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OC Register: Angels look to rotation to spark ‘a meteoric rise’ in 2nd half run to contention

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ANAHEIM — As the Angels approach the halfway point of the season, they are nearly halfway to being the team they want to be.

With Andrelton Simmons ready to return any day now, the Angels lineup will soon be complete. What separates them from being true contenders, however, is the pitching, specifically the starters.

“I feel like on any good team the starting pitching is good, end of story,” Tyler Skaggs said. “If the starting pitching is good, you’re going to win a lot of games. I do feel like we’re the missing piece.”

Skaggs concedes that he and the Angels other starters have failed to live up to expectations.

Angels starters have a 5.37 ERA, which ranks 26th in the majors. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though, because the Angels have used an opener 15 times.

Replacing the opener innings with the primary pitcher’s performance from those games, the rotation pitchers actually have a 5.62 ERA. They’ve also combined to pitch just under five innings per game.

The Angels have had a pitcher last six innings in just 19 games, the fewest in the majors. Only five times have they had a pitcher throw seven innings, which is better only than the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles.

“Pitching and defense wins championships,” Manager Brad Ausmus said. “Starting pitching is the biggest chunk of that. We definitely need, as a whole, to pitch better. If we do, the way our offense has come around, it gives us legitimate shot at a playoff spot. So we need to pitch a little bit better.”

The relievers, including the openers, have a 4.16 ERA, which is what has kept the Angels afloat. They haven’t lost a game that they’ve led after seven or eight innings.

The problem is the relievers have been used 269 times, which is fourth most in the majors. They’ve used 3.4 relievers per game, lately carrying just seven in the bullpen.

“Over the course of the year you’ll see that burden takes a toll on guys,” Heaney said. “It’s something that we want to try to prevent. We understand that as a starting group.”

Skaggs said the starters have met several times to try to diagnose the issues or simply motivate each other to pick it up. Although they are individuals, just one performing each day, they believe they function as a unit.

“I think most rotations that you see that throw well, it’s a momentum thing,” Heaney said. “It starts with one good start. With us, it’s been spurts and sputters… I think as far as getting that momentum going and feeding off each other, we haven’t done that.”

It starts with Skaggs, whose combination of age, experience and recent success makes him the most logical candidate to emerge as the staff’s top pitcher. In the first half of 2018, he posted a 2.57 ERA. Trying to pitch through a groin injury scuttled his second half, and then he got off to a slow start this year.

Now, though, he’s showing signs of turning the corner. He allowed one run in 12-1/3 innings in his last two starts. In the previous outing, Skaggs had thrown three scoreless innings before a power outage at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field forced him to sit for 30 minutes in the middle of an inning, which he said threw him out of his rhythm.

The recent improvement has dropped Skaggs’ ERA to 4.30. Heaney is also hoping to knock a couple runs off his 5.68 ERA, through just five starts after he missed two months with elbow inflammation.

After Heaney gave up five runs in Toronto last week, he and pitching coach Doug White spent extra time analyzing his performance.

“I think we got an idea of what I was doing and how to fix it,” he said.

Ausmus said those two are the least of his concerns: “Skaggs has looked better. I think Heaney is going to be fine. I’m really not too worried about the two lefties at all.”

Otherwise, the best pitcher has been rookie Griffin Canning, who has a 3.88 ERA 10 starts into his career. Canning has impressed everyone around the Angels, although this is still his first time through the big leagues, so there are bound to be growing pains. Suarez has also shown flashes during his four starts, but a few rough innings have cost him at times. He is currently at Triple-A, although he’ll likely be back soon. Félix Peña, who pitches after an opener, has been inconsistent.

The starters who have had the most trouble are the two most expensive. Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey signed for a combined $20 million over the winter.

Harvey went on the injured list with a 7.50 ERA, and he’s still out with no timeframe for his return. Cahill also got hurt, taking his 7.18 ERA to the IL. Cahill is ready to return to the Angels, although they’ve discussed moving him to the bullpen.

The Angels also could get JC Ramírez back soon. He is scheduled to pitch on Monday night at Triple-A, and then his rehab assignment will expire.  The Angels could bring him back as a starter or reliever.

The trade market may also bring the Angels rotation some help. General manager Billy Eppler will have to weigh the cost to the farm system against the benefit of adding a pitcher for this year, when the Angels are essentially shooting for a wild card. Obviously, a pitcher who is under control beyond this season is more attractive, but those pitchers also cost more in prospect capital.

Whatever route the Angels take, it is obvious that the rotation will need to improve if they are going to have a chance.

“Once the starting staff is clicking on all cylinders,” Skaggs said, “it’s going to be a meteoric rise. Quote me on that. It will be a lot of fun.”


Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney, 0-1, 5.68) vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle, 2-7, 4.17), 7:07 p.m., Fox Sports West

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without Harvey or Cahill in there, they aren't catastrophically bad like they were.  

the pen needs some serious reinforcements right now because Garcia sucks and guys like Bard or Jewell aren't the answer.  Cole is ok and has some potential.  

so even if the rotation finds a bit of a rhythm, an improved record may only come when JC and Key get healthy.  

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1 hour ago, Angel Oracle said:

Each starter needs to improve their pitch count, and add an extra 2/3 - 1 inning to their average innings pitched.    That should be the main goal for the rest of the 2019 season.

This would get us to league average, lol 
We are right now dead last at 4.3, 5.3 is avg, 5.9 is best in MLB (Dogs)

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Skaggs last 7 starts -- 39.2 IP, 3.63 ERA, .593 OPS allowed 40 Ks, 11 BB.   He had that one shit start .vs Oakland where he walked everyone and their brother but has otherwise turned a corner.   Hopefully they really did find something with Heaney because they aren't going to do diddly unless the clones do well.

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Any update on JC's and Key's return dates?

Bullpen of Buttrey, Undertaker, rejuvenated Noe Ramirez, rejuvenated BedRock, better lately Anderson, Middleton, and Cole could be decent enough?

Then go with a 6 man rotation: Skaggs, Canning, Heaney, JC Ramirez, opener/Pena, and Suarez?  

Trout, Pujols, Ohtani, Simba, Stella, Fletcher, Tovar, two catchers, Calhoun, Upton, Goodwin for the 12 position players?

Stella can play part-time at 1B, in addition to 2B/3B, no need for Bour. 


Knock on a lot of wood.

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19 minutes ago, fan_since79 said:

I've always looked for a meteoric rise from this team in the second half.

Most of the time we've simply been hit by the meteor.


Tdawg wishes he could get hit by a Millville Mete....nah too easy.

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