What Matsui “expects” and what actually happens don’t necessarily have much to do with each other. Though I don’t envy Scioscia his choices, especially when playing games in the cavernous outfields in Oakland or Seattle. Late innings defensive replacement… crap, what happened to that Figgins guy? Though they managed with Vlad in the proto-Matsui role last year. And things seem to have a way of working out for the damn Halos. One of the statues will probably go down with an injury just as Peter Bourjos or Mike Trout have put it together and are tearing up AAA, and they’ll barely miss a beat. (And yeah, I know Trout is a rookie — cf “things seem to have a way of working out”)
I agree with your analysis of their outfield, and reading it reminded me of a thought I had a while back about the Angles, their loss of Lackey, and their contrasting outfield/infield defense: When I was looking at Pineiro a while back, I hit on the Angels as a great home for him. For him to repeat his 09 season, he needs to prove that 2-seamer was legit and not just a cover up for a flukey great season, and, if it is for real, then he would do quite well to leave a team with a subpar infield and arive at a team with a plus one. And, even without Figgins, the Angels look perfect … not only because of their infield D, but also due to their lack of outfield D. If you have a guy who keeps the ball in capable hands AND out of incapable ones, that seems pretty smart to me.
Great point by William – I think this merits expanding upon. The Angels’ pitching will struggle mightily next season. They were already at the bottom of the league (24th) in GB/FB ration last year, and that’s before they lost John Lackey, owner of a career 1.21 career GB/FB . Now, Joe Saunders is their only legit GB pitcher, and their “prized” closer in Fuentes gave up many fly balls last year. I predict Fernando Rodney, who had a 1.88 GB/FB last year will be their closer by season’s end.
Angels won’t finish last, unless the A’s get moved to a different division. This is basically the same outfield they had as last year +1 year of aging. Any potential downfall for the Angels will come from losing Figgins and Lackey and not replacing them with near equal talent, not any difference in outfield defense from last year to this.
And what is the age of the Angels infield and starting pitching?
Way to pick one aspect of the team – the outfield – that I might add did not stop them from being a 97 win team last year. Will some of the outfielders regress? Inevitably. Will it stop them from being highly competitive in the AL West? Hardly.
Comment by TheQuestforMerlin — January 3, 2010 @ 1:10 am
Seriously? Last in the AL West? If half our team gets injured, perhaps. Oh wait, Lackey, E Santana, Shields, Guererro, Hunter, Escobar, Adenhart, Moseley all were missing for large chunks or all of last year. And K Rod left. And Teixiera. And Garland. And Garret Anderson all left.
Yet somehow we managed to win the AL West? How do we do it? Perhaps because people really underestimate the talent on this team, the management of Mike Scioscia and the competitiveness of our organization.
What i’m trying to emphasize rather simplistically, is that we continually get underrated. Players leave and everyone writes us off. Why don’t you take a look at our team and consider potential improvements from E Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Mike Napoli, Scot Kazmir, E Santana, J Weaver. What about B Wood or Izturis coming on strong this year? Perphaps Matsui has fully recovered from surgery and is capable of running the bases well and swinging with more freedom than previously.
I would love a positive piece on fangraphs about the Angels, considering our strong record during the past decade and that we are a 97 win team entering into this new and excitingly competitive season. We deserve one. Rather than constant sniping at how little we have improved and our apparent lack of statistical competitiveness.
Comment by TheQuestforMerlin — January 3, 2010 @ 1:26 am
Not to mention they started ’09 with a couple of their key starters on the DL, had a bullpen meltdown, and played through the Adenhart tragedy. Essentially they had the worst start to their season their AL West rivals could hope for, and they still came back and won the division. They’ve gotten a bit worse, but the off-season isn’t done yet; their rivals have gotten a bit better (though their off-season isn’t done yet either) but they all have some very big question marks. The AL West may be tighter now than it has been in several years, but it is still the Angels’ to lose.
I wasn’t ignoring the topic, my comment was really directed at the Brian Sabean comment. I understand this is an article about the Angels outfield, and I don’t specifically criticize the work (it’s good analysis).
I take issue when one part of the team – in this case, the outfield – gets blown up to mean an indictment on the Angels GM, Tony Reagins by comparing him to Sabean. Yet we have built a rather young team, that is improving and has been winning.
Comment by TheQuestforMerlin — January 3, 2010 @ 9:29 am
What a sad world this would be, if a fan gets criticized for identifying with his own sports team. ;-)
Lighten up, what team do you love/support?
