In baseball, you spend six months watching your favorite team each night, and whether they win or lose determines your mood for the night and possibly until game time the next day. Well, when your team is knocked out of the postseason that mourning goes to another level because you know there won’t be another game tomorrow. Before we mourn for too long, let’s take a look ahead at 2015 and the chances the Angels have to make it back to the postseason.
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I read a piece this morning by the fantastic Ben Lindbergh of Grantland and he talks about how often teams from the postseason go back the next season. He states that “starting with 1996, the second season of baseball’s eight-team playoff format, 79 of 158 October teams (exactly half) have been repeat visitors from the previous postseason.” Those are pretty good odds if you ask me. But he adds a great point. “However, there’s a crucial question the 50 percent rule can’t answer: Which of this year’s playoff teams are most likely to be among the five repeaters?” That is the one question we can’t answer at this exact moment, and probably won’t be able to answer until September, but what can we use to give us an idea of who has the best chance?
Ben uses multiple tactics and wouldn’t you know it, the Angels are at the top of most of the lists. The first chart I am about to show you depicts “the percentage of every playoff team’s total plate appearances and total positive position-player WAR generated in 2014 by hitters who are under team control through next season.” Take a look at where the Angels land.
The Angels have every position player that made a difference under contract for next season. That doesn’t mean that they won’t trade any between now and Opening Day 2015 but right now they are all coming back. But how about the Angels pitching, how are they faring against the rest of the playoff team’s from this season? This chart depicts the percentage of innings pitched and pitcher WAR.
The Angels are once again towards the top, second to only the Washington Nationals in the National League. The closest American League team is division foe Oakland Athletics. The Angels will be bringing back a lot of innings and a lot of WAR but they still need to be better. As Kyle Franzoni wrote yesterday, Cory Rasmus isn’t the solution to the rotation. The solution is on the free-agent market or in a trade for a 3-4 type starter.
Both of those charts are great, but they don’t take into effect the aging of players and the loss of velocity on the fastball, i.e. Jered Weaver. The Angels are bringing back their core, but their core is getting older and some players are most likely going to fall into regression. Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago are doubtful to put up the same numbers they did this season, and what about C.J. Wilson? Will he get better or will he continue to get worse? Does an older Albert Pujols match his numbers from this season? How will Howie Kendrick up his career year in 2014 or will he regress? And finally will Josh Hamilton bounce back from a down 2014? The above charts can’t tell us that, they can only show us what happened in 2014, and what the Angels will be getting back.
The Angels are projected to have the best players in 2015 out of all the playoff team’s according to WAR, even with regressions. The Halos have a stacked roster on paper, but they have to put it into production on the field. Do I think the Angels make the playoffs in 2015? Certainly. Do I think they run away with the American League West again? Absolutely not. The Angels are going to have to get a better rotation and hope that players bounce back from bad previous seasons. That all starts with this offseason and bringing in players while staying under the luxury tax.