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Halos Slipping Down...Or Not

The following article was written at the website "Baseball Daily Digest" about the Angels off-season.  It's a well written article, but misses quite a few points about the moves the Angels have made since the end of last season. 

I decided doing a "Fire Joe Morgan" on it was warranted.

There comes a point in your life where it seems like everyone else has what you want.

Maybe in Kindergarten. Hey, where's MY goddamn juice box?! 

Maybe you're out of college, working a crummy job or single. Maybe it's worse - maybe you dropped out, got fired, or got dumped. When you walk through the city, the only people you seem to see are college kids having fun, wealthy business men and women in power suits, and blissfully happy couples enjoying each other's company. It's enough to make you disillusioned. That's been the off-season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim thus far.

Should I just slice open my wrists right now?  Or should I go find one of those women in power suits to do it for me?

As the confetti was swept up after New York's celebration of yet another World Series victory, Angels fans had reason to be very optimistic.

I hate confetti.  It tends to settle into those gaping slits in my wrists. And most Angels fans are beyond optimistic, winning 5 out of the last 6 division titles will do that.  Optimism is for Texas, Oakland, and Seattle.

The team won 97 games during the regular season, reached the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, and the organization was setting its sights on Roy Halladay, then a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Even as it became clear that Hallday would eventually become a Phillie, the Angels were still in on a potential Cliff Lee trade.

I never heard the Angels were in on Cliff Lee.  In fact, everything I read about the Lee trade claimed that that trade came together rather quickly and the Phillies probably could have gotten more if they had let other teams know they were willing to trade him.

They also showed more than a passing interest in Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman.

$30,000,000 deal.  The reason the Angels are a dominating team, and Cincinnati is well, Cincinnati, is they are smart enough know a bad deal when they see one and have the self-control to know when to walk away from that bad deal.

Yet, here we are now, just weeks away from P & C and the Angels have lost to free agency:

  • The second-most valuable third baseman in the American League last year (according to FanGraphs) in Chone Figgins to the Seattle Mariners (4 years, $36 million);
  • Ace starter John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox (5 years, $82.5 million);
  • Gimpy DH Vladimir Guerrero to the Texas Rangers (1 year, $5 million)

    Hey now, don't forget about Robb Quinlan!

The Angels have responded by signing:

  • Gimpy DH Hideki Matsui for one year, $6 million;
  • Wild Fernando Rodney for two years, $11 million;
  • Joel Piniero (Pineiro) for two years, $16 million

The author of this article failed to mention the amounts the former Angels signed for with other teams.  The Mariners, Red Sox, and Rangers have committed a total of 10 years and $123.5 million to the three Angel free agents, compared to 5 years and $33 million for the three players recently added by the Halos.  In two years, when Rodney's and Pineiro's contracts end, Figgins will be 34 and Lackey will be 33 with approximately $60 million remaining on their contracts.

In essence, the Angels have swapped gimpy designated hitters, downgraded from Lackey to Piniero (it's Pineiro), lost Figgins and gained Rodney.

Yes, no, no.  The Angels did swap gimpy DH's, but Pineiro wasn't signed to replace Lackey and the Angels didn't replace their third baseman with a relief pitcher. Pineiro replaces Matt Palmer or Sean O'Sullivan in the Angel rotation, a very good upgrade if Pineiro is able to come anywhere close to his 2009 numbers, while adding Brandon Wood to the lineup.  Rodney becomes just another arm in the Angel pen, with the potential to step into the closers role if Fuentes falters.

Meanwhile, Roy Halladay went to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee went to Seattle, and Aroldis Chapman went to Cincinnati. The Angels wanted an ace pitcher and they ended up with Joel Piniero (dammit, it's spelled P-I-N-E-I-R-O!). It's the kind of dream/reality contrast one would expect to find with the New York Mets, not the L.A. Angels.

Yes, Halladay wanted to go to Philadelphia, the Phillies decided they would rather have Joe Blanton in their rotation for $8M a year instead of Cliff Lee, and the Cuban refugee might be in the major leagues by the time the Pineiro contract expires.

Losing Figgins opens up third base for Brandon Wood or Maicer Izturis. That makes the soon to be 36-year-old Bobby Abreu the team's most dangerous base-stealing threat.

Abreu stole 30 bases last season with a 79% success rate, Figgins had a success rate of 71% while swiping 42.  Abreu would be the most dangerous base stealing threat on a lot of teams.

The lineup figures to slug more home runs and run the bases less aggressively unless Izturis defies the expectations of both stats and scouts.  Furthermore, the loss of Figgins leaves the lineup thin in terms of patient hitters. Bobby Abreu drew 94 walks last year, but after him, the next-highest walks total was Torii Hunter's 47.

I'm assuming that the replacement of Figgins with Brandon Wood is why the author of this post had written the Angles will hit more HR and run less aggressively.  I'm not suggesting Brandon Wood is fleet-footed, but he did steal 68 bases (19 CS) in his minor league career.  Aggressive base running is a trademark of Angel baseball and will continue in 2010...with more home runs thrown in.  Regarding base on balls, the loss of Figgins will hurt, but the Angels did add a hitter who's capable of drawing a walk when they signed Matsui.  Matsui's walk total from last season of 64 would have placed him 3rd on the team, plus he's replacing Guerrero who had a total of 19.

Overall, the 2010 Angels look to be weaker offensively according to the projections.

Kendry Morales, Maicer Izturis, Torii Hunter, Hideki Matsui, Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu, and Erick Aybar are all projected to perform worse in ‘10 than in ‘09. Howie Kendrick is expected to repeat what he did last year, and only catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis are expected to improve.  Click this link to see the pretty graph.

