The Los Angeles Angels have headed off a cliff once again. A season that began with such promise is all but over before it really got going. The Angels are almost certain to miss the postseason for the sixth year in a row. How had it gotten this bad? Why can't Mike Trout and his franchise find success? The answer is actually pretty simple: they can't pitch.
Since Trout's full rookie season in 2012, the Angels have reached the playoffs once (2014) and have yet to actually win a postseason game. During his career, the team is 666-662 (.502) through Tuesday night's action. That comes despite huge contracts handed out to the likes of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Anthony Rendon and the big-money acquisitions of Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons.
The team currently features a lineup that includes the following players and what they would be making this year if it were a 162-game season: Trout ($37 million), Pujols ($29 million), Rendon ($26.07 million), Upton ($21 million), and Simmons ($15 million). That's more than $128 million to five players, which is more than the entire payroll of 12 teams. Those numbers don't even take into account talented, cheap players like Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher and Jo Adell. The Angels even added Joe Maddon this offseason to provide a spark, yet somehow they are floundering at 10-22.
The problem the Angels have run into is that they spend all their money on offense and can't draft, develop or acquire adequate pitching. The Angels currently rank 27th in baseball with a 5.39 ERA and that's about where the franchise has stayed for years. In 2019 they were 25th with a 5.12 ERA, and in 2018 they were 19th with a 4.15 ERA. In fact, they've only ranked in the top half of the league in ERA twice since Trout debuted.
The Angels have tried to turn things around on the mound, but they've failed miserably. They signed Ohtani but he's dealt with Tommy John surgery and yet another forearm injury this year. They traded for Dylan Bundy and drafted Griffin Canning, but nothing has created the kind of systemic jolt to the staff that's been needed for years. In 32 games this season, Angels starters have had six quality starts and four of those belong to Bundy.
A team with that much offensive talent simply can't neglect the mound the way the Angels have. The franchise seemingly has endless resources, yet they've all been dumped into the lineup and not the pitching staff. The other big problem is that there isn't any help on the way. The team's minor league system is completely bereft of high-upside arms.
Before selecting Reid Detmers with the 10th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, the Angels had only picked one pitcher in the first round since 2010. The franchise doesn't have a single pitcher ranked in MLB Pipeline's top 100 prospects. The farm system as a whole ranks 26th in the big leagues and, other than Detmers, only 22-year-old Chris Rodriguez rates as a potential big-leaguer. Quite frankly, the franchise's resources haven't been spent in the right places and it's showing on the Major League rosters.
The Angels are undoubtedly sellers as MLB's trade deadline approaches. If any deals are to be made, the franchise must acquire arms to bolster a beleaguered pitching staff. This season has already been flushed down the toilet, but the Angels need to make massive structural changes if they want to turn things around in the long-term.
Major League Baseball needs Trout in the postseason. For that to happen, the Angels have to get serious about acquiring pitching talent. Unless that happens the franchise will waste Trout's entire career.