Back in 2014, the Angels coasted into the playoffs with a 98 win season and looked destined for fantastic things in the postseason despite Garrett Richards being injured and CJ Wilson holding a job and Mike Trout having the worst season he’s ever had to date and--Actually, maybe the team was very flawed. It was for this reason that I wrote a regrettably crappy Fanpost stating that two teams need to just go ahead and fizzle.
Of course, one of those two teams ended up making an insane comeback in extra innings from an early 7-3 deficit in the Wild Card playoff and followed that up by sweeping both the Halos and the Orioles to put themselves in the World Series. This is not an “I told you so,” even though that totally happened. We’re going to decide which teams should go the way of the ‘14 Mariners and not be allowed to so much as whiff the divine scent of October baseball.
So, let’s all just agree that the Angels will win a Wild Card.
Have you a dissenting opinion? Well, stop. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Anyway, the Angels have now secured at least one postseason game because I said so. Who are they matching up against and subsequently decimating in the first elimination game of the American League this postseason?
*Because I would rather not sit here and write about every team arguably in the race, we’ll set the arbitrary cut-off for contenders at one game under .500. Sorry, Rays and Orioles. I’ll rank them in order of what I consider to be most to least likely based on current positions in the standings.
So the Yankees have stopped the bleeding. Good for them. They really came through by basically going .500 the remainder of the season, despite Aaron Judge’s record ending at 56 consecutive games with a strikeout and creating an entirely new Beat the Streak game. Who do they trust to pitch in the matchup?
Luis Severino is one of the more underrated starting pitchers in the American League, even though he’s on the official baseball team of ESPN. His numbers are fantastic and his peripherals are even better. The Angels rocked him with 6 runs in the only game that they played against him, but he was on track to win through the first 6 innings of the game. They would need to get to him early or pray that they see bad Betances or Bad Chapman instead of the dominant, instant win counterparts.
The Angels did well to keep the damage from a once-hot Aaron Judge and a still-threatening Gary Sanchez limited and to score a fair amount of runs without Mike Trout in the season series against the Yankees. Much like the series though, it appears that this game would probably have us as underdogs.
Why are the Twins even here? They, like the Angels, were never anticipated to be serious contenders for the postseason. They have a terrible run differential, a non-stellar pitching staff, and an okay offense (Okay, so their defense is pretty impressive). They shouldn’t even be a .500 team if you look at their Pythagorean projections. They’ve over-performed by 6 games. How is that possible?
We would probably see Ervin Santana in a one-game playoff. How could the odds be any more in our favor?
On paper, this is a game we should win. But that’s what every team has said about every game against the Twins this year. We went 2-5 against them this season despite having a similar position player fWAR and a far superior pitching fWAR. Add in that we’d probably be heavily favored to win this game, and we can expect to lose. Probably via devastating, walk-off, 4-run touch-em-all time.
We just swept them. They have the rudimentary sketch by a 3-year old of the blueprints depicting the shambles of a starting rotation, at the moment. They aren’t in good enough shape to even have professionally-depicted shambles, let alone the garbage itself.
If Paxton comes back healthy (a huge if), they have a legitimate shot at this game unless Andrelton Simmons breaks Seattle’s collective heart by sending a Pax pitch deep into the left field bleachers again. If he doesn’t make it back, who are they going to throw out there? Yovani Gallardo? Will one of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, or whatever be right enough to throw a decent game?
Call me crazy, but I like our chances if they make it. For now.
Much like in 2014, the team that I was most afraid of is another team that I would probably not like to see in the Wild Card game. They aren’t as sneaky good as they were at that time, but they have owned the Angels to the exact same tune as the Twins. They also have an ex-Angel putting up an amazing year in Jason Vargas and an offense that gets things done just enough to keep them here.
They were seriously looking like they would try to give the White Sox a run for last place before they decided to run away with the Wild Card—that is, until they went into a massive spiral and almost dropped out of contention altogether again. They’re back to holding on enough to put the fear of God into me.
Defense has been and will probably always be current Kansas City’s calling card, but to be fair, the Angels appear to be everything that the Royals were in 2014 and more in that they have Mike Trout. The Angels’ defense, bullpen, lack of slugging, and speed all scream that we are going to the World Series this year, just to lose to the Giants and their Even Year Bull Crap. But this is an odd year, so who knows?
You know what? I’ve changed the arbitrary cut-off. .500+ only. Bye, Rangers.
There is a case to be made that every single game against the Indians, the Angels had a realistic shot at winning. They came back and tied every single one, and then they threw it away. That case feels really pointless unless the team shows more resilience in the final series against them.
The entire Indians starting rotation is a huge threat and any one of them can throw up 7 innings of zeroes. Jose Ramirez is apparently an Angel-killer and Bradley Zimmer would be Rookie of the Year in a landslide if he saw the Angels enough times. I am of the opinion that this is not an ideal matchup.
The Red Sox
Chris Sale vs. Not Chris Sale. This isn’t even a question. They had better win the division. I can’t believe I just typed that about the Red Sox.
Who cares? This means that we won the division!
It would appear that the Mariners would be our best shot at a victory in the one-game playoff, but the Twins and Royals would most likely not be too far behind. The mediocrity of the entire race lends itself to giving the Angels relatively good odds no matter who makes it. The Yankees are probably the biggest threat and would be my pick to fizzle, but even Luis Severino showed serious cracks against what many consider the worst offense in the American League, especially after the loss of Trout.
If the Halos can’t overtake the Astros, I would personally like to see the Mariners edge out the Yankees, the Indians run away with the Central, and the Angels come back again from more than 6 runs down after the inevitable Ricky Nolasco start to make Seattle go full-scale riot. World Series or not, an ending like that to 2017 would make it a year to remember for the Team of Destiny.