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Los Angeles Angels Series Preview: They’re doing Tom Petty proud

Get it? Because they’re free fallin’.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The date was May 24 and the Angels had just beaten the Texas Rangers 5-3. They were 10 games over .500 and just a game behind the Houston Astros for first place in the AL West. It seemed that the team with two of the best players in the whole sport were finally going to be competitors. Then they lost the next day and they day after that and for 12 more consecutive games after that. They fired their manager at some point in that stretch. And they just never got back on track with Phil Nevin in charge of things. They did take four of five from a Mariners team that now makes that series look more impressive, but they immediately dropped two of three to the Royals and they haven’t won more than two games in a row since sweeping a double header in that Mariners series on June 18 and winning the next day. It’s a disaster in Anaheim right now that not even Shohei Ohtani can fix.

Royals vs. Angels Matchup Stats

Category Royals Angels
Category Royals Angels
Winning % .400 .421
H2H Wins 2 1
Team wRC+ 95 93
Team xFIP 4.54 3.99
Run Differential -109 -34
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi & Bobby Witt Jr., 2.0 Shohei Ohtani, 4.8

Angels Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Shohei Ohtani DH 395 .256 .347 .485 11.4% 23.5% 132 1.8
Taylor Ward RF 300 .291 .380 .498 12.7% 24.7% 150 2.6
Jared Walsh 1B 345 .242 .284 .420 4.6% 30.1% 96 0.2
Luis Rengifo 3B 227 .264 .310 .396 4.8% 17.2% 100 0.6
Max Stassi C 224 .216 .317 .345 12.5% 29.9% 92 1.1
Jo Adell LF 114 .239 .272 .367 3.5% 36.0% 79 -0.5
Brandon Marsh CF 303 .223 .280 .347 6.6% 36.0% 76 0.8
Michael Stefanic 2B 44 .184 .295 .211 9.1% 20.5% 55 0.0
Andrew Velazquez SS 246 .170 .210 .262 3.7% 33.3% 30 -0.1

Angels Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Kurt Suzuki C 105 .183 .267 .280 9.5% 20.0% 58 -0.4
Phil Gosselin INF/OF 30 .214 .267 .214 6.7% 26.7% 37 0.0
Magneuris Sierra OF 1 .000 .000 .000 0.0% 100.0% -100 0.0
Dillon Thomas OF 9 .000 .222 .000 11.1% 55.6% -7 0.0

Angels Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Raisel Iglesias 36 33.0 2 6 34.3% 6.0% 4.36 2.87 0.5
Ryan Tepera 36 35.1 1 2 20.3% 9.1% 4.08 4.27 0.0
Aaron Loup 39 33.0 0 3 25.7% 8.6% 4.36 3.80 0.1

Royals vs. Angels Projected Pitching Matchups

July 25 - RHP Noah Syndergaard vs. RHP Zack Greinke, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Noah Syndergaard 14 74.1 5 7 18.6% 6.4% 4.00 4.21 1.0
Zack Greinke 15 77.2 3 6 12.7% 4.5% 4.64 4.66 0.6

While he hasn’t been the same pitcher he was with the Yankees before his Tommy John Surgery, Noah Syndergaard has still been just fine for the Angels this year, though maybe not as good as his contract would suggest he should be. He just isn’t throwing as hard as he once was and while he was often not quite as big of a strikeout pitcher as anyone thought he should be, they’re way down this season for the big righty. His sinker is averaging just 94 MPH, which is a far cry from the 97.5 he averaged in 2019. It’s still been a legitimately great pitch for him with a .167 average allowed and .200 SLG, but I think the lack of velocity has hurt his changeup some. He’s also using the changeup more, so maybe it’s just getting exposed a bit, but it’s still not been as good as we’ve seen in the past. Syndergaard has been much better at home than on the road, so that’s good for the Royals.

Career vs. KC: 4 GS, 25.1 IP, 2-2, 3.55 ERA

Yeah, I’m going to use what I wrote during the Rays seris because why not? Zack Greinke’s first half ended with a bit of a thud in his outing against the Blue Jays in Toronto. That’s sort of a theme for him this season. He’s allowed more than two runs in six of his 15 starts. All six of those starts have been on the road. He has a 1.86 ERA at home and 7.38 on the road. Of the 11 home runs he’s allowed, 10 have been on the road. Some of that could be a quirk of the schedule. He’s had to pitch in Colorado and Arizona, both great hitter’s parks, as well as against the Blue Jays and Astros on the road while he missed both those teams at home. This is not an Angels lineup that strikes a lot of fear in pitchers once you get past the top of the order, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do some damage with some young bats who do actually have a chance to put up some numbers, so Greinke can’t just take the day off after getting past the tougher hitters.

