11 April 2011

Predicted Wins and Playoff Probability: Week 2

There were some problems in last year's projections and probability.  I have sorted out the errors in some of the equations.  The original probability was based on the unadjusted Depot win prediction, but that has been corrected to the adjusted wins.

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10 April 2011

Two completely different Zach Brittons

Sunday morning Buster Olney tweeted this:
Zach Britton has a chance to become what Stephen Strasburg was last year: Must-see TV. He is a very rare lefty with veering 95 mph fastball.
As you probably know, I have always been a bit shy when it comes to predicting success for Zach Britton over the years.  He is a pitcher who does best by inducing poor contact (e.g. ground balls).  In the minors, you typically see a reduction in ground ball rates as you move up the ladder.  If I remember correctly, a league average pitcher will typically see a decrease in grounders about 10%.  In other words, if a pitcher was inducing 50% ground balls in low-A then the average result would be a 45% line in AAA.  These lost grounders are thought to be diverted into balls and line drives.  This is thought to mostly be a product of more polished hitters higher in the minors who lay off the low pitches or can square up the ball low in the zone or get around on high velocity pitches.

As such, I have tempered my expectations of Britton.  I put him in a category of pitchers who need to prove himself at each and every level because so much depend on inducing poor contacts.  The fear being that more polished hitters will lay off his sinking fastballs that fall out of the zone or guys would be able to square up on them at a higher rate.  Tony Pente was the first person I read who pushed all in on Britton as a future star.  He was doing that three or four years ago.  At times, he has mentioned Britton as being better than Brian Matusz.  Keith Law began beating the drum two years ago, but still considers Matusz the better pitcher.  I am still in a holding pattern waiting to see where Britton falls in the 2-4 range.

What has impressed me so far though through these two games (remember: small sample size) was how different the two outings were.  The first time Britton went out, he ditched his two-seamer and lived off his four-seamer with a mix of changeups and sliders.  On Saturday, he fully embraced the two seamer and casually threw his other pitches.  It was stunning.  Both pitchers looked quite effective with last night more so.  What this does for me is indicate that there is a broad set of skills in Zach Britton.  I find his two-seamer as his only exceptional pitch, but he can also effectively use his other offerings to get by.  That makes me optimistic that when the league starts adjusting to him, he will be able to keep up and change himself.

That being said . . . I saw Stephen Strasburg and this was no Stephen Strasburg.  However, it is still pretty amazing.  I hope Britton continues to surprise me.  Maybe next game he will break out a knuckle ball and an Eephus Pitch and no hit the Yankees.

Continue reading to see a comparison of the two Britton outings from Pitch f/x data.


09 April 2011

Updated AL East Predicted Standings: 04/09/11

In the rush of posts in the past two weeks, I neglected to put out the initial week's projected standings.  These are calculated by estimating runs scored and given by each team in a neutralized setting.  This is done by using the MARCEL projections along with a simple tool that predicts Wins Above Replacement by inputting playing time, on base percentage, and slugging percentage.  Once this is calculated I apply Bill James' log5 win expectancy model and the team's remaining schedule.  As with the expected wins piece on Monday, this will eventually take the shape of a graph when I get more data points.

03/31/11 (prior to opening day)
Red Sox 94.7
Yankees 90.0
Rays 82.3
Orioles 79.5
Blue Jays 73.9

04/09/11
Red Sox 93.3
Yankees 90.7
Orioles 81.7 (up from 4th)
Rays 80.1 (down from 3rd)
Blue Jays 74.8

As you can see a week full of games has very little impact on these predictions.  The greatest difference is the Rays who lost 2.1 wins due in part by their losing and also due to Manny Ramirez retiring.  He was on the ledger as contributing 2.5 wins this year.  However, his replacements (Casey Kotchman and eventually Desmond Jennings) account for a 1.5 decrease over the rest of the season.

08 April 2011

Is Chris Tillman Injured or just a Taun Taun?

I want to be completely and utterly clear here.  On this occasion, I have absolutely no inside information and am basing this solely off of Pitch f/x.

This Spring Training there were murmurs from opposing scouts that Chris Tillman had turned into a junk pitcher.  He was no longer using his fastball as much and was using it as a show me pitch.  Instead, he had increased his use of his secondary pitches.  I had thought he was doing this just to get more feel on them and get ready for the season.  Last night, it did not look so good.

Fastball
Count: 63
Swing and Miss: 2
Velocity: 87.3 +/- 1.1 mph (89.5 mph max)
Horizontal Run: -1.8 +/- 1.7 inches
Vertical Drop: 11.0 +/- 1.8 inches

In comparison, this is what he did on July 10, 2010:

Fastball
Count: 69
Swing and Miss: 2
Velocity: 91.4 +/- 1.2 mph (93.5 mph max)
Horizontal Run: -3.4 +/- 1.6 inches
Vertical Drop: 10.2 +/- 2.1 inches

Whenever I see a difference of 3 mph or more, it concerns me.  That loss of velocity is a major hindrance.  Comparing the two starts, Tillman was not missing bats with his fastball, but that loss of speed can give a batter more time to square up and make more solid contact.  Compounding that with Tillman getting less movement on his fastball and it becomes more of a concern.

Another important aspect of pitching is to have a nice delta between your fastball and change up.  The wider the margin while keeping the same arm action will affect the batter's ability to time.  Last July the difference between the fastball and change up was 9.5 mph while last night it was 6.8 mph.  The movement also looks a bit flatter.  Last year it had more horizontal runs and more sink.  The curve balls look different too, but both could be useful.  Last year, the pitch was harder and had more drop.  This year, it is about 3 mph slower with more horizontal movement and slightly less drop.

It may have just been a bad night.

How did it compare to last Saturday?
He was humming along at 89.4 with a max of 93.5 mph.  His curve balls was about the same speed, but had almost twice as much movement.  The delta on his fastball to change up was 11 mph.  So . . . this was not the same pitcher.  Tillman, as mentioned earlier, had diminished velocity during the Spring.  His game last Saturday would count as that.  However, last night was worse as his max speed was 4 mph less.  Hopefully, it is just him not being able to adapt to the cold.

07 April 2011

Josh Rupe: No. 1

One finger down has traditionally been synonymous with a fastball.  Josh Rupe knows this well.  He knows this so well that he probably is confused when he sees anything else.  At least, this was probably true last night.  Josh Rupe threw 51 pitches over parts of four innings.  He started off with a slider, then mixed in 16 four seam fastballs, a slider, then 17 four seam fastballs, and at this point he decided to mix things up with four seamers and sliders.  It was a remarkable night because I often saw this type of pitching when I was in travel leagues as a teenager.  This approach is fairly uncommon these days.

I think part of Rupe's ability to do this is that his four seamer gets considerable run into right handed batters.  Thrown with good command and control, it is a pitch that will force a good deal of poor contact.  Based on Pitch f/x data, he averages about 8 inches of horizontal run on the pitch.  That aspect of it was the most of any pitcher who threw last night.  The four seamer has enough movement that he can basically throw it over and over again.  However, if his command is slightly off, batters can tee up something that does not run as much or settles into the middle of the plate . . . as we saw last night.  His slider is merely a show me pitch that he uses merely to keep batters off guard with slight movement in the other direction and a change of speed.  If used sparingly, he can throw it for an uncontested strike or get a swing and miss due to sheer surprise.

