Triple Play

The Dyansty Guru Triple Play: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim!

AN INTRODUCTION

Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a brand-new series where three very cool dynasty baseball nerds- Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus, and Keaton O. DeRocher- bring to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly leading up to and through Opening Day!

Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And, while we here at The Dynasty Guru are primarily baseball obsessed, we’ll also be touching on some music we’ve enjoyed from each team’s home state. Enjoy, and leave us your question and comments below!

Anderelton Simmons, 28, SS

Analysis by Patrick Magnus

Simmons on Down Now

Simmons hit 14 home runs in 2017, which was the second highest of his career. The only other time he displayed double-digit home run power was in his first full season in 2013, when he hit 17.  Why did the power come back, and can we count on it going forward?

Generally speaking, watching highlights of a player is not be the best way to learn about them. When you watch only the best moments of a player, it distorts proper evaluation. We are, after all, more than just our best work.

Despite that sound logic, I watched a bunch of Simmons highlights anyway. They actually made me take notice of something. Take a look at these two home runs. First here’s a home run from 2013 Andrelton Simmons:

Second, the bomb from 2017:

 

Notice anything?

After digging through highlights a lot like these from Baseball Savant, I had an idea where his power might be coming from: Listen to the announcer in the 2017 dinger:

“Simmons pulling one toward the left field corner…”

Proof is in the Pulling

Time to check the numbers!

Year Pull% FB% HR/FB
2013 47.3 39.1 7.9
2016 35.7% 25.6% 3.8%
2017 45.3% 31.5% 8.4%

Yep. He’s not only pulling the ball again; he’s also hitting the ball in the air again. The results from this approach is more home runs. In his second year playing in L.A., Simmons figured out that he had the strength to go deep at Angels’ Stadium, and started pulling the ball to left field. When he hits the ball there he has a .529 slugging percent. That’s pretty good.

CANdrelton Do It Again?

The next big question is does this approach stick?

Year

Launch Angle Exit Velocity

2015

2.9°

85.5 MPH

2016 4.1°

86.2 MPH

2017 7.6°

85.9 MPH

The angle has changed, but his exit velocity has remained fairly consistent for the last three years. His success isn’t coming from hitting the ball any harder; it’s coming from hitting it at an angle that gives it a better chance in the air. If he can continue to lift his average launch angle, there’s potential for more home runs. But how many more?

His average home run distance in 2017 was 394 feet, which ranked 281 on Baseball Savants Hitting Leader Board (minimum of 150 batted ball events). Simmons’ distance has fallen the past three years as his launch angle has increased. Still, at 394 that’s more than enough to hit out of his home park in right field and right-center, and damn close in center.

InSimmountable?

Did opposing pitchers figure out Andrelton’s new approach and adjust? The evidence I found is mixed. Take a look at how pitchers deployed their arsenals against Simmons’ new pull approach.

They certainly didn’t mix their pitches against him any differently. In fact, they essentially used the same pitch selections the entire year. That seemed a bit odd to me, so I thought “what about their approach in the zone?”

Bingo. Once pitchers caught on to Andrelton’s new approach, they started pitching him away. However, I’m not entirely sure it made much of a difference because Simmons has an absolutely absurd career contact rate of 87.9%. Although he did hit 5 fewer home runs in the second half, and so going forward we might be looking at 10 round trippers rather than 15.

Simmons is a Given

I suspect that this return to 2013 power for Simmons is a sustainable one, as long as he’s with the Angels anyway. Don’t expect more than he did last season, but double-digit steals and home runs are obtainable for years to come for this 28-year old. While pitchers did change their approach, between Simmons’ increased ability to make contact, and the fact that pitchers will make mistakes throughout the season, he’ll get his chance at crushing hangers inside.

Simmons makes for a very solid, potentially undervalued dynasty shortstop that will contribute in every category. Put him in your line-up, set it and forget it.

Patrick’s Artist Selection

Jake Jewell, 24, P

Analysis by Adam Lawler

Jewell’s In The Crown

As a dynasty owner, you are likely seeking the next big arm to boost your prospect pipeline.  You want something to dream on. Something big.  You hear names of Kopech, Buehler, Whitley, and Reyes.  You think to yourself, surely there are other names out there people have overlooked. Well, you’re not going to find that name in the Angels farm system.  However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be had. Enter: Jake Jewell.

When building a pitching staff, not everyone is going to be an ace.  If you want to be successful, it’s important to identify your future Lance Lynns (sorry, not sorry Patrick).  These are the glue guys. They are the ones that are not going to kill your ratios. Pitchers like this will surprise you from time to time. They won’t win you the championships, but they might carry you through the playoffs when your #1’s have a turn skipped late in the season.  That’s what I see in a guy like Jewell.

