Examining the Angels Slow Start

After starting the season 6-6, the Los Angeles Angels have gone 3-8 in their last eleven games and are tied with the Oakland Athletics for fourth place in the AL West with a 9-14 record. Their pitching staff has been one of the worst in the entire league and the offense has been below average. Anthony Rendon also hit the IL recently, adding injury to insult for the slow-starting Halos. So what’s behind this slow start for the Angels?

Examining the Los Angeles Angels Slow Start to 2024

Pitching Staff Issues

Without a doubt, aside from Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Angels pitching staff has been the most talked about facet of the team for years now. Aside from a few bright spots, LA’s pitchers have been subpar in every aspect.

They have a team ERA of 4.40, which ranks 25th in the majors; the starters have been better than the relievers (4.18 ERA vs. 4.70 ERA), but that’s mostly thanks to Reid Detmers and Tyler Anderson. Overall, Angels pitching has given up 99 earned runs (seventh-worst in MLB) and 27 home runs (tied for 5th worst).

Through 23 games, the Angels’ pitching has been downright bad, and they absolutely need guys to figure things out before the season is lost. But the Angels’ top two starters have been phenomenal this year: Detmers has a 2.12 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29.2 innings while Anderson has a 1.42 ERA along with three starts of seven innings pitched and less than two runs allowed. 

But the Angels’ other starts have combined for a 1-10 record and a 6.24 ERA. It’s certainly time to find some more quality pitching in Anaheim.

Lack of Help for Mike Trout

Trout is finally back to his MVP-level production, but the rest of the lineup has not been giving him much support. If we include Mickey Moniak (who has played in the most games of the rest of the outfielders in the platoon), the Halos have four starters hitting below .200 and sporting an OPS of below .600.

Nolan Schanuel and Zach Neto are probably the most surprising members of that group as many expected them to build upon their solid rookie campaigns from last year. Schanuel had issues with hitting the ball hard last season and he still appears to be struggling with that. But he also hardly struck out and walked a lot last year, which isn’t the case this season. He’s striking out 21.6% of the time and walking 10.8% of the time, and he needs to start walking more and making more contact overall.

Neto’s defense has been pretty solid since he came up to the bigs, but he’s struggled mightily with the bat. He’s currently hitting .187 after hitting .225 in 2023 and his expected batting average according to Baseball Savant is actually .174. He’s whiffing and striking out at extreme rates and isn’t making hard contact at all. He’s still just 23 years old and only has 411 plate appearances in the majors, but the Angels need him to improve drastically. 

Before Rendon hit the IL, he was actually playing pretty well. Logan O’Hoppe, Taylor Ward, and Miguel Sanó are also hitting pretty well, and it’s great to see O’Hoppe breaking out and Sanó rediscovering some of his old form, but the lineup just hasn’t been deep enough or providing enough timely hits to support its lone superstar. But, this is baseball, so many of these early trends could be flipped by the time we get to the warmer months of May and June.

Hitting With Runners On Base

On Monday, April 22, the Angels were down 4-2 to the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. They managed to load the bases with two out and Mike Trout coming to the plate. Unfortunately, he struck out looking and the game was over. This is just the latest example of the Angels struggles to score runs with runners on base.

LA is batting just .226 with runners on and .211 with runners in scoring position. To make matters worse, they’ve had only 175 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the eighth fewest in the league. So, not only do they struggle to get runners to second base and beyond, but they struggle to bring them in when they do get there. Given the Angels’ current pitching situation, their offense is going to have to be the primary driver if they are to win games, and that starts with hitting better when runners get on base. 

Main Image: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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