Not So Fast Out West

The Anaheim Angels are close to getting back a significant portion of their disabled rotation with John Lackey and Ervin Santana seeming set to return in short order.

It has been assumed and widely written that the Angels, roundly considered to be either slight favorites or slight underdogs to Oakland for the AL West would just try to weather the storm of injuries through the first two months and then take off once back to full or near full strength. Roughly 30 games into the season, it would seem that they have accomplished that first goal with Oakland seriously floundering and just the pitching-challenged Texas Rangers ahead of them by a mere half a game.

Is the second part of the model going to hold up though? The point here is to look at what has fueled the Angels success so far to date. It certainly hasn’t been the offense which has produced at a markedly below league average level and gotten roughly, but still below, league average results on the back of an inflated BABIP. It has not been their gloves either, which also rank below average.

The Angels bullpen has produced some decent fielding independent numbers, but I would still rank them as slightly below average thanks to their near league worst line drive rate allowed. In point, what has been keeping the Angels afloat has precisely been their starting pitching.

Now, nobody is going to argue that getting Anthony Ortega out of the rotation isn’t going to be beneficial, but the other displaced member of the rotation is going to have been either Matt Palmer, currently sporting a 4.54 FIP or Shane Loux and his staff leading 3.78 FIP. For reference, John Lackey‘s FIP last season was 4.53 and he was projected to be around 3.90 before the injury with Ervin Santana at about the same level. A half run of FIP spread over 150 innings amounts to a mere eight runs of difference.

All told, as long as neither Lackey nor Santana get re-hurt or implode or, in the case of Santana, turn back into the 2007 form, adding the pair back into the rotation is probably worth about two wins above what the Angels have currently gotten from their worst two starters. Two wins is a lot in a tight division, but consider that even before the injuries the Angels were not projected to be heads or shoulders above anyone out west.

The Angels are about to get better, yes, but looking at the numbers, the highest probable scenario says that they are not going to simply run away with the AL West. It’s a long season yet.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

13 Responses to “Not So Fast Out West”

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  1. Joel says:

    Lackey’s FIP last year seemed like an outlier. He had produced 3 straight seasons of low 3s FIP before last years injury cut his season shorter. He might be recovered from that ailment and back to at least mid to high 3s FIP, which is worth alot more than a 4.5

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  2. t ball says:

    I think the Angels would be insane not to try to add a bat in trade this summer.

    Meanwhile, the Rangers have posted much, much better defensive numbers this season, helping their pitching staff to be very good over the last 3 weeks — a rotation ERA of 4.00 in that span — and the rotation is pitching deep enough to keep the bullpen rested. I wouldn’t count any of the 4 teams out of it.

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  3. Rally says:

    They should probably try to acquire Vladimir Guerrero. That should give them a pretty good offense. Nothing wrong with an OF/DH combo of Vlad, Hunter, Abreu, and Juan Rivera. Morales is coming along well at first, Napoli is a monster behind the plate. Figgins is valuable in the leadoff spot where his high OBP and nonexistant SLG works. That leaves 2B and SS. Howie needs to improve his pitch recognition but I’d rather stick with him and hope he develops instead of a trade (not that good hitting 2B are that easy to get in trade anyway). And then SS, where the best option is probably Maicer Izturis, who is about middle of the pack in that position.

    I just don’t see a spot where it’s easy to add a bat right now.

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    • t ball says:

      I don’t see Napoli hitting that well all year, though obviously that’s not a place you make a change. I agree there is no obvious, easy place to add a bat and I don’t really expect them to.

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    • Trenchtown says:

      Replace Juan Rivera who has played as replacement level player or worse the last three years

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  4. Trenchtown says:

    “Now, nobody is going to argue that getting Anthony Ortega out of the rotation is going to be beneficial”

    I would definitely argue that getting Anthony Ortega out of the rotation is going to be beneficial. I think you meant isn’t going to be beneficial

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  5. WonkoTheSane says:

    I don’t think that it was roundly held that the Angels were slight favorites or slight underdogs to the A’s. I think they were widely considered to be the favorites, period.

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    • Teej says:

      At least among the more saber-friendly sites I read, the Angels were considered slight favorites in a bad division. They just aren’t good enough to expect them to run away with it, even if all their pitchers were healthy.

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    • Nick says:

      Only by people who don’t know what regression and Pythag record are.

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      • Nate says:

        Only prob with that is that Pythag doesn’t take into account a good bullpen. The Angels have constantly outplaying their pythag for years.

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      • Nick says:

        And this year, their pen clearly wasn’t as good as it has been in previous seasons.

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  6. Dave says:

    The part you are missing is that the angels have had a terrible bullpen. Presumably one if not both of the guys replaced end up there and THAT is where the team gains wins.

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  7. dbuff says:

    I don’t see Lackey or Santana working deep into games for a while after they come back so the Angels will be leaning on their bullpen more than ever. Even if their middle relief improves the fact remains that Shields is simply unreliable at this point and Fuentes has been very shaky.

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