The Angels can bite our gray or teal-wearing butt, sort of

DMZ · February 19, 2007 at 2:11 pm · Filed Under General baseball, Links 

I’ve written before that the division’s up for grabs and there’s no reason in particular to think that the Angels are the favorites, much less clear favorites. Geoff Baker at the Times is the most public advocate of the contrary position, in his blog entries from spring training.

I will now spend some time on why I don’t think the Angels are quite that good.

Angels rotation: Lackey, Escobar, Santana the Lesser, Weaver the Greater, probably Saunders
Seattle rotation: King Felix, Washburn, Ho Ramirez, Miguel Batista, Weaver the Lesser

Lackey’s gotta be one of the highest value/ink expended writing about him pitchers, but Felix is his equal. No, really. I’m assuming that Colon stays out or is ineffective this season after returning.

Overall, the Angels’ rotation is way better – pick your projection engine of choice, their ERA runs out to about ~.6 runs/nine innings lower. That’s pretty huge, and you can now feel to free discuss why Ho Ramirez should outperform/Washburn is going to put up a low 3 ERA, etc. I’d argue with Woods/Baek the M’s are better able to take a rotation hit, but right now, Baker & Co. are right – their rotation kicks our rotation’s asssssssss. The extra ‘s’s are for extra superiority.

Bullpen-wise, the Angels run out Fransisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, and a pick ’em of pretty good options behind them. As long as the M’s are running Mateo out there, it’s tough, but as a unit, they can pretty easily put together the Angels’ equal even with Putz returning to earth a little. It’d be nice if the M’s had a manager who could run a bullpen as well as the Angels, but that’s not an option yet.

What’s that worth, then? It puts the Angels potentially up ~70-80 runs on the pitching side. Whooooo. That is pretty huge. The gap last year between the two teams was 60 runs. So the M’s are losing ground, unless (again) you see Ramirez/Batista outperforming. Or, heck, Weaver.

Defensively, the Angels are a little worse looking to next year than in 2006, which I mentioned – Mathews is not an upgrade on Figgins, Figgins at third would not be an upgrade, and so on. The two teams were pretty close defensively last year, and the Mariners, getting a full season in center out of Ichiro and (cross fingers) a healthy Guillen, should improve over last year. Call it a wash, but if the M’s aren’t ahead of the Angels in defensive efficiency next year, I’d be surprised.

Now, offensively. Last year the Mariners were 12 runs behind the Angels. As much as I hate hate hate this offseason’s moves, I can’t argue the offense isn’t likely to perform better. Last year, overall:
M’s DHs hit .235/.300/.366
M’s CFers hit .249/.294/.362

That’s horrrrrible. Now the projection systems all seem to think that Vidro’s done, but here’s Vidro-is-done projection from PECOTA: .266/.330/.368. That’s a fair upgrade. And if you’re smoking what the M’s are passing, well, you’re looking forward to a bounty of runs. Similarly, the Guillen move helps the overall outfield offense (hopefully). They’d be even better if they’d let Lopez be Lopez, but I’ve ranted enough about that. Or if they’d keep Bloomquist from getting 200 at-bats. Or… sorry. Moving on.

What do the Angels have? Napoli was great and then stank, and I’m not that optimistic about his chances, or the possibility his backups will do well. A full season of Kendrick’s a huge upgrade at second. But Garret Anderson sucks. Mathews’ projections are about what the Angels got out of center last year. Cabrera/Aybar won’t produce more than last year. Shea Hillenbrand, if he DHs, is going to be a huge, huge step back for the team. They managed to get .295/.356/.492 out of their DHs last year, and that’s about Hillenbrand’s 90% PECOTA forecast.

Is it enough to close the gap? It’s unlikely, but the M’s are easily 20-30 runs better than the Angels now, and it could be a lot more than that. We’ll see, what with Guillen’s shoulder and how some of the other issues sort themselves out (for instance, check out the difference in projected performances for Vidro and Broussard – there’s still room to squeeze more out of this lineup).

