We all knew it and Billy Eppler discussed it in a press conference last week. The Angels need to get on base more. A LOT more. Our very own Mike Trout - the best player in baseball, hit .325 with a .504 OBP when runners were on base. The problem is that happened in only 231 of his 608 plate appearances, or 38% of the time. Trout was even better with RISP in which he hit .346 with a .574 OBP but he only had the chance to do that in 21% of his plate appearances. For comparison’s sake, JD Martinez was up with runners on base 49% of the time and RISP 31% of the time. That is a HUGE difference. If the Angels can’t get runners on base - especially in front of Mike Trout, they are going to have a hard time being competitive again in 2019.
So how do we fix that? First, let’s look at the glaring holes:
The Angels were below average in 5 key positions + the pinch hitter spot (bench depth). You can see for yourself were the worst spots were. You certainly don’t have to be top 5 at every position but the Angels are a far cry from teams like the Astros and Red Sox - presented below for comparison.
In the case of the Astros, they had 3 below average spots + their bench. However, they were top 5 overall in OBP as well as top 5 in 5 key spots.
No AL team had a better OBP than than the Red Sox who had 3 positions in the #1 spot and 3 more in the top 3. That’s 6 total positions in the top 3 which helps make up for poor performances at catcher and third base.
The moral of this story? You can be weak in a few spots, but better be really strong in most of the other positions if you want to compete.
Angels positional analysis:
The Angels landed at #11 with a .271 OBP, which was 21 points below average. They also lost two catchers who helped push it to that number - Maldonado (.284), and River (.287). In 103 ABs, Francisco Arcia’s OBP was .226 and Jose Briceno put up an impressive .299 in 128 plate appearances.
How to get better: Give Briceno the lion’s share of playing time and/or add a second catcher who can get on base at least a .280 OBP clip or so. Also hope Briceno doesn’t regress in his sophomore year.
Second from the bottom and the third worst OBP at .280. This is almost entirely due to Albert Pujols who only managed a .289 OBP. Jefry Marte and Luis Valbuena also played there, bringing that number down. Jose Miguel Fernandez actually had a .309 OBP in 123 plate appearances.
How to get better: DFA Pujols. Kidding. Mostly. Seriously though, Pujols is not going to be playing more than 50% of the games there (mark my words) so he’s going to need a strong backup. If Jose Miguel Fernandez can keep it up - he looks to be the guy for that and can help push that OBP up closer to .300 - although still well below average at that spot. Matt Thaiss and Jared Walsh could be options here. In the minors, they put up OBP number of .335 and .359.
All the way down at #12, second baseman had a .294 OBP in 2018. This number is a little bit baffling to me since Kinsler was at .304 and David Fletcher had a .316. Apparently the few games played there buy Zach Cozart, Kaleb Cowart, and Sherman Johnson were so bad they brought that number down quite a bit.
How to get better: Do nothing. Leave David Fletcher there and you should already havea 15-20 point improvement going in to next year, assuming he can keep up the same level of production. Luis Rengifo is knocking on the doors in AAA and he’s an on base machine. Keep an eye on him in spring training. Fletcher’s .316 OBP, by the way, lands him 3 points above the AL team average at second base.
Right smack in the middle at .326 and 2 points above average. Not much to complain about here. Simmons alone had a .337 OBP. Cozart played enough there to bring that number down.
How to get better: Do nothing. Hopefully Simmons can stay healthy again in 2019 and reach 600+ plate appearances for the 3rd straight season. If Simba were the only one playing SS all season long, he’d slot in at #5 in OBP for the AL at his position.
This spot was a mess. The Angels were last in the AL (.278) and nearly 50 points below average. Cozart’s OBP (.296) was actually almost 20 points higher than what the team ended up with at the end of the season. That .296 is nothing to go crazy about but a health Cozart would help. Valbuena, Taylor Ward, and Cowart all helped to tank that number.
How to get better: Theoretically, a healthy Cozart is already going to be a significant improvement. Barring outside help which I don’t think will happen, there isn’t much more to do here other than hope Taylor Ward can figure out how to get on base more at the big league level or pushing Fletcher over to 3rd if Rengifo can perform.
Kole Calhoun had a terrible start to the year, a good stretch - and a terrible finish. Only the White Sox put up a worse number than the Angels .277 in right field. In the end, Calhoun managed a .283 OBP but the parade of guys like Young, Blash, Hermosillo, and EYJ all scored very low numbers, bring that total down.
How to get better: I don’t see the Angels doing much here other slotting in Kole Calhoun from day one. He’ll need to hit more like he did in the middle of the year when he had OBP number of .310 in June, .378 in July, and .345 in August. Even that June number would be a nice improvement, though still 20 points below the .331 average at that position.
Mike Trout is just that guy that wrecks the curve for everyone. Even though he missed about 18 games, the Angels were still tops in baseball with a .421 OBP from the center field position. Trout himself had an insane .460 - the best number of his career.
How to get better: LOL. Seriously though, Trout staying healthy will sole factor than can help bump up that number.
Just 7 points above average, left field was the third best spot for the Angels in terms of OBP at .336. Upton himself had a .344 OBP but EYJ, Young, and Blash all spent time there - thus lowering the score.
How to get better: A healthy Upton all year will help. So to with a 4th outfielder who is an OBP machine. The Angels need a guy to back up all 3 regulars who can get on base and no someone like Young or Blash.
The #2 OBP spot on the team a .342 and 5th in the league thanks Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani had his work cut out for him thanks to Pujols’ .289 OBP but his .361 OBP in 367 plate appearances certainly helped raise this number. Trout had the 3rd most game at DH this year which also helped keep that number high.
How to get better: More Ohtani at bats and fewer for Pujols. I may scream if Pujols takes a lot of at bats away from Ohtani next year. Slot Ohtani in for 400-450 plate appearances at DH next year and we are bound to see this number at least stat about where it is - which is pretty darn good and 14 points above league average.