Here are the numbers...

Four Seam Fastball
Count: 45
Strikes: 28
Swing and Misses: 4
Velocity: 91.6 +/- 0.9 mph
Horizontal Run: -8.2 +/- 1.4 inches
Vertical Drop: 6.4 +/- 1.3 inches

Slider
Count: 6
Strikes: 5
Swing and Misses: 1
Velocity: 84.1 +/- 1.75 mph
Horizontal Run: 4.4 +/- 0.9 inches
Vertical Drop: 1.8 +/-  1.3 inches

To understand the horizontal and vertical movement, it is good to read the Physics of Baseball by Adair.  A normal projectile should have a no movement (0 inches, 0 inches).  There is no such thing as a rising fastball, but there is such a thing as a pitch that does not drop as fast as it should (or faster than it should).  This is due to the seams on the baseball and how its flight can change due to them.

06 April 2011

Five Keys to Watch in Frederick

As the Orioles minor league system goes this year, single A Frederick does not offer the promise that is on show in Delmarva, Bowie, and Norfolk.  However, there are several second and third tier prospects who might break out this year.  Including the first player on the list, who has been a follow of ours since he was drafted in the 8th round back in 2008.

Bobby Bundy, RHSP (21 years old)
Bundy was an 8th round selection due to his tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while playing basketball before his senior baseball season.  He rushed back to the mound and pitched while wearing a brace.  His velocity was down, but the Orioles saw enough of the player who was there before the injury to take a chance on him and give him an overslot contract.  Working off the injury and as an 18 year old, it took Bundy about a year and a half for every thing to start clicking.  In 2010, Bundy threw 116 innings at 3.65 with 7.1 k/9 and 3.3 bb/9 rates.  These are not exceptional numbers, but they are solid for a 20 year old in Delmarva and show considerable improvement.  Lapses in command of his fastball (leaves it up sometimes) and his curve (flattens out) still need some more ironing out, but he is becoming more proficient at pitching.  I am looking forward to seeing him throw live for the first time.


The name will also be familiar to those following the draft.  His younger brother Dylan is looking to be drafted in the first 15 picks in June.  There is an off hand (incredibly off hand) chance Dylan is drafted by the Orioles.

Jesse Beal, RHSP
Beal has been mentioned by some as a poor man's Zach Britton.  His numbers have not been quite equal to those of Zach, but he has passed through each level a year younger than Britton.  He is a big guy (6'6") and he throws a heavy fastball, inducing a great deal of ground balls.  His breaking ball and change are still works in progress.  He does not produce many swing and misses, but manages to get hitters to top off on his fastballs and produce weak grounders.  That type of pitcher is one is hard to project.  With each level, he will need to prove himself as more advanced hitters lay off fastballs moving down and beneath the zone.  Those groundballs typically turn into a greater number of line drives.  Zach Britton has been able to defy conservative projections.  How Beal does this year will be a good indication of whether he could do the same.

Dan Klein, RHP
Klein will be throwing this year from the bullpen as he works up innings.  He will likely be groomed as a starter in 2012.  This is what Nick Faleris wrote about him last year:
Klein is an interesting proposition in that his medical history, aggressive demeanor on the mound and fastball/curveball combo all seem to point to a career in relief (as was his role this spring at UCLA). However, with his change-up and slider also as potentially solid offerings, and with some strength in his legs and core, there is enough raw material here to give him a serious run at a rotation spot. The big question will be how his shoulder holds-up under the stress of a full season pro workload, but there is also a question as to whether the stuff will maintain its effectiveness over five to seven innings and over the course of a season. There is some risk here developing him as a starter, but the injury history and his season in the pen mean you can take a shot at a potential mid-rotation arm at a discount. As a redshirt-sophomore, he has some leverage and could head back to UCLA to up his value as a weekend starter alongside 2011 potential 1st Rounders Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. He has set-up upside in the pen, and his fastball/curve/change don't need a ton of work to play against pro bats.
Klein is another interesting pitcher to anticipate seeing in Frederick.

Matt Hobgood, RHP
What can one say about Matt Hobgood?  He has just recently begun throwing after suffering an injury this past off season.  He will likely pitch for the Keys mid-way through the season.  He has been largely underwhelming during his professional career.  The hard fastball and hammer curve that were seen before the 2009 draft have not entire appeared at this level.  His fastball has been consistently in the upper 80s and the curve has lacked command.  He has shown flashes of being a good pitch, but not as often as was hoped when he was selected.  The hope is that his injury is not serious and he has become more devoted to his workout regime.  He has yet to fail at any level, which needs to be emphasized . . . but we have not seen anything to make us think he will be an average MLB player.

Tyler Kelly, 3B
Kelly has some interest to me.  He is not on many follow lists, but he has shown some interesting skills.  He has been sufficient as a third baseman, which is useful.  He also has shown some secondary power, hitting 30 doubles last year.  If more of those can be turned into balls deposited over the fence, it will increase his value immensely.  He has also shown a good ability to draw walks.  However, a major problem is making good contact.  It is difficult for a low minors hitter with a .261 batting average to successfully graduate through the minors.  There is some potential there and fans will probably enjoy seeing him out there.

I hope I am proven wrong about Frederick.  I would be hard pressed to name someone beyond these five.  I'll see them quite a lot this year, so we will see.

05 April 2011

Keith Law Mentions Possible O's Draft Targets

In Keith Law's chat on March 31, 2011, he wrote:
The only substantive thing I've heard on them is a preference for a college player, which would probably put them on Hultzen, Bradley, Jungmann, Gray.
 Here is what we wrote about these targets a week or so ago:

Danny Hultzen, LHSP
University of Virginia
Hultzen is a highly polished pitcher with fringe plus offerings. I do not think there is much projection left in his pitches with the exception of his change up. He shows good feel for it and it might qualify as a future plus-plus offering. Command is not an issue, but I think he could improve upon his placement and that would improve how he uses those pitches. His dominance so far this season has been largely due to how well he has been able to place his slider. Some like to think if you flash a skill, you own the skill. I'm a little more conservative than that, but do think the possibility is there. Like Bradley, I think he will move quickly through the minors and not be challenged until the Majors. For comparison's sake, I would put Brian Matusz above him or Bradley.

Jed Bradley, LHSP
Georgia Tech
I tend to value college players and college lefties a great deal. Bradley fulfills both. He throws a fastball in the low 90s and accompanies that with a fringe-plus change up and a good slider. He is the type of pitcher who is a safe bet to glide through the minors and not meet resistance until he faces more polished hitters in the Majors. He has a good strong body and a motion without any red flags for me. I'm hoping to see him in person when I make it to Clemson this year.

