After losing five straight games, it only seems appropriate to talk about the Los Angeles Angels’ struggles. After one of the hottest starts in baseball, the Angels have significantly slowed down. Obviously they weren’t going to keep up their magnificent opening stretch throughout the entire season, but what once looked like a World Series caliber team now looks like a team that lacks confidence and ambition for a ring.
When the starting rotation was terrible in the beginning stretch of the season, the Angels were winning more games than they were losing because of the lively lineup. Now that the starting rotation has settled in and been lights out, the Angels are losing as many games as they are winning, mostly because of the lack of production from a potent lineup. It is unjust to blame one or two guys for the lack of a team’s offense but the offensive approaches by Ian Kinsler, Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart, and Albert Pujols have really halted the run production.
Ian Kinsler, for example, is making a good amount of contact but he is just having a tough break in that most of the time he makes contact, it’s usually directly at a fielder. According to Fangraphs, Kinsler makes contact 89.2% of the times he swings, 1.2% higher than his career percentage of contact per swing. As a matter of fact, his high contact rate may actually be a touché, causing him to hit more pitches directly at fielders. He doesn’t chase that many pitches out of the strike zone, but when he does, he makes contact so many times that he ends up with a higher probability of getting himself out. Of the following, however, Kinsler has the highest probability to get back on track soon since he just needs to find the gaps.
Kole Calhoun has been in one of those season-long slumps so far and no matter what he does, he just can’t seem to rid himself of his dry spell. His main issue is that his swing path has changed from that of two years ago when he had his breakout season. He is getting on top of the baseball and thus has made much more contact that creates more ground balls. His groundout to airout ratio is a whopping 1.75, compared to his groundout to airout ratio of 0.88 in 2016, his breakout season. The change in Calhoun’s swing path has also led him to swing and miss on more pitches. Instead of being a pioneer of the launch angle era, Calhoun seems to be regressing, and he needs to fix that.
After his best offensive season, the Angels were expecting another strong showing from Zack Cozart. He looked to be extremely consistent at providing run scoring opportunities from the leadoff spot while Kinsler was in the disabled list at the beginning of the season. After two weeks, his productivity sharply began to decrease and now he is swinging an inconsistent bat. Occasionally, he’ll have big games followed by games he would like to forget. This is most likely caused by his aggressiveness in the batter’s box. He has swung at 28.3% of pitches out of the strike zone, which is about 4% higher than the amount of pitches out of the strike zone he swung at last season during his best offensive year. Despite his high swing rate on pitches out of the zone, Cozart has made “hard” contact about 38.9% of the time, according to Fangraphs, which is actually 8% higher than last year; therefore it’s same to assume that Cozart, like Kinsler, can easily break out of inconsistency if he is able to find gaps.
Similar to Cozart, Albert Pujols is swinging at more pitches than ever. He has chased pitches out of the zone a staggering 40.3% of the time, the most in his career. As a result, pitchers are pitching Pujols out of the strike zone and will continue to do so until Pujols demonstrates that he can lay off pitches. This season, only 43.5% of the pitches Pujols has seen have been in the strike zone. As a result of his overt aggressiveness, his rate of contact has significantly decreased. Easier said than done, but Pujols needs to chase less pitches and stop trying to do too much.
All in all, the struggling pieces in the lineup seem to be at least moderately aggressive at the plate, trying to do more than they should. Instead of trying to break out of their slumps by swinging more, they should try to break out by being more selective and seeing more pitches.