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2006 Team Previews: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Positional Players

The 2005 Angels managed to win the division almost entirely on the strength of their starting pitching and their incredible bullpen. Who were the best players on the team offensively? Vlad Guerrero led the Halos with an EqA of .324, which was followed by Casey Kotchman at .284...not only a huge drop, but Kotchman only played in 75 games. From there, Chone Figgins, Bengie Molina and Adam Kennedy were the only other three above league average (or even their positional average EqA). So what did the Angels do to improve their offensive woes of the year before? They moved Darin Erstad to center, dumping Steve Finley on the Giants in exchange for Edgardo Alfonzo. I pick on Erstad often, but as a centerfielder, his bat is not as much of a liability, although he does lose some value with the glove. They inserted Casey Kotchman at first base, and a full season of his bat should certainly help. Other than that, they are playing the waiting game. Waiting for Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Kendry Morales of course. It is entirely possible that Kendrick appears in 2006; PECOTA loves him already, and I am very intrigued by his potential.

  • Acquired
  • No positional players
  • Lost
  • Jeff DaVanon
  • Lou Merloni
  • Bengie Molina
DaVanon would have been of more use in 2005 than in 2006, considering Steve Finley's troubles. Lou Merloni was a useful utility piece that can be replaced by one of the prospects mentioned above if necessary (or even by Adam Kennedy if he is displaced positionally). Ben Molina should be missed as the catcher, solely because he was one of the few Angels who could actually hit, and brother Jose certainly cannot do that. But this Molina can field behind the plate like brother Yadier in St. Louis. Can we combine all three Molina brothers into one uber-Molina please? I'd pay to see this happen. A catcher with a .270 EqA who fields brilliantly (according to the stats, not just Gold Gloves).

The rules are the same as last time. I'm using Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA Cards in order to assess the projected AVG/OBP/SLG of the new players. I am also calculating positionally adjusted Net Runs Above Average. If you've read any of the previous team reviews posted here, or already are full of wonderful NRAA (and pNRAA) knowledge, feel free to skip down to the section labeled Catcher

NRAA of course measures offensive and defensive value together in rate or cumulative form, depending on whether or not I leave it in per 100 game form, or if it is adjusted for games played. The idea behind pNRAA is -- you guessed it -- to adjust for positional differences. My favorite example so far is Darin Erstad. Using the raw figures for Net Runs Above Average, Erstad is an above average combination of offense and defense. In fact, he is considered to be worth 2.51 NRAA per 100 games (which from now on, will not have a per 100 games after it; NRAA is in the per 100 game form). Using the positional adjustment, Erstad's value drops all the way to -9.90; first base was the position with the most offensive contribution in 2005, and Erstad's adjusted numbers suffer for that. In fact, if Erstad was a league average defensive player rather than 9 runs above average per 100 games, his pNRAA would be -18.90, which is to say in my Boston speak, "wicked awful". With results like this for various players, I really enjoy what pNRAA brings to the table analysis wise.

AVG/OBP/SLG will be used along with pNRAA (remember, per 100 game form) and pNRAA/GP (Games Played).

2005: Bengie Molina .295/.336/.446; +4.93 pNRAA; +5.87 pNRAA/GP

2006: Jose Molina .227/.273/.339; +1.93 pNRAA; +0.85 pNRAA/GP

Interesting, interesting note here, and I think it bears mention, mostly because I am confused out of my mind. Jose Molina is projected to have a Rate of 111 this year, which is spectacular. The problem: He has a career Rate2 of 118, and the past two seasons, it has been 120 and 136, 2004 and 2005 respectively. The point of confusion stems from this idea: How do catchers earn that many defensive runs? Something about it seems wrong, and I cannot quite put my finger on it. I am awaiting a response via e-mail, so I'll let you know if I come to any sort of conclusion. One other thing to notice is that for all of Bengie's Gold Gloves, David Gassko's system, BPro's Rate, and David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range all say he is below average. Rarely do all three systems agree, so I take this as a sign that Bengie can't field (which is why he can hit; understand the talent distribution in the family?)

First Base
2005: Darin Erstad .273/.325/.371; -9.90 pNRAA; -15.15 pNRAA/GP

2006: Casey Kotchman .270/.328/.398; -5.09 pNRAA; -5.39 pNRAA/GP

Since I already picked on Erstad in the pNRAA introduction, I'll stick to talking about Kotchman in this space. I do not agree with PECOTA's assessment of Kotchman for 2006. I stated in a community projection that I thought Kotchman would hit .276/.348/.426 in 558 plate appearances, which looks a great deal like his 75th percentile projection of .284/.344/.428...we'll use that for a new 2006 pNRAA projection.