Taylor Jungmann, RHSP
University of Texas - Austin
Jungmann is safer than Gray and has the potential to be a front end starter. His pitching motion is easier than Gray's as it is not as maximum effort. However, it should be noted that there may be some interest in lengthening his stride as currently it is short enough that he puts extra stress on his shoulder to get his arm to catch up. It may also be a situation where he is a very good prospect and it might be a poor idea to change anything significantly. He has a low 90s fastball and slots his change up similarly to make it an effective offering. Jungmann also has a slurve that is not as sharp as Gray's, but flashes plus with good command. He is another solid arm in this draft class.

Sonny Gray, RHSP
Vanderbilt University
I might be on an island here, but many look at his full effort delivery and his small stature . . . then see a closer in the making. Although it is a full effort delivery, I think it can be repeatable. His stuff is electric with a hard, tailing fastball that he keeps in the mid to low 90s and a plus-plus curve that has movement in two planes. He has had some control issues in the past and many blame the delivery on it, but from reports I have read this year it sounds that control has not been as worrisome. He has also been working on a slider that would give his repertoire a boost in the depth of his offerings. I would be quite excited to land him.

04 April 2011

2011 Season Wins and Playoff Odds: Week 1

There are only two data points, so there is not much to say.  However, the three wins nearly doubled our probability for the Orioles to make the postseason.  This is a result of the Orioles sweeping the Rays whereas the model thought they would win one game, maybe two.  The Pythagorean method is being swamped by only have three data points and no foundation to base its earlier 81 default.  It should settle down more so in the next few weeks.


Click on image to make larger.


03 April 2011

The Pros and Cons of Zach Britton

It appears that when Brian Matusz was hit by LJ Hoes' line drive, he twisted sharply and suffered a Grade II strain on his intercostal muscles.  This set up a flurry of medical tests and plane tickets that has placed Matusz on the 15 day DL, likely to be out for six weeks, and Zach Britton getting the call on Sunday in Tampa.  The original plan was for Britton to pick up a month or two in Norfolk before sliding into the rotation in Baltimore, thereby giving the Orioles and additional year of control over his contract.  If he now spends less than 20 days from here on in the minors outside of rehabilitation stints, that year comes back to the Orioles.  You may remember that this was exactly what happened to JJ Hardy when Milwaukee optioned him to the minors in 2009 and prevented him from entering free agency last off season.

How does this effect the Orioles in the long term?
Well, losing out on Zach Britton is a concern.  The value of an average pitcher in 2010 dollars is about 10MM on the free agent market.  Lets assume, Britton is an average pitcher from 2011 to 2016.  In 2010 dollars, his saving each year would be about 9.5, 9.5, 10, 6, 4, and 2MM.  If you delayed him from the start, you get him for seven years and see something like 9.5, 9.5, 8, 10, 6, 4, and 2MM.  With that perspective, you lose one year of an average pitcher at 2MM.  Or 8MM to subsidize a pitcher.  That 8MM could then be used to put someone like Derrek Lee at first base for a season.  So, it is a considerable savings.  Even more so when this is practiced as a full on strategy because you wind up saving money long term on the performance of several players and all you had to do was not have one of them for 20 days.

Realistically though . . . how does this effect the Orioles in the long term?
It probably does not.  In all likelihood, Zach Britton will not be an average pitcher six years from now.  If you look at Baseball America's top 100 prospects over the past 20 seasons, pitching prospects who ranked in the 21 to 30 range (Zach Britton was ranked 28th this season) were considered "busts" 79.4% of the time.  In other words, four out of five Zach Brittons are not going to be able to keep themselves in a Major League rotation over the course of six seasons.  What the Orioles are losing is a 8MM lottery ticket that they will win on 20% of the time . . . six years from now.

Does this make sense?
For the Orioles . . . I do not see really any way it makes sense.  The team has a 2-3% chance to make it to the playoffs.  The difference between Zach Britton and Rick VandenHurk or Mark Hendrickson over the course of four to six starts is probably worth about half a win to a full win in the standings.  Let us say, it is worth two wins to be generous.  The Orioles will likely need to win 92 games to win the Wild Card and I currently have them hovering just below a .500 team.  It is highly unlikely that the team is a 90 win team (I have them as a 3.2% likelihood of reaching 90 wins), so that 8MM lottery ticket is potentially being tossed in the drainage grate in exchange for nothing.

However, for a team teetering on the edge of the playoffs, an increase in two wins is quite a considerable value.  Teams bring in about 1.5-2 MM for every home playoff game they play.  If the player makes enough of a difference that his presence on the team is the deciding factor on them making the playoffs, then just by being in the divisional series the team will break even in value.  This does not consider any potential gains in attendance at the beginning of the following year due to the playoff appearance.

In other words, a team like the Yankees should have Zach Britton in their rotation without regard to contract status while a team like the Orioles should not.  However, I will be quite interested in seeing Britton dealing in the low 90s and inducing grounders 60% of the time.

Note - Super Two status is most likely not an issue here as the next Collective Bargaining Agreement because that status is likely not going to be there.

02 April 2011

Reminder: Oriole Book Club

Reminder . . . purchase a copy of Weaver on Strategy and read it for the book club.  We should have a podcast up later in the month along with a live chat and a post or two.

April (one book)

Weaver on Strategy: The Classic Work on the Art of Managing a Baseball Team
by Earl Weaver and Terry Pluto

This book is Earl Weaver handbook on how to run a baseball team.  He dives into the inning to inning tasks as well as what he thinks needs to be considered over the course of the full season.  Personally, I have no read this work and have been told by many that this is essential reading for not only any Oriole fan, but also for any fan of baseball.

May (two books)

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
by Jonah Keri

This is Jonah Keri book on how the Tampa Bay Rays success story.  It is about how the worst team in baseball looked to find any and every advantage, no matter how small.  By slightly exploiting areas more efficiently than the Yankees or Red Sox enabled them to be successful.  Studying the Rays' success may provide some perspective to how the Orioles might be better run.

Built to Win: Inside Stories and Leadership Strategies from Baseball's Winningest GM
by John Schuerholz, Bob Costas, and Larry Guest

Schuerholtz tells some stories about his career and throws down some of his knowledge.  As I know his strategies, he considers himself to some extent an anti-Moneyball-ist . . . which is not exactly something I understand what it is.  We figure this is a good book to read about a successful general manager with ideas that differ from those with the Rays and, to some extent, Earl Weaver.

June (two books)

Dollar Sign on the Muscle: the World of Baseball Scouting
by Kevin Kerrane

This book is sadly out of print, but look around and try to find it for a good price.  Nick Faleris suggested this one and with it being in the first half of June . . . it fits in nicely with the Amateur draft.  From what I have been told, it is the history of baseball through a scout's eyes.

Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit
by Matthew McCarthy

Matthew McCarthy was a left handed pitcher who was selected late in the draft by the Los Angelos Angels.  This book is about his first and only season in professional baseball.  There has been some dispute over the veracity of aspects of the book, but, for the most part, it is considered a reasonable portrait of minor league ball.

July (first half of July)

by Milton Jamail

Reiner is currently with the Tampa Bay Rays breaking into Brazil.  In this book, it describes his effort in tapping into the talent available in Venezuela when almost all teams were ignoring the country.  His finds of note include Johann Santana, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Bobby Abreu, and former Oriole Melvin Mora.  The explains how the scouting system works and how Reiner has excelled at it.

