Friday, February 25, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Brian Matusz

Young Brian Matusz is the Orioles' best shot at having a true ace this season.

After a rough learning curve (he was, even by Andy MacPhail's admission, rushed to the majors in 2009), Matusz turned a corner in the second half. Second half numbers for the rotation:

            G HR BB SO SO/BB   ERA    WHIP
Guthrie    14 10 16 62  3.88  2.76   0.990
Matusz     14  7 25 63  2.52  3.63   1.194
Bergesen   15 15 28 57  2.04  3.94   1.261
Tillman     6  6 22 21  0.95  6.03   1.468
Arrieta    11  6 28 32  1.14  4.85   1.533

Guthrie had a great second half too but Matusz did it at age 23 which, of course, makes him more projectable going forward. He showed the talent and the toughness to be a top of the rotation starter.

In addition, he has been a little unlucky in his brief career in terms of the quality of his opponents. From Bill James Online:

More than 80% of Matusz starts in his career have come against winning clubs. That's a high number even taking into account that he pitches in the AL East. Oddly, he seems to do better as the competition gets tougher but that's probably due to small sample size and that's not really the point I'm getting at. The point is that Matusz has been given a very tough assignment in terms of quality of competition and having to learn on the job. It was a trial by fire and he seems to have come through it OK. This crucible will make him better going forward and his numbers will look better as he sees a more normal distribution of competition.

Oddly enough, his great changeup (hailed by most as his best pitch) doesn't seem to be getting guys out like you would expect. According to, his changeup actually has a negative value. His best pitches are his fastball and slider. Maybe he's pitching backwards? Using his changeup to set up the fastball and his breaking stuff? 

Regardless, after Adam Jones, Matusz is my pick to breakout in 2011. He's using every weapon in arsenal, he's made it past the early bumps in the road while facing the toughest possible competition and he will be just 24. 

I don't want to say it (although when you look at the competition, maybe this isn't such fantastic praise) but Matusz looks poised to be the best pitcher to come through the Oriole system since Mike Mussina. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spring Training Moods

Hats off to Karl Menton Ferron and the video team at The Baltimore Sun for the excellent video they are putting up at as they cover Spring Training for the Orioles. What makes it excellent? First, it looks great. It's video for sure but looks like it's shot on film and the colors are warm and lush...just beautifully shot and edited. Second, they are doing, for lack of a better term, "mood pieces" for Spring Trianing in addition to interviews and more informational video posts. They capture the sounds and feel of Spring Training so well as to make you forget the winter that still lurks outside your window. This is sports photojournalism (vid-journalism?) done right. Bravo.

Check them out here. I've embedded three here to give you a feel.

The Crystal Ball 2011: Brian Roberts

Don't you know that he is a shooting star?
We should enjoy Brian Roberts while we have him.

He is the greatest Oriole second baseman ever. He leads all Baltimore second basemen in games played, homers, triples, doubles, hits, stolen bases, runs scored, RBI, batting average and slugging. Sure, you could make the argument for Davey Johnson or Bobby Grich but those guys got traded. Roberts is the best second sacker to wear the orange and black.

That's the good news.

The bad news is he is coming off an inury filled season where he only played 59 games and posted a .745 OPS, his lowest output since 2004. (Remember how much you missed seeing him leadoff games last season? We take him for granted, don't we?)  Is he healthy? From all accounts, he is fully recovered from his injuries he struggled with in 2010.

And if he is fully healthy, things could be looking up. Projections are kind to him (Marcel: .764 OPS, .341 wOBA; ZiPS: .767 OPS) and while middle infielders typically don't age well, Roberts will be 33 in 2011, not 34 or 35 when age tends to really take its toll.

Where he could be a liability is in the field. Although he seemed to have a rebound season with the glove in 2010, it is likely that his defensive skills will continue to erode. The best we can hope for is that Roberts is an average defender. His 2008-2009 UZR and Total Zone numbers were subpar.

I think Roberts understands the limitations of his body as he continues to age. He's not going to be stretching doubles into triples as often (I remember the "doggin' it" accusations from fans in 2009 as he rapped 56 doubles but just a lone triple. As if he was lazy...) and he's not going to run as much (although I would still expect him to steal close to 30 bases) as he tries to preserve himself and realizes his blazing speed is not quite as game changing as it once was.

But he still draws his walks and gets on base. His walk rate over the last two seasons in still over 10% and in this revamped lineup full of power bats, that will be his (and Nick Markakis') most improtant job. Just get on base, set the table and let Lee, Scott and Guerrero drive you in. And he's still effective enough to be really, really good at that.

So just continue to enjoy Brian Roberts. He's a living piece of Baltimore history, the best second baseman the team has ever seen.  And he'll be gone before you know it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters flashes his surprising glove.
What can be said about Matt Wieters at this point?

My predictions have been completely wrong. Before last season, I was fooled by a strong finish to the 2009 season. Before 2009, I was fooled by the expectations of every scout and projection on the planet. I have been wrong but I'm not alone.

The expectations for Wieters have been sky high since he was drafted. He hit at every level in the minors. He was described as a "mutant cross between Joe Mauer and Mike Piazza". He was considered the best prospect in baseball and it wasn't really up for debate.

His MLB career numbers:

Year         PA  R 2B 3B HR BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2 Seasons   887 72 37  2 20 75 180 .266 .328 .393 .721   92

That is not exactly what was expected of him.

To make matters worse, he took a bit of a step back at the plate in his sophomore season. His line drive rate was just 15.4% which supports his weak .287 BABIP. He's not driving the ball enough and his power hasn't developed yet.

