Sunday, July 10, 2011

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Inside the Numbers – Angels Sabermetric Leaders
By Andre Castillo - AngelsWin.com Columnist
 
Whoa, a lot has changed since my last piece. The Angels have gone on a tear. Going into Sunday’s game, the Angels have won 3 in a row and 8 of their last ten. They are now just one game back of the vaunted Texas Rangers. So what’s changed?

Well, for one, inter-league happened. The Angels seem to do this every year, and even last year they went on a big run during inter-league season right after the injury to Kendrys Morales, before falling back to earth.

But more optimistically, the Angels bats woke up too. Let’s take a look, using Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic.

Hitters

Howie Kendrick  3.9 WAR
Having Howie back has been huge for the Angels. When he’s been in the lineup and the Angels have largely won. He tailed off in June after a torrid April/May, where he hit for a wOBA that was more typical of Albert Pujols, and hit for just league average in June. His wOBA for July, .335, is still a regression from his .368 pace overall. That doesn’t seem to justify his astronomical WAR, but his defense seems to be picking him up. Advanced stats have him as the best defensive Angel right now – ahead of even Bourjos. His gaudy 3.9 WAR is far and above the best of the Angels hitters and 15th best in the majors (but still behind Ian Kinsler!).

Peter Bourjos   2.4  WAR
This might come as a surprise, but Bourjos has long been a stable in the upper third of the Angels WAR leaders. It looks like golden glove and improved approach at the plate has him now as the second most valuable Angels hitter. I can’t remember seeing an Angels hitter, especially a young one, make such a dramatic improvement in such a short turn around. After hitting for a truly awful .253 wOBA in May (remember, wOBA is on the same scale as OBP, so league average is about .320), Bourjos put together a .348 wOBA in June and is hitting .437 in July! Makes the Mike Trout promotion a little bitter sweet, if you ask me. My solution? Trade Abreu, whose .400 or so OBP should still have value, and split Wells and Torii at DH, either now or in 2012.

Erick Aybar  2.1 WAR
For a while it looked like Kendrick had company in the “Angels infielders on pace to have career years” party with the Ghostfaced Killah, Erick Aybar. But he’s nowhere near the pace now that he was at earlier in the year, having hit for just a .305 wOBA in June. He’s back to league average in July so far with a .321 wOBA, but still far off from his April/May where he hit .365/.353. The culprit? His BABIP crashed – from a high of .383 in April to .268 in June.

Alberto Callaspo  1.6 WAR
I’m as surprised as you are to see him here again and again, but here Callaspo is still up here near the top of the Angels WAR leaderboard. On the one hand, I can understand that playing 3B gives him added value, so that makes sense. On the other, he’s not a very good hitter (.312 wOBA – helped by his .350 OBP – with just 3 HR), and from watching him, he doesn’t look like that good of a fielder either. Fangraphs disagrees however, and credits him with saving 5.2 runs so far this year, behind only Kendrick (10.7) and Bourjos (6.2) on the Angels. While I’m sold on the idea that Callaspo has enough value to keep his job, I can’t say I’m sold on him being as valuable as Fangraphs says. Fielding stats can take as much as 1-3 full seasons to become reliable however, so time will tell. It could also be that replacement level for 3Bs is really, really low this year, which would bump up Callaspo’s WAR. I think Brandon Wood would second that.

Mark Trumbo  1.6 WAR
Man has this guy worked out or what? With 16 HRs so far, I don’t think the Angels imagined Trumbo would be producing this much even in their best case scenarios. That being said, he still has room to grow. His OBP is still very poor, especially for a hitter that should be seeing a lot of balls -- .303. It’s been very bouncy– 2.64 in April, .343 in May, .287 in June, and .323 so far in July. That’s a big reason why his wOBA is only just above league average at .334. One thing I think that Trumbo doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. Trumbo is fourth-best on the Angels in runs prevented, and that’s a figure my eyes will vouch for too.

Maicer Izturis  1.3 WAR
Just as valuable as always. Nothing really jumps out at you – .321 wOBA, ok defense, ok base running. No power, but a solid OBP. Because of this, I think either Izturis or Abreu would make a better lead-off hitter than Aybar, who has shown more speed and pop but little OBP (.316).

Torii Hunter  1.2 WAR
It looks like Torii’s back. He crushed the ball on Saturday, and now has a .458 wOBA in July. But Torii’s had a very off/on year so far, hitting for wOBAs of .288 in April, .357 in May, then down to .243 in June, and back up above .400 now. Interesting enough, his BABIP still hasn’t caught up – it’s still a very low .263 this month, and only one month this year (May) has it been above .300. I think Torii’s due for a hitting streak.

Bobby Abreu  0.7 WAR
Abreu’s total WAR has actually dropped since the last time I wrote this. It hasn’t been because of his bat though. While his wOBA slumped to .252 for the first 9 games of July, it was a rock solid .390 in June. So what happened? His defense happened. If the stats are right, it looks like Abreu just can’t play the field anymore. He’s been dinged for costing the Angels nearly 6 runs on defense so far – most of which was accrued over the last 6 weeks alone.

