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Inside Edge: Why are we so bad? Addressing the Elephant in the Room.


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By Greg Bird, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer - 

What about the fact that Hamilton and Pujols are not living up to their large contracts? Rbat is a stat that Baseball Reference uses to compute how many “runs better or worse than average” a player is at the plate.

While Hamilton has an Rbat of -5 and Pujols has an Rbat of 3 the team has an overall Rbat of 21. This ties the Angels with Boston for 6th in the majors in this statistic. This amount of runs alone should be good enough to put the team into the playoff race and above the .500 mark. 

If pitching or hitting aren’t the big culprits then what is left? Base running and Fielding/Defense are the next two obvious places to look.

How are the Angels on the basepaths? They’ve been caught stealing 16 times this season which is 4th worst in baseball. This has led to a 59% success rate at stealing bases which is 28th in the major leagues. To put it in perspective, if a team is successful less than about 67% of the time then they are giving away runs. If you’ve been watching games this is not a surprise to you.

FanGraphs has a base running stat and it says the Angels have cost themselves 2.2 runs on the bases. Baseball Reference has a stat that calculates the runs lost on the bases (Rbaser) and it says the Angels have lost 3 runs on the bases and are tied for 23rd worst. No matter the stat used, the Angels are not running well or smart this season. However, a 3 run differential is hardly enough to cause this terrible prolonged slump.

How about team defense? Coming into 2013 I thought this would be the best part of the team. We had a defense first third baseman in Callaspo, a very good shortstop, an improving quality second baseman, a former gold glove first baseman in Pujols with a quality backup in Trumbo, an adequate catcher, and one of the best outfields in baseball. I realize advanced defensive metrics are volatile and need more time to normalize than a third of a season but we need to something to evaluate the fielding so I will use them. 

But first let’s start with just traditional statistics, errors and unearned runs. I realize these are very subjective stats and not very useful but I don’t want to alienate the old guard by only using newer stats. The Angels have 38 errors which ties them with the Astros for 25th in the majors. For perspective, the Dodgers have committed 44 errors, the worst mark in baseball.  The Angels’ 38 errors have led to 16 unearned runs, 9th most allowed in MLB. But this is only 6 more runs than the Yankees who have given up the fewest number of unearned runs. The number of unearned runs doesn’t seem terrible but committing so many errors is concerning. What do advanced metrics say about Angel fielding? 

Baseball Reference has a stat called Rfield that evaluates a player’s defense above or below average. Average for Rfield is set at 0 and talked about in terms of runs saved or lost. The Angels defense has a -40 Rfield. This ranks them 29th out of 30 teams, just ahead of Seattle. On FanGraphs they have a fielding value for each player/team and again the Angels rank 29th with a -16.8, this time just ahead of Minnesota. Again on FanGraphs there is another stat called Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) that is computed from both “film study and computer comparisons” and by using the fielding bible. It is a value of runs above or below average. The Angels are tied for last in baseball, with Seattle, with a -41.

According to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs the Angels defense has cost us about 40 runs over an average defense. Comparing the Angels to the best team defense in the league, the Diamondbacks, they have cost themselves 81 runs MORE than Arizona! That’s right the Diamondbacks are listed as saving 41 runs more than average, an 81 run swing!

In perspective, if we had just an average defense up till now our Runs For (RF) would be 252 and our new Runs Against (RA) would be 227 (it is 267 now.) If we could have had a top third defense, which I expected when the season began, we would have given up only about 217 runs. This is a similar RF/RA to Arizona who has a 243/220 and a 32-25 W/L record. Our record would be similar if our defense was just in the top third in the league. The Angels would be in the middle of the playoff race with that record.

Does it seem out of the realm of possibility that our defense is the smoking gun? I don’t think so. I’ve been to 18 games at the Big A this season and 12 of those were losses and I’ve seen almost every game on TV, just ask my wife. I have seen a lot of losing baseball this season and the more I watch the defense the more it bothers me. I don’t know why they are playing such bad defense but the numbers say they are doing really poorly and so do my eyes. I’d bet that if the defense hadn’t given up so many runs then maybe our pitching would look a lot better on paper. 

How do they fix it? I’m not sure. They are certainly capable of playing much better in the field than this. Maybe some defensive drills are in order? Will it be too little too late? I hope not but I am worried it will be. It is said a team wins with pitching and defense. The elephant in the room seems to be the Angels’ defense.


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I don't think you can discount the impact the DL has had on the defense in evaluating this in perspective. And, I think the poor pitching early on zaps some of the defensive sharpness as well.

Sure but some of the biggest offenders were not on the DL, Trout and his bad routes to balls this year and Kendrick's boneheaded plays. Yes, Trumbo wouldn't be out there as much without DL issues and neither would Hariss. Maybe you can ascribe Callaspo's defensive trouble to DL but I'm not sure how. But these guys alone cost us 34 of the 41 runs according to DRS. Trout and Kendrick cost us 15 runs.

