Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pick the Mystery Player...

I've seen this elsewhere so I figured I would use this method to get up on my soapbox...

Which outfielder would you choose? Neither has more than 300 big league at bats. Their minor league stats:

Player A .282 .348 .430 .778
Player B .299 .355 .470 .825

Player B has a significant advantage in OPS, mostly from his slugging percentage. Now, just imagine that Player B is three years younger than player B. Who would you choose?

Now, over the course of 50 at bats in Spring Training, Player A outplays Player B by a significant margin. Would that change your decision?

If you haven't yet guessed, Player A is Lou Montanez and Player B is Felix Pie. I can't believe any rational person would've selected Player A, regardless of the Spring Training stats. Especially when you factor in that Pie has more than 1000 ABs at AAA while Montanez has less than 500.

Everybody calm down...and send Montanez to Norfolk.

(edit: Looks like the front office has some sense when it comes to this issue...thank God.)

Now let's look at some pitchers. All have less than 90 innings of big league experience. Their minor league stats:

Player ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Player A 4.18 1.30 6.0 3.0 0.7
Player B 3.87 1.30 8.0 3.0 0.8
Player C 5.04 1.46 6.7 3.0 1.1

Now based on these numbers alone, you would probably rank Player B at the top narrowly over Player A. But it is clear that you would rank Player C at the bottom by any stat listed here.

Now consider their ages. Player B is the youngest with Player A three years older and Player C 4 years older. Now how are they ranked?

Now consider that Player C has outperformed the other two players over less than 20 innings in Spring Training. Does that change your opinion?

Player A is Brian Bass. Player B is Hayden Penn. Player C is...Alfredo Simon. Does he still look like the best option for a back of the rotation starter.

I say no. Off to Norfolk with Simon too.

Just a little food for thought...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Forget Who Will Make the Rotation...Who Should?

I think I've (unsuccessfully) taken a few guesses about who would be in the final rotation. But who actually should be in the Opening Day rotation? Glad you asked...

Raise your hand if you honestly believe the Orioles can win this season? Yeah , me neither. So unlike most teams, this is not just a matter of picking pitchers who give the team the best chance to win. It goes deeper than that.

It should be three levels of criteria:

1) Pitchers who give you team the best chance to win.
2) Pitchers with upside who may or may not be ready for the majors but are out of minor league options.
3) Pitcher who can be used as cannon fodder, eating some innings for a couple months while better options can be found without resorting to rushing young arms to the majors.

The team has basically exhausted the first piece of criteria with Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara. These two can reasonable be expected to go out and compete on a regular basis.

Now there are five pitchers remaining for the three spots left in the rotation: Hayden Penn, Brian Bass, Mark Hendrickson, Adam Eaton and Alfredo Simon.

Hayden Penn is covered with the second rule. He is only 24 but due to some mismanagement under previous regimes, he is out of minor league options. Penn was due to be called up a couple times over the last two seasons but untimely illness or injury spoiled those opportunities. Penn would be claimed if they tried to get him through waivers and quite frankly he hasn't pitched any worse than anybody else this spring. Stick him in as the number 5 pitcher and see if he can work it out. When Rich Hill comes back, move him to the bullpen. This guy still has value, it would be a shame to let him go before we've really given him a shot.

Now come the sacrificial lambs. The biggest mistake Andy MacPhail made this offseason was not offering Daniel Cabrera arbitration. He would've given the team more than 170 innings and probably would have been better than any of the guys we have in camp.

So in lieu of Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson fit the bill. These guys have the best shot at remaining effective enough in the rotation that they will last 2 months or more on the front lines. If they can hang in there, Rich Hill may return and be effective, Brad Bergesen and\or David Hernandez may tear up AAA and earn a promotion...these guys are there to buy the club some time until better options are ready. I think they can do it, at least as well as Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz did last season.

Brian Bass is a Brian Burress type, best when utilized as a swingman out of the bullpen and that's a best case scenario.

Quick quiz: When was the last time Alfredo Simon posted an ERA less than 6.00 at any level of professional baseball? That was in AA in 2005 when he posted a 5.03 ERA. I've refrained from bashing the guy since I've said repeatedly that the rotation's theme for 2009 should be "We take anybody." But this guy doesn't belong on anyone's radar for a major league job, not even the Orioles. He hasn't even had fluky Luis Hernandez success on any level. Cut him.

So the starting rotation for the Baltimore Orioles on April 6th should be:


Anything else at this point wouldn't make a lot of sense.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Orioles in Asheville

We're still waiting for the season to start so I figured I'd share this little nugget as filler while there's a lull in the action...

I was up near Asheville, NC doing some hiking this past January and I headed into Asheville for some food and a beer run. I was cruising around, took a wrong turn and ended up out by McCormick Field where the Asheville Tourists play and where Crash Davis finished up his baseball career.

