Shohei Ohtani, Jared Walsh prove releasing Albert Pujols was right move

Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels (Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)
Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels (Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports) /

For the last five years, the LA Angels have been hard to watch; finishing at or near the bottom of the AL West, and not even sniffing a playoff berth.

The only reason to watch the LA Angels during that period for the most part has been Mike Trout, who has been the consensus best player in baseball.

In 2021, with Trout being injured most of the season, there are two new reasons to watch the Angels, with one possibly being better than watching Mike Trout.  They are Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh.  These two players were both named to the AL All-Star team.

Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh have proven that the LA Angels made the right move in letting Albert Pujols go.

The LA Angels are 32-28 since then, which is not spectacular. What makes it more remarkable, however, is they have been missing Trout for most of those 60 games. They have also been without Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton who have missed 18 and 16 games respectively with various injuries.

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While Ohtani is finally making good on all the hype that he has been given since joining the Angels in 2018, Walsh was an afterthought until the second half of last year’s shortened 60-game season.  Many wondered if Walsh would be able to produce the way he did during the short sample-size that was the 2020 season.

LA Angels, Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

Walsh has shown last year was not a fluke; crushing 22 homers, driving in 65 runs and hitting .278 in 324 at-bats.  These numbers were enough to get Walsh an AL All-Star Selection.

Although he did not get a hit in two at-bats, Walsh made the play of the game in the field, making a sliding catch in left field (a position he has never played in the majors). Walsh’s defense has been top notch at first base, making only two errors in 71 games played at first.

LA Angels, Jared Walsh
Jared Walsh, LA Angels. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Ohtani has been even more spectacular, hitting a MLB-leading 33 home runs with 70 RBIs and a .279 batting average, plus 12 stolen bases.  On the mound, Ohtani has been very good as well; going 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts, striking out 87 batters.  If not for his 0.2 IP debacle in New York on June 30th, Ohtani’s ERA would be 2.56.

This has anchored an improved pitching staff that now features three pitchers with a total of 68 career starts between them. That’s Ohtani, as well as Jose Suarez, and Patrick Sandoval.

33-year-old Alex Cobb and 30-year-old Andrew Heaney round out the rotation. While they haven’t been spectacular, they have been much improved.  The bullpen has also been much better the past six weeks; only blowing three saves (with only two ending in losses).

Because of all these good things, the Angels are still within striking distance of Oakland and Tampa Bay for a wild card spot (5.5 games behind Oakland).  This also marks the first time since 2015 that the Angels have held an over .500 record at the All-Star Break (45-44).

It may seem insignificant, but with Trout, Upton, and Rendon hopefully returning within the next week the Angels look to get a boost offensively. This should make Walsh and Ohtani even better. If the starting rotation can be more consistent and the bullpen can avoid wearing out, the second half of the 2021 season could be really fun for the Angels and their fans.

General Manager Perry Minasian might even get the go-ahead to make a deadline deal to improve the rotation even more.  It will involve giving up some prospects, but if the deal is right it could happen.  With 11 of the next 20 games being against teams who are a combined 42 games under .500 (Twins, Rockies, and Rangers) the Angels could make a strong move toward catching the A’s and maybe even the Rays.

Next. Jared Walsh makes an All-Star Play to save game for AL

We will just have to wait and see how the last 73 games play out.  If the Angels can go 45-28 they would end up with 90 wins which would give them a good chance of getting a wild card spot.  This is very doable if the Angels can stay relatively healthy. If key players Trout, Ohtani, Rendon, Walsh, and Fletcher can perform close to their potential, you will see an even better Angels team than you did in the first half.  It could happen.