By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” – A Tale of Two Cities
It was the 13-3 start, it was the 36-46 record since, it was another potential Trout MVP season, it was a galore of injuries to match.
The Angels had a lot of promise heading into 2018. And despite the fact some of that potential was realized, the team’s inability to find a consistent rhythm and create steady production has the Angels limping toward the 2018 Trade Deadline with some important decisions to make about their future.
This two-part series will examine the Angels potential trade chips and which teams could possibly benefit in executing a trade with the Halos.
To determine which teams have the greatest likelihood of being buyers before the end of July, we need to examine the standings and create a list of ballclubs that might pull the trigger on a trade.
In order to build a list, we will use FanGraphs Projected Standings, sorted by 2018 Year to Date Win Percentage, to see which teams are in the driver’s seat for their Division race and those that have a decent chance at a Wild Card spot:
FanGraphs 2018 Year to Date by Winning Percentage as of 07/21/2018
The American League seems all but locked up at this point. The Yankees and Red Sox and the Astros and Mariners are vying for the Eastern and Western Divisions, respectively. The Indians appear to have their Division locked up (barring a surprise surge by one of their Central rivals). Only the Athletics have a chance to close the gap, and they will need to improve to have a better shot at making that a reality.
On the other side, in the National League, the spread is much larger. In the Eastern Division the Phillies have a small lead over the Braves, followed by the fading Nationals. The Central has the Cubs ahead of the Brewers by just a couple of games with the Cardinals within striking distance. Finally, in the West, the Dodgers have pulled into first but the spread behind them is tight with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and even the Giants within arm’s length of not only the Division title but the Wild Card.
So essentially about half of the teams in baseball are potential buyers at the Trade Deadline. Some of these teams are more heavily invested in winning this season, particularly the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Giants and to a lesser extent the Nationals. Those teams are probably the ones more likely to spend the last of their prospect capital to improve however they can. The rest can afford to be a bit more selective but have the resources to make a big splash on a Jacob deGrom, Zach Britton, or Chris Archer type if they so desire.
The next question, as we posed last year, is what general areas do each of these playoff teams need to improve upon?
Using FanGraphs, again, we can determine those general areas of need by utilizing left and right-hand splits for both team hitting and pitching to reveal playoff team’s strengths and weaknesses.
FanGraphs 2018 Team Hitter Splits (wRC+) vs. LHP as of 07/21/2018
Playoff teams that are more likely to need help here include the Brewers, Phillies, Giants, Nationals, Athletics, Dodgers, Cardinals, Rockies, and Red Sox. These teams may be more likely to fill a position of need with a hitter who is good against lefties as the Dodgers recently did with the acquisition of Manny Machado (thereby denying other playoff teams the best overall hitter on the market).
FanGraphs 2018 Team Hitter Splits (wRC+) vs. RHP as of 07/21/2018
Against the other side of the mound the following teams are more likely to need help, including the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Brewers, Giants, and Cardinals.
FanGraphs 2018 Team Pitcher Splits (K-BB%) vs. LHH as of 07/21/2018
On the pitching side, teams that are more likely to need help against left-handed hitters include the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Phillies.
FanGraphs 2018 Team Pitcher Splits (K-BB%) vs. RHH as of 07/21/2018
Finally, against right-handed hitters, the following teams are more likely to need help, including the Cubs, Athletics, Rockies, Giants, Mariners, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals.
An interesting note from this simple exercise is that there are three teams that don’t seem to have a clear weakness based on the numbers presented above and include the Astros, Yankees, and Indians. There is certainly a case to be made that all three of these teams could enter the offseason as they are currently constituted and would have a real shot at winning.
The reality, however, is that all three of these teams can and should (and have in the case of the Indians acquiring Brad Hand) improve incrementally to not only strengthen their playoff chances but to deny their potential competitors from acquiring strong rentals to use against them.
So, the final step in this basic evaluation is to examine each probable Angels trade piece and see if there is a good fit in trade with one of these potentially playoff-bound teams and will be presented in Part 2 of this mini-series.