What we learned from the Angels' season
This story was excerpted from Rhett Bolinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
ANAHEIM -- It was another disappointing season for the Angels, who haven’t made the postseason since 2014 and haven’t posted a winning record since 2015, which is the longest streak in the Majors.
But unlike recent years, pitching wasn't the culprit, as the Halos posted a 3.77 ERA that was tied for the ninth-best mark in the Majors. Instead, it was the offense that struggled, as their 623 runs scored was the sixth-lowest total in the big leagues.
It was a season that saw two-way star Shohei Ohtani have another unbelievable year and fellow superstar Mike Trout reach 40 homers in just 119 games. But it was also a year that saw manager Joe Maddon get fired on June 7 after the Angels had lost 12 straight games.
General manager Perry Minasian knows it’s an important offseason to get this club back on track, and he is bringing back Phil Nevin as manager to bring some stability to the organization.
“If you told any of us that watched last year that we’d be in the top 10 in pitching, you’d think we’d be at least in the mix,” Minasian said. “But that’s baseball. You have to be good at everything. There’s no secret formula. You have to be able to compete on a daily basis in every area -- the bullpen, the rotation, lineup, bench depth. All those things. And we did not do that. That falls directly on me. We need more players. And not in specific areas. And that’s something I learned from last year."
The Angels got off to a great start and were 27-17, only to lose 14 games in a row starting on May 25 against the Rangers. Maddon was fired after they lost 12 consecutive games, and the Halos never recovered from that stretch. They played the Blue Jays, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Mets and Dodgers during their downfall, going 2-18 from May 25 to June 15.
What we learned
The Angels need more depth, as they couldn’t replace Anthony Rendon’s production at third base when he underwent wrist surgery in June and also had trouble scoring runs any time Trout or Ohtani slumped. Minasian said improving the club’s overall depth is one of his main goals this offseason, as he focused almost exclusively on pitching last offseason and didn’t do enough to improve the offense.
The Angels saw improvements from young left-handers Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and José Suarez during the season, and they should be able to count on them again next year. Sandoval posted a 2.91 ERA in 27 starts, Detmers had a 3.77 ERA in 25 starts and Suarez had a 3.96 ERA in 22 outings (20 starts). It’s a promising sign for the Angels, who have struggled to develop their own starting pitchers.
Area for improvement
The Angels need to improve on offense, but they also could use some help in the bullpen, especially after trading closer Raisel Iglesias to the Braves at the Trade Deadline. The move freed up salary, but now Los Angeles doesn’t have an experienced closer on its roster. Minasian said improving the bullpen is a priority, but the team hasn't decided whether it needs to bring in a veteran closer or go with an internal option.
On the rise
Infielder Luis Rengifo and outfielder Taylor Ward both had breakout seasons and should be firmly in the mix next year. Rengifo can play anywhere on the infield, and the Angels haven’t decided whether he’ll start at short or second next year, as the middle infield is an area Los Angeles also might look to upgrade this offseason. Ward started off red-hot and finished strong, essentially locking up a spot in right field next year.
This is an easy one, as it’s again Ohtani. He is also in the mix for the AL MVP Award along with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who is considered the favorite. Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, hit .273/.356/.519 with 34 homers, 11 stolen bases and 95 RBIs in 157 games at the plate and went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings on the mound.