Thursday, January 28, 2010

Base Hits: Additions, Departures and Blogging Ethics

Miguel Tejada has indirectly ended Denis Sarfate's Oriole career as he was designated for assignement. Some quotes from his interview with Roch Kubatko:

"Right now, where I'm standing, I hope I get to pitch for another team. Obviously, my goal is to pitch in the big leagues every year. I'm not saying I couldn't make the (Orioles) out of spring training, because if I do go there, I intend to make the team, but obviously I'd be the last in line to get innings. If I get the chance to go to another team, I'd be happy and take it with open arms.

"To me, I'm kind of in shock. I wish I had known earlier and saved two days of my life and not gone to Baltimore for FanFest. I flew cross-country and left my daughter at home..."

Doesn't sound like he's going to accept the demotion...

I would have liked to see if a healthy Sarfate could've turned it around but if we're going to keep a fringy guy who has isues throwing strikes, I'd rather have Matt Albers.


Nobody is surprised that Mark Hendrickson is back. According to, Hendrickson had a 3.44 ERA in 42 appearance as a reliever and a 2.64 K/BB ratio. He was effective in the bullpen and can make a spot start in a pinch. For $1.2 million, (less than he made last season) he's a good value.


Keith Law released his top 100 prospects for 2010 andfour Orioles made the cut. For those of you without ESPN Insider, he're a few quotes:

SP Brian Matusz (#11) - "He's not the prototypical No. 1 starter with a big fastball and an easy delivery, but his ability to miss left- and right-handed bats in different ways gives him a chance to lead a staff, regardless."

SP Zach Britton (#25) - "His control remains below-average and his command of all pitches and feel for the slider need to improve, as well, but he would slot in very nicely as a No. 2 starter behind Brian Matusz, or as an outstanding No. 3 behind Matusz and Chris Tillman."

(I love that Britton is ranked so high. He's a sinkerballer who gets a ton a groundballs...a skill that works very well at OPACY.)

3B Josh Bell (#61) - "He has excellent bat speed from the left side, accelerating his wrists very quickly from the set position, although his swing is a little flat and might be more geared to doubles than home runs. "

SP Jake Arrieta (#90) - "Beyond the significant improvement in his control, he remains what he was: a four-pitch guy with no plus pitch but nothing below-average."

Keith Law's Top Ten Oriole Prospects:

1. Brian Matusz, LHP
2. Zack Britton, LHP
3. Josh Bell, 3B
4. Jake Arrieta, RHP
5. Brandon Snyder, 1B
6. Brandon Erbe, RHP
7. Caleb Joseph, C
8. Brandon Waring, 3B/1B
9. Matt Hobgood, RHP
10. Xavier Avery, OF

By the way, Law has been repeatedly asked if the O's made a mistake by "going cheap" and selecting Matt Hobgood in 2009. Law has consistently said that he would not have picked Hobgood over the college arms but does not consider the pick a "reach " or a bad pick on the face of it.


I wanted to comment on the Ed Smith Stadium situation (again). TOH to Camden Chat for some of these links.

A week ago, citizen's groups that had put renovation plans for Ed Smith Stadium on hold with a lawsuit, offered to settle out of court with the main condition being a binding referendum on said renovations and bond offerings.

Yesterday, Sarasota County ruled out a referendum and instead will hold another public hearing on the issue.

While this is a bit of a mess, the fact that the plaintiff is offering to settle and the county has refused that offer and is instead manuevering to avoid any perception of violation of state law bodes well for a quick resolution. I don't think the renovations are in jeopardy.

Here are new drawings of the renovation plans for Ed Smith. A few more details than previous sketches but the same idea.


Forget just talking to Hisanori Takaahashi, according to this article, there's more happening.

The Orioles have extended minor league deals with spring training invitations to former Los Angeles Dodgers Will Ohman and Japanese lefty Hisanori Takahashi. 

The more, the merrier. More arms in Spring Training is a good thing, especially if they come cheap.


Speaking of Spring Training invites, the Orioles invited 6 more players to major league ST. Here they are:

SS Blake Davis - Spring Training 2008 was good to Davis as his hot bat gained him serious consideration to make the jump from AA to Baltimore. Injuries decimated his 2009 season as he posted a .235/.290/.304 line in 68 games, most with AAA Norfolk.

C Adam Donachie - A Dempey's Army favorite. Donachie is probably just here to spell the catchers who actually have a shot to make the team but one can hope.

C Luis Barnardo - 22-year-old who played in Delmarva in 2009. Seems to be a "not-hit" type.

IF Miguel Abreu and IF/OF Jonathan Tucker - light hitting utility-player types. This is the role they will serve in Sarasota too.

CF Matt Angle - All Matt Angle does is get on base and steal bases. THAT'S ALL HE DOES!!!!


Without further comment, here's a link to a Camden Crazies post that addresses blogging ethics. Good work, Dan.

OK, one more comment. I am as supportive of the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere community as anyone but this situation is just one reason I will not link to fledgling bloggers until I see the work they are doing. So if you are a new blogger, don't take it personally.

Just my 2 cents.

Baseball Stats in Perspective - Offensive Stats

I indulge in baseball stats. While I don't consider this a purely statistical analysis site, I do my fair share of it and reference "advanced stats" on a regular basis.

