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?

The place where everyone starts pointing figures is the two high priced free agent acquisitions of the past couple of years, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Between them, they cost the Angels $360 million in guaranteed contracts, and they’ve combined to put up a whopping +1.8 WAR this season. Hamilton was supposed to be the big left-handed bat to protect Pujols in the line-up, but he’s been a below average hitter in 2013, and whatever protection he was supposed to offer certainly didn’t seem to help Pujols in any meaningful way. However, if we’re dissecting the flaws of this Angels team, starting with a couple of hitters is a little bit odd, because the Angels offense has actually been quite good this year.

As a team, the Angels have a 108 wRC+, which ranks #4 in MLB. Even if you even out the playing field by eliminating pitchers from the equation, the Angels are still tied for 5th with the Braves. Pujols and Hamilton haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain, but the rest of the Angels line-up has been pretty good. At 4.5 runs per game, the Angels are basically producing the same level of offense as the Rays and Rangers, both of whom look like they’re headed for postseason play. Certainly, that doesn’t mean that the disappointing performances from Hamilton and Pujols haven’t mattered — there’s no upper limit on runs scored, so this offense would have been something else if those guys hadn’t fallen apart — but it is hard to point the finger at the Angels offense as the primary reason for why the team has failed.

So if the problem isn’t scoring runs, it must be run prevention, right? Well, yes, sort of. The Angels are 28th in the majors in runs allowed per game, with only Houston and Toronto allowing their opponents to score more often, so run prevention has been a pretty big problem in Anaheim. But when you drill down a bit, the individual components of pitching and defense don’t look that bad.

As a staff, the Angels have a 107 FIP-, which ranks 24th overall. Not good, certainly, but maybe not the total disaster that it might seem on the surface. The Orioles have a 109 FIP-, and they’re contending for a wild card spot. You wouldn’t describe this pitching staff as effective, but that type of FIP isn’t the kind of total disaster that should cause a team to implode in on itself.

Depending on whether you use UZR (-13), DRS (-59), or just a simple rate of turning balls in play into outs (69.5%, 25th in MLB), the defense deserves some of the blame here too. With Peter Bourjos spending most of the year on the DL, the outfield defense has never been what it was supposed to be, and giving up-the-middle innings to statues like Brendan Harris and Grant Green hasn’t helped either. Putting poor pitching with poor fielding has produced poor run prevention.

But the number of runs they’ve allowed still doesn’t explain the story. By straight runs scored and runs allowed, the Angels “should be” 61-68, three games better than their current record. And by wOBA differential, they actually don’t look like a disaster at all.

Team wOBA (Offense) wOBA (Defense) wOBA Differential
Tigers 0.344 0.295 0.049
Braves 0.321 0.294 0.027
Rays 0.327 0.302 0.025
Cardinals 0.325 0.301 0.024
Red Sox 0.341 0.318 0.023
Dodgers 0.316 0.296 0.020
Pirates 0.308 0.289 0.019
Rangers 0.324 0.306 0.018
Athletics 0.316 0.299 0.017
Reds 0.314 0.298 0.016
Indians 0.322 0.314 0.008
Orioles 0.329 0.328 0.001
Nationals 0.307 0.308 -0.001
Angels 0.325 0.326 -0.001
Diamondbacks 0.314 0.317 -0.003
Brewers 0.312 0.316 -0.004
Rockies 0.321 0.325 -0.004
Cubs 0.306 0.313 -0.007
Giants 0.304 0.311 -0.007
Mets 0.301 0.310 -0.009
Royals 0.303 0.313 -0.010
Mariners 0.310 0.321 -0.011
Blue Jays 0.321 0.332 -0.011
White Sox 0.300 0.314 -0.014
Yankees 0.302 0.318 -0.016
Padres 0.304 0.321 -0.017
Twins 0.308 0.330 -0.022
Phillies 0.304 0.327 -0.023
Marlins 0.277 0.309 -0.032
Astros 0.300 0.350 -0.050

I’ve run this chart a few times over the course of the season, because I think this gives us a pretty good picture of what a team has done from a strictly context-neutral perspective. The Angels have a .325 wOBA and a .326 wOBA against, so if you distributed their positive and negative outcomes evenly, we would expect them to be roughly a .500 club. In other words, not only are the Angels underperforming their expected W-L record based on runs scored and runs allowed, even their RS/RA is worse than we’d expect given the individual events that lead to RS/RA.

This is unusual, not just because the Angels record is so far removed from what their components suggest, but because this is the thing that Mike Scioscia has basically built his managerial career off succeeding at. Countless articles have been written about Scioscia’s teams routinely exceeding their expected records, and the Angels so often exceeded their pythag records under his watch that people have been trying to explain his black magic for the past decade. First, it was aggressive baserunning, then it was excellent bullpen management, then it was better clutch hitting because of his propensity for high contact hitters.

This year, almost every bonus that has ever been credited to Scioscia has gone sideways. Even with Mike Trout, the Angels are an average baserunning team in 2013, rating as +2 runs based on our baserunner measures. Their bullpen has been lousy, leading the majors with 72 meltdowns and one of the worst ratios of shutdowns to meltdowns in baseball. And when it comes to clutch hitting, no team has been worse this year than the Angels, as our Clutch measure has their offense at -4.95 wins thanks to their poor performance in high leverage situations.

