Wednesday, March 11, 2020

John Means and His Narrow Path Forward

One of the few bright spots for the 2019 Baltimore Orioles was starting pitcher John Means. The soon-to-be 27-year old lefty finished second in AL RoY voting and posted a 3.60 ERA over 155 innings. Things look great, huh?

Well, maybe. Means also had a FIP of 4.41 and an xFIP of 5.48. The discrepancy between his ERA and FIP (E-F) ranks 8th among MLB starters who pitched 150 innings or more. (All rankings going forward are for MLB SPs with 150 IP or more in 2019.) His K/9 just barely eked over 7 and his BABIP allowed was a likely unsustainable .256. All these peripherals scream that a massive correction is coming for Means in 2020.

Or does it? Instead of looking at these obvious peripherals and assuming Means got very, very lucky in 2019, let's see if we can find what Means did well, how he got those results and if these skills can carry into 2020.

Did Means induce a large number of ground balls? He did not. In fact, quite the opposite. Means is an extreme flyball pitcher with 50% of batted balls hit in the air. (Caleb Smith at 52.2% is the only MLB pitcher with a higher rate in 2019.) That is a bad fit for Camden Yards. How did he succeed?

Means is not your typical early-21st century pitcher as he barely strikes out 7 per 9 IP. If you are going to have that kind of rate, you need to keep the walk rate down and he did. His 2.21 BB/9 ranked 18th among this group which is not dominant control but very good and it can help limit damage if more balls that average are being put in play. (This is different than a guy like the Cardinals Dakota Hudson who sports a similar strikeout rate but walks nearly double Means' rate pointing to more "smoke-and-mirrors" results for him in 2019.)

So Means is stingy with free passes which helps but it's not a crazy-good rate. Let's look at batted balls and how he was able to keep that BABIP so low.

Scrolling through the leader boards at FanGraphs, I do find two categories where Means ranked as elite in 2019. He was in the top 5 in O-Contact% at 73.5% which puts him between crafty veterans like Mike Fiers and Rick Porcello. That means batters were making a high amount of contact of pitches outside the zone and perhaps inducing weak contact.

As far as weak contact, Means was number one in limiting hard hit balls. Number one. His Hard Hit % of 27.8 is just ahead of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom and Stephen Strasbourg.

Over at the Athletic, they looked at combining Hard Hit% and Soft Hit % to measure a pitcher's ability to limit quality contact with their Hard Minus Soft Rate (H-S%) measurement. A description of the stat and its stated purpose:

"Hard Minus Soft is a statistic that compares the number of times a pitcher is hit hard and the number of times that same pitcher induces soft contact. I intend for H-S% to be viewed and used in a similar manner to K-BB%, as it should highlight pitchers who combine the best of the two outcomes."

As you can see in the below screenshot, Means comes in 9th, just behind Stephen Strasbourg and Kenta Maeda and just ahead of Lucan Giolito and Zack Wheeler.

Is this a "sticky" skill? Can John Means continue to (seemingly) induce weak contact by getting batters to strike pitches out of the zone? I can't answer these questions yet but am fascinated to see if he can.

And he'd better. Without some improvement in his underlying talent (his fastball speed ticking up a bit, improving swing-and-miss rates on one of his secondary pitches), this is Means' way forward as an effective MLB starter. Fortunately for Means, even with some regression built in, a pitcher who can  hold an ERA between 4.25-4.50 over 175 innings is still incredibly valuable to this team in 2020.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Orioles Face Tough Task Of Repeating In American League East

As far as surprises go, the Baltimore Orioles probably had the most impressive season in baseball in 2014. The team was able to run away with the American League East title, and they also had a little bit of success in the postseason. With that being said, there are going to be quite a few changes surrounding the roster as spring training starts up. Can they repeat as champions in a tougher division in 2015?

The Orioles lost 3 key pieces to their team from 2014, as Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller all left as free agents. It is impossible to get mad with individual players in baseball looking to get paid, but some fans were a little frustrated that Baltimore did not make a better effort to keep at least one of those guys around. Cruz was a standout in fantasy baseball leagues last year, and Markakis had been with the team for close to a decade. Miller emerged as a guy who kept the bullpen together down the stretch in 2014, as he was one of the most effective left-handed relievers in the game.

