09 May 2011

Predicted Wins and Playoff Probability: Week 6

This past week, the Orioles were 1-6, managing a win against the Kansas City Royals.  Each projection system thought the Orioles would do better than they did and so we find the new predicted wins to be less than they were last week.  However, it is about in line with where the predictions were two weeks ago.  PECOTA has the Orioles at a 1.8% chance of making the playoffs.  We have them at 0.41%.

click on image to make larger

So, once again, this team is about as good as the systems thought they would be.

EDIT: It appears that we are getting considerable traffic from ESPN on this post.  I think I might need to explain some thing here as this is one of our weekly updates.

We are using three "systems" to predict the number of wins the team will win over the course of the season.  The three systems we are using are:

PECOTA - Baseball Prospectus issues updated projections on a daily basis.  We use this as an industry standard.  These figures are based on updated PECOTA player projections, playing time projections, and strength of schedule.

Camden Depot - At Camden Depot we used Tango's MARCEL projections and account for playing time to generate a WAR prediction.  We then generate a prediction for each team in baseball and weight the Orioles schedule according.  Expected wins are derived using Bill James log5 method.  The MARCEL projections are not updated, but the Orioles record in past games is incorporated in what we expect them to do in future games based on the projections and strength of schedule.  We will change our projections if major trades or injuries occur.

Pythagorean - This method is the simple well known Pythagorean method where we predict wins based on runs scored and runs given.

Playoff predictions are done by PECOTA in their daily update and by us.  We use a simple binomial function and adjust it to the expected Wild Card win total or AL East win total (which ever is lower).

Feel free to ask more questions.

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 9, 2011

Baltimore 3, Tampa Bay 5

Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Recap

Tampa Bay completed it's sweep of Baltimore yesterday on Mother's Day.  Brad Bergesen was knocked out of the game before the end of the fifth inning.  All five runs were scored after him.  The pen was able to shutout the Rays for the rest of the game, but the Orioles were only able to muster three runs.  Although it is disconcerting that the Orioles keep losing, but it will soon exhaust the bullpen with the starters not being able to go deep into the games.  Thankfully tomorrow the team has a day off and should help out the bullpen.  Matt Wieters continued his guru hitting with runners in scoring position by tacking on two more hits and is now 10 for 15 with runners in scoring position.  He seems to be the only Orioles hitter who is capable of hitting well with men on base.

Stat of the game

5 Orioles walked and none scored

The Orioles have a problem with earning walks.  This series they earned a great number of walks while not being able to plate many of them.

Orioles Game ball

Matt Wieters (2-4, 2B (6))

MiLB game balls

Norfolk (Box) - Michel Hernandez, C (1-2, 2 BB)
Bowie (Box) - Kyle Hudson, LF (1-2, 2B (2), BB)
Frederick (Box) - Oliver Drake, SP (6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 6 K)
Delmarva (Box) - Michael Ohlman, C (4-4, HR (2), 2B (3)).

Three Morning Links

Former Orioles Groundskeeper Paul Zwaska is now keeping fields tidy for a Little League in Wisconsin.

Steve Melewski talks to several Orioles, including Luke Scott, about the offensive slump the team is going through.

Jeff Zrebeic lists off some depressing numbers about the Orioles, including noting that the Orioles are 2-16 in games in which they score three or fewer runs.

Up Next

The O's get a day to think about things.

08 May 2011

One Fifth of the Way into the Season, Vlad is Below Replacement

The last time we checked out Vlad's performance was 16 games into the season.  At that point, he had a -0.3 WAR which would have qualified him as one of the worst DHs in history.  Sixteen games later, a fifth of the way into the season, Vlad is still below replacement level at -0.1 WAR.  More and more, it appears that Scott at DH and Pie in left or Reimold at DH and Scott in left would have been the better approach.  However, Vlad is a "proven veteran," so Buck may have little choice other than to keep shoving Vlad in the cleanup spot game after game after game.  Vlad's walk rate is the lowest of his career and is less than half of his career average.  His ISO is the worst of his career.  His HR/Fly is the worst of his career.  Only 32 games in, but he has seen a 22% decrease in fastballs seen.  His swinging percentage is the highest of his career.  This is not a great series of statistics.

At -0.1 WAR, Vlad has passed the 1994 Dave Winfield and is now tied with the 1976 Minnie Minoso.

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 8, 2011

Baltimore 2, Tampa Bay 8

Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Recap

Compared to the two previous home Saturday games, the Orioles' attendance fell slightly more than 50% to 18,961.  Hopefully, this was a product of several fans wishing to go to Kentucky Derby parties.  There is certainly some concern that the fan base has determined this team is gilded and not solid gold as none of the major off season acquisitions have paid off.  Mark Reynolds (-0.3 WAR) is on pace to avoid 200 K's, but is also on pace to have less than 20 home runs and fail to hit a .200 average.  Vladimir Guerrero (-0.1 WAR) is not rewarding people's faith as he is struggling to get on base (.290 OBA) and has not shown much if any power (.126 ISO).  Derrek Lee (-0.1 WAR) is also on pace to hit about 15 home runs over the course of the season.  None of this is surprising, but what has happened is slightly below what we were anticipating here at the Depot and far below what the public in general seemed to think.  What happened in the game?  Jeremy Guthrie was hit hard over five innings, giving up three doubles and two home runs.  Four of the extra base hits that fell on hit were when there were base runners compounding the effect.  The Orioles only managed five hits with Nick Markakis producing three singles.  They were unable to take advantage of the Rays issuing 10 walks over the course of the game.  The difference really was that the Rays were able to produce extra base hits and the Orioles were not.  It was the 17th time out of 32 games in which the Orioles failed to score more than three runs.  Brad Bergesen is now tasked to lead the Orioles back on track with a solid game on Mother's Day.