But I get annoyed by my Sabermetric brethren from time to time as they introduce new stats and pronounce them the new standard. This doesn't work for me because while they may measure a snapshot of performance or add predictive value, there is typically no frame or reference. Specifically, historical reference. I recently joined Baseball Prospectus and while I enjoy the writing, they use a ton of proprietary stats that are not available to the general public, only their subscribers. There's no frame of reference among the average baseball fan so you are just talking to yourselves. recently unveiled a new stat call wRC+ (Runs Created based on wOBA compared to league average). Many stat guys declared this as the new stat to use and that OPS+ was now irrelevant. This irritated me as I thought to myself, "But where's the frame of reference? What was Babe Ruth's career wRC+?"

But then I realized that I use stats on my posts here that many may not understand or have a reference for. So shame on me.

With that in mind, here's a quick tutorial for stats I regularly reference on the site, as well as links to pages that offer more detail and/or historical context.

The Slash Line

I often refer to a player's "line" is my posts. Brian Roberts' line for 2009 was .283/.356/.451. The slash line here signifies Batting Average/On-base Percentage/Slugging Percentage. It's a quick way to sum up a player's offensive production.


OPS is simply On-base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage. For reference, Babe Ruth has a career 1.164 OPS. Frank Robinson had a career .926 OPS. Nick Markakis has a career .838 OPS.

Career OPS leaders are here and Single Season OPS leaders are here.


OPS+ lets you compare offensive output across different eras. Let's face it; a guy who hit .300 with 20 home runs in 1967 is far more impressive than a guy who did the same thing in 1997. OPS+ measures a player's OPS vs. the average OPS for the league that season. It helps to compare players across different eras.

Babe Ruth's career OPS+ is 207. Frank Robinson has a 154 career OPS+. Nick Markakis' career OPS+ is 119.

A more detailed explanation of OPS+ can be found here. Career OPS+ leaders are here and Single Season OPS leaders are here.


WAR is Wins Above Replacment and is a measure of how many "wins" a player can contribute above the average "replacement level" player in his league. This was recently explained very well in this ESPN article by Matt Klaasen and Dave Cameron of

Babe Ruth has a career WAR of 172.0. Frank Robinson's is 107.1. Nick Markakis has a carrer WAR of 15.1.

Historical WAR totals can be found here.


ISO is isolated power, a stat that I love to use. ISO measures the "raw power" of a hitter as it separates the batting average component from the slugging percentage. It is basically the slugging percentage minus the batting average but the more exact calculation is:

Total Bases - Hits/At Bats

Babe Ruth had a carrer ISO of .348. Frank Robinson comes in at .243. Nick Markakis has a career ISO of .173.

More details on ISO are available here.

Career ISO leaders can be found here.

Later, we'll cover the pitching and defense. I hope this helps.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Base Hits: Oriole FanFest, Anita is No More and the Miguel Tejada Domino Effect

Oriole FanFest was this past Saturday and many in the blogosphere attended. I am jealous. Here's the links to the recaps:

BrowserMetrics - Baltimore Oriole FanFest 2010
Camden Crazies - Oriole FanFest Epilogue
Oriole Post - FanFest Reaction
Dreaming in the Dark - Oriole FanFest
Baltimore Sports Report - Audioblog: O's FanFest Reaction
Camden Chat - FanFest 2010: I'm Feeling Pumped!
Mr. Irrelevant - O's Stars Turn FanFest into FashionFest


Via, Anita Marks is out at "The Fan 105.7" in Baltimore.

I never found Scott (Garceau) & Anita particularly knowledgeable (if fact, I though Scott was always kind of a knee-jerk douche) but they were entertaining together and did good interviews with the Oriole players.


Good news on the Sarasota front as reports that the Sarasotan citizen's groups that have filed a lawsuit to block renovations to Ed Smith Stadium are already looking for a graceful way out of this confrontation.

Regarding the lawsuit that blocked the sale of bonds to fund the renovations:

Perhaps sensing that they overreached, Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine have offered a compromise of sorts to Sarasota County...

Such silliness. County officials are confident they'll win a lawsuit...

Given that the group is already offering to settle the suit, less than a month after it was filed, indicates the group isn't totally confident in their ability to prevail in court.

While the holdup on renovations means the Orioles could walk away from their 30-year lease, it doesn't seem like that's a likely outcome.


The Wayward O presents O's Fights, Part 2! This time, Aubrey vs. Melmo.


Some more Miguel Tejada speculation...

How will the roster shake out now that Tejada, a guy who has played in 158 games for each of the last two seasons, has joined the team? There is no longer any room for Ty Wigginton at third base and Garret Atkins (who made Wiggy redundant when he joined the club and now, with Tejada, doubly so) will get the bulk of the time at first base. DH is crowded with Luke Scott and (when making room for Felix Pie in left) Nolan Reimold sharing the duties. Will the Orioles want to pay Wiggy $3.5 million to be primarily a bench player? When Michael Aubrey, Ryne Hughes, Scott Moore or (eventually) Brandon Snyder would provide cheaper and possibly better options, I can't see it. Wigginton is likely to get unloaded during Spring Training for spare parts or a PTBNL.

I re-ran my WAR spreadsheet...adding Tejada get the O's from 80 wins to 80.5. He doesn't move the needle as much as you might expect.

Many O's fans are excited about Tejada's return. I'm fairly neutral given the short contract. But if you pushed me, I would lean more to the side of Stacey's point of view that she lays out nicely over at Camden Chat.