Best Pitching Performance of the Year? Jeremy Guthrie

Opening day is out of the way for every team.  As it stands, Jeremy Guthrie has arguably had the great performance of any of them, which is impressive because teams begin the season with the pitcher they perceive as the best.  So how am I suggesting that Guthrie has had the best performance so far?  Game Score.

Game score is a fairly simple statistic that tries to determine the value of a pitching performance.  It uses innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, hits, earned runs, unearned runs (because unearned runs are poorly credited as pitchers really should not be completely absolved of responsibility for them), and extra credit for each innings completed after the fourth.  The formula is as follows:
Game Score = 50 + 3*IP + K + IP (completed after 4 innings) - 2*hits - 4*ER - 2*ER - BB
Jeremy Guthrie's line last night was 8 IP, 3 hits, 6 k, and 1 BB with no runs scored.  Plugging that into the equation we get:
81 = 50 + 3*8 + 6 + 4 - 2*3 - 4*0 - 2*0 - 1
A Game Score of 81 is the best mark of the season.  The top 5 so far are:

Jeremy Guthrie, 81
Clayton Kershaw, 77
Felix Hernandez, 74
Jered Weaver, 73
Chris Carpenter, 67
Derek Lowe, 67
Tim Lincecum, 67

It should be noted that a score of 81 would not have been in last year's top 40 with the lowest score among those being 86.  Last year, Brandon Morrow had the highest Game Score at 100 with his 9 IP one hitter where he marked up 17 strikeouts and walked 2.  The highest Game Score ever for a 9 inning game was Kerry Wood's masterpiece in 1998 where he struck out 20 while only giving up a hit (the highest possible score is 114).

After the jump, Guthrie Game Score graphically as he progressed from batter to batter last night and how his final Game Score compared to his performances last year.


01 April 2011

Brian Matusz has an intercostal strain

It was announced tonight that Brian Matusz will be out 3-4 weeks with an intercostal strain and that Zach Britton will take his place in the rotation.  This left many a Baltimore Oriole fan asking . . . "Just what is an intercostal strain?"

The intercoastal are a series of muscles that are interlaced with the ribs and help provide stability to the rib cage.  Straining this muscle is usually the result of a quick and sudden twisting of the core.  Matusz may have experienced this during his reaction to being hit with a line drive this past week in his final tuneup against LJ Hoes.  The batted ball hitting his biceps would not have been the issue, it would have been him reacting and twisting away from the ball.

Based on the three to four week number, this sounds like a Grade II strain of the intercostal muscles.  This is a bad, but not awful strain.  It would not be surprising if it takes about a month and a half for him to heal up and another rehab start or two.  Right now, he is probably feeling some discomfort while breathing and constant, dull ache in his rib cage.

2011 Season Wins and Playoff Odds: Week 0

Bald Eagle Hatching from Ed Smith Stadium
So begins another year and another season of keeping track of projected wins and playoff odds for the Baltimore Orioles.  In years past we have seen the three measures I use (PECOTA, Pythagorean, and Camden Depot's house stats) follow the team and mosey toward actual reality.  Typically, the team does about six to ten games worse than the projections each year.  Hopefully this season is different.

Graphs depicting the journey will appear from now on every Monday.  It being the first week, we only have one data point.  As a brief reminder, here is a rundown of each system:
PECOTA - I use Baseball Prospectus' projections that models the season and predicts wins and playoff opportunity.
Camden Depot - I used MARCEL projections to determine team WAR, adjust the WAR with a log5 strength of schedule factor, and then use a simple binomial function that determines the likelihood of the Orioles winning 92 games.  Why 92?  Based on all of the projection systems I have seen, 92 wins is likely what will result in a wild card.
Pythagorean - It assumes that what has happened will happen again no matter the sample size.  I will also use the same binomial function as a playoff predictor.

Projected Wins:
PECOTA - 80.3 wins; 8.20% playoff chance
Camden Depot - 79.5 (80.7 without adjustment); 2.23%
Pythagorean - 81 (by default); 3.56%

The Depot's current projection of 2.23% is currently the lowest of the systems I can find.  CAIRO puts them at 12.5%.

31 March 2011

Vladimir Guerrero Tries to Make History

Vladimir Guerrero is going to try to climb a mountain, a figurative one.  Since the DH came into being, only 24 players who were 36 years or older have had more than 250 plate appearances with at least 95% of those appearances as a DH.  These exclusive DHs averaged 2.0 +/- 1.8 WAR (-0.6 to 5.7 WAR range).  This year we will keep track of how Vladimir performs during the season.

Click to make larger.

They rank as follows:

1. Edgar Martinez, Seattle Mariners, 2000 5.7 WAR
2. Edgar Martinez, Seattle Mariners, 2001 5.5 WAR
3. Hal McRae, Kansas City Royals, 1982 4.0 WAR
4. Edgar Martinez, Seattle Mariners, 2003 3.5 WAR
5. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox, 2007 3.4 WAR
6. Frank Thomas, Oakland Athletics, 2006 3.3 WAR
7. Paul Molitor, Toronto Blue Jays, 1994 3.3 WAR
8. Brian Downing, California Angels, 1988 3.1 WAR
9. Rico Carty, Cleveland Indians, 1978 3.0 WAR
10. Ken Singleton, Baltimore Orioles, 1983 2.3 WAR
11. Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox, 2007 2.0 WAR
12. Brian Downing, California Angels, 1989 2.0 WAR
13. Dave Parker, Milwaukee Brewers, 1990 1.9 WAR
14. Hal McRae, Kansas City Royals, 1983 1.7 WAR
15. Chili Davis, California Angels, 1996 1.5 WAR
16. Rico Carty, Cleveland Indians, 1977 1.3 WAR
17. Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers, 1974 0.6 WAR
18. Dwight Evans, Boston Red Sox, 1990 0.5 WAR
19. Paul Molitor, Toronto Blue Jays, 1995 0.3 WAR
20. Willie Horton, Seattle Mariners, 1979 0.2 WAR
21. Frank Thomas, Toronto Blue Jays, 2008 0.0 WAR
22. Dave Winfield, Minnesota Twins, 1994 -0.2 WAR
23. George Brett, Kansas City Royals, 1993 -0.4 WAR
24. Cecil Cooper, Milwaukee Brewers, 1987 -0.6 WAR

30 March 2011

Introducing the Camden Depot Oriole Book Club

It is my pleasure to announce a new feature at Camden Depot: the book club.  We are hoping this is something you can actively take part in with us as we read through some books I am quite excited to review.  The criteria for the inclusion of books in this activity is pretty simple: it has to be about baseball and in some way can be applied to discussion about the Baltimore Orioles.  Those vague qualifications open up some great choices to read during the first half of the baseball season.  We are planning to go through a book every two weeks, so the pace is somewhat accelerated.  Feel free to come along on the ride with us or to pick and choose on books you really want to read.  Although the majority of these works are items I have never read before, they have all come highly recommended to me from various folks in baseball. 