Coming in, the team only has 2 significant signings right now. Travis Snider still has some value as an outfielder, and Wesley Wright will try to do his best Andrew Miller impersonation.

In order to make up for the lost lineup talent, many fans are expecting healthier seasons for Matt Wieters and Manny Machado. Baltimore was able to survive without them being healthy last year, but that just won’t work in 2015. Not only will those 2 players need to play well, but veterans like Chris Davis and JJ Hardy need to be a little bit more productive in fantasy baseball leagues as well. They both suffered from down seasons in 2014.

The Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays improved their roster over the winter, but the American League East is still not as tough as it used to be just a few years ago. Baltimore is going to be right there in the mix, especially if the pitching staff holds up. They had one of the best team ERAs last year, and if they can do that again, everything will be going very well.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Nick Markakis-Brian Roberts Steroids Mashup

In 2007, Oriole second baseman Brian Roberts was named in the Mitchell Report and issued a statement admitting his use of steroids.

In 2013, Oriole rightfielder Nick Markakis was very candid with Dan Connolly about his feelings on the current batch of players who were suspended for links to the Biogenesis lab and steroid use in baseball in general.

Fantasy Baseball

Here is Roberts' prepared statement from 2007 mixed up with Markakis' quotes from Monday's article in the Sun. Go!

Brian Roberts: I would like to address the allegations that were made against me in the Mitchell Report. I will begin by saying that I have worked very hard to develop a good reputation both on and off the field. I have always taken pride in being a man of integrity and values.

Nick Markakis: These guys that are doing performance-enhancing drugs are taking away from a lot of other people that are doing it the right way. They are taking opportunities away and they are basically stealing.

BR: I know that by being a professional athlete, I am held to a very high standard. I never have and never will take that for granted. However, I am also human and I have made mistakes.

NM: These guys are big boys; they can make decisions. If I go out there and rob a convenience store, I know the consequences that are coming with it. We are all adults here.

BR: In 2003, when I took one shot of steroids, I immediately realized that this was not what I stood for or anything that I wanted to continue doing. I never used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing drugs prior to or since that single incident.

NM: ...I’m just disappointed in these players. This is a harmless game that has never done anything to anybody except be good to people. And you are going to go out there and cheat a game that is supposedly the national pastime?

BR: I can honestly say before God, myself, my family and all of my fans that steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs have never had any effect on what I have worked so hard to accomplish in the game of baseball.

NM: I know how hard this game is, and to see some of these guys going out there and putting up these video game numbers, it’s mind-boggling. It’s disappointing; it’s frustrating. Because you know how hard you have to work just to get to this level.

BR: I am very sorry and I deeply regret ever making that terrible decision. My only hope and prayer is that the Orioles, my family, friends and fans that have supported me so faithfully will forgive me.

NM: These guys are going to come out and say they are sorry and apologize. But I think for the most part they are apologizing because they got caught. For you to go out there and disrespect the game is not only a slap in the face of the game, but a slap in the face of everyone that does it the right way.

I find the juxtuposition of Roberts and Markakis fascinating. Not only are they still teammates as Nick makes these comments, they were really the faces of the franchise, arguably, from 2006-2010 so they will always be linked in my mind as the defining Oriole players for that 5-year span. Markakis' frank talk on the subject is completely different from Roberts' as Brian has NEVER addressed steroids outside of that prepared statement. Nick's comments were not only unprepared but came straight from the heart. We have never heard Roberts speak so frankly on the subject even though he was directly involved. (And if you think that Roberts used once and only once, I would remind you that he denied Jason Grimsley's accusations initially. It would be naive to believe that "only one time" assertion if he hadn't lied about the allegations earlier, it would be completely foolish to believe him.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hanging 'Em Up

After more than six seasons, I going to hang up my blogging cleats and shut down Dempsey's Army.

As anyone who comes here regularly has noticed, the frequency of my posting has fluctuated quite a bit over the past year and a half and it's trending toward much less. I have never claimed to be a great writer but I did take pride in the fact that I could take some interesting angles on certain subjects and that I wrote on a regular basis. I am finding time to write (and do it well) harder to come by and while I keep kidding myself that over that next hill I'll find more, it's just not going to happen in the near future. If I'm not writing on a regular basis, I'm not sure what I can hang my hat on. I'd rather shut the blog down than let it continue a slow death and just go inactive.

