09 July 2010

Orioles sign Hector Veloz, 3B

Veloz tested positive for stanozolol. It seems his price dropped a considerable amount after that. He is a pretty high profile guy this year.

A smattering of links follow . . .

Ben Badler

The Orioles have signed 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Hector Veloz for $300,000, according to his trainer, Victor Baez.

The bonus is a franchise record for an amateur player signed out of the Dominican Republic and is believed to be a franchise record for all of Latin America. A club official did not return calls seeking comment.

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Veloz, who is from Santiago, stands out for his plus raw power from the right side, though he has been inconsistent hitting in games. He also shows an above-average arm and solid hands at third base.
 Frankie Piliere

Scouts have been somewhat torn on Veloz, who is one of the standouts of the Dominican Prospect League. Some have said his bat is arguably the best in the class and others have been less certain. He should be looking at seven figures from one of the clubs that is more convinced of his offensive potential.

Video

29 June 2010

Depot Retro: Koji Uehara scouting report

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008
Scouting Report: Koji Uehara, RHP, Japan
By Nick James
Before unveiling our Fall 2008 Top 40 pitchers in the 2009 Draft Class, we take a quick look at another Japanese right-hander: Koji Uehara. The 6-1 /187 lbs. 33-year old (34 this upcoming May) is looking to sign with a Major League organization this Winter, with the Orioles apparently the only team currently looking at him as a starter.
Grading Out
Motion – 50
Tempo – 60
4S Fastball – 50
2S Fastball – 55
Slider – 50
Changeup/Forkball – 55

Mechanics
Overall Motion – Uehara’s motion is clean with some deception and an interesting thrust upwards at the end of his high-effort delivery. As he enters his leg kick, he gets great bend in his back leg allowing him to get maximum thrust in his stride. His plant is clean and he does an excellent job of keeping his momentum directed towards home. As he releases, he drives upwards with his plant foot, giving him the appearance of rising upwards as the pitch comes. On occasion, he'll enter this thrust before the ball has completely left his hand, leaving the pitch up (though this is much more the exception than the rule). While his follow-through -- both leg and arm -- can be violent at times, it's generally under control and leaves him facing forward. Overall, there is a lot of effort, but the mechanics are clean enough to have helped him avoid serious injury over a good-sized career.

Arm Action – As Uehara splits his hands and enters his stride, he cocks his wrist pulling the ball in and towards his elbow. This action places additional stress on the elbow and is generally a red flag indicating a higher probability of elbow troubles down the line. Given that Uehara has not run into serious elbow injury in his career, it's quite possible this is a non-issue. Still, if Baltimore is looking to use him as a starter, it will be something to keep in mind with regards to pitch counts and inning counts on the season. Otherwise, Uehara's arm action is clean though he throws with some effort. There is a good amount of torque on the shoulder, but his upper-half generally works well with his lower-half, helping to ease some of that tension. His follow-through is generally smooth, though as mentioned above he can get a bit violent at times leading to recoil.
Pace – Uehara keeps a terrific pace, moving cleanly through his motion and keeping all of his parts working together. His upper-half and his lower-half are on the same page, reducing stress in his shoulder (which is key considering his generally high-effort delivery).
Mechanics Grade – B
Arsenal
Fastball – Uehara comes with a low-90s 4-seam fastball that is generally flat and a 2-seamer a couple of miles-per-hour slower with good arm-side run. He commands both pitches well to all four quadrants and mixes them well so as to give the batter a different look. His 4-seamer is a below-average pitch, though it plays-up a bit due to his command. His 2-seamer is an average pitch that plays-up due to the late action and has plus-potential when he is living on the black.
Slider – Uehara's slider is a tight little offering with late bite and not great depth. Like his fastballs, his slider plays-up due to his command, and he's able to keep the pitch inside against lefties and on the low corners against righties. It's an average pitch that should play well against ML hitters provided he keeps it out of the middle-of-the-plate.
Changeup/Forkball – Uehara's other secondary offering is a changeup/forkball with good depth and fade. It's most effective as a chase pitch with two strikes, though he's comfortable throwing it inside to lefties and breaking it over their knees to the low-inside corner. This fringe-plus-offering may be the key to his success or failure as a starter, as it will help keep his pitch count down and produce ground balls if he commands it well.
“Stuff” Grade – B- – Uehara is not likely to overpower anyone at the ML-level, but he has the potential to keep hitters off-balance with three solid to above-average offerings. If he can maintain his plus-command, his three pitch mix should play towards the back-end of a ML rotation. His slider and fastball are not good enough to miss with, so leaving either over the plate will get him into trouble in a hurry. He'll need to work ahead in the count and utilize his change/forkball to get some swings-and-misses or groundouts.
Nick’s Notes
Uehara could be groomed as a reliever or a starter, though it looks like he would prefer to start and Baltimore is currently the only team looking to use him in that role. Plus-command and an adequate if unspectacular arsenal could make him a solid option at the back of a rotation, though given his arm cock (pulling the ball to his elbow) it may make sense to use him in the #5 spot where he can have a couple of starts skipped as a precaution. Were Uehara to struggle as a starter, he could be used as a situational reliever, primarily as a groundball pitcher in the Bradford mold.
Prospect Grade – C+

