Defensive lapses lead to trouble for Angels

May 22nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- Through their first 48 games of the season, the Angels have remarkably had the lead in 38 of those games.

It’s been a source of frustration for the Angels, however, as they’re 25-23 despite having a lead in just under 80 percent of their games. The bullpen would seem to be the obvious culprit, since the Angels have blown 10 saves, the second-highest total in the Majors.

But Angels general manager Perry Minasian and manager Phil Nevin pointed to the defense as a reason for their inconsistent play this year. The Angels have made 32 errors, which is tied for the most in the Majors, and have allowed 26 unearned runs to score, which trails only the Rockies.

“It's a really motivated group to win games and sometimes when you're in that situation, I've been around teams where you almost try to put too much pressure on yourself,” Minasian said. “It’s a combination of things. We’ve made some physical mistakes, which are going to happen over the course of a year. But there are some mental errors that have been uncharacteristic to the players we currently have and their aptitude. So I’m expecting that to significantly improve.”

Nevin said the defensive struggles have hurt the rotation, which in turn affects the bullpen, because it is needed for more innings. He pointed to a situation against the Orioles on Thursday, when the Angels had a cut-off man in the wrong spot on a sacrifice fly. It extended the fifth inning, and led to a game-tying two-run homer by Anthony Santander. If the cut-off man was in the right place, Austin Hays likely would’ve been thrown out trying to advance to third to end the inning.

“We had some guys who were out of position, and didn’t communicate and we should’ve got the third out there because he was trying to draw a throw,” Nevin said. “Santander doesn’t hit that homer, [Tyler] Anderson goes back out for the sixth. Those are the things that are affecting us. Mistakes cost the starter a couple extra hitters, a couple more pitches, and costing him going deeper into games. And if you want to take it further, it taxes our bullpen.”

Rookie shortstop has helped to solidify the defense recently and the Angels are hopeful that will shore up the defense as the club’s regular first baseman after returning from the injured list on Saturday.

Third baseman , who is currently on the 10-day IL with a left groin strain, has made some spectacular defensive plays but has also made seven errors in 30 games. is now expected to see most of his time at third with Rendon expected to be out until Friday at the earliest.

Second base has been more of an issue, with the Angels rotating and there. Drury has made two errors and Rengifo has made four total errors, including two at second base.

The Angels also have youngster on the roster for his infield defense. They decided to bring him up over second baseman , who is hitting .355 at Triple-A Salt Lake. Soto is expected to fill in at short and second, when needed.

“We have to shore these things up,” Nevin said. “Since Neto has been out there, it’s been better. With Rendon out and Gio at third, you don’t miss a beat over there. But the less we can merry-go-round these guys, I think Walsh will help with that. It’ll help our starters, it’ll help our bullpen. We’re scoring enough runs to win a lot more games than we have. I don’t think anybody is going to argue with that.”