Saturday, December 24, 2011
The Orioles have plenty of holes to fill this offseason and seemingly every offseason. But there is one critical position that they do not have to fill. Shortstop.
You could make the argument that the rarest commodity in the free agent market this season is a shortstop who can hit and field his position well. (OK, good all-around catchers and starting pitching is probably a rarer commodity.) But thanks to the dealings of former team president Andy MacPhail over the last year, the O's don't have to overpay for that talent now.
Last December, MacPhail dealt a couple of minor league relievers to the Twins for SS J.J. Hardy. For a couple of spare parts, Hardy turned out to be a low-cost, low-risk gamble that paid off big for the O's. Hardy played a good defensive shortstop, posted an .801 OPS and had 57 extra base hits. It was a performance from a Baltimore shortstop that we haven't seen since the early days of the Miguel Tejada era.
Knowing how tight the shortstop market would be after the season, MacPhail and the Orioles signed Hardy to a 3-year extension for a total contract of $22.5M. Given Hardy's age and skillset the contract stacks up very well to what other free agent shortstops are getting this offseaon.
AGE 3-year OPS+ 3-year WAR total Total Contract Yearly Average J. Reyes 29 120 9.9 $111M $18.5M J. Rollins 33 91 9.3 $33M $11.0M R. Furcal 34 98 8.2 $14M $7.0M Y. Betancourt 30 77 -0.7 $2M $2.0M J.J. Hardy 29 98 8.7 $22.5M $7.5M
In a market where Ronny Cedeno is now considered a hot commodity and other free agents are going for much more, Hardy's extension looks like a relative bargain.
And unlink some other free agents signed last offseason to play in Baltimore, Hardy actually will be a tradeable commodity come July.
No, Hardy is not the player Reyes is when he's healthy and Hardy certainly has some injury risks of his own but he is very likely to fill the shortstop position until Manny Machado is ready to take over or bring back some other prospects to replentish the farm system. And the Orioles don't have to overpay this offseason to get a competent shortstop.
Thanks, Andy. You had many good moments as GM but Hardy may turn out to be one of your better ones.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The Orioles made it official and announced the signing of veteran outfielder Endy Chavez. The deal is reported to be worth $1.5M with another $500K in incentives.
My enduring memory of Chavez was from a game I saw him play against the Astros in Montreal in 2003. He was manning center field for the Expos and made a couple of really nice plays defensively and stroked an RBI double to tie the game. (The Expos won in the bottom of the 10th as Jose Macias, of all people, hit a walk off homer.)
He's not the fielder he was 9 years ago but he might just be the best defensive outfielder for the Orioles in 2012. His 6.6 UZR/150 score for the Rangers would have led all Oriole outfielders in 2011. His bat is not horrible and he is a decent, if not great, baserunner. As far as 4th outfielder candidates go, Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson are the only players on the roster who could fill that role and I don't think either is ready for that job in 2012 (if ever). Chavez fills a need and he is likely to be worth every penny of the contract the O's pay him.
The signing of Chavez has led to much grumbling from fans who were awaiting a more siginificant signing from the team this offseason. But upon his introduction to the press, Dan Duquette all but said that the O's would NOT be big players in free agency this offseason:
A lot of teams spent a lot of money on those major league acquisitions and didn't get the kind of production they are looking for. Here in Baltimore we have to work smarter to invest our money, so that we getter better bang for our buck. We have to work smarter.
And the thing is, he's right. Say what you will about the acquisitions made this offseason are not exciting but at least they do fill needs. There was nobody to be the backup catcher, they found a good one in Taylor Teagarden. The desperately needed a 4th outfielder, they sign Chavez. The pitching staff, especially the rotation, needs a lot of help. I do not like the Dana Eveland signing but that is an area where the O's need bodies. The low cost gamble on Tsuyoshi Wada is very likely to help the rotation.
More importantly, they haven't taken on much in payroll and they haven't given up anyone from the farm system who is likely to help the MLB club at any time in the future. Nor have they acquired any player who is likely to block any young players/prospects this season. Nor have they given out multi-million, multi-year deals to middling relievers.
No, there have been no trades of the like that brought J.J. Hardy or Mark Reynolds to town. But there have been no silly Vladimir Guerrero or Kevin Gregg signings either. The Orioles are just not going to make a big splash in free agency this offseason. And it won't help them anyway.
Lest we forget, signing Albert Belle or Miguel Tejada didn't exactly make the Orioles perennial winners. One big free agent or two or three won't assure a winning season. Especially with the team Baltimore has right now.
Andy MacPhail brought this farm system out of the abyss but the system still has a long way to go. O's fans don't want to hear about patience after 14 seasons of losing but that's what you're going to need.
If that doesn't work for you, go down I-95 and watch Jayson Werth.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Matt Wieters is finally starting to fulfill the massive promise he showed in the minors.
His bat finally started to come around and he flashed some of that power we expected to see from Day 1. He smacked 22 homers, and easily set career highs in slugging percentage and ISO. I don't think anyone believed that Wieters would be such a good defensive catcher but he delivered Gold Glove caliber defense and has cemented himself as one of the better defensive catchers in the game. No regular delivered such a combination of bat and glove from the catcher position in 2012. (OK, Arizona's Miguel Montero comes close.)
So this is it right? He just keeps getting better and better and multiple MVPs lie in his future. Well, not exactly...
He did only hit .262 last season. He lowered his strikeout rate for the third straight season but his walk rate dipped a bit as well, contributing to his .328 OBP. And he only OPSed .662 against right handed pitchers.
Which is what concerns me. Over the first two seasons of his career, Wieters has hit fairly well against righties while struggling mightily against lefties. This season, while he was posting that .662 OPS against righties he was clobbering lefties to the tune of a 1.124 OPS.
Leaders in wOBA against left handed pitchers in 2011:
wOBA Bautista .475 Wieters .472 Kemp .462 Napoli .445 Braun .443
After struggling against lefties for his first two seasons, Wieters hit them, literally, at MVP levels in 2012.
Which is great...but it screams fluke.
Is Wieters going to keep OPSing 1.124 against lefties going forward. Not a chance. His OPS against lefties prior to last season was sub-.650. There's just no way he can sustain that. He career OPS against righties is .725. There is reason to believe that 2012 will see a slight hiccup and/or regression in Wieters' offensive production.
