Angels’ Season Following a Familiar Blueprint so Far.

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Updated: May 6, 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Angels put themselves in a good position to win a game, only to be undone by a pitcher being put into a situation he has no business being in. That may be oversimplifying it, but the formula held true last night. The Angels battled back to score four runs in the ninth inning against two very good pitchers in Dallas Keuchel and Ken Giles, only to watch Bud Norris give up a run for the second time in as many appearances, and the Halos lost 7-6. Having Norris in that situation is not ideal. Having Norris as your closer is not ideal. The problem runs even deeper than that, though.

The Angels were winning 2-1 after another strong outing from Jesse Chavez, but after he got in trouble Mike Scioscia called on Jose Alvarez to face Brian McCann with two on. The fact that Jose Alvarez has been the only lefty capable of making the roster in the bullpen says something about the Angels. What that is, I’m not sure, but it’s not good. Naturally, Alvarez gave up a three-run home run. The Angels then turned to David Hernandez, who isn’t very good, and he also gave up a run. Then, they handed the ball to Keynan Middleton, a young pitcher making his debut, and he also gave up a run.

So the Angels needed those four runs in the ninth just to tie it, but if one of those pitchers had done their job, the Angels would have won it. In the cases of Hernandez and Middleton, neither of those players would even be on the roster if not for injuries to Cam Bedrosian, Huston Street, and Andrew Bailey. Norris would not be the closer and would not have had to chance to blow a save earlier this week and lose the game last night. Maybe Bedrosian or Street would have done the same, but there’s no arguing that both of those pitchers are significantly better than any option the Angels threw out against the Astros last night after Chavez got into trouble.

Therein lies the problem; the Angels have no depth to withstand these injuries. It was true last year and it’s held true so far this season. The Angels couldn’t compete last year with no major league-worthy pitchers in their rotation, and losing their three best relievers and two best starters this season has created the same situation. Every team can say that they would be contenders if everyone was healthy and playing to their potential, but that never happens. Injuries, regression, and struggles happen to every team, every year. The best teams like the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cleveland Indians have the depth to overcome those, by design. It isn’t luck when teams are able to overcome those, the best-run franchises plan for it.

I think that the Angels are aware of that, and are slowly trying to build their team that way. After the type of injury-riddled season the Angels had last year, though, you wonder why they didn’t add more pitching depth, particularly when you consider pitchers like Doug Fister and Colby Lewis are STILL available. The Angels did have a good offseason, but in hindsight not adding more pitching depth is definitely questionable, particularly considering injury risks like Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Bailey, and Street. Regardless, the Halos are in the situation they’re in now, and it’s the exact same situation as last season.

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