Reliving the 2017 Season: Los Angeles Angels Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: Los Angeles Angels Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.


With all the excitement over the multiple new additions to the Angels of Anaheim most folks probably don’t care to look back on a team that was fairly hard to watch. Sure, Mike Trout is incredible, but once again he was surrounded with next to nothing on a team that has had to work very hard to undo the damage done by Jerry Dipoto, one of the very worst General Managers in the game. You can see the offense finally got it going in the second half, but the first, during which Trout missed six weeks, things were more hit or miss. A slow start corrected to something more like the nice second half, but then you can see how hard the Trout injury was on their ability to produce runs. Things started to click again to to point where the team was yet another try hard that ultimately fell short of the second wild card with hitting slightly outstripping the pitching for much of the run.

That pitching appears to have been a major problem, however, over the entirety of the season. There isn’t a whole lot of volatility here, either, as the expected range never really dipped into the better than average area, but also didn’t see any wild spikes of crapulence. You can see that observed results showed a fairly strong gap compared to expectations over much of that first half indicating the pitching looked a little better than it should have, which could have been a product of defensive acumen or plain old luck, but the gaps do seem smaller during that second half.

You can see that both sides saw nearly identical difference between actual and expected performance on balls in play at over 3%. This means that while the pitchers overperformed, while the batters underperformed to nearly the same degree. The pitchers were able to ride strong peripherals to offset some of the harder than average contact with the batters seeing something similar due more to strikeout suppression at the dish. Adding it all up you can see that both aspects were something like a league average team yielding around 15 runs worse than average combined.

There is little hyperbole left to describe Mike Trout as he just continues to get better. He walked more than he struck out. He hit the ball incredibly hard seeing even better actual results that might indicate some regression, but it’s Mike Trout. Anything is possible. The next best hitters were similar in the aggregate with both Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols providing around 9 runs more than the average. Similar, league average ball in play production came with different results on plate appearances that didn’t end with contact. Calhoun walked twice as often, but struck out a little more, while Pujols put many more balls in play. C.J. Cron struck out a lot more than both with walks in the middle, but he did hit the ball pretty hard when making contact. Yunel Escobar was mostly fine a little over half a season mostly due to strikeout avoidance, while late-season addition Justin Upton acquitted himself well during his short stint with the club, though I would expect some strong regression on his balls in play.

The team saw plenty of weaker offensive production with catcher Martin Maldonado and some of Danny Espinosa’s poor season the worst performers. Plenty of other filler players also detracted from the team, but do not project to see much time going forward after the team’s numerous offseason additions. Cliff Pennington or Eric Young Jr. might have brought something with the glove, but were tough to watch at the plate. Andrelton Simmons paired his elite glove with a nearly league average bat, as well.

Note that the y-axis has been expanded a touch here to include that tremendous peak. Trout’s scorching start wasn’t as well justified by the metrics, but then things came into line for a brief period prior to the injury. After his return there was a notable drop from his peak production, but he was able to stabilize at a strong level throughout the rest of the season with a bit of overperformance in the middle that went the other way toward the end of the season. It is entirely possible that Trout was still somewhat restricted coming back from the injury meaning the higher relative production seen earlier might be something more like his true level than what came after. Heading into his age-26 season there is no better player on the planet, and he has shown no signs of slippage.

As one of the few lefties in their lineup Kole Calhoun profiles as a nice top of the order batter that sneaks under the radar for the most part. His strong walk rates allow him to set the table for the sluggers to follow, but he also hits the ball with enough authority, while limiting the strikeout, that he can also get the job done on his own. Calhoun displayed a little bit of streakiness with two pronounced strong periods split up by a couple lengths of worse than average performance. While not a star by any stretch, Calhoun is a nice complementary piece that also wields a solid glove in right. I’d expect more of the same going forward as Calhoun looks like a solid everyday regular that occasionally trades hot for cold.

Often, analysts dislike a player due to that player’s contract, and make no mistake, Albert Pujols has the worst contract in the game, but Pujols looked mostly like a better than average hitter for much of the season. You can see the strong push down the stretch as he started to reclaim former glory, as well. The thing is, for much of the season he saw worse results than his trajectories and exit velocities would indicate. Much of this is driven by his utter inability to run anymore due to age and multiple lower body issues. Lacking value due to cost is one thing, but this looks like an acceptable hitter that you would rather have in the five or six hole rather than the middle of the lineup, but a steady producer that is able to contribute.

While the starting pitchers were mostly incredibly poor, the bullpen shined boosting the entire production to something like the league average. The best performer, Petit, has already fled Northward to Oakland, while David Hernandez was traded mid-season and surprisingly effective acquisition Fernando Salas is also headed to free agency. This means work will need to be done in the bullpen where Cam Bedrosian hopes to stay healthy enough to play a bigger role.

Amongst the starters there were so many question marks with none bigger than what Garrett Richards would be able to provide. He did well in his limited look, as did Alex Meyer before succumbing to yet another injury. In their stead the team leaned heavily on a plethora of uninteresting or flat out bad pitchers. Ricky Nolasco was awful, while Jesse Chavez, Parker Bridwell and JC Ramirez were merely bad. Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Skaggs were other starters that battled injuries to post bad lines. The trend here is fairly obvious. The Angels were stocked with wild card starters that needed a lot to go right, while fans got to watch it all go wrong.

Credit to Nolasco for assuming the role of nominal opening day starter and being the lone guy that made it through the year unscathed from a health perspective. He did well to run a better than average walk rate, but it came with worse strikeout numbers and he allowed far too much hard contact. You can also see that outside of a stronger middle and finish he was almost universally very bad. Observed results were mostly in line leaving a player that doesn’t even really profile at the bottom of a rotation on a team that fancies itself a contender. This does not look like it will be a major loss to the rotation other than the innings he was able to eat ineffectively.

Jesse Chavez has always profiled best as a kind of swingman that plays up a little bit in the bullpen. Being forced into a starter’s role this year showed a lot to like for much of the beginning of the season. Then it went downhill. Hard. Perhaps this was due to an inability to handle the newfound heavier workload, which could leave Chavez as a nice piece when put in a role that he can handle. I would view the starter experiment as a failure, but not completely write off the player as he could be a nice reliever capable of going multiple innings or amping it up in shorter stints.

Very similar to Chavez was JC Ramirez. There is probably a nice swingman in there, and he did well suppressing balls in play, but the non-contact events left much to be desired. The tails look fairly solid, albeit for short stretches with much of his season showing him as a guy that might be able to handle a back end of rotation role assuming the body can withstand the workload. On a team thirsty for anyone that can start I would expect Ramirez to get another chance to stay stretched out, but his best role would be as a two times through starter or more ideally giving that production mid-game.


The following leaderboards can help you gain context for what the truly best and worst performances looked like for the players already covered. Below the top-20 hitters and pitchers you can find how each team ranked in the aggregate and then finally a ranking of the combined xwRAA figures.

Leave a Reply

#layout { padding-left:20px; }