Why the Angels Fell Short of the Playoffs (Again)by B.J. Martin September 30, 2020 0 comments
Keeping in line with the letdown that is 2020, the Los Angeles Angels disappointed fans by failing the reach the postseason for the sixth straight season. This was accomplished despite another MVP-caliber performance by Mike Trout and an offense featuring newcomer Anthony Rendon, lead-off hitter David Fletcher and a breakout season by rookie Jared Walsh. While Dylan Bundy pitched well in his first season with the Angels, the club lacked the consistent performance of a well-rounded starting rotation one would expect from a championship team.
A few things working out differently for the Angels during this brief two-month season and we may be looking at the club getting ready for the Wild Card series beginning Tuesday. Here are some reasons the Angels are once again watching the postseason from home.
A Shortened Season
The abbreviated 60-game season did not favor the Angels this year. New manager Joe Maddon spent the first month giving Shohei Ohtani starts on the mound that failed and four-week slumps to Justin Upton impacted half of the club’s season. The Angels finished August at the trade deadline 12-24 and last place in their division. This led to the club trading Tommy La Stella and fourth outfielder Brian Goodwin. Following the trades, Upton’s offensive performance picked up and players like Jared Walsh and Taylor Ward began seeing more playing time and success. As a result, the Angels went 14-12 to finish the season and were the final American League team eliminated from the playoffs.
Had the Angels been given another 102 games, a later trade deadline, they may have been able to work their way back into the playoffs this year. Fans will never know if Ohtani would have been useful again as a pitcher this season or if Walsh and Ward would continue to define themselves in regular roles in the Angels line-up. Having a few extra months for the trade deadline would have given the club more time with La Stella in the line-up and potential buyers looking to add pitching instead of the sellers they ultimately became this year.
Ohtani was expected to fill the role not only as the team’s designated hitter in 2020, but the club’s ace starting pitcher every Sunday afternoon. Instead, Ohtani struggled in his two early-season starts, failing to finish two innings in either outing. Ohtani spent the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and additional stress to his pitching arm led to the Angels shutting him down as pitcher after those two starts.
Ohtani continued to serve as the Angels’ primary designated hitter but failed to provide the results he gave them the previous two seasons. Ohtani looked unprepared at times at the plate, especially against left-handed pitching, and finished the season with an abysmal .188 batting average, seven home runs, and 24 runs batted in.
The Angels will need the 2018-2019 Shohei Ohtani back as they go into spring training next February. He should be healthy enough to go through a normal training camp as a pitcher and hitter but will have to prove to the Angels that he’s still capable of being the ace starting pitcher they saw in his rookie season of 2018.
Walsh was a non-factor in the Angels August game plan leading up to the club selling at the trade deadline. Once given a chance to play every day in September, Walsh did not disappoint. He finished the season hitting .293 with nine home runs, and 26 runs batted in across 32 games and 99 at-bats down the stretch. Walsh slugged 36 home runs at Triple-A Salt Lake last season and gives the Angels enough promise to be considered as an option as the team’s regular first baseman going into the 2021 season, a season in which Albert Pujols will be playing his 10th and final season of his contract.
Imagine the punch Walsh could have provided the Angels line-up had he been given the chance to play more in July. Walsh was named the American League Rookie of the Month for September. Next season, expect Walsh to see more time at first while Pujols splits time at designated hitter with Ohtani.
It was painful at times for fans watching Joe Maddon determine which of the Angels’ bullpen arms could be depended upon when the game was on the line. Hansel Robles was just horrible as the team’s ninth-inning option and finished the season with an earned run average in double-digits. Eventually, newcomer Mike Mayers emerged as one of the most impressive relief pitchers in the entire league earning AL Reliever of the Month for September.
Mayers eventually found himself as Maddon’s late-inning guy and did not disappoint as the Angels made a late run for a postseason spot. As Ty Buttrey, Keynan Middleton, and Hansel Robles failed to meet expectations in the short season, Mayers gives the Angels something to build around going into next season. Mayers is under team control through the 2023 season.
Angels Weekly Update
Mike Trout was named the Angels’ Most Valuable Player (again) and Dylan Bundy was given the Nick Adenhart Award as the club’s best pitcher for 2020. Trout finished 2020 hitting .281 with 17 home runs, 46 runs batted in, and a .993 OPS. Bundy finished his first season with the Angels 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 65.2 innings.
Andrelton Simmons’s decision to forego the final five games of the regular season provided two Angels alternate training site players opportunities the final weekend series. Second base prospect Jahmai Jones hit .429 (3-7) and veteran minor-league infielder Elliot Soto hit .333 (2-6) during the final series against the Dodgers. Soto spent ten seasons as a minor league player and recorded a base hit in his first major league at-bat for the Angels Saturday.
The Angels fired general manager Billy Eppler following the final game of the Angels fifth straight losing season Sunday afternoon. Eppler was hired five years ago and led the Angels to five losing seasons despite extending Trout’s contract, winning the Ohtani sweepstakes, and bringing in Simmons, Upton, and Anthony Rendon to bolster their lineup.
The last five World Series champions have featured players that were with the Angels earlier that same season. Last year, the Washington Nationals had Daniel Hudson closing their title game out. Hudson was released by the Angels at the end of spring training before finding his way to Washington. The previous four years saw Ian Kinsler (2018 Red Sox), Cameron Maybin (2017 Astros), Joe Smith (2016 Cubs), and Drew Butera (2015 Royals) go from the Halos to World Series champions.
This season, the Athletics’ Tommy La Stella, Reds’ Brian Goodwin and Padres’ Jason Castro are all on 2020 postseason clubs.
Follow B.J. Martin on Twitter @_HaloLife
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