Overall, then, the Angels come out about 50 runs ahead, which is a lot more than I thought it would be when I started this, but their rotation really looks that much better right now, so I’m crossing my fingers for Ho and Miguel. But lining them up, the rotation’s the only place the Angels are clearly the better team (though, uh, they’re also clearly way better).

In the division, though, I don’t see that making them clear favorites. I see the A’s taking an offensive and rotation step back, which (and I freely admit I haven’t calculated this out either) puts them roughly on par with the Angels on both fronts, and the Rangers take a step back in center, but Catalanotto’s a huge upgrade at DH (Rangers DHs in 2006: .238/.309/.410)(bleeaaghh) and overall, they’re not a substantially better or worse team (the M’s, btw, should totally try and trade for McCarthy if his gopherball/flyball tendencies get him entirely rocked in Arlington and the Rangers sour on him).

Right now, then, I see the A’s and Angels as good teams, followed by the M’s and Rangers, who are both .500-ish teams. In that kind of environment, the division’s not the Angels’ to take, it’s anyone’s to take. The normal swings of luck, much less health, could easily bring either or both the Angels and A’s to earth, or boost the Mariners into contention.


29 Responses to “The Angels can bite our gray or teal-wearing butt, sort of”

  1. David J. Corcoran I on February 19th, 2007 2:19 pm


  2. IP on February 19th, 2007 2:28 pm

    Double w00t. What happened to the Pass?

  3. DMZ on February 19th, 2007 2:31 pm

    I went up really early. The day’s news article was written super-early and then didn’t go up for some reason, so that went up when I got back.

  4. Adam S on February 19th, 2007 2:32 pm

    As much as I hate hate hate this offseason’s moves, I can’t argue the offense is likely to perform better.
    Did you mean can or isn’t? I.e., Vidro and Guillen are better than Reed/Jones/Everett/Perez/Broussard.

    Really it took me one sentence to see why the experts are so high on the Angels are you’re down on them. If Weaver was really great and Colon was healthy instead of AAAA Saunders, they’d be 5-6 wins better than they are.

  5. Raapba on February 19th, 2007 2:38 pm

    wow. . . .everything makes sense, except ONE big thing—
    Scoscia vs Hargrove.
    Scoscia is well-respected by his team and a very good at strategy.
    His team will run through a brick wall for him.
    Hargrove is not liked or respected by his team and really sucks
    when it comes to the finer points of running a game. Some of the M’s
    look like they are waiting for the axe to fall on Mike’s head.

    That would make a difference in about 10 games to me over the
    course of a season. Additional thought is Guillen is a clubhouse cancer, which Bavisi seems to totally miss all the time (see Carl Everett as classic example).

  6. DMZ on February 19th, 2007 2:49 pm

    No manager’s worth ten games in a season over any other manager. That’s an enormous difference.

    Fixed the can/isn’t.

  7. DMZ on February 19th, 2007 2:54 pm

    To be more specific: throwing every possible thing we can into a manager’s responsibility, the best manager is worth about 15 runs/year over the worst one. You can look at Chris Jaffe’s work on this if you’re interested.

  8. oNeiRiC232 on February 19th, 2007 2:58 pm

    Four words: Jered Weaver shoulder tightness.

    I think most people picking the Angels expect a ton out of him after last year’s impressive showing, and I have a gut feeling that they’re in for a nice little surprise.

  9. junglist215 on February 19th, 2007 3:28 pm

    I really don’t see Rivera’s broken leg forcing Anderson out of the DH spot and back out onto the field. If they can’t find Rivera’s replacement this spring, the Angels do have the spare parts in the minors to get a deal done. Until then, I’m going to keep sticking pins into the right knee of my Vlad Guerrero bobblehead voodoo doll.

  10. junglist215 on February 19th, 2007 3:30 pm


  11. Zero Gravitas on February 19th, 2007 4:03 pm

    This is the kind of post I like – cold-eyed analysis meets Spring Training hopefulness. And I am totally on board with the ‘we might not suck quite so badly as expected, relative to the AL West competition’ theme.

