Over the course of the offseason, the Los Angeles Angels have made significant efforts to improve their pitching staff. While most of the strides came in the bullpen, there is no denying that their starting rotation is better than it was last season.
Shohei Ohtani, Noah Syndergaard, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Michael Lorenzen are the five starters currently locked into the rotation, with a sixth spot available for one of Reid Detmers, Jaime Barria, and Janson Junk.
Within that group, Ohtani — coming off of his historic 2021 season — is the closest thing to an ace. The Angels have rewarded Ohtani by making him the Opening Day starter, the team announced Friday morning:
Shohei Ohtani is our 2022 Opening Day Starter!
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) March 25, 2022
Ohtani was undoubtedly the team’s best pitcher in 2021. In 130.1 innings, Ohtani managed a 3.18 ERA, a 1.090 WHIP, and 156 strikeouts while showing significant improvements in command throughout the season. While his hitting is well-documented, his pitching was arguably more impressive last season.
Him starting on the mound also gives the Angels a quick opportunity to test the “Ohtani rule” in the new collective bargaining agreement. This rule allows players to separate their pitching from the designated hitter position, meaning Ohtani could stay in the game as the DH after being pulled from the game as a pitcher.
Last season, if the Angels wanted Ohtani to pitch and hit in the same game, they would effectively have to turn to National League rules. Now, with the NL implementing a DH, it no loner made sense to have that rule in place. Ohtani can now do both without the team losing his bat after he’s done pitching.
The Angels open up the 2022 season at home against the reigning AL champion Houston Astros. Ohtani will get an immediate test against what figures to be one of the best teams in the American League once again. Even with the loss of Carlos Correa, the Astros are considered the favorites to win the AL West.
Angels would still spend on starting pitching
According to reports, the signing of reliever Ryan Tepera to a two-year, $14 million deal put an end to the Angels offseason spending. However, there is one exception to this, and that is starting pitching. The Angels will only increase their payroll at this point if it means adding another starting pitcher.