Run the Jewell

Within three starts of the 2017 campaign, Jewell was promoted from Single-A to Double-A.  Over the remainder of that season, he pitched 154.1 innings. For context, only two other pitchers had a larger sample size at the level and only 28 pitchers exceeded 100 IP in the Southern league.  This field included top prospect names like Kopech, Soroka, Allard, and Underwood. How did Jewell fair?

Age

xFIP WHIP K-BB%

SwStr%

Jewell

24 3.95 1.42 7.4% 8.3%
The Field Avg 23.5 3.58 1.26 12.2%

9.7%

Average. Really, really average. Average in age, average in swinging strike rate, average in xFIP.  And that’s OK. Remember, there’s something to be said for being average.

‘K’ Jewell… Er…

Now, in order for Jewell to take the next step he could conceivably do a couple things.  First, he could improve his walk rate (which, you guessed it, is average). The other thing he could (should) do is increase his below-average strikeout rate by a very marginal rate.

Initially, I found this to be rather odd.  Jewell has five offerings and two of them are plus. According to reports, Jewell’s cut fastball sits in a 93-96 velocity band.  That’s a really nice place to be. Still, for a young man still figuring things out, four pitches is a deep repertoire. Almost too deep.  Most of the time, you’re lamenting prospects having only two offerings. Yet here I am wishing he would pick the curve or the change and get it to a plus offering. 

So this year as you’re seeking the next Lance Lynn, keep a close eye on Jewell.  He’s nearly major-league ready, blocked by an Angels staff that isn’t the picture of health. Even a marginal improvement in his K rate or BB rate during this critical year of growth turns him from an SP5 to an SP4 with the ceiling to produce volume on a winning team. Remember, not all that glitters is gold.

Adam’s Artist Selection

For as shallow as the Angels farm system is, the music scene in and around LA is historically deep. It’s a shame they can’t share some of this talent with other parts of the country (looking at you, Cincinnati). Kendrick Lamar, OFWGKTA, Reel Big Fish, Say Anything, Them Crooked Vultures, NWA, Tupac, Dre. Maybe I’ll pick one of them for the Dodgers article.

For now, let’s pick a punk band: Upset. If you haven’t heard of them before, the all-female band consists of some top musicians from bands like Hole, Best Coast, La Sera, and Benny the Jet Rodriguez. Here’s their song Glass Ceiling. Although, I could have picked Home and been just as pleased.

Garrett Richards, Age: 29, SP

Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher

Good Grief

This seems like a pretty good place to start:

Our good friend George has me pegged because I’m falling for it again. After tossing a combined 62.1 innings the last two seasons due to injury, Richards is returning to the mound for the start of the 2018 season, presumably healthy and ready to put a full season’s worth of stellar results on display.

King Richards III

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Richards’ well-documented injury history. In case you are somehow unfamiliar, let me remind you:

Year Injury Time Missed (In Season)
2013 Sprained Ankle 2 Days
2013 Right Forearm 4 Days
2014 Torn Patellar Tendon (Left Knee) 2 Months
2015 Torn Patellar Tendon (Left Knee) 1 Month
2016 Torn UCL (Right Elbow) 5 Months
2017 Strained Right Bicep 5 Months

 

When on the mound, Richards has produced at near-elite levels. In his 567 career innings coming into 2017 Richards owned a 52.9% ground ball rate, a 9% HR/FB rate an ERA of 3.43 and a FIP of 3.51. In his brief showing on the mound in 2017, he gave a glimpse of what I believe to be what he’s going to be going forward.

Richards posted a 54.2% ground ball rate, a 4.8% HR/FB ratio, an ERA of 2.28 and a FIP of 2.43. Why do I think this is the Richards That Was Promised? Because he does things like this, from his start this past September vs Houston:

As you probably could have guessed from his groundball rate, Richards is very good at keeping the ball down in the zone. He doesn’t only keep the ball on the ground though; he also generates a lot of whiffs. Take a look at all the red down low in zones of this heat chart:

Keeping the ball low, and making sure it isn’t hit is a surefire way to limit damage of any sort and Richards has been king of doing just that.

Authors note: King Richard sounded like a real king and I wanted to use that as a team name in a fantasy league where I was roasted for acquiring Garrett Richards for 1st round pick. As it turned out, King Richard III was a real king of England from 1483 until his death in 1485 making his reign a whopping two years- too perfect given Garrett Richards injury history. It sent me into a laughing fit that lasted nearly 6 minutes.

