Thursday, December 31, 2009

Base Hits: Rumors, Recaps and Rebounds

The year would not be complete without Wayward O's 2009 Recaptacular! Unmissable reading.

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SI's Jon Heyman reports today that the Orioles are still indeed interested in signing Matt Holliday even though Andy MacPhail vehemently denied similiar reports from Fox Sports yesterday.

"The Orioles are laying in the weeds on this," according to a person familiar with Baltimore's thinking...

A report that the Orioles offered Holliday $130 million over eight years was denied by Orioles president/GM Andy MacPhail in The Baltimore Sun. However, MacPhail did not deny interest in the three-time All-Star...

I would still tend to believe MacPhail on this because, as John Sickels laid out nicely last offseason, Heyman is often a media mouthpiece for Scott Boras.

But if Heyman turns out to be correct, MacPhail and The Warehouse take a huge credibility hit.

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At The Bleacher Report, someone calling himself the Baseball Professor lays out the case for a rebound season for Nick Markakis, at least in the fantasy baseball sense.

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Mike Bordick is returning to Baltimore as a minor league offensive coordinator. At first glance, I would rather have Bordick working with guys on infield defense (which he says he may do as well)...

Bordick, 44, will be responsible for working with the club's prospects on offensive fundamentals such as base running, bunting and situational hitting.

Bordick was a pretty good baserunner and bunter (from what I cann recall) but I hope this is not indicative of the Trembley philosophy of "hit and run" and "agressive baserunning" spreading to the whole organization.

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Dave Mc at Weaver's Tantrum offers some thoughts on the "lukewarm" Hot Stove season for the Orioles.


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An entertaining excercise as Dan of Camden Crazies tries to quantify just how bad a major league player he would be.
 
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Crystal Ball '10: Matt Wieters

I was at MASN's Blogger Night at Camden Yards the night that the decision to call Matt Wieters up to Baltimore was announced. The mood was electric. It is rare, in these dozen years of losing, to see that kind of excitement among Oriole fans and it was easy to see the crushing expectations that were placed on the shoulders of the young catcher.

Many fans were disappointed in Wieters 2009 debut and many national baseball writers are significantly lowering expectations.

Did those expectations get to him? Maybe but I doubt it. It may seem like Wieters marched through the minor leagues like a hot knife through butter but the reality is that at each level he struggled for a time, then destroyed the league. Outside of A+ Frederick, he has to make adjustments at every level.

I predicted it would take Wieters a full two months of games to adjust to major league pitching.




G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR
May 29th-July 28th 39 .273 .322 .388 .711 3
July 29th - EOS 57 .298 .352 .428 .780 6



Those end of the season numbers include a torrid September/October where Wieters hit .333/.395/.486 with 4 homers.

Wieters was just short of being a league average hitter (97 OPS+) and as an American League catcher that was good enough for the third-best hitting catcher in the league. Not bad for a rookie.

So enormous expectations aside, it was a very solid rookie season for Matt Wieters. His defense improved as well and projections show that he will be above average in blocking pitches and by the end of the season his Caught Stealing numbers were right around average for a catcher not named Laird.

And the fact that he improved as the season went along gives me hope that he's making the necessary adjustments to succeed in the majors. I expect big thing from Wieters in 2009. Look, he OPS'ed 1.014 in the minors, I think it's doubtful that his power just disappeared. Besides, 5 of his 9 homers were to the opposite field. He even hit a homer off of Chad Bradford! You know how hard that is? Big power in that bat.

If you've seen my WAR projections, you know I expect Wieters to OPS .825 in his sophomore season with a chance for a quantum leap to even more. Relax, Orioles fans. our savior is here.


*Keith Law photo courtesy of Matt Wieters Facts

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Revising my Initial WAR Projections for 2010

I'm a one trick pony these days but it's the slowest part of the offseason...so another WAR post as we try to peer into the murky future...

My initial WAR projections projected the Orioles to possess a Win Talent of 83. Others, whose opinion I respect, thought that my projections were too optimistic given the pitching staff Baltimore would field. (Keep in mind, I was quite pessimistic last season compared to most...)

I then decided to scale back my projections a bit. I decided to use CHONE projections which tend to be less optimistic than Bill James in general and revisit the pitching projections with a more critical eye.

Hitters

I did CHONE projections straight down the line except for playing time. I adjusted Adam Jones' playing time down (450 PA) because he has yet to play a full season and I wanted to be reasonable about the possibility of injury. Before changing my pitching and with only two minor tweaks to the batters, this still left my Win Talent at 81.6.

The tweaks: Nick Markakis is NOT a sub-.850 OPS player. Sorry, I don't buy it. So I nudged his numbers up to an .850 OPS. Also, I do not believe Matt Wieters is a sub-.800 OPS hitter in 2010. I adjusted his offensive numbers up to an equivalent of .825 OPS. (BTW, ZiPS predicted an .827 OPS for Wieters before the 2009 season, comparing him to Johnny Bench. This season, ZiPS has him at at .773 OPS. What changed? 385 PAs in the majors? I think we have to take projections on rookies and young players in general with a grain of salt...)

Here is the lineup with rough batting lines:



PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
C
Wieters 550 .289 .350 .475 .825
Moeller 145 .240 .300 .330 .630

1B
Wigginton 550 .269 .323 .446 .769
Atkins 145 .257 .326 .410 .736

2B
Roberts 645 .275 .355 .430 .785
Andino 50 .244 .299 .365 .664

SS
Izturis 600 .261 .306 .342 .648
Andino 95 .244 .299 .365 .664

3B
Atkins 500 .257 .326 .410 .736
Wigginton 50 .269 .323 .446 .769
Bell 145 .231 .299 .362 .661

LF
Reimold 500 .275 .355 .477 .832
Pie 150 .267 .327 .421 .748
Scott 45 .256 .335 .469 .804

CF
Jones 450 .283 .338 .472 .810
Pie 245 .267 .327 .421 .748

RF
Markakis 695 .304 .369 .481 .850

DH
Reimold 245 .275 .355 .477 .832
Scott 400 .256 .335 .469 .804
Wigginton 50 .269 .323 .446 .769




The Pitching

I went back over my pitching with a fine toothed comb looking for holes. Here's what I came up with for the rotation, all ERA's are in terms of FIP.

