31 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Update 5/31

Regionals kicked off yesterday for the College Baseball Field of 64. Potential draft targets Gordon Beckham (1-5, 1 RBI), Pedro Alvarez (0-3) and Buster Posey (1-3) had uneventful days in losing efforts. Justin Smoak fared much better, going 4-4 with 3 RBI and 3 R as South Carolina won their opening match-up against Charlotte, 16-8.

Two pitchers being watched closely by Orioles scouts, Brian Matusz (University of San Diego) and Aaron Crow (University of Missouri) each helped their cause with dominant starts. Matusz lead the Toreros to a 5-0 win over the Cal Bears, allowing 3 hits, 1 walk and striking out 10 in nine scoreless innings. Crow struggled a bit with control, but was equally unhittable, allowing 5 walks and 3 hits while striking out 10 in nine scoreless innings. Both would be available Sunday if necessary.

30 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Pedro Alvarez)

Introducing Pedro Alvarez

2008 was to be the pinnacle of an incredible college career for the Vanderbilt standout. Unfortunately, a broken hamate bone suffered in the 'Dores opening series did its best to de-rail the pre-season player-of-the-year's junior campaign. Alvarez was among the top hitters in college baseball in each of the last two seasons, and has been impressive in two stints with Team USA. It's been odd, to say the least, to see him struggle (relative to his previous level of performance). With the likes of Justin Smoak, Gordon Beckham and Buster Posey enjoying elite offensive seasons, and Alvarez reportedly sticking to his pre-season signing bonus demands, teams will have a difficult decision between the top performers of this collegiate season and arguably the top offensive talent over the last two years. Should the Orioles be fortunate enough to be in such a position, what should they choose? Should Baltimore once again grab the Boras "bonus baby" if the opportunity presents itself?

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank out of 500 Ranked)
Games/Games Started – 37/37
At Bats – 154
Hits – 48 (NR)
Doubles – 14 (480)
Triples – 1 (NR)
Homeruns – 9 (315)
Runs Batted In – 28 (NR)
Batting Average – .312 (Not Eligible)
On-Base Percentage – .429 (Not Eligible)
Slugging – .591 (Not Eligible)
Total Bases – 91 (NR)
Walks – 27 (482)
Strikeouts – 26 (NR)

Given his limited action, and the tendency for hamate injuries to sap power by weakening the wrist, Alvarez's numbers are not as far off from the likes of Smoak, Posey and Beckham as they appear. Averaged out over the course of a full season (and understanding this is not exact), Alvarez was on pace for around 22 2B, 15 HR, 2 3B, 45 RBI and 147 TB -- a more than respectable performance. When compared to his previous outputs, however, this line falls well short. To get an idea of how good Alvarez has been, let's look as his lines through his freshman and sophomore years, as well as his two stints with team USA (keeping in mind his age):

'06 (Vandy) .329/.454/.675, 240 AB, 15 2B, 22 HR, 64 RBI, 57 BB, 64 SO

'06 (USA) .379/.467/.647, 116 AB, 12 2B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 19 BB, 21 SO

'07 (Vandy) .386/.468/.684, 272 AB, 21 2B, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 40 BB, 65 SO

'07 (USA) .315/.399/.551, 127 AB, 9 BB, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 18 BB, 29 SO

It's a shame we were deprived of what could have been an inspired offensive display in 2008. However, Baltimore may be the lucky beneficiary should teams determine that this year's questionable output is enough to deter them from throwing $7 million or so at Pedro.

The Frame

At 6’2” and 225 pounds Alvarez has a Major League body that sits comfortably on a solid and bottom-heavy frame. His thick trunk and torso are the source of his lightening-quick bat speed and immense power, though it is also a concern for those scouts that think he will eventually have to move off of third base. On any given collegiate field, Alvarez appears as a man playing among children -- he should have no trouble adjusting quickly to the physical rigours of professional ball or holding his own against players two or three years his senior.

Scouting: May 23, 2008 vs. South Carolina (Film)

Load – Alvarez's stance starts with high hands and a raised elbow. He utilizes his load to drop and lock his hands into position while turning his front hip in, building up an enormous amount of potential force. His elbow remains elevated, pointing the barrel towards the pitcher and potential making for a lengthy swing. He is right around a 60/40 weight distribution.

Stride – Beginning with a wide stance, Alvarez's stride itself is little more than a lifting and dropping of his lead leg (similar to Albert Pujols). This is all he needs to start his weight transfer and begin to release the energy he built in his load. His hips remain closed, helping to project the force of his swing to and through the ball.

Swing – The above video illustrates how much torque Pedro's trunk and torso can generate, resulting in incredible bat speed. Even with this huge release of force, Alvarez stays under control, driving to the ball on a consistent plane. He is clean and smooth from hips to elbow to knob to barrel. A slight uppercut makes elevating and driving the ball natural.

Contact – Alvarez makes consistent hard contact, demonstrating good balance and control. Like Posey, his bat speed allows him to let the ball get deeper before beginning his swing, making pitch identification a little easier and helping him to routinely square up on the ball. His hip rotation is close to perfect, and at contact you can draw a straight line from his helmet down through his knee. Every bit of force in his lower half is efficiently pushed to and through the ball, and his bat speed generates good backspin and loft.

Follow-Through – Alvarez remains under control, releasing up and easy with two hands. He doesn't fall-off, which is again impressive given the torque generated through his hips.

Swing Grade – A – The Vandy thirdbaseman has a Major League-ready swing right now. He can drive the ball from pole-to-pole and has the work-ethic to continue tweaking and perfecting his approach. After struggling through the first two games of the SEC tournament, rather than returning to the hotel with the team, Pedro headed out to a batting cage in Hoover for a 2-hour BP session with some local high school players. He will hit in the middle of a Major League lineup for many years.

Alvarez is a good athlete and profiles to be an adequate 3b/1b/RF/LF. Provided he doesn't add more thickness to his lower body, he should have no trouble sticking at the more valuable position -- 3B -- but his potential versatility should be a nice bonus for whichever team selects him. He has an adequate arm for 3B and charges the ball well.

Fielding Grade – B+

Is Alvarez Worthy of 1:4?
The idea of Alvarez and Wieters hitting in the middle of an Orioles lineup in the not-to-distant future is almost too good to be true. He has demonstrated leadership through words and example both with Vandy and Team USA, and already possesses a professional approach to his game. He should be the quickest to the Major Leagues out of any 2008 draftees and will be a force in short order. His price tag is not for the faint of heart, but whoever ponies up will be well rewarded.

Prospect Grade – A
Suggested Draft Slot – 1 to 3
1:4 Recommendation – Draft

Current Draft Board

1. Pedro Alvarez (3B) Vanderbilt University
2. Buster Posey (C) Florida State University
3. Justin Smoak (1B) University of South Carolina
4. Gordon Beckham (SS) University of Georgia

Draft Preview Schedule

6/1am Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)
6/1pm Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6/1pm Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri
6/2 Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3
6/3 Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5
6/4 Mail Bag and Final War-Room Review
6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts our questions -- we'd love to hear from you.

