California Disappointment Playbook
Part One (Fielders/Batters) of Two
With the Angels losing to the Boston Red Sox today to the score of 10-5, the team finds itself 9 games under .500 at 27-36, firmly placing the squad into mediocrity, not good enough to be over .500 but not as bad as let’s say, the Miami Marlins. This has been a trying season and the most frustrating part of it has most likely been that it’s nearly impossible to think of one trait for the Angels that could be fixed and really “make a dent”, if you will.
That’s where I looked around and tried to do some research, which proved to be equally surprising and at the same time, predictable. There is a direct lack of explanation as to why Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, ETC. have been producing at such a low rate and on the other side, you can’t exactly praise the Halos for taking Jerome Williams out of the rotation but perhaps, there is an explanation for all of this.
Let’s take a look and see what changes could be had, shall we?
Mike Trout – OF
Trout has been having a mildly disappointing season so far, posting what has been, to this point, statistics that would end up being worse than last season, across the board. If anyone has been dependable however, it’s Trout. He leads every eligible fielder/hitter on the team with a WAR of 3.2 but when you look at last season’s 10.0 WAR score, it gets you thinking. For Trout to get back to where he was in 2012, his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) would have to increase, although he may have no say in the matter. In 2012, it was .383 and now in 2013, it’s .340.
Albert Pujols – 1B/DH
With a batting AVG of .240 and SLG of .412, it’s been déjà vue all over again for Pujols, as this may just be how Albert plays in the beginning of every season. That 10 year contract is already making Angels fans sweat with fear and really, they have every reason to. Even with the disappointing season in 2012 (despite Pujols “picking it up” for a good part of 2012), if things stay the same, this will officially be the worst year statistically for Pujols. With a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) in the field of -1.4, this would be his most lacking defensive season as well, seeing as he’s only had one other negative statistic season in his career, which would be 2011, his last season with the St. Louis Cardinals. It already may be too late for Pujols but if he’d like to get back to his normal self (or past normal self), he’d be wise to be more selective at the plate, as he has a 12.4 K% rate, the highest of his career. If he can start taking less strikes or swinging at terrible pitches, that may be all he needs.
Howie Kendrick – 2B
Kendrick has actually been quite good in 2012 so far, hitting .328 (which would be the highest AVG of his entire career, save his first year in AAA in 2006, where he hit .369), slugging .479 (highest of his big league career) and a WAR of 1.7. If you’re an Angels fan, just hope that when his BABIP falls from .372, that Kendrick won’t get discouraged and go into a double play binge, leaving a giant hangover for all of Anaheim. Then again, if Kendrick gets hot at the plate, he may just end up being the most valuable player on the entire team.
Josh Hamilton – OF/DH
Speaking of hangovers, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton has had one of the most frustrating and disappointing seasons in recent memory, making fans lust for the times when all they had to worry about was Albert Pujols hitting under the Mendoza Line in April. Hamilton’s batting statistics are down and horrible across the board, most terrifying indeed. The AVG (.216), SLG (.385), OBP (.278) are just horrible and at this point, Hamilton is looking not only like the biggest risk the Angels have ever taken but also, the biggest bust. With an albatross of a contract, Hamilton may not ever be the same at this point, a risk every team knew could come to truth. Along with Pujols, Hamilton’s only chance at succeeding is to get over this deep funk he’s in and start to be more selective on what he’s going to drive, pull or just straight up launch over the fences. He’s got a 24.7 K% rate and if you’re striking out a quarter of the time you go up to bat, you are not only underperforming, you are putting all of the efforts that your teammates are putting up to waste. If there’s anyone that may not recover this season even if the Halos do, it is surely Hamilton.
Peter Bourjos – OF
“Trying” wouldn’t be the exact word I’d use for Bourjos’ time with the Angels so far but the perfect definition is around that area, seeing as he’s seen trade rumors and injuries with every potential rise to superstardom. Bourjos has only seen 22 games of action so far in 2013 but he’ll soon return, when he should improve on what has been a quality season so far, when he can stay in the outfield. Currently, he’s hitting .313, 12 runs scored in 22 games and of course, the stellar defense he always brings. Bourjos may have a similar effect like what Mike Trout had for the Angels in 2013 but it’ll have to start happening pretty soon.
Chris Iannetta – C
Iannetta has been a walking machine in 2013 with a BB% rate of 19% with his next best performance in that category coming in 2011 with the Colorado Rockies with a rate of 16.4%. What makes the 19% stand out is that besides the 16.4% season, his BB% has stood around 10-11% for most of his career. With the added bases on balls, his .214 AVG doesn’t seem as bad as one would think and take note that he’s had 20 RBI’s, which has very little to do with his own production but when a catcher is putting up runs in almost half of a team’s games, well that’s fantastic. With a WAR of 0.7, Iannetta is quietly making a surprising and perhaps even stunning season.
