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Looking back on my “If I were Billy Eppler” for 2019

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World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In last year’s installment of If I were Billy Eppler, I concentrated on raising the floor and adding some pitching depth. Now that 2019 is in the books, I figured I would own up to my hypothetical squad and see how it would have likely performed compared to the actual 2019 Angels squad.

The good news? I finally picked a player the Angels actually signed. The bad news? That player was Trevor Cahill. Fresh off of a nice campaign with good peripherals, Trevor went completely backwards in 2019 with both real and expected ERA’s of six. Eppler signed him for 1 year at $9 million, I used the Fangraphs estimate of 2 years $14 million so Billy beat me here.

I traded for Derek Dietrich who got out of the gates like a hound from hades, crushing bomb after bomb in April and May. He hit 12 home runs in May and ended the month sporting a 1.241 OPS and made me look like a genius. Then the calendar turned, so did his fate, and he went a very Mathis like .520 OPS with only 2 home runs the rest of the way.

Not only did Dietrich not pan out, I traded Jeremiah Jackson for him and JJ (as I like to call him) had a solid year in Orem going .266/.333/.605 with 155 total bases in just 65 games. Not bad as a shortstop who is a full year and a half younger than league average.

Bullet averted there.

But I did crush Billy in three areas, Kurt Suzuki, Gio Gonzalez, and Shawn Kelley.

I advocated for bringing back class act, Fullerton grad, Captian Clutch, Kurt Suzuki. My plan was to have him catch and DH against lefties, saving Pujols and Ohtani from facing them. I also would have given him a look at first base.

On the year, Suzuki provided about half a WAR per BBref while Jonathan Lucroy managed to contribute a negative 1 WAR. Plus, against lefties Suzuki slashed a really nice .343/.375/.582, which was substantially better than Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols did against southpaws.

Obviously I did not sign Matt Harvey. This would have denied me seeing many of the longest hit home runs ever hit at the Big A. For $11 million, Harvey managed to put up negative 0.7 WAR over 59.2 innings and was released in July after trying to reinvent himself during an IL trip.

I spent that money instead on workhorse Gio Gonzalez who managed 1.7 WAR over just 87.1 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers after signing well into the season. I’m still puzzled at the lack of interest in him, but there is a 2.5 WAR difference between what we got and what we could have had.

For the bullpen, I signed Shawn Kelley. I pegged him for a 1 year, $2 million deal as a total guess and he received a 1 year $2.5 million guarantee from Texas with an option for another year at the same rate or a $500k buyout. And he was a bargain.

According to BBref, he provided 0.8 WAR for that sum, tossing 47 innings and getting 43 strikeouts. Neither his ERA or WHIP were overly impressive, but he was his usual, above average self at a very reasonable price.

In real life, Billy Eppler threw $8.5 million at Cody Allen who was released before the first official day of summer and managed to contribute negative 0.2 WAR in only 23 disastrous innings. Considering how many of those innings were late in games and started with the Angels winning only to end with the Angels losing, that negative 0.2 is letting Allen off easy.

All in all, I think signing Gio in the off season would have given us a typical Gio year of 160 IP at just above league average clip. One additional bullpen arm to help relieve the stress on the middle relief guys would have been nice, too. I think my pitching staff is notably better than Eppler’s.

Getting offense at catcher and having a left killer DH/pinch hitter would have helped the team. The fact I could cheer on one of my favorite people in the game would have been a nice bonus.

Losing a promising prospect for Dietrich would hurt, possibly hurt a lot later down the road. That would be my one regret and it could come back to really haunt me a few years from now.

All in all, I think my hypothetical team out performs the actual 2019 team by 4-5 games, maybe more. We’re likely on the periphery of the Wild Card hunt until late August as we don’t suffer the blowouts behind Harvey or the meltdowns by Allen. Those alone easily account for 4-5 games.

But I don’t think we make a serious run at the division, we fall short of the playoffs and we still have both Cahill and Gonzalez on the books this year. I’d be happy with Gonzalez but Cahill is dead weight and his $7 million would be sunk cost.

In short, I think my team is more fun to cheer on and wins more games. But not enough to really matter.

What do you think?