Friday, March 31, 2006

This is something I did last year; basically before last season began, it occurred to me that I wanted to keep better tabs on some of our prospects throughout the season, and if that was true of me, it might be true of my readers, as well. So every few weeks, I give an update on some of our best prospects, showing how they've done since I last did an update.

Here are the guys I'll be following this year. For each position player, I've listed a "High Concept" and a "Low Concept", which is a rough guess of how they'll turn out if everything goes right or if everything goes wrong, respectively. Obviously, the less we know about a player, the wider that span is. It's there just pretty much for fun, and as a snapshot of where they look like they're heading from out current vantage point.

At the end of each section, there is a "Watch Out" list of guys who didn't make the Watch List cut, but could very well play themselves onto the List this season.

Here we go:

Position Players

Erick Aybar, SS, BB/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2002 R 18 273 89 15 6 4 21 43 15 10 326 395 469
2003 A 19 496 153 30 10 6 17 54 32 9 308 346 446
2004 A+ 20 573 189 25 11 14 26 66 51 36 330 370 485
2005 AA 21 535 162 29 10 9 29 51 49 23 303 350 445
Erick Aybar continued his solid hitting last season, coming on strong in 2005’s final weeks to make sure he’s hit above .300 at every level. His average just about summarizes his offensive contributions, though; he doesn’t walk a lot, has only okay power, and his terrific speed has not translated to productive stolen base percentages.

Aybar does have an excellent defensive reputation, however, and that counts for a lot for a shortstop. He’s also been young for his leagues, a good sign.

Aybar’s best-case scenario is for Orlando Cabrera to suffer an injury, allowing him to come up and take his spot. If he were to come up and play well, he could entrench himself at the position, moving Brandon Wood to third and Orlando Cabrera and Dallas McPherson to the trading block.

Low Concept: Orlando Cabrera
High Concept: Davey Concepcion

Michael Collins, C, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2003 R 19 132 44 8 2 1 3 19 0 0 333 353 447
2004 A 20 111 23 6 0 1 13 21 0 3 207 312 288
2005 A 21 363 116 32 3 7 34 44 16 8 320 412 482
Collins is the one off-season position player addition to the Watch List. Last year might have been a turning point as he repeated at Cedar Rapids. He should be in line for Rancho Cucamonga this year and will try to either succeed or backup Jeff Mathis by 2009.

Low Concept: Matt Curtis
High Concept: Jeff Mathis

Nick Gorneault, OF, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2001 R 22 168 53 12 4 6 11 65 5 2 315 373 542
2002 A 23 346 100 17 7 10 30 106 12 5 289 346 465
2003 A+ 24 374 120 36 2 14 20 82 11 6 321 362 540
AA 24 110 38 6 4 2 8 25 2 0 345 395 527
2004 AA 25 490 138 28 4 21 45 125 7 5 282 343 484
AAA 25 19 6 1 0 1 1 7 0 0 316 381 526
2005 AAA 26 488 143 26 11 26 58 119 7 6 293 366 551
This college slugger has been inched along the Angel system; he’s hit well at every stop without actually dominating or doing anything to indicate he can ever be a major league regular. With Juan Rivera around there’s no real place for him in The Show, unless a bunch of guys fall to injury.

Low Concept: Mike Brown
High Concept: Dante Bichette

Howie Kendrick, 2B, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2002 Azl 19 157 50 6 4 0 7 11 12 6 318 368 408
2003 R 20 234 86 20 3 3 24 28 8 3 368 434 517
2004 Azl 21 12 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 250 308 333
A 21 313 115 24 6 10 12 41 15 6 367 398 578
2005 A+ 22 279 107 23 6 12 14 42 13 4 384 421 638
AA 22 190 65 20 2 7 6 20 12 4 342 382 579
Kendrick finally met his match in the pitchers of the Texas League, where he hit a mere .342. The only real flaw in his offensive game are the lack of walks, but he gets so many hits that it’s hard to argue with the results.

Low Concept: Johnny Ray
High Concept: Rod Carew - Speed + Power

Warner Madrigal, OF, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2003 R 19 279 103 28 2 9 12 58 2 0 369 394 581
2004 A 20 91 25 3 1 2 7 24 1 1 275 330 396
2005 A 21 405 100 21 2 15 22 90 6 7 247 288 420
After an impressive professional debut, Madrigal got injured early in 2004, and spent all of 2005 trying to hit decently. He’s still young, but you have to wonder if the Cal League won’t be his last stand if he can’t re-find his bat. He’s on the cusp of this list, and with a bad April he’s gone.

Low Concept: Norm Hutchins
High Concept: Devon White? Garret Anderson?

Kendry Morales, DH, BB/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2005 A+ 22 90 31 3 0 5 6 11 0 0 344 400 544
AA 22 281 86 12 0 17 17 43 2 0 306 349 530
Kendry hit 469/494/778 from mid-August on, so he should find himself at AAA Salt Lake this season, and a call-up later this year is not out of the question.

Low Concept: Brad Fullmer v. 1999 and 2001
High Concept: Brad Fullmer v. 2002 and 2003, minus the platoon split

Mike Napoli, C, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2000 R 18 26 6 0 0 3 8 8 1 0 231 400 308
2001 A+ 19 20 4 0 0 1 8 11 0 0 200 429 350
2002 A 20 361 91 19 1 10 62 104 6 5 251 362 392
2003 A+ 21 165 44 10 1 4 23 32 5 0 267 364 412
2004 A+ 22 482 136 29 4 29 88 166 9 5 282 393 539
2005 AA 23 439 104 22 2 31 88 140 12 4 237 372 508
A brutal midsummer slump (23 for 158 for a .146 average from mid-June through mid-August) put a damper on Napoli’s second pretty good season. He’s an all-or-nothing kind of hitter, working deep counts, so it remains to be seen if he can continue to walk that tightrope at higher levels.

Low Concept: Rob Deer, Catcher
High Concept: Chris Hoiles or Mickey Tettleton

Sean Rodriguez, SS, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2003 Azl 18 216 58 8 5 2 14 37 11 4 269 332 380
2004 R 19 225 76 14 4 10 51 62 9 3 338 486 569
A 19 196 49 8 4 4 18 54 14 4 250 333 393
2005 A 20 448 112 29 3 14 78 85 27 11 250 371 422
S-Rod was drafted in the third round the year Brandon Wood was taken in the first, so he’s always been in Brandon’s shadow. Last year only stretched that gap, but there is still a lot to like in Rodriguez’s offensive performance: the only thing he’s been unable to do so far is hit consistently for a good average, but all the secondary skills are there.

I don’t really know what to make of him long-term. His performance at Cedar Rapids is pretty much in line with Wood’s, but what Brandon did to the Cal League was a pretty big jump, so we can’t expect that here. Still, in that league, I’d like to see Rodriguez put up something like a 320/440/520, and hit around 20 home runs. That would be a nice development. Maybe a bit much … I’d even take 300/410/500. (His line in Cedar Rapids last season, adjusted for league and park, would have been around a 274/394/490 for Rancho.)

There has often been talk of moving Rodriguez off of shortstop; he has a good arm, so catcher is often cited as a possible destination. But in browsing through The Baseball America Prospect Handbook at a bookstore, I learned an interesting fact: Sean played center field in his senior year of high school. Given the organization’s shallowness in the outfield and crowdedness in the infield, it strikes me that this might be the best long-term spot for him. We’ll see when and if the Angels decide to make that move. A big year in the Cal League will compel them to find room for him somewhere.

I don’t really have any High or Low Concept comps for him, as there aren’t really any current shortstops, or even shortstops in my recent memory, with his combination of offensive skills. There has to be someone I’m missing; I mean, I can see his skills developing toward Randy Ready or Lance Blankenship, but who knows.

Drew Toussaint, OF, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2004 R 21 194 56 12 2 12 34 68 6 4 289 409 557
2005 A 22 391 102 25 3 21 45 125 11 5 261 345 501
I don’t want to see Drew get stuck on the Nick Gorneault career path, but good college hitters sometimes fall behind. Touissant has demonstrated good on-base skills and decent power in his short professional time, and was enjoying a terrific season through July of last year. He slowed down a bit near the end, which was not a surprise as it was his first full professional season. He’ll have a chance to blast around the California League this year and he needs to take advantage of it. Making contact with the ball more frequently would also be welcome.

He’s too far away to really worry about comps right now, but in the spirit of fun:

Low Concept: Nick Gorneault
High Concept: Reggie Sanders

Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2005 R 19 299 82 23 1 10 21 67 2 2 274 322 458
Raw. But with potential.

