Record – 70-91, Finished Eighth Place in the American League
Pythagorean Record – 77-84
C - Earl Averill (.266/.384/.489)
1b - Steve Bilko (.279/.395/.544)
2b - Ken Aspromonte (.223/.322/.290)
3b – Eddie Yost (.202/.358/263)
SS – Joe Koppe (.251/.339/.343)
LF – Leon Wagner (.280/.348/.517)
CF – Ken Hunt (.255/.325/.484)
RF – Albie Pearson (.288/.420/.400)
Homeruns – Leon Wagner (28)
Batting Average – Albie Pearson (.288)
OPS – Steve Bilko (.939)
Best Fielder – Ken Aspermonte (11 Fielding Runs Above Average)
SP – Ken McBride (241.7/12/3.65)
SP – Eli Grba (211.7/11/4.25)
SP – Ted Bowsfield (157/11/3.73)
SP – Ron Moeller (112.7/4/5.83)
CL – Art Fowler (89/5/3.64)
CL – Tom Morgan (91.7/8/2.36)
Wins – Ken McBride (12)
ERA – Tom Morgan (2.36)
Strikeouts – Ken McBride (180)
Saves – Art Fowler (11)
The Angels inaugural season wasn’t a complete failure. While the team was on their way to an eighth place finish in the American League, there were actually two teams that finished behind them, including the expansion Washington Senators. They did way better then the National League expansion teams that rolled out in 1962, which included the infamous 1962 New York Mets. They also seriously underperformed their pythagorean win/loss. The won seven fewer games then they should have based on the runs they gave up and the runs they scored and had they played to their potential, they would have moved up two spots in the standings.
The team won their season opener 7-2 against the Orioles on April 11, 1961. They scored three runs in the first, and then four in the second, knocking Orioles starter Milt Papas out of the game in the second inning. Ted Kluszewski hit the first and second homeruns in the franchise’s history and he drove in five RBIs. Kluszewski would eventually yield the starting spot at first base to Steve Bilko and would be used mostly as a pinch hitter in the second half of the season. Eli Grba won the first game in franchise history with a complete game six hitter. He gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits and four walks with five strikeouts.
The Angels then lost their next eight games and it wasn’t until the team was over two weeks into the season when they won their first home game, which was played at Wrigley Field, where they’d play only one season. No, not Chicago’s Wrigley Field. William Wrigley at one time owned both the Cubs and the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels and he built a stadium that was similar to Chicago’s Wrigley in Los Angeles. For more information about the team’s stadiums through out the years, you should check out this Hardball Times column.
In mid-May, the Angels had another tough stretch and lost seven in a row. By that time, they were 9-19. At the All Star Break, the team was an unimpressive 35-51 and that was after a six game winning streak near the end of the first half. They played two All-Star games in 1961 and no Angels got into either game.
The team then went into September without any real chance of winning their first pennant. From the All-Star Break through September 16, 1961, the team actually played .500 ball before losing eight straight. Between the second half and the team’s pythagorean win/loss, the team had something to build on.
While the team didn’t have a player who hit 30 homeruns, five different players hit 20 and the team as a whole hit 189 homeruns, good for second in the American League. They were also one of the worst hitting teams and their .245 batting average was the second worst in the league. They led the league in walks drawn (681) but they were also first in strikeouts (1,068)
The pitchers didn’t fare as well. The team’s ERA (4.31) was the second worst in the American League although the team played in an extreme hitters park (park factor of 111) so their ERA+ ended up at 105, which was above average. The team was dead last in complete games (25) and they finished eighth in the league with eight shutouts. The team gave up both the most walks (713) and the most homeruns (180) in the league, but they were first in strikeouts with 973.
For more information on the Angels and their early years, I highly recommend you check out this Hardball Times column.
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