I recognize that the Orioles needed to obtain an corner infielder for 2010. But in signing two, neither of which are really a part of the Orioles future, is doing just what I said at FanFest: it's taking at-bats away from young players who, while perhaps a long shot, might be a part of that future. We don't necessarily know what those guys will bring us. Miggi and Atkins? We pretty much know.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In Tribute to Conan O'Brien...

1864 baseball w/ Conan OBrien - Watch more Funny Videos

The Crystal Ball '10: Miguel Tejada

I was going to do a Crystal Ball on Ty Wigginton this week. That seems like a waste of time now.

Break out your old Tejada jersey. You know you still have it.

Since every one else has weighed in on this deal over the weekend, I guess I will too. I am on record that I saw no need to bring in anybody else to play third base this season. I thought there were internal options that could have held down the fort until top 3B prospect Josh Bell was ready to take over sometime this season. But if they were going to pick someone up , I suppose that Miguel Tejada was the most complete third baseman left on the market. He can still hit a little and he should be able to play above average defense. It's not a bunch of money and it's only for one season. There is no bad 1-year contract really, the money isn't bad and if Bell is really, really ready, the team won't let Tejada won't block him.

Tejada had a .313/.340/.455 line (14 HR, 46 2B) for Houston last year which gives him a .799 OPS, very close to what he had for Baltimore in 2007. That's a pretty good bat for a shortstop, not so much for a third baseman. Coming back to the stronger league, CHONE projects him at .767 OPS which seems reasonable. That production would have put him squarely in the middle of all MLB third baseman and light years ahead of Melvin Mora's .679 OPS from a year ago. Tejada will hit in the .290-.300 range, hit double digit homers and 30+ doubles. And in case you forgot, he'll swing at anything loosely near the plate.

How will the glove play? Last year, Tejada was one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball according to UZR and no team was looking to sign him as a shortstop for 2010. His range is diminished and his strong arm is still occasionally erratic. I would guess that he will not embarrass himself at third but I don't think he will be even average.

Was he worth bringing back to Baltimore? It depends on your goal. He will improve the team for 2010. I just hope that The Warehouse keeps its eye on the ball and trades Tejada if Josh Bell starts destroying the International League.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Crystal Ball '10: Nolan Reimold

Nolan Reimold was not supposed to be in Baltimore in 2009.

Injuries had limited his 2007 campaign to 53 games and in 2008 he was going to have to repeat AA. Baltimore seemed a long way off.

But Reimold got back on track as he put in a full healthy season in Bowie posting a .284/.367/.501 in 2008. Norfolk was in his sights but few expected him in Baltimore until September.  Reimold changed all that by destroying International League pitching to the tune of a .384/.485/.743 line in 31 games for Norfolk. His hot bat and untimely injuries to Adam Jones and Luke Scott garnered Reimold a recall in mid-May. His .279/.365/.466 line (including 15 homers) in Baltimore made sure he stayed. He was a breath of fresh air in left field given the crew that manned that position in the pre-Luke Scott era.

I was a little surprised that he got on base and slugged as well as he did since he was less than a year removed from AA but given his minor league track record maybe I shouldn't have been. All he has done in the minors is get on base (.383 OBP in minor league career) and hit for power (.522 SLG in the minors).

If he can play all season, he should OPS north of .850 with 25 home runs. The only Achilles' Heel is...his Achilles Tendon. Reimold had a surgery for an Achilles tendon tear in the offseason and although he indicated at the Sarasota FanFest that he would be ready for 2010, Roch Kubatko reported last week that:

Nolan Reimold isn't certain that he'll be full-go when he reports to spring training next month. He still hasn't done any sprints since undergoing surgery on his left Achilles on Sept. 23.

Achilles tendon injuries are tricky and they can take longer to fully heal than you might expect. Acceleration is the enemy of a healing Achilles and it is a bit odd that Dave Trembley seems to be assuming that Reimold will be able to play left field from day one.

So, it boils down to health. If Reimold is fully recovered from the surgery, we can expect big things. If not, we always have Felix Pie and Luke Scott on the roster.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oriole Invite 12 Non-Roster Players to Spring Training

Some thoughts on the 12 non-roster invitees:

Scott Moore: I've been a fan of Moore's for awhile. Moore came over from the Cubs in the Steve Trachsel trade but due to various injuries (most recently his thumb) he only played in 82 games in 2008 and 32 games in 2009. I like giving a healthy Scott Moore a shot to play third for Baltimore in 2010 than signing Joe Crede or Miguel Tejada. The problem is his health and only the Orioles have a good idea if he's healthy enough to compete.

Chris George and Mike Hinckley: George is a former 1998 1st round draft pick of the Royals who hasn't had any success on any level since 2004.

Hinckley is a castoff from the Nationals who walks nearly as many as he strikes out.

Look for these lefties to pitch a lot of meaningless innings.

Jake Arrieta: I cannot imagine Arrieta starting the season in Baltimore but you never know. I expect him to start the year in Norfolk but a torrid spring could change some minds.

Josh Perrault: This righty reliever in the pitcher most likely to go north with the team. Perrault mowed them down in Bowie and Norfolk but is a bit of a flyball pitcher.