27 June 2010

Depot Retro: Markakis Extension

What is Nick Markakis Worth?
 May 29, 2008


 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?





Cost/Benefit
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.


Conclusion 
 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.

26 June 2010

Depot Retro: Infield Age Curves

Infield Defensive Age Curves


A major consideration for any team when it comes to offering a player an extension or signing a free agent is often boiled down to his offensive production over the length of the new contract. Another consideration that is often overlooked is where the bat will play. For instance, signing a 28 year old Miguel Tejada to a 6 year contract to play shortstop is actually a very smart move. His bat played well over expectations for a SS and would become league average by about his final year of the deal. Likewise, Tejada's defense was astounding and very much under-rated. A typical age progression would have showed him to be an average to slightly below average defensive SS in his final year.

In hindsight, we now know he was two years older than admitted. This shifts the projection in the wrong way. His 5th year is now as an average offensive SS and an average defensive SS (very good hands, but no range outside of his zone). Next year should result in a precipitous decline in defense, but you cannot shift him to third base or first base. Why? You can easily find bats that provide more offensive output than Tejada for the same defense. For the Orioles, thankfully they shipped him off and at least got a serviceable left fielder and some potential arms. They also helped add to Ed Wade's long list of bad, but not life threatening trades.

Here we will try to quantify typical infield age curves for fielding. When it comes to fielding there are two main considerations when it comes to generating outs: the ability to field "cleanly" and range. Fielding cleanly or fielding efficiency is a skill that maximizes when the player has had experience at the MLB level. Aging will affect efficiency, but not to a great extent. Range on the other hand is heavily affected by aging, or that is what I would assume. As a player ages, he should experience decreased ability to cover the same territory or have his reaction time slow.

How will fielding be measured?

Revised Zone Rating (RZR) will be used as a surrogate for fielding efficiency. This metric assumes there is a given territory that a defender should be expected to cover. Of all the balls that pass through this zone, outs are recorded and compared to the number of chances. This is not ideal as RZR will be effected eventually by decreased range, but it should be rather representative because players are typically moved off positions if they are so unable to defend this standardized area.

Out of Zone (OOZ) Plays will be used to represent range. These plays are those that are made outside of the zone designated to the position. Again, there are potential issues. If a defender is playing next to a player who has great range then the number of OOZ plays he can accrue will probably be reduced. The resulting effect may not be great because several players seasons will be used to determine the aging curve line.

The data was collected from the Hardball Times fielding statistics. Fielding performance was recorded from 2004-2007. Out of Zone plays for each player was divided by the number of innings played and normalized over 162 9 inning games. Ages were then determined and applied to the seasons. Ages with less than three data points were removed from consideration. Only full time players were considered.

First Base

The curves depicted to the right show the effect of age on fielding efficiency (orange) and range (black). Each horizontal mark represents one run for both y axes. For instance, if a player moves upward ten lines then he has prevented ten runs from scoring in comparison to the year before. Ten runs is roughly worth one win. For first basemen, each play is worth about 0.798 runs.

