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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FanGraphs: Cameron: So Why Do the Angels Suck?

Uhh, turn on COZI TV…easiest decision you’ll make all day.

So, what happened to the 2013 Angels? How can a team with the best young player the game has seen in 100 years still manage to be so awful?

...And the 2013 team’s failures look more like a result of a poor distribution of positive events. If Scioscia gets all the credit when his team outperforms their expectation, it would make some sense that he should be the guy to get the blame when it goes the other way too.

However, there’s also the reality that perhaps this is all just random variation, and there’s nothing more here other than the fact that, over 130 games, teams won’t distribute their hits across “clutch” opportunities in the same way. Perhaps firing Scioscia for the fact that his players just didn’t allocate their events in the most optimal way isn’t such a good idea. The sabermetric community has long been skeptical of Scioscia’s team’s ability to sustain these positive differences between their expected and actual records, and so using regression to the mean in an unsustainable performance as a reason for him to lose his job seems less than fair.

The Angels certainly haven’t lived up to expectations, and $140 million should buy a better team than this one has turned out to be. But, when looking at whether to blame Moreno, DiPoto, or Scioscia, the answer is almost certainly some combination of the three, with a heavy dose of random variation sprinkled in as well. This Angels team isn’t completely hopeless, and with some better bullpen acquisitions over the winter, could probably be expected to contend in 2014. Whether DiPoto and Scioscia are in charge of putting together that team remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t say it’s abundantly clear that firing either one is really going to fix the problems that have plagued the 2013 Angels.

Repoz Posted: August 27, 2013 at 08:45 AM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 09:07 AM (#4528375)
Suck is such an ugly word. I prefer "victory-challenged."
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 09:18 AM (#4528385)
Suck is such an ugly word. I prefer "victory-challenged."

Still to negative. How about "excellent in under-scoring"?
   3. The Good Face Posted: August 27, 2013 at 09:31 AM (#4528398)
They have a team ERA+ of 85 and Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols have a combined 2.2 WAR on the season. Nice to see Cameron tackling the really tough questions though.
   4. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 27, 2013 at 09:32 AM (#4528399)
Still not right.

"Top-notch opponent victory assurance skills"
   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 27, 2013 at 09:56 AM (#4528420)
The bigger point here (which I think Cameron is glossing over a little bit) is that the Angels have been playing like a .500 team when you consider all of the components.

Cameron's also harping too much on the bullpen. The bigger issue is that they went into the season with a reworked rotation behind Weaver and Wilson, and the rework didn't work out (and that's on DiPoto). They also went into the season with offensive holes at catcher and third base, and they left those alone (which is also on DiPoto), perhaps thinking that the upgrade they'd get from Hamilton would balance out Callaspo and Iannetta/Conger. Not only did that *not* happen, but additional holes opened up at SS and LF which haven't been filled.

So even if they get bounce backs from Hamilton and Pujols next year, they still need Vargas to come back healthy, plus at least one more starting pitcher (although Garrett Richards has been doing well since he moved back into the rotation, so maybe he can answer that), and something better at 3B and LF and maybe SS if Aybar doesn't have any bounce.

-- MWE
   6. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: August 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM (#4528449)
The Angels have helped major league teams everywhe add to their victory totals! And you have the gall to say they "suck"? How dare you, sir? Good day!
   7. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: August 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM (#4528453)
The Angels are usually no worse than the sixth-best organization in any game they play.
   8. Dale Sams Posted: August 27, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4528459)
Karmic payback for Halos Heaven.
   9. Matt Welch Posted: August 27, 2013 at 10:47 AM (#4528461)
So even if they get bounce backs from Hamilton and Pujols next year, they still need Vargas to come back healthy

Vargas is a FA.
   10. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 27, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4528488)
They could bring in a guy like Ervin Santana, he seems pretty good.
   11. AROM Posted: August 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM (#4528490)
They also went into the season with offensive holes at catcher and third base, and they left those alone (which is also on DiPoto), perhaps thinking that the upgrade they'd get from Hamilton would balance out Callaspo and Iannetta/Conger. Not only did that *not* happen


Catcher has not been an offensive hole. Conger has a 106 OPS+ and Iannetta a 97. Between them you've only got a .230 or so average, but 75 walks (Iannetta being a freak about that in 2013) and 12 homers. Most teams do not get league average offense out of the catcher spot.
   12. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 11:51 AM (#4528506)
I was happy to see a couple days ago that Hamilton got his OPS+ to 100. I think he will still be an excellent player for at least a few years.