I have Jeremy Guthrie penciled in for 190 innings, fewer than he had last season. Guthrie has pitched more innings each season in the majors, even when he has struggled. (He pitched 200 innings in '09.) I can't imagine he will be as bad as he was last year, nor quite as good as his first two seasons. I bumped his FIP up to 4.80 but left everything else alone.

My Kevin Millwood projection makes sense. I only have him down for 165 innings figuring he will break down a bit during the season. 4.80 FIP was what he had last season and is the highest he has had for a full season. It's reasonable to think that projection is sound.

Matusz doesn't seem to be the kind to get hurt...just not that kind of pitcher. Still, I only have him down for 170 innings...guess I could bump that to 165 and bump his 4.00 FIP up a quarter run, well above fan projections, Bill James and his performance last year. The guy is "pitcher" in the truest sense of the word...I see him improving, not backsliding.

Chris Tillman struck me as the likeliest candidate for injury and/or struggles. Not sure exactly why I feel that why but he looks like he overthrows at times and he will be just 22 next season. I knocked down his innings and bumped up the FIP.

Brad Bergesen is a poor man's Rick Porcello. He may not be as good as last year but I don't think he's going to go the Josh Towers route either. He's a groundball machine and he walks virtually nobody. I bumped the FIP up a bit but I think he pitches his fair share of innings at the back of the rotation.

That's a pretty solid rotation, a bunch of guys who, barring injury, have the opportunity to stay in the rotation all season despite any struggles they may have. All will pitch 140+ innings with guys like Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton, Jason Berken and David Hernandez ready to take the mound in case of injury. No one should get rushed up from Norfolk or Bowie this season.

The addition of Mike Gonzalez makes the core of the Oriole bullpen much better. We could debate the merits of Baltimore paying a premium for a "closer" this offseason but adding Gonzalez to Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara and Kam Mickolio makes a formidable core. Add Cla Meredith, Mark Hendrickson, David Hernandez and Matt Albers and you have a solid, if not great relief corp. And I think that the O's have some intriguing arms in Norfolk this season like Jim Miller, Alberto Castillo, Armando Gabino and Wilfrido Perez.

Projections for primary rotation and relief:



IP ERA
Guthrie 190 4.80
Millwood 165 4.80
Tillman 140 5.50
Matusz 165 4.25
Bergesen 170 4.40

Gonzalez 65 3.50
Johnson 70 4.20
Uehara 50 3.85
Mickolio 50 4.50
Hendrickson 70 4.75
Meredith 45 4.22
Hernandez 60 5.25




Now, take a look back at all those projections. What's your impression? Optimistic? Unrealistic? Pie in the sky?

I think not. I think they're fairly pessimistic if anything. And I still get...80 wins.

Obviously, injury is always a concern. The Orioles are not very deep and a rash of serious injuries lands Baltimore back in the basement chasing 100 losses again. But if the young core holds and improves even modestly, this team will at least flirt with .500 this season.

Of course, we'll adjust this as the Orioles get closer to Opening Day and the roster comes into focus.

My updated 2010 WAR Spreadsheet is here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back at My WAR Predictions for 2009...

I was preparing my WAR spreadsheet for 2010 and took a look at my 2009 sheet. I won't go over every gory detail but thought I would list a few I got right and a few I got really, really wrong.


Best Predictions for Hitters:

Matt Wieters

Predicted: 2.0 WAR
Actual: 1.9 WAR

I tempered my enthusiasm and basically got this right. A slow start but a furious finish is pretty much what I expected.

Cesar Izturis

Predicted 1.2 WAR
Actual: 1.3 WAR

He was who we thought he was. Flashy glove and not much else.

Brian Roberts

Predicted: 3.6 WAR
Actual: 3.4 WAR

Another steady year from Roberts. Pretty easy to figure this one.


Worst Batter Projections:

Aubrey Huff

Predicted: 1.7 WAR
Actual: -0.4 WAR

I thought Huff would take a big step back from 2008 but I didn't see the utter collapse. Ouch.

Nick Markakis

Predicted: 6.1 WAR
Actual: 2.2 WAR

I predicted, loudly and often, that Markakis would have a breakout year in 2009. Instead, he took a step back.

Ryan Freel

Predicted: 0.7 WAR
Actual: -0.2 WAR

I didn't expect big things from Freel but thought he would add some value (mostly defensive) up the middle. No chance.

I won't even bother doing the pitchers. Sure, I got Uehara's value right but the rest of the rotation and bullpen was such a mess, there was no way to predict who would be pitching by the time September rolled around.


If you want to see more, my 2009 WAR Spreadsheet is here.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Three Years Down

Three years ago today. I blogged my first post to Dempsey's Army, a post about the woeful conditions of the Orioles' Spring Training facility in Ft. Lauderdale. And since then, I have rarely shut up about my favorite team.

This blog began as an excercise in curiousity but turned quickly to therapy for a long suffering Oriole fan.

I'm still a bit shocked that anyone reads it at all but I certainly appreciate it. I had well north of 6,000 unique visitors this year (which is still small potatoes) but is unbelievable to me.

Thanks for reading. We'll see if we can't solve the AL East together.

Onward...let 2010 begin!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Everybody!

You can't beat Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl...


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Base Hits: Blog-O-Sphere, Prospect Lists and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Some Christmas gifts from the Blog-O-Sphere...

Ben has risen from the ashes of MVN to revive Oriole Central (or is it Camden Central) on the original Wordpress platform and the Oriole blogosphere is richer because of it.

Similiarly, Crawdaddy, one of my old comrades from the Baltimore Orioles Round Table, has also resurfaced with Camden Depot now on the Blogger platform servicing all your Oriole scouting needs. Crawdaddy has also added a neat feature to his website: the 40-man roster with each player's name color-coded to indicate how many minor league options they have remaining. Very useful and leaves me wondering why I didn't think of it myself.

Other MVN refugee news has Oriole Magic writers Anthony and James writing for Anthony's original blog, Oriole Post.

Everybody's back for the holidays... (sniff)

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Relive Nick Markakis' journey through the minor leagues via this article at MiLB.com. Nick is a gift none of us will return.

