LA Angels: Is the Angels rotation better than it looks?

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Sitting in last place in the AL West at 16-20,  it’s safe to say that the LA Angels aren’t living up to expectations.

One of the main culprits behind their lack of success is the starting rotation. Aside from Shohei Ohtani, the other five starters have consistently struggled since day one. On the surface, the rotation’s 5.20 ERA is undoubtedly troubling, but upon closer inspection, the starters are actually pitching much better than they appear.

There are more ways to judge these starters than just ERA.

The first thing to take note of is the discrepancy between each pitcher’s ERA and their xERA and SIERA.

While the nuts and bolts of these two stats can be a little confusing, the TLDR is that they try to judge a pitcher based on what’s directly in their control. However, unlike FIP, both of these take balls in play into account by considering the amount of contact a pitcher gives up, along with the quality of that contact (i.e. exit velocity, groundballs vs. fly balls) in order to take things like fielding or ballpark dimensions out of the equation.

The result is a more accurate display of that pitcher’s performance.

  • Dylan Bundy- 5.03 ERA vs. 3.04 xERA and 3.54 SIERA
  • Alex Cobb- 5.48 ERA vs. 3.91 xERA and 3.24 SIERA
  • Andrew Heaney- 4.75 ERA vs. 3.77 xERA and 2.89 SIERA
  • Griffin Canning- 5.19 ERA vs. 3.32 xERA and 3.90 SIERA
  • Jose Quintana- 9.00 ERA vs. 5.08 xERA and 4.52 SIERA

Despite Quintana sporting less than favorable marks here, the rest of the Angels rotation is looking pretty solid, arguably above average. Even after his blowup on Wednesday, Heaney’s SIERA in particular shows that he’s flashing some top of the rotation type stuff.

It’s not just these complex predictive stats that make the rotation look good either. As a whole, they are stranding 65.2% of base runners, striking out an impressive 30.6% of batters and have a 3.75 FIP (3.43 xFIP). By all accounts, these guys are actually pitching really well based on what’s in their control.

So what’s the main cause behind the rotation’s apparent troubles? Well, to put it simply, it’s the defense. After losing numerous key players to injury, the Halos defense has been compromised for most of the season.

Case in point, the team currently ranks dead last in the league with -29 DRS, 33 errors and a .974 fielding percentage.

Unsurprisingly, this shoddy defense has affected Quintana and Cobb the most due to their high groundball rates. For Quintana, the result of his 50% GB rate is a hyper inflated .434 BABIP (league average is .300). Likewise, Cobb’s 55.2% GB rate has led to a .431 BABIP.

Next. Ohtani's versatility can't go unnoticed

Suffice it to say, the Angels rotation deserves a little bit of slack here since a lot of their problems are out of their control. For all the hand wringing about the team not investing enough in starting pitching, maybe the issue has really been failing to invest in defense all along.