With the much-dreaded West Coast road trip underway, the Tigers are about to endure the worst of their trials yet: a series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Every year, Tigers fans go through the same nausea leading up to series and the same rotten feeling when presented with the crushing defeat they knew was coming. Fun, right?
Rahul Setty of Halos Heaven, SB Nation’s excellent Los Angeles Angels community, was kind enough to answer some questions about the state of the Angels leading up to the series.
BYB: Let's start out with the obvious: over the last few-too-many seasons, the Angels have dominated the Tigers. Do you think this is indicative of anything or is it simply a fluke?
HH: Probably a mere coincidence. Over the past 5-7 years, it's usually sadly us that are getting dominated, not the other way around.
BYB: Speaking of things that may be a fluke, Bud Norris seems to have resurrected a career that many thought was all but over with the Angels this season. Can he keep that up, or is it a mirage?
HH: His velocity has touched 97 this season and his stuff has improved in shorter bursts. He's added a cutter which has hitters swinging and missing a ton. All signs point to his performance being legitimate: in fact, he might be our best trade chip at the offseason.
BYB: Having lost seven of your last ten games, are you concerned that this season is going to be worse than expected or is it just a blip on the radar?
HH: This 2017 team has been streaky as heck. If you look at our game-by-game results this year, you'll find winning streaks alternated by losing streaks. The bigger issue, though, is the health of our starting pitchers Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. The entire season's hopes was based on them staying healthy and they both ended up injured within the first month. They are scheduled to be back by mid-June, so we need to tread water until then to have a chance.
BYB: The trade of Cameron Maybin to open the offseason was received very poorly by Detroit fans, but Maybin has failed to perform at the level he did last season - or even close - thus far, and Victor Alcantara has been decent in AA. What is your thoughts on the trade at this point?
HH: If I were put in the same circumstances as the Angels, I'd do that trade every single time. Sure, Maybin had a career year but even with regression he should provide average left field production to a team that intended to contend. Alcantara was and is a hard-throwing reliever with poor command, while Maybin was supposed to provide us 2 WAR to shore up what has been a position of historical suckage (over 2014-16).
BYB: Mike Trout has been absolutely incredible to open the season. This isn't really a question, just an opportunity to talk about how amazing he is.
HH: He never fails to disappoint our unreasonably high expectations of him. Poised, calm, confident, he's the perfect role model yet a ten-tool player, truly a god amongst men. Theoretically if he became injured the next five seasons and then retired, he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That's how good he's been, it's insane and we Angels fans are truly blessed.
BYB: Is there a particular Tiger who you are least excited to face in this upcoming series?
HH: Miguel Cabrera always seems to destroy our team. He's fun to watch but simultaneously scares the heck out of me.
BYB: The Angels and Tigers front offices seem to be in a similar position this year. Both have a fair amount of high-quality players at their disposal, but are not serious World Series contenders and have little in the farm to back them up or trade at the deadline for better players. Despite a promise of change, Detroit seems to be avoiding a rebuild. What do you see on the horizon for the Angels?
HH: This season is about putting together a good season and contending for the wild card, since multiple key starting pitchers (our #2 Andrew Heaney and our #4/5 Nick Tropeano) are out for the year and others (our #1 Garrett Richards, our #3/4 Tyler Skaggs) are out for a large portion of the year. We have Trout through 2020, so next season onward is where we push all our chips on the table. The ill-fated Josh Hamilton deal comes off the books and we can sign better free agents, but most of the gains will come from our starters that become healthy. This season will be a mere 'transition year' if Richards and Skaggs don't return, but saying the team is 'wasting Trout's prime' is a falsified, short-sighted, recency-bias ruled narrative.
Once again, a big thank you to Rahul Setty and the rest of the Halos Heaven staff for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Halos Heaven all season long for the very best Angels news coverage and analysis.