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Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Can the Angels find first base in 2011?

By Mark Saxon

Just getting on base has never been as important to the Angels as it has been to most other teams -- they prefer measuring what happens after guys get there -- but last year things got ridiculous.

After finishing third in the majors with a .350 on-base percentage in 2010, the Angels plunged to 27th with a .311 OBP last year. It’s probably no coincidence they scored 202 fewer runs. Days seemed to go by with the Angels barely troubling an opposing first baseman to hold someone on.

Even Mike Scioscia, who walked copiously as a player but prefers slashing speedsters as a manager, recognized his team simply didn’t have enough “volume” on the bases in 2010.

“I think we will be better in that area this year,” Scioscia said earlier this spring.

Oh, really? How? The Angels seemed to fix the problem by acquiring yet another free swinger, Vernon Wells, a player with a .329 lifetime OBP. Last season, the major-league average was .325. Wells’ career high for walks in a season is 54. Barry Bonds used to reach that total by June 1.

Eventually, the Angels also will welcome Kendry Morales back, but his career OBP is .336, not exactly robust. The Angels project to have just one starter, Bobby Abreu, with a career OBP of better than .340.

Once again, this offense will rely heavily on base hits. The rule of thumb over the last decade or so: When the Angels bat .280 or better as a team (2002, 2004, 2007 and 2009), they score lots of runs. When they don’t hit that mark -- or fall way below it -- they scuffle.

The easiest way to describe the Angels' departure from most other teams: They simply don't value walks.

No team in baseball is more batting average-dependent than the Angels. The good news is you only have to glance at a box score at any point of the season to see how they’re doing.