Baseball BeatFebruary 19, 2010
This Just In: Angels Will Be 21 Games Worse in 2010 Than 2009
By Rich Lederer

I opened up the inbox of my emails this morning and was notified via the Baseball Prospectus Premium Newsletter that "a changing of the guard sees the Angels drop to the bottom behind a Rangers/Mariners battle" in its AL West preview. With my curiosity piqued, I clicked on the attendant link and scrolled down to the following excerpt:

Los Angeles Angels

Projected record: 76-86

Why They Might Win: While they have lost Lackey, they still have a very formidable rotation with Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, and Joel Pineiro. Mike Scioscia is among the game's best managers; his teams always outperform the sum of their parts.

Why They Might Not Win: Figgins is a big loss. He was excellent both as a table-setter at the top of the batting order and with the glove at third base. Counting on Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney to be the primary late-inning relievers just seems to be asking for trouble.

Player Who Could Surprise: Brandon Wood, whom it seems has been a prospect since Jim Fregosi was the Angels' star, will finally get his chance at the major-league level. PECOTA projects Wood to hit 25 home runs as Figgins' replacement.

Player Who Could Disappoint: Rodney converted 37 of 38 save opportunities for Detroit last season, but PECOTA sees him with a 4.34 ERA this year, a high figure for a guy who was paid a lot of money on the free-agent market to pitch in high-leverage situations.

Hmmm... According to PECOTA, the Angels are going to win 21 fewer games in 2010 than 2009 and finish last in the AL West.

Let me see if I can reconcile that difference. Rely on last year's actual or this year's projected PECOTA or WAR if you must, but I'm just going to spell out the major differences in personnel between the 2010 and 2009 Angels.

Joel Pineiro vs. John Lackey, Brandon Wood vs. Chone Figgins, Hideki Matsui vs. Vladimir Guerrero, and Fernando Rodney vs. Darren Oliver. I guess each one of these pairings is going to amount to a loss of five wins. Oops, I forgot to mention that if Scott Kazmir can stay healthy, the Angels will get a full season out of him rather than one month. We'll keep it simple and call six months vs. one month a push. With respect to the rest of the team, which is made up mostly of young players getting better rather than old players getting worse, they will be responsible for losing one more game this year than last year.

You see, last year, the Angels were apparently talented and lucky. This year, the Angels apparently lack talent and are going to be unlucky. Nice.

I just wish BP would put its money where its mouth is and book that 76 as an over/under. I would be the first one in line.


I took a look at the rest of the AL West previews. Didn't the Mariners trade for Cliff Lee? The preview for the Mariners (who are predicted to do worse than last year) doesn't mention that. How can a preview not even mention the acquisition of one of the top starting pitchers in the game?

Rich, you know how it is. Last year I took the A's to win the division, and this year I'm taking the Rangers or Mariners. Three sabermetric darlings in that division, and your Angels. I was the first to take the under on 90 wins last year, and I'll be the first to take the under this year. I'm sure they'll burn me again.

Well, other differences in personnel include 33 year old Torii vs. 34 year old Torii, 35 year old Abreu vs. 36 year old Abreu, etc. I think you could argue that only Kendrick is likely to play better than he did last year, and everyone else except Napoli (who Scioscia doesn't like to play anyway) is likely to be at least s little bit worse.

Not saying BP is right -- that drop seems WAY too big -- but I don't think it's at all accurate to say that each of those four personnel moves has to be worth -5 wins to make it happen.

Ed, Lee is referenced twice in the Mariners preview, prominently. Not sure what your point is.

The Angels don't exist in a vacuum. It's not just that they are worst, it's also because their opponents project to be a whole lot better.

I agree the 21 games is a bit absurd. It makes more sense to me if I look at BP as projecting Third Order Wins and not just Wins. Since the angels out performed their W3 by 11 wins last year, BP is saying that even if the Angels and their competition didn't change at all, they'd anticipate a 11 Win drop. Huge. It could be that the Angels were that 2 Standard Deviation variation above the expected Wins, or more likely, W3 isn't as accurate as they'd like.

