It’s only 20 games, but the Los Angeles Angels look like a completely different team from last season’s squad in a couple of important areas.
For one thing, take a look at their chase rate (best known as O-Swing% on FanGraphs). In 2021, the Angels’ chase rate of 33% ranked 25th. To this point in 2022, they rank second-lowest at 26%.
This can be explained by a few things. For one, two of the team’s most discerning hitters – Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon – are healthy. They’re each at 21%.
For another, the team’s top chaser among its regulars in 2021, José Iglesias, is now in Colorado. And one other note: a couple of hitters, most notably Taylor Ward, have shown a little more patience than usual within a small sampling of at-bats this season.
Ward’s chase rate is 20%. His rate last season was 29%. He’s been a big contributor, with a .509 on-base percentage in 53 plate appearances. His 1.271 OPS is 16 points higher than Trout’s. Outfielder Jo Adell’s chase rate is 34%. It was 40% in 2021.
The reduction in chasing seems to have translated into positive results. The Angels rank first in the American League in batting average (.253), on-base percentage (.333) and slugging percentage (.428). They ranked 6th, 9th, and 7th in those stats, respectively, last season.
The Angels also have shown themselves to be a good defensive team in 2022. They rank 3rd in the majors in how often they turn a groundball or bunt into an out (nearly 81% of the time) and 5th in how often they turn a ball hit in the air into an out (just over 71% of the time).
In 2021, they ranked 27th in both out rate on grounders and bunts (72%) and out rate on balls hit in the air (65%).
What’s noteworthy here is that the Angels plan to move David Fletcher to shortstop was thwarted when Fletcher went out with a hip injury after playing five games.
Fletcher’s replacement, Andrew Velazquez, hasn’t hit well at all. But he’s been excellent in the field, recording 5 Good Fielding Plays, tied for the most among shortstops.
We don’t generally advise using 14-game samples as meaningful evaluations, but Velazquez has played good defense at shortstop throughout his career, saving 9 runs in not even a half-season (476 innings).
Pitching-wise, the Angels’ numbers look considerably better than last season’s, but admittedly, the numbers look better for just about every team. The Angels currently rank 11th in the AL in FIP, after ranking 8th in that stat last season.
But there have been some bright spots, most notably Patrick Sandoval, who has not allowed an earned run and has 20 strikeouts in 15 innings. Newcomers Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen also have ERAs under 3.00 thus far. Four of the team’s five most-used relievers have ERAs under 2.00.
The team’s looked better at the plate and better in the field, and has some bright spots on the pitching staff, but perhaps the best thing that could be said about the Angels start is this:
The Angels are 13-7 and we didn’t even mention Shohei Ohtani (.691 OPS, 4.19 ERA) until the next-to-last sentence of this article.
What will the team be like once he gets going?