2006: Casey Kotchman .284/.344/.428; +2.32 pNRAA; +2.65 pNRAA/GP

That still seems a tad low, but much better than before. Kotchman needs to come up big in 2006 if the Angels want to compete with the revamped Athletics. Do I think he can? I think it would be unfair for me to say no to that question.

Second Base
2005: Adam Kennedy .300/.354/.370; +3.15 pNRAA; +4.07 pNRAA/GP

2006: Adam Kennedy .271/.332/.389; +3.99 pNRAA; +4.47 pNRAA/GP
2006: Howie Kendrick .298/.333/.471; +18.56 pNRAA; +24.50 pNRAA/GP

Adam Kennedy remains an above average second basemen, and is very useful to the Angels. That said, they lack offense, and an opportunity to dramatically upgrade in that capacity should not be turned down. PECOTA slyly suggests an alternative to Kennedy in Kendrick, to the tune of an additional +14.57 pNRAA. Is your enthusiasm tempered in comparison to this weighted mean projection? Well take a look at what Kendrick's pNRAA looks like using his 25th percentile line.

2006: Howie Kendrick .271/.305/.411; +4.50 pNRAA; +5.13 pNRAA/GP

The difference is no longer large enough to justify simply handing Kendrick the job, but that isn't the point of that calculation. I simply wanted to show that his low end projection is still a tad better than Kennedy's weighted mean; if he can latch on somewhere in between his 25th and weighted mean projections, the Angels would be quite happy with what they received. Kendrick is also a plus defender by the way, with a projected Rate or 105 after a 2005 season with 7 FRAA in the minors.

Third Base
2005: Dallas McPherson .244/.295/.449; -9.35 pNRAA; -5.70 pNRAA/GP
2005: Robb Quinlan .231/.273/.403; -13.91 pNRAA; -7.51 pNRAA/GP
2005: Maicer Izturis .246/.306/.346; -11.95 pNRAA; -9.20 pNRAA/GP
2005: Chone Figgins .290/.352/.397; +4.64 pNRAA; +7.34 pNRAA/GP

2006: Chone Figgins .274/.334/.383; +2.00 pNRAA; +3.04 pNRAA/GP
2006: Dallas McPherson .261/.330/.515; +15.71 pNRAA; +16.02 pNRAA/GP

I spent the first two minutes looking at the assortment of names for the Angels at third base in 2005, rather than thinking of what to write about them. Seriously though...Dallas? Maicer? Chone? This position is a name gold mine.

Anyways, Chone Figgins is the only one who showed any sort of ability to play third consistently. He fielded just a smidge above the league average, and his EqA of .271 was .006 above the league average for the position. He doesn't look to change much in 2006; Dallas McPherson on the other hand looks to rebound from his terrible 2005 campaign to put up one of the better seasons on the LAngels. Of course, McPherson's weighted mean projection from 2005 was .272/.351/.496, so I'm not sure I trust that until I see it in action. PECOTA may be having trouble with McPherson's inability to master the strike zone at the major league level, but I'm not sure I want to make an assumption like that without knowing the details of the system's inner workings. Plus, the system was worked on a great deal from what I've read, so it is possible that 2006's projection is more accurate than 2005's. We'll see.

Orlando Cabrera
2005: Orlando Cabrera .257/.309/.365; -1.79 pNRAA; -2.52 pNRAA/GP
2005: Maicer Izturis .246/.306/.346; -9.10 pNRAA; -7.00 pNRAA/GP

2006: Orlando Cabrera .262/.307/.368; -1.87 pNRAA; -2.41 pNRAA/GP
2006: Maicer Izturis .257/.326/.341; +0.06 pNRAA; +0.05 pNRAA/GP

It amazes me that the league average shortstops qualifications are so low that Orlando Cabrera and Maicer Izturis can come in directly below the league average. Both of their raw NRAA is about 5-6 runs further below average, which makes much more sense. I'm not complaining about Cabby or Maicer; more just generally mentioning that shortstop is a position missing a great deal of talent depth at the moment. A .256 EqA is average for the position, and there are more poor defensive shortstops than good ones holding everyday jobs in the majors, including Edgar Renteria, Michael Young and Russ Adams, who had Fielding Runs Above Average of -22, -21 and -23, respectively. This is a position that needs some more talent injected into it, and fast. It's no wonder players like Miguel Tejada and Derek Jeter are thought of so highly, and Jimmy Rollins can pull in that massive contract extension for being essentially a tad above league average. No worries though; shortly, Erick Aybar or Brandon Wood will take over at this position.

