No Major League Baseball games are played in the winter, but there’s a reason many fans follow the latest news as fervently in the offseason. It’s the same reason that the faithful agonize over every free agent signing (or lack thereof) in December, critique every trade made in January, and scrutinize the smallest roster decision in February. Our collective love of the game always provides that, given enough time removed from the pain of each season’s previous nadir (and for 29 teams each season, the campaign ends in failure), we will always search for the next positive moment. The next optimistic future. “Winning the offseason” can be a source of pride, but if the moves a team makes don’t lead to happiness, seeing the players wear the colors at Spring Training can be the next avenue to stir up those fuzzy feelings deep down.
Angels fans before spring training:— Jessica DeLine (@abaseballchick) March 11, 2021
This team never does enough. Our pitching stinks.
During Spring training: We could win the Series!
June: I hate it here.
Jessica has the gist of it here, and has seemed a bit like
Palm Springs Groundhog Day the past few seasons, with underwhelming acquisitions that never came close to our “If I Were Billy Eppler/Perry Minasian” pieces, save Anthony Rendon. On the pitching side, it seems we have to do mental gymnastics each year to convince ourselves that newly acquired pitcher Matt Odrisamer Brooks Ricky Harvey Despaigne Pounders Nolasco is the newest and shiniest solution to what has been a revolving door of a problem. And every year, we learn that Trevor Cody Deck Julio Cahill Allen McGuire Teheran isn’t the answer, frustration seeps in, and as playoff hopes fade, the cycle starts anew.
Yet, while “June: I hate it here.” seems to accurately reflect my mind-state every, well, June, I would like to take a little time to articulate my thoughts on the state of the Angels over the past few years. Despite having the services of the game’s best player, LAA hasn’t been a favorite to win the division in some time now. As alluded to above, the pitching has not been a dominant force since before Jered Weaver left the team, and each season, the bullpen seems to be stitched together with whomever we seem to find in the bargain bin.
It’s a frustrating situation, to be sure.
Here we are, once again in 2021, relying on a number of things to go right yet again to lead to team success. Dylan Bundy needs to continue his torrid Cy Young pace and prove his 2020 season was not a fluke. Andrew Heaney needs to put together just one consistent season. Alex Cobb needs to undergo the same sort of Baltimore-to-Anaheim transformation that Bundy underwent last year. Someone needs to step up and hit at the positions where there are no entrenched starters, be it Juan Lagares, José Rojas, Jared Walsh, Brandon Marsh, or another player. The bullpen needs to see some positive variation for once.
We know all of that. We know what GM Perry Minasian has or hasn’t done, the players we wanted that haven’t been signed, the trades we concocted that didn’t go through. We know all that because it’s the same sort of activity that has happened basically since the Angels last made the postseason. There have been a series of shrewd moves, but there has never been a streamlined offseason where it seemed the organization and the fans were on the same page of the direction of the team.
Here’s what we also know. Mike Trout has adjusted his swing after two “off-seasons” for him. (It’s very plausible to look at Trout’s 2019 and 2020 and conclude that he got sucked into trying to hit the ball out of the park every single AB, but that’s an exploration for a different date.) Anthony Rendon somehow remains one of the most quietly consistent superstars in the game. Shohei Ohtani is throwing heat and mashing the ball. The Angels might have replaced Andrelton Simmons with the one guy at short in José Iglesias who would not demonstrate a noticeable drop-off in defense at the position. David Fletcher exists. These are all known qualities. In the worst-case 2021 season outcome, Trout, Rendon, Ohtani, Iglesias, and Fletcher provide a reason for watching this team, not even counting the actual value they bring to the table.
And that is the reason that this team is always so exciting and so frustrating. This team has the superstars. It’s not one of the other rebuilding teams in the league because it actually has big names that produce and isn’t looking for the next cornerstones of its next playoff team. At the same time, it isn’t one of those consistent juggernauts whose fans get apocalyptic with every loss (yes, we’re frustrated, but perhaps deep down, we know that the losses are representative of the true quality of the team?). The random variation pieces that we need to get to turn the Angels into a postseason contender is so small relative to other teams in the league. Odds are that it probably should have happened by now, for at least one season since 2014. Yet each March, the chasm seems far, and it is unknown whether the margin will be breached this year.
Following the Anaheim Ducks the past few seasons has been a different type of pain. With no shot of making the playoffs 35% of the way into the season, it begins to be a form of hate-watching to follow the team you supposedly love. I may be more-or-less indifferent to the Angels winning or losing in late September “in the name of the tank”, but it is just so hard to go half the season feeling like that. And it’s helped me realize that even though the Angels are in the despondent state in which they’ve been for the recent past, I have derived so much joy from this team in the past few years. When you’re constantly sitting three-to-five games out of a wild card spot for a chunk of the season, if you don’t look at the numbers, you feel right in the thick of things. Every game matters. It might even be more exciting than being a Dodgers fan and watching the team cruise to a division title with little competition each year. Almost.
Because that’s the oldest trick in the book of storytelling, isn’t it? Heroes need to face conflict. If you write the story long enough, eventually the hero has to make the playoffs, somehow, someway.
