Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Los Angeles Angels, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
You had a pretty good run, all things considered. Having Mike Trout is the equivalent to having a dragon, but you even managed to succeed when he was sidelined for 39 games with a thumb injury. Along the way, Andrelton Simmons emerged as a star and the bullpen wasn’t half bad at times.
Even though the Angels went for it, making a couple waiver-deadline trades to acquire Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips, they still missed the playoffs. At least they found some useful players other than Trout. Still, the narrative will remain the same going forward. Can they surround him with enough to get back to the postseason?
Let’s take a deeper look at the year that was in Anaheim:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
The Angels still employ the best player in baseball in Trout. That’s a pretty good place to start. He finally had some real help this season too, which in turn gave the Angels some real hope. You can’t say enough about Andrelton Simmons. He’s improved his game immensely since coming over from the Braves. Once viewed exclusively as a defensive wizard, Simmons has developed into one of the better all-around shortstops in MLB. Blake Parker was another great story. The 32-year-old journeyman reliever never made more than 49 appearances in any previous season. He’ll top 70 this season while striking 11.4 per nine innings. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
If only the Angels could keep their starting pitchers healthy. Sure, they had better health overall than in 2016, but there was success to be had with more innings from Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker and better performance from Ricky Nolasco. Beyond that, the Angels just seemed out of gas down the stretch. After getting back in the race with a strong 18-10 record in August, they really bottomed out in September thanks to a six-game losing streak. (Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
Albert Pujols isn’t the force he once was. He’s 37, getting paid $26 million and advanced metrics really hate him — he was worth -2.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs. Combined, that makes him a common target for ridicule. That being said, Pujols still had a 2017 to remember.
Mainly because he joined the 600-homer club this season. He’s one of only nine players in MLB history to hit 600 homers, a plateau he reached in June. He made it to 614 by season’s end, making him seventh on the all-time list. He’s now MLB’s all-time home run leader among foreign-born players.
And while WAR doesn’t love him, Pujols still hit 23 homers and drove in 101 runs this year. (Mike Oz)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
The Angels bullpen had a late-season collapse that helped sink their playoff chances, but that shouldn’t be at the top of their offseason to-do list. They, like so many teams, need to figure out how to get more out of their starting pitching. It didn’t help that the Angels were bitten by the injury bug, and their rotation suffered the most. There isn’t a single team in the majors (or on Earth) that has figured out how to ward off that kind of bad luck, but having some depth to begin with would have helped the Angels get more of a cushion when the going got tough. Of course, pitching has been on the Angels’ list for years and this is as far as they’ve gotten. But maybe getting this close to the wild-card will inspire the front office to get more serious about it. This is a team that employs Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons, after all. With players like them in place, competitiveness should only be a few wise moves away. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
We are not far removed from people saying the Angels had the worst farm system. Not just in the game, but possibly of all-time. The positive is … it can only get better from here. There’s just no impact players close to the majors for Los Angeles. The team’s first round pick in 2017, outfielder Jordon Adell, is their No. 1 prospect. Griffin Canning, who the team took in the second round, is already No. 4. The system was incredibly weak and still needs help.
If the Angels are going to get Trout the supporting cast he needs, they’ll need to do so via free agency. That’s been the case for years, though, and the club has been limited by other commitments. Trout can certainly put the team on his back and take them to the postseason one of these years, but it looks like it will be more of the same for quite some time. (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES
San Francisco Giants | Philadelphia Phillies | Cincinnati Reds | Chicago White Sox | New York Mets | San Diego Padres | Atlanta Braves | Detroit Tigers | Pittsburgh Pirates | Oakland Athletics | Miami Marlins | Toronto Blue Jays | Baltimore Orioles | Seattle Mariners | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Kansas City Royals
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