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Joe must g- Oh, okay then: Phillies vs. Angels series preview

The Rob Thomson led Phillies will welcome Mike Trout and friends to town

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees-Game 1
2022 hasn’t been quite so successful for Shohei Otani
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies up and fired their manager.

After two-plus years of disappointing results, the Phillies have apparently come to the same conclusion as the rest of us: While the Phillies have some major flaws, Joe Girardi didn’t seem to be making anything better. We all recognize that the bullpen talent isn’t the best in the league, but I also felt like the manager also wasn’t putting guys in the best position for success. (For instance, putting James Norwood into games that were closer than five runs - and even that wasn’t enough of a margin at times!)

If the Phillies enjoyed playing for Girardi, it certainly didn’t show up on the field. Maybe a manager can only do so much, especially with a veteran team like this one. But based on quotes coming from players, this group carries themselves like a team of proven winners, even though that clearly isn’t the case.

Will the change to Rob Thomson change anything? Your guess is as good as mine. Thomson doesn’t have any managerial experience - that’s always worrisome - so I don’t know if he’s going to provide them with any strategic advantage. The best we can probably hope for is that the firing serves as a wake-up call to the players, and they respond by playing up to their capabilities.

Anyway, this preview is supposed to be at least tangentially about Los Angeles Angels making a rare trip to Philadelphia, so I suppose I should make a token attempt to write something about Mike Trout and friends.

Los Angeles Angels

Record: 27-25 (Second place in American League West, 6.5 back)

The last time they met

The Phillies travelled to Anaheim in August 2017 and left with three more losses on their ledger. Trout had a big series for the Angels, and that almost felt like a victory for the Phillies since at that point, we all still dreamed of him eventually coming back home to play for them.

What’s the deal with the Angels?

After missing most of the 2021 season due to injury problems, Trout is back and has once again staked a valid claim for the “best player in baseball” title. He’s helped lift the Angels’ offense to second in the AL in runs scored, but he’s gotten a lot of help from the unexpected emergence of Taylor Ward.

Ward had a strong second half of the season in 2021, and that has carried over into 2022. He’s already topped his previous season-high of eight home runs, and his .445 on-base percentage is best in the league.

Who’s cold?

The Angels’ offense is succeeding, but it hasn’t really been because of second-year outfielder Brandon Marsh. Over the past two weeks, Marsh’s OPS is down to .538, and it’s been almost a month since his last home run.

However, Marsh is very definitely a “beard guy,” and I feel beard guys have a high rate of success against the Phillies.

Just Oh-kay

Shohei Otani was one of the biggest stories of last season. After a forearm injury kept him off the pitching mound for most of his major league career - and definitely seemed to negatively affect his bat - he once again served as a dual threat in 2021. The result was a 3.18 ERA, 46 home runs, and an MVP award.

He hasn’t lived up to those lofty standards so far this season. His ERA is up to 3.99 and his OPS is down to .776. That isn’t awful, but not what you would expect from a guy who took over the league last year.

There’s some concern that he was tipping his pitches in his most recent start. The good news for the Phillies is that if he does figure out his problem, it won’t happen against them since he is not scheduled to start this weekend.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Andrew Knapp walked it off for the Phillies vs. the Giants in 2021. SLDH was first to respond correctly.

This series’ question: In that 2017 series between these teams, three pitchers who pitched for the Angels would eventually join the Phillies organization (although one of them would never play a game for the team). Name at least two of the three.

So much for that plan

I’m headed to the game tonight if anyone wants to come by and say hello. I had originally planned to try to end the Phillies’ curse by stealing Mike Lieberthal’s plaque from the Wall of Fame (since my friend chickened out on Wednesday night), but I think I’ll see how the managerial change goes before I commit such a desperate act.

Closing thought

The Phillies players have almost two months to prove that they can turn things around. Now that the manager is gone, if the losing continues, there’s no other option but to change the players. The Phillies’ payroll is projected to exceed the luxury tax, but if they’re still not close to contention come late July, it wouldn’t shock me to see a big name or two moved in an attempt to get back under that threshold.