I wrote a previous post about 3/4 into last season about how the Angels needed to make some changes if they expected to compete in 2013 and beyond. Since Jerry Dipoto is a skilled GM and not an arm-chair blogger he was a lot more creative about doing this than I ever imagined. I still got some things right, and the spirit of my proposals were there, but I thought I'd use this to make a nice comp list of where we were at the end of another season without a playoff appearance and where we are now.
For the most part it's easy to paint a picture in a quantitative way using a metric like WAR. WAR isn't perfect, but it helps give a nice illustration of where we were and what we can expect. Past performance of course is no guarantee for future results. But I thought the comparisons were striking.
Take for example the starting rotation. Consider what we had in 2012. The values are WAR totals lifted from Fangraphs. Note some of them are pro-rated.:
Angels 2012 Starting Rotation:
Total: 8.4 WAR
The third slot represents a summation of Grienke while he was with our team over 12 starts, Williams' season total chopped in half (not perfectly accurate but fair since he spent a large part of the season in relief) and an adjusted total for spot starters like Brad Mills and Garret Richards.
Now consider the overhaul that occurred in the off-season.
Angels 2013 Starting Rotation (2012 WAR totals):
Jered Weaver 3.0
CJ Wilson 2.5
Joe Blanton 2.4
Tommy Hanson 1.1
Jason Vargas 0.8
Total: 9.8 WAR
Of course none of these guys are going to do exactly what they did last season and it's entirely possible Tommy Hanson's arm is going to fall off in July. But even with that accounted for I found it fascinating that the rotation right now is a projected upgrade over last season. If you want to slot in Richards/Williams in there somewhere for the inevitable spot starts you could do so, but I still don't see that dipping the total rotation value below the 2012 levels. It's notable Joe Blanton comes back much higher than I anticipated with Fangraphs WAR calculations, but for what it's worth Bill James has him projecting even better in 2013 despite switching leagues.
WAR Upgrade: 1.4 WAR
So basically even with Grienke going up the 5 Freeway and the dismissal of the bottom of our rotation, Dipoto has managed to upgrade it on paper, and he did it without spending a significant amount of money for 2013. Not too shabby.
The bullpen values are a little harder to predict since the roster is often a revolving door, but it's notable to view them here because the delta is significant:
Angels 2012 Bullpen
Total: 2.4 WAR
The above totals need to be taken with a small grain of salt because a number of the players above didn't play the entire season. Jepsen was installed later. Frieri missed a couple of months playing in the NL. Takahashi was dropped before the season ended. The Williams, Richards and Maronde trifecta represents their totals replacing injured players. Still, that was basically our bullpen last year. It was pretty terrible.
Here is the 2013 Bullpen
Angels 2013 Bullpen (2012 WAR Totals)
Total: 4.9 WAR
I'm actually being conservative here. If Jepsen and Frieri turn in preformances like last year, projected over a full season with the Angels you can bump their WAR tally's even higher than this. Ditto Nick Maronde.
Dipoto has basically doubled the projected bullpen output compared to last season. He picked up close to 3 wins in doing so in this category alone.
WAR Upgrade: 2.5
2012 Angels Lineup
Total WAR: 33.6
It's notable that the player we just traded was the least valuable member of the lineup, with the exception of Ianetta, who was injured for almost half the season.
2013 Angels Lineup (2012 WAR Totals)
C: Chris Ianetta 1.3
1b: Albert Pujols 3.9
2b: Howie Kendrick 2.8
3b: Alberto Callaspo 2.7
SS: Erick Aybar 3.4
LF: Mike Trout 10.0
CF: Peter Bourjos 1.9
RF: Josh Hamilton 4.4
DH: Mark Trumbo 2.4
Total WAR: 32.8
The Angels take a small dip here, but not exactly for a reason I initially expected. The biggest drop-off is the delta between Torii and Hamilton, which is interesting. Whether or not those totals go in different directions remains to be seen. The more fascinating comparison is that of Bourjos and the player that was just traded to get him into the everyday lineup. Bourjos WAR totals from last year are in limited PA and primarly as a defensive replacement. He saw less than half the at bats of the Morales. Despite this he was still more valuable to the Angels. If Bourjos plays everyday this is a positive in WAR, and if he plays like he did in 2011 it's a substantial upgrade, and that's ignoring the fact we picked up another starting pitcher in the Morales deal.
Based on pure WAR math it appears the Angels have upgraded the pitching staff and likely broke even in the lineup department. It appears to be a convervative estimate of an upgrade of around 4-5 wins. If we ran the 2012 season all over again, that puts the Angels in the playoffs, or at least into a one game tie-breaker. It remains to be seen if they will do it in 2013, but after all the moves that were made, I like their chances.