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Roster construction and Arte


This got really long; sorry for the wall of text. I’ve been an Angels fan for 50 years and the past two seasons have been amongst the most painful. I keep digging for why it’s so bad. Here are some of my thoughts.

Just got swept at home by one of the teams we’re chasing for a playoff spot, we’re a game under .500, seven back in the wildcard. This team is cooked. So how did we get here? Bad execution? Bad coaching? Sure, but the root of the problem is a combination of roster construction and injuries.

In the Moreno era we’ve seen Arte repeatedly try to build the team around long-term free agent contracts. Vernon Wells, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, CJ Wilson, Gary Matthews Jr, Zack Cozart, Justin Upton, and so on. When you sign these guys you’re paying for past performance and you limit your roster flexibility due to the size of their contracts. I think it’s really hard to build a winner this way. I’m not sure Arte cares…I think in his mind the point is to put an attractive team out there, not a winning team.

So let’s look at the team the Angels put together for 2023. Was this ever really a competitive squad? In typical Angels fashion, the answer is “yes, if.” Yes, they could be competitive if there were no significant injuries and everyone played at or above their career achievements. That, of course, never happens. Your team needs to be deep throughout the organization so you can fill gaps created by injuries. And your team needs to be deep throughout the lineup so guys can pick up the slack when others are going through the inevitable slumps. The 2023 Angers were not deep in either fashion.

Here’s the lineup from opening day with some comments on how each of these players have panned out to date.

  1. Taylor Ward LF – Ward has appeared in 97 games, slashing .253/.335/.421 for an OPS of .756. These are all slightly below his career averages. All told he’s a slightly above replacement level player: he generated 1.6 WAR this year before getting hurt, with a weighted runs created (wRC+) score of 108.

  2. Mike Trout CF – MNT has appeared in 81 games, slashing .263/.369/.493 for an OPS of .862. Those are good numbers, but well below Trout’s career average. Of course Mike’s on the IL now, but he’s certainly not been the problem for the team.

  3. Shohei Ohtani DH – 89 games as a hitter, slashing .307/.364/.676, for an OPS of 1.086, best in MLB. He’s generated 5.7 WAR and has a wRC+ score of 186. The reason we’re not in a worse position.

  4. Anthony Rendon 3B – and here’s where it goes off the rails. Every year It’s “if Rendon plays to his ability….” I even bought into some of this, thinking it can’t keep going on like this can it? Guess what? It can! Rendon has appeared in 43 games this season, slashing .236/.361/.318 for an OPS of .678. You might swallow those numbers for a slick-fielding second baseman, but not for a corner infielder who’s supposed to be driving your offense. He’s generated just 0.2 WAR and has a 96 wRC+ score. Just another bad season and a catastrophic signing.

  5. Hunter Renfroe RF – 104 games, .251/.311/.449 slash line for a .759 OPS. These are below Renfroe’s career average, but not by a lot. This is more or less who he is. If Jo Adell had come along as planned (hoped?) this would be his spot and Renfroe wouldn’t be here. He’s just an average guy.

  6. Luis Rengifo 2B – 97 games, slashing .231/.320/.397 for a .717 OPS. Classic utility guy; he’s played 2B, 3B, SS, and all 3 outfield positions this year. Given that flexibility, he’s fine, I guess, but should he be appearing in nearly 90% of our games?

  7. Brandon Drury 1B – 77 games, slashing .276/.321/.497; .817 OPS. He’s a notch below the classic 30 HR/100 RBI first baseman.

  8. Gio Urshela SS – 62 games, slashed .299/.329/.374 for a .703 OPS. Was providing nice consistency in the infield until he got hurt and is out for the season.

  9. Logan O’Hoppe C – 16 games, slashing .283/.339/.547; .886 OPS. I think we were all pretty hyped about O’Hoppe early in the season. Then he had the shoulder problem and is likely gone til next year.

The takeaway from that lineup is that of the 9 guys you rolled out on opening day, you’ve had meaningful contributions from two of them: Ohtani and Trout. Urshela and O’Hoppe got hurt (and now Ward as well). O’Hoppe’s injury was a real bummer. Urshela getting hurt opened the door for Neto, who has been better than Urshela (.241/.315/.411 for an OPS of .725 and a wRC+ of 99; 0.9 WAR in 67 games).The team likely hoped that Jared Walsh would be able to play 1B, but that has not panned out, sadly. Had it worked, even if Walsh got his 2021 game back he would be a good-not-great 1B.

This is way too long already so I’ll spare you the pitching details. In summary the Angels are 20th in MLB in ERA. Bottom line we haven’t put together a team that can be truly competitive.

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