With 53 years of Angels baseball in the books, it seems the pool of outstanding seasons by Halos players would be big enough to put together a pretty impressive all-time roster. The only stipulation is that you can’t list a player more than once.
Here’s my all-time starting rotation:
- Dean Chance, 1964. The right-hander who spent the season throwing bullets knee-high had a 1.65 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP over 278 innings pitched. If you are impressed with the WAR Mike Trout puts up each year, consider that Chance had 9.3 WAR in ’64 and he didn’t play every day. He won the Cy Young that year when baseball only gave out one a year.
- Frank Tanana, 1976. The fireballing left-hander had a 2.43 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP over 288 innings pitched. He also struck out 8.1 per nine innings and had 7.5 WAR. The innings that he compiled would catch up to him and by 1979 turn him into a less effective finesse pitcher.
- Nolan Ryan, 1972. The Ryan Express had a 2.28 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 284 innings pitched. He had 6.2 WAR and 10.4 strikeouts per nine. He had yet to throw one of his record seven no-hitters, but this was his most dominant season as an Angel.
- Jered Weaver, 2011. He had a 2.41 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 235 innings pitched. He accumulated 7.0 WAR and 7.6 strikeouts per nine. The Dream Weaver didn’t have a plus fastball, but he did master the art of pitching in 2011.
- Chuck Finley, 1990. The franchise career leader in wins and innings had a 2.40 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 236 innings. The lefty had 6.8 strikeouts per nine and 7.6 WAR.
A rotation like the one above wouldn’t need much run support to rack up the wins; however, with the all-time Angels lineup as I have them penciled in, they wouldn’t have to worry about winning too many 1-0 games.
- CF — Mike Trout, 2012. I know many of you prefer the offensive numbers Trout put up in 2013, but I chose the 2012 version because of his defense that season. Of course, his offense was incredible whichever year you choose. In case you forgot, these are his offensive numbers for 2012: a .326 batting average, a .399 OBP, 30 home runs, 83 RBI, 129 runs scored, 49 stolen bases and that otherworldly 10.9 WAR.
- LF — Darin Erstad, 2000. Speaking of defense, Ersty may be the best defensive player the Angels have ever had. He won Gold Gloves for the Angels at two different positions. But his offense in 2000 was also crazy good. He lead the league with 240 hits. His batting average was .355, and his OBP was .409. He hit 25 home runs, stole 28 bases, scored 121 runs, and compiled 8.3 WAR.
- RF — Vladimir Guerrero, 2004. This was his MVP year when he put the team on his shoulders in September and carried it into the playoffs. He hit .337 and had 39 home runs, 126 RBI, and scored 124 runs. He even stole 15 bases.
- 3B — Troy Glaus, 2000. This was the year he lead the American League with 47 home runs. He paired that with a .404 OBP. He had 102 RBI and scored 120 runs. His WAR that year was 7.8. He was also an excellent defender, except for the occasional throw over the first baseman’s head. Look out!
- DH — Don Baylor, 1979. The Angels’ current batting coach won the first MVP award in Halo history for his performance in this sacred season. He hit .296 with a .371 OBP. He also had 36 home runs, 139 RBI, 22 stolen bases, and 120 runs scored.
- 2B — Bobby Grich, 1979. The best mustache in baseball had the greatest season for an Angels second baseman. He hit 30 home runs that year and had 101 RBI. He had a .365 OBP to go along with his outstanding defense and tallied 5.9 WAR.
- 1B — Wally Joyner, 1987. This was the hardest call to make. Joyner was a very good defender, and his power numbers that year (30 HR and 105 RBI) match up well with anything Mo Vaughn, Kendry Morales, or Albert Pujols have done with the Angels. Joyner gets the slight edge because he was a better base runner than the others. He stole 8 bags that year and scored 100 runs.
- SS — Jim Fregosi, 1964. The best shortstop of the sixties had his best year in ’64. He was an outstanding defender with great range and great hands, but in this dead ball era, he could also hit. He had power for a shortstop, hitting 18 home runs and 72 RBI. He got on base at a .369 clip and scored 86 runs, compiling 6.3 WAR.
