The Los Angeles Angels are heading into year two of the Joe Maddon experience and history will tell us, that’s a good thing.
While last season did not end the way most Angel fans would have wanted, there still were nice signs of hope. Dylan Bundy looked to be a steal of a trade, Mike Trout still looks awesome and Anthony Rendon looked like he’s worth his contract for now. Add all that up with the rise of David Fletcher and you got yourself a pretty good ball club. The best part, Joe Maddon always does better in year two.
In 2006, Joe Maddon headed to Tampa for his first full-time head coaching gig with, at the time, the Devil Rays. Year one wasn’t the prettiest as Tampa finished with 101 losses on the season. In year two they only won five games more but had two key players take a huge leap in James Shields and Scott Kazmir. While the team record was not great, both pitchers were able to put together at least 12 wins and Kazmir had 239 strikeouts while Shields punched out 184.
I think it means something that he was able to win more in year two than year one with that team and help two pitchers grow. Dylan Bundy, in the small sample size, made drastic improvements this season. He was 6-3 on the mound this year with 72 strikeouts through 66 innings. Had he had a whole season, he would have eclipsed his seven wins from the year prior in Baltimore and probably have come close to doubling it.
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The Rays were a different type of project. While he made improvements in year two, he made unthinkable improvements in year three. He went from winning 66 games to losing only 65. The 97-win Rays went on to win the AL Pennant with all their starters, Kazmir and Shields included, surpassing 10 wins. For those worried about the Angels having a young rotation, James Shields was the oldest player in the starting five at 26. We didn’t get to see enough last year to know who else could make that leap, but I believe it will come from someone else other than just Bundy in 2021.
Maddon would stay in Tampa through the 2014 season and only once more having a losing record in that last season and outside of that last season and 2009, he never won less than 90 games. Maddon would win AL Manager of the Year twice during his tenure in Tampa and finished top five in the category five times. Not too bad for a guy who only strung together 61 wins his first season.
In 2015, Maddon packed up his bags and headed to Chicago to help lead the Cubs to the same success as he did the Rays in Tampa. There, he led Chicago to 97 wins and a trip to the NLCS after a losing record the previous five seasons. Maddon would take home another Manager of the Year award that year, this time in the NL, for the third time in less than 10 years as a manager.
In 2016 Maddon led Cubs found a way to win even more games that year finishing with 103. That year, Maddon and the Cubs would not be denied a World Series. They came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Cleveland in seven games in one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Maddon’s worst year in Chicago was his last where he still finished with a winning record of 84-78 but it was obvious a change was coming.
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Here we are entering Maddon’s second year in Los Angeles. Last summer he had a short season, a new team, and injuries to key players that were not season-ending, but with the length of the schedule hard to make up for. We’ve seen him help grow talent in Tampa and we’ve seen him win a title in Chicago. Not only is the AL West up for grabs, but the Angels have one of the best managers in baseball. While he may not win it all in year two, there should be optimism for growth and more success than years past.