Thursday, January 2, 2014

By Greg Bird, Staff Writer - 

2014 has begun and it is time to look forward to the freshness of the New Year. Last year’s failures are behind us, the excitement of tomorrow is ahead. It is a time of hope, but is it reasonable for Angel fans to have hope? We don’t yet know what the pitching staff will look like but the offense is set. Can the 2014 Angels be as productive as last year’s team? Does the loss of Trumbo’s power signal the end of their offensive productivity?

What do the numbers say? In 2013 the Angels scored 733 Runs, 7th best in the MLB. Even with the failure of new superstar Josh Hamilton and the injured campaign of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols the team was a top tier offense. The power of Trumbo and the superb sophomore season of Mike Trout carried the team and plated a ton of runs.

T&T have been split up, the dynamite is gone. What will happen now? Let’s look back at last year and see just how much of the offense each player was really responsible for creating. We will not look at RBIs since those are a team stat and only possible because teammates were successful getting on base. Simply put, the hitter is not responsible for the number of guys on base when he comes to the plate. The hitter who got on base gets credit for being on base, not the hitter. 

RBIs are clearly a team stat. This article is not another in a long litany defending this point. Please go online to FanGraphs, Beyond the Box Score, or SABR and to learn more about this. I will simply assume this to be true and move on to another way to evaluate a player’s offensive contribution, wRC.

Weighted Runs Created (wRC) is a counting stat, unlike its counterpart Weighted Run Created Plus (wRC+). Other counting stats are Homeruns, Runs, RBIs, Hits, etc. wRC+ tells us how good a player was compared to other players in any given year and wRC tells us how many runs that player is responsible for in a given year. wRC+ has no penalty for playing time whereas wRC is earned each at bat (AB) and fewer ABs means fewer chances to create runs.

wRC assigns a run value to each action by a player on the field. Each action either adds (HR, SB, walk, etc.) or subtracts (strikeout, CS, fly out, etc.) from a player’s wRC. You may wonder how accurate this is. Last year the Angels had a team wRC of 741. The number one offense in the MLB, Boston, scored 853 Runs and had a wRC of 863. The AL West winning A’s scored 767 Runs with a wRC of 743. It isn’t a perfect match due to the random variation of sequencing. In the end the numbers are very close.

2013 Offense

The following chart will only account for the primary offensive players throughout 2013. It won’t add up to 741 since some of the runs were created by backups or fill in players. I am also including the plate appearance (PA) data because a player may create fewer runs but it may happen in fewer PAs which is inherently more valuable. I have also included each player’s wRC+ stat so we can see how their performance compares to the league.

If the Angels hope to replicate last year’s offense than they need to at least repeat these numbers. Can they do it again? Let us turn to two different methods of analyses, publicly available projection systems and a simple conservative fan’s assumption. My favorite player projection system, ZiPs, has not come out on the Angels so we will look at Steamer and Oliver. First let’s just look at an honest fan’s assessment.

2014 Fan’s Perspective

Let’s assume a few players approximate their performance last year. I could see the Iannetta and Conger tandem creating a similar number of runs next year. Conger could get more playing time and take a step forward, but let’s not assume that. It is reasonable that our middle infielders could have a very similar season next year as well. They didn’t seem to have career years in 2013. They seemed to be perfectly average years for each player. Let’s pencil them in for the same production. Finally, let us also assume Trout maintains performance similar to last year. I have no idea how long he can keep being that good but I see no reason except for injury that he should regress.

Now, let’s look at the superstar question marks. Let us just assume Hamilton only maintains his performance from last year. I hope he improves, but even if he doesn’t he can still create 72 runs next year. I don’t think Pujols will only get 443 PA next year. Let’s use Pujols’ 2012 wRC of 100 as template for what he could conservatively do while healthy in 2014. That isn’t a spectacular year for him just average. That improves the offense by 46 runs.

Finally, let us look at the replacements. Bourjos and Trumbo are gone and we all hope Shuck is now a 4th outfielder. That means I’ll cut Shuck’s wRC in half for reduced playing time and subtract out Peter and Mark’s wRC. That is a combined 125 runs. That leaves us with a 79 run deficit. Can the new players create enough runs to replace this?

What will Freese provide for the Halos? Last year Freese had a wRC of 60 in 462 PAs. If David is able to get 600 PAs and only perform like last year then he could create 70 runs. How about Calhoun? In 222 PA Calhoun created 31 runs. If we extrapolate that out to 600 PAs then he could create around 80 runs. Lastly, what about Ibanez? Last year he had a wRC of 66. If he doesn’t come close to that next year then we should see CJ Cron midseason. I am going assume Ibanez is worse than last year but is still passable creating only 50 runs.

If we add up those three guys wRC we get 200. We had a 79 run deficit from players lost. This means the offense nets a 121 additional runs in 2014. This would mean a team wRC of approximately 862. This means this offense could conservatively be as good as Boston’s last year, the best in Baseball.

2014 Projection’s View

The two projections available on New Year’s Day are Steamer and Oliver. Oliver assumes 600 PA for each player while Steamer tries to project PA as well as numbers. The following chart is their predictions for next year.

Steamer has the Angels top 10 players creating 691 runs. When we compare it to last year’s top 11 players who only created 649 runs we see a 42 run improvement over last year. It is safe to assume the bench could at least create 50 runs to get the team to 741 runs. Last year the bench got more at bats and it produced 92 runs. Steamer has the Angels’ offense likely improving over 2013’s.

Oliver is harder to look at because it assumes a full 600 PA for each player. If we total up Oliver’s wRC we get 735 but we know Conger and Iannetta are sharing time and Ibanez is only part of a DH platoon. If we add up Iannetta and Conger’s wRC and cut it in half we get a wRC of 67.5. If we assume about 450 PA for Ibanez we get a wRC of around 40 according to Oliver. This reduces the 735 team wRC to 655. This is about 6 runs better than last year. According to Oliver the Angel offensive top 10 will be at least be equal to last year’s team.


I can’t wait to see what ZiPs says and I have a feeling that the ZiPs projections might even show a better outcome than these two. The final outcome of next year’s Angels will ultimately come down to the pitching staff. We all know this already. The good news is that next year’s offense should be able to at least replicate last year. It is within reason that the Angels hitters could be the top offensive team in the league. The outcome of all of these offseason moves is yet to be seen but again the Front Office has followed a logical and reasonable process to make them. Let’s hope Jerry can improve the pitching staff now and get the team back into contention. 

Love to hear what you think!

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