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Baseball America finally put out their list of the Top 10 Oriole Prospects. One universal in most of these lists has been the rise of soon-to-be Bowie pitcher Zach Britton who come in at #3 on BA's list:

When talking about elite pitching prospects in the Orioles organization, it's time to add Britton's name to the discussion. He was the pitcher of the year in the Carolina League last season, and his 2.70 ERA ranked second in the league...

Britton seems like the typical sinker/slider pitcher, except that his fastball touches 94 mph. His velocity improved last season, and he usually works in the 88-92 range with his sinker, adding a four-seam fastball to go with it.

It also says he has improved his changeup thanks to tips from Brian Matusz. That's a good thing, first because he improved his changeup and secondly because it says a lot about Matusz that he took the time and had the ability to impart that to a younger pitcher. Matusz gave Britton a gift that will keep on giving through the New Year.

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The Phillies sign Danys Baez.

Who knew that Mr. Reluctant would become a man of mystery so soon after leaving Baltimore.

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Michael Aubrey says he's happy with the moves the Orioles made this season...but he's not really. They add one more veteran corner infield bat and Aubrey is buried in AAA.

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The Orioles have signed 19-year-old LHP Chris Lamb form Australia. Feel free to read the scouting report but it's more improtant evidence that the Orioles are looking overseas for talent.

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Since everybody is posting their Oriole retrospectives of the '00's, I'll link back to mine from earlier this offseason.

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Merry Christmas people.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Does WAR Reveal a Chance of a Winning 2010 for Baltimore?

Team projections at this time of the year are a fool's game. But I started to try anyway.

Using Sky Kalkman's WAR Spreadsheet, I plugged in the holes based on the current roster and a few assumptions here and there (like the return of Mark Hendrickson or someone like him). Then I used CHONE and Bill James projections (mostly Bill James since they are already in wOBA at FanGraphs.com) and let the spreadsheet run the numbers.

Projection: 83 wins

What? I looked over my numbers again. I only had Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Brad Bergesen outperforming projections by any significant amount and even that was not by much. All other players either got their Bill James projection or were lowered to some degree. And I still get 83 wins. Even with Garrett Atkins and Ty Wigginton manning the corners all year.

Keep in mind that going into Spring Training 2009, my spreadsheet had 77 wins and Baltimore almost lost 100. But the pitching just plain exploded. Barring a significant rash of injuries, this staff won't be as bad as '09, right?

The link to my spreadsheet is here. Any feedback is appreciated. But I got a little unexpected optimism for Christmas.

edit: I gave Nolan Reimold 745 ABs vs. 695 between LF and DH. I adjusted that but it still falls in the 83 win range.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Evaluating Baseball's Managers

Evaluating Baseball's Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876-2008
by Chris Jaffe
c. 2009

If you read The Hardball Times as often as I do, you are very familiar with Chris Jaffe. Now, Jaffe has a book out called Evaluating Baseball's Managers. (which can be purchased here...). As a baseball history buff and an amateur stat nerd, this book is right up my alley.

Now, I only received excerpts of the book that related to Baltimore franchises but the taste I got was more than enough to peak my interest.

For instance, having just read Weaver on Strategy this fall and The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers in the past year, I didn't think there was anything new that I could learn about the managerial habits of Earl Weaver. I was wrong.

Sure, I knew that Weaver's teams tended to improve as the year went on and that they had never had a losing September but only Jaffe delves in to determine why. Was it luck? After exploring that idea for awhile, Jaffe gives us this great insight:

As was the case with his pitchers, it does not appear that Weaver benefited from having a large collection of men who just happened to improve as the season wore on.His hitters improved on the whole, but not enough to explain Baltimore’s annual surge.

That leaves one obvious variable: Weaver himself. One of Weaver’s hallmarks as manager was compiling as much information so he could put his players in the game at the most opportune circumstances....That was exceptionally difficult because it required gathering and mastering those details, and then also staying on top of how they change from year to year and week to week...He learned and as the season went on had an ever-improving sense of exactly where to put all his players.

The Weaver excerpt is fascinating as you can imagine and offers several original insights about his career.

There's a ton of interesting facts in there.

Ned Hanlon, hailed as a pioneer during his days managing the old National League Orioles, had the game pass him by at the relatively young age of 46. Except that 46 was actually exceptionally old for a manager at the turn of the century with only two other NL managers over 36 when he lost his touch.

Frank Robinson, win-loss record aside, was actually a really good manager but no manager managed so long with so little talent.

How was Johnny Oates so effective as a manager? He was exceptionally good at building bullpens, especially middle relievers (see Todd Frohwirth and Alan Mills).

How does Jaffe determine all this? Using devices like the Birnbaum Database, the Tendencies Database and Average Opponent Winning Percentage (AOWP), among others. There's no sense in me trying to explain all this here but you can get a good overview from this FAQ.

There's just a ton of information even in the small excerpts I was given. I haven't even talked about the examination of the career of Paul Richards.

I'm no expert but I would consider this book an essential reference for the amateur (or professional) baseball historian. And I say that even though Jaffe is completely wrong about the Hall of Fame worthiness of Willie Keeler.

As soon as Christmas is over, I'm going to get me a copy.


To order a copy of Evaluating Baseball's Managers, go here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Orioles Add 3B Garrett Atkins to the Fold

The Warehouse has been busy with their holiday shopping this December. Shortly after news of the signing of RP Mike Gonzalez comes word that the Orioles have reportedly signed former Rockies third baseman Garret Atkins for a one-year deal.

Third base was a big hole that the Orioles needed to fill this offseason but outside of Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre, the list of free agents was a flawed group. The candidates were either aging, inury risks, couldn't hit, couldn't field or some combination of these. Atkins is no different.

Atkins was once a promising young hitter for Colorado but last year he managed a meager .226/.308/.342 line, losing his starting job. He also has big home/away splits, hitting far worse away from Coors Field for his career (.892 OPS at home, .735 OPS away). Add the fact that he's not a particularly good fielding third basemen in terms of UZR and you have to wonder why Atkins was appealing to Baltimore at all.

I can find three encouraging things about Atkins. The first, he has played third and first before. If either Josh Bell or Brandon Snyder proves ready to play in Baltimore, he can slide to the other corner.