Based on the age classes we have on hand (at least three data points had to be available for each age included), we see absolutely no acclimation for range from 24 onward. Range basically plateaus between age 30 and 31 seasons. For first basemen, fielding range is maximized in the early 20s and immediately declines until about age 30. First base is not considered a defensive position, so when a 1B ages it is typically met with a shrug. Fielding efficiency maxes out at 26 or 27 years of age and then goes into decline. It could be argued that the decline is fueled largely by the decline in range. It should be noted that efficiency, for a short period, does increase as range decreases. The reduced ability to field effectively is most likely due to age and range. A simple regression found correlation between range and RZR to be an order of magnitude greater than age and RZR.

Second Base

Just like the previous graph, the curves depicted to the right show the effect of age on fielding efficiency (orange) and range (black). A single play is worth about 0.754 runs for a second baseman. Fielding efficiency maxes out around age 28 or 29. Range is maximized at age 26 or 27. Ages 27 to 29 are when fielding ability is greatest for second basemen as their efficiency rises and their range has not been greatly compromised. Most second basemen fall completely apart in their early to mid thirties, so I did not have enough data to cover that time period.

Second base appears to be a position suffers a great amount of physical degradation, but also is one of the later ones in terms of reaching a high point for efficiency. It takes several years before fielding efficiency is optimized. Taking this data into consideration, defensive second basemen are hurt by free agency for the most part (or the organizations who sign them). After the renewal system and arbitration cycles take their turns, defensive minded second basemen hit free agency with their better days behind them. It is more likely that the dropoff is far more severe than depicted on these curves due to older 2B neutralizing the aging effect.

Third Base

For third basemen, a single play is worth about 0.8 runs. This position has the most costly plays barely nudging out first base. It should be noted that the reason why the corners are so costly as because those fair balls slicing down the first or third base line often result in extra bases or a difficult throw to nail an advancing runner. Plays at these corner positions are about 7% more valuable than those in the interior. Balancing that is that there are far more plays in the interior than on the corners.

Of all of the positions, we have the most information for this one in terms of different ages. Third base and second base have some similarities in terms of how long players take to develop peak efficiency at these positions. Third basemen take a little bit longer as they peak around 30 or 31. The reason for both of these might be due to learning a new position. A significant number of second basemen and third basemen are often shifted off of shortstop. This switch may take years for a player to develop properly and achieve his highest level of performance.

Shortstop

For shortstops, a single play is worth about 0.753 runs.

Based on the age classes we have on hand (at least three data points had to be available for each age included), we were only able to include ages 22 to 32 on this graph. As opposed to the 2B curves, these have similar apexes, but differ with where they end up. Shortstop appears to take more skill and athletic ability to play effectively. This comes as no surprise. Also, range deteriorates much more quickly than efficiency, which agrees with the 2B study. Fielding lifespan is much shorter for a SS than a 2B though. Range for a SS seems to peak around 26/27 and fielding efficiency peaks 27/28.

A quick check on Google and I find that Tom Tango did something similar in February. His findings basically agree with my own even though we calculated these in different ways. His calculations predict a decline twice as rapidly as my own. For instance, we both find the same peak, but he finds a decrease of -35 plays from peak to age 32. I find it to be -18 plays. I am not sure which is more appropriate. Perhaps considering my findings and Tango's as a range would be a good idea. That range is worth about one win. Regardless, this trend seems more unmistakable.

Points to Take Home

If these curves are accurate depictions of player ability it should be noted that there are some immediate declines for all positions at the time for extensions or free agency. A typical first baseman will lose 1.3 more games in his age 32 season than his age 28 season. Third base is more resilient as only 0.3 games lost in that transition. This retention has a lot to do with the fact that players with the ability to stick at third base will stay there while those who lose range or skill will be shifted to first base. Looking at the middle infield, A second baseman and shortstop will lose 1.5 and 1.4 more games using that same comparison, respectively.