But there are still reason to believe in the bat. The power surge is likely legit and more in line with what we expected from him all along (.188 ISO in '11, a 60 point jump from the previous year) and the .276 BABIP was probably a little unlucky. With the power likely to keep on an upward clip and a few more balls falling his way, the regression against lefties that is likely to occur can be offset.
The bat is very good for a catcher and I think ultimately he will be an elite hitter but 2012 may be a bit uneven and a struggle for our Gold Glove catcher.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Where we distill all the recent baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...
Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus
Will T. (Cary, N.C.):
Upside of Orioles RHP Parker Bridwell?
Could be an innings horse, but he still has a long way to go. He's a Texan, so that helps.
Has Chris Davis officially become Chris Shelton (please say yes, please say yes), or does he have a bounceback in him?
He could bounce back, but he's probably a 4A
Tim Dierkes, MLB Trade Rumors
2:08 Comment From Dathan
What are the chances the Cardinals end up with either Adam Jones or Carlos Beltran, and which do you think is the better fit in St. Louis?
2:08 Tim Dierkes:
Jones for sure, but I don't see any indication he's available.
2:16 Comment From DumbBravesFan
Is Prado/Jurrjens (2 arb guys not in Braves' future plans) too much to give up for Adam Jones (a potential cornerstone)?
2:16 Tim Dierkes:
I'd move those two for two years of Jones, but he's not a cornerstone unless you extend him to a huge deal.
2:28 Comment From Lonely Non-Tender list
Who's the best value out there from the recent non-tender list?
2:29 Tim Dierkes:
Hong-Chih Kuo, maybe Luke Scott.
2:58 Comment From Tim
Just to be clear, the Orioles would need to get a better return than Prado/Jurrjens for AJ, correct? At least younger, more controllable players?
2:58 Tim Dierkes:
Yes, I'd want a much different return for Adam Jones as well. We have to get a feel for Dan Duquette though.
2:58 Comment From Omazing
Some Orioles sites are saying there is tons of interest in Luke Scott.. any truth to this?
2:59 Tim Dierkes:
I think Dan Connolly said ten teams called. Certainly makes sense to me, get him for one year and $5MM plus incentives not too far removed from some .500 slugging seasons.
Keith Law, ESPN
Profar or Machado? Or are we splitting hairs?
Klaw (1:25 PM)
Machado. But it's not a huge gap. Pretty strong crop of SS prospects right now.
Why are we hearing nothing about the japenese free agent pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Iwakuma?
Klaw (1:26 PM)
Haven't we heard Baltimore with Chen? I also assume that we need to get Darvish cleared from the market before those guys get more interest, just because they're second-tier (not just because they're also international FAs).
Michael (San Jose, CA)
Lots of disappointment in Oakland right now for us A's fans? With the emergence of the Rangers and Angels, we're basically the Baltimore Orioles without the nice ballpark.
Klaw (2:08 PM)
But you have competent management. I'm not sure we can say that for Baltimore given ownership's clear intention to meddle.
Keith, O's pitching moves (Eveland, Wada): reasonable gambles to see who might have a decent enough year to stick, or near-guaranteed 5-ish ERA flameouts? Hope for the future obviously lies with Matusz, Britton, and guys still in the minors, but they could do worse than try Wada every fifth day, right?
Klaw (2:20 PM)
I don't see it. Low upside guys in a tough division.
Jason (St Louis)
The no on Palmeiro is because he was a consistent stat builder and not a hof, not because he used peds right?
Klaw (2:21 PM)
Correct. Really never among the best players in his league.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Name: Miguel Socolovich
Socolovich is a Venezuelan native who started out in the Red Sox organization and was traded to the White Sox for David Aardsma in 2008.
Although this whole feature is meant to be tongue in cheek, Socolovich is actually an interesting pickup. So much so that Jon Shepherd at Camden Depot mentioned him as a potential target for Baltimore more than a month ago. In 74 AAA innings over the past two seasons, the numbers look like this:
G IP K BB HR WHIP ERA Socolovich (AAA) 47 74.0 93 43 4 1.50 3.65
That's an 11.3 K/9 rate at AAA which is pretty impressive. He also keeps the ball in the park which is always good. The only thing to be concerned about is his walk rate (although it was better in 2011 than it was in 2010) and that WHIP (which the walk rate is contributing to).
As many questions as there are around the Oriole bullpen this offseason, I actually see no reason why Socolovich might not get a chance to pitch in Baltimore in 2012, assuming he can continue his AAA performance for Norfolk, of course. Having spent parts of the last two season in the IL with Charlotte, I would imagine he will.
Grade: Potential Nugget
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Where we distill all the recent baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...
Fangraphs After Dark Chat
Comment From Kyle
Guthire and Reimold for Volquez and Alonso. Moldy is underrated, 1.5 WAR in 80-ish games with a .261 BABIP
9:06 Jeff Zimmerman:
To the Brewers , but I agree with Paul that he stays.
9:07 Jeff Zimmerman:
I would keep Volquez for one more season on the potential
9:07 Paul Swydan:
Not sure I see the upside of the Reds acquiring Guthrie.
Comment From Baltimoron
HBT says the Cubs are trying to dump Soriano on the O's. Are the O's so bad that even Soriano could help?
9:10 Paul Swydan:
Probably not, no. But can't blame the Cubs for trying!
9:10 Jeff Zimmerman:
I think Theo want Soriano gone and the Cubs can't dump him. Trade him to a team that has no problems doing it.
Dan Szymborski, FanGraphs.com
12:46 Comment From kyle
zips thoughts on brian matusz?
12:47 Dan Szymborski:
ZiPS has his mean down to an ERA+ of 80, but still sees him as being nearly 1-in-4 of being league-average or better.
12:47 Dan Szymborski:
2011 was pretty much an unmitigated disaster for Matusz.
12:52 Comment From AC
Do you buy that the O's will really bid on Cesepedes? Also what is max you would offer him for contract?
