Don’t Sleep on the Angels

The Los Angeles Angels have already made one big move this week, acquiring Chris Iannetta from the Rockies to hopefully solve their offensive woes at catcher. Now, they have been tied to free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. A Ramirez signing would give them a glut of infielders with him, Alberto Callaspo, Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo and a healthy Kendrys Morales all established as MLB players. With Kendrick establishing himself as a premiere second baseman, the odd man out would probably be Callaspo. Let’s take a quick look to see if swapping out Callaspo could help turn the Angels into a legitimate post-season contender.

Last season, the Angels missed the Wild Card by five games and finished ten games behind the AL West champion Texas Rangers. They had the sixth-best run differential in the AL at +34, and as usual outperformed their Pythagorean record, although only by one win. The Rangers and three AL East beasts are expected to be strong again next year, but it is possible to see the Angels making up the five-plus wins they need for a playoff spot.

While the Angels are loaded at the top of the rotation, they don’t have the most depth, and in 2011 only found 2.7 WAR after Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Now 1.9 of that WAR is no longer on the roster with Joel Pineiro departing as a free agent and Tyler Chatwood used as trade bait in the acquisition of Iannetta.

Ramirez and Callaspo were both worth 3.6 WAR last season, so if you want to call that a wash, the Angels could easily improve the number four spot in their rotation by flipping Callaspo for a 2-3 WAR starter. Even if you view Callaspo as more of a 2.5 WAR player, he probably has more than $10 million worth of excess value in his contract over the next two seasons before he becomes a free agent. His name doesn’t jump out for most baseball fans, but his contract is valuable enough that he could bring back a solid pitcher.

When combining this with the 3-4 WAR they have gained by upgrading to Iannetta from their 2011 trio of catchers, who combined for -0.8 WAR, it’s possible to see the Angels pushing their way into 90-win territory. This is before even considering a full season from an improving Mike Trout, or the possibility of Vernon Wells being less than horrendous.

At the end of the day, it comes down to money. Callaspo will probably earn $4-5 million in his second arbitration eligible season, while FanGraphs Crowdsourcing pegged Ramirez for a three year, $36 million deal. The Angels already have $103 million committed to their 2012 squad before inking their arbitration eligible players, which include Kendrick, Aybar and Morales. However, Angels owner Arte Moreno has shown that he is not afraid to spend money when he thinks it is going to help the team, forking out tens of millions for guys like Gary Matthews, Scott Kazmir and Wells.

While this scenario is a long shot, and the Rangers, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox are still the class of the AL, the Angels have never been a team to stand idly by and re-build. Don’t be surprised to see another grizzled veteran like Ramirez on the field for the Angels next season, and maybe even playing October baseball.

We hoped you liked reading Don’t Sleep on the Angels by Ryan Campbell!

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Xeifrank
Guest

I wouldn’t use previous season record or even previous season pythagorean record to set a teams baseline win total for this season. It would be best to throw out last seasons record and just build up from 2012 WAR projections/predictions to come up with how many wins a team is likely to get. Too much noise in a one sample season of 162 games to use that imho. Go Angels!

jonnybardo
Member
jonnybardo

Hmm…I’d rather look at both (previous season’s record and WAR projections) and then just adjust with gut feeling and common sense.

We can look at the 2011 Angels team and say that they should, by and large, improve as a whole. 1B and C should both improve, with Morales coming back (hopefully), Trumbo improving (hopefully), and Iannetta in the fold. I think Kendrick and Aybar can sustain their gains, even if Kendrick’s defense doesn’t fully stick–his bat should continue to improve slightly. Wells can’t be worse; if he is, Trout is waiting in the wings. Bourjos should at least sustain what he did, the same with Hunter. I could see Callaspo dropping a notch, but not by much. In other words, the offense should be anywhere from solidly better to significantly better–and that’s without any more changes.

I expect the Angels will still sign or trade for a starter, either an Oswalt or Harang or even Kuroda. Even if they don’t, you could do worse than Williams and Richards as your fourth and fifth starters. And there’s no reason to expect Haren, Weaver, or Santana to get worse. As for the bullpen, the young guys should continue to improve and the Angels have more coming up.

All in all, I see this team winning 88-90 wins without making anymore changes. Another solid starter and reliever boosts that by 2-3 wins; A Ramirez might boost it by another win. A breakout from one of the younger players could add another 1-2 wins.

In summary, unless the Angels sign Wilson and FIelder and trade for Ryan Zimmerman, they’re going to be second fiddle to the Rangers again – but they’re also going to be contending into September and, if the Rangers falter, can sneak into the postseason where, with their Big Three starters, they won’t be anyone’s top choice to face.

ettin
Guest
ettin

The point the author was trying to make is that the Angels have consistently outperformed their pythagorean record over the last few seasons (mainly I believe due to great management). Additionally the Angels had players who did not perform well (Wells being the glaring example) and could build upon the win total from last season with improvements at catcher and other positions.

Xeifrank
Guest

He was also saying that the Angels need to make up five wins to catch the teams ahead of them for playoff contention. To me that is a little bit sloppy. If you want to pick an arbitrary number of wins to set as a goal for likely making the playoffs like 93 then that is fine. Then use 2012 projections to give a likelihood of this being a 93 win team. But don’t say the Angels won X number of games in 2011 and the last playoff team won Y number of games therefore the Angels need to improve by Y-X wins to catch the teams ahead of them. You will end up with a giant cluster-f by baselining 2012 win projections off of 2011 win totals.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Xeifrank… completely agree… the assumption here is the 2011 baseline is more or less valid.

Look no further than the Mariners from a couple of years ago… you take the previous year baseline, add Cliff Lee and a FA or two (and subtract off whoever leaes) and you have playoff contender. When they fail it was due to bad luck and unexpected regression (but noone really bothered to look at whether the previous year baseline was really sustainable given they had a winning record despite being outscored by a decent margin)

I agree with the conclusion of the article, but don’t like the process. Are the big 3 performing about where they were at (possibly, maybe probably). Is Kendrick really a near 6 win player (I don’t think so). Then you also have to consider injury… you can do individual WAR projections and look for bouncebacks, but what are the odds they are injury free? Are Haren/Weaver/Santana giving you 100 starts and 700 innings again? Do you have 7 position players giving you 140+ games? (considering the catcher is unlikely to give you 140 the max for an AL team is 8 players doing this)