Peter Bourjos at fall instructional league in Mesa, Arizona, October 15, 2005.
Back on May 28, we took a look at split numbers for four Salt Lake Bees hitters — Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, Terry Evans and Mark Trumbo.
Two months have passed by, and if you believe media rumors Bourjos is about to join the Angels in Baltimore for his major league debut. So it would seem a good time to revisit these four players to see how they’re doing.
The Salt Lake splits I do are different from the normal home/away splits used to neutrally evaluate a player’s performance. The Pacific Coast League has five super-hitter friendly ballparks — Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas and Reno. I lump those five together and calculate AVG/OBP/SLG against the rest of the league. It’s been a fairly handy measurement over the years.
Peter Bourjos AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .314/.364/.498 (414 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .350/.393/.557 (280 AB)
NEUTRAL: .239/.301/.373 (134 AB)
Hank Conger AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .266/.364/.399 (263 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .237/.348/.355 (169 AB)
NEUTRAL: .319/.393/.479 (94 AB)
Terry Evans AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .254/.300/.423 (338 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .258/.303/.423 (213 AB)
NEUTRAL: .248/.296/.424 (125 AB)
Mark Trumbo AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .295/.351/.568 (403 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .329/.391/.589 (258 AB)
NEUTRAL: .234/.277/.531 (145 AB)
The split numbers for Bourjos and Trumbo are radically different, waving two red flags not to rush these young prospects — although reportedly Bourjos will join the Angels shortly.
Conger’s numbers, oddly, are much better in the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks. Note, in particular, that his slugging percentage is much higher in neutral parks (.479) than in the hitter-friendly parks (.355). Go figure.
Evans’ numbers are consistent regardless of park.
Half of those hitter-friendly games are played at home in Salt Lake, so our population sample will always be higher for hitter-friendly than for neutral/pitcher-friendly. Each has roughly 100 at-bats, more or less, in the neutral parks. We’d like a larger sample, which we’ll have at season’s end, but at least it shows us how radically the numbers of Bourjos and Trumbo are being skewed by playing in hitter-friendly parks.
Will Smith with the Orem Owlz in September 2008.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The evolutionary path in the Angels’ minor league system starts in Tempe or Orem, then it’s up the ladder to Cedar Rapids, Rancho Cucamonga, Arkansas, Salt Lake, with the prize a trip to Anaheim.
Will Smith was the Angels’ seventh-round selection in the June 2008 draft. He reported that year to Tom Kotchman, the scout who signed him, and who manages Orem. The left-hander helped pitch the Owlz into the playoffs and the only game they won in the championship series against Great Falls.
Click here to watch Will pitch in Game #2 of the 2008 playoffs. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.
I named Smith the Angels’ #1 prospect in my 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report published in November 2008. It was a controversial selection that received a lot of criticism on fan boards.
Will fell to #3 on the 2009 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report — not because I got him wrong, but because Trevor Reckling pitched so well he deserved to be ranked #1. (Reckling is about six weeks older than Smith.) 2009 draftee Garrett Richards leapt to #2 based on his potential as a power starter in the big leagues one day. Smith had a couple injuries in 2009 with Cedar Rapids which were blamed on conditioning, but by season’s end he’d rounded into shape.
More criticism was written on fan boards, but internally within the Angels my sources were very high on Smith. I sought a second opinion from another organization’s manager I knew in the Midwest League whose team faced Will several times that year. He told me that Smith was “the one pitcher I didn’t want to face” on the Kernels staff. He’d filed a report on Smith with his front office, projecting Will as a major league #3 starter.
Smith began 2010 with the Advanced Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the hitter-friendly California League. In six starts, he had a 4.58 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. At age 20, he was one of the younger starters in the league.
Upstream, injuries forced the Angels to promote several Triple-A Salt Lake pitchers to Anaheim. Unwilling to move up any pitchers from Double-A Arkansas, the Angels made the surprising move of sending Smith to Salt Lake. The transaction was said to be temporary, but it lasted longer than many of us expected. Will made nine starts for the Bees before he was finally reassigned yesterday to the Travelers.
Was Will in over his head? Undoubtedly. He doesn’t turn 21 until July 10. But I also know that Smith has one of those personalities where he rises to a challenge. He’s a pitcher I’d want on the mound in a must-win game.
So it didn’t figure that this temporary assignment would ruin his confidence. Quite the opposite. He’d have the chance to see where he needs to raise his personal bar to pitch in Triple-A, one step from the majors.
How did he do?
Better than the overall numbers suggest.
In his nine starts, Smith posted a 5.60 ERA in 53 innings. He struck out 40, walked 20, and opponents hit .305 against him.
But as I’ve preached many times over the years, especially in those annual Top 10 Prospects reports, Pacific Coast League numbers need to be analyzed in context.