Alfredo Simon: NOOOO! NOOOOOOO! Simon shouldn't have made the team last season. I'll repeat my killer Simon stat...Simon has not posted an ERA under 6.00 at any level since 2005.

Frank Mata: A wild reliever who has never pitched above AA. Spring Training roster filler.

Ross Wolf: Wolf had a good, not great season at AAA Norfolk in 2009. It's hard to see him pitching well enough to make the club but he's a groundball specialist and that may serve him well.

Michael Hernandez, Caleb Joseph and Chad Moeller: As regular readers may know, I am always fascinated by the annual competition for backup catcher during Spring Training and spend an inordinate amount of time commenting on it. The job is wide open and along with Craig Tatum, these guys are the leading candidates.

Michel Hernandez is a career minor leaguer with a few cups of coffee in the bigs. He has a decent defensive rep and hits lefty pitching well.

Chad Moeller probably has the inside track given his good work last season. He's all catcher, no hitter.

Craig Tatum (who is on the 40-man roster) has a very good defensive rep and has show flashes of capable hitting in the minors.

Caleb Joseph is a top prospect in the Oriole farm system. He's probably here to get some work in with higher level players but there's always a chance...

Jeff Salazar: Salazar is a light-hitting minor league outfielder. Baltimore already has 5 outfielders. Salazar will be the official "bus rider" for Spring Training playing many games in Jupiter and Port St. Lucie and few in Sarasota.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mike Flanagan, Mark McGwire and Sour Grapes

There are many irritating things surrounding the revelations about the Steroid Era. First and foremost are the excuses and lies from the players who, for whatever reason, have to confess that they were users during their career. A close second is the righteous indignation of fans and (especially) writers who wail and gnash teeth over the "sanctity" of the game and the Hall of Fame. And third are the retired veterans who now rue the day they had to face an admitted steroid user and how he cost them their personal moment of glory. (I'm looking at you Mike Greenwell.)

Today, I have to take my fan hat off for a minute and take a former Oriole to task for pulling a bit of a Greenwell. It's Mike Flanagan and his recollection of a day in 1991 when Mark McGwire stole his mojo.

To set the scene:

...the retired pitcher's story provides an insider's view of the steroid scandal and why it matters. It matters because baseball matters, because records matter, because honesty and integrity matter...

Mr. Flanagan stepped on the pitcher's mound in Oakland on May 8, 1991, with a 1.50 earned run average. He was quite aware of where he stood among Orioles pitchers at the time - fourth in wins, directly behind Mike Cuellar. In the last year of his pitching career, Mr. Flanagan wanted to surpass Mr. Cuellar, and he was within three wins of doing so.

The gist here is that Flanagan never got those three wins and the tone of the article makes it sound that if he had just won this one game in Oakland in 1991, the record would have been his. But the article correctly states that "Mr. Flanagan" won 141 games. Mike Cuellar won 143. So even if he had gotten the best of Oakland and Mark McGwire on this day in 1991, he still would not have the record. He would just be one game closer. So Flanagan will now cry sour grapes over a game that, ultimately, did not matter in his chase of Cuellar. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The leadoff batter hit a double that hit chalk on the way to left field. The second batter reached first on a bunt single. Mr. Flanagan struck out the next batter, Mr. Canseco.

This much is true. According to Retrosheet, Flanagan started the game and in the bottom of the first, he got behind 2-1 to Rickey Henderson and he gave up a line drive to left for a double. Then, Dave Henderson bunted between 1B-2B for a single. It must have been a perfect bunt. Henderson was fast but you would think that Flanagan would've has a shot to make a play on that ball but that's all speculation because I wasn't there. Then he struck out Canseco on 4 pitches.

The next batter was Mark McGwire. Flanagan speaks about Canseco and McGwire:

"I remember when he and Canseco came along, I had never seen guys who looked like that," says Mr. Flanagan. "There had been some big guys around in my time, but not like that. They did not look human to me."...

Mr. Flanagan is convinced that Mr. McGwire was using steroids by the time he faced him in Oakland in 1991.

Maybe he's right. Maybe he was. But McGwire has not admitted it nor is there any evidence. It's pure conjecture on Flanagan's part.

Mr. Flanagan was amazed at what happened in the next instant. McGwire golfed at the low-and-dirty pitch and what, in the before-juicing era, might have been a fly ball ended up as a three-run homer.

In Peter Schmuck's account of the Orioles loss in The Baltimore Sun the next day, Mr. Flanagan was quoted as saying he had thrown a "bad pitch." In his memory, however, it remains a good pitch; the result never made sense, always bugged him and, as the years went by, made him more suspicious of Mr. McGwire.

So Flanagan's recollection and his quote from '91 don't jibe. That's another strike.

Secondly, steroids didn't put the first two runners on base for McGwire to drive in. Flanagan did. No amount of steroids would have allowed McGwire to hit a 3-run homer with the bases empty.

It was the first inning. Oakland starter Dave Stewart had to leave in the second inning due to injury. If Flanagan could hold the A's at bay he would still give himself a chance to win. Even with three runs on the board, Flanagan could have given himself a chance to win if he had pitched well going forward. He did not.

Flanagan got behind hitters all day but was able to pitch out of trouble until the 5th inning. Rickey Henderson led off the 5th with a solo shot to deep left-center, the same spot where McGwire hit his three-run shot. Was Henderson on the juice too? Or was the ball just carrying to left-center that day? Willie Wilson also hit a deep fly ball to left-center that just missed leaving the yard and went for a triple instead. Willie Feakin' Wilson!