But if you accept their assessment, then all LAA needs to lose is an additional 10 wins this off season. If you assume 3-4 going to the increased competition from the division competitors, then it's only like 1.5 to 2 win difference for each personnel change. Their math adds up, it's just a ridiculous total that makes one question their axioms.

Bento, the prediction and discussion is more regarding the Angels falling from 97 wins to 76 wins than how the other teams did.

Though, if BP ran a series of similulations and this is the result, then I can see your point that it is both the Angels decline combined with the competitors improvements. I don't know how BP does this, though.

What Sej noted makes a lot of sense. And the dropoff from Figgins to Wood is almost 7 wins right there, looking at CHONE's projections.

Whoah, when did Rich Lederer -- a guy whose work I have respected for many years -- turn into Jon Heyman and start taking this stuff so personally? I know you're an Angel's fan, Rich, but PECOTA is not out to get you, or them. There are many reasons to argue against the twenty-one drop projection, but your post simplifies the discussion beyond all reason. As Bill points out, you're not even factoring in age, and that's not even the complicated part.

BP uses a system. Telling BP to "put its money where its mouth is" is just petty and weird. BP relies on people -- like YOU -- paying for the service. Therefore, they have plenty of money riding on their projections.

Ok, so Hunter and Abreu are year older--so is an excellent staff of young pitchers. Rodney will now be pitching in the AL West, with its spacious parks (and will get to pitch frequently against the A's.) For what it's worth, I'd take Hideki straight up vs. Vlad at this point. I'll happily take the over on 76.

No offense at all, but I'm with Bill@TDS (and also "Surprised" as well). My response to the projection was along the lines of 1) age and luck regression (biggest impact) 2) roster changes (not nearly as much, and 3) increased competition (about the same).

I think their projection makes all the sense in the world, from an analysis standpoint. In my opinion, the best (and certainly viable) counterpoint to make is that the Angels love to outperform their projections, adjusted W/L records, and the like. They're a lot like the Twins...they look like they're going to take a step back, and yet you expect them not to.

Also, I dislike the challenge you issued to BP, Rich. "Projections" and "over/unders" are apples and oranges. The former is a formal kind of prediction (and predictions are often long shots...otherwise, why would anyone "project" anything other than a Yankees-Phillies WS rematch this year?), the latter an attempt to find the midpoint in public opinion of what a team's record will be.

I'm agreeing with Bento here. Angles got worse and the other AL West teams got better. Especially when 3 out of 4 big names lost go to other teams in the same division and the other goes to a team you meet in the playoffs every year. Nice move Halos. If you're not going to sign someone trade them to teams where you wont see them.

Thanks for the comments.

Going down the line...

@Ed: t ball is correct, BP mentioned Lee in the second paragraph of the preview and as a "player who could disappoint" in the Mariners section.

@Jeremy: If the over/under line is 76 (which I realize it won't be), I'm taking the overs. Otherwise, I'll wait and see.

@Bill@TDS: You point out aging players. Is that extra year going to impact Hunter and Abreu that much? Torii missed 43 games last year. I believe it is reasonable to think that he could offset most, if not all, of any projected decline by playing in 20 more games (which would still leave him at only 139, a realistic assumption for a 34-year-old center fielder).

@Bento: I realize the Angels "don't exist in a vacuum." However, BP obviously believes the AL West is going to get worse, not better. To wit, PECOTA has Texas winning the same number of games (87), Seattle winning two fewer games (83), Oakland winning seven more (82), and the Angels winning 21 fewer games (76) for a net loss of 16 games in the division. (By the way, if anyone out there wants to take Oakland and lay six games, I'm a taker.)

@Sej: I'm sure BP is using Third Order Wins. That said, even "1.5-2 win difference for each personnel change" seems high unless one thinks Vladdy is better than Matsui and Oliver is better than Rodney. I can see that margin possibly for Lackey vs. Pineiro and Figgins vs. Wood but what about the addition of Kazmir for a whole season and the likelihood that Ervin Santana will rebound from one of his poorest seasons?

