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Tater Fest 2017: Angels pitchers and the long ball

The Angels have given up the 4th most homeruns of any pitching staff in baseball this year

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The talk of the 2017 season has been the increase in K rate and increase in homeruns. Both of these have been trending up in recent years. Take a look below at HR rates by era. In fact, MLB players are on pace to hit more homeruns in 2017 than in ANY year - including at the peak of the steroid era.

So it’s no surprise the Angels are giving up a lot of homeruns - right? I mean homeruns are up so it figures the Angels would give up more. However - they are giving up A LOT more than most other teams and it’s not just Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco, Jesse Chavez, and Matt Shoemaker are ALL in the top 14 for homeruns allowed by starting pitchers in the AL. Even JC Ramirez is there at #24. The bullpen has fared a bit better and as a team they rank 7th in the AL and would arguably be a few notches lower (better) if Jose Alvarez wasn’t leading the team with 6 homers allowed.

You would expect that the flyball rate is much higher in 2017 league-wide due to all these homeruns. However, surprisingly, the MLB flyball rate is 35.4% this year which is only 8th since 2002 - pretty much right in the middle. BUT - the Angels have a 39.2% flyball rate - tops in ALL of baseball this year. They are also 28th in ground ball rate.

Source: FanGraphs

Lots of flyballs, not enough groundballs - and you have you have a good formula for a lot of homeruns - even with a home stadium that gets affected by the infamous marine layer. Can you imagine how many homeruns this staff would give up at Yankee Stadium??

A few other interesting looks is that the Angels have given up the 3rd hardest contact in baseball this year and are dead last in allowing soft contact. Also, according to Statcast, Angels pitchers have allowed the highest average exit velocity (88.1 MPH) of any team and are tied for longest average distance with Detroit.

Fly Balls in and of themselves are NOT bad. Especially if you can keep them in the park and have a great defensive outfield (like the Angels do). Check out this 2014 table from FanGraphs:

The summary of all this is that a big part of why the Angels are giving up so many homeruns is that they are giving up a TON of flyballs and TON of strong contract (the later being a bigger issue). Angels pitchers are not inducing a lot of weak contact either.

Billy Eppler has done a pretty good job of stringing together a pitching staff on a limited budget but it’s far from perfect and mostly filled with #4 and #5 rotation guys who are doing just enough to help keep the team hovering around that .500 mark, which is probably mostly where this team will stay without some reinforcements.