Next, Dave Henderson singled to center and Flanagan's day was done.

The line for Flanagan: 4 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 K, 1 BB. He gave up extra base hits to Rickey Henderson (who slugged .423 in 1991), Terry Steinbach (a .386 slugger) and Willie Wilson (a .313 slugger in '91). And then there's McGwire. 1991 was his worst year as a batter. He only hit 22 homeruns all year, slugged only .383 and had the lowest ISO of his career at .180. This is the roided up monster that is portrayed in this story? In '91, McGwire was barely a league average hitter. Outside of Canseco and Harold Baines, there were no hitters to be feared in this version of the A's.

Mr. Flanagan did not surpass Mike Cuellar on the all-time Orioles wins list, something that mattered to him.

Really? This record really mattered to you Mike? Then why, before the 1989 season did you not return to the Orioles as a free agent? Why did you instead re-sign with the Blue Jays for the 1989 season? You know, those same Jays who edged out the "Why Not?" Orioles for the AL East crown. I'll bet you could've won a few games for the '89 O's, getting your beloved record and maybe tipping the balance of power to Baltimore in the AL East race.

So let's recap: Mike Flanagan wants us to believe that a roided up Mark McGwire cheated him of a minor team record because in one game in 1991, McGwire's worst year at the plate for power output, McGwire hit a three run homer off of him on a pitch Flanagan himself labeled a bad one at the time. By the way, in the same game he gave up extra base hits to fearsome sluggers like Willie Wilson, Rickey Henderson and Terry Steinbach. And we're pointing to a single event in a single game when you fell two games short of Mike Cuellar on the Oriole wins list.

Maybe it was steroids. Or maybe McGwire just owned him (He OPSed .905 against Flanagan for his career, a great majority of it before 1991). Or maybe the ball was just carrying to left-center that day. Or maybe Flanagan was just a 39-year-old reliever pressed into a spot start and he pitched like one.

I'm not buying the theory Mike. And based on your decision to play for Toronto in 1989, I don't feel the least bit sorry for you either.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Base Hits: Undervalued Pitchers, The Big Picture and News About Third Basemen

I wanted to highlight this article on if for no other reason that I also feel that Brad Bergesen is/was vastly undervalued and that Bryan Smith laid out his value far better than I ever have. I'm looking forward to the rest of his series on slider/sinkerball pitchers.


Brandon Oland writes that he is skeptical (at best) about the Orioles' rebuilding process in the snarkiest tone he can muster.

But allow me to state that Brandon has no idea what he is talking about.


The players (Andy MacPhail) brought in are not improvements over the players he traded away last year.

Garrett Atkins is not half the slugger Aubrey Huff is.

Oh, he's definitely half the slugger. He'd only have to slug .200 to be half the slugger that Huff is today.

Mike Gonzalez is not an improvement over George Sherrill.

Oh, yes he is. Just wait.

Kevin Millwood is likely to be the opening day starting pitcher, which means the Orioles will be turning to a right-hander the pitching-starved Texas Rangers were eager to dump.

Well, this is kind of true but the Rangers were willing to part with Millwood because they are cash starved way more than they are pitching starved.

What Brandon fails to pick up on here is the function of these players. Atkins is a place-holder until Brandon Snyder and/or Josh Bell arrive from Norfolk. Sherrill needed to be replaced (you can argue if a free agent closer was the way to go...) because he was traded away for the aforementioned Bell. Millwood is here for one season to buy time for Jake Arrieta and Zack Britton and perhaps provide some steadiness to a rotation that will feature young hurlers Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen.

These players were not signed to compete with the Yankees in 2010; they are here to warm seats for the kids who may be able to contend.

Now, I wouldn't expect every casual fan to understand this or know Baltimore's farm system. But then there's this statement:

I’m sure Fan Fest autograph seekers will be eager to meet Orioles stars Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.

But aside from them, what’s left to be excited about? Not much.

Except for Matt Wieters. And Nolan Reimold. Or Matusz. Or Tillman. Or Bergesen or Luke Scott.

Get out to the Yard, Brandon. There's baseball stuff happening out there.


As if in response to Brandon Oland himself, MASN's Steve Melewski reminds panicky fans to keep the big picture in mind. Then he paints it for them. Well done!


And the Orioles' rebuilding is being noticed. The Boston Herald took an in-depth look at MacPhail's handiwork and the prospect of a bright future at Camden Yards.

Matusz will be joined by right-hander Brad Bergesen, who was having an outstanding rookie year before being felled by a line drive off the shin, as well as righty Chris Tillman. Top prospect Jake Arrieta, another righty, waits in the wings.

“They’re coming,” one rival team executive said. “And they’re legit.”...

Add it all together, and the Orioles may be competitive a lot sooner than people think.


Phil Rogers of The Chicago Tribune says that the Orioles are talking to free agent 3B Joe Crede and that if they sign hime, it could mean that Ty Wigginton or Garrett Atkins could be moved if Crede joins the team.

Given that Josh Bell is pretty close to the majors, I like the idea of taking a chance on Crede. His defense is stellar and if he's healthy, he helps the team a lot. I can't imagine the O's would move Atkins (although stranger things have happened) so I would think that Wigginton would be shipped off to the Nationall League for some relief pitching depth.


