The Angels just don’t get it. How does one score runs? They get on base and hit for power, right? Manufacturing runs is great, but it should be in addition to a foundation of the aforementioned strategies, if the personnel is there. It is not a difficult philosophy. The more runners that reach base, the more runners that will score, over a long period of time. And of course, bettering the rate at which one makes an out, is a simple way to look at it too.
Mike Scioscia, we know that your style of ball won a World Series for the Angels back in 2002. We understand that, we all watched it happen. Not so much because of the Angels, mostly because Barry Bonds was there (And that is no disrespect to the Angels team, I watched that series because the greatest hitter I have ever seen was making his first appearance, whether one loved or hated him, they were intrigued by his dominance). But in 2002 there are a few things worth mentioning: One is that the Angels were fourth in the AL in OBP. They reached base (4th) and they scored runs (also 4th). The other is that the Angels finished 6th in slugging. 4th and 6th in the two most important categories translated into 4th in runs scored (3rd on the road). The Angels may have manufactured runs back then, but they also reached base with a greater frequency (much greater) and they actually displayed some power. These, I believe, are more important then hitting with runners on the move and such.
But in 2008, the Angels were 10th in runs scored. The Angels were 11th in OBP. And they were 9th in slugging. They had exactly five players with OBP’s greater than the league average (.333). Chone Figgins, who does not hit for any power. Mike Napoli, whom played a limited role, which should be expanded. Vlad Guerrero, who posts respectable OBP’s, but doesn’t exactly work the count. Torii Hunter, another free swinger with a OBP not too much better than league average. And the final qualifier…?
Why, Mark Teixiera of course, who inspired this blog. The Angels have decided to withdraw from the Teixiera race, or so they say. And it is not simply this decision that baffles me. It is the reluctance to sign guys that get on base. They could go another direction. The Angels could try and acquire two of the Burrell/Dunn/Abreu trio (preferably the first two names). The corner outfielding defense would be simply atrocious, but the offense would definitely improve. Dunn could DH, Burrell in right (or even first possibly, and Vlad could play right). Although at this point, Guerrero should really be the one filling the DH role. But they could move them around and have Vlad DH some of the time too. Gary Matthews isn’t a starting OF, so he would be sitting on the bench as a sunk cost. There are a bunch of different options for the Angels, none of them “defensively friendly,” but vast improvements on the offensvie side of the ball.
What is most likely not the solution? Juan Rivera. More specifically, Juan Rivera for THREE years. There is always the possibility that Rivera learns how to play at the age of 29, like that of Carlos Pena. If a team were to give him AB’s, maybe Rivera becomes productive. But how productive? Productive enough to score the fourth or fifth amount of runs in the AL? No. Rivera for one year may have been an ok move, but they need other hitters. The window to win is now. The team has some young components, so the window may expand to later as well. But now is known, later is not.
John Lackey is an ace. Ervin Santana has ace-like stuff. Jered Weaver is roughly league average (which is disappointing based on expectations, but still has value, and he is only 25). Joe Saunders may have overachieved some, but he should be quality. Kelvim Escobar may serve some purpose again (haven’t heard much about him). There are still two good options in the pen as of now. And of course their star position player (Vlad) is aging and probably only has a few good seasons left, unless he makes a permanent move to DH. There is a window to win right NOW. But the philosophy must be changed as much as anything. Because if the philosophy is changed, then high OBP players will be brought in to help the offense produce more runs.
The Angels don’t need to bring in defensively challenged players such as Burrell, etc. But if they don’t do that, then Mark Teixeira almost has to be brought back. Maybe Tex and if they want to spend the money, then one of those outfielders that were mentioned. The Angels make the most sense of any team for Mark Teixeira, more sense than anyone. And that is why I am confused that they would take their names out of the running. Get on base, score runs. Anaheim Angels. Are you listening to that?
The Red Sox were the better team, period! John Lackey, Torii Hunter, you are both entitled to you opinion. But you are wrong.
The Angels won 100 games. The Red Sox 95. That is where a lot of the “Angels being better” argument lies. And the fact that the Angels beat the Red Sox 8 of 9 times this season. Wins are wins, the most important stat of them all. But there are other circumstances. The Angels played in an absolutely pathetic division. A division that contained three teams that were much, much worse than the fourth best team in the American League. The best run differential in the AL West for a team outside of the Angels was -44 (Oakland). The AL East consisted of four teams that had RD’s of +62 or better. So the Red Sox played in the toughest division in baseball, and the Angels played in what was most definitely the worst of the three in the American League. Any of the first four teams in the AL East would have easily won the AL West had they been drawn that division in place of the Angels.
