Thursday, December 20, 2012
How much have the Angels improved?
By David Schoenfield
Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com compares the WAR of the new additions to the Angels with the players they're essentially replacing from 2012:
Basically, the 2012 septet of Morales, Greinke, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Ervin Santana, Jordan Walden and LaTroy Hawkins is being replaced by the 2013 septet of Bourjos, Hamilton, Blanton, Vargas, Hanson, Madson and Burnett. If we’re going by Wins Above Replacement, as interpreted by FanGraphs.com, the Angels improved this offseason.
He reports the Angels losing 13.5 WAR but adding 15.9 WAR -- as I've pointed out, maybe not as large as Angels fans may like, in large part because Hunter was so good in 2012. On the other hand, that first figure includes a full season of Zack Greinke instead of the two months the Angels actually had him, so the gap is arguably a bit larger than 2.4 wins or so.
Still, while one Vegas oddsmaker has the Angels tied with the Dodgers in World Series odds, I'm not quite as high. I still think it's a team with some questions:
1. How good is the rotation of C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton behind Jered Weaver? Wilson was a disappointment in his first year with the Angels, his ERA rising nearly a run from the season before despite moving to a much friendlier pitching environment than in Texas. His walks increased, his strikeouts decreased and then he had offseason surgery to clean up his elbow. It was considered minor surgery, but you never know. Hanson, meanwhile, has battled shoulder problems and while he made 31 starts last year and won 13 games for the Braves, he was hit hard (27 home runs in 174 innings) and his durability is a question. Vargas is a solid but unspectacular innings eater and Blanton has been merely a replacement-level starter the past three seasons. Even Weaver has seen declining peripherals in recent years -- 4.31 SO/BB ration in 2010 to 3.54 to 3.16. He's still a great pitcher, but some of his greatness comes from the defense and park behind him.
2. How will Hamilton hit away from Texas? He has a .965 career OPS in Texas, but .765 in Anaheim.
3. How good will the bullpen be? Ryan Madson must return from Tommy John surgery and Ernesto Frieri has to prove he wasn't a one-year wonder. (I don't think he was, but he also may not be quite as dominant.)
4. It's probably fair to say that we shouldn't expect Mike Trout to play better, despite his age. Of course, he doesn't have to since he was the best player in baseball as a rookie.
5. Is Albert Pujols the .859 OPS hitter he was for the season (very good, but still easily a career low) or the .935 OPS hitter of the second half? Either way, it's important to note he's not the feared Pujols of old. Let's put it this way: I would certainly take the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder combo over Hamilton and Pujols.
6. Now that Peter Bourjos has a full-time job again, how will he hit? We know his defense will be Gold Glove-caliber, but many feel he overachieved at the plate in 2011.
The Angels certainly shape up as an oustanding club -- they won 89 games last year and it would be a mammoth disappointment not to win 90-plus in 2013. Will that be enough in the AL West? I still rate them a hair behind the A's and Rangers based on rotation strength. Who do you have right now?