Wednesday, June 1, 2011

By Andre Castillo - Feature Writer

April-May,  2011

Part 1: Hitters

Fangraphs has introduced a new stat, Ultimate Base Running (UBR), to give credit to hitters who are good base runners, and to ding hitters who are poor base runners, by calculating how their base running skills contributes to runs scored. UBR takes some of the defensive measures of UZR that track how well an outfielder prevents runners from advancing and then flips those stats to credit or ding base runners. So if an outfielder fails to prevent a runner from advancing, not only is the outfielder dinged, but that runner is also given credit in UBR. The runner also gets credit if he goes from first to second on a groundball, or goes second to third on a ball hit to SS or 3B without being thrown out. Credit is awarded in terms of how many runs all of those successful (or unsuccessful) base running moves are expected to produce (or subtract). It doesn’t, however, including SB/CS, because that is already counted in wOBA, though I imagine that could change.

Why am I beginning this article by talking about UBR? Because UBR is now a part of Fangraphs’ WAR stat. Fangraphs WAR is now composed of three stats: UBR (listed as “Bsr”), UZR (listed as “Fld,” for measuring defense), and wOBA, measuring hitting, which I covered last week.

With UBR now a part of WAR, you’re going to see at least one big change in the Angels WAR rankings, so keep an eye out! (Note that stats are accumulated for all of 2011 until June 1, 2011).

WAR Leaders (min. 40 PA)
Howie Kendrick  2.9 WAR
Off all the Angels hitters, Kendrick continues to be the MVP by far. He leads the team in wOBA (.398) and fielding (7.3 UZR), and is second in base running (1.3 UBR). He has also been the team’s second best power hitter with a .198 ISO. In standard stats, that amounts to a .322/.388/.520 slash line, 7 HR, 30 R, and 18 RBI. Out since May 19th, the Angels need Howie’s bat back in the line-up badly. We can only hope that his bat will be almost as good after his injury as it was before, even if we can expect a drop in production (.388 BABIP so far).

Maicer Izturis  1.6 WAR
Perhaps one of the reasons why Kendrick’s injury hasn’t gotten as much press in ESPN, SI and the like that one would expect is that one of his back-ups, Izturis, when healthy, has been as good or better than any other Angel this year. Izturis’s wOBA is a strong .344, led by his terrific .356 OBP.

Erick Aybar  1.6 WAR
Rounding out the Angels top 3 is another infielder, Erick Aybar. Aybar is on a tear, hitting a career-high .357 wOBA (.305/.348/.437 AVG/OBP/SLG). But how’s he doing in the field and on the base paths? His fielding has been about average, a positive .2 runs prevented. However, his base running has been poor for someone of his speed (as many of us might have guessed), and has cost the Angels -.2 runs so far.

Alberto Callaspo  1.4 WAR
Give yourself a pat on the back if you expected Callaspo to be the Angels’ fourth-most valuable non-pitcher at this point in the year, as I certainly didn’t. For all of his defensive struggles at times, UBR has him at a positive .8 runs prevented, which is a solid rating. While his base running is expectedly poor (-1.3 runs) his bat continues to produce, good for an above-average .344 wOBA, led by his gaudy .377 OBP. With only 3 HR and a .091 ISO (.396 SLG), his lack of power continues the trend of Angels that can get on base but have trouble driving anybody in.

Torii Hunter  1.2 WAR
One of the few good news stories in a month that saw Kendrys go out for the year for good, Kendrick go on the DL, and several tough losses for the Angels top pitchers, Torii’s bat has finally starting heating up. Torii’s now second on the Angels with 8 HR and first in RBIs with 31. He still has a ways to go, however, as his wOBA is still just about league-average at .324 (.245/.327/.403 AVG/OBP/SLG). Probably the biggest surprise for Torii however has been his defense, which has saved 4.2 runs according to UZR, second on the team and ahead of even the mighty Peter Bourjos (2.4). The take home point? We probably don’t need to worry too much about what Torii’s contribution to the team will be going forward.

