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Why Angels, Tigers are winning

Pitching has keyed turnarounds for both Los Angeles and Detroit

Originally Published: May 28, 2012
By Paul Swydan | FanGraphs

The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels entered the season with lofty expectations, and neither squad has delivered on them quite yet. The Angels rank 19th in this week's ESPN Power Rankings, while the Tigers place one spot better at 18th. But while they are still both in the lower half of the rankings -- and below .500 -- both Detroit and Los Angeles are playing better in May than they did in April, and it's due mainly to their pitching.

It's true that the Angels bottomed out in the rankings at the end of April, falling to 24th, at which point they finally called up Mike Trout. It's also true that since his call-up he's been the Angels' most valuable position player -- and that they never should have sent him to the minors in the first place. But the decision to play Trout hasn't come without a cost for the Angels, because in doing so they chose to marginalize Peter Bourjos.

In the 22 games between when Trout was called up and Vernon Wells injured his thumb, Bourjos started just six times while Wells started 18 times, despite the fact that he is one of the worst players in the game. Entering Sunday's action, only eight position players in baseball have been more of a drag on their teams, according to win probability added. Bourjos hasn't played nearly as well, but even in his limited action, he's been more valuable than Wells.

But while Trout's play came with a cost, it has more than been made up for by the Angels' stellar pitching.

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