As can be seen, a major issue with free agency is that it is rarely a source of middle infielders. This is something that most teams have figured out as you will rarely see anyone sign a middle infielder for much money these days. Your typical second baseman and shortstop will be quite useful at their natural positions until they reach about age 32, then that bat that was so useful there pales with a position change.

25 June 2010

Depot Retro: Brian Roberts Interview and Brian's Bracelets

Interview: Brian Roberts, 2b, Baltimore Orioles
Brian Roberts answered some of our questions about his "Brian's Bracelets Program", baseball and what Orioles fans can do to help with this worthy cause. Brian's Bracelets are available exclusively online only at www.briansbracelet.com ($10.00).
-------------------------
brian_roberts_game2CamdenDepot.com: When you were five, you underwent surgery to alleviate a heart condition. How has that experience affected your desire to impact social issues?

Brian Roberts: I spent a lot of time in the hospital after my heart surgery.  I was little but I remember missing the normalcy I had at home.  With Brian's Bracelet Program, and with the help of GameWear, we're helping ensure that kids at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children (UMHC) feel a little more at home.  Even at such a young age, the surgery instilled in me the importance of helping others. 

I'm really proud to have partnered with GameWear for this important Program.  I wear my bracelet all of the time - look for it on my wrist at our next game. 

CD: When people purchase Brian's Bracelets, the money goes toward University of Maryland's Hospital for Children charity fund. In what ways will these donations be used to help patients?

BR: The money from Brian's Bracelets will help fund children's programs that will make kids' stays a little more comfortable.  Funds support programs like the Pet Visitation Program, where specially trained animals visit young patients to cheer them up, and Reach Out and Read, a pediatric practice-based program that gives children access to books early in their lives.  So when you buy a bracelet, you're money is directly impacting how children play and cope during their hospital stays. 

CD: Are there any specific stories you would like to share from your charity work?

BR: There are so many stories really. Every encounter at the Children’s Hospital touches you in a way that’s hard to explain. I’ve been inspired by so many kids and what they’re going through that I honestly can’t single out one story. I guess if I had to give one story, I would say last year when I got together with a bunch of teammates, Baltimore City Police and Fire Departments and the Orioles to give a shopping spree to several needy Baltimore area families at Wal-Mart for the Holidays. I love watching the video tape seeing the reaction of the families when we tell them what they were there for, it was all a surprise. I literally had to cover my ears they were yelling so loud.

CD: That sounds like a wonderful experience - being able to see your impact on the community up close. One fascinating aspect about Brian's Bracelets (and other charities such as Lance Armstrong's "Live Strong" campaign (Lance Armstrong Foundation) or Coach Weis's "Hannah & Friends") is you see physical proof that a community is taking up a cause. How does it feel to see people walking around with the Bracelets, knowing that you've encouraged others to take up this worthy cause?

BR: It's so amazing to see people wearing Brian's Bracelet.  For fans, the Bracelets are a perfect way to stay connected to the game and connected to an important cause at the same time.  Seeing a group of kids wearing the Bracelets makes me proud and happy that the community is coming together to help put smiles on the kids’ faces.

CD: In the future, what plans do you have with University of Maryland Hospital for Children or other charities?

BR: Right now, I'm focused on helping the kids at UMHC.  I will continue to be dedicated to improving the quality of life of seriously ill children through helping provide and fund hospital programs that distract them from their pain and keep their head in the game. In the future, I’ll always be looking out for organizations and charities that I can help in any way. I’ll always enjoy working with kids and promoting the sport of baseball, and I’m sure I’ll continue to come across and be approached by various organizations that I can get involved with.

CD: Well, the "Brian's Bracelets Program" is a wonderful charity and we have no doubt that our readers will join you in supporting the kids at brian_roberts_game1UMCH, if they aren't already. On to baseball -- many of our readers are interested in the progression of a player from draftee to Major Leaguer. Tell us a little about your path from draft day to your first Major League game. What were some of the more difficult hurdles in adjusting to professional ball and developing as player?