Peter Bourjos  1.1 WAR
Rising to 5th in Angels WAR in spite of a horrid hitting month in May, Peter Bourjos is clearly the Angels biggest beneficiary of the new UBR base running stat. As anyone who’s watched Bourjos can attest to, this young speedster is not only the best base runner on the team, stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples like nobody’s business, he could very well be one of the best in the league. Well, as UBR shows (which, again, doesn’t include SB/CS), Bourjos is in fact the best base runner on the Angels at 2.1 runs gained, good also for 14th-best in the majors as of Sunday morning, just behind Ichiro Suzuki. Now if he could just improve his below-average base stealing (6 SB, 4 CS), he could be a real terror. Because his bat probably isn’t going to do it for him, with his .298 wOBA and .240/.296/.388 slash line. Yet even if Bourjos simply continues doing what he’s doing, he will still be well worth a spot in the Angels outfield.

Mark Trumbo  1.0 WAR
Trumbo’s really turned it around since his awful April, where he managed to produce all of 0 WAR. Part of the bump in WAR he’s gotten may be from the new UBR, which credits him with producing .9 runs this year from his good base running. Another part may be his defense, which has him credited with saving 2.9 runs above replacement, good for 5th best on the team. And then there’s his bat, which is now above average for the first time all year at .333 wOBA after hitting .357 (wOBA) in May, much improved from where he was a month ago, at .306. Trumbo’s power (team best 10 HR) has been desperately needed by the Kendrys-less Angels, but what he really needs to help his team now is to take more walks. Good news on that front as well – he took 10 in May after walking just twice in March/April.

Bobby Abreu  0.8 WAR
The new base running stat didn’t do much for Abreu, crediting him with .3 runs produced. Abreu at this age continues to be pretty much just a one-stat guy: OBP. His OBP is .390, best on the Angels, bumping his wOBA up to a stellar .350. Before Monday, if you calculated Abreu’s value by looking at what his WAR would be worth in terms of salary, you get this: he’s on pace to produce exactly $9 million worth of WAR this year. When it comes to Bobby Abreu, you get what you pay for.

Hank Conger  0.2 WAR
While Conger has shown promise, overall, he’s struggled. Not as much as Mathis, of course, but his wOBA is a below league-average .294 (.233/.288/.369 slash). The kid will need more playing time for anyone to determine his true skill, but he’ll need better numbers than that to dislodge Mathis in the long term.

Vernon Wells  -0.2 WAR
While Wells played in only 9 games in May before going on the DL, it looked like he was finally turning things around, hitting 3 HR and roughly league-average .322 wOBA. Regardless of what you think of Wells, the Angels will need him back and producing for them to have a realistic shot at getting back into the postseason.

Jeff Mathis  -0.2 WAR
I think the most interesting thing I can say about Mathis and his .237 wOBA (.216/.243/.294 slash) is that he isn’t last on this list.

Alexi Amarista  -0.7 WAR
Wow, has Amarista been bad. Amarista has cost the Angels 2 runs on defense (-2 UZR), .5 runs in base running (-.5 UBR), and hit a putrid .176 wOBA (.136/.170/.227 slash). At least he can’t do any worse, amirite?

Part 2: Pitchers

Jered Weaver  2.7 WAR
Weaver’s May struggles have been well documented, but here he is still at the top of the Angels pitchers. It’s not hard to see why, as after Dan Haren there is a relatively steep drop off in pitching power for the Angels. So what happened to Weaver anyway? Well, his control wasn’t too bad, as his BB only slightly rose from 1.97 to 2.25. But his K/9 dropped dramatically from 9.66 to 6.30 in the month of May. Weaver’s career K/9 is 7.85, so 6.30 isn’t likely to continue, especially after he just posted a 9.35 K/9 in 2010.

