Pending the results of his physical, Miguel Tejada will be rejoining the Orioles as their starting 3B. Shortly before the signing, Orioles GM Andy MacPhail had apparently narrowed down his choices to Joe Crede and Miguel Tejada. Speaking with Roch Kobatko, MacPhail said:
We would hope that next corner infielder we could add is a solid hitter. (But) there isn't a multitude of those power guys in the game, and I think the game is shifting a little bit away from the gaudy power numbers that were put up 10 years ago that we were used to seeing. The game is starting to shift and you can see, rightfully so, clubs starting to put emphasis on defense . . . There are also durability issues with Joe over the course of his career, and not so much with Miguel, who's had over 650 plate appearances in all but one season in recent memory . . .
It seemed somewhat obvious then what the Orioles preference was and that they hoped Tejada could take to the new position.
After the jump, thoughts on Tejada switching to third, his hitting, and the new projected win total.
Tejada will be learning a new position this year. He has not logged a single game at third base in the Majors during a career that has spanned 1846 games or 16097.2 innings in the field. His transition to the hot corner will be interesting as what has plagued him most as he has aged has been the reduction in his range. His hands and his arm still look sharp, the range has been the issue. Having not seen him much in Houston, I am not sure what is hurting that range. If it is just a decrease in speed (as was apparent in Baltimore) or a decrease in reaction time as well. The latter will have the most effect on him at third. We may see something similar to Melvin Mora where he actually played a few steps back to give himself more time to react to batted balls. Thankfully, no one really bunts anymore because Mora was often not in a position to field them well. Tejada might find himself in a similar place. I think we can probably expect something in the -5 to 0 runs above average defense from him at third. That might be slightly optimistic. It really all depends on his response time. I think his throwing motion is compact enough to not make that an issue.
Tejada has seen a gradual decline in his offensive abilities from his 2004 career year. Starting with his last season in Baltimore and his two in Houston, he has displayed a couple of interesting changes. First off, although his ISO has been fairly consistent in the .130 to .140 range, his HR/Fly rate has been cut dramatically from the mid teens to about 8%. He has made up for that dropped by increasing his contact rate (mid 80s to high 80s) and has largely done that by increasing his swing rate (40s to low 50s). He is one of the most prolific ball players over the past couple years in terms of contact rate. As one would expect, an increase in swing rate will often be matched by a decrease in walk rate. Tejada is not a prolific walker with a career line of 6.3%, but his rate of 2.8% was a severe drop from his peak years. All in all, his the rates suggest the Tejada is feeling the effects of aging. His lines are entering the phase of his career where you could potentially see a complete and utter drop in performance. His success will depend entirely on his contact rate as he has pretty much lost his other batting skills.
With so many prediction systems up these days, we have stopped working on our own as it seems we were only reinventing the wheel. Our laborious excel program just required too much time to update and any of the big five (CHONE, ZiPS, PECOTA, Bill James, MARCEL) are just as good to use with minor variations. For the projections this year, we chose CHONE. CHONE predicts Tejada to have a 297/333/434 line with -12 fielding at shortstop. I kept the offensive portion and modified the defensive portion to be league average defense (i.e. 0) at third. I also predicted him being able to garner 600 PA.
This places the current win projection at 77.8 wins. Under this scenario we have the following odds (using binomial distribution):
82:1 against losing 100 games
5:2 against a .500 record
42:1 against 90 wins
332:1 against 95 wins
Assuming a playoff threshold of 95 wins, the Orioles have a 0.3% chance to make the playoffs right now.