BR: Let’s see. 1999 I got drafted. I played about half a season in [LoA Delmarva] in ‘99 and then went to [HiA Frederick]. I began the season in 2000 in [Frederick] where I encountered my first obstacle when I hurt my elbow after the first couple games and sat out 10 weeks. I came back later in the season and did okay, finishing still in [Frederick]. 2001 I started the season in AA [Bowie] for about three weeks, went to AAA [Rochester] for a month and half and got my first call to the Big Leagues at the end of the season and stayed there for a few months. I honestly thought I was going to remain with the Orioles for the 2002 season, but I ended up starting [back in Rochester]. Once you get a taste of the Major Leagues and the competition level, it’s difficult to go back but I just tried to remain focused. Eventually I got called back up in 2002 and played in 40 or so games. The toughest thing was being in competition for playing time with Jerry Hairston who was one of my closest friends. We were constantly pushing each other to improve and internal competition is always good for a team. 

CD: In 2001 you began making the switch from shortstop to second base. You have obviously embraced the switch, but did you question the move at first? What did you have to work on by switching to the other side of the infield and how difficult of a transition was it?

BR: Yea, it was hard at first. I didn’t like it since I played SS my whole life really. I questioned it and was upset at first, but I knew it was best for the team. Turning double plays from other side was one of the most difficult things to learn.

CD: Despite a few hiccups recently, this 2008 Orioles team has been a pleasant surprise and a lot of fun to watch. Can you feel a change in the clubhouse? In the organization?

BR: Yea, I think we can all feel like we’re headed in the right direction. We made some moves for the future and I think we exceeded a lot of expectations this year, while we are still in what some consider a rebuilding stage. I think there’s a positive energy in the clubhouse and that leads to winning games and the fans have been really supportive overall.

CD: It seems like Baltimore is a lot closer to being competitive in the AL East than many in the media indicated at the beginning of the season. Considering the handful of true difference-makers available this upcoming offseason, how would you sell this year's upcoming free agent class on joining the Orioles?

BR: If we can convince the right people at the right position, I definitely think there are some areas we can improve. We could probably use another starting pitcher or two, but for the most part we have a great team for next year and we have to remember [former closer] Chris Ray and [set-up man Danys] Baez will be back from injury and our bullpen is already solid. Offensively, we’ve been able to produce and [Nick] Markakis and [Adam] Jones are only going to continue to develop into All-Star caliber players. I guess I would sell the team on the direction we’re headed, the city itself and the incredible fans. Realistically though, it is a business and some free agents might make financial decisions based on what’s best for them and their families, but I’ll always do what I can to help promote and sell the organization to the players that can help us win games and provide leadership.

brian_roberts_braceletCD: It’s certainly an exciting time to be an Orioles fan. Any final thoughts you would like to share with the fanbase?

BR: I can't stress enough how important it is to help others in need.  The kids at UMHC are really great and by purchasing Brian's Bracelet, you know that you're helping give them the comforts of a normal, healthy lifestyle.  All you have to do is visit www.briansbracelet.com to purchase a bracelet.  Such a simple act really makes a huge impact.

Depot Retro: Effect of Defense on Run Production to Maintain Average Performance (Part 2 of 2: catcher and OF)

Effect of Defense on Run Production to Maintain Average Performance
(Part 2 of 2: Catcher and Outfield)

January 21, 2009by Jon Shepherd

In Part 1, we generated several illustrations to indicate how much offensive production is required to wind up with an average infield player given certain levels of defensive aptitude. Part 2 continues with the previous analysis, but focuses on the outfield and catcher.

Method
The methods have been set forth in part 1. The average OBP and SLG used in this Part 2 are listed in the table to the right. Examples of players are given for the outfield positions, but not for the catchers. It is uncertain to the author how exactly to quantify catching defensive worth. I would also like to explicitly mention something again that some found confusing in Part 1. All I am doing here is providing a connection between offensive production and defensive production using OBP and SLG. What someone needs to do to use these graphs is figure out how many runs on defense a player saves or costs. The examples I use in this article are based on last year's offensive numbers and a qualitative approximation of defensive value based on a consensus of UZR/150, Dewan, my system using RZR, and scouting reports.

