Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Make Lemonade!

You gotta love Angels' fans. They always have a way of looking at the bright side of things, even if what they're looking at is a pitch black, bottomless abyss filled with falling DMV clerks and Pennywise the Clown. Yes, I'm talking about the recent trade of Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera for the worst contract in baseball (aka Vernon Wells) during the worst part of said worst contract. This is the site. The author of the article is Lyle Spencer and it's an official MLB blog for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim entitled "Rally Monkeys." Disney and monkeys. Doesn't get any cuter than that right?

Here's the title of the article:

Seriously, what's not to like?

Oh yeah. Let's do this.

Predictably, the Angels' acquisition of Vernon Wells at the expense of Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera has the critics howling. They do that largely because that's what they're paid to do, and you can't really fault a person for that. It's the carping of fans that is somewhat baffling.

First of all, critics only say bad things about things that they think are bad. I have not heard a single person say that the Blue Jays made a bad move in getting rid of roughly $81 million and a 32 year old, .329 career OBP-hitting outfielder. Second of all, fans ARE the toughest critics, so why is this so baffling to you?

The Angels just landed a three-time All-Star at 32,

Cool. Made the All Star team once in the last four years, but whatever.

with four years on his contract, for two players who might not have had starting jobs but will get shots to play every day in their new environment. You have to be reaching hard not to like that.

Here's how I look at it. First there's Juan Rivera. Okay, he was not very good last season (injuries notwithstanding), but let's compare a couple players--just for fun.

Rivera Career Statline: .280/.328/.461
Player X Career Statline: .280/.329/.476

Rivera Career OPS+: 106
Player X Career OPS+: 108

Rivera 2006-2010 Statline: .278/.327/.466
Player X 2006-2010 Statline: .275/.329/.469

Rivera 2011 Salary: $5.25 Mil
Player X 2011 Salary: $23 Mil

You will never guess who player X is so don't even try. It's Vernon Wells. I know. Crazy shit!

Now let's take a look at Mike Napoli.

Last three seasons: 2008-2010 (Ranks Among Catchers Min. 1000 PA)
.341 OBP (4th in AL)
.502 SLG (T-1st in ML)
.361 WOBA (3rd in AL--.001 behind Posada)
.244 ISO (1st in ML)
8.2 WAR (3rd in AL)
66 HR (1st in ML)

In case you're curious, Wells has the same number of homeruns as Napoli over the last three years--with about 580 more plate appearances. Napoli also beats him in OBP, SLG, WOBA, ISO, and WAR. And Wells is going to make about $18 mil more than Napoli this year.

Sidenote: The fact that Jeff Mathis (Angels other catcher that platooned with Napoli) has gotten 818 PA's over the last three seasons is probably the single greatest piece of evidence that Mike Scoscia is not nearly as smart as people think he is. Mathis has a .200/.264/.303 statline since 2008. The Angels' justification for playing him over Napoli? His awesome defense.

Mathis UZR: -2.0
Napoli UZR: -5.2

That's pretty damn close. They both aren't very good defensively. Not terrible, but not great either. How about their offense?

Mathis Offensive Value: -48.6
Napoli Offensive Value: +36.8

Okay. That was off topic. This isn't about Scoscia's terrible, overthinking catching decisions... Back to the original topic.

This trade is shitty.

The big talking point is Wells' huge contract, which wouldn't have been an issue back in the day when it was the game that mattered, not economics.

Economics have always mattered. The more money you have to spend on good players, the more money you have to spend on GOOD players. This logic has always been put into play with every MLB team, save maybe the Yankees and their unlimited supply of payroll.

The game does matter. Money is part of the game.

The statistical focus has been on a decline in Wells' metrics defensively, his struggles against left-handed pitching in 2010, his home/road splits showing a significant preference for Toronto cooking, and his career-long struggles at Angel Stadium.

Sounds like some pretty legitimate statistical concerns. This game's played on a field, though, not on a stats sheet. People seem to always forget that!

The author, Lyle Spencer, then goes on to list all these excuses why Wells has played poorly, basically a lot of excuses/assumptions about how the Toronto turf fucked up his knees (which explains why he just had his best season in the last four years, right?). Anyways, back to the good stuff.

Now, on to Wells' statistical oddities in 2010.

You sure about this? Citing statistics does not seem like a good way to support your particular side of the argument.

