Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Arbitration Edition

Sully Baseball thinks teams should beware of the Orioles in 2011.

And he's not the only one. NESN's Tony Lee thinks that the AL East will get even tougher as the Orioles and Blue Jays improve.

The Orioles will be scouring the waiver wire for players who are not tendered contracts this weekend. And they may not tender one member of their bullpen. Guess who?

If you've been living in a cave for the past week and haven't seen the Felix Pie meltdown, enjoy.

Steve Giles of the Baltimore Sports Report ponders what it will mean now that top pitching prospect Zach Britton has signed with Scott Boras. Although I think Steve's outlook is a bit of the Pollyanna treatment, Baltimore won't have to worry about Boras vis a vis Britton for a few years anyway.

Call to the Pen takes a look at his Top 100 Prospects list and feels there is a bleak outlook for Baltimore down on the farm. I disagree...a bit. More on that later.

What has 13 straight losing seasons wrought? Some October Refugees. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times takes a look at the best players of the Wild Card era to never play in the postseason. Baltimore is represented, as you would expect.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse Named Victor

A few things I read in a Britt Ghiroli post yesterday have me all worked up about Victor Martinez again. (Bear with me, there's a point here...)

Orioles fans are upset about losing Martinez, and understandably so. He would have been a nice addition...

If losing Martinez showed anything, it is that the Orioles are going to struggle to sign any big-name free agents. To think they are going to solve their holes in the infield and batting lineup without making a trade --likely costing them a young arm or two -- is naive.
They aren't getting away from MacPhail's mantra of stockpiling young arms. But if they are going to keep up with the "buy the bats" approach, it will take more than opening their wallets for the Konerko's and Pena's to field a competitive team next spring. It will probably take a trade.... 

I'm not going to pick on Ghiroli here, her view is reflected by every local mainstream writer on the Oriole beat. There are a few truths that just seem to be givens concerning the Orioles' pursuit of Victor Martinez:

1. Martinez would have been a good fit for Baltimore.
2. Not only was offering Martinez $48 million for 4 years the correct thing to do, the Orioles probably should have offered more.
3. Martinez didn't want to come here because Baltimore is not an attractive destination for free agents and thus:
4. The Orioles must pay through the nose to attract even moderately attractive talent.

I won't argue the first point. Martinez playing first base over the next three or four seasons would have been just fine. The problem comes with the price and length of contract the Orioles offered to try to get him.

To address the second assumption, I will refer you back to this post and restate that while Martinez' bat is a superior one for a catcher, it is middling compared to other first basemen in the league. It ranks somewhere above Adam LaRoche and under Todd Helton over the past four seasons. Martinez was not going to catch much, if at all, in Baltimore. (Apparently, he won't be catching much in Detroit either...)

That greatly reduces his value. Period. Think about it this way: Is anybody clamoring to lock up Luke Scott to a four year deal for $12 mil per season? No. Nor should they. But over the past three seasons, Scott has posted an OPS over 20 points higher than Martinez (and has played about 50 more games over that stretch too). But Martinez is the middle-of-the-order bat Baltimore needs? Thinks about that. Not even the hitter that Luke Scott is. Closer to Adam LaRoche in production. Is this the big bat Andy MacPhail promised? (And I'm not even factoring in the 2nd Round pick the Orioles would have lost in the 2011 draft...)

Remember when Miguel Tejada was signed last offseason and many in the media (and Dave Trembley himself) penciled him in as the cleanup hitter? Seems silly now, right? It was because they remembered Tejada as he was in 2006, not as he was in 2009. Three years of declining power didn't seem to be a signal to anybody that this was a terrible idea. Fans and media alike are remembering Martinez' value as a catcher, not the value he will provide going forward as, primarily, a first baseman or a DH.

You know what other scenario it reminds me of? Javy Lopez. I'm still of the mind that the Orioles dodged a bullet when Martinez picked Detroit.

Speaking of jilting Baltimore, why is it that Boston is not being maligned? Were they not also rejected? Is anybody assuming that Boston is an unattractive destination? That their money is no good to free agents? Of course not. Baltimore is more attractive as a destination than it has been in years. Martinez didn't give Boston the chance to up their offer either. He liked the Tigers' money and their general situation. That doesn't make other destinations unattractive, not necessarily. That's just Baltimore's inferiority complex talking.

But even if that were true, why should Baltimore strap itself down to a bad, multi-year contract just to land somebody? That doesn't work, folks. Javy Lopez. Miguel Tejada. Albert Belle. Spending money for money's sake, just to land a player, doesn't solve the losing. It's counterproductive. If the right deal isn't there, you have to let it go. You can't expect the club to panic. You should hope for just the opposite. You also can't throw a big money, multi-year deal at a middle-aged, middling bat just to "do something". But that's exactly what MacPhail did. And he acts like this was a big thrust of his offseason plans.

