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Joe Maddon would like Angels to focus on more than just home runs

Angels' Justin Upton follows through on a swing against the Texas Rangers.
Angels’ Justin Upton follows through on a swing against the Texas Rangers.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The usually potent combination of power and patience, two of the most sought-after offensive ingredients in today’s game, has not been lethal for the Angels so far this season.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics, the Angels ranked fifth in the major leagues with 24 home runs and second with 70 walks, but they were in last place in the American League West with a 5-11 record.

It’s almost as if the Angels, who were counting on a highly productive offense to offset some of their pitching deficiencies, are getting too much of a good thing.

Of the 72 runs they scored in their first 16 games, 45 of them, or 62.5%, came on home runs. Only the New York Yankees, who scored 50 of their first 79 runs via the home run, had a higher percentage (63.3%). Next on the list was the Cincinnati Reds (55.2%).

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“Well, that’s just what the game has evolved into — everybody trying to hit home runs,” manager Joe Maddon said on a videoconference call before the game. “Singles aren’t cool. Singles are like pennies. They’ve become obsolete almost.

In the wake of coronavirus outbreaks that have interrupted the season for three teams, MLB is considering whether to move the postseason into a bubble.

“It’s a mind-set that we have to get the guys back into. I want it all. I want power. I want the ability to hit the basehit the other way with two strikes to score the run. I want the situational [hitting] mind-set. I want everything offensively, and that’s what we’re going to strive to be.”

Mike Trout led the team with five homers entering Monday night’s game in Angel Stadium. Catcher Max Stassi had four homers, and Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani each had three.

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But the Angels also entered Monday ranked 25th in batting average (.209), 20th in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.695) and were hitting .203 (26 for 128) with runners in scoring position.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon, the former Washington Nationals star who signed a seven-year, $245-million deal last December, was hitless in 28 plate appearances and entered Monday with a .103 average and one homer.

Pujols (.186), Ohtani (.171), Jo Adell (.133) and Justin Upton (.109) were struggling to make consistent contact. The Angels ranked 10th in baseball with 72 runs.

“We’re very patient. We normally don’t chase, which is wonderful,” Maddon said. “The home runs, culturally speaking, that’s industrywide right now. It’s no different than the NBA shooting three-pointers. It’s an all-or-nothing approach. … But I also like the finesse.

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“I think that’s what really carries you through when you get to the playoffs and you’re always facing good pitching. Everyone is always waiting for the big blow. I like the teams that can do it all, and I want to be a team that does it all.”

Maddon believes his team’s struggles with runners in scoring position can be attributed to players putting too much pressure on themselves to come up with the big hit. Among his suggestions to his players: Try a little easier.

Anthony Rendon, the Angels’ prized off-season acquisition, is hitless in his last 28 plate appearance and his batting average has dropped to .103.

“The primary thing is to really cut back on the number of swings being taken, and you try to have guys show up later to the ballpark,” Maddon said. “I think there’s actually too much rehearsal that goes on before every game that’s not necessary. So I try to get them to do less, show up later, become more of a human being, just come out and play baseball.

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“Right now, the theme I’m trying to get across is to do less to get more. There’s nobody that can swing more than our guys, or could look at more video, or care more, or look at more data. But that’s not always the route back. If it was as easy as that, every team would have a bunch of .300 hitters with an .850 OPS.”

Short hops

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, sidelined since July 27 because of a left-ankle sprain, has resumed running and is taking batting practice on the field, and Maddon said he is “getting close” to returning. … The Angels reinstated pitcher Jose Suarez from the injured list and optioned the left-hander to the team’s alternate training site in Long Beach. To make room on the 40-man roster for Suarez, right-hander Jose Rodriguez was designated for assignment. … The Angels have added about 24 cardboard cutouts of family members — and some pets — in a section behind the team’s third-base dugout.


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