Low Concept: Josh Booty
High Concept: Troy Glaus

Reggie Willits, CF, BB/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2003 R 22 230 69 14 4 4 37 52 14 4 300 410 448
2004 A+ 23 526 149 17 5 5 73 112 44 15 283 373 363
2005 AA 24 487 148 23 6 2 54 78 40 14 304 377 388
The closest thing to a center field prospect in the Angel system. The only real thing he has going for him as a hitter are the walks and the stolen bases; the former will likely disappear as he moves up the ladder, as the utter lack of power will mean pitchers won’t be afraid to challenge him (see: Rexrode, Jackie).

Low Concept: Chris Prieto
High Concept: Rich Becker or David Eckstein, Center fielder

Brandon Wood, SS, BR/TR
When     Age  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG OBP SLG
2003 Azl 18 78 24 8 2 0 4 15 3 0 308 349 462
R 18 162 45 13 2 5 16 48 1 1 278 348 475
2004 A 19 478 120 30 5 11 46 117 21 5 251 322 404
2005 A+ 20 536 172 51 4 43 48 128 7 3 321 383 672
AAA 20 19 6 2 1 0 0 6 0 0 316 316 526
I suspect you know about this guy. One thing I’d like to see Wood do this season is cut his strikeouts and up his walks. His walks aren’t actually awful by any stretch, but as the biggest power threat in professional baseball you’d think he’d be pitched around quite a bit, and you’d like to see him get bases on balls when they’re given to him. Obviously, it hasn’t hurt him yet, as he can still hit .320. But that won’t last, most likely.

The strikeouts don’t bother me, per se, since he’s such a power hitter, but in combination with the walks it paints a picture of a low-average slugger. A 250/320/550 line would still be nice for a shortstop, and it’s not bad for a third basemen, either.

Low Concept: Travis Fryman
High Concept: Cal Ripken, Jr.

Watch Out: Brett Martinez, Dallas Morris, Ryan Mount, Aaron Peel, P.J. Phillips, Hainley Statia, Bobby Wilson


Nick Adenhart, RHSP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2005 Azl 18 2 3 0 13 12 44.0 39 0 52 24 3.68
R 1 0 0 1 1 6.0 3 0 7 0 0.00
An absolutely thrilling debut, if you ask me. Adenhart might be the best starting pitching prospect in the organization, Jered Weaver included, and even with the Tommy John surgery in his past. Over his last 34 innings last year, he struck out 43 guys and allowed only 7 walks, a dominant stretch. He’ll have to build up his arm strength, but he’s far ahead of where I would have expected him to be, based on his injury history.

Steve Andrade, RHRP, Kansas City Royals
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2001 R 23 0 0 0 1 0 2.0 3 0 5 0 0.00
2002 A 24 Complete and Total Dominance
2003 A+ 25 Warm-up for:
25 Nothing but Excellence
2004 AAA 26 Cup of Coffee
AA 26 Continued Suppression of Opposing Batters
2005 AA 27 3 2 3 35 0 50.3 23 3 71 16 1.97 Toronto
Freedom is imminent!

Daniel Davidson, LHSP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2003 R 22 8 2 0 15 13 71.0 65 3 50 15 1.65
2004 A+ 23 12 7 0 28 28 163.3 196 15 121 41 4.57
2005 AA 24 13 5 0 28 26 154.3 179 22 110 45 4.72
Let’s see … finesse lefty, not young, and hit a total wall around 150 innings last year. He’s kind of a fringe guy, but he was a reliever in college (Florida State), so he might find a future in the bullpen if he doesn’t turn a bit of a corner as a starter.

Gustavo Espinoza, LHSP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2004 Dsl 17 6 2 0 14 14 92.3 46 2 105 16 1.36
2005 Azl 18 5 3 0 13 12 70.3 72 3 78 12 3.84
R 0 0 0 1 0 2.0 3 0 1 0 9.00
A 1 0 0 1 1 5.3 5 1 3 1 1.69
One of my favorites, just because I ran across his Dominican Summer League numbers in the Angel Media Guide last year and was blown away. He’s still pretty far away, but you have to like his overall production in his first stint in the USA. Gustavo is a Venezuelan lefty who throws a change-up and strikes out mother-lovers every day, so you hear comparisons to Johan Santana. That isn’t fair at all to a kid of this age and experience, but that does demonstrate that people who see him do think highly of his potential.

Tommy Mendoza, RHRP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2005 Azl 18 3 3 0 13 4 52.3 42 1 56 13 1.55
Baseball America pegs Tommy as having the best fastball in the system, and this fifth-rounder made their top ten of Angel prospects. A converted catcher, Mendoza’s future appears to be in relief, with him picking up some starts last season build up some stamina. Youneverknow, he might end up a potential rotation-member at some point, but he seems to have good stuff, and he has nothing but time.

Steve Shell, RHSP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2001 R 18 0 3 1 14 4 37.7 52 3 33 15 7.17
2002 A 19 11 4 0 22 21 121.0 119 12 86 26 3.72
2003 A+ 20 6 8 0 22 21 127.3 123 13 100 26 4.24
2004 A+ 21 12 7 0 28 28 165.3 151 19 190 40 3.59
2005 AA 22 10 8 0 27 27 159.7 175 18 126 58 4.57
Another guy who hit a wall last year (his was around 140 innings), Shell still had a solid year in a good hitters’ environment. He’s on pace to have his first taste of the majors around the age of 24, which is not bad. Knowing the Angels, if he struggles as a starter he could become a killer set-up guy, but that’s way ahead of us right now.

Von Stertzbach, RHRP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2003 R 22 1 1 0 22 5 46.0 55 2 51 14 4.89
2004 A 23 0 0 5 9 0 13.7 7 0 18 1 0.00
A+ 23 1 3 21 47 0 48.0 52 2 54 13 3.38
2005 AA 24 3 5 10 44 0 51.7 60 8 42 25 5.23
Von Stertzbach has a great name, but 2005 was a year filled with struggles and injury. He’ll need to right himself fairly quickly so as not to get lost in the Angel pen shuffle, especially in an organization that (historically, anyway) can turn out righty set-up guys at the drop of a hat.

Jered Weaver, RHSP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2005 A+ 22 4 1 0 7 7 33.0 25 3 49 7 3.82
AA 22 3 3 0 8 8 43.0 43 5 46 19 3.98
All he needs is less flyballs. The walks at AA don’t bother me; that’s likely just an adjustment to better hitters. So far, everything’s good.

Bob Zimmerman, RHRP
When     Age  W  L  SV  G  GS  IP    H  HR  SO  BB   ERA
2003 R 21 4 2 0 11 10 48.0 57 4 37 8 4.50
2004 A 22 4 6 24 53 0 67.7 48 3 82 21 2.26
2005 A+ 23 6 8 17 52 0 59.7 50 3 62 27 3.32
His numbers in 2005 were actually a bit better than they look; if you remove a disastrous first 4 2/3 innings, you get a guy with a 2.62 ERA over 55 innings, striking out 54 against 24 walks, allowing only two home runs out of 42 hits. He was a bit old for the Cal League, so his performance in AA will be key to his continued progression.

Watch Out: Jose Arredondo, David Austen, Trevor Bell, Stephen Marek, Rafael Rodriguez

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rob links to Nate Silver's PECOTA-based preview at BPro. All the interesting stuff is behind the subscriber wall, but Rob quotes the section on the Angels, who are predicted to finish 81-81, twelve games behind the Athletics:
[T]he margin of victory that PECOTA is projecting is rather stunning.

This has mostly to do with the Angels’ offense. No disrespect meant to Tim Salmon, who spawned his way onto my BP-Kings roster, but when you’re seriously talking about making Tim Salmon your everyday designated hitter, your offense has some Issues. In all seriousness, take away Vladimir Guerrero, and the Angels might be outhit by their PCL affiliate. Of course, this projection could underrate the Angels, but only if they get the message and let players like Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales and Dallas McPherson work their way into significant roles this season. [emphasis mine]
Okay, let's take Vlad out of the equation.

That leaves us with Jose Molina, Casey Kotchman, Adam Kennedy, Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Juan Rivera, Tim Salmon, Maicer Izturis, Robb Quinlan, and Edgardo Alfonzo as the remaining Halo position players with any kind of major league track record. (I'm, obviously, assuming Dallas doesn't make the cut here.)

Over their careers, that group of players has posted an Equivalent Average -- the offensive measure used at BPro -- of .266, and over the last four seasons it has been .261. The league average, by definition, is .260.

Does Nate Silver think that this collection of players --

C, Mike Napoli
1B, Kendry Morales
2B, Howie Kendrick
3B, Dallas McPherson
SS, Erick Aybar
LF, Nick Gorneault
CF, Reggie Willits
RF, Tommy Murphy
DH, Jason Aspito?

-- would, as a group, hit league average or better in the majors in 2006?

It's doubtful. I'd say three of those guys -- Morales, Kendrick, and McPherson -- would have a good shot at being league average or better, and I think Napoli, Aybar, and maybe Gorneault may get there eventually. But come on. The Salt Lake Bees aren't going to out-hit the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Minus Vlad unless there are some major injuries going down in the Big A.