So the fans and mainstream media shouldn't be asking why the Orioles couldn't land Victor Martinez. The real story, the real question that should be asked is this: Why were they pursuing him so hard in the first place?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Turkey Day Edition

Ross Gore of Baltimore Sport Report thinks that new Oriole hitting coach Jim Presley is just what the Baltimore hitters need.

Patrick Smith of Bugs and Cranks would've like to have seen Victor Martinez in the middle of the O's lineup but wonders what position he would have played.

I guess I wasn't the only one who was surprised that the Orioles did not offer arbitration to Koji Uehara and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec tries to get to the bottom of that decision. The bottom line is that the Orioles were scared of a pay raise in arbitration for Koji and the belief that he will want to come back to Baltimore anyway.

According to MLBTradeRumors.com, seven American League teams recently watched former Oriole 1st round pick Larry Bigbie work out. The teams reportedly have interest in Bigbie as a corner outfielder or DH. Bigbie played last season for the Edmonton Capitals of the independent Golden Baseball League. Bigbie was named to Baseball America's All-Independent League team as the DH. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for him.

Andrew_G of Camden Chat breaks down the new members of the Oriole coaching staff.

The Eutaw Street Hooligans don't like the idea of Derek Jeter in Baltimore any more than I do. In fact, they seem to like it even less.

Craig Calcaterra thinks that the Orioles should be thankful for Buck Showalter although he wonders if Buck isn't the sentient version of Annie Savoy's garters.

Roar from 34 looks back at a political controversy involving the Orioles, the governor of Maryland and the commissioner of baseball.

The Loss Column finds some things to be thankful for in Baltimore sports...beyond the Ravens.

Kevin takes a look at the Oriole coaching changes, as he would, through the prism of baseball cards.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Arbitration for Uehara and Troubling Warehouse Strategies

The Orioles have declined to offer arbitration to RP Koji Uehara and SP Kevin Millwood.

Millwood was a no-brainer; he may have accepted. Uehara was not though. There is a market for Uehara's services this offseason, mostly due to performance as a closer over the last three months of the season. Uehara showed the ability to close and that skill is still overvalued in the marketplace.

There was a good chance that Uehara would refuse and sign elsewhere, netting the Orioles a supplemental draft pick after the first round in the 2011 amateur draft. If he accepted, I can't imagine he would receive more than $3 million in arbitration. That would allow the Orioles to either retain his services or trade him to a team that wanted his services more. (A similar situation happened with the Braves and Rafael Soriano last offseason..the Braves were able to move him when his arbitration number didn't match their budget.) As it is, the Orioles now receive nothing.

Maybe Andy MacPhail was afraid he would get something closer to his $5 million salary he has earned the last two seasons and he would probably know more about this than I would but it seems a strange decision to lose Uehara for nothing when you could have taken the chance to get something for Uehara's departure.

Speaking of MacPhail, according to Jeff Zrebiec, he was very disappointed that the team missed out on Victor Martinez. I really hope MacPhail is working the PR angle here because if overpaying Martinez was their grand plan for the offseason, I'm worried about the team's philosophy. As I stated yesterday, Martinez was not going to be the primary catcher for Baltimore and while his bat is elite for a catcher, it's rather ordinary for a first baseman. He hasn't even really caught that much over the past three seasons, only 246 games over that span. The chances of him remaining a team's primary catcher anywhere over a 4-year deal are slim.

If the Orioles were putting all their eggs in the Victor Martinez basket, I'm worried about their sanity.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Baltimore is Better Off Without V-Mart

Reportedly, Victor Martinez will leave the Red Sox and sign with the Tigers for 4 years and $50 million. Since the news broke, Twitter has been all, uh, atwitter with Orioles fans lamenting the club for not being more aggressive in going after V-Mart. A sampling:

"Tigers have reportedly outbid the Red Sox, White Sox and Orioles for Victor Martinez....Not good news for BAL."

"the orioles got outbid for a good player?? No wayyyy"

"Vintage Orioles. Offer just enough to make sure they get turned down so they can say the tried."

"Dammit, Orioles. When you bid 48, then the Tigers offer 50. YOU OFFER 52!"

I was a bit surprised by all this but realized that the fans were reacting to Martinez's perceived value and not his actual value. Part of this is based on past performance, part is based on his perception in the media.

To highlight, Martinez's value, a look at the top offensive catchers, in terms of OPS, over the past 5 seasons:

2006-2010              OPS        G        
1. Joe Mauer             .906       670
2. Jorge Posada          .879       569
3. Brian McCann          .856       695
4. Victor Martinez       .844       665
5. Mike Napoli           .831       506

There's a but of a dropoff after V-Mart and even bigger dropoffs after Napoli. Martinez has clearly been one of the best offensive catchers of recent years and is certainly worthy of the accolades and reputation he has.