Results
Catcher
Catcher is probably the position with the most difficult scenario to determine defensive worth. The ability to throw out ball players, prevent chances being taken for stolen bases, prevent wild pitches and passed balls, calling a game, and technique around the plate on throws home. I'm not aware of a useable format to collapse all of these variables. It probably exists somewhere. Some form may be available to the public. I am not aware of it though. So, in light of that . . . to the left is a chart depicting what type of production would be needed with respect to defensive prowess.
 
Left Field
This corner outfield position has lately become a slot where teams stick poor fielders not relegated to 1B/DH due to footspeed or further defensive ineptitude. One such outfielder is Adam Dunn. He is one of the worst left fielders in baseball and costs his team about 20 runs. His bat though has been solid enough to result in a total player who is slightly above average. If he is able to continue hitting like he has been and not have his fielding degrade anymore . . . he is probably worth about 12-14MM a year. Of course, if he suffers any degradation of talent, his value will collapse. Baltimore's Luke Scott is being used here as representative of an average fielding left fielder. His season last year was also quite average offensively. His overall value will take a slight hit as it appears he is headed toward being a DH with Baltimore's recent acquisition of Feliz Pie. Finally, Jacoby Elsbury played a stellar left field as he saved over 20 runs last year if you project his left field performance over the course of the year. With that level of defense, even if he maintains a 720ops, he rates as an above average left fielder. If Jason Bay reverts to a -10 run defense, he is more valuable than Elsbury as a left fielder. If his -15 run defense degrades more, the Red Sox may think twice about extending him. Although, his bat probably will sustain 4 or 5 years at DH.
 
Center FieldOffensive production from center field is similar to what is expected from second base. Of course, this position is typically more difficult to play. Aaron Rowand signed a nice contract last year after a surprising year in Philly. His offense in 2007 over-compensated for his defensive deficiencies. In 2008, his offensive numbers dropped more in line with his career average, exposing him as a below-average center fielder. There are 4 years and 48MM left on that deal. Ichiro rates as an average center fielder these days and his bat also rates as average. Finally, Carlos Gomez played a great center field last season for the Twins. His bat was pretty dreadful and he rated out as below average as a player. He was only 22 last year, so his hitting should get a little better and his defense should maintain this high level for a few seasons.

Right FieldThe last position in this series is the position with the second most run production, trailing only first base. An example of a great outfielder is Randy Winn who has been performing well the past two seasons in the Giants's right field. His offensive numbers are rather average for a right fielder, but his defense is so good it makes Winn two wins better than average and one of the better right fielders in the game last year. Another player who is worth about two wins more than average is Nick Markakis. His defense rates as about average, although with his arm he probably saves about 8-10 more runs a season. Assuming he is just average in the field, he still rates out as one of the best right fielders in the game. Finally, Bobby Abreu is our example of a defenisvely inept right fielder. The Yankees just might have known what they were doing when they decided not to offer arbitration as he is almost 10 runs worse than average based on this metric system.

ConclusionAlthough not explicitly discussed in this section, the numbers here in general agree with the valuations over at FanGraphs. The method developed here is a bit more simplistic than what is done over there. The purpose here was to provide a quick set of illustrations to determine how a player rates with respect to his fielding and offense. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this study is recognizing that defensively adept center fielders may be utilized as a left fielder and deliver above average performance by buffering his bat with his glove.

21 June 2010

BORT Chat Monday at 8pm: Leaving it all open

Today's chat has no specific topic at the moment.  Feel free to show up tonight and give us structure . . . or, perhaps, I'll figure out some things to talk about.  I always seem to have an opinion.


20 June 2010

Trade Market Options: AL East Edition

This is a continuation of a series exploring options in the trade market for the Orioles. The Orioles most useful available talent (i.e. Millwood, Guthrie, Wigginton, Scott) could probably net a return of one B level prospect and some C level secondary prospect. This series will review the teams arguably in contention and how well they match up with what the Orioles have and what the Orioles would want.

NL East
NL Central
NL West
AL East
AL Central
AL West

AL East after the jump...