Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but starting pitching is an issue for the Angels this season. It’s no secret, and this was an area of weakness from a year ago and the ones that preceded. The trend has continued in 2021.
Through 23 games, Halos starters currently have MLB’s worst collective ERA (5.82), they’ve pitched the fourth-fewest innings (106.2), and have the highest batting average on balls in play (.331 BABIP).
There’s also been a case of ‘bad luck’ like inherited runs and other advanced metrics to go along with with the lack of execution from this group. The Angels have MLB’s lowest hard-hit percentage (35.5%) and the fourth-lowest exit velocity (87.8 MPH).
That suggests maybe there are better things on the way along with the Halos having the largest gap between ERA and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the majors. FIP is similar to ERA, but uses events that a pitcher has the most control over like strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs while removing any results on balls hit into the field of play. The lower the FIP the better, and the the Angels have the 12th-lowest FIP (3.87) in the majors this season.
Angels Starters 2021 Statistics:
- Dylan Bundy (5 starts, 30 IP) 4.20 ERA 1.100 WHIP (3.99 FIP)
- Andrew Heaney (4 starts, 20.2 IP) 4.35 ERA 0.919 WHIP (2.07 FIP)
- Alex Cobb (4 starts, 16.1 IP) 7.16 ERA 1.776 WHIP (10.2 FIP)
- Shohei Ohtani (3 starts, 13.2 IP) 3.29 ERA 1.390 WHIP (3.97 FIP)
- Griffin Canning (4 games, 3 starts,15 IP) 8.40 ERA 1.467 WHIP (7.02 FIP)
- Jose Quintana (3 starts, 13.1 IP) 10.13 ERA 2.325 WHIP (5.11 FIP)
Regardless of whether it’s been tough luck or not, the results are not what they need to be. This is something the Halos will need to figure out sooner rather than later if they plan on being legitimate contenders this season.
Starting pitching could be what holds the Angels back this season.
Veterans Alex Cobb and Jose Quintana were brought in to be two of the more reliable arms in the rotation, but neither has been able to produce thus far. Meanwhile Griffin Canning seems to still be a work in progress in his third MLB season.
Heaney in particular has an inflated ERA from his first start of the season where he allowed seven earned runs against the White Sox. In three starts since then, he has allowed just three earned runs in 17.2 innings pitched (1.53 ERA).
The team’s ace, Bundy, has tossed quality starts in four of his five outings this season. His worst came against the Rangers on April 19, where he allowed five earned runs in five innings. Take out that start and he has a 3.24 ERA on the season.
All eyes have been on two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani who has fared well in his return to the mound this season. He’s struggled with command (8.6 BB/9), but he’s still shown the ability to generate a lot of swings and misses (15.1 K/9). Given his injury history and the fact he’s made just five starts since 2018, I think it’s important to manage expectations for Ohtani and not appoint him as the savior of this staff.
If there’s any silver lining to these struggles, it’s the Angels having a 12-11 record with these poor performances. Given how great their offense has been, I think that reiterates the importance of acquiring the pitchers who can turn the Halos into a serious World Series contender.
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We’ll see how long of a leash some of these current starters have. At some point the team will need to consider replacements which will likely come internally with Jaime Barria and Patrick Sandoval. Maybe there’s a chance Angels No.4 prospect Chris Rodriguez gets his shot, but his injuries and lack of MLB repetitions will force the team to exercise caution and limit him to the bullpen.
It also depends on how much of a rush the Halos are to win. If it’s now I don’t think it’ll be long before Rodriguez and his electric stuff are used in a starting role.