However, the Orioles already have a catcher. Matt Wieters is still a promising young bat and is one of the better defensive catchers in the game today. Martinez was going to be primarily a first baseman for the Orioles (and probably a DH for the Tigers). And as a first baseman, his bat is not all that special.

Top offensive first baseman, in terms of OPS, over the past 5 seasons:

2006-2010              OPS        G        
1. Albert Pujols        1.064       670
2. Joey Votto            .958       456
3. Ryan Howard           .947       768
4. Lance Berkman         .930       722
5. Prince Fielder        .922       797
13. Todd Helton       .858       651
14. Victor Martinez   .844       665
15. Adam Laroche      .836       738

So the Tigers just gave $12.25 mil per season to a guy whose bat has been just slightly better than Adam LaRoche over the past 4 seasons. The Orioles could sign LaRoche for a third of that money, on a short deal and get similar value.

The Tigers just gave a 4-year deal to a very ordinary bat who will be 35 when they stop paying him. I suppose that's fine for them but the Orioles can't afford such an extravagance or risk. The team will be better without him.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: 40-man Roster Edition

Roar from 34 takes a quote from Mike Mussina and wonders if the Orioles of the 90's were quitters.

Jeff Zrebiec reports that the Orioles are exploring trades to fill their shortstop opening this offseason. I don't get into a lot of trade speculation as it tends to be futile but J.J. Hardy is certainly interesting...Jason Bartlett not so much.

Stacey at Camden Chat takes a closer look at Bill James' 2011 projections for Oriole hitters.

MASN's Jen Royle wonders where the Orioles will find a big bat this offseason. Like me, she loves Adam Dunn and Luke Scott too.

Britt Ghiroli breaks down the Orioles' 40-man roster and who might be added or left off before Saturday's deadline.

MASN's Steve Melewski reports that Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin is returning to the organization for 2011. Griffin, a former Oriole hurler himself, is an underrated cog in the Oriole minor league system and a big part of the success of the young arms coming up to Baltimore. Glad to see him back.

This is a bit weird but there is a lot of smoke around the Orioles and Rockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa. Seems an odd fit and the O's would lose their 2nd round pick.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guy Thinks Derek Jeter Should Be An Oriole and He Doesn't Work for The Onion

From The Toy Department at BaltimoreSun.com:

Orioles need to sign Derek Jeter

Hoo boy.

As baseball's Winter Meetings approach and the Orioles begin looking to upgrade their roster, they need to do something bold to build on the buzz created by hiring Buck Showalter.

They need to sign Derek Jeter.

Well, it would certainly create buzz. The Orioles created a lot of buzz by spending big bucks on their bullpen a few seasons back. It was bad buzz. That is the kind of buzz this will create.

The Orioles have many holes -- first base, third base, veteran starting pitching and the bullpen. But they also need a shortstop. More importantly, they need a leader.

They need Derek Jeter.

Ah, a leader! Why didn't you say so? Jeter would make an excellent bench coach. Hell, Showalter can start grooming him to take over the helm in a few years. Jeter's a smart guy, he'd be great manager material.

Sure, he's 36 and will turn 37 during the 2011 season. But he's durable, playing at least 150 games the past seven seasons. His batting average fell from .334 to .270 and his home run total dropped by eight to just 10. But he drove in 67 runs and won a Gold Glove. He's no Cesar Izturis defensively, but he's solid and his hitting numbers crush those of Izturis.

Wait a second...he suggesting that Baltimore signs him as a player? Really...wow, ok. Let's take a closer look at this then...

The author, Ron Fritz, has already made the greatest case against Derek Jeter, a case he tries to dismiss. His age. Jeter will be 37 in 2011 which doesn't bode well for his bat. In the history of baseball, only 3 shortstops 37 and older have posted a season OPS+ greater than 100. That's Honus Wagner, Luke Appling and Ozzie Smith. Looking at the top OPS+ seasons from a shortstop since 1980:

Year   OPS+ 
O. Smith    1992    105
O. Vizquel  2004     99
O. Vizquel  2006     93
O. Smith    1993     88
O. Vizquel  2005     82

At best, you might get a season of Derek Jeter producing at league average at the plate. The rest of the time, if you're lucky, you get a graceful decline into mediocrity. But middle infielders do not age well and Jeter is already aged. His OPS+ of 90 in 2010 was a career low, which, in a round about way, the author references (but defends him with an RBI stat which, in the face of everything else, is immaterial).