Anyway, I pulled in to take a look and the whole place was plastered with Orioles:

So there's Cal Sr., Cal, Jr., and Billy Ripken up top and there's Eddie Murray on the office door. What's the connection?

Evidently, Asheville was an Oriole farm club for a short time in the early 1970's. Eddie Murray played for Asheville in 1975 hitting .264 with 17 home runs at the tender age of 19. Cal Ripken, Sr. was a coach in Asheville in 1972.

However, connecting Billy and Cal Jr. to the 1972 Asheville Tourists is a bit sketchy. Cal, Jr. was 12 and Billy was 8 at the time. I'm sure they were on the field, shagging flies during batting practice or serving as batboys...but that's a huge stretch to claim the Ripken boys as part of the Asheville Tourist heritage.

And here's a banner with an interesting juxtaposition; a young Eddie Murray and a very young Willie Stargell who faced off against each other during the 1979 World Series.

By the way, when in Asheville, visit Bruisin' Ales for all your beery needs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Base Hits: 3/25/2009

Shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of John Brattain whose work I enjoyed often over at The Hardball Times. Brattain was a diehard Blue Jays fan and I had the pleasure of e-mailing back and forth with him on occasion about AL East baseball. He was always funny, pleasant and opinionated.

My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. He will be missed.


According to Roch Kubatko, David Pauley is out of the running for a spot in the rotation and Dave Trembley also seems pretty sure that Chris Waters will not make the rotation either. By my estimation, that leaves Brian Bass, Adam Eaton, Hayden Penn, Danys Baez, Alfredo Simon and Mark Hendrickson in competition for the last three rotation spots with Rich Hill waiting on the DL.

If I made a guess, I'd figure Hendrickson, Baez and Eaton make up the rotation on Opening Day.

(edit: Dave Trembley has eliminated Baez from the competition since I wrote this. Nice guess!)


Hall of Famer George Kell has passed away at the age of 86. Kell finished up his career in Baltimore and played on the first modern Oriole team to finish at .500 or better in 1957.

Kell manned third base but slowly gave way as the season wore on to a 20-year old defensive wizard named Brooks Robinson...


Maryland native Harold Baines has been elected to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.

It seemed like Baines always came through with the big hit when nobody else on the team was hitting. One of my favorites and clearly the best DH in Oriole history.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Excercise in Optimizing Lineups...

I'm stealing this idea from Beyond the Boxscore but I don' think they are in any hurry to do this exercise with the Orioles so I'll do it here.

It's all about optimizing lineups, getting the most bang for your buck out of the players that you have. I think batting order is very overrated when it comes to run production (I think Sky at BtB has said the same thing) but it is interesting to see how unorthodox a lineup can look and, theoretically, score more runs per game.

Like BtB, I'll be using the standards found in The Book: Playing The Percentages in Baseball as well as David Pinto's lineup tool found at Baseball Musings.

Here are the main players for the Oriole lineup and their CHONE projections for OBA and SLG for 2009:

B. Roberts .359 .423
M. Mora .328 .414
N. Markakis .376 .474
A. Huff .354 .466
L. Scott .352 .462
A. Jones .337 .444
G. Zaun .313 .355
F. Pie .320 .407
C. Izturis .287 .326

Using the rules, the first step is to identify the top three hitters on the team. For the Orioles, that projects to be Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff. These guys will take up the top three spots in the lineup.

For leadoff, OBP is king. You also want the batter with the least power among those three elite hitters on the team. Speed is icing on the cake. Hello, Brian Roberts.

In the two hole, it's the best hitter between Huff and Markakis. This hitter comes to bat in more big situations than any other hitter in the lineup. #2 belongs to Nick.

Cleanup should be one of the best hitters on the team and the guy with power. This would be Huff. You could quibble that Markakis may have more raw power next season and you could swap the two without much argument from me. But Huff is #4 for now.

The next two best hitters on the team are Adam Jones and Luke Scott. More value is gained in the 5 slot with a batter who hits singles, doubles and triples rather than living and dying with the home run. Scott doesn't live and die with the homer but Jones is probably a more well-rounded hitter is this regard. Scott goes to #3 and Jones is #5.

Melvin Mora, Gregg Zaun, Felix Pie and Cesar Izturis are left. From here, the order goes from best hitter to worst with a caveat that if you have someone who can steal bases, they add some value in the 6 hole. Only Izturis is a fair stolen base threat at this point in his career but the bat is so bad that I don't think he will leverage that skill too often. Mora is the best of what's left, followed by Pie, Zaun and Izturis.

Your "optimized" 2009 Orioles lineup:

1 Roberts
2 Markakis
3 Scott
4 Huff
5 Jones
6 Mora
7 Pie
8 Zaun
9 Izturis

Plugging this information into the Lineup Optimization Tool, this lineup is estimated to score 4.885 runs per game. If you swap Huff and Markakis, the total is 4.879 so I was barely correct with Markakis in the 2 hole.