Adam Jones kind of implied that Wieters just needed to put a little extra work in if he wants to get the most out of his talent. Is there a makeup issue to be concerned about? I would guess not. Unexpectedly, Matt Wieters has become one of the better defensive catchers in the game according to both The Bill James Handbook and the results of the BtB Catcher Defense Rankings. You probably don't get that good with your defense if you aren't willing to work. If there was one question about Wieters when he came to the majors, it was whether he could stick behind the plate. On that front, Wieters has exceeded expectations.

On the bright side, Wieters had incremental improvements in his walk rate, strikeout rate and his Isolated Power. And he's only going to play at 25 this season. Anecdotal evidence shows that young catchers sometimes take a little longer to develop at the plate. And that ball just jumps off his bat. His swing looks so effortless that you can't believe the ball is travelling that far.

And a bunch of people are jumping off the Wieters bandwagon. Which probably means he is about to start hitting. But my expectations are tempered. I'm not getting fooled again.

Friday, February 18, 2011

First Footage of David Riske as a Baltimore Oriole

Just released to the media by The Baltimore Sun, here is your first look at future MLB pensioner David Riske donning the orange and black. There is no footage really so just shake your laptop up and down and pretend.
For information on the press conference, check your imagination. 
Oh and I guess this guy put on his uniform too.

2011 Baltimore Oriole Projections - My Take (Kind Of)

Now that spring training has started and the roster is a bit more projectable, I figured it was time to formulate a win projection for the 2011 version of the team. Well, I kind of formulated it. I'm using the WAR spreadsheet from Beyond the Boxscore.

Here's the work but before you look, the ground rules and caveats:

* I used Marcel Projections and I grabbed those from FanGraphs. I stuck to those pretty tightly.

* Playing time was adjusted a bit from Marcel, usually granting a bit more than less to fill in the gaps.

* I gave Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters some above average defensive value scores and a slight bump to Derrek Lee. Jake Fox, Brian Roberts and Josh Bell got defensive demerits. All others were neutral.

* Only Roberts got an adjustment for baserunning.

* I assigned all batters their exact Marcel projections with three exceptions. I selected Adam Jones as my breakthrough player for 2011. I bumped him up from a .333 to a .345 wOBA (bascially a .762 OPS to a .803 OPS). It a nice jump but not a crazy one. I bumped Nick Markakis from a .353 to a .356 wOBA (an .807 OPS to roughly an .820 OPS) and I knocked Brandon Snyder's .330 wOBA down the .300.

* I used FIP for the ERA projections.

* Since I used FIP, I adjusted Jeremy Guthrie's ERA projection down by a quarter run. All other pitchers kept their Marcel projections. Except...

* I put Jake Arrieta's name on Chris Tillman's projection and vice versa. Arrieta's projection was better but I still think Tillman can miss more bats than he showed last season. So I gave Tillman the better stats even though the combined projection remains the same.

All that gives us a Win Talent of 79.8 wins which we can round up to 80.

I don't think any of these numbers I plugged in are either crazy or overly optimistic. One thing I will say is that this team is pretty thin. Any significant injury to, say, Guthrie or Matusz on the pitching side or Markakis or Scott on the hitting side throws all of this out of whack and spiraling out of control.

But with a little luck and a couple of young guys taking steps forward (even if Jones doesn't), this team could (can't believe I'm going to say it) actually win this year. I am not alone. PECOTA has the Orioles winning 82 games in 2011.

And if the young guys keep getting their starts and at bats in the process, all the better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Adam Jones Chat Recap

Adam Jones had an ESPN chat on Feb. 14th. Here's the highlights:

Lobes (Tucson, AZ)
Adam, what kind of work have you been doing this offseason that is different from your past offseasons? Have you focused on any particular area of your game?

Adam Jones
I did a lot more preventative stuff. I dedicated a lot more time to my lower half than my upper half. I'm trying to improve my strength through my legs. It's a long season.

That's good to hear. You'd think that given his game and the position he plays, strengthening his legs will go a long way to preventing injury.

Avon (West Side of Baltimore)
I've seen you at some Terps games and was wondering if you can show Bowie, Tucker, and Mosely how to shoot the 3's.

Adam Jones
They're doing a lot better job at that than me. I like going to those games. Those guys are D-1 athletes, who am I to tell them what to do? I've always liked going to the Terps games. Fun atmosphere.

Diplomacy. Good move.

Hook (Brandywine, Md)
What was it about Buck that got the team to play so well?

Adam Jones
Everybody held themselves accountable for how they played. We played as a team, finally.

Jones has been a bit reluctant to give Buck too much credit for the turnaround late last season. Maybe out of pride, he had said that the team just started putting it together but Buck was not the sole reason. He's softened that stance of late.

Jake (LA)
So everyone in baseball either lost 10-15 lbs or added 10-15 lbs in muscle heading into ST, which is it for you?

Adam Jones
None. Maintained. Stayed the same. How about you?


Paul (Farmville, Va)
Afternoon Adam, does it feel any different now in Baltimore with all that protection in the lineup?

Adam Jones
I wouldn't know. We haven't played any games yet. We're all going to learn each other and hopefully feed off of each other.

A sensible answer. Jones has yet to part of a lineup where he is not one of the three best hitters in the lineup.

Andrew (Baltimore)
As a Baltimorean, I'm always curious to know: Where's your favorite place to go out in Baltimore?

Adam Jones
My favorite spot there is Abbey Bistro. I usually hit up there a couple of times a week after games.

Chris (Baltimore)
Stop by Sabatino's in Little Italy if you want some good Italian food. I'll let my grandfather know you're coming in.

Adam Jones
Tell him I'm a regular at that place. I was there two weeks ago for Fan Fest.

