Angels Series Preview

How's your back, Dan? (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Alex Cobb vs. Dan Haren, 10:05 PM

Once considered an honest to goodness ace, Haren has fallen just a bit short of that mark this season. His walk rate has climbed to it's highest level since 2007 (5.7%), and his strikeout rate has fallen to it's lowest level since 2006 (18.8%). Of course, those are still pretty decent rates, and SIERA does like him a bit more than FIP or xFIP, probably based on his healthy groundball tendencies (and you can see why he gets grounders in his stuff: everything -- sinker, splitter, cutter, curve -- is moving down), but he's not the Dan Haren to be feared of years past. His decline is likely due to a sore back he's nursed for most of the season, which sent him to the disabled list in mid-July. Since then, he's had one underwhelming start against Texas. We're number two. Let's keep the whelms suppressed.

Matt Moore vs. C.J. Wilson, 9:05 PM

Yes, his shiny sub-three ERA from 2011 is intact, but C.J. Wilson's current season bears much more resemblance to his 2010 than it does to his superlative, contract-winning 2011. Like Haren, Wilson is still a good pitcher, but not an insurmountable one, walking over 10% of the batters he faces, and displaying a pronounced platoon split -- 3.16 xFIP vs. LHB, 4.07 xFIP vs. RHB over his career, with the split even wider this year. Wilson's split is at least partially due to his slider, an excellent pitch (his best) that he uses far more against left handed batters than he does against righties, although it is effective against both.

Jeremy Hellickson vs. Zack Greinke, 3:35 PM

So apparently, now it's Zack Greinke going for the Angels on Sunday. Rats. He's good. Real good. Sub-3.00 SIERA good. He doesn't walk anyone, strikes out almost one per inning, gets a groundball on over 50% of his balls in play. Fantastic curve, fantastic slider, fantastic cutter, fastball and sinker aren't allergens, either. Y'all know him. Rats.

Quick comparison:

Stats Rays Angels
wOBA 0.306 0.330
wRC+ 94 108
BB% 9.9% 7.4%
K% 21.6% 17.4%
BABIP 0.279 0.302
FIP 3.80 4.13
xFIP 3.79 4.15
SIERA 3.67 4.09
K/9 8.31 7.06
BB/9 3.23 3.28
BABIP 0.287 0.276

The Angels are unquestionably the better hitting team, even when you adjust for park. The Rays have the better pitching, although one might argue that they're outmatched in both of the first two games (I would not argue this).

Regressed platoon splits with ZIPS RoS projections (sortable table)(Newly promoted SS Jean Segura excluded):

Player wOBA vs. RHP wOBA vs. LHP
Albert Pujols 0.372 0.395
Mike Trout 0.370 0.346
Mark Trumbo 0.341 0.321
Kendrys Morales 0.336 0.290
Torii Hunter 0.326 0.347
Howie Kendrick 0.314 0.327
Alberto Callaspo 0.311 0.328
Erick Aybar 0.308 0.304
Maicer Izturis 0.307 0.300
Peter Bourjos 0.303 0.318
John Hester 0.288 0.271
Bobby Wilson 0.267 0.296

Scary and deep against both lefties and righties. It's especially interesting to see Torii Hunter still providing value as their second best bat against left handed pitching. Not everyone thought the Angels were right to give him the big contract they did, but Hunter has aged well.

Bullpen handedness splits (sortable):

Pitcher PAs vs. RHB xFIP vs. RHB PAs vs. LHB xFIP vs. LHB
Kevin Jepsen 308 3.54 348 3.95
LaTroy Hawkins 1404 3.65 1171 3.92
Ernesto Frieri 339 3.67 243 4.17
Jason Isringhausen 1184 3.92 900 4.13
Scott Downs 1548 3.99 816 3.07
Hisanori Takahashi 600 4.17 337 3.35
Jerome Williams 1272 4.34 1171 4.86
Garrett Richards 118 5.17 159 4.61

This isn't a great bullpen (partly due to injuries right now), and it's probably the biggest weakness on the team. They're especially vulnerable to righties, although after a team gets past Downs and Takahashi, they drop off against lefties as well. If the Rays can take their pitches, work their counts, and knock out Haren, Wilson, and TBD reasonably quickly, this is a group against which they can have success.

All data from FanGraphs, Brooks Baseball, and Texas Leaguers.

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