Astros’ division rival: 2018 LA Angels of Anaheim

This is a first look at the Astros divisional rivals heading into the 2018 season. Today we look at the LA Angels of Anaheim.

2017 Angels

  • 80-82 Record (81-81 Pythagorean) – 2nd Place in the AL West; 21 GB of Astros in AL West; 5 GB of Twins for 2nd Wild Card
  • Offense – .243 BA (14th in AL) / .316 OBP (11th) / .714 OPS (15th) / 710 Runs (11th) / 186 HRs (13th) / 136 SBs (1st)
  • Starting Pitching – 4.38 ERA (6th) / 1.33 WHIP (7th) / .259 BA against (7th) / .776 OPSA (8th) / 151 HR (11th worst) / 309 BB (11th most) / 711 K (10th)
  • Relief Pitching – 3.92 ERA (5th) / 1.20 WHIP (4th) / 66% save % (6th) / .240 BAA (7th) / .693 OPSA (4th) / 73 HR (7th) / 168 BB (2nd best) / 601 k (4th)

Summary of 2017

The Angels combination of a bad offense, middle of the road starting pitching and good bullpen brought them a predictable mediocre record. Manager Mike Scioscia frankly did a masterful job considering the fact that he lost so much of his starting rotation to serious injuries during the season. The Angels made a number of big moves in the off-season, especially on the offensive end, plus one two-way addition to improve their chances in 2018, but frankly they are more likely trying to figure out how to get into the Wild Card conversation than making up 21 games on the Astros.

2018 Angels Offense

The Angels did a good job of scoring the 11th most runs in the AL considering they were 14th or 15th in most of the major offensive areas. In 2017, it could be argued that they were near or at the bottom offensively at catcher, 2B, 3B, LF and RF. DH Albert Pujols‘ contract is a total anchor, but even with other crappy numbers (.290 OBP / .680 OPS) he at least knocked in 100+ runs. The Angels are hanging their hat on improvement on the following items:

  • A full season of CF Mike Trout – Trout was the best player in the majors for 114 games. He was on a 162 game pace for scoring 183!!! runs, 51 HRs, and 123 RBIs while leading the AL (if he had enough ABs)  with a .399 OBP and .938 OPS.
  • A full season of Justin Upton – His trade from Detroit was overshadowed by the Justin Verlander trade (there is a Justin trend going here) but he had a very strong season between the two teams (.273/.363/.901 slash with 100 Rs /35 HRs/109 RBIs)
  • Picking up 3B Zack Cozart, who was a terrific offensive SS for the Reds in 2017 (.297/.385/.933 slash with 80 Rs / 24 HRs / 63 RBIs).
  • Adding vet 2B Ian Kinsler, whose down season in 2017 (.236/.313/.725 / 22 HR / 55 RBIs) would have been an improvement over what the Angels put out there
  • Adding the Wild Card – 23 y.o. Japanese Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani. Beyond the fact that he has not looked good in Spring Training, using Ohtani at DH on some of his off days from pitching forces Pujols to play 1B on his bum leg or to play Luis Valbuena in place of Pujols. If Ohtani can come close to his great hitting in Japan he could be a big boost to a better offense.
  • Hoping for an every other season improvement from Valbuena who will probably rotate with Pujols and Ohtani in the DH / 1B mix.
  • Some synergistic improvement from terrific SS Andrelton Simmons and normally solid RF Kole Calhoun

Starting Rotation

The Angels rotation is hoping for a tidal change in 2018 to an even more extreme than the Astros in 2017. Last season the Astros were counting on a big turnaround by Dallas Keuchel, better health from Lance McCullers and an out of the blue season from Charlie Morton and got most of that, plus a breakout season by Brad Peacock.  The Angels are looking at a possible 6 man rotation to help Ohtani, who is not used to pitching every 5th game, and a lot of good health that they have not had lately. Here is what they are staring at right now:

  1. Ace Garrett Richards coming back from an injury filled season where the good news (2.28 ERA) was offset by the bad news (only 6 starts)
  2. Andrew Heaney coming back from an injury filled season where there was only bad news (7.06 ERA and only 5 starts). Oh and he is currently battling an inflamed elbow with no timetable for return.
  3. Addition of Shohei Ohtani who has never pitched in the minors or majors and put up a 3.20 ERA in only 5 starts in the Japanese league.
  4. Tyler Skaggs, who was 2-6 with a 4.55 ERA with 16 starts in 2017.
  5. Matt Shoemaker who was 6-3 with a 4.52 ERA with 14 starts last season
  6. J.C. Ramirez with an 11-10 record tied to a 4.15 ERA in 24 starts last year
  7. Other folks in the mix could include former Astro Nick Tropeano who missed 2016 with TJ surgery and was optioned to AAA and Parker Bridwell also optioned to AAA after putting up a 10-3 record, 3.64 ERA and 20 starts for the Halos in 2017.

