Why the Los Angeles Angels missed playoffs for 8th straight season
May 24, 2022. That’s the date the season peaked for the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos were a strong 27-17 with incredible promise. Free agent starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard was looking legit, rookie starting pitcher Reid Detmers was coming off a no-hitter, and outfielder Taylor Ward was leading the American League in batting average.
The Los Angeles Angels looked like serious AL West contenders … then disaster struck.
A devastating 14-game losing streak began on May 25, which led to the firing of manager Joe Maddon and saw the loss of star third baseman Anthony Rendon to injury yet again. By the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Angels were 15 games under .500 and decided to sell. On Monday, the Angels were officially eliminated from postseason contention, missing the playoffs for the eighth straight year.
This was a surprise to many, but not me. Let’s break down why the Angels destined to fail this year.
For years upon end, the Angels have failed to acquire elite, durable starting pitching. The Halos have a massive payroll, but failed to sign or trade for guys like Gerrit Cole, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman, Charlie Morton, Luis Castillo, and countless others. You’d think the Angels would have addressed this need coming into this offseason … but they really didn’t. Ideally, you need three elite starters to be taken seriously for a playoff run. The Angels had two — Noah Syndergaard and Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani and Syndergaard were both incredibly injury-prone and, if one went down, the team’s chances of making a playoff run were incredibly diminished. Syndergaard was coming off Tommy John and it was unclear how many starts he would make or how good he would really be. Meanwhile, Ohtani plays every day. With the everyday strain this takes on a hitter, it’d be foolish to assume he’ll make more than 25 starts. With Ohtani and Syndergaard at the top of the rotation the Angels were making an ultimate gamble, which I talked about during the preseason (here, at the 13:35 mark):
After these two, options were thin. Michael Lorenzen, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Detmers were all contenders for the starting rotation. However, they were all unproven and none were qualified to be a number three starter on a playoff team.
In the end, remarkably, Syndergaard and Ohtani never were seriously hurt. However, Syndergaard, who was dealt at the deadline, is not the elite pitcher he once was years ago. The Angels have found a gem in lefty starter Patrick Sandoval, but still need elite, durable depth added to this rotation.
Lack of depth
The Angels arguably have the two best players in baseball in their lineup, but a lineup consists of nine players. On Opening Day, the Angels had around $79 million invested into three players: Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani. Those are three really good players, but the rest of their lineup had numerous holes. Starting at second base was journeyman infielder Matt Duffy. Unproven rookie Brandon Marsh was starting in right, and top prospect Jo Adell was starting in left. With a payroll of $180 million, the Angels could have easily added someone like Tommy Pham or Joc Pederson to sure up the outfield depth.
Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays are 17 games under .500 this year with a much smaller payroll than the Angels (about $100 million less precisely). But why are they so much better when most people can’t name more than five players on their roster? It’s because the Rays craft effort and precision into their whole lineup, one through nine. The reality is your best hitter (Trout in the Angels’ case) will only get about 40-50 more at-bats than your number nine hitter. With such poor depth, this reality really hurt the Angels.
To start the season, the Angels had three potential offensive holes. It got even worse when Rendon and Trout went down. This forced the Halos to turn to guys like Andrew Velasquez, Jack Mayfield, and Tyler Wade, who are simply not quality MLB players. With lack of depth and big league experience on both sides of the diamond, the Angels were on thin ice to start the season.
Bottom line, the Angels neglected the lack of depth in their roster and it really cost them.
The clock is ticking for the Los Angeles Angels. Trout is getting older and Ohtani is a free agent after the 2023 season. At the moment, the Angels are projected to have a little less than $100 million in cap space for next season. Hopefully they can use this money to patch together a contending roster and prove to Ohtani they are a serious contending ball club. This may not be the smartest move, but I think it’s necessary if you want to keep the best player in the world on your roster.