Fangraphs has listed the Angels as having a 37.3% chance of making the playoffs. More likely than not, 2021 will be another lost campaign. But regardless what happens, with the job the Angels organization has done, whether through luck, money, or some other factor, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, and David Fletcher exist. The Angels won’t be twelve games out on June 1, 2021. And I truly, truly think that’s beautiful.
Photo credit: Erik Drost, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a 150 game season, right? Anything above 75 wins and .500 ball would be a welcomed surprise. The offense is really going to have to carry this team, along with the bullpen.
Nope. A full 162 game season
Where did you get 150 from?
150 games was talked about at some point. Was hard to keep up with changes/proposed changes and when they were implemented or not.
So anything over an 81 win season would be a marked improvement for the team.
Heres just one of them:
for those that aren’t aware, we are down 3-0 going to the top of 3rd. Two HRs for Dodgers so far. Maybe the game thread will get up soon
Man, the Dodgers are such a fun team to watch when we aren’t playing them.
Absolutely. I used to hate the Dodgers with a passion but honestly, with how Arte handled the covid pandemic I lost all respect for him and haven’t felt that same passion with this team. I’m gonna find myself watching more Padres and Dodgers games if the team starts stinking it up again. I love Trout and he’s the main reason why I’m still a fan of this team. So here’s to hoping the Angels strike gold and somehow get Trout to the playoffs this year.
I still don’t like most Dodger fans, but I have nothing against the current, well run, and talented team.
Rather see a west coast team dominating over Yankees/Sox any day.
Disagree. I still hate the Sox but I’d rather see the Yankees win than the Dodgers.
So, about that optimism
I hope and pray the GOAT doesn’t underperform into a goat this season. ST hasn’t been kind to him. Without MVP Trout the team is in trouble.
That won’t happen. He ain’t Albert Pujols you know.
He should be just fine for the next 6 seasons
4,177 days since the Angels last won a Playoff game (Game 5 2009 ALCS vs NYY)… didn’t get a single win all last decade. Please, PLEASE let that change this year.
After beginning strong with the Iglesias acquisitions, team down-shifted into taking flyers on folks versus nailing proven commodities. Not a killer mentality that is required to win playoff games. Although, Cobb and Quintana have peaked my interest.
Starting pitching has improved. While not great, I’m optimistic the Angels will be above average and keep it competitive most nights.
After Perry’s shopping spree last night, I’ve suspended my rants on the pen until memorial Day. Angels just lack the flamethrowers to be a true shutdown pen. Expect ups and downs. I would like to see Faria perform well as he was nice enough to be interviewed for CTPG.
Offense will be the same, maybe a tick better. Same position questions marks as last year, right? 1B, RF and perennial question…will the LF show up? Perry went cheap on the RF solution, passed on 1-year Pederson ($7M, 7 hrs this spring), 1-year Rosario ($8M) or a 1-year Schwarber ($11M).
Summary, after drinking a couple of 7.4% Ales, I see the Angles overcoming RF issues, pen uncertainty and and chatty broadcast booth to eclipse to 87 wins.
I don’t miss Schwarber or Rosario too much–defensive liabilities, both, although Fowler can’t really play OF either nowadays. But I do wish Perry went for Pederson.
FYI: piqued not peaked. 🙂
That says what happens when your beering it up waiting for the Bruins! Sent Michigan home! Love the Madness.
Then don’t be so obtuse.
Anyone use TMobiles mlbTV deal? Says tonight’s game is on. I’m assuming most the other ones are going to be blacked out?
IDK. There are times when it looked as if the game might be available, but they turned out to be blacked out. Afaict, every local game has always been blacked out, so I doubt it will actually be available come game time.
I’m always optimistic on opening day, but as an Angels’ fan, there’s always a buttercup waiting to strike.
Predicting 85 wins and we miss the playoffs by one stinkin’ game.
Heaney and Canning are concerning. However, if we get at least 90 innings from Ohtani, I can see an 86 win season.
Heaney and Canning are about as unpredictable as Cobb and Q. They all need health and some luck this year.
Hopefully Heaney and Canning just pitch efficiently rather than try to nibble the corners and get to 100 pitchers by the 5th.
It could be a fun season. But i’ve been hurt too many times.
Gonna need to see some extended winning before I believe we can pull it off.
Convince me, Angels!
Judging by the moves the team made this off season and spring training (yeah, I know, small sample size and spring doesn’t count), and the fact they seem to be content starting the season with Fowler in right field, I’m going with 82 to 84 wins. Just slightly above a .500 team if they don’t have too many injuries. The division will probably finish as A’s, Astros, ? (Maybe Angels)
I’m enough of a fan to see a good chance for 85-90 wins going into the season, even with the recognition that, in 3 months, I’ll look back and ask myself, “what the heck was I drinking?”. But optimism without any record to strike sobriety into your head is some pretty good stuff.
I said 85 and I’m ok with that. However after seeing what USC did to my Ducks I’m also saying the Trojans have a real chance to beat Gonzaga tonight. If Gonzaga routs ’em then maybe I’ll revisit my “gut instinct”.
