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OC Register: Angels expect recent rotation woes to end with six-man group in 2021


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Throughout the Angels’ current stretch of disappointment, one issue has overshadowed all others in explaining the problems.

Starting pitching has been insufficient to get the team out of what is now a six-year playoff drought, made all the more painful because it’s lasted through a solid chunk of the prime of Mike Trout’s career.

The Angels head into 2021 with the same aspirations as always – to get to the playoffs and make a deep run – and the same assertion for how they will do it.

The starting pitching, they insist, is going to be better.

Many fans are understandably skeptical, still with fresh memories of the disappointments of Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey and a seemingly endless stream of pitchers having Tommy John surgery

They watched a winter go by in which the Angels failed to sign or trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter like Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell or Yu Darvish. Adding salt to the wounds, those pitchers ended up bookending the Angels in Southern California, with Bauer going to the Dodgers and Snell and Darvish to the Padres.

Still, General Manager Perry Minasian, Manager Joe Maddon and the pitchers currently in the Angels’ rotation ask for some faith.

“We feel good about it,” said Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy. “We’ve got five, six, seven guys who can go out there and who we feel good about. We just have to go out there and execute and try not to do anything that we’re not accustomed to doing.”

Bundy leads a six-man rotation, with the Angels using one more starter than the standard so they can protect pitchers ramping up from a 60-game season to the traditional 162.

Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning join Bundy from last year’s rotation, supplemented by veterans Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb and Shohei Ohtani’s return from two years of injuries.

Maddon believes the extra rest between starts will make the pitchers better individually, perhaps able to throw more pitches per game or throw a little harder. The group performed well in spring training, for what it’s worth. Most importantly, none of them got hurt.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Maddon said. “Theory and reality, when they come together, are always wonderful.”

In assessing the Angels’ starters, though, there are really two relevant questions. The first is how good they will be. The second, which is certainly less often discussed by fans, is how good they need to be.

Aside from the fact that the Angels’ offense might be good enough to outslug any pitching issues, the American League is thin on starters this year.

A rival scout believes the Angels’ rotation is more than passable in relation to the rest of the league.

“I’d say the Angels are in the middle of the pack in the league, probably toward the higher end of the middle of the pack,” the scout said. “I don’t know why everyone is giving them such a hard time. No one has a bunch of No. 3-4 guys, which is what they have. They can all be middle rotation guys when they’re pitching well, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Among the two AL West teams that made the playoffs last year, the Houston Astros have the best rotation in 2021.

Zack Greinke is a borderline Hall of Famer, but he’s 37. Lance McCullers Jr. and Jake Odorizzi are each fairly reliable when healthy, although Odorizzi was hurt almost all of 2020 and McCullers missed 2019 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier have pitched a combined 26 major league games.

The Oakland A’s rotation includes Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea, with Mike Fiers due to come off the injured list sometime in April. Bassitt has been reliable and durable for the past two years, but the others have shown flashes of excellence to go with some inconsistency and health issues.

“I don’t think there’s a standout staff in the AL West,” the scout said.

On the other coast, consider that the Yankees have only two starters – Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery – who really pitched last year. Jameson Taillon was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Corey Kluber got hurt in his first game and Domingo German was suspended.

The Tampa Bay Rays are minus Snell and Charlie Morton, who both went to the National League. Tyler Glasnow is the Rays’ No. 1 starter, with Ryan Yarbrough at No. 2.

The best rotation in the league probably belongs to the Chicago White Sox, with Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn as the top three. The Angels will see them in the first four games of the season.

Reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac are at the top of the Cleveland rotation. The Minnesota Twins have Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios.

While all of the contenders in the American League might have better pitchers at the top of the rotation than the Angels do, their strength could be the bottom.

In past years, because of injuries and veterans like Harvey falling off the cliff, the Angels were often forced to rely on starters who were clearly not ready for the big leagues, or who were picked up off the waiver-wire scrap heap.

This season the Angels are opening up with six healthy starters who have all been successful, to varying degrees, in the big leagues.

“I don’t think any of the guys will be All-Stars, but I don’t think they’ll be liabilities,” the scout said. “You’re going to get innings if they’re healthy. Bundy and Cobb and Quintana will be OK. They won’t beat themselves. (The Angels) won’t be scraping by to get innings.”

Bundy was the Angels’ best starter last year, and he was very good again in spring training. Canning and Heaney each had ups and downs in the spring, but both are healthy. Cobb and Quintana were effective in Arizona, with slight upticks in velocity.

And Ohtani, of course, is the wild card. After barely pitching for two years, he was able to do everything the Angels wanted in the spring, flashing the 100 mph velocity he had before Tommy John surgery.

Having six starters gives the Angels a built-in cushion for injury, and they have Jaime Barria and Patrick Sandoval waiting when they need more depth.

“I love it,” Heaney said. “You look at the guys that we have, and the confidence and control and command of what they’re doing out there, I think as a unit we’re going to work really well and feed off each other and just try to one-up each other each we go out there. … I’m excited for us as a group. I’m ready to get going.”

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2 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

Throughout the Angels’ current stretch of disappointment, one issue has overshadowed all others in explaining the problems.

Starting pitching has been insufficient to get the team out of what is now a six-year playoff drought, made all the more painful because it’s lasted through a solid chunk of the prime of Mike Trout’s career.

The Angels head into 2021 with the same aspirations as always – to get to the playoffs and make a deep run – and the same assertion for how they will do it.

The starting pitching, they insist, is going to be better.