There are your LaMarque approved eateries.

Justin (Baltimore)
Adam,This is the most excited Orioles fans have been for a season to start since 2004. We are hopeful of not just a winning record, but of competing for the playoffs. Has Buck hammered it home that making the playoffs is the goal, not just finishing above .500?

Adam Jones
I think the first goal is to climb out of the cellar and get through the season healthy. Go out and play the season and let everything else play out itself.

Another sensible answer. We must crawl before we can walk.

Garrett (Richmond, VA)
Just how good is Matt Wieters?

Adam Jones
Matt is as good as he wants to be. He's 6-5, 230. He has an unbelievable arm. It's not about talent at the major league level. It's about desire and want. Also, with that, this will be the first time in his and my careers that you've added winners around you, rather than just regular baseball players. There are proven winners around.

This is an interesting answer. If you read between the lines a bit, he seems to indicate that Wieters has all the talent in the world but hasn't displayed the hunger needed to succeed at the highest level. He tempers that a bit with the lineup comment but I think he believes doesn't work quite as hard as he should. Or at least, not as hard as Jones works.

Greg (2110 Eutaw Street)
Adam, what's with the twitter name change? And will you tweet from CF this year?

Adam Jones
Probably will tweet from CF...I just felt like changing my name. I just did it.

If Jones figures out a way to tweet from center during the game, I will be pretty impressed.

BJ (Bel Air, MD)
How excited is the team in regards to the new spring training location?

Adam Jones
The location is cool. I think people would like to stay in Ft. Lauderdale, but the chance to play in Sarasota against our rivals is a good chance.

Translation: We miss the Miami beaches and nightlife. Every woman I meet is three times my age.

Matt (Washington, DC)
On average, how many pieces of gum to you go through in one game? Love the highlights of a great play while you are blowing a bubble!

Adam Jones
4. No average.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Nick Markakis

In what has become tradition, the Nick Markakis' hit chart from the 2010 season. The light blue dots are singles, next shade darker are doubles, etc. (image courtesy of 

It's always a thing of beauty. He hits to all fields and still hits with a bit of power.

I have given up on waiting for Markakis to blossom into a star but he's still a very good hitter. And although he's never developed the power I had hoped, he still strokes a ton of doubles:

Rk           Player  2B   Age
1     Matt Holliday 217 26-30
2     Robinson Cano 206 23-27
3     Nick Markakis 206 22-26
4    Miguel Cabrera 203 23-27
5     Albert Pujols 199 26-30

And while I don't think the extra protection in the lineup will help him that much, there is one thing it is likely to do...keep him in the #2 spot in the order. For his career:

          Split   G  GS   PA  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
    Batting 2nd 186 184  846  94 122 .324 .400 .530 .930
    Batting 3rd 445 443 1966 199 289 .286 .360 .444 .804

It probably doesn't mean much. But I've watched Nick hit 2nd and also further down in the order. He seems more patient and willing to wait for his pitch or take the walk. When he bats lower, he seems to press a bit to try to drive in runs. Some guys alter their philosophy a bit based on where they hit in the order and I think Nick's one of those guys. If things turn out the way the should, Markakis may hit second for most of the season, a spot in the order that complements his strengths as a hitter. And maybe, just maybe, that's the thing that will help him take a step forward in his career.

Or this may all be wishful thinking.

I still can't believe that Markakis is an .800 OPS level hitter. I think (or hope) he will OPS closer to .850 than .800 this season.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Vlad Has Wrought, Part 2

This series was going to be a sprawling 3 or 4 part epic in which I tried to meticulously break down all the reactions to the Vladimir Guerrero deal but, quite frankly, I am sick of writing about Vlad, so this will be it.

In my first post, I looked at what Vlad Guerrero brings to the table for the 2011 Baltimore Orioles. In this post, we're going to look at what he does not bring.

A post over at opines that Vlad brings some things to the Oriole lineup that it was lacking. Here's something he doesn't bring: on base percentage.

The Orioles have been ranked in the lower half of the league in terms of OBP for the past 5 seasons and 2010 was especially bad in that respect. Guerrero, free swinger that he is, only got on base at a .345 clip in 2010 despite hitting .300. His walk rates for 2009 and 2010 were the worst of his career and that's saying something. I can't find a projection that puts his OBP for 2011 any higher than .335.

But that's not why the Orioles brought him to town.

This is true. Get people on base and Vlad can drive them in. The problem is, as I stated above, that the Orioles have trouble getting guys on base. The team had a .316 OBP in 2010. I don't think there are many hitters in baseball who can knock in 100 runs when his fellow hitters aren't getting on base.

"Oh, but Vlad had 115 RBI last season! Nobody on the Orioles had more than 76!" Allow me to respond to the RBI argument.

RBI, schmar-bee-aye.

You put Luke Scott in the Rangers last season and he gets 100 RBI too. Guaranteed.

Even among his supporters, I can't find anybody who will admit to thinking that Vlad will make a big impact in the win column:

Mark - 

Everyone talks about the process of becoming a winner. Well, it's gotta start at some point, even if it's a 6 or 8 game improvement. And Vlad can help with that.

Of course he won't put is in contention for anything. If you keep that mindset year in and year out you basically run in place. This organization used up it's goodwill with the fans years and years ago.

"One season doesn't mean anything" is the reason we are still fighting to get out of 5th place. Until a season DOES matter we will be where we've been for the last decade plus.

This is desperation talking. A fan who is happy to be thrown a bone. To be pandered to as the team makes a move that might be worth two or three wins if things break right. Sure, I would love for this team to win in 2011. I will be hoping for it. But this team ain't there yet. It's not. So you've relegated a viable lineup option in Nolan Reimold to Norfolk? I don't care what anybody says, I've made my case for him and I would rather watch a healthy Reimold crash and burn all season long than to watch Vlad take his hacks.