Pinto's best lineup? It scores 4.898 runs per game.

1 Roberts
2 Markakis
3 Jones
4 Huff
5 Scott
6 Pie
7 Zaun
8 Mora
9 Izturis

Mora and Pie, as well as Scott and Huff are interchangeable with the same production.

One wrinkle: what if we add Matt Wieters? Wieters' CHONE: .349 OBA and .439 SLG.

Wieters would fit in at the 5 slot and bump everybody down:

1. Roberts
2. Markakis
3. Scott
4. Huff
5. Wieters
6. Jones
7. Mora
8. Pie
9. Izturis

Just the addition of Wieters...brings the runs per game up to 5.031

Pinto adds this lineup for a runs per game of 5.041 moves Wieters to number three.

How about the run production for a "traditional" lineup?

1. Roberts
2. Mora
3. Markakis
4. Huff
5. Scott
6. Zaun
7. Jones
8. Pie
9. Izturis

This configuration gives you a runs per game of 4.857.

Swap Wieters in for Zaun in the 6 spot? That gets you 4.999 rns per game.

Difference in runs per game using The Book rules vs. the traditional approach: .028

The Book vs Pinto? Pinto wins by .013

The Book vs The Book with Wieters? Wieters improves the rate by .146 runs per game.

Traditional vs. Traditional with Wieters? Wieters adds .142 runs per game.

Conclusion? I would love to see a team try one of these non-traditional lineups sometime but as you can see, it matters little. I suppose it might let you win a game or two over the course of a season which could be a

But adding a better catcher? It improves jumps by at least a factor of 5.

So improving the actual members of the lineup means far more than the shuffling of said lineup. Go figure...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Five Things to Watch: Spring Training Update

Before Spring Training, I listed five things to watch while the O's were in Fort Lauderdale. Let's see what's happening...

1. Koji Uehara...What's Up With That?

Before he pulled a hammy, Uehara didn't look half bad. However, we haven't seen him in two weeks so the jury is out. He's supposed to pitch Tuesday...it'll be interesting to see how he fares against lineups with more major league regulars in them.

2. The Rotation...who will emerge?

We know much more now than we did in February but there is so much more unanswered. Radhames Liz, John Parrish, Brad Hennesey, Troy Patton and Brad Bergensen are all out of the running, either injured, sent to the pen or the minors. Rich Hill will start the season on the DL. That leaves Mark Hendrickson, Hayden Penn, Danys Baez, David Pauley, Alfredo Simon, Adam Eaton and Chris Waters to duke it out for the final three spots in the Opening Day rotation.

Unfortunately, nobody has stepped up yet to grab a spot. Dave Trembley keeps putting off the decision but he really has no choice at this point.

3. Luke Scott...Where's He Playing?

This has been a non-story. For all the talk of Scott being willing to try his hand at first base and Trembley wanting him to try out first, Scott has played mostly in left field and not manned first base once. He'll DH and play some left evidently.

4. The Catcher Situation

Andy MacPhail has stated that Matt Wieters would have to hit .800 to make the club out of Spring Training. Wieters is still in big league camp but I don't believe The Warehouse will let him come north to Baltimore. Look for Wieters in Norfolk until at least May.

Gregg Zaun has looked good in camp. Trembley likes how he blocks the plate as opposed to Ramon Hernadez and he seems to be handling the pitching staff well. As far as backups, it's between Chad Moeller and Robby Hammock. Hammock has hit well and shown the versatility to play the outfield but the smart money has to be on Moeller, the better glove, at this point.

5. Who's The Closer?

George Sherrill has been named the closer by Trembley but Chris Ray has looked spectacular. Look for Ray to get some chances this season too.

In other bullpen news, Jamie Walker looks healthy and, when healthy, Jim Johnson looks pretty good too. The pen could once again be a strength but it's hard to tell until we see who makes the rotation.

Montanez vs. Pie: Not The First Meeting, Nor the Last

Roch Kubatko posted about Luis Montanez today and it included a telling quote from Montanez about his chances of making the team:

"I hope it's still a competition and not a hand-over," Montanez said without mentioning Pie or any other players. "I hope they're not just rewarding people. I hope it's based more on merit than just names."

Montanez could not have been thrilled when Pie was added to the club. It's not the first time that Pie may have cost him a job.

Montanez was drafted in the first round (third overall) by the Cubs in 2000. He struggled early, not having even modest success until 2004 at Low A Boise. Montanez has moved from shortstop to second. It was also this year that Montanez first crossed paths with Felix Pie at High A Dayton.

