Archive for Angels

Mike Trout: Top-Ten Outfield

It’s not so much that we’re in the offseason’s dead period — we’re just in its waiting period. There’s a lot of life left, but there likely won’t be any breaths until we get to Masahiro Tanaka’s signing deadline, at which point several dominoes ought to fall. That’s two and a half weeks away, and for the time being there’s not much going on. Dave and Carson talked on the podcast about how the things being written about these days are Tanaka and the Hall of Fame. As a change of pace out of desperation, I’m choosing to turn to the comfortable default FanGraphs fallback, that being Mike Trout, and how very good he is.

This is a question from my own chat earlier Tuesday:

Comment From Eddie
How many MLB outfields post less value than Mike Trout in 2014? Have to think the Cubs are on that list.

I was in love with the idea right away, and below, my subsequent investigation. I’d like to thank Eddie for the prompt, and for giving me another reason to re-visit Mike Trout’s unparalleled player page. Obviously, we can’t know anything yet about how the coming season is going to go. But we do have complicated mathematical guesses, which I’m happy to depend on for these purposes. By WAR, how many outfields does Mike Trout project to out-produce on his own during the 2014 regular season?

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Trying to Understand Bronson Arroyo

Bronson_Arroyo_2011For five years now, Bronson Arroyo has been better than his peripherals. Since 2009, only three pitchers have a bigger gap between their fielding independent numbers and their ERA, and those three didn’t come close to pitching as many innings. It’s tempting to say the free agent 36-year-old has figured something out… but what has he figured out, exactly? How has he become more than the sum of his parts? It has to be more than a whimsical leg kick.

Let’s use some basic peripherals to find comparable pitchers. His fastball struggles to break 90 mph, he doesn’t strike many out, and he doesn’t have great worm-burning stuff — but the control has been elite. Here are a few other pitchers that fit that sort of mold.
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Good Luck, Mark Mulder: You’ll Need It

Over the next week or so, we’re going to learn who gets into the Hall of Fame and (likely) the results of Alex Rodriguez‘ suspension appeal. Those are the kinds of stories that tend to bring out a lot of ugliness around the game, so it’s important that we take the opportunity to focus on smaller stories that remind us why we spend so much time following this sport in the first place — things like Mark Mulder signing a contract with the Angels on New Year’s Day, attempting a comeback after not having appeared in the bigs in the previous five seasons.

It’s incredibly unlikely to work, for reasons we’ll get to in a second, but it’s pretty easy to see why the Angels are willing to give this a chance. Mulder’s deal reportedly has zero guaranteed money, making it entirely performance-based, so the risk is low, and despite the well-received additions of Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs in the Mark Trumbo trade, the Los Angeles rotation is still thin. Jered Weaver and his terrifying trends remain at the top along with C.J. Wilson, and Garrett Richards figures to slot in somewhere. Joe Blanton will likely be cut loose one way or another, and the Angels may yet be the most likely landing spot for Matt Garza, but for the moment, their improved rotation is one that could still use some help.

So, fine, it’s a chance worth taking. But can Mulder make this work? Has anyone, ever? Read the rest of this entry »


The Angels Getting Better Without Getting Better

A popular question in our FanGraphs chats is which team has had the best offseason in the league. The offseason, of course, isn’t close to over, and the answer is necessarily subjective to some extent, but the other day Dave suggested the Cardinals, and I’ve thought the same thing. I love what the Cardinals have done, improving without making future sacrifices, and there’s a reason they’re considered one of the best-run organizations in MLB. A team that hasn’t crossed my mind, when considering the same question, is the Angels. I don’t think the Angels have had a bad offseason, so much as an uninspiring one. The Mark Trumbo trade was neat.

Another popular question asks which bad team from 2013 is most likely to surprise and contend in 2014. There are, of course, a few candidates, and the team I always want to point to is the Angels, who finished short of .500. I hesitate, though, because I’m not sure how bad the Angels really were. Their numbers were a good deal better than their record. In any case, looking forward, it seems to me the Angels are ripe for a return to contention, and that’s despite an offseason that’s only served to shuffle modest talent around.

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D-Backs Make Headlines While Angels, White Sox Make Gains

When Kevin Towers took over the Diamondbacks as general manager, one of the first things he did was make a trade. In Mark Reynolds, he had a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty had clear strikeout problems, and he wasn’t known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what made Reynolds was his power. Strength was his defining characteristic, and to that point Reynolds owned a career 108 wRC+ while being worth about eight WAR. In short, he was simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers gave him up to the Orioles in exchange for a couple relievers. One of them is all right.

