Angels mailbag: Mike Trout’s injury is a disastrous development
Hello, Angels fans. So, the Angels are 26-28, which translates to a 78-win full-season pace. They did not play particularly well last week. More importantly, they lost the best player in baseball for more than a month. It was a disastrous development, demonstrating just how slim their chances of playoff qualification have been this entire time. Without Mike Trout, they are plainly not a good team. Withstanding his loss will be tremendously difficult and essentially impossible. His torn thumb seems likely to inform the path of their season.
Most of this week’s questions were submitted before Trout’s injury, but most of the answers take on a different tone. Let’s get to them, and, as always, please submit queries to my email address or Twitter account, which are both listed below.
This season, fans of the following teams have said they’ve never seen “this many injuries” before: Blue Jays, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Tigers, Yankees and, of course, the Angels. And that’s just what I could find in five minutes searching Twitter for keywords. Injuries have happened and continue to happen. Decades ago, they were often unreported and undiscovered, but now teams have the wherewithal to treat more ailments and the incentive to play players only when healthy.
As far as the Angels’ training methods for pitchers, they did change them after last season. There’s a new strength and conditioning coach and new post-start regimens. Let’s briefly review the pitchers who have gotten hurt this season: Garrett Richards, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian, Mike Morin and Alex Meyer.
Richards was returning from a rare procedure to regenerate his elbow ligament and no one knew what to expect. Street is 34 and had been on the disabled list nine times before this spring. Bailey had his shoulder totally reconstructed and is unsurprisingly experiencing shoulder issues. A healthy Morin was deemed not qualified for the opening-day roster, so his absence was hardly a huge deal. It sounds like Meyer really will be back from his back spasms on Sunday. Bedrosian is the one injury you can fault the Angels for; he first felt his groin get tight the night he pitched two innings for the first time in his major league career. The team might have pushed him further than he could handle, and they have suffered for it.
I understand the temptation to think, as a fan, your team has been pinched. My point is: Players, especially pitchers, get hurt. The best teams typically have the depth to withstand the injuries. Or, occasionally, they get lucky. The Angels do not have overwhelming quantities of depth, and they have not gotten lucky.
Andrew Heaney is about to begin throwing up-down bullpen sessions, with rests resembling inning breaks between allotments of pitches. He’s inching closer toward a return and could challenge to pitch this season. I wrote about that earlier this month.
Tim Lincecum permitted more than a run an inning in his nine-start stint with the Angels a year ago. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman has reported he is continuing to throw and hoping to obtain a big-league opportunity, but I do not at all expect him to return to the Angels.
It’s probably not going to be .409. He’s never cleared .300 before. While the way he has attacked first pitches this season does allow for the possibility he could be more powerful going forward, I’ll always side with the larger sample in a debate. The funny thing about Trout’s season is his walk and strikeout rates are essentially the same as last year. The only thing he’s done differently is hit more homers, which is of course the best thing a ballplayer can do. Pressed for a guess on his season-ending ISO, I’d say something like .350.
We’ve seen quite a bit of speculation regarding the idea that the Angels might trade Mike Trout to improve both the major league roster and the farm system. But let’s pretend for a minute that Mike Trout is an Angel for the duration of his career. In that event, what is the path (if any) for the Angels to return to the playoffs sometime in the next five years? Or do you think that Trout will become the Ernie Banks of this generation if he is an Angel for his entire career?
If Trout remains an Angel for the duration of his career, I’d certainly expect them to make the playoffs at some point. I mean, I expect every team in baseball to make the playoffs at some point in the next 15 years, so that’s not saying much. As far as the next five years, the path goes against what is typically the optimum avenue for organizations to take.
If the team needs to win soon, next year represents the best chance. Heaney and fellow injured pitcher Nick Tropeano should be back by then. Richards will be in his last year of team control, and, ideally, healthy. The rest of their core should remain in their prime, and their aging players won’t have aged to the point of ineffectiveness. And to complement those players, the Angels would need to make significant free-agent additions, which would probably hurt the team in the long run but would aid in immediate contention efforts. A middle-of-the-order bat is required. An elite-level pitcher would help.
The Angels do not possess the prospects to acquire an impact bat at the trade deadline. Thus, I do not expect them to go out and get another bat. Also, batting average remains an inferior way to evaluate a hitter and leads to flawed evaluations. More broadly, four of the Angels’ regulars have hit as expected or better than expected through two months: Trout, Andrelton Simmons, Martin Maldonado and Cameron Maybin. Five have not: Albert Pujols, Luis Valbuena, Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Kole Calhoun.
Pujols has long struggled early in seasons. I’d expect him to trend up, not dramatically, but noticeably. Valbuena and Escobar haven’t played enough to make judgments. Espinosa is, obviously, a concern. He’s striking out even more than he has in the past. Calhoun’s struggles are a curiosity. I’ve avoided answering questions about him so far because it’s not totally clear what is happening. Let’s give it one more week before addressing him in detail.
That would be a massive surprise, but so was the Pujols signing. It’s way too early to say with even a modicum of certainty, but don’t count on it. Harper is going to require the biggest contract in the history of the sport. Only a few teams have the kind of revenue that could support that. Based on the payroll the Angels have carried while employing the world’s best player, they don’t.
I expect Mike Scioscia to continue to use Maybin near the top of the order when Escobar returns, as least as long as Maybin continues to get on base and Calhoun continues to not. It might actually make more sense for Maybin to precede Escobar, because Maybin is a base-stealing threat and Escobar is not.
I do not expect the Angels to slide Bud Norris into their starting rotation. It wouldn’t make sense. He’s had success in relief this season, and he did not have success in his last two seasons starting. It’s conceivable he could be removed from the closer role after Cam Bedrosian and Huston Street return from injury, but that probably wouldn’t happen immediately, if at all.
That concludes this week’s Angels mailbag. Send in your questions to the below addresses at any time, and check back each Monday for answers.
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