The first book we will read is Weaver on Strategy.  It should be required reading for any Oriole fan.  Nick Faleris (of Camden Depot and DiamondScape Scouting) and I will be publishing a podcast on our thoughts on the book the third week of April with an open live chat during the fourth week of April.  By putting a podcast out first, it may help focus some conversation for the live chat or kindle new ideas to raise.

Here is a list of books we have scheduled so far.  I have included links to potential places where you can find them.

April (one book)

Weaver on Strategy: The Classic Work on the Art of Managing a Baseball Team
by Earl Weaver and Terry Pluto

This book is Earl Weaver handbook on how to run a baseball team.  He dives into the inning to inning tasks as well as what he thinks needs to be considered over the course of the full season.  Personally, I have no read this work and have been told by many that this is essential reading for not only any Oriole fan, but also for any fan of baseball.

May (two books)

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
by Jonah Keri

This is Jonah Keri book on how the Tampa Bay Rays success story.  It is about how the worst team in baseball looked to find any and every advantage, no matter how small.  By slightly exploiting areas more efficiently than the Yankees or Red Sox enabled them to be successful.  Studying the Rays' success may provide some perspective to how the Orioles might be better run.

Built to Win: Inside Stories and Leadership Strategies from Baseball's Winningest GM
by John Schuerholz, Bob Costas, and Larry Guest

Schuerholtz tells some stories about his career and throws down some of his knowledge.  As I know his strategies, he considers himself to some extent an anti-Moneyball-ist . . . which is not exactly something I understand what it is.  We figure this is a good book to read about a successful general manager with ideas that differ from those with the Rays and, to some extent, Earl Weaver.

June (two books)

Dollar Sign on the Muscle: the World of Baseball Scouting
by Kevin Kerrane

This book is sadly out of print, but look around and try to find it for a good price.  Nick Faleris suggested this one and with it being in the first half of June . . . it fits in nicely with the Amateur draft.  From what I have been told, it is the history of baseball through a scout's eyes.

Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit
by Matthew McCarthy

Matthew McCarthy was a left handed pitcher who was selected late in the draft by the Los Angelos Angels.  This book is about his first and only season in professional baseball.  There has been some dispute over the veracity of aspects of the book, but, for the most part, it is considered a reasonable portrait of minor league ball.

July (first half of July)

by Milton Jamail

Reiner is currently with the Tampa Bay Rays breaking into Brazil.  In this book, it describes his effort in tapping into the talent available in Venezuela when almost all teams were ignoring the country.  His finds of note include Johann Santana, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Bobby Abreu, and former Oriole Melvin Mora.  The explains how the scouting system works and how Reiner has excelled at it.

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The second half of the book club season will be announced some time in June to let anyone who is taking part in it to have ample time to buy the books.  We hope some of you out there will find this as interesting and exciting as we do.

29 March 2011

Orioles sitting at home while other teams go abroad.

The latest in the continuing coverage of the Orioles international efforts on talent acquisition.  Follow us @CamdenDepot on twitter.

I was reading the latest issue of ESPN magazine on the train home yesterday.  Usually, I consider the writing to be largely fodder that occupies me as I wait to traverse sixteen stations to get to work or to come back home.  However, one article by Jorge Arangure Jr. piqued my interest: Beisebol from the Ground Up.  Beisebol is Portuguese, I assume, for baseball.  Brazil has been a hotbed of athletic recruitment for basketball and soccer, but has been largely ignored for baseball.  What is more interesting is that there is a strong but small undercurrent of interest in the game as a result of a 1908 trade agreement between Brazil and Japan.  The Japanese immigrants took baseball along with them and have been playing in Brazil ever since.  Although there is interest, no Brazilians are in the majors and only six have made it into the minors.  This definitely sounds like an area that might be exploited by a Major League Baseball team.  That team would be the Tampa Bay Rays.

In 2006, the Rays hired long time scout Andres Reiner after he left the Astros.  Us Oriole fans might remember him as the guys who found Melvin Mora.  He also attributed for Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Guillen, and Freddy Garcia.  He is well established and he was able to sell the Rays to take a chance on expanding their horizons.  Now, this is something we generally attribute to rich teams that have extra cash to spend on long term bets.  The Yankees are involved in China, the Braves in Panama, and the Cubs in Korea.  How did the Rays manage to do this.

Arangure Jr. writes:
Even harder to believe is that the Rays have so far spent zero dollars on the construction of the academy [in Brazil near San Paulo].  The 2.5MM project has been subsidized by both federal and local funds.  Tampa Bay's only financial commitment is for the upkeep of the academy, which could be anywhere from 500k to 1MM per year, for the next five years.  Tampa Bay won't even have to spend a dime on players' medical care since all Brazilians are covered through the country's universal health care system.
This is exactly what the Orioles should be thinking about and doing.  The Rays found a venue for talent that they could get a head start on and their seeding money investment is next to nothing.  They are really only responsible for their head scout arranging everything and his travel.  In return, Brazilians become familiar with the team and relationships build.  This is one of the most important aspects of signing prime talent on the middle and lower end of the signing bonus spectrum.  Having good contacts in a country is important, otherwise you are simply fighting over the high priced prospects.  The Orioles have shown before with Miguel Jean Sano that they do not have a strong interest in fighting for those players, so this would be a strong alternative.  It is a vision that I wish the Orioles had.

28 March 2011

2011 First Round Talents in MLB Draft: Composite Rankings (March 27, 2011)

Each year, I keep track of some of the major publications and evaluators to determine a consensus amateur ranking.  This should give you an idea where in general these evaluation sources agree and where they disagree.  For the first edition, I have included Keith Law, Nick Faleris, and Baseball America.  Keith Law is an analyst for ESPN and does his own scouting.  Nick Faleris operates Diamondscape Scouting and contributes to an MLB organization.  He as well does his own scouting.  As I understand Baseball America's process, their list is more a compilation of discussions with scouts.

The following chart list the top 33 rankings, which is the same number of selections in the first round this year.  The name rank from 33rd to 1st.  In order words, players thought to be of higher quality are found lower down on the list.  The extension from the bar is the standard deviation of the three sources, which indicates level of agreement.  If a source does not rank a specific prospect in their top 50, I automatically gave them a value of 75 from that source.  Only two players in the top 33 had to have ranks of 75th assigned to them (Taylor Guerrieri from Baseball America, Kolton Wong from Keith Law).

Finally, the sources date as follows Baseball America (February 3rd), Keith Law (March 22nd), and Nick Faleris (March 27th).

Click on the graph to make it more legible.