Thanks to anyone who came here to read my ramblings. Dempsey's Army was always a very personal project to vent my thoughts and post analysis on the Baltimore Orioles and the fact that anyone came to check it out was more than I ever expected. Beyond that, thanks to all those who linked to my posts, invited me to participate in special events, extended me press credentials like I was a real writer or let me write on other sites. None of these were goals but they were wonderful and welcome surprises.

Goodbye, don your rally caps and let's go O's!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Post at Camden Depot: The Clutchiest Hits

What were the top 10 clutchest hits for the Orioles in 2012 (in terms of WPA)? Find out here. The results might surprise you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Guest Post at Camden Depot: Who Gets the Credit for the 2012 Orioles?

I have a post up this morning over at Camden Depot.breaking down player contribution to this season's team with what GM brought them to town. Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

This Week in Chat, Part 2: 9/28/2012

Part 2 of the weeks chats boiled down to their Oriole essence...

Dave Cameron,

12:03 Comment From Preston
Could the Orioles outperforming their expected wins based on WAR mean that we are over-valuing defense and under-valuing bullpens in the equation?

12:03 Dave Cameron:

12:05 Comment From Person hscer
if the wild cards end up atlanta st. louis oakland baltimore, who has the best chance at the WS? the worst?

12:05 Dave Cameron:
I think St. Louis is the best of those four teams. Baltimore's probably the worst.

12:05 Comment From The Oriole Bird
Do you expect the O's to be a big player in this year's free agent market? If so, whom would you expect them to target?

12:06 Dave Cameron:
Yeah, my guess would be that they'll look to add a big name pitcher to the rotation. I could see them in on Greinke, Haren, or Peavy.

12:24 Comment From TKDC
Say the Yankees are a game back of the Orioles on the last day of the season and they play either before or at the same time (so a win could be meaningless). If possible, would you throw your ace, or would you save him for the one-game playoff?

12:25 Dave Cameron:
The play-in game should be a bullpen day, so I'd use Sabathia and watch the scoreboard very closely.

12:55 Comment From Dan
Without making any changes to the roster, Baltimore will be a __ win team in 2013.

12:55 Dave Cameron:

12:59 Comment From Scott
Does Bundy pitch over 100 innings in the majors next year?

12:59 Dave Cameron:
Don't think he's ready yet, no.

Wallace Matthews,

george (boston)
8 games left - what's your guess at the Yanks record? Let's say 5-3. That would mean the O's would have to play to 6-1 to force a tiebreaker. So ... Yanks pretty much a division lock?

Wallace Matthews (12:34 PM)
I figured at the start of this stretch the Yankees would win at least 6 of these last 10 games, and more likely seve. They are 1-1 so far, so sticking with my gut, that means a final record of 95-67

Ian Miller, Baseball Prospectus

Roger (Washington DC):
So 2012 has seen the debut of Harper, Machado, Profar, and Bundy. At least two and quite possibly three of them are up for good. Is this the greatest group of teenagers collectively in the majors at the same time? More importantly, what the heck is happening to the standard development curve?

Ian Miller:
I can't say for certain that they're the best group of teens ever, but OTOH, I can't think of any other group, so maybe, yeah!

The second part of your question is far more interesting to me, though. Is this just a fluke, or is it something more profound? Are diets or training regimens or something else entirely causing players (kids) to develop faster than ever? I think that's a very real possibility, but it's not a question a liberal arts guy like me can answer.

Intriguing, though.

Tony La Russa,

Henry (Phoenix)
How good for the game is it that we've seen teams like Baltimore, Washington, and at least earlier in the season, Pittsburgh, have some success this year?

Tony La Russa (3:31 PM)
I think one of the problems with our system is so often the city and the fans going into spring training don't have a realistic chance of being excited. Like Tampa Bay if you draft smart and develop well, you can build a nucleus and make some moves to jump into the competition.

Keith Law,

Ryan (DC)
The Orioles run differential is down to -1. Thoughts?