And in answer to the question. No I don’t work for the Angels. Yes i’m Freddy Sandoval.
Comment by TheQuestforMerlin — January 3, 2010 @ 9:39 am
I don’t think the ‘Angels in the Outfield’ thing is going to be that big of an issue. After all, they won same games with Matthew McConaughey roaming LF (Har Har).
The big issue is going to be losing Lackey and the death of their top pitching prospect. IMO, that’ll be even bigger than losing Figgins. That’s 2/5 of the would be rotation gone.
The LAA have had a long run, and now they (perhaps) have hit that point where the player losses and aging are enough to cause them to stumble (combined with ALW teams getting better).
Gary Matthews either needs to get back on PEDs (No) or give LAA back their money (Yes).
 Busts on the scene with a big year as 31yo.
 MAJOR contract with LAA.
 Name recovered from ‘Hormone Replacement Clinic’ in FLO (i.e., quasi-legal PED/HG dealer).
 Career in the shitter.
 Laugh all the way to the bank.
And people hand-wave off the effectiveness of PEDs. Puh-lease.
Anyway, LAA’s OF D won’t likely be a major part of their success/failure. They have A LOT to replace in ’10 and don’t seem to have the prospects/money to do it.
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 3, 2010 @ 10:48 am
UZR must be an imperfect metric. I can’t believe Torii Hunter has such a poor UZR rating. I know he’s old and all, but is it possible that the UZR system doesn’t account for fielding position prior to the play? I mean, just based on watching some games, it seems to me that Hunter will position himself aggressively in the outfield, with the knowledge that on a fly ball he could then run like hell to compensate. I know UZR accounts for a fielder’s sub zones and “areas of responsibility”, but it can’t tell you that Hunter is more aggressive with his pre-play fielding position, can it? Does it award him points for occasionally chasing down balls in left field too? I’m also saying this because I’ve seen Hunter talk about the importance of position in an interview.
With this hypothesis, UZR seems cruel to older players because as they age they are more apt to fit stereotypes of being slow, whereas they are likely to actually be more aggressive with their fielding positioning with more experience.
Isn’t positioning part of how well a defender performs, though? If Hunter is deliberately playing over-aggressively with where he starts, then he’s costing his team runs, and the metric should reflect that. If he’s being positioned inefficiently by his coaches, then it’s possible that this isn’t his fault, but UZR isn’t a measure of skill, it’s one of results.
According to UZR, Rivera is about the 3rd best LF in the major leagues, in spite of being one of the slowest and having a career of consistent average fielding. Now if Rivera was truly such a great fielder with a breakout 2009 fielding year, why would Scioscia routinely sub Reggie Willits as a defensive substitute and why don’t people think Rivera is an incredible LF? Well, don’t you think there is a correlation between Rivera’s suspiciously remarkable and unprecedented 12.7 UZR and Torii Hunter’s -1.4 UZR? According to FanGraphs and BP, Rivera’s speed is 1.7 and the 7th percentile; Hunter’s is SPD is 5.0 and the 65th percentile.
So what I mean is, in context of the total outfield, Hunter positions himself aggressively to help Rivera on right-handed pull hitters and Abreu on left-handed pull hitters. This occasionally affects his own UZR score when he has to run back to his zone while making Rivera and Abreu look like they have much better range and UZR than they should. Rivera has one of the top UZR scores in spite of having poor knees and being notoriously limp-legged and slow. Likewise, over the course of one year Abreu’s range “improved” from -29 with the 2008 Yankees to -15 with the 2009 Angels; his UZR “improved” from -14.4 to -11.0.
1- The 2010 AL West is not the 2009 AL West. When the other teams get better, the division gets more competitive.
2- The Angels lost Teixeira, but 2009 Morales was not significantly worse than Teix. Now, whether Morales is going to maintain 2009 levels of production is to be seen, and a HUGE issue.
3- Adenhart (RIP) and Moseley did not play significant roles on the 2008 squad. Garland is a very replaceable pitcher. Factoring in Escobar in terms of differences between the 2008 and 2009 Angels is asinine, as he played zero impact on either squad. The injuries were bad, but there was not a net decline between the 2008 Angels and the 2009 Angels.
4- Figgins posted a MASSIVE improvement between 2008 and 2009. Ervin Santana did get hurt/decline, but the massive spike in Figgins mitigates the decline in Santana.
