No Angels in the Outfield
By Ruben Ayala III
To begin the year the Angels were looked at as one of the teams that would get back to the postseason in 2020, but on September 20th the team is seven games under .500 and just secured their fifth consecutive losing season. The offseason consisted of variety of moves for the organization which most of them had to do with the coaching staff and some front office positions. The 2019 offseason was highlighted by the signing of Anthony Rendon and hirings of Joe Maddon and Mickey Callaway. The organization fired their previous manager Brad Ausmus after a 2019 that was injury ridden and was also full of emotion with the passing of Tyler Skaggs in July. For fans this seemed like a new beginning of some sort and the start of a new chapter in the organization.
The 2019 offseason was full of high key free agents, specifically in the pitching department. For most of the offseason it seemed like the biggest target was Gerrit Cole which for many Angel fans was the biggest want. Fans were promised that the front office were gonna be all in and gonna be competing, but they continually missed on every possible name. Even though Anthony Rendon was a nice surprise it still felt like the offseason was still some what of a disappointment. The Angels only other moves besides Rendon was trade for Dylan Bundy, sign Jason Castro, and signing Julio Teheran. The rest of the moves consisted of signing multiple DFAs for the bullpen.
Even though it wasn’t quite the offseason fans wanted there was still reason for optimism and most of that was for the return of Shohei Ohtani as a two way player. Ohtani was coming back from Tommy John surgery and after two solid seasons with the bat people were ready to see him get back to the two way phenom he was in 2018. During spring training Ohtani was relegated to batting and just throwing bullpens during that time. The Angels actually had a plan for him as he was supposed to make some rehab starts during April and was supposed to be activated during mid May. Unfortunately, the Corona Virus spread around the country and shut down all of sports just as soon as Major League Baseball was getting set to finish their training camps and start their season.
For a time it looked like Major League Baseball would be the only athletic organization that wouldn’t be getting back to competition. Most of the spring months were filled with back and forth conflicts from MLB and the owners to get back to playing. Teams didn’t get back to playing until late July and Shohei Ohtani might have suffered the most from this lay off. He had not faced a live batter all spring training and then his rehab starts had to be nixed. Ohtani only had a handful of appearances during what was dubbed summer camp and the results were somewhat shaky, but nobody knew that it was a sign of things to come. Ohtani would only make three pitching appearances during 2020 and none of them were good. His final line was an 0–1 record, and 7 earned runs in only 1.2 innings pitched, a far cry from his 2018 rookie campaign. His hitting would suffer as well, as of September 20th his hitting line is a .200 batting average, six home runs, and 21 RBIs and his on base percentage and slugging percentage were far below his previous two seasons.
Ohtani’s struggles on both ends of the ball was pretty brutal for fans to see as his lack of production was contributing to a lineup that came out of the gate cold as well. Ohtani was supposed to be one of the key bats of the lineup behind Rendon and Trout and he just was not good at all at any point during the season. Him struggling on the mound just added to the struggles of the team as he was supposed to be the ace of the staff going into it. Obviously he isn’t the only reason the team again has failed to meet expectations, but his deterioration certainly didn’t help the cause.
The Angels biggest acquisition Anthony Rendon was also a worry during the beginning of the season. Rendon came down with an oblique issue during the summer camp and missed the first series of the season. Despite hitting his first Angel home run in his first game Rendon had a tough time during the first few weeks of his tenure and at one point his batting average was below .200. Luckily, this was just a cold start as Rendon has since proved he is the bat and player the Angels thought he was. The common theme is that many of the bigger bats of the lineup were extremely cold during the first stretch of the season.
With a 60 game season and there not being a minor league season, many teams opted to bring up many of their top prospects to at least get some reps and especially at the major league level. For the longest time it seemed like the Angels wouldn’t join in and call up either of prospects highlighted by Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell. Both are were highly touted by the organization and Angel fans alike and are looked at to be the future of the Angel outfield. Jo Adell was the first of the two to break into the big leagues and despite getting his first hit in his debut it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. Adell struggled in all aspects of the game and even had a few blunders in the outfield. Now being 21 in the big leagues is no easy feat, but it didn't seem like Adell was adjusting as much as the other rookies making their debuts and that was certainly concerning for fans of him and the team. Despite these early struggles there is still more than enough time for the kid to grow as a player and get used to the major league environment. 35 games is not nearly enough to judge any player.
It seemed like the team continuously underperformed against the lesser teams of the division and that really hurt their chances further as most of these games against teams like the Mariners and Rangers were not close at all. The Angels as a team had close to 30 opportunities with the bases loaded and very rarely capitalized on those opportunities. The team really wasn’t in tune with the fundamentals and had to rely heavily on the home run ball for a majority of their offense with guys on. It also didn’t help that many of the supposed high profile bats struggled for a majority of the first half of the season. The Angels also allowed the most two out runs in the league.
The biggest issue of the season was once again the pitching. Besides Dylan Bundy the staff was either average or below average. The biggest issue on the pitching side was definitely the bullpen. Many of the arms from 2019 had regressed and the arms they picked up during the offseason mostly were really inconsistent. As a collective the bullpen had blown 13 save opportunities, the most in the league. Without the struggles of the bullpen and the regression of guys like Ty Buttrey and Hansel Robles the Angels would surely have a playoff spot already. It’s even worse cause the organization didn’t bring up any arms to even give them an opportunity.
Another area the team struggled in was play in extra innings, in 2020 the MLB implemented a rule where from the tenth inning on and the Angels probably suffered the most with this rule. The Angels have played in 8 extra inning games including one on Opening Day. They only came out on top in three of those games. In fact in most close games the Angels do not have a winning record and that shows the real lack of an approach and being able to come through when it matters most. This team had so much potential, but pretty much squandered all of it by underperforming and not taking advantage of the many opportunities that they had.
This team truly won’t succeed until changes are made in the front office. Arte Moreno has owned this team for years and while the team had continual success in the 2000s the last decade has not been kind. It seems like he has just continued to lose interest in the actual performance of the team. There were certainly other factors that helped contribute to the current state of the organization, but ultimately the organization could probably benefit from letting current GM Billy Eppler go and certainly can benefit from another owner other than Arte Moreno if that’s somehow possible. Angel fans are getting to the point where they’re tired of waiting and just want to see a competitive team on the field and not continuously be mediocre to bad.