Angels: A Look Into Their First-Half

The Angels headed into 2019 looking to contend for a playoff spot, but so far, it’s a little bit of what we’ve seen in the past.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, and since then, they’ve missed out on October baseball by (chronologically) one game, 15 games, five games, and 17 games. And in that span, they haven’t had a winning record since 2015.

They then proceeded to extend Mike Trout to the largest contract in American sports history this past offseason, locking up arguably the game’s best player for the long haul. This meant they could build a proper team around him without making panic moves to develop an immediate winner.

But they were expected to at least contend in 2019, with quality veteran players across the board and Trout in the middle of his prime. But, 2019 is turning out to be more of the same mediocrity we saw in 2017 and 2018- where they won 80 games each- as their 45-46 record puts them on pace for another 80 wins. And they’re doing this against just the 19th-ranked schedule.

The Halos’ offense has been fine, even with all the injuries they’ve dealt with, placing comfortably in the top half of the MLB at 5.02 runs/game. It’s their 24th-ranked team ERA that’s been holding them back.

But their sub-.500 record isn’t the first disappointment that comes to mind for Anaheim’s first-half. That title belongs to the gut-wrenching loss of teammate and friend, Tyler Skaggs.

The 27-year-old’s tragic and unexpected passing is a significant loss for both the Angels and the sport of baseball. It just puts into perspective that baseball is just a game, and no matter how much money they make, professional baseball players are humans as well. And regardless of what happens this season- good or bad- 2019 will likely be remembered as a celebration of Skaggs’ life.

There is no easy transition from this topic, so we’ll just have to proceed.

The Angels’ season sits in a bit of limbo now, as they have to decide whether to be buyers or sellers. They are currently 6.5 games out of a playoff spot with the sport’s best player in his prime. And with the regular season being about ups and downs, they can realistically get back into the playoff picture. But should they bank on that?

If they were healthy all year long, the decision could have been easier. Two of their most significant absences have been those of Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. In Ohtani’s 53 games, they are 29-24, while being 9-5 in Upton’s short stint. And even starting shortstop, Andrelton Simmons missed over a month of games.

It’s rational to believe that at full strength, they’d be just a couple of games back, and in prime position to make a legitimate push. But as of now, the playoffs look bleak, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had any bright spots:

MVP: Mike Trout

It’s not a surprise to see Mike Trout doing Mike Trout things; it’s become the norm. The impressive thing is that this may be his best season yet, which is a tall task to accomplish.

His .301/.453/.646 slash line and 28 home runs are on track to give him his career-bests in OPS and home runs. His on-base percentage and Weighted Runs Created Plus lead baseball, while his slugging and Weighted On-Base Average rank third. Oh, and his 28 long balls place fourth. His 19.4% walk rate and 76 walks to 69 strikeouts are also MLB-bests. Need I go on?

Cy Young: Hansel Robles and Ty Buttrey

The Angels don’t have that many options to choose from when it comes to pitching. Their lowest starter’s ERA belongs to the late Tyler Skaggs at 4.29. Among relief pitchers, closer Hansel Robles and Ty Buttrey stand out.

Robles has thrown 42.2 innings, while Buttrey has tossed 42. Robles has a 2.74 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, 42 strikeouts, and 2.92 FIP while Buttrey has a 2.57 ERA, 1.214 WHIP, 50 strikeouts, and a 2.82 FIP.

But if a relief pitcher is going to be your best arm, he needs to be tremendous, and as productive as the duo has been, they haven’t been top-tier relievers. And that also goes to speak on the situation of Angels starting pitching.

Biggest Surprise: Tommy La Stella

From a demotion to Double-A three years ago to a first-time All-Star here in 2019 (albeit missing the Midsummer Classic due to injury), La Stella has been one of the best stories, not just on the Angels, but in baseball.

Among qualified second baseman, the 30-year-old’s .300 batting average ranks fifth, .353 on-base percentage, sixth, and .495 slugging, eighth, while his career-high of 16 home runs are seventh. And even the deeper metrics rate La Stella as a top seven, top eight, second baseman in the game.

Unfortunately, his breakout season has been interrupted with a leg fracture that could keep him out until September.

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Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison

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