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Entries in Los Angeles Angels (46)

Monday
Mar262012

Kendrys Morales' Splits

Angels DH Kendrys Morales is making progress in his recovery from the euphoria-turned-tragedy that occurred at home plate on May 29, 2010, when he shattered his left leg in a walk-off celebration. Morales appeared in L.A.'s lineup for the first time in nearly two years last week, though Angels manager Mike Scioscia told Fox Sports' Tracy Ringolsby that the 28-year-old will need ample rest:

"He has to get his body acclimated," Scioscia said.

Scioscia is aware the switch-hitting Morales will need some days off during the regular season. Most likely, those days will come against left-handed pitchers.

"He will DH against virtully every righty,'' Scioscia. "It's not going to be a play a ton, but there are going to be times he needs a day off.''

Timing those off days so Morales takes a seat against lefties looks like a solid strategy. The switch-hitter has a career .295/.354/.537 line in 924 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, but a comparatively paltry .255/.285/.403 triple-slash in 316 PA versus left-handers.

Given the 70-plus point difference in on-base percentage, you might think that Morales is more of a hacker against lefties than righties. But that's not the case: his chase rate dating back to 2008 (the first year of Pitch F/X data) is 32% from both sides of the plate. Rather, lefty pitchers go right after Morales while righties tiptoe around the plate.

Here's righty pitchers' location versus Morales from 2008-10:

Right-handed pitchers' location vs. Morales, 2008-10Right-handers placed just under 40% of their pitches in the zone against Morales, compared to the 46% average for righty-lefty confrontations. Now, look at where lefties have thrown to Morales. They like to locate on the outside corner:

Left-handed pitchers' location vs. Morales, 2008-10

Lefties have put 49% of their offerings in the zone, which is the MLB average for lefty-righty tussles. And Morales hasn't done much of anything on lefty pitches on the outside corner:

Morales' in-play slugging percentage by location vs. left-handed pitchers

Given Morales' platoon splits, Scioscia is smart to keep Morales in the lineup against righties and give his ankle a rest against the CC Sabtahias and Jon Lesters of the AL.

Monday
Feb272012

Bobby Abreu's Lefty Woes

While's he's not a happy spring camper, Bobby Abreu seems now seems resigned to a more limited role with the Angels in 2012. Abreu said last week that he would rather be traded than become a part-time player, but there's not much of a market for a soon-to-be-38-year-old owed $9 million who shouldn't go near a glove or step in the batter's box against lefty pitching.

Once one of the game's chronically underappreciated superstars, Abreu has racked up about as much career value (59 Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement) as Mike Piazza, Vlad Guerrero, Dave Winfield and Sammy Sosa. The current version of Abreu, however, isn't near as potent. He still has his trademark patience, swinging at the third-lowest rate of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone among MLB hitters in 2011, but his power is kaput. And that's especially the case against fellow left-handers:

Abreu's 2009-11 platoon splits

Pitcher HandAVGOBPSLUGPlate Appearances
Vs Left .245 .321 .339 574
Vs Right .278 .384 .447 1345

 

He's still able to inflict some damage against righties, but he's bullied by lefties. The major problem for Abreu versus lefties is ground balls. He hit a grounder 44% of the time against right-handers over the past three years, but 56% versus southpaws. Take a look at Abreu's ground ball rate by pitch location against lefties, compared to the average lefty hitter. He's an automatic ground out on low pitches, but he also chops high offerings into the grass:

Abreu's ground ball rate by pitch location vs. left-handed pitching, 2009-11

Average ground ball rate by pitch location for left-handed hitters vs. left-handed pitchers, 2009-11

Considering that the Angels have Mike Trout near ready in the outfield and DH options like Kendrys Morales (if his ankle is healed) and Mark Trumbo, there's little reason for Abreu to see much time against lefties. Four-hundred plate appearances might not be what he wants, but that's what he should get at this late point in his excellent career.

Monday
Jan092012

Kendrick Killing 'Em Softly

After doling out a combined $330 million to free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels have reportedly re-upped a home-grown stud by signing second baseman Howie Kendrick to a four-year, $33.5 million deal. The pact, pending a physical, buys out Kendrick's last year of arbitration eligibility and three years of potential free agency.

Kendrick is fresh off a career year at the plate, establishing new personal bests in home runs (18), slugging percentage (.464) and adjusted on-base-plus slugging percentage (125 OPS+). The 28-year-old improved his power production by punching more breaking and off-speed pitches into the gaps and over the fence.

From 2008-2010, Kendrick slugged .352 against curveballs, sliders and changeups. While not terrible, that was 22 points below the league average for position players over that period. Kendrick cracked mistake pitches left over the meaty part of the plate, but he rarely did damage on soft stuff otherwise:

Kendrick's in-play slugging percentage vs. soft stuff, 2008-2010

Average in-play slugging percentage vs. soft stuff, 2008-2010

In 2011, however, Kendrick upped his slugging percentage against sliders, curves and changeups to .479, even with the league average dropping five points. Most of that slugging came against lefties who dared toss him slow stuff on the inner half of the plate:

Kendrick's in-play slugging percentage vs. soft stuff, 2011

With more pop against slow stuff, Kendrick's OPS+ trailed just that of Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano among second basemen who qualified for the batting title.

It looks like the Angels locked up their second baseman to a contract with relatively little risk and a good deal of upside. Kendrick figured to earn around $5 million through arbitration in 2012. Assuming that a win costs around $5 million on the free agent market and there is five percent salary inflation per year, the Angels are only playing Kendrick during his free agent years as if he's slightly less than a 2 Win Above Replacement level player. He has averaged about 2.3 Baseball-Reference WAR during his career to this point, and he was worth 4.3 WAR in 2011.

If Kendrick reverts back to being the sort of player he was from 2006-2010, then the Angels are paying Kendrick what he's worth, or slightly less. But if he retains some of the offensive gains he made in 2011, then L.A. gets a real bargain here.

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