12:53 Dan Szymborski:
I'd go a bit higher than Chapman, but I'd stop before we start talking 8 figures a year. There's a lot of uncertainty. Cespedes projects as a solid 3 win player a number of years, but we have so few Cuban translations and natural uncertainty as to his age.
1:06 Comment From Teddy
What does ZiPS have to say about Zack Britton? Is there a curse on all Orioles' pitching prospects?
1:07 Dan Szymborski:
ZiPS has Britton at 10-12, 4.85.
1:17 Comment From Archer
Dan Duquette noted that Dana Eveland had won 15 games last season between AAA and the Majors (12 in AAA), and that not a lot of lefties could say the same last season. This has to make the Os a huge threat this season, no?
1:18 Dan Szymborski:
Eveland's Baltimore projection is 7-11, 5.44. He's a lousy pitcher.
Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus
Could Adam Loewen become an everyday MLB outfielder?
No. Could end up a bench guy though.
Keith Law, ESPN
Matt (No Cal)
Do Schoop and Story both end up at 2B and what kind of players do you see them developing into both offensively and defensively? Thanks.
Klaw (12:00 PM)
Schoop is a 3b, Trevor Story stays at ss. Schoop is raw but very young, chance to be an above-average regular or better. I have real questions about Story's bat, but I think he's a legit SS.
Thoughts on DD as GM in Baltimore?
Klaw (12:01 PM)
I think this is going to go very poorly. Latest thing I've heard out of there is that, despite an industry trend where teams have decoupled amateur and pro scouting, he's recoupled them in Baltimore because ... that's how they did it in Boston.
The discussion that is being held in my office is that although Bundy's ceiling is higher than Hultzen, it is offset by the ballparks they pitch in. We are using you as the tiebreaker....
Klaw (12:14 PM)
Ballparks affect superficial stat lines, but not ceiling. Bundy is better.
Moki Dugway (Korea)
Who is the safer pick for future success, Machado or Sano?
Klaw (12:14 PM)
Mike Newman, FanGraphs.com
5:18 Comment From GTW
Thoughts on Baltimore's pickup of Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 Draft today? Projected any better than replacement level?
5:19 Mike Newman:
When really bad utility players go for a couple of million, I love the move. In all honesty, he's an asset as a replacement level, minimum salaried player.
5:35 Comment From Marver
What prospects are you looking forward to seeing in person the most?
5:36 Mike Newman:
In 2012, Josh Bell and Dylan Bundy head that list.
6:04 Comment From Tommy
Thoughts on Matt Antonetti?
6:05 Mike Newman:
I liked him in AAA when I saw him and wrote about his being a guy who should receive another shot. The market for utility infielders was pretty expensive all things considered and the Orioles made a strong signing with very little risk.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Orioles have reportedly signed NPB pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada is a soft-tossing lefthanded starter from Japan and will be 31 this season. Quite frankly, that's all I know about him but Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker and FanGraphs.com has a short write up about him here.
I don't know if Wada will work out but given that he will make only $8.15M over the next two seasons, it's the right idea. The Orioles need to get creative to augment their pitching staff and this is a cost effective way to try.
Patrick also posted a link to video of a game Wada pitched in 2010. Here it is. You be the scout! (Remember, 1 km = .62 miles)
And the Japanese commercials are entertaining too. What else are you going to watch in the offseason?
Watch live video from MATRIX CHANNEL on Justin.tv
|"I should be in Atlanta..."|
Scott has been an underrated slugger (in my opinion) for several years. Despite derision from some fans for his "streakiness", he always ended up his seasons as one of the better hitters on the club and did it at reasonable salaries. But a serious shoulder injury has put his future in question and the Orioles did not feel comfortable paying him $6M or more in 2012.
That is an understandable decision. What is less understandable is why Scott was on the club in 2011 and why they have to make this decision in the first place.
I'll never fully understand the free agent strategy during the 2011 offseason. The club signed a mediocre reliever for $10M and a 2-year commitment (I will not speak his name...). They signed not one, but two aging veteran reclamation projects in 1B Derrek Lee and DH Vladimir Guerrero committing more than $15 million on the gamble. (The only signings that kind of made sense were low money deals to SS Cesar Izturis and SP Justin Duchscherer. Neither worked out for the club but they weren't bad risks to provide potential depth.)
I've beaten the horse well past dead explaining how signing Lee in conjunction with Guerrero was unnecessary at best and would block promising (and cheap) prospects like Nolan Riemold at worst.
But lets say that you did want to sign those two and that you felt Guerrero still had enough left in his bat to be a serviceable DH.
Why keep Luke Scott?
Scott was coming off a career season at age 32. His trade value had been and never would be higher. With Lee and Guerrero on board, Scott was going to be pushed to leftfield where he was going to be only a fair fielder in the best of scenarios. The O's had Reimold and Felix Pie to platoon in left. Once you've made those other signings, Scott was a luxury that a rebuilding team could no longer afford.
Surely Scott could have brought back a couple of middling prospects. Maybe a cheap major league reliever. That would not be an ideal scenario but once you've pulled the trigger on Vlad, why not? As it stands now, Scott can sign with any team and the Orioles will receive nothing.
I just don't get it. Sign Lee. Or sign Vlad. Or sign both and trade Scott. But to sign both and keep Scott in 2011? It just didn't make sense. It was almost as if Andy MacPhail was gearing up for a playoff run. But could anyone look at last year's roster and truly believe this was a contending club? It was a stretch to view them as a winning one. There was so much that needed to go right for just a shot at a .500 record. But The Warehouse didn't treat the club as a rebuilding entity. Were they pandering to the fan base? Did they really believe the team was better than it was?
They needed to get some value for a guy that was made redundant by free agent signings but the Orioles refused to sell high.
Non-tendering Scott now makes a lot of sense. But keeping him a year ago, given the other free agent signings, certainly did not.
Friday, December 9, 2011
...but we're not sure why.
The Orioles sent minor leaguers Jarret Martin and Tyler Henson to the Dodgers for LHP Dana Eveland.
First, a look at the prospects the Orioles gave up. OF Tyler Henson is not any kind of prospect to speak of. He will be 24 next season, OPSed .634 in AAA Norfolk last season and throughout his minor league career has shown very little power, bad on base skills and a .263 batting average. He is no defensive whiz either and is basically an org guy, maybe a fourth outfielder someday. No great loss.