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Buster Posey)

Introducing Buster Posey

The third draftee examined in our preview – Buster Posey – has had a busy ten days. In addition to concluding play in the ACC Tournament and preparing for today’s start to the Tallahassee Regional, Posey has begun to stock his 2008 trophy case. Last week brought First Team All-ACC and ACC Player of the Year honors. Yesterday, Posey was named a Louisville Slugger NCAA Division I First Team All-American as well as the National Player of the Year. Further, earlier this week Posey was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-American Baseball Team while also being named Academic All-American of the Year (finance major, 3.8+ GPA). It’s possible Posey will have to make still more room in his trophy case, as he is a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award (USA Baseball), the Johnny Bench Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. Let’s take a closer look at the player behind all of these accolades and determine whether he’s a fit for Baltimore at 1:4.

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank)
Games/Games Started – 58/57
At Bats – 214
Hits – 100 (3)
Doubles – 20 (138)
Triples – 4 (144)
Homeruns – 19 (23)
Batting Average – .467 (1)
On-Base Percentage – .567 (1)
Slugging – .864 (1)
Total Bases – 185 (3)
Walks – 46 (9)
Strikeouts – 20 (160th toughest to strikeout)

The numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Posey was this year’s batting, on-base and slugging leader, while ranking in the top 10 in bases-on-balls, hits, runs and total bases and the top 25 in homeruns. Among ACC players, he leads in seven categories while ranking in the top 10 in four others.

While most agree Posey will hit for average, there are varying views as to his potential power development. Despite his collegiate power numbers holding in the neighborhood of G. Beckham or Smoak, even his strongest supporters concede he will likely max out at 20 HR a year at the ML-level (Dick Howser Stadium, his home field at FSU, is a notorious hitters park). Regardless of whether Posey ends up a 16-20 HR bat or a 8-12 HR bat, his offensive game is well-rounded, advanced and should certainly play in pro ball.

The Frame

Posey measures in at 6’2” and 200 pounds. He is a solid size for a catcher and has essentially filled out his frame, which should project well as a #2 hitter with a floor of gap-to-gap power. He has a solid build and should hold up well behind he plate, especially since he did not switch to catcher until late in his baseball career at FSU. Posey is athletic enough to play any position at the collegiate level, but would be just an adequate IF at the ML-level. In a publicity stunt earlier this season, FSU played Posey at every position over the course of a 9-inning game.

Interview With Fox Sports Prior to the Miami Series ('Tek Behind the Plate, Jeter with the Bat Comparison)

Scouting: March 23, 2008 at Virginia Tech (Film)

Load – Posey has a very sound load. He maintains a solid 60/40 weight distribution and his hands are locked close to the shoulder, creating good power potential (you may notice some consistencies among the top collegiate bats?). His elbow is angled slightly below his shoulder line, bringing his bat closer to parallel with his body. This will quicken his bat’s path to the ball provided he is able to keep his hands tight to his body and to drive the bat knob directly at the ball as his swing progresses. Prior to his load, Posey has a bat waggle that I have not seen interfere with the consistency of his hand placement.

Stride – Posey has very still hands through is stride and does a good job of keeping them with his torso -- better than either of Smoak or G. Beckham. His stride is controlled and sets him up well as he begins his weight transfer. The waggle is completely gone by the time his stride has started, and as he gets ready to start the swing, his hips remain closed.

Swing – Posey has the shortest swing out of the three draftees we've examined thus far. He is incredibly direct to the ball, with his hands in great position to strike at any portion of the strike zone. One possible concern is whether or not his compact stroke will limit his HR power as a pro. There is little doubt he'll continue to hit the ball with force, but may not have enough raw size for the short swing to naturally translate to homeruns. This is a minor concern, with the down-side being gap-to-gap doubles power. He also comes in a little flat at times, which is fine for centering on the ball, but again could be the difference between a line drive double in the gap and elevating the ball enough to get it out of the park (a lot of times the difference between a double and a homerun is simply a question of elevation, as it takes about the same amount of force to get it by the outfielders in the gap as it does to get it over the fence). Posey is clean from hips to arm to knob to barrel.

Contact – Posey squares up well on the ball, his compact swing and bat speed permitting him to wait until the ball is a little deeper before beginning his swing. This leads to more consistent hard contact and more time for pitch recognition. He is balanced at contact and does a good job of keeping his swing momentum running to and through the ball, with little if any energy/momentum escaping (this would usually come if the batter starts to fall-off or pull his hips out).

Follow-Through – In the Virginia Tech game, Posey bounced back and forth between two follow-throughs. Depending on the at bat, he may use a free one-handed release (on balls out over the plate) and a tighter two-handed release (from the middle in). The two-handed release is a little cleaner, and more under control. It could be he was a little over-extended on the ABs in which he went to a one-handed release -- in any event, he was not falling-off at all.

Swing Grade – A- – Posey is very sound and compact in his swing. He is quick to the ball and his ability to square up throughout the strikezone allows him to spray linedrives to all fields.

Posey is an elite-level defensive talent at arguably the most valuable defensive position. He possesses plus-arm strengh with above-average accuracy (throwing out 41.5% of would-be base stealers and picking off 6 runners). He is a plus-fielder with strong receiving skills to go along with incredible poise and strong leadership. He is the total package.

Fielding Grade – A

Is Posey Worthy of 1:4?

Almost any argument against drafting Posey begins and ends with the words “Matt Wieters”. This is exactly the wrong reason to avoid the Florida State catcher. Disregarding Wieters’s size and the potential future problems with him staying behind the plate, Baltimore is not in a position to pass on talent – Buster has a lot of it. He does not possess the middle-of-the-order bat you would get with Justin Smoak, but he has the potential to be among the best #2 hitters in the game and his defense and make-up are incredible pieces of a complete package. The chances are Posey will be off the board by the time Baltimore picks. If not, he should be seriously considered at 1:4. For the purposes of our draft board, he grades a hair above Smoak going into this weekend. However, they are close enough that either would be a valid selection.

Prospect Grade – A-
Suggested Draft Slot – 1 to 5
1:4 Recommendation – Strongly Consider Drafting

Current Draft Board
1. Buster Posey (c) Florida State University
2. Justin Smoak (1b) University of South Carolina
3. Gordon Beckham (ss) University of Georgia

Draft Preview Schedule
5/31am Pedro Alvarez (3b) Vanderbilt University
5/31pm Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)
6/1am Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6/1pm Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri
6/2 Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3
6/3 Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5
6/4 Mail Bag and Final War-Room Review
6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

29 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Justin Smoak)

Introducing Justin Smoak

If you ask most Baltimore Orioles fans whether they’d like to add a certain middle-of-the-order, switch-hitting, solid-defensive first baseman this offseason, more often than not your inquiry will be met with a resounding “Yes!” Interestingly enough, Baltimore may be able to add two of them in a six-month span, the second of whom should cost less than 4% of what Teixeira will likely be demanding. Justin Smoak (1b, University of South Carolina) entered the season as one of the top collegiate bats in this years class and a likely top 10 pick. After a slow start, which compounded some fears that arose after a rough summer with Team USA, Smoak broke out in a big way, finishing the season with a line of .389/.509/.758, and 20 HR (including 6 HR and 19 RBI in a nine-day span between 4/15 and 4/23). The switch-hitting slugger is more than capable in the field and has established himself as the best all-around 1b in the draft. He’s a semi-finalist for both the Golden Spikes Award (USA Baseball) and the Dick Howser trophy, and earned first-team All-SEC honors in his junior year. Let’s take a closer look and try to figure out if the Orioles should target Smoak at 1:4.

