This is a first look at the Astros divisional rivals heading into the 2018 season. Today we look at the LA Angels of Anaheim.
- 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
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:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Tyler Skaggs, who was 2-6 with a 4.55 ERA with 16 starts in 2017.
- Matt Shoemaker who was 6-3 with a 4.52 ERA with 14 starts last season
- J.C. Ramirez with an 11-10 record tied to a 4.15 ERA in 24 starts last year
- 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.
- 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