Stat of the game

5 XBH in 5 IP

When a pitcher gives up on average an extra base hit per inning, he is going to be giving up a lot of runs.  The Rays did a good job of squaring up on Guthrie and were a tad bit lucky so many balls fell in to the right place.  Twice that right place was in the stands.

Orioles Game ball

Nick Markakis (3-4, SF)

MiLB game balls

Norfolk (Box) - Tyler Henson, CF (2-3, 3B (1), BB)
Bowie (Box) - Ronnie Welty, RF (1-4, HR (5))
Frederick (Box) - Tyler Townsend, 1B (2-4, HR (6))
Delmarva (Box) - Jarret Martin (2 IP, 1 H, 4 SO, 1 BB).

Three Morning Links

Cal Ripken Jr. thinks Manny Pacquiao will win..

Baltimore Orioles had a scout in attendance for New York HS Kevin McAvoy.  The right hander hit 90 a couple times.

Derek Jeter played his 2,303rd game at shortstop for the Yankees.  This breaks Cal Ripken Jr.'s record for most games played at shortstop with one club.

Up Next

The O's loss last night has dropped them into sole possession of last place in the AL East. Brad Bergesen (4.32 xFIP, 82 ERA+) will work to prevent a sweep against Wade Davis (5.04 xFIP, 133 ERA+) who is having a confusing year as he is striking out only 3.9 per nine innings, yet have been effective. 1:35 pm Eastern start.

07 May 2011

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 7, 2011

Baltimore 2, Tampa Bay 6

Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore fell last night to the Rays in the first Friday home game of the season in front of 20,694 purchased tickets and slightly less in attendance.  The game immediately became a struggled after Zach Britton gave up three runs on two hard hit balls (a double to BJ Upton and a home run to Brandon Guyer).  In the Orioles first 31 games, 16 have ended with them scoring three or fewer runs.  This club has been largely producing with a low on base average (.296, 13th in AL) and poor contact (.236, 10th in AL).  An offense this enemic needs a strong defense.  The Orioles' is rather average (-3 DRS, -0.3 UZR).  The team is also dependent on a bullpen that has also been unimpressive (5.58 FIP, last in AL by 0.72).  Returning from that aside, Britton calmed down outside of that inning, but was forced out in the sixth inning due to fatigue.  The Orioles were able to put a couple runs up on the board and the pen gave up three more.  The hope that Britton gives everyone with each of his starts was not rewarded today and Jeremy Guthrie comes to the mound tonight to avoid a three game slide.

Stat of the game

7 out of 21

That's is how well Zach Britton did with managing first pitch strikes.  Britton often was pitching behind the count while not hit his spots cleanly.  This forced him into deeper counts and being lifted only one out into the sixth inning.

Orioles Game ball

Derrek Lee (1-3, home run, BB)

MiLB game balls

Norfolk (Box) - Nolan Reimold, LF (2-4, HR (4), BB)
Bowie (Box) - Ronnie Welty, RF (3-4, HR (4), 2B (3), BB)
Frederick (Box) - Kenny Moreland, RP (3 IP, 1 H, 2 SO)
Delmarva (Box) - Clayton Schrader (3.1 IP, 1 H, 6 SO, 1 BB).

Three Morning Links

MASN's Roch Kubatko provided an update on Manny Machado and his dislocation.

David Zurawik at the Baltimore Sun reports that MASN ratings have increased so far compared to last year.

Steve Slowinski mentions how one may view small sample size and what it means for this season.  Vladimir Guerrero swing rate on first pitches makes an appearance..

Up Next

The O's are in the middle of a three game set with Tampa holding a tenuous 0.5 game lead of fourth place over the Boston Red Sox. Jeremy Guthrie (4.24 xFIP, 132 ERA+) will attempt to get Baltimore back on track against a red hot Jeremy Hekkickson (4.39 xFIP, 86 ERA+). 1:10 pm Eastern start.

06 May 2011

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 6, 2011

Baltimore 1, Kansas City 9

Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore dropped its first Friday home game of the season against the Rays the third game of the KC series, ending their brief Midwest Swang with a 4-3 record. Chris Tillman was not as bad as his line (3.2 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO), but once again he was unable to work through some tough luck hits. I've seen most of Chris's starts this year and am not overly concerned. Are there things to work on? Obviously. But learning to make adjustments at the Major League level is an absolute necessity if a player is to stick, long term, as a contributing piece. Chris is in the difficult position of having to learn what works for him while adjusting to new mechanics and resulting inconsistencies in his stuff. I think he gets there, but there are going to be bumps. Back to the game, the lone bright spot is that Nick Markakis continues to swing it, finishing the road trip 8-30 with a double and a homerun and raising his batting average on the season 21-points. What started out as a feel good trip ends on a sour note, and Baltimore will look to Zach Britton to right the ship against an improving Tampa squad.

Stat of the game

4, 1-3, 0-4 (0%), 32

That's the number of games that Jake Fox has started at catcher, Baltimore's record in those games, the percent of runners Fox has thrown out attempting to steal, and the number of runs Baltimore has allowed in those four games. Small sample size...right?

