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Why Aren’t the Angels Good?

We’re only 21 games into the Angels season, but as of now their record is exactly what every season has been since their last playoff berth in 2014: mediocre at best. But it shouldn’t be this way. They have the best player on the game right now in Mike Trout, a lightning rod of a phenom in 2 way player Shohei Ohtani, and a slew of other good players. So, what’s been the deal?

The Recent History of the Los Angeles Angels

Let’s take a look at the past 6 seasons for the Angels since their last playoff birth and look to see what went wrong:

2015 Record: 85-77, 3rd in the AL West.

The Angels have just been swept by the Royals on last season’s playoffs, but that’s just because their best players, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, had bad series. It’s Trout’s first playoff series, you can forgive that. Let’s focus on the next one.

However, losing the offense of Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton in addition to a decline from pretty much everyone not named Mike Trout resulted in 13 fewer wins than the year before. At this point, the Angels knew they couldn’t simply “run it back.”

2016 Record 74-88, 4th in the AL West

The big signing this offseason was defensive maestro Andrelton Simmons replacing Erik Aybar at shortstop. While this was definitely an improvement, we again saw subpart offensive seasons from pretty much everyone outside of Trout. Pujols was decent, but certainly not the player he once was. As it came to pitching, it was mostly the same it had been the past few years: some decent outings and seasons, but no true dominant ace. Jered Weaver had a particularly bad season, ending with a 5.06 ERA over 31 games

2017 record: 80-82, 2nd in the AL West

If you think of this season as finishing right behind the eventual World Series champs in the Astros, it doesn’t seem too bad, especially when considering the cheating the Astros were doing. That said 80-82 was definitely not good enough to make the playoffs. Trout is obviously doing the heavy lifting on offense, as Andrelton Simmons was the only other player who played at least 50 games to have an OPS+ above 100 (which is the league average). Particularly dreadful was Danny Espinsoa, who had a 39 OPS+ in his 77 games for the team. They need upgrades at 2nd and left field in particular. Pitching is still also underwhelming.

2018 Record: 80-82, 4th in the AL West

Imagine having the same exact record at last year and being lower in the standings as a result of it. The AL West was stacked this year. Justin Upton had a very good year, which was certainly good to see, and rookie Shohei Ohtani had a .925 OPS in 104 games as a batter (good for a 151 OPS+) while also going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 games as a starting pitcher. This was pretty indicative of the rest of the pitching, as most of the main pitchers were above average this year (at least according to ERA+). However, as indicated by their record, not everything was bright. Pujols was better than last year in terms of OPS+, but he was still below average (91). Other problem areas were 3rd baseman Luis Valbuena (61 OPS+) and right fielder Kole Calhoun (79 OPS+), who played 96 and 137 games, respectively.

2019 Record: 72-90, 4th in AL West

Shohei Ohtani spent the year as a DH only due to his Tommy John surgery, ending with a 119 OPS+, second highest on the team behind Mike Trout at 180. Once again, we had a mixture of good and bad seasons, with a good many plagued by injuries. Justin Upton was limited to only 63 games and did not look as good as before when he did play. Newcomer Tommy La Stella was an All Star, but he broke his tubular just before the break and was out for almost the rest of the year (he played in two of the Angels’ last three games). The pitchers could not get it together this year, with Jaime Barria Matt Harvey, and Jose Suarez posting ERAs over 6 and Dillon Peters and Trevor Cahill posting ERAs in the 5s, accounting for a total of 63 games started for the team.

2020 Record: 26-34, 4th in the AL West

It was clear the Angels were sick of sucking and possibly wasting Mike Trout’s best years, as they decided to go out and get one of the top free agents on the market in Anthony Rendon. Of course, everything changed with the pandemic, and we only had a 60 game season. That said, the results were underwhelming for the Angels. Trout and Rendon played great, but that was about it. There was a lot going on in the season, so there’s only so much you can take away from it, but it seemed pretty likely the team would have been better if they played a full 162 games.

Now: 2021

The team looks a little different than last year, in particular with Jose Iglesias taking the place of Andrelton Simmons (another defensive shortstop who hits respectively, too). But that doesn’t mean expectations still aren’t high. Rendon has only played in 9 games, which may help explain their 11-10 record so far, but of fully healthy this team should be able to make some noise. Ohtani is back on the mound and looks like an MVP candidate from both sides of the game (3.29 ERA and 1.016 OPS). Who needs a DH, honestly? Rookie Jared Walsh has also looked really good so far this year, and once Max Stassi comes back from injury the team should have above average players all around the field.

Maybe it’s Trout. Maybe it’s Ohtani. Maybe it’s Foolish Baseball favorite David Fletcher, but there’s something about this team that makes me want to root for them. We’ll see of they can finally live up to expectations this year.

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– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter) Check out my other articles here!

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