The PCL has five hitter-friendly fields, including the Bees’ Spring Mobile Ballpark. The others are Las Vegas, Reno, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs.
Five of Smith’s starts were in Salt Lake. None of the four road starts were in the other hitter-happy parks. So we can use his straightforward home/road splits to get a more accurate picture of how he did in neutral/pitcher-friendly parks.
Home: 6.14 ERA, 29.1 IP, 17 K, 6 BB, 3 HR, .362 AVG
Road: 4.94 ERA, 23.2 IP, 23 K, 14 BB, 3 HR, .221 AVG
Smith has always been a pitcher with pinpoint control. It appears that at home he was giving up more hits and fewer walks, while it was the reverse on the road. It could be that hitters are more aggressive in hitter-happy parks, and more patient in neutral parks, trying to earn walks. Or it could just be small sample size.
In any case, in “normal” parks he averaged a strikeout an inning, his ERA was 1.2 runs lower, and opponents hit just .221 against him.
Will’s numbers should be much better with Arkansas, and not just because it’s one level lower. Dickey-Stephens Park may be the most pitcher-friendly field in the Texas League. The circuit once had a reputation as a hitter-friendly league but most of its older parks have been replaced by new stadia.
Looking beyond the home-field advantage, Smith should take the experience he had with Salt Lake and use it to dominate in the Texas League. That remains to be seen, of course, but when you look at his “neutral” numbers in the PCL they’re not that bad for a 20-year old who’d only pitched in six games in the Cal League and never in Double-A.
Reckling was just reassigned to Arkansas after posting an 8.53 ERA in 14 starts with the Bees. (9.55 ERA at home, 7.87 on the road.) Tyler Chatwood was just promoted to Arkansas from Rancho Cucamonga. Along with Smith, the three should form the core of a much improved Travelers starting rotation. Reckling and Smith will continue to duel for the title of top left-handed prospect in the system.
Roberto Lopez homered in his second Double-A at-bat Sunday to help the Arkansas Travelers to a 2-1 win over Corpus Christi.
Top to bottom, the Angels’ organization had late-game rallies — and won most of them.
The Mariners had a 7-2 lead after 4 1/2 innings but the Angels chipped away to trail 7-6 going into the bottom of the 9th. Howie Kendrick hit a three-run homer with one out and the Halos won 9-7. It was Kendrick’s second homer of the game.
The Salt Lake Bees were down 5-0 to Fresno (Giants affiliate) after 4 1/2 innings but posted three in the 6th, one in the 8th, and one in the 9th to send the game to extra innings. Ryan Budde walked to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Gary Patchett bunted him to second. Peter Bourjos was intentionally walked, then Nate Sutton singled in Budde to give the Bees a 6-5 win.
Corpus Christi (Astros affiliate) scored in the top of the 2nd but Arkansas Travelers’ starter Jeremy Thorne drew the line there. Roberto Lopez hit a solo homer in the 4th on his second Double-A at-bat to tie the game, then Ryan Mount hit a solo shot in the 7th to give the Travs the lead. Jordan Walden pitched 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief to get the save.
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes almost pulled off a miracle rally in San Jose (Giants affiliate). Down 6-1 after four innings, they scored one in the top of the 6th and four more in the top of the 9th to tie the game at 6-6. But San Jose scored in the bottom of the 10th to win 7-6. Adam Younger hit his second homer with Rancho, and Luis “Lucho” Jimenez homered in his first Quakes game.
Wisconsin (Brewers affiliate) scored four runs in the top of the 4th to take a 4-0 lead over the Cedar Rapids Kernels. No problem. The Men of the Corn scored one in the 4th, one in the 6th, then three more in the bottom of the 7th, with Mike Trout’s 2-RBI single driving in the tying and leading runs. Manaurys Correa got the win in relief, with the save to John Hellweg.
In neutral or pitcher-friendly PCL parks, Hank Conger’s AVG/OBP/SLG are .340/.431/.480 in 50 at-bats.
This is the second in a series of articles I’m writing to look at each Angels affiliate as they currently stand. This is just a “checkpoint” in time.
On May 25 we looked at the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Low-A Midwest League. Now we’ll look at the Salt Lake Bees in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
I’ve been waiting to write about Salt Lake until they completed their recent road trip, which included four games at Omaha and four games at Iowa. This is critical because the Bees play most of their games in super-hitter friendly ballparks. Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Reno and Colorado Springs all distort what otherwise might be more a more realistic performance of a player’s talent. The Bees, of course, play half of their games in Salt Lake City, and Colorado Springs is in their division.
When I write my annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports, for Salt Lake players I always do a custom split. Instead of the traditional home/away split, I look at the five super-hitter friendly parks versus the rest of the PCL to get a more accurate measurement. So I wanted to wait until the Bees passed through Omaha and Des Moines.