Much has been made of the fact that this is not the kind of team that Scioscia prefers to manage, with a line-up full of thumpers who don’t move very well, and it certainly hasn’t played like a typical Mike Scioscia team. But, there’s also the very real possibility that Mike Scioscia never had any magic to begin with, and his reputation was propped up by the beauty of random variation, and he’s currently being kicked in the teeth by regression to the mean. At the end of the day, there isn’t much evidence that managers have a ton of control over their team’s ability to distribute hits and runs in a certain manner, and that is the driving factor of pythag, not dugout wizardry.

So, what are we left with? The Angels have played, in some ways, about the same as the Washington Nationals, who have also been a big disappointment after entering the season with visions of grandeur. If we’re blaming Jerry DiPoto for the construction of the roster, we should probably acknowledge that the core performance of the team he put together is more like a .500 team than a .450 team. Would there be a front office overhaul coming after the season if the Angels finished 81-81, instead of 73-89 like they’re currently on pace for, or would it simply be written off as the result of injuries to Pujols, Bourjos, Jered Weaver, Jason Vargas, and the off-season bullpen acquisitions?

This isn’t to defend DiPoto, necessarily. The trade for Tommy Hanson was weird when they made it and predictably hasn’t worked out, and it wasn’t hard to see the Angels pitching problems coming a mile away. Whether the moves were dictated by ownership or not, he was running the ship when the Angels gave out what two enormous contracts to aging players on the wrong side of 30, and he made the ill-fated Zack Greinke trade that cost them Jean Segura for a rental. I think you could make a pretty decent case against almost every acquisition the Angels have made since DiPoto took over.

But, at the same time, the worst moves are widely reported to have been ownership mandates. Barring a resignation of his post, I’m not sure exactly how DiPoto should have stopped Arte Moreno from spending his own money on players he apparently coveted. And the 2013 team’s failures look more like a result of a poor distribution of positive events. If Scioscia gets all the credit when his team outperforms their expectation, it would make some sense that he should be the guy to get the blame when it goes the other way too.

However, there’s also the reality that perhaps this is all just random variation, and there’s nothing more here other than the fact that, over 130 games, teams won’t distribute their hits across “clutch” opportunities in the same way. Perhaps firing Scioscia for the fact that his players just didn’t allocate their events in the most optimal way isn’t such a good idea. The sabermetric community has long been skeptical of Scioscia’s team’s ability to sustain these positive differences between their expected and actual records, and so using regression to the mean in an unsustainable performance as a reason for him to lose his job seems less than fair.

The Angels certainly haven’t lived up to expectations, and $140 million should buy a better team than this one has turned out to be. But, when looking at whether to blame Moreno, DiPoto, or Scioscia, the answer is almost certainly some combination of the three, with a heavy dose of random variation sprinkled in as well. This Angels team isn’t completely hopeless, and with some better bullpen acquisitions over the winter, could probably be expected to contend in 2014. Whether DiPoto and Scioscia are in charge of putting together that team remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t say it’s abundantly clear that firing either one is really going to fix the problems that have plagued the 2013 Angels.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Mike D
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Mike D
2 years 11 months ago

Very weak farm system, compared to, say, St. Louis

Ryan
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Ryan
2 years 11 months ago

To be fair, I think most farm systems look weak compared to St. Louis’s.

kevin65
Member
kevin65
2 years 11 months ago

my neighbor’s aunt makes $70/hr on the internet. She has been out of work for five months but last month her income was $14220 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site….. YAD7 com

Nick
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Nick
2 years 11 months ago

She sounds smart, maybe the Angels should make her GM.

Drew
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Nick – you literally made me laugh out loud.

agam22
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agam22
2 years 11 months ago

You mean their system is much weaker than the general consensus best system in baseball? You don’t say.

maguro
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maguro
2 years 11 months ago

The Angels do have a really weak farm system, maybe the worst in baseball.

Nathan
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Nathan
2 years 11 months ago

Tigers fans would like to have a word with you.

The only thing that has kept the Tigers afloat since 2006 is that Dombrowski consistently makes up for his poor drafting by trading turds for major league ballplayers.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd
2 years 11 months ago

At least the Tigers have Castellanos. What do the Angels have? Cron? Cowart?

ChrisS
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ChrisS
2 years 11 months ago

The Yankees would like to have a word.

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 11 months ago

Not only is it a stupid comment but it’s absolutely irrelevant to the performance of the major league roster.

#6org
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#6org
2 years 11 months ago

#6ORG!!!!!! NUMBER SIX ORG!!!!!!! DAVE IS A HATOR!!!!!! HE HAS ZERO CREDIBILITY!!!!!!!!! HE’S A COMPLETE JOKE!!!!!!!! HE’S WRONG ABOUT ALMOST EVERYTHING!!!!!!!! HE LITERALLY HAS A HUGE HEAD!!!!!!! PLEASE FIRE THIS NUMBSKULL BIASED HATOR NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike
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Mike
2 years 11 months ago

Can’t tell if joking or moron?

Matt
Member
Matt
2 years 11 months ago

I choose to believe it’s the former. Because if it’s the latter, it just drives my faith in mankind’s intelligence down a deep, dark hole.

nilbog44
Member
nilbog44
2 years 11 months ago

I’m more offended that you misspelled “hater” than any other part of your trolling

#6org
Guest
#6org
2 years 11 months ago

i was in a rush for my date with a girl and didn’t double check, obviously i know how to spell hater

the rest of the post still stands

Jon L.
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Jon L.
2 years 11 months ago

You just know he’s telling the truth, because anyone who has a date with a girl describes it as having “a date with a girl.”

