The Angels 2020 Season
The Los Angeles Angels 2020 season ended the same way their previous five seasons did- they missed the playoffs. This time they finished two games behind the Houston Astros for the second spot in the AL West. Two games. But, it wasn’t enough to save general manager Billy Eppler from being fired. So, after five seasons of futility, the Angels will once again be looking for a new general manager. More importantly, they will be looking for a new direction. For now, let’s look at the Angels 2020 season: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Even during a 26-34 year, when finishing fourth in the AL West, the Angels season had plenty of Good. Some of it was expected, like Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon playing well. Some of it was the continued growth of a valuable young player- here’s looking at you, David Fletcher. And some of it was completely out of the blue, which leaves the Angels front office and fans alike wondering if it was just an aberration.
Mike Trout. There isn’t a lot more to write about one of the best players the game of baseball has ever seen. Sure, his walk rate was down and he ended the season in a funk, but he’s still Mike Trout. With a few more games maybe the Angels make the playoffs and then the conversation would once again be about him winning the MVP.
Anthony Rendon had an excellent first season in Anaheim. He got off to a slow start after a sore oblique cost him the first four games of the year; he was hitting .103 after 13 games. From there, he was Anthony Rendon once again. According to FanGraphs WAR calculations he was first on the Angels with a 2.7 WAR. Baseball-Reference had him tied with Dylan Bundy at 1.8 WAR, also for the team lead. So maybe he wasn’t the starting pitcher the team needed and still needs, but Rendon is an amazing player that the Angels are more than happy to have.
David Fletcher gets better every season. He batted .319 /.376/.425 and finished with an OPS+ of 121, which was his first time being better than a league-average hitter. He played incredible defense at 2nd base. Plus, he hits balls that are over his head. David Fletcher didn’t falter in the chaos of 2020; he thrived in it.
Jared Walsh. Walsh was the September AL Rookie of the Month on the strength of a record-breaking run. He tied for second on the team with nine home runs despite playing only 32 games. Walsh is the type of player that winning organizations are able to find. His game isn’t perfect and he doesn’t have a defensive home, though first base seems the most likely, he has the power to change the game with one swing of the bat. That alone is a valuable commodity.
Max Stassi might be more than a backup catcher. The Angels were .500 in the games he started with a staff ERA more than a half-run lower when he was behind the dish. He was third on the team with a .886 OPS. In short, he was a major upgrade over Jason Castro, who was traded mid-season.
Dylan Bundy- wow. While 11 starts aren’t exactly the biggest sample size, Bundy unquestionably pitched the best baseball of his career in 2020. Simply leaving the cozy confines of Camden Yards for the pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium did wonders for Bundy. But his transformation was much more than that. Before his blowup against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bundy had a stellar 2.48 ERA. His Field Independent Pitching (FIP) survived even his last two starts to finish at 2.95, which was 4th in the American League. His 1.04 WHIP was tied for 4th in the league. Again, 11 starts don’t make an ace but the changes in Bundy’s game are definitely something the Angels can count on in 2021.
Jaime Barria only pitched in seven games (five starts) for a total of 32 and one-third innings but he was an excellent contributor down the stretch. He didn’t have any amazing games and he didn’t have any terrible games. Instead, he was consistently solid. His 3.62 ERA was nearly identical to his 3.65 FIP. More importantly, Barria was able to bounce back from a difficult 2019 campaign where his ERA ballooned to 6.42.
Mike Mayers was a revelation in 2020. He only gave up earned runs in three of the 29 games he pitched. He ended the season with a 2.10 ERA. His 12.9 K/9 led the team, as did his .900 WHIP and 2.19 FIP. Plus, he ended his season in style by winning AL Relief Pitcher of the Month. So, when we talk of who the Angels will plug in at closer next season comes up, Mike Mayers should be near the top of the list.
The starters weren’t much better- their 5.52 ERA was second-worst in baseball. But, as we will see shortly, this number was weighed down by the incredibly poor performances of a few pitchers.
They started too slow. They were 2-8 in their first ten series of the year, leading to a 10-22 record. Thus, the 16-9 run that followed was too little too late.
Albert Pujols. Sure, this could be “Ugly” but the reality is this is pretty much what’s expected of him now. So, a .224/.270/.395 line that puts him in the Bottom-20 of hitters with 150 plate appearances doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Rejoice, Angels fans, one year left.
There’s a lot to go through here. Hence, another losing record.
Shohei Ohtani started two games before injury reduced him to just a designated hitter. He pitched terribly- he had a 37.80 ERA in one and two-thirds innings pitched. Even worse, he didn’t have the highest ERA for Angels pitchers with at least two starts. Jose Suarez also started twice, pitched a total of two and one-third innings, and finished with a 38.57 ERA. Wow. Ohtani didn’t hit much better. His .190/.291/.366 line was solidified by how out of sorts he looked in the batter’s box. So, his future on the mound is uncertain at best. And, his future as a hitter now might include playing some first base with the hope he’ll return to form with the bat.
Julio Teheran was the worst pitcher in baseball. He started nine games (10 total) and ONLY pitched 31 and one-third innings. He had ZERO quality starts. In fact, he only had one start where he completed five innings. The Angels went 2-8 in games he pitched. Even his 10.05 ERA, 1.755 WHIP, and 54.7 LOB% don’t fully capture just how bad he truly was this season. He only had eight more strikeouts than home runs allowed. His performance will include him in the minds of Angels fans next to Matt Harvey and Tim Lincecum.
Jo Adell was the worst player in baseball, according to FanGraphs WAR. He was out of sorts in the batter’s box, on the base paths, and in right field. Remember? There isn’t much positive in Adell’s 2020 campaign.
The 15 starts (or 25% of the season) of Teheran, Ohtani, Suarez, Dillon Peters, and Matt Andriese accounted for this:
33 and two-thirds innings, 53 hits, 55 earned runs, 30 walks, 26 strikeouts, 14 home runs allowed, and four hit by pitches
So, they went 0-8, the team went 3-12, they had a 14.70 ERA in a little over TWO innings per start; plus, a 2.584 WHIP.
This is what destroyed the Angels season.
In the next few days, we will be looking at the Los Angeles Angels franchise going forward in an in-depth series, Angels 2021 and Beyond. Enough looking back at the disastrous Angels season of 2020. So, if you were hoping to read more about Griffin Canning’s improvement, who the real Andrew Heaney is, or the many other important topics regarding the organization as a whole just know those questions will be answered in the upcoming series.
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