02 November 2011

Orioles Year in Review and 2012: Outfield and Designated Hitter

Perennially neglected Nolan Reimold
In the previous review piece we identified defense at third base being a black whole in the infield.  A few days ago, we noted that the Orioles' OF defense in terms of range was a great hindrance to the team.  In our prediction here we think that the team is not 4 games below average bad, but more like 2 games below average.  That would still rate as one of the worst defensive outfields in the AL.

Left Field: Nolan Reimold (2.0 predicted 2012 WAR) and Matt Angle (-0.1)
First Third  >3.5 fWAR (Yankees, Rays)
Middle Third  1.6 - 3.5 fWAR (Red Sox)
Bottom Third  <1.6 fWAR (Orioles, Blue Jays)

Here at Camden Depot, we have always believed in Nolan Reimold as being capable of average to above average play.  He has good athleticism and plus power potential that could transition into a solid option in left field.  In 2011, the O's chose to start with Luke Scott and Felix Pie in left field.  Scott used to be adequate in left field.  He never had much range, but he took good route, had soft hands, and knew where to throw with an accurate average-strength arm.  Add that average defense to an above average bat and you have a solid player.  The streaky Scott was consistently bad at the plate and finally fell below what would be adequate range in left field.  He had a horrible year.  Pie wound up earning more time in left than he really deserved.  All of the positives in defense and potential with his bat evaporated in 2011 with Pie earning -2.1 fWAR.  Reimold was the only positive producer in left with a 1.5 fWAR, but often appeared to be place in LF begrudgingly by Buck.  The O's have never seemed to like Reimold.  It would be surprising to me if they do not, again, try to prevent him from earning any significant time in the field.  As a team, the Orioles were ranked 29th in left field production with a -1.2 fWAR.

For 2012, we have Reimold and Matt Angle as being the bearers of opportunity here.  I think the O's will have Angle in left as a fourth outfielder in 2012, but Reimold is likely to be iffy as the front office plans for next year.  

A 1.9 fWAR would ranked as 19th overall for LF in 2011.

Center Field: Adam Jones (2.4 predicted 2012 WAR) and Matt Angle (0.1)
First Third  >4.8 fWAR (Red Sox, Yankees)
Middle Third  2.7 - 4.8 fWAR (Orioles, Rays)
Bottom Third  <2.7 fWAR (Blue Jays)

For 2011, centerfield was nothing special for the Orioles.  I think it is clear that Adam Jones is good, but he is not a star.  It s easy to remember Jones' big hits.  He has plus power for a centerfielder, but his on base percentage is rather unimpressive.  Jones' poor ability to earn walks (4.7% which is about half of what an average player earns) counters his impressive bat.  It is also easy to remember Jones chasing down a fly ball, stealing a home run, or his strong accurate arm.  It is so impressive that MLB managers were polled by Baseball America in 2011 and they declared that Jones is one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game.  Now, defensive metrics are not perfect, but when every metric consistently tells you the same thing about Jones (that he is a below average defensive outfielder) then it just might be that the conventional wisdom is incorrect.  Over his career, he ranks as an average CF on the road and as a below average CF at Camden Yards.  It is our opinion that Jones could be a good left fielder (assuming the bat holds or improves) or an average centerfielder (for a couple years).  Angle is a solid defender, but he has no bat.  All of the players in centerfield in 2011 gave the team a 2.9 fWAR, which ranked as 20th overall in MLB.

In 2012, we think things will be slightly worse.  Our model prediction is that Jones will be a 320 OBP and 440 SLG hitter.  Basically, he will get on base about the same and show slightly less power.  We also think that Jones' defense will not be as poor as UZR and other metrics suggested this year.  We denoted him simply as a -5 run player in center field.  Angle's defense will hold out well in center, but his bat renders him a replacement level player.  Together we see them as a 2.5 WAR duo, which makes this a potential third tier pairing.

A 2.5 fWAR would rank as 23rd overall for CF in 2011. 

Right Field: Nick Markakis (3.2 predicted 2012 WAR) and Matt Angle (-0.1)
First Third  >4.1 fWAR (Blue Jays, Yankees)
Middle Third  2.4 - 4.1 fWAR (Rays)
Bottom Third  <2.4 fWAR (Orioles, Red Sox)

In 2011, the Orioles right fielders (basically just Nick) ranked as the 21st best right fielders in baseball with 2.2 WAR.  As we mentioned before, Camden Yards might underestimated Markakis' worth by about 5 runs.  With those added on, they would have ranked 19th.  What hurt most for the Orioles was that Markakis was stuck in a three month slump.  It was not until the second half when he began to show his old performance levels.

In 2012, we think that Markakis will bounce back and sustain the level of performance he showed in 2010 and the second half of 2011.  We see Markakis performing at a 360 OBP / 440 SLG level.  It is not a level that would be considered a first division right fielder, but it is solid performance for a second tier right fielder.  It is becoming more and more apparent that the Markakis we saw several years ago, the one in line to be the best right fielder in baseball, was not an accurate projection.  We will have to respect him as a good above average right fielder.

A 3.2 fWAR would rank as 17th overall for RF in 2011.

Designated Hitter: Luke Scott (2.6 predicted 2012 WAR), Chris Davis (0.1), and Nolan Reimold (0.3)
First Third  >1.8 fWAR (Red Sox)
Middle Third  1.0 - 1.8 fWAR (Rays, Blue Jays)
Bottom Third  <1.0 fWAR (Orioles, Yankees)

In 2011, the Orioles excited the fan base by signing Vladimir Guerrero to a 1 year deal worth 8 MM.  Shortly thereafter, Camden Depot was among several Orioles' blogs that were hammered by irate fans when we panned the move.  If I remember correctly, we projected Guerrero to be worth 0.9 WAR.  He wound up doing worse by achieving a 0.0 fWAR.  The Orioles essentially threw away 8 MM that could have gone to useful free agents or amateur talent.  As such, Vlad helped the team be the 13th best out of 14 American League teams for value produced by a DH.  The only AL team they beat were the Mariners (-0.2).

In 2012, the team probably is set.  Between Luke Scott (350 OPS / 500 SLG) and Nolan Reimold, the team is likely to get 3 WAR production.  There will be no reason whatsoever for the team to engage the free agent market paying big money.  The only argument I could see is letting Scott go to save money and pick up another lefty bat for 3 MM or so less. 

A 3.0 fWAR would rank as 3rd overall for DH in 2011.

2011 fWAR = 3.9 fWAR
2012 predicted fWAR = 11.5 fWAR

A target of 14.2 should be identified.

There needs to be more improvement somewhere along the line.  Left field might be the easiest area for improvement, but a major producer needs to found for there to be any sizable difference.

Next up . . . Starting pitchers . . . then relievers.


SeanP said...

"All of the players in centerfield in 2011 gave the team a 2.9 fWAR, which ranked as 20th overall in MLB."

How do you come up with this "Xth overall in MLB" stat? Is it fWAR prorated for centerfield?

Anonymous said...

It simply is using the fWAR designations for each team. I think there is some double counting in it.


SeanP said...

There is a ton of double counting there. If you sort the Fangraphs team leaderboards for CF, it says that the Rangers got 7.6 WAR out of center in 2011. But 4.2 of that comes from Josh Hamilton, who only played 35 of his 121 games in center. You could prorate it by game or something, but just quote that state from their leaderboard page doesn't make any sense.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think it is fine to use as a target if you go for the lower threshold for the first third.

I do understand your concern and I had the same one. I thought the extra effort needed to normalize the statistics just was not going to add much more to it.