They just need to play better D and I think a lot of things will start to turn around.

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Starting off the OP discounted the affect of having Hamilton killing all offensive continuity in the #4 spot in the order as if a single integer in a stat line can be placed anywhere and create the same results. We have a -3 and a plus 5 so all together that makes 21 so it is blackjack and we are ok.

 

But no we are not ok at a number plucked out of context and then compared to other numbers taken out of context. Hamilton's incredibly inept season has ruined an offense that was being built around three big bats in a row (Pujols, Hamilton & Trumbo) and he and Pujols have been the double play strikeout combo that has made other teams very comfortable pitching through the middle of the order.

 

The offense is not ok, it is not a well oiled machine, it is not league average, it is a catastrophe. So much so we have a guy with a sub .300 OBP as leadoff. In what world of numbers does that, plus Mr. -3 equal league average? What that really means the opposing defense only needs to get one out in the first inning because the leadoff and number 4 or 5 hitter is almost a checkmark for an out and the number 3 hitter requires a walker to get down the line.

 

Yes the defense is sub par and primarily because shortstop was being covered by a guy that has no range and washed out of MLB for two years. We have an Astro castoff in left field and on any given day we toss in a catcher that can't catch or throw anyone out. Oh wait, our regular catcher can't throw anyone out.

 

But even runs allowed are not all pointing to poor defense but pitching that has to be one of the worst staffs in the AL, certainly the AL West. And when we go to the pen if the name isn't Williams or Coelo, grab your ankles and expect it in your culo.

 

I cannot stress enough how narrow minded elephant sighting is when the room has a herd of them and the one you focus on is the one hogging the chips and dip and not the one crapping on the couch or busting the coffe table trying to put a sore foot upon.

 

Yes, this post contained a lot of sarcasm and no stats but were are discussing a joke of a team.

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I really do think that the way this team pitches has something to do with it.

 

The Halos are second in baseball in the # of pitches thrown and # of batters faced. 

 

They allow a ton of baserunners and even when they don't, they get behind in counts and work slowly. 

 

It would be interesting to see if DRS stat could be broken down per starter as I would imagine that Jerome Williams would fare pretty well. 

 

As I have said many times this year, one of the big things for this team has been that they have played bad baseball.  Yes, injuries have had an affect, but that doesn't account for all of it.

 

The halos are 2-9 in games where they have allowed at least 1 unearned run.  5 of those losses were by the number of unearned runs or less. 

They are 7-12 when the other team has reached on an error. 

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The pitch count is a result of the scrambling to find pitchers to fill out the rotation and replace injured relievers.

Recently, those have improved.   But, that's while facing quite a few so-so offenses over the past 2-3 weeks.

How will this same staff fare once they start playing Boston, Detroit, Texas, Oakland, and Baltimore again?

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You look at the numbers and the run differential and it seems as if we could be a little better. 

 

The biggest issue, obviously, is how Pujols and Hamilton produce... And they haven't. I think a lineup shuffle could do this offense some good. 

 

Put Trout back at leadoff, Iannetta 2nd with his good discipline(could help Trout get more opportunities to steal), Trumbo 3rd so you have your best power bat driving in high OBP guys, Pujols 4th, Kendrick 5th, Hamilton 6th, etc. 

 

When Bourjos comes back, maybe you think about him at the top but the biggest issue to me is not having Iannetta higher. A .370 OBP should be higher than 8th. 

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Well Mudville, as far as the offense the point is to score runs. Angels 256 runs scored is 12th in the majors. Could they be better? Sure. Is 12 out of 30 horrendous? No! 29 out of 30 teams on defense is horrendous. So the bigger elephant is defense, by far

Yes, Angels_Baseball, we should be better. We are underperforming the Pythagorean theorem by 2 games. We should be 28-31.

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As far as those harping on the pitching, the point of defensive metrics is to try to separate that which is the pitcher's fault as to that which is the fielder's fault. That is the point of the metrics. Yes, Hariss has cost us 5 runs, but Aybar has cost us 4, admittedly over more games. This means Aybar is better but he isn't good this season.

RAA discussed in the article tries to separate out pitching from defense, again whose fault is it? It also factors in the level of competition, these bad teams. This is why I used it. That is why Blanton only picked up 2 runs over his last 3 QS, bad competition. If it had been better teams he would have picked up more. RAA even factors in park differences. So if your wondering if the pitching is a mirage this is as close as we can come to determining that right now.

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Well Mudville, as far as the offense the point is to score runs. Angels 256 runs scored is 12th in the majors. Could they be better? Sure. Is 12 out of 30 horrendous? No! 29 out of 30 teams on defense is horrendous. So the bigger elephant is defense, by far

Yes, Angels_Baseball, we should be better. We are underperforming the Pythagorean theorem by 2 games. We should be 28-31.