    Forget the snow – wish I was in Arizona right now. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for Ichiro.

  12. El Laberinto on February 19th, 2007 4:45 pm

    How good do you expect Jered Weaver to be? I mean, he can still be good overall but half as good as he was last year, right? Considering he pitched like Walter Johnson… And is it just me, or is it a rite of initiation that 95% of pitching prospects either get TJ or shoulder surgery, or just almost get it. Sheesh, is this a new thing?

  13. DMZ on February 19th, 2007 4:49 pm

    On the left-hand side, click the “Attrition War” link. It’s not new.

  14. MarinerDan on February 19th, 2007 5:14 pm

    Interesting analysis, but I must say that your starting premise — that the Angels are not favorites in the division, even vis-a-vis the Mariners — gets kind of watered down by the end.

    Reading between the lines, I think you would place the chance of the Angels finishing with a better record than the M’s at about 80%. And the chance of the Angels winning the AL West at about 50%.

  15. Paul B on February 19th, 2007 5:26 pm

    Does the max diff between managers of 15 runs look only at in game management?

    I would have to consider that lineup or playing time decisions could be worth more than 15 runs. Giving WFB 300 AB’s in a season, for example, when at least 200 of them could be given to someone that could actually hit…. I suppose the 15 run difference calculation assumes some basic level of competence when it comes to selecting which players will make the team or play most of the games.

  16. NBarnes on February 19th, 2007 5:32 pm

    It’s pretty sad that a sane offseason from the M’s front office could have closed the gap. Instead… H. Ramirez and Vidro.

  17. DMZ on February 19th, 2007 5:54 pm

    Interesting analysis, but I must say that your starting premise — that the Angels are not favorites in the division, even vis-a-vis the Mariners — gets kind of watered down by the end.

    I comment on this very thing, that my opinion changed from my initial view to my end conclusion.

    Does the max diff between managers of 15 runs look only at in game management?

    No, but not entirely, but — check out the reference, it’s pretty… yeah.

  18. Adam S on February 19th, 2007 6:17 pm

    DMZ, so if you had to give each team’s chances of winning the division, what would you say? Oakland/Los Angeles ~37%, Seattle/Texas ~13%

  19. DMZ on February 19th, 2007 7:02 pm

    Yeah, that’s about right. I haven’t gone through the same exercise with the A’s. I think they’re taking a huge offensive hit at DH, though, and Piazza’s not going to work out. We’ll see, that’s a huge gamble in a way I don’t think even the rehabilitation of Frank Thomas was.

    On the other hand, Billy Beane’s record of success speaks for itself.

  20. junglist215 on February 19th, 2007 7:53 pm

    You know it’s not going to mean a bit of difference in the standings come sept, but Angels blogs, 6-4-2 and HalosHeaven in particular, are f’n boring. You just know you’re struggling for sensible content when you’re posting about who wore what jersey # which year. I could’ve gone my entire life without knowing Lackey shares the same # as Rich Delucia, and probably would’ve been a better because of it.

  21. Mat on February 19th, 2007 7:57 pm

    I think they’re taking a huge offensive hit at DH, though, and Piazza’s not going to work out. We’ll see, that’s a huge gamble in a way I don’t think even the rehabilitation of Frank Thomas was.

    Yeah, Frank Thomas was just one season removed from a .321 EQA. The gamble with Thomas was whether or not he’d stay healthy. If he was healthy, he was going to hit. Piazza hasn’t had a ~.300 EQA since 2003. The gamble here seems to be more that Piazza improves by not catching rather than just gambling on how many games he can play.

    Like you said, Beane’s record speaks for itself, but this move doesn’t seem as good as getting Thomas the year before. (To be fair, though, getting Frank Thomas for that price was a downright steal and many people thought so at the time. It’s tough to find moves that good just lying around to be made.)