Gold Glove? Here's my response: Gold Glove, scholdglove. Jeter hasn't been even an average defender in more than 10 years, let alone an elite one. Furthermore, you can make a very good argument that he is one of the worst regular shortstops in the league. If you want to refute that fact with Fielding Percentage, I suppose you can delude yourself about his glove but it won't change the reality.

The author is correct in stating that Jeter will outhit Cesar Izturis but that is like boasting that Adam Jones can smoke Matt Wieters in the 100-yard dash. It's hardly the measuring stick you want to use to demonstrate competence.

So you would be signing an aging player with a mediocre bat and a bad glove to man what is arguably the most important defensive position on the field. But Jeter would probably provide more value than Izturis in 2011. I'll hear him out.

Jeter also would bring five World Series titles, command respect in the locker room and show a young Orioles team how to play the game. The future Hall of Famer is 74 hits from 3,000. If there is one thing the Orioles do well, it's milestone ceremonies.

I don't believe for a second that the Steinbrenners will let Jeter remove those World Series trophies from Yankee Stadium and bring them down I-95. OK, he is beloved by the Yankees, so maybe one. But not all five.

He would command respect and he could demonstrate a professional manner of play to the youngsters. But couldn't he do that as a coach? Can't we explore that avenue again?

And then he suggests that the Orioles sign a player because the Orioles really know how to throw a party.

There is not one point in that paragraph that supports the argument that Jeter improves the Orioles on the field.

But hey, a one-year deal for $5 mil or so...probably worth Baltimore's time...

If the Yankees are willing to let Jeter test the free-agency market, then the Orioles should be there with an offer, somewhere in the four-year, $60 million range. Really, whatever it takes. Ask Cal Ripken Jr. to help recruit him. And then, because you have a shortstop who does more than hit singles, you can maybe re-sign Ty Wigginton to play third or first and still be able to spend decent money for another corner infielder.

*drops plate of hot wings*

Wow...4 years for $60 million? He would be the highest paid player on the team. That's more than I suggested that the Orioles throw at Adam Dunn, a player still in his prime. How does Fritz expect the Orioles to get their money's worth on that deal? They'll be paying a 40-year old shortstop $15 mil in 2014. By then, he certainly won't be hitting anything but singles, if he is hitting at all.

The lunacy of that suggested offer speaks for itself.

Not to mention...who says he'll play for that? He's balking at similar offers from the Yankees already. It would take something closer to $20 million to lure him from the Big Apple. It's a contract that would hamstring the Orioles for years to come. It would be worse than the Barry Zito deal, the Aaron Rowand deal, any of them. An albatross. A debacle.

It would be a PR disaster for the Yankees, it would hurt them on the field and maybe, just maybe, his signing would send a signal to other free agents that Baltimore is a great place to play.

$15 mil a season could run a hell of a disinformation campaign against the Yankees. And it wouldn't hurt the Orioles on the field like Jeter would for 648 games.

If the Miguel Tejada signing didn't improve opinions about Baltimore as a place to play, why would the Jeter signing do so? It'll look like a better destination when the play on the field is respectable.

Imagine Showalter and Ripken holding a No. 2 Orioles jersey with Jeter on the back as they announce the signing. They couldn't print tickets fast enough at Camden Yards.


Don't do that again.

The seats would be full for a couple games until they fans see Jeter field up close. Then they will leave again.

Yeah, I know he's a Yankee, and Orioles fans hate the Yankees. But they hate losing even more. What better way to end years of futility than signing one of the all-time great leaders and winners in the sport?

The fact that he is a Yankee is number 9 or 10 on my list of reasons not to give $60 million to Derek Jeter. Is Ron suggesting that Jeter alone is worth 16 wins? Really? Does he have access to those Angels in the Outfield? Can he truly make runs appear on the scoreboard with sheer will?

If you put Albert Pujols on this team, are you still certain the team could break even? I'm not.

Would he consider playing for the Orioles? It's time to find out.

A) He wouldn't consider that.
B) No, it not. It's really not.

The Orioles need to sign Derek Jeter.

I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't April Fool's Day or something. It's a completely absurd post. Is it a fan post? Who is this guy? My only conclusion is that this is a post designed to be controversial and attract attention. Which it did, if only from this small part of the Oriole blogosphere.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

True Value of AL Rookies

As you know by now, Brian Matusz came in tied for 5th in the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year voting. Not that it matters much but Matusz probably deserved better.

I don't care too much about the postseason awards but wanted to chime in on Matusz's behalf in regards to his value over the other candidates. WAR rankings of the seven rookies to appear on the ballot

                  WAR (Baseball-Reference.com)  WAR (Fangraphs.com)
Brian Matusz                3.1                           2.7
Austin Jackson              2.5                           3.8
Danny Valencia              2.5                           2.7
Neftali Feliz               2.4                           1.7
John Jaso                   2.4                           2.5
Wade Davis                  1.8                           0.8
Brennan Boesch              1.3                           0.6

Matusz was right up there with Austin Jackson as the best rookie in the American League with a nod to Twins SS Danny Valencia as well.

