LA Angels: Starting staff keeping team in games while bats try to rebound
By David Rice
The LA Angels have had a problem with getting consistent starting pitching over the past five seasons.
This year’s LA Angels‘ rotation has had its struggles, but is starting to come around. Just in time as the offense has struggled mightily in recent weeks.
Since the LA Angels lost Mike Trout the offense has been very inconsistent, scoring two runs or less five times in the first 16 games that the three-time MVP has been on the shelf. The team has managed to go .500 during that span (8-8) and this is due in large part to improved starting pitching. Alex Cobb has turned in two quality starts during this time, and Andrew Heaney had one in his last start. Pablo Sandoval has also pitched very well in his three starts.
Shohei Ohtani has also pitched well in his two starts during that span, but he has no wins to show for it. Jose Quintana is pitching slightly better as well. The only pitcher to continue to struggle is Dylan Bundy who has been victimized by the long ball, including giving up three HRs on Monday.
The bullpen has pitched well over the past week other than last Thursday (five runs in three innings). The bullpen escaped further trouble last Friday when Ohtani left with runners on first and third and no one out. They only allowed one runner to score. Saturday and Sunday the bullpen allowed no runs in eight innings of work and then again on Tuesday they closed out an Andrew Heaney gem with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief.
This is a small sample size and the way the bullpen has been this season, things could change quickly. However, it is encouraging that the Angels have been able to keep their heads above water during a very tough stretch of playing 12 of 16 games against two division leaders (A’s and Giants) plus an AL wildcard (Indians).
For the Angels to stay in the race for the AL West and a playoff spot this needs to continue on a more consistent basis and the offense needs to have more games like Tuesday’s eight-run outburst against one of the top pitchers in the NL in Alex Wood. Wood started the game with a 2.44 ERA and a 5-2 record before the Halos lit him up for seven runs in 3.2 innings, which raised his ERA to 3.48.
What was even more encouraging is that the Angels beat three lefties since the last week of May which has been a struggle for them the past couple of seasons. Again this is a very small sample size, but it is encouraging especially doing this all without Michael Nelson Trout in the lineup.
These will be keys to the Angels’ overall success this season:
1. Other players than Mike Trout need to step up offensively.
2. The starting rotation needs to pitch deeper into games on a consistent basis to rest the bullpen some so that it can be more effective.
3. The bullpen needs to come in and not only protect leads, but avoid allowing tack on runs that make the chance of coming back late in a game much more difficult.
4. Key players staying healthy.
We will see what happens in the upcoming months. Hopefully we will be talking about a playoff run in August and September. It could happen.