Spring is the time for optimism. For taking a whiff of that freshly mowed grass, looking up at the blue sky, and completely overlooking how your favorite baseball team might fall short of a postseason bid.
Ahhh. The smell of a overly rosy prediction of the season. Not here. I hate to be the Grinch, but the wheels could fall off the Angels 2018 wagon and here’s why:
As I outlined in my case for adding a starter the Angels are depending on full, healthy seasons from a group that does not specialize in full, healthy seasons. Shohei Otani threw 25.1 innings last year, Garret Richards 27.2. Andrew Heaney added 21.2 and is already hurt to start 2018. Tyler Skaggs contributed 85.
Banking on a guy or two rebounding is fine, but add Matt Shoemaker and JC Ramirez to the list and the Angels have 6 starters returning from injury this year. That is 6 out of a 6 man rotation. Add in some expected regression from Parker Bridwell and even the depth takes a hit.
One side effect of a shaky rotation is an overused bullpen. Last year Yusmeiro Petit was a bullpen savior pitching multiple innings at a time. He’s gone. Fellow bullpen surprise/first half savior Bud Norris is also gone.
Blake Parker stepped up with a WHIP that was 40% lower than his career average. That’s not likely sustainable. Cam Bedrosian has yet to hit the lofty expectations we had for him, and most of the other contestants (Noe Ramirez, Blake Wood) were waiver claims. Keynan Middleton could step up, but one guy with upside is not an ideal situation in a game that is increasingly decided by the bullpen.
Ian Kinsler is coming off his career worst year at the plate. And he’s a year older. Guys don’t typically improve at age 36 without some kind of help. Kinsler is supposed to be the leadoff guy and provide RBI opportunities for the middle of the lineup.
Zack Cozart has a career OBP of .305. He’s moving from a home run paradise to the AL West, where moon shots become warning track fodder.
The man hitting cleanup will be Albert Pujols, also coming off his career worst year, also a year older.
Andrelton Simmons had a career year at the dish in 2017. Guys only get one career year. There’s a good shot he regresses.
Our catchers don’t remind anybody of Johnny Bench with the bat.
Nobody in the AL West is tanking. Oakland has some good young talent, Seattle is no slouch, the core of a playoff contender still exists somewhere in Texas, and the Astros are likely the best team in all of baseball.
The division series will be hard fought, unlike the AL Central where 3 teams are tanking. Even the AL East has a Tampa Bay team in a race for a high draft spot.
So while the division is pretty tough, the inter-league games do the Angels no favors either: the NL West. Three playoff teams from last year plus a reloaded Giants team. In a Wild Card race that often comes down to a game or two, the Angels are at a decided disadvantage compared to the squads playing the NL East.