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Getting to wildcard contention using ZIPs!


Angelsjunky

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Fangraphs has this nifty little page I just discovered, which gives projected team WAR totals, sortable by position, presumably based upon ZIPs projections (although I'm not certain). You can also view the Angels team page here.

Anyhow, according to that first page, the Angels are projected for 37.3 team WAR as they stand now, which is good for 10th in the majors, 5th in the AL, and 2nd in the AL West. Given that a 0 WAR team wins roughly 48 games, that means the Angels are projected to win 85 games - as they are now, relative to other teams as they are now. WAR is dynamic, so if they made no changes and other teams improved, that would go down a bit.

But let's go with 37.3 WAR and 85 wins. We could even be conservative and say that the team as it is now will win 80-85 games, and to make the playoffs they need to win at least 90.

What that means is that the Angels need to improve by 5-10 wins. At least. Roughly 5 if they want a decent chance at a wildcard, ~10 if they want to be in the thick of the wildcard (and ~15 if they want a shot at the division, but let’s be somewhat realistic).

How best to do that? This is how the team projects by position relative to the majors:

Catcher: 1.8 (27th)

1B: 0.1 (29th)

2B: 2.0 (19th)

SS: 4.3 (6th)

3B: 3.1 (11th)

LF: 2.5 (11th)

CF: 9.3 (1st)

RF: 2.0 (17th)

DH: 3.4 (3rd)

SP: 7.9 (19th)

RP: 0.9 (25th)

Alright, so obviously CF, DH, and SS are set. The Angels are also above average at 3B (Cozart) and LF (Upton). Everywhere else could use some work, especially C, 1B, and (surprisingly) the bullpen. Nothing new here, although I hadn’t really considered Cozart to be a solid third baseman – but ZIPs says he is.

The question is, can the Angels make up that 5-10 WAR via free agency alone, and staying within the $30-40M spending budget? Let's see if we can spend (using Fangraphs crowdsourcing projections) on free agents that would then replace what the Angels have, and see what we get.

CATCHER: 1.8 (Kevan Smith 1.1, Briceno 0.7, 320 PA each)

Replace with: Wilson Ramos (2.8 WAR, 480 PA), $12M AAV. We need roughly 160 PA from someone else, so if we average out the 1.8 of Smith/Briceno in 640 PA, we get 0.5 WAR.

New total: 3.3 WAR (Ramos 2.8, Briceno/Smith 0.5); +$12M spent

Now I'd really like to do something with 1B, but I just don't see any good possibilities via free agency. The Angels have to hope that either Pujols bounces back a bit (unlikely) or Walsh or Thaiss do something. RF is similar; hope Calhoun rebounds or Adell makes a leap forward.

Anyhow, I'm going to leave the lineup for now and move to the pitching staff.

ROTATION: 7.9 WAR (Heaney 2.5, Skaggs 2.2, F Pena 0.7, Tropeano 0.7, Barria 0.5, Cole 0.5, Peters 0.4, Ramirez 0.3, Suarez 0.1)

I don’t love all of those projections, but the sum total might be about right so let’s go with it.

Replacement #1: JA Happ (3.4 WAR, 187 IP, $16M AAV) or Dallas Keuchel (3.2 WAR, 196 IP, $20M AAV). It would be nice to get both, but the Angels can't afford it. So let's go with Happ.

Let’s just go with the one starter, due to cost.

New Total: ~10.5 WAR (Happ replacing 187 IP of anyone but Heaney, Skaggs, Barria); +$16M spent

BULLPEN: 0.9 (Buttrey 0.5, Bedrosian 0.2, Garcia 0.2, Anderson 0.1, Robles -0.1, etc)

It wouldn’t surprise me if Eppler just stood pat and hoped for the best. But there are several available relievers that would substantially improve that ZIPs projection, namely Adam Ottavino (0.7), Jeurys Familia (0.7), or Joakim Soria (0.5). Let’s say the Angels get one of the above for $9M AAV and replace innings totals from 0.0 WAR relievers (we’ll say +0.6). Not great value, but let's go for it.

