The hamster wheel keeps spinning for the Los Angeles Angels. Twenty games into the season, the Halos stand at a perfectly average 10-10 record. For every game that gives fans hope, there's another game just as equally devastating. It's been a rough year for the Halos, one that's shaping up to be another season filled with misery.
Let's talk about the highs and the lows for the Angels this season, and some of the overreactions we can have for this team.
Shohei Ohtani, AL MVP (again!)
Yes, Shohei Ohtani is the best baseball player in the world right now. Two seasons ago, we were treated to a breakout performance from the Angels star. He finally tapped into his elite pitching and hitting talents and combined them into one spectacular season. In 2022, Ohtani was beaten out of the MVP thanks to Aaron Judge's historic season.
Ohtani may say that he doesn't care about the MVP, and that he prioritizes winning. And yes, the Angels star does value winning above all else. But if you look at how Shohei Ohtani is playing in the 2023 season, you'd think he was holding a grudge against the voters. The Japanese sensation is playing lights-out ball again… and he might be better than his 2021 year.
Shohei Ohtani's pitching is one of the few things that kept the Angels' season to collapse early. In his five starts this year, he's been immaculate. He's sporting a 0.64 ERA (!!!), striking out 27 batters in the process. Opposing hitters are batting .092 against him. Oh, and he also rakes on offense: as the DH, Ohtani has four homers, 11 RBIs, and has an OPS of .823. He's a pitching machine that also happens to be one of the best sluggers in the league.
There's no question about it: Shohei Ohtani is the AL MVP frontrunner right now. As Mike Trout said himself, it would be a complete waste of Ohtani's talents if the Angels don't make the playoffs.
Angels' bullpen is… kinda good?
The Angels' success this season will heavily depend on how their bullpen responds to adversity. Already, we've seen some miserable performances from the Halos' relievers. The most devastating incident this season was when the bullpen blew a 6-run lead during their shoot-out against the Toronto Blue Jays. However… surprisingly, the bullpen hasn't been too bad this year.
Save for an unlucky stretch to start the season, the Angels' bullpen has been surprisingly solid thus far. They have one of the best FIPs (fielding-independent pitching in the league (a collective 3.42 FIP) and aren't allowing their opponents to take them deep (5.6% home run rate). They've done a solid job keeping the team competitive late into games.
Notable standouts from the Angels' bullpen include Jose Quijada, Carlos Estévez, and Jimmy Herget. If the Halos can keep this impressive performance up, they have a fighting chance to make it to the playoffs. However…
Playoffs once again out of reach
All Angels fans dream of every season is for Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout to play in a playoff game. The World Baseball Classic this year was arguably the most high-stakes game both players played in their entire careers. That's a sad thought, considering the talent level between the two teams. Any other team with these two studs could probably make the playoffs.
So… is a playoff berth in the cards for the Angels? Well, it's certainly possible. However, it looks bleaker and bleaker for the Halos. The Texas Rangers are holding the top spot in the division for now. However, both the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners are prime to bounce back from their early-season slumps. It's more than likely a three-man race for the AL West throne. Note that the Angels will also play these ultra-talented teams more than any other team save for the A's.
The offense is also too inconsistent to be a decent playoff contender, if we're being honest. Save for Trout and Ohtani, the Angels' batting crew can't always keep up with the other high-powered offenses in the MLB. Add to that their not-so-good starting rotation outside of Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval, and you have a recipe for disaster.