Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 Oriole Win Predictions

It's that time again. Today, I will try to predict the Oriole win total using estimated playing time, projections and the WAR spreadsheet from Beyond the Boxscore.

I used Sky Kalkman's updated WAR Spreadsheet for the calculations and based on Matt Swartz's article on testing projections systems at, I used a combination of ZiPS and Oliver projections for the hitters and Steamer FIP projections for the pitchers.

I am assuming a 12 man pitching staff and based on that assumption, here are the 13 position players I have breaking camp:

C Matt Wieters
1B Chris Davis
2B Robert Andino
SS JJ Hardy
3B Mark Reynolds
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
LF Nolan Reimold
IF/DH Wilson Betemit
OF Endy Chavez
IF Matt Antonelli
IF Ryan Flaherty
C Taylor Teagarden

I do not expect Brian Roberts to break camp with the rest of the team and I don't really expect him to contribute much to the Orioles going forward. That will allow the new corp of infielders to head north with the club. Nick Markakis may still start the season on the DL allowing Jai Miller a bit of playing time early.

The pitching situation is cloudier due to the current injuries, a few pitchers coming back from injury and sorting out all the options (or lack thereof) of relievers in camp. I did the best I could with the composition of the pitching staff and you could certainly trade out a Darren O'Day for a Kevin Gregg and I wouldn't have an argument with that. But the bullpen roster, outside of Jim Johnson and Matt Lindstrom, is anybody's guess and quite frankly there probably won't be a hige difference in performance. Troy Patton, for instance, is probably more wishful thinking on my part although I think he could be a very good bullpen arm. He is just as likely to be waived or traded as he is to make the team. Also wishful thinking is the departure via trade or waivers of Kevin Gregg. But I digress.

So, here it is:

A few thoughts and explanations...

- Even without the additions of big name (but old and ineffective) veterans this offseason, the projections only have the team winning 5 fewer games. (Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee didn't even sniff their 2011 projections...)

- Oliver loves Chris Davis. It projected a .803 OPS for 2012. ZiPS hates Chris Davis. It projects a .739 OPS. It was the biggest discrepency on the team. I split the difference. Anything approching the Oliver projection for Davis would be really nice for the offense.

- I have probably overestimated the total team defense. I may have overestimated the impact of plus defenders and not taken enough away from some suspect defenders. Outside of Matt Wieters and JJ Hardy, there are no defensive standouts on the team (not even Adam Jones or Nick Markakis, Gold Gloves notwithstanding). Most of the team ranges from solid to awful. That said, I think Wieters' combination of stellar defense and a solid to great bat will make him the most valuable member of the team.

- You can see the impact that losing an above average starter that can throw 200 innings can have on a rotation. All those innings are going to have to be cobbled together around Jason Hammel, the only member of the starting staff that has thrown more than 170 innings in an MLB season.

- The NPB imports of Wei Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada do not have Steamer projections. Wada's is a ZiPS projection and Chen is just a wild guess. With Wada's injury and the general difficulty of projecting NPB pitchers, these innings and ERA projections are probably the best possible scenarios.

- Speaking of best possible scenarios, remember when we were all excited about the young Oriole arms? Now, according to projecitons, getting 130 innings of 4.69 ERA from Jake Arrieta seems to be the best performance we can expect from this group. (And given he is coming back from elbow surgery, that may be in question too.) With Zach Britton's shoulder soreness, Brian Matusz's big step back in 2011 and Chris Tillman's general ineffectiveness, it's hard to count on any of them to do big things in 2012.

- Mark Reynolds should, once again, be the best offensive player on the team. Take that how you will.

All of this breaks down to about 74 wins and, unlike the last couple of years, I don't see much chance of the Orioles exceeding that win total. In fact, I think this may be the best case scenario. OK, we could have a few position players take big steps forward (Jones, Wieters, Davis and Reimold) and a couple of the young pitchers could develop into reliable starters (Matusz, Britton and Arrieta) and the NPB imports could be better than advertised and the Orioles field a decent lineup and a solid pitching staff. But if you have been watching the O's over the past few seasons, you know how unlikely all these players hitting their ceilings in the same season seems.

Given that my predicitons in previous years have been a bit too optimistic, I think Baltimore will struggle to reach 70 wins in 2012. If they fail, it will be the 6th straight season that they have failed to reach the 70 win mark. I'll try to look for silver linings to this dark cloud in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 13, 2012

This Week in Chat: 2/13/2011

Where we distill all the week's baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...

Fangraphs After Dark Chat

9:27 Comment From SeanP
Dan Duquette said that the Orioles couldn't get any team to trade prospects for Jeremy Guthrie. Does that change the outlook of the Guthrie-for-Hammel/Lindstrom trade?

9:27 Chris Cwik:
Not really. At least get something useful for Guthrie. The O's didn't even cut salary in the deal. What was the point?

9:28 Paul Swydan:
No. He should have waited until the deadline. The stories about the O's and Guthrie clashing over arb negotiations brought back memories of the Duke and John Valentin bickering in the media about what doctor should perform his knee surgery.