New Total: 1.5 WAR

 

SUMMARY

We’ve added a catcher in Wilson Ramos, a starter in JA Happ, and a reliever in Ottavino/Familia/Soria, for a total of +$37M and +4.7 WAR.

What that means is that the Angels need one or more of four things to occur, to get safely into that +5-10 WAR range:

1)     Spend more money than their planned-for $30-40M.

2)     Make a savvy trade or three, which probably involves sending prospects elsewhere for players that can help now.

3)     Some good fortune with players out-performing their projections.

4)     Make some hard choices.

#1 is unlikely, given all that we’ve heard. They might try to be more budget savvy than I was, say spend less on a reliever.

#2 seems very possible, and would likely come either at one of 1B, 2B, or RF, or a starting pitcher or reliever--not all, but one or two.

#3 is, well, what all teams hope for – but it is easy to imagine several Angels well out-performing their ZIPs projections.

Which leaves us with #4, which is mostly about one player: Albert Pujols. ZIPs projects him at 0.2 in 595 PA. Now replacing him with a league average player (2.0 WAR) adds a sizeable 1.8 WAR to the projection, bringing it to +6.4.

Anyhow, the overall result of all of this is that the Angels can stay within budget and improve the team enough to get into decent shape, projecting for 85-90ish wins and a possible wildcard berth. But in order to get to the next level, they’ll need to do a lot more.

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Great post.
Its really not as far off as people make it out to be.  No we might not win a WS in 19 but man people seem so fast to just phone it in like it doesnt matter.
get a couple of good not great starters, something like Gio Gonzalez maybe, or trade for one like Bauer, make a couple signings, we are right there.  
The As wont win 97 again i would bet my ass, literally, on that.   All we need to be is 4th or 5th best in the league to make the post.  We were in it for a lot of last year in the midst of a nightmare.

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10 minutes ago, floplag said:

Great post.
Its really not as far off as people make it out to be.  No we might not win a WS in 19 but man people seem so fast to just phone it in like it doesnt matter.
get a couple of good not great starters, something like Gio Gonzalez maybe, or trade for one like Bauer, make a couple signings, we are right there.  
The As wont win 97 again i would bet my ass, literally, on that.   All we need to be is 4th or 5th best in the league to make the post.  We were in it for a lot of last year in the midst of a nightmare.

Doesn't Eppler prefer starters who don't have control issues?    Gio Gonzalez has some Nibs in him (4 BBs/9 innings in his career).   No thank you

I'd rather trade for Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer, if they can avoid trading too many prospects away.   

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Its worth noting, your projections are showing us paying 8 million per WAR added in the catcher slot, 6.2 million per WAR added at the starting pitching slot, and 15 million per WAR added at relief pitching. To put it another way, in this model, it may make the most sense to just sign Happ and Keuchel and call it a day (36 million, and our SP WAR would be sitting around 11.3 between just Heaney, Skaggs, Happ, and Keuchel - so we would just need Barria, Pena, Ramirez, Trop, Cole, Peters, and Suarez to combine for 1.6 WAR to hit our 5 WAR goal; given the numbers listed, this should be done easily).

If we were to sign for/trade for a league average player at 1b on top of that, we would be looking pretty dang good. And if a few of our prospects came up big...THAT would be a lot of fun.

Obviously though, all these numbers are speculation, and reality is complicated.

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Just now, Angel Oracle said:

Doesn't Eppler prefer starters who don't have control issues?    Gio Gonzalez has some Nibs in him (4 BBs/9 innings in his career).   No thank you

I'd rather trade for Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer, if they can avoid trading too many prospects away.   

I think we all would but im trying to do this without going ham on payroll or losing key parts on the farm were going to need.  
Would i make a deal for Bauer for example, yes i would, assuming it didnt gut us, if it does i would just spend over trade.  
Plus we have Ramirez coming back mid season and Ohtani in 20. 

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Ya, good post.

