During the first two weeks of the 2017 season, the Angels displayed the good (Opening Week) and the bad (last week), but they have yet to showcase who they actually are.
In the first week of the season, the Angels went 5-2, and they were near the top of the American League in just about every offensive category. They led the league in runs (35), batting average (.291), and wRC+ (131). In addition, they were third in OBP (.352) and second in SLG (.439) and OPS (.791).
Their Opening-Week surge included a few exhilarating comebacks, which made it easy to ignore the reason it was necessary for them to come from behind so often: the starting pitching. In the first week, the Angels’ starting rotation finished 10th in the AL in ERA at 4.66.
But their bullpen, which finished the week with a 2.96 ERA, managed to keep them in games long enough for their league-leading offense to claw back. A mediocre starting staff, a good bullpen, and a great offense—that’s a winning formula.
However, the Angels were unable to carry that over to the second week of the season. Last week, the Angels’ offense plummeted to the bottom of the league; they scored 20 fewer runs than the previous week (15), which was good for second-to-last in the AL. Additionally, their OPS dropped to an AL-worst .558.
On the run prevention side of things, the Angels were just as bad; they gave up the fourth-most runs in the AL (32). Their starting staff was the third-worst in the AL, finishing the week with an ugly 6.25 ERA while tossing the fourth-fewest innings in the AL with just 31 2/3, averaging barely over five frames per start.
The potency of their bullpen also took a hit, pitching to the tune of a 4.35 ERA. This decline comes as no surprise given the fact that Angels relievers have taken on a heavier workload than any other AL team thus far, throwing 45 innings since the start of the season.
These factors led to the Angels going 1-5 last week, and their struggles really came down to two things: the bottom of the order and the starting pitching failing to provide sufficient length.
First, the bottom of the order. It appears that three new acquisitions—Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa, and Martin Maldonado—will make up the bottom third of the lineup on most nights, and they have provided very little at the plate in the first couple of weeks.
Maybin is hitting .212 with a .297 OBP, and he has just two extra-base hits. Espinosa is hitting .200 with a .629 OPS while punching out 35.4% of the time, the seventh-highest rate in the majors. And finally, Maldonado is batting just .214/.313/.250. The trio has combined for an uninspiring 79 wRC+ (where 100 is league average).
The entirety of the Angels’ offensive shortcomings last week can’t be blamed on these three, but the rest of the lineup has mostly done its part, though much of the team did struggle last week. On top of that, most of the other hitters have solid track records of success offensively while Maybin, Espinosa, and Maldonado do not. In fact, their numbers this year are not too far off their career numbers. And even when the Angels’ offense was rolling during Opening Week, these three weren’t a significant part of it.
When I outlined the worst-case scenario for the 2017 Angels, this was one of my fears. The Angels seemingly do not have enough lineup depth to sustain such little production from the bottom of it, and they’ll likely need something close to a career year from at least one of these three.
Yes, I just mentioned that the Angels scored a league-leading amount of runs during the first week of the season without much from the bottom of the order, but Yunel Escobar, Kole Calhoun, and Andrelton Simmons all reached base at a .433 clip or higher that week. Something tells me they won’t be doing that over the course of the whole season.
As for the starting rotation, it simply has not supplied enough innings. For the season, Angels starters have gone six or more innings on just two separate occasions.
The Angels’ bullpen has been better than expected so far, but they have had to throw more than 3 1/3 innings per game. While the Angels are equipped with quite a few relievers capable of throwing multiple innings in a single outing, they can’t be expected to do so every night without a drop in effectiveness.
It’s only been a couple of weeks, but we’ve already seen the best the Angels have to offer and the worst the Angels have to offer. When it’s going well, their rotation is just good enough to scrape by, their bullpen is better, and their offense is better yet. When it’s going poorly, their starters can’t stay in the game, their relievers can’t keep up with the increased workload, and the lineup’s lack of depth is exposed.
But who really are the 2017 Angels? Well, I think we’ll have to wait until the season is more than two weeks old to truly know the answer.
But what I can tell you is that they are (most likely) not as good as they were during Opening Week (*gasp*), nor are they as bad as they were last week. The answer presumably lies somewhere in between.