Angels Baseball: Outside of Ohtani, first few games create optimism

The Los Angeles Angels received some decent pitching from their starting rotation over the weekend, with the exception of Shohei Ohtani.

Dropping two of their first three games in Oakland was hardly the start the Los Angeles Angels were hoping for this weekend. Unlike in past seasons, there is no time for a slow start, and losses in the first series of the year could be the difference between making the postseason or going home in October.

However, while they started the season a little behind the eight-ball, it wasn’t all bad news for the Halos. In particular, the starting pitching represented itself well and provided some encouragement for the season ahead.

Well, I suppose I should amend that statement a bit. The starting pitching, outside of Shohei Ohtani, was excellent.

Yes, Ohtani struggled in his first real game on the mound since September 2018. His fastball sat in the low-90s and he had trouble controlling it. As such, Oakland sat on his, swinging at only 33% of his offerings and achieved 100% hard contact on the day, per FanGraphs.

Luckily for the Angels, the rough patch with the starters was limited to Ohtani.

Andrew Heaney looked sharp for Angels on Opening Day

As we touched upon on Saturday morning, Andrew Heaney turned in an excellent outing during the first Opening Day start. Unfortunately, the team limited his pitch count and he was done after just 4.2 innings.

What we saw from Heaney was a lot of why the Angels have stuck with him over the years, with the lefty holding the A’s to just two hits on the night. He did a good job of mixing his speeds, limiting good contact (20% barrels per Statcast) while striking out six on the night. In particular, he saw some excellent vertical movement on his change-up, which was dropping an extra inch and a half compared to the same pitch last year.

Overall, his health is what is paramount to the Angels being successful this season, and despite the back inflammation late last week, Heaney looked to be unencumbered on Friday night. He’ll make his next scheduled start on Wednesday against the Mariners.

Dylan Bundy makes his Angels debut look easy

When a player draws comparisons to a Hall of Famer, it is a compliment. When that comparison is to an artist like Greg Maddux, it turns heads.

That’s precisely what Dylan Bundy did in his regular-season debut for the Angels, tossing 6.2 innings of 1-run baseball while striking out seven and issuing no walks. More importantly, he captured the win, guiding the Halos to a 4-1 victory.

Like Heaney before him, Bundy was efficient. Of his 90 pitches, 64 were thrown for strikes. He threw five different pitches, mixing things up well between his fastball (34.4%), slider (33.3%), change (13.3%), sinker (10%), and curve (8.9%).

Bundy’s ability to command the strike zone and mix his speeds kept the A’s off-balance for much of the night. The Athletics failed to barrel a single ball on the night, limited to an average exit velocity of 84.4 MPH. For a pitcher that has struggled with the long ball over the past several seasons, and did so in summer camp, this was an encouraging sign for Bundy and the Angels.

Matt Andriese steps up and calms things down for Angels

While not technically a starter for the Angels this weekend, Matt Andriese essentially served in the role for the Halos when Ohtani failed to record a single out on Sunday. It was hardly how the Halos wanted to draw things up on paper, but it was an excellent introduction for the right-hander.

Acquired over the offseason from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Andriese’s role is fairly nebulous for the Angels. While originally thought to serve in a swing role out of the bullpen, he’s instead been named the team’s fifth starter. Before he was able to take on the role, he was thrust into emergency repair in place of Ohtani.

What Andriese did from there was pure magic.

Coming in with a 5-0 deficit to the A’s, Andriese held Oakland scoreless for the next 5.2 innings. In the process, he scattered three hits and a walk, striking out five.

Unlike Heaney and Bundy before him, Andriese worked off of his change-up, which he threw 30 times out of his 62 pitched (43.5%). Working backward in counts, Andriese kept the A’s off-balance, allowing just  38.5% hard contact and giving the Athletics zero barrels.

Andriese gave the Angels exactly what they needed in that game, allowing the team to claw back in a game that could have gotten away from them quickly. Yes, they ultimately lost the contest, but his efforts gave the team some momentum when they needed it most. It provides some anticipation for his next start as well, which could come next weekend against the Astros.

How did you feel about the Angels on opening weekend? What were some of the good and bad pieces you took away from the first live baseball of 2020?

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