Ladies and gentlemen, the formula is clear. You have to get younger and you have to let those guys play if you ever hope to build a core of players to compete. The Yanks did it, the Red Sox did it, the Rays did it. The Orioles need to commit to it and just do it. I don't mind the Derrek Lee signing...there are no real options in AAA ready to play first base. I don't mind the Mark Reynolds trade...Josh Bell is clearly not ready and when he is, Reynolds can be moved across the diamond. But this signing blocks a couple younger guys and does nothing to advance the team beyond 2011. Given his recent stats, injury history and age, it is even questionable that he helps much this season either.

Wow, sounds like a great investment of your $8 million, huh?

And he is certainly not a bargain. The Orioles will pay him a total of $8 million which is way more than they needed to. I just don't get it. He seems to have been icing on the cake for this team, not a necessity but they moved off their initial $3-4 million offer even though there were few alternatives (if any) for Guerrero at that point. But ultimately, I can't get too upset over the money. It's an overpay, it's not good but as I always say, it's really hard for a one-year deal to be that bad for a team.

However, Daniel of Camden Crazies lays out a few reasons why we should care about the money and he might be changing my mind.

So, what we have is an aging DH, one that no longer resembles the perennial MVP candidate that he once was, who pushes a lesser defender out to left field, thus blocking the path of a guy who could put up numbers close to what Vlad will post anyway?

It not Vlad that bothers's the philosophy that got him here.

Jeremy Guthrie: All-Time Oriole Great?

Could Jeremy Guthrie soon be considered among the all-time great Oriole pitchers? Not yet, but perhaps soon.

Here are the top ten pitchers in Oriole history in terms of WAR (for these purposes, WAR as calculated by

There he is, #10 all-time.

If Guthrie posts his average season in 2011 (3.7 WAR), that will put him above Scott McGregor and Mike Cuellar and right behind Milt Pappas. Another decent season would put him in the neighborhood of Dave McNally.

Obviously, he won't reach the elite heights of Mike Mussina or Jim Palmer but I was quite surprised to see how well he measured up against the likes of Oriole legends Cuellar and Boddicker already.

Guthrie is under team control for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Did you ever think you would see Jeremy Guthrie in the Oriole Hall of Fame?

Steve Barber, Mike Boddicker, Scott McGregor, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally are all in there. Guthrie could be too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Luke Scott

It seems like anytime I sit down to write about Luke Scott, I feel compelled to defend him.

This is because the Oriole fan base still underestimates him and they fail to understand what a good hitter he is. The Vladimir Guerrero signing has highlighted this fact yet again. When debating the relative merits of the two players, I was told that I was "way overvaluing Luke Scott" (even though over the past 3 seasons, Scott and Guerrero have exactly the same .845 OPS and that Scott has a better park-adjusted OPS+, 122 vs 121, than Vlad) and that Luke did not "significantly outperform" Vlad in 2010 (even though Scott posted a .902 OPS while Guerrero put up an .841 OPS. I'd call that significant). Just when I thought it was impossible, Luke Scott is getting even less respect than he ever has, even after his best season to date. He's quickly becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball.

I won't even address the assertion that signing Vladimir Guerrero "gives the O's a legitimate clean up hitter which the Orioles have NOT had since Palmeiro" (yes, these are all actual quotes) since I already havea couple of times. Scott was one of the premier cleanup hitters in the American League last season. Period.

But since people are quick to dismiss 2010 as Scott's career year, a performance that he won't be able to repeat...fine. One year means nothing. Evidently, three years means little as well. So let's go back five seasons and see how Luke stacks up.

Looking at all qualified MLB batters over the past five seasons, Scott ranks 27th in slugging and 17th in Isolated Power. That puts him just on the cusp of all the elite power hitters in the game. And he has sustained it for five seasons.

I'm going to quote The Hardball Times' Steve Treder once again as he gives a wonderful definition of the cleanup hitter:

The role has been called "cleanup" since forever for a reason: See the runners soiling the pristine white bases out there? This guy's job is to clean them bases up, get them runners home.

Obviously it's great if a cleanup hitter hits for a high average and/or draws a lot of walks, but if he's doing either or both of those things without hitting for power, he isn't properly performing the cleanup function. Setting the table is a means to an end, not an end in itself; the purpose of getting on base is to come around and score. The cleanup hitter is there to convert baserunners into runs, to finish what the others have started. And that means hitting for power, and plenty of it.

Sounds like Luke Scott to me.

For the past 5 seasons:

                         AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   OPS+   ISO   2B   HR
Luke Scott 2006-2010    .272  .357  .512  .869   126   .241  131  103

Pretty nice numbers, huh?

I think it's safe to say that Scott is a good bet to at least slug .500 and get on base at a .350 clip. That's a nice floor for a player who continues to be better than anyone will give him credit for.

So if you want to give Mr. Guerrero the label of "legitimate cleanup hitter", that just fine. But just know that now the Orioles have two of them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5 Things To Watch - Spring Training 2011

For the first time in recent memory, all of the starting lineup, pretty much all of the bullpen and most of the starting rotation is set as the club heads to Sarasota. But there are still battles to watch (some between players, some between players and their own bodies) this spring and here are the five I'll be watching.

1. Felix Pie versus Nolan Reimold - With Vlad Guerrero in the fold, one of these guys is the odd man out. Pie has the inside track as he had a better season in 2010, is more versatile and has no options remaining. But Reimold has the talent to put together a big spring and could force Buck Showalter to make a tough decision. Buck has already said that Pie didn't guarantee himself a spot in this team with his play last season so both players could be under the gun.