Orioles Game ball

Nick Markakis (2-4)

MiLB game balls

Norfolk (Box) - Ryan Adams, 2b/3b (2-3, 2B (5), BB)
Bowie (Box) - Brandon Waring, dh (2-4, HR (3), 2B (5), BB)
Frederick (Box) - Tyler Townsend, 1b (2-4, HR (5), 3 RBI (21))
Delmarva (Box) - Kipp Shutz (2-4, RBI (21))

Note: Baltimore's top prospect, Manny Machado (ss, A Delmarva) left the game after crumbling between 2nd and 3rd base. There was swelling in his knee and he is scheduled for an MRI today.

Three Morning Links

MASN's Steve Melewsky provided an update this morning on Manny Machado and his knee.

Luke Scott is heading to the doc's office for an MRI on his sore shoulder, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Sun.

Dan Connolly of the Sun catches us up on Alfredo Simon's first start of the season since being implicated in a shooting in the Dominican Republic this winter.

Up Next

The O's open a three game set with Tampa tonight. Zach Britton (4.14 xFIP, 152 ERA+) will attempt to get Baltimore back on track against a red hot James Shields (3.12 xFIP, 173 ERA+). 7:05 pm Eastern start.

05 May 2011

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 5

Baltimore 3, Kansas City 2

Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Recap

Jake Arrieta, despite struggling through a 35 pitch 2nd inning, gave the O's a much needed seven-inning start, earning the win and posting an impressive game line of 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, and 8 SO. The young righty continues to show solid velocity to go with an improving ability to sequence (hat tip to Wieters, as well) and more consistent execution of his fastball and each of his breaking balls. Markakis drove in two, including a solo homerun in the 7th (his third on the year), and Adam Jones may have saved the game when he alertly threw up his hands to signal a Mike Aviles drive to the gap had wedged under the padding of the outfield wall, saving a run and keeping Aviles at second (he would be stranded at third to end the inning).

Stat of the game

Mark Reynolds: 3-3, BB, 0 SO

A perfect three hit game for the struggling third baseman, a walk and no strikeout? Worth noting and celebrating for the short term. Here's hoping we will start to see the light tower power manifest in-game soon, and often.

Orioles Game ball

Jake Arrieta (7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 SO, W (4))

MiLB game balls

Norfolk - No game
Bowie (Box) - Robbie Widlanski, dh (2-4, 2b (9))
Frederick (Box) - L.J. Hoes, 2b/of (5-5, 2b (5))
Delmarva - No game

Three Morning Links

Jeff Zrebiec reports J.J. Hardy is set to begin his rehab stint at AAA Norfolk.

Jon Star (mlb.com) previews this afternoon's rubber match in Kansas City.

Shameless plug: Check out DiamondScape Scouting's midseason top 100 draft prospects, including five mini "player spotlight" scouting reports.

Game three of the series takes place this afternoon (Fox will be behind the plate). Chris Tillman (4.48 xFIP, 77 ERA+) faces-off against former Oriole Bruce Chen (4.70 xFIP, 98 ERA+). 2:10 pm Eastern start.

04 May 2011

Collegiate Diamonds by the Numbers: Pac10, Big 12, Conference USA, and Big East

Here are links to the first two columns:
Introduction and ACC

This post will roll through four different conferences as very few players met this criteria.  The Pac10 in fact are not represented.  This is not to say there are no prospects in the Pac10.  It says that merely following the criteria is set forth would not identify anyone in this grouping.  I want to remind you that I am using adjusted numbers from College Baseball Splits and not raw numbers.  This post will highlight players who match these criteria in the SEC.

Plate Discipline - Walk Rate (>15%) and BB:K ratio (>1.50)
Contact Rate - Batting Average (>.300)
Power - ISO (>.180)

Big 12

Just a Freshman

Erich Weiss, 2B/3B, Texas
397/529/616; 20.2% walk rate, 1.68 BB:K, .219 ISO

It does not appear Erich Weiss was drafted last year, but he has broken out as a freshman for the Longhorns.  In high school, Weiss saw time at SS, 2B, and C.  In college, he has been handed the job at the hot corner.  So far he has performed well as a freshman and will have a couple more years before he is draft eligible (2013).  At 6'3" and 180, Weiss is athletic, but I can imagine him adding on another 15-20 pounds as he matures.

Conference USA

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
364/570/573; 32%, 3.01 BB:K, .209 ISO
Diamond Scape Scouting: Best 3B, Best Overall

I'll let Nick Faleris tell you about him (click here for a full scouting report):
The story this spring has been a sore shoulder for the five-tool third baseman, which has kept him in the DH role for most of the season.  Perhaps stemming from the sore shoulder, Rendon's power numbers have fallen off drastically, with his isolated power dropping from a whopping .407 to a merely impressive .178.  Barring troublesome medical reports come draft time, there is little concern that this will have a long term effect on Rendon's game.  Provide the shoulder checks-out, he is easily the top position player in the draft class, arguably the top player overall, and on par with the likes of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg in terms of future potential and draft time skill set.  Rendon is the rare five-tool talent with game changing ability in each category (he was clocked at 4.2 seconds home-to-first a number of times last year, during the USA CNT Trials and twice this spring), and an intricate feel for the game on defense, in the batters box and on the basepaths.  He has a chance to move quickly once he signs and could be a perennial All-Star at the Major League level. 