Better revisit that gut instinct of yours….
After watching the Sc game, a probiotic maybe in order.
So many ifs. I could honestly make an argument from between 75 and 95 wins depending on pitching (mostly). Also Walsh is a big variable as is Upton and others.
My Optimism-quotient has waned over the last 6 seasons as well as with Covid. I’ve been disappointed so many times and on so many things that I’m not going there again.
Let’s just say I’m excited for a baseball season and leave it at that. Maybe a drop of hope but that’s all I’m allowing.
I laughed out loud at Jessica’s comment. So true. At least we are in the we’re still in it mode for the next few weeks! Ride the peaks!!!
Lol. You won’t be saying that after we lose three of four to the White Sox to open the season.
I can only be mad at myself for expecting different results from the same team that is consistently inept. Angels baseball, as you mention, has 3 seasons: the offseason of why didn’t we do anything and I’m glad I stopped watching last season phase; players are reporting I want to get out to AZ to see some action phase; and finally the this season is over, I’m done spending money on the angels phase.
Loosely quoting my most favorite ever optimistic Halo Honk.
“You can call me a boot licking company man all day long.”
I look forward to his positive spin on our team every show.
I am sure he reads CTPG so I say, “You go Roger Lodge!!”
Being an optimist Angel Fan is a disease and I got it bad.
The smile here is obviously CGI. Nobody has a mouth that wide!
His face looks like a baseball, especially the stitching!
It was. They started with a regular smile and extended.
This is from the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.
I’m not a hope guy!
( President Snow……The Hunger Games )
Oh the optimism of Spring. I love it.
Guys who will pitch for the Angels who did not pitch for us in 2020: Ohtani, Quintana, Cobb, Iglesias, C-Rod, Cishek, Watson, Claudio, Slegers, Hoyt, Faria.
Guys who pitched for the Angels in 2020 who are now buried on the depth chart: Buttrey, Noe, Suarez, Sandoval, Peters, Bard
Guys who pitched for the Angels in 2020 who are gone: Teheran, Andriese, Milner, Robles, Key, Bedrosian, Buchter
I’m buying into the floor being raised. With this offense and defense, a competent pitching staff should mean a winning record. And we have a competent staff. We’re the third best team in Southern California, but likely in the mix in our division.
I sure hope the offense wakes back up.
Prior to the 2019 season I predicted 75 wins although I thought 65 was a possibility. We won 72. But this year I think if Ohtani has a decent pitching season we’ll win 85. I have faith in Quintana, not so much Cobb, less in the bullpen.
Would 85 get us in? It might.
My guess is also 85. No hard reason for it, just a gut feeling.
I don’t think 85 would be enough. Teams are getting better, and if it is the Wild Card which we are targeting (assuming AL West is out of reach) the teams in the East and even the Central should be improved, with the Twins, White Sox, Blue Jays etc are vying for a potential Wild Card (if the Indians don’t win the Central they could be there too!).
My prediction was 90 wins, but admittedly I am being optimistic. I am assuming general health of our pitching and core players etc. But I agree with you that Ohtani is key, on both offense and his pitching. Really, Ohtani’s ability to contribute a quality start every week (or close to that) is very important. In that regard, last night was not encouraging. He has been increasingly wild ever since he came back from the surgery. We really need him though.
As far as the Wild Card, so much will have to do with the schedule. We get 6 games against LA and 4 against SD. Probably the two best teams in baseball. And neither SF or Arizona are really garbage.
The AL Central gets matched up with the NL Central. So they will get to beat up on the weakest division in baseball, inflating the win total for the second place finisher in that division.
However, the reverse is true of the AL East. Getting matched up with the NL East is tough. Yes Baltimore will feed the second place finisher wins, but this gives us an edge over Toronto or TB.
I think our most likely path is that Oakland finally regresses this year, we take care of business against Seattle and Texas and the East teams beat each other up.
Pretty much agree. Except that I am not expecting a regression from the A’s. Every year (usually in late Spring or early summer) they go on like a 10-11 game winning streak that catapaults them in the standings. That kind of streak is something we can never seem to manage.
I do agree that beating up on Seattle and Texas is a must. Part of the problem last season is that we were horrible against those two teams. That has to change. We also need to play around .600 ball against teams like Kansas City, Chicago and Minnesota. Maybe .550 would do. You know that the Rays, Yankees, etc will extract their pound of flesh from us — they almost always do. If we can avoid getting swept in a three game series by an inferior team and then pull off a 9 or 10 game win streak at some point, then, we’d have a shot I think. Problem is that is hard to win 9-10 straight with the kind of starting pitching we have. Getting one or two good win streaks and avoiding losing streaks is obviously important.
I believe the team to beat for a division title are the A’s.
Same. The A’s somehow always come through. One of these years they won’t pull it off. But that year hasn’t come in a long time.
Yes, winning those series against teams that are in/near our tier are key. Hopefully Iglesias proves pivotal here so we can not blow the late leads against KC, Toronto, etc. this year.
Pretty spot on with what has to happen to be in playoff picture
The Asstros could also slip a bit