KJ
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KJ
2 years 11 months ago

Human cloning has not been perfected as of yet.

Slats
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Slats
2 years 11 months ago

Too many players have low WBT (Wins Below Trout).

Warriors
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Warriors
2 years 11 months ago

That’s a bold statement.

David Keller
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David Keller
2 years 11 months ago

That’s not your joke. You didn’t invent that joke.

JS7
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JS7
2 years 11 months ago

I blame Joe Blanton.

steex
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steex
2 years 11 months ago

If the stat is Wins [b]Below[/b] Trout, wouldn’t the problem be having [i]high[/i] WBT? Having a low WBT would suggest being nearly as good as Trout.

Nick O
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Nick O
2 years 11 months ago

<blockquote cite="Would there be a front office overhaul coming after the season if the Angels finished 81-81, instead of 73-89 like they’re currently on pace for, or would it simply be written off as the result of injuries to Pujols, Bourjos, Jered Weaver, Jason Vargas, and the off-season bullpen acquisitions?"

Yeah, probably.

Nick O
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Nick O
2 years 11 months ago

That was a bit unclear for several reasons but I think there would probably be an overhaul even if the Angels finished 81-81.

Bip
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Bip
2 years 11 months ago

The ‘cite’ attribute is for a link. The actual quote goes between the element markers, like this:

[blockquote]Quoted text[/blockquote]

comes out like this:

quoted text

Fastpiece
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Fastpiece
2 years 11 months ago

Lol someone just got edumacated

Joe Veno
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Scioscia has always had a “knack” for exceeding his teams run differential. Supposedly. And DiPoto signed two guys that were almost definitely going to be overpaid. That being said, we can’t blame anyone for not seeing Pujols falling off a cliff so soon. But we can blame DiPoto for Hamilton, who was showing signs that he had enough weaknesses that a huge deal was ludicrous. Honestly, maybe both should go. We saw Cherington part ways with A-Gon and Crawford because they weren’t “his” guys. It’s easier to do that, I’d imagine, if the current GM didn’t sign them. Bringing in another GM and trying to get rid of one of those contracts, at least, wouldn’t be easy. But not impossible, necessarily.

revolu
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revolu
2 years 11 months ago

you can’t trade pujols, he has a full no trade clause

Bip
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Bip
2 years 11 months ago

Yeah, it’s called a contract that will pay him $30 million at his age-40 season.

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac
2 years 11 months ago

…and his age 41 season. Even if you’re going to be stupid enough to give out high contract years into a player’s 40s, I still don’t understand how anyone thought it was a good idea to backload the contract like that. A-Rod’s current deal may be a huge mess, but at least he won’t be getting paid any more in the last year than he already is now, well, would’ve without however much he’ll lose once whatever suspension he winds up with kicks in.

Valuearb
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Valuearb
2 years 11 months ago

If you think league average payrolls are going to be in the $150M range by then given the supposed massive influx of TV monies, back loading long deals makes sense. Not necessarily in this case, but if Arte’s payroll is $200m during those last two years they won’t even feel it.

Joe Veno
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Well I suppose he’d have to wave that. Hamilton’s pretty much untradeable. Really they both are unless the Angels absorb a lot of money. They can still find a new GM and manager and just make sure they find a pitching staff next season that has actual quality pitchers filling out spots 3-5.

jb
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jb
2 years 11 months ago

Also easier to do that when the Dodgers don’t already have an average-but-overpaid 1B and used-to-be-good-what-happened OF.

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 11 months ago

Moreno owns the Pujols and Hamilton contracts. He did those. DiPoto deserves a lot of blame for his blunders, but those 2 aren’t his.

Andy
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Andy
2 years 11 months ago

Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson come to mind.

Tim
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Tim
2 years 11 months ago

there’s also the very real possibility that Mike Scioscia never had any magic to begin with, and his reputation was propped up by the beauty of random variation, and he’s currently being kicked in the teeth by regression to the mean.

I really hate it when people use “regression to the mean” when they mean “experiencing negative variation after positive variation.” This is not how regression to the mean works, or how statistics work. It’s the gambler’s fallacy in fancy talk.

NYHB
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NYHB
2 years 11 months ago

Could you explain this? How are they different?

Adam S
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Adam S
2 years 11 months ago

Say you flip a fair coin 20 times and get 13 heads. How many heads should you expect in the next 20 flips? Of course, 10.

If you get 10 or 11 heads, that’s regression to the mean (which is 10). I.e., you can’t keep going 13-7 with a fair coin. If you get 7 heads, that’s a negative variation after a positive one — regression to the mean and then some.

Griffin Aerts
Member
Griffin Aerts
2 years 11 months ago

Statistical idiot here, how come you cannot just assume that there would be just as many years of negative variation as there are years of positive variation?

Sam
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Sam
2 years 11 months ago

Because they’re independent events. Just like coin flips, each individual event has the same probability. On average, you’ll get the same positive/negative seasons, but that only works as a predictive measure. For simplicity, look at the coin example again.