LHP Jarret Martin is another story. I've had the chance to watch him a few times in his short career and his stuff is pretty good. His fastball sits in the low 90's and he has an 8.7 K/9 rate over his minor league career. The problem is that he has no idea where the ball is going most nights. For his career he also has a 5.9 BB/9 rate, a 1.53 WHIP and can be completely hittable when he's missing his spots. I watched one such performance against the Rome Braves last season where a very unimpressive Braves lineup shelled him for 6 earned runs in 4 innings. The guy isn't 19, he will be 22 in 2012 and unless he made some kind of quantum leap in terms of his control in Frederick, he projected to be a reliever in my eyes. So I can't get that upset about trading away an A-ball level future reliever.
But did they have to? For Dana Eveland? Eveland is my kind of pitcher in many ways. Lots of grounders and low home run rates are always a good start for a pitcher. But he also walks nearly as many as he strike out (4.5 BB/9, 5.4 K/9), has been very hittable (.808 career OPS against) and outside of 2008 and a short stint with the Dodgers in 2011, has been a bad pitcher.
Can't you find a guy like this on waivers? Or sign a free agent off the scrapheap? (That's how the Dodgers got Eveland...) Do we really need to trade pitcher who might someday help the bullpen?
If Eveland is above replacement level in 2012, I'd be shocked. I will call Dan Duquette a mad genius. But unless there's something here that I don't see, I don't get it at all.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
This was not a big surprise as Guerrero had the worst season of his career and was generally one of the most disappointing free agent signings by the O's in recent years. Of course, most of this was forseen.
Not by the mainstream media who cover the team. His signing was hailed by most of the final cog in what would be a formidable offensive lineup for Baltimore, one that might just lead them to a winning season. Obviously, that was not the case.
But most of my fellow bloggers viewed this move with extreme skepticism or downright outrage. That's not me tooting my own horn (though I certainly hated the signing) because many, many of my colleagues pointed out the same poor logic and risks that went in to bringing Vlad on board.
There was something about Vlad that the fans loved though. At least the concept. Signing a veteran slugger who is on his way to the Hall of Fame seemed sexy and signaled a shift in the teams committment to winning. Unfortunately, that didn't generate results on the field.
It was a divisive signing from the start. I have never received such backlash as I did to my posts (or tweets) opining that Baltimore would be better served, for 2011 and for the future, to let Vlad sign elsewhere and have LF Nolan Reimold get regular playing time instead.
But the O's did sign him. For $8 million, even when it was doubtful that there was any other place for him to play.
The jury is in. It was pretty much a disaster.
How bad was he? Of all the Orioles players who played in more than half of their games, only Felix Pie was worse.
fWAR Pie -2.1 Guerrero 0.0 Reynolds 0.3 Lee 0.5 Reimold 1.5
Yes, Vladimir Guerrero was a replacement level player last season. And Baltimore paid him $8M for that.
In more traditional terms, Guerrero failed as well. Billed as a "proven cleanup hitter", Guerrero was dead last in home runs and RBI among Orioles who appeared in at least 100 games. His slugging percentage and ISO was third lowest among Oriole regulars (only Nick Marakkis and Robert Andino proved more punchless). Guerrero, the "proven cleanup hitter" and "RBI machine" failed on all fronts, by any measure you want to use.
(As an aside, Vlad was supposed to have all these magic RBI in his equipment bag but in 14 more games played, he came up 9 RBI short of Luke Scott's 2010 total. Sure, most of us understand that RBI sucks as an individual stat but if you have not been convinced yet, look at this example. Lineup, lineup, lineup. That's what produces RBI, not individual players. Of course, if you want to drive in runs, it also helps if you don't suck as a hitter in general...)
Despite this, Buck Showalter kept trotting him out there and letting him hit cleanup. In 87.5% of the games Guerrero played, he was #4 in your lineup. This fact alone has to make you suspect of Showalter's managing skills.
With Guerrero on the roster (coupled with the signing of Derrek Lee), Reimold was relegated to AAA. Nolan eventually returned from exile and acquitted himself well but I am still not sure we saw exactly what he can or can't do as a majpr leaguer as he only appeared in 87 games. It would have been much more beneficial for Reimold to play in 150+ to see if he has a future in Baltimore.
Finally, Guerrero brought back no prospects at the trading deadline as many fans thought he might. Nobody wanted him before the season and his poor performance did nothing to change that.
So when the team is rumored to be kicking the tires on an aging slugger this offseason, remember old Vlad. Thankfully it's all over now. But it could happen again!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Orioles have finally added a second catcher to the roster as they traded a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later to the Rangers for Taylor Teagarden.
I have spent way too much time over the past 5+ seasons worrying about who the Oriole backup catcher would be but Teagarden might be the best of the bunch over that span.
According to Beyond the Boxscore's 2011 catcher defense ratings, Teagarden ranks 22nd in baseball in just 360 plate appearances. At worst, he is an above average defender and at best, he's pretty damn good behind the plate. In the majors, Teagarden strikes out at Mark Reynolds-like levels but without the sweet double-digit walk rates. But he does have .197 ISO over his 392 MLB plate appearances and 16 homers over that span. A .700 level OPS from your part-time catcher is nothing to sneeze at. Great glove and good pop from a backup catcher? That's pretty much all I'm looking for.
To acquire Teagarden, the Orioles sent RHP Randy Henry and a PTBNL to Texas. I have seen Henry a couple of times during his short Oriole minor league career and I like him a lot. He's got a fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-90's, he has a 8.3 K/9 rate and a 5.00 K/BB rate over his minor league career. But objectively, he'll be 22 next season, only has 15 innings pitched above low-A, has a history of elbow problems and projects to be a setup man at best. (According to Baseball America, the Rangers plan to try him out as a starter but I think reliever is his ultimate destination.) When it comes right down to it, trading a reliever in the low minors for a major league catcher, even a backup, isn't a bad move.
Teagarden will be under team control until after the 2015 season. If this works out, Matt Wieters and Teagarden could be partners for a long time.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Alfredo Simon was acquitted of an involuntary murder charge in the Dominican Republic.