Based on these rankings, Bubba Starling is the fourth ranked player at 5.67.  The following is a list of players ranked above Starling as well as those who are with one standard deviation of 5.67.  Players are listed (with mean +/- SD) from 76 players mentioned among all three lists over the course of this draft season:

1. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice University 1.33 +/- 0.58
2. Garrit Cole, RHP, UCLA 1.67 +/- 0.58
3. Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt 4.33 +/- 1.15
4. Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS) 5.67 +/- 3.79
5. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas 7.33 +/- 3.21
6. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia 7.67 +/- 3.51
12. Matthew Purke, LHP, TCU 10.67 +/- 7.09
31. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, North Augusta HS (SC) 34.33 +/- 35.91

Both Matthew Purke and Taylor Guerrieri might fall off this list.  Based on reports, it sounds like more and more scouts are growing weary of Purke.  This downgrading is apparent in both Law's and Faleris' March rankings, but is not in Baseball America's February rankings.  Due to BA reacting to what the field tells them, they will be slightly slower in gauging value and a month old list will affect that even more.  I imagine a re-ranking from BA would result in Purke being in the 12-17 range with a much narrowing standard deviation.  Guerrieri would probably have the same fate.  If BA would re-rank their list, Guerrieri would probably fall within the top 50 and he would like find himself in the 20s with a standard deviation insufficient to make this list.

I should note that players not mentioned on that list would not be reaches.  Based on merely standard deviations, it would be safer to use a two standard deviation measure to indicate a "total universe" of considered selections.  Even then, it should not be used as a hard and fast rule.  Joe Ross (ranked 47th with the composite mean) would qualify for this list while Archie Bradley (ranked 9th) would not.  I'm not certain what a more solid rule would entail.

27 March 2011

Five Shorebirds to Watch in Delmarva

For those of you who might be interested, here is a quick list of players to pay attention to in the low minors.  Finishing up my doctorate last year, I managed to see only a single game at Bowie (it was a tough long summer), so these assessment are a product of some video, my thoughts before last season, and various reports all mingled together.  I am also assuming where certain players may wind up.  First up . . . the Delmarva Shorebirds.  This is the team I am most excited about in the Orioles system and I am hoping to venture over to the Eastern Shore a few times this season, enjoy some minor league ball, and eat some Smith Island Cake.

Jonathan Schoop, 3B (19 years old)
I've never seen Schoop play, but he was certainly garnering a good deal of attention last year in training camp and then in the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League.  A shortstop last season, he will likely be shifting over to third base for the Shorebirds to accomodate 2010 first round selection Manny Machado.  This move expedited a switch that was likely to come later on based on body shape.  Schoop has shown good plate discipline and secondary power that might develop into above average power.  At this moment, he appears to be the most valuable international prospect the Orioles currently employ. 

Mychal Given's Predraft ESPN Photo
Mychal Givens, INF (21 years old)
Givens has had some trouble to begin his career.  He was an older high school senior, held out until the end for a contract after being drafted, was thought to be more advanced as a pitcher, and quickly broke his thumb a few games into the season last year.  However, in a handful of at bats he dominated Aberdeen, getting walks, doubles, and home runs.  It was quite a small amount of plate appearances to gauge anything on, but it leaves hope that his bat is far better than he showed in high school or for what I credited him.  Although his plus arm and average-ish range is not ideal for second base, I imagine he will slide over there in Delmarva.  I think he will likely be patroling the outfield by the time he reaches Bowie . . . or pitching.

Manny Machado, SS (18 years old)
Machado was the Orioles first selection (third overall) in last year's draft.  He managed to take in a few plate appearances in Aberdeen and did not look overmatched.  His first major test will be in Delmarva where he stands to play shortstop for the Shorebirds.  My expectations for him will be that he will at least hold his own and will likely be one of the better hitters in the league while playing average defense (for a A- shortstop).  I still fear that as he matures, it will force a move to third base where his bat will look less impressive.  That sentiment though finds me in a great minority.  Everyone else I talk to thinks he will be able to stick at short and develop into an average defensive shortstop.

Micheal Ohlman, C (19 years old)
I listed Ohlman here because there really are not any other big ticket items here and Ohlman carries a 1MM signing bonus from the 2009 draft.  Last year found him with several injuries and being completely overmatched with his hitting.  At 6'4, his catching skills are likely to never develop into a beneficial characteristic of his play, so the Orioles need his bat to develop.  This is not exactly a make or break year for him as a player, but in my mind it sure seems to be in terms of keeping track on him past 2011.

Bridwell tossin' for Whitefaces
Parker Bridwell, RHSP
Here is what co-founder of Camden Depot, Nick Faleris, had to say about Bridwell last year:
Bridwell is still mostly projection, but there is a lot to like given the room in his frame to add strength and his easy arm action producing upper-80s velocity. He is a multi-sport talent with good athleticism, which should help him to incorporate pro instruction into his motion without throwing things out of whack. Schrader may be the best value of the draft for Baltimore, capable of dialing up to the 94-95 mph range and regularly sitting in the low-90s. He also shows-off a hard low- to mid-80s slider with sweep and dive, giving him a prototypical combo for late-inning work. He racked up SO/9 and SO/BB rates of 15.97 and 3.67, respectively, this spring along with a .217 BAA. If he can show an ability to spot his slider against advanced bats, he could move very quickly.
He could be a very exciting player to watch.  I've heard nothing but positives about him over the off season.

Based on what we currently know about the players this year in Delmarva, I suggest you all go and see them play.  Much of the Orioles potential up and coming talent will be found there.

As a sad aside, one of the players I noted to watch last year was a promising pitcher by the name of Vito Frabizio.  He had dropped out of high school, move to Florida, and was said to be avoiding the trouble that chased him up in Jersey.  In 2009, he was able to rack up strikeouts and few walks.  He never threw a pitch last year for the Orioles because he was released with people mentioning that he was uncoachable and disrespectful (this was incorrect, I was informed otherwise since publishing, but am not able to share what I have been told).  I hoped it would be a wakeup call and he would find himself with an Indy team and back with a MLB club this spring.  None of that lost promise matters now as he was arrested this past week in connection to a robbery.  He admitted that the money was stolen in order to buy heroin.  I hope he finds help.

26 March 2011

Jake Fox will hit 30 home runs?

Just a short post, but I saw some folks quite excited as Jake Fox hit his 9th home run of Spring Training.  I do not mean to be pessimistic, but just to temper expectations. Since 2007, there have been 26 instances of a player hitting at least six home runs in at least 50 at bats.  Actually, there have been 28.  I did not include two players who did not appear in any regular season games.

I compared HR per At Bat from Spring Training to Regular Season.  Players had a 56 +/- 18 % decrease in home run rate.  Jake Fox is averaging 7.22 at bats per home run.  A 56% decrease would mean a home run every 16.4 at bats.

That translates to 30 home runs every 500 at bats.

The 95th percentile would put him between 18 and 42 home runs per 500 at bats.  Anything above or below would be significantly different.

25 March 2011

With or Without Crowley: 2011

This is a simple statement of intent.  It will be more interesting after the season.

For many an Oriole fan, the presence of Terry Crowley in the dugout has been a sore point.  A long time ago, I tried to loosely determine to what extent Crowley affected hitters.  This year, I am going to trying another way of exploring to what affect his absence from the everyday running of the clubhouse will have on the players.  Wanting a robust sample size, I have chosen to compare the projected performance of Orioles who played last season currently on the team as well as those who have left against their performance last season.  Why am I including the castoffs?  In order to determine if there are any lingering effects of Terry Crowley roaming the underbelly of Camden Yards.