You start flipping coins and get two heads in a row. What is the probability that the next flip is heads? Of course 1/2. So you flip 5 more times and get all heads. Now you have 7 heads in a row. What is your expected breakdown for the last 13 flips? Of course, approximately 6-7 of each. So let’s say that happens, thus ending up with 13 heads and 7 tails like the example. We just experienced regression to the mean. But even though we had too many heads to start with, we didn’t get too many tails to “balance out”, we just got an even breakdown from that point forward.

B N
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B N
2 years 11 months ago

I would also note that most people struggle with these concepts because they ultimately boil down to understanding infinity. In any finite set of draws (even a very large one), a large run of heads would bias the overall fraction of heads you would see.

If you’re going to do 8 coin flips, then the first 4 are heads, a fair coin is pretty likely to give you 6 heads total (75% of flips were heads). At face value, this seems non-intuitive: if the coin was fair, it should have given you 50% heads. But that’s not what a fair coin guarantees you. It only promises that if you flip the coin an INFINITE number of times, you’ll get 50% heads. Even if you flip it a million times, you’re highly unlikely to get exactly 50% heads (in fact, as you start to approximate a continuous distribution, you get LESS likely to hit 50% dead on for any finite value of flips). But, despite this, if you flip that coin infinity times… 50%. Not because it kept track of prior flips, but because you flipped the coin so many times it washed out those outliers.

skmd
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skmd
2 years 11 months ago

someone should also explain this concept to broadcasters, even our own Pat Hughes who’s usually very intelligent, when they’re “amazed” that, say, the Cubs and Dodgers have played 2400 games over the years they’ve been in existence and their won-loss record against each other is almost 50/50, to within 6 or 8 games. Over that many games, to be so close! Wow! Well yeah, guys, the more games the two teams play, over the more years, the more the likelihood that they’re going to have an equal number of wins and losses.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

“over the more years, the more the likelihood that they’re going to have an equal number of wins and losses.”

No. Gambler’s fallacy.

MichaelPat
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MichaelPat
2 years 11 months ago

Isn’t gamblers fallacy when the gambler believes an independent event is influenced by past events? (i.e., four heads in a row, so a tail is more likely)

It seems reasonable to me that thousands of games over a hundred-plus years should produce something close to a 50-50 split, as long as we are talking about two genuinely major league clubs… Isn’t that regression to the mean?

ToddM
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ToddM
2 years 11 months ago

Truly astounding that people still don’t get this. Common sense only goes so far.

I often pose the question:

If you flip a coin 10 times, what’s the probability you’ll get exactly 5 heads?

People tend to greatly over-estimate the answer, but once you tell them the correct number (10c5/2^10) is 24.6% and explain why, they claim to understand.

Then I ask, what’s the probability you’ll get exactly 50 heads in 100 coin flips, and the supposedly newly wise questionee still picks a higher number than 24.6%. When you explain it’s actually just under 8%, the confusion begins anew.

James
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James
2 years 11 months ago

Thank you, I too scoffed at that a little. “The Angels are last in clutch hitting…they’re experiencing regression to the mean.” Uh, the mean isn’t dead last.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 11 months ago

That always irritates me. One area of concern I have is with the projections pages, which seem to often utilize such methodologies, ie because a pitcher outplayed his xfip, he must be due to underplay his xfip, rather than considering the fact that xfip is a relatively limited metric, and siera, for example, is far better.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd
2 years 11 months ago

No it’s not. Expecting it to “even out” would be gambler’s fallacy, but the act of it moving back toward normally distributed is precisely what regression to the mean is.

Nick O
Guest
Nick O
2 years 11 months ago

I think “getting kicked in the teeth by regression to the mean” was meant to be a poetic way of saying “experiencing random negative variation.” At least that’s how I interpreted it.

Madbag
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Madbag
2 years 11 months ago

That is exactly what “regression to the mean” implies, or more precisely “reversion toward the mean”. Any Statistics 101 student will tell you that it is a method of describing bivariate distribution with identical marginal distributions. In other words; regression to the mean is simply a reversion to mediocrity with all other factors remaining the same.

miffleball
Guest
miffleball
2 years 11 months ago

likewise, and in a slightly different tack, if you flip a coin 20 times and get 7 heads, it might be random variation, but how many times do you have to flip a coin before you starting wondering if it’s a rigged coin and not just insisting it will regress to the mean?

At this point, Scioscia’s been beating the odds for what – 12,13 years – at what point do we establish that his teams are not the mean (and whatever credit can be ascribed to the manager given), rather than waiting for the first bad year and waving it as proof that scioscia has really just been lucky for all these years?

Kevin S.
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Kevin S.
2 years 11 months ago

Actually, he hasn’t been doing it for nearly that long. If we go by Pythag, his first couple teams actually underperformed their expectation by a couple of wins a season (even the ’02 team). They then went a couple years where they were typically about four wins better than their Pythag, when an insane eleven wins better in 2008, and have basically played to their run differential the past few seasons.

DC
Guest
DC
2 years 11 months ago

What’s this? Dave Cameron masking his ignorance and arrogance with bluster and a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics? DC wanting to say “well, they were due” but wanting to sound all smart and sabermetric instead of just sounding like every other AM radio talk show caller? DC not knowing the answer to something but not being willing to just say “I don’t know” or “just bad luck”? NOOOOOO. Go on. Pull the other one.