Relief Pitching

The Angels had a solid bullpen in 2017, but did lose a couple of contributors in Bud Norris and Yusmeiro Petit and may seem a little slim in an area that was very good last season.

  • They have added veteran Jim Johnson, who needs a comeback season after a 5.56 ERA / 1.482 WHIP in 2017.
  • Blake Parker (3-3 / 2.54 ERA / 0.832 WHIP/ 8 saves) is the likely closer.
  • Cam Bedrosian (6-5 / 4.43 ERA / 6 saves), Blake Wood (2-0 / 4.76 ERA / 1.412 WHIP), Keynan Middleton (6-1 / 3.86 ERA / 3 saves), and Jose Alvarez (0-3 / 3.88 ERA / 1 save) return with middle of the road to worse numbers.
  • Noe Ramirez had good numbers (2.16 ERA) in a cup of coffee last season.

Predictions for the 2018 Angels

The Angels should have a much improved offense in 2018, maybe on the edge of the top 5 in the AL. It feels like too many things have to go right for the Angels rotation to be dominant. Too many guys have to shake the injury bug and Mr. Ohtani has to learn the league in a hurry. A middle of the road or slightly above performance would seem to be most likely. The bullpen is likely headed for a small regression, but the Angels have continued to be connected as a possible suitor for Greg Holland, which could be a game changer for the bullpen.

2018 Prediction – 90-72 – 2nd place in the AL West and earning a Wild Card


34 comments on “Astros’ division rival: 2018 LA Angels of Anaheim

  1. I don’t see 90 wins with the present rotation or pen. Trout is remarkable when healthy. But Albert really hurts them. Along with those 101 RBI’s, he posted a -1.8 WAR and an OPS+ of 81. Plenty of other guys would have collected 101 ribbies in that lineup with much better overall stats and an ability to play defense. Heck, and they’ve got four more years of Albert. I think at some point he makes a deal with the club to retire before 2021.


    • Pujols may retire, but he won’t give up $87million for those last three years. He is reportedly feeling good this spring, but he is a big boned, heavy, 37 year old DH with bad knees who had 643 PAs last season and now has to play 1B. If he retires, he’s going to be doing the Angels a favor, but they are going to have to pay him whether he retires or not.


      • Agreed, Albert would certainly would not be (and should not be) prepared to give back 80 something million, but if he is in pain everyday and miserable trying to play the game he used to love playing, then he might get tired of watching from the dugout, or, the club might well get to the point where it simply can’t waste his roster spot and let him go home.


    • I think this is one of those areas where WAR breaks down and RBI gets discounted. You have the crowd that tell you high RBI totals are overrated because they are a product of the players around you, but the Astros proved over a three or year period that just getting a man to 2B or 3B with no outs wasn’t enough…you still had to have someone in the batters box with the right approach to knock him in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Angels are really old.
    Their best player may not run as much as he used to on the base paths, and the Angels only gave us fits last season when they ran on us.
    Garrett Richards is a good pitcher who has gotten hurt quite a bit. He is signed only thru 2018.
    Behind Richards, their staff does not look very good.
    If all their position players defy age and play like they did in their best years, they are a tough team. Don’t understand how people could talk about the Astros and use the word regression, and not expect a double dose of it for the Angels.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Here’s the deal – the Angels could fall off like crazy – but to me they look like they could have a much stronger offense. It comes down to the rotation performance for them. Maybe I picked them too high but I just have a feeling.


    • I suspect Thor feels pretty much the same. How often do you get a chance to blow a no-hitter, a shutout, and a win for your teammates all at the same time?

      Who knew Thor’s evil half-brother Loki had shape shifted into the body of a 24 year old from minor league camp who had never played an inning above A-level? Where were the Hulk [J.D. Davis], Iron Man [Bregman], and Captain America [Springer] when Thor needed them most?

      Back to the drawing board on that ‘hammer ball’, Thor!


  4. My favorite kid outside of my nephew had a great day. Rogelio!
    And great to see Fisher wake up and collect three hits. Partly because I don’t think Tony Kemp will ever be enough of a hitter.
    Speaking of my nephew, if there really is a battle for the Yuli job, nephew is losing it.


    • I think your nephew just lost his spot on the OD roster to a Mr. J.D. Davis who is having the best spring of any Astros hitter. Your nephew had a decent spring, but nothing compared to the mammoth spring J.D. put up.


  5. I think the Angels are going to finish near .500 again (+/- 2 wins). They don’t have any depth in the rotation that they can depend on and the bullpen, as it sits now, is shaky. The offense and defense look good and this will keep them in many games, but they have too many high risk injury players that they need to stay healthy to be a legit contender. My sleeper team in the A.L. to contend for a WC is in our division, but it is not the Angels.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It looks like Davis over White. What about Kemp vs Fisher? Could Kemp get it with the ability to play infield and outfield?
    When Yuli comes back – it would seem like Davis would go back down. But what if he is doing well and they just have Marwin playing mostly LF? Could they then send Fisher/Kemp down since Springer, Reddick and Marisnick can play all 3 positions.


