The Angels have themselves to blame for catastrophic start to 2020 season

The graveyard of never-published stories on this website includes one particularly grating skeleton for Angels fans: a breakdown of a reported deal with the Dodgers that would have brought Ross Stripling and Joc Pederson to Anaheim.

That piece, stopped when Angels owner Arte Moreno kiboshed the trade in a fit of frustration, would have been complimentary of the club and optimistic about the direction of its rotation. Moreno insisted at the time the Angels would move on to pursue “a pitcher that can substantially help us, and not a four or five (starter),” but the team failed to make a splash at the tail end of an offseason in which numerous quality starters joined other clubs.

The Angels (8-19) are off to their worst start in franchise history largely because their starting pitching has been abysmal. The rotation entered Friday with a 5.81 ERA and a workload average well below five innings per outing (4.35). While Stripling has been roughed up of late, he would have nonetheless represented a better back-end option than what the team currently offers. A commitment to meaningfully improving the rotation beyond Stripling would have made an even bigger difference (adding Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran was nowhere near enough).

Left-hander Andrew Heaney almost salvaged his start in a 5-3 loss against the A’s on Friday after allowing three first-inning runs but was chased with two outs in the fifth by back-to-back doubles. It was the sixth straight game an Angels starter failed to complete the fifth frame.

The Angels also can only blame themselves for not winning a playoff game since 2009. Their minor league system has laid an egg since Mike Trout graduated in 2012, their free-agent offensive signings have mostly disappointed and they have for years neglected their pitching staff.

Despite annual disappointment, the talent of the team’s best players elevates expectations to unrealistic levels each spring training, only for those stars to watch the rest of the roster let them down again. The Angels were projected to at least contend for a spot in the expanded 2020 MLB playoff format. Right now, they’re struggling to move past the Mariners at the bottom of the AL West.

Trout and Anthony Rendon have done their parts to put the Angels in winning positions. They each have OPSs above 1.000. Rendon went 4 for 5 on Friday and Trout delivered a two-run single.

But their efforts will probably never be enough to overcome a rotation of Bundy, Heaney, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval and Teheran, who worked in long relief Thursday. Did the Angels’ front office really think differently? The team’s starters finished 29th in ERA in 2019. This year’s shortcomings should not come as a surprise.

This could have been a special year for the Angels. That it has been historically bad is an ugly organizational failure.

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