There's this impression out there that the Angels are Vlad plus a bunch of bad hitters, and it's just wrong, and I'm getting a little tired of it. It was true to an extent last season, but if you look at our players' careers -- not to mention the replacement of Finley with Kotchman -- that's just not how it shapes up.

I'm not saying our offense is going to be great. And last year it was pretty dismal. But if everyone's healthy and plays to their established levels, it should be decent.

Possibly disastrous news on the LA Times Sports Section front page today: talks between Arte and Fox Sports have ceased, with the Angels walking away from the table, and the plan to have 150 Angel games broadcast locally is in dire peril. As currently constituted, FSN will be broadcasting 50 Angel games, and eight are on queue for national broadcast, meaning that instead of having 158 Angel games broadcast into our homes for viewing ease, we may have to make due with a paltry 58 -- only twelve of which would be before Memorial Day.

As a bright spot, one source "close to the negotiations" is quoted as saying "This deal is not dead. I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen."

Hopefully this is just some negotiation ploy on Arte's part, and hopefully it works. The prospect of only broadcasting one game in three is distasteful; it would be the smallest such broadcast deal in the majors, and obviously we deserve better than that. I'd have to think Arte is wise enough to sort this out before the season starts.

If not, we're all going to get a little sick of Rory and Terry.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The LA Times declares today that The Punter may be on the verge of becoming a platoon player.

There are two requisite steps to this becoming reality: Tim Salmon to emerge as a DH (and given his spring performance, this seems almost inevitable), and Juan Rivera demonstrating an ability to handle center field.

If these things happen, Erstad will sit against left-handed pitchers, allowing Rivera to patrol center and Old Man Salmon to DH.

If Rivera can handle this, this is a fairly exciting prospect. Over the last four seasons, Darin has been a weak hitter against southpaws, managing a pathetic 261/309/346 line. That adds up to a Weighted On Base Average (Runs per Plate Appearance scaled to OBP) of .295; the league average is around .340.

Rivera, on the other hand, has hit lefties to an adequate 273/319/454 line -- a .330 wOBA, which given that a significant amount of his playing time came in the pitchers' league and/or in pitchers' parks, is acceptable.

(Interestingly, Rivera has actually been better against RHP, with a .346 wOBA, and Tim Salmon has also hit righties better over in recent years, .367-.348. Rivera has less than 100 at-bats against lefties in that time, so sample size may well be an issue.)

The big question is whether or not Ruben can handle the defensive end. He's a good corner outfielder, which is not the same as being a good center fielder. Nothing about him screams "speed"; he grounds into a lot of double plays (26 the last two season), doesn't hit triples (only two in his career), and last year was an unseemly one-for-ten at stealing bags.

But, if he can be adequate for six or seven innings when the opposing team starts a lefty, he can always be replaced by Darin for late-inning work, so it could be workable. And the Angels have often thought outside the box for their defensive alignments, and this thinking has often worked, so this might pay off.

Something to watch. If you're a fantasy owner in a fairly deep AL-only league that differentiates between the various outfield positions, Rivera's value might have shot up quite a bit in mid-April.


I just tore through Sam Walker's Fantasyland in two days, and in many ways it's the most entertaining baseball book I've read this spring. Walker, the national sports correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, somehow talked himself into being a competitor in Tout Wars, a rotisserie competition of rotisserie and baseball "experts", for the 2004 season. This was Walker's first experience ever with playing fantasy.

So he hires a couple of guys (one a scout-type guy, one a stats guy) to help him and goes on his way. The book is a hilarious and readable account of his encounters with his various players, managers, and executives as he seeks advice on who to acquire -- and then, when the going gets tough, tries to exert his own influence, lobbying real-life GMs for trades that will help his team and pointing out to pitching coaches how their common players' performances can be maximized.

Not to mention his distribution of team t-shirts to his players, and a Player of the Month trophy to April star Jacque Jones.

Walker is out of it as the season draws to a close, but wants to top Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, the only other fantasy rookie in the contest. His chances take a big blow when, with about a week of the season left, the Angels suspend Jose Guillen.

When the reinstatement hearing for Guillen is announced, Walker and his two assistants do what any self-respecting fantasy owners would: they make signs and fliers and protest outside of the hotel where the hearing is being held.

This causes a lot of confusion for passers-by, three lunatics holding up signs like "Sciame Scioscia", claiming that fantasy owners have rights too. It also draws the attention of Mike Scioscia and Bill Stoneman as they exit the hearing.

And what do they do?

They laugh.

"That's beautiful," says Scioscia. He takes a flier, which characterizes the suspension as "rash." "It wasn't rash at all," Mike insists. "It was a long time coming."

Mike and Bill and some (unidentified) coaches get into a cab and drive off. But, a few minutes later, none other than Darin Erstad and Troy Percival emerge, headed for a limo. The fantasy clowns approach Darin, asking if he wants a flier.

"Uh, nooooooooo," he says.

Percival uses language, that is, um, direct, unequivocal, and disapproving. (This is, I guess, a family site because it's about baseball, so if you want the language you can highlight the following: "Suck my dick. I don't give a shit about your fantasy team." [This is, I believe, perfectly acceptable smacktalk in any fantasy league.])

Percy opens the limo door, but before getting in, puts out another riposte re: Guillen: "The guy's an asshole."

He gets in and the limo leaves, leaving Walker and his guys in shock.

I love this team.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Garret Anderson made a surprise return to left field yesterday, possibly nipping in the bud all the fantasies we had of putting Juan Rivera in left field while Garret was DH'd or DL'd.

Garret, as you know, prefers to play in the field than to DH, and as he's a real person and not a character in a video game, that has to be respected to some degree. On the one hand, you would like to see the team put its best defense out there. On the other, you want to keep your best players happy and therefore (hopefully) productive, which can theoretically balance out whatever gain you could make by doing things the right way.

As much as I'd like to see Rivera in the field when he's playing, I'm pretty confident that there will be enough scrapes and bruises suffered by our outfielders over the course of this season that he'll get plenty of time out there. So we might as well accept the fact that as long as Garret is healthy enough to play the field (and we should also note that though he's no longer the outstanding defensive left fielder he once was, he is yet to be a real liability), he's going to.


Quick addendum to the above: another thing the media likes to point to is that Garret hits much better when he plays as a defender than as a DH. Using an offensive measure called Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) from The Book (a review of which I hope to have completed this week), which is basically Runs Per Plate Appearance scaled to OBP (so average is around .340), we see that last year Garret put up a healthy .353 wOBA as a LF and a horrific .217 as a DH. Going all the way back through 2000, we find that he's had a .353 while in the field (damn consistent) and .304 at DH.

This is not, however, any kind of evidence for him being a better hitter when he's not a designated one. For one, he's only had 414 AB as a DH since 2000, so that's a pretty small sample. For another, when is he DH'ing? Well, he usually DHes when he's dinged up, a little hurt, or coming back from injury. So of course he doesn't hit as well, because if he were fully capable physically, he'd be playing in the field!

(By the way, all the splits I refer to above come from David Pinto's most excellent database.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Well, it looks like Garret Anderson is most likely to start the season on the Disabled List, with there still being an outside shot of him being able to DH. If the latter comes to pass, Juan Rivera will start the season as our left fielder.

But if Garret is totally unavailable to play, the DH spot will remain open for a couple of weeks. It would be nice if we had a young power-hitting lefty batter who might be able to fill in, but instead we will likely see Tim Salmon and/or, possibly, Kendry Morales.

Relatedly, the Angels may be trying to move either Kevin Gregg or Esteban Yan for a veteran lefty-hitting bench guy; if they are unable to, Curtis Pride may get the job. Pride is an inspirational story, and had a big hit for the Angels in the 2004 stretch drive, but he's never been a consistently good hitter in the major leagues.

The elephant in the field is Dallas McPherson, whose apparently imminent demotion has been the big developing story over the past few days. I can understand how, if he's not going to get regular playing time, the Angels want him to get his at-bats in AAA. But if Garret does indeed start the season on the DL, there is absolutely no reason not to have Dallas and Salmon platoon at the DH spot for a couple weeks so we can see what happens.

His bad spring does not deter me; as Dallas says, demonstrating an understanding of sample size that many managers and GMs do not have, "I'm putting good swings on the ball. I'm putting some balls in play and the rest will take care of itself. There are a lot of guys that have had bad springs. Are you going to base my swing on 21 at-bats?"

I'm sure you all remember this, but the Angels were so confident in McPherson's development a year ago that we let the only World Series MVP in franchise history to leave via free agency. The only thing that's changed in the last twelve months is that Dallas has suffered through more injury. Now, that's a real concern, but there is nothing in his performance thus far to indicate that he shouldn't be getting playing time against right-handed pitchers, at the very least.