“regression to the mean” = “They were due”
“BABIP” = “luck”
“sequencing” = “luck”
“outperformed or underperformed their pythag” = “I have no idea what’s happening and that is scary because I know everything”

Jon L.
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Jon L.
2 years 11 months ago

I also hate Dave. That’s why I spend a lot of my time on this site, reading his articles and commenting on them.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
2 years 11 months ago

That was clearly Napoli’s opinion.

Valuearb
Guest
Valuearb
2 years 11 months ago

Regression to the mean is not gamblers fallacy. If you flip 100 quarters and get heads 60 times you are ckearly due for regression to the mean. Regression to the mean does not mean you are due to flip tails more often, it means your existing average/mean is likely to decline the more flips you do.

Regression to the mean specifically in this example

A) does not mean your next 100 flips expectation is any different than normal, ie less than 50% heads.

B) does mean your Heads expectation for your first 200 flips combined is going to be less than your current 60% Heads rate.

In this case referring to Scoscia’s supernatural ability to defy pythag and forecasting, it can be a reasonable term to use, though in the context it’s unclear to the reader whether the author meant A or B.

Joe Veno
Member
2 years 11 months ago

In a time when large-market front offices are becoming smarter, the Angels have not. It could be that simple.

LaLoosh
Guest
LaLoosh
2 years 11 months ago

if everyone were smart, then no one would appear smart.

Utah Dave
Guest
Utah Dave
2 years 11 months ago

Best observation of them all.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 11 months ago

Thank you, Syndrome.

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 11 months ago

That’s not true. One could always look at historical figures and call them dummies. Take THAT Branch Rickey. I bet people hadn’t even INVENTED personal computers when you were a GM. … Dummy. Too stupid to invent computers and run a baseball team at the same time.

NATS Fan
Guest
NATS Fan
2 years 11 months ago

Every human being is extremely smart when part of the group of all living things.

Ivan Grushenko
Guest
Ivan Grushenko
2 years 11 months ago

Which “Large-market front offices are becoming smarter” now that weren’t already “smart” in 2002? Cubs and……????

Joe Veno
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Mets.

Joe Veno
Member
2 years 11 months ago

White Sox, Angels, Mariners and Phillies seem to be behind still. Kenny Williams and Mike Scioscia’s “magic” seems to have caught up to them and/or worn off. Amaro is just bad now it seems. And Mariners can’t find offense.

berychance
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berychance
2 years 11 months ago

Mariners have a wRC+ of 96.

LaLoosh
Guest
LaLoosh
2 years 11 months ago

LOL (and I’m a die hard Mets fan).

LaLoosh
Guest
LaLoosh
2 years 11 months ago

Hah. Was laughing bc I thought you said weren’t becoming smarter, which sometimes seems to be the case no matter what they try to do.

Homer J. S.
Guest
Homer J. S.
2 years 11 months ago

I am so smart. I am so smart. S-M-R-T.

I mean S-M-A-R-T.

Mikerays3
Guest
Mikerays3
2 years 11 months ago

When have large-market front offices gotten smarter. They are still all morons next to Tampa and Oakland.

Dave Cornutt
Guest
Dave Cornutt
2 years 11 months ago

Well, there’s the Red Sox.

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 11 months ago

As an example of smart or not?

Matt
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

I’m sure their regression to the mean is happening, but don’t discount a huge component that you only briefly mentioned: their bullpen leads the majors with 72 meltdowns. (The Braves are the best with only 31.) If we assume their bullpen was middle-of-the-road, say with only 56 meltdowns, that’s up to 14 more wins they could have right now. Even if they only won half of those 14 games, that’s a big differential and nobody would be talking about just how bad this season is.

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 11 months ago

“their bullpen leads the majors with 72 meltdowns”

That is a shockingly high number. That means they’re melting down more than they’re winning practically. With that many meltdowns, they should rename the team the “Anaheim Isotopes.”

James
Guest
James
2 years 11 months ago

I wanted to mention this too. I haven’t updated my spread sheet in a few days, but as of a few days ago their SD/MD ratio was 1.36. This was second to worst in the entire MLB, the only team worse was the Astros. In case you are curious 1.95 was was league average with the Braves first with a 3.4 SD/MD ratio.

Harry Greener
Guest
Harry Greener
2 years 11 months ago

Is their a correlation between bad pitching and runs scored?

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 11 months ago

No, “their” is the possessive form of “they.”

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 11 months ago

This is the best answer.

doff123
Guest
doff123
2 years 11 months ago

hmm, ok so the takeaway is that this is either regression to the mean, random variation, or “poor distribution of positive events.” so what’s the point of baseball analysis? it’s all just totally random, right?

jb
Guest
jb
2 years 11 months ago

Yes. “We don’t know enough to explain this with any confidence” is not a compelling story line, even if it is the truth.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 11 months ago

To me it’s more about probabilities. If I pull out 3 kings from a deck of cards them shuffle the deck, I’m not 100% sure my next card won’t be a king, but I’d bet money on it. To me, that’s what we try to do. Stack the deck as much as possible. Every now and them a Rubem Amaro will guess the king despite all logic and probability suggesting otherwise, but in the whole, sabermetrics help us increase our odds.

Dave Cornutt
Guest
Dave Cornutt
2 years 11 months ago

I think the short answer is, “The Angels’ $/WAR ratio is terrible, but that’s mostly due to the owner, and you can’t fire the owner.”

