Well, the Opening Series bubble has burst and we’re all facing down a week of Regular Baseball™. The Mariners will face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in four series this year, spread evenly across the season (in April, June, August, and September). This early-season bout features the regular season debut of George Kirby, the first Bark at the Park game at T-Mobile Park, and Chris Flexen filling Robbie Ray’s rotation spot while the lefty is out with a flexor strain.
With the grand narratives of opening weekend behind me, I’m ready to start dialing in on the details. Personally, I’ll be focusing my observational powers on Kirby’s start and Kolten Wong’s at bats this series, trying to familiarize myself more with the latter’s approach at the plate. Please chime in in the comments about what you’re paying attention to this week!
At a Glance
|Game 1||Monday, April 3 | 6:40 pm|
|LHP Reid Detmers||RHP George Kirby|
|Game 2||Tuesday, April 4 | 6:40 pm|
|LHP José Suarez||RHP Luis Castillo|
|Game 3||Wednesday, April 5 | 1:10 pm|
|RHP Shohei Ohtani||RHP Chris Flexen|
|Batting (wRC+)||93 (12th)||107 (4th in AL)||Mariners|
|Fielding (OAA)||1 (10th)||2 (8th)||Mariners|
|Starting Pitching (FIP-)||91 (2nd)||106 (8th)||Angels|
|Bullpen (FIP-)||106 (13th)||95 (7th)||Mariners|
Another year, another attempt not to waste generational talent. For years, the Angels have floundered despite having the best players in the game in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and last year was no exception: Anaheim missed the playoffs for the eight year in a row and finished 73-89. A crushing series of losses mid-season led to the firing of manager Joe Maddon and his replacement with Phil Nevin. Despite the demons of their recent history, the Angels enter 2023 with reason for hope yet again. Consequently, LL’s staff predictions for the Angels season range widely, from a collapse in late May that gets “what’s his face” (Nevin) fired all the way to winning the AL West.
In the offseason, the Angels stocked up on veteran power and reliability, trading for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela, and signing utility infielder Brandon Drury and southpaw (former Mariner) Tyler Anderson in free agency. The team also enters the season with renewed organizational stability, after owner Arte Moreno’s five-month bid to sell the team ended with him deciding to keep them after all, citing “unfinished business.”
The national discourse surrounding the Angels this year revolves around Ohtani’s future with the team, as the superstar faces free agency next offseason. Will the Angels trade him if they’re not contending come July? Extend him if they are? Will he sign with the Dodgers to remain in L.A.? Head for an east coast market? After Ohtani struck out MLB teammate Trout to lead Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic this spring, in the best at bat in decades, both players stated that their appetite for a World Series has been whetted. Given that, one can only imagine that the competitiveness of the Angels this year will have significant ramifications for Ohtani’s future with the team. So far, so good: Anaheim started off strong after losing their opener 2-1 to the Athletics. On Saturday they trounced the A’s 13-1 with an eleven-run third inning, and yesterday they shut out Oakland on the back of home runs from Trout, Ohtani, and rookie catcher Logan O’Hoppe.
Mike Trout anchors the Angels lineup, walloping the opposition to the tune of 6.1 fWAR and 40 home runs in 2022. He’s a head above the rest of the team offensively, and seems to love hitting in Seattle (sigh). Ohtani followed him statistically in 2022, putting up 3.8 fWAR as a batter and hitting 34 homers; both players are projected to put up similar numbers this year if healthy. The surprise breakout for Anaheim last year was outfielder Taylor Ward, who racked up 3.9 fWAR and a 137 wRC+. If he can maintain that success and the new veteran acquisitions (Urshela at shortstop, Renfroe in the outfield, and Drury at first) play as expected, the team may have a much more offensively consistent lineup than we’ve become accustomed to seeing from them. One huge question is Anthony Rendon’s health; the former All Star hasn’t played 60 games in a season since 2019. Finally, with catcher Max Stassi starting the season on the IL (hip), top prospect Logan O’Hoppe is slotting in as the team’s primary catcher to start the season. The 23-year-old has already shown he’s got power, and given this unforeseen opportunity out of the gate, he’s a player to keep an eye on this year.
LHP Reid Detmers
After a brief cup of coffee in 2021, Reid Detmers had an eventful rookie season last year. He threw a no-hitter in May, was sent down to the minors in June, and finished the season strong with a 2.51 FIP across his final 13 starts after being recalled in July. Much of that late-season success can be attributed to a revamped slider that he had spent all season trying to hone. During the offseason, he continued to work to improve his arsenal and came into spring training with a significant velocity boost on his fastball.
LHP José Suarez
Like Detmers, José Suarez had a strong second half last year after bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen prior to the All-Star break. In his last 11 starts of the season, he posted a 2.97 FIP with a phenomenal 18.1% strikeout-minus-walk rate. Much of that improvement was the result of a pitch mix change that helped him focus on his two best pitches, his fastball and slider. He also possesses a really good changeup that allows him to keep right-handed batters at bay. But the biggest reason for his late-season success was an effort to simply throw strikes. His walk rate fell from 10.8% in the first half to just 4.2% after the break and all of his plate discipline metrics supported the improvement.
RHP Shohei Ohtani
We’re running out of superlatives to describe how incredible Shohei Ohtani is. During his MVP season in 2021, his batting fWAR outpaced his pitching fWAR, 5.0 to 3.0. Not only did he increase his fWAR total to 9.4 last year, he flipped the emphasis with 5.6 fWAR as a pitcher and just 3.8 fWAR as a batter. The biggest difference was a brand-new sweeping slider that was featured during that dramatic ninth inning at-bat against Mike Trout in the World Baseball Classic. Not that he needed another weapon, but he now has three secondary offerings with whiff rates over 35% in addition to his four-seam fastball that regularly reaches triple digits.
The Big Picture:
The AL West
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
The Athletics, obviously, had the opposite opening weekend to the Angels. Meanwhile, the Astros split four with the White Sox, and the Rangers scored 29 runs in a three-game sweep of the Phillies. Cool cool cool.