Tony Reagins has and continues to take a lot of flack for the Angels' current shortcomings. Much of that criticism is justified, but if we are going to slam Tony, it is only fair that we give him credit for the things he actually did right. And yes, he did do some things right, specifically, his moves this winter did resolve one major problem: fielding.
Yes, fielding. Whereas the 2010 Angels were an average fielding bunch, at best, the 2011 Angels having the distinction of being the best fielding team in the free world right now. As of this morning, the Angels are the proud owners of the best UZR in Major League Baseball at 21.8, which is a far cry better than the 7.4 that they compiled in the entirety of 2010.
Bravo, Tony, bravo.
But wait, what exactly did Tony do to fix the fielding problem?
Well, to oversimplify it, Tony did nothing.
OK, he didn't quite do nothing, but he did almost nothing.
Compare this season's starting defense to last year's alignment by season's end and you will find not a whole lot has changed.
Bourjos is still in center. Hunter is still in right. Aybar is still at short. Kendrick is still the primary second baseman (more or less). Callaspo is still the main third baseman. Really, only a three things have changed.
- Abreu is DHing, making for an instant upgrade in left, especially since he has been replaced by the very capable (at least with the glove) Vernon Wells. The Halos have even had Howie Kendrick running around with like a chicken with his head cut off in left, but at least he is running, unlike Abreu who appears to be leisurely jogging when he is supposedly in full sprint.
- The revolving door of joke first basemen, especially the tragically inept Mike Napoli, has been largely supplanted by Mark Trumbo. Trumbo has a poor defensive reputation, but his UZR rating so far this season has been pretty decent.
- Less Napoli, more Conger behind the plate. This doesn't factor into UZR per se, but Napoli has long been considered one of the worst defensive backstops in baseball. Conger is no Gold Glover, but he is a far sight better than Naps, making for an easy defensive upgrade.
Those three moves have all been big helps, but what has really helped the most is that Reagins didn't follow his normal plan of action which is to throw a bunch of money at a declining/overrated veteran in hopes of it fixing the problem. Technically speaking, he kind of did that with Vernon Wells, but that move was more meant to address the offensive problems.
Instead, Tony relied upon the team improving from within and it actually worked this time. Guys like Aybar and Kendrick were vast underachievers with the glove in 2010 and both have had big bounceback seasons. Getting a relatively healthy season thus far from Maicer Izturis hasn't hurt either. Nor has having Bourjos in center on a full-time basis. Just imagine how much better the defense will be one he and Torii Hunter finally figure out how to stop running into each other!
They say that sometimes the best move a GM can make is the move that he doesn't make and the seems to ring true in this case. And given the anti-Midas touch that Reagins has displayed the last several months, perhaps he should try it a little more often. Or at least he should focus more on making those small moves that pay off big (i.e. moving Abreu to DH and ditching Napoli), rather than the big splashy moves that can blow up in your face (i.e. Wells trade, Kazmir trade, Takahashi signing, Rodney signing, etc.).