Los Angeles Angels have a potential log jam at first
For the last couple of seasons Los Angeles Angels first baseman has been the Angels main option at first base. However, Cron’s inconsistency at times has led the Angels to look at other options at first.
So this off-season Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler pulled a potential rabbit out of his hat just before Spring Training started as he signed versatile corner infielder Luis Valbuena to a two-year contract. Valbuena can play both first and third base and also DH for the Angels and he is a left-handed bat with some pop which the Angels had been searching for.
Throughout the Spring, Angels manager Mike Scioscia had been hinting that Valbuena would get the majority of playing time at first base when the season started. However, a late Spring hamstring pull changed those plans at least for the first month of the season.
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Cron was awarded the starting first base job on opening day, but right on his heels was another potential candidate to unseat Cron at first and that is Jefry Marte. Marte is not left-handed but has shown good power and the ability to play multiple positions.
So why has C.J. Cron lost favor in the eyes of the Angels front office and coaching staff. I was curious about this so I asked Angels announcer Jose Mota, a veteran baseball man (son of former Dodgers player and hitting instructor Manny Mota). Mota said the answer is simple: Cron’s hitting versus left-handed pitching and his inconsistency for long stretches.
So I decided to look it up on Baseball Refernce.com and I saw exactly what Mota was talking about. There was a glaring difference between Cron’s numbers against righties, compared to how he hit right-handed pitching.
A right-handed batter is usually expected to hit lefties very well and be solid against right-handed pitchers. With C.J. Cron that has not been the case. For his career Cron has hit a total of 43 homers in three seasons and 34 of them have come against right-handed pitchers along with 122 RBI’s. This is compared to only nine bombs and 36 RBI’s against left-handed pitching. Cron also owns a career .273 average against righties, but only a .254 average against lefties.
This is not to mention slow starts in , 2015, and 2016 which saw Cron hit .194 in 2015 over the first 2.5 months of the season which led to his demotion to the minors before he went on a hot streak upon his promotion from the minors hitting .333 in July and August to make his numbers look respectable.
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In .2016 Cron hit just .250 in the first three months of the season before catching fire in mid-June and then July and August which brought his average from an abysmal .238 in late May to .290 at the end of August. What I also noticed was a .232 career batting average in September which means Cron seems to fade in the stretch run of the season.
Before I go any further I want to say that I really like C.J. Cron and think he has tremendous potential to be an above average first base in the Majors, but stats don’t lie. Now I wanted to compare this to Luis Valbuena’s numbers so I could make a more informed opinion on the matter at hand: Who should be the Angels primary first baseman?
The first thing that jumped out at me in regards to Luis Valbuena was he has a career 8.9 WAR(wins above replacement) as compared to C.J. Cron who has a 2.0 WAR. However, the numbers show that Valbuena has a career .234 average against right-handers with 70 homers and 208 RBI’s. Against lefties (Valbuena bats left) he hits only .221 with 13 homers and 61 RBI’s.
To me these numbers are not Earth-shattering and definitely don’t make me think that Valbuena should be given the primary first base job upon his return from the DL. However, I assume Scioscia has a hunch that Valbuena will perform better than Cron.
As for Marte his numbers read almost the same as Cron when you compare them as far as his batting average against lefties and righties. Marte hits .239 against righties and .244 vs. lefties but 12 of his 20 home runs are vs. righties and eight vs. lefties.
Next: The Angels will go as far as their pitching takes them
So in closing I do believe the Angels need more consistency at first base, but I don’t know if Luis Valbuena is that person. However, he is a lefty and has home run power, so I guess we will find out in the next few months. Stay tuned to Halo Hangout for updates.