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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking Ausmus and Ohtani with Halos Heaven

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Do Angels fans think Ausmus is heavenly?

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The Angels had a lot of buzz surrounding them this offseason. A $400+ million contract extension with one of the greatest baseball players of all time will do that.

They also have a brand new manager this season, one who is pretty familiar to Tigers fans. Ahead of this coming series at Comerica, we chatted with Angels writer Jeffrey Tan, who works at the SB Nation Angels site Halos Heaven, a few questions about Brad Ausmus, Mike Trout, and whether or not we might get to see wunderkind Shohei Ohtani in this series.

BYB: How are the Angels liking Brad Ausmus as a manager? Does he bring anything unique to the role that feels new and fresh?

JT: Ausmus has definitely been disappointing. Our FanPulse results show him hovering just above 50% approval right now. He (mostly) uses the bullpen correctly, but he pinch-hits for fan favorite David Fletcher (more on him below) pretty frequently. Oh yeah, and he ran out of position players one time and caused an outfielder to play second. It’s hard to know how much information/direction our GM is giving him to be able to know if he’s doing anything fresh, but based off what we can see (which, admittedly, is not the full picture), it’s not pretty.

The triumphant return of Shohei Ohtani appears to be looming, do you think we might get to see him during this coming series in some capacity?

The Angels were trying to get Shohei Ohtani more at-bats against live pitching in simulated games. Their reasoning was that he didn’t need any rehab games in the minor leagues because he’s not playing in the field. They wanted him to get at least 50 at-bats before returning, and this tweet says that he’s there. So I would say that there’s a strong possibility he returns in Detroit, with the caveat that the Angels organization is secretive on everything (free agent signings, injuries, etc.). Hopefully we know by the time this publishes!

How do you think the Angels will utilize him, will he return to the starting lineup right away, or will they ease him into things?

Brad Ausmus has stated that Shohei Ohtani will be in the everyday lineup, even against lefties. He did have regular splits last year, although his splits in Japan were actually reverse splits. I think we’re all happy that Ohtani will be an everyday player, considering the alternative right now is Justin Bour (2019 stats: not good). Ohtani will not pitch in 2019 due to recovery from TJ surgery, so we’ll definitely have him hitting at all times.

Who would you consider to be a below the radar player on the team who has been doing really well, but may not be widely known?

A few options here. We have outfielder Brian Goodwin, the former first round pick who started half a season for Washington a few years back but has never shown anything like he is now. He’s hitting .323/.405/.521, has stolen what was supposed to be a platoon from Peter Bourjos, and is now hitting in the 3-hole behind Trout. We think he could be around an .850 OPS player, above what he’s shown before this season, but a little below his numbers for this year specifically.

The other is utility man David Fletcher, a local kid who has taken the time to speak with us before. Fletch is your stereotypical slap hitter, doesn’t strike out a lot and can be counted on to move a runner over. Although he did do this off Verlander Sunday. He leads off against lefties and can play second, short, third, and left. He doesn’t have much higher a ceiling than what he’s doing right now (.296/.355/.418), but he plays solid defense and shores up the keystone.

That Mike Trout deal, wow. Are you at all surprised by the extension, or do you actually think it was a bargain? How hyped are you to be watching Mike Trout get better and better over the next 10+ years?

Mike Trout. Although sometimes they are misinformed, initial reactions are the most pure. Our comments here show a pretty clear sign of what we were thinking. Very few Angel fans thought it was an overpay, and most would say it was a bargain. It’s hard to put in words what Trout means to the Angels. On the baseball side, he’s never in prolonged slumps (still the craziest stat about Trout is that he’s never not reached base in three straight games), and he takes what is given to him. A little tidbit that non-Angel fans might not know: from the eye test, according to our Fox Sports West K-zone, Trout seems that he has a lot of strikes stolen from him. Rarely will he take two-strike pitches in the zone that are called balls, but it seems that a few times a month he strikes out looking on pitches outside the zone. Obviously this happens to other players as well, but this is just an observation. So just imagine that his numbers could be even better! Outside of the diamond, it’s been well-documented how much he cares for fans and will autograph until the end. Mike Trout is great, and Mike Trout is ours.

Also enjoy this. =)

Which Tigers player do you think will pose the biggest challenge for the Angels this series?

I will defer to BYB on the specifics of the Tigers, but obviously Nicholas Castellanos is someone we’ve coveted in the past, and he appears to be putting up solid numbers thus far. However, there is one key stat for this series, in my mind. Often at Halos Heaven we like to joke about our futility against lefties, but this year it seems to be holding true. The Angels have a .773 OPS against RHP and a .635 OPS against LHP. With you guys starting two this series, it does not look good for us. Daniel Norris seems to have not great numbers this year, but he is still a lefty, so I’m wary of that game, and I have Matthew Boyd on my fantasy team, so I know how good he’s been this year.

After one month of play, how do you think the Angels are doing? Where do you see them ending the season?

The Angels are pretty much right where we thought they would be: middle of the pack. We’ve beat the teams we’re supposed to beat (Royals, Blue Jays) and lost to (everyone else). (We did have a surprising sweep of the Brewers.) One of our writers pointed out that the Angels have been swept by every AL West team except the A’s, who took 3 of 4 from us. The good/bad news is that we’re 20% done with the season and have only played two games against the Astros, so when Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton return and we’re at full strength, if we decide to make a run, we’ll have plenty of games against the division leaders to do so.

Thanks to Jeffrey for taking the time to chat with us. You can read more of his work at Halos Heaven.