Los Angeles Angels
Early in the season, Orange County baseball fans had realistic hopes for a happy season. Their team had procured the services of young Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani and finally had a decent supporting cast surrounding perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout. Things were looking up.
But that was then. Nearly two-thirds of the way into the season, the Angels have officially declared they've thrown in the towel by dealing their Gold Glove-winning catcher to the Astros a few days before the trading deadline. They'd have traded Garrett Richards, too, but he ended up getting hurt again just before the All-Star break and he'll spend the rest of 2018 on the disabled list. With plenty of company—at this writing, the Halos' DL includes their regular third-baseman, closer, and most of their starting rotation among the 11 wounded Angels, and that doesn't include Ohtani, who probably ought to be back on that list.
Ohtani was activated off the DL to be the Halos' designated hitter, but his UCL injury remains and prevents him from pitching. He has received platelet-rich plasma injections for the ailment in hopes of avoiding Tommy John surgery, and is said to be on a throwing regimen on the way to recovery, but given the Angels have decided they're out of the race and that they have a great deal invested in Ohtani, why are they risking further injury with him? Richards had a similar injury that also was treated without surgery, and when he came back he lasted all of half a season before reinjuring himself to the point where surgery was the only option. Bad UCL sprains rarely heal on their own to the point where pitching is realistically possible, and PRP therapy has only proven to be a stopgap solution. But, for now he's in the lineup regularly, serving as DH and a way to sell tickets in a lost season.
Ohtani is one of just three Angels currently batting over .260, along with Trout and shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Each has done the Mariners some damage this year, but Trout in particular tends to crush the M's when given the opportunity:
|Mike Trout vs. Seattle Mariners
The scheduled starters for the Mariners in the July 27-29 series are Wade LeBlanc, Felix Hernández, and Marco Gonzales. Ohtani is untested against them (0-for-3 vs. LeBlanc, never faced the other two), but Trout and Simmons are another story:
|Mike Trout (career)
|Andrelton Simmons (career)
Given the relative weakness of the rest of the Angel lineup, some pitching around of these guys seems like a sound strategy.
It is a quirk of this year's less-than-ideal schedule that the M's played every one of their home matchups with the Halos before setting foot once in Anaheim. With three series at each park, you'd expect things to alternate at least somewhat, but for whatever reason all nine games were played up north before all ten down south.
Players to Watch
Mike Trout: 2012 Rookie of the Year. Six-time All-Star. Five Silver Slugger awards. Two-time MVP and three-time runner-up. His career slash line is out of a video game: .306/.412/.571. The guy is pretty good with the stick. He doesn't have a Gold Glove (yet), but he's no slouch in center field, either; he currently leads the AL in Defensive WAR, for whatever that's worth.
Albert Pujols: The future Hall of Famer collected his 3,000th career hit during the Angels' first visit to Seattle this year. While not the force he used to be, Pujols remains a threat in the batter's box and is capable of launching upper-deck bombs given the chance.
Ian Kinsler: Once a star with Texas and Detroit, Kinsler has been a shadow of his former self the last couple of years. He went from being traded straight up to the Tigers for Prince Fielder (and cash) to being dealt to the Angels for a couple of low-level prospects after a .236 season in 2017. His numbers are even worse this year, and at 36 he doesn't figure to rebound much.
Mike Scioscia: The longest-tenured manager in the big leagues, Scoscia has helmed the Angels since 2000, making the playoffs seven times. The two-time AL Manager of the Year is in the final year of his contract, and it remains to be seen if this is the end of the Scoscia era in Orange County or not; given his track record, his job prospects seem pretty solid whether or not he's offered an extension from the Angels.
Luis Valbuena: Valbuena played 18 games with the M's in 2008 before finding himself in the middle of one of the most complicated trades the Mariners have ever made. Valbuena was dealt to the Cleveland Indians in a three-team deal that involved 12 players shuffling between the M's, the Indians, and the New York Mets. Since then, he's made a career for himself as a competent journeyman infielder with enough power and defensive versatility to keep him employed as a big-leaguer.
|Los Angeles Angels||(2016 - present)|
|Division Titles:||1979, 1982, 1986, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014|
Mike Trout hit nine homers in April, matching an Angels club record held by Albert Pujols (2014) and Brian Downing (1987).
Ian Kinsler: On April 12th Kinsler hit his 47th career leadoff home run, fourth-most all-time and most among active players. Rickey Henderson (81), Alfonso Soriano (54), and Craig Biggio (53) are the top three.
Luis Valbuena has hit 108 home runs in an eleven-year career that began with Seattle in the Mariners’ ill-fated 2008 season, but didn’t hit a single dinger with the M’s. He batted just 54 times with Seattle, all in ’08, batting .245.