In addition, Matusz finished the season strong. His numbers for August and September:

             IP     BB    K   HR   ERA   FIP   W-L
Matusz      62.0    16   52    5  2.18  3.34  10-1 

Awards aside, I'll take Brian Matusz over Netali Feliz seven days a week. His future looks brighter and he's already more valuable.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For Gold Gloves, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A graph showing Total Zone defensive ratings for the firt 15 years of Derek Jeter's and Cal Ripken, Jr.'s careers:

Gold Gloves for Jeter: 5
Gold Gloves for Ripken: 2

For more on this, see this post. And maybe this one too.

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: New Faces, New Places Edition

Former Oriole play-by-play announcer Jon Miller has been dismissed from his spot on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, along with color analyst Joe Morgan. Miller is still a superb radio announcer but over the past few years I though his performances on TV had become gimmicky and "Bermanesque", for lack of a better term. Miller will continue his work for the San Francisco Giants and ESPN has left the door open for him to continue calling Sunday night games on the radio.

It's never too late to start looking forward to Spring Training. Roar from 34 posts some pictures of the renovations to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Spring Training home of the Orioles.

Dave Trembley has accepted a position as a minor league instructor with the Atlanta Braves. Glad to see Trembley, a nice guy if not a good manager, land on his feet in a good organization.

Along with all the changes to the seats at Oriole park this offseason, the Orioles will also be changing concessionaires. The club has severed ties with Aramark and entered into an agreement with Delaware North. Delaware North handles concessions at Turner Field in Atlanta and those are pretty good.

Stacy at Camden Chat makes a compelling case that Matt Wieters was snubbed for a Gold Glove this season. Beyond the Boxscore releases their catcher defense rankings and backs up Stacy's claim by ranking Wieters the best defensive catcher in the AL and the fourth best in all of baseball. Measuring catcher defense is am inexact science but I know this: an award for defense that is given 5 times to Derek Jeter and just twice to Cal Ripken, Jr. is an award so cheapened and flawed that I hardly care anymore.

Pressbox Online has a positive article on former Oriole GM Roland Hemond that they wanted me to pass along. But every time I think of Roland Hemond, I remember how he blamed Ben McDonald's contract negotiations for costing the Orioles the 1989 AL East crown. And then I think he's a bloviating douche bag.

Dan at Camden Crazies delves into Brad Bergesen's 2010 season and explains why it was a tale of two pitchers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adam Dunn: The Debate Continues

The Oriole Way was also inspired by our Twitter conversation and posted his analysis about free agent 1B Adam Dunn. But while my analysis took a look at Dunn's durability and the risk of signing him to a 4-year deal, TOW went deeper.

(This is why I love blogging; the chance to take an argument deeper and stretch out with it...could never do this on message boards...)

Now, he has forced me to go deeper to counter his argument in more detail.

Addressing his objections one by one:

1) He will cost the O's their second round draft pick.

Of all the free agent bats available, Adam Dunn is, by far, the best bat out there. He is a Hall of Fame caliber hitter and still in his prime. You don't get a chance to acquire a special bat like that everyday. (Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, etc, are all at the end of their careers.)

Any other big bat that the O's would or could go after this offseason would cost them prospects via trade and their worth would be more than a 2nd round pick. For example, getting Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres could require 3-4 top players/prospects. One of them would certainly have to be Adam Jones or Brian Matusz. By contrast, a 2nd round pick for Dunn seems a small price to pay.

Yes, the 2011 draft will be deep but the loss of that second round pick can balanced by spending more in the later rounds. Whether the team decides to spend money in the draft or not will have little to do with having or not having a second round pick.

Not to mention, the other good first baseman out there (Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee) are Type A free agents and may cost Baltimore a draft pick anyway.

2) There are lots of other, cheaper options for first base.

This is true. While none of the other options are anything close to Dunn as a hitter, there are guys who could come cheaper and for shorter contracts.

I would be more open to this argument if there was an heir apparent in the Baltimore farm system to play first base. If there was a top prospect who could play first, I would advocate signing Konerko, Lee or a lesser stopgap. But the Orioles best first baseman in the minors is Brandon Snyder who didn't show much at AAA in 2010 (or 2009 for that matter) and in the best case scenario is probably more Brian Daubach than Kevin Youkilis.

Dunn would block nobody and the Orioles have plenty of money to spend. He would fill a gaping hole for the foreseeable future.