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank out of 500 Ranked)
Games/Games Started – 59/59
At Bats – 220
Hits – 83 (75)
Doubles – 18 (111)
Triples – 0 (not ranked)
Homeruns – 21 (9)
Runs Batted In – 66 (55)
Batting Average – .377 (89)
On-Base Percentage – .502 (26)
Slugging – .745 (17) Total Bases – 164 (11)
Walks – 55 (7)
Strikeouts – 27 (464th toughest to strikeout -- 1 SO/8.1 AB)

Like Gordon Beckham, Smoak’s calling card is his power, with almost half of his hits going for extra bases. He has shown an impressive and discriminate eye at the plate, posting a 27/55 strikeout-to-walk ratio and finishing in the top 10 nationally in bases on balls. While the overall statistical package looks impressive, some have shown concerns with Smoak’s streaky-tendencies.

As mentioned above, Smoak struggled mightily with Team USA this past summer, posting an uninspired line of .223/.291/.380 while appearing in all 35 games and starting in 32 of them. As with the start of this college season, consistency was the issue rather than the level of competition, as in his 10 best games Smoak raked to the tune of .436 AVG / .872 SLG. Coupled with the fact that he impressed in the Cape after his freshman year (11 home runs in 39 games), any worries about his ability to hit with wood seem unwarranted. Over the course of any given season Smoak should be a safe bet to perform at the plate.

The Frame

Smoak measures in at 6’4” and 215 pounds and has used every bit of the size and power along the way to capturing South Carolina’s career HR and RBI record (60 and 200, respectively). While there isn’t a ton of room for growth, he shouldn’t need much. Smoak has a ML body right now and will likely add a couple pounds of muscle as his professional career progresses. His size profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat.

Scouting: Film

We will evaluate Smoak’s left-handed swing and right-handed swing simultaneously. Full slow-motion videos of Smoak's left-handed and right-handed swings can be found at Baseball-Intellect -- snap shots are below:

Load – From the both sides, Smoak’s back elbow is elevated a bit, pointing the top of the bat towards the pitcher. From the left, this turns out to be less problematic than it is for Beckham because of Smoak’s terrific stride (as we will see shortly). From the right, it is corrected by a hitch in his stride (which may or may not prove problematic). He maintains a solid 60/40 weight distribution and his hands are locked close to the shoulder, creating good power potential. His stance varies, with a tight stance from the right and a wider stance from the left, giving him a more up-and-down swing from the right and a slightly more compact swing from the left.

Stride – From the left side, Smoak utilizes a smooth weight transfer and locks his hands in prime position just at the height and slightly behind his back shoulder. He stays closed in the hips through a stride of moderate length and little elevation allowing for maximum power by the time he starts his swing. Little energy is lost and his swing is shortened by locking his hands into position relative to his shoulder (if you remember, Gordon Beckham locked his hands into a position in space, which lead to his body getting ahead of the hands and therefore lengthening his swing). Smoak also keeps his elbow locked in position. While this is not ideal, he is not lengthening his swing by raising it during the stride. Since his stay locked to the body, his swing should be nice and quick to the ball.

From the right side, Smoak’s stride is a little shorter, but the weight transfer, closed hips and hands locked to the shoulder are all replicated. There is a red flag, however, in the form of a hitch. As he starts his stride, Smoak dips his hands a couple of inches and elevates his knee slightly as he steps forward. His hands return to slot by the time his swing starts (with his elbow lowered as the swing starts). This may not be a huge problem in the future, depending on how consistently he returns his hands to the proper position in which they start. Any inconsistencies in the location of his hands will likely lead to periodic inconsistencies in his swing. I do not see enough of Smoak to know whether this is an issue, but it would be interesting to look as his tape from Team USA and take note of this potential issue.

Swing – From the left, Smoak has a smooth swing with a slight uppercut. He leads well with his hips, elbow and the knob of the bat, generating good bat speed and driving the barrel on a fairly short line to the ball. From the right, his hands drag ever-so-slightly, lengthening his swing. This is likely a result of the hands still returning from the hitch. The swing is equally fluid from the right, though a little longer. There is still a great amount of power generated as his swing flows from hips to elbow to knob of the bat to the barrel.

Contact – He squares up on the ball very well from both sides. From the right he tenses a bit in the lower half through his core at contact, but loosens almost immediately so as not to affect his follow-through. Balance from both sides is very good, allowing Smoak to use his size and clean swing to drive the ball effectively to all fields.

Follow-Through – From both sides, Smoak is free and easy with his follow-through. Despite his size and the force in his swing, he maintains excellent balance as he concludes. This is a positive sign in that 1) his swing is not likely to get away from him, and 2) he is generating great power without sacrificing control over his swing.

Swing Grade – A- (left side); B+ (right side) – The hitch on the right is a little worrisome, but all-in-all there is a lot to be excited about with Smoak’s swing. He looks clean and efficient from load to follow-through, and there are few causes for concern.

Smoak is a fine athlete – sure-handed in the field and comfortable defensively. He has the footwork and hands to excel as a Major League first baseman, and should have no trouble slotting in as one of the better defensive 3’s around in any given league. He probably doesn’t have the mobility to man an OF corner, which limits his “tool” grade a bit. He has an adequate arm.

Fielding Grade – B+

Is Smoak Worthy of 1:4?

Smoak is the total package when it comes to draftee first basemen. A switch hitter that generates power to all fields and both sides of the plate, he profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat and is a clean and confident player in the field. While the inconsistencies of the summer and, to an extent, his junior year at South Carolina caused his stock to drop a bit early on, there is no doubt he is a top 10 talent with a major league tool set. Baltimore should give Smoak serious consideration at 1:4.

Prospect Grade – B+
Suggested Draft Slot – 4 to 8
1:4 Recommendation – Strongly Consider Drafting
Current Draft Board – 1. Smoak / 2. G. Beckham

Draft Preview Schedule

5/30pm Buster Posey (C) Florida State University

5/31am Pedro Alvarez (3b) Vanderbilt University

5/31pm Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)

6/1am Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego

6/1pm Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri

6/2 Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3

6/3 Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5

6/4 Draft Primer and Final War-Room Review

6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts our questions -- we'd love to hear from you.

What is Nick Markakis Worth?

A point of frustration to some may be the top brass of the Orioles dragging their feet with regard to signing Nick Markakis to a long-term contract. So far this year other teams have shown a proclivity to locking in their young players for the long-term. Detroit traded for and signed Miguel Cabrera to a 7 year deal for 140 MM. The Tigers also locked up Curtis Granderson for 5 years at 30 MM. Toronto handed down a 6 year, 64 MM deal to Alex Rios and a 4 year, 12 MM deal to Aaron Hill. Evan Longoria was signed long-term after a handful of games. That contract has some iffy language and can be 6 to 9 years in length and 17.5 to 44 MM in worth. The Milwaukee Brewers signed Ryan Braun to an 8 year, 45 MM contract. Rockies inked Troy Tulowitski to a 6 year, 31 MM deal. The Indians, who supposedly invented this approach of committing to young talent, sign Fausto Carmona to a 4-7 year deal for 15-48 MM. So, yeah, a lot of these contracts have been signed lately, but a major question is: Why are these deals being signed?