If Garret can't open the season, and the Halos decide that Dallas McPherson's career .524 slugging percentage against RHP isn't a good substitute, there's something really wrong somewhere. Whether that's with McPherson or the Angel management, I don't know.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rob links to this Kevin Goldstein article at BPro that talks about the difference in offense between various leagues. For instance, the Midwest League, which hosts our A Cedar Rapids squad, had an average AVG/OBP/SLG of 261/336/389 last season, whereas the California League (where our High-A Rancho Cucamonga team makes its home) hit 286/357/452.

I'm not a subscriber, so I don't know exactly where Goldstein goes with this, but it's a point worth making, and it's good just to see overall minor league lines like that. We all know intuitively that the Cal League is great for hitters, but seeing that line really emphasizes how much it helps.

The Midwest League line also helps us put into perspective the performances of our players at that level. Sean Rodriguez's 250/371/422 line might not knock your socks off, but that OBP is 10% above average and his SLG is 8% better. A 250/371/422 in the Midwest League is, relative to league, the same as a 274/394/490 in the California League.

Of course, that's not adjusting for the fact that High-A is likely a bit more difficult than standard A, or for ballparks. The former is a thorny issue, but the latter we can address by using Dan Szymborski's park factors he posted at BTF. I've used those park factors to create OPS+ estimates for our minor leaguers at those two levels over the last two years (not including those who played at Rancho in '04 but did not play at any of the other levels presented); I'm making the assumption that the 2004 iterations of these leagues had the same league averages of the 2005 iterations, which is a horrible assumption, but it's unlikely to be way off.

Alphabetically by last name:
Player                          OPS+ at Level:
2004 A 2004 A+ 2005 A 2005 A+
Matt Abram 53 5
Blake Balkcom 86 68
Billy Boyer 58 55
Matt Brown 102 91
Jose Caldera -55
Alexi Casilla 135 118
Michael Collins 65 143
Quan Cosby 78
Devin Day 87
Greg Dini 42
Tommy Duenas 74 70
Timothy Duff 16 66
Cody Fuller 111
Richard Giannotti 66
Jose Guzman 34
Michael Hughes -4
Ben Johnson 108 103
Howie Kendrick 161 162
Nick Kimpton 90 16
Ryan Leahy 84 74
Josh LeBlanc 96
Baltasar Lopez 136 62
Warner Madrigal 95 89
Brett Martinez -1 -3
Caleb Maher 65
Ransel Melgarejo 99 29
Kendry Morales 135
Felix Nunez 100
Matt Pali 100 78
Aaron Peel 80 147 129
Jason Ramos 29
Clifton Remole 102 90
Jordan Renz 54
Ivan Reyes 48
Sean Rodriguez 96 115
Anderson Rosario -123
Freddy Sandoval 109
Emmanuel Santana -4
Brooks Shankle 93
Hainley Statia 47
Jason Sugden 65 62
Nate Sutton 79
Drew Toussaint 127
Chris Walston 31
BJ Weed 65 26
Bobby Wilson 91 96
Brandon Wood 96 158

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Well, almost on queue from my post yesterday, Mike DiGiovanna's headline today proclaims "McPherson Might Open Season in Minors."

"I don't have anything else to prove at triple A," McPherson claims, and he's absolutely right. He's hit 307/366/684 at AAA, and yes, the PCL is big on hitters, but there isn't really anything else for him to do there. What, you won't be happy until he hits 350/450/800? He's ready to move on.

DiGiovanna reports that McPherson "does not appear to be in the designated hitter mix," which is pretty nonsensical. He's hit 262/317/524 against right-handed pitchers so far in the majors, so at the very least you'd think he should be in the picture in a platoon situation. (Not to mention, in his 126 AB from May onward last season, i.e. after his de facto Spring Training in his April at-bats, he hit 262/326/540 against RHP. I think he's legit.)

The problem is the roster crunch, of course, and as I just went through it, I don't want ot re-hash it again. But it looks like the Angels will having three pretty redundant reserves on the 25-man roster: Alfonzo, Quinlan, and Salmon -- all of which hit right-handed. There is not one left-handed batter on the bench (Ztu, of course, is a switch-hitter).

But you can't really argue that Juan Rivera and Legs Figgins don't deserve their shots. Dallas is just ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting injured when he had his best shot, thus allowing someone else to take his rightful place.

This man can help a major-league team, even if he never learns to hit lefties. Hopefully, that team will be us.


Am I the only one who gets a little annoyed when people who don't know the Angels start making proclamations based on little evidence?

For instance, Rob links to this Bryan Smith article that says:
Let's start with the only other player I saw from the week that could have underlying injury troubles: Vladimir Guerrero. The former MVP looked really bad in this game, reaching base once in three at-bats via a hit by pitch off his foot. Guerrero, a guess hitter prone to looking bad, looked really bad thanks to a few Rich Hill curves. However, this was not retro Vlad as he failed to ever have great timing, and he also looked hurt running around the bases.
Um, Vlad always looks hurt, and though he may have had a bad game, he very often looks bad. He's hitting 478/500/783 this spring, so I don't see cause for alarm quite yet.

And then there's this analytic wonder:
In the field however, Rivera is awful. He reminded me of vintage Carlos Lee in left, taking disastrous routes to a Todd Walker double. Rivera then dropped the ball when going to throw out Matt Murton later. Rivera has the potential to be a good player at the Major League level, but to do so he will have to make up for being in the red defensively.
So the guy misplays two balls in a high Arizona sky, and he's suddenly a bad defensive player? The Fielding Bible indicates he was +5 runs defensively in left last season, converting zone rating estimates +4, and I thought he looked pretty damn good out there for a corner outfielder. I guess it's possible that his defensive skill has eroded this fall, but I'm gonna need more than two plays to convince me of that.

On another front, Halofan links to Marc Normandin's Angel position player preview:
Adam Kennedy remains an above average second basemen, and is very useful to the Angels. That said, they lack offense, and an opportunity to dramatically upgrade in that capacity should not be turned down. PECOTA slyly suggests an alternative to Kennedy in Kendrick, to the tune of an additional +14.57 pNRAA [Normandin's position-adjusted runs above average, inclusive of offense and defense]. ...
[H]is low end projection [again, by Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system] is still a tad better than Kennedy's weighted mean [+4.50 for Howie against +3.99 for AK]; if he can latch on somewhere in between his 25th and weighted mean projections, the Angels would be quite happy with what they received. Kendrick is also a plus defender by the way, with a projected Rate or 105 after a 2005 season with 7 FRAA in the minors. [emphasis mine]
Okay, seriously, is there anyone who thinks Kendrick is ready to play second base in the majors yet? Anyone? Bueller? I'm going to trust the expertise of all the scouts and player development people who have seen him over Clay Davenport's mysterious magic tricks with traditional defensive stats.

And though I suspect that Kendrick probably could hold his own with the bat in the AL this year, it's probably a good idea to let him develop more at AAA, and get that glove to where it can be.

(There also seems to be this notion out there that the Angels can improve their offense by removing a guy who's had an above-average OBP for each of the last four seasons, and I just don't get it.)

Anyway, I don't want to diss these guys, as they have other good observations. I just don't want people to have the impression that Kendrick's a major-league defensive player while Juan Rivera is not.

Monday, March 20, 2006

As Spring Training draws closer to its end, competition for the last few spots on the 25-man roster are heating up. So far, we have:
Position Players (12):  Mathis, Molina, Kotchman, Kennedy, 
Figgins, The OC, Ztu, Alfonzo, Garret, Erstad, Vlad, Rivera

Pitchers: (11): Colon, Escobar, Lackey, Santana,
Weaver the Elder, K-Rod, Shields, Donnelly, Romero, Carrasco,
That leaves two spots remaining.

One will likely go to a long reliever like Kevin Gregg, or possibly even Jason Bulger, Scott Dunn, Greg Jones, Chris Bootcheck, or even Joe Saunders. One or two of those guys might even make Esteban Yan dispensible.

If the Angels carry twelve pitchers, that leaves only one more spot for a position player, and the contestants are Tim Salmon, Robb Quinlan, Dallas McPherson, and Kendry Morales.

We all want Timmy to make the team, but unless Garret and/or Erstad are on the DL come Opening Day, I just can't see there being any room for him. He can't really provide defensive help at this point, which relegates him to DH: if Garret has slight injuries, Rivera will man left with Garret at DH, leaving Salmon no room.

Robb Quinlan would have the job of spotting Casey Kotchman at first (esp. against tough lefties) and being the fourth option at third. He can even impersonate a corner outfielder in a real pinch, and that versatility, plus his right-handed bat, makes him a better 25th guy than Salmon. But in the case against him, Edgardo Alfonzo is due to get some time at first base in the next couple of weeks, which might spell doom for Q; if Alfonzo can add first base to a repertoire that already includes second and third base, there isn't really anything Q brings to the team that The Fonz doesn't (well, except being able to hit).

Kendry Morales is likely something of a longshot, and if he makes the team, he's the starting DH. You're not going to put him in the majors to play only half the week.

