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Thursday, April 28, 2005

CATCHING UP
I didn't want to post new stuff in the middle of my retrospective series, so let's get to some of the things that happened earlier this week:

1. We took two out of three from the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

Yes, I know that team is struggling right now. Yes, I know we faced the burnt-out husks of Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown. Even so, Brown pitched a good game, and any lineup with Jeter, A-Rod, and Sheffield is still a formidable lineup. The Angels managed to shut down everyone except for A-Rod (thank you, bullpen), and even then, his destruction was pretty much limited to one game. John Lackey demonstrated he can get out of a jam -- next, let's stay out of them altogether, shall we? And Jarrod Washburn had another good start on his quality rollercoaster that has begun the season.

Dallas McPherson was 4-11 in the series, hitting 364/417/636 to demonstrate signs of coming out of the slump that began his major league season. Vlad had an even better series, going 5-11 with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored, and a line of 455/500/545. So that was nice to see.

I'm actually more worried about this Twins series than I was about the Yankee one, I think. The Lads have to face Johan Santanadana on Sunday and Brad Radke, a longtime Angel killer, on Saturday. And tonight they face off against Carlos Silva, who's been hot to start the season, with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings.

Worst of all, up against Radke tomorrow the Angels send Kelvim Escobar. Radke is 12-6 lifetime against the Angels with a 2.10 ERA, and the Angel batters appear to not realize that scoring runs while Escobar is on the mound is in the team's best interests. So that's a fun combo -- though, in fairness, most of Radke's domination against the Halos has come prior to many members of the current lineup were assembled. Kelvim has struggled against the Gemini over his career, posting a 6.09 ERA in just over 44 innings. The problem isn't so much the Twins as it is the Metrodome; he has a 6.23 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in that stadium -- and 5.52 ERA in 234 2/3 career innings under a dome. Kelvim struggles on turf in general:
Surface    IP    BFP  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   ERA
Grass 528.3 2293 .205 .100 .024 .209 4.12
Turf 535.0 2410 .196 .101 .021 .233 4.73
As you can see, the really big difference there is in the hits allowed. Kelvim has been a slight groundball pitcher over his career, but he's not very extreme in that regard. But the difference is so extreme that it seems like something must be afoot. Hopefully, the Angels can cure what ails him in tomorrow's game.

2. Tim Brown wrote on article about how the Angels aren't Moneyball, and get runs without walks and on base percentage. Mike Scioscia is quoted as saying, "I'm not going to sit here and tell you on-base percentage isn't important. But there are things you can compensate with if your on-base percentage isn't off the charts. What's more important is getting guys in scoring position and getting runs .... You won't ever hear me knock on-base percentage."

In support of these tenets, the Times prints the following chart:
Year     Avg      Walks   On Base%    Runs      W-L
(Rank) (Rank) (Rank) (Rank)
2002 .282 462 .341 5.25 99-63
(1) (11) (4) (4)
2003 .268 476 .330 4.54 77-85
(7) (9) (8) (11)
2004 .282 450 .341 5.16 92-70
(1) (14) (6) (7)
2005 .255 48 .308 4.84 11-8
(9) (11) (10) (6)
The thing to notice there, I think, is how well the team's OBP rank correlates with their runs scored rank. If the Angels are deriving some advantage from having an average-driven OBP, that fact toesn't seem to reflect itself in their runs scored totals.

Scioscia also says, "Our on-base percentage is relatively low. But the number of times we're in scoring position is incredible. That's where we make up for the perception that as a team we don't walk a lot and swing the bats. We get into hitters' counts, we get a pitch to hit and we usually put it in play hard."

Addressing that last point first, info at The Hardball Times seems to indicate that the Angels hit more line drives last year than the average team (I say "seems" because there is no team total, and you have to estimate from the individual player totals), though they are slightly below average thus far in 2005.

Addressing the first point ... we don't have anywhere a public listing of how many times runners were in scoring position. But last season, the Angels had 1,739 plate appearances with at least one runner in scoring position -- and the A's, the villains of advancing runners -- had 1,743. But the Angels performed much better in such situations, hitting 278/343/440 to bring in 659 runs; the A's hit 260/352/410 in such situations to score 573 runs.

That means the Angels scored 177 runs over the course of the season when no one was in scoring position, and the A's scored 220. I don't really know what that means ...

... in terms of getting guys into scoring position, we can estimate some of the ways:
Team   2B   3B   SB   SH   TOT
ANA 272 37 143 56 508
OAK 336 15 47 25 423
That ain't perfect; both stolen bases and sacrifice hits can advance a runner from second to third, as opposed to from first to second.

So maybe the Angels really are better at getting runners into scoring position. Or maybe that was a one-time thing. I don't know if that kind of skill is repeatable at all. But we can hope ...

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