The Los Angeles Angels were right in the thick of postseason contention just two months ago. They went all in at the trade deadline shooting for their first postseason berth since 2014, but fell flat on their faces.
Now, the Angels will hope to finish with a better record than the 73-89 mark in 2022. They'll have to sweep the Athletics this weekend to do that and will have to take at least two of three to avoid 90 losses. This is a team that was five games over .500 on July 31.
There are several reasons this Angels team collapsed as hard as they did. Injuries mounted. The manager wasn't any good. The players they acquired at the deadline underperformed. All of these are valid.
One very important reason this team failed to improve was certain players who were expected to take steps forward this season, went in the other direction. These five players were all on the team last season (no Hunter Renfroe or Tyler Anderson) and showed signs of life only to regress in 2023.
1) LA Angels pitcher Patrick Sandoval took an unfortunate step back in 2023
Patrick Sandoval broke out last season, posting a 2.91 ERA in 27 starts and 148.2 innings pitched. He was able to stay healthy and effective from start to finish, and looked like a legitimate frontline starter of the future for the Angels.
Sandoval continued to impress with great outings in the World Baseball Classic. He allowed just one run in 7.1 innings in the WBC, showing a ton of enthusiasm and confidence in the process. It looked like he was going to repeat the terrific season he just had and maybe even push for an all-star appearance.
This couldn't be further from what happened as Sandoval really struggled in 2023. His 4.11 ERA wasn't too bad, but a big reason the ERA was at that somewhat respectable figure is because he allowed 23 unearned runs.
The Angels played horrific defense behind him, but Sandoval often blew games immediately after an error occurred. He had a start at T-Mobile Park in which he allowed eight runs and only one of them was earned. Sure, the Angels made a couple of key errors behind him, but Sandoval would proceed to give up back-breaking hit after back-breaking hit.
The talent is there. He has good stuff. That's why a year of stunted growth is frustrating to see from Sandoval. He failed to complete five innings eight times in his 28 starts. He only went six innings nine times. He'd often leave games in the fifth or sixth inning with enormous pitch counts as he tries to be too perfect painting corners instead of simply trusting the stuff he has.
I still believe in the 26-year-old because he's too talented for me not to. He has to show that he can be more consistent on the mound. We've seen him look excellent and horrific. We need more of just a consistently solid Sandoval.