Here was a player, three years his junior, who was doing all the things with a bat that Montanez has been projected to do. Pie was just one of several talented youngsters who were passing Montanez on the depth chart.

At age 19, Pie was OPSing .799, stealing 32 bases and playing a stellar centerfield as one of the youngest players in the league. Pie would start 2005 in AA West Tennessee while Montanez would not be called up until 2/3 of the season was up.

In 2006, Montanez was crushing AA pitching...but Pie was up in AAA at age 21 posting a .792 OPS. Montanez played 82 games at AAA that year but only managed to hit .224. At the end of the season, the Cubs gave up on him and he signed with Baltimore and was assigned to Bowie.

Fast-forward two years: Montanez has played well in a 38 game stint with Baltimore and is the odds on favorite to make the team as the 4th outfielder. And who comes along? Lou must be wondering what he has to do to get rid of this guy.

Montanez is almost certainly destined for Norfolk but for the first time in his career, he has a small window where he actually looks better than Pie. It's understandable why he would twist the knife at this point.

Some of the commentary supporting Montanez below Roch's post is insane. A sample:

Also, with Pie being late to camp and not "wow-ing" anyone yet, shouldn't he be sent to the minors for Opening Day? Let him "work on some things" that, apparently, Montanez has already worked out.

Pie is out of options. That's why the Orioles were able to get him in the first place. He can't be sent down without being claimed by another team. Next:

They had to get Reimold out of there, he was really coming on. Its embarassing now, think what it would be like at the end of spring training with Reimold at .350 and 7 or 8 home runs vs the Chosen One (Pie) at less than .200 and 1 home run.

If Montanez continues to do well they'll have to move him too.

So they sent Reimold away to save face for Pie? Reimold spent his first fully healthy season at AA Bowie last year and had a nice year. He needs more seasoning in Norfolk before he's ready. It's obvious why he was sent to minor league camp. He's not ready. Pie has a good AAA resume at least.

What a complete sham. Just because Pie has played at AAA he deserves to play in the majors more than Lou? Pie is clearly Andrew's golden boy and he will have to do something illegal not to make this team.

Once again quality minor leaguers who have done their time and learned the Oriole way will not be rewarded because retreads and alleged "prospects" get first crack at the 25 man roster.

Again, yes the AAA experience means a lot. Pie has OPS'ed well over .800 in more than 280 AAA games. He has only had 260 ABs to prove himself in the majors. He deserves a real shot.

Yes, Montanez has done his time and learned the "Oriole Way"...for two seasons. He is not, explicitly, homegrown talent.

I'll say it again...I like Lou Montanez, I don't love him. I certainly don't like him enough to give him a job over a promising, more proven commodity who is three years his junior.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Base Hits: 3/20/2009

The Matt Wieters hype has gotten so out of hand, it is now being parodied Chuck Norris-style over on this thread at Baseball Think Factory. A few of my favorites:

"When a pitcher plunks Matt Wieters, the ball is awarded first base for enduring the pain."

"Matt Wieters took batting practice this morning. There were no survivors."

"Matt Wieters is so great that Curt Schilling was rendered speechless."

"Matt Wieters swings both ways? No. Both ways swing Matt Wieters. Matt Wieters swings a redwood tree trunk with three different endangered species of owl living on what would be the barrel of a normal bat."


Wayward O is laying out his Divsional Previews including the AL East. Suprise pick? Royals win the Central!


Another great entry of The Eutaw Street Chronicles by Matt at Roar from 34.


Sixteen Gold Gloves goes all Paul Harvey on us. First, she meets Cal Ripken, Jr. and now...the rest of the story.


Jay Trucker is no fan of Orioles in the WBC. Also, the Orioles want Guthrie to come back to Ft. Lauderdale.


I participated in an AL East chat at Beyond the Box Score yesterday and tried to represent the Orioles well. Some Rays fans seemed to think that I should fear B.J. Upton more. Upton: good hitter, not a feared hitter. End of story.


Ben from Oriole central just can't throw away his Daniel "Dirty Bird" Cabrera poster...


FanGraphs has been doing organizational rankings and the Orioles are ranked #16 in baseball. Usually the O's end up somewhere in the high 20's. Wasn't it last season that the Orioles were assumed to be one of the worst frachises in the world of sport?


Happy Birthday Chris Hoiles! Hoiles could've been a contender...for the 1993 AL MVP.


Song of the Week: Marah with "The Dishwasher's Dream" Have a good weekend! Let's go Mountaineers!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Baltimore Can Win The East '09: The Case Against the Rays

I don't have 5 points in my case against Tampa Bay because the pitfalls for the Rays lie in three broad areas.

1. A Defensive Regression?

The Rays had the AL's worst Defensive Efficiency Ratio in 2007 and the best in 2008. I am doubtful that they can continue to be that good in 2008. Jason Bartlett's UZR has declined every season and he was only average last year. Ditto for Iwamura at second. Longoria is a plus defender. The outfield is a good defensive unit assuming Carl Crawford stays healthy this year.

