next few years. Then we spend for a real Ace and a #3 and let our farm supplement the rest of the staff. And we hold our breath that those guys in the Bundy package don’t help Baltimore make the playoffs before we do. I’d like to see Trout get in the playoffs from Age 31-on. Of course, I wish we took this approach when he was 25 and maybe we would be ready now.