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Jim Fregosi vs. Maury Wills

November 26th, 2014
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Fregosi was a six-time All-Star for the Angels who hit the first inside the park home run in Dodger Stadium and hit for the cycle twice.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Golden Era committee is going to meet early this December to vote on whom on their ballot, if anyone, should be enshrined as a new member of baseball’s glorious hall.  This is the same committee that voted  Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame in 2011.  The “Golden Era” covers the years 1947 to 1972, and this year’s ballot includes nine players whose main contributions occurred during this window, one of whom is a shortstop.  Unjustly, the shortstop on the committee’s ballot is Maury Wills of the Los Angeles Dodgers instead of the more deserving shortstop who played during this era, Jim Fregosi of the Los Angeles/California Angels.

Not that Wills was not a great player.  He was the starting shortstop on three Los Angeles Dodgers World Series championship teams, in 1959, 1963, and 1965, and he had that headline grabbing year in 1962 when he broke Ty Cobb’s single season stolen base record by swiping 104 bags to Cobb’s 96.

It’s just that Fregosi was a better player.

Clearly, Wills was a superior base-stealer.  When you look at each player’s ten-year prime (for Wills that was from 1960 to 1969, and for Fregosi that was from 1963 to 1972), Wills stole 535 bases to Fregosi’s 69.  But even with that huge advantage, Wills was able to score only 174 more runs than Fregosi during their prime years (874 vs. 700).  So although Fregosi wasn’t nearly the base-stealer Wills was, Fregosi was obviously a great base-runner once the ball was put in play.

But in the two fundamental yardsticks of offensive ability, the ability to get on base and the ability to hit for power, Fregosi topped Wills.  During each player’s ten-year prime, Fregosi had 577 walks to Wills’ 439, which led to Fregosi sporting a .338 on-base percentage to Wills’ .330 OBP.  A slight advantage to the Angel, I know, but there would be a huge discrepancy in power.  During this time, Fregosi hit 231 doubles to Wills’ 136.  Fregosi hit 117 home runs to Wills’ 17.  Fregosi hit 552 RBI to Wills’ 369.

So when you add their on-base percentages and slugging percentages, Fregosi had the superior .738 OPS to Wills’ .672 OPS.

The best metrics that measure a player’s defensive ability are Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, but the data those metrics depend on doesn’t exist for players from the 1960s, so, according to Fangraphs, a measurement called Total Zone is the best historical fielding metric available.  When you look at Total Zone scores for the two players’ careers, Fregosi’s score blows Wills’ away.  Fregosi compiled a 24 TZ score compared to the score of 4 for Wills’ career.

And then there is WAR.  During their careers, Wills played in 412 more games, giving him more opportunity to rack up more WAR, yet he lags behind Fregosi in this category as well.  Fregosi racked up 48.7 WAR in his career while Wills could only reach 39.5 WAR.  And during this “Golden Era” from 1947 to 1972 that the Hall of Fame committee is considering, Jim Fregosi ranks number 36 in WAR among all players of this era, one step behind Pete Rose and one step ahead of Gil Hodges, while Wills ranks number 50 on this list.

One final thing.  When the legendary statistician Bill James published The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2003, he included lists of, in his carefully measured opinion, the 100 greatest players at each position.  At the shortstop position, he ranked James Louis Fregosi as the 16th greatest shortstop to ever play the game.  Maury Wills?  He came in at number 21.

Jerry Dipoto’s Transaction Bingo

November 25th, 2014
FinalBingo

Click to Embiggen

 

While researching the Family Tree article the other day, I stumbled upon an intriguing bit of information: Jerry Dipoto has been with the Angels only a little over three years now, but he’s already made at least one trade with 22 of the 29 other MLB clubs, covering 28 transactions overall. That’s everything from purchasing Rich Hill to acquiring Cesar Ramos—anything that required negotiations with another club.

