The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made the biggest single splash on the free-agent position-player market for the second straight offseason this winter, adding Josh Hamilton on a five-year, $125-million contract. Hamilton hit 43 home runs last season, and may have more raw offensive talent than any other player in baseball – even the two markedly better overall hitters with whom he now shares the lineup, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. Throw in Mark Trumbo and some nice complementary batsmen, and the Angels have the most powerful offense in the league. It might be the best all-around offense, for that matter.
In order for them to meet that standard, though, the Angels – and stubborn manager Mike Scioscia – will need to look to their divisional rivals to the north, and make some overdue adjustments to the way they try to score runs.
No team manufactured more runs in 2012 than Scioscia’s Angels, according to The Bill James Handbook 2013. It’s rare, as a matter of fact, when any team does outhustle Scioscia for that honor. (In this case, by the way, a manufactured run is any run scored without benefit of an extra-base hit, and on which some portion of the circuit is completed through non-batting means. It’s a little more complex than that, but that’s the gist.) The Angels pushed across 196 runs that way.
That’s great and all, but the Angels didn’t really need to focus on that as a part of their run-scoring. They had Pujols, Trumbo, Trout and Kendrys Morales, the four of whom combined for 114 homers. They could have played more or less station-to-station ball, and still been a pretty good offense.
There’s no question the Angels benefitted occasionally from their aggressiveness. They took 179 bases on wild pitches, passed balls, tag plays, grounders behind the runner, second only to the Giants in all of baseball. They went first-to-third on singles 37.5 percent of the time (league average was 28%), and second-to-home on singles 68.8 percent of the time (leave average: 59%).
On the other hand, though, the Angels ran into 50 outs on the bases, third-most in baseball. They were still one of baseball’s best base-running teams, but 75 percent of their base-running runs above average came from base-stealing, not the other aspects in which they were so aggressive.
Compare those athletic, speedy and aggressive Angels to the almost equally speedy, but far less aggressive Athletics. The A’s went first-to-third on singles only 27.6 percent of the time – basically average, 30 percent off the Angels’ rate. They went second-to-home 64.8 percent of the time, better than average but not nearly as high as Anaheim. Oakland only took 166 bases on the assortment of other plays, 13 fewer than the Angels. They stole less efficiently, too.
The A’s ran into 24 outs in 2012. That’s fewer than half of the Angels’ figure, and second-lowest in all of baseball. They also grounded into 45 fewer double plays in 50 fewer opportunities than did LA. Oakland may have struck out a lot, but by hitting a ton of home runs; running the bases like a team that hit a ton of home runs; and hitting well situationally, they more efficiently turned base runners into runs than their rivals from Southern California did. The Angels have made themselves a better version of the A’s, offensively, power-heavy, contact-light, loaded, and in 2012, Mike Scioscia ought to manage accordingly.Next post: Gordon Beckham: Disappointment, Enigma, Second Baseman
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