I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
What Are the Greatest Seasons in the History of the Los Angeles Angels?
I didn’t come to be a Los Angeles Angels fan the "traditional" way. The franchise is based thousands of miles from my hometown. I have no personal connection to the team nor any family history of fandom. I simply played on a Little League team in the mid-90s that was branded in a terrible blue and yellow color and was called the Angels. From there, I decided to follow the Los Angeles club as my second-favorite team to the local Cleveland Indians. With that timing, I’ve been privy to some of the greatest seasons in franchise history, but it's also great to reminisce on the gritty teams that first gave the Angels a semblance of success.
In this article, I’ll list 10 of the greatest seasons in Angels history. I based my selections upon the following criteria:
- On-Field Success (Wins, postseason performance, etc.)
- Milestones (Individual records, team records, etc.)
- Long-Term Impact (How the season impacted other seasons, etc.)
- Key Additions: Dick Schofield (rookie) and Don Aase (returned from injury)
- Key Losses: Tim Foli (traded to Yankees) and Andy Hassler (released)
- Regular-Season Record: 81–81 (.500)
- All-Stars: Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson
- League Leaders: Geoff Zahn (5 shutouts)
Reggie Jackson and Mike Witt provided plenty of late-season excitement in a competitive season for the Angels. Jackson clobbered his 500th career home run on Sept. 17, and Witt crafted the 13th perfect game in Major League history on Sept. 30. California finished at an even .500 and three games out of the division race, but that was an 11-game improvement over the 1983 season.
- Key Additions: Vladimir Guerrero (signed as free agent), Bartolo Colon (signed as free agent), and Jose Guillen (signed as free agent)
- Key Losses: None
- Regular-Season Record: 92–70 (.568)
- Postseason: Lost to Red Sox in Division Series (3–0)
- All-Stars: Vladimir Guerrero and Francisco Rodriguez
- Award Winners: Vladimir Guerrero (MVP and Silver Slugger) and Darin Erstad (Gold Glove)
- League Leaders: Vladimir Guerrero (124 runs)
For the first time since 1986, the Angels were American League West Division champions in the final season they were known as the Anaheim Angels. The season was a welcome upturn from 2003, which saw the Angels win just 77 games the year after winning the World Series. Big difference-makers included newcomers Vladimir Guerrero, who hit .337 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI to win MVP honors, and ace Bartolo Colon, who had 18 wins from the mound.
Nearly half of the season's 92 victories featured an Angels comeback (45). That magic ran out in the playoffs, however, as Anaheim was swept by the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in the AL Division Series after surrendering at least eight runs in each game. Owner Arte Moreno then rebranded the club as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the 2005 season.
- Key Additions: Matt Shoemaker (rookie), Huston Street (traded midseason from Padres), David Freese (traded from Cardinals), C.J. Cron (rookie), Tyler Skaggs (traded from Diamondbacks), Hector Santiago (traded from White Sox), Joe Smith (signed as free agent), Mike Morin (rookie), Fernando Salas (traded from Cardinals), and Jason Grilli (traded midseason from Pirates)
- Key Losses: Mark Trumbo (traded to Diamondbacks), Jason Vargas (signed with Royals), Jerome Williams (signed with Astros), Tommy Hanson (signed with Rangers), Ernesto Frieri (traded midseason to Pirates), and Joe Blanton (released)
- Regular-Season Record: 98–64 (.605)
- Postseason: Lost to Royals in Division Series (3–0)
- All-Stars: Mike Trout and Erick Aybar
- Award Winners: Mike Trout (MVP, All-Star Game MVP, and Silver Slugger)
- League Leaders: Mike Trout (115 runs and 111 RBI) and Jered Weaver (18 wins)
Los Angeles finished the 2014 season with the best record in the American League, but even a vastly retooled roster couldn’t escape an early exit from the postseason. Several trades in the offseason brought in a slew of new players to the Angels, and rookie starter Matt Shoemaker set a franchise record with 16 victories. Nevertheless, Los Angeles suffered a first-round playoff ouster at the hands of the Royals, and through 2020, the Angels haven’t been back to the playoffs.
With 98 wins, the team notched the third-most in franchise history on the strength of budding ace Garrett Richards, who was injured in August after going 13–4 with a 2.61 ERA, and a formidable bullpen. Mike Trout also won his first of three MVPs as he established himself as the best offensive player in the game by hitting .287 with 36 home runs, 111 RBI, and 115 runs.