The Players Perspective
A baseball players entire perceived worth is related to his baseball performance. In turn, this is basically related to his physical fitness. A baseball career can be incredibly short. Many players have had an amazing rookie season and then just disappeared. Stuck in the renewal and arbitration systems, their pay is undervalued in comparison to their worth to the team. A few examples would be Angel Berroa, Ben Grieve, Bob Hamelin, Jerome Walton, Pat Listach, Marcus Giles, and even our very own Craig Worthington. The retention of physical ability is a chief concern among players and it is understandable why they would want to enter into a long-term contract because of the financial stability of such a deal.

There is a counter argument. Jayson Stark's article last week listed several players who have little interest into locking themselves into a deal. The players mentioned were the Uptons, Russell Martin, Prince Fielder, King Felix, Jeff Francoeur, and the Red Sox trio of young stars (Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia). Why would they not wish to enter into a deal? The trade off of signing a long term deal is that you may undercut your own value. The thought is that these deals cost a player about 3-5 MM per free agent year bought out. That is dependent, of course, on whether the player pans out. The players listed above are some of the best in the game, so it goes to reason that they can most likely keep their level of play. If I was Francoeur, I'd sign a deal though. Extreme contact hitters are a risky projection.

The Teams Perspective
A major concern of any organization is salary control. Money isn't free . . . it obviously has a cost. This cost often is hard to see. It will be difficult to know whether Jay "Albatross" Gibbons played in effort in courting other free agents, investing in the minor league system, or improving scouting. It is to a team's advantage to be able to identify plus talent and then secure it with a low ball offer. That is where these contracts make sense. Even teams with massive amounts of cash flow engage in this. Robinson Cano's extension is an example. The issue is though that sometimes the player you locked in is Kenny Lofton and sometimes it is Carlos Baerga. For a mid to low market teams, this strategy may be a necessity as the only way to compete long-term is taking a risk on young players and securing a few free agent years on the cheap. Richer teams do it because it gives them more money to spread around and a poor decision on this level is not going to affect them as much as a poor decision on a free agent signing when the contract carries more of a premium.

The Orioles' Perspective
It appears the Orioles are in between. Dan Connolly wrote an article a week or so back in the Sun. An anonymous source in the front office called the deal absurd and was quoted:
"To give a guy a contract like that who has never done it in the big leagues, that is what I call high-risk," the official said. "This game isn't that easy to predict."
The source of those comments may have emerged from someone who thought signing Gibbons and Mora to extension was a good idea. Andy MacPhail's comments (mentioned in the story) were more general and even-handed, which is what one would want from an official statement. It seems to be more clear that the team sees themselves as having not much to gain if Markakis does become the best right fielder in the game, but much to lose if he does not. It looks to me they will wait and let the free agent market determine his value. Is this a good move if it is indeed what they are doing?

From the Orioles (and, conversely, Markakis') perspective, what savings can be gained by signing Nick right now? This study will dive back into the generalized runs created equation and shifting that to wins, which I have done in the past on many occasions. Nick's performance will be used from PECOTA's 7 year forecast. Changes in the forecast by year will be incorporated into the current 25th and 75th projectile performance projections. Valuation is my own figure with each win being worth roughly 3 MM in today's market. Over the past five years, players salary has increased roughly 10% each year. Projected worth will increase at the same rate. All of this will be tied together in terms of cumulative savings or cost. It should be stated that I considered his defense to be average. The general consensus is that he has a plus arm and average range.

Nick Markakis Projection
Markakis' year has been a bit peculiar. He is on pace for 26 home runs, but is also on pace for 16 doubles. It is a peculiar line. His rates fall in at 253/374/424. His PrOPS place him at 280/396/492. His 2007 50th percentile PECOTA projection places him at 356/470, so PECOTA is right there in the middle and I am going to run with that. PECOTA's projections require a subscription, so I don't feel right publishing them here. What I will show is his 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile projections convert to runs created per 162 games. As you can see, he 25th percentile condition shows him being roughly replacement level as a right fielder (RL-RF is 348ops/413slg) for his career. The 50th percentile places him slightly above league average (Avg-RF is 360/465). His 75th percentile has have as significantly better than league average. Perhaps the strangest thing about these projections is how consistent they have Markakis' level of performance over these next 7 years.

Performance Valuation By Year
Although his performance is projected to remain relatively constant over the next seven years, salaries will climb as more cash flushes into MLB. Over the past five years, salaries have increased about 10% each season. Each win over replacement level player performance was multiplied by 3 MM in 2007, 3.3 MM in 2008, 3.6 MM in 2009, etc. Markakis' current performance is worth about 12 MM to the Baltimore Orioles, but he is being paid 0.455 MM. You can probably understand why he might be a little annoyed about the renewal system. If he was a free agent (ignoring his age and potential breakout ability), he would be worth that 12 MM. Compared with other players in that range it falls right on the nose. Jose Guillen is getting paid 13 MM and he was the 2007 league average right fielder (I'm still not sure how he did not get pay docked for the PED aura).

Cumulative Earnings Gained or Lost
This leads us to the bottom line. I think a proper correlative to Markakis would be Alex Rios. Toronto signed him to a 6 year, 64 MM contract this past offseason. That would be similar to what we would expect it would take to sign Nick this upcoming offseason. I assigned him a 6 year, 66.01 MM contract for simplicity and avoidance of numbers with dreadful connotation. The cumulative costs for the 25, 50, and 75 projections are based on three arbitration years and three years of free agency with the cost set by performance valuation of the prior season. For instance, in the 50th percentile I predicted arbitration worth as 5MM in 2009, 7MM in 2010, and 11MM in 2011. The next three years were then dictated by the valuation of his 2011 performance, which comes to 18 MM per season. That comes to a cumulative cost/earnings of 76 MM.

Out of the scenarios considered here, the Orioles would lose money only if Nick hits his 25th percentile projections. The Orioles would lose 16.5 MM over the course of 6 years. Of course, this is based on the free agent market and may overvalue his worth as there may be 0-3 year players capable of this performance. If you consider that possibility, it might be a loss of 50 MM or so over that time period. If Markakis hits his 50th percentile, the Orioles would have saved 10MM over 6 or 1.7 MM each year. The 75th percentile would be a savings of 37 MM over 6 years or about 6MM per year.

It is understandable why the Orioles might be reluctant to secure Markakis for the long term. If he falters it be a costly mistake (about 50 MM). If he stays the same as he is now, he basically get what he would have gotten anyway. If he breaks out . . . then he will cost a lot of money and years. That is basically what it comes down to. If you are sure that he is going to be a premium player, then you should lock him up in order to maximize your cash efficiency for other players on your roster. Ideally, the only time you pay a premium is when you bring players into your organization via free agency.