But it doesn't look like a team that can lead the league in DER again. They may be fine but I'm looking for a regression. Which dovetails into...

2. A Mediocre Offense

Pitching and defense masked this problem in '08 but when the Baltimore Orioles outscore you, you can't really call your offense championship caliber.

The only significant addition was Pat Burrell who represents a modest upgrade from Cliff Floyd at DH (when you adjust for Burrell's switch from the NL to the AL). It may be better but outside of Longoria there is nobody on that team that will strike fear into opposing pitchers. Without some improvement, the Rays will have a hard time repeating.

3. Kazmir/Garza/Shields

More than any other factor, as these guys go, so go the Rays. David Price will start the season in the bullpen. Hammel and Sonnanstine will be average at best. The hopes of the 2009 Rays season rest on the health (no guarantee of that for Kazmir) and effectiveness of those arms.


The Rays will be formidable in 2009. They have many young arms, should have a nice bullpen and won't embarass themselves at the plate. But they had a ton of things go just their way last year and the best they can hope for is an 86 win season. Formidable, but not overwhelming.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How Baltimore Can Win the East '09: The Case Against the Red Sox

1. J.D. Drew is Old

OK, he's only 33 but he's an old 33. He played well when he was actually on the field in '08 but he only played in 109 games. Inury-prone throughout his career, back problems during Spring Training are not a good sign. It's being downplayed but getting nerve blocking drugs shot in to your back is hardly normal treatment for a sore back. But don't worry, Rocco Baldelli is the picture of health, right?

2. Jason Varitek is Even Older

I'm not even going into this one. It's just so obvious. Varitek is a useless player with the bat and the glove at this point. His signing was a charity case and he will have to be carried by the rest of the team all season.

3. No Manny

Despite all the headlines reporting otherwise, Manny actually was a really good hitter for the Sox last year (yes, even when he was supposedly slacking off). The acquisition of Jason Bay was a good move fiscally but Bay will not be the player Manny was and is in 2009. Manny is a virtual lock to OPS north of .900 while Bay would be quite fortunate to do so. Furthermore, Bay is a butcher in leftfield. He is not as bad as Manny but he is Adam Dunn bad.

The bottom line is that the value contributed by the Sox leftfield will be greatly diminished.

4. The Rotation

Jon Lester is a legitimate ace and should be able to duplicate last season's success. But the others...

Dice-K was extraordinarily lucky last season. His FIP was 4.11 last season, a difference of 1.21 from his actual ERA.

Josh Beckett gave up line drives at a 25% rate last season. Tim Wakefield is 42 years old. Who's the fifth starter? Clay Bucholz whose career highlight is no-hitting the Orioles? Brad Penny, an oft-injured, lazy National League reject?

Thin...the rotation is thin.

5. The Recovery of Lowell and Ortiz

David Ortiz is 33 and has a body type that does not age well. Can he really be counted on to return to 35 HR power again?

Ditto for Mike Lowell except that he will be 35. Can he still play third base? Will he ever hit better than league average again?

Wrist injuries and hip injuries, respectively, are hardly small matters for aging players.


Honestly, the Red Sox are probably the best equipped team to win the AL East in 2009. Their infield defense should be stellar, the bullpen should be top-notch and the offense should be above average barring injury. But they are hardly a juggernaut.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

King Eugene

Way to go Eugene...

Former Oriole top prospect Eugene Kingsdale drove in the tying run off of Carlos Marmol in the bottom of the 11th. He then danced off of first, Marmol threw the ball away on the pickoff move and he went from first to third on that error. He later came home to score to the winning run as The Netherlands upset the loaded Dominican Republic again to advance in the WBC. It was a lot of fun to see Kingsdale in the middle of both these gigantic wins.

I have not been a bit fan of the WBC before this year but I'm kind of hooked now...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Round Table is Born...

Yesterday morning, the Baltimore Orioles Round Table was launched:

"Welcome to the Baltimore Orioles Round Table.

This is a forum consisting of several individuals who follow the Orioles. The present incarnation of the forum includes individuals from a wide-ranging spectrum in order to provide differing perspectives and seed potentially interesting conversation and analysis. Our goals are to challenge each other with aspects of transient issues pertaining to the club as well as providing a venue to share our own work with each other. With this forum, we hope to become better at doing what we do, which is to provide local and, sometimes, unique assessment.

The rules here are rather basic. This is a closed forum. The members of this forum are the only ones able to post and comment. Feel free to email any of us with comments if you so choose. If we find them applicable and interesting . . . we'll post them for you with proper attribution. If you have a topic or a link you would like us to discuss, we encourage you to contact us. We will also be steering the rudder in our own way. Each week, one of us will take a turn at moderating the conversation. A topic is chosen and we will sometimes keep to it. Expect a few posts each day and maybe some lively interaction.