Big East

Joe Panik, MIF, St. John's
397/513/609; 17% walk rate, 2.29 BB:K, .212 ISO
Diamond Scape Scouting: 3rd 2B, 2nd SS, 44th overall (pre-season)

Panik was largely overlooked by most of the national talent writers with Faleris being the only one to put him in a top 50.  However, he is not an unknown.  Scouting the Sally reviewed Panik last month and wrote:
  • Compact build; Looked closer to 6-foot than the 6-2 he is listed as
  • Well developed through hips and shoulders; Room for additional growth?
  • Above average speed; Pulled multiple 4.15 times from home-to-first
  • Short, compact stroke; Drops bat head on the baseball
  • Gap hitter; Present swing mechanics tailor-made for spraying line drives
  • Patient hitter; Took a number of borderline pitches
  • Questionable power projection; Should push double-digits, but not much more
It would be highly doubtful that Panik is available when the Orioles pick in the second round.

Close, but not quite

David Chester, 1B, Pittsburgh
293/422/527; 16.2% walk rate, 1.61 BB:K, .234 ISO
Not ranked by DSS, Keith Law, or Baseball America

Although not ranked by Nick Faleris, Chester was on Nick's Big East Second Team ratings before the season began.  He was .007 points shy of batting average to qualify for this list.  For a big guy (6'5" 270 lbs), he does a good job making contact with power and earning walks.  Large batters anecdotally seem like a risk as the larger the batter, the larger the strike zone he must work with.  As a Senior, Chester does not have any leverage.  He will likely be taken as an easy slot or below slot signing after past the first five rounds.

Passing Thoughts

The members of this club I have put together are relatively few, but the criteria I have set forth does appear to be hitting on certain ball players who are widely accepted as good college prospects.  This criteria does not replace eyes and stop watches, but it is remarkable how it is finding players who are known and others that are on the fringe.

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 4, 2011

Baltimore 5, Kansas City 6

Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Recap

Jeff Francoeur knotted the game at 5-5 in the bottom of sixth with his seventh homerun of the year. Four innings later he broke that tie with a sacrifice fly to medium right field, plating the winning run in the form of Alex Gordon. The loss was Baltimore's second in as many days, dropping their record to 2-2 on this brief Midwest road trip. Jason Berken took the loss and looked pedestrian for the fourth straight appearance. Over that span, Berken's line is a not-so-pretty 3.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 4 BB and 2 SO. The positive? Matt Wieters continues to look more and more comfortable at the plate, with his timing issues from earlier this season appearing to drift further and further into his rearview mirror. He also threw out another baserunner attempting to swipe second -- at some point you have to think teams will simply stop trying, yeah? Adam Jones put together a couple of solid at bats and notch three singles and a walk in five plate appearances.

Stat of the game

KC Pen: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO

After starter Jeff Francis spotted Baltimore five runs over five and two-thirds innings, the Royals pen dropped the hammer. After losing the lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles never threatened again, with all four hits thereafter singles and none of those runners reaching second. Owner of the top farm system in the game by a wide margin, the Royals have a nice little pen taking shape on the Big Club. The Royals will be in an interesting position later this summer as they will have to decide whether to hold onto shut-down closer Joakim Soria (club options through 2014 in the aggregate of $22.75 million) or move him for a sizable package of prospects. While the Royals have plenty of payroll room in 2012 and beyond, the ability to add one or two potential impact, cost controlled talents while shifting one of their high-ceiling prospect arms (Aaron Crow or Jeremy Jeffress) to work the 9th may be too tempting to pass-up.

Average age of the Royals relievers used last night: 23y9m.

Orioles Game ball

Luke Scott (2-5, HR (6), 3 RBI)

MiLB game balls

Norfolk (Box) - Michael Ballard, lhp (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, W (2))
Bowie (Box) - Steve Johnson, rhp (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, ND)
Frederick (Box) - Ollie Drake, rhp (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO, W (2))
Delmarva (Box) - Jonathan Schoop, 2b/3b (2-4)

Three Morning Links

Roch Kubatko talks Derek Lee and Jake Arrieta in his latest School of Roch entry.

Peter Schmuck explores the dilemma facing a weary fan base -- do we buy into Buck's Birds in 2011 or is this summer just more of the same?

The Eutaw Street Hooligans bring us a look at Mark Reynolds and his propensity to K in part 1 of a 2 part series, courtesy of Jjaks Clayton.

Game two of the series will pit young power arm Jake Arrieta (4.20 xFIP, 82 ERA+) against Kansas City's Kyle Davies (4.34 xFIP, 51 ERA+). 8:10 pm Eastern start.

03 May 2011

Collegiate Diamonds by the Numbers: SEC

The previous installment focused on introducing my criteria and players that fit them in the ACC.  Also, I want to remind you that I am using adjusted numbers from College Baseball Splits and not raw numbers.  This post will highlight players who match these criteria in the SEC.

Plate Discipline - Walk Rate (>15%) and BB:K ratio (>1.50)
Contact Rate - Batting Average (>.300)
Power - ISO (>.180)

Hitting All Four

Dan Gamache, INF, Auburn
363/462/562; 16% walk rate, 1.59 BB:K, .199 ISO
Not ranked by Diamond Scape Scouting, Keith Law, or Baseball America

Gamache is a Junior on the Auburn Tigers.  He might be the first diamond in the rough as I was unaware of him and have not found a recent scouting report.  He has shown an increase in power and plate discipline, but there is a question as to where exactly he will play as a pro.  I cannot say much more than that.  I look forward to Nick's thoughts in the comment section.  As Oriole fans know with Trent Mummey, future power is difficult to measure in Auburn because it can be rather easy to hit home runs there.