I think signing Markakis should be a priority and it will be fine to lock him in for 6 years at 66.01 MM. Perhaps a bit smarter of a contract would grant him 4 years at 40 MM and 2 team options years for 13.005 MM a piece. That way, he would still get a great deal of value for his first 4 seasons of the contract and the team would have an out if he completely crashes. I think Nick is not a high risk player. As opposed to the previous players mentioned (i.e., Craig Worthington, Ben Grieve) is not someone who relies on two tools. Markakis has plus ability in all skills and I think that makes him an easy one to bet on. Of course, this assumes Nick wants an extension. He certainly wants to be paid more, but I am not sure he wants to be lock in long-term. If he buys into the hype (Rob Neyer predicted that over the next 5 years he would be the best RF in the game), then he would be foolish to sign long term. Time will tell.

Though perhaps the biggest lesson is the savings attributed to developing young talent. Looking at Nick Markakis' 75th percentile projection, what we see is that over the next 6 years is that he could earn 103 MM if he goes the arbitration and free agency route. In turn, to get that much production off the free market, it would cost 157 MM. Even with respect to the average RF, you get a savings of 22 MM over 6 years. This is probably the lesson we have learned over the last decade or so: 0-3 year players are worth a lot of money. So, the next time you get excited by your team acquiring an established player (i.e., Bedard) for a collection of prospects (i.e. Adam Jones, Chris Tillman) . . . remember that with the extra 20-30% savings your team may be making, you can extend your own guys or pay the premium for the specific free agent talent to get you over the hump.

Were Steroids Good for Baseball?

As we wait for the next scouting report for the draft (I think it is Smoak or Posey next), I figured I would muse about PEDs. I haven't done this for a while. Anyway, Shysterball pointed me to this post over at the Sports Economist.

Basically, the response to steroid use was different than it was in football. An idea as to why this was so is that the negatives and positives are different for each sport. In baseball, the negative (i.e. health issues) is personalized. An individual taking PEDs could really only hurt themselves. There may be some overlap in beanings and the occasional splintered bat toss, but really the health issues were assumed solely by the individual who took them. In football, added onto those personal risks are also risks posed to other people playing. Bigger and stronger football players may not only put themselves at risk, but they can also impart a lot of hurt on others. Potential psychological issues associated with steroid use would also have more opportunity in football to cause danger to others.

It could be suggested that the benefits of steroids differ between the two sports.  The bigger and faster developments of football players are somewhat offset as offense and defense equal each other out.  In baseball, steroids may not be as helpful for pitchers as they are for hitters.  At the very least, the perception is there that hitters benefit greatly from steroids.  This perception can cause addition distress as baseball is arguably more of a game of numbers.  A homerun is simple and it is elegant.  Counting those home runs is something that we all have done since we were kids.  The act is thrilling and it is one of the most impressive feats of individualism in baseball, which itself is a patchwork game of individualism.  That thrill might also be why we ignored the presence of steroids for so long (i.e., Lenny Dykstra back in the early 90s and Jose Canseco). In a sport where guys piss on their hands to get an advantage, if a good player is doing something . . . others will start doing it too.  Sometimes what they do actually do affect the play on the field.

Then again, sometimes it does not.

28 May 2008

Looking for a Deal: Andy LaRoche

This is just a short aside from Stotle's draft scouting reports. Yesterday it was reported:
With rookie Blake DeWitt looking as if he has solidified his place as the Dodgers' starting third baseman, Andy LaRoche has started playing first base for triple-A Las Vegas as part of a plan to increase the ways he can help the big league club.
Now, this is a major misuse of talent. LaRoche should be starting somewhere, but with the Dodgers fully employing Blake DeWitt, James Loney, and having no DH . . . they are turning LaRoche into a utility player. This should be something to exploit. Andy has a career minor league line of 294/382/520. Last year his MLE was 265/325/439. This year he is 24 and carrying a 268/481/451 AAA line with 33 BB and 8 Ks. Pretty impressive.

Dodgers Weaknesses

Second Base
The most apparent weakness the Dodgers have is at second base. Jeff Kent is playing like a pickup truck ran over him. His line is 242/287/373. Brian Roberts would be an easy fit and an easy way to get LaRoche. The problem is that we are above .500 and not too far back from the Wild Card. As baseball goes, you typically do not trade your best players at this time. Sadly, this would make us better. We could probably get a second or third player in addition to LaRoche with Roberts alone.

With the poor play of Juan Pierre (284/350/314) and the pathetic play of Andruw Jones (165/273/271), outfield is a big need for the Dodgers. They just don't have anyone to move around. We should not take on Jones or Pierre is any situation and we really do not have a CF to offer them to begin with. Payton is worth about the same as Pierre performance-wise . . . so this is not really an area to exploit either.

Relief Pitching
With Scott Proctor being his normal awful self and Cory Wade pitching way over his head, Chan Ho Park is the only effective right handed reliever outside of their closer Takashi Saito. This smells ripe for an upgrade. Bradford is currently throwing a 2.70 era over 17 IP, which is actually overestimating his ability. His era should be about 3.50 or 4.00. He has been somewhat lucky, but he is definitely a good pitcher who would shore up a good LA Dodgers bullpen. Losing Bradford would probably mean promoting Safarte's role and bringing up an arm (i.e. Aquino, McCrory, Yan, or Cherry). It shouldn't hurt the bullpen much.

The Dodgers bench is also rather weak. Chin-Lung Hu is their SS of the future, but is incredibly overmatched at the plate. He is like Luis Hernandez except he is actually playing great defense. With Andruw Jones' injury, they are also short of players who can take a game or two in centerfield. Pierre is a sort of iron man himself, but it would give the Dodgers greater flexibility to have another option out there. Freddie Bynum would fit perfectly for them. He could back up Furcal and Kent in the infield as well as Pierre in center. He has speed needed for a late inning pinch runner and some power to capitalize on. Losing Bynum won't be difficult to swallow as Cintron can play SS and Luis Hernandez can back up the middle infield with Cintron. We have Payton to handle backup OF duties. LaRoche would take Bynum's spot on the roster.

Orioles get:
Dodgers get:

We may need to add a mid-tier prospect to even things out.

LaRoche's Role

LaRoche would play third base three or four times a week. Mora can take a day off once a week to let LaRoche play. Huff can take a day off with Mora at DH. Millar can take a day off with Huff at 1B and Mora at DH. Something like that could work out and give LaRoche about 200-250 plate appearances this year. Next year would depend on how we handle Mora and if we sign Teixeira. If we keep Mora and do not sign Teixeira, we can play Huff at first and split Mora and LaRoche between DH and 3B. If we keep Mora and sign Teixeira, then we need to play musical chairs with Huff, Mora, and LaRoche at DH and 3B. I have a feeling that LaRoche can get most of those at bats.

