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The Problem with the 2022 Angels Visualized (compared to the Astros)


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Obviously the Astros had a great year, and the Angels a terrible one. Perhaps the most excruciating part of it is that the Angels were actually tied with the Astros for 1st in the AL West as late as May 16. That was a week before the Angels went on their 13-game losing streak. And of course by the end of the year, the Astros were 33 games ahead of the Angels. Or to put it another way:

Through May 15: Astros 23-12, Angels 24-13 (tied for first)

From May 16 on: Astros 83-44, Angels 49-76

So what went wrong? Well, we've discussed that ad infinitum, but I want to share some charts that illustrate the problems of the 2022 Angels, and compared to the strengths of the Astros:



What are you looking at? The top chart compares Astros and Angels hitters by wRC+ (which is essentially the same as OPS+, with 100 being average). Each column is a different player - the width depends upon plate appearances; green is average (100) or better; purple, below average.

The second chart does the same for pitchers, but uses FIP and innings pitched, with 4.00 being average (3.97 was MLB average in 2022). I decided on FIP because it separates out defense...I might add that in later as a third chart.

Now what the first chart clearly illustrates is how much of the Angels plate appearances were filled by below average (and frankly, many quite terrible) hitters. All teams have below average performers, but having depth basically equates with minimizing such performers.

Meaning, these charts quite graphically illustrate the main problem with the 2022 Angels, on both sides of the game--hitting and pitching--a lack of depth.

Looking at the Angels hitting, they basically had three very good to great performers in Ohtani, Ward, and Trout, and a fourth slightly above average hitter in Rengifo. Their next seven hitters were all below average to varying degrees: Walsh, Stassi, Velazquez, Marsh, Adell, Duffy, and Fletcher. The one average hitter in Rendon, followed by nine more below average hitters. That lone high green column was courtesy of Livan Soto, who put up a 181 wRC+ in 59 PA (thus the thin width of the column). Meaning, he was Yordan Alvarez for 18 games. 

The Astros, on the other hand, had six of their top seven hitters by PA--and seven of their top ten--all perform above average or better. 

We see a similar, even more extreme, picture with pitching. In fact, the Astros only had two below average performers with substantial innings, Jose Urquidy, still put up a 3.94 ERA (about average) despite a poor 4.60 FIP. The Angels had a solid top four, and still held up pretty well through their top nine pitchers by IP, but the problem can be illustrated in how many innings were pitched by sub-par performers. 

So if I'm Perry Minasian, I'm looking at data like this and thinking, "I've got to turn as much purple into green as possible" (or however the Angels front office conceives it). And more so: They need to stop emphasizing top tier performers, and focus on bringing up the floor of this team, because it is the floor that is killing them.

The 2022 Angels are a particularly egregious case of "stars and scrubs," and quite frankly, it just doesn't work. A good team is comprised of a handful of stars, yes, but also a strong group of solid, average to above average, performers.

In an ideal world next year, Walsh, Stassi, and Adell will all flip to green. We'll also see an average or better O'Hoppe column. But the key, again, is to reduce the width of that pass of purple and replace it with green...even if they're just "hills" rather than "mountains."

Similarly on the pitching side - although the problem wasn't as extreme. But if you want to see a visual depiction of a deep and strong pitching staff, look at that Astros chart. And we all saw how that translated into postseason excellence.

So the point is not, "How do we become as good as the Astros in one offseason?" but more a matter of looking at how the Astros succeeded relative to how the Angels failed, and moving more in that direction. 

Edited by Angelsjunky
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