The Angels had yet another disappointing season in 2021. They finished at 77-85, despite having playoff hopes entering the year. There are plenty of reasons this was the case, but getting 36 games out of Mike Trout and 58 games out of Anthony Rendon was never going to get the job done. These injuries caused the Angels to finish 17th in the league in wRC+. On top of that, they finished 22nd in ERA. There were some signs of life for the Angels future hopes, but the 2021 season was a disappointment nonetheless.
Coming into the season, I personally predicted the Angels to win 85 games. Most projection systems had them right around there as well. Obviously, finishing 8 games under that is quite the let down. Probably the biggest let down was the offense. The offense had a 108 wRC+ in 2020 and had two prime bounce back candidates in Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. We all know how successful Ohtani was, but the bounce back window for Upton appears to be over. The injuries to Trout and Rendon killed what was supposed to be the backbone of this team. People can talk about the flawed roster all they want, but if we knew those injuries were coming, nobody would have predicted the Angels to do much of anything.
For the starting rotation, finishing 22nd in ERA is a little lower than most thought they were going to finish coming into the season, but nobody would have said that was out of the picture. Pitching was definitely not the strong point of this team and that showed as it always does. The rotation was a bit of a roller coaster. Patrick Sandoval and Alex Cobb were much more successful than predicted, but neither Dylan Bundy nor Jose Quintana made it through the season. When it comes to the bullpen, it was an absolute mess to watch. Raisel Iglesias was as dominant as we could have imagined, but the rest of the bullpen being so poor made the Angels finish 24th in bullpen ERA. It’s as clear as ever, but the pitching staff needs massive upgrades if the Angels want to actually do anything.
The season was as dim as we could have imagined, but it wasn’t all bad. Shohei Ohtani put together a massive MVP season. Young players such as Jared Walsh, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, and Patrick Sandoval proved useful. The Angels are no longer paying Albert Pujols to play baseball. Reid Detmers had a great year in the minors and is ready to contribute. Due to many factors, the Angels season went unlike anybody saw coming. But the result was largely the same as it has been for almost a decade now, and improvement needs to come.
Team MVP: Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani won the AL MVP, so this one is obvious. Ohtani had a 152 wRC+, 158 OPS+, and 5.1 fWAR in 639 plate appearances. He also had a 3.18 ERA and a 3.61 SIERA in 130.1 IP. The numbers are historical, and the fact he appeared in 158 games is just incredible. It was a big step up from the rest of his Angels career, where he spent a lot of games resting. Ohtani pretty much kept this team watchable deep into the season by himself. Watching Ohtani would have been a lot more fun if he had Trout and Rendon by his side throughout the year, but he was still an incredible watch and undoubtedly the AL MVP.
Team Cy Young: Shohei Ohtani
It feels lame to double down, but it’s impossible not to give Ohtani this award too. He had a 3.18 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, and a 3.61 SIERA. His 29.3 K% along with the 8.3 BB% were huge for his success. Ohtani has always had nasty stuff, and it felt like he was more comfortable than ever on the mound this year. The Angels have not had a pitcher that the whole fan base is genuinely excited to see start games on a consistent basis in a really long time, but Shohei day did just that this season. I really wanted to sneak Raisel Iglesias in after his spectacular season, but Ohtani was obviously the more valuable pitcher and the team’s Cy Young.
Team Disappointment: Dylan Bundy
What a ride the Dylan Bundy era was in Anaheim. Fans, including myself, fell in love with him after his 3.29 ERA in 2020, but it was short lived. Bundy finished the season with just 90.2 innings of 6.06 ERA ball thrown and did not make it through the season in the rotation. His underlying numbers are better than that (4.73 xERA and 4.56 SIERA), but it was still not the season the Angels needed from him. Bundy also had an ankle injury that seemed to mess with his stuff a bit. Nevertheless, Bundy provided so much enjoyment in 2020 and brought an attitude to the mound that the Angels just have not had lately. He was so fun to root for and hopefully he bounces back with what will almost surely be a new team next season. David Fletcher was the other candidate for this award due to his awful season at the plate and the fact that he was leading off much of the year, but Bundy still wins it for me. Also, I do not think he can win this award cause not much was expected of him, but Jose Iglesias had an absolutely miserable season that has to be mentioned.
Team Breakout: Patrick Sandoval
Compared to his expectations coming into the season, Sandoval had a phenomenal year. He threw 87 innings with a 3.62 ERA and 4.03 SIERA. His ability to get whiffs and avoid hard contact like he did was really not expected, and it was such a pleasant sight. He really found something with his changeup, which was his most commonly thrown pitch. It held batters to a .213 wOBA and had a Whiff% of 51.4%. If the Angels get 2021 Patrick Sandoval next year and actually do add one or two impact arms, their rotation could be looking nice. The Angels getting Sandoval for Martin Maldonado has proved a massive success. Jared Walsh had an All Star season in his first full year, but Sandoval’s breakout at the teams biggest positional need wins him this award to me.
Season Grade: 5/10
It was not all bad in Anaheim, but another season of no playoffs cannot get a good score. What keeps this score not in the 1-3 range for me is some of the players that showed themselves important to the Angels future. Shohei Ohtani did what he did. Jared Walsh proved to be a legit hitter (at least against righties). Patrick Sandoval seems to have broken out in a big way. Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh flashed the tools that make them such exciting young players. Even Jose Suarez showed he might be able to make starts for the big league club in the future. The talent on this roster is in a much better place than it was last offseason to me. So while the season was a failure, the big league club does look like it is a few additions from making a legit playoff push. Of course, it will take adding impact arms to the rotation and probably the bullpen as well, but there is hope in Anaheim even after a 77 win season. Now it’s time to actually add impact rotation pieces instead of bargain bin hunting as they have been.