28 September 2011

Expanded Roster: MacPhail's Arms

During the month of September, Camden Depot expanded the rosters beyond Nick Faleris and Jon Shepherd.  This enabled our audience to speak directly outside of the comment box as well as shine a light on other Orioles writers.  The final article is from Will BeaudouinBen Feldman and Kevin Williams wrote pieces.  I would like to thank everyone who submitted pieces.  They all made me think and consider new ideas or new ways of presenting old ideas.  However, we limited space we had to select the three best.  Also, congratulations to Kevin Williams whose piece was also publicized on our home ESPN MLB site in a Sweet Spot article.  Thanks again and we might look into this again when Spring Training comes around.

MacPhail's Arms
by Will Beaudoin

MacPhail's first arm - Rocky Cherry
If the reports and rumors that have surfaced in recent weeks are to be believed, Andy MacPhail’s tenure as President of Baseball Operations will soon come to an end. MacPhail, first hired in June of 2007, is well known for having preached his oft-repeated mantra of “grow the arms and buy the bats” as well as his claims that the Orioles needed to acquire more “pitching inventory”. At face value it seemed that MacPhail desired to accumulate enough quality organizational pitching depth in order to prevent the Paul Shuey’s of the world from being called upon when ranks inevitably thinned.

The objective of this piece is to look back at the pitching inventory acquired during the MacPhail era and evaluate said inventories potential moving forward. Starting in June of 2007 through the present day, I’ve compiled a list of every pitcher acquired by MacPhail who’s pitched thirty or more major league innings as an Oriole. For the sake of simplicity I’ll be using Fangraphs’ fWAR to quantify value. This isn’t a cost-benefit analysis—salaries will be ignored for this exercise. Many of the pitchers who didn’t pan out were smart pickups at the time of their acquisition and vice versa. I simply want to look at the raw value these pitchers brought to the club during their time in Baltimore.

Note: Players are listed under the first year they were acquired starting June 20th, 2007. Innings pitched and fWAR totals are their Oriole career numbers. Players subsequently reacquired (e.g. Hendrickson, Uehara) are only listed the first year they were acquired. [edit - The end date for the fWAR time frame is September 6th, 2011].

2007 Regular Season Acquisitions
  • Rocky Cherry: 33.1 IP, fWAR -.7
  • Fernando Cabrera: 38.1 IP, -.6 fWAR

07/08 Offseason/Regular Season Acquisitions
  • George Sherrill: 95 IP, 1.4 fWAR
  • Chris Tillman: 180.2 IP, .7 fWAR
  • Brian Matusz: 262 IP, 2.9 fWAR
  • Brian Bass: 107.1 IP, .1 fWAR
  • Lance Cormier: 71.2 IP, .7 fWAR
  • Alberto Castillo: 48.2 IP, -.1 fWAR
  • Matt Albers: 191.2 IP, 1.3 fWAR
  • Dennis Sarfate: 102.2 IP, .2 fWAR
  • Randor Bierd: 26.2 IP, .1 fWAR
  • Steve Trachsel: 39.2 IP, .1 fWAR
  • Alfredo Simon: 156 IP, -.1 fWAR

08/09 Offseason/Regular Season Acquisitions
  • Mark Hendrickson: 191.1 IP, 1 fWAR
  • Koji Uehara: 216 IP, 4.2 fWAR
  • Rich Hill: 57.2 IP, .4 fWAR
  • Adam Eaton: 41 IP, 0 fWAR
  • Cla Meredith: 43.2 IP, -.3 fWAR

09/10 Offseason/Regular Season Acquisitions
  • Mike Gonzalez: 48 IP, .8 fWAR
  • Will Ohman: 30 IP, .1 fWAR
  • Kevin Millwood: 190.2 IP, 1.3 fWAR

10/11 Offseason/Regular Season Acquisitions To Date
  • Chris Jakubauskas: 67.2 IP, .2 fWAR
  • Tommy Hunter: 37.2 IP, .4 fWAR
  • Jeremy Accardo: 32.1 IP, -.2 fWAR
  • Kevin Gregg: 52 IP, -.4 fWAR

TOTAL: 25 pitchers acquired (30 IP minimum), 2,371.2 Total IP, 12.7 Total fWAR

Before any substantial analysis, a few disclaimers: I realize assigning sole responsibility for performance of these players to Andy MacPhail is foolish. It’s impossible to know how many he specifically targeted, how many were suggested by his staff, etc. I also realize that there’s a very strong argument against attributing Matusz to MacPhail. I agree that Joe Jordan should receive the credit for drafting Brian and bringing him into the organization, but considering the scope of this analysis I think it’s fair to include him. Finally, many of these players have a chance to contribute to the organization in the future. Chris Tillman could still put it together and live up to his potential. If this happens, MacPhail will be the one to thank. I’m not trying to assign a final grade to every acquisition.

Brief Observations

Over the course of his four and a half years in the organization, MacPhail brought in roughly 2.8 pitching wins a year and roughly half a win for every transaction made.

Seventeen of the listed players were predominantly relievers while only eight were predominantly starters

Of the twenty-five players listed, only six have been worth one win or more: Sherrill, Matusz, Albers, Uehara, Hendrickson and Millwood. Of these six only Uehara and Hendrickson were acquired through free agency and only Millwood and Matusz were starters.

Eight players have had a negative total value: Rocky Cherry, Fernando Cabrera, Alberto Castillo, Steve Trachsel, Cla Meradith, Jeremy Accardo, and Kevin Gregg. Together these players have been worth a total of -3.1 wins.


The fact that only 12.7 wins were brought in over the course of four and a half year is astounding. The pitching staffs of the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees have all been worth more than twelve wins this year alone. Taken with the fact that the Orioles were ranked 21st in staff fWAR at the end of 2007—MacPhail’s first half season—it becomes obvious why the Orioles have been so poor in recent years.

It’s obvious that MacPhail wanted a homegrown pitching staff, but when that plan failed (or faltered if you’re optimistic) there was no plan B. When Tillman struggled there was no promising prospect behind him to take his place. The same could be said of Matusz this year. MacPhail pinned the hope of the organization onto a handful of top pitching prospects and seemingly stopped accumulating any meaningful talent beyond that. While other organizations have more pitching prospects than spots in the rotation to fill the Orioles have experienced the exact opposite.

Moving forward, of the twenty-five pitchers listed, only Hunter, Matusz, and Tillman could be considered possible pieces for the future. The minors are barren in the upper levels as well. Where is the next wave of reinforcements coming from? Obviously MacPhail has had his share of bad luck, but for a man whose goal was to acquire “inventory” there’s relatively little to show for it throughout the entire organization. There are other promising arms acquired before MacPhail, of course. I hold out hope that a fully healthy Jake Arrieta can be an effective pitcher while Zach Britton’s up and down season has me excited about his future potential. But even when you take Arrieta and Britton into consideration you’re left with five potential long-term pieces and four spots empty in the rotation. Unless the Orioles get extremely lucky that’s not going to cut it. Building a pitching staff is a game of attrition, and as they’ve been in years past, the organization under MacPhail was once again ill-adept to deal with this reality.

1 comment:

offeutaw said...

It appears at this point that MacPhail's goal to stockpile young pitchers included the method of sacrificing quality for quantity. Despite aquiring a host of young talent, not one has developed into a consistant, every fifth day starter. During MacPhail's tenure, aside from Erik Bedard's 13 win 2007 campaign, Arrieta (2011) and Bergeson (2009) are the only two starting pitchers to finish a season with a winning record.