In his debut season in Anaheim after signing a seven-year, $245 million monster deal in December of 2019, Anthony Rendon showed everyone exactly why the Angels paid such a hefty price for his services.
The star third baseman overcame a slow start to the COVID-shortened 2020 season and posted the highest on-base percentage (.418, sixth best in all of baseball) and second highest OPS+ (150) of his career, numbers that helped him earn a top 10 finish in AL MVP voting. This strong effort from Rendon was a refreshing change of pace for a Halos team that’s been famously burned by big contracts many times in the past, and the idea of pairing him with Mike Trout over a full season’s worth of games had fans excited for what might come in 2021.
As you probably already know by now, though, Rendon’s sophomore campaign with the Angels did not go very well, to say the least. His misfortunes in 2021 started right out of the gates, as he lasted only 10 days before going down with his first injury of the year, a strained left groin suffered while making a throw to first base that knocked him out for two weeks. He came back on April 26 and posted a respectable .866 OPS over the next week, but a foul ball hit off his left knee during a game against the Rays on May 3 landed him on the injured list for the second time in just over a month of action.
This IL stint only lasted the minimum 10 days, but when Rendon came back from that injury, he did not look like his normal self at all. From his return on May 14 through the end of that month, he hit .156 with just two extra-base hits while striking out an uncharacteristically high 13 times in 72 plate appearances. During this time, he was missing pitches he’d normally punish on pretty much a daily basis and looked noticeably less athletic than in previous years (as evidenced by his greatly decreased sprint speed at the time), both worrying signs that left everyone wondering whether he was still being hampered by his two previous injuries in some capacity.
Rendon started to ease these concerns a little bit once the calendar turned to June, as the first two weeks of that month saw him go on a hot streak that had him looking like the Rendon of old. His power at the plate wasn’t all the way back, but the .313/.358/.479 slash line that he posted through 12 games showed that he was starting to figure things out with the bat once again. In what was perhaps the worst timing imaginable, though, Rendon suffered yet another injury on June 14, this time a right triceps ailment that came while diving for a ball hit down the left field line.
Here’s the play where Anthony Rendon hurt his right triceps in last night’s game. pic.twitter.com/BdK7oOwQ67— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) June 16, 2021
Rendon avoided another stint on the injured list this time, but he was knocked out of action for four whole games while on the mend. He was back in the lineup for the Angels’ June 19 contest against the Tigers, and for the next couple weeks, it looked like his timing was just a bit off once again. He had a very nice .379 on-base percentage across 13 games that showed his trademark plate discipline was still in tact, but he only hit .234 with a .447 slugging percentage over that span, numbers that are good enough for the average hitter but fall well short of the lofty standards that Rendon had set for himself in years past.
Unfortunately, the vicious cycle of injuries for Rendon repeated itself once again on the 4th of July, as he left the Angels’ game against the Orioles that day with a strained left hamstring that led to his third IL stint of the year two days later. Joe Maddon initially downplayed the severity of this injury and pegged Rendon for a return shortly after the All-Star Break, but an unspecified setback reported on July 16 left his timetable unclear.
As it turns out, this setback turned out to be the final nail in the coffin to Rendon’s snakebitten season, as the Angels revealed on August 4 that he would be undergoing season ending surgery to repair a right hip impingement, an injury that we previously did not know about. When speaking to reporters after this announcement, Rendon said that the hip issue had been bothering him the whole season and even a little bit in 2020, and that it felt “like a clamp was grabbing the front of [his] hip and the back of [his] butt” in addition to a stabbing pain in the same spot. He also mentioned that he felt that favoring his hip helped cause both the groin injury in April and the hamstring injury in July, and that the weakness that it caused in his lower half was a big reason behind his uncharacteristic performance when he was on the field.
Rendon finished the 2021 season with career lows in almost every single offensive category, including batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.329), and Wins Above Replacement (0.7). He underwent his surgery in mid-August, and in his own words, he expects to be fully ready for the start of Spring Training next month.
58 games / 249 PA / .240 AVG / .329 OBP / .382 SLG / .712 OPS / 52 H / 6 HR / 13 2B / 0 3B / 34 RBI / 29 BB / 41 K / 0 SB / 94 OPS+ / 0.7 fWAR
Best Performance of the Year
The closest Rendon came to looking like his past self in 2021 was on May 1 against the Mariners, when he went 3-5 with a pair of extra-base hits and four RBI. He started his day off in the second inning with a double in the left-center field gap that drove in two runs, and he added a towering two-run home run to his ledger just two innings later. This was in the middle of a pretty hot stretch for him, but because of all the injuries, performances like this one were unfortunately few and far between.
Outlook for 2022
Given that 2022 will be just year three of his seven-year contract, Rendon will without a doubt be back in his customary spot at third base and in the middle of the order next season. The Angels desperately need him to return healthy and back to his pre-2021 form, though, as another season like last year would be absolutely disastrous for the team’s playoff hopes given how important he is to their overall plans. His track record of success and the sheer number of injuries that he had to play through makes it more than fair to give him a mulligan for 2021, but if 2022 brings more of the same, he might start to pop up on the club’s lengthy list of failed long-term contracts alongside names like Pujols and Hamilton.