By Tres Hefter, AngelsWin.com Columnist
1. There's plenty of offense still.
Previously, any time the Angels lost Trout for an extended period of time, it hurt. He was practically the sole above average contributor on a team which also more often than not had several offensive holes.
- In 2017, Trout missed 48 games and Andrelton Simmons was the next best hitter on the team, with a .752 OPS/102 OPS+. The Angels were 15th out of 15 AL teams in OPS with .712...including Trout.
- In 2018, Mike missed 'only' 22 games, but Ohtani (151 OPS+) and Upton (121 OPS+) helped shoulder the load. Simmons was also above-average at 102.
- In 2019, Mike missed 28 games, Ohtani again provided with a 119 OPS+, followed by Goodwin with 106, Calhoun 105, and a half-season from La Stella's 116 OPS+.
So far in 2021, Ohtani, playing more often than ever, is at 156, Walsh is at 166, and Rendon, hopefully due for a resurgence, is at 101. The offense has never been better suited to absorb the loss of Mike's offensive production. If guys like Upton (93), Fletcher (57 now, 117 in '20), Iglesias (85), and Ward (94 in '20) can maintain/return to league average OPS+, they'll be fine, especially if Upton can find a patented hot streak like he did last year. Simply put, this Angels team has sufficient firepower and a very capable offensive floor that has underperformed to weather the loss. Which leads us to...
2. The Angels should be playing better.
Plenty of metrics indicate the Angels haven't been very good. Plenty of metrics indicate the Angels also indicate they've been pretty unlucky. Obviously, the offense hasn't been the problem this season - it's been the pitching. The Angels defense has suffered all season long due to Pujols, an unusually error-prone Jose Iglesias, a first baseman playing RF, and Anthony Rendon missing half the season. All of this has contributed to the Angels AL-worst ERA (5.22 entering today) being nearly a full run over their FIP of 4.29.
The starting rotation has maintained extremely strong strikeout numbers, Jose Quintana is starting to show some signs of at least tolerable production, Alex Cobb might be back, and Dylan Bundy shouldn't be this bad. Andrew Heaney is Andrew Heaney, and Griffin Canning has started to turn things around after a slow start.
Chris Rodriguez should be back in the near future. Shohei Ohtani is starting to make frequent, lengthy contributions on the mound. The bullpen is a work-in-progress, but at least efforts continue to be made to reinforce and stabilize by additions such as Strickland and promotions such as Sandoval, Barria, and Quijada offering some signs of improvement and stability.
3. The schedule breathes a little easier.
This is particularly true of late - the Angels have had a very tough schedule to open the year. The Angels have played games 29 games against teams that are currently above .500 and only 13 against teams worse than .500.
The next eight weeks will see the Angels play 24 games against teams over .500 (including ten against Oakland) and 27 games against teams below .500 (and they're about to win the first of those). Especially important are the games against Oakland and Seattle, each of whom they'll play ten times. A prime opportunity to gain on the division and push the should-be cellar dwellers like Seattle and Texas further to the bottom. Speaking of...
4. The AL West is still up for grabs.
Oakland pulled off a thirteen game winning streak, yet they're only a half-game in first. The Angels do enter today 7 GB, but with ten games coming up versus Oakland, they can bring this division much closer. Houston and Oakland are formidable, but neither are nowhere near the powerhouse teams that have led the division in prior years.
The season is still early, the team should have trade currency to work with as they enter July - or to add from within - so simply staying close in the division over the next six to eight weeks should be the goal.
5. Don't count out Jo Adell - or Brandon Marsh. Or Mike Trout!?
Adell might have plenty of holes in his game still, and Marsh only has a handful of AAA appearances, but Maddon has not shied away from pushing young talent early in the year, given how he's handled Ohtani, played Walsh to the point it led to a Pujols DFA, and led to Chris Rodriguez and Jose Rojas making the big league roster. If either talent continues to play well in SLC, either could be in Anaheim in short order, and both bring Top 100 talent and energy to the field. Talent of this kind has increasingly stepped into the MLB spotlight in recent years and flourished, especially under pressure. Opportunity knocks, will either Adell or Marsh take it? This might be exactly the kick in the pants these players, or the whole team, could use to step up and fill in the gaps while Trout is out.
...also worth considering is that Mike Trout is Mike Trout. He's superhuman. He's returned from injury quickly before, and 6-8 weeks could be a worst-case scenario. So sit back, enjoy Angels baseball, and let's see what happens.