Taylor Dugas, OF, Alabama
333/439/539; 16% walk rate, 2.07 BB:K, .206 ISO
Diamond Scape Scouting: Not Ranked for OF, 177th best overall (pre-season)

Dugas might be taken anywhere from the fourth to seventh rounds.  He profiles as a speedy outfielder with good defensive skills.  He has shown a good success rate in the past for stolen bases, but has been largely ineffective this year with seven steals and four times caught.  His bat is also considered somewhat limited and there are questions if he can sustain a high level of doubles and a smattering of home runs at the next level.  For Oriole fans, Matt Angle might be a decent comp, but I think Dugas' bat profiles a little better than Angle's.

Matt Duffy, 3B, Tennessee
328/434/522; 16% walk rate, 1.56 BB:K, .194 ISO
Not Ranked by Diamond Scape Scouting, Keith Law, or Baseball America

Matt Duffy was not selected last year and is now in his senior season.  As yet, I have not found anyone releasing any scouting reports on him or ranking him.  This season he has maintained his high level of defensive play at third (or so it seems) while he has drastically reduce his strikeouts, increased his walks, and may be showing a little more power.  He may have some worth pas the eighth round for slot.  I don't know who to compare him to.

Passing Thoughts

The first review of talent in the ACC gave me hope that this series would be largely validated by the work of talent scouts as represented by Diamond Scape Scouting and Baseball America.  However, this collection of SEC talent is a bit unimpressive when compared to who these other groups are looking.  It will be interesting to see how this somewhat arbitrarily derived criteria performs as these players move on to the pros.

Game Wrap and Morning Links: May 3, 2011

Baltimore 2, Chicago (A) 6

Box Score Play-By-Play AP Game Recap

The Birds dropped the series finale to the White Sox, missing out on a chance for a sweep for the second straight series. Jeremy Guthre (L, 1-4) put together a solid start. The Orioles' Ace scattered five hits and two walks over seven innings, with his only real trouble coming in the 6th when he loaded the bases and subsequently allowed a Paul Konerko sacrifice fly. Derek Lee continues to climb out of the statistical hole dug by his highly unlucky offensive April. The former All-Star was 3-4 last night with one walk and one home run. Matt Wieters showed very well, again, behind the plate with two more sub-2.0 pops to second, throwing out 2-of-3 would-be base stealers. His 53% caught stealing is second in all of baseball, among qualified catchers, behind Oakland's Kurt Suzuki.

Stat of the game

Team LOB 13 (BAL); 0-9 RISP (BAL)

Guthrie continues to suffer through abysmal offensive showings from his teammates -- this time in the form of 13 runners left on base and an inept 0-9 with runners in scoring position. On the season, Guthrie has received the 7th worst run support in all of baseball, with the O's managing just 3.46 runs per Guthrie start.

Orioles Game ball

Derek Lee (3-4, HR (2), BB)

MiLB game balls

Norfolk - PPD
Bowie - Ronnie Welty, of (2-4, 0 SO!)
Frederick - Tyler Townsend, 1b (2-5, HR (4))
Delmarva - Jonathan Schoop, 22/3b (3-5, 2 2B, 3 R)

Three Morning Links

The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly notes beleagured Alfredo Simon, a suspect in a fatal shooting this winter in the Dominican Republic, could start Thursday's game for the AA Bowie Baysox.

The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec with his Morning Notes covering Guthrie, Markakis, Rupe and Bergie.

Brit Ghiroli takes a closer look at Guthrie's lack of run support at MLB.com, noting, "In Guthrie's 18 losses since 2010, the Orioles have scored 24 runs when he's pitching."

Baltimore heads to Kansas City tonight, 8:10 pm Eastern start. Brad Bergesen (0-3, 4.76) will take the hill for the Orioles against Jeff Francis (0-3, 5.03) of the Royals.

02 May 2011

Predicted Wins and Playoff Probability: Week 5

At the end of 5 weeks, the Orioles are not wildly over or underperforming based on the initial predictions of Camden Depot and the PECOTA forecasting. The Depot has seen a bump of 0.8 games and PECOTA is showing a drop of 0.4 games. Roughly eyeing it, I would say 5 games would be a major shift. We are not seeing that here. There have also been no surprises so far based on what my projections indicate for the rest of the AL East. Although, the Yankees and BoSox have flipped to first and second, respectively.

click image to make larger

PECOTA has the Orioles with a 5.5% chance to reach the playoffs. I have them at 1.89%.

If you prefer odds, that would be about 1 in 18 for PECOTA and 1 in 52 for the Depot.

Collegiate Diamonds by the Numbers: Introduction and ACC

Unlike my fellow writer here at the depot, Nick Faleris, I do not see as much film as he does and have far less experience with scouting collegiate players.  As such, I scan over batting lines and employ strength of schedule adjustments of players in the college ranks over at College Baseball Splits.  Nick and others do a great job keeping us aware of talent likely to be selected in the top ten rounds.  I, on the other hand, like to look at the numbers that are available and determine if anything with that small a sample size and uneven competition can tell me anything about future success.  I prefer using the adjusted numbers from that website to try to normalize the data against the parks and strength of schedule.  All numbers cited in these posts are adjusted numbers and not raw numbers.

What are those criteria?

Plate discipline - I measure plate discipline by the walk rate and the ratio of walks to strikeouts.  I have arbitrarily set these lines as a walk rate >15% and a >1.5 BB:K ratio.  The thought behind this is to target players who have a good understanding of hittable pitches and their ability to work for a walk.

Contact rate - I also look for batting averages greater than .300.  From an anecdotal perspective, players with good plate discipline AND poor contact rates in college have trouble progressing through the minors.  As they face a greater number of pitchers with more command of their pitches, the opportunities for walks will decrease.  Pitchers are more likely to pitch in the zone and for a player to make contact.  Collegiate players who do not have good contact rates tend to get eaten up by pro-quality offerings.