Other than Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar, all of the other Angel regulars performed right around their career averages.  Of those two, Aybar is the most likely to repeat his performance.  Matsui should outperform Guerrero's 2009 totals, while replacing any playing time recently traded Matthews would have received.  The season might hinge on the play of Wood at third base, but even if he struggles, Izturis is ready to contribute.

The addition of Fernando Rodney does little to improve a bullpen that ranked 11th out of 14 American League teams in ERA last season. Angels relievers blew 19 saves, seven of which came from closer Brian Fuentes whose ERA was much too close to 4.00. All told, the Angels are spending over $25 million, or about 25% of their payroll before arbitration cases are settled, on decidedly mediocre relief pitching.

During 2009, the Angel reliever's numbers were:













First Half













Second Half














That 11 out of 14 ranking is a bit misleading, as the Angels suffered with injuries and the use of rookie pitchers.  The signing of Fernando Rodney should insure fans will not see the likes of Rafael Rodriquez (5.58 ERA), Shane Loux (7.46 ERA in 12 games as a reliever) or some other triple-A pitcher.  Plus, those first half numbers were inflated by departed relievers Justin Speier (5.18) and Jose Arredondo (6.00).

What it boils down to then, is that the Angels are relying heavily on a starting rotation that includes four pitchers that are still under the age of 30 in Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, and Jered Weaver. Including newcomer Pineiro (listen douchebag, it's spelled...oh wait that one's right), the CHONE projections see all five starters earning ERA's above 4.00:

  • Weaver: 4.10
  • Kazmir: 4.23
  • Pineiro: 4.37
  • Santana: 4.53
  • Saunders: 4.57

Let's start at the top...

  • Weaver's career ERA is 3.73 and he's only had an ERA over 3.91 once in his career. Why, all of a sudden would his ERA balloon to 4.10? It won't.
  • Kazmir's ERA after joining the Halos on August 29th was 1.73 in six starts. His career ERA is 3.83. The only season his ERA was over 4.00 since his rookie season was during 2009 while suffering from thigh and forearm problems.
  • Pineiro would go either way. Some feel last season (ERA+ of 118), after altering his pitching strategy, will be more indicative of future performance than his career ERA+ of 98. But Angels fans will be happy if he can post an ERA close to his career ERA of 4.39, considering he's slotted as the #5 guy in the rotation.
  • An Era of 4.53 from Santana in 2010 would be right around his career numbers (4.53), but Santana has shown he's capable of much better performance when healthy.
  • Since his rookie season, the only time Saunders has had an ERA over 4.53 was in 2009 when hit the disabled list for the first time in his career. After returning from shoulder stiffness, Saunders went 7-0 while compiling an ERA of 2.55. Saunders isn't a staff ace, but he's much better than given credit for.

The odds are that the projections won't nail all five of them, so I wouldn't bet on the Angels starting rotation looking as bad as CHONE says.

No shit.

 However, the Angels could have easily improved the rotation but GM Tony Reagins seems to be content relying on young talent with thin resumes (or, in the case of Kazmir, a durability issue).

I'm curious how the Angels could have easily improved the rotation.  The Angels did not have the players the Blue Jays wanted for Roy Halladay.  And who knows if the Angels were even contacted regarding acquiring Cliff Lee.

At the moment, it is the L.A. Angels who take the cake for having baseball's least productive off-season.

Even though the Angels lost Figgins and Lackey, did they really have the least productive off-season? 

  • The Chicago Cubs signed Marlon Bryd and John Grabow.
  • The other Chicago team made a splash in the free agent market by signing Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel.
  • Cincinnati signed a couple players to minor league contract and Aroldis Chapman.
  • Cleveland's only major league contract signee has been Mike Redmond.
  • Florida hasn't signed anyone.
  • Kansas City gave $11M to Rick Ankiel, Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik.
  • The Dodger re-signed two of their own players and Jamie Carroll.
  • Minnesota signed Clay Condrey (and re-signed Carl Pavano for $7M)
  • The defending champ Yankees signed Nick Johnson and gave 37 year-old Andy Pettitte $11.75M.
  • Oakland was able to convince Coco Crisp to play for them.
  • Pittsburgh's big signing was Octavio Dotel (for $3.5M).
  • San Diego got Jerry Hairston.
  • Toronto traded away Roy Halladay, but they did sign Lance Broadway.

That's 13 teams whose fans would be happy if their favorite team were as least productive.

They played like a 92-win team last year according to their Pythagorean W-L.

Another season where the Angels outdid their Pythagorean.  Is anyone still surprised by this?

As they are constructed presently, the Angels are a mid-80's team (about 87 if you're looking for a ballpark number) in terms of wins.

Pineiro had a WAR of 4.8 last season.  If he does half as well as he did in 2009, the Angels should be projected to win 90+ games in 2010...

Considering how significantly the Seattle Mariners have improved, the Angels couldn't afford to downgrade.

...which should be more than the significantly improved Mariners.  Last season, the Mariners finished at 85-77, which was 10 games above what Pythagorean would have calculated THEIR record to be.  Have they improved enough to overcome their fluky season as Pythag suggested and to catch the Angels in 2010?  They would have to have at least a 12 game improvement.  I don't think they did.

Reagins did so willingly: he tailed off his pursuit of multiple ace pitchers and waved the white flag after attempting to retain John Lackey. 

Once again, what pursuit was tailed off?  And being financially responsible by not re-signing a pitcher who has started the last two seasons on the disabled list to an $82M+ salary is not waving a white flag.

He settled for Pineiro, Matsui, and Rodney, much like the aforementioned disillusioned settle for DeVry University, a job waiting tables, and a significant other with a face only a mother could love.

This is just too stupid to comment on as I have nothing against DeVry graduates, waiters, nor ugly women.