3) He's been worth $15 million or more exactly once in the past six seasons.

This is probably the point on which I will concede. Perhaps $15 million is not market value for Dunn's services. My original calculations called for a contract for Dunn of 4 years worth $13-14 million per season. That's probably closer to his value but in my final calculations I rounded up to $15 million to account for extra money to lure him to the AL and to another losing club. But I would go $13 mil, probably up to $14 mil, per season to bring him in.

4) His "old player" skills and body type make me think he's susceptible to rapid decline.

And in his post, he links "rapid" to a picture of Travis Hafner and "decline" links to a picture of Mo Vaughn.

Here are those pics juxtaposed with Dunn:

Here's why the comps don't work in my mind.

Hafner does not have the same resume that Dunn had at the same age. Hafner certainly had three off-the-chart seasons but Dunn has been fairly consistent for his 10-year career.

Vaughn was only 6'1". And he got FAT. Different body type, no comparison.

Dunn is not fat. He may not be the best conditioned player in the league but his frame is enormous. It's meant to carry a bit a weight. Really, there are no body type comparisons for Dunn, at least not with his abilities. There is really no reason to believe that he will start declining before he hits 35.

Yesterday, I compared him to players with the big build and the big resume. I feel more comfortable with those comps than Hafner or Vaughn.

5) His 2010 season showed a decline in walk rate and a rise in his strikeout rate, which combined for a very large increase in his K/BB ratio.

This is true. But one year does not a trend make, good or bad. That blip does not scare me off.

TOW made the opposite argument against Luke Scott repeating his 2010 numbers because it was a one season anomaly. Similarly, I doubt that Dunn will repeat the his anomaly from 2010 in 2011. He will be 31, not 36.

More points:

"I think it goes without saying that Dunn's value lies entirely in his bat."

True. But that's enough. And I don't think he hurts you all that much on defense as a first baseman and that's the best you can hope for.

"This Orioles club isn't yet ready to contend..."

This is also true. But I believe that the Orioles will be ready to contend at some point over the next four seasons. Dunn can be a part of that.

While I concede the money may be a bit high, I still think a 4-year deal of $13-14 million per season is fair for Dunn's services. Again, Dunn has a Hall of Fame caliber bat and will only be 31 next season! He compares favorably to Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Sammy Sosa, Ralph Kiner and Jim Thome through his age 30 season. It would be a shame if the Orioles are kicking themselves in 2013 because they didn't fill a huge need for a first baseman and an impact bat for a relatively affordable and (short term) price.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Big Bopper Breakdowns and Adam Dunn

As with so many of my posts, this one is born out of a comment here on the blog or by a Twitter follower. This time, it's from The Oriole Way. In response to my tweet advocating a 4-year contract offer from the Orioles to Adam Dunn, he had this to say:

4 years for Dunn after the worst K% and BB% of his career? That body looks capable of rapid decline. 3 years is plenty risky.

Dunn was only 30 this past season and I felt that signing him through age 34 is not all that risky. But I really didn't know how players of Dunn's body type and skill set had aged in the past. Dunn is huge, listed in Baseball Reference as 6' 6" and 285 lbs. As a rough cut, I decided to use the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index to take a look at players who were at least 6' 2" and 240 lbs. Also, the players had to have hit 175 homers prior to their age 31 season. That gives us the following list:

Frank Howard
Jim Thome
Ryan Howard
Jason Giambi
Carlos Delgado
Frank Thomas
Derrek Lee
Carlos Lee
Scott Rolen
Troy Glaus

From here, I eliminated Ryan Howard and Troy Glaus since they have yet to play their age 34 seasons yet. I also eliminated Scott Rolen since third basemen are just plain different from corner outfielders or 1B/DH types. That leaves us with seven players to help track Dunn's trajectory. Here are their stats from their age 31-34 seasons:

                Height    Weight   OPS   OPS+   HR
Frank Howard     6'7"      255    .919   166   162
Jim Thome        6'3"      250    .982   155   148    
Jason Giambi     6'3"      240    .945   150   126
Carlos Delgado   6'3"      245    .957   146   145
Frank Thomas     6'5"      240    .926   135    90 
Derrek Lee       6'5"      245    .869   121    96
Carlos Lee       6'2"      265    .833   119   110

The first thing I noticed is that while all these guys are big, none are quite as hulking as Adam Dunn. (Also, how big must Frank Howard have seemed back in the 60's?)

Second, only Frank Thomas (20 games in 2001) and Carlos Lee (115 games in 2008) missed significant time due to injury during this span.

How is the decline overall? A comparison of OPS+ up to age 30 and OPS+ from age 31-34.