  22. Mere Tantalisers on February 19th, 2007 8:01 pm

    I was surprised to read that the Angels were about equal to the M’s defensively last year. I don’t remember exactly how they stacked up against each other in PMR, but I remember thinking, boy they stink. And most recently I read the article on THT ranking outfield arms based on holding runners and outfield assists etc.

    Based on OF arm strength alone (and I’m assuming that Guillen recovers fully) the Mariners should be about 10 runs better than Angels. And if range is factored in, I suss Ibanez Ichiro and Guillen will be a sight better than Anderson Matthews and Guerrero. I don’t know hiw good Izturis/Chone are at third, but they can’t be Beltre good, and we’ve got everyone but the Astros beat at SS. Lopez is at least average, Sexson’s no good, but he’s not more than 5 runs below average…

  23. NBarnes on February 19th, 2007 8:19 pm

    I don’t think anybody thinks that Piazza is as good a move as Thomas was. But everybody thought that Thomas was a crazy-good move, and rightly so. Even Billy Beane can’t pull off stuff like that every offseason; it’s a mystery why nobody else wanted Thomas enough to pay more than Beane did.

    I think Piazza is likely to pay off in terms of being worth his contract and a productive hitter, but I can’t see any way that it ends up being as crazy amazing in terms of marginal salary / marginal wins as Thomas was.

    The three sane teams in the AL West are all such a mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses and so evenly matched that I feel confidant saying that nobody really knows who will win the West. The in-season factors of ‘Where’d this guy come from?’ and ‘Where’d go?’ and injuries will decide the winner in ways that pre-season analysis cannot resolve.

  24. Mat on February 19th, 2007 9:05 pm

    …it’s a mystery why nobody else wanted Thomas enough to pay more than Beane did.

    Well, only 14 teams get to use a DH in the first place, and some of them had a DH already. Plus, I think it’s possible that Frank could’ve turned down marginally more money from other teams just because Oakland was such a perfect destination for him. He got to go to an organization that values his particular skillset, was a playoff contender, and he got to go somewhere with pretty good weather and limit his games on turf.

  25. Typical Idiot Fan on February 19th, 2007 9:06 pm

    Mathis, Molina, Cabrera, Figgins, Hillenbrand, Quinlan, Izturis, and Garret Anderson are all replacement level players or worse.

    McPherson hasn’t done squat but strike out and will be out again with injury this entire season.

    Kendrick, Aybar, and Morales are talented, but they will go thorugh their motions like most other prospects. It’s also doubtful that they’ll get the bulk of the playing time (save Kendrick) to impact the lineup.

    Kotchman is also talented. The Angels also have shown some interesting lack of patience with him. Perhaps this is the result of McPherson, Figgins, and Izturis not making immediate impacts or living up to the hype they received. In any event, Hillenbrand wasn’t brought in just to spell DH. He’ll play first too when Rivera comes back.

    That leaves Vladamir Guerrero, Mike Napoli, Gary Matthews, and Juan Rivera. Two fakes, a gimp, and The Consumer of your Pitcher’s Soul.

    This offense scores about 750 runs and most of those are Vlad’s. See this limb? This is me walking out on it.

  26. vj on February 20th, 2007 12:50 am

    Well, only 14 teams get to use a DH in the first place, and some of them had a DH already.

    Which reminds me who the M’s starting DH for the 06 season was. Man, Oakland signs Thomas, the Ms sign Everett. Tells you all you need to know about the two organizations. I wonder, what kind of difference in the standings would that have made?

  27. Mere Tantalisers on February 20th, 2007 5:03 am

    It’s really better not to ask these questions.

  28. Evan on February 20th, 2007 8:50 am

    I don’t think the Angels pitching is as strong as you do. I see them as the low-hanging fruit in the division. I predict they’ll finish fourth.

  29. lokiforever on February 20th, 2007 3:55 pm

    Frank Thomas is not a left handed sock. He bats right. This did not fit within the pre-established off-season objectives, therefore the M’s FO was incapable of valuing Thomas, or recognizing potential value in acquiring him.

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