- Key Additions: Mike Scioscia (hired as manager), Adam Kennedy (traded from Cardinals), Benji Gil (signed as free agent), Scott Spiezio (signed as free agent), and Seth Etherton (rookie)
- Key Losses: Jim Edmonds (traded to Cardinals), Chuck Finley (signed with Indians), Todd Greene (released), Steve Sparks (signed with Phillies), and Mike Magnante (signed with Athletics)
- Regular-Season Record: 82–80 (.506)
- All-Stars: Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus
- Award Winners: Darin Erstad (Gold Glove and Silver Slugger) and Troy Glaus (Silver Slugger)
- League Leaders: Darin Erstad (240 hits) and Troy Glaus (47 home runs)
The Angels had seven different managers during the 1990s, but when the decade flipped, they got more stability than they could have imagined. Mike Scioscia was hired for the 2000 season, and he went on to manage the Angels for 19 years, leading them to 1,650 wins and seven postseason appearances. Scioscia led the Angels to a 12-game improvement in his first season at the helm.
Offensively, Anaheim erupted in 2000, with four players crushing at least 30 home runs (including a club record 47 from Troy Glaus). The 236 home runs and 579 extra-base hits smacked by the team both remain the most in franchise history. Darin Erstad became an offensive catalyst, using 240 hits to hit .355—both figures are far-and-away franchise records. From the mound, however, a collective earned-run average of 5.00 from the pitching staff left much to be desired.
- Key Additions: Bobby Abreu (signed as free agent), Brain Fuentes (signed as free agent), Juan Rivera (signed as free agent), and Matt Palmer (signed as a free agent)
- Key Losses: Nick Adenhart (died in vehicle accident in April 2009), Garret Anderson (signed with Braves), Francisco Rodriguez (signed with Mets), and Jon Garland (signed with Diamondbacks)
- Regular-Season Record: 97–65 (.599)
- Postseason: Won Division Series over Red Sox (3–0) and Lost to Yankees in Championship Series (4–2)
- All-Stars: Chone Figgins, Brain Fuentes, and Torii Hunter
- Award Winners: Mike Scioscia (Manager of the Year) and Torii Hunter (Gold Glove and Silver Slugger)
- League Leaders: Brain Fuentes (48 saves)
A season that started in heartbreak ended in another West Division crown for the Angels. Prior to the season, two untimely deaths rocked the franchise before the Angels began their pursuit of a third straight division crown. Preston Gomez, an 85-year-old special assistant to the general manager, died on Jan. 13, following a lengthy battle with injuries sustained in a vehicle accident in March 2008. Then shortly after midnight on April 9, rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, 26, was killed in a collision with a drunk driver. He had started for the Angels on April 8.
Following a 29-29 start to the year, the Angels began to surge and won the AL West by 10 games. Los Angeles took over the division lead for good on July 11, and they were 55-32 (.632) from July to the end of the year. They carried that late-season momentum into the playoffs to beat the Red Sox in the ALDS, but the Angels were stopped by the Yankees six games into the ALCS. During the regular season, Los Angeles set MLB records with 10 players notching 100 hits and 11 players driving in 50 runs, all while setting a franchise record with a cumulative .285 batting average.
- Key Additions: Jim Fergosi (hired as manager), Rod Carew (traded from Twins), Bert Campaneris (traded midseason from Rangers), Dan Ford (traded from Twins), Willie Aikens (rookie), Jim Barr (signed as free agent), and Mark Clear (rookie)
- Key Losses: Lyman Bostock (murdered in September 1978), Dave Chalk (traded midseason to Rangers), Paul Hartzell (traded to Twins), and Ken Brett (released)
- Regular-Season Record: 88–74 (.543)
- Postseason: Lost to Baltimore Orioles in Championship Series (3–1)
- All-Stars: Nolan Ryan, Don Baylor, Rod Carew, Mark Clear, Brian Downing, and Bobby Grich
- Award Winners: Don Baylor (MVP)
- League Leaders: Don Baylor (139 RBI and 120 runs) and Nolan Ryan (223 strikeouts and 5 shutouts)
It took 18 seasons, but the Angels finally made the playoffs. Led by ace Nolan Ryan—who had thrown four no-hitters for the Angels earlier in the decade—and MVP Don Baylor, California finally reigned over the West Division. Unfortunately, the Angels ran into the East Division powerhouse Orioles and lost in the ALCS despite leading in each of the first three games of the series.
