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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rob Neyer On The Suddenly Mortal Angels

In the context of John Sickels' review of the Angels' farm system, Rob Neyer asks a relevant question:
Yes, today the Angels are the favorites in the American League West, and they'll probably be the favorites on Opening Day. But this is the same team -- less two months of Mark Teixeira -- that finished 2008 with the run differential of an 88-win team. You want to argue that they can't be beat?
The thinness on the farm is decidedly disturbing. Nick Adenhart is anything but a polished, major-league-ready pitcher, and the jury is still out on Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood; like most Angels hitting prospects, walks are as foreign to them as Timbuktu, though Wood showed some improvement in his game late. Hopefully some of the Angels' farm issues can be rectified with the first- and sandwich-round picks the Angels will get this year.

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You want to argue that they can't be beat?

No. But I *will* argue that they have been consistently underrated by the Rob Neyers of the world for almost a decade now, including the past several years of basing the skepticism on run differential.

That doesn't make the farm's evident thinness any less alarming, etc.
Yes, the obverse of Neyer's coin is that run differential has taken it on the chin a bit of late as a predictive metric. That Neyer fails to see this suggests that he's less a craftsman than an enthusiast in the realm of sabermetrics. A craftsman knows when his blade goes dull.

Run differential assumes that a team that wins five out of six games a week by two runs, but loses once a week in a ten run blowout, is ultimately a .500 team. This makes the rather arbitrary assumption that no universes exist where a team maximizes its resources for short sprints, and then takes a breath and lets it all fall out for a day.

But of course those universes exist. The Angels have proven that more than once now.
Wow, no days off? Just kidding ...

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