Which brings us to Dallas. His injuries last year having cost him his starting role at third, Dallas looks to 2006 as a potential platoon DH and second-stringer at his usual position. Unfortunately, McPherson has battled injuries again this spring, and has struggled when on the field (nine strikeouts in eighteen at-bats).

McPherson is still listed second at 3B on the Angels' depth chart (dunno how reliable that is, really), and doesn't even appear on the DH hierarchy. Bill Shaikin in the LA Times says, "Salmon and Robb Quinlan appear ahead of McPherson and Morales for the final two spots among position players" and Mike Scarr at MLB.com says, "The last roster spot among position players is likely to come down to Tim Salmon and Robb Quinlan -- with Morales holding an outside shot." Scarr doesn't mention McPherson, which makes you wonder: does that mean he's considered definitely in or definitely out?

It's beginning to look like Alfonzo's versatility places him ahead of Dallas, and Q's being right-handed does as well.

Here are the statistics for all three guys over the last two seasons:
Player     AB  H   2B  3B  HR  UIBB+HBP  SO   AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Alfonzo 887 252 43 2 13 77 74 284 341 381 87
Quinlan 294 86 22 0 10 24 52 293 344 469 113
McPherson 245 59 15 2 11 18 81 241 293 453 97
Alfonzo is basically done as a hitter. That's a fine line to have for a utility infielder, but he should not be starting, if injuries bring us to that point.

Quinlan had a great run in 2004, hitting .344. He's not actually that good, but he's a good guy to have around.

McPherson's potential, however, is huge. Remember, this is a guy who was injured for most of Spring Training last season, got some AAA at-bats, then hit 211/250/316 in 38 April at-bats. But once he found his bearings, he heated up, hitting 251/306/479 the rest of the way. I think that's his base level, and that he can improve on that with consistent playing time, and probably bump up to the 250/320/500 range. Not spectacular, but pretty good.

But the chances of McPherson getting anything resembling consistent playing time any time soon in Los Angeles of Anaheim appear to be slim, and his window of opportunity may be closing. I'd like to see the Angels stick with eleven pitchers and keep both Q and Dallas around (hell, might as well drop Yan to keep Salmon), but if they can't, or they're unwilling to give D-Mac a lot of playing time, it might be time to start looking for a trade. Could he fetch a B-grade center field prospect who could move into the Halo lineup in 2007? I don't know, but if he's not going to play, Bill Stoneman should try to find out.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Garret Anderson's foot injury, though reportedly not as serious as a similar injury twice suffered by Tim Salmon that relegated him to designated hitter, still kicks off a potential domino effect that might help the team overall.

A minor injury to Garret, one bad enough to keep him out of the field but not so bad as to keep him out of the lineup, would allow Juan Rivera to play in left while Garret DHes. We all know that Juan Rivera is a far better defensive player than Garret at this point; zone rating indicates there was a difference of a couple of runs between them last season (though that difference would grow over a full season -- Garret played more than 600 more innings in left than Rivera did in 2005), and the numbers in The Fielding Bible would have us believe that the difference was closer to ten runs.

Simply replacing Garret with Rivera in the field might lead to one additional win for the team. Doesn't sound like much, but this is shaping up to be a tightly-contested division, so I'd like every break we can get.

If Garret's injury ends up being sufficient to keep him out of the lineup altogether come Opening Day, this might lead to a roster spot for Tim Salmon (who hopes to waive a clause in his contract saying that the team has to make a decision on him by this coming Wednesday) or, possibly, Kendry Morales.

Kendry is hitting 406/441/688 this spring, and though I give almost no credence to Spring Training statistics, it does demonstrate that he's doing well in his first chance to impress the Angel major league staff. It's only 32 at-bats, but it's good to see, and he's now making the short-list of guys who might be able to help out at DH this season.

A scenario in which Morales was the DH and Garret were at all healthy would preclude Juan Rivera from playing in left, but if Morales is really ready to produce at the major league level, that may well be a trade worth making.


One player not in our immediate future is Brandon Wood, who has been re-assigned to minor league camp. There seems to be some surprise about this around the Halosphere, but I have no idea why. The guy has barely played above High-A ball, and is at least a year away from the majors. It seems to me, with just over two weeks left until the season, that it's time to send him to minor league camp.

Brandon was only 1-10 in his Spring Training at-bats, but no one seems to care about that. Mike Scioscia claimed, "Out of all the youngsters we had in camp, he was the most impressive in a lot of ways. The way he carried himself and the way he was in camp. He and Erick Aybar showed they can be Major League shortstops. [Wood] has the chance to be a terrific defensive shortstop." (Rob got to most of these articles before I did, so a universal hat tip is in order.)

Let that last statement serve as a warning to those who assume Brandon's future is at the hot corner.


I don't know if you've been watching the World Baseball Classic, but there have been some exciting games, and all that hype you may have heard about the WBC being a big success is justified. The Koreans have impressed, going 6-0 through the first two rounds, led by their slugging first basemen, Seung-Yeop Lee. I had either forgotten about this or never knew it, but on the heels of his record-setting 56-homer 2003 season, Lee came out to SoCal to visit Anaheim (this was before it was Los Angeles of Anaheim) and Chavez Ravine, then trekked up to check out Seattle. He ended up signing to play in the Japanese leagues.

Lee has been one of the top batters in the WBC so far, hitting an AVG/OBP/SLG line of 400/480/1150 in 20 AB, with a tournament-leading 5 home runs (he took Dontrelle Willis deep at the Big A in the second round). His OPS ranks second in the tournament to a red-hot Ken Griffey Jr. (588/650/1235 in 17 AB), and you have to think that someone stateside will try to grab him when his time in Japan is completed. Lee turns 30 in August.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The last fifteen or so years have brought some exciting developments in the analysis of fielding statistics. The computer revolution has allowed researchers to track the destination of every hit ball, as well as its fate (hit or out?), allowing fans to get some objective glimpse into one of the most ineffable of the game's questions: who is a better fielder than whom?

Unfortunately, for many years, all fans have been given is the end data -- you can look up a player's zone rating, or catch a reference to his UZR on a message board, but you can't really do anything with the data yourself, to see if these end figures make any sense to you, in the same way we can look at batting stats. That's because play-by-play data costs several thousands of dollars to buy, and would take several man-hours to code and analyze, and 99.9% of us don't have the means to make that happen.

John Dewan's The Fielding Bible goes some way toward filling that gap. Though not as groundbreaking as its advertising would lead you to believe (in fact, it's not groundbreaking at all), Dewan's book is invaluable as a source of information and data, and includes enough verbiage and analysis to satisfy number-phobic readers.

Its opening salvo is an article by Bill James comparing Adam Everett's defense to that of Derek Jeter, whose poor defensive statistics have been a polarizing issue for years. This is an excellent article by James, as in the process of comparing the two he gives a cursory introduction to all of the statistical methods used in the rest of the book, and complements them with his own analysis of how the two shortstops look on tape (or, rather, DVD). The conclusion that Everett is a far better defender than Jeter will startle no one who's been following the discussion, but James provides a useful and clear summary to those just joining in.

Dewan follows with an introduction to the primary defensive statistical rating of the book, the Plus/Minus System. Essentially, every ball is tracked (by Baseball Info Solutions, of which Dewan was a founder after the purchase of his former STATS, Inc.) by a number of factors (where it's hit, how hard it's hit, and for outfielders, how far it is hit), allowing the BIS analysts to state how frequently a ball hit to X spot becomes an out. Players are then credited and charged for every out they make -- or fail to make.

For instance, assume there's a spot where a batted ball is turned into an out 26% of the time. If the fielder records an out, he is credited +.74 plays; if he does not, he is charged a -.26. Add this up for every batted ball over the course of a season, and you have a defender's Plus/Minus.

Dewan has also directed his collective to ascertain, for every position aside from the middle infielders, what the probability of any ball has of becoming an extra base hit; this way, they can state how many total bases were prevented by a defender. They call this "Enhanced Plus/Minus."

As an illustration, the best-ranked center fielder for 2005 was Aaron Rowand, who has a Plus/Minus of +15 and an Enhanced Plus/Minus of +30. This means that, by this method, Rowand prevented 15 more hits than the average CF, and prevented 30 more total bases than the average CF -- or, 15 hits and 15 extra bases.

Now, the book's cover tells you that this is groundbreaking, but it just ain't. This is highly similar to how Mitchel Lichtman produces Ultimate Zone Rating (though MGL uses run values, which we'll touch on imminently) and nearly identical to David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range (though PMR does not provide a figure for extra bases prevented, just hits prevented). Also, as far as I can tell, the Plus/Minus System is exactly the same as the original "Ultimate Zone Rating" introduced by STATS in their 2000 Scoreboard, though that iteration of UZR, like PMR, did not include any reference to extra bases. It's also reminiscent of the defensive work of Mike Gimbel, though Gimbel used actual extra-base data instead of probable, and had more extensive park adjustments (something else we will touch on below).

