Sunday, August 29, 2010

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

Anaheim, CA - Baseball fans love stats. The game was meant for them. If there’s an event in baseball, it’s scored. It’s quantified. It’s measured. Therefore, it can be correlated to any other event in the game. Want to know the Angels’ record when the game temperature was 68 degrees and started at 6:07? You probably can find it somewhere.

The 2010 Angels have had a Jekyll and Hyde season. The stats clearly show that. In all aspects of the game, they’ve deviated widely from their collective standards and even from their year-to-date averages in their wins and losses.

Going into Saturday night’s game (8/28/10), the Angels had won 63 games. In those wins, the Angels’ starting pitchers had a 2.24 ERA and a .213 BAA in 425 IP. In the Angels’ 66 losses, their starters had a 6.68 ERA and a .318 BAA in 372 IP. Their differential between wins and losses, 4.4 runs, was the largest in the Majors Leagues so far.

As for the offense, in their 66 wins, the team collectively hit .315 with runners in scoring position. In their 66 losses, the offense hit a combined .175. Forty times prior to Saturday’s game the Angels were held to two or fewer runs. The Angels average of 4.5 runs per game in 2010 was down from 5.5 runs per game in 2009. It’s no wonder their record is down from 2009—the average Angels’ offense in 2010 barely outscored the differential between the starters in their wins and losses!

As for the bullpen, the stats show their complicity in the team’s record. In 24 of the Angels’ 66 losses, the team has held the lead at some point in the game. In the first inning the Angels have outscored their opponents 70-55. In the remaining innings, the Angels have been outscored 596-574. While the Angels offense picked up in the later innings, the bullpen blew 12 saves and allowed 42% of all inherited runners to score. That’s not how they were supposed to perform.

Luck had something to do with the Angels’ record this year. To date, the Angels placed 15 different players on the DL. Together, they missed 793 games resulting in 105 different lineups this season in 129 games. The team couldn’t gel with so many changes.

The schedule was also to blame. By the end of 2010, the Angels will fly a total of 50,509 miles—the most in the Majors. By way of comparison, the White Sox will only fly 22,832 miles—less than half of what the Angels will log—for the lowest number of air miles. With many late night departures and arrivals, the team definitely was burdened more than the rest of the league.

While the stats do a good job of showing where the Angels deviated from their expectations, they don’t tell the whole story. To get the whole story, one has to watch the team and compare their expected performance, based on the stats, with their actual performance.

Going into Saturday night’s game, Angels had every reason on paper to win the game. The stats were in their favor. On Saturday night games in 2010, the Angels were 15-5 for the season. Since 2004, the Angels were 21-9 versus Baltimore at home and 37-21 versus them overall. The Angels lineup featured six hitters with a career BA over .300 against Millwood. Two of their hitters, Alberto Callaspo and Howie Kendrick, were the #3 and #4 hottest hitters for the entire month of August (minimum 80 ABs). The entire roster had a collective average of .326 against Kevin Millwood, the starter for Baltimore, which should have been more than enough to win the game.

But that was all on paper. Watching the Angels take batting practice, it was easy to predict that the Angels would lose the game in spite of the stats. Collectively the team was in a funk. While some players, such as Torii Hunter, seemed immune to it, and other players, such as Peter Bourjos, Michael Kohn, and Jordan Walden worked hard to make the most of their opportunity, the passion on the field was lacking. There were many players seemingly going through the motions as they took batting practice. The front office may not be willing to call it a season, but, the players, especially with their body language, were telling otherwise.

To their credit, Scioscia, Hatcher, Butcher and the other coaches were doing their best to get the most from their players. But they were not enough to overcome the funk that’s plaguing the team. The Angels lineup—one that featured six batters with a .300 BA or higher against Millwood—combined for 6 hits and no runs in 8.0 innings against him. The defense committed two errors and overall the team played very un-Scioscia like baseball. In short, the players deviated from their standards.

At the start of the season, the Angels set high expectations for the team and hoped to win another A. L. West Title. On paper, the stats said that if the players just played to their norms that they would accomplish that goal. This offseason the Angels’ front office will have to figure out how and why the 2010 team deviated from their standards so that they can start the process of building another championship team for 2011.
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