Angels Baseball: Three steps to save the 2020 season

Manager Joe Maddon, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Manager Joe Maddon, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Angels, Dylan Bundy
Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

3 steps to fix Angels season: Extends starting pitcher outings

Dylan Bundy got off to a rough start on Thursday, surrendering a three-run home run in the first inning, but he settled in nicely from there. Despite the tough first, Bundy would give up just one hit and walking a single hitter through his next five frames. He would finish with eight strikeouts on the night and left after throwing just 90 pitches over six innings of work.

While Bundy inevitably wore the loss on the night, the end results didn’t come as down to his efforts. Unfortunately, the final score was determined by another bullpen meltdown, but we’ll get to them in a minute.

Through seven games, Bundy’s two starts represent the only two on the season where an Angels starter has completed more than five innings. That doesn’t include Matt Andriese, who passed up his own start to throw 5.2 innings of mop-up after Shohei Ohtani melted down last Sunday.

Outside of Bundy, there are also question marks as to what pitchers could go further into games. Ohtani, who made his first start since 2018 after Tommy John surgery, may still be handled with kid gloves due to his long-term potential on the mound. The same could be said of Griffin Canning. Andrew Heaney was lifted after his stuff dipped following his second turn through the lineup on Wednesday, despite the fact that he was sitting at just 64 pitches. And then there is the pair of Patrick Sandoval and the soon-to-return Julio Teheran, both of whom were slowed by the coronavirus. The latter is expected to join the rotation next week but never had the opportunity to throw in a live game at summer camp.

There’s something to be said about the need to be cautious with the starters given the shortened summer camp. The rash of pitching injuries across the league has already shown the shortcomings of not properly stretching out workloads. However, the season length also limits the available time to amply build-up these guys as well. It’s a tough line to walk, but it may come down to a decision of weighing the value of contending in 2020 or protecting arms for 2021 and beyond.

If the Angels want to succeed in 2020, they have to shorten the bullpen game by stretching out their starters. Instead of relying on the middle relief corps to overachieve, challenge your starters to do so. That gives you a chance to line up your bullpen and get into the high leverage guys before those situations have already been blown.