Power - Good contact rate and plate discipline are a great foundation for a hitting skill set.  However, slapping the ball in professional leagues with players who field better is not as useful.  There are just not many Ichiro Suzukis out there.  In the pro game, there needs to be some power to go along with these skills.  Otherwise, pitchers will go at hitters and give them pitches to hit, knowing that there is unlikely to be much damage.  For this criteria, I set an ISO of .180.

The numbers I use above are eyeball figures.  My goal is to find players who sit above the 75th percentile for these three categories.  As I learn more these numbers may change.

Continue reading to see my review of several players in the Atlantic Coast Conference who match this criteria.  After the ACC, I will be going through each collegiate conference and identifying players who fit these criteria.

27 April 2011

Miguel Tejada is the Rock That Keeps Tigers Away

Tom Verducci is known to take a good idea and then grease up every bit of fact to wedge them into his good idea.  He has done it before, quite famously, with the Verducci Effect.  The Verducci Effect states that pitchers are likely to get injured or become ineffective if they suffered an increase of innings pitched greater than 30 from year to year before they turn 25.  The concept is sound.  However, the data has not been entirely useful.  Understanding the variation between arms, 30 innings are likely to be an overly arbitrary number.  A similar instance also known would be Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) as they do not correlate with pitching injury well.  Again, just because the numbers do not entirely support these concepts does not invalidate these concepts.  Moreso, it means that it is difficult whether or not there is an effect due to so many confounding factors.

Another pet project of Verducci is his love of how age performance curves may have changed after MLB instituted stricter drug testing.  In today's column Verducci writes:
There is no doubt Jeter and Tejada are struggling enough that their managers will face questions about where they bat in the order and how many days of rest they should be afforded. But guess what: This is what life used to be like for 37-year-old middle infielders. All of us have to recalculate what should be expected of players as they age through their late 30s.
That is a pretty foolish statement to make.  Just because Jeter and Tejada are doing poorly, are old, and you have a hypothesis . . . it does not necesarrily mean it is a good idea to lump them together.  Verducci fails here because he makes an assumption that there were actually 37 year old middle infielders who were good.  It just has never been so.

So, how many seasons has a 37 year old or older SS produced a WAR greater than 2?

Under Verducci's statement, we would assume that his carefully researched piece would indicate that a large proportion of those 19 season performances happened in the 2000s.  Here they are by year:

Bill Dahlen, 1908 3.9 WAR
Honus Wagner, 1911 7.2
Honus Wagner, 1912 8.1
Honus Wagner, 1913 2.9
Honus Wagner, 1914 2.7
Honus Wagner, 1915 4.5
Rabbit Maranville, 1929 2.3
Luke Appling, 1946 5.3
Luke Appling, 1947 3.8
Luke Appling, 1949 4.6
Pee Wee Reese, 1956 2.5
Maury Wills, 1971 2.0
Luis Aparicio, 1973 2.3
Larry Bowa, 1983 2.7
Ozzie Smith, 1992 4.3
Ozzie Smith, 1993 2.5
Mike Bordick, 2003 2.1
Omar Vizquel, 2004 3.1
Omar Vizquel, 2006 3.1

As you can see clearly, there is not some amazing boost to the presence of useful, old shortstops in baseball in the 2000s.  This sort of thing happens a couple times each decade and usually happens with a rather unique individual.  The fact that there is not likely going to be an average 37 year old or older SS this year in baseball is not exactly a useful piece of evidence.

Best bets to cross the 2.0 WAR threshold this decade?
2011-2012 Derek Jeter
2013 Marco Scutaro
2015 Rafael Furcal

26 April 2011

Thinking about the Duke and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Through Hardball Talk, I read an article in the Seattle Times.  Defensive wunderkind CF Franklin Gutierrez spent time at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota undergoing a series of tests to have a better understanding of his increasingly worse intestinal ailment which had landed him on the disabled list.  They reached a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, which can be somewhat controlled with medication.  He expressed a sentiment I have heard from a few friends who experienced similar circumstances:
"I've been having this a long time and nobody knew what I had, so knowing now this is what I have (and) can be treatable makes me feel better mentally and now I want to feel better physically, too, to get ready and be here again," Gutierrez said. "It's going to take time for the medicine to work. Let's see how it goes."
My knowledge of IBS is somewhat limited.  However, I will do my best to explain it.  It is a disease that is diagnosed because pretty much everything else has been ruled out.  It is not well understood and conditions known as IBS may actually encompass several different issues yet unknown.  Stress is known to intensify symptoms, which include bloatedness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.  There also seems to be a connection between IBS and depression.  This may be the product of dysregulation of serotonin levels associated with IBS.

This story and this connection between IBS and depression also makes me think of Justin Duchscherer.  In the May edition of Men's Health, Duchscherer gave an interview to the amazing writer Pat Jordan in which Duke discusses his issues with depression.  Here is an excerpt from the article where he is explaining how he feels:
“People think if you’re rich, you must be happy,” he says. “They can’t understand why you’re not. I feel guilty making so much money playing a game. If I pitch a shutout, it doesn’t make me happy. I think of the guys I struck out, how they’re going home, depressed, to their families.”
I find this interesting because he also suffers from IBS.  In Oakland, Duchscherer started out in the bullpen and would have issues with his bowels.  In the middle to late innings, he would often run off to the bathroom from the pen to use the restroom.  The A's, noticing how his 'nerves' were not handling the bullpen well, shifted him to the starting rotation to give him scenarios where he knew exactly when he would pitch.  That certainty paid off for the A's and resulted in Duchscherer pitching quite effectively when healthy.  The Orioles are hoping that in the second half of the year that Duchscherer is able to provide some usefulness to their rotation.  He is currently dealing with a chronic hip issue that does not appear to be going away.  Based on the current performance of the starting staff and the thin talent at AAA, the Orioles will need him.