Second, he wears out lefties. Even through his struggles last season, he OPS'ed .790 against southpaws. He could come in handy against the likes of C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, John Lester, Andy Pettite and David Price as the Orioles make their way through the Al East.

Third, his BABIP last season was just .247 so he is a decent candidate to improve on his numbers from last year.

It's only a one-year deal so whatever they are paying him can come off the books in 2011. He's a stop gap and he's no better or worse than the rest of the free agent lot. Nothing wrong with this signing at all but nothing to get excited about.

edit: Looks like the contract is for $4.5 million for 2009 with a club option (worth $8.5 million...what?!?!) for 2011. There's NO WAY Atkins will be good enough to get that option picked up, so call this a 1 year, $5 million deal ($4.5 mil plus $500,000 buyout). It's fine for one season.

Mike Gonzalez Rocks

...no, really.

One thing I forgot to mention about Gonzalez last night is his unusual rocking motions before his windup:



video





Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baltimore Orioles Sign RP Mike Gonzalez to be Team's Closer

In a move that is a head-scratcher, the Baltimore Orioles have signed Braves RP Mike Gonzalez to a 2-year, $12 million deal.

Why would the Orioles sign an expensive veteran reliever to close in 2010? If the team was a contender, I could see it. But this team is not a contender and an expensive closer is a luxury that losing teams cannot afford. I am a little perplexed by the deal.

Living in Atlanta for the last few years, I've seen plenty of Mike Gonzalez. The good news is that he's really, really good. He's a lefty. His stuff is nasty. He's basically a fastball-slider pitcher and his fastball can touch the mid-90's (although low 90's seems to be where it sits). He's a flyball pitcher but a lot of those balls are hit weakly and he induces a lot of popups. He also strikes out a ton of guys, striking out 10.6 per 9 over the last three seasons. Last year, he seemed to be completely healthy after his Tommy John surgery in 2007 and the Braves deployed him in high leverage situations last season over the course of 80 games.(hopefully, the O's don't ride him quite so hard...). He's a bad man on the mound.

The bad news...he's a Type A free agent so the Orioles will surrender their 2nd round pick in 2010 (43rd pick overall). He will walk batters regularly. He tends to give up the inopportune home run. He's a pitcher coming from the National League to the American League. He's going to make $6 million and year (and maybe more) and he's clearly not worth that much money, especially for a team that will probably lose in 2010. Even FanGraphs.com, who (in my opinion) overvalues player performance, only values Gonzalez's 2009 at $4.1 million.

Make no mistake, Gonzalez is a great relief pitcher and he will improve the bullpen. But for $6 million per? I am guessing that Andy MacPhail will be listening to offers at the next two trading deadlines.

The Crystal Ball '10: Kevin Millwood

I've covered the Millwood trade a bit before but I thought we needed to take a closer look at what to really expect from Mr. Millwood the Oriole. First, the projections:

IP      ERA    K    BB
CHONE 177.0 4.83 112 64
Bill James 175.0 4.37 126 55
B.P. 143.3 5.19 100 46



I think that Millwood has to pitch for a league average ERA (or approaching it) and at least 180 innings to be really useful for the Orioles in 2010. That means somewhere between a 4.60 and a 4.70 ERA. From the above projections, Millwood is, at best, at the high end of the ERA and at the low end of the innings pitched.

The good news is that Millwood is leaving The Ballpark at Arlington. Camden Yards is a homer haven but on the whole has been a neutral hitting environment for three straight seasons. The Rangers' stadium is even more homer-prone than OPACY and is a much better hitter's park overall. Millwood may be able to take advantage of pitching is a better environment in 2010.

What is more difficult to tell is how much help Millwood will need or get from the defense behind him. The strikeout rate dropped last year and he's a flyball pitcher, (although not an extreme one) so there's going to be a lot of balls put in play. A Markakis/Jones/Reimold/Pie outfield should be plenty busy but have the potential to help Millwood a lot. Izturis is top notch at short and Roberts is still passable at second. When we know who will hold down third and first base in 2010 we will know a bit more.

If his health holds, Millwood should be a good bet to approach league average and pitch north of 175 innings which would have made him one of the better pitchers in the O's rotation in '09. It's certainly a risk but it's short term risk If he pitches well enough to keep Jake Arrieta in AAA and Jason Berken and David Hernandez in the bullpen, it will be worth it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Do Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kermit the Frog Have in Common?

They were both pitchmen for Esskay:


Monday, December 14, 2009

Matt Capps to Baltimore? It's Not A Crazy Idea

Roch Kubatko has confirmed that the Orioles are interested in recently non-tendered free agent closer Matt Capps.

At first blush, the addition of Matt Capps as the Oriole closer would be cringe-inducing. Digest these numbers, if you will. A 4-8 record with a 5.80 ERA and 5 blown saves (vs. 27 saves). Those are not encouraging numbers. So why would the Orioles be interested?

1. A .370 BABIP - That is a crazy high number. Either the guy's completely done as a ballplayer or that number is coming way down. His career high before this season was .272. He looks to have been incredibly unlucky in 2009.

2. A 2.71 K/BB ratio - Even with a uptick in walks last season (2.82 BB/9), that's just 17 walks in 54.1 innings and 57 appearances. That's passable, especially against 46 Ks. There's still a good ability to miss bats.

3. He Gave Up Some Cheap Home Runs - Capps gave up a whopping 10 homers in 2009, good for a 13.5% HR/F ratio. That is bad but is unusually high. Looking at the data on HitTrackerOnline.com, 5 of the homers Capps surrendered were categorized as "Just Enoughs" and 1 was "Lucky". Capps is probably more likely to give up 5 or 6 over 55 innings, not 10.
Of the 35 earned runs that Capps gave up last year, 17 were given up on home runs. The odds are good that that rate comes way down.

Matt Capps is better than his recent record indicates. He looks to be due for a rebound and if he has that rebound for the Orioles, all the better. Closers are overrated but if Baltimore looks to be out of it in July, Capps can be flipped to a contender for the right price. (see George Sherrill)

The great caveat here is that Capps has had shoulder problems...he could have been hurt last season. But this is where you have to trust the Oriole scouting and medical staff to do their due diligence on the guy.

Since the Orioles are interested, you have to assume they feel that he's healthy.

