The Angels are known for a lot of things, but lefty power is not one of them. But, with Trout out, Rendon doing his best Pujols impression, and no Pujols, well, someone had to carry the team, and Ohtani and Walsh have.
It has been the two that enabled the Angels to release Pujols that are potentially making Angels history, and that isn’t the only thing the pair have in common. Both are lefty power hitters who have pitched before and have been used in the outfield for emergency reasons.
Lefty Power Outage
Not-so-fun fact: there have been 9 instances of an Angels lefty hitting 30 home runs in the 59 previous seasons. There are reasons for this of course. Lefty players are rarer, for one, but the bigger reason may be the wall in right.
The Angels have had hit more home runs in the last 30 years compared to their first 30, but in the 1997 revamp of the park, Angel Stadium added a 19-foot wall in right field which blocked cheap home runs from going out. Even though the Angels are hitting more long balls, the majority of these are coming from right-handed hitters, as the wall perhaps capped some of the talented lefty sluggers in LAA history. Sure, the thought a few years back was that moving the line down wouldn’t increase the home run rate much as balls don’t go off the wall too often, but that might have been a mistake.
Baseball has a mental aspect and when seeing a hit bounce off a high wall, confidence decreases and approaches change. Instead of someone seeing an obstacle, a hitter may see a lower line as opportunity and thus become more likely to hit the ball that way.
Coincidence? Maybe. But considering that there have been only 3 seasons of an Angels lefty hitting 30 home runs from 1997-2017 when the wall was up, it is something to keep track of. Especially since players took note when the wall was changed.
Lefty Duo 2000
There was one time that the Angels had 2 left handed hitters hit 30 home runs in the same season. In 2000, Mo Vaughn and Garett Anderson did that in the record-setting season for basically all Angels players. For GA, it was his only time hitting 30 in a season, and he did so as a CF.
Mo actually did the feat in 1999 as well, accounting for 2/3 of the 30 home run seasons by a lefty with the big wall. GA did get close a few times as well, with 29 in 2002 and 2003, and 28 in 2001. Him and Mo were the lefty power duo for the Angels at the turn of the millennium, something that is rare for the team in its history.
Since 1999 there have been 9 seasons of an Angels lefty hitting 25 home runs, and Mo and GA have 6 of them. Erstad had 25 in 2000, and Kole Calhoun had 26 in 2015 and 33 in 2019 when the wall was lowered. In fact, Kole was the only consistent left handed power hitter the Angels had the last decade, which highlights how rare that is for the Angels.
Lefty Duo 2021
With Ohtani being otherworldly and Walsh breaking out, this is the second time a duo of lefty power hitters have been on this team. They look to have the 32nd and 33rd 30-home run seasons for this franchise if nothing bad happens. (Knock on all the wood)
Ohtani, well…we all know what is going on with Ohtani. He doesn’t care if there was a wall there anyway given how far his bombs go. What has changed this year is his health, and he is hitting it where no one has before, at least, no Angel.
Walsh has really shown he belongs. From a 39th round draft pick who gave up being a 2 way player and had more swing changes than chances at the MLB level, his September of 2020 until now has been astonishing. His 2019 was not good and whatever he did the last time he changed his swing worked.
These two aren’t just putting up dongs either, as they would have the 1st and 10th-best slugging percentages in Angels history if they keep this up. Yes, you read that right, 1st and 10th. Most of the top 10 is Trout and Glaus, Ohtani is looking to become the 3rd Angel to have a .600 slugging in a season while Walsh is looking to be the 8th to slug at least .550.
In fact, no Angels left hander has ever slugged .550 before, GA and Erstad topped out at .541. Meanwhile Mo only had a .508 in 1999. So not only would this be another instance of a power lefty duo, it looks to be even better.
Balance in the Hand
Alright, so Ohtani and Walsh are both lefty power bats. So what? The hand variance is rather vital to lineup success. Having right and left power bats means that opposing teams have a harder time matching up and keeping the offense down. Sure, opposite splits and the like damper this somewhat, but as the wall shows, perception can change reality.
Reggie Jackson holds the Angels lefty single season home run record at 39. Can one of these two break it? I, for one, will love to find out.