The injury loss of the 2009 Angels was not significantly worse than the injuries of several other contending teams.
5- Fuentes outperformed K-Rod. Both are not that good though.
6- Every team in the AL West could have a positive piece. And FanGraphs is devoted to statistical analysis, of course the stuff written about it will be statistical analysis. ANY team that signs Fernando Rodney to a 2/11 contract will get ripped by FG. Any team that runs out a poor defensive OF will get ripped.
This was a very insightful and interesting post. The variances you’re pointing out might just be random, but I think you’re onto something here.
I’m not going to say UZR is a bad stat — it clearly is a positive advancement in statistical analysis — but there are some real issues with just attaching the score to a player and saying “this is what kind of defender player x is”.
It’s also possible that EVERY team in the ALW could be withing 10 G of .500
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 3, 2010 @ 4:53 pm
I read an Eric Seidman article in July on Baseball Prospectus (link: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9225) about implementing precisely these kinds of measurements tracking distance traveled for a new FIELD/fx system. A stringer for the Cardinals used “photogrammetry—essentially the act of using captured photos to provide data—as a means of extracting the positioning data of fielders in different spots over the course of a play. When finished, a simple subtraction of the start and end points provides a tangible quantification of just how far a fielder had to move to capture a batted ball.”
The result? Seidman said, “Instead of merely evaluating players based on out conversions in specific zones, analysts will be able to find the expected values of plays during which a fielder has to move a particular number of feet, at a particular angle, within the aforementioned zones. ”
This exact problem is what makes Jack Moore’s analysis a bit off here. I think a ‘distance traveled’ stat would rescue Torii Hunter defensive exploits from being what Jack Moore called “wildly exaggerated”. Instead we’d realize Rivera’s defensive stats are wildly exaggerated.
That’s neat, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Angels outfield will allow a ton of extra bases, whether it’s from balls landing in gaps, balls rolling to the wall, or base-runners taking extra bases.
Comment by scatterbrian — January 3, 2010 @ 6:22 pm
It is not likely, however feasible that the Angels finish last in the AL West. A statement of course, I agree with.
Can I see them finishing last? No. I do not see the projected statistical decline in the changes they made, growth/age of their players etc.
1. The division in 2010 is more competitive yes. Not arguing against this at all, looking forward to the increased competition. I really like the Rangers this year.
2. Indeed Morales at 1st base will be a huge issue. Can he make adjustments? We’ll find out. I think his numbers will regress a little. However, comparative to the problems at 1st base for Oakland (Barton), Texas (Davis) and Seattle (Carp currently) the Angels are sitting relatively pretty.
3. Our pitching staff last year was decimated. Lackey, Santana, Weaver, Saunders, Moseley were the projected starting 5 for the season. Lackey and Santana went down at ST. Moseley after 3 games. Adenhart who replaced Lackey (Shane Loux replaced Santana) tragically left us after 1 game.
So after 3 weeks into the season this was our rotation: Weaver, Saunders, Loux, Palmer and Ortega/O’Sullivan/Bell. Suffice to say we held onto .500 for a good portion of the season before our offense pulled us through and Lackey/Santana returned. Although Santana didn’t pitch well last year.
*I factored in Escobar because the management did as well. They were hoping for him to return as a SP. Indeed he pitched one game before arm issues.
4. I’m not saying the injury loss was different to most teams, i was making a point (facetiously) that we have a pretty good and deep team, that has ridden many bumps over he past couple of years. Injuries and players leaving for free agency yet we still won the division.
Whilst others claim the loss of Lackey, Figgins, Guererro and the addition of Matsui, Rodney has made us weaker, to such an extent that we could finish last… I am arguing against this conclusion. Because it is rather commonplace at the moment. I am arguing against the assumption that we have somehow been caught with our head in the sand and are about to fall to 4th place.
6. I’m tired of reading articles on how Reagins messed up by committing so much cash to a guy (Rodney) that is borderline fungible. Or how the net improvement with the addition of Figgins (and others of course) by the Mariners means they are now ‘favorites’ in the AL West, without looking at the replacement players for the Angels (Aybar/Izturis at the top of the lineup and Wood/Izturis at 3B) and the value they possess. Look at Aybar or Izturis’ age trends in comparison with Figgins on this great website. i would argue that a combination of the three will come very close to matching the value that Figgins held last year IF they perform defensively. Obviously i’m focusing here on Figgy and not the addition of Lee/loss of Lackey etc etc but you get my point.
