The Los Angeles Angels are off to a hot start in 2022 with a 14-8 record and +20 run differential, which has them in first place in the American League West while going 7-3 over their last 10 games.
While the Angels have improved their pitching and defense this season, their start has mostly been fueled by their offense, which is scoring runs in just about any way they can. As a team, they currently have the best offense in baseball with a 130 wRC+ and .346 wOBA, which is backed by the fourth most home runs (27) and second most stolen bases (16).
Although the long ball has been a point of emphasis for most offenses over the past few seasons, this season scoring via the home run has been a greater challenge with MLB’s deadened baseballs and the requirement for a humidor in each park.
The Angels ability to not rely on the homer and do everything well is the reason for their success, according to manager Joe Maddon, who is trying to get his team to buy into the old-school mentality of baseball that has been more effective for scoring early in the season, he said via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
Joe Maddon, the old-school Angels manager who implores his team to “play like it’s 1985,” is here for it.
“I know the hitters aren’t going to agree with me, but I like a real game of baseball, not the video-game version,” Maddon said after the Angels completed a four-game sweep of the Cleveland Guardians with a 4-1 victory before 18,826 in Angel Stadium on Thursday.
“If you want to get more people interested in our game, play baseball. Do it all. Play all the components, all facets of the game, and I think that’s we’re doing right now. I didn’t know in spring training that the ball was going to react the way it is, but I hope it stays that way.”
This new, yet old, style of baseball Maddon is trying to bring out of his players is perhaps most exemplified by Tyler Wade, who relies on his speed to manufacture runs rather than his power.
Wade believes the diverse skill set of the roster and the fundamental baseball they have played has helped them begin the season well. This has also led to them just having fun when playing the game, which always makes things easier for a club:
“That’s why I think we’re so special, because we can win games with homers, we can win playing small ball, we can manufacture runs, we run the bases well, we play good defense … we do it all,” infielder Tyler Wade said.
“We have a good pitching staff, bullpen and everyone’s pulling for each other. It’s a special group. It’s not selfish baseball. It’s fun, and it’s contagious.”
Three-time MVP Mike Trout is among those players having fun as the Angels look to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. While the Angels have previously relied on Trout to carry the team, this season it’s been a much more team-centric approach, which could be just what they need to get back to October:
“We have a lot of guys on this team who can do a lot of things,” Trout said. “We find different ways to beat teams besides the long ball. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Along with Trout, the Angels have a lot of star power with Shohei Ohtani, who has yet to hit his stride, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh and Noah Syndergaard. But they also have up and coming contributors who are making a name for themselves, such as Taylor Ward, Patrick Sandoval and Brandon Marsh.
Their season may rely on how well their pitching can hold up, but they also have a mix of quality veterans and intriguing upside that they haven’t in recent seasons.
This may be the most complete Angels team in quite some time, and it shows on the field and fuels the belief this is a playoff-caliber squad.
Angels only team in 2022 with 3 players with multi-homer games
While the Angels are not focusing on the home run ball, that also hasn’t stopped them from benefiting from them nearly as much as any other club.
The Angels are a powerful club, and that is shown by Ward, Trout and Ohtani all having a mult-home run games this season. So far, the Angels are the only team with three players who have achieved that.
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