How will LA Angels manager Joe Maddon handle the pitching staff in 2020?

Joe Maddon, Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Joe Maddon, Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

"Last season LA Angels manager Brad Ausmus was very cautious with how he handled the starters and not surprisingly the Angels had no complete games."

Only LA Angels starter Andrew Heaney even got through eight innings.  Ausmus employed the opener strategy close to 30 times during the season with moderate success.  He also would not let some starters go through an opposing team’s batting order twice.  The numbers of some of the pitchers on the third time through a line-up backed up Ausmus strategy and for awhile it worked out more times than it didn’t. However, after the All-Star Break the Angels bullpen was gassed and they started coughing up runs and blowing leads left and right.

Enter new Angels manager Joe Maddon.  How will he handle the Angels pitching staff in 2020?  This is a good question and while we will have to wait and see how Maddon and new pitching coach Mickey Callaway handle the staff in 2020.  In defense of Brad Ausmus, Maddon will have a much better staff to play with than Ausmus.

The Angels have added inning eaters Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. In addition they should have a healthy Shohei Ohtani back in the rotation and hopefully a healthy Griffin Canning and Andrew Heaney.  However, from past experience Maddon will not always play the numbers game, instead trusting those pitchers who have shown that can be trusted earlier in the season.

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Maddon will be very careful with Shohei Ohtani who may have an innings limit placed on him as he attempts to come back from Tommy John surgery.  The Angels will need a healthy Ohtani to lead the staff as it stands right now.  Canning and Heaney have also showed signs that they can be top-end of the rotation starters if they can stay healthy.

Maddon will use his bullpen when necessary and if he can avoid overworking them they can be very effective with guys like Keynan Middleton, Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian, Noe Ramirez, and Justin Anderson setting up closer Hansel Robles, who was the Angels most effective reliever in 2019. Robles saved 23 games in 27 opportunities with a 2.48 ERA striking out 75 batters in 72.2 innings of work and a WHIP of 1.02.  Opponents only batted .221 against Robles, who came out of the bullpen to the song of the wrestler “The Undertaker”.

If Maddon can get six or more innings out of his starters in most games it will go a long way in keeping the bullpen fresh making them more likely to be effective.  Maddon is definitely more of an old school type manager and does not play everything by the numbers.  In 2019 in Chicago the Cubs bullpen was not very effective which forced Maddon to rely more on his starters as he allowed guys like Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester to go deeper into games with mixed results.

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With the Angels bullpen having more weapons Maddon will be able to manage more like he wants to because he will have more arms in the pen that he can trust. Let’s see what happens as the Joe Maddon era is set to begin in three months.