Carl
Guest
Carl
2 years 11 months ago

TO answer for Tim, “regression to the mean” after a period of positive variation would go back to the mean. For example, after flipping 10 heads in a row, regressing to the mean means that the next 10 coin flips would result in 5 heads and 5 tails. Flipping 10 tails in a row after flipping 10 heads in a row is “negative variation after a period of positive variation”

BJsWorld
Guest
BJsWorld
2 years 11 months ago

It’s hard to overstate the impact on the team when the owner presumably pushed hard for both Pujols and Hamilton. This comes on the report that Moreno demanded a trade for Vernon Wells.

When you throw in the fact that Pujols and Hamilton have both performed FAR worse than any reasonable projection system would have predicted it really is a perfect storm of disaster. I’m not sure it’s fair to fire either the GM or the Skipper. At the end of the day you had an owner that pushed for big signings and you had those big signings totally blow up.

The trade for Hanson has been a disaster but that is hardly the issue. Had the team an extra $50M in payroll I doubt the Hanson deal gets made.

The team is a total mess this year but there is a lot to be hopeful for come 2014. They need some tweaks and pray that Hamilton and Pujols can back on some sort of a positive track.

Ivan Grushenko
Guest
Ivan Grushenko
2 years 11 months ago

They still need pitchers and trading Tyler Chatwood, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, and junking Miguel Gonzalez and Zack Greinke couldn’t have helped. The great pen of 8 years ago made up of castoffs —
Brendan Donnelly, Kevin Gregg, Ben Weber, et al is gone.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

Such is the nature of making up a bullpen of castoffs – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And even when it does, you let someone else pay a premium and bring in a new set of castoffs when the last bunch gets pricey.

Lanidrac
Guest
Lanidrac
2 years 11 months ago

Pujols, at least, should be a lot better next year. While he’ll still be past his prime at 34 years old in 2014, he was significantly hampered by injuries this season that shouldn’t be much of an issue in the future after his season-ending surgery.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

“that shouldn’t be much of an issue in the future”

I wouldn’t want to bet 25-30MM a year on that.

Dave Cornutt
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Dave Cornutt
2 years 11 months ago

Plantar facitis is an injury that is very slow to recover from (I know this from personal experience). It won’t surprise me if Pujols isn’t ready for spring training. At this point I think the best the Angels can hope for next year is that he has a good second half.

Jordan
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Jordan
2 years 11 months ago

I’m not saying I’m a Scoscia believe, because I’m not sure that I am, but the fact that he was unable to continue practicing his magic after his preferences were ignored by ownership/the front office in personnel decisions doesn’t prove anything.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 11 months ago

This. If you are saying you work your magic one way, then someone forces you to do it another way…it doesn’t disprove the first way doesn’t work, does it?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

Or, even if you got to keep doing it your way and it didn’t work, is no sign that it doesn’t work. No managerial strategy (whatever that even means) works 100% of the time; you just want one that works more often than not, or is more likely to work than the next guy (or the four other “next guys” managing in your division).

scooter
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scooter
2 years 11 months ago

A similar article could be written about the Giants. Who to can there?

maguro
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maguro
2 years 11 months ago

It’s a little different when you’re coming off 2 WS wins in 3 years.

wally
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wally
2 years 11 months ago

Without the 2 huge contracts to position players that should have been better, but with 3 huge contracts to pitchers that never should have happened. Zito’s contract doesn’t need explanation. Lincecum was on a downward path, even maintaining his 2011 performance would have been overpaying, but at least it was only 2 years. While Cain has been fairly consistently good, his 3+ WAR per year still makes the 127M/6years insane. It is overpaying per year and 6 years for a pitcher?

In all the Giants are paying >$60M to 3 pitchers with 2.2 WAR this year…

David
Guest
David
2 years 11 months ago

the giants also have $60+mil coming off the books with ziti, LinkedIn, and pence.

David
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

whoa! talk about auto-correct fail!

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

I kinda like it actually. That ziti appears totally cooked, and who will overpay for LinkedIn?

LaLoosh
Guest
LaLoosh
2 years 11 months ago

VCs have already done that.

Billy
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Billy
2 years 11 months ago

I think the volatility of the Giants performances over the last four or five years is a testament to how pitching is so unstable compared to hitting. Building a team primarily around young pitching can be a sneaky way to make a good team out of seemingly nowhere, but it can also go south in a hurry. I’m not saying it’s a bad way to do thing, but it’s just inherently a little more unstable.

P.S. Yes, I know I ignored Posey in all this, but he’s not the point. He actually only proves it, as his hitting has been pretty consistent.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 11 months ago

It’s also shown that doing so can get you 2 WS. Seems worth it to me.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

It didn’t work for the Braves. Any anecdotal proof of “this is how you win a World Series” is pretty much bogus. If pitching won championships, the Braves would have had 5 or 6 in the 90s.

Guest
Guest
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

The real issue is acquiring Vargas, Hanson, & Blanton as 60% of the rotation.

Andy
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Andy
2 years 11 months ago

Vargas has been fine when he wasn’t injured. The other 2 were suspect.

JKA
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JKA
2 years 11 months ago

Really pretty simple…..the pitching is terrible and the offense has not been able to consistently slug their way to 9-7 victories. From a philosophical standpoint, they need to understand that a few superstars (even if they play well) cannot mask all deficiencies on the roster (Callaspo at 3B, Iannetta/Conger catching, waiver-wire relief pitching); and they need to begin seriously investing in the farm system and keeping their draft picks rather than chasing the downslope year(s) of fading free agents.