Long May He Reign?

Now that we’re all reminded what Richards can do when he is on the mound, I reached out to our resident M.D. here at TDG, Dr. Mike Tanner, for the outlook on Richards and what we can expect from my knight in shining armor. Here’s what Dr. Mike had to say:

Dr. Mike Tanner: He is actually a very interesting write-up after reviewing it.  The short version: I don’t think he pitches more than 140 innings this year. The long version: he had a partial UCL tear in 2016 that he treated by injection (PRP or platelet-rich plasma). PRP itself is showing promising signs from early medical research to treat partial UCL tears, even in high-level/professional pitchers.

His injury in 2017 was labeled a “biceps strain” and a “cutaneous nerve irritation.” To me, those translate to: his upper arm was numb/tingly, and one report suggested that his biceps lacked strength as well. The biceps has one primary job for a pitcher (and lots of other smaller jobs) but that is to decelerate the arm.

The mechanics of pitching are fascinating. A pitcher actually surpasses the mechanical limits of the UCL on nearly every pitch . Meaning that if the muscles didn’t pitch in, the UCL would snap every time.  So when the UCL is weaker, the mechanical forces have to be managed by something else, in his case the biceps. In his case, his arm clearly was ready, and while his late return was promising, I do not believe he will hold up all year.

The Angels are going with a 6-man rotation (or so they say), partly to manage this and the decorated crew of injured pitchers, but a DL stint or two is likely. If he pitches 140 innings this year, I would call that a success. 2019 could see him return to 185, but the UCL could also fail if he pushes it too hard this year.  I do believe in the talent and I think the innings you do get will be good ones, just don’t bank on too many.

Keaton: Do you think there is a higher risk of re-injury to the bicep over the UCL? Or high/moderate risk to both?

Dr. Mike Tanner: Higher risk that something falls apart, not really the UCL or biceps specifically. When you have a weak spot (biceps or UCL) and try to exert max effort, something breaks. It could be an oblique, the UCL, triceps, or forearm. I don’t think he’ll hold up for more than 140, but in the medical studies UCLs have been fine 2-3 years post. One study had 88% return to sport, the other had 75% with a good-excellent outcome. I think we’ll see more of the PRP injections for partial thickness tears.

(Follow Dr. Mike Tanner on Twitter @DrMikeTanner for more awesome injury insight)

That conversation with Dr. Mike made me feel at the same time slightly better and slightly worse about Richards. Even with the ever-looming risk of something falling apart, that’s not a bad prognosis and outlook for the 2018 season. 140 innings would be, as noted before, more than twice his cumulative total from the previous two seasons and that’s certainly a usable workload.

It will be interesting to see how successful the Angels six-man rotation will be at limiting the innings of the injury-riddled starting rotation, as Dr. Mike mentioned. If, if, Richards can put together a successful 2018 campaign and stay healthy, the sky really is the limit, and that makes him worth the risk, and why I’ve picked him up everywhere I can.

Keaton’s Artist Selection

Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros – These people can make the hell out of some music. Home, 40 Day Dream, Man On Fire, Free Stuff, Somewhere. Do yourself a favor and check this band out if you haven’t already.

AUTHORS’ PLUGS!

Follow us on Twitter for baseball, jokes, Keaton’s trolling, and other very cool opinions!

Adam Lawler: @thestatcastera
Keaton O. DeRocher: @TheSpokenKeats
Patrick Magnus: @TheGreenMagnus

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Previously Covered Teams

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Author

Patrick Magnus

Patrick Magnus

Baseball Dad, husband, TDG podcast talking head, educator, Vermonter, Shenzhener, and completely baseball obsessed.
Living, working, and writing in Shenzhen, China. Hear my thoughts on the TDG Podcast, and follow me on Twitter @TheGreenMagnus

1 Comment

  1. March 21, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    One note on Simmons FBs…. 6% of his increase in FBs came from launch angles he’s unable to homer at. “Skyballs” over 40 degrees and “Floppers” between 32 and 40 degrees. He can’t hit the ball hard enough at those launch angles to homer (he’s done so 2 times in 3 years).

    Meanwhile the launch angles he CAN homer from betwen 16 and 24 degrees he saw zero increase in terms of batted ball events.

    The point you did hit on, though, is that he went from ~20% pull percentage on fly balls to pulling ~34%. Overall his approach in the air went from 18/42/40% pull/center/oppo to a more even 34/33/32. Loved your notes on seeing how pitchers adjusted!

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