The metrics I will be most interested in will be % walks, % strikeouts, number of pitches, and your basic slash line (AVG / OBP / SLG).

So I guess we will see after the season.

24 March 2011

Orioles Franchise Value: 1990 - 2010

It is well known that for the most part owners make money by selling a team, not by holding onto one.  When Peter Angelos negotiated with MLB to let the Expos move to Washington D.C., he set himself up with a minimum payment of 360MM (if I remember correctly).  It made me wonder how much the team's value has changed over the years and what that value was at the end of 2004 when he made that deal.  I've taken data from Forbes and Financial World from 1990 - 2010 provided neatly over at the Biz of Baseball and decided to do a few things.*  This span will show how the value of the Orioles has changed durng the entire Angelos era and what the 360MM line means for the Orioles.  Additionally, I will also compare the Orioles against other teams in the current AL East over the years.  So, first things first, how has the Orioles value changed over the year:

 As you can see from 1997 to 2003, the Orioles (according to these sources) decreased in value with each season.  It would make sense that Peter Angelos was concerned about the long-term value of his club and how the moving of the Montreal Expos would affect that.  It is also interesting to see that after 2004, the team value has made the deal with MLB to be simply a safety net as the value is now about 50MM above the secured minimum value of the team.  It makes me think that efforts are being made to make the team a more valuable commodity, which would run opposed to the idea that Angelos is merely trying to bring in a short term profit on the club.  However, it may be true that over this time period an increase in worth is almost unavoidable.

What is also interesting to see is how the value of the organization denotes the Orioles as one of the most valuable teams in the 1990s (4 straight years of being the second most valuable team in the league) to being a mid-market value club in the 2000s.  Three possible reasons for this would include: 1) Continual losing decrease attendance and then worth (however, the value crashed after 1997 even though the team was no awful during those first few years after winning the AL East), 2) Baltimore's market had fewer unexploited resources than the other markets, and 3) other teams caught up to the boon that was Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  I imagine it is a mixture of those and, perhaps, other causes I am neglecting.

After the jump...how has the Orioles value changed over time with other clubs currently in the AL East?

20 March 2011

What if the Orioles had let Roberts walk?

As I have mentioned time and time again, the extension for Brian Roberts made no sense.  The Orioles signed him in the winter of 2009 for an extension that would cover years 2011-2014.  This would be his age years of 32 through 35.  Not only was it a poor idea due to the historical evidence of second basemen falling apart in their early 30s, but it was also completely foolish in light of the market rate at that time.  Whereas Brian Roberts of good offense and average to below average defense wound up locked into the Orioles for five seasons at 48MM, Orlando Hudson of good offense and average to below average defense wound up locked into the Dodgers for one year at 3.4MM.  He then followed that up with a 1 year deal with the Twins in 2010 for 5MM.  It is true that Hudson is not your typical leadoff man, but it is hard to fathom Brian Roberts as being worth twice as much as him.

I propose what Andy MacPhail should have done is let Roberts play out 2009 and then let him walk.  The offers from the Cubs wound up with prospects that never amounted to much (e.g. Roger Cedeno).  The only benefit in dealing for those players would have been to avoid the final year of his initial contract.  I think the better move would have been simply to let him walk and reload the minors with two more picks in the 2010 draft.  I think it would have been likely for the Orioles to have secured the 24th selection in the first round.  That off season the Giants had some money to throw around and needed a second baseman.  I could have also seen the Washington Nationals making a play, which would have netted the first selection in the second round.  I think Roberts would have preferred the Giants though.  Using the Elias Rankings projection, Brian Roberts would have resulted in a sandwich pick between Billy Wagner and Chone Figgins . . . the 40th selection.

Next, I will look at who the Orioles might have drafted . . . who I would have drafted . . . and just who might have been playing second base these past two years.

18 March 2011

Ten Players to Follow for the Orioles' 2011 MLB Draft

With the college season a few weeks in, some have been asking me who it is that I am following for the Orioles selection at 1:4 in the 2011 draft. First, I think it is good to recognize that there really are no draft boards right now in the scouting departments. There are pretty much lists, the ranking comes later . . . much later in the process. For this post, I'll throw up a list of my top ten players to follow, so you don't make weird comments like Harold Reynolds last year when he said he would draft Manny Machado over Bryce Harper. John Hart said he would prefer Taillon over Harper, which is slightly defensible.

Also, Nick Faleris (Stotle) typically takes these questions on. He is posting much of his work over at Diamondscape Scouting. You should check that out. He is far more accomplished at amateur scouting than I am. I watch far less baseball than he does and I rely on a wide range of scouting reports the deeper I go into the draft. Nick writes scouting reports. Anyway, here is my list:

Anthony Rendon, 3B
Rice University
Rendon is a rare occurrence. He is a true five tool college third baseman. If he was available last season, I think it would have been quite difficult to pick Harper over him. He is a plus defender with good speed, solid power, and is able to square up on the ball anywhere in the strike zone. His ankle injury last season does not appear to have any lingering affect on him. He should go first or second in the draft this year and quickly rise to the Majors.

Gerrit Cole, RHSP
UCLA
Cole is the only player I could see taking the one spot from Rendon. Cole and Rendon make up what I consider to be the only elite talents in the draft. The next tier is very good as well, but Cole and Rendon look incredible to me. Cole rides a heavy fastball in the mid-90s, a 4-seamer that can rise to 98, and he also has a nasty slider. I had thought his change up needed some improvement, but reports are that it is a plus-plus offering. I may have been mistaken. His fastball and slider though are excellent pitches that could play consistently at the MLB level right now. I imagine he'll have a quick run through the minors and should see the Majors at the end of 2012 or beginning/middle of 2013. A similar comparison in terms of a path to the Majors would be something like Brian Matusz. You could see a few games at Frederick, a few at Bowie, and then some at Norfolk or Baltimore in 2012.

After the jump, the next tier of players.

17 March 2011

Orioles have the fewest IFAs in the AL East

As shown before, there is also a wide disparity in the amount organizations spend on these players.  The following graph was taken from the six part series highlighting international free agents (IFA) signed by MLB clubs over the past year.  It should be noted that Cuban players have not been included as I am using a list provided over at Baseball America.  If they were, the Orioles would not increase their number, but the other teams in the AL East would.  Also, keep in mind that money spent on big ticket items does not mean that money is well spent.  It often seems that the presence and ability to reel in players under the 100k mark are often the hallmark of successful organizations.  The Texas Rangers and the Colorado Rockies are examples of organizations who have a strong presence in international markets and their presence has created a lot of trust.  Money is king, but with these lower end no-cost-high-upside talents it is good to have the players' trust and the trainers' trust.  I think that is the hallmark of a successful international effort.

Be sure to click on the above image to see a larger version.  As you can see, the Orioles are once again one of the least active teams in baseball as well as being the least active one in the AL East.  For a team with a better market than at least the Tampa Rays, it is somewhat disconcerting to see them bringing in more talent not only with their obscene number of high round draft picks, but even with IFAs.

More after the jump.

15 March 2011

Lineup Protection and Mark Reynolds.