Dewan summarizes his system in the introduction (though, as a wonk about these things, I'd have liked more detail), and includes a small section about how, in the future, he'd like to convert the Plus/Minus figures to runs. He then states that a hit prevented is worth nearly half-a-run, so for middle infielders you can divide their Plus/Minus in half to derive runs prevented, and for positions with Enhanced figures, you can multiply by .2 or something.

This is demonstrably false, and it's a little frustrating to see this in print, especially as people have been working on this for awhile. Not only does an additional play made by a defender prevent a hit, it also creates an out. So a shortstop making a play has prevented a single (.47 runs) and recorded an out (roughly .28), so that's really .75 runs for the play.

(In a comment over on Rally Monkey's review of this book, Tango Tiger walks us through that, so if you don't believe me, check that out. MGL also touches on it in the UZR link I have above.)

In fact, people were doing this awhile ago; there is another defensive landmark I didn't mention above: Dale Stephenson's work with Sherri Nichols' Defensive Average data.

This was going on on rec.sport.baseball about a decade ago. Stephenson used his data to derive how many hits a defender saved and how many extra bases he saved. For instance, in 1991, Brett Butler saved 7 hits and 14 extra bases. Stephenson then converted this, rather easily, to a runs saved figure.

This is a lot easier than it seems. The run values for different kinds of hits are relatively stable, and are usually around:
1B:  .47
2B: .78
3B: 1.09
HR: 1.40
If you look at that closely, you discover that a hit is worth .47, and each extra base is worth .31.

Stephenson actually used .42 for a single, along with .31 for each extra base, so in that Butler example you get:
7 hits prevented at .42 runs each:     2.94 runs
14 extra bases prevented at .31 each: 4.34 runs
7 outs recorded at .30 runs each: 2.10 runs
For a total of: 9.38 runs prevented
If you follow that link above, you'll see that Stephenson actually gave Butler +9.24 runs, which is almost certainly a result of rounding off somewhere in the process. No big deal; if you really want to argue that a guy is a better defender than another because a method gives him an extra .14 runs, you're putting way too much faith in this stuff.

So, given that Stephenson's work is ten years old, it's a little frustrating to have this data in The Fielding Bible staring its authors in the face, and somehow everyone just missing it. That's a minor complaint, really. Because when I look at that Stephenson work, I think, "This is great! I sure wish someone was presenting the date like this today!"

Well, now, someone is. Aaron Rowand prevented 15 hits and 15 extra bases, and using the updated run values, we can estimate that (by this data, anyway), he prevented 15.9 runs. That's superb.

And this data is more revealing than just plain ol' Zone Rating or PMR, from which we can derive a hits saved figure, but the bases saved remains a mystery. The Plus/Minus System, like UZR, Mike Gimbel, and Defensive Average, not only gives us a means to measure a defender's "OBP Against," but also his "SLG Against." Honestly, this book gets my seal of approval just for displaying this data, though had they done the easy run conversions it would have saved the rest of us a lot of time.

(Of course, I haven't even touched on the reliability of the Plus/Minus figures. There are a number of things that probably should be adjusted for that haven't been, amongst them the handedness of the pitcher, game situation [first basemen have less range with a man on first base], and ballpark. Such adjustments take place in UZR, and I think it's likely the better for it. I don't think such lacks make the Plus/Minus System unreliable; its methodology seems to be fairly sound, and I think the breaks tend to even out over time, so looking at a player's Plus/Minus over a number of years, as this book allows us to do for regular players, should give us some insight into their relative merits.)


Anyway, after the Introduction, we get a one-year register, where we can view detailed information on anyone who played defense in 2005. Not only can we see how many hits and bases were prevented, but we can see how well a defender did going to his right or left (something of a misnomer; it's really how well they did going to the right or left of where someone in their position normally lines up, so we can't really tell if Orlando Hudson is great going to his left because of his talent or because he cheats that way, or both), and any number of marvelous things (how defenders rate on double plays, bunts, holding runners, etc.). This information will be presented again later in the book for regular players, and will show us figures for 2003 through 2005.

After the three-year register comes a sixty-page color section that's the hottest thing I've received in the mail since I swiped the Victoria's Secret Catalog from the disposed mail bin. For each team, we get a diagram of the field, and we can see at a glance how many hits were allowed all over the field.

For instance, last year the Angels allowed 178 hits to left-center and 171 to right-center; major league averages were 149 and 144, respectively. Were parks a factor? The Angels were able to get 153 hits to the LF-CF gap and 164 to RF-CF, so maybe -- but clearly the Jurassic Outfield was a bit slow at getting to the tweeners.

Combining information from all sections can reveal some interesting findings. For instance, the Angels were above-average at preventing hits to the 3B/SS hole, allowing only 91 when the major league average was 115. Park? Maybe (one year is too small of a sample), as Angel opponents only allowed 97 hits through that hole. Perhaps the Angels have thicker infield grass? We can't really tell from one year of data.

Also, oddly, our main shortstop was substandard going to his right (The OC was -8 plays going that way, and all shortstops of the LAA combined to be -3), and our third basemen as a group were +5 to their left, adding up to a modest +2 between the two positions. So how did the team fare so well in that area? I honestly don't know, but my guess would be that there just weren't a lot of balls hit there against the Angels.

A strength of the book is that all the data is there, if you want to try to figure that sort of thing out.

After the three-year register I reference above, we get to a section giving commentary on all regular defenders.

Dewan got help with this section, and credits his collobarators. Though there is no way for one man to have written every comment, the downside is that the quality of comments is somewhat inconsistent. Some are in-depth and put the Plus/Minus numbers we've seen in some context; others make you wonder if anyone ever saw the defender play. For instance, about Steve Finley, it is said, "[he] is still solid," which answers a question that has oft kept me up at nights: "How would I evaluate Steve Finley's defense, assuming I had the observational powers of Doug Eddings?"

Another odd comment comes in regards to Legs Figgins: "Some scouts feel that the Angels like to move him around because he can be exposed defnsively by just playing one position every day." Now, I'm not blaming the book for this, since they're reporting something, but that strike me as batty; we've seen that Figgins gets better at a position the more consistently he plays there. This happened at third base, and his solid defense at second in 2005 (when he had all of Spring Training to prepare) was head and shoulders above his defense there in 2004 (it had been awhile since he played there, and it showed).

Despite a few shortcomings in individual comments, the subjective evaluations are a good complement to all the cold data that make up the rest of the book, and this section should prove to be a worthwhile resource, and a quick and reliable guide for fans who don't like reading through charts.

Also, there are some interesting numbers in the commentary section. For each defender listed, we get home/away splits for 2005 (last year Manny Ramirez was -13 plays at home, but only -1 on the raod), as well as splits for defense behind right-handed and left-handed pitchers. That last choice strikes me as odd; I'd be more interested in seeing results based on righty and lefty batters. I also wish this data were presented for more years than 2005; if Khalil Greene was 14 plays worse [10.5 runs] at home than on the road in 2005, does that say something about the characteristics of the park, or is it just random?

Anyway, after the comments section, we get a few articles: Bill James presents a Relative Range Factor to try to make sense of traditional fielding statistics, Dewan presents an improved version of Zone Rating (I'll spare you the detail, but players' performances in and out of their "zone" are presented, which is very nice), and in following sections we get data on infielders fielding bunts and turning double plays, and outfielders holding and/or throwing out opposing baserunners. Again, it's somewhat frustrating that the last category isn't adjusted for anything; as you all know, there are some batted balls and situations where the slowest runner will advance on the strongest-armed outfielder, and others where the weakest arm will hold a speedy sir; such factors include where the ball is hit, the number of outs, and whether or not a baserunner was in motion with the pitch. Numerous people have looked at this to some degree, including recently John Walsh in the Hardball Times, and people like Dan Fox and James Click have looked at baserunning in such a way that doing the "flipside" for outfielders holding runners should be a fairly simple task for those with the resources of BIS. The outfield arm ratings in The Fielding Bible, while not meaningless, are identical to those found in STATS' inaugural Scorboard that came out more than fifteen years ago. Bill James rounds out the articles talking about Defensive Misplays, which he is trying to objectively record.

The Fielding Bible isn't perfect, but to the author's credit, it doesn't pretend to be. It positions itself as a first step, and while its information is a step already made, the presentation of this information is strong enough to make this book unique and eminently useful. Hopefully, Dewan and BIS will continue to publish this book, make its results available during the season, and start to integrate run conversions, park adjustments, and other factors into their ratings. With more and more people able to look at the data and make their own conclusions and toy with the numbers, our enjoyment and understand of the game should be enriched. The Fielding Bible is a good step at making that a reality.