Dempsey's Army wishes Brooks Robinson a speedy recovery from his abdominal surgery. Get well, Brooks!


Kudos to Miguel Tejada for helping with the relief efforts in Haiti. Whatever you have to say about Miggy's Baltimore stay, you have to admire a guy putting something on the line to help with the tragic devastation in that country.


OK Le Batard, I get the point of your fictional steroid apology. But did you have to use Cal Ripken in it? Don't Baltimore fans suffer enough? Next time, use Tony Gwynn.


I should mention the Oriole FanFest coming up this weekend:

Over 60 current, future and former Orioles players and coaches will participate in the team's 2010 FanFest event at the Baltimore Convention Center next Saturday, January 23. Presented by the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2010 FanFest will feature autograph sessions and question and answer forums as part of a day-long celebration of baseball that will also include clinics, exhibits and interactive games. The event will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with early entry for Orioles Season Plan Holders to begin at 10:00 a.m.


Orioles Manager DAVE TREMBLEY and 2010 coaches TERRY CROWLEY, JEFF DATZ, ALAN DUNN, RICK KRANITZ, JUAN SAMUEL and JOHN SHELBY will also participate.


Rick Dempsey and Larry Sheets in the same room? I might faint if I was there...

Alas, I will be unable to make it living in Atlanta and all. Anyway, I've already been to one FanFest this offseason.

Go out and support the team, it sounds like fun. Say hi to Brandon Oland for me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Crystal Ball '10: Adam Jones

According to, these are the four most similiar batter to Adam Jones through the age of 23:

Corey Patterson 
Junior Felix
Carlos Beltran
Dave Winfield

Now that's a wide range of future outcomes.

But unlike most of these players, Jones has steadily improved at the plate in each full season. Only Dave Winfield can make the same claim.

Some key stats:

Adam Jones

            AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   BB%   K%    ISO  
2007       .246  .300  .400  .700   5.8  32.3  .154
2008       .270  .311  .400  .711   4.6  22.6  .130
2009       .277  .335  .457  .792   7.1  19.7  .180

Those are great signs for the future. Not only are his traditional stats getting better, his peripheral stats are heading in the right direction too. That means the production is no fluke.

On top of all of this, he's a damn good centerfielder. In terms of UZR, he wasn't the best centerfielder in the American League and based on last year alone he probably wasn't deserving of the Gold Glove that he won. But over the last two years I believe he is the best centerfielder in the AL and maybe even in all of baseball.

Many Oriole fans want to mortgage the farm to get Adrian Gonzalez away from the Padres and given the surplus of outfielders in Baltimore and the fact that Jones is from San Diego, Jones would probably be included in any package that brings Gonzalez east. But I think that Jones has a very good chance to be just as good a hitter as Gonzalez in two or three years. His power was very good at age 23 and you could project him to hit 25-30 home runs by the age of 27.

He's a special talent but I am a bit hesitant to predict another quantum leap forward at the plate like last year. Look for a .282/.340/.465 line from Jones and hopefully a fully healthy season.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Crystal Ball '10: Cesar Izturis

To go against the grain, I was going to take a closer look at Cesar Izturis' offensive game and try to come up with something of a silver lining to the dark cloud that is Izturis' bat.

As you might expect, I came up pretty dry on that front.

One thing that is encouraging though, is that after a rash of injuries to his hamstrings over the years, Izturis seems to have regained some of his speed. 8.2% of his hits were infield hits, he stole 12 bases in 114 games and a full 33% of his bunts attempts went for hits. The wheels are back and you'd like to think that if not for an appendectimy mid-season that he he would have stolen 20 bases.

Beyond that, there is no trend that points to any noticable change in Izturis' offensive output one way or another. He is a free-swinging, light-hitting, shortstop who adds little besides decent speed to the lineup.

So it's a good thing that he is possibly the best shortstop glove in the Majors.

Only the Cards' Brendan Ryan added more WAR with their glove than Izturis. Forgetting that Derek Jeter got the award for a second, Izturis turned in Gold Glove caliber defense by any metric you want to use. In fact, over the last two seasons Izturis has posted a 12.7 UZR/150 which leads the majors, well above the next guy (Jimmy Rollins at 8.8).

Besides, these young pitchers will need a guy like Izturis behind them this year. Forget about a reliable closer, a slick-fielding shortstop will do wonders for the psyche of a young pitcher battling for wins. Expect that support from Izturis and expect some timely stolen bases but anything he does at the plate will obviously be gravy. Izturis brings considerable value with the glove but that is all.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Crystal Ball '10: Nick Markakis

I predicted big things for Nick Markakis last year. I was sure that all signs pointed to a breakout season. Alas, Nick could not even take a small step forward as his OBP fell off the table, his offensive production took a significant step backwards and he destroyed all my predictions that "Markakis is the Second Coming of Enos Slaughter" in one fell swoop.

So maybe Nick is not destined for superstardom but I refuse to believe that he will be as pedestrian as he was last season. Even if his best career comparison went from Enos Slaughter to Ellis Valentine in one season.

