Welcome To The Second Installment In My Season Preview Series!
In this segment, I will be analyzing the 2014 Angels offense and bench, as well as providing projections and brief comparisons to other past offenses the Angels have featured which were similar in make up. The season is just around the corner, so I'll just cut to the chase.
What Is the Angels Biggest Strength?
The offense is going to be good this season. I mean really good. Some say it will be key because of the Angels' thin pitching, and that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will need big years. Considering how well rounded the offense was last season; they may not even need great years from Pujols or Hamilton. A glut of minor league signings has also given the club a very deep bench. So barring major injuries, the offense will be the team’s biggest strength no matter what.
Show Me Some Projections!
Projected Starting Lineup:
Kole Calhoun (LH/RF) .283 BA / .352 OBP / 16 HR / 75 RBI / 12 SB/ 120 OPS+
Mike Trout (RH/CF) .352 BA / .471 OBP / 32 HR / 120 RBI / 43 SB / 187 OPS+
Albert Pujols (RH/1B) .313 BA / .379 OBP / 34 HR / 112 RBI / 132 OPS+
Josh Hamilton (LH/LF) .290 BA / .345 OBP / 32 HR / 117 RBI 124 OPS+
David Freese (RH/3B) .271 BA / .339 OBP / 16 HR / 83 RBI / 110 OPS+
Raul Ibanez (LH/DH) .249 BA / .303 RBI / 19 HR / 57 RBI / 102 OPS+
Howie Kendrick (RH/2B) .303 BA / .359 OBP / 14 HR / 71 RBI / 15 SB / 112 OPS+
Chris Iannetta (RH/C) .257 BA / .365 OBP / 11 HR / 45 RBI / 105 OPS+
Erick Aybar (SH/SS) .281 BA / .337 / 9 HR / 32 RBI / 27 SB / 103 OPS+
Hank Conger (SH/C) .253 BA / .310 OBP / 8 HR / 29 RBI / 95 OPS+
Grant Green (RH/IF) .263 BA / .313 OBP / 1 HR / 23 RBI / 105 OPS+
John McDonald (RH/IF) .241 BA / .296 OBP / 2 HR / 12 RBI / 87 OPS+
J.B. Shuck (LH/OF) .276 BA / .320 OBP / 1 HR / 19 RBI / 113 OPS+
As one might have noticed, I have all nine players in the Angels’ projected lineup with OPS+ over 100. The 2009 team actually featured this. So it is very much a possibility. In fact, there’s a good chance this team could see it’s best offense in franchise history. I don’t mean in terms of most runs, but things like OPS+. We all know Mike Trout will have an astronomical OPS+, as well as other statistics. But there are a lot of players on the Angels that are at least above average or better. It’s a very well balanced offense. If one things this may be far-fetched, the career averages of these players can add evidence to the argument.
So What Are Those Career Averages?
Below are the projected lineups with career 162 game averages:
Kole Calhoun .271 BA / .336 OBP / .436 SLG / 118 OPS+
Mike Trout .314 BA / .404 OBP / .544 SLG / 187 OPS+
Albert Pujols .321 BA / .410 OBP / .599 SLG / 165 OPS+
Josh Hamilton .295 BA / .354 OBP / .530 SLG / 131 OPS+
David Freese .286 BA / .356 OBP / .427 SLG / 115 OPS+
Raul Ibanez .276 BA / .338 RBI / .471 SLG / 113 OPS+
Howie Kendrick .292 BA / .329 OBP / .429 SLG / 107 OPS+
Chris Iannetta .234 BA / .355 OBP / .417 SLG / 101 OPS+
Erick Aybar .277 BA / .317 OBP / .386 SLG / 93 OPS+
Hank Conger .225 BA / .295 OBP / .368 SLG / 87 OPS+
Grant Green .250 BA / .301 OBP / .343 SLG / 83 OPS+
John McDonald .235 BA / .274 OBP / .327 SLG / 60 OPS+
J.B. Shuck .290 BA / .335 OBP / .359 SLG / 97 OPS+
There is an endless plateau of balanced production in the starting lineup. In 2013, the Angels had eleven players overall with OPS+ over 100. That was second only to the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Almost all of those players will be back in 2013. Mark Trumbo will no longer be there. Alberto Callaspo is gone. But Raul Ibanez, Kole Calhoun (in-house), and David Freese are here now, bringing their OPS+ over 100 in 2013 with them. The bench is also deep, and could spell injuries very well. Having such good balance; production at every position; a lot of depth; and three players recently labeled the best in the game (including now) is a recipe for a very dangerous offense.
How Exactly Does This Offense Compare With The Best Angels’ Offenses?
One might find this hard to believe, but the 2013 Angels’ offense had better all around production than their 2009 offense, which set the franchise record for runs scored. In fact, the 2013 offense was more balanced and productive than the 2002 Angels. Really! OPS+ is adjusted for league average and era, and the 2013 Angels had an OPS+ of 110. In 2002 it was at 105. In 2009 it was 108. Keep in mind that this comparison is about balance and all around production, and not so much about the amount of power and actual runs scored. The lineup the Angels have right now has good on-base percentage from top to bottom, with much of that coming from damage with the bat, much like their '02 and '09 teams. Plus, those teams didn’t have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton.
So Do The Angels Really Need Big Years From Pujols And Hamilton?
The amount of players the Angels have with career OPS+ over 100 could make a Bill James case study. It has been proven that you can have a winning offense with above average or better talent/production at every position. This fact is how the Angels offense absorbed the struggles of Pujols and Hamilton in '13, and can easily do the same if needed in '14. Setting that aside though, one might be surprised at my projected numbers for Pujols and Hamilton. But even those numbers are on the lower end of their career averages. Either of them can easily bounce back. Unless they’re 38 and broken down, no player of their type just falls off a cliff and is done. In any case, the Angels have so many players that can give at least above average to good production, they could possibly have their best offense ever.
This Team Might Be Fun To Watch Again!
It may be a stretch to call out the offense as being possibly the best in Angels’ history. But I think there is more room to project that than maybe... the starting rotation. Not that the rotation is bad; they're young again, and the front office just acquired a young swing man. They are slowly creating overall depth. So while I don’t see the Angels necessarily dominating on the pitching end, their offense could still give them a wide enough run differential to allow them to contend with the now banged up A’s and Rangers. But whatever the Angels do, there will be plenty of offense to go around. Now it's time to apply this offense to the season.