The date was December 13th, 2012. I had just stepped outside of my work to take a short break. I pulled out my phone and opened up twitter to see if anything was going that day with the Angels. Jerry Dipoto had said a couple of days earlier when the Winter Meetings were winding down that the Halos were satisfied with their roster as it was, and that he didn’t anticipate that they would be making anymore moves. We fans weren’t content with it, but it was what it was. Arte had gotten his wish and had dropped the payroll from a franchise record $159 million down to a more manageable $145 million.
Of course, after last season, we should’ve learned to not take anything that Dipoto says at face value. With that in mind, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that word was already spreading like a brush fire about the Angels newest acquisition. Josh Hamilton had agreed to terms that would turn out to be a five year $125 million dollar contract. Twitter had exploded, and my eyes needed to be put back into their sockets. Debates now centered around, “Who was going to hit third?” and, “Who is going to be traded?” We wondered about how well this new lineup stacked up against the other lineups of the American League. This was exciting. This was Pandemonium. This is why they are the Angels and not the Astros.
The debate over trade chips raged on for the next six days. We speculated over who the team could reasonably get, and who we dreamed about getting. What packages could be put together to be able to pry some team’s Ace away from them. Or what cost controlled, pre arbitration player might be had if the Angels were willing to throw Garrett Richards into a deal. On December 19th, Dipoto dealt Kendrys Morales to Seattle for Jason Vargas, ending the speculation. A new arm had been brought into the fold, and the logjam that existed between the first base, DH and outfield positions had been cleared out. With regards to the outfield, it was now set. Peter Bourjos would reclaim center field, Mike Trout will move over to left field and the newly signed Josh Hamilton will be holding down right field. The outfield at the Big A was now a place where fly balls were going to die.
In all the chatter about the lineup positioning, and the crazy good outfield defense that this team was on the brink of displaying, the one thing fans didn’t touch on was how high the production ceiling is when you combine what these three can do at the plate. The whole idea had completely escaped our collective heads. At least, it had in the sense that fans weren’t discussing it on whatever social media platform it was that they preferred to debate such topics. Then, Buster Olney tweeted this.
If LAA get 145-150 game out of Hamilton, and Bourjos is the third outfielder w/Trout, you wonder if this trio can threaten 90 HRs, 90 SBs.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 1, 2013
90 home runs. 90 stolen bases. He mentioned in another tweet that he didn’t see 100/100 being too far out of the realm of possibility, but decided to stick with 90/90 as the “safe bet.” It doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea just looking at the cold hard numbers. But, when put into the context of history, it brings to light just how special that accomplishment would be should those totals be reached.
Unfortunately, as wonderful a creation as Baseball Reference’s Play Index is, its search interface doesn’t allow for the exact search I want to do with regards to this exercise. So, I settled for eyeballing. If I had tons of extra time, I would have searched back through all 2,326 results I got with the criteria I entered. I don’t have that kind of time, nor will my undiagnosed ADD allow me to stand at my laptop and sift through all the possible matches. So, I went back 31 years. I expected that the 1982 A’s would have hit the magic numbers that Buster mentioned, what with Rickey Henderson’s 130 steals skewing it a bit. Nope. The mid 90’s Rockies with Dante Bichette and Larry Walker providing the thump (and some surprising speed) in the pre humidor days a mile above sea level. Nope. The Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner led Mariners? Still nope. In fact, in the last 31 years, not once has a team hit the 90/90 mark, and only one team has come close. That team, the 1990 and 1991 Oakland A’s.
The Jose Canseco (insert asterisk now), Rickey Henderson and Dave Henderson led outfield is the only team that comes in above the 80/80 mark, and narrowly misses the 90/90 plateau. And I know what you’re thinking, “If only Jose had had just one more vile steroids,” right? In 1990, the trio combined for 85 home runs and 87 stolen bases. In 1991, 87 home runs and 92 stolen bases. So close. What does this tell me about the 90/90 number that Olney threw out to the masses on twitter? It tells me that in the last 30 years, not even a juiced up freak like Jose Canseco coupled with one of the best base stealers of all time in Rickey Henderson (41st in career stolen base percentage. No slouch to be sure, but not the best) could top that number. THAT is what I get from seeing those numbers put together.
