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LA Angels: The Bad Kole is Back

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ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 27: Kole Calhoun #56 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doubles in two runs in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on July 27, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 27: Kole Calhoun #56 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doubles in two runs in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on July 27, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Remember when Kole Calhoun was super awful for the LA Angels? And right after that, he was super amazing? Well, he’s super awful again, and that tells us everything we need to know.

The statistics tell the story:

  • From March 29 to May 31: .145/.195/.179 in 185 PAs
  • From June 18 to August 16: .306/.374/.644 in 225 PAs
  • From August 17 to Sept. 14: .172/.284/.237 in 109 PAs

The excitement and luster of that monster return from the DL is over. But wait, there’s more! From last season:

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  • From April 14 to May 29: .178/.266/.280 in 177 PAs
  • From May 30 to June 24: .337/.402/.533 in 107 PAs
  • From June 25 to July 30: .184/.266/.306 in 109 PAs

Looks familiar? Some people might say Calhoun’s been streaky, but to be streaky in a good way, the  good streaks to outweigh the bad ones. The problems Calhoun has had with the bat were more pronounced and more publicized this season, but they’ve been problems for much longer than that. The disappointing seasons the Angels have logged these past two seasons are in no small part due to the deep slumps the Angels’ everyday right fielder has fallen into — it’s hard to be a good team when the guy batting in front of Mike Trout is a complete zero two-thirds of the season.

While the Angels have youth coming up at the infield positions, the organization’s immediate outfield depth is still a problem. When Trout and Justin Upton are healthy, there’s no issue, but both of them have gone down for extended time with injuries this season. With Calhoun struggling terribly, the Angels have had to deal with some ugly outfield configurations. Veteran Eric Young Jr. has filled in as needed in center, but there’s no upside to be had there, either offensively or defensively. Michael Hermosillo isn’t ready for prime time, and Jabari Blash‘s inability to make contact is likely fatal to his big league prospects.

All of that is to say that the impact of Kole Calhoun’s struggles become magnified. The Angels don’t have a ready replacement, yet they badly need to replace the hole in right field created by Calhoun’s bat. Not only that, but at 30 years old, his defensive value has begun to decline as well. Between Calhoun’s contract status — he’s signed at a reasonable salary through 2019, with a 2020 buy-out that the Angels are guaranteed to take — and the team’s lack of any viable alternatives, the Angels are stuck riding out Calhoun’s deadly extended slumps.

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That the Angels can’t replace him in-house likely means we’ll be getting at least another few months of Calhoun next season. As for Calhoun himself, it appears that the mechanical changes he made after his DL stint didn’t stick, and he’s back to being ice-cold. There’s always the hope that he can get his mind and body right, and rebound in 2019, but we’ve had almost two full seasons of a below-average hitter who has only gotten worse. It’s a bad turn for the Angels, and a sorry turn for a franchise stalwart.

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