I don’t know if those numbers are meaningful or not, but it sure feels like they are. A popular notion about new general managers is that they like dealing with the front-office guys and players they already know, at least for a while. Dayton Moore is a great example of this: The former Atlanta scouting director brought a cavalcade of former Braves to Kansas City in his first several years with the Royals. If we’re to take this idea as gospel, then it would seem that Dipoto is already on great terms with most of his peers. Sure, he’s brokered with old friends in Arizona and San Diego a number of times, but those moves make up only ~18 percent of his transaction log.

After a little more than 1,000 days with the Angels, the only teams left for Dipoto to parley with are the Twins and six senior circuit clubs: the Cubs, Reds, Marlins, Phillies, Giants, and Nationals. So far as I see it, there are only two viable reasons why Dipoto’s trade frenzy seems to stand out:

 

1) The Conspiracy Narrative

The Angels’ Family Tree

November 22nd, 2014
Garret Richards appeared in seven games for the Halos in 2012.

The oldest Angel, sort of…

 

In a bit of genius earlier this week, Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh went through the 40-man rosters of each MLB team and discovered the current roster spot (or spots) on each club with the longest lineage. In other words, he found which player could trace his roots back the farthest within an organization through trades and compensatory draft picks.

In addition to finding a Cy Young winner whose team ties go all the way back to the late 1970s, he found that Garrett Richards, David Freese, and Fernando Salas all share the longest tree for the Angels, as their places in the organization can all be traced back to the signing of Francisco Rodriguez way back in 1998 (!). The whole thing’s a fascinating exercise, and it made me curious about transaction trees for all the current Halos. Just how far back do the rest of the seeds go?

Note: Things get considerably less exciting the closer we get to the present, but be sure to stick around for the bonus trees.

 

1998

Francisco Rodriguez -> Garrett Richards/Randal Grichuk -> David Freese/Fernando Salas

K-Rod is the gift that keeps on giving. When the Mets decided to give Frankie a three-year, $37 million contract in free agency, the Angels were rewarded with the 24th and 42nd picks in the 2009 draft. Those picks became Randal Grichuk and Garrett Richards. (Side note: Can we bring back the old Type-A/Type-B free agent thing? Because that did wonders for the Angels’ drafting.) Grichuk, other than being “the guy drafted before Mike Trout,” eventually helped the Halos net David Freese and Fernando Salas from the Cards last winter.

 

1999

John Lackey -> Cam Bedrosian

Everyone from the 2002 World Series team might be gone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re done contributing. When John Lackey left for the Red Sox in 2010, the Angels were rewarded with the 29th and 40th overall picks in the June draft. That 29th selection was Cam Bedrosian, future Bullpen Savior.

Lackey was a 2nd round pick in 1999.

 

2000

Kimera Bartee -> Chone Figgins -> Taylor Lindsey -> Huston Street

Easily my favorite non-bonus transaction tree. If only every random minor league outfielder evolved into an All-Star closer 14 years later, amirite? Kimera Bartee signed with the Angels on a one-year deal in winter 2000, then was dealt to the Rockies for some slap-hitting second baseman with a similarly singular name the following summer. Chone Figgins eventually morphed into the OBP machine we all adored, earned Type-A free agent status, and got the Angels two extra first-round picks from the Mariners in 2010. Those two picks went to Kaleb Cowart and Taylor Lindsey, the latter of whom was sent to the Padres as part of this summer’s Huston Street deal.

Halos Acquire Robertson; Lock In Roster

November 21st, 2014

 

The Angels (and everyone else) made a number of small roster moves on Thursday. The Halos acquired outfielder Daniel Robertson from the Rangers, added catcher Jett Bandy and righty reliever Dan Reynolds to the 40-man roster, and DFA-ed lefty Michael Roth, catcher Jackson Williams, and outfielder Alfredo Marte.