I think we can certainly all agree that as a population, lineup protection is a thing of fairy tales.  It does not seem to exist.  However, when viewing things from a population stand point, you might miss specific circumstances where batting order plays a significant role in what pitches you might see.  This post is about that.  I will not be doing an intensive scientific study, but will try to describe how Mark Reynolds' presence in the on-deck circle potentially affected the guys hitting directly in front of him.  For the purposes of this study, I will be assessing how Adam LaRoche's changed with and without Reynolds batting behind him.  As such, you will notice that this is not a scientific study in the least.

With Mark Reynolds batting behind Adam LaRoche, LaRoche had in 337 plate appearances:
7.4% BB
28.5% K
247 / 300 / 425

Without Mark Reynolds behind him, LaRoche had 272 plate appearances:
8.1% BB
27.2% K
275 / 331 / 522

The walk and strikeout rates do not seem to be particularly different, but the slash lines are two completely different players.  One is below replacement level for a 1B and the other is above average.  One instance is not a trend, but it does make one wonder if extreme strikeout players result in players batting ahead to not see as good of pitches because the following batter so rarely makes contact.  In such a scenario, the preceding batter would have to be a player with solid plate discipline.  If that is true, then having Reynolds behind Vladimir Guerrero or Adam Jones might not be the best thing to do.  However, again, this is not a data intense study.

14 March 2011

Why do baseball players use hGH: Part II, The Science

An unlikely way hGH improves performance.
You can follow us on Twitter @CamdenDepot

Last time, I wrote about how and why players use PEDs.  Included in that post was highlighting how sometimes players are ahead of the science (arguably steroids) and at other times behind the science (i.e. urinating on your hands, rubbing your bats with ham bones, and arguably steroids).  Somewhat blind assumptions, halo effects, and mob mentality tend to shape an uninformed perspective more so than what experts say is likely or know to be true.  I forget where I saw this and cannot seem to find it, but a study that surprised me was a study that consisted of telling participants various surprising facts.  These facts were differentiated in that some were attributed to "experts" and others were just given.  Participants were more likely to accept surprising facts from non-expert sources.  So . . . maybe there is a fourth effect, which is perhaps a societal suspicion of scientific literature, which I think would be largely due to a misunderstanding of the scientific method.  People often want definitive answers and there are awfully few laws in science.  Anyway, this is going on a tangent.

However, with all that being said . . . that players are using something to give them a competitive edge is a great reason to investigate on the efficacy of the treatment.  Sometimes lacking a full comprehension of something does not prevent someone from discovering something new.  What many baseball players have become are alchemists.  Alchemy had its usefulness as it encouraged the works of many, such as Isaac Newton and Paracelsus.  It also fostered some silly beliefs such as all things could be turned into gold.  So, it may be that baseball players and others have actually hit gold on hGH.

In today's article, I'll be reviewing (or, more aptly, summarizing) several articles about hGH and its effect on athletic performance.

Where did the hGH craze begin?
In 1990, an article was released by Rudman et al (New England Journal of Medicine) in which twelve elderly men ranging in age between 61 and 81 years old were injected with hGH at a concentration similar to what would be found in young adult males for six months.  The twelve subjects were found to have about a ten pound increase in lean muscle, a seven pound decrease in fat, and denser bones.  The conclusion stated that these effects were like a ten to twenty year reversal of aging.  An eager medical and pharmacological community aware of the future elderly care scenarios with baby boomers embraced the possibilities suggested by this article.  It also resulted in a boom of pseudoscience and pseudomedical claims and clinics advertising assumed benefits of hGH.  Claims have included that hGH improves eyesight, removes scars, renews interest in sex, resurgence of hair growth, increase in muscle strength, increase in stamina, and deepening of one's voice.  These benefits extended well beyond the boundaries of the scientific data, claiming that hGH could inhibit processes that lead to aging.  However, these claims tend to ignore several follow up studies that dispute their proclamations.

A good summary of follow up studies was provided by Mary Lee Vance in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003:

A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 27 women and 34 men, 68 to 88 years of age, who were given growth hormone or placebo for 6.5 months confirmed the effects of growth hormone on body composition; there was no change in muscle strength or maximal oxygen uptake during exercise in either group.3 This study corroborated the findings of a study by Papadakis et al. involving 52 healthy men, 70 to 85 years of age, who were given placebo or growth hormone for six months. Not mentioned on the “antiaging” Web sites is a study of 18 healthy men, 65 to 82 years of age, who underwent progressive strength training for 14 weeks, followed by an additional 10 weeks of strength training plus either growth hormone or placebo. In that study, resistance exercise training increased muscle strength significantly; the addition of growth hormone did not result in any further improvement. Going to the gym is beneficial and certainly cheaper than growth hormone.
 Ok, so it is fairly well shown that hGH does not seem to help the elderly increase functional strength, but we can probably agree that an elderly population may not be equal to a younger one.  After the jump, we'll review the literature highlighting studies on hGH use in athletes and young adults.  This short review will consist of an example of one of the many studies showing no difference, the only study showing a difference, a couple review papers, and expert testimony from the congressional hearing a couple years ago.  I could have written a far longer piece going over a couple dozen studies, but figured that excess would not convince anyone one way or the other more than the review papers do.  I also figure the review papers provide a stronger summary than I can at this moment.


13 March 2011

What Alternatives Are There to Brian Roberts: 2011 Edition

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There is more and more of a concern as Brian Roberts misses more days and logs more time in the MRI.  It may be time to think about alternatives at second base.  The following is a list with MARCEL slashes (ZiPS if MARCEL is not available; MiL players) and projected defense at second base:

In-House Options
Cesar Izturis, backup MIF, Orioles
     251/301/307 +10 runs
Robert Andino, backup MIF/AAA, Orioles
     251/308/372 +5 runs
Brendan Harris, AAA 2B/3B, Orioles
     244/304/356 -5 runs
Nick Green, AAA UTL, Orioles
     239/303/372 0 runs
Ryan Adams, AAA 2B/3B, Orioles
     269/317/380 -10 runs

Free Agent Options
Willy Aybar, UTL
     247/321/387 -5 runs
David Eckstein, 2B
     254/316/330 5 runs
Julio Lugo, UTL
     256/323/344 5 runs

Out of Options
Ryan Roberts, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
     248/321/385 0 runs
Jonathan Herrera, 2B, Colorado Rockies
     261/323/329 5 runs
Emilio Bonifacio, UTL, Florida Marlins
     256/313/344 5 runs
Angel Sanchez, UTL, Houston Astros
     271/323/373 0 runs
Luis Cruz, UTL, Milwaukee Brewers
     257/287/372 5 runs
Chin Lung-Hu, UTL, New York Mets
     254/284/340 5 runs
Luis Hernandez, UTL, New York Mets
     250/310/370 0 runs
Brent Lillibridge, UTL, Chicago White Sox
     228/292/359 0 runs
Jarrett Haufpauir, UTL, San Diego Padres
     243/316/365 0 runs

Conclusion
There does not seem to be anything on the market any better than what the Orioles already have.  I would probably try to give Ryan Adams every opportunity to take the job, but hand it to Robert Andino or maybe Cesar Izturis.