And I think him not playing baseball for some years in his 20s will help his longevity/durability. No, I don't have any evidence for that. Yes, the season he had this year is a nail in that theory.
   13. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 27, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4528510)
How can a team with the best young player the game has seen in 100 years

As with Lance's heroin taking the Pepsi challenge, that's a bold statement.
   14. ASmitty Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM (#4528511)
The Angels were perrenial contenders until Mike trout showed up; now they can't even make the expanded playoffs.

Coincidence? I think not. #willtowin
   15. Shredder Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:01 PM (#4528513)
something better at 3B and LF
Getting something better at LF is directly tied to the health of Peter Bourjos. A hole didn't really open up at LF, it opened up at CF, and used the left fielder to fill that hole. If Bourjos can stay healthy next year (certainly not a guarantee), then they've filled the left field hole with one of the best players in all of baseball pretty much for free.
   16. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:05 PM (#4528521)
Whether DiPoto and Scioscia are in charge of putting together that team remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t say it’s abundantly clear that firing either one is really going to fix the problems that have plagued the 2013 Angels.
It's becoming apparent that Scioscia's time is probably up, and that's too bad since none of this is his fault. Acquiring Blanton was an obvious mistake from minute one, especially with Kyle Lohse just sitting out there being courted by nobody. Trading Jordan Walden from an already-weak bullpen for Tommy Hanson didn't seem so hot at the time either, and turned out even worse than expected. Signing a recovering-from-surgery Ryan Madson was dicey at best. Expecting Kevin jepsen and a bunch of no-names to be any good was a horrible mistake. None of that was Scioscia's fault. I agree that Cameron spends too much time on the bullpen; yes, it's terrible, but when a team starts Blanton, Hanson, and Jerone Williams (combined 21 Quality Stars out of 52) almost half the time, that pen's going to get exposed in the worst way.

They couldn't anticipate Bourjos getting both the pulled hammy and the broken wrist, or Pujols having the foot problems all season. Nobody expected Hamilton to just be flat awful. Next season, I hope they find a way to resign Vargas, simply out of sheer desperation. I'd like to see Kole Calhoun everyday; perhaps trade Trumbo for a third baseman or something. (Jean Segura would be good, you know?)

They'll be better next season only because they can't get any worse.
   17. Steve Treder Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:08 PM (#4528524)
I think he will still be an excellent player for at least a few years.

And I think him not playing baseball for some years in his 20s will help his longevity/durability. No, I don't have any evidence for that. Yes, the season he had this year is a nail in that theory.


For an outfielder (as opposed to a pitcher or catcher), I suspect that his sitting out a few years in his early 20s makes no difference. I'd say that a huge red flag regarding his level of performance as he moves into his mid-30s is the fact that from 2007 through 2012, ages 26 through 31, he was only able to average 123 games a year.
   18. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:20 PM (#4528530)
Not that anyone cares (or should!) about my fantasy team -- that's a given, of course -- but Hamilton is definitely a factor in the answer to the question, "So Why Do the Hand-Fed Tigers Suck?"

If he wants to go find a bunch of his former favorite drugs & OD on them, he can have at it.

/bitter
   19. Rough Carrigan Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:37 PM (#4528536)
Is it possible that Hamilton's drug use damaged his body in ways that are more than overcome at, say, age 28 but that start to become significant at age 32? Is it possible that using the stuff Hamilton used makes you age faster and that that effect isn't stopped or eliminated by getting off the drugs; the damage is done?
   20. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4528539)
And I think him not playing baseball for some years in his 20s will help his longevity/durability. No, I don't have any evidence for that. Yes, the season he had this year is a nail in that theory.


I suspect that being a full-time addict was at least as hard on his body as being a full-time ballplayer would have been. The theory might be sound in general, but Hamilton is the wrong test subject.
   21. G.W.O. Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:44 PM (#4528540)
The Angels are not significantly below .500 (I.e. their Pythag record). They're within 1.5 standard errors of 130 coin flips, so runs scored + runs allowed describes everything that can reasonably be described.
   22. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 12:58 PM (#4528549)
I'm betting that the time off the field offsets the drug issue.
   23. bjhanke Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:08 PM (#4528562)
I interpret the Angels as what happens when you have a weak team, and spend a lot of money on two or three superstars trying to buy a pennant. The superstars can't win without some support. If you don't spend money upgrading the support crew, you won't win, and you will be paying about 3 players a ton of money not to win. - Brock Hanke
   24. Publius Publicola Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:15 PM (#4528570)
Still to negative. How about "excellent in under-scoring"?


