Is Lack of Power Holding Back the Angels?

Not all wOBAs are created equal. Nor should they be. There are many ways to produce runs, and wOBA weighs each type in kind. It can create some amusing scenarios. My favorite involves Kosuke Fukudome. He has just five extra base hits, one homer, in 147 PA this year, yet has a .377 wOBA. Rickie Weeks has an identical wOBA, but has a .202 ISO. On an individual level this probably doesn’t make much of a difference, since there are nine other guys involved in run scoring. But on a team level, a skewed wOBA can present problems.

The 2011 Anaheim Angels have a .317 wOBA as a team, which is just a tick above the league average of .315. There are four teams clustered in the middle of the wOBA leader boards, ranging from .314 to .317. It’s safe to say that the Angels have a league average offense this year. Yet they have scored just 3.87 runs per game, which is more than a third of a run below the AL average, and ranks just 11th in the AL. Could their lack of power be the main culprit?

From a glance, it would appear that is the case. The Angels curently have a .132 team ISO, which is 11th in the AL — the exact position they hold for runs per game. That shouldn’t come as a shock. The correlation between runs per game and ISO is .94 for the AL in 2011. In 2010 it was .76. The increased correlation can be partially explained by the date. That is, we’re barely a quarter of the way through the season. But there is also the decreased power overall this year. The AL average ISO last year was .147, and this year is down to .141. I’m not sure to what degree a seemingly small downturn increases the importance of power, but intuitively it feels like it should at least a little.

What’s odd about the Angels is the composition of their production. They have three players with wOBAs between .341 and .358, which are all well above the league average. Yet the highest ISO among them is Erick Aybar‘s .112. Alberto Callaspo‘s ISO is just .101, and Bobby Abreu‘s is at .086. Yet their hitter who generates the most power, Mark Trumbo with a .202 ISO, has been relatively unproductive otherwise. His ISO sits right around league average, and exactly at the Angels’ team average, at .317. So three of the Angels most productive players are doing so without much power, while their biggest pure power threat hasn’t done much otherwise.

Things figure to get at least a little worse for the Angels in the next few weeks, as their top producer overall, second baseman turned left fielder Howie Kendrick, is on the DL until at least next weekend. He holds the team’s highest ISO by nearly 40 points, and has the second highest ISO, by a mere four points. He figures to miss only the minimum, so the damage doesn’t figure to be too great. But with a low-power team such as the Angels, it might inflict a little more damage than we’d normally expect.

The title of this post comes in the form of a question, because there’s a lot I don’t know about this. It does seem odd that the Angels have an average wOBA but score at a below average rate. The one way they differ from their peers is their power, which is a bit below average, while at the same time correlation between power and run scoring is a bit higher than last year. I’m not sure if the causal link exists, but the correlation is certainly there. The Angels’ lack of power does seem to be hurting them. This will certainly be something to follow in 2011.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

23 Responses to “Is Lack of Power Holding Back the Angels?”

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  1. AdamM says:

    Proofread please. There are ISOs aplenty, and not enough wOBAs

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  2. ppabich says:

    Vernon Wells was supposed to be that guy in the line-up. He posted a .242 ISO last season. If he was productive earlier in the year, I bet the Angels would be fine. The lack of power is especially noticeable now with Howie and Wells out. The Angels are running line-ups out there with Bourjos, Abreu, Mathis, Amarista, Izturis, Aybar, and Callaspo all out there at the same time. Torii and Trumbo aren’t making up for that.

    If the Angels are competitive in July they are going to have to get a bat from somewhere.

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  3. Nate says:

    Whew, good thing Wells is coming back in a few weeks to solve all of this!

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  4. Tom SInclair says:

    Where does RISP come into play? Or, better, is there a correlation between wOBA and RISP or wOBA and ISO? As an Angels’ fan, I have always said that the best way to get out of inning with the Angels at bat is to get a runner or two into scoring position; guaranteed out.

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    • Mike says:

      That’s interesting to hear – the UBR features have the Angels down as one of the better baserunning teams in the league. Which adds more to the ‘lack of power’ argument, I’d say.

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  5. Bob says:

    Don’t blame Peter Bourjos. After all, we all know that Peter Bourjos can hit.

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  6. brendan says:

    I read in the past about power-heavy wOBAs having less variance in runs-scored-per-game vs. OBP-heavy. The rationale is that you can scatter singles and walks over several innings and not score, but an HR always scores, with 2B, 3B also likely to turn into runs.

    If that is true, LAA could just be suffering from that high variance, scoring fewer runs than expected of there team wOBA, because of scattering.

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  7. BillWallace says:

    It’s also that the linear weights for a particular event are based on an environment where the other events occur by previous and later batters at league average rates. In a different environment, those weights may be off. e.g. if a team had player that only hit home runs or got out and nothing else, then home runs wouldn’t be worth 1.4, they’d be worth 1. Conversely if a team hits nothing but singles a single might not be worth .5 it might be worth .45.

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  9. pft says:

    I suspect the coefficients for w/OBA are not correct for the lower run environment this year. Power is more important in a lower run environment.

    Also, the Angels have some weird H-A splits.

    644 OPS-H
    775 OPS-A

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  10. Drew says:

    In the 4th paragraph, the 4th “ISO” should say “wOBA”, I believe.

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  11. Drew says:

    Similar typo in the following paragraph about Kendrick.

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  12. CircleChange11 says:

    This is interesting for the organization that is known (accurate or not) for excelling at smallball in the form of taking the extra base and hitting with RISP.

    Is it possible that aging and player movement has decreased this ability/skill?

    BTB posted an article on 5/24, illustrating each team’s production via the home run. NYY tops the charts with 52% of the runs coming from HR’s. 2nd is ARZ, BAL, COL, and TBR with 38%.

    LAA is below league average (32%) with 29%.

    Granted teams don’t choose when they hit HR, but with HR decreasing leaguewide, hitting them with men on and scoring runs without HRs is at a premium.

    There was also an interesting article at Tango’s Blog reprinted from the first half of the 1900′s looking at how many hits each team needed to get to score a run. The figures were presented as H:R ratios. I don’t recall whether this was statstically significant, but it was interesting.

    Good topic. It would be interesting to examine the teams that are the best at scoring runs without HR and see how they’re doing it and whether there is some predictive value as to whether they can continue it. Are the getting a lot of walks? Timely/Lucky hitting? Stealing bases or taking the extra base?

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  13. Barry Bonds says:

    Sign me.

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  14. Tom Sinclair says:

    When the Angels homer, they win. When they don’t, they lose. W-L for past 11 games: 7-4. 6 of the wins were with homers; 2 of the 4 losses the opponents homered. In one loss, the Angels homered. I know this is no more than a crude observation, but certainly on the surface, power matters.

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