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Know Your Enemy: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Angels in the outfield, infield, and concourse

MLB: SEP 10 Angels at Astros
Shohei, Superman.
Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last time

The White Sox opened the season on the West Coast way back in April. Shohei Ohtani was back in the lineup and rotation, and Albert Pujols was still on the Angels. It was also the Angels’ first Opening Day win since 2013.

Mike Trout and Pujols were the Game 1 heroes, with Trout delivering the game-tying single and with Pujols grounding out to allow Ohtani to score the go-ahead run. Game 2 of the series was the beginning of a record-breaking run for Yermín Mercedes who, in his second career game, went 5-for-5 in the DH spot and helped lift the White Sox to the 12-8 win. Game 3 of the series saw a fly ball bounce off of Luis Robert’s head and the Angels take the win, but not without Mercedes Yerminating into the record books with eight straight hits, the first player since at least 1900 to do so. The final game was a loss for the White Sox. Ohtani did some two-way magic, with a 101 mph pitch and a 115 mph homer.

With that, the White Sox limped out of Anaheim and looked a whole lot like a disappointing team of years past. Luckily, that feeling went away (for the most part).

How it’s going

Well, the Angels are in fourth in the AL West, 14 game back. Their place in fourth looks pretty solid, seven games behind Oakland and 17 ahead of the Rangers. Collectively they’ve struck out 1,247 times and are slashing .247/.309/.413 with an OPS of .721. It’s not all bad for the offense. David Fletcher is leading in hits (156) and batting average (.279) while Ohtani leads in RBIs (94), home runs (44), and OBP (.361). The Angels only have 173 home runs but do have 241 doubles, which isn’t too shabby. They also claimed (and released) Adam Eaton.

Trout is currently on the 60-day IL with a calf issue and is unlikely to return this season. He played a career-low 36 games this season and still managed to slash .333/.466/.624, because he’s Mike Trout.

The Angels dropped two out of three against the Astros after splitting a two-game series in San Diego, so their downward trend continues. They’re 8-12 in their last 20 and have a -72 run differential. Since the All-Star break, they’ve slashed .229/.291/.367 as a team and when compared to the .257/.319/.440 before the All-Star break it’s hard not to notice the slump. With Trout having been out since about May, the backslide does make sense. On the road, the Angels are slashing .235/.297/.388 which actually isn’t the worst in baseball (that honor is reserved for the Rockies).

Joe Maddon is still their manager, at least through 2022. I wish I could make $12 million to finish fourth in the division two years in a row. I’m a weirdo who wears thick, black-framed glasses and if that’s all you need to qualify as manager for the Angels, I’m there. Or maybe they just need to send Maddon to work at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to get super managerial powers. It worked for Mike Scioscia.

Pitching matchups

Today will be Packy Naughton vs. TBD (aka Lucas Giolito, coming off of the IL). Naughton debuted on August 8 against the Dodgers and got a no-decision, lasting one inning with a 9.00 ERA for his trouble. Since then he hasn’t done too terribly, but he’s also got the Angels behind him. He’s 0-1 over 14 innings with a 2.57 ERA this season, and most recently went five innings against the Padres with a 3.12 ERA. Naughton relies on five pitches in his arsenal: 4-seam fastball, changeup, sinker, slider, and curveball. Against lefties he’s 1.80 but righties have hit him to the tune of a 3.00 ERA.

As of this writing Naughton was the only pitcher announced for the series, so let’s look at the rest of the Angels pitching staff.

When compared to the other 15 AL teams, the Angels are 11th in home runs given up to opposing teams. Ohtani is their best starter, with nine wins and 136 strikeouts in 21 games and posting a 3.36 ERA. Let’s hope the White Sox don’t face him again this week. On the road the pitching staff is 33-39 with a .458 win percentage. This season they’ve walked a total of 523 batters while striking out 1,307. As a staff their ERA is 4.71 so not even Ohtani could bring that down. Their best month in 2021 was July, with 80 walks and a 3.75 ERA (the only time this season the ERA was below 4.00).

Why we hate them

I mixed my schedule up this week and thought we were playing the Rangers first (I was later corrected by someone on Twitter) so plenty of Texas jokes coming in the next series. For now though: