Angels’ Start Strong Despite Weak Pitching

The past couple of seasons in my pre-season previews I’ve picked the Angels to do far better than the professionals covering MLB were predicting, and for a variety of reasons, from overrating talent to in some cases almost unprecedented strings of injuries, I was proven very, very wrong. This year, I took a much more realistic look at the team and of the AL West, and saw the Angels as, at best, a fourth place team. The primary reasons for this were the unstable and far from deep status of the team’s pitching, especially the starting staff, and due to the fact that Texas, Houston, and also Seattle, all looked to be deeper and more talented teams. After a week of the 2017 season, the Angels are in first place, despite continued problems with their starting staff, and due to a bad start by Texas and a horrid one by Seattle, capped off by yesterday’s astounding Angels’ comeback win.

Until yesterday, since the 2011 season there had been 2,530 games where a team went into

the ninth inning with a lead of six runs or greater, and that team had won 2,529 times. Make that 2,529-2 now, after the Angels scored seven runs in the ninth to make it a complete comeback from 8-1 and 9-3 deficits, pulling out a 10-9 victory.

Despite the heroics of yesterday, the Angels should, by all counts, be reeling right now, having lost Garrett Richards to at least ten days on the disable list (and hopefully no longer), and having seen both Matt Shoemaker (eight earned runs in 9.1 innings over two starts) and Tyler Skaggs (five earned runs in 5.1 innings in his one start) pounded in their early going. Amazingly, it’s been the two journeymen I most criticized, Ricky Nolasco (3.85 ERA) and Jesse Chavez (1.59 ERA), that have been the Angels’ most effective starters, save for Richards in his one abbreviated start. Conversely, the bullpen for the most part, has been excellent, led by Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey and Yusmeiro Petit.

I did give the Angels’ offense a lot of credit, and they have lived up to that so far. The Angels’ .291 team batting average leads the American League by a wide margin (by 20 points over second place Tampa Bay), they lead the AL in runs scored, and their .791 OPS is second to the Tigers. The new left field platoon of Cameron Maybin, and Ben Revere has been better than I anticipated, but it’s a long seasons, and I still believe that the guy out there should be Jefry Marte, who has been platooning at first with C.J. Cron.

After taking three in a row from the Mariners, the Angels will start a three-game series

against the Rangers, and after another three-game set in Kansas City, they then go to Houston for four games. By the end of this stretch we should have a much better idea as to whether the first seven games were a mirage or whether the Angels just might be in the thick of the AL West race throughout the season.

But remember, as LA Times reporter Pedro Moura wrote this morning, there is no path to the playoffs for the Angels without Garrett Richards.

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