It will be interesting if the “Sciosca or DiPoto must go” speculation is true; if DiPoto gets the ax, it’s hard to imagine what competent baseball executive would be interested in the job, given that the manager would be demonstrated to have the power in the organization and the owner would be willing to toss the GM even those the owner is the real “architect” behind the big money free agent acquisitions….

Richie
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Richie
2 years 11 months ago

There are so many more competent baseball executives than there are GM jobs. No more than a couple can count on some day getting a shot. Every other one would take the Angel job if offered, it could well be the only shot they ever get.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 11 months ago

They should try and trade Pujols and Hamilton. Eh. Who are we kidding, they are so so screwed.

Marco
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Marco
2 years 11 months ago

You know who’s not screwed?

The next GM and manager. They’re going to look like heroes when the team experiences average luck.

Craig
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Craig
2 years 11 months ago

Why do these clueless “sports writers” always avoid talking about the most obvious problem the Angels have? MIKE BUTCHER! He would turn even the best pitchers into mediocre pitchers under his coaching. Worst pitching coach in baseball… it was a lot different in Anaheim when Bud Black was pitching coach. Why is this not obvious to everyone who is blaming Scioscia and Dipoto? Sure, they both are to blame as well, but no one is to blame more than Butcher for the worst Angels pitching I’ve seen in years. This Angels team would be in the Wild Card hunt, perhaps even after the lead in the AL West, if they had a decent pitching coach that could keep this Angels pitching staff consistent enough to win games, not blow 5-run leads, and not blow games every time they’re headed into the 8th or 9th with a 2-run lead.

anaheimisnotla
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anaheimisnotla
2 years 11 months ago

I want Scioscia gone for the hiring of Mike Butcher alone.

Rippers
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Rippers
2 years 11 months ago

This article doesn’t have enough Trout in it.

Joshua Reicks
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Joshua Reicks
2 years 11 months ago

This article really doesn’t explain much other than to argue a point which is already over utilized in the sabermetric community, i.e. Team A was lucky in the past, this year they are really unlucky. Unfortunately, that is lazy analysis and doesn’t really tell me what the Angel’s problem has been this year. Would have been better simply saying the problem is too complicated to cover in a short article or attempting to unravel it instead of looking at the stats and simply passing the buck to luck. Some managers have consistantly out performed their numbers only to experience a bad year.

Joshua Reicks
Guest
Joshua Reicks
2 years 11 months ago

A interesting approach would have been to analyze whether Scioscia was doing anything different, given his unique roster this year, as compared to year’s past.

Erik
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

He has and he hasn’t.

I think he has reigned in the aggressiveness in favor of a more methodical, high powered offense. At the same time his core still believes in small ball and an aggressive mentality. He seems to call for less steal attempts and hit and runs, while his base runners seem to still believe in getting thrown out on their own.

iglew
Guest
iglew
2 years 11 months ago

The difference is the bullpen. It’s true that there aren’t many ways a manager can affect run distribution between games, but the one prominent exception is that managers can affect distribution of runs allowed by way of bullpen use.

The reason the Angels have tended to beat their Pythag record in the past is because Scioscia has been more willing than most managers to give up on a lost game and leave a spent reliever out there to take a blowout loss. Scioscia’s “magic” was not so much a way to over-achieve above the team’s “true talent” expectation (ie, pythag), but rather a way to drive the pythag record down so that it’s no longer as good an indicator.

But whereas in past years, this has been done in order to preserve the bullpen for good results in subsequent games, this year the Angels bullpen is just plain bad all the time. So the extra runs allowed really are projective runs allowed and there’s no pythag differential this year.

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 11 months ago

That is a quite interesting hypothesis. We could probably test it by looking at the “garbage time” runs involved in prior pythag calculations versus now.

Erik
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

This is my take as well. The Angels problem comes from a complete dearth of pitching talent in the high minors. They have been forced in to trying out guys who have no business in the big leagues yet like Roth (straight from the draft), or giving significant time to waiver wire pick ups (lots of them). Outside of De La Rosa and Frieri, and maybe Jepsen, I’m not sure any of those guys belong above Triple A.

Throughout the years Scioscia has managed his bullpen quite well IMO. For the most part he used lesser relievers when the team was behind, and his best guys when the team was ahead. It was occasionally maddening to seem him not go for a come from behind win, but in the long run I think it contributed to his using better relievers in more high leverage situations.

chief00
Guest
chief00
2 years 11 months ago

I thought I’d noticed similarities between the Jays and Angels, but haven’t done any serious looking. Does anyone else notice anything (other than their W/L record)?

Eric Feczko
Guest
Eric Feczko
2 years 11 months ago

Regarding Pujols and Hamilton, while its true that they signed as hitters, the signings themselves will limit the financial flexibility of the Angels. Pitching is obviously a serious problem for them right now, for 24th in FIP- is pretty bad. Without financial flexibility, they will have trouble acquiring even league average pitchers in the future.

Using the Orioles as an example of why the Angels shouldn’t suck is a pretty bad comparison. The Orioles are an exception to the rule, not the other way around, as your own table shows.

