I recently got into an argument with a fellow Rangers fan regarding how much the Angels improved though their off-season acquisitions. As we talked through Pujols and C.J., it lead to a position-by-position comparison of the Rangers and Angels for the 2012 season. I’ve taken the next step here to bring the Mariners and Athletics into the argument. While they look to have no reasonable chance to contend in the division, there are two reason to include them here:
- You never know.
- Allows us to rank 1-4 for each position. So, even if you are primarily interested in Rangers vs. Angels, you can get an understanding of where the players actually stack up against other peers to give you a frame of reference.
We’ll break this up into four pieces to be posted over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to chime in with your comments!
- Catcher & Infield
- Outfield & DH
- Bench & Manager
- Starting Rotation, Relievers & Closer
We’ll track inverse points (ex. Napoli is #1 catcher, so he get’s 4 points), and award a bonus point in situations where the top player has an extreme advantage over the rest of the players at that position. We’ll define extreme advantage as a WAR (wins above replacement)
variance of 2 or more in 2011. WAR can be a bit inconsistent depending on the source, so we’ll be using fangraphs.com.
- Mike Napoli, TEX
- Chris Ianetta, LAA
- Kurt Suzuki, OAK
- Miguel Olivo, SEA
Nap takes the top spot here easily and get’s the +1 with a 2011 WAR of 5.6, compared to Ianetta who was at 3.3. Even with Napoli’s season being a bit of an outlier when you look at his career, I don’t see Ianetta or Suzuki closing the gap enought in 2012 to argue against it.
The biggest debate here is between 2nd and 3rd place, primarily because Ianetta is changing leagues and may be in adjustment mode during the first part of 2012. That said, Ianetta had a better WAR and OPS in 2011, and will be managed by a former catcher that can certainly help in improve even further behind the plate.
- Albert Pujols, LAA
- Mitch Moreland, TEX
- Justin Smoak, SEA
- Brandon Allen/Daric Barton/Chris Carter, OAK
Similar to catcher, you can’t argue with number one, as Pujols not only takes the prize, but also takes the bonus point with relative ease. Pujols put up a 5.4 WAR last year in the National League with the Cardinals and a .906 OPS, which was a down year for him, compared to a .733 OPS for Moreland and .717 for Smoak.
The battle for 2nd and 3rd is a lot closer than most Rangers fans would like to think, as you can tell by the OPS stats above. Statistically, Moreland and Smoak had very similar years in 2011, with Moreland producing at a slightly higher level than Smoak in almost all categories. Both are still young players that should improve even further in 2012.
I give the edge to Mitch here in a close one. Smoak was the more highly touted prospect, so you might expect him to progress at a more accelerated rate than Moreland, but I don’t think you’ll see that in this case, primarily because of the teams that surround them. Mitch faces far less pressure and will face many more bullpen caliber pitchers because of the extremely productive lineup that he is playing in. Switch their situations, I would lean the other way.
- Ian Kinsler, TEX
- Howie Kendrick, LAA
- Dustin Ackley, SEA
- Jemile Weeks, OAK
This is by far the best position across the board. Kinsler had the strongest campaign in 2011 and should be the most productive in 2012, but the divide between he and Kendrick is not big enough for the bonus here.
I think the rankings are clear cut, but we could see both Ackley and Weeks close the gap even further during 2012.
All three players had an OPS in 2011 above .761, with Ian leading the pack at .832. There is no weak player in this bunch.
- Adrian Beltre, TEX
- Alberto Callaspo, LAA
- Scott Sizemore, OAK
- Kyle Seager, SEA
Clear cut number one at the hot corner, as Beltre dominated the group statistically. Beltre’s dominance is enough to get him the bonus point here as well, outpacing Callaspo’s 2011 WAR ranking by 2.1 (5.7 for Beltre to 3.6 for Callaspo).
Callaspo get the nod for 2nd place here, but again, it could be closer than you think, and rumors of Mark Trumbo making the switch to 3rd base cloud the ranking a bit. That said, if Callaspo is the starting 3rd basemen for the Angels in 2012, he’ll be hitting in the much more productive line-up and is better defensively.
- Elvis Andrus, TEX
- Erik Aybar, LAA
- Cliff Pennington, OAK
- Brendan Ryan, SEA
Close race for the top spot between Andrus and Aybar here, but Elvis takes 1st place by a small margin. Statistically, the two are very close, with Aybar posting a higher OPS in 2011 at .743 compared to Elvis at .708. Elvis is superior defensively and is the younger player. Both stand to improve in 2012 as Elvis continues to mature and Aybar welcomes a much needed bat to the Angel’s line-up (Mr. Pujols).
This is my biggest decision in the rankings so far, and I have to lean towards Elvis here. Even factoring out my bias, if that’s possible, I see Elvis improving at the plate in 2012 to an equal level of Aybar, and far outplaying Aybar defensively.
Score at the end of Round 1:
- Rangers: 5 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 4 = 21
- Angels: 3 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 17
- Athletics: 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 8
- Mariners: 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 7