27 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Gordon Beckham)

Introducing Gordon Beckham

Our draft coverage begins with one of the more exciting players in college baseball this year. Entering the 2008 season, Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham was considered one of the top three draft-eligible college middle infielders – Miami’s Jemile Weeks and South Carolina’s Reese Havens being the other two. None of this triumvirate were considered to be a Top 15 pick. 57 games, 86 hits (23 HR, 17 2B, 1 3B) and 57 RBI later Beckham has lead his Georgia squad to a regular season SEC title as well as a national seed and regional host in the Field of 64, all the while staking his claim to the Golden Spikes Award (given to the best amateur baseball player -- awarded by USA Baseball and sponsored by the MLBPA) and Top 5 consideration in this year’s Rule 4 Amateur Draft. In determining whether Beckham is a good fit for Baltimore at the 1:4 spot, we will examine Beckham’s offensive numbers as well as Camden Depot’s scouting report on his offensive and defensive game.

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank out of 500 Ranked)
Games/Games Started – 57/57
At Bats – 218
Hits – 86 (48)
Doubles – 17 (244)
Triples – 1 (not ranked)
Homeruns – 23 (2)
Runs Batted In – 57 (93)
Batting Average – .394 (53)
On-Base Percentage – .507 (21)
Slugging – .789 (6)
Total Bases – 174 (4)
Walks – 44 (42)
Strikeouts – 27 (350th toughest to strikeout)

Beckham has clearly put up an impressive offensive line through the SEC Tournament. What jumps out with this stat line, however, is his power. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in three categories -- HR, SLG and TB. He wasn't a particularly difficult player to strikeout, which may or may not be indicative of future struggles. Ultimately, Beckham's numbers are impressive, but the late surge by Smoak and consistency of Posey have made G-Bex's season impressive rather than singular (I believe Baseball America made this last statement, though I could not find the quote to link it -- credit where credit is due, and all).

The Frame
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Beckham is solid without being awkward at shortstop. His frame has room to thicken, though he may be better off keeping under the 200 pound mark so as to make his stay at shortstop a little easier. His forearms, wrist and core are very strong, helping him to generate the power that has been demonstrated this season and this past summer when he won the homerun crown in the Cape.
Scouting: March 2, 2008 at Oregon State (Film)

Load – Beckham’s load is a bit problematic. His back elbow is elevated a bit to much, pointing the top of the bat towards the pitcher and extending the length his hands will eventually have to take to the ball. He maintains a solid 60/40 weight distribution and his hands are locked close to the shoulder, creating good power potential.

Stride – The weight transfer is successful in utilizing the power potential created in the load. Beckham is able to keep his hips closed during the stride, preventing any energy from escaping and helping to maximize his power. Not only does he not begin to drop his back elbow, it tends to elevate a little more, pushing the barrel forward and again lengthening the path his hands will have to take to the ball. Compounding this is the fact that while his body begins to stride forward, his hands stay in the same space (picture handcuffing your wrist to a chair and then slowly walking forward). This tends to create a long, somewhat loopy swing.

Swing – As anticipated, Beckham’s swing is a little long and a bit loopy, which could be problematic against more advanced pitching. For now, his incredible bat speed more than makes up for this deficiency. Beckham leads well with his hips, uncorking all of the potential power his mechanics have built up to this point. Quick hips and strong wrists help to get the bat through the zone quickly, despite the added length. It is possible the change to wooden bats and high-minors pitching will prove too much for even Beckham’s wrists to overcome.

Contact – He squares up on the ball very well, making consistent hard contact. The long swing sometimes leads to reduced bat control, however, and while Beckham is strong enough to muscle line-drives off the end of the bat when his control fails him, it is likely a fair number of his singles could turn into ground outs at the pro level. Beckham’s wrist and weight transfer provide the final piece to maximizing power on contact.

Follow-Through – Beckham maintains good balance, though at times he spins off a bit at the end of his swing and can be a little clunky in his one-armed finish. He does a fairly good job of maintaining his momentum through the ball.

Swing Grade – B – Beckham’s swing raises some serious questions as to his ceiling as a Major League hitter. At the college level, his approach is superior and he does a good job of utilizing his quick wrists and solid frame to generate plus power. There is a decent chance he hits a wall at AA/AAA if his hitch is not corrected, though it is possible his bat speed holds up. Baseball is littered with ugly swing mechanics that produce results (See Pence, Hunter).

Beckham ranges well up the middle and charges the ball with confidence. He possesses an adequate arm for shortstop and has the athleticism to stay there throughout his professional career. His hands, however, may force an eventual switch to third base. At times, Beckham is a bit herky-jerky, making it difficult to state with confidence that he can stay smooth enough to man the six at the Major League level.

Fielding Grade – B

Is Beckham Worthy of 1:4?

With the dearth of middle infield prospects in the Baltimore organization, nothing would please me more than to be able to state with confidence that Gordon Beckham would be a great selection for the Orioles. Unfortunately, there are too many questions surrounding G-Bex for him to warrant consideration this high in the draft. There is a chance he will ultimately need to switch to third base, and there is a likelihood that his superior bat speed will not be able to make-up for his hitch and loopy swing once he starts facing elite pro pitching with a wooden bat. His success in the Summer Cape Cod League is reason to be optimistic, but that was still against college pitching. Beckham should have no problem continuing to punish bad pitches – the question will be whether or not issues begin to arise when the bad pitches become fewer and farther between.

Prospect Grade – B
Suggested Draft Slot – 11 to 15
1:4 Recommendation – Pass

Next Up – Justin Smoak (1b) University of South Carolina

Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts our questions -- we'd love to hear from you.

26 May 2008

Ready for Prime Time Performance? ... Position Players

The minor leagues are a source of new talent. With the dire states of the Orioles offensive production, it might be useful to evaluate the potential help down at Norfolk. Now, the main thing to remember about Harbor Park is that it is cruel to hitters. I assume much of this is from the shore winds playing havoc with balls hit out to right field and those hugging the line in left. It has always played as a pitcher's park and the pitchers certainly appreciate it as I am sure we will find when we focus on them in a following post.

The Orioles, as mentioned previously, do not have their best hitting catcher in the majors. Matt Wieters is down at Frederick taking his cuts and getting use to the professional game. Probably the best course is just to let him go at his own pace and bring him up next year. That being said, do we have anything at Norfolk.

Chris Heintz.......(61AB, 344/379/426) - MLE: 321/349/397, 102 OPS+
Omir Santos........(87AB, 241/313/287) - MLE: 225/288/267, 76 OPS+
Ben Davis..........(38AB, 211/231/237) - MLE: 197/213/221, 59 OPS+

So, yeah, the answer is probably no. Santos and Davis are having difficulty hitting and have never really shown the ability to do so. Chris Heintz is playing his best ball since his 2002 season as a 27 year old in AA. I feel pretty confidant that his high batting average and his low slugging suggest that he has been benefiting from an unsustainable BABIP (.382). I would not expect him to be an upgrade over anything we have.

