With a lineup full of power and speed, the 2013 Angels have a variety of tools to score runs. However, the most important factor of this year will not be home runs or steals, but the all-powerful base on balls. The walk is going to be the difference between this year's Angels ending the year like the 2012 Angels or like 2002.
I started the research for this article by looking at trends during recent winning and losing seasons by the Angels. I took in to consideration home runs, strikeouts, steals, caught stealing, walks, etc. Outside of the 2009 season, in which they had high numbers in ALL of those categories, there were two inverse trends that jumped out at me....walks and strikeouts.
In the 2010-2012 seasons, the Angels had 452 walks and 1441 strikeouts per season (3.1 strikeouts per walk). Between 2005 and 2008, they were at 480 walks and 908 strikeouts per season (1.8 strikeouts per walk). This 41% difference could be why they had 3 division crowns between 2005 and 2008 and none in the last three years.
Are Walks THAT Important?
Over the last decade, the Yankees and Red Sox have made taking as many pitches as possible a top priority. They have made everyone come to them...and they've hit the *&$@#&^ off the ball because of it. They slow the game down, methodically put guys on base with the walk, then hit them home in one swing. The walk is the setup to a big inning. The Angels arguably have a better lineup top to bottom than either of these teams in their prime, but need to be patient in order to achieve their potential.
There are many good starting rotations in the MLB, but there are only a few bullpens that scare anyone. If you can get to the bullpen an inning early, you'll win several extra games throughout the season.
Just look at the Angels' bullpen over the last few years. They knew at least a few of them were going to get some work almost every night. It was a struggle and left them completely exposed late in the season. They were tired and it showed.
Rest For Your Starter
One of the most frustrating things in the 2012 season was to watch Santana give up runs in the first, and then watch the 1, 2, 3 guys for the Angels swinging at every first pitch in the bottom half. Ervin was back out on the mound in no time and I was back at the fridge for another beer.
Get a Pitch to Hit
Watching Trumbo and Howie whiff by a foot is embarrassing. If Josh, Albert and Trumbo can make a struggling pitcher take just a few more chances with fastballs, they're going to make them pay. However, (especially) Josh and Trumbo will be seeing many more breaking balls in a 0-1 count....not good. Patience will help them get that fastball.
Get in to the Head
I don't have any way to back this up statistically, but walking a guy or two in an inning has long term affects for a starting pitcher. More guys to worry about on base and more pitching from the stretch is a good thing.
Increased Chances to Steal
Aybar, Trout, and PBJ all strike out too much. They have the ability to leg out grounders, so it is even more important for them to get a pitch to hit. Any grounder just hit to the backhand of the shortstop means we've got an exciting play coming up. A few extra base runners, a few extra steals, a few extra runs, a few extra wins...playoffs.
Wear on Bullpen
The total wear and tear on a bullpen may not matter for any one game, but the Angels may see these teams late in the season or again in the playoffs. A season-long assault on a team's bullpen could be the difference in the post-season.
The Angels' Lineup Has Protection
This post would be completely irrelevant if we were talking about a team that had a solid #3 guy and that's it. However, depending on how Mike Scioscia treats the #2 spot, the Angels will have protection all the way from the leadoff spot through Trumbo at 5. A walk means a potential run. If the Angels are patient, they'll cut down on threat-ending double play balls as well.
Patience is the key to the Angels winning the division in 2013. A walk just isn't a guy on base, it's a situation setup and and emotional advantage.
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