The season marked the first for manager Jim Fergosi, who was arguably the best shortstop in franchise history, and he watched over an offensive explosion. The Angels led the league with 886 runs and a .282 average, and their eight grand slams throughout the season set a franchise record that’s been matched just once (1983). On Aug. 25, the Angels beat the Blue Jays 24–2 in the highest-scoring game in team history. Baylor’s 139 RBI also ranks in as the top single-season mark in franchise history.
- Key Additions: Torii Hunter (signed as free agent), Jon Garland (traded from White Sox), and Jose Arredondo (rookie)
- Key Losses: Bartolo Colon (signed with White Sox), Kelvim Escobar (injured), and Orlando Cabrera (traded to White Sox)
- Regular-Season Record: 100–62 (.617)
- Postseason: Lost to Red Sox in Division Series (3–1)
- All-Stars: Francisco Rodriguez, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders
- Award Winners: Francisco Rodriguez (Rolaids Reliever of the Year) and Torii Hunter (Gold Glove)
- League Leaders: Francisco Rodriguez (62 saves)
No Angels team in history had ever finished with baseball's best record or won as many games as the 2008 club, but their 100–62 regular-season mark didn't translate to postseason success. Los Angeles was eliminated by the Red Sox in the ALDS in four games, spoiling what seemed like the Angels’ best chance to return to the World Series. Los Angeles won the West Division with a 21-game margin over the second-place Rangers.
The Angels picked up half of their wins on the road, the most ever in team history, and that balanced play gave the team hope for postseason success. Francisco Rodriguez was the star of the season, setting an MLB record with 62 saves, but Los Angeles could only muster one win in the ALDS—an extra-inning affair in Game 3.
- Key Additions: Reggie Jackson (signed as free agent), Bob Boone (purchased from the Phillies), Tim Foli (traded from the Pirates), Doug DeCines (traded from the Orioles), Doug Corbett (traded from Twins during the season), and Dave Goltz (signed as free agent)
- Key Losses: Dan Ford (traded to the Orioles) and Don Aase (injured midseason)
- Regular-Season Record: 93–69 (.574)
- Postseason: Lost to Milwaukee Brewers in Championship Series (3–2)
- All-Stars: Bobby Grich, Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson, and Rod Carew
- Award Winners: Fred Lynn (ALCS MVP), Bob Boone (Gold Glove), Doug DeCinces (Silver Slugger), and Reggie Jackson (Silver Slugger)
- League Leaders: Reggie Jackson (39 home runs)
A bunch of gritty veterans got off to a blistering start and never fell more than three games behind in the standings on the way to the franchise’s second West Division title. None of the regulars in the starting lineup were under age 30, and they all played at least 138 games for one of the best teams in franchise history. In the starting rotation, the only youngster was a second-year man, 21-year-old Mike Witt.
Buoyed by the addition of slugger Reggie Jackson, the Angels rode into the playoffs for the second time ever, but were blocked by the Brewers, who ultimately lost the World Series in seven games. Jackson’s league-leading 39 home runs paced five regulars with at least 20 homers. From July 26 to August 13, at least one Angels player homered for 18 straight games. To balance all that power, the Angels used “small ball” and led the AL with 114 sacrifice bunts.
- Key Additions: Wally Joyner (rookie), Don Sutton (traded from Athletics at the end of the 1985 season and signed as a free agent), Chuck Finley (rookie), Gary Lucas (traded from Expos), and Terry Foster (signed as free agent)
- Key Losses: Rod Carew (retired), Juan Beniquez (signed with Orioles), Luis Sanchez (traded to Expos), and Stew Cliburn (pitched in minors)
- Regular-Season Record: 92–70 (.568)
- Postseason: Lost to Red Sox in Championship Series (4–3)
- All-Stars: Wally Joyner and Mike Witt
- Award Winners: Bob Boone (Gold Glove) and Gary Pettis (Gold Glove)
The Angels were one pitch away from making their first World Series appearance in 1986, but instead of going for an out, that pitch went for a home run that shifted the momentum of the ALCS into Boston’s favor. California squandered a 3–1 lead in the ALCS, a sour ending to an otherwise sizzling season. Before Boston’s Game 5 heroics, the Angels erased a three-run deficit in the ninth inning of Game 4 to take command of the seven-game slate.
A year earlier, the Angels finished with 90 wins and fell one game shy of the West Division title. Determined to get over the hump in ‘86, the Angels added a few pitchers and got significant production from rookie first baseman Wally Joyner to claim the division crown by five games. Joyner became popular around the league, finishing as the runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting after replacing future Hall of Famer Rod Carew at first base.
