Angels are doing it ... again?

Two facts:

1. The Angels have been outscored this season, and

2. The Angels have a 37-32 record.

Taken in isolation, these facts are hardly newsworthy. After all, the Tigers are 35-29 despite having outscored their opponents by only six runs. The Rockies have outscored their opponents by 40 runs, but are just one game over .500. These things do happen.

But as Dave Cameron points out, this thing always seems to happen to the Angels:

    If it seems like we write about this every year, well, we do. I mentioned the Angels' penchant for clutch hitting two years ago, showing that they were consistently among the league leaders in our metric that shows the gap in wins added that comes from hitting well in high leverage situations. Matt Klaassen wrote about it earlier this spring.

    And here we are today, talking about it again, because once again the Angels are clutching their way to victories. They have +1.34 clutch wins from their hitting and +2.48 clutch wins from their pitchers, totaling just under four wins added by coming through when it counts. Not surprisingly, they lead the league in clutch wins added.

    It isn’t surprising because they do this every single year...


    I’m genuinely curious what they could possibly be doing to extract such performances from wildly different players, but do so almost every single year? At this point, the odds of it just being luck are pretty slim, so it seems reasonable to suspect that the Angels are doing something right. But none of the theories advanced so far seem to have any kind of evidence to support them, and there does not seem to be any discernable trail we can follow that will lead us to the answer.

    Until someone figures out just what the Angels are doing, all we can really do is sit and stare in amazement. Right now, there’s no explanation. The Angels are a phenomenon.

This is Mike Scioscia's 11th season managing the Angels. In those 11 seasons, the Angels have outperformed their run differential by 27 wins. That's a lot.*

* There's a strong relationship between a team's runs scored and allowed, and its wins and losses. A team that scores and allows the same number of runs will usually finish around .500; a team that scores 40 more runs than it allows will usually win roughly 85 games. And so forth. Every season, a few teams will vary wildly from their "Pythagorean projection," due to clutch performance and/or lopsided scores, but these variations rarely are repeated the next year.

Those 27 "extra" wins haven't been spread out evenly over those 11 seasons, though. From 2000 through 2005 the Angels never strayed far from their runs scored and allowed, and overall were actually three wins worse than their theoretical record: +1, -2, -2, -3, +1, +2.

But in 2006, Scioscia's teams began to consistently outplay their run differentials: +5, +4, +12, +5, +4 (so far in 2010).

I don't know if this is the best five-year run any manager's ever had, but I suspect it's one of the more impressive you'll find. And as Cameron notes, it's been almost entirely due to fantastic clutch hitting ... clutch hitting which, as you know, is quite a slippery beast if you're trying to identify an actual ability rather than a fleeting phenomenon. But in the case of the Angels, there's been nothing fleeting about it.

Did Scioscia learn something in the first half of his managerial career that he began to apply in 2006? Has the Angels' front office, generally considered uninterested in 21st-century baseball analysis, somehow figured out how to identify real clutch hitters? These questions remain unanswered, and probably will for a long, long time.

So the next time someone suggests that we already know everything there is to know about baseball, please direct them to the Mike Scioscia and Orange County's Angels since 2006.