And this is a waaaay better option than Fernando Rodney or Kevin Gregg.

Why Bradley Would Fit In Baltimore

This post is in response to a comment on my last Base Hits post from Crawdaddy. I started to answer it in the comments but it ended up being long. So here's a short post. The original question:

Crawdaddy said...

So why does (Milton) Bradley make sense?

I am not advocating the acquisition of Bradley nor making the case that it's likely but here's why I think Bradley makes sense:

1. Bradley is an AL Player - Bradley must DH to stay healthy and productive. That takes NL teams off the trade market, limiting the Cubs' trade partners and leverage.

2. The Cubs are Desperate - The Cubs have stated publicly (and stupidly) that Bradley will not be back in 2010. This has reduced the already dwindling number of suitors and depressed the price. The team that gets Bradley won't have to give up much and the Cubs may even have to pick up some of the salary to move him. Andy MacPhail loves two things: a desperate trade partner and a bargain.

3. The Orioles and the Cubs Have a Good Relationship - They have been involved in many trades over the years. Why wouldn't they hook up for this deal? Maybe they send Luke Scott in return and allow Bradley to be the full-time DH. And the Cubs would probably pick up some salary in the process.

3. Luke Scott May Be On His Way Out - If Scott isn't part of the Bradley trade, he may be headed elsewhere anyway.

As a guy headed to arbitration for the second time, coming off a $2.4 million salary for 2009, he’s at the point where his salary is too prohibitive for Baltimore to keep him around as a part-time player. He’ll probably make $4 million or so in 2010 – still less than what he’s worth, but too much for a team who isn’t sure where to put him.

If the Orioles prefer not to pay $4 million for Scott, he may be shipped out to a team that thinks they can contend. That leaves the DH spot wide open. If they're only paying $5-6 million of Bradley's salary, Bradley is a good bet to exceed Scott's production anyway.

So even if they sign free agents to fill first base and third base, the lineup could look something like this:

1B Blalock+

2B Roberts

SS Izturis

3B Atkins +

LF Reimold

CF Jones

RF Markakis

C Wieters

DH Bradley

BN Moeller

BN Pie

BN Wigginton

BN Andino

+ These are just players that have been linked to Baltimore...it'll be these guys or players like them...

It fits...if the Orioles move Scott. Not so much if Scott ends up staying.

OK, have at me...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Base Hits: So Long Buck, More Spring Training, Brad Bergesen and the Accent Aigu

MASN color analyst Buck Martinez has moved on to Toronto to do play-by-play for the Blue Jays in 2010. Good riddance.

Nobody is happier about this development than me. I couldn't stand the guy on the broadcasts, from his analysis to the timbre of his voice, and being an MLB.tv subscriber I would often switch to the other team's feed to avoid him. I remember when the Orioles picked up Ryan Freel last offseason and Martinez described him as "another Brian Roberts". Really. Brian Roberts.

It's odd that Martinez will be doing play-by-play now and this quote is also odd:

``Obviously, it's a different role but because I've been blessed with so many play-by-play partners – Jim Hughson, Tom Cheek and Dan Shulman and the guys at ESPN – I think I can take something from all of them."

Gary Thorne is conspicuously absent.

Who's going to pick up the slack? People are already crying for anybody but Rick Dempsey but I am not bothered by Rick. No, he's not polished and he's certainly not conventional. But if Harry Carey can do play by play, I think there's room for Dempsey as a color analyst. Like Carey, Dempsey injects a little fun into the proceedings. And I've seen him keep score, the guy pays attention and knows what he's talking about. But I'm not going to advocate for Dempsey as the top choice.

The top choice should be Ken Singleton. He's fantastic on the Yankee broadcasts. He's smooth, has a great voice and offers a lot of insight. let's bring Ken home.

Another possibility is Billy Ripken. I've been listening to him on Sirius XM's MLB Home Plate and he's quite entertaining and natural on the mic. He would be something of a happy medium between Dempsey and Singleton.

*****

Erik Bedard's hometown paper has an article about the specualtion that Bedard could return to the Baltimore Orioles in 2010.

Note how they print his name: Erik Bédard.

If he comes back to the Orioles, I will employ the accent aigu.

*****

MASN's Steve Melewski reports that Brad Bergesen's leg is at 100%. As you know, I feel the most important component of Bergesen's success in 2010 is that his leg feels normal and he can work on that delivery before Spring Training. Considering he wasn't even running on it less than 4 weeks ago, this is good news.

*****

I'll engage in the rumor mill a bit. Regarding Milton Bradley, there has been a "mystery team" rumored to be in the mix. I think that mystery team is your Baltimore Orioles.

*****

I enjoy the Bird Droppings posts over at Camden Chat. I don't see them every morning but they make a nice one stop for Oriole links of the day. Today it is worth looking at for the Santa Dempsey picture alone.

*****

Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein runs down the Rule 5 draft (subscription required) and gives odds on each player sticking. On Steve Johnson:

Traded by the Dodgers to the O's in July, along with top prospect Josh Bell, for George Sherrill, this Baltimore native's time as a potential hometown hero may have been limited to just seven starts for Double-A Bowie. Nothing about Johnson's game stands out, but there aren't many weaknesses either, as he has an effective three-pitch mix. He's not a bad prospect by any means, but he doesn't seem ready yet, either. Odds to Stick: 15-1.

Those are long odds. I'm beginning to think he'll probably be back.

*****

David Golebiewski at FanGraphs.com takes a look at Adam Jones' breakout offensive season. It's a fantasy baseball article but ends with this encouraging summation:

Overall, Jones' 2009 season was very promising. He learned to fight off big league fastballs, not getting jammed nearly as much as in his rookie season. Jones also hit the ball with more authority, which may have helped him get in more hitter's counts. If he can hone his strike zone control and take full advantage of his strength, Jones could emerge as a full-fledged star in 2010.

*****

With Spring Training around the corner, architectural plans were revealed last night for the new Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The current stadium will be demolished after Spring Training 2010 and the new complex will be available for Spring Training 2011.


You can view the master plan for the Ed Smith Stadium Complex here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Steve Johnson and the Rule 5 Draft

Many hardcore O's fans got bad news this morning when the San Francisco Giants selected Bowie SP Steve Johnson in the Rule 5 draft.