- Key Additions: Francisco Rodriguez (rookie), John Lackey (rookie), Brad Fullmer (traded from Blue Jays), Kevin Appier (traded from New York Mets), and Aaron Sele (signed as free agent)
- Key Losses: Mo Vaughn (traded to Mets), Pat Rapp (retired), Ismael Valdes (signed with Rangers), Shigetoshi Hasegawa (signed with Mariners), and Mike Holtz (signed with Athletics)
- Regular-Season Record: 99–63 (.611)
- Postseason: Won Division Series over Yankees (3–1), Won Championship Series over Twins (4–1), and Lost to Giants in World Series (4–3)
- All-Stars: Garret Anderson
- Award Winners: Mike Scioscia (Manager of the Year), Troy Glaus (World Series MVP), Adam Kennedy (ALCS MVP), Bengie Molina (Gold Glove), Darin Erstad (Gold Glove), and Garret Anderson (Silver Slugger)
- League Leaders: Garret Anderson (56 doubles)
The Angels ended their World Series drought in 2002 after making easy work of the Yankees and Twins in the playoffs. They then battled the Giants in a thrilling seven-game Fall Classic. In front of rowdy crowds who embraced the “Rally Monkey” and clapped together inflatable “Thunderstix,” the Angels returned to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. Despite winning a then-team record 99 games—including another record with 54 victories at home—Anaheim made the postseason as a Wild Card. When the Angels dispatched the Yankees in the Division Series, it marked the first playoff series win in franchise history.
The season started poorly, and Anaheim’s 6–14 start was the franchise’s worst open to a season ever. But as the season wore on, the Angels got into a rhythm and used 43 comeback wins to get into the thick of the postseason hunt. Anaheim’s bullpen was crucial to the team’s success as they led the league in ERA. 20-year-old setup man Francisco Rodriguez would emerge as the playoff star. He was the winning pitcher in five playoff games and became the youngest pitcher to record a World Series win.
While the seasons featured above comprise the best of the best in Angels history, there are a few other seasons worth remembering that fell just outside of the top 10.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim picked up their sixth West Division title in team history after a 95–67 season. The Angels went 22–9 down the stretch and seemed destined for postseason success after knocking off the Yankees in a thrilling five-game Division Series. However, the White Sox took care of business in the Championship Series in five games. Bartolo Colon was the first Angels pitcher since 1964 to win the Cy Young Award after going 21–8 with a 3.48 ERA, but he was unavailable for the ALCS due to an injured rotator cuff.
During the first season in franchise history, the Angels proved they’d be no pushover. At 70–91, the Angels posted the best record ever for an expansion team. Five players hit at least 20 homers for the Angels, and a young pitching staff had the most strikeouts in the American League (973). The next season, Los Angeles had a 16-game improvement to finish over .500 for the first time.
The Angels returned to the postseason after a one-year absence, but they faltered in the Division Series. Los Angeles mustered just two runs while getting swept by the Red Sox. It was a disappointing end for the West Division champions who finished 94–68 in the regular season.
Frequently Asked Questions
What follows are some tidbits and trivia about the Los Angeles Angels.
How Many Winning Seasons Have the Angels Had?
The Los Angeles Angels have had 25 winning seasons and two others at an even .500. Their overall record is 4,735-4753-3.
What Is the Angels’ Longest Winning Streak?
The longest winning streak in Los Angeles Angels history occurred from June 16–26, 1964, when the Angels won 11 straight games. There have been four other 10-game winning streaks in franchise history.
How Many Times Have the Angels Made the Playoffs?
The Los Angeles Angels have made 10 postseason appearances throughout their 60-year history. They are 27–37 in 64 playoff games, and they have won 5 of 14 series.
Who Has Managed the Most Winning Seasons in Angels History?
Mike Scioscia managed the Angels to 12 winning seasons, the most by any manager in franchise history. The only other managers to lead multiple winning seasons are Gene Mauch (3), Bill Rigney (3), and Terry Collins (2). Jim Fergosi was 62–54 in a partial season in 1978 and then led the Angels to an 88–74 mark in 1979.
What Year Did the Angels Win the World Series?
The Anaheim Angels defeated the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 World Series, capturing the victory in seven games. It is the only championship in Los Angeles Angels franchise history.
© 2021 Andrew Harner