  7. I agree with DanP in the 90 wins PROVIDED you look at each player and each position. And they have added three really good players and who knows about Ohtani. But this team is not equal to the sum of its parts. At least in the past, they haven’t done as well as one would expect. So 90 wins is probably 5-8 too many unless Scioscia can find a magic combination this year.


    • I was thinking Scioscia might not make it all the way through the season. He’s pretty much done at the end of 2018 anyway. Unless the club catches fire, I don’t see a new deal for him.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The other thing about Fisher is that if he does not get the job done, it will hasten the promotion of Tucker. If Fisher flunks out, I think we’ll have a pretty good option come summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the Angels are overrated. I’m going 82-82, but I think a couple of injuries could prove fatal to this team.
    I think Mike Trout could be the best player I have seen in my long life and the only thing that might keep him from being the best player ever might be the team he plays for dragging him down. When you use your eyes, he is fantastic. When you use the stats, he’s even better.
    Has Ohtani been sandbagging? We’ll know in two weeks.
    I’m betting Gurriel starts the season serving his supension. If he starts on the DL he HAS to miss 15 games. If he starts the year on suspension, he can use the suspension to be completely healed and then play the moment he is ready.
    I think JD Davis makes the opening day roster. He can play 1B and 3B and he might be able to play a little LF. Lord knows his arm is way better out in LF than Fisher’s or Kemps. I think Davis mostly plays 1B when he plays, especially if Texas goes with all those lefty pitchers.
    I still think Marwin plays more LF than most people think.
    This is what I think. What the heck do I know?


    • Ohtani may be the key for the Angels. If he is not ready and they stick with him it could hurt them both sides offense and pitching. Also if Cozart is not as good as he was last season…


    • I think Yuli gets treated very conservatively. So if he misses the first 15 games, it’s just less wear and tear come October. It also give us a real opportunity to see what Davis can do, assuming he gets the nod.

      Luhnow wants Fisher to succeed, especially against righty pitching, so that Marwin does not have to play too much left.

      Ohtani is going to need a real thick skin, even if he is the second coming of Babe Ruth. How many guys in the majors really want to see this kid succeed? He’ll get pitched up and in, he’ll get breaking balls away and every attempt to completely flummox him will be made. And i’m dying to see how the best team in the world at drawing walks deals with him on the mound.


  10. Fisher sprained his ankle this afternoon, and he was trying to plead his case for staying in the game, but Hinch took him out just in case. I could read his mind all the way to Kingwood, thinking “dam-it this could cost me a spot on the team …NO!!!” Fortunately he had done enough already this spring to make his case for staying up with the big club! I’m glad both of these guys got to break camp with the Astros. I’m happy for both of them, and Daveb…..we will see your nephew again before the season is over! Becky⚾


  11. You know Becky, Tyler is a bit long in the tooth at this point. I think he’d best benefit from a trade to a rebuilding organization where he’d get a real chance to play. We’ve got other younger, more athletic kids coming into the picture.


  12. Just some comments on the last Sunday before Opening Day:
    -Tyler White looked a little heavy this spring.
    -I think the Astros used White’s last option.
    – Three of the games of the Rangers series are day games and the Astros look to be facing LH starting pitchers in all three of those games. Fister will face Keuchel in the Friday night game.
    – Interested to see if Stassi catches LMJ in the Saturday afternoon game.
    -An interesting quirk in the schedule has the Astros playing the Padres in Houston on Sunday, April the 8th, then playing the next three days in Minnesota, then flying back to Houston for three against the Rangers and then the next four days against the Mariners in Seattle, then the next four days in the midwest again in Chicago against the Sox.
    -Last year I was stunned when the Astros won so many games. This year I will be stunned if they don’t. I am just trying to control myself.
    -Most confident in: Verlander
    -Least confident in: Cole. I am waiting to see that passion I have heard about.
    -The only Astros that I have seen with their game faces on this spring were Verlander, Reddick, Gonzalez and JD Davis. The Astros start the season with four games against the team I have the most disdain for in all of baseball.
    -Baseball is crazy. Last year, the best player on the entire Rangers team was Elvis Andrus, and it wasn’t even close. Go figure! We could find out a lot about Andrus as this year ends. He actually can opt out of a contract with four(or 5) years left on it($60 million) if he decides he wants to play for a winner.
    – The Rangers could have as many as 11 players from their 25-man roster leave the club at the end of this coming season, not including their current bench, which has two players on it with no options left, plus a Rule 5 guy.


  13. And….that’s the ballgame!!! The boys are on their way back to Houston with 19 spring training wins! This coming Thursday can’t get here fast enough⚾


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