14 June 2011

Revisiting MLB Reallignment and Expansion: Part I

One division leagues were good enough for Brook and the '66 O's
This past weekend Buster Olney reported that there has been some talk about reallignment MLB into two leagues without divisions.  There is also the possibility that with the uneven number of teams in each league that either there will be interleague games everyday or that two teams will be added to MLB.  The traditionalist in me is somewhat conflicted in that this is a radical change (which is bad), but corrects for the radical change implemented in 1969.  Before then, there were ten team leagues.  The new model would pit 15 teams (or 16) against each other and the top five records would move on to postseason play.  I actually like this idea and most Oriole fans should like it as well.

A major reason why Orioles fans should like this is that it ceases to make the Orioles look like a team that cannot make the postseason.  As it stands, the team has to win the division or a wild card by facing off against teams with better revenue (Boston, New York) or better front offices (Boston, Tampa, Toronto(?)).  It is likely that two of the best teams in baseball are likely to emerge from the AL East.  By scrapping the divisions and bringing back a balanced schedule, the Orioles stand a greater chance of playing meaningful baseball in September.

The next best reason is that it is a fair way to determine who are the best teams.  As it stands right now, you could have teams with losing records or barely winning records make the playoffs.  These teams, in a playoff format, can string wins together and win out.  This might be great for underdog story lines (yes, I am thinking of the Cardinals a few years back), but it is more likely to prevent us from seeing great baseball in October.  The five best teams in baseball should be rewarded.  The league should not subject itself to a poor design merely due to history.  They need to do what logically makes sense.  If you want the best teams in the playoffs to figure out who the best team is, then put the best teams in the playoffs.  It is rather simple.

The third reason I think this is a great idea is that it will be another force to push players from concentrating in a single city with large revenue streams.  For instance, if you are a star player and are being courted by New York, Boston, and Baltimore, you will lean toward Boston and New York because they are organizations that are likely to be in the playoffs.  A player who is in the playoffs is likely to earn more money during the contract due to performance payouts and the player is likely to gain that playoff aura which will earn him more money when he becomes a free agent again (think Carlos Beltran).  For players who are career minded, playoff appearances look good in the current climate with respect to Hall of Fame considerations.  All of these reasons push the players away from the Orioles and require the team to appeal to a player's desire of money against two titans of revenue.  This helps even the playing field as well.

I do not really have any reason to scrap interleague play other than to say that it is also a source of unfairness.  It does not appear to increase revenue.  Whatever fan attracting revenue it had is lost or is so swamped out with meaningless games that a Mets-Yankees rivalry means awfully little.  I also think that scrapping interleague play will bring more interest to the All Star game as well as to the World Series.  With that in mind . . . I am all for MLB expansion.  People will often complain about there not being enough talent to go around, but they really need to go back and rewatch baseball just prior to the first of the two 1990s expansions.  Talent level slightly dipped after that expansion and the second, but has plateau out again. 

With that in mind, here is my radical reallignment idea:

I divided the leagues to try to make the leagues even with respect to team value which resulted in five teams switching leagues.  All five teams are transferred to take advantage of potential rivalries due to geographic proximity.

American League (7838 MM)
New York Yankees (1700)
Boston Red Sox (912)
Texas Rangers (561)
Minnesota Twins (490)
Houston Astros (474) - develop in state rivalry
Seattle Mariners (449)
Washington Nationals (417) - develop Baltimore rivalry
Baltimore Orioles (411)
Detroit Tigers (385)
Florida Marlins (360) - develop rivalry with Tampa
Cleveland Indians (353)
Kansas City Royals (351)
Toronto Blue Jays (337)
Tampa Bay Rays (331)
Oakland A's (304)

National League (7843 MM)
Los Angeles Dodgers (800)
Chicago Cubs (773)
New York Mets (747)
Philadelphia Phillies (609)
San Francisco Giants (563)
Los Angeles Angels (554) - shift value to NL, create cross town rival with Dodgers
Chicago White Sox (526) -  shift value to NL, create cross town rival with White Sox
St. Louis Cardinals (518)
Atlanta Braves (482)
Colorado Rockies (414)
San Diego Padres (406)
Arizona Diamondbacks (396)
Milwaukee Brewers (376)
Cincinatti Reds (375)
Pittsburgh Pirates (304)

As these leagues stand, this puts 15 teams in each.  In my next post, I will look at the top five cities that should be considered for MLB expansion.

Cup of jO's: Evaluating catchers' ability to frame pitches

Game Wrap
No game last tonight. Tonight Baltimore kicks-off a series in Toronto.

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is an article from last week, found over at the Hardball Times. Max Marchi put together an interesting attempt at evaluating a catcher's ability to frame pitches. It is an interesting read tackling an interesting question -- exactly how important is a catcher's ability to frame a pitch? Entering the piece, I admit I was dubious that 1) a study on the matter would be of any utility, and 2) the ultimate impact of having a "good" versus an "average" pitch framer would be negligable. While I'm not sold on some of the conclusions, I do think Marchi put together an interesting argument with solid support and at minimum a nifty little framework through which to view the skill:


"[P]laying with a receiver who is good at framing pitches is the equivalent of having a pitcher friendly umpire calling the game."



Without delving into the deep and dirties here (you should absolutely check out the piece), Marchi essentially concludes that a catcher can positively impact a pitcher's ability to get a called strike on a pitch out of the zone, and the catchers most adept at this skill can be worth up to two extra wins a year. While intuitively this seems excessive to me, I would not go so far as to say it is unbelievable. In particular, this particular skill amounts to an ability to manifest an out in two-strike counts or shift counts to pitcher friendly, where batter outcome expectency tends to favor the defending team. In any event, provided you buy into this skill as having a non-negligable impact on a team's win probability, Baltimore fans should be pleased to have a quiet and steady receiver in Wieters.

