The season is just one month in and the 2018 Angels have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. They have seen a top offense crush their enemies, an awful offense get obliterated by even worse enemies, an unstoppable bullpen, an entirely stopped bullpen, amazing win steaks, humiliating losing streaks, and so much more. There have been few constants in such a wild start.
We have received consistency out of one department, however. The rotation has consistently generated high pitch counts in very few innings. Angels starting pitchers are currently last in the MLB in innings pitched per game at right around 4.75.
It isn’t hard to see why. Starters are 26th in BB/9, 4th in K/9, and 26th in HR/9. Looked at another way, they have the 11th most strikeouts in baseball, the 7th most walks, and the 10th most home runs allowed, despite having the 2nd fewest innings pitched and 4th fewest hits allowed in the majors.
What this means is that they have become a Three True Outcomes staff, something that can only spell doom over a long period of time. Regardless of the problems that a high walk rate and a high home run rate cause, the high number of pitches thrown means that the bullpen has to come out sooner. That trend has already become a problem as the bullpen that has the seventh lowest ERA in baseball has the most innings pitched across both leagues. It will be entirely unsurprising when they fall apart in the middle of the season.
Finding more bullpen arms is a temporary fix that the front office might already need to employ, but the permanent solution lies in acquiring a top of the rotation arm right this minute.
The trade deadline is frequently the period at which one expects to make a move to seal up their playoff spot and make a run for the World Series. The starters are usually cheaper at that time because teams still like to feign contention for a while before giving up as it gets them more money from the fans, and they have less time to spend with their new team. It makes a lot of sense usually.
But we don’t have time to wait. Obviously, the bullpen is falling apart, and the starters aren’t keeping us in games anymore. The Angels have been lucky up to this point and it is not sustainable.
It doesn’t help either that the Angels are in one of the strongest divisions in the MLB, with the Astros having what can only be described as a juggernaut of a rotation, the Mariners probably preparing to get into a bidding war with us around July, and the A’s starters improving overall since our last encounter.
Finally, and thankfully, this is probably the only year we’ve ever seen where so many teams have willingly taken themselves out of contention before the season ever even started. Outside of the Indians, the entire AL Central is in a vicious battle for the first overall pick in 2019. As a reminder, it is May 1st.
We have some great pieces in the system after years of what the mainstream pundits liked to call “barrenness,” and many of them will not pan out. I think it’s time for Eppler to pull a Simmons again and make a move that upsets 90% of the fan base mostly because they don’t want to give up valuable pieces for valuable pieces.
Some of the pretty good players from bad teams that we may want to target at any cost as soon as possible are as follows. I will leave off a couple of the rookie pitchers that are somewhere between “not available” and “untouchable” at this point in the season, such as Joey Lucchesi or Jarlin Garcia.
Michael Fulmer has been one of the top pitchers in the American League since he came up in 2016. The Tigers acquired him in the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, and he has already rewarded them with 7.1 fWAR and 9.3 bWAR in just 353 innings pitched. He is projected to have another 3 win season according to ZiPS and Steamer this year and 165 innings pitched.
Since he is only in his age 25 season and won’t be a Free Agent until 2023 (around the same time our window is currently set through), he will be quite expensive. I don’t care. Make it happen.
Tyson Ross will always be dear to my heart for almost single-handedly removing the Rangers from playoff contention last season. He started 10 games for them and had a 7.71 ERA. Delightful.
Prior to that horrible showing last season though, I had been a big proponent of acquiring him when he was non-tendered. Sure, he had received thoracic outlet surgery in 2016, but I was confident that he would rebound. He did not.
This year, however, he is looking much more like his 2013-2015 self. That version of Ross provided 9.4 fWAR and 7.3 bWAR across those three seasons and neared 200 innings twice. He is currently averaging just shy of 6 IP with a 3.64 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and a 3.61 SIERA. He’s looking like a solid number 2 or 3 again, and we could definitely use that.
Unlike Fulmer, he is on a one-year contract and will be available in 2019 anyway. We could get him for a fraction of the price.
Yeah, I doubt it too with the way he’s been pitching. Also, the Rays need to go ahead and stop winning again so this would even be an option.
But Blake Snell has been awesome this season. Over a 10 K/9 with a sub-2 BB/9 and a 2.52 ERA for the Rays has been one of the biggest reasons they’re almost at .500. Most interesting of all, he has allowed .76 HR/9 despite the strong offenses in his division and being a fly ball pitcher. If they could go ahead and drop back out of the race for a second, an irresistible offer (one that I’m not even sure we would be able to make) would get us probably the best pitcher that you’ve probably never heard of.
Snell is already over 1 WAR by both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs and is projected to be at right around 4 wins by the end of the season. This would help to anchor the rotation and give the bullpen a nice extra rest day.
I had initially reserved this spot for Jakob Junis, but his HR/9 has ballooned since we broke him. Ian Kennedy, on the other hand, had been strong all April.
He had a 3.48 ERA and a sub-3 BB/9 while almost striking out 1 batter per inning. He appears to be on trend for a pretty decent season, though the projections aren’t as optimistic about him. I am inclined to think they’re just a little too biased toward last year however when he had his worst season ever. If we grabbed Kennedy to slot in as our number 3 or 4 and ate most of the contract, though, it would definitely help solidify our struggling rotation.
There are also several other pitchers that I would keep an eye on. However, most of those are going to be on bubble teams or unexpectedly decent teams who might not be ready to cede their pitchers yet. The Twins, Pirates, Rockies, and Dodgers all have pretty good pitchers that might be worth a move (yes, even right this minute) if they can just accept they suck pretty quickly. I also tried to keep from talking about Dylan Bundy because that is not going to happen, no matter what we give up.
Is there anyone you like that I didn’t mention and/or that you think we should acquire at any cost?
Who should the Angels bet on RIGHT. THIS. SECOND?
This poll is closed
Other (In Comments)
Never give up any prospect ever