If the Los Angeles Angels have done nothing else this season, they have made America wonder what tungsten is.
Approaching the All-Star Break, the Angels have sunk to near the bottom of the AL West. They were 39-50 after beating the Astros last night after a 12-strikeout two-RBI performance by Shohei Ohtani.
This was a ballclub that was 24-13 this season. 24-13! Since then, they have gone 15-37. They fired manager Joe Maddon. They got into a benches-clearing brawl with the Seattle Mariners. Since then, the Mariners have gotten hot and the Angels colder.
They have superstar Mike Trout and Major League Baseball’s only (and, by far, the best) two-way player in Ohtani.
The Angels have been so bad they spawned a social media phenomenon when a viral tweet saying every Angels game is basically the same: Trout and Ohtani do something unbelievable and never seen since the mythical days of Tungsten O’Doyle, but the Angels lose the game.
The tweet is over a year old, but it still fits. The Angels haven’t had a winning season since 2015. Trout and Ohtani are so good….maybe too good…and America wonders how is this possible?
Oh, and tungsten is a metal that’s used in electrodes.
The Cruel Numbers
Baseball is a game of numbers. Analytics has perverted that notion in the game, taking out a lot of the fun, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Trout has 24 homers and 51 RBI. Ohtani has 19 homers and 56 RBI. But this isn’t playground baseball. They only get to occupy one spot in the line-up each.
The rest of the Angels’ line-up is feeble. Taylor Ward has been decent, batting .292, but Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon (when he’s not hurt) are batting under .250.
The formula for beating the Angels is simple. Let Trout and Ohtani do their thing and get everyone else out.
The Athletic did a deep dive on the Angels two-man show. When Trout and Ohtani are good, the Angels are bad. Ohtani had eight RBI against Kansas City. The Angels lost. Trout hits two homers in a game against Baltimore and the Angels lost, 5-4.
It’s like a Freak strat-o-matic game.
Gotta Get The Arms
Entering the week, the Angels bullpen had an ERA of 4.07. Baseball is a game where the more quality arms you have, the better. This is the era of having hard throwers for a couple of years pump heat, then tear their UCLs, get them fixed and bring them back. There are always more arms in the pipeline.
Ohtani has been the Angels best starting pitcher by far. He is 9-4 and has 123 strikeouts. The rest of the staff, meh.
22-year-old lefty Reid Detmers looks like a keeper, but he’s only made 13 starts and the Angels have used him carefully.
But Noah Syndergaard, who is making $21 million this season is 5-7 with an ERA of 4.00. Patrick Sandoval is 3-4, but his ERA is 2.95. When he pitches the Angels don’t score any runs. Ohtani is the only starting pitcher with a winning record.
The Angels are a flawed team. It’s a game that calls for arms. The Angels have seemingly realized this, drafting 20 pitchers (out of 20 picks) last year, but help is still two or three years away. MLB.com ranked the Angels farm system 28th in baseball entering 2022.
But the Answer is Obvious
This is a hard pill for Angels fans to swallow, but it’s the truth.
The Angels aren’t that good because they don’t have to be.
It’s a weird economic situation. Trout signed a 12-year $426.5 million deal back in 2019. He’s still a bargain. Ohtani is on the second year of a paltry two-year $8.5 million contract. Expect rumors to fly about whether he is coming back.
But here’s the thing.
The Angels draw. People come.
Over 3 million fans came to see the Angels at home in 2019, the second most of any team in the American League. The ballpark is kid-friendly and prices are reasonable (I sat in the ninth row for nine bucks a few years ago). This isn’t like Oakland where the team is bad, the ballpark is bad and the fan base is turned off. The Angels fan base is still broad largely because of Trout and Ohtani.
In a way, the greatness of Trout and Ohtani puts everything else out of whack. People want to see what they do each night. This year the Angels rank 11th in overall attendance at 30,840 and despite their record, they’re a great road draw.
In fact, they’re the perfect road opponent. They have these two baseball unicorns, they hit homers, or pitch and hit homers in the same day, but then usually the home team wins.
Everyone goes home happy, except for the Angels.