Angels complete manual of their baseball labor
Assistant GM Servais points to development side as key to sustaining success
TEMPE, Ariz. -- After five months of work, assistant general manager Scott Servais has finally completed the Angels' organizational manual -- a 300-page, 14-section guidebook that was recently passed around to all the front office executives, Minor League managers, skipper Mike Scioscia and even owner Arte Moreno.
Within that four-inch, leather-bound binder is everything the Angels believe in -- offensively, defensively, on the mound, in the weight room, off the field and in Latin America.
The club hasn't had a first-round Draft pick in each of the last two years, is still trying to recover from temporarily shutting down operations in the Dominican Republic and has let several talented prospects go in win-now trades. According to Baseball America, the Angels have the lowest-rated farm system in the Majors two years running.
So they're trying to do all they can in the development side.
"I try to tell the coaches and everybody in player development that you can't really control what walks in the door," said Servais, who's in charge of scouting and player development. "That's scouting and decisions that are made in the front office. But what we can do is get the players that we have to play better, and we did that last year."
Servais points to a 30th-ranked system that finished with the 11th-best winning percentage in baseball last year (.502) as an indication that they're doing a good job developing young players -- though he understands the Triple-A roster was comparatively much older than that of other organizations.
The book contains job descriptions for almost everyone in the Angels' staff, a detailed look at their catching program, a guide to their new academy in the Dominican Republic, a mental skills challenge for young players, buzzwords for pitchers like "control the strike zone" and "pitch down in the zone," and a line graph that indicates where grounders and fly balls were hit at every level.
"We're going to be shifting more in the Majors this year," Servais said, "so we're going to incorporate that in the Minor Leagues, too."
Within the book are also breakdowns of where the Angels' five affiliates -- rookie-level Orem, Class A Burlington, Class A Advanced Inland Empire, Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake -- rank in every offensive and pitching category. From 2012 to '13, for example, they jumped from 22nd to second in on-base percentage, but were last in ERA each season.
Also in the book are two key stats: productive team plate appearances and free bases allowed.
A productive team plate appearance is any walk, hit by pitch, out advancing a lead runner, sac fly, sac bunt or eight-pitch at-bat. It's like "quality at-bats," but without the subjectivity of hitting balls hard. You get 17 of those productive team plate appearances a game, Servais said, and you win about 75 percent of the time.
A free base allowed is any walk, wild pitch, passed ball, stolen base or error. The goal is to give up no more than five of those a game, because if clubs do, they'll lose almost 80 percent of the time -- no matter what is done offensively.
"All the stuff that you kind of know, you're just putting it all down on paper," Servais said. "That's what the premise of the exercise is in putting this together."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.