By Jason Sinner, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
So let me jump right in, but before I do, let's go over this chart I put together that hopefully illuminates the points I make in this article, with the intention of delivering a compelling argument that the Angels are not as bad as 2013 played out, and why they're poised for a solid 2014 campaign.
Well, at least I think it’s pretty cool. It’s a nice little snapshot of the last two seasons. I’m not going to get into the farm system, or where this team may or may not be headed after 2014. I just wanted to look at the upcoming season and whether it’s reasonable to think we can get back to the team that was close to ninety wins.
A team with a reasonable chance to make the playoffs.
First of all, a few side notes:
- I used OPS+ by position on offense so the entire team is included. Although there will be a primary guy at each spot, it incorporates the bench as well.
- I broke down pitching into ERA-. It’s like the reverse of ERA+ in that the lower the number, the better. 100 is league average.
- I also included WAR and WPA to show that there is some variability with the metrics.
- I included fangraphs baserunning metric under offense because I got lazy and didn’t feel like making another category.
- My 2014 numbers are obviously guesses or estimates. If you don’t agree with them, go #$% yourself or go ahead and project your own.
So, in my opinion, there are 4 main components to the success of every team:
Offense, Defense, Starting Pitching, Bullpen
Although they may not all be equal in total value it’s hard to attribute a percent composition relative to each.
The point of this exercise is to promote joy joy feelings for the 2014 season so we can hold hands and sing kumbaya again. Or because we might actually have a chance next year.
Of note: I tried to mentally factor in bench at bats into my projection as any individual position will never be as good as it’s best player. I didn’t factor in injuries however. Feel free to do so if you’d like.
C – The 2013 catching position certainly outperformed the year prior and mostly because of Hank Conger. The 2012 season was a disaster at after Iannetta. I think keeping this duo intact is the way to go. In fact, I could see a slight bump in production from last year.
1B – This is a position that will certainly need improvement if the team is too succeed. Trumbo like hit ball hard. Trumbo like make mince meat of ball. Trumbo like swing at everything.
That’s nice and all, but Albert Pujols is a still a very good hitter and if he puts up a similar season to 2012 (which he should), we should be good.
2B – Howie is solid and I hope we keep him. If we do, we will get about the same as we have the last two year. If not, Green providing league average production would be about the best we could hope.
3B – I didn’t realize how bad this team has been on offense at third base until I looked at the above numbers. Even if Freese ends up somewhere between 2012 and 2013 in terms of production, this is a big upgrade.
SS – Big difference between the two seasons. Same guy. Erick Aybar is all over the map. He may give us an all star season. He may give us replacement level. We’ll give the position league average or about the same as last year with hope it could be better.
LF – JB Shuck isn’t a starting OFer and thankfully (hopefully), he won’t be in 2014. He’s certainly a nice option off the bench. Something else that’s weird? Josh Hamilton has a career OPS+ of 79 as a RFer and 119 as a LFer. Over a fair number of at bats (almost two full seasons in LF and one in RF). He’s in between as a CFer with a an OPS+ of 98 and similar at DH (89). Maybe the move to LF makes him comfortable and he will hit. Regardless, as Shuck got the lions share of PAs at the position last year, we will give the benefit of the doubt and give Josh a decent rebound season.
CF – Mike Trout.
RF – Torii had a really nice season at the RF position in 2012, yet even though I don’t think Cole will reproduce that exactly, he’s gonna come pretty damn close in my opinion.
DH – I’m actually a little worried about our production from the DH spot. Trumbo seems like the type of guy to sit and stew over his last at bat until his next one. I could see this ending up a rotation between him, Pujols and Hamilton to keep Trumbo fresh defensively and take his mind off a bat at bat. That said, all three have the ability to be fairly dynamic hitters.
I also included the total WPA and WPA/LI just to show how miserable the team was in high leverage situation last year. This should normalize. I honestly think that’s why JD made his quote about Freese being a guy that can get the big hit. He knows this is going to regress to the mean naturally, and it’s gonna make him look good.
I could see baserunning being about the same without too much of an effect on the overall level of production. Maybe a few runs here and there.
Overall, the offense will be at least as good as 2013, probably as good as 2012, and perhaps even better without act’s of God necessary. Just reasonable production from guys capable of such.
Suffice to say the entire team sucked on defense last year. Pretty much everyone was worse than the year before. I truly think the poor pitching with tons of baserunners lulled these guys to sleep. I think it’s gonna be much much better. Above average even. By the defensive metrics alone, we could make up 3-4 wins.
As you may have noticed, I didn’t designate actual players or even innings pitched. Partially because the * means I conglomerated a couple of guys who essentially split a position.
Obviously, Weaver and Wilson are at the top of the chart. I think it’s reasonable for them to each be somewhere between where they were the last two years. Weaver may slide a tick, but Wilson could actually do better. So I split the difference.
The rest of the 2014 rotation is a crapshoot. Richards is obviously going to be one of the mainstays yet even though he’s got great upside, he’s young and tends to be inconsistent. For now, we’ll give him the #4 spot and make him league average. A massive improvement over last year (allocated to Jerome) and a moderate one over the previous (Haren).
The other two spots are where the rubber meets the road.
The three spot was Vargas in 2013 and a Jerome Williams/Zack Greinke combo in 2012. Both were worse than league average although not by much.
The five spot saw two of the league’s worst pitching performances of the last two seasons from Santana and Blanton. Awesome that they were both done for the Halos. Just about anyone with a pulse (or maybe even not) would improve this spot. a
Two league average pitchers for each of the last two spots would astronomically improve this staff. Even if we get one average and another modestly below, that would work. That’s the nice thing about having a player that really sucks. Replacing them with someone even halfway decent makes a big difference
The #6/spot start position was actually of critical importance for this team the last two years. The lack of depth from last year in particular was a disaster, and it needs to be addressed without a doubt. In 2012, we had 6 guys make all but 10 starts. One guy made nine of those and was mildly worse than average. In 2013, our top six included Blanton and Williams and we still had 20 additional starts from 5 other guys. The 20 starts those guys made was near what Blanton gave us. We are gonna need someone capable of being at least not very good from this spot as opposed to dreadfully, horribly awful. For example, we cannot give this spot to Blanton. We would be much better off with someone like Matt Shoemaker, who I really like.
Also interesting that the SP WAR was actually pretty close for the last two seasons. Again, I think even a couple of mediocre players improves this team tremendously.
Our bullpens the last two seasons have been near replacement level. The good news is that we saw some improvement in 2013 and we are set to get Burnett back and have added Smith. Why those two guys are important is that it was mostly due to the front end guys really sucking as to the overall numbers being pretty bad. The back end performed decently. With a top four of Frieri, Smith, DDLR, and Burnett as well as several actual options (Morin, Salas, Maronde, Rasmus, Kohn, Jepsen, Boshers, Berg (if retained), Roth and possibly R.J. Alvarez) a couple of which have upside and the pen should improve even more. That said, with one more strong addition, it could potentially go from a weakness to an actual strength. Would be great if Jerry Dipoto could pull another Dane De La Rosa from someone’s system for a lesser prospect.
All in all, we aren’t very far off to being able to be competitive in 2014. Getting at least some offense from guys certainly capable of providing it, waking up on defense, and at least a couple of mediocre starters will do the trick. That and the new coaching staff breathing life into these guys.
BOOM!!!! 90+ Wins.