Klaw (1:07 PM)
Which means they've played roughly like a .500 team. There's been a weird emphasis on the O's run differential potentially turning positive, as if that's a binary variable. It's not. The point is that a team that barely outscores its opponents on the season doesn't end up 20 games over .500 without a lot of good fortune.

Rob (DC)
What do you think is the ceiling for Tillman? Been looking pretty good this year.

Klaw (1:25 PM)
He has looked good. Looking at him as a potential above-average starter again.

Mike (DC)
Do you think Showalter is a big reason for the O's success this year? Seems like he manages circles around people...

Klaw (1:27 PM)
I think he's a reason, but no manager can entirely explain their success this year.

Randy (Baltimore)
How do you see the Machado/Hardy situation playing out in BAL for 2013?

Klaw (1:28 PM)
If I were the GM there I'd try to trade Hardy and get Machado back to shortstop, which I believe is his long-term position.

Mike (DC)
Think Jonathon Schoop could be the O's long term answer at 2B, or is he more likely to move to 3B and take over there when Machado goes to SS?

Klaw (1:32 PM)
Third base. But I think he was rushed this year.

Andrew (LA)
I'm glad the O's called up Bundy to get his feet wet. What situations would be ideal for Bundy to pitch i.e. mop up duty or close contests?

Klaw (1:50 PM)
I'd rather use him in longer outings than short ones. Not concerned about the score, just don't want to see him used like a short reliever, warmed up more than once in a game, asked to come in and air it out for a few pitches, etc.

Joe (Chicago)
I have seen a lot of Orioles fans says that the reason Bundy is able to pitch now is because the Orioles made him throw three inning starts earlier in the season. What is your response to this?

Klaw (1:55 PM)
Shelby Miller.

Muzzy (Leicesster)
Mr. Law, I have a three-part Davis question for you: Ike's overall numbers are not good, but is there anything in his swing that says he's not the player he was or is not healthy? Chris Davis is having a breakout year...that looks almost exactly like his career slash line. Is this the "real" Chris? Finally, can Khris hit enough to overcome his fielding limitations? Thanks!

Klaw (2:00 PM)
Ike: will always swing and miss, but there's power there. This is probably the real Chris. Khris (Brewers prospect) probably gets there as an extra guy.

Mike Newman,

4:10 Comment From The Oriole Bird
What kind of future, if any, do you see for LJ Hoes?

4:11 Mike Newman:
Tweener type. Potentially a 4th outfielder, but I don't think he contributes quite enough to be considered a starter.

4:41 Comment From Jeremy Strain
Did you get a chance to see Delmonico with Delmarva before he got hurt? What's your take on him?

4:42 Mike Newman:
Yes, and I've written about him at FG at length. I liked the hit tool, but LOL'd at their attempts to make him a 2B. He will be ranked on my list of the top 1B prospects I've seen this season.

Jayson Stark,

Mike (San Diego)
You have no idea how much I'm rooting for Oakland, LAA, Baltimore, and Tampa to have the same record. Bring on the chaos!

Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
Easy for you to say. You don't have to travel 12,000 miles in 72 hours to break all those ties!

Curt (Trappe Md)
Very exciting time to be an Oriole fan this year which is something we have not had for almost 20 years, but how do you explain a team without 1 player having an average of 300 is knocking on the door of the division title?

Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
It's incredible, isn't it? And only one pitcher making 20 starts! I'm going to quote my friend Casey Stern of Sirius/XM fame. Heard him say one day the Orioles aren't a great team, but they're one of the greatest stories ever. Totally agree.

Wayne (Baltimore)
How about them Birds!!! With the schedule that both teams have remaining (Red Sox and Rays for O's, Jay's and Sox for Yanks) what realistic chance do the Orioles have of winning the East outright?

Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
I don't like their chances, based on the schedule alone. The Yankees finish with the Blue Jays and Red Sox, two teams that are 37 games under .500 just since Aug. 1. The Orioles also get the Red Sox at home, but those three games in Tampa Bay to finish up look awfully precarious.

Danny (Baltimore)
Does Matt Wieters deserve any MVP consideration, he has done a masterful job handling the O's rotation mess.

Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
He'd be in my top 10. He's had a fantastic season. Really fulfilling expectations that people had for him.