The Angels Should Still Be Looking To Buy

by Matthew de Marte – January 2nd, 2018

To fans of the LA Angels that have been waiting for ownership and General Manager Billy Eppler to surround Mike Trout with the team he deserves, your wish is coming true. How many additions have been sparked by Shohei Ohtani’s decision to sign with the team? We will never know. One thing we must applaud is the job done by the front office this offseason. For that, I offer this message to Eppler and company: KEEP GOING. There are still holes to fill. Some holes can wait until next offseason, but others should be addressed immediately.

The following is a list of production the Angels had at positions last year compared to the upgrades they will be bringing in:

Position wRC+ DRS New Addition wRC+ DRS
3B 96 -12 Zack Cozart 141 2
2B 60 -1 Ian Kinsler 91 6
DH 78 N/A Shohei Ohtani N/A N/A

In the case of Zack Cozart, you can expect some regression offensively as ZIPS projection system only predicts Cozart to have a wRC+ of 99. I believe he will be somewhere in between this prediction and the defense will most likely play better as the DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) were at shortstop and he will be transitioning to third base. It is easy to see that the Angels have clearly upgraded in all three of these positions. That is without including the contributions Ohtani will make on the mound and a healthy season for Garrett Richards. Things are clearly trending upward for the Angels. When looking at the Angels pitching staff, there is a lot of room for improvement. Listed below is the top 5 WAR leaders on the mound and other statistics:

Pitcher fWAR IP ERA SO% BB%
Yusmeiro Petit 2.2 91.1 2.76 28.5% 5.1%
Blake Parker 1.6 67.1 2.54 33.9% 6.3%
JC Ramirez 1.1 147.1 4.15 16.9% 7.9%
Parker Bridwell 1.0 121.0 3.64 14.8% 6.1%
David Hernandez 1.0 67.1 2.23 26.4% 5.7%

Presented below are the teams ERA, FIP and WHIP for both their starters and relievers and their rank in the American League.

Starters 4.38 (6th) 4.93 (11th) 1.33 (7th)
Relievers 3.92 (5th) 3.66 (4th) 1.20 (4th)

The Angels can definitely make an addition in the rotation. Adding a top-tier starter would be a huge boost to the rotation. Even if the Angels do not want to take on the contracts of Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta, there are other viable options, such as Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn that would be nice additions to the staff. Before factoring in players who will receive arbitration, the Angels payroll will stand at $142,609,999. This should leave the team with flexibility to add at least an arm in the rotation and another arm to bolster an already strong bullpen.

Adding another starting pitcher would give the Angels a strong first 1-2-3 in the rotation. In 2017 the Angels only had one starter throw more than 150 innings and that was Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco was worth just 0.7 fWAR and 1.3 RA9-WAR in 181 innings. Adding another arm with a track record of chewing up a lot of innings would add immense assistance. It has been well noted that Ohtani was a part of a six man rotation in Japan. Sliding in one of the pitchers, named above, in front or behind Ohtani and Richards in the rotation should compliment a mix of Andrew Heaney, Parker Bridwell, J.C. Ramirez, Matt Shoemaker, and Tyler Skaggs to fill in the rest of the innings. While there are certainly viable options, a team going all-in-to-win now should add another reliable arm that can help in October.

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Just to show you how much another reliable starter could help the Angels, the graphic above shows the x-axis (number of relievers each American League team had worth at least 1.0 WAR) and the y-axis shows (how many starting pitchers were worth more than 2.0 WAR). The Angels are represented by the triangle.

The Angels were one of only two teams in the American League to not have a starter surpass 2.0 WAR, while the Angels were tied for third in the American League for relievers worth at least 1.0 WAR. Therefore, the immediate need is clearly in the rotation. Of the American League’s top four teams last year: Astros, Indians, Yankees and Red Sox, they each had at least three starters worth 2.0 WAR. If the Angels want to join the top tier in the American League they need another starter from the free agent market. A trade for an impact starter probably does not make sense for them right now with a bleak system. The Angels would rather retain their top prospects to potentially flip at the trade deadline.

Adding Greg Holland should make a strong bullpen even stronger. With the Rockies signing Wade Davis, Holland becomes the top ninth inning option on the free agent market. The addition of Holland would give the Angels another great arm and strengthen the bullpen. The Angels could also use someone to close games. Bud Norris was the team leader with 18 saves last year, and is a free agent. Looking at players under contract for the Angels in 2018, the saves leader is Blake Parker with 8. Though Parker did throw extremely well last year, he is 32 and last year was the first time in his career in which he topped 50 innings. The Angels would be better adding a reliable 9th inning option.

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The final graphic shows the number of saves blown relative to bullpen WPA. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning. WPA is cumulative throughout the season. The triangle point represents the Angels. While the Angels bullpen performed well last season, the numbers above tell a little different story. WPA and blown saves the Angels accumulated last season, suggest they need a closer to solidify a playoff caliber bullpen. Adding Greg Holland would give the Angels bullpen a reliable closer to add on to the quality arms they already have in the bullpen.

Mike Trout is finally playing alongside the quality of big leaguers he deserves. Billy Eppler should not stop strengthening the team now. Eppler should go all in to try and win now for Mike Trout. Anaheim can take a huge step forward in 2018 and reach the postseason for the second time in Trout’s career. In order to get to the postseason, the Angels should not rest on the moves they have made and should continue to be aggressive in the addition of more pitching.

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