- C — Brian Downing, 1979. Before he was chasing down fly balls as an outfielder in the 80s, he was squatting behind the dish for the Halos in the late 70s. In 1979, Downing hit .326 and had an incredible .418 OBP. He also hit 12 home runs, had 75 RBI and scored 87 runs. His WAR that year was 5.6.
It seems like the starting rotation would compile a lot of complete games, but for the times they wouldn’t, here is the Angels’ all-time bullpen:
- Ken Tatum, 1969. This was his rookie year, and in case you were wondering, yes, every one of his 86 innings pitched came out of the bullpen. That season, Tatum had a 1.36 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and struck out 6.8 per nine innings. He had 4.3 WAR. To put this phenomenal achievement into perspective, consider that the great Mariano Rivera topped 4.3 WAR in a season only once in his career. After another brilliant season in 1970, the Angels would trade Tatum to the Red Sox for Tony Conigliaro.
- Bryan Harvey, 1991. The two time All-Star with a nasty forkball had a 1.60 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in 78 innings. He accumulated 3.4 WAR and struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings. The Angels were worried about him after he hurt his elbow in 1992, so they let him be drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft even though he was only 29 and putting up ridiculous numbers. Harvey had one great year for the Fish in 1993 before succumbing to his injury.
- Troy Percival, 1995. He had to squint to see the signs from his catcher, but his fastball had no problem seeing the catcher’s mitt for strike three. Percy struck out 11.4 batters per nine over 74 innings in ’95 when he had a 1.95 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP.
- Brendan Donnelly, 2003. A year after helping the Angels win the World Series, Donnelly had the best year, numbers-wise, of his career. He had a 1.58 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP to go with 9.6 strikeouts per nine in the 74 innings he pitched.
- Francisco Rodriguez, 2004. Frankie struck out an amazing 13.2 batters per nine. Many of the strikeouts came after batters helplessly swung at his nasty slider hoping it was a fastball instead. Rodriguez had a 1.82 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in the 84 innings he pitched. Add it all up, and it was good for 3.4 WAR.
- Scott Downs, 2011. This bullpen needed to have a left-handed reliever, so the call went to Downsie. He only pitched 53 innings that season, but he did have a sparkling 1.34 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
There are five spots left on the 25-man roster for this imaginary team, and this is how I filled up the bench:
- Bengie Molina, 2005. You have to carry a second catcher on your roster, and Molina was a no brainer. Molina and Bob Boone were the greatest defensive catchers the Angels ever had, but unlike Boone, who was an okay hitter, Bengie was fantastic with the bat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more clutch hitter than Molina. Time after time, he would get the hit late in the game to either tie it or put the Halos ahead. In ’05 he hit .295 with an OBP of .336. He hit 15 home runs that season and drove in 69. The only down-side to his game was running. Even though he was getting on base in ’05, the slow-footed catcher only scored 45 runs.
- Adam Kennedy, 2002. I needed an infielder, so I turned to the 2002 ALCS hero Kennedy. He finished 7th in the American League that championship season with a .312 batting average. During the season he only hit 7 home runs and had 52 RBI, but he stole 17 bases and scored 65 runs. And his defense was Gold Glove caliber. In 2002, he was first among American League second baseman in total zone runs, second in range factor, and third in fielding percentage.
- Tim Salmon, 1995. If you need a big bat from the bench, Salmon is your man. I had to pencil Vlad in as the right fielder, but the King Fish had a monster year in 1995. He batted .330 with a .429 OBP. He hit 34 home runs and had 105 RBI. He scored 111 runs and compiled 6.6 WAR. Plus, it’s good to have an outfielder on the bench who can replace Erstad, who would have to be this team’s second-string first baseman.
- Gary Pettis, 1985. Another outfielder on my bench would be Pettis. The five time Gold Glove winner would be a great defensive replacement late in a game, plus he would be a great pinch runner. In ’85 he stole 56 bases for the Angels.
- Chone Figgins, 2005. The final spot on my roster would go to the diminutive Figgins. He could fill in at third or short, and he could be called upon to pinch run. In ’05 he had 62 stolen bases and 113 runs scored. He also hit .290 with a .352 OBP.