2. Chris Tillman versus Jake Arrieta - With Justin Duchscherer in the fold, one of these guys is the odd man out. (Deja vu...) This one is more of a dead heat though. I like Tillman better to start the season but he managed to lose his spot to David Hernandez last spring and wound up back in Norfolk. Whoever has the strongest spring is likely to head to Baltimore when camp breaks. If Tillman trusts his stuff, he wins easily.

3. Brian Roberts Rebound - Baltimore added some sluggers to the lineup this offseason but this offense will go as Brian Roberts health does. With Roberts and Nick Markakis at the top of the order, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Luke Scott and Guerrero will often have ducks on the pond. If Roberts had an injury plagued year again, they likely won't. There is nobody on the roster with his combination of speed and on base skills. You could be faced with Pie or Cesar Izturis leading off in his absence. And that would be ugly. Roberts needs to stay healthy and hit like he did in 2008 and 2009 if the Orioles hope to surprise.

4. Battle for the Backup Backstop - My favorite thing to watch each spring, this time the outcome could be significant. Incumbent Craig Tatum surprised last season as he proved to have some good on base skills and was not a complete offensive vacuum. He only threw out 2 of 27 base stealers though and I can find no defensive metric that he was not below average in. Jake Fox, on the other had, was not terrible behind the plate, throwing out 33% of potential base stealers in limited action. He can also play the outfield third base and first base with a bat with far more potential than Tatum's.

Of course, if Buck goes with a 12 man pitching staff, they could both make the roster with Fox as a general utility guy. Or one of the other catchers invited to camp could surprise and take Tatum's spot anyway, the same way he did to Chad Moeller a year ago. Quite dramatic being a backup catcher in the major leagues...

5. Who's the Backup Middle Infielder? - Cesar Izturis has the inside track on this. He has a major league deal, is a superior glove and a very good baserunner. Despite his deficiencies with the bat, he could be used quite a bit as a pinch runner and late game defensive replacement. But Brendan Harris, Nick Green and Robert Andino will all be at Spring Training too. Harris is middling defender up the middle and has a slightly better bat than Izzy (which is damning with faint praise). Andino also has a slick glove but tends to lapse in the field at times. He could offer a decent bat but I tend to think that last season was a fluke for him. Green should be a longshot but seems to wriggle his way onto a major league roster every year.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Unofficial 2011 Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Visitor's Guide

I am taking the family to Disney World this summer so I will not be at Spring Training this year. It just would not be fiscally responsible. (Going to Spring Training is not fiscally responsible...Going to Spring Training is not fiscally responsible...Going to...)

But just becasue I'm not going doesn't mean I can't lend a helping hand to those who will. Pitchers and catchers report in a week and Oriole Spring Training is some experience these days.

With that in mind, here is my unofficial Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Guide. This is based on my personal experiences from past visits plus information I have gathered from around the web, from the team and other publications. I'll have a few things to update along the way (and if you have anything to add yourself, please leave it in the comments of email me at dempseysarmy at yahoo dot com) but, in my humble opinion, is a very good start.


This is the second season that the O's will make their Spring Training home in Sarasota. Ed Smith Stadium is still in the process of being renovated, a process that begun as soon as the club headed north in 2010 but it was already a big upgrade from the crumbling confines of Ft. Lauderdale Stadium, the Orioles pevious Spring Training home.

The stadium is cozy so there's not really a bad seat in the house. There is little to no shade (although renovations are supposed to help that a bit) so if you go to a day game, pack sun screen accordingly. The renovation is supposed to create some more shade but better safe than sorry.

Ed Smith was not a great stadium but Louis Angelos promised that the offseason renovations of the Sarasota baseball facilities would create "a ballpark that is the premier baseball facility, not just in Florida but you can include Arizona too." So there's that. (Pictures of the ongoing renovation can be seen here.) You'll notice that the seats from OPACY that were removed during its renovation are now being installed in Sarasota.

The stadium is located at 2700 12th St. in Sarasota at the corner of 12th and Tuttle. There's a ton of parking available and it's $8 to park there on game day.

From the book Florida Spring Training by Alan Byrd:

"There's little to like about Ed Smith Stadium. While it comes close in size to some of the League's older parks, it's missing the things that would make it quaint...

On the positive side, you'll have no trouble seeing all the action. The box seats are close to the diamond and the other seats aren't too far away."


Oriole pitchers and catchers report on February 13th with the first workout taking place on February 14th. The first full-squad workout takes place on February 21st. Workouts are scheduled to begin each day at 9:00 AM and are free to the public until the games begin. Fans will be able to access the main "bowl" and some of the back fields as well.

After the games begin, team practices are closed to the public but you can enter the stadium up to two hours before game time with your ticket.

The full game schedule is available here with the first official game on February 28th against the Pirates in Bradenton. The first game in Sarasota is March 1st versus the Rays. Most games are at 1:05 with a handful of night games. The seating chart is here.

I am a big fan of attending workouts. It's very laid back and you get to watch fielding drills, batting practice and throwing sessions up close and personal. Some concessions and souvenir stands are open during the workouts and they hand out a roster as you go in so you can identify the players. The workouts also give you the best chance to get autographs. On top of all that, it's free!


