Going into the season, Joe Maddon and the Los Angeles Angels felt confident in knowing what the strengths and weaknesses of the team were. They knew they were going to have an elite offense — which has proven true in the first month — and pitching that, while potentially better than season, wouldn’t be on par with some of the other top teams in the American League.
Where they misjudged the quality of the roster was their defense. Replacing Andrelton Simmons with Jose Iglesias felt like a seamless transition. However, early injuries and lineup inconsistency have contributed to what is possibly the worst defense in the major leagues.
This was on full display in the Angels loss to the Rays on Tuesday. Four errors led to three unearned runs in an 8-3 loss. While they lost by more than they gave up in unearned runs, it was those mistakes that pushed the momentum of the game entirely in the Rays favor.
Maddon spoke about the team’s abysmal early defense, saying he hopes that Tuesday night was an anomaly moment, according to Jack Harris of The L.A. Times:
“You’re talking about three really good defenders making mistakes tonight,” Maddon said of Iglesias, Fletcher and Stassi. Maddon later added: “I believe that’s going to go away. I know how good these guys are.”
“We have good defenders — we have to just stay confident with them,” Maddon said, maintaining optimism even after his team’s sixth game this season with at least three errors and third game with three unearned runs.
“I want to believe it’s an anomaly moment. I know we’re better than that.”
While Tuesday night was an anomaly in terms of having four errors, the Angels defense has routinely struggled throughout this season. They rank dead last in the major leagues in both errors and fielding percentage. They are also second to last in defensive runs saved.
In addition, their pitchers — who are almost all pitch-to-contact types — rank third to last in ERA, but are ninth in FIP, which is essentially ERA with fielding errors removed. In fact, their gap between ERA and FIP would finish as the largest since 1920 if it held to the end of the season.
The Angels pitching absolutely needs to improve. However, their defense needs to do a better job at supporting them. If the Angels want their elite offense to have a chance to even make the postseason, fixing the errors and fielding mistakes would be a great step towards that.
Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton day to day
One of the ways to help fix defensive issues is to get the defense fully healthy. This includes having Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton re-join the lineup after suffering knee contusions from taking foul balls to the knee in consecutive games. They are both considered day to day at the moment.