Mike Trout and the Angels are determined to revive the 2022 season.

Angels couldn’t have come up with a better opening scenario this season, 27-17 and one game behind American League Western leader Houston Astros May 24th.

The revamped offense ranked among the top four baseball teams in runs, homers, and on-base-plus-miss percentage in 44 games. Deeper pitching personnel finished seventh in the ERA and second in the WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitch).

Mike Trout, Shohei Otani as well as Anthony Rendon were together in the roster after Trout and Rendon missed much of 2021 due to injuries. Upper half rotation – Ohtani, Noah Sindergaard as well as Michael Lorenzen – looked fat and young left-handers Patrick Sandoval as well as Reed Detmers showed promise.

New settings for men Aaron Lu as well as Ryan Tepera dealt with closer Raizel Iglesias. short stop Andrew Velasquezreplacing the wounded David Fletcherlooked like a candidate for the Golden Glove.

As the strong start turned into a solid six-week run — a sample size seemingly too large for the Angels to count as a fluke — fans, hardened by six consecutive losing seasons, began to believe that the seven-year playoff drought might finally be over.

Those hopes were bolstered by dramatic three-game events on May 8-10 when Rendon won an RBI singles match against Washington, Otani won his first ever Grand Slam against Tampa Bay and Detmers threw no hitters against rays.

Then it was as if the hatch had opened and swallowed the whole team whole.

From May 25 to June 8, the Angels stumbled and suffered 14 straight losses, a franchise record long streak that led to June 7 manager Joe Maddon fired. and caused a two-month tailspin that they were unable to stop.

The Angels posted their worst major league record of 12–36 from May 25 before the All-Star break, 20.5 games behind the Astros in the division and 10.5 games back in the standings as they entered the second half Friday in Atlanta.

They have three wins since June 29 – all with the incomparable Ohtani on the hill – a rate of one win per week, which would be great if the Angels were an NFL team.

But a baseball season is 162 games, a six-month grind separating contenders from contenders, and the Angels seem shell-shocked by their rapid descent from one to two, a crash so sudden and complete that they’re about to lose. 93 games despite having the top two players on it.

“It’s really weird,” baseman Jared Walsh said of the dive. “After the know-hitter Detmers, we really took off high. It’s all the more frustrating because we know it’s there, but we’ve been fighting ever since.

“We have to figure out how to go back to that formula when we get a few wins, get confident, maybe put pressure on other teams in the league and see what happens at the end of the year.”

What happened?

Angels star Mike Trout reacts after fouling a ball against the Seattle Mariners on June 18.

Angels star Mike Trout reacts after fouling a ball against the Seattle Mariners on June 18.

(Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

“I mean there is no other way to cut it. If you lose 14 games in a row, it will undermine your confidence.”

— Jared Walsh, Angels first baseman

The season changed when the Toronto Blue Jays took the Angels home in a four-game series from May 26–29, losing a two-game lead and losing Rendon, their third baseman and slugger, to a right wrist injury.

Trout and Otani went cold during the ensuing six-loss trip to New York and Philadelphia, Trout endured a career-worst 0-for-26 skid, and Otani batted .191 (nine-for-47) with four RBIs in 14 games. series.

The ride ended in a crushing 9–7 loss to the Phillies, in which Iglesias bled Bryce Harper Bryce Harper in the eighth inning tied, and Jimmy Herget conceded a three-point homer to Bryson Stott in the ninth inning. .

The Angels returned home, and in the midst of three more losses—two 1-0—to Boston, they lost their manager, fiery third base coach Phil Nevin, to temporarily replace the more laid-back Maddon.

The losing streak came to an end with Otani’s 5-2 victory over the Red Sox on June 9, but the swagger that the Angels had developed during the first six weeks was gone.

“Hell yes,” Walsh said when asked if the losing streak had dented the team’s confidence. “I mean there is no other way to cut it. If you lose 14 games in a row, it will undermine your confidence.”

The trends that developed during the streak continued for two months. One night, the Angels would pitch well, but the insult would disappear. They combined several hits and runs, and the pitch fluctuated. The starter will give the Angels a chance and the bullpen will melt.

There were failures in the defense and errors in the passage of the base. In mid-June, Rendon underwent season-ending wrist surgery. Taylor Ward’s hot start was derailed by neck, shoulder and groin injuries.

There was a sharp drop in production from the top three positions in the order (usually Ward, Trout and Ohtani), which produced .824 percent on base plus slugging, to the bottom six positions, which produced .603 OPS.

The 221-point difference between the top three and fourth through ninth—places dominated by Walsh, Brandon Marsh, Max Stussy, Velasquez, Matt Duffy, Tyler Wade, and Joe Adell—made the Angels the biggest AL team in history. all-time, according to research by Mike Petriello of MLB.com.