The Angels are 8th out of 15 teams in the AL (one run ahead of Toronto). Since the NL doesn't use the DH, you can't bring the NL teams into the discussion. For the first approx. 60 games, the offense has been average to slight below average, but it's been a lot worse than expected.

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Worse than expected sure but the point is they aren't nearly the worst in the league. It is enough runs to win, not what they should produce but sufficient to win. They are right in the middle, holding up avg, 7 better & 7 worse. if they were 13 or 14 that would be something big. Also, the point of RF/RA still stands. Giving up 30-40 xtra runs is huge.

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That would be true if it were factual instead of a projected runs allowed due to errors. However the team pitching has given up 270 runs and of those 252 were earned. So the actual amount of runs officially scored by error is only 18 not 30 or 40. This isn't a fantasy league where projections are fact, facts are facts.

 

Meanwhile the team runs scored is only 256. That still isn't covering the Earned Runs allowed but even if it did the roller coaster of pitching performances of allowing 8 runs one game then only 2 the next isn't in some harmonic balance for when the Angels score 6 runs one game then shutout the next.

 

Bad pitching and no offensive continuity is causing more loses than Aybar having a brain fart now and then.

 

 

 

Worse than expected sure but the point is they aren't nearly the worst in the league. It is enough runs to win, not what they should produce but sufficient to win. Is it even close to what it is capable of, no but many teams are winning with less. Also, the point of RF/RA still stands. Giving up 30-40 xtra runs is huge.

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Sure but some of the biggest offenders were not on the DL, Trout and his bad routes to balls this year and Kendrick's boneheaded plays. Yes, Trumbo wouldn't be out there as much without DL issues and neither would Hariss. Maybe you can ascribe Callaspo's defensive trouble to DL but I'm not sure how. But these guys alone cost us 34 of the 41 runs according to DRS. Trout and Kendrick cost us 15 runs.

They just need to play better D and I think a lot of things will start to turn around.

I think Trout's issues, which have really been few (despite what DRS may tell you), are mostly due to needing to adjust to the different perspective playing in left field. Kendrick has had a few blunders but has been pretty solid for the most part. I think the DRS run cost estimate is not accurate. And, as I said, that really is only part of the equation. Add to that the tremendous pitching struggles we had all through April and beyond, it has a negative effect on both offense and defense because both are having to work extra hard to scrape out a win, which often results in pressing, over playing and making mistakes. Then on top of that we have injuries to a couple of key defensive positions, our big offensive cogs underperforming (by a lot) and it's the perfect storm.

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As far as those harping on the pitching, the point of defensive metrics is to try to separate that which is the pitcher's fault as to that which is the fielder's fault. That is the point of the metrics. Yes, Hariss has cost us 5 runs, but Aybar has cost us 4, admittedly over more games. This means Aybar is better but he isn't good this season.

RAA discussed in the article tries to separate out pitching from defense, again whose fault is it? It also factors in the level of competition, these bad teams. This is why I used it. That is why Blanton only picked up 2 runs over his last 3 QS, bad competition. If it had been better teams he would have picked up more. RAA even factors in park differences. So if your wondering if the pitching is a mirage this is as close as we can come to determining that right now.

that's just it Greg, the metrics can't separate that which is a result of pitching completely. This is magnified when your pitching is giving up a poop load of hits and runs and is forcing the defense to work that much harder (as I mentioned in a previous post.The pitching also has a negative effect on the offense when it is as horrendous as it was. 

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Mudville, the 30-40 estimate is based off of league average defense. We have allowed about 40 more runs than a league average defense would've allowed with the same pitching performance. It has NOTHING to do with unearned runs or fantasy leagues. DRS is a comparative stat on fielder range, quality of throws, balls that drop in the outfield or get through the infield that should not in the average defense. It is complete separate from unearned runs, which is why I discuss them in different sections of the article.

LT, I understand you can't fully separate out pitching & defense but sabermetricians are getting better at it each year. Also, I'm not just relying on DRS for the 40 run figure, Baseball Reference has it at 40 as well. Additionally, however many runs it is, they are comparatively the second worst defense in the majors. That is unbelievably bad. Yes, there are "a poop load" of hits but how many of those are due to bad defense as opposed to the pitchers?

About Trout, DRS has him worse in CF than in LF. As I've watched Trout I've witnessed him taking multiple bad routes, sometimes his speed helps him recover and make the play and sometimes it doesn't. I'm sure he has had a hard time in left and can chalk his troubles there to learning left field but why is he struggling in center?

No doubt the storm is perfect but the regulars not on the DL are not picking up the slack on defense. You have to admit also that the starters and relievers pitched much better in May. The stats i used tried to filter out quality of competition for them too, so it probably isn't a complete mirage. With an improved pitching staff and average offense why are we doing this bad? And that's the point of this piece, our biggest problem is that we rank 29th in the league on D.

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