By: Chris Larson
As we sit here this morning, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim currently sit a 1/2 game back from first place in the American League West with an impressive 22-14 record. Over their last 10 games, the team has a 6-4 record and has put up a +33 run differential so far. Truly impressive for a team that hasn't had their entire rotation healthy all season long and hasn't gotten the results that they expected from their bullpen. However, it shouldn't come as a surprise with Mike Scioscia at the helm.
The main reason why the Angels have been able to stay relevant and so competitive with the reigning World Series Champion, Houston Astros, along with their neighbors to the north, the Seattle Mariners, is because of their impressive lineup that continues to produce day in and day out. Who would have thought that the Angels would have a Top 5 lineup this year? Certainly, many would have expected them to have one of the best, if not the best, defensive team in the league, but almost no one would have guessed this.
Heading into play today over the span of 36 games or 1,274 at bats, the Angels currently rank fifth in runs scored (186), fourth in hits (332), are tied with the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays for first place in home runs (52), and come in fifth in RBI (177). Furthermore, the Angels have a cumulative team batting average of .261, which is third best in all of baseball, and rank third in slugging percentage (.443).
Of course, the most productive hitter in the Angels lineup has been Mike Trout. Trout is easily the best player in all of baseball year in and year out and consistently in the conversation for the AL MVP Award. This year looks no different as Trout currently leads the Angels in home runs (12), RBI (25), hits (44), and on-base percentage (.451) over the span of 133 at bats. In addition, Trout has recorded 29 walks and has an Offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR) value of 2.8 to this point.
Trout, who will turn 27 this coming August, is right smack dab in the middle of his peak right now and the Angels are really reaping value from him everyday. One part of Trout's game that continues to improve is his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) which currently sits at .344. Last year, he ended with a BABIP of .318. Also, to this point of the season, Mike Trout has a higher Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) than during any full season of his career. His wOBA value currently is .470, which is the highest value of his 7-year big league career.
For an average hitter, you could say that it's still too early to make a judgment about both of those values, but considering that this is Mike Trout, you can be assured that both of those values will likely stay right around where they are right now and could even climb a bit more before the season is over, assuming he stays healthy for the remainder of the season.
Another significant part of the Angels lineup to this point has been shortstop, Andrelton Simmons. We all know Simmons has Gold Glove defense at shortstop, but the way he's been hitting here so far, is quite a surprise and a good sign for many Angels fans. Right now, Simmons leads the Angels in batting average (.339) over the span of 127 at bats and has a Wins Above Replacement value of 1.8 already. Simmons finished with a career high 5.3 WAR last season so it will be fascinating to see if he can finish with a value higher than that this year.
To this point, as illustrated by his stats on FanGraphs, Simmons is taking more walks and striking out less at the plate. Last season, Simmons walked 7.3% of the time, while striking out 10.4% of his at bats. So far this season, Simmons is walking 8.5%, while striking out 6.4% of the time. In addition, to show how much better he is at the plate, his current Offensive value is 8.7. Simmons has never had a season, in his 7 years in the big leagues with an Offensive value above 0, besides last season when it was 4.6.
Beyond Trout and Simmons, another guy that often gets overlooked is outfielder, Justin Upton. The Angels acquired Upton from the Tigers last August and were quickly able to reach a five-year extension with him once the offseason started last year. To date, Upton is hitting: .257/.315/.465 over 144 at bats with 37 hits, 6 doubles, 8 home runs, 25 RBI, and 13 walks. Upton has always been a high strikeout guy, as illustrated by his career strikeout percentage of 25.0%, over 6,357 career at bats.
However, dating back to the 2016 regular season among all outfielders, Upton ranks fourth in RBI (221), seventeenth in walk percentage (9.6%), and seventeenth in BABIP (.318). Furthermore, Upton is tied ninth, with Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) with a value of 120, and has an Offensive rating over that span of (41), which puts him 9th on the list as well.
No one knows if this type of offensive success will hold up all year long, but when you have these three experienced hitters along with Albert Pujols, who just got his 3,000th career hit last week, along with guys like Zack Cozart and the always underrated, Kole Calhoun, anything is possible. The Angels have shown a ton of momentum to this point and hopefully that momentum carries them through the rest of the season.
After all, the Angels have a Halo for their logo, so who knows if that Halo will bring them a postseason berth this season and get Mike Trout, along with the rest of the cast, back into the postseason picture.