Even with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, inconsistency plagues Angels

With players like Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Angels should get better. For the most part they do.

Fans watched as Ohtani drove in eight of 11 runs against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, then shut out the same team and hit a career-high 13 in eight innings on Wednesday.

They watched Trout hit four game-winning home runs in a five-game streak in Seattle.

Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said Trout and Ohtani are leading the clubhouse by example.

“Their teammates follow them,” Nevin said. “If they go, the team goes. It’s uplifting.”

But at this point in the season, the Angels are 34-38. They are third in the American League West, 11 games behind first place and five games behind a wild card finish earlier on Thursday.

When the Angels defeated the Texas Rangers on May 24, they were 27-17 in the division and one game behind the Houston Astros. They then lost a franchise-record 14 straight games.

During the slide, Trout went seven for 46 with two home runs and four RBIs. Ohtani was nine for 47 with two homers and four RBIs.

“The season has ups and downs. Guys get hot at different times,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Monday. “I think we saw it in Seattle when we played mostly clean games. … And I think as long as this continues we’ll be able to stay in games and I think our offense is better than it’s showing.”

But these angels have an apparent inconsistency associated with the win-loss column. Unless they get back to a solid hot streak, their early-season promotion through October will look like another pinnacle in Angels history.

“You think as the whole night goes by you’re going to get back in,” Nevin said of a recent loss. “To be honest we had to get a few more runs tonight but we didn’t.”

Unfortunately for the angels, this was a recurring theme.

Their lineup is thin despite some fun highlights and games — like their Wednesday win on the night the team celebrated the 20th anniversary of its 2002 World Series Championship. The Angels went into their day off Thursday ranked 21st in the majors in batting average (.237) and 22nd in on-base percentage (.305), per Fangraphs.

Anthony Rendon, their all-star third baseman, didn’t provide his numbers for 2019 — when he hit .319 with a 1.010 on-base percentage plus slugging and won the World Series with the Washington Nationals — and because of injuries , lost his $245 million deal not honored for seven years. Out for the season after wrist surgery, Rendon hit a .228 with five homers in 45 games.

David Fletcher, their starting shortstop, has been out since early May after undergoing surgery to repair adductors in both legs and an abdominal muscle.

Taylor Ward, their starting rightman who had the best OBP (.481) in the majors between April 16 and June 24, returned from his stint on the injured list just last week and is slowly finding his way back.

The Angels’ power lineup of Ward, Ohtani, Trout and Rendon have seen about half a game together since Ward and Rendon (briefly) returned from the injured list this month. The bottom of the table could not keep up consistently.

Andrew Velazquez, who had the most starts at shortstops with Fletcher, is an above-average fielder but hits .178 with a .223 OBP. Luis Rengifo, their main second baseman, hits .214 with a .267 OBP and had no RBI in 17 games (56 at-bats) as of Wednesday night. Brandon Marsh, their left fielder who has a penchant for incredible catches, has the third-highest strikeout percentage (.338) in baseball with just 10 hits and four RBIs in June.

Matt Duffy, who took third place for Rendon, bats at .266. Jared Walsh, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, is not where he was at a similar point last year. Max Stassi, her main catcher, and Kurt Suzuki, the backup, have contributed 22 RBIs combined this season. Tyler Wade, known for his speed as shown by the number of times he’s been called on to pinch runs, has eight hits in 41 at-bats this month.

In June, according to fan graphs, the Angels have the highest strikeout rate (25.6%) among the majors. In comparison, the top-ranked Astros are among the best (19.6%). The Angels also have one of the worst rates of called strikes and whiffs.

Another inconsistency for the Angels: pitching.

Shohei Ohtani plays the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. Ohtani scored 13 goals in the Angels' 5-0 win.

Shohei Ohtani plays the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. Ohtani hit a career-high 13 in the Angels’ 5-0 win.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

On Tuesday night, for example, not even Ohtani’s bat (he hit homers twice) was enough to keep up with a visibly exhausted bullpen – with the exception of closer Raisel Iglesias, who served phenomenally minus a game through June – allowing the Royals to to advance further after the Angels twice equalized the score.

“It seems like since we’ve been in this rough patch we’ve found almost every way we can to lose games it seems which makes it difficult,” left-hander Aaron Loup, who gave up one run and three scores Tuesday, said after this loss. “Sooner or later you have to think that we’re going to bring things together and that’s how it’s going to go at some point.”

The Angels lost two of three to the 25-43 Royals, in part because their pitchers struggled to keep runners off the bases.

Their starting line-up isn’t bad, but overall it wasn’t good enough either.

Ohtani has an ERA of 2.90, the second lowest among starters after Patrick Sandoval’s 2.70. Sandoval also has six starts in which he pitched six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs — MLB’s definition of a quality start.

Noah Syndergaard is playing his first full season after sitting out the entire shortened 2020 season and all but two relief innings in 2021 to recover from Tommy John’s surgery. He’s had four quality starts out of 11 this season. Michael Lorenzen has the same win/loss record as Ohtani but touts a 4.15 ERA.

Reid Detmers, who threw a no-hitter on May 10, became an optional for Triple-A Salt Lake – he joined Jose Suarez, who was an optional on June 19 – after hitting five carries and five hits in five innings on Wednesday had given up.

Their aides are exhausted as a group, as evidenced by the small sample size of their Tuesday fights. It certainly wasn’t their only situation where they couldn’t hold their own, but the volunteers have worked fewer rest days between their starts and the cracks in the bullpen have only gotten bigger.

Loup finished his 2021 season with the New York Mets with one of baseball’s lowest ERAs (.95), giving up six earned runs in 56 2/3 innings. In 13 games between May 21 and June 21 that season, he was charged with 10 runs earned, 15 hits and six walks. Archie Bradley has an ERA of 4.76.

Stats aside, all you have to do is listen to Ohtani to know where the Angels stand.

“It was decided that Iggy wasn’t going to pitch, so from the start I thought I wanted to pitch as long as possible,” Ohtani said in Japanese, referring to Iglesias after Wednesday’s game. “I had imagined it was going to be a low-scoring game, so I knew I wasn’t going to give up any runs.”

Ohtani went on to explain that he thought he could get into the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game if he was able to hit quick and easy outs in the eighth, and without Trout, who had a scheduled rest day, he expected a low-goal offense .

It will take more to prove that this season’s early success was more than a fluke. Certainly more than Ohtani and Trout can offer.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-06-24/angels-inconsistency-mike-trout-shohei-ohtani-lineup-struggles Even with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, inconsistency plagues Angels

Emma Bowman

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