When I apply this approach to certain Bees hitters, here’s how they stand so far in 2010:
Peter Bourjos (AVG/OBP/SLG)
HITTER-FRIENDLY .258/.276/.387 (93 AB)
NEUTRAL .237/.328/.356 (59 AB)
Hank Conger (AVG/OBP/SLG)
HITTER-FRIENDLY .250/.330/.440 (84 AB)
NEUTRAL .340/.431/.480 (50 AB)
Terry Evans (AVG/OBP/SLG)
HITTER-FRIENDLY .319/.360/.435 (69 AB)
NEUTRAL .206/.296/.349 (63 AB)
Mark Trumbo (AVG/OBP/SLG)
HITTER-FRIENDLY .307/.375/.554 (101 AB)
NEUTRAL .227/.237/.493 (75 AB)
It’s natural to expect the hitter-friendly park numbers to be higher than the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks by some margin, but when there’s an extreme difference it’s usually an indicator of something signficant.
In the above numbers, we note that Conger is actually doing much better in the neutral parks. Go figure.
Now let’s apply the same approach to certain Bees starting pitchers:
Daniel Davidson (ERA/SO:BB/WHIP)
OVERALL 5.20/29:15/1.47 (45.0 IP)
HITTER-FRIENDLY 5.76/15:8/1.48 (29.2 IP)
NEUTRAL 4.11/14:7/1.43 (15.1 IP)
Sean O’Sullivan (ERA/SO:BB/WHIP)
OVERALL 5.12/41:17/1.38 (58.0 IP)
HITTER-FRIENDLY 6.00/27:8/1.52 (33.0 IP)
NEUTRAL 3.96/14:9/1.20 (25.0 IP)
Trevor Reckling (ERA/SO:BB/WHIP)
OVERALL 6.11/37:34/1.90 (53.0 IP)
HITTER-FRIENDLY 6.67/17:20/2.09 (29.2 IP)
NEUTRAL 5.40/20:14/1.67 (23.1 IP)
Nothing particularly revealing in those numbers, other than demonstrating yet again how the super-hitter friendly parks distort offense numbers for Salt Lake pitchers.
If you’ve followed my FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports over the years, you know that for Salt Lake players I’ll do an analysis you won’t find elsewhere.
You can find home/road splits for any player, but that doesn’t tell the whole story in the high-octane Pacific Coast League. Five ballparks — Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, and Reno — are all super hitter-friendly conditions due to high altitude or other conditions.
I retrieve a Salt Lake players’ game-by-game stats and separate out games played in those five ballparks against the rest of the league. Bees players, obviously, have half their games at home in Salt Lake City, so inevitably we have a larger sample with the “hitter-friendly” at-bats than we do with the “neutral/pitcher-friendly” at-bats. But I’ve found it gives you a more accurate picture of how a player is doing than the simple home/road split.
A sportswriter asked me to do Brandon Wood’s 2009 splits. I also looked back at 2007 and 2008 for comparison. Here’s what I found:
OVERALL: .293/.357/.557 (386 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .318/.382/.614 (280 AB)
NEUTRAL/PITCHER-FRIENDLY: .226/.291/.406 (106 AB)
OVERALL: .296/.376/.595 (395 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .296/.382/.577 (267 AB)
NEUTRAL/PITCHER-FRIENDLY: .297/.364/.633 (128 AB)
OVERALL: .272/.338/.497 (437 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .279/.352/.472 (305 AB)
NEUTRAL/PITCHER-FRIENDLY: .258/.305/.553 (132 AB)
The 2009 numbers are of particular concern. In the prior two years, his slugging percentage in neutral/pitcher-friendly parks was actually higher than in hitter-friendly parks. But in 2009 his “neutral” numbers were significantly lower across the board.
As always with statistics, you have to look at context and sampling size. In each of the three years, we’re looking at a little over 100 AB’s for “neutral.” We would expect to see “neutral” numbers lower, but in 2009 they’re drastically lower.
Brandon has his best career opportunity in 2010 to win the Anaheim third base job. But those 2009 “neutral” numbers are a cause for concern.
Left-handed pitcher Trevor Reckling is #1 on the FutureAngels.com 2009 Top 10 Prospects list.
The FutureAngels.com 2009 Top 10 Prospects report is now online. Click here to read the report on the FutureAngels.com web site.
The Top 10 are:
1. Trevor Reckling LHP
2. Garrett Richards RHP
3. Will Smith LHP
4. Hank Conger C
5. Mike Trout OF
6. Jordan Walden RHP
7. Mark Trumbo 1B-OF
8. Peter Bourjos OF
9. Randal Grichuk OF
10. Alexi Amarista 2B
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