By Ryan W. Krol
This is the part of the season where I begin assessing my postseason and World Series picks, and they usually are dictated by which teams rank the highest in team ERA and fewest runs allowed. Often times it can be pretty cut-and-dry as far as championship teams; World Series winners are usually the teams that rank in the top 3 in their respective league in ERA, runs allowed, quality starts, etc. But the more I searched, the more confusing the 2013 season became when analyzing the Angels... and Major League Baseball as a whole.
There is a great mystery surrounding the 2013 Angels. For a long time it appeared obvious as to why the Angels are losing so much, as it often does when assessing any team's win-loss record. Some of the statistics the Angels have put up this season are mind-boggling, but then again, so are many stats of other teams as well... even teams in the lead for playoff spots.
Starting pitching is supposed to be the team's biggest weakness!
That was the consensus among many people in and around Major League Baseball. The additions of Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson instead of Zack Greinke and/or Kyle Lohse cause many people to put up a red flag over the Angels in spite of many picking them as World Series contenders. I can't blame them. I was nervous as well.
What I found, however, might surprise people as much as it did me. The Angels are 11th in the American League with a 4.47 starters ERA. That's not very good. But here's the weird part: the Angels are tied with the Yankees for 8th in the AL with 59 quality starts. You'll never guess who is worse than they are in this category, and who is barely ahead of them.
Here are some 2013 AL rankings In quality starts...
7. Rays 60
8. Angels 59
9. Yankees 59
10. Orioles 57
11. Rangers 55
12. Indians 52
I don't get it. The Angels are getting more quality starts than four teams in the hunt, and are one shy of tying a fifth contender.
If you look at the National League, it's more obvious; the top seven teams in the NL in quality starts are all the top contenders in the Senior Circuit.
The only strange thing I've seen so far in NL starting pitching is the fact that the Cardinals' rotation is 6th in quality starts, but only 13th in Innings Pitched.
What about the Angels' rotation and innings pitched?
The Angels are actually tied with the A's for 7th in the AL in innings pitched! How is this possible if Oakland has such great pitching?
The Angels rotation also has logged more innings than Orioles, Rays, and Yankees.
What does this mean? Well, maybe we'll find out by looking deeper at additional categories.
The Angels have no bullpen depth!
This is a hard fact that for a while was being contradicted by the Angels' bullpen performing very well from late May through early July. However, a recent collapse that was the key ingredient in the Angels' 7-15 record since July 12.
The question still remains: How bad is the Angels' bullpen?
Here are some AL rankings in most blown saves...
1. Indians 20???
3. Orioles 17???
4. Red Sox 16???
5. Royals 14
8. Angels 13
10. Rays 12
13. A's 11
14. Yankees 6
15. Ranges 6
I don't know which stat confuses me more, this or the quality starts. The Angels led the Majors in 2012 with 25 blown saves, but it looks like they won't even come close to reaching that, and it looks like teams that are sniffing a playoff spot have bullpens that are way worse than the Halos at holding leads.
So what is the big issue here?
The Angels can't put innings or teams away late!
This is the first fact that is simple enough to see what the problem is. Coming into Friday, the Angels led the Majors by a wide margin with 232 two out runs -- the Washington Nationals came in with 202.
It would be pretty easy to say this is the big issue right? Wrong.
Here are some rankings in most 2 out Runs allowed...
9. Red Sox
The Angels actually are doing their job, for the most part, with runners in scoring position. They have the third fewest strikeouts with runners in scoring position, and are leading the AL in sacrifice flies with runners in scoring position and overall.
As a hole, the Halos' offense is in the top four in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, but they are only 7th in runs.
Why are they only 7th in runs despite having such good percentages and clutch stats?
Because the Angels are 12th in the AL in stolen bases both overall and with runners in scoring position; every AL contender but the Tigers is ahead of the Angels in the latter. As a result, the team has hit into the most double plays in the AL, and both these factors have cause the offense to have 81 of their 122 homeruns be solo shots, which is 66 percent! That's ridiculous, but that may be a major reason that even I had not discovered until just recently.
So what is the big issue with the Angels?
All of these scattered rankings all over Major League Baseball recently has me thinking more and more that the 2013 Angels are a fluke. They're actually 27-19 versus the AL East and AL Central, but they are 18-33 against their own division, and that can make or break a season.
Then again, so can the Halos' 14-22 record in one run games. That tells me this season could easily be the other way around (just like that), just as last year's Baltimore Orioles were suddenly turned around (on a dime) by their ridiculously dominant record in 1-run games.
I guess I can bring the Angels' records against the AL West and in 1-run games forward to the top two reasons the Angels are 52-62. Joe Blanton's season I still think is a major problem, dropping to number three; just a league average performance in place of him (Garrett Richards) would have the Angels right at .500. Then, factor in losing Jered Weaver for seven weeks, and Jason Vargas for six weeks to four and five.
Imagine if the Tigers lost Max Scherzer for seven weeks, especially when Justin Verlander is having roughly the same season CJ Wilson is having. Those problems are as obvious as it gets.
Then, I'm bringing veteran bullpen additions Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson staying sidelined as number four. I'll bring the errors forward to sixth on the list.
Because of how scattered the MLB team rankings are from category to category, everything else just gets lost in a huge shuffle concerning the Angels. So I think I'll have to leave the rest for readers to form their own conclusions as far as the list of reasons the Angels are where they are.
The most obvious observation anyone can make is that, while the Angels are collectively with the contending teams stat-wise, it is clear they have not been able to combine quality starting pitching, offense, defense and bullpen all at the same time. If they could, they would have been able to win more than seven in a row. They'll win four to eight in a row, and then they'll lose 4 in a row. Most of the season the Angels have not clicked on all cylinders, and so therefore there is no consistency.
There are also teams that are posting splits that on paper would make a last place team, but in the end you're either winning or you're not.
In any case, the 2013 Angels remain a mystery.