As you may have noticed, Angel news has been less than rampant over the past few weeks, which I consider to be a good thing. During Spring Training, no news is infinitely preferable to Star Player Gets Injured, Ruins Team's Chances of Competing.

Of course, if unlike me you have to write a column for a real life newspaper every day, such doldrums are less than optimal. So yesterday in the LA Times Bill Shaikin contemplated what might happen to Athletic starter Barry Zito after this season. That's right; the 2006/2007 Hot Stove Season has already begun!

The talk is about the possibility of Zito coming to Los Angeles of Anaheim, and there are several things that could easily happen to make this a possibility. For one, both Kelvim Escobar and Jeff Weaver complete their guaranteed contracts with the Halos this season. For another, Jered Weaver may or may not be ready to move into the rotation next spring.

And, of course, Zito's contract with the A's will expire. As the A's are relatively cash-strapped, and have shown a willingness to let their pricey veterans sign elsewhere, Oakland re-signing Barry is not a given. Add into the equation that the Angels lack a lefty starter, and that Zito has connections to the Southland, and it seems a pretty good match all-around. Let's take a closer look.

Here are Zito's last four seasons, with strikeouts and everything presented as a proportion of batters faced. The final column is "earned salary", which is something I came up with ... basically, you figure the pitcher's Earned Runs Prevented Above Replacement (replacement level is set as BB-Ref's park-adjusted league-average ERA plus 0.60), divide by ten to approximate Wins Above Replacement (as roughly ten additional runs garners you an additional win), and multiply by 2.5 million (the high end of what an additional win is worth in dollars).
Year  BFP  K/BFP  BB/BFP  HR/BFP  H/BFP  ERA+  Sal(Act) Sal(Ear)
2002 939 .194 .083 .026 .194 169 $ 0.30M $15.93M
2003 957 .153 .092 .020 .194 129 $ 1.00M $10.04M
2004 926 .176 .087 .030 .233 105 $ 3.00M $ 6.97M
2005 953 .179 .093 .027 .194 116 $ 5.60M $ 7.80M
(By the way, for those that wonder why I show K/BFP instead of K per 9 Innings ... if you allow a lot of baserunners, you will face more batters, and thus have a chance to inflate your K/IP. For instance, in 2004 Zito struck out 6.89 batters per nine innings, and in 2005 he struck out 6.74, a slight decrease. But what really happened was that his higher hits allowed just meant he was facing more guys in 2004; when you look at everything as a percentage of batters faced, that's negated, and we see that his strikeout rate actually increased slightly in 2005).

As you can see, Zito's had kind of a strange run. In 2002, he was marvelous, and won the Cy Young Award. But 2003 saw a huge drop in his strikeouts and a large increase in walks; he was able to keep this in check by cutting down his home runs allowed.

But 2004 came around to bite him, as the home runs and hits allowed shot up, negating his improvements in strikeouts and walks, both of which settled between the extremes of 2002 and 2003.

Zito was a bit more on track in 2005, with the strikeouts and walks essentially holding constant, and his home runs allowed stabilizing between his prior seasons. Aside from 2002, which looks more and more like a peak season, Zito has actually been a pretty consistent -- and very good -- pitcher.

Of course, he's going to cost a lot. He's been a great bargain for the A's so far, as he's been early in his career and pre-free agency. He's been "worth," using my quick-and-dirty method, roughly $10M per season over the last four years, and you can bet that if he gets on the market, he'll command more than that, possibly a contract worht $12M-$14M per over four or five years -- assuming he stays healthy and productive in 2006, of course.

That's going to be a pretty big investment for any team; what the Angels have going for them is that they are scheduled to be playing (and paying) a lot of rookies at the league minimum in 2007, freeing up some salary. However, that won't necessarily mean that paying Zito that kind of money will be the best use of it; the gap between Zito's and Escobar's salary, for instance, may be much greater than the actual gap in their performance. Saving $5M or something on Escobar and taking the "loss" of a win or two might free up money to pursue a real center fielder or something like that, which could play even larger dividends for the team.

Obviously, this speculation is a bit silly one year out, and any number of things can happen between now and November. Zito could blow his arm out and Escobar could win the Cy Young, or Oakland might re-sign Zito to a large extension in July. But it's something to have on the radar in 2006, as the performance of our primary division rival might affect our starting rotation in 2007.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Today Bartolo Colon started for la Republica Dominicana in the World Baseball Classic. I wanted to see how The Fat Man would look coming off of his October injury, so I did what any responsible American would: I watched the game live on my computer at work.

Bartolo pitched three innings to gain the win, striking out two, walking one, and allowing three hits -- and zero runs. He got out of a tiny jam with a double play ball in the first, and induced a couple infield popups to escape a first-and-second, one-out jam in the third.

His velocity was okay, around 93 or 94, and he mixed his pitches pretty well, getting guys to swing and miss at his off-speed offerings, which I subjectively thought he may have leaned on a bit more than usual.

His command was good, but not as good as he is at his best. He wasn't helped by the home plate ump having a tight zone, though 32 of his 50 pitches were strikes. (Johan Santana, who drew the loss for Venezuela, only managed 37 strikes in his 61 pitches.)

Bartolo's mechanics looked on-track; he would occasionally do that thing where he throws so hard that his right foot swings all the way around, facing his torso toward the first base dugout. You know what I'm talking about? Anyway, that's something he does fairly frequently, so I wasn't bothered.

All in all, it was encouraging outing for our (possible) ace.


Two other Halos played in the game: Ruben Juan Rivera and Edgardo Alfonzo.

Rivera did a whole lot of nothing, going 0-4 with two strikeouts.

But The Fonz was a part of several bits of action. He committed an error on a two-out grounder in the second, where he wheeled around and threw to second to record an inning-ending force.

Unfortunately, Omar Vizquel was under the impression that Fonzie was going to first with the throw, and wasn't covering the bag.

Alfonzo got the error, which led to an unearned run, but there was enough fault for both guys on the play.

Alfonzo made up for it later with a bloop RBI single; he had already singled up the middle on a squirting groundball off of Colon (Alfonso Soriano dove and missed, and Colon must have been a bit confused -- his second baseman would have made the play with ease).

Edgardo later homered off of Miguel Batista, and ended the day 3-4.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

MY 100
I hope you’ve all been following Halofan’s Top 100 Angel Countdown over at Halos Heaven, which recently wrapped up with Tim Salmon being named The Greatest Angel of All the Times. Halofan polled several Halosphere figures to create the list, of which I was one. He has graciously allowed me to post the ballot I submitted a few months ago, so I’m going to talk about it here.

One of the difficulties in amassing such a list is that there is no right and wrong answer. One has to weigh hitters versus pitchers, try to account for defense, evaluate the impact of a relief pitcher vis-a-vis a starting pitcher, decide how much postseason heroics are worth, and possibly even look at what contributions someone made off the field. And not only do you have to figure things out, but you have to weigh it all together.

As such, there are a lot of subjective decisions. One player might out-perform another on the field, but perhaps he meant less to the franchise. There’s no evidence to that sort of thing, it’s all in perception, and that’s fine. The strength of Halofan’s list is that he polled several Angel fans, all of whom have their own equally valid ideas.

But my criteria were based more on on-the-field concerns, and I only regarded how a player did in an Angel uniform. I don’t care about what Frank Robinson or Rod Carew did for other teams; this is about your time as a Halo only.

Before getting to my ballot, I’ll address a couple of places where I appear to differ with my fellow voters.

Two Pitchers
Here are the performances of two Angel pitchers:
Pitcher     IP   SO:BB  ERA+
Pitcher A 2675 1.92 118
Pitcher B 2181 1.86 115
Pretty similar, huh? The only real difference is the 500 innings. Going off of that, you’d have to give the edge to Pitcher A, wouldn’t you? It seems pretty clear: he's just as good a pitcher, maybe a bit better, and pitched more innings.

But let’s add one more category:
Pitcher     IP   SO:BB  ERA+  No-Hitters
Pitcher A 2675 1.92 118 0
Pitcher B 2181 1.86 115 4
Does that really change things, that Nolan Ryan was more spectacular than Chuck Finley?

To me, it doesn’t. Yes, I know he was a superstar in an arid time. I know that when he was on, he was the best show in town. But those aren’t my criteria; my criteria have to do with who was better on the field as an Angel. Finley pitched more innings for the Angels than Ryan did, and was slightly more effective than Ryan was.

Of course, Ryan pitched more innings per season (this was partly his era, as well), so maybe I’m missing something by just looking at ERA+, which compares to the league average. For instance, a guy who has a 115 ERA+ in 250 innings may be more valuable than a guy with a 118 in 200 innings. So I might be selling Nolan short. Let’s look at how each pitcher did compared to a replacement level pitcher.