I don't know how prevalent IBS is among baseball players.  In a 1999 study on long distance runners and cyclists, it was found that 71% and 64%, respectively, suffered from lower intestinal problems.  Many of these individuals are likely suffering from IBS.  However, it is largely assumed that long distance running or cycling would be more likely to suffer from intestinal issues as extreme fatigue redirects blood from the intestines to the brain and muscles.  Baseball players likely do not have this confounding factor at play.  The only two other professional baseball players who suffered from this that I am aware of are George Brett and Matt McCarthy.  The latter is the author of Odd Man Out, which we will be reading in late June as part of the Camden Depot Book Club.

25 April 2011

Predicted Wins and Playoff Probability: Week 4

After four weeks into the season, consisting of 20 games, the Orioles find themselves roughly where I imagined them to be: winning about half of their games.  I did not expect them to be so streaky, but it is not surprising.

All three predictions are hovering around each other.  They are who we thought they are.

PECOTA playoff projections have decreased to 2.1%.  They were at 11.6% after two weeks.  Depot projections are at 0.71%.  After two weeks, the probability was at 3.9%.

20 April 2011

Vladimir Guerrero is Going Backwards

Vladimir Guerrero has played for a tenth of the season so far.  Earlier I covered how well designated hitters have played when they were 36 and over years of age.  Vlad has not done well so far and sits at -0.3 WAR before the game on April 20th.

It is still early and Vlad could right the ship, but the first sixteen games have not been kind.  Currently he finds himself better than George Brett (1993, -0.4 WAR) and Cecil Cooper (1987, -0.6 WAR) which places him as the 24th best DH out of 26.

18 April 2011

Predicted Wins and Playoff Probability: Week 3

Quick post tonight . . . before tonight's game, the team sat at 4.2% playoff chance with PECOTA's predictions and 1.0% with the Depot's predictions.

Here is the projected wins by date:

I find it somewhat remarkable how similar the different lines are.  So far, the Depot model has had the least elasticity while the Pythagorean, as expected, has the most.  Hopefully, next week finds the team in better shape.

15 April 2011

Five Baysox to Watch in Bowie in 2011 and Hoes

Orioles' OF Xavier Avery
 When I wrote the Frederick Keys Five to Watch post I had assumed that LJ Hoes would be playing 2B in Bowie.  However, the Orioles wanted to give Greg Miclat the first go at second base.  As such, I think Hoes will perform well in Frederick and give Miclat a couple months to prove himself.  In this post, I will give a short summary of five to watch in Bowie as well as something about LJ Hoes.  The rest of Bowie showcases some of the second tier talent in the Orioles' system.  Unfortunately, the Orioles second tier talent would be other teams' third or fourth tier talent.  For example, Zach Britton and Manny Machado were in Baseball America's top 25.  Baseball America forms their top 100 prospects by having their five contributors devise their own individual top 150 lists.  No other Oriole found himself on any of the top 150s.  That is what we call a steep drop in talent.

However, one should not confuse such a steep drop as meaning the organization is without talent past Machado and Britton.  The organization has several C+ / fringe B- players who have a great chance of being solid bench players in the Majors and an off chance at being a regular.  I would say to not expect anything beyond that though.  Bowie is really the epitome of that.  They will have several players this year that might become something, but have significant flaws that they must address or find ways to compensate.

Xavier Avery, CF/LF
Avery has a package of raw skills that scouts can dream upon.  He has great athleticism and strength that was honed as a serious football first athlete in high school.  It has really only been in the past four years that Avery has taken baseball seriously.  That he will be a 21 year old in AA Bowie shows that his natural ability and a capable learning curve has done wonders for his game since he was selected in the second round in 2008.  Although strong, his lean frame does not and should not result in any significant power.  He has increased his power production from his age 18 season (ISO of .057) to last year's age 20 season (.115).  His goal should be to increase it to about .130 in order to keep pitchers honest.  Otherwise, he will be constantly challenged at the Major League level.  His contact rate is league average (not good) and his plate discipline is a shade below average (also not good).  He has also not proven to be completely adept at stealing bases, but not awful.  His lack of skill is overcome by his speed and has resulted in roughly break even marks for successfully stealing bases.  However, he is on a 16 straight stolen base streak without being caught.  His speed also helps him in the outfield making several plays in center.  His first step is not great, but he covers a great deal of territory and has natural control of his body (think of Felix Pie who has great speed and looks quite clumsy...Avery is similar without the clumsiness).  Avery is still developing as a player, so it will be interesting to see what he can do this year.

After the jump, four more Baysox and Hoes.

14 April 2011

Updated 2011 1st Rd Draft Rankings: Keith Law, Baseball America, Nick Faleris

Baseball America put out their mid-season revision of the 2011 amateur draft rankings (April 12th).  There has not, in general, been a lot of movement in the lists, which are composite rankings also using Keith Law's (March 22nd) and Nick Faleris' (March 27th).  Baseball America also only brought in two new players within the the top 50 universe of players collected so far from each of the three ranking source over the course of this season.  Those two were 49th and 50th in their most current update.  The BA update has resulted in only one individual being tossed out of the top 33 (Nimmo) and a new one finding his place (Stephenson).

