Bolstered by the addition of Anthony Rendon, the 2020 Los Angeles Angels could have one of the most potent offenses ever.
Heading into the offseason, the Los Angeles Angels were looking to make a splash to catapult their team back into contention after missing the playoffs for five consecutive seasons and finishing a mediocre 70-92 in 2019. Pitching was at the top of their wish list, but after failing to land a big fish in the starter market, they ended up signing silver slugger Anthony Rendon.
General Manager Billy Eppler is counting on bounce-back years, low-risk/high-reward signings, and the return of Shohei Ohtani to rejuvenate the rotation. It will be up to the offense to do the rest. We might see plenty of 8-7 games at Angel Stadium this season.
But just how good is this Angels lineup? Well, Matt Vasgersian of MLB Network thinks the 2020 Angels could have one of the best lineups in franchise history.
Adding Anthony Rendon to a lineup already stacked with special hitters opens up the possibility for a special season. Let’s take a look at some of the best lineups in Angels history to see where this 2020 group could rank.
The most difficult task of comparing lineups between seasons is accounting for changes in league trends. Different eras produce different outcomes based on a variety of factors from the composition of the baseball to the size of parks to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
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FanGraphs provides us with a metric to compare teams across different eras called Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). It essentially measures overall offensive production while adjusting for league and park factors. 100 represents league average. We can thus interpret wRC+ to say the Angels offense in 1982 was 14% better than league average that season. Comparing the Halos offense each season to league average, we find Reggie Jackson and Doug DeCinces‘ 1982 team to have the best offensive season in franchise history.
The current trend for offenses in 2020 is the reliance on home runs. It is all or nothing at the plate these days, with teams exchanging higher batting averages for more long balls. The 2020 Angels are projected to hit 232 home runs this season, which would put them within spitting distance of their franchise record of 236 in 2000.
As the graphic shows above, the Angels projected .259 batting average falls short of previous Halo teams, but their projected .444 slugging percentage would be the highest among the group highlighted.
Taking a look at the projections for each individual player in 2020, we start to see why this Angels offense could be special. Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani are projected to finish in the top 10 % of major league hitters across a variety of offensive categories this year. If opposing pitchers are somehow able to navigate through the heart of the order, they are faced with trying to retire Albert Pujols, who still carries some pop, and Justin Upton, who the projection systems see as a rebound candidate. With Andrelton Simmons and Jason Castro carrying their weight at the bottom of the lineup, there are not many easy outs up and down the lineup card.
Will the 2020 Angels have the best lineup in franchise history? It’s hard to say when it’s only March, we are still several weeks away from playing meaningful baseball, and the upcoming season is sure to bring many ups and downs. That said, the projection systems and common sense tell us this team will do plenty of damage at the plate.