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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.