Dan Haren  2.7 WAR
Poor Dan Haren, he never gets much run support. In spite of an equally staggering 2.7 WAR powered by his 2.53 FIP, 7.71 K/9 and 1.46 BB/9, Haren is only 5-3, while Weaver remains 6-4.

Ervin Santana  1.1 WAR
Santana is a good example of the difference between advanced and standard baseball stats. According to standard stats, you might think Santana, who is 3-4 with a 4.34 ERA, has regressed a bit from his 2010 season where he went 17-10 with a 3.92 ERA. But advanced stats say Santana has actually improved on his 2010 season. In 2010, Santana posted a 6.83 K/9 and a 2.95 BB/9, good for a FIP of 4.28. In 2011 however Santana has so far has increased his strikeouts and cut his walks to the tune of a 7.75 K/9, a 2.47 BB/9 and 3.81 FIP.

Joel Pineiro  0.8 WAR
His poor showing Tuesday aside (mostly due to his throwing error, Pineiro is the definition of a reliable 4th starter and a key cog in the Angels lead-leading starting rotation. His ERA is strong (3.52), and so is his FIP (3.55). He doesn’t strike out hitters much (3.72 K/9) but he doesn’t walk them much either (1.57 BB/9), and he keeps getting ground balls at a good rate, 52.3%., first amongst Angels starters.
Jordan Walden  0.8 WAR
Walden has been consistent from April to May, producing a FIP of 2.45 in the first month and 2.40 in the second, and a constant K/BB of 2.0. One thing to look out for – while his strike outs are up (9.69 K/9 in May v. 8.76 in April), so are his walks, up from 4.38 to 4.85. Another thing to watch out for – his xFIP is 3.70. xFIP basically says, what should happen to a pitcher’s FIP (and, as a result, ERA) if he gave up home runs at a league average rate? It’s rare that pitchers, even good ones, don’t give home runs near the league average HR/FB rate, so we might expect his ERA/FIP to rise some.

Scott Downs  0.4 WAR
Scott Downs has been terrific in his limited role for the Angels, moving quickly into the role of top set-up man behind closer Jordan Walden. His ERA is a microscopic .55, and his FIP isn’t much worse at 2.63. Keep up the good work, Scott.

Matt Palmer  0.4 WAR
When are the Angels going to call him up? Palmer is the third-best reliever on this team this year, if you look at his advanced stats – his FIP is just 3.00 (while his ERA was 5.74).

Rich Thompson  0.4 WAR
Not much to add here. He continues to be solid – 2.96 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 2.98 xFIP.

Tyler Chatwood  0.1 WAR
Tyler is ok as your fifth starter, but that’s it – ok. His ERA is 4.13, but his high walk rate (5.08 BB/9, versus just 4.29 K/9) has his FIP at 4.93. In other words, he hasn’t been very good, and what success he has had is due to some luck. I’m still rooting for the kid, of course.

Fernando Rodney  0.0 WAR
Rodney has rebounded enough in the month of May, at least in terms of WAR, to get back to replacement level (May FIP: 3.26; April FIP: 5.08). That might sound odd, as his ERA in April was 3.09 and 4.82 in May. Turns out he was actually pitching a bit better in May, it’s just that his luck as reverted to closer to his actual skill level. Rodney’s ERA for the year sits at 3.86, opposite a 4.27 FIP. Which is about all you can hope for from him, really.

Francisco Rodriguez  -0.1 WAR
Move along, not much to see here.

Kevin Jepsen  -0.2 WAR
Likewise. See my post last week on why the Angels should promote Matt Palmer.

Hisanori Takahashi  -0.3 WAR
Just, ouch. In all fairness to the Angels, Takahashi was actually pretty good last year. His ERA was 3.61, and his FIP was about the same (3.65), as was his xFIP (3.83). He even managed to post 1.6 WAR while pitching 122 innings and starting 12 games, going 10-6 with 8 saves. BABIP (.329) says he’s been a little unlucky this year, so we should expect him to bounce back at some point.
Love to hear what you think!

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