Here are their seasonal Earned Runs Prevented Above Replacement in descending order, as reckoned by me (I set replacement level at league-adjusted ERA [as per BB-ref] plus 0.60):
Finley    Ryan
55.9 57.8
53.5 46.7
47.4 42.5
40.8 39.1
35.4 27.2
25.0 18.6
24.7 15.6
24.0 13.3
Look, Nolan Ryan is one of my all-time favorite players. He’s a great pitcher, a deserving Hall of Famer, and a gentleman. And if you want to argue that his marquee value moves him up the list of greatest Angels, that’s your prerogative.

But if you look at what was actually accomplished on the field, I just don’t see the argument that Nolan was a greater Angel than Chuck Finley.

Garret Anderson
Halofan’s poll ended up with Garret Anderson at number five. My ballot had him ... well, not as high, as you will soon see.

Basically, the argument against Garret Anderson being in the top twenty is that he’s had only three good years, and a bunch of mediocre years.

People are often resistant to the idea that most of Garret’s career has been that of a mediocre hitter, but it’s true. People in particular like pointing out his RBI, which have been impressive, and dismiss his low OBP by saying that his job is to drive in runs, not set up runs.

My counterargument is this: it is no batter’s job to just do one or the other. Complete hitters will excel at both, to varying degrees. For most of his career, Garret has only been good at one of these things.

It doesn’t just show up in OBP; it’s there in his runs scored, too. Do you know how many times Garret Anderson has scored 100 runs in a season? Zero. Not once.

He has scored 90+ runs twice, and 80+ runs five times. In eleven seasons.

Yeah, yeah, that’s a team-dependant statistic … but what about Tim Salmon, who was often conjoined with Garret in the middle of the Angel batting order? He has scored 100 runs twice, 90 five times, and 80 seven times.

Troy Glaus? 100 twice, 90 three times, 80 four times. And Troy’s at a disadvantage, in that his last two seasons with the Angels totaled only 149 games between them. (And he scored 100 runs on the dot in those two seasons.)

There are twenty-one Angels with 2500+ at-bats. Ten of them might be considered “RBI guys”, in that they averaged eight or less at-bats per RBI, meaning they were driving in a run at least once every other game, or at least 80 for a full season. Here they are ranked by Runs Scored Per Run Batted In, along with a column for At-Bats per RBI:
Player    R/RBI   AB/RBI
Edmonds 1.137 6.48
Grich 1.079 7.36
Downing 1.051 6.92
Glaus 1.016 5.75
Salmon .967 5.79
Baylor .920 5.94
Joyner .882 6.31
Davis .841 5.65
DeCinces .840 6.00
Anderson .794 6.21
Now, the top three guys would often bat high in the lineup, which on one hand might be unfair, but on the other hand proves the point. Garret Anderson’s offensive contributions to the Angels have been one-dimensional. He’s been very good at that dimension, and I don’t mean to take away from that, but the other guys in Angel history who have been of similar quality at driving in runs have all been better at scoring runs.

Look at it this way: guys like Grich, Downing, Salmon, you’d be confident with them either leading off an inning or batting with men on base. With Garret, you’d only be confident in the latter situation. His contributions are not as complete as these other guys’.

And that counts for something. I hadn’t assembled the above chart when I made my list, but every one of the others on it out-ranks Garret on my ballot. And I’m sticking with it.

One More Thing
You may wonder why Leroy Stanton is ranked as high as he is.

I will tell you: I have no idea.

I mean, I guess I can kind of see how I had him ranked above Dave Winfield, as he basically had three pretty good years to Winfield’s one-and-a-half, but … I don’t know. I think I was just out to lunch on that one. Sorry. You should probably switch him and Albie Pearson, who for some I reason I underrated ridiculously.

You should also be aware that tried to err on the side of underrating current players.

Without further ado, my ballot:

1. Tim Salmon
2. Bobby Grich
3. Chuck Finley
4. Brian Downing
5. Nolan Ryan
6. Jim Fregosi
7. Wally Joyner
8. Troy Percival
9. Troy Glaus
10. Chili Davis
11. Jim Edmonds
12. Mike Scioscia
13. Frank Tanana
14. Bob Boone
15. Dean Chance
16. Vlad
17. Don Baylor
18. Rod Carew
19. Mike Witt
20. Doug DeCinces
21. Garret Anderson
22. Gene Mauch
23. Darin Erstad
24. Adam Kennedy
25. David Eckstein
26. Mark Langston
27. Bobby Knoop
28. Kirk McCaskill
29. Fred Lynn
30. Reggie Jackson
31. Bryan Harvey
32. Jim Abbott
33. Leon Wagner
34. Jack Howell
35. Andy Messersmith
36. Jarrod Washburn
37. Bengie Molina
38. Scott Spiezio
39. Dick Schofield
40. K-Rod
41. Buck Rodgers
42. Leroy Stanton
43. John Lackey
44. Rick Reichardt
45. Donnie Moore
46. Devon White
47. Frank Robinson
48. Dave Winfield
49. Johnnie Ray
50. Carney Lansford
51. Lance Parrish
52. Jim Spencer
53. Geoff Zahn
54. Ken Forsch
55. Mark Eichhorn
56. Bob Lee
57. Bobby Bonds
58. Jimmie Reese
59. Gary Pettis
60. Jerry Remy
61. Mo Vaughn
62. Brendan Donnelly
63. Scot Shields
64. Mike James
65. Luis Polonia
66. Joe Adcock
67. Doug Corbett
68. Greg Minton
69. Lee Thomas
70. Dave Chalk
71. Shigetoshi Hasegawa
72. Al Levine
73. Tony Phillips
74. Clyde Wright
75. George Brunet
76. Albie Pearson
77. Joe Rudi
79. Bill Rigney
80. Sandy Alomar
81. Marcel Lachemann
82. Gary DiSarcina
83. Art Fowler
84. Mark Clear
85. Tom Morgan
86. Willie Aikens
87. Ellie Rodriguez
88. Alex Johnson
89. Mickey Rivers
90. Chone Figgins
91. Dave LaRoche
92. Vada Pinson
93. Bud Black
94. Randy Velarde
95. Paul Hartzell
96. Doug Rader
97. Jason Thompson
98. Bill Stoneman
99. Juan Beniquez
100. Don Mincher

Rob called me out, so I'll go ahead and do this, just for the amenable intra-Halosphere relations:

Four Jobs I've Had in my Life in L.A.
I've only had two; one in high school and a bit in college, and another from my just after graduating college until the present day. Both have been unremarkable office jobs.

Four Movies About LA I Could Watch Over and Over
In alphabetical order, and using a somewhat liberal definition of "about" LA based on that of my predecessors:

The Big Leboswki: The ultimate twentieth-century LA noir.

Blade Runner: The ultimate twenty-first-century LA noir, even though it was released in 1982, and the Director's Cut some time later.

Boogie Nights: The underside of the dream.

Chinatown: Water!

Collateral: Beyond being a crackerjack movie, it really respects and captures the geography of our distinctly large city.

Die Hard: Okay, it's not really about LA, but the Century City cityscape is ever-present, so I'll count it.

Go: Don't get all 818 on me, Claire.

Jackie Brown: A part of LA that has nothing to do with my life, but I like it nonetheless.

LA Confidential: Great dramatizaion of the intersection between crime, entertainment, and the LAPD that brings them together.

The Limey: LA killed Terence Stamp's daughter. He's not impressed.

The Long Goodbye: It's okay with me.

Magnolia: This is Something That Happens.

Point Blank: Do not mess with Lee Marvin.

Short Cuts: Magnolia is inconceivable without it.

Swingers: Every single moment rings true.

Yeah, that's more than four. Your point? I bet there's a lot more I forgot about.

Four Places I've Lived All Over L.A. (With Food Memories From Each)
Reseda: A nearby restaurant owned by a relative, which I will leave nameless for mystery

Chatsworth: San Carlo Italian Deli on Devonshire and Mason

Westwood: The LaValle on-campus eatery

Where I Live Now: Tito's Tacos

Four LA-Based Websites I Visit Daily
See that thing on the sidebar that says "Halosphere"? Pick four of those.

Four of my Favorite Foods Found in LA
Bacon-covered hot dogs on the streets of Hollywood or outside the Rose Bowl.

Tito's Tacos.



Four LA-Themed Shows I Love(d) to Watch
Once again, alphabetical, but this time they're actually about LA, no doubt about it:

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Yes, there are people in Los Angeles who really live like this.

Entourage: Except for the money and the beautiful women, this show is actually identical to my life.

It's Like ... You Know: Tragically short-lived, finally met its match when ABC needed to make space for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. In one episode, the characters sat around watching a high-speed pursuit on TV.

The Shield: It's gone from decent to simply amazing and breathtaking. Inspired by Rampart, it asks questions of conscience that we'll never be able to answer.

I guess I could count Alias and 24 (excepting season one), but the fact that they are based in LA isn't intrinsic to them.

Four Places in LA I Would Rather Be Right Now
Honestly, I can't think of a one.

Four People To Plague With Furthering This Harrassment

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