So it's the middle of August and the Angels are right where they belong, atop the AL West. However, there is a big difference this time around. Last year at this time we were 15.5 games up and running away with this division. There wasn't much to compare to as far as competition within the division was concerned (REV had even put up the magic number ticker). This time around we are 4.5 games up, and the team on our tails has greatly improved, putting us in what could possibly be an epic dogfight to the end. Some of us here blamed our early postseason exit last year on our team becoming complacent since they didn't have to worry about being caught for a month before the playoffs (so did the L.A. Times).
Let's compare and contrast for a little. We'll put the '08 Angels against the '09 Angels. The '08 Rangers against the '09 Rangers. And the Angels and Rangers against each other from this year. I'm gonna use some simple hitting and pitching metrics for this post. If any of my fellow HHer's want to throw in some more complex stuff (and touch on the fielding stats) feel free to do so. Jump with me, and let's do this.
We'll start with comparing the last two Angel teams; B-Ref '09 Angels, B-Ref '08 Angels. I don't think anyone here will argue that this team has a FAR more potent offense then the one that made Pythagoras look like an idiot last year. But for double checking purposes I looked it up anyway. This years team has an OPS of .804, last year we finished with an OPS of .743. Our team OBP is up 23 ponts and our team slugging is up 38 points. Pitching last year to this year is also quite different. the 2008 staff put up an ERA+ of 111, while this years pitching staff currently has an ERA+ of 93. Luckily the offense has carried us through some doldrums, and at the same time our relief is starting to look more like a bullpen then a cowpen. This stuff we already know, now let's compare the last two Ranger teams.
B-Ref '09 Rangers, B-Ref '08 Rangers. Now, I don't follow the Rangers nearly as close as I do the Halos. I know a few things, but not enough to be an expert. So in research on Baseball-Reference, I found out this. Their team OPS has dropped 46 points from .816 last year to .770 this year. Their team OBP is down 37 points from last year, but their slugging is only down 9 points. Less base runners, less runs, makes sense. It's definitely still a dangerous offense any way you cut it, but by being less patient they can be much more easily exposed. Some of this could be attributed to Josh Hamiltonmissing a good chunk of the season, Ian Kinsler not hitting at the same clip that he did last year or lack of patience (I wish these things rang true when they played us) all the same...a more tameable offense. The major difference between last year and this year is the pitching. Last years staff put up an ERA+ of 82, this years team...108! That's huge (A lot of which can be attributed to defense, but those stats I don't understand).
Now, onto why I put you through all that. The '09 Angels against the "09 Rangers. Let's not think about our 3-9 record against them so far. The teams Offenses are very similar in production with an advantage to the halos in run scored. The Angels are, simply put, much better at manufacturing runs. The Rangers have gone 1st to 3rd 30 times this year, and 32% of their outs have been productive. The Angels on the other hand have gone 1st to 3rd 96times and 39% of their outs have been productive. As always the Angels mantra "run the bases aggressively."
With pitching the Raners have the upper hand so far (which is odd becuase of their bandbox ballpark). The Rangers pitching is averaging 6.2 SO/9, has a SO/BB ration of 1.88 and their team WHIP is 1.352. The Angels are averaging 6.8 SO/9, has a SO/BB ration of 1.99, but there whip is 1.445. The big difference is ER, the Angels are at 544 (12th in the AL) The Rangers are at 469 (2nd in the AL). I looked at the standings to see if the Rangers have played an unusual amount of away games this year, but they're not, it's quite even.
My opinion, the Angels got this. Even thought the Angels have been uncharacteristically weak against the west, they own the east and central (suck it ESPN), where as the Rangers have been playing only 3 games above .500 against those other two divisions. And the Angels see a lot more of the other divisions for the rest of the season so that bodes well for us. Like I said at the top, I don't know much about reading the fielding metrics, so if you read this and want to add those stats in to add leverage...I'd appreciate it.