Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Angels look to be circling the bases a lot this season

By David Saltzer - Columnist

Quick: Pick your favorite baseball offensive stat. Did you pick batting average (BA)? On-base percentage (OB)? How about slugging percentage (SLG)? Or, are you fond of the on-base plus slugging stat (OPS)?

Now, take a guess: which team leads all the major leagues in that category. Is it the Yankees with all their high-priced sluggers? Boston? The Cubs? Texas?

Would you be surprised to learn that not one of those teams leads the majors in any of those categories? Would you be even more surprised to learn that one team leads in all of those categories? And, would you be shocked to learn that it is the Angels who lead all the majors in BA, OB, SLG, and OPS?

Talk about a shakeup: As of March 28th, the Angels have posted a 318 BA, a 395 OB, a 534 SLG and a 929 OPS in 28 games. More impressively, they are leading the major leagues in walks (BBs) with 122, and 8th lowest in strikeouts with 164! That’s a monumental improvement over years past in which the Angels have ranked in the bottom half of most (if not all) of these offensive stats and were known for their hack-o-matic approach to the plate. That’s the type of offense that makes the opposition tremble when facing us.

While it’s easy to dismiss these stats as merely fool’s gold from Spring Training, a closer examination reveals that a seismic shift is truly underway for the Angels’s offense. First off, these numbers haven’t been posted over a few days—they’ve been posted consistently throughout the 28 games and 995 ABs played so far. Secondly, these numbers aren’t the result of the Angels veteran players padding their numbers against minor-league pitchers playing in Spring Training. This Spring, Vladimir Guerrero has only appeared in 6 games, Bobby Abreu in 9 games, Torii Hunter in 13 games, and Mike Napoli in 16 games.

So, what has changed with the Angels to cause such a seismic shift to their approach at the plate? A while back, Mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher let it out that they had become alarmed by some disturbing trends in the plate discipline exhibited by the players in our organization. As fans and pundits had pointed out, the Angels were seeing too few pitches, swinging at too many pitches out of the zone, and not working their way into hitting counts. As a result, they weren’t pressuring the opposition as much, and were cutting short their scoring opportunities. And, the Angels saw what effects a patient hitter, such as Teixeira, could have on their lineup.

To remedy that, Scioscia changed the focus on the offensive development for our minor leaguers and instituted mandatory directives for all of our minor leaguers to have a more disciplined approach at the plate. Some of the confusion about the Angels offensive approach has been clarified. Players are to work themselves into hitting counts and to capitalize on situations, especially when in those hitting counts.

A good example of how this focus has improved a player is Brandon Wood. In his major league career, Brandon has 55 Ks and only 4 BBs in 183 ABs. However, for the Spring, Brandon has only 8 Ks and 4 BBs in 51 ABs. By refining his zone this Spring, Brandon has posted a 333/382/706 line including 10 extra base hits! He is tied for the club lead with 4 HRs and is once again showing why he was such a highly touted prospect.

Clearly, the Angels players have taken these edicts to heart. Not only are they generating more walks, they are seeing better pitches to drive, hence the improved BA and SLG. While Scioscia and Hatcher still want our players to be aggressive at the plate, they want them to work themselves into a position where they can explode on a hitter’s pitch. And, once on the bases, Scioscia still wants to be aggressive on the bases to get into scoring position. As a result, the Angels have scored 215 runs—once again tops in the majors.

What this means for the Angels and for the fans is that the Angels won’t have to rely primarily on the pitching to win games. Instead, the Angels will be able to score runs in multiple innings throughout the game and have frenzied innings in which they score several runs. They can and will mount more comebacks in games. They won’t scratch for runs, they’ll swarm. And, they should endure fewer periodic slumps that affect most teams, and should improve their performance in short series, such as the post-season. Not only should we see more BBs throughout the season, but also an improved BA, SLG and runs scored.

Plus, with a more disciplined approach, Scioscia can change the epicenter of our lineup. Instead of dividing our lineup into thirds, Scioscia can divide the lineup into halves, with each half bunched for run-scoring potential. For example, Scioscia can bat Howie Kendrick 2nd in our lineup (behind Chone Figgins) instead of 7th to take advantage of Kendrick’s high BA, power and speed. This would allow Abreu to bat 3rd, and would generate more opportunities for Vlad and Hunter to drive in runs and would guarantee Kendrick better pitches to hit.

With the lineup divided into halves, it is not entirely unrealistic to project that the top 5 spots in our lineup could combine for over 500 runs scored over the course of the season. That would be a big jump from the 461 runs the top half of our lineup generated last year! At the same time, bottom half of our lineup and should be improved and should generate around 340 runs over the course of a season. That again would be a big jump from the 304 runs generated by the bottom half of our lineup last year. Combined, it’s not unrealistic to think that the Angels can score nearly 850 runs next year with the newly instilled plate discipline. That should translate to well over 90 wins again this year.

While no one can ever predict what will happen over the course of 162 games, the Angels appear to be on the verge of repeating their 100-win season from last year. Already, their new offense has led them to a 22-5-1 record in Spring Training—the best record in the majors by a long-shot. If the Angels can score close to 850 runs and have the pitching to match, they should repeat as the A.L. West champs. If they can master their new plate discipline over the course of the regular season, then they should be able to repeat it in the post-season. And if the Angels can translate their plate discipline into frenzied innings in the post-season, then the Angels could make 2009 a very special year.
Love to hear what you think!


Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

AngelsWin Media

We Recommend

 photo 8fbce79f-4964-43ef-a13d-ff1832b5e9a4_zpsd3c2ece7.jpg
Click on the picture above to pick up a copy of Rob Goldman's latest on Angels' great, Nolan Ryan. A Must Read for every fan of the Angels! Website Store

 photo t_zps6af139fc.gif
Copyright © 2013 Los Angeles Angels Blog | is the unofficial website of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Our comments and views do not express the views of the major league club or anyone affiliate with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. blog content, articles and opinions are provided "as is" and without warranties of any kind.  We disclaim warranties, express or implied, including warranties for a particular purpose, accuracy, completeness, availability, security, compatibility and non-infringement.  Blog material, articles and other information furnished or supplied by you to become the ownership of for use at our discretion.  Your use of AngelsWin content is at your own discretion and risk. We do not warrant that any content here be error free that access thereto will be uninterrupted or errors will be corrected. We do not warrant or make any representations regarding  the use of any content made available through  You hereby waive any claim against us with respect thereto. may contain the opinions and views of other members and users. We cannot endorse, guarantee, or be responsible for the accuracy, efficacy or veracity of any content generated by our members and other users. The content of is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. Such content is not intended to, and does not, constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis, and may not be used for such purposes. Reliance on any information appearing on is strictly at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in, or accessible through, the without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or professional licensed in the recipient's state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.