Dan and Chip are taking a look at the Astros’ AL West competition over the next several days. Today, Dan takes a look at the Angels’ chances against a strong western division.
LA Angels of Anaheim. Entering their 57th season. Extra points if you can name the 4 different team names they have used since 1961.
2016 Record. 74-88 Finishing 4th in the AL West
Last Playoff Appearance. 2014
World Series Appearances/Wins. 1 for 1 – Only appearance in 2002
Best Franchise Season. 100-62 in 2008
Worst Franchise Season. 65-95 in 1980. They won less games (47) in strike shortened 1994 season, but with a better winning %
Manager. Mike Scioscia – Entering his 18th full season with the Angels (1490-1264) – He has managed more games than the last 14 Angel managers, including interims, managed.
GM. Billy Eppler – Entering his second season after previously being Assistant GM with the Yanks
2016 Payroll (from spotrac). $181 million (7th in MLB).
2017 Payroll (projected by spotrac). $150 million (11th).
2016 Offense. 717 Runs (10th in AL), 156 HRs (14th), 73 SB (8th), . 260 BA (6th), .726 OPS (11th)
2016 Starting Pitching. 4.60 ERA (11th), 1.43 WHIP (14th), 309 BBs (5th worst), 699 Ks (13th), .276 BAA (14th), .802 OPS against (14th)
2016 Bullpen. 3.77 ERA (9th), 1.34 WHIP (10th), Saves 29 (14th), Blown Saves 21 (5th worst), .258 BA against (12th) .729 OPS against (10th)
It seems like it was only a few years ago that the Angels were spending a boatload of money and making the playoffs all the time. They made the playoffs in 6 out of 8 seasons between 2002 and 2009 and had that one WS win. Since 2009 they have continued to spend a boatload of money, but have made the playoffs only once getting steamrolled by the Royals (3-0) in the ALDS in 2014. They have been on a decline since that playoff appearance going from 98 to 85 to 74 wins. Do they stop the bleeding this year or sink a bit more?
Infield. Last season the Angels normal infield of 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Johnny Giavotella, SS Andrelton Simmons and 3B Yunel Escobar hit for good batting averages with very little power. The four of them combined for 31 HRs and 183 RBIs. By contrast Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa put up 44 HRs and 192 RBIs just by themselves. The Angels have tried to boost up the infield a bit by picking up former Astro Luis Valbuena as a free agent to be the regular 1B and backup 3B. Valbuena had a nice .260 BA /.357 OBP/.816 OPS in and injury shortened 2016. They also picked up veteran SS Danny Espinosa in a trade with the Nats, who will bring more power (24 HRs and 72 RBIs) with a lot less contact (.209 BA and 174 Ks in 2016).
Outfield. The Angels OF in 2016 consisted of All World CF Mike Trout (123 R, 29 HR, 100 RBIs, 30 SBs), the solid RF Kole Calhoun (.271 BA/.786 OPS/ 18 HRs/ 75 RBIs) and amateur nights in LF between Rafael Ortega (1 HR/ 16 RBIs), Daniel Nava (1 HR/ 13 RBIs) and Nick Buss (1 HR/8 RBIs). The Angels picked up not one, but two veterans to address the LF hole – trading for Cameron Maybin from the Tigers and signing FA Ben Revere from the Nats. Maybin had a solid .315 BA/.801 OPS with the Tigers, but…. he had shoulder problems playing in only 94 games and is having shoulder problems again this spring. Revere had a 2016 very similar to the Angels LFs (2 HRs/24 RBIs/.217 BA/.560 OPS) so the Angels are hoping that Maybin stays healthy.
DH and C. Is it possible to have a pedestrian season at DH with 31 HRs and 119 RBIs like Sir Albert Pujols put up last season? Well it is pedestrian (.268 BA/.323 OBP/.780) when compared to the seasons the Angels thought they were buying – like Albert’s wonderful 2008 (.357/.462/1.114) with the Cards. Right now the Angels would take 5 more of that 2016 season before they get out from under the $140 million they owe him in the future.
In 2016 C was manned mostly by former Astro farmhand Carlos Perez, Geovany Soto and Jett Bandy. Soto is gone to FA and Bandy is gone to the Brewers in a trade for another journeyman C in Martin Maldonado. Perez hit poorly last season (.209 BA/.568 OPS/ 5 HR in 87 games), so the best guess is that he will be backing up Maldonado who was a bit better (.202 BA/.683 OPS/ 8 HR in 76 games).
Starting Rotation. One of the most important facts when looking at the Angels 2016 was that they had 15 different pitchers start games for them and their injured ace Garrett Richards only started 6. His improved health and performance is critical to their 2017. Two of the pitchers who might have vied for a BOR spot, former Astro Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney are both sitting out the season after having TJ surgery. Young Tyler Skaggs who pitched solidly in 10 starts last season (4.17 ERA) is penciled in behind Richards as is Ricky Nolasco, who pitched well in 11 starts (3.21 ERA/ 1.068 WHIP) after coming over from the Twins last year. Matt Shoemaker outpitched his 9-13 record in 2016 (3.83 ERA) and is hoping to bounce back to his best season of 2014 (16-4/3.04 ERA). The last spot in the rotation is probably a battle between veteran Jesse Chavez who signed as an FA from the Dodgers (2-2/ 4.43 ERA) or Alex Meyer who came over from the Twins in the Nolasco trade (4.57 ERA / 1.385 WHIP). The key to their rotation will be returns to success and health for Richards and Shoemaker. And lots of rainouts.
The ‘Pen. Huston Street started 2016 as the closer and pitched poorly (6.45 ERA) and due to injury only pitched 26 times. He is injured again and was shut down the other day for 3 to 4 weeks. Cam Bedrosian who was brilliant in 2016 (1.12 ERA/ 11.4 K per 9 IP) would seem to be the heir apparent to the closer’s spot. Both Andrew Bailey (2.38 ERA / .971 WHIP) and Deolis Guerra (3.21 ERA / 1.106 WHIP) pitched well out of the bullpen in 2016 and would likely roll up to the set up roles. Jose Alvarez (3.45 ERA) is the most likely first lefty out of the bullpen though his 11.1 hits per 9 IP is disconcerting.
Prognosis. Their lineup has holes. Their rotation has holes, but potential. Their bullpen is fairly solid but not deep. This team would seem to be treading water.