The Los Angeles Angels are now through two months of the 2021 season, and while there have been moments of excellent play, things have not gone according to plan. In relation to where things stood at the end of April, the Halos are in a far more bleak position.
The Angels played 30 games during the month of May, six more than the 24 they played in April. However, they won the same amount of games, going 12-12 in April and 12-18 in May. Their record, while not particularly horrible, leaves out a number of troublesome emerging trends within the team’s performance. All of the good and bad will be broken down here.
Shohei Ohtani is still one of the Major League’s premier talents. After an April that saw him skyrocket to the top of the MVP leaderboards, he managed to keep it rolling in May. His numbers have dipped slightly at the plate, but he improved at the mound, turning in four really great performances.
At one point in May, Ohtani led the Majors in home runs while also sporting a 2.10 ERA. He now is tied for second in home runs with a 2.72 ERA, but even these numbers would be unprecedented in the modern era of baseball.
Jared Walsh is also hitting the ball very well. His batting average is down slightly, but his slugging has actually improved, hitting eight home runs in May compared to four in April. For the month, he’s been the Angels second best player by a wide margin.
There is also some cause for positivity among the Angels’ starting rotation. Thanks to Ohtani, Alex Cobb, and renewed performances from Jose Quintana and Griffin Canning, the Angels starting pitcher crew has not given up more than four runs in an individual start since May 15.
After spending all of April saying that the stats were not aligning with what was happening on the field, it seems the starters have had some positive regression to the mean.
The Angels had legitimate playoff aspirations going into this year, and a 12-18 month that had a number of bad things may have derailed that. On May 1, the Angels were 1.5 games back of the American League West lead. Now, they are six games back and in fourth place. They also now have the fifth-worst run differential in all of baseball.
The injury bug struck the team in a big way, with star reliever Chris Rodriguez, catcher Max Stassi, and superstar Mike Trout all suffering brutal injuries. Rodriguez missed nearly the entire month with shoulder inflammation, while Stassi is still working his way back from a concussion.
Trout’s is the worst of all, as he suffered a Grade 2 calf strain that could sideline him through July. If things continue at this pace, the team may look very different when he returns to the lineup, as they could forego contending this season to stockpile on future assets.
The Angels bullpen went from inconsistent with potential to one of the worst in the majors. They had some individually good games, but as a whole they’ve been rough, blowing leads and digging holes the offense cannot get out of. The Angels bullpen has the fourth-worst ERA in baseball and has given up the most home runs.
Without Trout, the Angels offense has fallen off, with manager Joe Maddon experimenting with all types of lineup tweaks. Some things he’s attempted in May include Justin Upton at leadoff, Juan Lagares in the cleanup spot, and moving a struggling David Fletcher from the top of the order to the bottom.
Obviously, when a team goes 12-18 in a month, there is going to be more bad than good. The only hope is that the Angels can get their bullpen back to where they were in April, and perhaps just getting some pieces back healthy will assist in that.
Being only six games back with four months left in the regular season means the Angels are not out of contention. However, they are in danger of falling to that point if they don’t fix some things very quickly.
If the bullpen can steady out and the offense can find ways to produce without using Trout as an anchor, then perhaps a playoff appearance can still be salvaged.
Luckily, after an impossibly difficult May schedule, things certainly even out in June. While series’ against the San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees are going to be difficult, the Angels also have some easier matchups like the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. They also play a couple divisional opponents with a chance to make some ground up.