Left Field
2005: Garret Anderson .283/.308/.435; -14.83 pNRAA; -21.06 pNRAA/GP

2006: Garret Anderson .283/.314/.450; -3.00 pNRAA; -3.75 pNRAA/GP

Anderson continued his downward slide, falling to very detrimental run values in 2005. PECOTA expects a rebound, moving him much closer to league average. The Angels could certainly use that type of help, although a few of those extra runs come from a defensive improvement for Anderson. I think PECOTA may still be giving 2003 too much credit when calculating the weighted mean averages. Again, everyone's favorite copout, we'll see what happens. His 2005 projection was a tad too optimistic for me as well, but thats why we have the range of outcomes. On Edit: Rob McMillan points out in the comments that Anderson has plantar fascitis, which completely escaped me as I wrote this. PECOTA's projection makes more sense if you think that Anderson will have less issues with the foot as time goes on.

Center Field
2005: Steve Finley .222/.271/.374; -16.79 pNRAA; -18.81 pNRAA/GP
2005: Chone Figgins .290/.352/.397; +4.64 pNRAA; +7.34 pNRAA/GP

2006: Darin Erstad .264/.314/.364; -4.81 pNRAA; -6.06 pNRAA/GP

Erstad may not have the same defensive abilities he had in centerfield back in 2000-2003, considering he is now 32 years old. He also may take some time to get readjusted out there. That said, I left his Rate at 100, in order to avoid penalizing him. I'm of the mind that he can be a little better than that defensively, and bring himself closer to the league average. The Angels are much better off with Erstad in center; first off, he isn't playing first, and second off, Casey Kotchman is. I pick on Erstad a great deal, but in center, I should stop somewhat. No worries Rev.

Right Field
2005: Vlad Guerrero .317/.394/.565; +27.92 pNRAA; +39.23 pNRAA/GP

2006: Vlad Guerrero .314/.376/.546; +26.23 pNRAA; +35.15 pNRAA/GP

What can I say about Vladdy Daddy? If he is healthy, the Angels are contenders. If not...well, they better look out from below, because Texas is coming. Think the Yankees want to swap Sheffield for Vlad yet? On Edit: Vlad may start the season injured, says Rob in the same comment as before.

Designated Hitter
2005: Juan Rivera .271/.316/.454; -9.15 pNRAA; -9.70 pNRAA/GP
2005: Garret Anderson .283/.308/.435; -13.31 pNRAA; -18.90 pNRAA/GP
2005: Darin Erstad .273/.325/.371; -12.43 pNRAA; --19.02 pNRAA/GP
2005: Jeff DaVanon .231/.347/.311; -6.35 pNRAA; -6.85 pNRAA/GP

2006: Juan Rivera .277/.328/.432; -3.15 pNRAA; -2.59 pNRAA/GP

Juan Rivera is a fine choice for designated hitter if he can fulfill his projected line. To be honest, I think he'll perform a tad better; possibly .285/.335/.460 or so. With a constant position, I think he may hit a little more, especially when he doesn't have to worry about playing the outfield. Well, until Erstad gets injured and Anderson is forced to move to center with Rivera replacing him in left. Prior to that, good DH selection. Keeping DaVanon around and platooning him with Rivera may have been a better idea though; DaVanon has hit .315/.430/.472 against southpaws since 2003, while Rivera has hit .292/.344/.462 against righties. Interesting that 89% of DaVanon's at-bats since 2003 have come from his weaker side of the plate.

Let's take a look at the lineup using the assigned starters, and then the second one with Kendrick and McPherson's projected lines inserted.

  1. Projected Lineup
  2. Figgins
  3. Erstad
  4. Guerrero
  5. Anderson
  6. Kotchman
  7. Rivera
  8. Cabrera
  9. Kennedy
  10. Molina
This lineup is expected to score 4.513 runs per game, or 731 for the season. The Angels better hope the pitching can repeat last year's performance if they can only put up those many runs. Let's take a look at the lineup with McPherson and Kendrick, and a dash of Marc.
  1. Marc's Lineup
  2. Figgins
  3. Guerrero
  4. Kotchman
  5. McPherson
  6. Kendrick
  7. Anderson
  8. Erstad
  9. Molina
  10. Rivera
This lineup is expected to score 4.942 runs per game, or 801 runs. That is a massive difference, brought on most likely more by the addition of Kendrick and McPherson than anything done to the batting order itself. This should tell you just how much the Angels need offensive help from their young players...but you already knew that. By the way, I absolutely subbed Figgins in at shortstop over Cabrera. Why not? It's my lineup damnit.