Friday, September 29, 2017

Three reasons the Angels lost out on the playoffs

The geography-challenged "Los Angeles" Angels (they apparently dropped the "of Anaheim" from their official name this season) missed out on the playoffs this year. Again. A decade ago, much like the Twins of the same period, they were pretty much an annual fixture, but they've reached the tournament once in the previous seven seasons, and this makes it eight.

Three specific reasons the Angels failed to surpass the Twins:

* Mike Trout, aka the Best Player in Baseball, missed more than six weeks with an injury. His absence included both series against the Twins.

Trout played 159 games each of the previous two seasons, and he's at 111 entering the final weekend. Let's say the injury cost him 45 games, which probably isn't precicely accurate but serves our purposes.

Baseball Reference credits Trout with 6.2 WAR: roughly 0.056 Wins Above Replacment per game. Multiply the missing 45 games by that rate, and we get about 2.5 WAR lost to the injury.

We'll be conservative and round it down: The Angels lost, by this estimate, two wins because of Trout's absence.

* Ricky Nolasco.

The starting rotation had a high attrition rate. Three men who combined for 31 starts (J.C. Ramirez, Matt Shoemaker and former Twins prospect Alex Meyer) are currently on the 60-day disabled list, and Garrett Richards -- expected to be their top starter -- was limited to six starts.

Few rotations make it through the season unscathed, of course. But the one member of the rotation who made it through the entire season was another former Twin, Ricky Nolasco. And he was terrible.

BR has Nolasco's WAR at 0.7, which means he's still marginally better than the "free" talent available at Triple A. So we won't go overboard in this What-If experiment in which Nolasco doesn't pitch for the Angels.

Imagine that they went 12-20 in those starts, just two games improvement. Coupled with a healthy Trout, they've gained four games on the Twins

* Albert Pujols.

Pujols is, as mentioned a few times this season, an flash point in the still-festering split between old-school and new-school stats.

Old school: Pujols has 100 RBIs! He's a run producer!

New school: Pujols's WAR is -1.7. He's limited to DH, his OPS+ is 18 percent below league average, he leads the majors in grounding into double plays. He is the worst regular in baseball.

No surprise: I side with the new school thinkers on this. Once a week or so Phat Albert will run into a pitch (23 homers). And he did hit better with men in scoring position than without.

But the gaudy RBI count is largely a product of spending the entire season hitting third or fourth and behind Trout when Trout was in the lineup. He gets that prime lineup real estate because he's ALBERT PUJOLS, arguably the greatest first baseman in major league history, and he's getting paid $24 million a year.

And the contract has four more seasons to run.

Anyway: Let's be conservative again and say that Pujols only cost the Angels one win. This brings my total to five games. Remember: We've rounded down on Trout and Pujols and didn't get aggressive in dumping Nolasco.

That is exactly the margin by which the Twins lead the Angels this morning.


  1. Interesting perspective, how trash bogs a team down.

    But, if you are speculating, to be meaningful, add back to the Twins more than a month of Sano, and the pitchers lost for the season ... maybe the margin stays the same?

    In the end, Molitor and the Twins got the job done with duct tape or whatever, the Angels did not!

    Appreciate the grit and sandpaper of this club.

  2. Grit and sandpaper help build a sawhorse, much less valuable for a baseball team.

  3. Mike Trout had never been on the DL before. Sano has had three lengthy DL stints in two seasons, plus one entirely lost year to injury. Not the same thing.