MLB

LA Angels of Anaheim: How to get from the “Out”-field to the World Series in 2018. The Path Needed to Make it Happen Part 1

Imagine if you will it is November 1st, 2018 and what was thought to be improbable at the beginning of the year has happened. Mike Trout raises the Commissioner’s Trophy over his head. “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are your World Series Champions” you hear Fox announcer Joe Buck yell out!

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Now let’s back track just a bit and tell you how this can become the reality in 2018. To do so we need to understand what happened to get them to this point. In 2017 the Angels pushed and made a run towards a wildcard berth but ultimately fell short. With a final record of 80-82 and being 5 games out of the second wildcard spot the Angels knew something had to be done.

Arguably the biggest move the Angels made they didn’t even make. Obviously, referring to the choice made by Shohei Ohtani to choose the Angels. Ohtani’s decision shocked many in the baseball world simply because it wasn’t your typical international signing. But nothing about Ohtani is typical. First he has been dubbed the “Babe Ruth of Japan” for his ability to impact both sides of the ball in a way like no one else in the history of the game including Ruth himself.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Shohei Ohtani

As when Ruth pitched he was not hitting the other days, and once converted to an outfielder Ruth no longer pitched. What makes the idea of what Ohtani will attempt to do in the Majors so special is the absolute anomaly of his capabilities. Ohtani was successful in Japan as a two way player with a career slash line as a hitter in Japan of .286/.358/.500 (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/ Slugging Percentage) and as a pitcher career era of 2.52 and 10.3 K/9 (Strikeout/ 9 innings) . Now the level of play in Japan isn’t the same as the MLB and some adjustments will need to be made by Ohtani to find success here in the States. But even modest projections from FanGraphs has Ohtani with an era of 3.48 with 11.09 K/9 and a pitcher WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.1. Now even more modest are the projections are for Ohtani as a hitter due to the idea that he will only have 280 Plate Appearances according again to FanGraphs Steamer projections.

In the Japan Pacific League the regular season is 140 games long in 188 days which boils down to about 5 games a week. This season the MLB schedule will have more off days added in and be a total of 162 games in 186 days. With the added days the Angels will have 4 days off in April, 2 days off in four weeks in May, 4 days off in June, 3 days off in July not including the All Star break, 4 days off in August, and 3 days off in September. Now this is assuming that none of the off days get messed with because of weather issues or any other unforeseen circumstance. This gives the Angels the ability to essentially map out Ohtani’s routine. Now the most starts in a single season for Ohtani in Japan had been 24. The way I’ve mapped things out for Shohei’s starts it would give him a full season in which he would make 29 starts. Now I have not counted innings whatsoever, what I have factored into the thought process is a 6th starter. The 6th starter would make about 16 starts to help Ohtani have a similar workload to what he is accustomed to from Japan. This would be a somewhat difficult system to implement unless the entire team brought into the concept. Because having a 6th starter would take away from a positional depth option. However, if Ohtani can also provide some solid production at the plate the loss won’t feel so significant.

Breaking down the Angels schedule and looking for a way to feasibly make the two way player a possibility took some work. And it would obviously be a fluid situation in Anaheim as they would be constructing the model as they go. However, I took the Angels schedule for the entire season and tried to map out Ohtani’s starts as well as days in which he could conceivably hit without risking injury. Now these projections are simply a wide range of possible outcomes and therefore can be taken with whatever validity you care to assign them.

Now obviously it looks like madness and chicken scratch and to be fair it is, but I lay out a potential plan for Ohtani to both Pitch and Hit. So let’s break it down the yellow highlights are probably DH (Designated Hitter) days for Ohtani. Those days selected give Ohtani the day before he pitches and two days after to prepare/recover. Thus giving him 55 games in which he will hit (53 DH days/ 2 SP in NL Parks). Also another 5 games in which a potential Pinch Hit opportunity could present itself. Now depending on the number of Plate Appearances (PA) per game Ohtani might receive in his potential 60 games at the plate will vary. If we assume the minimum number is 3 PA’s per game Ohtani should receive approximately 178 PA. If we assume the minimum number of PA’s is 4 per game then Ohtani should receive approximately 236 PA for the season. FanGraphs’ Steamer projections has Ohtani projected to receive 280 PA’s in 2018. Now it goes without saying my projections for his plate appearances are not as fundamentally sound as FanGraphs and are just a simple minimal mathematic projection. But I took it one step further and if Ohtani decides he does not need the second day after his starts to recover he could have an additional 25 games (23 DH/ 2PH) in which to get a PA. If assuming the same 3/4 PA’s per game this would bring Ohtani’s total to 249/330 PA’s respectively for the season. The Red dots are Ohtani’s starting pitcher days.

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Shohei Ohtani would first and foremost be a pitcher and he would have the opportunity to make 29 starts for the Angels. I understand the case there is to be made that Ohtani has never made more than 24 starts in his entire career in Japan. 5 extra starts is an easy mark to push for with a 6 man rotation. A 6 man rotation isn’t something that has been used a lot by any team in the Major’s but it is something that the Angels’ front office has discussed as a possible strategy for deploying Ohtani’s amazing talents. The 6th starter for the Angels wouldn’t be required to make a full seasons worth of starts and therefore could also be used as a long reliever out of the bullpen whenever he isn’t scheduled to take part in that weeks rotation. The added days off in the MLB schedule will help with allowing Ohtani and all of the Angel’s pitchers a modified schedule allowing for increased rest days. For the 6th Starter/ Long Reliever he would make approximately 16 starts throughout the season. 3 in April, 4 in May, 2 in June, July, and August, and then 3 in September. This would give the entire starting rotation a way to compete and not be quite as injury ravished as they have been in the past. More rest gives them a better opportunity to stay healthy. Thus being “fresher” for a potential Post Season run.

In the next post I will cover the rest of the acquisitions by the Angels and what will be needed to potentially reach the World Series.

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