Here's a list of concessions and prices from last season:

Hot Dog $4.00
Bratwurst w/ Kraut $6.00
Pizza $6.50
Nachos $4.75
Chicken Nuggets $6.50
Popcorn $3.75
Peanuts $4.00
Soft Pretzel $4.00
Cracker Jacks $3.50
Candy $3.00
Ice Cream $3.50
Cotton Candy $3.50
Soda (32oz) $4.00
Gatorade $4.00
Bottled Water $3.50
Coffee $1.75
Beer (16oz) $6.25
Imported Beer (12oz) $6.75

Hamburger/Cheeseburger $6.50
Sausage, Peppers & Onions $7.00
Hot Dog $4.00
Hebrew National Kosher Dog $5.00
French Fries $4.00

And a quick snapshot of souvenir prices:


Tickets for Oriole Spring Training games are priced as follows: for General Admission

Standing Room          $10
Left Field Pavilion    $15
Reserved Grandstand    $17
Lower Box              $21
Infield Box            $23
Premium Infield Box    $27

Prime games are $2 more per ticket, across the board. Box office hours from January 24th-February 11th are M-F 10 AM - 4 PM. After February 11th, the box office is open seven days a week, also 10 AM - 4 PM.

Tickets will be available at the Sarasota box office, via phone orders at 800-745-3000 or

In my opinion, there's not a bad seat in the house.

Minor League Camp

One of the benefits of the Oriole's move to Sarasota is that the major league facility is now in close proximity to the minor league facility. The facility, known until last season as Twin Lakes, was re-christened Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex  in 2010 and is located at 6700 Clark Rd. in Sarasota, about 10 miles from Ed Smith Stadium.

Minor league pitchers will hold their first workout at the complex on Tuesday, March 2. The first minor league full squad workout will take place on Saturday, March 6. Minor league games begin Wednesday, March 17.

All workouts and games at the minor league complex are free to the public as is the parking.

Here's this year's minor league spring training schedule. When the AAA and AA teams play at home, the A level teams play away and vice versa.

Wednesday, March 16 AAA/AA vs. Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers

Thursday, March 17 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Friday, March 18 AAA/AA @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Saturday, March 19 AAA/AA Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte

Monday, March 21 AAA/AA Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers

Tuesday, March 22 AAA/AA @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Wednesday, March 23 AAA/AA @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Thursday, March 24 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Friday, March 25 AAA/AA Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers

Saturday, March 26 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Monday, March 28 AAA/AA Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte

Tuesday, March 29 AAA/AA Minnesota 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Minnesota 12:00 p.m. Ft. Myers

Wednesday, March 30 AAA/AA @ Boston 12:30 p.m. Ft. Myers
A Boston 12:30 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Thursday, March 31 AAA/AA @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte
A Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex

Friday, April 1 AAA/AA Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Buck O'Neil Complex
A @ Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. Port Charlotte


I am not big on autographs but in my previous trips to Spring Training, my kids certainly were. Here's some tips from my limited experience.

If you really want autographs, go to the workouts. There are always a fair amount of players, major and minor leaguers who will come over to sign things for the fans. We were able to get a few autographs before one of the games but there was much less jockeying for position at the workouts. Players are much more likely to sign for kids than for adults or obvious "autograph hounds". I remember Kevin Millar in particular ordering "Autograph hounds to the back, kids up front!"

Cute little kids tend to get more freebies too. Stadium workers would go out of their way to give my son foul balls and two players gave him their bat; a Dodger minor leaguer named Tydus Meadows and Matt Treanor, then a catcher for the Marlins. Again, I'm not big on autographs but my kid sure got a kick out of it.

Ed Smith Stadium afforded better opportunities for autographs before game that Ft. Lauderdale stadium did. If you stand along the rightfield wall near the bleachers, you will place yourself in close proximity to the outfield gate that the players use to get from the clubhouse to the field. Players were very generous with their time (and this was during a crowded Red Sox matchup) and autographs seemed fairly easy to come by.

Outside of the Ballpark

I haven't been to Sarasota enough to be an authority so I will link to Peter Schmuck's column on his favorite Sarasota haunts.

Getting There

Sarasota is a quick two and a half hour flight from Baltimore. If you found this guide useful, check out our partner, Expedia for your tickets, rental car and hotels:

Get Great Deals at Expedia!

Links and References:

Thanks to Kristen Hudak and Kate Wheeler at MASN,'s Britt Ghiroli and Orioles Public Relations Director Monica Pence Barlow for helping me fill in some of the blanks.

Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League by Alan Byrd

Baltimore Orioles at
2011 Baltimore Orioles Spring Training at

Related Posts:
Sarasota FanFest Post (with pics of the stadium and such)
Pirates vs Orioles in Sarasota, 3/5/2010
Orioles Minor League Camp 3/6-3/8, 2010
Red Sox vs Orioles in Sarasota, 3/7/2010
Welcome to Birdland South!

What Vlad Has Wrought, Part 1

The signing if Vlad Guerrero, even the notion of the signing a couple of weeks ago, has brought about a lot of odd things. First, I have been called more names for being opposed to bringing Vlad to Baltimore than at any time during the 4+ years of publishing this blog. (Hell, I'm pretty sure it's the first time it's ever happened...) Baseball nerd. Whiner. Buzzkill. (edit: One of my Twitter followers, @Astand49, demands credit for the buzzkill line. So it is given... :-) )

He is not the first aging slugger I have cautioned against but there is something about Vlad that seems to have struck a chord with Oriole fans. Lots of them (probably most of them) love the guy and are really excited to have him in Baltimore. I am not. So instead of continuing to debate on Twitter or in the comments section of other blogs, I'll lay it out here, in detail, one final time. In this installment, I examine what Vlad will bring to the team.

This is a fairly typical argument I heard on Twitter over the past 24 hours so let's start here. I'll leave the money alone for now do what Vinnie asked. Look at the numbers.