Many fans are understandably skeptical, still with fresh memories of the disappointments of Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey and a seemingly endless stream of pitchers having Tommy John surgery

They watched a winter go by in which the Angels failed to sign or trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter like Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell or Yu Darvish. Adding salt to the wounds, those pitchers ended up bookending the Angels in Southern California, with Bauer going to the Dodgers and Snell and Darvish to the Padres.

Still, General Manager Perry Minasian, Manager Joe Maddon and the pitchers currently in the Angels’ rotation ask for some faith.

“We feel good about it,” said Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy. “We’ve got five, six, seven guys who can go out there and who we feel good about. We just have to go out there and execute and try not to do anything that we’re not accustomed to doing.”

Bundy leads a six-man rotation, with the Angels using one more starter than the standard so they can protect pitchers ramping up from a 60-game season to the traditional 162.

Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning join Bundy from last year’s rotation, supplemented by veterans Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb and Shohei Ohtani’s return from two years of injuries.

Maddon believes the extra rest between starts will make the pitchers better individually, perhaps able to throw more pitches per game or throw a little harder. The group performed well in spring training, for what it’s worth. Most importantly, none of them got hurt.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Maddon said. “Theory and reality, when they come together, are always wonderful.”

In assessing the Angels’ starters, though, there are really two relevant questions. The first is how good they will be. The second, which is certainly less often discussed by fans, is how good they need to be.

Aside from the fact that the Angels’ offense might be good enough to outslug any pitching issues, the American League is thin on starters this year.

A rival scout believes the Angels’ rotation is more than passable in relation to the rest of the league.

“I’d say the Angels are in the middle of the pack in the league, probably toward the higher end of the middle of the pack,” the scout said. “I don’t know why everyone is giving them such a hard time. No one has a bunch of No. 3-4 guys, which is what they have. They can all be middle rotation guys when they’re pitching well, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Among the two AL West teams that made the playoffs last year, the Houston Astros have the best rotation in 2021.

Zack Greinke is a borderline Hall of Famer, but he’s 37. Lance McCullers Jr. and Jake Odorizzi are each fairly reliable when healthy, although Odorizzi was hurt almost all of 2020 and McCullers missed 2019 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier have pitched a combined 26 major league games.

The Oakland A’s rotation includes Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea, with Mike Fiers due to come off the injured list sometime in April. Bassitt has been reliable and durable for the past two years, but the others have shown flashes of excellence to go with some inconsistency and health issues.

“I don’t think there’s a standout staff in the AL West,” the scout said.

On the other coast, consider that the Yankees have only two starters – Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery – who really pitched last year. Jameson Taillon was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Corey Kluber got hurt in his first game and Domingo German was suspended.

The Tampa Bay Rays are minus Snell and Charlie Morton, who both went to the National League. Tyler Glasnow is the Rays’ No. 1 starter, with Ryan Yarbrough at No. 2.

The best rotation in the league probably belongs to the Chicago White Sox, with Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn as the top three. The Angels will see them in the first four games of the season.

Reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac are at the top of the Cleveland rotation. The Minnesota Twins have Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios.

While all of the contenders in the American League might have better pitchers at the top of the rotation than the Angels do, their strength could be the bottom.

In past years, because of injuries and veterans like Harvey falling off the cliff, the Angels were often forced to rely on starters who were clearly not ready for the big leagues, or who were picked up off the waiver-wire scrap heap.

This season the Angels are opening up with six healthy starters who have all been successful, to varying degrees, in the big leagues.

“I don’t think any of the guys will be All-Stars, but I don’t think they’ll be liabilities,” the scout said. “You’re going to get innings if they’re healthy. Bundy and Cobb and Quintana will be OK. They won’t beat themselves. (The Angels) won’t be scraping by to get innings.”

 

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Bundy was the Angels’ best starter last year, and he was very good again in spring training. Canning and Heaney each had ups and downs in the spring, but both are healthy. Cobb and Quintana were effective in Arizona, with slight upticks in velocity.

 

And Ohtani, of course, is the wild card. After barely pitching for two years, he was able to do everything the Angels wanted in the spring, flashing the 100 mph velocity he had before Tommy John surgery.

Having six starters gives the Angels a built-in cushion for injury, and they have Jaime Barria and Patrick Sandoval waiting when they need more depth.

“I love it,” Heaney said. “You look at the guys that we have, and the confidence and control and command of what they’re doing out there, I think as a unit we’re going to work really well and feed off each other and just try to one-up each other each we go out there. … I’m excited for us as a group. I’m ready to get going.”

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I am so excited about the Noe Ramirez re-signing that I wanted to mention it here again!

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“In past years, because of injuries and veterans like Harvey falling off the cliff, the Angels were often forced to rely on starters who were clearly not ready for the big leagues, or who were picked up off the waiver-wire scrap heap.

This season the Angels are opening up with six healthy starters who have all been successful, to varying degrees, in the big leagues.“

And why exactly should Angels fans, who have seen this exact bullshit screw the team over for the past 5 years, all of a sudden be convinced that somehow someway THIS season, 2021, will be different?  Why should anyone have any faith that the same injury prone starters are all of a sudden going to remain healthy?  Why should anyone have any confidence that Cobb and Quintana aren’t going to fall off a cliff the way past veterans did.  I’m hearing a lot of arguments about how this group is somehow different and has more upside and less risks than past groups, but all of the same concerns are there to me.  I want things to be different and I really want to see this team win, but I just have zero reason to believe as of this point in time that this group is different.

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