Without further delay, here are the founding members of BORT:
Heath Bintliff - Brew Afficionado and Southern Fried Oriole Fan who operates Dempsey's Army;
Paul Bugala - Founder of the Bowie Baysox Blog;
Phil Finch, Novelist, Journalist, former BBWA member, and an intense Orioles fan since 1981;
Nick James - Raw, but toolsy, scouting at Camden Depot and daylights in law;
Lucky Jim - BORT's Poet Laureate and our second lawyer;
Daniel Moroz - Provides Frost King Baseball with statistical assessment and projection;
Jon Shepherd - Environmental Toxicologist and Jack-if-All-Trades over at Camden Depot; and
Jay Trucker - BORT's self-proclaimed witticist and a columnist for the Baltimore Examiner.

Thanks again to all the contributors and lets make this a fun year."

I am very happy to be working with this group of Oriole bloggers and hope we can do some fun things over there. Add it to your bookmarks...

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Rotation, the WBC and a Man Named Eugene

A few thoughts from a weekend spent trapped indoors...

- The Netherlands pulled off a 3-2 upset win over the loaded Dominican Republic Team on Saturday and a couple former Orioles played a hand in the win. Sidney Ponson did not pitch that impressively but threw well enough to hold the D.R. hitters to 2 runs over 4 innings.

Former Oriole prospect Eugene Kingsdale went 2-4, scoring a run and playing a good rightfield. Kingsdale, now 32, still has very impressive speed.

- Miguel Tejada may no longer be an offensive force but he is still an underrated fielder. He looked particularly good at third for the D.R. on Saturday. (Tejada also hit a solo shot in the game...)

- I saw Mike Costanzo playing third for Team Italy on Saturday as well. Most scouts think he'll have to move off of third to play in the majors but he looked great to me. He was rangy and smooth out there. Admittedly, this is the first time I've ever seen him play. Maybe the throws to first are wild? Costanzo also went 1-4 with a double.

- Venezeula was starting the left side of the Oriole infield with Melvin Mora and Cesar Izturis. You got the feeling that this is not the first time they have played together. I suppose good chemistry is better than bad for the 3B-SS relationship. I wonder if Mora will play close to the line this year knowing that Izturis has better range than, say, Luis Hernandez?

- I'm a big fan of Scott Moore and he's tearing the cover off the ball in Spring Training for the second straight year. Can we find this guy a spot on the bench? Chris Gomez is hardly tearing it up. If a four man bench comes to fruition, I like Moore. We can always call up Gomez from Norfolk in case of injury...

- Andy MacPhail said that Wieters would have to hit .800 in Spring Training to head north with the team. He's currently hitting .471. I don't think he's going to make it.

- The rotation is beginning to take shape, if not by way in inclusion then by exclusion. Dave Trembley has said that Brad Hennesey and John Parrish have missed too much time to compete for a spot in the rotation. It's not as if these two had good shots to begin with but now we can move on to other candidates.

- Speaking of candidates, Mr. Reluctant went 3 2/3 scoreless against the Twins on Sunday. Many seem starkly opposed to Baez making the rotation but I have no problem whatsoever with him serving as cannon fodder during the first couple months of the season. Better that his psyche is damaged as opposed to David Hernandez and Brad Bergesen.

How Baltimore Can Win The East '09: The Case Against The Yankees

Oh, this will be fun...

1. A-Rod!

A-Rod's hip surgery made this post so much easier to write...

Alex Rodriguez is out until at least the end of May (edit: maybe not) and is the best bat offensive player on the team. Even if A-Rod guts it out, you can't mask a hip injury. He will probably be a diminished player when he returns. This hurts the Yanks more than they would want to admit; only Mark Teixeira could reasonable hit at A-Rod levels during any given season. And as I've said before (and I saw him up close here in Atlanta for a season), Teixeira is not the kind of player who can carry a team alone.

Right now, the Yankees third baseman would be Cody Ransom, a 33 year old journeyman with 183 career major league at bats and a .242 career minor league batting average. Just a bit of a dropoff there.

2. Posada!

Jorge Posada can't catch anymore. Who are they kidding? He's 37 with a bum elbow. He can't throw runners out anymore. If I were Dave Trembley, I'd be stealing second with every player faster than Gregg Zaun during that opening series.

He's a hitter is steep decline. He'll be lucky to hit at league average. And behind him is Jose Molina. Molina has a decent glove but not a great arm and no bat at all.

Posada will will contribute to...

