Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Where are we after two months? Bruised, battered, in first place ... can we keep it up? Will the injuries start to take their toll?

Let's take a tour of the Angel offense, and see how they players we planned to use have and will compare to the players we actually have now. I'll be using the formulation of Base Runs I used in this post way back when. And, by the way, I don't want to ignore defense, but it's pretty impossible to really quantify it at this point in the season. Suffice to say that we have suffered defensive drop-offs due to injuries, and that I plan to look at the defense as a whole later this week.

To the tour:

Catcher: Bengie Molina vs. Los Dos Molinas

Bengie started off the season hurt, which allowed Jose to shine to the tune of .124 BR/PA. Of course, when Bengie finally got to play, he put up a .110. Both of these performances are well above what we might expect (Bengie had posted a .082 for the last two years). But Bengie has been a decent hitter before, when healthy, so it's no real surprise to see him producing. The catching duo have been unsung heroes as the Angels have stayed relatively strong through adversity.

First Base: Darin Erstad vs. Casey Kotchman

Erstad was predictably pathetic before the hamstring yelped: his BR/PA was .095, not far off of the .103 average he had for the last two seasons. Though Casey Kotchman's future is bright, he has yet to produce at the major league level (.063). First base has been an absolute offensive sinkhole for the Lads all season, and there is no reason to expect it to get better. At this point, it seems as though the return of The Punter should be welcomed. Whoda thunk?

Second Base: Adam Kennedy vs. Adam Kennedy

Though Kennedy appears to have maintained superlative defensive value, he has slumped offensively. Where over the last two seasons his BR/PA was .132, he has only managed a .093 for the first two months of this season. Kennedy needs to pick up the pace. Kennedy has not even out-hit Shane Halter.

Third Base: Troy Glaus vs. Chone Figgins

Glaus was having an all-world year with his .203 BR/PA; Figgins is also having a potential career year at a triple-and-stolen-base-powered .131. The trouble, to this point, has been Shane Halter and his .098. Now that Figgins has won the job outright, we should improve. The Legs is raw with the glove at third, but has already made several plays of which Halter hasn't even dreamt.

Shortstop: David Eckstein vs. David Eckstein

Eckstein suffered some injury problems in the first month, and he struggled greatly. He's been crawling back, though, and has his BR/PA "up" to .095, still off his .115 pace of the past two seasons. The Lads really need Eckstein to return to form. His performance the last couple of weeks is a good sign.

Even so, three of the four Angel infielders have a BR/PA under .100. (For reference, the team mark is .129, and the league average normally hovers around .120.) In order to stay competitive, the Angels need Figgins to continue his hot hitting of the first two months, and they need a return to form from Eckstein and Kennedy. Having only one-fourth of your infield produce beyond league average is not a recipe for success -- and the fact that this is that one producer's first such year is not reassuring.

Leftfield: Jose Guillen vs. Jose Guillen

By far the most pleasant surprise of the year, Jose Guillen has been an absolute stud, posting a .165 mark -- and showing that his .160 of a year ago was no fluke. Guillen shows all the signs of being a talented player who has finally put all of his skills together into performance, and he is a big reason that the team stays afloat.

Centerfield: Garret Anderson vs. Raul Mondesi

Garret was hitting well for two weeks, with a .169, slightly but not suprisingly above his two-year average of .155. DaVanon and Figgins have patrolled center in his absence, but now Raul Mondesi has the job. What can we expect from Raul?

With the bat, better than we might think, actually. Boo Mondesi actually had a good year last year, posting a .143 BR/PA for the Yanks and the Snakes. He hadn't been as good the previous year, posting a combined .121 mark with Yanks and Jays. But at worst that makes him a league-average hitter; how much improvement this means for the team depends on who he is taking at bats from. If he takes at bats from DaVanon or Figgins, that could be counter-productive. If he takes them from Halter, that's a good thing, and could be worth a win or two over the balance of the season.

Mondesi's defense is a total mystery to me.

Rightfield: Vlad vs. Vlad

Vlad wins! .180 the last two years and .187 this year, Vlad is exactly the superstar we knew he'd be. The team would be doomed without him.

Designated Hitter: Tim Salmon vs. Jeff DaVanon

Salmon was up to his usualy early-season tricks, posting an ugly .095 mark in 18 games. Jeff DaVanon has finally put together all of his good traits from previous seasons into a sparkling .174 mark; on a per plate appearance basis, Jeff DaVanon is outperforming Jose Guillen! The signing of Mondesi should mean that DaVanon gets to play against left-handers; if Shane Halter gets one more at bat beyond just giving someone an occasional break, it's a crime.

So, if we add it all up, how much damage have the injuries really done? Let's look at center, where Figgins has essentially replaced Anderson in the lineup. If we take an extreme hypothetical and give all of the Legs' plate appearances to Anderson, and assume they perform at the same rate, how many more runs does this give the Angels?

About six.

What if we give all of Kotch's plate appearances to The Punter? How many runs then?


Add it all up, six here, two there, and I bet that the injuries haven't cost the Angels more than two games all year, offensively. Now, Halter's been a disaster with the glove, which I'm not considering here, but the injuries haven't really had time to catch up with the Lads.

The offense is not in as bad a shape as we might think. The Molinas have covered the middle infield dropoff, Guillen has relieved the dropoff from Glaus to his replacements, DaVanon has played even better than Salmon has the last two years.

It won't be easy, but it's certainly doable to stick around in this division with this offense. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Unless Shane Halter keeps starting a few days a week. Then I take it all back.

...on a per plate appearance basis, Jeff DaVanon is outperforming Jose Guillen!Hmmm... you don't say!? I'm going to say it one more time: Jeff DaVanon has star potential.
Stars can also do it for more than two months, which DaVanon hasn't shown he can do (yet). Hey, I like the guy, don't get me wrong ... but at a certain point we may be playing semantics with the "star" thing.
I don't know if you sabremetrics gurus have a stat for what constitutes a "star" yet, but why does DaVanon have to be a "star"? He's a good fielder and if he hits about .280/15/75/good OBP, then he's perfectly fine. I'm completely baffled why they got the clubhouse toxin Mondesi, though. They needed a 3B and they got an outfielder? Huh?
We're already playing semantics. No one can classify what makes a star.

I guess it doesn't come through, but whenever I type out "DaVanon could be a star" I let out a chuckle. When I originally made the comment I was just pointing out that many don't seem to realize that DaVanon is currently the third most productive hitter on this roster.
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