Before we start, let's partake in an annual tradition here at Dempsey's Army. Here's the 2009 Nick Markakis hit chart for OPACY:

It's a beauty. But even though Nick still hits to all fields, I always thought he would develop a bit more power and become a prototypical #3 hitter. Instead, his skill set may be better suited to the #2 hitter role, especially with guys like Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones emerging as more powerful and well-rounded hitters. I do not usually subscribe to the notion of batting order affecting offensive production but there can be a bit of a psychological effect for the hitter. It stands to reason that some hitters change their approach based on their spot in the order. A #3 hitter may feel like they need to swing away more to drive in runs while that same hitter may work the count more to get on base and set the table if they are slotted #2 in the lineup. To that end, Nick's career splits for batting order positions:

2nd .328 .411 .545 .957 128
3rd .286 .358 .457 .815 95

That's 586 plate appearances batting second and 1517 PA's batting third. It's a decent sample. Maybe Nick just hits better in the 2 hole? I think it's worth a try to plug him in there and leave him alone. It certainly couldn't hurt to have the team's two best baserunners at the top of the order.

And I still think Markakis is due for a breakout season. But maybe not in 2010. I am going with a .305/.369/.481 line. That will get him back in the .850 OPS range and who knows? Plug him in as the #2 hitter and maybe he reaches the heights I predicted for him in 2009.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Monday, January 11, 2010

Base Hits: A Dose of Offseason Hope, Aubrey Finds a Job and More Spring Training

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes about a possible rosy future for the Baltimore Orioles and the rebuilding philosophy of Andy MacPhail.

“The game has morphed,” MacPhail said. “The teams in our division have morphed. You’ve got teams with incredible revenue and payrolls, and we just can’t support what they do. So we have to be better at what we do.”

Which is, in MacPhail’s two-plus years with the Orioles, identifying and stockpiling young, cheap talent. The amount of potential on Baltimore’s 40-man roster is frightening, even to the Yankees and Red Sox...

More from MacPhail, regarding the signing of RP Mike Gonzalez:

“I’ve never believed a closer is a luxury,” MacPhail said. “I know that’s the conventional wisdom among a lot of people, but those aren’t people who have to watch your team play 162 times. You need to win the games you’re supposed to win for the sake of your players, your fans, your franchise.

“It’s important for morale. There’s nothing more debilitating for your players than looking around in the seventh inning and wondering how you’re going to blow this game.”

I don't buy this reasoning. If MacPhail believed in a "proven" closer, why did he wait two years before signing one? I think he believes that a free agent closer is a luxury the Orioles can afford in 2011 and that Gonzalez will be well worth his salary as the Orioles try to field a winner in two years.


Speaking of optimism, the guys on the Baseball America podcast love the Oriole prospects. They don't rank them above the Rays farm system but are concerned about Tampa's lack of fan support, even in 2008 when they went to the World Series, and the impact going forward on keeping that young talent.

The Orioles, however, will not have that issue if they start winning. They will have the money to keep their young talent. They like Brandon Snyder much more than most (or I) do and think if Josh Bell proves to be good major league hitter that the lineup will be stacked. They envision Snyder hitting no higher than 7th in the lineup anyway....the rest of the hitters will be that good.

They also think that Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz are impact pitchers and love their pitching depth in the minors to fill out the rest of the rotation.

They don't see the O's winning before 2011 but they think from '11 forward, they will be a team to be reckoned with. Good source for offseason hope.


Renovations on Ed Smith Stadium, the new Spring Training home, are on hold thanks to a lawsuit filed by a local citizens group.

As I stated before, this stadium is already in better shape than the facility in Ft. Lauderdale so it's still an improvement in the short term. Time will tell if the facility will be renovated to become of of the best in the minor leagues as promised.


Former Oriole 1B/DH Aubrey Huff has found a home for 2010 with the San Francisco Giants.

That's a mildly interesting story but the repercussions for future Oriole first basemen are even more interesting. Says Craig Calcaterra from's Circling the Bases:

One followup thought to Bob's post on the Huff signing: How dumb does Adam LaRoche feel right now for turning down a two-year, $17 million from the Giants to be their first baseman?

At this point I'm seeing a one-year, $6 million deal in Baltimore in his future. Maybe an option if he's lucky.

I said I was not crazy about the options left at first base and that the Orioles should stand pat at this point and let Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder play their way into the Baltimore lineup this season.

But if LaRoche has to take a one-year deal for $6 million...I think I would be OK with that. It would add cheap production, depth and insurance.

I would still prefer to leave things as they are right now but I wouldn't hate that deal.


Daniel Moroz breaks down how much Jim Palmer (and by extension, all the pitchers of the late 60's and 70's teams) were helped by the fantastic assortment of defenders who played behind them.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Crystal Ball '10: Brian Roberts

There was nothing more irritating, in a season where Brian Roberts was having a record-setting year for hitting doubles, to listen to people snipe at Roberts for not hustling on the bases. Where were the triples? Only one? He's just stopping at second to pad his stats, right?

Hear this people...Roberts was a 31-year-old second baseman and speed is a vital component of his game. He's slowing down. He knows this and being the smart baserunner that he is, he will not risk getting thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.

But he is still a great baserunner. He stole 30 bases and only was caught 7 times, good for a spectacular 81% success rate. And to anyone who thinks he wasn't hustling...he stole third 14 times in 2009, more than any other American League player and was not caught once! No hustle?!?!

Anyway, enough of that rant.

