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2017 Angels’ streakiness makes it difficult to accurately gauge team

Comebacks, home runs, strikeouts, comebacks, Mike Trout, omg more comebacks. HOW GOOD ARE THEY, EVEN?!?

Chicago White Sox v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Not to be outdone, Mike Trout has had home run and hitting streaks of his own.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Today is Tuesday, May 18 and the Angels have reeled off four wins in a row, splitting the series with the Tigers and bringing the brooms against the White Sox. Here’s what the standings look like on this off day.

If you would have told me before the season that the Angels would lose Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs to injury within the first month and still find a way to be above .500 in mid-May, the glass half-full me would have called you out of your mind. But alas here they are, holding their own ground.

Check out the relative margin of victory for the Halos this season. [Yesterday’s results were not updated at the time of writing.]

When this team gets on a roll, they can find a way to rally and string together W’s like nobody’s business. But the streakiness goes the other way, too. The Angels have won by 5 or more runs twice and lost by 5 or more runs five times. Out of 22 victories, an MLB-best 17 have been of the Team of DestinyTM comeback variety. Their run differential, one indicator of underlying performance, currently sits at -9 after yesterday’s victory.

Per fellow writer Rick Souddress:

They have led in all but seven of their games this season at some point. Only two of those seven were shutouts. This team has either scored early or late enough to be in a position to win in 36 out of 43 games and in 14 out of 21 losses.

They have the major league lead in 1-run wins. They have the AL lead in 1-run losses. They are tied for the major league lead in extra-inning games and have gone 4-3 in those situations.

Between ravaging injuries and a small sample size, it was already difficult to determine how good this team would be. Now, adding hot and cold streaks to a team that hasn’t aligned their good pitching with good offense makes that evaluation even more difficult.

Here’s what we do know about this team, though.

  • The offense has been underwhelming to date, wasting away solid starting pitching performances. Jefry Marte, C.J. Cron, Danny Espinosa, Ben Revere, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun are still yet to find their stride, leaving a scuffling offense in the hands of Maybin (bat him leadoff, please), Trout, and Maldonado (!). It’s just a matter of time until they are all clicking: Maybin and Espinosa look to be finally heating up, providing necessary production from the left field and second base spots.
  • The bullpen has been really good. Like, lights out good. Without their three best relievers for most of the season, the Angels have somehow won Bullpen of the Week honors twice with Bud Norris, Blake Parker, David Hernandez, and Yusmeiro Petit all being very, very good.
  • J.C. Ramirez has been a beast and locked down a starting spot. Alex Meyer doing the same would be a huge development.

For whatever reason, Mike Scioscia’s teams have always been very good in the August and September stretch. The most flagrant issue in recent years is that the Angels dug themselves in too deep of a hole to dig out of. Surprisingly, that has not happened this year.

The difference between an 82-win (.500) team and an 88-win (Wild Card) team is 1 win every month. For a team that already was a game over .500 at April’s month end, 88 wins is definitely doable. Pitching reinforcements are on the way and an easy schedule for the next two weeks (Mets, Rays, Marlins, Braves, Twins) is up ahead.

My over/under for this team coming into the year was 87.5 wins on the Wild Card bubble, contingent on pitching health. When Garrett Richards went to the DL followed by Tyler Skaggs, I mentally lowered my expectations for the season by 4-5 wins. It turns out that I might not have needed to after all.

What are your expectations of this 2017 team and how have they changed relative to when the season began?