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Josh Hamilton: Are the 2013 Angels better than the 2012 Angels?

This is not an analysis of the mammoth 5-year, $125 million contract that Josh Hamilton signed today.

Jamie Squire

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were a very good team in 2012.

In total, they were worth a 47.4 wins above replacement (FanGraphs), mainly because of their stellar offense and defense. Under FanGraphs' model, a replacement level team would win about ~43 games; thus, the Angels should have won about 90 games in 2012. They won 89.

For the rest of this piece, I'm going to have some fun with my less than accurate crystal ball and some running WAR totals.

Let's begin...

At the end of 2012, the Angels had a 90-win roster.

This off-season (or during last season) they lost:

  • Dan Haren (1.8 fWAR)
  • Zack Greinke (1.3 fWAR)
  • Jordan Walden (0.5 fWAR)
  • Hisanori Takahashi (0.2 fWAR)
  • Ervin Santana (-0.9 fWAR)
  • LaTroy Hawkins (-0.1 fWAR)
  • Jason Isringhausen (-0.3 fWAR)
  • Torii Hunter (5.3 fWAR)
  • Bobby Abreu (-0.2 fWAR)
  • Maicer Izturis (0.7 fWAR)

Those players were worth a total of 8.3 wins in 2012.

That is the number the Angels would need to make-up this off-season if they expect to get back to being a 90-win ballclub -- and to possibly miss out on the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Running Tally: 82-win roster

Players they acquired:

  • Ryan Madson (1.4 fWAR)*
  • Sean Burnett (1.1 fWAR)
  • Joe Blanton (2.4 fWAR)
  • Tommy Hanson (1.0 fWAR)
  • Josh Hamilton (4.4 fWAR)

*Madson's WAR total is a three year average of his value over 2009-11

In 2012 (sort of) these players combined to be worth 10.3 wins.

In theory, if 2013 was 2012 (which of course it is not) the Angels will be two wins better next season (91-92 win team) and most likely make the post-season.

Running Tally: 92-win roster.

The only problem is I'm making far too many assumptions with this analysis.

Critical Assumptions:

  • All of players on the Angels roster will not improve or decline from their 2012 WAR totals
  • The Angels will not trade Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos before the season starts
  • The Angels will be able to find 90 replacement-level innings to make-up for the loss of Greinke
  • Hanson will be healthy enough to start 30+ games
  • Madson will return to pitching at the same level he did before Tommy John surgery
  • The addition of the Astros to the AL West and year-long interleague play won't affect the Angels at all

The first assumption is the largest and most ridiculous. Production from MLB players fluctuates all over the place year-to-year.

How many people possibly expect Mike Trout to be worth 10 wins, again in 2013?

Is Hamilton going to stay healthy enough to have 600+ plate appearances again?

Will C.J. Wilson find the strike zone and bounce back to his 2010-11 form?

Will Albert Pujols continue to decline, or will he bounce back after the worst season of his career?

Consider for a moment, a scenario where C.J. Wilson finds the zone and is worth 4.5 wins, while Pujols repeats his 2012 May-September production over a full season and is worth 6 wins. Hamilton keeps his health and duplicates his 2012 production, which allows Trout to "regress" to a 6-win player, while the variation in the rest of the roster's production (and health) evens out to be about the same.

Running Tally: 92-win roster.

The second, third and fourth assumptions work pretty well in tandem.

Los Angeles is in a similar scenario to where they were last season. They have seven OF/DH/1B type players, with only five starting spots to fill, making at least one of the players expendable. This is a good thing, because the Angels have a need for starting pitching.

Greinke threw 89.1 innings for the Angels in 2012 and was worth 1.8 wins, I assumed the Angels would be able to fill the gap in innings, but would only be able to do so by sacrificing the 1.8 wins.

Garrett Richards threw 71 replacement-level innings (mainly out of the bullpen) in 2012, and I don't find it too hard to believe that he could throw 160 replacement-level innings next season.

If Richards fills these innings, then where is starting pitching need?

There's some serious evidence, namely a large dip in velocity, floating around that Hanson is not a healthy pitcher.

Hanson was worth one-win over 174.2 innings (30 starts), in 2012.

If Hanson is able to stay healthy for half of the season (15 starts), the Angels would then need to find 15 starts and replace half-a-win of production to continue their current pace as a 92-win team.

This is where their excess OF/DH/1B could come into play.

Below is the 2012 fWAR total for their most tradeable assets:

  • Bourjos: 1.9
  • Trumbo: 2.4
  • Morales: 1.8

There is a pretty large discrepancy in plate appearances between the three players, but suffice it to say that they were all similar in value to the Angels last season.

If Los Angeles were able to move one of them, the return would need to be at least a 2.5-3 win pitcher, which is certainly possible, but not exactly easy.

For the moment, let's assume that they are able to acquire a 3-win pitcher

Running Tally: 92-win roster.

Ryan Madson missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. The former Phillies reliever could prove to be a great pick-up for the Angels, and I projected him to be worth 1.4 wins based on his 2009-11 seasons.

Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece that compared Madson to another reliever who recently came back from Tommy John: Joe Nathan. Sullivan makes an interesting case about how the Angels should not be surprised if Madson isn't his old self right away,as with any player coming back from injury there is a good deal of uncertainty.

Madson could return as an All-Star, but he also could have forgotten how to pitch.

If the Madson deal turns out to be a dud, it's possible that the addition of Houston in the Angels' division and playing a few more games against the National League could be enough to offset a potential failure with Madson.

However, there is too much uncertainty surrounding this assumption to really know how much the new rule changes will affect the Angels win total.

What does the addition of Hamilton really mean?

The Angels just invested $125 million into a 32 year-old veteran. They did so, because of their current World Series-or-bust attitude. They believe that the addition of Hamilton could be enough to make this a World Series team. If the Angels win a World Series, it doesn't matter if the contract turns out to be an albatross.

My only issue with that idea?

You have to make some seriously bold critical assumptions to even find a scenario where the 2013 Angels are marginally better than last year's team, which failed to even reach the post-season.

All statistics come courtesy of FanGraphs

You can follow Glenn on twitter @Glenn_DuPaul