Angels thought they'd improve on defense; statistics show otherwise

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Mike DiGiovanna
·2 min read
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Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, left, talks with catcher Max Stassi on the mound during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Angels pitcher Dylan Bundy, left, talks with catcher Max Stassi on the mound during the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

The Angels thought the addition of smooth-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias would elevate an infield that included third baseman Anthony Rendon and second baseman David Fletcher to one of the best defensive units in baseball.

With center fielder Mike Trout committing himself to “the fundamentals” he said he got away from in 2020, which he called a “bad year” defensively, and left fielder Justin Upton healthy and in better shape after an injury-marred 2019, the outfield defense figured to improve.

One month into the season, the traditional statistics and advanced metrics say otherwise.

The Angels entered Monday night’s game against Tampa Bay with 25 errors, tied with the San Diego Padres for most in baseball, and had allowed 15 unearned runs, fourth most in baseball behind the New York Mets (19), San Diego Padres (18) and Minnesota Twins (16).

According to Sports Info Solutions, they ranked 28th out of 30 teams with minus-nine defensive runs saved, which rates individual players as above or below average on defense.

“It’s surprising and disappointing,” manager Joe Maddon said before the game. “That’s part of why we’re at this .500 moment. Overall, if you look at our offensive numbers, they’re really nice. Pitching, we have to get better at, and part of getting better at pitching is playing better defense. They’re interconnected.

“We’re not gonna get five games over [.500], 10 over, 15 over until we start pitching the ball and catching the ball the way we can.”

Upton, who is not being replaced for defensive purposes in the late innings of close games this season like he was last year, has minus-six defensive runs saved, most among big-league outfielders.

Iglesias, who made several dazzling plays in spring training, had minus-three defensive runs saved and seven errors, second most among shortstops.

One bright spot has been Fletcher, who has four defensive runs saved, most among second basemen. The return of Rendon, who missed 2 ½ weeks in April because of a left groin strain should help. His replacement, Luis Rengifo, made three errors.

Even if games are not lost on errors, the miscues are costly because of the extra pitches the Angels have to throw. The three errors the Angels committed in Saturday night’s 10-5 win over Seattle are a case in point.

“The plays you’re supposed to make, you need to make,” Maddon said. “We won that game handily in Seattle, but the mistakes we made caused our pitchers to throw 20-25 more pitches than they needed to. That part is not spoken about. It’s not just the error, it’s the stress placed on a pitching staff after that.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.