Every team has their keys to success, and the Angels are no different. Whether it's the health of their star players, or the depth at each position, teams continue to find ways to win the most games possible throughout the course of the season. Listed below are five vital assets to the Angels having full success during the 2017 campaign.
1. HEALTH, HEALTH, HEALTH
It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyways, each team's success relies on the team's health. If 2016 was any fore thought, health can make a giant difference in for any team, and particularly, the Angels. Billy Eppler's mission over the off-season was to build depth in the scenario injuries do take place, and with any scare from Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, and Huston Street, who have question marks during Spring Training.
In 2016, the Angels rotation missed roughly 89 starts due to injuries to Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano, Skaggs, Richards and Andrew Heaney (That doesn't even involve C.J. Wilson, who missed the entirety of the season). A trio of ulnar-collateral ligament tears is probably the least expected outcome when the year begins, especially for a team that has seen under a handful in the tenure of Mike Scioscia. Nor is a liner off the head of Shoemaker, but anything can happen in baseball.
With strength tests after every outing for pitchers, and a solid strength and conditioning group keeping the position players fit for the long haul, a healthy Angels club looks good on paper. If the team can stay healthy and produce at the rate they're supposed to, this is a team to be reckoned with day-in and day-out. This is something that almost every other note in this article will come back to.
2. MATT SHOEMAKER GETTING OFF TO A HOT START
There's an oddity that comes with Matt Shoemaker that many have yet to realize. His first half of the season and last half of the season have consistently been a differing product. Yes, he's totaled a 6.1 fWAR in his three full seasons at the highest level - just above two wins per year - but the majority of that comes from his second half performance.
Historically, when you look back at the first three months of each season in Shoe's career, he holds a 4.54 ERA, 1.264 WHIP, and .267 opposing average. Contrast that with the final three months of the season over his three years, and you see a 2.95 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, and .241 opposing average. Quite a difference, right? The larger mark comes with the team's success. In his games from June and earlier, the Angels have gone 17-25 (.405); from July and later, 25-13 (.658).
Of course, baseball is a team game and in one year, and the Angels have scattered wins anywhere from 98 to 73 over Shoemaker's tenure, but when your starter is on his game, it can make a large difference (duh!). If he can get off to a hot start and stay consistent through the year, Shoemaker could be the difference between those extra wins needed for a playoff push. Also, *HE MUST STAY HEALTHY.*
3. ALBERT PUJOLS COMING UP WITH CLUTCH HOME RUNS
Albert Pujols has hit a total of 146 home runs during his tenure with the Angels, but 67 have been real defining marks at the time they were hit. No, not the milestone homers passing legends of past, or putting him among immortals, but ones that matter for that exact second in time. 45.89% of Pujols' home runs with the Angels have either tied the game or given the Angels a lead.
In 2016, 19 of his 31 dingers were game-tying or game-leading home runs - that's more than two for each three shots. Adding one run (at minimum) will increase a team's chance at winning a single game, but Pujols added a total of 53 runs via home runs or 7.4% of the Angels' total in 2016.
The additional win percentage shows with Pujols' home runs, as the team went 17-10 when he hit a home run in 2016. In totality with the Halos, the team has gone 88-45 (.524) when he hits a home run, and 290-298 (.493) without. It may not seem like a large amount, but over a 162 game season, that would be a five-win difference, which could mean a playoff spot or early season departure.
Also of note, Pujols leads all active players in walk-off hits of any kind since 2000, with 17. Oh yeah, *HE MUST STAY HEALTHY.*
4. RICKY NOLASCO AND JESSE CHAVEZ CAPITALIZING IN THE AL WEST
It may seem odd that the Angels' success could rest in the hands of Ricky Nolasco and Jesse Chavez, but their success in the American League West can't go ignored. Though the statistics differ over time and are a reflection of their career instead of their future, it's intriguing that some of their best work comes in AL West parks.
This is all taken into account without utilizing park factors, which can be key in attaining ERA+ statistics, but with such a large margin between both Nolasco and Chavez's splits, it's an astonishing feat in how much better they are in AL West parks.
Nolasco has a 3.32 ERA and 1.025 WHIP, while holding bats to a .230/.267/.350 slash in AL West parks. In the rest of the American League; 6.02 ERA and 1.589 WHIP. Chavez has a 3.68 ERA, 1.289 WHIP and .692 opposing OPS in the AL West. The American League outside of the division; 5.28 ERA and 1.433 WHIP. If both pitchers remain in the rotation through the year, they could combine for nearly 40 starts in the AL West, their success will be vital to the Angels picking up victories inside the division.
5. CLOSERS HOLDING LEADS AND FINISHING GAMES
Track record can go a long ways when it comes to finding a closer. The start of the year will see Cam Bedrosian likely take over the role, but it does not mean he'll hold onto that title moving on. The "closer" job is simple, keep leads and preserve wins. Aside from that, statistics outside of save percentage don't matter much in the department.
Leaving one obvious pitcher out of the equation, the Angels' 40-man roster as a whole has converted 30-of-63 (47.6%) save opportunities since 2012, and when adding non-roster invitees from Spring Training who are likely to join the Halos during the season, it becomes 35-of-78 (44.9%). That would mean over a five-year span, these relievers have lost a combined 43 leads, or 8.6 per season. That could be the difference in an 85 win season, or 77 win season, pending on the outcome following the blown lead.
The one pitcher who has been successful in a closing role is Huston Street. Maybe a no-brainer, but even in his Angels' tenure, he's converted 66-of-76 (86.8%) of save opportunities. For better reference, that's just over three-per-year. The margin for error is so minor at the Major League level, Street may retain his closing role *ONCE HEALTHY* due to past success. If you'd like to go into further detail, Street has the seventh best career save percentage of the 27 pitchers in the "300-Save Club" at 86.2%.