Career vs. LAA: 19 G, 18 GS, 118.1 IP, 7-5, 3.57 ERA

July 26 - LHP Jose Suarez vs. LHP Angel Zerpa, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jose Suarez 11 45.0 1 4 22.2% 10.8% 5.60 4.50 -0.1
Angel Zerpa 2 7.0 2 0 22.2% 10.8% 1.29 4.69 0.0

Jose Suarez has had sort of an interesting start to his career. As a 21-year old, he came to the big leagues without an especially great minor league track record and he wasn’t good. He was terrible in 2020 in just two starts but then put it together last season. He split time between the bullpen and the rotation, but he was pretty solid. He could have used a couple more strikeouts and maybe a couple fewer walks, but all in all, he was good. This season he’s found the strikeouts, but they’ve come with even more walks and more hits and more home runs. His fastball this season has been absolutely pounded. Opponents are hitting .339 with a .661 SLG on it. He only throws it about a third of the time, but you wonder if he should ever throw it. It’s not like his other pitches have been world beaters, but anything has to be better than that. It’s probably no surprise that righties have hit him hard with a .273/.361/.496 SLG, which may not be that big of a deal against a Royals lineup that has started leaning a little extra to the left.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

After pitching well in his only start this season in Toronto, the Royals are going to give Angel Zerpa another shot. This lineup isn’t even remotely close to the Blue Jays one he did a nice job against over five innings before the break, so he doesn’t have to necessarily be better to end up with better peripherals. I loved how Zerpa attacked the inner third against the Blue Jays offense, and the Angels will likely come at him with a lot of right-handed bats outside of Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh, so he’ll need to continue to be fearless.

Career vs. LAA: First Appearance

July 27 - RHP Janson Junk vs. RHP Brad Keller, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Janson Junk 1 1.0 0 0 25.0% 0.0% 0.00 1.13 0.0
Brad Keller 18 101.2 5 10 15.8% 8.6% 4.16 4.33 0.9

I’d say Junk isn’t a great name for a pitcher, but Janson Junk was a second round pick in 2017 by the Yankees and has been a bit up and down throughout his minor league career. He did make four starts last season for the Angels and while he wasn’t great, he did only walk a couple of batters. He has a fastball that sits in the low-90s typically but can reach a fair amount higher than that and he does it with pretty impressive spin. He has a slider and a curve, but the slider is better. And he also has a changeup that isn’t especially good. One area that he’s had trouble with in his very short time in the big leagues is against lefties, which is a pretty good thing for the Royals, who are full of lefties. Of course, last season in the minors, he handled them well, so I guess it’s hard to say if that will be true in this one. But if it is, I’d look for a big day from someone in the Vinnie Pasquantino, MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto group.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

Brad Keller will get his second start of the second half and is looking to simply be better than he was against the Rays on Friday night to start the post-break schedule. He walked five batters, which maybe doesn’t strike anyone as terribly shocking. But it should. He hadn’t walked more than three in any game this season, so to walk five in four innings is a pretty big difference. I noted this on Inside the Crown, but his horizontal movement was down on all of his pitches and it makes me wonder if the long layoff between outings caused him some issues. If it’s more than that and proves to be something mechanical, that could be an issue because the Royals have struggled to get Keller right mechanically in any kind of short order in the past. But if he was just shaking off some cobwebs and can get back to what he was doing before the break, that would be nice to see. In his last five starts before the break, Keller had a 2.15 ERA in 29 innings with 26 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Career vs. LAA: 6 G, 5 GS, 29.0 IP, 2-3, 3.72 ERA

Royals vs. Angels Prediction

I like the way the Royals are playing right now. They’re 21-20 in their last 41 and they’re 20-17 in their last 37 with their full roster. The Angels are obviously playing poorly, so I like this matchup. But the problem comes when we really don’t know who is going to be on the roster at any given point this time of year. I’m going to say the Royals take two of three from the Angels, but there’s a risk in any sort of prediction on an obvious seller.


How many wins for the Royals this week against the Trout-less Angels?

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  • 17%
    (41 votes)
  • 59%
    (136 votes)
  • 15%
    (36 votes)
  • 6%
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