As you probably remember, Simon was accused of shooting a man during a New Year's Eve celebration about 11 months ago. At the time, I thought that was the last we would see of Simon in an Oriole uniform. Evidently, I was wrong as he appeared in 23 games for Baltimore in 2011 (including 16 starts) and was one of the better starters for the O's late in the season.
But that's not why I wrote this blurb. It was because of this phrase that caught my eye and gave me a good chuckle:
According to local news website gentetuya.com, Simon is expected to sign a $12 million contract with the Orioles.
That, on first blush is a completely laughable concept. According to Cot's Contracts, Simon isn't even eligibile for arbitration until 2013. Why would you sign him to any contract before then? They never did this to, say, Jeremy Guthrie. Why take that risk?
Now, Simon was (a bit surprisingly) worth 1.1 WAR according to Fangraphs.com which places his value to the team at $5 million for 2011. Even if you think that FanGraphs is a bit too liberal with it's valuations, Simon was probably worth $3.5-4 million. If you spread that $12 million over Simon's remaining years of control, that's $3 million per season.
Sure, he might be worth that. But would you really want to bet on it? There is no way the Orioles will be looking to lock up the likes of Alfredo Simon, certainly not before he becomes eligible for arbitration.
A great post at Et Tu, Mr. Destructo that goes into great detail about the recent hiring of new Orioles GM Dan Duquette and puts it all in context.
I haven't commented on Dan Duquette or the entire GM search for Baltimore but this passage pretty much sums up my cautious optimism:
Duquette, though, is playing with house money. He's not like LaCava. He doesn't have a reputation to lose. His last job was running a sports camp for kids. If he fails, he returns to obscurity, just another good baseball man chewed up and spit out by an out-of-touch organization. No one would blame him for not being the guy who could turn the Orioles around. But if he succeeds, then the bitter, honorable failure of an owner's last desperate gamble for a pennant-winning team came to rest on the shoulders of an outcast who was kicked to the curb and stayed there for 10 years, achieved in the face of the league's two highest payrolls and its two best front offices.
Duquette is a desperate man. He is desperate for this job and is desperate for success. Desperate men will do damn near anything to succeed and are far more willing to do unorthodox things to make it happen. Like Jonathan Bernhardt states, he really has nothing to lose. And that could be really interesting to watch.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Two years ago, the Orioles and the city of Sarasota, FL had a public lovefest as Baltimore moved their Spring Training operations to the Gulf Coast.
According to Tampa Bay Online, the honeymoon is over:
As the costs of an environmental cleanup at Ed Smith Stadium reach $1 million, the Baltimore Orioles are saying the city of Sarasota needs to pitch in more money.
The Orioles last week requested $420,000 to improve poor drainage at its spring training practice fields, a problem the team blames on an old city dump buried beneath the facility.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta says the Orioles are "trying to make a convoluted argument" to get the city to pay for field upgrades that should have come from a $24 million stadium renovation funded by taxpayers...
The Orioles are calling for that field to be rebuilt and fitted with a system of underground pipes at a cost of about $415,000. The team is also calling for a geotechnical analysis to see if the three other practice fields at the 53-acre ballpark on 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue need drainage systems...
Last December, the city and county signed off on a $975,000 cleanup plan — more than $500,000 of it to drain an underground plume of water polluted with vinyl chloride, a compound used to manufacture plastic.
It sounds really messy, physically and legally.
You would think this would have all been worked out beforehand and maybe it was and they just see it different ways. But I do find it entertaining how quickly the relationship soured between Sarasota and Peter Angelos.
Anyway, none of this will affect Spring Training 2012 (any changes the O's are pushing for will be completed before the end of the year or after Spring Training is over) or the long-term prospects of the Orioles keeping their Spring Training home in Sarasota. Neither side is going to terminate this relationship over $500,000.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Better late than never, I figured I would revisit my pre-season predicitons for 2011 for the Orioles. Here they are (were):
If Brian Roberts plays in 130 games, I'm going with 80 wins. If he ends up on the DL, 76 wins.
Wow, I was really optimistic for 2011. Roberts did not play in 130 games, obviously. But the O's fell 7 wins short of my projections. I figured the pitching staff would struggle but not as much as it did. A top of the rotation that included Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton held much more promise than it delivered.
Zach Britton wins the AL Rookie of the Year. Yeah, Jeremy Hellickson is the odds on favorite but I think Britton comes up on the outside and catches him.
Dead wrong. Britton had his bright spots but Hellickson had a solid season (helped by the defensive team behind him) and is still one of the favorites for the award. Dustin Ackley, Eric Hosmer and others from a strong rookie class.
Adam Jones breaks out this season. A mild breakout, something like a .295/.340/.450. 20 home runs. But a breakout nonetheless.
Jones hit .280/.319/.466 on the year. I predicted a .790 OPS, he OPS'ed .785. He broke out with the power more than with his hit tool (25 homers). But pretty close
I can't predict playing time but Nolan Reimold will finish the season with a higher OPS than Vladimir Guerrero. So will Luke Scott.
One of the few things I was really right on was the Reimold versus Guerrero debate. Reimold finished with a .781 OPS, Guerrero with a .733 OPS. Luke Scott only had a .703 OPS but if healthy, I think he would have hit somewhere north of a .750 OPS. I'm calling this one as correct.
Jeremy Guthrie will, once again, have an ERA lower than his FIP. Probably significantly so.
Not really. Guthrie's FIP was 4.48 (xFIP was 4.47) and his actual ERA was 4.33.
Nick Markakis will hit 40 doubles. Again. Also will have at least a .360 OBP.
This seemed like a real no-brainer before the season but Nick didn't come close to that 40 double mark, only 31 this season. And he rallied for a .351 OBP late in the season. But I continue to have rose colored glasses when it comes to Nick. It was the worst offensive season of his career.
Matt Wieters hits 15 home runs. Anything else he does is anybody's guess.
He hit 22 homers, had his best offensive year yet and became one of the top defensive catchers in baseball.
Luke Scott will OPS north of .850.
Not exactly. Even if healthy, I don't think Scott could have streaked his way to that number.
Josh Rupe doesn't see May 15th in Baltimore. He sees it from Norfolk.
