The Angels have a lot of problems right now, but one problem that has plagued them most of the season is that the Angels offense, well, it sucks. It is one of the most bizarre developments of the 2015 season considering that the Angels offense was one of the best in all of baseball last year. How did things go so wrong so fast? Simple. The Angels offense lost its balance.
It seems almost impossible, considering the presence of Mike Trout, but the Angels have one of the worst offenses in the American League at 97 wRC+. That’s good for 11th in the AL. This after being second in the AL last year at a 110 wRC+ with much of the same personnel. Sure, they traded Howie Kendrick and blackballed Josh Hamilton, but the Angels still have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun who have been just as good or better in 2015 compared to 2014. Those three have been great. Even with Albert’s recent struggles, you can’t complain about that trio. The rest of the lineup, well…
You see, the problem is that the Angels have got the most top-heavy lineup in the American League. In terms of raw runs created, Mike Trout has accounted for 20.1% of the Angels runs created. Only one other team has a player that accounts for more, the Seattle Mariners and Nelson Cruz. That isn’t exactly an offense teams aspire to share commonalities with. This isn’t just a symptom of an MVP-caliber season, mind you. Josh Donaldson only makes up 16.5% of Toronto’s runs created.
Add Albert Pujols, and the top two producers in the Angels lineup account for 33.9% of the team’s runs created. Seattle is the next closest team at 32.2%.
Expanding to the top three in the lineup, Kole Calhoun boosts the offensive concentration to 47.4% of the runs created. The second highest concentration by a top three is Baltimore at 44.0%. The only other two teams above 42.0% are the White Sox and Mariners. You know what else those four offenses have in common? They’re garbage, each in the bottom half of the AL and with wRC+ of 99 or lower.
To complete the comparison, the 2014 Angels, which was a great offense, only had 18.0% of runs created attributed to Trout, 29.6% to Trout and Pujols and 40.7% to Trout, Pujols and Calhoun. Clearly that trio was a big part of the offense, but it wasn’t nearly as big a part. This year they are functionally half the offense. No wonder the offense goes as those three players go.
It is no small coincidence that the Angels’ best stretch of the season, when they went 17-3, occurred during a time when both Trout and Pujols were hotter than the core of the sun. They were taking turns hitting homers and for one brilliant month the Angels offense looked like it did in 2014. Fast forward to the team’s epic struggles in August and we see that Trout has a 92 wRC+ this month and Pujols is at 90. If Calhoun weren’t at 134 wRC+, the Halos might be winless on the month.
Therein lies the problem. Nobody is stepping up to help Trout and Pujols while they are down. Calhoun has been good and C.J. Cron has a 171 wRC+ this month, but outside of David Murphy at 117 in part-time duty, there isn’t a single Angel hitter with a wRC+ over 84 in August.
We saw a similar pattern in April when the Angels offense looked horrific to start the season. Trout was red hot at 188 wRC+, Calhoun was terrific at 145 and Johnny Giavotella was overachieving at 129. Everyone else was at 98 or lower, mostly much lower (hi, Joyce and Iannetta).
No offense can sustain success when only two players are hitting well at a given time, even if those two players are hitting exceptionally well. It is the inherent flaw in the stars-and-scrubs roster construction methodology. When the three stars are playing to their full capabilities, everything is great. But when two of those stars fall on hard times at the same time, the non-stars on the roster go from scrubs to black holes.
There isn’t a whole hell of a lot the Angels can even do about it at this point. They tried adding some average bats to make their scrubs a little less scrubby and create more depth, but that can only help so much. Trout and Pujols have been heating up in the last week, so the offense could get back to being not miserable in the near future., but if this lineup is going to really get going, they need to catch lightning in a bottle like they did in July and get all their scrubs hitting well at the same time. No problem, right?