We have only gotten major league performance out of Brian Roberts. Millar is slightly rebounding, but he looks to have fallen off a cliff as I thought he was prime for. Mora started out solidly average and has downgraded that to solidly bad. I still think he is capable of horrendously awful. This should be his last year as a starter. Actually, last year should have been. Also mentioned earlier, our shortstop position has been a mess and there is not really any solution, but having a mess at shortstop is not as bad as people seem to think it is on the offensive end of it. So what does Norfolk have to offer:

Oscar Salazar......(192AB, 307/353/490) - MLE: 287/324/456, 107 OPS+
Eider Torres.......(131AB, 305/357/351) - MLE: 285/329/327, 90 OPS+
Brandon Fahey......(70AB, 286/342/343) - MLE: 267/315/319, 87 OPS+
Mike Costanzo......(164AB, 244/317/360) - MLE: 228/292/335, 86 OPS+
Scott Moore........(109AB, 183/270/339) - MLE: 171/249/316, 77 OPS+

Honestly, there isn't much to be excited about here. Torres, Fahey, and Moore have all been up with the big league clud and sent down. Torres is too dependent on hitting singles. That approach is prone to break down. Fahey has the same issue. Both are capable backup middle infielders on a MLB club or, more specifically, a NL club where offensive incompetence is more tolerated. Salazar is also way too dependent on contact, but has power to make up for it somewhat. He probably should be playing a bit in the majors on this club. He would not be good, but he just might be better than Millar. Salazar's inability to walk at the AAA level will probably depress that MLE a bit more as he faces pitchers with better stuff and control. Moore has just looked like a mess, but he hasn't lost the ability to take a walk from time to time and still has power. Costanzo is in the same boat except that some of his hits are falling in. These two guys should be battling for 3B at the MLB level or taking turns between Baltimore and Norfolk. They are just as good as Melvin. Moore has nothing more to learn at AAA. Costanzo could probably use a bit more seasoning, but he seems more in the flow right now. Both of these guys should be on the parent club next year. If the logjam is still there, I expect Moore to make the cut and an option to be used on Costanzo.

The Orioles outfield is actually pretty solid. Markakis is turning in league average LF performance. Scott is about league average LF. Adam Jones is also not too far away from league average and appears to be making adjustments. This is good news for the Orioles who have a cheap and productive group out there. This is not good news for Luis Terrero who is tearing up AAA and may just have learned how to avoid swinging at off speed pitches.

Luis Terrero.......(176AB, 324/396/523) - MLE: 302/364/487, 116 OPS+
Tike Redman........(160AB, 275/343/338) - MLE: 257/316/315, 86 OPS+
Chris Roberson.....(137AB, 248/338/328) - MLE: 232/311/305, 84 OPS+
Adam Stern.........(89AB, 247/289/315) - MLE: 231/266/293, 77 OPS+

Redman and Roberson are fine 4th outfielders on a big league club because of their ability to play center and left (right field in a pinch). Terrero has it a bit more difficult on the defensive end. If he was capable of league average defense in center field, he probably would have been in the majors for the past four years. His mental miscues and a recent loss of a step or two has hurt him. Still, I imagine if Jay Payton wasn't on the major league roster . . . we would have seen Terrero promoted by now. In fact, if we find a home for Payton, it would be Terrero who would be promoted as opposed to Redman, a Trembley favorite. Luis' AAA season has been that good. Again, I think his MLB performance is probably a bit less than the MLE suggests. My reasons for writing that is that Terrero has such a long history of not being able to hit those pitches and his season has been driven by a .397 BABIP. Still, it would be nice to see him spell Jones and Scott from time to time.

Our AAA roster is full of MLB quality backups based on their limited performance at Norfolk in 2008. Eider Torres, Brandon Fahey, Tike Redman, Chris Roberson, and Oscar Salazar are fine backups. None are starting material. Scott Moore and Mike Costanzo are both young and have the potential to be league average third basemen. Luis Terrero also has potential, but his defensive miscues and inability to tell a changeup from a fastball are probably still present. All in all, there really is not anyone who is being mistreated by being kept in the minors.

22 May 2008

Link of the Day

As you have noticed, the Link of the Day feature comes and goes. Today though, I think we have a decent one. As a primer to Stotle's eventual draft write-ups and his 5 round shadow draft . . . I'll send this link out. I linked to some of Alex Eisenberg's stuff before when it appeared on the Hardball Times. I found that he also has a website called Baseball Intellect and he is on Orioles Hangout as NoVaO. It should also be noted that Kiley McDaniel at SaberScouting has mused that he thinks Eisenberg makes sweeping statements on limited video footage. Kiley was a scout for three years or so and is now employed by some unmentioned baseball organization, which lets him travel around and watch a lot of amateur games in the Southeast. I don't know Alex's background. So, take this as you will. I do think Eisenberg's analysis is good and instructional. He also seems to do well backing up him insights with others who have viewed the players in question. Anyway, with all of that out of the way . . .

Eisenberg looks at Brian Matusz today. Everyone and their momma are predicting Matusz being selected by the Orioles with the 4th pick of the 2008 amateur draft on June 5th. It will probably happen since everyone last year was having us take Ross Detwiler with our pick. Oh, wait, that didn't happen. I have little clue as to what will happen and that is why we have Stotle lurking around.

The basic run down on Matusz, which I agree with (if that means anything), is that he is a projectable lefty starter. That probably means that he has about a 50 or 60% chance to playing several years in the majors as a starter (1st round pitchers typically have a 1 in 3 chance of going to the big leagues). His most likely destination is league average or slightly above league average. It seems doubtful he will become a top tier pitcher. Eisenberg thinks that we should go with the best player available and that would be a position player.

That seems to be the growing consensus that Matusz and Aaron Crow are probably in the 6-9 pick range in terms of talent. I think Jonathan Mayo and John Sickells both have them slotted there. It just does not seem to be a draft full of high end pitching.

21 May 2008

The Wieters Shift

A few posts back I discussed our catching. Along with what I wrote I brought up a possibility with Posey being drafted and Wieters shifted to 1B. The logic behind that goes that if Wieters hits well enough to be an all star 1B, he should be moved to a position that causes less duress. Catching is more likely to cause injury and also requires time off. I thought that we probably should go beyond the abstract and get a little bit more concrete.


In order to determine production, I will use the generalized formula is used in previous exercises. I don't really know how the lineup would be, so I think it is more applicable if we just view differences from a more comprehensive metric. So, the numbers generated are basically from a team of potential Wieters and a team of a comp . . . which is then divided by 9 in order to put it all in a basic predicted runs saved or lost product.

I tested Wieters performance as restricted by 120, 110, and 100 games as catcher along with him being unable to DH. These numbers will give a conservative perspective as to what we can expect. As a first baseman, I used 150 games played as the benchmark. I paired Wieters with a replacement level first baseman (.333/.420) when he caught and with a league average catcher (.320/.403) when he played first base. Under this scenario, we would expect this to be a liberal predictor of Wieters worth as a first baseman. A league average catcher is not always the easiest thing to find and catcher tend to degrade (everyone wave to Ramon and Javy!). I added these pairs for combination of Wieters hitting ranging from .300 to .450 for obp and .350 to .600 for slg. In turn, I subtracted the 1B Wieters scenario from the C Wieters scenario. Simply put, a negative value is the number of runs you gain by switching Wieters to 1B. A positive value is the number of runs you gain by keeping him behind the plate.


If Wieters can average 120 games as a catcher.