The flurry of transactions were made ahead of the annual offseason 40-man roster lockdown, which “freezes” all 40-man rosters from midnight Thursday until after the Rule 5 Draft on December 11. This is far less ominous than it sounds. The only thing it affects is a team’s ability to add in-house players to the MLB roster. The Angels can trade, sign, and claim (*cough*Ike Davis*cough*) as many players as they want over the next three weeks, they just can’t promote any more players from within the organization no matter how many guys they might deal away.

This is where Jett Bandy and Dan Reynolds come into play. They were two of a number of Angels minor leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter. By placing Bandy and Reynolds on the 40-man roster before Thursday’s deadline, the Halos have shielded them from selection. Not protected from the draft were prospects Kaleb Cowart, Austin Wood, and Daniel Hurtado, among others. It’s possible those three will be taken in the draft, but it seems highly unlikely given their poor performance, recent injury history, and inexperience at high levels, respectively.

Robertson, 29, was likely on track to be DFA-ed by Texas on Thursday to make room for prospects before the Halos swooped in and acquired him for a player to be named or cash. By grabbing him before he hit the waiver wire, the Angels guaranteed that another team couldn’t put a claim on him. Robertson’s calling cards are his speed and his discerning eye at the plate. The Oregon State alum has averaged about 20 stolen bases a year in the minors (at a 75% clip) and has walked almost as often as he’s struck out (312 vs 316) in over 3,100 plate appearances. Listed at 5’8 and 170 pounds, Robertson’s physical stature is that of a Collin Cowgill clone minus the 12-pack abs (probably).

Robertson was a career minor leaguer before the injury-plagued Rangers promoted him for a time in 2014, so it seems unlikely that he’ll get too much playing time with the Halos. Jerry Dipoto did say Robertson will be in the running for the 5th outfielder spot, though, and seeing as he plays all three outfield positions and his fiercest competition is noted outfielders Efren Navarro and Grant Green, he could end up being a familiar face.

Michael Roth, Jackson Williams, and Alfredo Marte have all been floating on the fringes of various 40-man rosters for several months, so their departures aren’t all that surprising. What would be surprising is if any of the three don’t make it through waivers: Roth already went unclaimed following his DFA in April, and Williams and Marte survived all the way to the Angels (read: the final team) on the waiver wire last month. I highly doubt anything’s changed in their outlooks between then and now.

The Angels’ roster remains full at 40, for now. If the team wants to participate in the Rule 5 Draft, they’ll have to drop at least one player from the roster between now and then. With a number of promising prospects left unprotected from the draft and the non-tender deadline (Dec 2) fast approaching, it’s probably safe to assume that one or two spots will open up before all is said and done.

The Halos And The Tommy John ‘Epidemic’

November 20th, 2014
Lock up your elbows. He's coming for you...

He’s coming for you…

 

Up to this past season, the Angels had done a pretty good job of keeping the elbows1 of their pitching staff intact. From 2006-2013, only two pitchers on the club’s 40-man roster—Michael Kohn, 2012; Brandon Sisk, 2013—had to endure Tommy John surgery, and the latter likely hurt his arm before joining the team. If one were so inclined, one might have believed the Halos knew the secret to keeping a certain elbow ligament strong. But then 2014 happened: Rule 5 pick Brian Moran fell victim to a UCL tear in March, relievers Sean Burnett and Ryan Brasier went under the knife in June, and Tyler Skaggs joined the club in August. After just two procedures on MLB arms in eight years, the Angels needed four in one, finally succumbing to TJ’s magnetic pull.

As you know, the Halos weren’t the only team to be stung by frayed elbow ligaments this past season. One of the biggest narratives early in the 2014 season was that Tommy John surgery among pitchers was growing at an exponential rate. Dr. James Andrews went so far as to call it an epidemic. Writers from all over used a variety of data as evidence of this ominous trend, but few touched on the fact that they could reach the same conclusion about any baseball-related injury over the last few decades.

How/Why? Because baseball injury data has always been incomplete, and probably always will be.

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!