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The heart of the Angels lineup isn’t beating yet

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Early slump yes, but Saturday marks a quarter of the season over

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Mike Trout is back and thriving, with four home runs in four games so far on the road trip. In that sense, things seem very normal for the Angels. But so far, those around him in the middle of the lineup simply aren’t producing.

It’s still early in that the Angels have only played 14 games, so it’s hard to get a true handle on anything just yet. But we don’t have the luxury of time in 2020; after Saturday, a quarter of the season will be over.

Anthony Rendon is hitting just .121/.383/.242, including 0-for-13 on the road trip. Shohei Ohtani is hitting .147/.194/.441. It’s a problem.

Empty heart of the order

Player 3-4-5-6 starts BA/OBP/SLG xBA xSLG wOBA xwOBA Hard-hit/PA
Player 3-4-5-6 starts BA/OBP/SLG xBA xSLG wOBA xwOBA Hard-hit/PA
Anthony Rendon 10 .121/.383/.242 0.170 0.307 0.294 0.332 8/47
Shohei Ohtani 8 .147/.194/.441 0.224 0.550 0.258 0.336 11/36
Tommy La Stella 9 .278/.409/.389 0.292 0.426 0.355 0.375 9/44
Albert Pujols 10 .154/.233/.410 0.224 0.399 0.258 0.292 10/43
Justin Upton 12 .109/.192/.239 0.161 0.292 0.192 0.253 9/52
Sources: Baseball-Reference & Baseball Savant

Of the five players with the most starts in the 3-6 spots in the lineup, only Tommy La Stella has good results. Digging a little deeper, Shohei Ohtani seems to be the only one hitting the ball hard, with an expected slugging percentage of .550, per Baseball Savant.

The Angels already moved to fix one of the problems, demoting Justin Upton to a platoon role in left field with the arrival of Jo Adell. Albert Pujols, who has started 10 of 14 games, likely has a longer leash, but he hasn’t done much either.

In Friday’s loss in Texas, no runs were scored by either team after the fourth inning. The Angels, trailing by a run, had their best scoring chances in the sixth and seventh.

  • 6th inning: runners on 1B & 2B, one out: Max Stassi fly out, Upton fly out
  • 7th inning: runners on 1B & 2B, one out: Ohtani strikeout, Rendon walk, La Stella pop out

Each of those situations, the Angels were expected to score a run (0.9792 runs, using 2019 data from Baseball Prospectus), but were left empty-handed despite having basically who they wanted at the plate*.

*Don’t sleep on Stassi, hitting .333/.393/.833, second to Trout on the team in both home runs (4) and RBI (10). His batted ball data is fantastic too, with an expected .791 slugging percentage and .465 xwOBA. Yes, it’s a ridiculously small sample size, but Stassi was just 3-for-42 last year with the Angels (three for 42!!!), so let him have this moment. Angels catchers (Stassi and Jason Castro) have very been good. It’s just an issue when catcher is the Angels’ second-best offensive position.

In reality, most of this problem will fix itself. Rendon isn’t going to have a .625 OPS going forward. If Ohtani hits anywhere close to where he has in his first two major league seasons, he’ll be just fine, too.

But the sooner they can get going, the better. Pretty soon, there won’t be much season left.

Game info

Time: 4:10 p.m. PT

TV: Fox Sports West