I had forgotten all about Josh Rupe until I reviewed this post. May 5th was his last appearance for Baltimore.
Zach Britton is in Baltimore before May 15th.
Injuries made this a near necessity in early April.
JJ Hardy will be a fan favorite by June 1st.
I'll vote no on this. On June 1st, Hardy was OPSing .730 with 3 homers. The rest of the way he OPSed .817 with 27 homers. He was winning hearts in June and July but not by June 1st.
Matt Albers will outperform most of the Oriole pen while pitching for Boston.
This was definitely true through, oh, right about the All-Star break. But Albers' late season struggles gave him a 4.73 ERA (worse than his mark for the O's in 2010) and although his strikeout numbers improved, he just wasn't very good in Boston.
Mark Hendrickson ends up playing a large role in the Oriole season. Take that as you will.
Hendrickson pitched 11 innings for the O's in 2011. Not. Even. Close.
Mark Reynolds hits 30 homers and has 200 Ks.
Reynolds exceeded even my great expectations by hitting 37 homers but fell just short of the strikeout predicition with 196.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
OK, I'm going to be way out on an island, all by myself, with this opinion. I'm going to be far more alone than any of my opinions on Vladimir Guerrero.
I am not happy that the Orioles knocked the Red Sox from the playoffs last night.
Hear me out...
Firstly, last night was an incredible night of baseball. Putting on my MLB fan and amateur baseball analyst hats, it was amazing to behold. But as an Oriole fan, I couldn't get caught up in the big game atmosphere.
What was in it for the Orioles exactly? They were essentially deciding which of our AL East rivals made the playoffs. And we all got excited about that? Again, as a baseball fan, amazing stuff. As an Oriole fan...what do we take away from that? It's like sitting on the floor and begging for the scraps of Boston and Tampa's big game moment. This was not a big game for the Orioles. The difference between 68 and 69 wins is absolutely nothing. We were just living vicariously through good teams. And I couldn't help but being a little depressed by that state of affairs.
This is all we got out of it: Boston fans are obnoxious and we got to send them home with their tails between their legs. A short term thrill, I'm sure. "Yeah, Boston! This is our house! We ended your season! We get the last word for a change!" Awesome.
But even if you cared one way or another how the Rays/Sox playoff race turned out, I would make the argument that Oriole fans should have preferred Boston in the playoffs.
The knee-jerk reaction to the Red Sox collapse is that this will be a devastating blow to the organization. A death blow. A failure that will result in a changing of the guard and a decline of the team into mediocrity. I would love for that to be the case but that's probably not going to happen.
Boston fans are not clamoring for the heads of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. Nor is the Boston press. While acknowledging that this collapse was really, really horrible, measured responses are being seen in most corners. No one in the Red Sox management seems to be in danger of being forced out.
Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, John Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Bucholz and Jacoby Ellsbury are all coming back. They have prospects popping up all over the end of year Top 20 lists over at Baseball America. This is not the end of the Boston Red Sox. Win or lose, they will fill some holes, resign some guys, heal their injured and be right back among the favorites to take the division in 2012.
Tampa is a formidable organization but they have an Achilles Heel...they have no fans.
Even as dreadful as the Orioles have been, they have outdrawn the Rays 3 of the last 4 years. If the Rays start going to the playoffs on a regular basis...could the fan base start to gel? If you think battling the Yankees and Red Sox is tough, imagine the Rays with a decent source of cash flow. One of the best farm systems in baseball coupled with the cash to keep some of it? Scary.
If we had done this to the Yanks, I could see it being a bigger blow. With the new ownership, heads may have rolled in the Bronx. And they are an aging team with a fair, but not great, farm system. The Sox aren't going anywhere, not yet. The Orioles have enough hurdles to surmount without the Rays being perennial contenders too.
So I don't see the Rays as a fell good story. They aren't cute and cuddly to me. They are a threat. A sleeping giant. They are like Gremlins before they get wet. And I want to crush them like a bug before they become dangerous.
Perhaps I'm wrong about all this. Maybe this will hurt the Sox more than I realize. Maybe the Rays will always have cash flow challenges, no matter how much they win.
But I don't want to look back years from now and realize this game was the turning point that opened the door to a decade long Tampa Bay baseball dynasty. So I hope the Ranger sweep them, in humiliating fashion, right back to the Gulf Coast where they belong.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Another guest post form Donovan and I thank him. I am also supposed to pass along that the August stats referenced in this post are through August 11th only. Enjoy!
This kind of seems like a funny question… what is being asked? Do we catch glimpses of the young catcher yawning in between pitches? Is he taking afternoon naps in the clubhouse? While those are certainly hilarious images—this is not what I mean.
More and more frequently I have been hearing conjectures and comments about how Matt Wieters’s offensive performance “could” or “would” be “better” if he wasn’t so tired out from catching so many games. On its face, this argument seems like it has the potential to be true. A young guy in only his second full Major League season at the most demanding position on the diamond must need some sort of grace period to get used to the wear and tear that catching puts on his body. The expectations put on Wieters’s expected offensive performance when coming through the ranks in the Minors were so extremely out-of-this-world that for him to have fallen so short of them must demand an explanation of sorts…right?
I decided that it could not hurt to attempt to investigate this subject statistically. To begin, I had to determine which stats I would investigate in order to see if the numbers would lend themselves to the argument that Wieters is in fact tired at the plate. The offensive numbers that I decided to take a look at were batting average (AVG) and slugging percentage (SLG). Batting average is the most basic statistic kept on hitters—what percentage of at bats does this guy get a base knock? However, I needed a statistic to qualify these base knocks--and that’s where SLG comes in. SLG is a measurement of how many total bases a batter gets per plate appearance, on average. The differences between a single, a double, a triple, and a home run are all given equal weight. A guy could have an AVG of .350, but if he only hits singles, it’s highly unlikely that he will be nearly as valuable as a guy who is batting .250, but hits a home run every hit.