Hank Conger  0.4 WAR
The fact that a mediocre catching defense and a .299 wOBA can get you .4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) shows you just how low replacement level is for catchers these days. Still, I like his pop (5 HRs). Here’s hoping that he continues to see regular playing time.

Vernon Wells  0.2 WAR
Wells has probably been the key in the Angels ignition over the past two weeks, pulling himself to a positive WAR for the first time all season. Congrats, Vernon, it was much needed. Now all he needs to do for the Angels to break even on his $20 million salary this year is to accumulate 4+ WAR over the next two and half months. Another 30 HRs should do it, I would say. You know, since he certainly won’t get many walks – exactly 0 over the last 9 games (and a hideous .252 OBP for the year).

Dan Haren  0.1  WAR
.1 WAR in just four at-bats! Dan Haren to DH for Mathis, anyone?

Russell Branyan  -0.2 WAR
I think we should give him symbolic credit for a WAR for that game-winning home run he hit against the Dodgers.

Jeff Mathis  -0.4 WAR
Jeff needs to pay someone to get CERA factored into WAR. I’m sure it can be done.

Pitchers

Jered Weaver  4.7 WAR
One of the Angels most deserving All-Stars – dare I say it? – ever. 11-4, 140 IP, K/9 of nearly 8 and BB/9 of less than 2. I hope he starts the All-Star game. He has no weaknesses this year – his ERA is 1.86 and his FIP 2.39. Except for maybe one. There is a chance he may be getting a little lucky on HRs, as only 2.7% of his flyballs have left the park. Pitchers rarely can maintain HR/FB ratios of less than 10%. This is the reason why his xFIP, which estimates what a pitcher’s FIP would be if his HR/FB was 10%, is a little less gaudy, at 3.46. Even if Weaver’s ERA is 3.46 from here on out that’s still an awesome year, by any definition.

Dan Haren  3.9 WAR
The Weaver/Haren combo is really what is keeping the Angels in it with the Rangers. What other teams in baseball has this devastating a combo? The Phillies, Giants? Certainly, but few others.  I hope we get a chance to see what they can do in the post-season. Combos like these are what trips to the World Series are made of.

Ervin Santana  1.6 WAR
Santana’s been fine, just unlucky. His ERA/FIP/xFIP are all right where you expect them to be, 3.89/3.96/3.65. His BABIP is back to normal, at .282, after being a little inflated earlier in the year. His K/9 and BB/9 are also solid. It’s just the wins that are lagging now, at 4 wins 8 losses. That should improve in the second half, provided the Angels offense keeps going.

Joel Pineiro  1.2 WAR
Like Santana, Pineiro has been as expected, with an ERA/FIP/xFIP of 3.90/3.89/4.07. He’s been a little luckier than Ervin though, with a positive win-loss record of 5-3. A great #4 to have (unless you’re the Giants or Phillies, of course).

Jordan Walden  1.2 WAR
The kid fell back down to earth and blew a few saves in June, but has bounced back nicely. With a fireballing rookie reliever, some SPs having career years, and a veteran outfield with elite glovework that’s starting to hit at the right time, it’s nice to see some shades of 2002…even if I don’t think this team is really that good. But it’s nice to think about.

Tyler Chatwood  0.8 WAR
On pace for a nice year from the rookie 5th starter. A few weeks back I wrote a piece comparing Tyler Chatwood to the young Nick Adenhart (R.I.P.) where I argued that, based on research I’ve seen, the Chatwood we’ve seen this year is likely the Chatwood we’ll see for the rest of his pro career. Unfortunately, this was not an extremely persuasive argument, as I did not have the time to accumulate said research and link to it (not an excuse, just a fact), but allow me to summarize that argument again here – K/BB rate is generally (though not always) the biggest predictor of future pitching success. K/BB rate also tends to not change much over the course of a pitcher’s career (though it can). Chatwood’s K/BB rate has been very stable going all the way back to his first year in the minor leagues and has never been much higher than 1/1, which right around league average. So, while we can hope that Chatwood’s K/BB rate improves (it can happen) and that he becomes a very good pitcher (it has happened), I wouldn’t bet any money on it. And even if it doesn’t, I think he still deserves a spot in this league, and on this team.

Of course, anyone is welcome to disagree, and I encourage you all to research this yourself and prove me wrong.

Scott Downs  0.8 WAR
I really, really like this guy. He’s on a really good pace for set-up reliever, and God knows the Angels need some solid set-up men.

Rich Thompson 0.4
Ditto.

Hisanori Takahashi  0.2 WAR
I was a little hard on Takahashi earlier in the year. Then I dug a little into his career stats and realized he was a good candidate to bounce back. And he has, posting a 0.75 ERA in June after a 6.30 ERA in May.

Trevor Bell  0.1 WAR
Decent, though slightly worrisome, slash line after 22 IP (ERA/FIP/xFIP): 3.22/3.89/4.73.

Fernando Rodney -0.1 WAR
I think enough has been written about Rodney at this point.
Love to hear what you think!

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