Erick Aybar – SS
Aybar has been a puzzle in 2013 with a WAR of -0.1 (yes, negative), effectively making him what is deemed to be a “replaceable” player, which seems about right but will never happen. Aybar is never going to give you a lot of walks (2.3% BB Rate) but he’s walking less than he ever has, which is highly troubling when you have an AVG of .267, his lowest in three years. Although his patience at the plate and questionable tactics are troubling, his biggest problem is his defense. Aybar’s UZR is -2.4, his worst since 2010, when it was -2.8. What makes the poor defense stick out is that besides the 2010 year, his UZR is around the 2-5 range. For Aybar to help the squad, he needs to focus on his defense, especially if he’s going to disappoint at the plate.
Mark Trumbo – OF/1B
The Great Trumbino is on track to have a year very similar to 2012, when he did his part in trying to get the Halos to the playoffs. Trumbo sports a WAR of 1.8, right around 2012’s 2.2, 15 HR’s and in what may be the most exciting part of his production, he’s walking more and striking out less. For Anaheim to have any hope of sniffing the playoffs, Trumbo will surely have to continue his ways at the plate and if Trumbo wants to have a huge season, he could possibly settle into his spot in the outfield and bring up his UZR, which is right around the median. If Trumbo becomes more of an asset in the outfield instead of an occasional liability, I’d bet my money on him being the person who brings this team together.
Alberto Callaspo – 3B
Many were calling for Callaspo to lose his job at the hot corner to Luis Jimenez and although that hasn’t happened yet, “little Albert” may still end up on the bench, where he’s currently sporting a 0.0 WAR and some terrible fielding to boot, literally. Callaspo is hitting .243, which would stand to be his worst AVG in the big leagues since 2007, not the kind of production you’d expect from someone manning third base. A replacement may soon be coming to the Angels in the form of a trade or possibly, the team is more worried about their pitching. Still, one must wish that Callaspo could at least field his position at an average rate instead of having a UZR of -3.1. I want to be professional but seriously, that is terrible and The Third Base/Mark Trumbo Experience esque. Wow.
Hank Conger – C
I’ll be honest, I want to believe in Hank Conger and I want to believe he’ll “put it all together” at some point but for 2013, this isn’t looking like the year and there’s just not a lot of time left, if any at all. To play on the Angels, you have to be able to field your position and with his second lowest Fielding Percentage of his career besides his rookie season in 2013, it’s a little worrisome. With only 29 games played, it’s a small sample size but perhaps at the plate, Conger can try to strike out less, a whole lot less. Conger has a K% rate of 24.4% and that’s by far the lowest he’s had in years. Again though, sample size. The truth is that with the Angels’ current manager, Conger’s time probably isn’t going to come.
J.B. Shuck – OF
Good ‘ole J.B. reminds me of old Angels outfielder Reggie Willits and although seeing that name just made a lot of fans cringe and possibly cry in hysterics, it’s not all bad. This is Shuck’s first real season in the big leagues and really, he just needs to improve his defense. When Peter Bourjos got injured, all looked to be lost and I can’t say Shuck has done the worst of jobs in what is sure to be a short stint as a regular player. However, I did take a look at his UZR in the outfield and it’s -2.3. Is that Mo Vaughn out there? Fielding, that’s my shucking problem.
Andrew Romine – SS
He’s hitting .130. In 16 games, he is hitting .130. One thirty. Not even tree fiddy. One. Three. Zero.
Brendan Harris – SS
In 33 games, Harris has a .224 AVG, is striking out 23.4% of the time and his UZR is -6.0. Yes, negative six. What in the hell is this, drunken backyard baseball where the ball is a Beanie Baby?
Luis Jimenez – 3B
No one will ever confuse Jimenez with an established Major League hitter but when you look at his fielding and UZR of 4.2, you have to wish he’d have more time to play. He may end up getting his chance and I honestly hope he does. Any semblance of a bat along with his glove is just sprinkles on top of the hot strawberry sundae.
Chris Nelson – 3B
Let’s be honest here, Nelson probably won’t stick around the team for too long as he’s jumped around the league so far in 2013 but if he does stay on the team, he’ll have to improve across the board, especially with his fielding. A UZR of -2.7 is just not acceptable for a bench player that’s not going to bring much offense, especially in the American League now.