@obsessivegiantscompulsive: The dropoff from Figgins to Wood is not seven games. Not sure how you computed that. Using WAR, it's 1.9 games (based on a projected 3.2 for the former and 1.3 for the latter).

@Surprised: Glad you called me out by mentioning my full name once and first name another time despite hiding behind an alias name and email address yourself. Must be nice to live in the shadows. Whoever said PECOTA is out to get me or the Angels? What makes you think I'm taking this personally? I can't put up a dissenting opinion due to the fact that the Angels are my favorite team? Glad you're attacking the messenger rather than the message. As for age, I stated that the rest of the Angels are getting younger, not older. Every player is a year older in 2010 or did Ichiro and Michael Young not age? The fact that "BP uses a system" is neither here nor there. The system is proprietary. As such, BP needs to take responsibility for it. It's not an objective measurement just because it is a "system."

@Dave Chenok: Agree.

@Peter: You've got your bases fully covered. Take a stand. You have a point with respect to projections and over/unders. I'm not disputing that. Instead, I was only trying to add emphasis to my position, which I didn't hedge.

@Kory: Nice to see an Angels fan who has jumped off the bandwagon. Let me know when you want back on and I will slow down the truck for you.

Maybe I misread it, but I took the "money where its mouth is" line as a joke rather than a petty outburst of bravado. Obviously, BP is not a Vegas sportsbook so they can't actually offer an over/under.

I agree that the BP projection is a little insulting. I disagree that Kendrick is the only player likely to improve on their numbers from last season. I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect progress from Morales, Aybar, Kendrick, even Rivera, and, yes, 35-yr-old Torii vs 34-year-old Torii, as I am hoping he does not miss significant time as he did in 2008.

Of course it's going to be a close race, but the sky is definitely not falling.

Where is the "analyst" part of this Baseball Analyst post?

Respected blogger calls established publication to task for the crime of performing a statistical analysis that disparages his favorite baseball team.

Comments ensue.

Anyone who dares to attempt to account for said disparagement is savaged for being cowardly or a poor fan.

Blogger re-establishes generic claim that every player who disappointed last year will perform significantly better this year, all players who performed well will continue to perform well, and no injuries will occur.

This isn't up to the usual qualify of BA pieces. I'm sorry. This is fanboy, followed by ad hominem. Take another look at the entire tone of this piece and of your reaction to the comments, Rich.

Even though I root 100% for the Angels to win the AL West, I just wanted to add that, on a personal level, I hope Vladdy crushes the Angels every time he faces them this year. I know that's irrelevant, but I needed to get it off my chest.

David. . .If you're going to hammer someone, check your typos. It makes it look like you don't know how to talk.

I'm fairly new to this site, having been reading it for about 2 years, but I don't believe that I have ever seen anyone get hammered like this for their POV. I think Rich's track record has shown great integrity for the statistical analysis that is presented on this site, whether it be his or anyone else's. Given the well known fact that he is an Angel's homer, one could assume that he is probably more in tune with all of the Angel's personnel, than most of the readers of this site. I would think that this, along with his past statistcal backups and backgrounds, his prowess over the years in his fantasy league (which many of you may or may not know of), as well as his being the keeper of this site, might afford him a bit more respect than the pile-on we have seen here today. You could be bold enough to throw the opines, of your teams, out there for the same types of rebuttal, but please don't. Let's not turn this into a free-for-all chat site, like so many others. If that's what you like, go read those instead.

Great site Rich. . .Thanks to you and your partners for sharing.

The Angels are constantly underestimated by the stat crowd. I can't blame a fan like Rich for taking yet another mediocre pre-season projection to task.

I mean, aren't the A's 12-time defending AL West PECOTA champs?

Mark: Please do me the favor of pointing out my typos, Mr. Language Expert. I've been looking all morning, and I haven't found one yet. Maybe I need to use simpler words for you? Smarter than a 5th grader?

