The 2017 is officially underway, meaning every team gets to start over with a clean slate. For team’s like the A’s and Angels, two franchises that couldn’t even reach 75 wins, the chance to start anew is a boon, an opportunity to forget all of the foils of a frustrating 2016. Both the A’s and Angels will be looking to start the season playing their best ball, as well, for all but one series for the A’s and all but two series for the Angels in April will be played against intra-divisional rivals.
In 2016, the Angels had the third worst starting pitching in the entire MLB, according to starting pitcher WAR. This was, in large part, due to injuries to their top projected starting pitchers, like Garrett Richards. The Angels rather infamously didn’t have the minor league depth to overcome such major injuries to such vital cogs in the team’s starting rotation, so it was not surprising to see the team struggle to cobble together a rotation one would be confident in. The Angels also happened to have the third worst bullpen in the entire MLB, according to relief pitcher WAR. This was, in large part, due to the quality of the Angels’ relief corps, which has long been a position of weakness for the Angels, with few exceptions.
During the offseason, the Angels didn’t have the funds available to go out and bid high for a frontline starting pitcher, or the prospects to finagle a trade for some pitching help, so their primary strategy for the offseason, pitching-wise, was to hope their injured starting pitchers from last year make full recoveries and replace Jered Weaver with Jesse Chavez.
Offensively, the Angels were a bit boom and bust last season. Any lineup with Mike Trout is capable of putting some runs on the board, and complementary pieces like Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols helped to bolster the lineup just a little bit. However, at positions like second base and left field, whomever was manning the position tended to be replacement level or worse. As such, the Angels offense wound up being roughly middle of the pack last year, finishing 17th in the league in runs scored while having a team wRC+ of 100 even.
This winter, the Angels attempted to plug the gaping holes in their lineup with Cameron Maybin and Luis Valbuena and a few defense-first free agent signings that should ensure that the Angels will, at the very least, have a strong defense to back up their questionable pitching. Given the Angels current prospect and budget issues, the Angels did a surprisingly decent job taking on a bevy of players who don’t take up large chunks of the payroll and don’t have long term commitments.
Despite their overall record and performance last season, even though the team didn’t make any major changes to the big league roster, due to key players returning from injury and having Mike Trout, the Angels are projected to win over 80 games this year and look to hang around in the playoff chase for most, if not all, of the season. There is a lot of volatility in that projection, however, as it is highly dependent on players bouncing back from lost seasons without missing a beat and the Angels still lack enough MLB-ready depth to overcome injuries from just about anywhere on the roster. However, it is opening day, the Angels currently have the talent to make a run at the division title and should be considered a threat to do so until they falter, if they falter.
The schedule for the four game set against the Halos is as follows:
4/3, @ 7:05 PM: Graveman (0-0) vs Nolasco (0-0) on ESPN 2, NCBSCA, and MLB.TV
4/4, @ 7:05 PM: Manaea (0-0) vs Shoemaker (0-0) on MLB.TV
4/5, @ 7:05 PM: Cotton (0-0) vs Richards (0-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.TV
4/6, @ 12:35 PM: Triggs (0-0) vs Skaggs (0-0) on MLB Network, NBCSCA, and MLB.TV
Last season, the A’s were finally given some relief from needing to face Felix Hernandez on opening day by taking on Chris Sale instead. This year, their opening day opponent is Ricky Nolasco, who may just be a step or two below their level. With Sonny Gray on the shelf, Kendall Graveman, last year’s iron man for the A’s starting rotation, will be opposing him.
In the second game, Sean Manaea will be looking to continue to build on his mostly-successful first season in the show, while Matt Shoemaker will try to rediscover what made him so successful in 2014.
On Wednesday night, potential breakout star Jharel Cotton takes the bump against Garrett Richards, making his first big league start since early May of last year.
The A’s will face their first left-handed starter of the season on Thursday in the battle of "Double-G’d Men" when Andrew Triggs takes on Tyler Skaggs.