Monday, December 16, 2013

By Greg Bird, Staff Writer -  

With last week’s trade of the classy Mark Trumbo a lot of fans revolted against DiPoto and the Front Office. I understand the emotional attachment we all had to Mark and his Trumbombs and his departure does warrant a period of grieving. But in the end we are fans of the Angels and we need to look at this in terms of our team as whole. This doesn’t mean we don’t wish Mark well and follow him in Arizona. It simply means we need to ask; does this make the Angels better? Is this a rational decision?

The biggest thing I’ve read is how could we find someone to replace Trumbo’s bat in the lineup? Where will the Angels find 30+ homeruns and 100+ RBIs? The second question is full of faulty logic. We don’t need to replace his homeruns and RBIs, what we need to replace is the runs he created. Homeruns are not the only way to score runs and not the full measure of a player’s offensive prowess. Advanced metrics and logic have proven that RBIs are a team dependent stat because they are entirely a function of other players being on base. This is not controlled by the player with the bat in his hand and therefore shouldn’t be credited to him. RBIs are simply a statement of facts that occurred during a season.

There exist better ways to quantify what a player contributes to his team. Runs are scored by all type of hits; additionally strikeouts, walks, and stolen bases can either kill or continue a very important rally. To judge the true offensive value of a player Sabermetricians have made a number of attempts to quantify the amount of runs a player creates with stats like wRAA, wOBA, and wRC+.

These stats are all based on a theory that each action on the field is worth a certain number of runs regardless of how many runs physically score on the play, some events add runs or partial runs and some take away runs. For example a stolen base increases the chances a run scores that inning by almost two-thirds a run but a caught stealing reduces the chance a run scores that inning by about a third a run.

Weighted Runs Created plus (wRC+) is one stat utilizing all this information and adjusting it for league and park factors. This allows players to be accurately compared apart from factors beyond their control. Once the numbers are adjusted they are set on a 100 point scale where 100 is league average. This means a player with a wRC+ of 105 is 5% better than average at creating runs and a player with wRC+ of 90 is 10% worse than average at creating runs.

What will it take to replace the runs Trumbo created in our lineup last year? While Mark possess rare right handed power many of his other offensive skills are only average. He has improved his walk rate, but he did strike out 184 times last year and his ability to hit consistently was not spectacular. Trumbo’s wRC+ last year was 106 and his career average is 111. To put these numbers in perspective Trout lead the team last year with a wRC+ of 176 and Calhoun’s 126 was second.

Now earlier in the offseason DiPoto traded another fan favorite, “Speedy Petey,” for a real third baseman, David Freese. If we compare Freese to his predecessor Callaspo we discover this was a huge upgrade. Alberto’s wRC+ in 2013 was 90 for the Angels which would’ve tied him for 26th among MLB third basemen last year. As a note, when Alberto was traded to Oakland the A’s utilized him more effectively in a platoon role and increased his wRC+ to 99. Last year Freese’s wRC+ for St. Louis was 106, the worst of his career. Even Freese at his worst is a vast improvement over Callaspo at third base.

Something very interesting occurs when we compare Freese’s wRC+ to our recent departure, Trumbo. These two hitters, when adjusted for park and league factors, had the exact same value to their teams in terms of the amount of runs they created in 2013. They were both 6% better than average. This doesn’t mean they had the same statistics but they had the same net effect offensively, all things considered.

Over his 3-year career Freese has a wRC+ of 119 compared to Trumbo’s 111. Both players had a career year in 2012 and suffered a drop in production in 2013. In essence with these two trades DiPoto has accomplished what Mark was unable to accomplish in the 2012 third base experiment, he placed Trumbo’s production at third. In addition to getting Trumbo-like production at third base he has also procured two quality starting arms and one relief arm.

I really liked Trumbo, just like everyone else. His character was proven as he attended the Christmas Charity Event after he was traded. In a perfect world he would be an Angel for his entire career but our world isn’t perfect. In terms of our offense DiPoto has effectively already replaced Trumbo and anyone who DHs for the Halos needs only be better than 10% below average to improve on last year’s potent Angel offense. That should be easy.

The Angels are going to score runs. All that matters now is, can they prevent them? 2014 depends entirely on the pitching staff. If the starters can pitch deep into games and if the bullpen holds leads then we have hope for a successful 2014 season.

Love to hear what you think!

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