Towers is still in charge of the Diamondbacks as general manager, and the most recent thing he’s done is make a trade. As had been rumored for a good while, Towers pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in Mark Trumbo. Trumbo is a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty has clear strikeout problems, and he’s not known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what makes Trumbo is his power. Strength is his defining characteristic, and to this point Trumbo owns a career 111 wRC+ while having been worth about seven WAR. In short, he’s simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers got him from the Angels in exchange for Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs. Both of them could be quality young players.

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Joe Smith: Boring Name, Decent Reliever

Joe Smith, who has long contended with Scott Baker and Jim Johnson for The Most Boring Name in Baseball, reportedly signed a three-year, $15.75 million deal with the Angels over the weekend. This might seem like another multi-year contract of the sort bloggers like to complain about, but I don’t think that conclusion is self evident. The more important question might be how this fits into a coherent off-season strategy for the Angels to improve their run prevention.

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Cardinals Continue Being Smart, Acquire Peter Bourjos

In the World Series, broadcasts from both TBS and Fox kept telling us how good of a center fielder Jon Jay was. In between plaudits, Jon Jay would inevitably get a poor jump, take a bad route, or just drop an easily catchable ball, sometimes all in the same game. It became something of a running joke, as Jay appeared to be a defensive disaster in the postseason, even while the networks kept insisting that he was terrific with the glove.

Well, the Cardinals clearly weren’t swayed by the rhetoric, and today, they’ve acquired Peter Bourjos from the Angels to be their new center fielder. And now TBS and Fox can properly say that the Cardinals have one of the best defensive center fielders on the planet, because Peter Bourjos is what Jon Jay was supposed to be.

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The Thinning Catcher Market

The Phillies re-signed Carlos Ruiz to a 3-year, $26 million deal. Also: Brayan Pena and Geovany Soto have locked down their 2014 teams (the Royals Reds and Rangers respectively). And now it appears Jose Molina is in the final stages of returning to St. Pete for another two years of expertly framed and eh, who cares about blocking? pitches.

So where does that leave the catching market? As far as I have seen, the Yankees, Red Sox, Rockies, Angels, Rangers (still), Blue Jays and Twins have all been connected with free agent catchers on MLBTR. Using their handy free agents leaderboards (with a few additions), we can examine the remaining free agent catchers and try our hand at predicting the right fits for each.
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2013 Disabled List Team Data

The 2013 season was a banner season for players going on the disabled list. The DL was utilized 2,538 times, which was 17 more than the previous 2008 high. In all, players spent 29,504 days on the DL which is 363 days more than in 2007. Today, I take a quick look at the 2013 DL data and how it compares to previous seasons.

To get the DL data, I used MLB’s Transaction data. After wasting too many hours going through the data by hand, I have the completed dataset available for public consumption.  Enjoy it, along with the DL data from previous seasons. Finally, please let me know of any discrepancies so I can make any corrections.

With the data, it is time to create some graphs. As stated previously, the 2013 season set all-time marks in days lost and stints. Graphically, here is how the data has trended since 2002:

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Introducing the Interactive Spray Chart Tool

I’ve been working on an interactive tool that allows you to create spray charts using Game Day data from the past two years for a few weeks now. I’ve always loved the Katron Batted Ball tool, and it’s been a great resource of mine for years. However, I wanted to put something together that was a bit more interactive, allowed for more filtering, and made side-by-side comparisons easier.

Our writers here at FanGraphs have been kind enough to play around with it and offer suggestions. After some tweaks I am ready to officially release the tool into the wild so that anyone can use it.

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The 2013 Joe Carter-Tony Batista Award

Award season is upon us. It is a time for arguing about ERA versus FIP, pitching to the score, defensive value, and the meaning of “valuable.” Fun, right? It is also a time for me to whip out fun little toys to recognize different kinds of offensive contributions. One of these is the basis for the Joe Carter-Tony Batista Award, which annually recognizes the hitter whose RBI total most overstates his actual offensive contribution.

Spoiler alert: it was a banner year for the National League Central. Taste the excitement!

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Iannetta, Conger, and the End of the Arencibia Era

If one were willing to go out on a limb, one might say that Blue Jays’ catcher J.P. Arencibia did not have the best year. Sure, he hit 21 home runs and, well, that is about it. With the rumor mill firing up in anticipation getting into full swing after the World Series, word has it that the Blue Jays are interested in acquiring one of the Angels’ catchers: either Chris Iannetta or Hank Conger.