Now that I’ve spoken about “those who wear white shoes” for long enough. First I’m going to clean myself, and then I’m going to legitimize the claim. Be right back.
Phew, that feels better. Where was I? Oh yeah, legitimization. We’ll start with Hamilton since he is the only one with an actual track record amongst the three. If you are expecting speed (not THAT speed) from tattooey, don’t. He may have been a five tool star when he got drafted, but he certainly is not that now. But power, oh yeah. The last five years in Texas Hamilton’s home run totals were 32, 10 (in 89 games), 32, 25 and 43 last year. Even with his crazy slump last year, he still finished the season with a .577 SLG%. And I wouldn’t be too concerned about the marine layer playing a factor with this signing. The Big A is famous for stopping would be home runs at the warning track, but it still plays up to power hitters who generally hit the ball to right and right center field.
Well would you look at that. That’s a lot of power out towards right field. The key to Hamilton’s success however, lies also with one Mark Trumbo. Should Trumbo be consistent this year, Hamilton will have protection in the form of a masher glaring out at the mound from the batting circle. Should Trumbo be more like his second half of 2012 self however, Hamilton is going to have no one behind for pitchers to fear. And as good as he was in Texas, having Nelson Cruz behind him in that lineup, definitely played a part in him being as productive as he was.
Shoot across to the other foul line and we have everybody’s favorite wonder boy, Mike Trout. There really is nothing to be said that hasn’t been said already. He’s a power speed combination that the Angels have NEVER had, and the likes of which have not been seen in Major League Baseball in a long, long time. Even if Trout regresses next year from other worldly to simply awesome, he still could put up another 30-30 season. Trout was better than any other hitter in baseball when it came to making in game adjustments in 2012. And with his speed, slumps won’t last long. Is he going to put up a 10.7 bWAR in 2013? Probably not. But the smart money says that the Millville Meteor will put up good to great numbers this season, cementing himself as one of the game’s elite players.
The linchpin of this ramble fest though, is Peter Bourjos. In case you have forgotten, Bourjos put up a .271/.327/.438 slasher film line in 2011. Good enough for an OPS+ of 116 and an oWAR (offensive Wins Above Replacement) or 3.6 according to Baseball Reference and a total bWAR of 4.8. Side note, Baseball Reference ranks a WAR of 5.0 or better as playing at an All Star level. By that line of thinking, Peter Bourjos played at an All Star level in 2011. Is he going to provide a ton of pop? No. But it would not surprise me if he snuck up on people hitting 20 home runs. Where Pete will really have an impact on this is with his legs.
So far in his short career, Pete’s SB% sits at an above average 73%, but with a career high of 22 stolen bases, he’s going to have to get on base more often to be a serious threat on the base paths. A start would be to keep his SO/BB ratio heading in the right direction. Even with sporadic playing time last year he was able to drop it from 3.88 in 2011 to 2.93 last year. It is not too much of a stretch to think that that number will get better in 2013.
The real question is, will it be ENOUGH better? In my opinion, not in 2013 it won’t. Pete’s walk rates and OBP were in the average to maaaaaaaybe a tick above average in the minors. So far with the big club, it has been meh at best. Hey, I can’t be sunshine and rainbows all of the time.
Just because 2013 probably won’t be the year, doesn’t mean that 2014 or 2015 won’t be the year that this happens. This is still a feat that has not happened, at least not in the last 30 years, it may not have ever happened before. Just knowing that this outfield alignment is already being regarded in that light, is special enough for me. Especially since one is coming off of his rookie season, another is coming off a season where he was the fourth outfielder, and the last is coming off a season where he was booed out of town because of a terrible slump. THAT is how much potential these three players have when they are grouped together on one team. And THAT is pretty special.