3. The Bad Defense Up The Middle

Posada has been covered. Robinson Cano is a butcher at second. Derek Jeter lives off a reputation but hasn't been a great defensive shortstop in over 10 years. I don't care if you dive for the ball or not Derek; the net result is usually a single to left anyway. Melky Cabrera's defensive prowess is grossly overstated; he is a below-average centerfielder by any reputable defensive metric. Brett Gardner is a great fielder but the fans will never allow his bat (a .250-ish batting average by CHONE and MARCEL projections) is the lineup. These are not patient people. They'll boo him off the field.

In addition, Xavier Nady is just average in right and A-Rod is just average at third. Only Johnny Damon in left and Teixeira at first will be plus defenders.

4. The Elderly...

...swinging the bats. Robinson Cano will be 26 (we think), Melky Cabrera will be 24 (Brett Gardner is 25) and Mark Teixeira will be 29 in 2009. Those are the only position players who will be under 30.

Xavier Nady is 30, A-Rod is 33 (when he actually plays), Jose Molina is 34, Jeter, Damon and Matsui will be 35 and Jorge Posada will be 37.

Excessive age is not good for a club. Player's begin to decline or physically breakdown (see A-Rod now or Posada last season). Don't expect this offense to be some juggernaut. It'll be good but probably not great.

5. Robinson Cano...Hurt or Declining?

Cano's production has always been closely tied to his average (he has never walked more than 39 times in a season) and last year that production fell off a cliff.

What is interesting about this is what pitchers were doing to him in 2009. Were they throwing him a bunch of breaking stuff, getting him to chase outside of the zone? No, they were throwing him more fastballs and cutters than ever before.

The percentage of fastballs thrown to Cano went up from 55.9% to 63.2%. Cutters increased from 2.8% to 3.7% (and the amount of cutters thrown to Cano has increased every season...). They treated him like a rookie. He seems unable to catch up to any pitch approaching 90 mph.

Something's wrong there and and it can't be good...


The Yankees have some glaring problems (I didn't even get into the rotation that, despite all the money spent, could be very average after C.C. Sabathia) , mostly revolving around age and injury of their position players. But the Yankee's deep pockets and willingness to trade their prospects at the drop of a hat allow them to address these issues mid-season. Still, if a few bad breaks happen during the same season, the Yanks may have to blow up the team, save for the recently signed core, and start reloading for 2010 instead.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cal Ripken on MLB.com

In minutes, MLB Network will be airing an interview with Cal Ripken, Jr. on MLB Tonight.

They usually replay the show later in the evening and many times the following morning in case you miss it...more on this later.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How Baltimore Can Win The East '09: The Case Against The Blue Jays

Hope springs eternal during this part of the season. To combat some of the terminal moping in Baltimore after 11 straight losing seasons, I have endeavored to inject a little bravado, a little hope for Oriole fans the past two seasons and I see no reason to stop now. Yes, the Baltimore Orioles can win the AL East...put much would have to go right for Baltimore and much would have to go wrong with the other clubs. If you put any of these clubs in the NL West (even the Orioles) and they would have a very good chance to compete, so I'm not running any of them down. But the Orioles are a bit better than people give them credit for. Especially when compared to the Toronto Blue Jays.

1. A Rotation in Shambles

Perhaps an overstatement but perhaps not. There's Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch but none of the other projected starters has a career ERA under 4.50. One of the best rotations in baseball will teeter on the verge of being mediocre. The health of Halladay and Litsch is essential for the pitching staff to be at least average.

2. Where are the Sluggers?

The Jays only had two players(Alex Rios and Vernon Wells) slug over .450 last season (the Orioles had 5 by comparison) and don't look like they will have any more than two players do it this season. Sure, Travis Snider might do it in a full-time role this year but Rios' slugging has declined for three straight years and Wells has already injured his hamstring...again. No one else is likely to provide consistent power to drive in runs for the Jays this season.

3. Scott Rolen

Before the 2008 season, the Jays traded Troy Glaus to the Cardinals for Scott Rolen. Not only was Rolen two years older than Glaus, he was more expensive and under contract for a year longer than Glaus.

The Jays owe him $11 million per for the next two seasons. He has only played in more than 115 games and only posted an OPS+ greater than 120 once in the last four seasons. He is still a good fielder but no longer among the elite.

So why am I focusing so much on Scott Rolen? Because he is the highest paid Blue Jay, takes up more than 10% of the total payroll and he is a mediocrity at this point in his career.

For a team with a tight budget, the Rolen contract is an albatross.

4. The Infield Offense

It's kind of sad that Kevin Millar has a legitimate shot at leading all Blue Jay infielders in OPS in 2009.

Look at the names...Scott Rolen, Lyle Overbay, Marco Scuturo, Aaron Hill, Rod Barajas, John McDonald, Michael Barrett...ancient Kevin Millar's bat doesn't look so bad when looking at the rest of the motley crew.

