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AngelsWin.com Today: Early returns on Angels GM Billy Eppler's 2018 off-season


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We’re about 1/3rd of the way through the season and by most accounts, a reasonably successful one so far.   But one of extremes.

A 13-3 start followed by 15-20.  Streaks of 7 wins and 5 losses.

The offense went .291/.825 through those first 16 games.  .226/.694 since.

3.19 era for that 13-3 start.  3.84 era since.

SP to during that early streak?   3.84 era.  Bullpen?  2.45 era.  SP since then?  3.45 era.  BP?  4.45.

12-17 at home.  16-6 on the road.  1-4 in extras.  3 walk off wins.  2 walk off losses.  3 times being shut out.  3 times shutting out the opponent.

4.25 era at home vs. 2.79 on the road.  94 wRC+ at home vs. 118 on the road.

Our current record is fairly legit.  Matching up with our pythag (pantherian) and base runs estimates.  So it appears we are what our record says we are, but what are we?

The off season plan was fairly clear.  Fix LF (or keep it fixed), 2b, 3b, and shore up the pen

LF had been a horrible problem for going on 10 years.  Solved at the non-waiver deadline during the 2017 season but that tricky opt out could have meant losing Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez would have been for not.  But a 1 year extension taking Justin through age 34 got him to stay.  He’s been solid so far albeit streaky (as per his m.o.).  But a B to B+ level presence in the middle of the lineup.  Defense was a little shaky early on, but seems to have stabilized as well.  It’d be nice to get a bit more from him and the 28mil at age 34 isn’t looking awesome, but overall, the move gets a B so far.

2b has been an issue since Howie left and Eppler has whiffed terribly on both of his attempts.  Danny Espinsoa had -1.0 WAR and a 38 wRC+ in 254 PA last year and was finally let go after his July 8th game.  Kinsler is on his way to a similar fate with a wRC+ of 50 and WAR of -0.2 through 163 PA.  The frustrating part of about Ian is that he used to be really good and now all we see is flyout to CF/LF/RF.  He’s always been a fly ball guy but that HR/FB rate of 3.4% vs. his career of 9.1% speaks volumes about where he’s at as a player.  That means over the last two years, we’ve given up Kyle McGowin, Austin Adams,  Troy Montgomery and Wilkel Hernandez.  There not a ton of future value with those prospects, but more than the below replacement value we’ve gotten from the 2b position the last two years.  The offensive production from Kinsler would warrant an F, but he’s been excellent defensively so the move gets a D.

3b – what is it about the halos’ challenges in filling these three positions.  Again, it’s been since figgy that we had someone good although Callaspo had a couple of decent seasons.  That’s right, we are wishful of Callaspo level production.  Making a 3yr/39 mil commitment to Zack Cozart should have given us at least that.  Right?  Right!  We’re getting closer.  I guess.  We all knew Cozart’s 2017 was an outlier and while something above his career avg would be acceptable, we were all secretly hoping he’d be the guy he was last year.  Well, not so much. Turns out the move to 3b also took a fair amount of his value away as he’s been below average defensively at the position.  Still, it hasn’t been awful.  His versatility bring value and a potential move to 2b could restore some of that.  The move gets a C for now but I feel like that’s a bit generous.

Bullpen – dammit Billy!!  This is a massive disappointment.  I didn’t want to be right so I trusted the 2017 performance by a random collection of retreads as something reproducible.  Now it’s a mess.  Losing Middleton has hurt so it’s not all on him but that speaks to the lack of depth.  Blake Wood may have helped as well.  But knowing that your starters were going to be limited in their innings due to previous injury and a lack of experience, this should have been given much more attention.  Now what?  Trades?  Bring up some young guys and start their clock?  When you’re bringing in Jim Johnson to keep things tied in a 1-1 game, you’re in trouble.  This gets a D-.

Ohtani – he gets his own category.  He’s been all we could have hoped for and more.  By all accounts, Billy cultivating the relationship over a long period is what got Shohei to the halos.  Personally think we’re at or below .500 without him.  an A+ move.

1b/util/bench – So you can’t do anything with Albert.  I get it.  That’s not Eppler’s fault.  But the Valbuena commitment from last year (which I admit to thinking was a good move at the time) is having a negative impact on this team.  Especially with Cron doing so well.  But, getting a solid prospect in Rengifo for CJ was a nice offset as has been keeping Marte who’s been solid in part time play.  The addition of Rivera was smart and working out until the injury.  The OF depth created at AAA has been helpful although I think it’s time to use that more considering how horrible Chris Young has been.  He’s just bad at baseball.  Overall, a C.

Sometimes, it not just the moves you make, but the ones you don’t.  Steering clear of SPs was a good move.  There was some pen value that he missed, but a lot of it went pretty early.  His choice for a 4th OFer was horrible and Moustakas at 3b and Cozart at 2b would have been better.  C

Bear in mind, I didn’t grade on a curve.  In other words, there may not have been an A grade move available for 2b, 3b or the pen.

Overall:

B, D, C, D-, A+, C, C

1st trimester GPA – 2.14.  Bonus – to C+ overall because of the farm system.  Keeping the farm intact and improving the team is important and will pay dividends long term.

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So far, Billy seems to be mediocre when it comes to signing FA talent, but let's be honest - most FA contracts have not turned out well.

For example, let's look at Theo Epstein, the man revered for turning around the two most cursed franchises in baseball.  He has done some fantastic work at rebuilding his team via the farm system, but he too has struggled with FA signings - Heyward's and Darvish's contracts both look disastrous currently, and Chatwood (who a lot of people here were clamoring for) has not looked good, either.

There's a reason a lot of teams are now pouring money into drafting and developing their farm system.  Simply put, free agency signings, more often than not, do not pan out.  While we are bemoaning Kinsler, Valbuena, and Calhoun, look at the bright side - 2 of the 3 have contracts that expire this year, and the third has his expire the year after.  This is also why I don't really want to re-sign Richards - I have a feeling two months into his deal, we'll be counting down the years until he too is a free agent.

Pujols is a different story, but it is what it is.

This is why I'm excited about how much our farm system has improved.  The farm will be what makes or breaks our future.  We have two bonafide stars on this team and arguably a third (Simmons) - we don't need more stars (although I'll gladly take them!), but we need solid players who can formulate a good supporting cast for our stars.  Let's hope our farm keeps developing and gets us to that level!

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Billy did what he could based on the criteria he had to work with.  At some point, it is on the players to perform and not on the GM to predict their future performance.

My frustration is with the waiting for some players to "break out of their funk."   I can only hope that those players are listening to coaches in making adjustments to their hitting.

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2 hours ago, eligrba said:

Billy did what he could based on the criteria he had to work with.  At some point, it is on the players to perform and not on the GM to predict their future performance.

My frustration is with the waiting for some players to "break out of their funk."   I can only hope that those players are listening to coaches in making adjustments to their hitting.

I disagree that it's not the GM's job to predict the future.  Of course, no one has a crystal ball.  But what about the previous performances of guys like Espinosa and Kinsler would predict that they'd improve off of down years?

It's his job to manage risk.  If you're gonna go high risk, you have to be willing to cut bait when it's not working.  

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