Yep, he's still here. The object of every Angels fan's ire, Vernon Wells is back for a third season of what is sure to be more disappointment even though the bar continues to get lower and lower.
2012 Stats: 262 PA, .230 AVG, .279 OBP, .403 SLG, 36 R, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 3 SB, 1 CS, 35 K, .296 wOBA, 91 OPS+, 0.6 fWAR
2013 ZiPS Projections: 449 PA, .248AVG, .290 OBP, .426 SLG, 53 R, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB, 3 CS, 67 K, .308 wOBA, 99 OPS+, 1.3 fWAR
2013 Bill James Projections: 284 PA, .244 AVG, .297 OBP, .429 SLG, 33 R, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 4 SB, 2 CS, 42 K, .312 wOBA
2013 CAIRO Projections: 430 PA, .231 AVG, .278 OBP, .403 SLG, 51 R, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 6 SB, 3 CS, 66 K, .294 wOBA
2013 MWAH Projections*: 175 PA, .245 AVG, .286 OBP, .411 SLG, 19 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS, 27 K, .303 wOBA
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate)
2012 in Objective Review:
Following his disastrous debut in 2011, Vernon Wells had nowhere to go but up. That proved true, albeit not by very much. Wells raised his average and OBP, but both numbers were still woeful. The result was Wells quickly being relegated to a bench role. His reduced usage was also partly due to Wells injuring his thumb in late-May, sending him to the disabled list for over two months. By the time he came back, Mark Trumbo had begun to slump, so Vernon actually started getting thrown some semi-regular playing time. He did little to capitalize on the opportunity even though he often had favorable match-ups against left-handed pitchers who he actually hit well in 2011, but mustered only a .671 OPS in 2012.
2012 in Revisionist History:
Yes, Wells was better in 2012, but that was only because he was historically bad in 2011. Even with all of his "improvements," Wells was one of the pre-eminent out machines in all of baseball with his .279 OBP. Vernon made a big deal about revamping his swing before the season, but that just showed that he was ignoring the bigger issues. Sure, his swing probably did have some problems that lead to him mustering only a .214 BABIP in 2011, but his swing alterations didn't do much other than help bump his BABIP up to a still repugnant .226. What Wells completely failed to address was his decaying plate discipline. In 2011, Wells was one of the freest swingers in all of baseball both in and out of the zone. He did manage to reign in that some in 2012, he just did it wrong. His swing rate dropped from 50.8% to 47.0% overall. The problem is his swings rate out balls out of the zone only came down one percent whereas his swing rate in the zone plummeted 6.6%. Oops! To make matters worse, his contact rate out of the zone went up over nine percentage points. It turns out hitting more balls out of the zone while swinging at fewer balls in the zone doesn't really result in a lot of success. Who knew? In the interest of fairness, Wells did at least get his strikeout rate back in line with his career norms after seeing it spike the year before. Hooray for tiny moral victories!
Three Lingering Questions for 2013:
1) Can Scioscia resist the temptation to use Wells frequently?
Wells "only" got 262 plate appearances last year, but keep in mind he missed two months of the season with his thumb injury. Imagine how much he would've played if he were healthy all season. There is no good reason for Wells to play this year after turning in two awful seasons in a row, but there is fear out there that Scioscia will turn to Wells at the first sign of trouble with Bourjos or Trumbo simply because Wells is a veteran who occasionally runs into a ball and puts it over the fence. Of course, Dipoto could always intervene and put an end to that like he did when he released Abreu, but he really shouldn't have to.
2) Will the Angels trade Wells?
We can dream, can't we? Moving a big contract like Vernon's, even if the Halos eat most of the deal, is generally only done in the off-season. The only way he gets moved mid-season is if he actually start playing decently, which is a catch-22 because it means he would need to get playing time, which we just discussed as being a bad thing. Boy, this is complicated.
3) Is there any hope for him becoming a productive player again?
Well, he did alter his swing… again. That might help, right? I suppose stranger things have happened, but Vernon's big problems aren't so much a slowed bat or declining physical skills, but rather his degrading approach at the plate. Historically speaking, that isn't something that often reverses course. Maybe the light will come on for him, but I have to think the odds of that happening are infinitesimal. He's simply too far gone.
Three Irrelevant Questions for 2013:
1) Exactly how much does one need to be blessed in order to not be stressed?
Making over $24 million a year is plenty blessed, but that seems like an awfully high bar to clear. I'd like to think that once you clear the $10 million, you have enough blessing to circumvent all of that stressing.
2) Does anyone want to create a Joomla plugin for me that ticks down the amount of money still owed to Vernon Wells?
Because that would be super awesome.
3) Fuck you, Tony Reagins.
I realize that isn't a question. It was, however, the phrase blasting in my head every single second that I was writing this profile.
2013 in Subjective Projection:
Even Vernon Wells seems resigned to the fact that he isn't going to have much of a role this season, but he is trying to be a good soldier about it (take note, Bobby Abreu). As maligned as he is, Wells actually isn't a bad option as a fourth outfielder. He can field all three outfield positions,can provide some pop off the bench and has a history of murdering left-handed pitching, 2012 not withstanding. Used in a specialized role, Wells could actually be fairly productive in that role. All the projections have him getting a lot more playing time, but I think he could see his numbers puff up artificially if Scioscia is smart with him and uses him almost exclusively against southpaws.
That's the theory anyway. My biggest concern with Wells is that he is broken mentally. While he parrots the "too blessed to be stressed" line quite a bit, it is hard to imagine that he has much confidence at the plate anymore. The fact that he is tinkering with his swing and once again ignoring his glaring deficiencies in his approach suggest that he is so far in his own head that he is never going to be able to get out of his own way and resurrect his career.