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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Angels’

Mike Napoli is on the verge of completing a season long journey that has taken him from the outhouse in Anaheim to the penthouse in Arlington. With one more Rangers’ victory, Napoli is almost assured of becoming the World Series MVP, which wouldn’t be as remarkable if the defensively maligned catcher hadn’t been traded twice during the past offseason.

While with the Angels, Napoli's defense kept him behind Jeff Mathis on the depth chart.

Despite having an outstanding regular season, including an OPS+ of 171, Napoli’s postseason success is what has finally forced many to reevaluate the offseason trades that dropped him in the lap of the Texas Rangers. Ironically, however, Napoli’s success has also led to some revisionist history. Several times during the FOX broadcast of the World Series, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver have commented about the value of an offensive catcher tutored by Mike Scioscia, but never have they mentioned that Scioscia’s reluctance to play Napoli was likely the impetus for his being jettisoned by the Angels.

In today’s Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke caught up with Scioscia and, not surprisingly, the Angels’ manager distanced himself from the decision. Without directly placing all the blame on former GM Tony Reagins, Scioscia offered the tried and true “I just work here” defense. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. After all, Scioscia, not Reagins, was the one working under an unprecedented 10-year deal.

If you say our organization didn’t value Mike Napoli, it’s absolutely wrong. The hindsight of this trade is 20/20 vision, and right now, obviously in the playoffs, that vision carries lot of weight. But I still think there is a lot of upside of what our team can become with Vernon.” – Mike Scioscia, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2011

Even if you give the Angels’ organization a pass for thinking Vernon Wells could replicate his 2010 season, that doesn’t explain why the team jettisoned Napoli, who was really nothing more than a salary dump intended to even out the cash flow in the trade. As evidence of that, the Blue Jays promptly sent Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. That’s why the expectations for Wells were really irrelevant to the dismissal of Napoli.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

By most objective standards, the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the American League. And yet, according to some, Brian Cashman’s inability to acquire another pitcher has branded the team as a “trade deadline loser”.  So much for perspective.

American League Pitching Staffs, Ranked by Average WAR*

Team bWAR fWAR AvgWAR ERA+
Yankees 18.5 16.6 17.6 121
White Sox 15.7 17.4 16.6 111
Angels 14.8 15.4 15.1 111
Athletics 17.7 12 14.9 118
Mariners 13.7 13.3 13.5 103
Rangers 13.9 10.8 12.4 115
Red Sox 11.8 12.6 12.2 106
Blue Jays 12.0 9.5 10.8 97
Tigers 8.6 11.3 10.0 92
Rays 7.2 9.2 8.2 97
Indians 6.4 9.4 7.9 96
Royals 8.0 6.9 7.5 88
Twins 4.0 7.8 5.9 90
Orioles 7.3 4.2 5.8 82

Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

Let’s be honest. The reason so few people seem to believe in the Yankees’ rotation is because the team’s second and third best starters were looked upon as veteran retreads less than four months ago. No matter how well Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon continue to pitch, that stigma will remain until they come up big in October. Based on the injury history of each veteran, it’s hard to criticize that perception. After all, if the Yankees were completely confident in the pair, Cashman probably wouldn’t have even entertained some of the discussions he reportedly had with other general managers.

‘I think they’re in trouble,’ said one scout. ‘I look at their rotation, and there’s CC [Sabathia]. And then there’s CC.'” – anonymous scout quoted by Jayson Stark, July 31, 2011

The second part of the above statement is a reasonable one. In fact, I’ve probably uttered it myself on occasion.  However, just because the Yankees do not have another pitcher on Sabathia’s level (very few in the entire league are), does that really mean the Yankees are in trouble? Even though Garcia and Colon remain legitimate question marks, is every other American League contender that much stronger in terms of rotation reliability? Let’s take a look.

Comparing the Rotation Depth of Main A.L. Contenders, Based on Average WAR* (click to enlarge)

*Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

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