Lou, a veteran left-hander, has a 6.75 ERA in 21 games since May 21st. Iglesias has three failed saves and six losses since May 14. Cracks formed in the rotation. Detmers went 0-2 with a 5.67 ERA in six starts after he didn’t hit and was downgraded to triple A. Lorenzen fell with a shoulder injury.

Angels pitcher Aaron Loop throws against the Houston Astros on July 14.

Angels pitcher Aaron Loop throws against the Houston Astros on July 14.

(Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

“It was not very pleasant to look at. And it was not interesting to play, because you leave the game and regularly lose. It sucks.”

– Jared Walsh

In 48 games since May 25, the Angels are 29th out of 30 teams in batting average (.212), runs (151), OPS (.620), and slugging percentage (.341). Only the woeful Oakland Athletics are worse. The Angels are 6-17 in peer-to-peer play this season.

One constant thing: the smooth drumming of the outs. The Angels have 900 major league whiffs, 243 of them are watching. They set a major league record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning loss in Houston on July 3.

The discipline that got them off to a strong start turned into passivity. The Angels, according to Baseball Savant, have a 26.3% chasing rate, sixth in baseball, but they have the third-best scent pickup rate (27.5%) and the worst major league contact rate in an area of ​​78.5%, which means that they don’t hit enough passes in the strike zone.

“I think if you look back at April, early May, we realize that the decision-making process on the plate was significantly better.” general manager Perry Minasyan said. “We were waving strikers and taking balls. Probably, over the past month and a half, we have been a little distracted from this. We hit the fastballs with all our might. It was a problem.

“Coaches and players who hit are working day in and day out. But then again, at the end of the day, this is the big leagues, we have to play.”

The Angels thought a nasty brawl on the benches against the Seattle Mariners would unite them. “I think it’s flipping a switch for us,” said pitcher Andrew Vantz, whose wayward pitches ignited the fight.

This had the opposite effect. Lifeguard Archie Bradley broke his elbow when he fell over the railing of the dugout while getting into a fight. With their bullpen and coaching staff exhausted by suspensions, the Angels lost 13 of their next 16 games.

“It was not very pleasant to look at,” Walsh said. “And it was not interesting to play because you get out of the game and regularly lose. It sucks.”

Now what?

Angels interim manager Phil Nevin stands in the dugout before a game against the Kansas City Royals on June 20.

Angels interim manager Phil Nevin stands in the dugout before a game against the Kansas City Royals on June 20.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

“You can’t just put your head down. We have 70 games left to get into the rhythm a bit and see where it goes.”

– Mike Trout, Angels center fielder

The Angels went into the break with a 39–53 (.424) record. Of the 120 teams that have had the same or lower win percentage since the start of the wildcard era in 1995, only one has even reached .500.

What is closest to the North Star for angels? The 1996 Red Sox, who went into the break 36–49, thousandths below the Angels’ current mark, before rallying to finish 85–77, three games to the wildcard.

Even if the Angels had the potential capital to acquire a starter like Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo and Oakland’s Frankie Montas, there wouldn’t be much point in pursuing such a starting pitcher before an August game. 2 trading term.

The Angels seem too flawed, too skinny and too far behind in the standings to make the playoffs, and unlike each of their previous six losing seasons, the starting pitch wasn’t the main culprit – their ERA of 3.88 spins ranks 13th in baseball.

There has been strong speculation about a possible trade for Otani, a two-way star and current AL MVP who will become a free agent after the 2023 season.

But a deal complicated by the task of determining the value of a player with such an unprecedented skill set is probably best done in the off-season, without the pressure of deadlines.

The Angels, according to a person familiar with their finances, also make about $10 million a year from Ohtani-related stadium advertising and marketing, and they don’t like the idea of ​​losing those revenues. As well as owner Arte Moreno I really do not want to part with such a superstar and attractive force.

The best thing the Angels can do right now is to bolster their weak farm system by swapping some of their prized assets – Syndergaard, Lorenzen, Tepera – for a prospect and refit over the winter in hopes of giving Trout and Ohtani another season together to move forward. team in the playoffs.

They also should have given Adell, a $4.3 million 2017 first-round pick, regular playing time in the outfield to determine whether he would be a more regular major leaguer or go bust. perspective .

If the Angels continue on their current trajectory, they will likely start the winter looking for their fourth manager in the five years since Mike Shiosha retired after 2018. Their entire coaching staff could be fired. Minasyan’s job in the second year of his four-year contract could be in jeopardy.

They will also further anger Otani, who has made no secret of his desire to play in the World Series, over the idea of ​​signing a long-term contract to stay in Anaheim.

“Obviously it’s been frustrating for the last few weeks,” said Trout, who will open the second-half injury list with chest inflammation. “We had a great start. We still have the same team, although the loss of Rendon was a big problem.

“But we still have the second half of the season ahead of us. You can’t just put your head down. We have 70 games left to get into the rhythm a bit and see where it goes.”

LA Times Studios Vice President Christian Stone contributed to this report.