MGL
Guest
MGL
2 years 11 months ago

I’ve been critical of DC a lot lately. This is a good article and this is a great statement:

“But, there’s also the very real possibility that Mike Scioscia never had any magic to begin with, and his reputation was propped up by the beauty of random variation, and he’s currently being kicked in the teeth by regression to the mean. At the end of the day, there isn’t much evidence that managers have a ton of control over their team’s ability to distribute hits and runs in a certain manner, and that is the driving factor of pythag, not dugout wizardry.”

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 11 months ago

DiPoto doing the Haren trade and getting Corbin/Skaggs from the Angels while he was the interim GM for the Dbacks, then being hired by the Angels right after that doesn’t help.

The great trade he made for the Dbacks wound up screwing up the farm system of the team that wound up hiring him after the Dbacks hired Kevin “Smarter than the so called experts” Towers.

Justin Bailey
Guest
Justin Bailey
2 years 11 months ago

pointing figures

Pit
Guest
Pit
2 years 11 months ago

ICARUS FIGHTS
MEDUSA ANGELS

dave g.
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

The Segura-Greinke trade really set the Angels back. Imagine him and Trout at the top of this lineup at their young ages and it’s a much better team for the future. They put their faith in Aybar, who’s not bad, but also not worth 8.5 mil for the next 4 years (only at 1.3 WAR this year). When you have the choice, stick with the young, team-controlled SS and trade Aybar.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

If they wanted to get Hamilton and Pujols off the books, would throwing in Trout be worth it? Maybe the other team eats more of their contracts for getting Trout. No idea what kind of prospect haul that would require.

Lanidrac
Guest
Lanidrac
2 years 11 months ago

I resent the idea that Trout is the best young player in the last 100 years. That honor should go to Albert Pujols in the early 2000s, most specifically 2003. WAR may argue otherwise, but WAR has always overvalued baserunning and defense for position players other than catchers, and everyone knows that defensive WAR is highly inaccurate (plus it’s not like Pujols is bad in either of those areas, anyway).

chief00
Guest
chief00
2 years 11 months ago

It’s tough to justify including ’03, since that was Pujols’ 3rd season and Trout hasn’t had one of those yet.

Otherwise, just checking a number of non-baserunning, non-defense stats, Trout acquitted himself well. In their first 2 seasons, Pujols leads in K% and ISO. His K% (13.8; 10.2) was impressive for a power hitting 3B/1B. Trout leads, sometimes by a very slim margin, in BB%, BABIP, OBP, wOBA, wRC+, and wRAA. He gets on base more frequently in a wider variety of ways, and his team scores runs when he does. Then when you factor in the sizable base running and defense gaps, it’s a solid statement: the Angels, due to other factors, are wasting the opportunities he provides by virtue of his once-in-a-century talent.

The difference in WAR (18.6-12.8) is instructive because it reflects his overall superiority. To that end, with 5 weeks yet to play this season Mike Trout’s 2013 WAR is higher than either of Pujols’ first 2 seasons. He could lose 1.3 WAR, and that statement would still be true…

The point isn’t how wide or narrow the gaps are or even how accurate WAR is, though. The point is that, in a straight-up comparison, Mike Trout has been better than one of the great players in MLB. Based on that, the comment that Mike Trout is “the best young player the game has seen in 100 years” is a good one. Even if used hyperbolically (i.e. without making any other comparisons), Mr. Cameron makes his point well.

chief00
Guest
chief00
2 years 11 months ago

“…in a wider variety of ways…” is nonsensical. “…in the usual ways…” was intended.

Fanthead
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

1. Seems a little bit off for the author to even mention Grant Green who is a very recent acquisition.

2. I don’t recall reading anyone who thought the Pujols and Hamilton additions were going to backfire. Only in retrospect do they look like bad moves.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

“I don’t recall reading anyone who thought the Pujols and Hamilton additions were going to backfire.”

Really?!

ToddM
Guest
ToddM
2 years 11 months ago

Did you recently come by that N in your name? Or, given your recollection skills, might you be the ghost of President Reagan?

MikeTrout69
Guest
MikeTrout69
2 years 11 months ago

BUT TEHY HAVE MIKE “YAHWEH” TROU TSO THEY SHOULD BE BEST??/ WHY IS ANGELS NOT THE BEST!!!6

Fanthead
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Re: Trout69.

Uh, because baseball is a team sport?

Nick
Guest
Nick
2 years 11 months ago

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Angels that could not be fixed by locking all the bathrooms and attaching the key to a large, heavy plastic crate I will keep in my office

wsk
Guest
wsk
2 years 11 months ago

could we please end regression to the mean by those who can’t define that phenomenon?
shut up.
sciosia’s pyth; base it on the angels & their opponents,in a league context.
raise the angels runs to the the 2.1 power.
or, in league with a lower number of runs (removing the angels games from the totals) figure out the exponent.
just tired of people prattling on.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

lolwut

Susan Murray
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

It’s not Scioscia. Scioscia was placed in a very difficult situation because he had to play his 100 million dollar players that sucked. You just can’t bench Albert and Josh. I think if the Angels want to win they need to stay together for the next 5 years. No more trades unless its in the bull pen, no firing of anyone. Stay together!

Mitchell
Guest
Mitchell
2 years 9 months ago

I’ve started seeing this site more after googling sabermetrics – is it just me or do none of the pages on “FanGraphs” have graphs? Just tables and text?

That said, interesting take on the situation.

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