(But at least there is this picture of a hot girl in Angel’s gear and I don’t hate that)
With the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason many experts are saying that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the new best team in Major League Baseball and the odds on favorites to win the World Series. Anytime a team adds the two best free agents in one offseason, one of which will go down as a top 3 player of all time in MLB, there is going to be hype. But the Angels are flawed and they won’t win the World Series in 2012, here are ten reasons why.
1) They Don’t Get On Base
Last season the Angels ranked 25th out of 30 MLB teams in walks (442) and ranked 21st with a team On Base Percentage (OBP) of only .313. They had two players compile over 500 at bats apiece and post sub .300 OBPs (that’s fucking awful), Mark Trumbo (.291) and Vernon Wells (.248) and both figure to get the same amount of at bats this year. While Pujols will certainly help improve the teams OBP, .366 OBP last year, the addition of Pujols is going to cause last years 1B, Trumbo, to move to 3B or DH. Why is that important you ask? Trumbo is going to replace either the player with the highest OBP or second highest OBP from the Angels everyday lineup last year. Alberto Callaspo at 3B, .366 OBP, and/or Bobby Abreu at DH, .353 OBP. That’s pretty much a lateral move by adding Pujols but dropping one of Callaspo or Abreu out of the lineup. Almost every other player on the Angels last year performed around their career norms so I would expect the Angels to rank in the bottom third of the league again in both walks and OBP as no players had real outlier season (either good or bad). The Angels simply don’t get on base enough and could struggle to consistently score runs in 2012.
2) They Hit For an Average Amount of Power
If a team doesn’t get on base at a high percentage, they can make up for it by hitting for a shit load of power. If a team has a high team OBP, then they can get away with hitting for less power and still be able to score runs but if a team doesn’t get on base well they will have to hit for a lot of power (HR/2B/3B) to make up for the lack of getting on base and making the hits they do get count more. The Angels don’t hit for an average amount of power. They ranked in the upper middle third (10-15) of MLB last year in HR, 2B, XBH, SLG%, and isolated power. Good, but not great, and certainly not enough power to make up for their lack of on base skills. Adding Pujols will obviously help them hit for power but two of their top three HR hitters last year were Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, two aging stars who’s numbers continue to decline. Add in that Pujols has had to deal with injuries the past few seasons and is also older, this team will probably be a middle of the road power team again this year. Finally the parks in their division other than Texas have some of the biggest outfields and deepest fences in the game (Anaheim, Seattle, and Oakland) Pujols will probably see his power numbers fall some moving from parks in his old division, The NL Central, known to be hitters parks for right handed hitters (Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, St. Louis).
3) Starting Pitchers Have Logged a lot of Innings and are Past Their Prime
Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana make up a formidable starting four. Weaver, Wilson, Haren, and Santana all had exceptional seasons in 2011, but there are indicators on all of them that they could see their production fall off this year from where it was last season. The typical peak production year for any major league baseball player is at age 27 season, all of the Angels starting pitcher will be older than that on opening day 2012 and they also have some major mileage on their arms.
3-a) Jered Weaver
He has pitched over 200 innings each of the last three years and will be 29 for the 2012 season, he is an exceptional pitcher and will be the Angels ace this year. Weaver had a WHIP just over 1 and ERA of just 2.41 last year, no question a great season but he likely won’t repeat it as he had a unsustainably low batting average on balls in play against him (BABIP, read my article on advanced stats to find out what that means). For his career Weaver has a BABIP against of .278, but in 2011 he had a BABIP against him of just .250. Weaver likely benefited from some luck on more balls being hit right to defenders and being turned into outs. His BABIP will likely be closer to his career average of .278 this year than .250 as things like BABIP tend to trend towards a players career averages, rather than their outlier years. This means that more balls put in play against Weaver should fall for hits in 2012 and he will give up more runs since teams will get more runners on base against him. Weaver also got incredibly lucky last year when it came to stranding runners on base, his left on base percentage was 82.6%, which means 82.6% percent of runners who got on base against him failed to score. That rate is about 6-8% better than any LOB % he has achieved in any other season.
4) Dan Haren
Haren will be 31 this season and has pitched between 217 and 238 innings every year since 2005, while that’s a sign of exceptional durability I think his stuff could be falling off a bit. Last year Haren saw his strike out per 9-inning rate fall by one percent, down to 7.3 SO/9. From 2008-2010 he posted strikeout per 9 inning rates of 8.6, 8.8, and 8.3. That significant of a drop off in SO/9 could point to his pitches losing effectiveness, both in terms of velocity and movement. Haren also got lucky with BABIP, he posted a .272 BABIP against him last year while his career BABIP against is .292. Finally Haren saw his home run per fly ball rate drop by over 3% compared to his last two seasons, home run to fly ball rate is simply the amount of home runs a pitcher gives up per fly ball given up. In 2011 Haren had only a 7.5% home run rate, in 2009 his HR/FB rate was 11.7% and in 2010 it was 10.8%. Haren has regression written all over him for 2012.