The Angels win with “pitching and defense.” Great, good for them. But the Red Sox ERA+ was 5% better as a team. Against better competition, the Red Sox actually surrendered three fewer runs. Three runs is irrelevant, but the Red Sox play in a “hitters park,” while the Angels play in a neutral park. But both teams had good pitching, it was pretty close in that department. But the defensive battle goes to the Red Sox. Boston had the fifth best “DefensiveEfficiency” in all of baseball, while the Angels were 14th. So the Red Sox were clearly better at turning balls in play into outs than the Angels were. But even this wasn’t as clear cut as the playoffs made it look. The Red Sox looked far superior on the defensive side of the ball in this series then that of the Angels, but even if the Angels are not quite as good defensively as the Red Sox, it wasn’t as big a gap as the ALDS seemed to suggest.
The one thing that was a large difference between the two teams, outside of Jon Lester giving up zero earned runs in 14 innings, was the quality of at bats the Red Sox had. Up and down the lineup, the Red Sox have “tough outs” as the BPS likes to refer to them as(outside of Varitek). But even Varitek doesn’t lack TOO much in his approach, he simply cannot hit very well anymore. Ellsbury (to a lesser extent) Pedroia, Ortiz, Youkilis, Drew, Bay, Kotsay (somewhat) and Lowrie all approach their at bats well. And if a pitcher is going to have success against the Red Sox, it is not going to be because the Red Sox fail at the way they go about their at-bats. The Red Sox, whether it because of Magadan or the talent the team withholds, probably some of both, know how to go about an at bat. They are patient, they know how to take a walk, and they are great at looking for a pitch that they can hit. They still fail a lot, as does every team, but they aren’t lacking in the way they come up to the plate and execute. Now one can enjoy their team of free swingers, I on the other hand will take this approach any day of the week (unless one could have the success Nomar did). Mark Teixera was very good in his approach, but he was one of the few that did it consistently well in the Angels lineup (Vlad is of course an exception).
Statistically, the Red Sox offense was far superior to that of the Angels to begin with. The Red Sox OPS+ was 108, while the Angels was 96. 96! That is below average. And they were 10th in runs scored too, so they didn’t have some magical ability to score runs from not getting on base. They somehow won many games, but they didn’t get on base (11th in OBP) and they didn’t score runs. Mark Teixera made the offense better, statistically or not. It gave them an overall upgrade at first base over Kotchman, a bat that could make the opposing pitcher work, and make that same pitcher pay too. He is one of the better hitters in the game. But Kotchman was average, maybe a little better, so to upgrade to a good hitter can only do SO much. I think the Tex acquisition was the right one, guys like Kotchman can be found elsewhere, with more ease. But the Teixera’s of the game are not easy to come by, and he gave them a better shot to win it all than Kotchman did. But the team, with or without Mark Teixera, did not get on base enough. If they want to swing at every pitcher and get on base a lot over a large sampling, then so be it. But they didn’t get on base, and the runs didn’t fall into their lap. I prefer the higher OBP than the ability to bunt and swing earlier in the count, but maybe that is just me.
I know I sound confident now, I am. I felt the Red Sox were the better team going in, but I couldn’t truly tell if it was the objective stats I rely on, which are in the Red Sox favor. Or maybe because I happen to root for the Red Sox and have seen them win a championship in the past year. That being said, I kind of left the playoffs to declare who the best team was. I thought the White Sox were the fourth best of the field, but I wasn’t as sure who the best was, and still are not. After all, the Rays were basically tied for the second best run differential in the game, they had a slightly better defensive efficiency then the Red Sox. Had the same ERA+, and were 5% worse in OPS+. Those numbers are pretty close. Whoever wins this series was and is the best team in the American League this season.
It is pretty clear that the Angels are the best team in baseball right now. In fact, it is close to definite. But they aren’t so good that they will win 11 of 13 in a 4 week span against the Red Sox and Yankees, with any consistency. They happen to be playing out of their mind right now. Adding Teixera gave the Angels favoritism amongst most of us, but I still thought that they would have a few offensive struggles, and I still believe they will. They aren’t going to be beating up on good teams, this badly, for the rest of the year. But the point of the Teixera trade was that the Angels became an above average offense. And an above average offense to go along with a very good pitching staff, is well, a formula for a World Series appearence, and win. This actually reminds me of the 2004 Red Sox. I know they won the Wild Card, and weren’t running away with the division like the Angels are, but that was because of the variables. The Red Sox won 98 games that year, and the first place Yankees won 101. But the Red Sox that season, post trade deadline, went out West and killed opponents, solid opponents. After winning 12 of 13 against various teams, they started playing the teams that resided out West, at home in Fenway. 3 against the Angels, 3 against the Rangers, then West for three against Oakland, four against Seattle. They finished 10-3 over that stretch. And went 20-2 from August 16th-September 18th. Obviously the styles of play are different. The Angels of course are notorious for “small ball” while the Red Sox “wait” around for the “long ball.” But that 2004 team had a dominant run, and now these 2008 Angels are experiencing a dominant! run as well.
Point being…when a team gets this hot, this late, it is kind of scary.