Johnson was left unprotected, somewhat surprisingly, and not unsurprisingly a team selected him. When you look at the people who were protected (Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Rhyne Hughes, etc) it's a bit difficult to see how Johnson was not more valuable. It's a bummer.

The good news is that the Giants selected Johnson. Johnson will have a hard time sticking all year on that staff so the likelihood is good that he will be returned to Baltimore or the Giants will have to send something back in trade to keep him.

As reproted by MASN's Roch Kubatko, Andy Macphail believes that too:

"We knew it was a possibility," said Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations. "The kid is clearly a prospect. I don't think there's any question about that. The question is going to be whether he can stick with the 25-man roster over the course of an entire season. There were 17 guys that were selected. The odds are maybe a quarter of them might stick, or they make a trade to keep them in the system."

Crawdaddy at Camden Depot is not concerned about Johnson's selection and thinks leaving him unprotected was a good move:

...Johnson is a fringe prospect. Do not get me wrong, he has some worth, but he has several things working against him. His main value is in his pitchability. He *knows* how to pitch, but the concern is that more polished hitters will tee off him. His pitches are not special and he has a horrific fly ball rate. These strongly suggest a pitcher who will be crushed at the Major League level. After spending less than half a season in AA, he just is not ready. A weak, but fair, comparison would be Garrett Olson. When you rely that much on pitching to the zone, you have to be flawless. Most guys just are not successful doing it.

Comments on Camden Chat and MASN range from mild annoyance to downright outrage. I'll count myself among the mildly annoyed. I'd much rather hold onto starting prospects than guys who project to be fringe relievers. You can always turn fringe starters into decent relievers (see Jim Johnson).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baltimore Orioles Acquire Kevin Millwood, Send Chris Ray to Texas

It looks like all the smoke around a Kevin Millwood deal were indeed signs of fire as the Orioles will reportedly send RP Chris Ray to the Rangers for Millwood and cash considerations.

I am not a fan of Millwood the Baltimore Oriole...but considering who the Orioles are giving up and that cash is coming back to offset the $12 million that Millwood is due in 2010.

Now, the stark realities of Kevin Millwood. Only a 5.6 K/9 rate versus a 3.3 BB/9 in 2009 for a measly 1.73 K/BB ratio. He's a flyball pitcher coming to Camden Yards. His BABIP was .279 last season, by far his lowest rate since 1999. He appears to have been extremely lucky to post a 3.67 ERA last season. He could be an absolute disaster for Baltimore.

There is hope here however. Over the last three seasons, Millwood has an average ERA+ of 99, pitched an average of 180 innings and is good for two complete games a season. I know this is what Andy MacPhail thinks; Millwood is a league average pitcher who has pitched in a hitter's park and can eat innings and provide stability in the rotation...and hey, maybe we get lucky and he's even better than that. Bill James does project him to post a 4.37 ERA (slightly better than league average) over 175 innings.

The Rangers will reportedly pick up a quarter of Millwood's $12 million salary. For $9 million over one season, he is a calculated risk but not a crazy one.

The Orioles send former closer Chris Ray to Texas. As much as I hate to say it, this is no great loss. Ray is damaged goods at this point and showed absolutely nothing to lead one to believe that he will ever be an effective major league pitcher again. The Oriole bullpen needs an overhaul and it's probably time for someone else to deal with Ray.

In general, when you can trade a reliever for a starter I am all for it. I am tepid about Millwood as a good fit for the Orioles though. But for one year, even a colossal disaster will be over with quickly. All things considered, it's a good move and a good idea.

Base Hits: Winter Meetings, Oriole Blogosphere and It Could Be Worse

Not a ton of substantial Oriole news from the Winter meetings. The most interesting thing that was reported was the gulf between what the Texas Rangers were asking in trade for Kevin Millwood and what the Orioles were willing to offer. According to Spencer Fordin, the Rangers wanted Chris Tillman and the O's were offering Brandon Erbe or David Hernandez.

I'm not crazy about Millwood pitching in orange and black but if you had to trade someone, David Hernandez would be the only acceptable piece to give up.

*****

Speaking of Fordin, he also talked with Oriole manager Dave Trembley about the closer situation for 2010:


Trembley said that he'd rather not rely on Jim Johnson or Koji Uehara as his closer, preferring instead to slot them earlier in the game.


"If you don't get a closer, now you come into Spring Training kind of unsettled again and you might have to take a look at JJ there," said Trembley, who grew comfortable with Johnson as his setup man. "...But if you go out and get a closer, then I think you can kind of line up the back end of your bullpen."

I think Uehara would be great in the closer's role, imagine a Trevor Hoffman type vs. Mariano Rivera. But it sounds like the Trembley is interested in a "proven" guy for that role.

*****

How do you say Screech in Japanese? Jeff Fiorentino may soon find out as he signs a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp. Yet another team for me to follow this season.

*****

Like Arlo Guthrie said, "When you're down it always feels better to know someone's got it worse than you. But what about the last guy? Nobody's got it worse than that last guy."  That's kind of what it's like to be an Oriole fan. We've got it bad but the Nationals fan is that last guy.

First, the Nats traded their Rule 5 draft pick , the first overall, to the Yankees for RP Brian Bruney, a middling reliever with control problems who has filled a ROOGY role for the Yankees the last three seasons. The Nats can afford to carry a Rule 5 guy on their roster more than any team in baseball but choose to send that pick to New York for...well, you could find a guy like this on the scrapheap.

Secondly, they signed veteran catcher Ivan Rodrigez to a two-year deal worth $6 million total. Forget that there were comparable players available for less years and less money, forget that this is 2009 and not 1999...actually don't forget any of this. The Nats overpaid mightily for an aging inferior player.

The team got older, less talented and more expensive. It's rough to be a Nationals fan.


*****

The Wayward O has the first in hopefully a long series of posts called O Fights! It's gnarly.

*****

I won't even begin to pretend that I understand all this but over at Fangraphs.com, Dave Allen attempts to show that Gregg Zaun is a fabulous blocker of pitches.

Always interested to see strides made in measuring catcher defense and this may explain in a small way why Zaun's catcher ERA was lower than Wieters' when he was traded to Tampa Bay.

