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Next season’s position players and the division rivals they crushed

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The Angels of 2018 will have a dramatically different look. Who did they rub the wrong way?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

There are very few things in life as satisfying as victory. The taste of success is sweet and complements almost any dinner. In fact, your recommended daily dose is “as much as possible.” And yet, I still find myself wanting even after the most delicious triumphs. Thankfully, often hand-in-hand with those aforementioned wins is the savory anguish that the enemy wallows in.

Yes, the despair of the Mariner, the Athletic, the Ranger, and the Astro is the Angels fan’s most exquisite delicacy. Though the cries of the Houstonian have been in short supply of late, we have gotten quite our fill from the other three sources. We have many amazing walk-offs, comebacks, and bombs to thank for that.

The offense seems to have further improved and come April will probably be our primary distributor. So let’s preview the 2018 purveyors of that most tantalizing of meals and which team they sourced the depression of the division rivals from last season.

Martin Maldonado - The Astros

.264/.339/.434

The suddenly full-time catcher was not a dominant force against much of the American League. He wrecked the Yankees and Red Sox (My man!), but not too many other teams saw more out of him than the stray single. The Rangers and Mariners considered him a free out while the A’s saw a little short of a league average hitter.

The Astros, however, were a different story. Across 53 at bats, Martin Maldonado had an OPS of .773 and notched multiple hits versus Keuchel, McCullers, Morton, and Peacock. His OPS split was 41% better against the Astros than it was against every other team and was 15% better than league average. He even took Keuchel deep! Don’t sleep on Maldonado against Houston this next season.

CJ Cron - The Athletics

.404/.440/.702

Oh, if only Cron could play against the A’s every day. We would be hailing him as the next Tony Gwynn if he could just continue to see the likes of Casilla, Coulombe, and Dull. Alas, 47 at bats against the trough-dwellers is all he saw. His OPS split was 95% better than league average and 105% better than his overall OPS. Keep it up, buddy.

He continued his tradition of being a Ranger killer by posting a strong slash against them too, but nowhere even close to the one he put up against the A’s. Honestly, in-division, he only really struggled against the Astros. That is to say that out of those four teams, he only was bad against the best team in baseball last year. And boy, was he bad against them. No, you don’t need to look. Trust me.

Luis Valbuena - The Astros (Honorable Mention to the Mariners)

.286/.340/.531

The other half of the first base platoon would have been an effective platoon solely against the Astros too, it seems. I think we all saw this coming if we remember the incident where Fiers threw behind him. Actually, he seems to have done most of his damage against Fiers and Peacock.

The biggest surprise here to me is that Valbuena had just as many extra base hits against the Astros as Martin Maldonado. That either says something about Valbuena in the division, or about Maldonado against the Astros. I’m going to choose to believe the latter.

Valbuena’s numbers against the Mariners were actually fairly close and slightly better (.276/.333/.586), but with 20 fewer at bats. With a full season, I’d give it to him, but almost double the number of at bats against the Astros with a very similar slash is not negligible.

Albert Pujols - The Mariners

.308/.333/.410

Albert Pujols actually improved his career average when playing against the Seattle Mariners. Now that is interesting. If we could see this OPS out of Pujols all year long, the World Series would be as good as ours. It’s not even quite a .750 OPS and I’d still be lauding his name and parading through the streets with the tale of Fat Albert, the man who darn near carried this team to the postseason.

Most fun of all, Albert Pujols stole three bases against the Mariners last season. Do you know how many he had all season? Three. Albert Pujols is literally trolling Seattle at this point in his career! That’s my kind of guy.

Ian Kinsler - The Mariners (Honorable Mention to the Athletics)

.345/.424/.724

The first addition to the team rears his head. Kinsler went straight-up beast mode against Seattle last season. And remember, 2017 was his down year. His OPS of 1.148 in 33 plate appearances would fit in very nicely on this team.

He gets an honorable mention with the Athletics because his numbers were a very small sample size, but were far and away superior to the slash above. In only 9 at bats, he slashed .333/.455/1.111 with a 1.566 OPS. He had 3 extra base hits, two of which were home runs. Ultimately though, I had to side with the team that he crushed in almost four times as many at bats.

In all fairness, his top four OPSes last season were all against AL West teams with the A’s, Mariners, Rangers, and Angels raising his overall slash dramatically, and in that order. Much like Cron, the only one he was bad against was the Astros.

If he does obliterate Seattle (or Oakland (or Texas)) in 2018 like he did last year, I think all will be forgiven.

Andrelton Simmons - No One (Unbelievably better outside the division)

He still had good defense at least.

Finally, we come to the first player who was not even too terribly close to league average against any team in the division. It’s coincidental that he was a legitimate MVP candidate until later in the year and yet almost none of his offensive damage came from within the division. His best performance was a paltry .700 OPS against Texas, but let’s not pretend that he was a bad player at any point during his season.

This article is terribly unfair to Simmons because he was a monster in the AL Central and East. Here is a short list of his OPSes minus the names of the opponents against all non-West AL teams.

1.044, 1.042, .988, .890, .889, .858, .819, .781, .715, .360

The only AL team that he had a .700 or lower OPS against was the Royals — and every single team in the AL West.

Zack Cozart - Inconclusive

No Data

Zack did not play against the AL West in 2017. But he beat up on the Giants, so this guy is alright in my book.

I’m going to take a stab and guess that he’ll slaughter the Rangers because who doesn’t want that, right?

Justin Upton - The Rangers

.308/.481/.641

Justin Upton had easily his best year since 2011 with the Diamondbacks this past season. When he was acquired via trade, he did not let up and continued to be an extra base hit machine. Against the Rangers, he was almost at his best. Slightly short of just the Twins in the same number of at bats, his OPS against the Rangers was 1.122.

What’s interesting is how he feasted off of them. He almost reached base at a .500 clip. His 13 walks against the Rangers were 5 higher than against any other team and he “only” had 7 extra base hits.

He raked against everyone except for the A’s. Yes, I’m confused too.

Mike Trout - The Athletics

.327/.453/.712

You need to look at this.

Baseball-Reference Opponent Splits for Mike Trout

He was literally only bad against the Royals. That’s 12 plate appearances where he was bad. The Astros and Indians are considered “successful” because they “held” him to a “mere” .362 and .393 OBP respectively.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’ll be dishing out plenty of misery for our rivals for years to come.

Kole Calhoun - The Mariners

.235/.325/.456

Before we get into Kole against the Mariners, can we just talk about how he broke the Twins? In 29 plate appearances, he had 13 hits with 5 of those being home runs. His slash against them was .500/.552/1.077. He certainly did his best to help Upton send them back to the cellar from whence they came.

Another 4 of his bombs came against the M’s. Of course, his average wasn’t great, but he slugged and got on base and that’s the important thing. He technically hit better against the A’s, but his power showed more against the Mariners.

Statistics and table courtesy of Baseball-Reference