               OPS+         OPS+
           Up to age 30    31-34
Howard         131          166    
Thome          147          155
Giambi         148          150
Delgado        140          146
Thomas         174          135
D. Lee         123          121
C. Lee         119          119

Surprisingly, even to me, we have 4 increases in OPS+. Carlos Lee held steady, his was who you thought he was (a power hitter with poor on base skills). Derrek Lee's decline is almost negligible and although Frank Thomas' performance fell drastically, it was still at very good levels since his prior performance was utterly off the charts.

Why is this? Do these bigger guys take longer to grow into their bodies? Maybe. But a big guy seems (based on this limited information) to be at least as likely to get better in his early 30's as he is to decline. He is at least a pretty good bet to hold serve.

Based on this, you could expect Adam Dunn to continue to be the .900 OPS, 130 OPS+ type of player that he has been to this point in his career.

So I stand by it. A four year deal seems a good bet to me.

Free "Car and Driver" Subscriptions...

I have a couple of gift subscriptions for Car and Driver magazine and figured I'd offer them up to my readers.

If anyone is interested, drop me a line at dempseysarmy at yahoo dot com and I'll get your information.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Oriole Windfall for 2011, Part 4

Here is the final (reasonable) roster I would be shooting for in 2011 if I ran the Orioles. I have left trades out of the equation because that can just become a silly guessing game from the outside. I have stuck to current players and free agents.

C - Wieters
1B - Dunn
2B - Roberts
3B - Bell
SS - Izturis
RF - Markakis
CF - Jones
LF - Pie
DH - Scott
OF - Reimold
Utility - Wigginton
Utility - Andino
Backup Catcher  - Tatum

Thoughts: I would go hard after Dunn and plug him in at first base. Defense at 1B is overrated. I feel OK giving Bell the chance to get a full season under his belt in the majors. Wiggy could be brought back to spell Bell and Dunn at third and first respectively. 

Shortstop was tough. A commenter pointed out that J.J. Hardy is not a free agent after all, even though he was listed that way on Cot's Contracts. The pickings are slim after that. Jhonny Peralta looks to resign with the Tigers, Omar Infante and Alex Gonzalez had their options picked up by the Braves. Giving the job to Robert Andino would be cheap but he could turn out to be the second coming of Luis Hernandez. A short, cheap contract for Izzy is probably the best bet via free agency.

Craig Tatum did a fine job as the backup catcher in 2010. Andino or a castoff veteran can fulfill the middle infield role.

SP - Matusz
SP - Guthrie
SP - Vasquez
SP - Arrieta
SP - Bergesen

RP - Tillman
RP - Vandenhurk
RP - Berken
RP - Hernandez
RP - Patton
RP - Johnson
RP - Gonzalez

I still think signing a veteran starter is good insurance. Javier Vasquez will come fairly cheap and short term.

Moving Chris Tillman to the pen will give him big league experience and he can work on his cutter. Tillman, Vandenhurk, Berken and Hernandez give the O's a dynamic bullpen as all of those guys could pitch 2+ innings. Patton and Gonzo provide the lefty arms. 

The projected lineup and payroll:

Dunn, Adam 1B              $15,000,000    
Markakis, Nick rf          $10,600,000    
Roberts, Brian 2b          $10,000,000    
Scott, Luke dh-of           $7,500,000    
Gonzalez, Mike lhp          $6,000,000    
Vasquez, Javier P           $5,500,000    
Guthrie, Jeremy rhp-s       $5,000,000    
Wigginton, Ty 3b            $2,500,000    
Jones, Adam cf              $2,300,000    
Izturis, Cesar ss           $1,500,000    
Matusz, Brian lhp           $1,400,000    
Pie, Felix lf               $1,000,000    
Andino, Robert if             $700,000    
Johnson, Jim rhp              $700,000    
Bergesen, Brad rhp            $500,000    
Hernandez,D rhp               $500,000    
Bell, Josh 3b                 $500,000    
Berken, Jason rhp             $500,000    
Patton, Troy lhp              $500,000    
Reimold, Nolan of             $500,000    
Tatum, Craig c                $500,000    
Tillman, Chris rhp            $500,000    
Wieters, Matt c               $500,000    
Vandenhurk, R P               $500,000    
Arrieta, Jake P               $500,000    

That is an mildly improved team for just a touch over the 2010 Opening Day payroll. The Orioles can certainly afford to take on some payroll via trade (hopefully, a shortstop and/or starting pitcher) to improve the team further. Time to buy a bat, Andy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Luke Scott: The Invisible Slugger, Part 2

From Roch Kubatko's post on MASN yesterday titled "Deciding the Top DH for 2010":

The Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award will be presented next month, which makes sense, considering that we're down to our final day of this month...

