This season has been awfully frustrating. Hot streaks. Cold streaks. Key players being injured. Mike Scioscia mismanaging the bullpen (as usual). We knew Trout and Calhoun would amaze us with their awesomeness, but not much else.
But talent alone doesn’t guarantee success. For a professional ballplayer who has to face adversity before they can make it to the big leagues, success is a mentality — you either have it or you don’t. Here are a few of the surprises (the good kind, not the injuries..).
Until this season, I remembered Cron as the player that almost was, unfairly comparing him to Sonny Gray, who was drafted one spot behind him. But this season, Cron really opened my eyes; he slashed .278/.325/.467 with 16 HR while playing improved defense at first base. He went on a tear in July before he was hit on the wrist, sidelining him for a month. The 2016 Cron is a valuable, middle-of-the-lineup force that I’d like in the Angels lineup for a long time, and it’s something that the Angels can build on moving forward.
Chacin was acquired in April from the Braves to be used as a starter. After a while, he was ineffective and relegated to the bullpen with opponents posting a .590 OPS as a reliever (as a reference point, Cliff Pennington has a .573 OPS this season). Chacin struggled as a starter with opponents compiling a .781 OPS (Kole Calhoun has a .786 OPS). Overall, he was quite effective out of the bullpen and finished strong with a 3.38 ERA in September.
It’s easy to pile on Chacin, but with Lincecum, Huff, and Oberholtzer on the roster at times in the season, who knows how worse things could have gotten? Chacin was like a RoseArt crayon: it sure as hell isn’t a Crayola but it’s definitely not generic either. He was the glue holding this pitching staff together, and I’d welcome him back as a long reliever next season.
Marte’s turning point was the all star break, but he really took off after Yunel Escobar got injured. Receiving more playing time while fielding third base more often than he previously had, Marte slashed .275/.335/.536 post-all star break. When he played third base this season (his natural position), he did even better, posting .313/.385/.612. That was in a small sample size of 67 at-bats, but it’s encouraging. Marte can play multiple positions, but he’s best suited to play third — this would minimize his defensive mistakes and maximize his offensive output. Win win! It’s hard to see Marte playing third base consistently with Escobar on the roster (unless Escobar agrees to play second base, which he refused to do with the Nationals).
Oh, Bedrock. How I’ve been so wrong about you...I’ve always thought that Mike Scioscia and the Angels were overvaluing Cam all these years, and he finally broke out this year and finally proved me wrong. He pitched to a 1.12 ERA and a 2.13 FIP in 40.1 innings of work. He also had a 1.09 WHIP and struck out 11.4 batters per 9 innings. Pretty good! This bodes well for us because he is under club control until 2022, through his age-31 season. He also throws 95-96 mph consistently so that’s always a plus.
Guerra had never experienced success in the major leagues before coming over to the Angels. He did surprisingly well for the majority of his tenure, posting an overall 3.21 ERA and a 3.77 FIP in 53.1 innings of relief. He wasn’t a hard thrower but has terrific command, posting a 1.18 BB/9 and a 1.11 WHIP. Not bad for a Rule 5 Draft pickup (better than Ji-Man Choi, but that’s not saying much), and Guerra definitely delivered on expectations. He’s controllable through 2022 so you can expect to see more of him in the future.
A successful closer/reliever with the Oakland A’s in the past, Bailey has struggled to stay healthy and produce ever since then. Bailey had only been with the Angels for August and September but he did nicely, posting a 2.38 ERA with a 3.78 FIP in 11.1 innings. It could be a small sample size alert, but his peripherals look pretty good: 0.97 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, and a .235 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). He is a free agent, but I would like to see him in an Angels uniform next year.
Honorarable Mention: Charles Nagy
You can see that from the list above, most of these surprise names are pitchers. And our new pitching coach, Charles Nagy, coached all of them at some point, from their mechanics to their approach on the mound. Keep in mind that he made a lot of pitchers look good this season that have never experienced past or consistent success. If we can bring in pitchers with better talent, that will easily increase our relief performance since we actually have a pitching coach that pays attention to mechanics.
I know that the perceived knock on him is the three major elbow injuries have occurred already...but come on, a pitching coach can’t control how many pitches a pitcher threw when he was 13 years old. A major elbow injury doesn’t just happen overnight, it’s the result of excess stress on a ligament over multiple years, potentially stretching back to when a pitcher first started and used incorrect form or threw too many breaking balls at too young of an age. I understand the concern, but the injuries suffered by Richards, Heaney, and Tropeano cannot be directly caused by a pitching coach.
These guys have proven they can play on the big league level, and hopefully they will be able to build on their performances in an Angel uniform.