One of the many bright spots for the Los Angeles Angels in the past few seasons has been the emergence of first baseman Jared Walsh and his powerful lefty bat. But after heading into the All-Star break following a dip in performance, he appears to be taking a different approach at the plate.
Walsh’s first two seasons with the Angels consisted of offensive production well above league average after posting a wRC+ of 151 in 2020, and 127 last year, which included 29 home runs. He entered his age 28 season with expectations to take another step, but as the Angels tumbled, so did he.
His first half left a lot to be desired, mainly because he fell into the eighth percentile in strikeout rate and the 11th percentile in walk rate. Since the beginning of June leading to the All-Star break, Walsh batted .220 with a 65 wRC+ and only nine extra-base hits in 147 plate appearances.
However, in the five games following the All-Star break, five of his seven hits are for extra bases while posting a 175 wRC+, perhaps unlocking a bit of what made him a participant in the 2021 Midsummer Classic, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
“I think the time off was really beneficial,” the Angels first baseman said. “Just kind of reset. For myself and the team, I don’t think it was a great first half. So try to really separate from it.”
Walsh credits his aggressive approach at the plate for his five-game hot stretch and trying to use some of that power that made him so successful last season.
“All I’ve really been trying to do is elevate the ball a little bit more,” Walsh said. “Even early in the year when I was putting it into play, I thought the exit velos were OK. It was just everything was on the ground. So how do I give myself more of a chance to maybe hit an extra-base hit here?”
Walsh is under team control until 2026 and has yet to hit arbitration as a member of the Angels, which makes him a key member of the core that remains around Mike Trout.
On the season he’s batting .243 with a 97 wRC+ in 354 plate appearances, but he and the club hope he continues his recent stretch of play.
Angels wanted Walsh and Taylor Ward to be more aggressive
At 41-56, the Angels find themselves in fourth place in the American League West and 22.5 games behind the first-place Houston Astros. That is nothing short of disappointing as L.A. was 27-17 on May 25 and looked poised to end their playoff drought.
Since then, the Angels have gone just 14-39. Perhaps not coincidentally, the team ranks near the bottom in several offensive categories during that span.
The Angels specifically have struggled against the fastball, and interim manager Phil Nevin believes the team must be more aggressive.
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