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Friday, July 15, 2011

PECOTA Doesn't Love The Angels

This is nothing new, of course, since the Angels routinely outperform their expected winning percentage under Mike Scioscia. Despite winning 14 of 17 and only being one win over their expected record entering the break, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA still doesn't give the Halos much of a chance to make the playoffs in the Reset Odds piece on ESPN.com (Insider required). The new projections give the Angels an 18.4% to make the postseason (17.9 for the division, 0.5 wild card) which is actually up 5.2% from the preseason round of nerd math.

Obviously, the landscape could change quite a bit over the next two weeks before the July 31st trade deadline. The Angels have already called upon top prospect Mike Trout but his role on the team remains unclear once Peter Bourjos returns from a hamstring injury. As far as turning to the trade market, the rumors vary wildly. ESPN LA's Mark Saxon heard from a source that the Angels will be "pinching pennies" which makes some sense after they took on one of baseball's most lucrative and absurd contracts in Vernon Wells this off-season.

On the other side of the spectrum, NBC New York tries to make a case for Carlos Beltran getting shipped to Orange County. It seems highly unlikely that the Angels would take on that kind of salary even with the Mets kicking in some cash. Finding room in the lineup for Beltran is even more problematic with Bourjos, Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu sharing outfield and DH duties and that's without even trying to get Trout more time.

The trade rumor I could actually get on board with was brought up in a recent Jonah Keri article for ESPN.com (Insider required). Keri suggested the Angels could give up a pair of pitching prospects for San Diego closer Heath Bell. A bullpen stocked with Bell, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden added to aces Jered Weaver and Dan Haren is a formula that tends to do well in October. If Bell isn't re-signed, he figures to be a Type A free agent and would get the Angels a couple more picks in the 2012 draft.

The Angels could also just benefit from improved in-house play like more production from Vernon Wells and less playing time for Jeff Mathis. Wells can't be as bad as his current .222/.248/.409 line suggests even if Fangraphs ZiPS projection for the rest of the season (.252/.298/.430) isn't that much better. Meanwhile, Mathis (.195/.241/.286) is every bit as terrible as he usually is but Scioscia keeps running him out there just in case Mathis has some incriminating photos of the skipper.

The bottom line is that the AL West is a very winnable division for the Angels, especially with Weaver and Haren anchoring the rotation. I just don't understand why PECOTA gives the Rangers an 80.5% chance to win the West but I'm no scientist regardless of what I might tell women in bars. By the way, "race car driver" works much better than "scientist."

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