9:28 Zach Sanders:
I never thought they'd get a prospect, so no, not for me. I liked it for the Os, actually. Hammel will never meet his FIP numbers or stuff, but Lindstrom is more than useful.

9:40 Comment From Fattinton_Bear
Does Jeremy Guthrie going to COL make him have fantasy value since he'll be in an easier division and an easier league?

9:40 Chris Cwik:
I'm not a big Guthrie fan. So, no.

9:40 Zach Sanders:
I have him getting a small boost, but it's pretty much the same.

9:41 Paul Swydan:
I don't think so. I don't think any Rockies starting pitcher is really worth drafting this year.

Dave Cameron, Fangraphs

12:19 Comment From Charles
Convince me that Dan Duquette isn't the absolute worst general manager in the game right now

Ned Colletti.

Dave Schoenfield, ESPN

Austin (A's fan in NYC)
Dave,Based on everything from current on-field talent to front-office aptitude, ownership and ballpark situations, division, and payroll considerations, how would you rank the teams facing the longest roads to serious contention? I'm thinking 1 Baltimore (farthest from contention); 2 Houston; 3 Mets; 4 Pittsburgh; fifth?Mariners? I?m hoping not my A?s, but they're probably part of the conversation.

David Schoenfield (1:05 PM)
I think everyone agrees the Astros have the least talent in the organization (from majors down to the minors). But they do at least play in the NL Central, so they may be able to rebuild in 3-4 years. Considering their division, I agree with you: Orioles are probably No. 1 on this list, even though they have some talent in the bigs and on the farm. I'd probably rank the A's "ahead" of the Mariners. Ballpark situation just too big of a negative.

Confused (Baltimore)
Dan Duquette, misunderstood genius or delusional? He seems to be tilting at windmills to me. What am I missing?

David Schoenfield (1:24 PM)
Yeah, I'm not quite sure what the Guthrie trade was all about. I know he saves money with Hammel and he gets two years of team control with Hammel and Lindstrom, but seems Guthrie could have been flipped for a good prospect with SIX years of team control. Not a terrible trade, but not one that really accomplishes anything for Baltimore.

John (Baltimore)
Does Matusz turn it around this year or is he a bust?

David Schoenfield (1:34 PM)
No idea. I know he's said his velocity was down after returning, but I still wonder if he was pitching through an injury. Or maybe he just went through what Halladay did as a young pitcher. Halladay had to go all the way back to Class A to rediscover his mechanics.

Jason (St Louis)
How about Adam Jones for Shelby Miller, Zack Cox and Jon Jay? Who says no?

David Schoenfield (1:43 PM)
I think the Cardinals do. I'm on record as thinking Jones is overrated. Jay is OK and Miller's potential isn't worth the upgrade from Jay to Jones.

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

Paul (DC):
Who are the likely top contenders to bid for Yoennis Cespedes' services?

Kevin Goldstein:
Cubs, Marlins, Orioles, White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, mystery team.

john m (ct):
Any chance Brian Matusz regains his stuff?

Kevin Goldstein:
There is obviously SOME chance, it's counting on it that is the risky part.

Keith Law, ESPN

bubble boy (the bubble)
If Bundy were 6'4 would he be top 5? I know, if if were a skiff we'd all be sailing...

Klaw (1:20 PM)
Best line I heard on him was from a senior FO guy who said something close to this: "If Dylan Bundy was 6'4" he'd be in an Opening Day rotation."

Joe (Pittsburgh)
In hindsight, should the pirates regret choosing Taillon over Machado

Klaw (1:21 PM)
That seems awfully strong, and awfully quick. Even if they get the lesser player, Taillon's not a stiff.

Snakes (Philly)
The Orioles Guthrie to Colorado trade is... strange at best. What were they thinking in your opinion? Oh- and they are likely to sign Manny Ramirez too!!

Klaw (1:46 PM)
At best, it's a lateral move. And it's probably a small step back.

Kevin (MD)
O's fan here. Talk me off my ledge and give me hope for the future Keith! Anything to look forward to other than Bundy or Machado?

Klaw (2:18 PM)
Schoop, Bridwell, Delmonico. It's not Houston, where there's just very little talent. But you've got the worst owner in the game, and a GM operating out of a playbook so old it's written on papyrus.

Jeb (Chicago)
Thoughts regarding KBA banning Baltimore because of Kim Seong-min? Did Baltimore really mess up or is this not a big deal?

Klaw (2:20 PM)
They messed up. MLB values its relationships with KBO and NPB, so I imagine they're really unhappy. All this for a non-prospect, too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Obscure Oriole Transaction Spotlight: Chris Tremblay

Who says the Orioles haven't made any moves?

Name: Chris Tremblay
Position: 2B
Throws: R
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 185
Age: 25

Tremblay was born in Montreal and was drafted out of Kent State by he Padres in the 19th round of the 2009 draft.