6A. What about ripping Seattle for their lack of run production/offense? ;-)
Comment by TheQuestforMerlin — January 3, 2010 @ 7:16 pm
Define a ‘ton of extra bases.’ I love UZR but it really isn’t the be all and end all of defensive metrics. Yet.
Similarly, what is the relationship between outfield defense and wins? How much value does defense in the outfield add (how many plays are made per year in the outfield for the matter compared to the infield)? We’re still wading through the minefield of trying to quantify defense in baseball, so I don’t see how you can claim as a ‘fact’ what you do and how it affects a win total.
One thing I do know is, the Angels did pretty well last year with an average outfield defense. And the personnel hasn’t changed. They probably will regress (i’m looking at you Juan Rivera). But the neatness of Manny E pointing out the age of our infield, suggests that if one factors in regression for an aging outfield, can we not factor improvement with an infield coming into their prime…
Comment by TheQuestforMerlin — January 3, 2010 @ 7:35 pm
B.J. Upton plays one of the shallowest CF’s in MLB with the idea being to limit OBP points at a sacrifice of SLG points. His UZR’s have been at a good level since moving to CF. He’s still learning the position, but it would seem that the aggressive positioning angle is just trying to find something that isn’t there.
Comment by Sandy Kazmir — January 3, 2010 @ 7:40 pm
UZR is by no means perfect, but until the players and ball is telemetered this is probably the best we will have for a while.
This whole thing seems kind of silly. Hunter still projects to 3-3.5 WAR, Abreu projects to 2-2.5, Juan Rivera projects to ~2, and as far as I can tell Matsui will likely see most of his time at DH. That’s still an above average outfield. Defense is great and all, but I feel that it’s getting far overemphasized in the sabermetric community recently. If the Angels were set to play a healthy Endy Chavez (just an example) instead of Abreu they likely wouldn’t be getting roasted here even though Abreu would provide equal (if not greater) WAR than Chavez. It seems as if people have lost sight of the “best player overall” idea in favor of the current “defense first” trend. Hunter/Rivera/Abreu are all still likely 2+ WAR players, what’s the commotion?
Comment by Terminator X — January 3, 2010 @ 10:09 pm
it hurts the pitching staff.
Comment by jpdtrmpt72 — January 3, 2010 @ 10:28 pm
No shit I’m well aware of that, it’s why we use DIPS to evaluate pitchers and accredit the fielders with the delta between RA and the expected RA based on FIP/tRA. The fact that they’re poor fielders is accounted for in THEIR value, not their pitchers’ value – and they still all come out as roughly average or greater at all 3 positions. Why the pile-on?
Comment by Terminator X — January 3, 2010 @ 11:27 pm
The worst thing is, with all those ethnic minorities, they don’t even have a lot of “gamey-gritty-gamer grit” to go along with the advanced age.
Comment by Felonius_Monk — January 4, 2010 @ 6:40 am
Difficult to see the Halos finishing behind the A’s. A’s could well be the worst team in the AL this year (although I suspect the Royals will beat them to it).
Comment by Felonius_Monk — January 4, 2010 @ 6:42 am
Where are you getting Hunter as a 3-3.5 WAR player? He had a career year last season with the bat. He’s a below average defensive player. How is it possible his projected WAR is that high?
I did. They are bases that poor outfield defenses give up when balls land in gaps, roll through to the wall, or when they allow runners to advance. It’s not just that the outfield is old, but that regression with older players is steep. You actually admitted they will regress, but only mentioned the youngest member of the outfield, which is strange. Regardless, the youth of the infield doesn’t affect the outfield defense.
Comment by scatterbrian — January 4, 2010 @ 10:20 pm
See Jeff Suppan, Woody Williams, and Jeff Weaver for examples of how over-performing pitchers fare once they leave dave Duncan.
Pineiro was alo a run better at Busch than he was on the road. If Pinyata wants to leave StL for a better deal … good luck.
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 5, 2010 @ 12:14 am
The fans have projected him to 3.4 WAR. In the last 8 years he’s been between 2.2 and 4.1 every year. Maybe 3.5 is a bit high, but 2.5 to 3 is pretty reasonable, he’s been very consistent. Either way he’s still average-to-above-average and my point remains unaffected.
Comment by Terminator X — January 5, 2010 @ 4:02 am
Actually, the positional adj. for DH includes a +5 runs a season for “hitting off the bench.” For pure defense, it’s actually -22.5, so the limit for corner OF is -15 runs.