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Angels mailbag: Why are they such good base stealers but below-average base runners?

Angels mailbag: Why are they such good base stealers but below-average base runners?
Angels' Cameron Maybin steals second base against Houston shortstop Marwin Gonzalez on June 11. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Hello, Angel fans. Your favorite team just beat Boston and New York in consecutive road series, and Mike Trout is inching closer to a return. Things are looking up. The Angels are 40-39, which translates to an 82-win pace for a full season.

Let us get to some questions and answers about the ballclub.

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It does appear a bit odd, but I think there's a perfectly valid reason for this. The Angels steal a lot of bases because they have several fast players: Cameron Maybin, Eric Young Jr. and Mike Trout, mostly. They also have three players who are not particularly fast but are good baserunners: Danny Espinosa, Cliff Pennington and Andrelton Simmons. For reasons that are unclear to me, Espinosa's baserunning metric is below average. If you watch him regularly, you will quickly see that is not the case.

Then there are two players who are terribly slow, Albert Pujols and Martin Maldonado, a player with chronic hamstring problems who does not often seem to be sprinting, Luis Valbuena, and a player who is not particularly slow but is an awful baserunner: Yunel Escobar.

Add that all together, and they're probably about a league-average baserunning team. Mix in bit of variance, and you have a bottom-10 standing.

Ben Revere has been by far the worst player to bat 500 or more times since the start of the 2016 season. His 44 wRC+ as of Sunday morning, per fangraphs.com, was 11% worse than the next-worst hitter, Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar. Over that time, he has been worth fewer Wins Above Replacement than all but one player: shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who could not find a job for this season.

So, at this point, success seems out of reach. He's not going to become good again. But Revere has not played quite as bad as his numbers would indicate. After carrying an elite (.330+) batting average on balls in play throughout his career, he has had .234 and .242 marks the last two seasons. That's not going to continue. He is still quite fast.

He also has the right to decline any demotion to triple-A, given he has accrued more than five years of service time. The only clear path is to keep playing him in a part-time role and hope regression to the mean occurs.

Via email:

Greetings from a displaced Angels fan … A question from afar about Cameron Maybin. Most discussion seems to be about whether to trade him before year's end to obtain a prospect before he becomes a free agent. No one seems to be discussing the option of signing him now to a multi-year contract before he becomes a free agent. Shouldn't that option be on the table? Would it be in Maybin's interest to sign an extension if he receives a reasonable offer?

I get that the idea offers intrigue, but there is a reason extensions are rarely signed in-season, and even more rarely are they signed this close to free agency. For a team, the point to an extension is to get a discounted rate and cost certainty in exchange for taking on additional risk — of injury, of underperformance. For a player, the point to an extension is to obtain financial certainty in exchange for a possible undercutting of earning potential.

At this point in his life, Maybin is long since financially certain. He has made more than $30 million playing baseball. Why not just wait three more months?

This question was sent before the Angels called up Cowart on Sunday and inserted him into the lineup for the injured Yunel Escobar. Yes, Cowart could be a candidate to play third base next year, although the more obvious choice would be Luis Valbuena, who is already under contract for 2018. Neither C.J. Cron nor Jefry Marte has proven he can be a good everyday first baseman in the future, so maybe Cowart at third and Valbuena at first will be the alignment.

It is not a phenomenon so much as it is a peculiarity. Improbable events occur. It's part of probability. The Angels are 12-0 on Tuesdays this year. By no means do I expect them to continue to win every Tuesday all season.

One theory that makes a little sense to partially explain it is this: The Angels have not had many days off this season, and they have had four Mondays off, so maybe they've benefited from feeling fresh on Tuesdays. I'll note here again that there is no way to explain the extent to which they've succeeded on that day. But that maybe goes 1/20th of the way to explaining it.

If a guy played 81 games and homered in every one of them, I'm pretty sure I'd vote for him to win the MVP. In a more realistic realm, something like 110 or 120 games would probably be the bare minimum. I think it is still possible that Mike Trout will garner votes for this year's American League MVP award, assuming he returns shortly and his play returns to its previous level. His biggest competition is, of course, Aaron Judge, who is quite good.

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Yes, Keynan Middleton has the potential to serve as a closer for much of his major league career. He pumped 100-mph fastballs with life past Aaron Judge last week, and his teammates and coaches noticed. Those were the hardest pitches an Angel has thrown all season. They were great. He could be great, with command.

This is a daunting question. I don't have an answer. One I really like right now is The Strokes' "I'll Try Anything Once," off of "Heart in a Cage."

Send questions to the below addresses to be included in the mailbag every Monday, all season.

pedro.moura@latimes.com

Twitter: @pedromoura

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