The Los Angeles Angels are on a rollercoaster of a season so far in 2022 and as a result manager Joe Maddon was fired on Tuesday. This is an interesting decision by the Angels’ front office as they had lost the last 12 games in a row at the time of the firing. Before the losing streak, they were ranked the fifth-best team in the league, and after losing 12 in a row they are in the middle of the packed ranked 15th. So, who will be taking the helm for the rest of the season? Was this entirely Maddon’s fault or is a larger issue at play? How can the team rally back from this major change?
What went wrong?
The losing streak started on May 26th against the Texas Rangers with a 7-2 loss. From there, they got swept by the Blue Jays, Yankees, and the Phillies. The 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on June 6th led to Maddon’s demise. To play devil’s advocate, the teams the Angels were playing are either World Series contending teams, or teams that are competing for the playoffs. However, this stretch was a make-or-break stretch to see if the Angels were a legitimate playoff team. They showed that they could not handle the pressure against tough opponents.
In the Blue Jays series, they had leads in all the games with the bullpen blowing save after save. On top of that, the Angels have been outscored 78-35 in this stretch of games which is terrible. The worst loss might have been this past Sunday against the Phillies where they blew a 6-2 lead in the eighth innings. It will be interesting to see what new interim manager Phil Nevin has to offer.
What to expect from Phil Nevin?
Phil Nevin had some coaching experience in the past couple of years. He had stints with the Giants and the Yankees before becoming the third base coach of the Angels this year. Before coaching he was the first overall pick by the Astros in the 1992 MLB draft. He earned one All-Star selection over a successful 12-year career at third base, first base, and in the outfield. Nevin is the first number one overall pick to be named manager in MLB history. He has a tall task ahead of him to try and steer this sinking ship in the right direction.
Was this Maddon’s fault or are there bigger issues?
The Angels this year got off to a great start leading the AL West for a little bit and in the conversation as a playoff team. Talked about ad nauseam is how the starting pitching was never there to help the offense. Well, this season the starter is doing a solid job with an earned run average of 3.68. What has killed them has been the relievers not shutting the door in late-inning situations. Raisel Iglesias, who they re-signed to be their closer, has had a very rocky season so far. His earned run average has almost jumped 2.5 points this season. The rest of the bullpen looks the same with the only exception being Jimmy Herget with a 2.89 earned run average in 28 innings pitched. But that is not the only issue with this team during this stretch.
There also has been no offensive output to even give the pitchers a chance. During this stretch, Taylor Ward and Anthony Rendon had brief stints on the injured list, but it is not an excuse for the offense to score only 35 runs in 12 games. Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani have been in the lineup every day and are arguably two of the top ten players in the major leagues. In the 12-game losing streak Trout has been 7-43 (.162) and Ohtani has been 6-39 (.153) which does not put you in the category of being a top player in the league.
So, if we go back to our original question of whether this is completely Maddon’s fault there are a lot of things pointing to his stars not performing to their full potential. Yes, he may have made some mistakes with bullpen decisions, but if Trout and Ohtani do not perform as the stars that they are with the team that is constructing it is hard to be a true contender.
How to the Angels Steer the Ship Back?
First, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani need to be the star players that the Angels thought they were getting, especially Ohtani who is in a contract year looking to make some more money this offseason. It would help if Anthony Rendon could find “Nationals Rendon” so that he could produce more on the offensive side.
The starting pitching just must stay consistent as they have been doing this whole season. The offense can produce runs for them it could result in wins for the team to try and get back into the playoff race. Phil Nevins will have the challenge of managing a lackluster bullpen but maybe with a new set of eyes, he can find a better combination to close out games.
The last thing the Angels must consider is whether they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Right now the Angels sit 1.5 games out of the third wild card spot currently owned by the Red Sox. If they happen to completely fall out of the race by the deadline they should consider selling off pieces to look to the future. Trout and Ohtani are in the best parts of their careers but being in limbo of calling themselves a contender and underperforming could mean the reset button might be needed to be pressed. However, a stretch of winning baseball could put them in the conversation of being a wild card team.
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