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Right-Handed Platoon Notes: Cuddyer, Trout, and Holliday

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some interesting platoon splits of a couple of left-handed hitters who had my attention. When I started looking at some right-handed hitters who had splits I wanted to discuss, they also turned out to be players with a big impact this year: the winner of the 2013 National League batting title, the most exciting young player in years, and the hero of last night’s NLCS game. Their splits are interesting in themselves (at least to a certain type of baseball fan), but also are concrete way of thinking about more general principles with respect to platoon skill.

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Robert Coello’s Fastball Is Thankful For His Forkleball

Look at the numbers for Robert Coello‘s third pitch and you might not get it. It’s a forkball. It gets a below-average swinging-strike rate for a breaking pitch. It’s a ball half the time. It looks flawed. But then you watch Coello pitch, and this happens.

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Mike Trout on WAR

You won’t get Mike Trout to say he should win the Most Valuable Player award this year because his Wins Above Replacement total is higher than another player’s. But if you listen closely to him describing his game, you will hear the basic constructs for the argument that can be made in his favor. It’s a simple one.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All L.A. Angels

Episode 375
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses the mediocrity of the LA Angels and the consequences of same.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 43 min play time.)

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Play

So Why Do the Angels Suck?

Over the weekend, various reports have emerged suggesting that the Angels are likely to fire either GM Jerry DiPoto or longtime manager Mike Scioscia in the wake of their disastrous 2013 season. While Scioscia denies that there is an abnormal rift between the field staff and the front office, there’s enough smoke here to believe that there is a fire somewhere, and it would actually be unusual if someone wasn’t held responsible for a $140 million failure.

Firing decision makers as a response to poor performance is standard operating procedure in Major League Baseball, and the GM and manager are the two guys whose job descriptions include taking responsibility for the results on the field. Both DiPoto and Scioscia know how this game works, and neither one would have much of a right to be surprised if they were let go following the season. However, if the Angels actually want to fix what is broken, they should be more interested in figuring out what went wrong and why rather than just meting out punishment to satisfy the desire to hold someone accountable.

So, what happened to the 2013 Angels? How can a team with the best young player the game has seen in 100 years still manage to be so awful?

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Presenting 2013′s Surprising Top Two Pitch-Framers

In the beginning, there was Jose Molina. For real though, he’s really old. Molina hung around, and then baseball was invented, and then people figured out how to measure catcher pitch-framing, and then, initially, Molina really shined. Molina’s numbers blew everyone else’s out of the water, and so Molina became something of a cult favorite, and so on and so forth. You know how this story has gone. You know how Molina has become sort of popular, and you know how Molina is playing a lot for a contending team. Molina’s still really great at framing. It’s probably what he’s most great at.

Over time, I myself started to champion Jonathan Lucroy. Not because I thought Lucroy was better than Molina, but because I thought the two were roughly equivalent, and Lucroy didn’t get enough attention or respect. It seems to me Lucroy is one of baseball’s more underrated all-around players, and even still this year, Lucroy has been helping the Brewers’ pitching staff suck just a little less than it might otherwise. Lucroy’s still good, of course. Molina’s still good, of course. One doesn’t simply forget how to frame. But I was surprised when I took a peek at the 2013 pitch-framing leaderboards.

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Happy 22nd Birthday, Mike Trout

This post is analysis free. It’s just a list followed by amazement. Here are the best hitters (by wRC+) through their age-21 season, all time.

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Reviewing the Preseason Standings Projections

The FanGraphs staff made its obligatory preseason picks before the season (naturally), and I think it’s safe to say that none of us have psychic powers. My picks of the Angels and Blue Jays to win their divisions — they’re not looking so hot right now. In my defense, I was just blindly going along with what our preseason WAR estimates told me. OK, not the greatest defense, but I figured Steamer + ZiPS + FG-created depth charts could produce better guesses than I could on my own. Especially with the roster changes that have happened lately, I thought it would be a good time to revisit our projections. The Angels came up the series victors against the Blue Jays in their recent four-game Battle of the Disappointments, but both teams are still far below the expectations put on them.  However, let’s examine: could they actually be good teams who have just been unlucky?

Most teams have played somewhere around 110 games this season. That leaves plenty of room for unpredictability. If you flipped a coin 110 times, you’d expect to get about 55 heads, right? Well, the binomial distribution says there’s only about a 49.5% chance of the heads total being within even three of that (somewhere between 52 and 58 times). MLB teams are pretty different from coins — they’re a lot more expensive — but I think you can apply the same principle to them. The above calculation for the coin assumes the “true” rate of heads is 50%. What would we see if we were to presume our projections’ estimated preseason win totals are actually representative of the “true” win rates for each team? The following table will show you: Read the rest of this entry »