Purgatory Online

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Last night, the Angels won yet another game against the Royals that could easily have gone against them. Down 3-1 in the top of the 9th, they were the beneficiaries of a series of defensive implosions, including wild pitches, throwing errors, and mental mistakes, and ended up with a 5-3 victory. It was hardly a shining moment for the offense; although there was some timely hitting, and it's a little unfair to say they wouldn't have won without the Kansas City errors (we'll never know), the fact is that the Angels put a total of 16 earned runs on the board in four games against a team that is:
  • Dead last in the league in ERA
  • Last in the Majors in K/9
  • 13th in the league in WHIP (28th in the Majors)
  • Last in the league in BAA (29th in the Majors)
Not a single Royals starter entered the series with an ERA under 5.00; two had ERAs over 6.00.

So it's a mite disconcerting to think that, in some bizarro world in which the Royals were as good as, say, the Detroit Tigers or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Angels might have dropped a couple of those games, and not sit atop the wild-card standings today. At the same time, however, let me offer the following riposte: screw bizarro world. Because we're about to find out exactly what the Angels are made of, courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles come in to Anaheim riding a seven game win streak, compiled against Texas and Seattle (thanks, guys!). Let's consider their key offensive and defensive statistics so far in 2004:
  • Runs: 573 (7th in the American League)
  • HR: 117 (9th)
  • BA: .280 (3rd)
  • OPS: .776 (8th)
  • Runs Created per 27 Outs: 5.27 (6th)
  • ERA: 4.90 (11th)
  • WHIP: 1.54 (14th)
  • K/9: 6.71 (5th)
  • BAA: .270 (11th)
  • OPSA: .763 (8th)
"Um, yeah?" I hear you saying. "Mediocre offense, bad pitching. What's the problem?" And, looking at those numbers, you'd be right.

But wait! Look at those same numbers after the All-Star Break:
  • Runs: 138 (2nd in the American League)
  • HR: 32 (7th)
  • BA: .281 (3rd)
  • OPS: .807 (2nd)
  • Runs Created per 27 Outs: 5.61 (2nd)
  • ERA: 4.23 (5th)
  • WHIP: 1.48 (12th)
  • K/9: 6.70 (6th)
  • BAA: .270 (8th)
  • OPSA: .764 (6th)
A little bit better, pitching-wise - light-years beyond Kansas City - but the offense has absolutely caught fire. The Angels are in the midst of some pretty good pitching performances, so I don't expect the Orioles to manhandle them the way they did Texas, but they will score runs. And that means that the Angels' offense is going to have to keep pace; they can't expect to go meekly for eight and still have a chance at the end of the game.

Now, the good news: I've seen some discussion of how the Angels are in a bad way, schedule-wise, particularly vis-a-vis Oakland and Boston. Such analysis is based on the premise that the "good" teams in the AL are Oakland, Texas, Anaheim, New York, Boston, Minnesota, and Chicago. In reality, however, the teams that are currently hot are Baltimore and Cleveland - a fact that works to mitigate some of the schedule for the Angels. Through the rest of the season, we see the following:
  • Angels - 3 games with Baltimore, 3 games with Cleveland
  • A's - 7 games with Baltimore, 3 games with Cleveland
  • Rangers - 3 games with Baltimore, 3 games with Cleveland
  • Boston - 7 games with Baltimore, 0 games with Cleveland
The real advantage here is obviously in the division race. Including Chicago, Cleveland, and Baltimore, the Angels play 31 more games against the so-called "good teams." Oakland plays 29. Texas plays 37. Boston plays 28. The Rangers are clearly toast. We'll start to find out about the Angels tonight.