The reality is that Roberts will be 32 in 2010 and as I said in last year's Crystal Ball, second baseman with Roberts' profile do not age well and you can start to see signs of that decline. While he remains a good baserunner, the stolen base total have dropped for three seasons (50, 40, 30) as has his defense in terms of UZR (5.8, -1.5, -0.9, -8.9). UZR does fluctuate but his UZR was bad enough last year to drop him from a WAR north of 4 to 3.4 in 2009. That's still nothing to sneeze at...but I have to admit it's troubling.

So what's the best thing Roberts could do at the plate to continue to add value? Keep stroking doubles, keep stealing bases smartly and get that OBP back up above .370. It dropped to .356 and as the wheels start to slow, he needs to draw a few more walks to remain a serious threat on the bases.

Enjoy him while he lasts. Roberts is a uniquely gifted hitter for a second baseman and the smartest baserunner I've ever seen. But I can't shake the feeling that we are witnessing the beginnings of a (hopefully) slow decline.

Realistically, I'm sticking with the CHONE projection of .278/.358/.427 line with a 3.3 WAR. Not bad, just not the level of greatness we got used to.

Photo by Phil Romans and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Oriole Windfall for 2011?

Late last season, I took a look at all the money that was coming off the books before the 2010 season. From the looks of it, the Orioles should be in a similar situation before 2011. In a season that will be much more about developing youngsters than free agent contributions, it is interesting to me how things will cascade going forward. Here's a quick breakdown of the salaries committed to by Baltimore for 2010. Some contracts and arbitration numbers are estimated. Figures are in millions. All current and future committed salary figures are from Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Millwood, Kevin $9
Roberts, Brian $10
Markakis, Nick $7.1
Gonzalez, Mike $6
Uehara, Koji $5
Atkins, Garrett $4.5
Wigginton, Ty $3.5
Izturis, Cesar $2.6
Scott, Luke $4
Matusz, Brian $.868
Meredith, Cla $1.25
Albers, Matt $.68
Guthrie, Jeremy $2.5
Jones, Adam $.5
Johnson, Jim $.45
Pie, Felix $.45
Andino, Robert $.45
Aubrey, Michael $.45
Bergesen, Brad $.45
Mark Hendrickson $1.5
Hernandez, David $.45
Mickolio, Kam $.45
Reimold, Nolan $.45
Tillman, Chris $.4
Wieters, Matt $.5
Moeller, Chad $.9
Mora, Melvin $1
TOTAL $65,398,000

If the Orioles do nothing else this offseason, they will have basically the same payroll as they did last season. At this point, I would rather let Michael Aubrey or Scott Moore fill out the last corner infield spot than the available free agents. Matt Holliday is not coming here. Maybe they add a risky pitcher like Sheets or Bedard to a 1-year deal. The O's payroll should be right around $70 million.

Now, the expiring deals for 2011 in millions:

Kevin Millwood $9
Melvin Mora $1
Koji Uehara $5
G. Atkins $4.5
T. Wigginton $3.5
C. Izturis $2.6

That is $25.6 million in expiring contracts. That brings the payroll down to about $40 million in guaranteed contracts and "minimum" salary guys. Throw in increases for arbitration, maybe an extension for Adam Jones and you get something closer to $50 million. Tops.

Atkins and Wigginton can be replaced by Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder. You would have to fill shortstop and maybe a spot int he rotation through free agency. The point is, Andy MacPhail has given this team a ton of flexibility going into 2011. How? Only two-year deals maximum for free agents and obtaining young, cheap talent through drafts trades and then retaining them with fairly reasonable deals.

The lineup could look like this:

1B Brandon Snyder
2B Brian Roberts
SS Justin Turner/Robert Andino/FA Shortstop
3B Josh Bell
C Matt Wieters
LF Felix Pie\Nolan Reimold\Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Nolan Reimold\Luke Scott

BN Justin Turner
BN Random Backup

SP Jeremy Guthrie
SP Brian Matusz
SP Chris Tillman
SP Brad Bergesen
SP Jake Arietta

RP Mike Gonzalez
RP Jim Johnson
RP Matt Albers
RP Kam Mickolio
RP David Hernandez
RP Brandon Erbe
RP Cla Meredith

That payroll could look something like this (I've included an arbitration raise for Guthrie and Scott and the beginning of an extension for Adam Jones):

Roberts, Brian $10
Markakis, Nick $10.6
Gonzalez, Mike $6
Scott, Luke $6.00
Matusz, Brian $0.868
Meredith, Cla $1.75
Albers, Matt 0.8
Guthrie, Jeremy $3.00
Jones, Adam $10.00
Johnson, Jim 0.8
Pie, Felix $1.00
Andino, Robert 0.8
Snyder, Brandon 0.45
Bergesen, Brad 0.5
Bell, Josh 0.45
Hernandez, David 0.45
Mickolio, Kam 0.45
Reimold, Nolan 0.5
Tillman, Chris 0.5
Arrieta, Jake 0.5
Erbe, Brandon 0.5
Wieters, Matt 0.5
Moeller, Chad 0.8
TOTAL $57.218

That's really cheap. It allows for the signing of veteran starting pitcher if one of the young guys flames out or a big corner infield bat if Bell or Snyder can't cut it. With lots of room to spare.

I think 2011 is the year that MacPhail is targeting. He'll have a better idea where his holes are and have plenty of cash to address them. This offseason, his biggest task is not to screw it up with a long contract to a middling free agent. (See Huff, Aubrey or Walker, Jamie)

He has done that. And it will pay dividends.