A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Thirteen: Anaheim Angels
Checking in at number 13 is our final playoff team with the Angels. They won three more games than any other team in baseball, but rank just 7th in the American League according to BaseRuns. Principally they were hampered by their offense, ranked 18th with just 738 projected runs scored. The pitching and defense were a bit better at 9th.
The Angels had just four positions that ended up ranking above average: catcher, first base, and two of the outfield/designated hitter combo. Catcher Mike Napoli posted a .273/.374/.586 line in 227 at bats, but fellow backstop Jeff Mathis hit just .194/.275/.318 in 283 at bats. Notably, the left side of the infield was an unmitigated mess offensively. Erick Aybar, Macier Izturis, Brandon Wood, Robb Quinlann and Chone Figgins combined for around 45 runs of below average offense according to wOBA. It wasn’t all bad though as Torii Hunter lived up to their hopes for actual offense from their center fielders and Mark Teixeira was an absolute beast, .358/.449/.632, after coming over in July.
Anaheim’s pitching was a testament to not only a solid unit but also to an enduring quality. The Angels tied for both the fewest number of starters used and the fewest number of relievers used. In fact, the Angels had four starters make 30 or more starts, a helpful achievement to a team that started the season with injury news to Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey. Ervin Santana underwent a complete turnaround, going from a 8.38 ERA in 14 road starts in 2007 to a 3.02 ERA in 17 road starts during 2008.
The Angels boasted five reliable bullpen arms in Jose Arredondo, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver, Scot Shields and of course Francisco Rodriguez and his saves. Meaningless records aside, the five of them soaked up the majority of innings that the dependable starters couldn’t get to and helped keep the whole staff in balance.
Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira might be departing this winter, but the Angels have money to spend and a rotation that is going to return with Kelvim Escobar. Further blessed with a division that looks weak on paper once again next season and the Angels are likely to be the most favored division winner to repeat in 2009.
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