“Margin of Error” – A Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim preview

On May 10, 2018, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim defeated Jose Berrios and the Minnesota Twins by a score of 7-4 to move their record to a robust 23-14. They were tied for first place in the AL West with the Astros and for the first time in awhile, spirits were truly high. Mike Trout was Mike Trouting even harder than usual. Andrelton Simmons had been cementing himself as a second bona-fide star on this team by adding an OPS over .900 to his best-in-the-league glove. Two-way player Shohei Ohtani was flashing ace-caliber stuff on the mound and a slugging presence in the lineup that rivaled that of Trout. Starter Garrett Richards, the poster child of the Angels’ long-standing injury issues, was healthy and performing again. Sure, it would be tough to keep pace with the Astros for 162 games, but with a second Wild Card possibility and three guys among the league’s top 15 or so players, how bad could things realistically get?

You just had to ask, didn’t you.

In early June, it was revealed that Ohtani had a torn UCL in his throwing elbow. He can still serve as a slugging lefty DH, but his pitching days are on hold for the foreseeable future. To make matters worse, Richards is headed for Tommy John surgery. Losing those two key rotation members already put the Angels’ starting staff in shambles, but other injuries have left the Angels scraping the bottom of the barrel for pitchers. JC Ramirez, Nick Tropeano, Matt Shoemaker, John Lamb, and Alex Meyer have all been sidelined of late, and James Shields hasn’t been acquired yet. It’s gotten so bad that the Angels have had to turn to something called “Deck McGuire” to start baseball games.

Fortunately, the Angels have received consistent and strong production from lefty sinkerballer Andrew Heaney and curveball-heavy Tyler Skaggs, despite that neither guy has historically been what you’d call a shining example of health. Felix Pena has been an admirable fill-in, but as a converted reliever, he’s not all that stretched out yet. Despite not pitching very deep into games, Pena’s given the Angels productive and strikeout-laden outings, thanks to the effectiveness and frequent usage of his slider. Righty prospect Jaime Barria is just 21 years old and has done well with his opportunities in the Halos’ rotation. His slider’s not as nasty as Pena’s, but he still throws it around 40 percent of the time. Finally, the Angels recently activated Tropeano, who’s a flyball pitcher who sits in the low-90s and relies upon a diving splitter and slider to get whiffs. Overall, it’s a group of guys who like their breaking pitches quite a bit.

Despite all the carnage, the Angels have received about league-average production from their rotation. The same can be said for their lineup, but that’s something of a damning statement considering the otherworldly greatness of Trout and strong contributions from Simmons and Ohtani. Those three have been surrounded by quite a bit of dreck. Justin Upton has been alright, as he’s chipped in close to 20 homers and has a great walk rate, but once you get past Upton in the pecking order, things fall apart rather quickly. In fact, “fell apart rather quickly” would be an appropriate description of the state of Kole Calhoun‘s career. Calhoun was once Trout’s best supporting cog in this lineup, but has suddenly become one of the worst regular hitters in the game. A not-so-hot start was compounded when Calhoun logged only 12 hits over a span of seven weeks (.098/.159/.107), and that has a way of keeping your season-long line in the dumps. To wit, he’s been much better lately and you’d never know it by looking at his total stats.

Elsewhere, second baseman Ian Kinsler has continued his decline and while the 36-year-old can still pick it at the keystone, he’s not much of a threat at the plate anymore. A torn labrum cut short what was a very rough season for Zack Cozart, leaving third base to a platoon of Luis Valbuena and David Fletcher, who’ve both been even worse. Albert Pujols can provide some power, but the all-time leader in grounding into double plays isn’t an on-base threat anymore. He’s on the disabled list with knee inflammation, and replacement Jefry Marte has done an astounding job of replicating Pujols’ mediocre batting line thus far. Catcher Martin Maldonado has a light bat, but posted 3.4 WARP last season on the strength of great framing. That looks to be a one-off blip, as he’s regressed to league average this season.


The Angels are in the seventh full season of having one of the greatest players of all time anchoring their roster, and all they have to show for it to this point is a quiet ALDS exit after a 98-win 2014 season. Having a guy who’s an annual threat to crack 10.0 WAR affords a team a wide margin of error, but the Halos have a seemingly annual habit of burning through that, and then some. They’ve been able to point to a tough division as a culprit before, and to some degree they can again in 2018. The Mariners have had a strong season and the surging Oakland A’s have emerged as a surprise contender, leaving the above-.500 Angels in fourth place somehow.

Still, excuses can only take a franchise so far. Mike Trout is a once-in-a-generation talent and he’s toiling in relative obscurity due to the Angels’ inability to do anything with that. A study was released recently indicating that Trout’s name is about as recognizable as Brooklyn Nets (they’re bad) reserve forward Kenneth Faried. That might say more about the relative popularity of Major League Baseball and the NBA, but it’s also an indictment of an organization that’s cost its franchise player MVP awards and postseason accolades with its roster construction difficulties. It’s gotten absurd enough that even Rob Manfred weirdly suggested it’s Trout’s own fault that he’s not more popular, which is flatly ridiculous. The best way to increase Trout’s visibility would be to put him on baseball’s biggest stage. If the Angels can’t do that, we’re just a couple years away from Trout being able to find some team that can.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Probable Lineup

  1. Kole Calhoun – RF
  2. Andrelton Simmons – SS
  3. Mike Trout – CF
  4. Justin Upton – LF
  5. Shohei Ohtani – DH
  6. Ian Kinsler – 2B
  7. Luis Valbuena – 1B
  8. Martin Maldonado – C
  9. David Fletcher – 3B


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Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan
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Shingos Cheeseburgers

The Angels in many ways spiritually parallel to the White Sox. Second team in a big city, one WS title no one remembers, inability to build a roster around a talented core, forgettable stadium, etc. 


Being an Angels fan watching Trout in 2018 must feel a lot like being a Sox fan watching Sale around 2015.

At least the Angels spent big money (though I thought the Pujols contract was dumb from the get-go).


The White Sox drafted Jarret Mitchell instead of Mike Trout.


Of course Mitchell never made it to the majors, but two other Sox legends were also selected before Trout that year: Jacob Turner and Matt Purke.


A good question (not just for the Sox, but throughout MLB) is whether Trout’s example has at all changed the way teams evaluate amateur talent from the northeast.

This Joe Posnanski MLB feature indicates that it has:

“If there had been even one great prospect to come out of New Jersey in a while, it would probably have been different,” Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “But there really hadn’t been. One thing we look for as scouts, like it or not, are patterns. I can assure you that after Mike Trout, there won’t be another New Jersey prospect who gets missed like that.”


Except the Yankees who had him pegged #2 and were salivating for him to fall to them. We should be tough on the Sox considering the players left on the board in the Fulmer/Burger drafts.

Ted Mulvey

The Sox have not forgotten their lesson the last time they drafted a Trout. Drafting Steve Trout in 1976, they missed out on Alan Trammell and Rickey Henderson, both drafted rounds later. They didn’t want to make that mistake again.

Trooper Galactus

The White Sox did not draft Jarret Mitchell.

lil jimmy

It seems the pitching match up is a push, or advantage Sox.