He flourished at home, with a stat line (batting average, on-base, slugging) of .321/.363/.628 compared to .207/.301/.407 on the road. It happens to every player over the course of a career. His career numbers are closer: .286/.339/.505 at home; .274/.321/.446 on the road. He has hit 124 homers in Canada, 99 in the U.S. If he performs better in front of his family, that's not necessarily such a terrible thing.

I was right.

You reiterated the fact that Wells is coming from the 8th ranked hitter's park in 2010 to the 27th ranked hitter's park in 2010. The general discrepancy between home/away splits according to Baseball-Reference is roughly 40 points in OPS, favoring the home side. Over the course of his career, Wells is 77 points better at home than on the road. That's pretty significant.

What we really should be looking at, however, are his career numbers at Angels Stadium, which I'm sure are most certainly better.

And, yes, he has not hit to his customary level in Anaheim, where his slash line for his career is .226/.267/.340. But he would say that has more to do with the likes of John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields and friends than the ballpark, which he happens to love.

Lyle, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Logic. Lyle, Logic, Logic, Lyle (shakes hands with irony).

Here's a simple piece of information, kids. It shouldn't be too hard to follow: THE ANGELS HAVE THE SAME PITCHERS AT HOME THAT THEY DO ON THE ROAD. Get it? Good job. You are smarter than Lyle Spencer. Citing the pitchers as a reason why Wells hit poorly at Angels Stadium doesn't make sense unless he also hit poorly against those same pitchers at home. Let's take a look:

Career at Angel Statdium vs. Angels
.226/.267/.340--.607 OPS
Career at Home (Rogers Centre) vs. Angels
.258/.312/.474--.786 OPS

Nice try, Lyle. That's a 179 point difference in OPS. Among road parks in which Wells has played at least 17 games, Angels stadium is the home of his worst OBP (Jacobs Field possesses his only lower OPS). I applaud your attempt at a simple-minded, poorly thought-out, deceitful justification though.

Here are the numbers that should be the focus with respect to Wells' 2010 All-Star season if you are an anxiety-ridden Angels fan:

Oh hell yeah! More stats. This has worked out well for you so far.

.515, ninth in slugging in the AL;

.331, 40th in On-Base Percentage in the AL.

Also, his SLG was 58 points lower over the last 100 games.

31 homers,

One of those went to right field. Kinda nitpicky, I know, but being a dead pull hitter never bodes well, which is probably part of the reason he has a .329 career OBP.

44 doubles, 304 total bases, seventh in the AL in each category; 460 feet, fifth longest homer in the AL;

WHOA WHOA WHOA! WHAT??? Did you just say this fool hit a ball 460 feet?!?!?! Holy shit! I am in utter disbelief right now. That is some legendary, Ruthian-like power right there. Seriously, this is unbelievable. I literally do not believe this.................

so crazy....

(looks up info so friends can share in his amazement)

so amazing...

wait a second...

Oh. That's why I can't believe it. Because it's not true. Mother f*cker made it up.

Wells' farthest home run in 2010 was 453 feet, 42nd longest in baseball and 18th in the AL. I feel cheated. This trade is shitty.

1.000, his fielding percentage as one of two regular outfielders in the Majors (151 games played) to commit not a single error, Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez being the other.

-6.4, his 2010 UZR, good for 56th among 74 eligible Major League outfielders (28th out of 35 AL OF's).

One more Wells fun stat line from 2010: 6-for-10, four homers, seven RBIs in three games. That's what he did at Rangers Ballpark, back home in Arlington.

Yes. This was the very first series of the season. He hit the shit out of the ball that month. Not that this is super relevant or anything, but if you take away the first and last months of the season, here's what Wells' numbers look like:


104 Games
15 HR

To be fair, his first and last months were very, VERY good. It's just kinda weird that more than 50% of his homeruns came from 2 out of the 6 months of the season. I don't really know what to make of this other than the fact that he was embarrassingly horrible for about 65% of the season.

The man is a weapon, a pro's pro. By all accounts, he's a calm, generous individual who distinguishes his profession on and off the field.

Good character off the field is very important. Napoli and Rivera were child molesters.

My advice to fans who have endured a fitful, angry winter is to calm down and get ready to enjoy the show. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it could be something to behold. It's a lot healthier to take that attitude than to drive up your blood pressure needlessly.

Glass is half full. Love it. Too bad that half of the glass is filled with $81 million of mediocrity.

Btw, Napoli was just traded from Toronto to Texas. So Halo Heaven gets to experience hell twenty times a year now. Oh snaps!

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