It’s been a while since the approach of Opening Day has been greeted with equal anticipation in Hollywood and Disneyland.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are well positioned to chase another World Series ring and the Los Angeles Angels (not technically Of Anaheim anymore, but geographically still true) are actually favored (by some) to win a division title and make the playoffs.
There will even be some fans – perhaps 20 percent stadium capacity – once the “orange” tier is reached.
Here’s how the season shapes up for 2021 in Chavez Ravine and on State College Boulevard. Check back with us in October and see how we did, prediction-wise.
Angels will lift off, if not soar
It’s been a few presidents ago since the Halos won a division title or made the post-season, but things look more promising now than they have in a long while.
Despite finishing 21 games out of first last year, the Orange County team had a decent offense, finishing fourth in the American League in runs scored. It was revolving door of injured starters and just-up-from-the-minors hurlers who were the Angels’ weak spot. The team ERA was 5.06, 25th in MLB.
For 2021 the team has what could be a formidable starting rotation. The big name potentially is two-way star Shohei Ohtani who has been missing for a while with a bum elbow. But he has looked great in spring training and with left-handers Andrew Heaney and Jose Quintana, and righties Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning and Jaime Barria, the Halos should have a solid rotation to give manager Joe Maddon plenty of quality starts.
The addition of closer Raisel Iglesias helps shore up the bullpen, but the relief corps remains a question mark.
At bat, the Halos will have plenty of pop with All-Everything Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Al Pujols (as DH, possibly alternating with Ohtani) and Jared Walsh. Catcher Max Stassi showed he can hit for power and average. The Angel most to be missed will be Andrelton Simmons, who went the free agent route to the Minnesota Twins.
One unknown for everyone in MLB will be the impact of the slightly less lively ball. According to early reports, the horsehide will travel just a few inches or feet shorter on a long drive than it did last year, potentially turning what used to be a 333-foot home run into a 332-foot fly out.
No matter which way (or how far) the ball flies, the Angels will likely be a much better team than the boys who played that cut-down season last year.
The Angels will open on Thursday, April 1 at home in Anaheim.
Another trip to the top for Dodgers?
It’s typical for the defending World Series champion to be favored to win again the next season. It’s also typical for that not to happen. However, this time around, the Dodgers might just be the team to pull it off.
Deep and strong, the 2020 World Champions boast a top-notch pitching staff led by Hall of Famer-to be Clayton Kershaw, who is one of three Cy Young Award winners on the roster, the others being Trevor Bauer and David Price. Not only is the starting rotation stocked (and perhaps overflowing) but the bullpen – led by Kenly Jansen and Julio Urias – is, too.
In the field and at bat, manager Dave Roberts has a more-than-solid lineup. The team is packed with power; five regulars hit a dozen or more home runs in a 60-game season in 2020. Corey Seager’s stat line of .307-15-41 is almost matched by Mookie Betts’ .292-16-39. A.J. Pollock also carried a big bat as well at .276-16-34.
There’s no an obvious hole in Big Blue’s boat, but as every baseball fan knows, last season is no guarantee of this season. Injuries, off-years and great efforts by rival teams – Padres or Braves, perhaps – could all be in the way. But for now, it looks like champagne in October once again.
The Dodgers will open the season on Thursday, April 1 in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. Their home openers will be on Friday, April 9 hosting the Washington Nationals.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.