Last paragraph, 1st sentence. Enough said.

Rich, I think your tone is what has unsettled people the most. Usually you let your points speak for you, but you've injected a lot of a sarcasm and the like into a non-FJM-style post (and as some have pointed out, an unusually incomplete argument).

Take your response to me, for instance. I don't have a strong opinion in this matter, but why do you demand one from me? I was simply pointing out both sides of the want to take me to task for partially siding with you?

If you must have an opinion, I'll say that I agree with the projection to the point that I think the Angels will take a step back (while some might think they've maintained the status quo), while I strongly feel the exact BP projection is far too low because I do believe in the ability of the Angels to outperform their expected W/L.

To put it another way, I think we have come to expect that you would have approached this more...academically. I would think you would have seen what we can all agree is a surprisingly low projection, said "I just can't agree with this, I'm going to show them why they're wrong", and then proceeded to make a laundry list of reasons why the Angels will be better than this.

Instead, you sound offended. Sure, I get that, I'm offended every year when all the Baseball Preview Issues I buy basically say "screw it, the Yankees have more money than anyone, so we're going to predict them to be in the World Series again", but those are shallow publications. Maybe you don't agree with the methodology BP uses, but it's not like they're being lazy or biased (at least, not to my knowledge).

I am the commenter who signed his post "Surprised" above. So, now you have my full, full name, Rich. Not sure why it matters, but there you go. And I never give my e-mail address, because I try to avoid SPAM, and your site lists no privacy policy in that regard. Again, not sure why any of this matters. Funny thing is, I used your name in my post because I was trying to show that I really knew this site, and, as I wrote, really respect your work. I was trying to show that I'm not just some troll who wandered in. I greatly admire your years of fine writing, especially on behalf of Blyleven, and I check this site every day, sometimes more than once.

The reason I was saying your post makes it seem like you think BP is out to get you is because, as others have noted, there was such a nasty tone to your article. If that nasty tone was unintentional or was supposed to be funny, then you did not succeed as a writer, because clearly many others felt the same way as I did. And I still don't understand when you say BP needs to "take responsibility" (as you said in your comment) or "put its money where its mouth is" (as you said in your article) for its projection. How are they NOT doing that? And I never said their system wasn't subjective. But it is extremely sophisticated and well-reasoned, and if you're going to write an article making it sound like they're idiots, you need to do a way, way better job than you did. I think they deserve a lot more respect than you've shown them in your article.

Reading my first comment, I admit it comes off nastier than I intended. I overreacted, and I apologize. At the same time, I think your original article was itself an overreaction. In the two years I've been reading this site, I can't remember a more disappointing article than this one, especially in terms of tone, and your nasty reactions in these comments is a bit of a bummer, too. So, I'm sorry for my role in the tone of these comments, but I stand by my opinion on this article, if not the way I expressed that opinion.

To Surprised/Conrad Alfred Brown the Second, Peter, and David: I apologize for my tone in the comments, but I still stand by the post itself. The purpose was nothing more than a short response to BP's take on the Angels in its AL West preview on Thursday. I don't think it was "fanboy" at all. Just because I admit to liking the Angels doesn't make it a fanboy piece. I would do the same if BP had a similar view on any other team. It just so happened that the team involved in this case was the Angels.

I didn't take BP's view personally or as an insult to the Angels or me. Yes, my second-to-last paragraph was sarcastic and the final paragraph was intended to add emphasis to my position. I understand that some readers may not like that style. It's hard to please everybody when you write for public consumption.

As for the lack of a more analytical or academic response, I believe it was at least parallel to, if not in excess of, what BP did in its preview. I plan to expand upon it in a follow-up piece.

Thank you.

This is completely serious, right? I'm starting to doubt my sarcasm meter. I'm being told that Rich's original post wasn't really written with rancor, it was all a big nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Now I suppose that I'm supposed to assume the same of "You spelled "quality" as "qualify", so I shall hereby dismiss your argument as stupidity."