5) C.J. Wilson
The Angels prized pitching free agent signing. Wilson became a starting pitcher two years ago after being a relief pitcher for his whole career and he has been great in his new role. But Wilson is also older, at 31 this season, and has also gone over 200 IP the last two years after not ever going over 73 IP in any other of his major league seasons. With such a dramatic increase in workload you have to wonder if an injury is around the corner for Wilson, it’s tough to make that kind of jump in innings pitched without getting injured eventually.
6) Ervin Santana
Again, a guy who has pitched 200+ innings in both the last two years. Santana is the youngest of the Angels four best pitchers at 29 but he has already spent multiple times on the DL. Like Weaver he also had a BABIP last year about .020 points lower than his career average (.274 in 2011, career .292) he could see some regression this year along with injury potential.
7) Peter Bourjos & Mike Trout
Both are young and promising major league talents. Mike Trout is one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball and should be on the major league roster to start the year at only 20 years old. Bourjos is serviceable offensively, but is a defensive monster. So why are these two guys on the lists for reasons to hate the Angels in 2012? Well, it’s because they are going be the 3rd and 4th outfielders and both will have to give up starts to inferior players in Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells. Vernon wells was awful last year with his .248 OBP and .660 OPS, but all signs point to him being the starting left fielder in 2012. This article by fangraphs talks about how Bourjos is already as good, if not better, than Torii Hunter and Hunter is only getting older/worse while Bourjos is young and could improve. Bourjos can already give you Hunter’s production and probably exceed it and the super prospect, Trout, will likely be able to better whatever the hell Vernon Wells has left in the tank. Giving Wells and Hunter starts over these two isn’t going to result in more wins for the Angels.
8) Mike Scioscia Gives Away Outs
The Angels managers style is questionable at best as he subscribes to medieval ways of managing by not valuing walks, giving away outs by doing dumb shit such as bunting and stealing too much and giving aging veteran guys more playing time because they have experience and “have been there before” despite them not being the best options. The Angels do steal a lot of bases, they had 135 last year good for 5th in MLB, but they also go caught stealing 52 times 4th in baseball. A MLB team needs to be successful at stealing bases about 70% of the time in order for stealing to be statistically beneficial over the course of a season and not detrimental. The Angels were just over the 70% rate last year as a team, but of the 10 guys who played in 90 or more games and attempted a stolen base only 4 (Bobby Abreu, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, and Peter Bourjos) successful stealing rate was above or at 70% the 6 others (Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells, Howard Kendrick, Macier Izturis, and Jeff Mathis) combined for 47 SB and had 29 CS that’s a successful SB% of only 61%. Scioscia steals with everyone and is costing his teams runs by having guys attempt steals who clearly shouldn’t be. Scioscia also called for 50 sacrifice bunts last year, there are very few instances in a baseball game where sac bunting (giving away an out) is statistically advantageous. There weren’t 50 times last year where the Angels had a statistical advantage to bunt and GIVE AWAY AN OUT, but Scioscia did it and will continue TO GIVE AWAY OUTS when it’s not the smart thing to do.
9) “Super Teams” Don’t Have The Best Track Record
Last year everyone was planning the Red Sox World Series parade in December after they traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford, the Red Sox didn’t even make the playoffs in 2011 the year before that it was the Phillies after adding Cliff Lee. In MLB, more than in other sports, the playoffs are a huge crapshoot and the best teams don’t often win as all it takes is a team to get hot for 5 games to win a series after playing 162 regular season games. In other sports the last few years the run away favorites have failed to win it all. The Heat failed to win the NBA Finals last season and the Philadelphia Eagles at best can be 8-8 this year and need a lot of crazy shit to happen to even make the NFL Playoffs. There is no team, in any sport, regardless of who they add in an offseason that should be looked at as such a clear front runner to win anything when the regular season comes. There are just to many weird and random things that happen in sports.
10) Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Tigers, Rangers, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Brewers, Rockies, Giants, Diamondbacks
Those are all the teams that I feel are at least equally as good as the Angels, if not better, going into the 2012 MLB season. The Angels might belong in the conversation of the best 10 teams in baseball, but they don’t do anything to clearly separate them from the best and to be considered locks to win the World Series. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim aren’t winning the World Series in 2012.