(News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Angels have two of the top players in the league in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The two superstars have combined for four Most Valuable Player Awards, taking home the American League honor in half of the seasons since 2014.
With that said, it begs the question why have the Angels not won a playoff game since Trout’s arrival? It’s complicated.
The Angels’ problems are rooted in their pitching staff. The blame cannot be placed on the front office’s ability to add bats to the lineup, considering that on top of having both Trout and Ohtani at their disposal, the Angles also have 2019 RBI leader Anthony Rendon and developed young talent such as Jared Walsh.
The Angels have ranked in the bottom third of the league in terms of the team earned run average each of the last three seasons. The last time they had a pitcher selected to the All-Star game was 2015 when Hector Santiago was selected to the roster.
“We are looking for impact and depth. Depth is obviously really important, the average team uses about 13 starters a year… but impact (players) are important too. So, we will be on the hunt for both,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said going into the offseason when asked about what kind of arms the team would be looking to add.
Ohtani has some of the best stuff in the game when he takes the mound, but he can only pitch every fifth game.
The Angels signed former All-Star Noah Syndergaard this offseason, after only appearing in two innings since 2019. Syndergaard could return to form and be a high-level front-line starter.
He has a career 3.32 ERA and a 47-31 win-loss record, but his recent track record makes him more of a gamble as opposed to a sure-fire and once-a-week ace to work alongside Ohtani in the rotation.
After throwing 60 pitches in his first spring outing with Los Angeles, Syndergaard said, “It felt really good. It’s the first time I’m able to go out there and actually compete. I had two innings last year but I don’t really count that. It is the first time in a long time that I just grabbed the ball and got on the mound and didn’t think about my delivery and just focused on executing pitches.”
An even bigger problem than the starting pitching in recent years, however, has been the bullpen. Only the Diamondbacks and the Orioles gave up more runs out of the pen than the Halos in 2021.
“We have to do better out of the bullpen, there is no question about it. A lot of how the game declined happened after that occurred.. you can’t win without that,” Angles manager Joe Maddon said last year after a frustrating divisional loss to Oakland.
The Angels will bring a revamped bullpen into the 2022 season. They signed Ryan Tepera, Archie Bradley and Aaron Loup in the offseason. Those players, along with closer Raisel Iglesias, will be tasked with holding late-inning leads for the star-studded offense.
It remains to be seen if this is enough to build a solid bullpen, but it is a solid foundation of depth. Maybe Noah Syndergaard and the bullpen pieces they added can be part of the solution for the Angels.
Once again, the expectation is that if they stay healthy the offense will produce runs. The unknown is whether or not the organization has enough confidence in the pitching staff to make a postseason run.
If the Angels are in the hunt for a playoff berth around the trade deadline it would not be surprising if they added another arm or two to get them over the hump.
Benjamin Verbrugge is a student at CSU Dominguez Hill studying journalism. “Sports have brought me much joy throughout my life, and I want to be able to give a little back to something that has meant so much to me. I grew up in Los Angeles primarily following the Lakers and Dodgers, but I am also an avid fan of sporting events, news, and stories in general.”