Extra Innings: Ohtani and Trout make LA Angels successful

Sam Arslanian | Daily Trojan

The Los Angeles Angels are off to their best start since 1979. Touting a 13-3 record in their first 16 games, the team has made a complete 180 compared to their previous two seasons, where the Angels finished 21 games behind the league leader in both 2017 and 2016. I’ve thought a lot about what the special sauce has been for the team in their recipe for success this year. In evaluating their success, there is no way to avoid talking about Halo’s two stars.

First and foremost, there is Mike Trout. He has simply been a beast so far, not that he wasn’t a beast before. Trout is the most well-rounded baseball player in the MLB. There is no question about that; he is the definition of the term “five tool.” His batting average (.266) may not completely reflect that right now, but he leads the Angels in homers, RBIs and on-base percentage.

But no one man makes a team, and for the first time in a couple years the Angels look like they have that figured out. The Angels hold the best team batting average in the MLB, and are in first place in runs — with the next team nearly 20 runs behind — and they have the third-best fielding percentage. The only team that could hold a candle to the Halos is the Boston Red Sox; hopefully, we will see that matchup in October.

In addition to Trout, the Angels have another exciting, yet unconventional star in Shohei Ohtani. It is unprecedented to see a player like him. Madison Bumgarner is the only pitcher that I can think of who drew headlines for hitting performances. The difference is that MadBum hit well for a pitcher, while Ohtani stacks up with the league’s best bats on any given day. Oh, and of course, he’s a solid pitcher.

Robert Whiting, the author of several books on Japanese baseball, noted that Ohtani will find success in the MLB because of his unique traits.

“It’s hard to top a guy who wins two games and hits three home runs in a week,” Whiting told ESPN. “He is very affable and could well have a long career in American baseball — but most likely as a pitcher.”

I do, however, think some of the “Sho-hype” is a bit premature — he’s been in the league for 15 games. There is no reason his signed rookie card should be selling for nearly seven grand at this point.

Perhaps, there is another way to look at how Ohtani has benefited the Angels. At 23 years old and coming from the Japanese league, Sho undoubtedly breaks the norm of the Angels — a relatively older team. The level of excitement and freshness Ohtani brings must give the team some sort of spark that has lifted the Angels to such a fantastic start.

In recent years, streaky seasons have haunted the Angels. At this point we are only about 10 percent of the way through the 162-game season, so the Angels need to beware of losing skids and injuries. Those unfortunate events are bound to happen — it’s a long season — but the Angels’ success will be defined by how they evade and recover from these downfalls.

It’s entirely possible for the Angels to make a run deep into October. It’s a peculiar trend in baseball, because star teams don’t necessarily guarantee rings in Major League Baseball. But the 2018 Angels aren’t the Golden State Warriors nor the 2015 Detroit Tigers. The wealth of talent is different; it’s new, fresh and diverse. Any team that can mix the success of young and old, hitting and pitching and fast and slow will find success in the MLB.

Sam Arslanian is a freshman majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Mondays.