Up to this point he has been a light-hitting utility type (catcher, centerfielder and pitcher were the only spots he did not play in the Padre system) and with his .591 minor league career OPS and with only 78 games played at high-A by age 24, his glove had better be really good.

What else do we know about Mr. Temblay? He has a really gnarly tattoo on his shoulder and he writes a blog, not about baseball, but about literature and writing. He does have an entry about getting released by the Padres but generally, this is not a baseball blog.

Look for him in Frederick this season.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Orioles Trade Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies

The Orioles have traded workhorse starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for SP Jason Hammel and RP Matt Lindstrom.

While I am sad to see Guthrie go, he was likely gone at the end of the season anyway and would have commanded somewhere around $9 million in salary through arbitration this season. Like the Luke Scott situation, I'm not sure why Guthrie was still on the team and believe he probably could have brought back more value at the trading deadlines in 2011 or 2010. But unlike Scott, the O's were able to get something of value back for Guthrie. (My Guthrie love letter will come later...)

Jason Hammel, like Guthrie, has always been a bit underrated. Rightly or wrongly, I have always thought they were similar pitchers. Some career numbers for both:

          AGE    G    K/9   BB/9   K/BB   HR/9    GB%   ERA    FIP  xFIP   WHIP
Guthrie    33  177   5.52   2.68   2.06   1.22   40.6  4.19   4.61  4.68   1.29
Hammell    29  169   6.25   3.11   2.01   1.06   45.1  4.99   4.38  4.27   1.47

Hammel walks a few more batters but also strikes out a few more, keeps the ball in the park slightly better and gets a fair bit more ground balls than Guthrie. His peripherals are better. But he's been the anti-Guthrie in terms of outperforming his peripherals; while Guthrie tends to outperform his FIP and xFIP, Hammel has tended to underperform his peripherals. But they both have fastballs that sit in the 92-93 range and fill out hte repertoire with sliders and changeups.

Hammel had a down year in 2011 and I guess the Orioles are looking for a rebound season from him. If he does, he is likely to replace Guthrie's production in 2012 and with a an extra year of arbitration left, Hammel could be flipped to another club or extended for a reasonable price. He is four years younger than Guthrie and is similar enough to him that it makes sense to take a flier on Hammel.

Matt Lindstrom averagish reliever? He gets a lot of ground balls but has had mixed success over his career. He'll make $3.6 million in 2012 which seems like a lot for a reliever of his caliber. But he's cheaper than Kevin Gregg and can't be any worse.

As much as I liked Guthrie as a fan, the Orioles got decent value in return for a league average 33-year old fly ball pitcher. They got a younger pitcher with an extra year of control. It's fine. The only thing the O's did wrong here was to hold on to Guthrie a season too long if they wanted to get prospects in a deal.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Oriole Rotation Projected to Improve

It is no secret to the long-suffering Oriole fan that a major factor in all the losing of late has been due to the team trotting out the most wretched pitching staff in the league for most of the past 14 seasons. Indeed, the team's collected hurlers have been unable to post a team ERA that ranked above 13th in the 14 team American League over the past four seasons. Could that be changing in 2012?

In 2011, the team's starters threw a total of 881 innings (dead last among AL teams) with an ERA of 5.39 (also dead last in the AL). SInce most decent starting staffs rack up something in the neighborhood of 1000 innings, I used ZiPS projections to assemble roughly that number of innings amongst the best of the projected starters for Baltimore in 2012. Here they are:

          IP  ERA
Wada     139 4.01
Guthrie  178 4.30
Britton  156 4.85
Chen     125 4.50
Hunter   136 4.96
Arrieta  132 5.13
Matusz   136 5.35
Total   1002 4.71

* Wei-Yin Chen does not have an official ZiPS projection. Given that he is considered a better prospect than Tsuyoshi Wada, the low innings count and the 4.50 ERA seems fair. Of course, this guy was supposed to be a better MLB porspect than Koji Uehara when they cam stateside in 2009.

All in all, the projections put the starter's ERA at just over 2/3 a run better than 2011 and projects more innings eaten by the starters than last year too. While I doubt the starters will throw 1000 innings, something around 950 will be a great improvement and will take some pressure off the bullpen. Any bullpen who has to fill the kind of gaps that the Orioles pen has over the past few years is bound to be exposed, no matter how good it is.

There is some chance for improvement here. Brian Matusz could come back from his injury plagued 2011 a much better pitcher. Ditto for Jake Arrieta. Sophomore Zach Britton could take a step forward and 23-year old Chris Tillman could regain his prospect status and contribute in the second half. But as the projections stand, a 4.71 starter ERA would have been no better than 13th in the AL in 2011. Even with significant improvement, this is still a bottom of the league rotation.

But a rotation with Jeremy Guthrie, Britton, Wada and Chen at it's core with Matusz, Arrieta and Tommy Hunter filling in the gaps is still one if the more interesting rotations the Orioles have assembled in recent years, even if it won't be an overly effective one.