*****

Tip of the hat to Weaver's Tantrum who wrote about way-under-the-radar-free-agent SP Justin Duchscherer and the possible fit with the Orioles. The thought had crossed my mind but I haven't seen anybody else even hint at the possibility. But it makes a lot of sense.

Dave Mc is a righteous dude.

*****

John Sickels has his Top 20 Oriole Prospects up at MinorLeagueBaseball.com. No big surprises on the list but a few notes:

-  SP Zach Britton is at #3. Sickels likes Britton a lot and so do I. At least as much as you can like a pitcher whom I've never seen pitch.

-  C Caleb Joseph is at #16. Sickels doesn't like his defense.

Most of the prospects are in the low minors. To conclude:

I think the Orioles system is often underrated. There is a lot to like at the top, with Matusz entering the '10 rotation and Arrieta not far behind him. I probably like Arrieta and Britton a bit more than most analysts. Erbe has tremendous potential as well. There is the nucleus of a really good pitching staff here, with several potential major league starters as well as the raw material of a fine bullpen, with a mixture of excellent arms (Mickolio, Lebron, Cooney) as well as guys with command (Egan, Gamboa) who could be fine staff fillers....

 All in all, this system has some major strength in young pitching but they could stand to boost the hitting.

Which is, of course, just as Andy MacPhail likes it.

*****

MVN is no more. I wrote a bit for MVN last year. My take: Some great content on MVN but it was a lousy  platform to blog on. Never like the new layout they did either. It was hideous and difficult to read.

That said, it's sad to see them go. Oriole Central was over there and they are gone. Oriole Magic was over there too and still appear to be live on that platform. I assume this will not last long. I am curious to see where these peices on the Oriole blogosphere end up. And I'm glad I kept this original version of Dempsey's Army up and running.

*****

Twitter is a-buzz with winter meeting news. I sent a tweet to Baseball America's Ben Badler to inquire about Oriole SP prospect Steve Johnson and the Rule 5 draft:

@BenBadler re: Rule 5 - O's fans worried about AA SP Steve Johnson being unprotected. Any real danger here?

BenBadler  @DempseysArmy Definitely a chance he gets picked 

 Well, that's not what I wanted to hear. Sometimes we fans overrate our own prospects and I was thinking that Johnson wouldn't be on anyone's radar. Evidently, that's  not the case. Not maybe...but definitely a chance sounds like it's at least 50/50.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Crystal Ball '10: Brad Bergesen

To me, there was no more puzzling development during the 2009 season than the adoration among writer's and scouts of Tigers rookie pitcher Rick Porcello and the utter dismissal of Oriole rookie pitcher Brad Bergesen. Why?

                 ERA    WHIP    K/9   BB/9   K/BB
Porcello '09    3.96    1.34    4.7    2.7   1.71
Bergesen '09    3.43    1.28    4.7    2.3   2.03



If anything, Bergesen was the slightly better version of the same pitcher. Maybe because Porcello is 20 and Bergesen is 23? Perhaps but I think Bergesen is just overlooked.

But maybe he was just lucky. Let's check the BABIP for Bergesen. Hmmm....it comes in at .289. According to Baseball Prospectus, an average BABIP is about .290. So he wasn't particularly lucky either.

Is it the heat? Porcello throws his fastball at 91 mph on average, Bergesen only hits 89 mph. That could be an issue going forward.

But guys like Bergesen can and do success in the majors. Bergesen compares favorably to a buy like Mark Buehrle and pitchers of the past like Bob Tewksbury. He won't be an ace but he could be a solid #4 starter for years to come. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

In addition, he is an outstanding fielder. I was reading The Bill James Handbook and he was considered the second best fielding pitcher in the American League (behind Mark Buehrle). Any little bit helps.

One word of caution...that leg injury. Guys like Bergesen have no margin for error. They need a repeatable delivery to locate their pitches and deceive the opposition because they have such marginal stuff. Chien-Ming Wang never came back from his foot injury the same pitcher. We can only hope that Brad fully recovers and can regain his form in Spring Training.

My prediciton: a sub-4.00 ERA, a walk rate very close to 2.00 BB/9, a K/9 over 5.00 and 180 innings pitched.

If he can recover from his injury, I think he's for real.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Review: Palmer and Weaver: Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine

Palmer and Weaver: Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine
by Jim Palmer and Jim Dale
c. 1996



I hadn't picked this book up in over ten years but after reading "Weaver on Strategy", I wanted to read this book with different eyes. In "Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine", I found that Jim Palmer's remembrances of his career actually made a nice compliment to Weaver's book.

Palmer takes you through his Hall of fame career (which, by the way is amazing. He has been in the booth so long that you sometimes forget what a dominant pitcher he was.) but spends almost as much time on Earl Weaver. The battles between these headstrong competitors were legendary and Palmer takes pains to make sure you get his side of the story.


Palmer was there for all the Orioles' World Series appearances including the wins in '66, '70 and '83 and offers a good perspective on each one. Through Jim's eyes you see the careers of Rick Dempsey, Elrod Hendricks, Mike Flanagan and the fascinating road to professional baseball of Dave Leonhard (probably the best story in the book).

But this is ultimately a book about Palmer, by Palmer and he chronicles his playing days with anecdotes and a virtual blow by blow of each season he pitched. Highlights include the near end of Palmer's career in 1968 due to fragile arm, the various World Series appearances...and his philosophical differences with Earl Weaver.

And about the Weaver stories. Palmer, at least early in the book, is merciless, painting Weaver as a tiny tyrant, a drunk, a manager who didn't understand his players one iota and laying out the case that the Baltimore pitchers he managed succeeded in spite of Earl rather than because of him. While some of the stories are quite amusing, the number of stories and the apparent viciousness leaves you with the impression that Palmer is relishing kicking a guy who can no longer have the last word.

What tempers this vitriol are the later stories in which Palmer admits that, sometimes, he was clearly wrong and that Weaver actually had handled certain situations completely appropriately. Most of these capitulations regard Palmer spouting off to the media, notably griping about his contract and his war-of-words with Oriole third baseman Doug DeCinces. Palmer gives Weaver his due, eventually, and concedes that Earl probably actually knew what he was doing. Palmer comes off as a wiser, more mature player at the end of the book and even a bit apologetic for some of his behavior. Although he won't say it explicitly, he eventually gives Earl his due as integral to the success of the team.