5. A Talented but Mecurial Outfield

Lots of talent in the outfield (and DH for whoever's not playing the field) but it's the production that's suspect.

We've already covered Alex Rios' declining power and Vernon Wells' injury issues (which won't get any better as he passes 30 this season). Adam Lind is talented but has yet to provide even a glimpse of the promise he did in the minors. Todd Snider looks like the real deal but is only 21 this year; it would be foolish to expect him to carry Toronto in his rookie season.


The bullpen has been consistently good for years and they have a couple good arms at the top of the rotation. IF every one stays healthy, the Blue Jays will flirt with .500 all season. But they will be thin and unable to absorb a critical injury or setback to one of their starters. There is a fair chance that Baltimore finishes above them in the standings even if things go fairly well...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Base Hits: 3/2/2009

Jury duty has slowed down my blogging but while waiting for my panel to be called, I’ve had plenty of time to read everyone else’s….


Steve DeClue believes the Orioles should trade Luke Scott.

I disagree. Who’s going to DH? Ty Wigginton? Scott is a legitimate offensive threat, even if he should be platooned from time to time. And I’d like to have a deep bench going into the season for a change. Having Scott on the team gives Dave Trembley a lot of options. On off days, Scott makes an imposing pinch hitter.

DeClue also mentions Lou Montanez and Nolan Reimold….let’s just set all this straight right now.

I like Montanez. Like him. I don’t love him. I would have been fine with him starting the season as the fourth outfielder. But the fact that he probably won’t be makes this team better. He was an average hitter at best and was a poor fielder by almost any measure you want to use. He’s 27 this season. He may get better but not that much better. Like him. Don’t get the fascination some fans have with the guy.

I like Reimold a lot but last season was the first year that he’s been healthy and produced. And it was at AA. I’d like to see him have some success in Norfolk before promoting him to the big club. Hardly a reason to trade Scott right now.

If the O’s decide to move Scott at the trading deadline this season, I’m all for it. But let’s take a look at this lineup as currently constructed before trading every veteran who’s not nailed down.

More Japanese baseball…

Ben Frazier at Oriole Central has more on Koji Uehara and tapped the expertise of the Michael Westbay, a writer for JapaneseBaseball.com. Good stuff.

Melvin Mora is not concerned about his contract status.

General rule: If you see a headline claiming that Mora is not concerned about his contract status, that means he’s very, very concerned about his contract status.

Steroids are wrong but overrated in their impact.

Head over to the Camden Depot blog and scroll down to the Feb. 22nd entry. He makes a very good case that a change in the ball before the 1993 season has far more to do with the power explosion of the mid to late 1990’s.

SI’s Jon Heyman ranks the teams in terms of their offseason and ranks the Orioles 25 out of the 28 ranked teams.(He counted the Twins and Dodgers as incomplete…) Here’s what he has to say…

25. Orioles: They got Nick Markakis on a long-term deal, but didn't get any new players to make anyone think there's light at the end of the Fort McHenry Tunnel.

That’s it? Really, one of the laziest articles I’ve ever read. At least, throw in that our pitching sucks…give a little insight man!

I would take this opinion with a grain of salt though..he ranked the Phillies first for basically letting Pat Burrell go and replacing him with Raul Ibanez.


Matthew of Roar from 34 looks back at Spring Training 1989...the dawn of the "Why Not?" Orioles on the 20th anniversary of that season.


Can you guess which former Oriole Enchanting Sunshine met? I'll give you a hint: It's not Al Bumbry.


Kevin at Oriole Card "O" the Day highlights a 2009 Topps Brian Roberts card and recounts his frustration with waiting for the new season of baseball cards to arrive at his local store. I can relate as I was quite an avid collector of baseball cards into my early 20's. Sometimes I miss those simple pursuits and sometimes I think I have just regained my sanity! (No offense Kevin!) But on this rare snowy Sunday in Atlanta, It make me want to open my old card binder and see if I can find an old Tim Hulett card.


I was listening to the Orioles take on the Marlins on Saturday and Joe Angel was interviewing Andy MacPhail. Andy said that Matt Wieters would "have to hit .800 this spring" to break camp with the big club. I think we'll see him in June...


Wayward O prepares for the "endless mOnth of March"...


Weaver's Tantrum opines that Matt Albers is probably better suited to relief work based on the fact that he has only two pitches.

I disagree and, oddly for me, I have no empirical data to back up my opinion. Before he got hurt last season, Albers just looked like a starter to me. I thought he was the best candidate to make a Guthrie-like move from the 'pen to starter in '08 and, if healthy, I still think he has the stuff to do it in '09. Somebody's got to, right?


Anthony reviews MLB Network's "30 Camps in 30 Days" feature on the Baltimore Orioles at the Oriole Post. Good show, catch it if you can in rerun form. It's rare to see the Orioles dealt with in any depth from the national media.