I think they need two starters and a pen arm, and two bats, one at C, and one as a RF/1B platoon bat. I also think one of Fletcher/Ward/Cozart needs to improve significantly. (Or alternately if Adell Breaks Out). Then I think they will be in contention for the division.

I don't like that they've got Ward listed for so few AB's, and Fletcher for so many, I think they'll be closer to equal when all is said and done. (400-500 each). I don't think Cozart or Pujols will have 595 plate appearances either. I think both will be closer to 500. Pujols playing 4 days a week is 500.

Calhoun also I think drops but not as far, maybe to 550 PA instead of the 650 they have for him here.

Overall I'd say they do a good job of projecting the Team WAR but I'm hoping for 1.0 from Pujols and slightly better production at 2nd and 3rd, as well as from LF.

 

 

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There is no way our spending budget is $30-40 million. Total payroll has been ~$165M the last 3 years. We're already close to that w/ actual current year payroll. The luxury tax AAV is an accounting trick. It is irrelevant to us, only relevant to teams like the Yankees/Dodgers/Sox/Cubs that are spending at that rate. We didn't get close to the tax number last year and won't this year. The real number that matters is actual payroll. Depending on how the benefits is calculated, we have large evidence to believe that we are already at somewhere between $155M-$165M actual payroll. 

Eppler has mentioned in the past that he also likes to leave room for flexibility for midseason trades. The more I think about it the less likely I think Eppler will get anyone over a few million/year this offseason. I think he'll do his thing getting under the radar low profile pitchers like he's been doing w/ Garcia/Peters. No one costing a big financial commitment.

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Just now, Sean-Regan said:

The advantage of Happ is you don’t have to make a long term deal. With recent success at his age, there’s reason to think he’d still be quite solid for a year or two. 

Ya I’d be fine with it just because of short term commitment, but I’d definitely rather they try and get a more long term solution. 

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32 minutes ago, IheartLA said:

There is no way our spending budget is $30-40 million. Total payroll has been ~$165M the last 3 years. We're already close to that w/ actual current year payroll. The luxury tax AAV is an accounting trick. It is irrelevant to us, only relevant to teams like the Yankees/Dodgers/Sox/Cubs that are spending at that rate. We didn't get close to the tax number last year and won't this year. The real number that matters is actual payroll. Depending on how the benefits is calculated, we have large evidence to believe that we are already at somewhere between $155M-$165M actual payroll. 

Eppler has mentioned in the past that he also likes to leave room for flexibility for midseason trades. The more I think about it the less likely I think Eppler will get anyone over a few million/year this offseason. I think he'll do his thing getting under the radar low profile pitchers like he's been doing w/ Garcia/Peters. No one costing a big financial commitment.

The payroll is not even close to 155 now. Jeebus man. It’s not hard to correctly look at the payroll sheets available on line everywhere. 

They have 114 or so in guaranteed long term contracts. 15 in arbitration deals. And 6 then in minimum salaries to fill out the roster.

That’s 135. There’s your $30 in room.

The 25-man payroll has been right around 165, that doesn’t include 40 man salaries which are 70-100k each for 15 guys, and the benefits are also not included in that number.

 

https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/al-west/la-angels/

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JJEzXDdi1FoAVCxpssrNq04unxs39JIJg6CRn-IPM1c/pubhtml

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1 hour ago, krAbs said:

Its worth noting, your projections are showing us paying 8 million per WAR added in the catcher slot, 6.2 million per WAR added at the starting pitching slot, and 15 million per WAR added at relief pitching. To put it another way, in this model, it may make the most sense to just sign Happ and Keuchel and call it a day (36 million, and our SP WAR would be sitting around 11.3 between just Heaney, Skaggs, Happ, and Keuchel - so we would just need Barria, Pena, Ramirez, Trop, Cole, Peters, and Suarez to combine for 1.6 WAR to hit our 5 WAR goal; given the numbers listed, this should be done easily).

If we were to sign for/trade for a league average player at 1b on top of that, we would be looking pretty dang good. And if a few of our prospects came up big...THAT would be a lot of fun.