At 120 games, differences are just not very significant. Within the study range, there was no combination of OBP and SLG that would result in Wieters shift being worth more than a gain of 8 runs (0.8 wins). The break even line is about the type of player Russell Martin was last year. Victor Martinez is slightly above the line and Jorge Posada was worth about 0.5 wins above average if he was switched. As you can tell, you really have to rake to be worth the move at this level and a move does not result in as many wins as you may think.

If Wieters can average 110 games as a catcher.

Not much has changed with respect to group players from last year. Martin and Martinez are above the line more noticeably now, but Varitek is still below. Posada is now worth 0.9 wins above average. This is starting to be significant. I would probably think hard about moving a player if I could improve by a win. Of course, this scenario suggests that I can only find replacement level 1B and I can procure a league average catcher. It still does not seem viable. Although I does seem to suggest that the Yankees might be better off with Posada at first base and making a play for Varitek, Zaun, or Barajas.

If Wieters can average 100 games as a catcher.

2007 Jason Varitek is now the break even point. Martinez and Martion are clearly above the line. Shifting Posada-type performance would be worth 1.3 wins. This is probably where things get interesting. If Wieters would get injured so often catching that he is only averaging 100 games there each year . . . it may begin to make sense to shift him over to 1B. The most it seems to hurt a team would be about 1.5 wins.

Wieters should probably stay at catcher unless he shows a great propensity to get injured. Perhaps the ideal solution would be to sign some one like Teixeira to a seven year deal and at the end of the deal, shift Wieters to 1B, and bring in a catcher. Wieters bat looks pretty solid. It is the kind of bat where as he gets older . . . it may make sense to shift him so he stays healthy and potentially will hit better. Below is a chart that displays the break even points for the three game averages. That is probably the idea to take home.

20 May 2008

Link of the Day

Catfish stew is a solid little blog focused on the Oakland A's. This is a little old, but I thought people might enjoy it.

Guthrie's aunt was one of those kindly old ladies who loves you no matter what, and everything you do is great, because you're trying your best. Her cheering, complete with anachronistic shouts of "Yay!" and "Yahoo!" and "Hooray!", was so charmingly optimistic--"C'mon Jer, you can do it, I know you can!", I began to fall under her spell. After about three or four innings, I had somehow come to believe that the worst possible outcome of this game would not be a loss for either team, but that Jeremy Guthrie might somehow end up with his feelings hurt.

So when Kurt Suzuki blasted this two-run homer, I didn't really have the heart to cheer very much.

Poor Jer. He must have felt so bad. Guthrie was on the hook for the loss until Andrew Brown entered the game in the eighth inning, and proceeded to give up twenty-nine consecutive grounders in the hole between Daric Barton and Mark Ellis. I'm sure Andrew Brown felt bad about turning a two-run lead into a 5-4 deficit, and perhaps even worse when walking off the mound to a round of boos. Aunt Guthrie was appalled. "That's just terrible, booing a player like that. I'm sure he was doing his best."

Moving On Up

Well . . . the numbers are all moving on up for the season ending number of wins. We are about a quarter of the way through the season and our odds stand at 1:147 (PECOTA) and 1:8 (ELO) for making the playoffs. The disparity is due to PECOTA's adherence to the season beginning predictions and ELO's use of a ranking system. The teams we have faced have a .503 winning percentage, so that explains the numbers being reported.

A quick run through:
PECOTA is the PECOTA based model.
ELO is the ranking based model.
Crawdaddy is the model I created originally based on ZiPS, but now based on 2008 PrOPS and xFIP.
Pythagorean Win Expectancy Model is kind of self explanatory.
Actual wins is also self explanatory.

19 May 2008

Revisiting the Season Prediction

Several weeks back I predicted the number of runs the Orioles would give up and the number of runs the Orioles would score. The basis of this prediction depended on a few assumptions:

1) ZiPS/Morong Formula (my arrangement) would properly predict offensive and pitching performance.
2) Offensive replacements would cause a 10% reduction in run scoring while unearned runs would be ignored for pitchers.
3) Top 5 starters would start every game and provide an average of 6 innings pitched.
4) Relief pitchers would be league average.

1. ZiPS/Morong predicting performance.
ZiPS actually overpredicted the runs scored (with the run reduction application). ZiPS predicted that 193 runs would be scored. In actuality, 179 were scored. Even more of an issue was prediction of pitching performance. 222 runs were predicted, while 184 were actually scored. A major contribution to this error was the unexpected development of Daniel Cabrera and a bullpen that was much better than expected. It should be mentioned that my placeholder of a league average bullpen was actually somewhat optimistic. This formula under predicted the Orioles success.

2. Offensive reduction and static pitching.
My educated guess of a 10% reduction was pretty apt. Plugging in the actual OBP and SLG of each player resulted in a coefficient of 0.927 to reach the actual runs scored. The pitching prediction appeared a bit too kind. After plugging in the actual SP and RP era, the system predicted 177 runs, where there were actually 174 runs scored. The application of a coefficient (1.057) would have been appropriate to account for unearned runs.

3. Top 5 Starters would remain so and would average 6 IP.
It was to be expected that a starter or two would be injured. It was known this was a weak assumption. Loewen's injury made it so. The 6 IP prediction is actually almost right on the button.

4. RP would be league average.
Orioles RP are actually pitching 13% better than the league average bullpen.

New Adjustments

1. ZiPS is being replaced by PrOPS and xFIP.
As the season continues, in-season statistical methods may actually predict future performance better than season beginning predictions. The reason for this is that certain growth or degradation may not be apparent prior to the season. PrOPS takes in peripheral batting data to predict OBP and SLG. xFIP takes peripheral pitching performance data and predicts future ERA. Current relief pitching ERA will be multiplied by the coefficient factor mentioned in the next paragraph.

2. Performance Coefficients

The batting performance reduction coefficient will be changed from 0.9 to 0.927. The pitching performance coefficient will be changed from 1 to 1.057.

3. Record Calculation
The current record is considered a given, so the new predicted winning percentage will be applied to games yet to be played. The number of wins determined by the formula will then be added to the current total.

Team Used for Calculations
2 Roberts.........374obp/424slg
3 Mora............348/454
R Markakis........414/521
D Huff............324/441
L Scott...........328/395
1 Millar..........354/444
C Hernandez.......326/332
C Jones...........293/354
S Placeholder.....300/330

S Olson...........3.75
S Guthrie.........4.19
S Cabrera.........4.19
S Trachsel........5.92
S Burress.........4.64
R Bullpen.........3.42


In the games left, this method predicts the Orioles will score 542 runs and give up 537 runs. The season ending run totals would be 722 runs scored and 721 runs given up. In the remaining games, the winning percentage would be .505, which would end with us having a .518 winning percentage at the end of the year (Pythagorean Win Expectancy). This means that the current rendition of the model predicts we wind up with a 84-78 record, which is 2 wins above the PWE.


The current model is placing a great amount of worth on the ability of PrOPS and xFIP to accurately predict future performance. In addition, the new coefficients are assumed to remain constant. Finally, expecting the current rotation to remain as the final rotation is, again, quite a weak assumption. Anyway, things look a lot brighter for the O's than it did a few months back.