That is a Hall of Fame career, no doubt. But the last two seasons, he has hit more like he did his rookie season and not the heights that he once reached. I've said it before but he and Luke Scott have exactly the same OPS over the last three seasons (.845 OPS). That's a good hitter but not a great one.

Anyone who has watched baseball over the past 15 years knows Vlad's offensive game: great power (now, good power), hits for average and does not walk. Free swingers like Guerrero do not age well historically. His walk rates over the past two seasons have been the lowest of his career and his OBP has suffered.He is  no longer a star.

Some have pointed to some positive clutch numbers from last season. Over his career, his clutch numbers are "un-clutchy" overall. I don't think Vlad is likely to hit like a madman with runner on base all of a sudden.

Running a lineup with Vlad in it through various iterations using the lineup analysis tool, he could add from 10-13 runs to the lineup if he's healthy and depending on how much Pie or Reimold would have played. It's not insignificant and could bring 2-3 extra wins with a little luck.

Vlad did rake against lefties last season. For his career, he hits them slightly better than righties. For the last three seasons, not so much. But he could help the Orioles lineup against left handed pitching, a weakness Baltimore batters over the last couple seasons.

Vlad brings nothing as far as the glove these days. The last two seasons, his rare fielding appearances have been horrific.

But he does provide depth. Even though he is limited to a DH role, it gives Buck Showalter a lot of different configurations for his lineup.

As for trade bait, I'm not sure what an exclusive DH will bring in a mid-season trade. In 2008, the White Sox only netted Justin Fuller, a light-hitting minor league middle infielder for Jim Thome. In 2006, the Yankees got three bad minor league relievers from Detroit for Gary Sheffield. Last season, Houston got a light-hitting minor league infielder and a marginal major league reliever in Mark Melancon. Even with Andy MacPhail trading acumen, I can't see him getting more than a useful major league reliever and even that's a stretch.

Compensation pick after the season? There wasn't much of a market for Guerrero's services this offseason. I can't imagine some team would be willing to surrender a draft pick next offseason to sign him. I find that scenario very unlikely.

What he does if bring another good (even if it's declining) bat to the lineup who should post an OPS north of .800 and help offset Baltimore's weaknesses against lefty pitching. He provides depth in case of injury and will make (probably) make the team better, even if the improvement is only slight. If (by some miracle, the Orioles go on a tear and contend, his presence could meant the difference between a wild card spot or going home. I don't think he will net the Orioles a compensation pick or any players of value at the trade deadline. But he may, if early enthusiasm among the fan base can be sustained, help sell more tickets in 2011, no small accomplishment.

Next post, we'll look at the potential drawbacks...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let Them Play

Since Fox won't play the it is. And that's all I have to say about the NFL for awhile.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vlad Guerrero is an Oriole. Double Rainbow Spotted Over Camden Yards

Vladimir Guerrero is reportedly a Baltimore Oriole, signing a 1-year $8 million deal.

You've already heard me rail against this signing enough. The Orioles should be giving at bats to Nolan Reimold and to a lesser extent, Felix Pie. I mean, Vlad OPSed .841 in 2010. Reimold OPSed .831 in his rookie year. I don't see Vlad improving on those numbers. There is a decent chance Reimold could. But I'll delve into that in a later post.

Most fans seem to be looking at the name on the back of the jersey more than Vlad's actual production of late. So they are happy. But Vlad won't help as much as everyone thinks. I've detailed that. Others have too. And I'm sure I will again.

Let's not even discuss the money. There is little chance he will be worth that much and given the reduced market for his services, that's an incredible overpay. It had better not affect the draft budget.

Now, Vlad's season is linked to Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, maybe even Joe Mahoney. It will, at the very least, be interesting to watch how the season unfolds with all these moving parts. And it'll give me a theme to write about all season...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The 1896 Orioles Were in the Best Shape of Their Lives

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America is rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. - Terrance Mann

Baseball has remained a constant, lo these many years. And evidently, the way it it covered hasn't changed much either. At least not in the last 115 years or so. When Spring Training comes around, a sports writer can always pen a variation on this theme:

"The Best Shape of Their Lives"

Here are three instances from reporters covering the old National League Baltimore Orioles during their annual trip south.

The Sporting News, April 13th, 1895:

"...the Orioles have played much the strongest games and are undoubtedly in the best physical condition of any of (the National League teams) at this writing. Nearly every man on the team is trained to sprinting form already and the dash and vim they inject into the game are absolutely refreshing" - Charles A Lamar

From the April 1st, 1899 edition of The Sporting Life comes this account of Spring Training in Savannah, GA for the old Baltimore Orioles written by "Jay R F":

"(John) McGraw looks thinner than when he was here last spring, while (Wilbert) Robinson presents the same appearance as he always does, with -or without- the spangles. (Ducky) Holmes is considerably stouter than when your correspondent met him last in Louisville. Not fat, you know-good solid flesh and as hard as steel. (Jerry) Nops and (Frank) Kitson, who were here with the team last year, are both, apparently, in splendid condition."

And finally, this account from Oriole manager Ned Hanlon in The Sporting News, April 4th, 1896:

"The pitching department is in better shape than ever before. McMahon is apparently able to pitch as well as ever. (Bill) Hoffer is in good form. (George) Hemming is in much better condition and in better health than last year; (Dad) Clarkson is in his usual condition, while the great south-paw, (Duke) Esper, weighs less, and is in better pitching form than he has ever been since he joined the club...There is not a man on the club who is not taking the best care of himself and whose habits are not correct. It is so much the custom to predict wonderful things for the various clubs on the Southern tours, and to tell of their great strengths, the fine condition of the men and the certainty of each club winning that the base ball public are coming to place little credence in many of these roseate stories. But what has been said of the Orioles is plain, unvarnished truth." - Edward Hanlon

Wow. The National League had been in existence just 20 years when Hanlon made his comments. And even then, the "Player A is in the best shape of his life!" stories were already old hat and met with eye-rolls and dismissal by the fans. And yet, they still are a staple of the months leading up to the start of the season. 115 years later. Why?

