The home run ball was a problem for second-year Angels pitcher Patrick Sandoval in 2020.
The Mission Viejo native was sidelined at the beginning of summer camp after a positive COVID-19 test in late June, but recovered in time to make his first Opening Day roster.
After two promising starts, the left-hander allowed five runs in three consecutive August starts and was optioned to the alternate training site for nearly three weeks. When he came back, Sandoval made three bulk relief appearances before starting the final game of the season.
All in all, Sandoval pitched nearly as many major league innings in 2020 (36⅔) as he did in 2019 (39⅓), and his walk rate improved. But his ERA and FIP went up, as did his home runs allowed, and his strikeout rate declined.
A tale of two Sandoval seasons
What did work for Sandoval in 2020 was the development of his slider, which he threw a quarter of the time, after just 9.2 percent as a rookie. Batters were just 4-for-37 (.108) with a .351 slugging percentage in at-bats ending on his slider, and when Sandoval threw his slider with two strikes he got a strikeout 29.1% of the time, his best put-away mark for any of his four pitches.
Stats: 5.65 ERA, 5.92 FIP, 33 K, 36 IP
Game of the year
On Sept. 23 against the Padres, Sandoval allowed only two singles in three scoreless innings of relief, striking out five of his 11 batters faced for his first major league win.
Sandoval has 167 days of major league service time, just five days shy of a full year, and has two option years remaining.