Angels sit Jared Walsh against left-hander again, and numbers back up decision

The Angels' Jared Walsh (20) prepares to bat against the Houston Astros on April 8, 2022.
Angels slugger Jared Walsh, an All-Star last season, did not start against a left-handed pitcher Friday for the fifth consecutive game. He has a career .198 batting average against southpaws.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Angels faced a left-handed pitcher for the sixth time this season, and Jared Walsh assumed what is becoming an all-too-familiar position — a spot on the bench Friday night, the fifth consecutive game he did not start against a southpaw.

So, the Angels first baseman marched into the manager’s office, reminded Joe Maddon of his All-Star credentials and the .277 batting average, .850 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 29 homers and 98 RBIs he compiled last season and demanded to be inserted in the lineup against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium, right?

“No, no, no, I’m trying to stay out of trouble,” Walsh said with a hearty laugh. “If I make it an issue, it’s an issue, so it falls on me. I have the right attitude, and I’m a firm believer in that it’s all gonna work out in the end. I can’t control it. I don’t write the lineup. I respect management’s decision. I come in and bust my butt.”


As good as the left-handed-hitting Walsh was during his All-Star 2021 season, he entered Friday with a career .198 batting average and .600 OPS against left-handers, including a .170 batting average and .565 OPS against them last season.

The Angels are in first place in the American League West after 13 games thanks to an offense that has been a consistent run producer all season.

April 21, 2022

“It is what it is,” said Walsh, who is two for eight against left-handers this season. “I think I just need to force their hand. I think with more at-bats, more reps, hopefully I have good at-bats [against left-handers] and I’ll work my way in there. I’m pretty confident.”

But the only way for Walsh to get more comfortable in the box and improve against left-handers is to face them more often, and he can’t do that from the bench.

“You’re right — how do you get better if you don’t do it?” Maddon said. “But then you have Matt Duffy or Jack Mayfield sitting on the bench. Isn’t it a wiser thing to do, in the short term, [to play them]? Jared will keep getting better with it. He’ll still get opportunities. But right now, we have the right personnel mix.”

It’s hard to argue with Maddon. Duffy, who started at first base Friday night, had six hits in his first 15 at-bats (.400) with two RBIs against left-handers, and Mayfield, who started at second base, had four hits in 10 at-bats (.400) with two RBIs against southpaws.

The one game Walsh started against a left-hander, the April 7 season opener against Houston, the Angels lost. The next four games Walsh didn’t start against a southpaw, the Angels won.


“If a lefty is a real reverse-split guy who is glaringly better against righties than lefties, we would definitely [play Walsh],” Maddon said. “For now, it’s working too well to mess with. But he’s still going to play the majority of the games, and he’ll have the appropriate number of at-bats by the end of the year.”

The city of Anaheim and the state housing agency have reached a settlement, opening the door for the Angel Stadium land sale to be finalized.

April 22, 2022

Middle-infield shuffle

Infielder David Fletcher, sidelined for 10 days by a left hip strain, started a rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Salt Lake on Friday that Maddon said “could be a couple of days, it could be a week — I have no idea right now.”

When Fletcher, who started four of the team’s first five games at shortstop, does return, Maddon said he will play “more second base than he had before,” a nod to Andrew Velazquez’s superb defense in Fletcher’s absence.

Velazquez entered Friday with four defensive runs saved in 70 innings according to FanGraphs, the most of any major league shortstop. He has made all the routine plays and some superb ones, including a diving stop of Nathaniel Lowe’s shot up the middle and quick throw to first base at Texas on April 15.

Velazquez, claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees in November, entered Friday with a .143 batting average (four for 28) and .429 OPS, and he will have to hit better to seize the starting shortstop job.

But in the short term, if Velazquez and Fletcher are in the same lineup, Velazquez will play shortstop and Fletcher second base, Maddon said.


A perfect storm

Maddon said he would not have pulled Shohei Ohtani from a perfect game, but his leash on the right-hander, who retired 16 straight batters to open Wednesday’s game at Houston before giving up a one-out single to Jason Castro, was not limitless. Ohtani exited after six innings and 81 pitches.

“If he was feeling good and didn’t think he was straining, I would let him do it,” Maddon said. “But 120, 130 pitches probably would be like a Waterloo, the point you would say let’s call off the jam. But I think the way he was throwing, he could have gotten it within 120 to 125 pitches, which I would have been fine with.”