I guess it's a tradition...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

kwERA and bbFIP: ERA Estimators for the Oriole Staff

Lucas Apostoleris of Beyond the Boxscore has a post up about league leaders and trailers in a couple of lesser known ERA estimators, kwERA (strikeout-walk ERA) and bbFIP Batted Ball Fielding Independent Pitching), both created by Tom Tango. Both work like FIP but with different data. kwERA is ridiculously simple, using only strikeouts and walks as criteria and bbFIP is a bit more complex but used various batted ball data to come to its conclusion.

I'll let you read more about the calculations for these stats over at BtB or on Tom Tango's site but Lucas posted a spreadsheet with 2010 kwERA and bbFIP numbers for every pitcher in the league and since I am mildly obsessed with ERA estimators, I wanted to take a look at how a few Oriole pitchers fared.

              ERA     kwERA    bbFIP
Millwood     5.10      4.32     4.71

Kevin Millwood pitched a bit better for Baltimore than he gets credit for. His actual ERA was worse than both of these predictors as well as FIP and xFIP. The defense let Millwood down a bit and he was slightly unlucky perhaps. Again, I'm not saying he was good but he was a sliver better than we give him credit for.

              ERA     kwERA   bbFIP
Matusz       4.30      4.07    3.86

See a pattern here? Defense matters and the Orioles were not great in that facet of the game in 2010. kwERA came pretty close to estimating his ERA but the batted ball data suggests Matusz deserved a lot better from his fielders and Lady Luck.

One would have to think that the infield of Lee-(healthy)Roberts-Hardy-Reynolds would have to be better than the Wigginton-Lugo-Izturis-Tejada configuration we saw for most of last year. And the pitching numbers should be better for it.

             ERA   kwERA   bbFIP
Guthrie     3.83    4.23    4.44

Jeremy Guthrie doesn't give a damn about your ERA estimators.

Like all the others, Guthrie outperforms these estimators too. kwERA comes the closest and it's still .40 off. Kind of interesting that the estimator that uses solely strikeouts and walks is the best at quantifying what he does. I might have to apply it to previous seasons as well to see if there's a correlation.

            ERA   kwERA   bbFIP
Hernandez  4.31    4.11    4.38

He is what we thought he was. These numbers are pretty right on and even FIP does a good job. (Only xFIP was totally out of whack.) So he's an average-ish reliever with some potential upside as a late inning strikeout guy. I'm still OK with trading him for a couple years of Mark Reynolds.

           ERA   kwERA  bbFIP
Tillman   5.87    5.22   5.60
Arrieta   4.66    5.14   5.23

These two are linked due to their upcoming spring training duel for the 5th spot in the Oriole rotation.

As you can see, the two aren't as far apart in performance as their ERAs would suggest. There is a bit of sample bias since Arrieta faced nearly twice the major league batters that Tillman did in 2010. I still like Tillman's progress a little better at this point but...flip a coin with these two. We're likely to get the same 2011 performance from both of them.

           ERA   kwERA   bbFIP
Berken    3.03    3.84    3.52

Jason Berken wasn't quite as stellar as his sparkling 3.03 ERA but he was legitimately very good. Hopefully, he fully recovers from his injury and pitches at that level again.

           ERA   kwERA   bbFIP
Gonzalez  4.01    2.70    2.91

The contract was still not good...but Mike Gonzalez pitched pretty well over the second half of last season. It gives you hope that he can actually get results like he did in Atlanta. These numbers are giving me hope for the bullpen. Speaking of which...

           ERA   kwERA   bbFIP
Uehara    2.86    1.85    2.45

As spectacular as Uehara was when healthy last season, he may have been even better than we thought. All these numbers are really making me question our defensive team in 2010. Was it really that bad? Maybe.

(By the way, Dave Mc of Weaver's Tantrum has a nice breakdown of what defensive improvement can do for a team. Maybe the O's are setting themselves up for a big move for the better on D?)

           ERA   kwERA   bbFIP
Bergesen  4.98    4.79    4.68

That's about right for Brad. But hopefully the Bergy of the second half is what we get in 2011. It's no surprise that Brad fares slightly better with the metric that used batted ball data.

Three things to think about from this data:

1) For the first time, I'm beginning to think we might mave a pretty good bullpen.
2) It appears that our defense in 2010 may have been really, really bad. And that our defense in 2011 looks like it will be a sizable improvement. And the pitching numbers could improve with it.
3) I still can't pin down the intangible quality that makes Jeremy Guthrie so good. (I guess that's why it's intangible...)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Alfredo Simon Denied Bail

Alfredo Simon has been denied bail and will remain jailed in the Dominican Republic. Simon is currently charged with manslaughter.

The 29-year-old pitcher is expected to stay in jail for a year while officials investigate a fatal shooting on New Year's Eve...

Defense attorney Dinosa Dilone said she plans to appeal the ruling.

"We think the judge acted in such a way to avoid a reaction from the media," Dilone said. "There is already forensic evidence that Simon's weapon did not cause the death of the victim."

A judge had earlier ruled that Simon could be held for up to a year pending trial. Simon could face up to two years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The Caribbean country's legal system allows for preventive detention.

When this story broke a month ago, I declared that Simon would not be back for the beginning of the season. This pretty much guarantees that Simon will not be with the Orioles at all in 2011. If ever.