When looking at SLG and AVG, it made perfect sense to me that if Wieters was in fact tired, he would get less hits (AVG) and they wouldn’t go as far (SLG). Having established which measures of offensive production will be used is one thing, but how does one measure how tired any given player is on any given day? I devised two ways to attempt to measure Wieters’s level of “tired” in any given game. In order to do this, I categorized every game that Matt has played in the 2011 season as either, “he didn’t have the previous day off,” “he had the previous day off,” or “he had the previous day and at least one more consecutive day before the previous day off”—including the first game of the season and the game immediately following the AS break. I took SLG and AVG numbers that he posted in games when he had the previous day off and compared them to his season base line.
This is what I came up with:
2011 season base line: .256 AVG .391 SLG
2011 “he had the previous day off”: .254 AVG .377 SLG
2011 “he had the previous day+ off”: .277 AVG .556 SLG
The only number among these that look anomalous is the .556 SLG when Matt has had more than one day off in a row. However, the other fishy number that goes along with having more than one day off for Wieters is his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). In these games, Wieters has a .357 BABIP. Given his LD% (line drive rate) in these games, his expected BABIP is .334. The couple of extra hits on these days have simply been a couple of extra line drives falling in for doubles. Wieters’s season LD% is 18.2 (for an expected BABIP of .302). His LD% in these games is 21.4%. He is outperforming his expected BABIP by .023 on during these games. During the season as a whole he is underperforming his expected BABIP of .302 by -0.016 with a .286 mark. Given the fact that these games where he’s been sufficiently rested have only amounted to 14 at bats for Wieters, I am pretty comfortable saying that the spike in SLG is due in part to small sample size, and in part to the fact that his BABIP (largely a “luck” statistic) is just simply higher on these days. Simply stated: Wieters have just been luckier in these 14AB than he has been during the rest of the season.
So, Matt is not performing phenomenally better on days after he has been rested or had a break. The other way to measure whether he is tired at the plate or not is to compare his season statistics per month. If he is tiring out over time, we should see a decline here. This is what I came up with after doing so:
April: .260AVG /.493 SLG May: .278AVG /.344 SLG June: .247AVG /.383 SLG July: .235AVG /.376 SLG August: .262AVG /.357 SLG
Wieters AVG has more or less been stable monthly. The only number that really sticks out here is his .493 SLG in April. One could argue that after slugging the crap out of the ball in the first month of the season, Matt just got tired. However, I feel pretty safe saying that if Wieters truly was tired that the drop off in SLG would be steady instead of being drastic one month and then rebounding slightly again. I’m not comfortable saying that one outlier has any statistical significance.
The conjecture that Wieters is tired at the plate makes perfect sense on its face. However the stats just simply do not lend themselves to this argument whatsoever. Who knows whether this level of production will persist throughout his career, or if there is a big break out on the horizon for the Orioles’ young catcher? Either way, if he can maintain his current level of defense, he really doesn’t need to hit very much at all to be a valuable player.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Monday, August 1, 2011
Hello again. This is yet another guest post by Donovan Moore, who I again thank profusely for giving some of his effort to keep some new content on here until I get back on track. Donovan gave this to me on Friday evening but I was working all weekend and did not see it until this morning. So any outdated references are completely my fault. But the meat of this post remains relevant...and fun.
It’s officially that time of year in baseball when following the Baltimore Orioles has become something that legitimately just really kind of gets you down. Posts about how bad the Orioles are playing aren’t particularly interesting to write. Lately, that’s about all there has been to write about—and consequently that’s all there has been to read about. As someone who not only writes about the Orioles but also reads a great deal about them as well, I have decided that at least in the immediate time being I am going to try to shift focus in the blog-O-sphere away from a tone of sulking, whining, and second-guessing. I’m not starting any sort of campaign against negative writing, because really the bottom line is that when the team one writes about is a really bad team, often times a disheartened reader would like to read someone write the angry things that he is himself thinking. I am also not attempting to write with a tone of seeming like I think that I am better than anyone who is writing negative things about the Orioles. The team is bad…in pretty much almost every way. We get it. I am not refuting it.
In the next couple of days, the non-waiver trade deadline will come and go and either the Orioles will make a few swaps, or they won’t. After the Orioles either make a couple of deals—or not—there will be a flurry of posts about the trades they managed to pull off, the treades they didn’t manage to pull off, and the trades that they didn’t manage to even look into (Colby Rasmus?). It’s really sort of difficult to not get sucked into the same day-to-day moaning and groaning that seems to come along with covering this Orioles team, however in order to do so, let’s imagine an alternate reality (you’ve got my attention, now…)!
This alternate reality is not one where the Orioles are actually a very good team, because—well I am not trying to hurt anyone’s brain just quite yet. This alternate reality is one where mainstream baseball recognizes the complete uselessness of the W/L statistic for pitchers! This idea came to mind when, not just but a few days ago, the on-air announcers for the Orioles game mentioned that the Orioles have scored nine runs or more six times this year, and that Arrieta had been the starting pitcher four of those times. This game became the seventh time the Orioles scored nine or more runs—and Arrieta was the starting pitcher again.
I would assume that any person reading this blog is already of the opinion that the W/L statistic for pitchers (particularly starting pitchers) is almost completely useless. The point of this post is not to argue this point. The point of this post is to demonstrate through example that the W/L statistic is rooted pretty deeply in luck. How will this be accomplished? Well, I am going to pull off a Freaky-Friday-type swap of the luck of Jeremy Guthrie and the luck of Jake Arrieta. Again, I am not formulating this as any sort of logical argument for or against the W/L statistic—I am merely using my magical luck-swapping skills in a demonstration purely for the enjoyment and excitement of onlookers. Let me also say that my intention is not to pick on Jake Arrieta. I chose these two pitchers for reasons that are pretty obvious. Jeremy Guthrie in this season (and really in other past seasons, too) has suffered from poor run support and terrible bullpen intervention. Despite the fact that he is pitching to a very respectable 4.33ERA, 4.36FIP, and 4.31xFIP he is leading THE ENTIRE MLB in losses (4-14). This really just does not seem fair at all. The won/loss record of a starting pitcher is typically the first one any person hears that is associated with the given pitcher. Guthrie’s 4-14 is simply not a good reflection at all of how he has pitched in 2011. On the other hand, there is Jake Arrieta. Arrieta is not the most lucky pitcher in the MLB or AL, but he does in fact receive the highest run support of any starting pitcher on the 2011 Orioles (Guthrie gets the lowest). For this reason, he is the obvious choice to be Guthrie’s counterpart in this Freaky-Friday-type swap. Arrieta’s current won/loss record is 10-7. He boasts a 5.12ERA, 5.28FIP, and a 4.31xFIP. These numbers are not awful by any measure, but they are worse than Guthrie’s—even though he mysteriously has a much healthier looking 10-7 won/loss record. Additionally (as of 7/28), each pitcher has made 21 starts on the year, with 11 of them being “quality” starts (6IP or more with 3 or less ER). Quality starts are a pretty good measure of what sort of chance a starting pitcher has given his team to win—with obvious exceptions, such as pitching 5 perfect innings only to get injured and leave the game.