Surprisingly, his recounting of Weaver's farewell at Memorial Stadium and his own retirement are well-told, heartfelt and I did find myself getting a bit misty reading those passages.

How is the book overall? There are a lot of good stories. Are they as good as Palmer seems to think they are? Not always. (Although the story about Jim and Earl starring in the same Jockey underwear ad is pretty hysterical.) But it is an entertaining read for the diehard Oriole fan and did indeed make a good companion piece for the unmissable "Weaver on Strategy". After all, Palmer was the only Oriole to play for all 6 World Series teams and there's something valuable to his account of the glory days of Baltimore baseball.

The book is out of print but can be found used on Amazon.com and Half.com. Worth a read if you can pick it up cheap.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Base Hits: Pedro Feliz, Mike Boddicker, Arnoldis Chapman and the Spring Training

Last night on Twitter, JimBowdenIV tweeted this:

Orioles closing in on Pedro Feliz for 3B stop gap while waiting for Josh Bell to develop at AAA

I don't know how seriously to take this but as I've said before, all the free agent third basemen have their flaws. Feliz would bring above average defense and a weak (and weakening) bat but should come cheap and will in no way block Josh Bell if he starts destroying the International League.

*****

Baseball Prospectus posted a nice interview with former Baltimore hurler Mike Boddicker. Good stuff about the early '80's Oriole teams and technical stuff about the various ways to throw a curveball.

*****

Jorge Says No! takes a quick look at the mutual benefits of a contract extension from the Orioles for Adam Jones.

*****

NBC's Craig Calcaterra digs up some disturbing information about Cuban defector Arnoldis Chapman (via this article by Melissa Seguara in Sports Illustrated), especially for Oriole fans as Baltimore has been rumored to be interested in Chapman.

His career walk rate in Cuban play -- where the strike zones are bigger and the swingers freer -- is 5.37. That's worse than Daniel Cabrera, and he's been described as an affront to all that is good and holy, pitching wise. ...

The concern: he has all kinds of gas but no secondary pitches.  And you know how that goes. Chapman doesn't need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt. What he needs is a curve ball. In the show, everyone can hit heat. 

He said Daniel Cabrera. That's enough to send shivers down my spine. Pass. Please.


*****


Baseball America compiled a list of the top ten prospects who played in the Arizona Fall League.(subscription only) Oriole 3B prospect Josh Bell ranked #5.

Considered a defensive liability coming into the season, Bell got himself into better condition and answered questions about his ability to remain at third base. He's still a below-average runner, but Bell has become a solid defender at third base with smoother actions, cleaner footwork, improved range, good hands and an above-average arm.

At the plate, Bell has excellent raw power and could hit 25-plus home runs annually. He can work the count well to get on base, and while he doesn't strike out excessively, he could do more to tighten up his strike zone and not get himself out on pitchers' pitches. Though he's a switch-hitter, Bell has hit significantly better as a lefthanded batter throughout his entire career.


Brandon Snyder also got an honorable mention as a player whose stock is rising.

*****

The Orioles have released the Spring Training Schedule for 2010. Now I can pick my week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BHI: Some Perspective

Now that we have a substantial list of BHI scores for Oriole sluggers, I thought it was time to assess what these numbers actually mean. Below is a graph showing a rough distribution of Oriole BHI scores:


It's pretty obvious that most scores lie in the 200-300 range and there is a fairly even distribution among the other ranges. Given this, I am comfortable using 250 as the median score for BHI.

BHI ranges can be thought of something like this:

400+          Game Changer
300-400     Clutch Slugger
250-300     Above Average
200-250     Below Average
100-200     Mr. May
below 100  Garbage King

I would like to see how these guys match up in terms of WPA now that BaseballReference.com lists WPA in the home run logs, something like finding the average WPA per homer for each player. It's a long offseason, I don't see why not...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BHI: Young, Singleton and Triandos

In my last Big Homer Index post, I made a mistake in the formula that calculates BHI. The corrections have been made for Jeffery Hammonds, Melvin Mora and Paul Blair on the Career BHI list below. What is the Big Homer Index (BHI)? Look here.

Now, more BHI:

Mike Young - 70 Oriole Career Homers

Mike Young was a 1st round draft pick in 1980 and after posting a .273/.348/.513 line in 1985 (including 28 homers) at the age of 25, he looked to be a rising star in the Oriole outfield. But he never OPS'ed north of .750 or hit 20 homers in a season again and was out of baseball by 1990.

Still, in terms of BHI he was very good. Two extra inning walk-offs and a very low percentage of his homers could be chalked up to "garbage" home runs. Young flamed out quick but muscled up when it counted.

BHI - 354

Ken Singleton - 182 Oriole Career Homers

Singleton is one of the great Oriole outfielders of all time and he fares well in terms of BHI. Only one walk-off but half his homers either tied the game or gave the team the lead. Also, just 20% of his homers came during garbage time. He's just on the cusp of the elite in terms of BHI for Oriole sluggers.

BHI - 274

Gus Triandos - 142 Oriole Career Homers

Did you know that Triandos ranks #11 on the Oriole career homer list? I didn't. But no game ending home runs and just 40% of his homers tying the score or giving the lead give him a decent but lackluster score.

BHI - 195


BHI Leaders - Oriole Career


Brooks Robinson - 495
Eddie Murray - 469
Rafael Palmiero - 469
Mickey Tettleton - 444
Tony Batista - 406
John Lowenstein - 393
Mike Young - 354
Boog Powell - 341
Mike Devereaux - 333
Paul Blair - 290
Jim Gentile - 274
Ken Singelton - 274
Melvin Mora - 268
Larry Sheets - 266
Albert Belle - 240
Chris Hoiles - 240
Roberto Alomar - 230
Doug Decinces - 225
Brian Roberts - 224
Miguel Tejada - 218
Cal Ripken - 197
Gus Triandos - 195
Brady Anderson - 138
Rick Dempsey - 136
Kevin Millar - 117
Jeffrey Hammonds - 84
Jay Gibbons - 42
Jeff Conine - 5
B. J. Surhoff - -64