"Counter-successful?"
"Sub-optimal win accumulation"
"Unfortuitous success progression"
   25. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:23 PM (#4528580)
I think the goal when you have 1-2 superstars is to try to build an average team around them.

   26. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4528583)
Outstanding achievement in the field of non-baseball related excellence.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4528584)
They couldn't anticipate...Pujols having the foot problems all season.

Yes, there was no way to predict that an aging slugger who has had chronic foot problems for years would have a foot injury. That's unprecedented.
   28. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4528587)
Is it possible that Hamilton's drug use damaged his body in ways that are more than overcome at, say, age 28 but that start to become significant at age 32? Is it possible that using the stuff Hamilton used makes you age faster and that that effect isn't stopped or eliminated by getting off the drugs; the damage is done?


This would be my expectation though like Ray I have no evidence for it. It is kind of interesting to see how it plays out.
   29. puck Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4528599)
I interpret the Angels as what happens when you have a weak team, and spend a lot of money on two or three superstars trying to buy a pennant. The superstars can't win without some support. If you don't spend money upgrading the support crew, you won't win, and you will be paying about 3 players a ton of money not to win. -

This sounds like you are describing the Rockies, except they are spending money to retain home-grown stars instead of buying them on the free agent market.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4528600)
Is it possible that Hamilton's drug use damaged his body in ways that are more than overcome at, say, age 28 but that start to become significant at age 32?

I don't know. Keith Richards is 70 freakin years old. If drugs were that damaging, he should have dissolved like the Wicked Witch of the West 3 decades ago.
   31. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:39 PM (#4528602)
Is it possible that Hamilton's drug use damaged his body in ways that are more than overcome at, say, age 28 but that start to become significant at age 32? Is it possible that using the stuff Hamilton used makes you age faster and that that effect isn't stopped or eliminated by getting off the drugs; the damage is done?


According to the NIH, the long-term effects of heroin use are mostly to do with the addiction itself, and the side-effects of intravenous injection (ie, abscesses, collapsed veins, infectious diseases contracted from shared needles). There is some risk of heart disease or arthritis, though these are more often associated with longer-term abuse than Hamilton seems to have pursued.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4528611)
According to the NIH, the long-term effects of heroin use are mostly to do with the addiction itself

I thought Hamilton was a cokehead?
   33. staring out the window and waiting for fenderbelly Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:48 PM (#4528615)
The Angels were perrenial contenders until Mike trout showed up; now they can't even make the expanded playoffs.


Obviously a clubhouse cancer. Trade him for some team chemistry.
   34. Willie Mayspedester Posted: August 27, 2013 at 01:56 PM (#4528623)
The Angels just didn't have any bench depth or quality starting pitching. I think the problem starts at the top with Moreno. If he's forcing DiPoto to use too many resources on Hamilton + Pujols his hands are tied regarding roster construction. Scioscia has less power to help the upper management because the owner is getting too involved and not spending $200 million like the Dodgers or Yankees.

That said Dipoto trading Walden and Segura for basically no starting pitching help probably lost the team 5+ wins this season alone.

Or what #23 said.

A few shrewd roster filler moves and this team could be back in the mix next year I think.
   35. The Good Face Posted: August 27, 2013 at 02:16 PM (#4528646)
I interpret the Angels as what happens when you have a weak team, and spend a lot of money on two or three superstars trying to buy a pennant. The superstars can't win without some support. If you don't spend money upgrading the support crew, you won't win, and you will be paying about 3 players a ton of money not to win. - Brock Hanke


I dunno. If Hamilton/Pujols repeated what they did last year and the bullpen was average instead of horrific (and bullpen performance largely seems to involve random luck), this team would be comfortably above .500. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the exception of Trout and Howie Kendrick, who's a fine player.

The bullpen should be better next year (can't be much worse) and it's reasonable to expect more than ~2 WAR from the Hamilton/Pujols combo, so the future's reasonably bright. Assuming of course Trout keeps on putting up MVP-worthy seasons.
   36. Rough Carrigan Posted: August 27, 2013 at 10:01 PM (#4529179)
#30. Keith Richards is an outlier. Which I guess means that Malcolm Gladwell would say he took drugs for 10,000 hours and got really really good at doing them.
   37. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 27, 2013 at 10:09 PM (#4529185)
According to the NIH, the long-term effects of heroin use are mostly to do with the addiction itself

I thought Hamilton was a cokehead?


I believe Voxter was just, y'know, making conversation.

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