Okay…time to wave the magic wand.
Bizarro Guthrie: 12-8 W/L record
Bizarro Arrieta: 5-12 W/L record
In order to achieve these figures, all I did was match up Guthrie and Arrieta’s starts (numbered 1-21) to each corresponding start and swap out their pitching performances in order to come up with a W, L, or nd. The bullpen performances after each of the pitchers left the game was left the same, as were the offensive performances of the Orioles.
This is quite obviously not a perfect measure because it fails to take into account many important factors that are impossible to adjust for. For instance, it is not exactly fair to correspond Arrieta’s performance against Seattle with Guthrie’s performance against Boston—but this is the best we’ve got without any actual magic.
A couple interesting things that I came across while plowing through all of the numbers for each of the 21 games that these two men have started in 2011:
Arrieta has only pitched into the 7th inning four times this year. He has not pitched past the 7th once.
Guthrie has one win stemming from a non-quality start. Arrieta has three.
Guthrie has eight (EIGHT!?!?) losses or non-decisions in a quality start. Arrieta has only one.
Due to poor run-support and bad performances by the bullpen, Jeremy Guthrie (the better pitcher of the two) has a far poorer W/L record than Jake Arrieta. 4-14 and 10-7 really do appear to be worlds apart—and neither truly reflects the true performances of the pitcher that they are assigned to. Arrieta has been luckier than your average bear, while Guthrie has been unluckier. If there were somehow a way to make W/L a fair measure of the performance of any given starting pitcher, each of these gentlemen would have their mark sitting somewhere between what it is now, and what their bizarro counterpart’s mark is.
Unfortunately, there is not really a way to make this statistic fair—it relies too heavily on things that are out of the control of the starting pitcher. Guthrie’s 14 losses lead all of the Majors. Given Arrieta’s luck, Guthrie’s 12 wins would be third best in the AL.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Thanks to Donovan Moore for another guest post!
With the trade deadline coming in just a matter of weeks, talks between potential trade partners will almost certainly heat up quite soon. The Orioles have already pulled the trigger on one small deal. With Hardy newly locked up through 2014, and Luke Scott fatally wounded, it would seem as though the Orioles’ only viable trade chips for 2011 are pitchers. Personally, I am a fan of having a fire sale that would have every Oriole that wouldn’t be a part of the next winning team up on the block. The problem with that however is that the MacPhail regime seemingly isn’t ready to go into full rebuilding mode. Andy’s contract expires at the end of the 2011 season, and it doesn’t bode well for his chances of contract renewal if he admits defeat right at the end of his first tenure.
The Orioles are not having a fire sale in 2011. The Orioles will very likely just make a few low risk/low reward swaps such as the one where they parted with dear old Nick Green (who?) for some guy who throws baseballs with his left hand. With that being said however, let’s take a look at just exactly how much the Orioles should be asking in return if they were to wise up and deal Jeremy Guthrie.
Unless Jeremy Guthrie suddenly turns into a 3-4 WAR pitcher (career average of ~2.2 WAR/year), he will never be more valuable than he is right now. He was more valuable yesterday than he is today, and even more so the day before that—but his arbitration years are almost over. Using a trade value calculator put together by Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Box Score, I have effectively estimated exactly how much value Guthrie has as of today.
The 2011 numbers have obviously been halved, seeing that the 2011 season is roughly halfway through. I estimated that Guthrie will post 1.2 WAR in the second half—because he posted 1.2 WAR in the first half. I used a going rate of $4.8M/WAR for 2011, and given the figures, estimated that Guthrie will have an excess value of ~$2.9M for the remainder of 2011. 2012 is Guthrie’s last arb year, meaning that he should command a raise to roughly 80% of his WAR value. For 2012, I used a going rate of $5.0M/WAR, and used Guthrie’s career WAR average (2.2) to estimate a 2012 salary of $8.8M. Given the going rate of $5.0M/WAR, in 2012 I have estimated that Guthrie will generate ~$2.2M of excess value. Add in the fact that I have estimated that Guthrie will be a Type B free agent (+$2.5M in draft compensation value), and his grand total of excess value through 2012 is ~$7.6M.
Notice the number of times I used the word “estimate” in the preceding paragraph. Without owning a crystal ball, it is not possible to know with any sort of certainty what Guthrie’s true value will be through the 2012 season, but $7.6M is very likely a fairly accurate estimation.
So… what type(s) of prospect(s) would come back in a trade where the excess value on one side is $7.6M? With much thanks to Victor Wang’s extensive research on prospect values it is possible to put a dollar amount on the worth of different types of prospects:
Obviously the only way to truly know the value of a prospect is to see whether he pans out or not…but that defeats the whole purpose of obtaining a player while he is still a prospect. The hope is that you have bought cheap and that you will be rewarded handsomely when the prospect pans out—but not every prospect does, and for that reason, Wang’s research has incorporated the possibility of any given type of prospect busting. The dollar amount put to any given type of prospect is an average of future values of all of the prospects in that category.
So in order to break even any potential trade for Guthrie, the Orioles would need to get back a Grade B hitter ($5.5M) + a Grade C pitcher 22 or younger ($2.1M). Given MacPhail’s affinity for pitching prospects, maybe he would look to get back a Grade B pitcher ($7.3M) + a Grade C hitter 23 or older ($0.5). These would be instances where the Orioles set themselves up to break even on a deal for Guthrie—but if offered anything more than these examples, they should definitely jump right on it.