Grow up.

Can I just suggest that the issue is that Lederer, despite being a smart guy with some sometimes interesting analysis, has always been an asshole, but his readers find that amusing when he is an asshole to the traditional baseball community, and notice that he is an asshole when he directs his venom at others in the analytical community.

(Personally, I'm more on the side of the analytical community, and not a traditionalist, but I've never been a big fan of Rich because of his apparent personality issues, as manifested in is writing.)

I always appreciate your articles/comments Rich, this is a fantastic site. I also appreciate your sentiment regarding the PECOTA projection/prediction "system" for the Angels. I look forward to your preview.

As I'm exasperated with the debate over team prediction systems (curiously they frequently seem to revolve around the Angels) and epistemic arrogance that usually characterizes the response to questioning their validity, I only want to pick up on a side aspect of some of the comments in the above section.

The Angels are old. I hear that so much, however it is used in such a way to suggest the Angels are an aging team in its 30s... on a downturn. Ready to be unseated by the younger Oakland A's or Mariners.

The average age of the 25 man squad of the four AL West teams:
Angels - 29.48
Mariners - 28.08
A's - 28.88 (could be less depending on 5th man in rotation)
Texas - 28.08

The Angels are not on average old at all. They are old in the outfield. And in the bullpen (which affects their average the most compared with the rest of the AL West).

M. Napoli (28), J. Mathis (27), K. Morales (27), H. Kendrick (26), M. Izturis (29), B. Wood (25), E. Aybar (26), J. Rivera (31), B. Abreu (36), T. Hunter (35), H. Matsui (36), R. Willits (29).

J. Weaver (27), S. Kazmir (26), E. Santana (27), J. Saunders (29), J. Pineiro (31)

B. Fuentes (34), F. Rodney (33), S Shields (34), K. Jepsen (25), J. Bulger (31), M. Palmer (31)

@LarryM's comment. Wow. There is no need to attack the character of Rich Lederer just because you perhaps don't like his opinion or how he delivers it. Have some respect.

It's rare to find a defender for the Angels amongst the on-line statistical community (of which I am a fan and casual member), and makes a nice change that as an Angel fan myself, I welcome.

(Personally, I'm more on the side of the analytical community, and not a traditionalist, but I've never been a big fan of Rich because of his apparent personality issues, as manifested in is writing.)

And yet, you stop by and comment regularly.

If you must have an opinion

Yeah, man, how DARE you have an opinion about baseball on your opinionated baseball website!

PECOTA's projection is laugh-out-loud ridiculous. The Angels are almost certain to have better pitching this year in both the rotation and the bullpen, and when you improve the pitching on a 97-win team it's awful hard to regress by 21 games. Particularly when we're talking about an organization that has averaged 95 wins for five years, while beating PECOTA's projections like a gong.

That people would jump all over one of the best bloggers in the biz because he chose not to stifle his giggle says much more about them than it does about him.

Huh, Matt, where did that come from? Is it so wrong to drop by the comments section of a blog and leave my two cents without formally taking a side? Even if I did have an opinion, I'm not required to take my own side of an issue in order to at least comment on the two sides.

The only laugh-out-loud thing I've seen in these comments (or the article above them) is your terrible shallow justification for the Angels. There's nothing certain about most pitching in baseball, so go back to the drawing board.

Peter -- I actually misread your first comment; thought you were directing the "you" at Rich, not using it on yourself. Sorry about that.

As for pitching, the Angels chewed through 14 starters last year, suffered through the death of their #6 guy (and best prospect), featured injuries to all but Jered Weaver among their top 5, and gave umpteen starts to various unready rookies and warmed-over AAA veterans. That string of bad luck is extremely unlikely to repeat. And the bullpen performed worse than any other in Scioscia's history. I would bet $1,000 on the team ERA being better.

It happened again! THT is forecasting the Angels to win 76 games this season too. (

Fangraphs fan forecasts put them at 80 wins.

It looks like Pecota has company.