Obviously though, all these numbers are speculation, and reality is complicated.

Good points, and I tried to mention the first one in the OP - that upgrading relievers is not good WAR value. This might be why Eppler sticks to the clean peanut approach (or trades) and hope that Buttrey is ready to close.

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Can I also point out that the Zips actually has the Angels at a higher Bat WAR than any team except Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers? 

And I think they need to add offense. Plus I’m hoping that they do better slightly in addition especially at 1st, in the corner OF and at 2nd / 3rd.

Adding a catcher like Grandal or Ramos or Realmuto or Cervelli could put us 1st in Batting WAR.

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1 hour ago, Hubs said:

Ya, good post.

I think they need two starters and a pen arm, and two bats, one at C, and one as a RF/1B platoon bat. I also think one of Fletcher/Ward/Cozart needs to improve significantly. (Or alternately if Adell Breaks Out). Then I think they will be in contention for the division.

I don't like that they've got Ward listed for so few AB's, and Fletcher for so many, I think they'll be closer to equal when all is said and done. (400-500 each). I don't think Cozart or Pujols will have 595 plate appearances either. I think both will be closer to 500. Pujols playing 4 days a week is 500.

Calhoun also I think drops but not as far, maybe to 550 PA instead of the 650 they have for him here.

Overall I'd say they do a good job of projecting the Team WAR but I'm hoping for 1.0 from Pujols and slightly better production at 2nd and 3rd, as well as from LF.

 

 

I don't think Pujols will breach 400, either because of injury or "injury."

I'm also hopeful that Rengifo will break into the infield mix and be a dynamic leadoff hitter. 

As far as RF/1B platoon, that could be Walsh. I don't think he'll be very good, but if he hits league average that helps. 

I love Kole, but my hope is that Adell is so good in the first half at AA that the Angels decide to promote him and Kole is traded.

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5 minutes ago, Angelsjunky said:

I don't think Pujols will breach 400, either because of injury or "injury."

I'm also hopeful that Rengifo will break into the infield mix and be a dynamic leadoff hitter. 

As far as RF/1B platoon, that could be Walsh. I don't think he'll be very good, but if he hits league average that helps. 

I love Kole, but my hope is that Adell is so good in the first half at AA that the Angels decide to promote him and Kole is traded.

I’m hoping for the same. And that Ward hits .275 / .375 / .475 with 20 HR and 20 2B. 

 

 

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Nice job AJ.  

interesting that they have us projected as the 4th best WAR for position players as of right now.  

A couple of observations. 

I think Cozart will be worse than projected but Fletcher will be better.  So they offset.  

Agree that Simmons, Trout, Upton, Ohtani and Calhoun are spot on.  Although overall, I think we'll get a little more than 2 WAR from RF.  I also think Rengifo is going to end up make a solid contribution.  

I actually think our relief pitching will be better than 0.9 WAR.  The overall base will be much better to start the year than last year.  Projections don't really give much credit to guys without a track record but I think Buttrey, Anderson, Robles and Cole will actually be good and one or two other guys will emerge early on.  Plus, I think we will add an under the radar vet reliever and do it for far less than 9m.  There's gonna be a leftover here that ends up being an obvious find for us.  Ultimately, I think we'll be in the 2.5-3.0 WAR range.  Putting us somewhere in the middle of the pack to the bottom of the upper third.  

Ramos at catcher seems obvious.  I like it.  

We need two starters no matter what we do elsewhere.  Can we get a solid starter for little money in trade plus sign one?  I think so.  By adding one solid starter, that's +2.5 wins.  But we are so thin that adding another starter gives us whatever that player does above 0 WAR.  We could get 5 total WAR here even with one good and one modest acquisition.  

There's got to be a way to get more out of 1b.  Pujols is likely worse than his 0.2 WAR projection as he was at -0.6 when playing the field last year.  He's just so broken at this point.  I still think La Stella is a sleeper to get AB's at 1b and produce decently.  But you have to consider adding an additional piece here as it could really move the needle.  

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