Click on the image below to make the graph a bit larger and more legible.

The top four have stayed the same in order with Rendon, Cole, Gray, and Starling.  Behind them, players have moved up and down a few spots.  It is actually quite remarkable how similar these lists are becoming.  One of the reasons why I chose these three sources was because they are famous for being independent in their rankings.  Other sources tend to be massaged in concert with new lists hitting the net.

For the Orioles, the growing perspective is that the team is focused on Anthony Rendon and then a college pitcher.  It would be shocking to see Rendon fall to the Orioles at the four spot (1:4), so it will likely be a college pitcher.  Danny Hultzen of Virginia and Jed Bradley of Georgia Tech would be the two most obvious candidates.  I have been told by some fans that they hope Matthew Purke is the selection, but I figure his motion, injury history, and that he rejected a 6MM deal from the Yankees Rangers (edit: 4/17/11 JS I did not remember this correctly) his first time around might make things a bit uncomfortable in figuring out their draft budget and ensuring they select a high quality prospect.

At Camden Depot, I think the way we lean right now would be Sonny Gray (Jon Shepherd) and perhaps Bubba Starling (Nick Faleris).  I am assuming Nick's pick here.  However, there is a lot of talent bunched up in the 3-8 range.  I would be pleased with a good number of players including Hultzen and Bradley.  I would also be pleased with someone who I think is a sure Major Leaguer, but without a superstar potential (Jackie Bradley Jr).  Anyway, I imagine we will see at least another four future updates of this list.

13 April 2011

Is Wieters a poor behind the count hitter?

In the Oriole sphere of influence yesterday there was considerable talk about Matt Wieters and his ability to hit (or lack thereof) when behind in the count.  Much of it was initiated by a post on Orioles Hangout and it being highlighted by Tony Pente.  The post itself put an interesting premise in place about how Wieters hit no better than Cesar Izturis when behind in the count.  I'd argue though that it was an interesting notion, but we need to put the numbers within a bit more context.  Why?
  1. Small sample size.  Think about it, how many plate appearances do you need to feel comfortable about a player's performance?  It is probably somewhere in the 500-600 range where you begin to have a decent idea as to how good a hitter is.  Wieters has seen 916 first pitches in his career.  He has seen 424, 397, and 385 pitches in 0-1, 1-0, and 1-1 counts.  Every other situation is less than 257 pitches.  As one goes from 1 pitch to 500 pitches, the data becomes more meaningful.  However, you need to be quite open and aware that these are not hard, unwavering indications of ability.  As such, it is NOT safe to say Wieters is a poor Major League hitter in 0-1, 0-2, and 1-2 counts.  It MAY be safe to say that he has not performed well in those situations.  There is a subtle, but key point there.  Past events correlate ability, but past events are not ability.  The weaker the sample size, the weaker the correlation, typically.
  2. The poster presented Wieters numbers within the context of eight Orioles and two other players.  This is not ideal for a comparison population when Baseball Reference provides you with whole league data to devise an average level of performance.  To understand how Wieters' performance has been, it is necessary to determine how that performance compares to the league average hitter.  The point of doing this is to minimize peculiar collections of data.  Additionally, shouldn't we also consider how there is a scarcity of offense at his position?  It seems that comparing a catcher's offensive production to other positions with greater production might be a tad bit unfair.
  3. With the poster done with his findings, I think Tony Pente chose to present some statistics in a manner that could be confusing to his audience.  Tony is someone who I find to be quite good at scouting players.  I regularly check his views on Oriole minor leaguers.  I trust what he sees over many in the industry who look at the Orioles with a less focused eye (e.g., John Sickels).  However, I don't think Tony fully recognizes what statistics can and cannot do at times.  In one paragraph, he notes that the pitch distribution over 29 plate appearances "tells me the book on Wieters is not to try and throw fastballs by him, but to get him out with offspeed stuff."  Pitch distribution over 29 at bats is not a large enough sample size.  It can be too affected by pitchers faced, situations, and simple chance.  He next paragraph acknowledges the meager nature of the data set with "It's early and the numbers won't be as skewed by year's end, but one thing is certain is that Wieters has been a terrible hitter when down in the count throughout his career and that pitchers are throwing him more and more offspeed pitches..."  However, I am not sure what he means here.  He writes he is certain of one thing and mentions two.  I'd argue without true population context, we don't know if he has been terrible or poor or whatever.  Second, pitch distribution over 29 plate appearances should not make one certain that pitchers are throwing him "more and more off speed pitches."  Wieters has barely seen a cutter.  The same logic would dictate that reports have determined that Wieters crushes cutters and no one will throw them to him.  Markakis, Reynolds, and Vlad also have seen fewer fastballs as well.  Has the scouting report changed on all of these guys?  It would be nice if that data set is robust enough to use, but it is not.  Tony might be absolutely correct, but he is not citing anything that supports his notion.  This is a case of the existing statistics taken to fit a narrative.
In response, I plan to explore a few different ways we can measure quantitatively and qualitatively Wieters offensive performance.  This series may take three or four posts over the next couple weeks while being completely honest with ourselves about the robustness of the data we have and what we can say with it.  Remember, a batter going 0-4 had a poor performance, but may not be a poor hitter.  We need to make that distinction.  If we have 600 plate appearances we might be able to say something more conclusive.  With Wieters short experience, we will be mostly treading in statistics that have no much weight.

After the jump, I will re-explore the notion of Wieters' OPS once he reaches certain hit counts.

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.

Click to make larger.

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.