Over the next couple of weeks, we will take a look at each of the Astros AL West rivals and finally a microscopic look back on to our own Astros. Today we begin the topic with the Los Angeles/California Angels of Anaheim/ LA or whatever their name is this week. We will include some stats from 2019 and 2020 since 2020 was such an odd wad season.
- Last Playoff season – 2014 (Swept by KC Royals in ALDS)
- Last Playoff winning series – 2009 (Over Red Sox in ALDS)
- Won WS in 2002 – 4-3 over the Giants
- 2019 Record – 72-90 4th place in the AL West – 35 games back / 38-43 at home / 34-47 on road / 18-22 one run games / 3-7 extra inning games – They were 5-14 against the Astros
- Hitting – 4.75 runs/game (8th in AL) / .247 BA (T-10th) / .324 OBP (7th) / .746 OPS (9th) / 220 HRs (T-10th)
- Pitching – 5.36 runs/game (10th in AL) / 1.381 WHIP (9th) / 32 saves (13th) – Starters – 5.64 ERA (15th) Relievers – 4.64 ERA (10th)
- 2020 Record – 26-34 4th place in the AL West – 10 games back / 16-15 at home / 10-19 on road / 9-9 one run games / 3-5 extra inning games -They were 6-4 against the Astros
- Hitting – 4.90 runs/game (4th in AL) / .248 BA (5th) / .332 OBP (2nd) / .763 OPS (5th) / 85 HRs (5th)
- Pitching – 5.35 runs / game (13th) / 1.315 WHIP (9th) / 12 saves (12th) – Starters – 5.52 ERA (14th) / Relievers – 4.63 (10th)
When talking about the Angels, a number of big storylines/questions pop up. Will the Angels put enough talent around Mike Trout to stop wasting the prime of the best player in baseball? Will they ever get out from under that onerous Albert Pujols contract? (Answer – this is the last year as he earns the big bucks, $30 MM, though he can earn $1 MM per year for 10 years on a personal services contract if he works for the club) Will Shohei Ohtani ever stay healthy enough to fulfill all the two-way hype that has surrounded his career?
In the virus shortened 2020 season, the Angels improved quite a bit vs. the league by basically holding ground and putting up slightly better stats. While the league average of runs per game fell from 4.88 to 4.58 runs/gm from 2019 to 2020, the Angels bumped up from 4.75 to 4.90 runs/gm, which put them in the top 5 in AL offenses. The biggest boost to the offense was the signing of 3B Anthony Rendon (.286 BA/ .418 OBP/ .915 OPS), though they got some nice offensive boosts from unexpected sources like former Astro Max Stassi (.278 BA/.352 OBP/.886 OPS), IF Tommy LaStella (.273 BA/ .371 OBP/ .845 OPS), IF David Fletcher (.319 BA/ .376 OBP/ .801 OPS) and OF Jared Walsh (.293 BA/ .324 OBP/ .971 OPS).
The biggest loss on the offensive side (and defensive side) was SS Andrelton Simmons moving on to the Twins in free agency. He was not the kind of power threat that a Carlos Correa presents and he had missed considerable time in 2019 and 2020, but he is a four-time gold glover. The Angels traded for veteran SS Jose Iglesias to replace Simmons, who had a breakout offensive season (.373 BA/.400 OBP/.956 OPS in only 39 games) with an unsustainable .407 BAbip. The Angels also picked up the unspectacular former Astro Dexter Fowler, whose numbers have been in a decline since his All Star 2016 season with the Cubs. The Angels offense would seem to be headed to a repeat of 2020 as even with some regression from with Stassi, LaStella, Fletcher or Walsh, there should be some bounce back from Ohtani (.190 BA/ .291/ .657) and Justin Upton (.204/.289/.711). They are also hoping that uber young prospect, Jo Adell, pulls a Kyle Tucker and hits much better in his next shot at the big leagues, whether that is to start the season or farther along.
This has been the biggest problem area for the Angels and the place where their fans hoped they would put the most emphasis in the off-season. They let Julio Teheran (who was a disaster in 2020) go. They signed Jose Quintana and traded for the Orioles’ Alex Cobb. Quintana had been a good to very good pitcher in his career with some fall off in 2019 and an injury-marred 2020 (thumb laceration while washing dishes??). Cobb, after some terrible numbers in 2018 and 2019, pitched solidly in 2020 for the O’s. These two, plus Dylan Bundy (very good in 2020), Griffin Canning ( good in 2020) and Andrew Heaney (so-so in 2020) form the core of the rotation. The wild card and possible participant in a proposed 6 man rotation is Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani was very good as a pitcher in 2018, broke down and had Tommy John surgery that wiped out 2019 (as a pitcher only) and only pitched 1.2 innings in 2020. This may not be a great rotation, but it looks like it should be an improved rotation in 2021.
The Angels’ bullpen has been below average the last couple of seasons, not the disaster the starters have been, but not a point of strength. The Angels have “lost” a number of arms out of the bullpen, including Cam Bedrosian, Hansel Robles, Justin Anderson, Matt Andriese, Noe Ramirez and Jacob Barnes with Bedrock and Ramirez being the best of the bunch and others being addition by subtraction.
The biggest move the Angels made for the bullpen was the trade of Noe Ramirez to the Reds for reliever Raisel Iglesias, who has been the Reds closer for a number of years. They also brought in some veteran arms, who may or may not make it into the season, such as Aaron Slegers, Alex Claudio and Junior Guerra. Current closer Ty Buttrey is coming off a poor 2020, but they are hoping for a bounce back from him, plus contributions from other returnees, such as Mike Mayers and Felix Pena.
Overall, it is pretty easy to see the Angels over the .500 mark in 2021, but it is difficult to see, as some prognosticators have predicted, an AL West win for the Halos.
2021 Prediction: 85-77 and third place in the AL West.