The two leading candidates are Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz. One player looked like he was finished and didn't draw a tremendous amount of interest on the free agent market. The other player looked like he was finished once the season began and dealt with all sorts of speculation about being benched or released...

The ballot calls for members of the media to cast votes for first and second place. I just need to figure out the order.

While Roch lays out Scott's numbers, there is no case made for him to be on the ballot. Not once.

Some key stats for the trio overall in 2010:

OPS   wRC+  2B   HR     
Ortiz       .899   137   36   32
Guerrero    .841   124   27   29
Scott       .902   143   29   27  

And the trio's DH numbers only"

OPS   OPS+  2B   HR     
Ortiz       .908   140   35   31
Guerrero    .850   125   25   25
Scott       .955   152   19   23

Luke Scott trumps them all.

Now, given the closeness of their rate stats and the fact that Ortiz has more than 150 PAs more than Scott as a DH, you can make the argument that Ortiz should get the edge over Scott. But Guerrero? It's not even close. He certainly belongs on the ballot, if not the winnre of the award.

But Roch Kubatko, a guy who watched Scott all year long, doesn't even make a case for him. Scott's 2010 is going down as one of the most overlooked offensive seasons in Oriole history.

The Oriole Windfall for 2011, Part 3


Pricey Options

None. The Orioles can't afford, nor should they want, Derek Jeter. Even if the Mets do not pick up Jose Reyes' option, he is an injury risk and would be expensive regardless. Japanese SS Hiroyuki Nakajima will probably not be posted by the Seibu Lions. The Phillies will not decline Jimmy Rollins' option.

That leaves...

Mid-Range Options

J..J Hardy

Hardy isn't hitting like he did a couple years ago but still has some pop in his bat and his glove is still very legitimate at short. He has posted UZRs of 6.1, 6.1 and 8.1 over the past three seasons. But his struggles at the plate have diminished his value. You should be able to sign the guy for 2 seasons at $5-6 mil per season and he will provide a fair bat and good defense until (perhaps) Manny Machado gets to Baltimore.

Orlando Cabrera

Cabrera will be 36 next season but can still play a decent shortstop. There's also a slight chance his bat returns to pre-2010 levels (which would be a nice upgrade from Cesar Izturis' bat). He could be worth a one year gamble in the neighborhood of $3 mil.

Budget Options

Cesar Izturis

Izturis is all about the glove. If you just want a glove who will come cheap, Izturis may be your man. A one year deal at around $2 mil. Or...

Robert Andino

Andino may be able to play just as well at short and play for the league minimum. If you're just going to punt on the shortstop position in 2011 anyway, it may be worth it to just plug Andino in and see what happens. There is still a long shot that his bat improves, we can't say that about Izturis.

Starting Pitching

Pricey Options


Sure, the Orioles could go all in on Cliff Lee but the Rangers and the Yankees already have inside tracks on his services.


Javier Vasquez

Make no mistake, Vasquez had a poor year in his return to the Bronx. And it was for real. His 5.32 ERA was backed by a 5.56 FIP and a 4.90 xFIP. But he could come at a bargain and/or a short contract. A one-year, incentive laden deal could add an average veteran arm. $6-8 mil for one season should get it done.

Jake Westbrook

Westbrook was expected to sign an extension with the Cardinals but all has been quiet on that front. It would probably take a three-year deal to sign Westbrook, probably around $8 mil per season. The only question is, do you want a mediocre pitcher on the wrong side of 32 signed for 3 seasons? He will certainly have value...but in theory, the Orioles have better options coming up through the system.

Budget Options

The Motley Crew

There are a ton of interesting options from the group of injury risks and cast-offs out there this year. Tiger hurler Jeremy Bonderman is still just 28 and there is still time to harness some of his potential. Ditto for the Marlins' Andrew Miller, a former 1st round pick who hasn't panned out in the bigs but is just 25 and is a flame-throwing lefty. Former Oriole John Maine is likely to be non-tendered by the Mets. Brandon McCarthy, Jeff Suppan, Zach Duke and Noah Lowry are also going to be out there, as well as other vets nearing the end of their careers.

These are not sexy options but if you sign two or three of them to compete for a spot in the rotation, perhaps one works out. If not, you can send them to the bullpen. Remember, this is how we got Jeremy Guthrie. Low cost, low risk.

The Bullpen

If you read this blog even casually, you know how I fell about the construction of the bullpen. Most of our bullpen for 2011 is already in the organization. Fill out the pen with current players under contract (including Michael Gonzlaez, who we just have to hope and pray can be worth anything close to the $6 mil he'll be making this season) and fill in the holes with arms from AAA and veteran cast-offs (see Will Ohman, 2010).

Next time, we'll (finally) wrap this up with a look at how I think the roster should be constructed and the financial ramifications of those roster moves...