Much has been said about Albert Pujols‘ addition to the Angels, and everybody knows that it was a risky move for Angels owner, Arte Moreno. Because Pujols will eventually decline, if it hasn't started yet, and having a 40-year old player earning more than $20 million sounds like a bad business decision. The best they can hope for is that Pujols' decline doesn't start anytime soon and that when it does, its not that steep.
Now, besides Pujols, the Angels added another everyday player to their team, catcher Chris Iannetta. His addition pretty much went unnoticed with all the hype generated after Pujols' and C.J. Wilson's signing this off season.
But given the team the Angels had in 2011, and forgetting about the truck full of money the Angels gave Pujols, or the start of the season he is having compared to Iannatta, who was a better fit for the Angels?
The answer is easy, but it might sound crazy to most of you. The best fit for the Angels was Iannetta, but why do I say that? Well, I took the liberty to do some math to prove that what I'm saying its true. The math might not be perfect or even close to the work done by Bill James or SABER experts, but I think its valid.
When you add a position player to you team, you're replacing AB's and defensive innings given to another player in previous years. In this case, we'll assume that Iannetta is replacing Jeff Mathis‘ AB's and defensive innings, while Pujols is replacing AB's from Alberto Callaspo, Mark Trumbo, Kendry Morales and Bobby Abreu. I say that, because the playing time for all those players was affected with Pujols' addition to the team, specially for Abreu.
Now, to compare the player contribution to the team's offense we're going to use the OPS+ stat. Which is the sum of OBP (On-Base Percentage) and SLG (Slugging Percentage), but adjusted to park and league effects.
Last season, Mathis had an OPS+ of 37 in 93 games, while Iannetta had a 102 OPS+ in 112 games with the Rockies. This means a 65 points difference between both catchers in OPS+, a considerable difference if you ask me. Defensively, Mathis had a 0.3 FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) and Iannetta a -0.1 FRAA, but Mathis' VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) was -8.2 while Iannatta's was 23.8, another big difference between the two. After analyzing these numbers you can conclude that the Angels definitely improved their team by adding Iannetta. They will probably add 65 more points in OPS+ and around 32 runs to their offense by the end of the season with this trade (using last season's numbers).
To analyze Pujols addition I did something, a little bit crazy. Since he isn't replacing just one player like Iannetta, I decided to create a player with the OPS+ of Callaspo, Abreu, Morales and Trumbo, the players who will be affected, somehow, by the addition of Pujols. I won't create the player trying to guess how much playing time of each one of these players will be affected, I'm just going to assume they are all worth the same. I'm also going to use Morales' 2009 OPS+ because it was his last complete season in the Majors.
If we add the OPS+ of those four players and calculate a simple average, we get a fictional player with a 117 OPS+. That fictional player is the player Pujols will be replacing in the Angels lineup. Pujols' OPS+ in 2011 was 150, a big number, and obviously higher than Iannetta's OPS+, but only 33 points higher than the simple average of the players he is replacing. This means only half of the production Ianneta is adding to the Angels lineup above what they had in 2011 when Mathis was behind the plate most of the time.
If you want to take defense into account this is what you get. Given the fact that Trumbo was the Angels everyday first baseman in 2011, I'm going to compare Pujols' FRAA with Trumbo's FRAA only. In 2011, Trumbo had a 1.9 FRAA while Pujols 13.5. This is the only department where Pujols addition might be a big improvement from what the Angels already had, but lets face it, Pujols was brought to Anaheim to hit, not to defend first base better than Trumbo, and you don't pay that kind of money for defense only.
By adding the VORP to the equation, Iannetta's addition to the team proves once again, to be more valuable than Pujols' addition. Pujols' VORP in 2011 was 43.4 (his lowest mark in his career), while the VORP for the player we created is 24.9. Pujols represents 18.6 more runs for the Angels compared to the other four players, but Iannetta represents 32 more runs than Mathis for the team. Again, Iannetta represents a bigger improvement to the Angels than Pujols.
Considering what the Angels paid to get Pujols ($240 million over 10 years) and what the Angels paid to get Iannetta (they gave up Tyler Chatwood, and are paying $3.6 million in 2012), and what is their marginal contribution to the team, there's no room for discussion that Iannetta's addition was more important than Pujols' addition.
By the way, I'm not saying that the Angels shouldn't have signed Pujols, if you have the chance, and the money to improve your team, do it. And Pujols is obviously an offensive and defensive improvement of what the Angels had in 2011.
Image by shgmom56, Barbara Moore under the Creative Commons License.