Angels @ Dodgers June 21, 2024: Shohei Ohtani faces his former team

The Dodgers (47-30) took three of four games in Colorado (26-49) this week, and now return home for just two games against the Angels (29-45) before a six game road trip. Strangely, the team will have Sunday off and start a three game series against the Chicago White Sox on Monday. Landon Knack will be making his fifth start in the majors this year, his first since 5/19, up against the left-handed Patrick Sandoval.

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6:10 P.M. Los Angeles
1B Schanuel (L) DH Ohtani (L)
3B Rengifo (S) RF T. Hernández
LF Ward 1B Freeman (L)
DH Calhoun (L) CF Pages
C O’Hoppe SS Rojas
SS Neto LF Vargas
CF Moniak (L) 3B K. Hernández
2B Stefanic 2B Taylor
RF Adell C Barnes
P Sandoval (L) P Knack (R)

Against Sandoval, Dave Roberts will run out his right-handed heavy lineup, as Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman will be the sole lefties. Teoscar Hernández will bat second to split up Ohtani and Freeman, followed by Andy Pages in the cleanup spot. Austin Barnes will be behind the plate, as Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernández, and Miguel Vargas all start.

Here’s how the two offenses compare as a whole.

The Angels would be near league-average offensively had they managed to keep Ohtani, but at 29-45 their fate would have been the same as it’s been for the last eight years — missing the playoffs. They do have a nice little core right now, with their catcher Logan O’Hoppe and shortstop Zach Neto. Their 2023 first round pick Nolan Schanuel could end up being good but he really could probably use time in the minors. In June, O’Hoppe is slashing .347/.373/.592 with a 170 wRC+. Neto is at .254/.286/.525 with a 123 wRC+ as he taps into some power, and Schanuel is doing the same at .245/.354/.453, a 127 wRC+.

Batting cleanup is Willie Calhoun, the former Dodger prospect that was a key piece in the 2017 Yu Darvish trade. Luis Rengifo has been their best player as a whole with a .787 OPS and 124 wRC+. He isn’t flashy, but he’s the exact type of guy the Dodgers could use funny enough. There was almost a Joc Pederson + Pages trade for Rengifo (and most likely) Taylor Ward that was nixed by Arte Moreno at the last moment. He’s a switch hitter, has racked up 18 steals, mixing his time between third base, second base, both corner outfield positions. He has a year and a half of team control, and at just 27 years-old I think this would be a great target if the Dodgers could get the Angels to trade with them.

Vargas now has 30 plate appearances this year, and is slashing .308/.367/.577 with a 161 wRC+. He’s struck out just five times with three walks, and he’s doing everything he can to show he belongs and deserves more playing time. Pages had a slow stretch in May, but since 5/31, he’s slashing .328/.423/.522, good for a 173 wRC+ with a decreased strikeout rate at 21.8%, and an increased walk rate at 11.5%. It felt like Freddie Freeman wasn’t having his usual elite offensive seasons, but he’s really turned it on over the last few weeks. Since 5/24, he’s slashing .333/.438/.624, good for a 194 wRC+, with six homers and 16 walks to 14 strikeouts. Lastly, Ohtani has looked excellent over his last ten games. He’s slashing .368/.478/.921, a 1.399 OPS and 279 wRC+. He has six homers, seven walks, and five strikeouts. Maybe he’s just a leadoff hitter?

Chris Taylor has four hits in his last three starts, with a home run and a triple. Too small of a sample size to say anything, but he’s looked more like an MLB player lately.


Here’s how Sandoval and Knack have performed this year.

Over ten appearances in the minors this season, Knack has a 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 52 strikeouts to 20 walks in 48.1 innings. His last start in the majors was against the Reds on May 19, when he allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out five over 4.2 innings. I haven’t heard anything in particular, but I’m assuming that part of the reason why Knack’s most recent outing was just 2.2 innings was that there was word he might need to be available for this weekend. On June 16 he allowed three hits and three walks, but logged seven strikeouts. His .196 batting average on balls in play against him is unsustainable, so he’ll need to be sharp to make things work. He’s averaging seven strikeouts per nine innings in the majors with 16 in 20.2 innings pitched, compared to the aforementioned 52 in 48.1 innings in Triple-A.

Sandoval had a decent outing his last time out against the Giants, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts over five innings. He’s pretty much alternated good stretches with poor ones this year, and hasn’t maintained any consistency. He’s given up eight earned runs over his last two starts, but had given up just three over his two prior outings. Before that he had an eight run clunker, with a seven inning shutout recently before that.

His 3.81 FIP is just below the league-average mark of 4.03, his 23.3% strikeout rate is just above league-average (21.7%), and his walk rate of 9.6% is just above the league-average mark of 7.6%. Among 71 qualified starting pitchers, the gap of 1.43 between his ERA (5.24) and his FIP (3.81) is the second highest, trailing only Ryan Feltner (6.02 ERA, 4.20 FIP). His 5.24 ERA is 67th, but his 3.81 FIP is 44th. The batting average on balls in play against him of .342 is the fourth highest, and well above his career mark at .304. Once everything evens out, he’s probably about a league-average starter. He’s in his fourth full season, and over 533.2 innings pitched, he has a 4.03 ERA, 3.95 FIP, and 1.39 WHIP. He’s got upside, but while he’s with the Angels that’s probably all he is.

He has a four-seam fastball and a sinker, both of which sit near 94 MPH that he throws just over 15% of the time. Both of his fastballs get hit hard, so he mainly relies on his low 80’s changeup and an upper 80’s slider. He pitches backwards in the sense that he almost only uses his fastballs to keep hitters honest. He also mixes in a mid 70’s curveball to righties, and a low 80’s sweeper to lefties.


Sounds about right. Oblique issues are really tricky for batters, and the Dodgers just need Max Muncy back in the second half of the year. Kyle Hurt returning in a swingman or relief role will benefit the big league club as well.

River Ryan is the top pitching prospect for the Dodgers by quite a few publications, so seeing him return and succeed is great.


First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. PDT on SNLA and MLB Network.

About Allan Yamashige

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Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!