After an uneventful and disappointing start to season, Angels’ fans seem just about ready to throw in the towel. Although you never want to start the season off on the wrong foot, it happens; it’s a reality check to the hopeful feelings everyone has right before Opening Day rolls around.
Just last week in Spring Training, the Angels offense looked unstoppable while the pitching staff was handing out runs every time opponents threatened to score. That just goes to show how quickly things can turn around in a baseball season. Here’s why Angels’ fans should calm down and be patient before calling it a lost season and why the Angels can prove to be a great team with the ability to bounce back.
The top of the starting rotation has been good enough. Despite his slight struggles on Opening Day, Trevor Cahill has displayed his pitching prowess by bouncing back against the Mariners on Tuesday, in which he only gave up one run on three hits through six innings while striking out five and not giving up a base on balls.
Tyler Skaggs also had a decent outing in his first appearance against the A’s this season. Although his line of two runs allowed on five hits through four and two-thirds of an inning doesn’t look that great, he was utilizing his pitches effectively and with good command. Unfortunately for him, the A’s weren’t being overtly aggressive and chasing the devastating, put-away curveball Skaggs has.
Even if the bottom of the rotation doesn’t pick up their slack, the Angels still have some depth in Triple-A Salt Lake in Jaime Barria who had an excellent rookie campaign last year, posting a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts. And it’s also a possibility that the Angels decide to test Griffin Canning, their #2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, at the Major League level.
At the rate this team’s bullpen is dealing, the starting rotation doesn’t even need to be one of the best for the Angels to be contenders. Through 27.1 innings of relief pitched, the Angels’ bullpen has combined to post an astounding 1.95 ERA which ranks second among all Major League teams, behind only the Rays, and their combined allowed OPS of .559 ranks them fifth across the Majors. In particular, the hard-throwing youngsters Justin Anderson and Ty Buttrey have carried the team’s bullpen in high leverage situations, combining for 8.2 innings of work in which they have given up only six hits, three walks, and no runs, striking out ten.
While Anderson and Buttrey have headlined the dominant bullpen, it’s important to note the contributions of Cody Allen, who many expected was not going to return to his dominant form. In three innings of relief he has faced ten batters; only one got on base safely. In one save opportunity, Allen recorded the save flawlessly.
With the pitching staff being the headline of this team so far, it’s no secret that the Angels’ offense has been sleeping. Without Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani, arguably the second and third-best hitters on the team, the Angels haven’t had many opportunities to score, and when they do have opportunities, they don’t capitalize. But it’s only a matter of time before their bats start getting hot, specifically Kole Calhoun’s and Justin Bour’s who are historically at their worst in the months of March and April. Andrelton Simmons is also expected to start heating up soon as he continues to work on his swing timing. When these three begin to start hitting the ball well, expect this team’s production to skyrocket as they’ll have a deep lineup once Ohtani and Upton return from the injured list.