When the calendar flipped from July to August, the Los Angeles Angels left their hitting success behind. Joe Maddon’s team has gone from one of the league’s best offenses to one of the worst, slashing .218/.288/.336 as a unit.
These issues were emphasized during a weekend series against the Cleveland Indians. After sweeping the Detroit Tigers, the Angels suffered a sweep of their own. In three games against the Indians, they scored just two total runs.
Maddon could only muster theories as he tried to explain the team-wide cold streak, with his biggest critique being the amount of swings outside of the strike zone, according to J.P. Hoornstra of The O.C. Register:
“We’ve come out of our zones in certain moments,” Maddon told reporters. “We have to be perfect on a nightly basis or get as close to it as possible. When we have opportunities to take advantage of moments, we have to.
“When you’re walking you’re hitting,” he said. “I’m not an advocate of walking all the time. My point is that you’re not expanding your strike zone. As we tighten things up at the plate regarding what we’re swinging at, we’re going to get better pitches to hit. Then you’re going to see the result you’re looking for. I believe it comes down to that.”
On the surface, this explanation makes perfect sense. Swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone decreases walk opportunities, hard hit chances, and quality at-bats. The problem is that the statistics don’t back Maddon’s sentiment.
The Angels’ batting average on balls in play — or BABip — in July was .310. In August, it’s .278. More swings out of the strike zone could explain this, except the Angels aren’t swinging out of the strike zone more in August than in July.
In fact, the Angels had a league-high swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone in July of 35.5%, a number that actually dropped to 34% in August. Despite what Maddon says, the Angels walk rate actually increased from 6% to 8.6% between July and August.
Finally, the team’s hard hit rate is essentially the same, going from 30.3% in July to 29.6% in August. Simply put, there is almost no statistic that adds up to the team going from a machine-efficient offense to an abysmal one.
Could it be as simple as bad luck? Maybe so, as luck as not been on the Angels side all season long. Hopefully when the calendar flips again from August to September, order will be restored.
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