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Know Your Enemy: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Happy Opening Day/April Fools’ Day!

Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Welcome back to baseball, y’all. We made it through the 2020 season, participation-trophy expanded playoffs, and “no fans in the stands,” only to be rewarded with a full 162-game schedule, some fans in the stands, and no expanded playoffs in 2021.

Without further ado, I present the first Know Your Enemy of the 2021 season: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim!

2020 Record: 26-34 (4th place in the AL West)

The Angels were one of the few teams that did not manage to gold-star their way into the expanded playoffs, extending their postseason drought to six years. They were competing against a surging Oakland A’s and the bitter “underdog” Houston Asterisks, but managed to not come in last in the AL West — that was a feat reserved for the Texas Rangers and their shiny new stadium.

The main rival to the Angels is the Yankees of the West, Los Angeles Dodgers. I suppose it’s lucky for the Angels that they aren’t actually in the same stacked division as the Dodgers, if only because it’s less humiliating to lose to Oakland by a couple of runs than to lose to the Padres by 100.

The Angels continue to waste Mike Trout’s best years by spending time in the gutter and not being able to field a healthy, competent team around him. With a team as stacked as the Angels, it continues to amaze me that they aren’t better.

2020 Manager: Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon absconded from the Cubs and headed west to sunnier skies and the beach. Maddon was not able to recreate the, ugh, magic he had on the North Side in his first season managing the Angels. Maddon is someone who likes to pretend he’s the smartest guy in the room, so if Mike Matheny is a C-list Batman villain, I guess that makes Maddon that talking caterpillar from Shazam.

Because 2021 seems to be playing out like it’s the 1980s, with TLR helming the White Sox, Maddon is literally telling the Angels to “play like it’s 1985.” Everything that’s old is new again here. Maybe Maddon should work a little better with the personnel he has around his core crop of superstars and spend less time thinking up quippy one-liners.

2021 Outlook

The Angels kept most of the 2020 team together, with the exception of dropping Andrelton Simmons and trading for José Iglesias. The additions of Dexter Fowler (via trade with the Cardinals) and Kurt Suzuki (one-year signing) may not necessarily fill the gaps for the Angels, though Fowler is a very enjoyable player to watch. The lineup is still heavily relying on Trout and Shohei Ohtani while hoping that the breakout performances of Jared Walsh and Max Stassi ( ending 2020 with a .293 and .278 BA respectively) can continue in 2021. Veterans Albert Pujols and Justin Upton need to bounce back, or else they risk running out of fan goodwill (to be honest, Pujols should have lost that goodwill around 2017).

Series Matchup

Opening Day is going to see our man Lucas Giolito facing Dylan Bundy. Giolito is of course everyone’s favorite worst-to-first story, and is still going strong heading into 2021, especially with the addition of Ethan Katz to the coaching staff. Fun fact: Giolito being tapped as the Opening Day starter makes him the second righthander in White Sox history to have this honor. (Let’s pretend that the first wasn’t Jaime Navarro in 1997 and 1998.) Bundy finished last year with a 3.29 ERA, a vast improvement on his 4.79 in 2019. He relies heavily on a four-seam fastball so if batters time him, the Sox should have no problem driving in early runs.

Friday is a matchup of Dallas Keuchel against Andrew Heaney. Keuchel had a stellar season in 2020, with a 1.99 ERA and Cy Young votes. The spring training game I recapped with him pitching wasn’t that great, but nobody cares about spring training. Heaney is looking to cough up less homers than in years past: He’s coasted to a seven-year ERA of 4.44 and 492 hits given up in 504 23 innings pitched. In a repeating trend for Anaheim, 57.8% of Heaney’s pitches are four-seam fastballs which might explain the ERA.

We have Lance Lynn making his White Sox season debut on Saturday, facing off against Alex Cobb. Lynn was one of the big pitching gets of the offseason, coming over in a trade that sent Dane Dunning to the Rangers (poor Dane). Cobb is also making a debut with a new club after spending most of his career with the Rays and a couple with the Orioles. Cobb spent the offseason with Driveline trying to fix some of his mechanical issues.

Sunday sees Dylan Cease vs. Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani is infamously a DH and a pitcher, and is a lot better at one than the other (you decide which). Cease is coming off a pretty decent spring training that I really hope carries over to the regular season, because I have a soft spot for him in my cold, black heart. On days that he’s pitching, is Ohtani allowed to bat? I bet I could look this up, but I’m choosing not to because I highly doubt it’s a riddle that I’m going to have to answer crossing a bridge.

Hear it from Sox fans

As is tradition, I put a call out for reasons to hate the Angels on Twitter, and fans did not disappoint: