Daily Distractions: A tale of two cities; quarter-by-quarter records; is Mike Scioscia tradeable?

Angel Stadium

Angel Stadium has seen declining attendance in May. (photo by J.P. Hoornstra)

Both the Angels and Dodgers are off to poor starts this season, but the Dodgers have something important that the Angels do not: The best attendance of any team in Major League Baseball.

In case you missed it, the Dodgers are 17-22 and feature a list of injured stars including Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke (prior to Wednesday). Most tickets aren’t getting cheaper and it’s no easier to get in and out of Dodger Stadium than it was two years ago, when the Dodgers averaged 36,236 at every home game.

Yet the Dodgers’ average attendance of 42,706 through 24 home games is the best in the business. They became the first team to surpass 1,000,000 tickets sold on Wednesday. Their season-ticket base of approximately 31,000 is a major boost. So is Clayton Kershaw, whose six home starts attracted an average of 47,905 fans. The Dodgers’ average attendance in their other 18 home dates: 40,974.

We mention this only because fan loyalty in Southern California can’t be taken for granted.

The Angels’ average attendance of 37,232 represents 82 percent of capacity at the smaller Angel Stadium (the Dodgers are at 76.3 percent capacity), but these numbers are shrinking. A season-low 31,917 fans attended Wednesday’s loss to Kansas City. The Angels are averaging about 4,000 fewer fans per game in May than April (34,656 compared to 38,735).

Having been to most home games at both stadiums, I feel confident in writing that fans in Anaheim are leaving games early this season at a Chavez Ravine-like rate — with less traffic to beat. I also feel confident in writing that Angels players and coaches notice this.

The lesson for the Dodgers: Southern Californians will only tolerate losing to a point.

The lesson for the Angels: Trade for Clayton Kershaw.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
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Daily Distractions: Going to WAR over the Angels’ pitching woes.

<strong>Jered  Weaver</strong>Like you really needed WAR to tell you the Angels’ pitching is awful after Mike Scioscia did so Sunday?

Here it is anyway: FanGraphs recently calculated the WAR (wins above replacement) for every team by position. (For an explanation of the frequently misunderstood statistic, which is calculated differently by FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com and has gained popularity in recent years, click here.) According to FanGraphs’ WAR, the Angels have the 22nd-best pitching staff in the major leagues.

Broken down further, their starters rank 20th and the relievers 23rd.

The chart has its limits. Add up the Angels’ position-by-position WAR, and they should have the fourth-best team in baseball. In reality the Angels are 10 games under .500. The Baltimore Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East, yet their combined WAR ranks 21st in the majors.

This is why you play the games, why the experts say that you can’t win without pitching.

More bullet points for a Thursday morning:
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One more thought on the Vernon Wells trade to the New York Yankees.

I had the chance to ask a veteran baseball guy — not a team employee, but someone with decades of experience in different facets of the game — about the Vernon Wells trade on Monday. Specifically, is there such a thing as an “unmovable contract” if Wells gets traded twice after signing a seven-year, $126 million deal?

“The economics of the game have changed so much in the last one, two seasons,” he said, “between cable revenue and MLB revenue sharing, unmovable contracts are looking movable to teams that have money.”

Keep that in mind in 2014, when Albert Pujols‘ salary jumps to $23 million, and gradually escalates before expiring in 2021. Or in 2015, when Josh Hamilton‘s salary jumps to $25.4 million, or 2016 when Hamilton becomes a $32.4 million man.

Who knows where the economics of the game will be then, but don’t call either contract unmovable.

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What is the Angels’ ‘greatest advantage’ to trading Vernon Wells?

Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells couldn’t be moved easily for a fifth outfielder (Associated Press photo)

 

With six days left before Opening Day, the Angels have 36 players on their 40-man roster. Brad Mills, Bobby Cassevah, Steve Geltz and now Vernon Wells have all left camp one way or another.

That means four players have a way of working their way onto the Angels’ roster, including some who will start the season in the majors. That was by design, general manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday.

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