(Photo Credit: Yardbarker.com)
Welcome to the second of three parts looking at the state of the Angels at the All-Star Break. Today we’ll be taking a look at their offense, naming names and showing who on the team has been good, bad, and ugly. Much like with our pitching, I suspect there is little suspense as to who will end up in the last category.
Unfortunately, a word I feel like I’ve used much too often in posts here, the Angels offense has not been a major bright spot on the team this season, and certainly nothing near the level we’ve seen from Jered Weaver. The brightest, and perhaps the lone bright spot, in the Angels offense this season has been Torii Hunter, who has managed to actually improve on his career-best numbers from last year. In fact, he’s completely managed to smash my regression-heavy prediction of .280/.345/.470, and at the break has a slash line of .298/.385/.521. On top of that, he’s already posted a 3.0 WAR for the season, giving him a great chance of repeating or even improving on the 3.8 WAR he put up last year. All of this WAR is also in spite of his declining defense, though the fact that he’s remained at CF has helped his heightened offense become worth more than it would be at either corner OF spot.
And thanks to his increased offense, he’s actually not been quite the bad signing I expected, from a dollars-per-win standpoint. The down side to that is his salary is due to increase to $18MM per over the next two seasons, meaning we’ll need to see another uptick in his offense or, perhaps more unlikely, his defense return back to the positives when looking at UZR. I don’t think either of those are likely, but I’ve said that before about his offense and for at least the first half of 2010 he’s defied expectations. He might be the only person the Angels were counting on to repeat a career year that has actually delivered.
When I was planning this out, I knew that this would be the easiest portion to write up of all of them. The bad parts of the Angels offense are not hard to find, even to the casual observer. First up, let’s look at guys that have seen a drop in production from last year.
Mike Napoli, who honestly somewhat straddles the line between The Good and The Bad, as his offense has taken a bit of a dip since last year (his wOBA is exactly 20 points lower than last year, and 18 points lower than his career average), but he’s also been one of the more productive members of the offense. The drop in his numbers could be explained by a few different things – his BABIP, while currently about four points above his career average, is 17 points lower than it was last season, and outside of that he’s also been working on improving at a new position, 1B, which he hasn’t played since three games at Triple-A Salt Lake in 2006. Either way, it lands him on the bad list, as he’s seen his numbers drop just like so much of the rest of the lineup when compared to last year.
Bobby Abreu, while one of the top contributors, has also seen his numbers drop from last season. Coming off a .338 wOBA in 2009, his highest in four seasons, Abreu was hailed as the guy that brought patience to the Angels’ lineup. Apparently, Mickey Hatcher had never thought that trying to draw walks, in addition to getting hits, was not useful for a baseball player to do. Either way, his 94 walks last season was second on the team, behind only Chone Figgins (Figgins also lead the team in OBP at .395, five points higher than Abreu, but apparently it was only Abreu’s patience the team took notice of), and helped the Angels move from 12th in BB% in 2008 to 7th in 2009. However, from 2008, before Abreu was on the team, until the break in 2010, the Angels walk rate has improved exactly 0.2%, from 7.8 to the 8.0 it sits at now. When it comes to Abreu “making the team more patient,” let’s just say there’s reason to be skeptical.
His ability to help the team more than the Hitting Coach was able to aside, Abreu’s personal performance has seen the dip so many others on the team have seen, with his wOBA dropping to .343 in 2010. In fact, almost across the board Abreu’s numbers moved in the wrong direction: AVG, OBP, and SLG are all down, K% is up, BB% is down, and his BABIP, which may be the culprit for some of his decline, has dropped 34 points from last year, down to .304 (and well under his career average of .345). The one thing, surprisingly, that has gone up is his ISO (Isolated Power, which is SLG-minus-AVG, and shows us what kind of a power hitter someone is), which rose to .156 from last year’s .142. Both of those are also under his career averages as well, but with a 36-year old baseball player, that’s a trend we’re going to need to get used to seeing.
Everyone else not named Hunter, Napoli, Abreu, or Morales (and we all know what happened to exclude him from all of this) is currently sporting a wOBA below .330, which is simply unacceptable. Last season, we had 10 different players with a wOBA over .330. The only ones that received at least 100 PA and had a wOBA below .330? Gary Matthews Jr., Robb Quinlan, and Jeff Mathis. This season, among players that have received some stretches of regular playing time, the following are below .330: Frandsen, Aybar, Matsui, Kendrick, Rivera, Izturis, Willits, Mathis, and Wood. With the plethora of pitching struggles we went over in Part 1, the team needs an offense that can help out a struggling pitcher, and right now they just don’t have it. Relying on players like Frandsen and Paul McAnulty (hitting a robust .198 wOBA) is going to, and may already be biting the team in the ass when their hot streak runs out and they return back to their normal hitting levels. On top of that, continuing to give regular ABs to the more permanent players like Jeff Mathis, who has never once in his Major League career finished with a wOBA above .300, is only going to hurt the team’s offense, not help it.
Relying on people repeating career years, as the Angels clearly did in 2010, is taking a big gamble with the team’s chances of winning. As the Angels reached the break, found themselves with only two players introduced at the All-Star game, and looking up at the Rangers for the vast majority of the season, it seems like a gamble they’ve lost. The question then, of course, is if the front office will do anything to address the problem, or if they’ll keep their heads buried in the sand, call this a down year, and move on with business as usual. Doing so would be a disservice, not only to us fans, but to the players this team has been built around, that came here wanting to win.
What do you call a guy who hit .283/.350/.536 over five seasons at Triple-A, only to come up to the Major League level and hit a collective .183/.208/.277 over more than 400 PA across four different seasons? Brandon Wood. This is yet another dead horse that doesn’t seem worth spending extra words to kick, because Angels fans are all well aware of how much he’s struggled. As to whether or not he can turn it around, let’s just say I’m getting skeptical. Struggles are nothing new, and not something I’d normally write someone off for, but that is assuming they have a track record of quality performance at this level. Wood does not. I hope he is able to turn it around, that whatever switch in his head that’s in the off position gets flipped somehow, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m just not expecting it.
The other person that does deserve some mention here is Jeff Mathis, who started off the season hot, hitting .324/.351/.500 in his first 37 PA before going down with an injury. Many people were excited about his hot start, thinking that the switch did finally turn on for him and he carried over his hot hitting in the playoffs into the next season. Of course, you’ve seen my thoughts on it, and in his return from the DL Mathis has shown that it was a fluke, putting up a .210/.231/.274 in 66 PA. While I understand that most of Napoli’s playing time is now coming at 1B, I think it’s no secret that if Morales were still here Mathis would be getting most of the playing time behind the plate, and for a team that’s struggling offensively, it is no help to them.