Finally, Marchi suggests his valuations may even be conservative:

The number could even be a conservative estimate. In fact, as soon as a pitcher realizes his catcher gives him an edge on borderline pitches, he should immediately begin to exploit the advantage.


This is a stretch, assuming pitchers can generally place the ball with enough precision to hit specific "off the plate windows" required to get a strike call while missing the zone. I am also unsure as to why Marchi would believe that pitchers aren't already trying to hit these "just off the plate" spots as is. Of course I believe the receiving skill to be valuable, and I can even buy into the skill's contributions to win probability being something north of negligible. But I don't personally see this as the next overlooked and undervalued area for GM's to farm.

Maybe Jon will have some thoughts as to how reliable he believes the "added wins" calculations to be...

13 June 2011

2011 Depot Draft Coverage: O's Draft vs. Depot's Draft Pt.1

I am going to be putting together a more in-depth review of the O's draft as part of the DSS full draft review in the coming weeks. For now we are going to do a brief recap of the Orioles draft and our Depot Shadow Draft through the first ten rounds. We'll cover Rounds 1-5 this afternoon and post Rounds 6-10 this evening. We will touch on a few later round picks over the weekend.

1st Round
Orioles Selection
Dylan Bundy (rhp, Owasso HS, Owasso, Okla.) Bundy was viewed by many, including us, as the top prep arm in the draft class, and one of the best overall draft-eligible arms. This selection was roundly applauded by the trade journals and national publications covering the amateur draft, as well as the talking heads at MLB Network and ESPN. Bundy lacks prototypical size, but is plenty strong and utilizes sound mechanics and an advanced approach to the craft. Along with Gerrit Cole, the Oklahoma ace sat on draft day as one of the only true potential #1 starters available. Our full report on Bundy can be found here. While we ended-up going in a different direction in our Shadow Draft, this is a strong pick and a nice pairing with last year's 1st Rounder, Manny Machado (ss, A Delmarva)


Depot Selection
Anthony Rendon (3b, Rice Univ.) With our unprotected pick (pick given in exchange for our 2010 Shadow Draft pick, Karsten Whitson, not signing) we tabbed the #1 prospect on our board -- Anthony Rendon. The Rice third basemen struggled through the spring with a sore shoulder, limiting him to DH duty. Time will tell if his down power output in 2011 was a result of the shoulder, being pitched around, the new BBCOR bats, or some combination. In the end, the upside was too great to pass on, as "Tony Rendoni" represents elite upside in the safest cross-section of draft-eligible players -- college position players -- and also addresses an organizational need. Our full report on Rendon, including several in-game videos, can be found here.

Derek "Bubba" Starling (of, Gardner Edgerton HS, Gardner, Kan.) We stayed with upside with our protected pick, grabbing perhaps the highest-ceilinged talent in the entire draft. Starling has split his attention between three sports (this year, just football and baseball) and is less refined than his contemporaries at the top of our preference list. Despite limited focus on baseball, he stood out among the top high school talents through last year's scouting circuit, and represents a true potential five-tool talent capable of plus defense in center field and true plus tools across the board. This is a roll of the dice, but our feeling was that Baltimore needs impact talent more than anything, and pairing Rendon with Starling gives the O's a shot at the two top positional talents available. Because Starling is a two-sport player, his bonus will likely be broken down over five years, which should allow us to target one or two more over-slotters later on. Our full report on Starling with lots of video can be found here.


2nd Round
Orioles Selection
Jason Esposito (3b, Vanderbilt Univ.) Esposito ended his 2010 season at Vandy as an early 1st Round favorite, but struggled some manifesting power with wood through the summer with the USA Collegiate National Team. He shifted off of shortstop this spring and fit nicely at third base, showing solid hands, enough range and a strong and accurate arm. The big question mark for Esposito will be his ability to square-up advanced pitching, and in particular good velocity, with wood. Tony Pente at OriolesHangout.com reported that Scouting Director Joe Jordan feels confident that bat speed will not be an issue (with a focus on "going the other way" the culprit in his uneven performances last summer and this spring). If he hits, he has the potential to provide 20-25 homeruns a year and solid defense at third.

Depot Selection
Dillon Howard (rhp, Searcy HS, Searcy, Ark.) With Daniel Norris (lhp, Science Hill HS, Johnson City, Tenn.) and Dillon Howard on the board, we couldn't pass on the opportunity to add another young power arm to our system (keep in mind we drafted Zack Wheeler and Brody Colvin in prior Shadow Drafts). Howard throws a bowling ball of a fastball, showing bore and producing soft groundball contact. His change-up, at its best, is in the discussion for best prep off-speed behind Tyler Beede, and the projectable frame gives some comfort that he'll get even stronger as he continues to mature -- lessening the chance that the longer pro seasons will negatively impact his stuff. Howard will be a tough sign, but we estimate around $1.5 to 2 million could get it done.


3rd Round
Orioles Selection
Mike Wright (rhp, East Carolina Univ.) Wright is a big bodied groundball machine, firing a 89-92 mph sinker and a low-80s slider with average bite. Over 100 IP this spring, Wright allowed just two homeruns -- we'll see this is a theme for Baltimore this year. The Orioles clearly see Wright as a potential starter and he has the size to endure a long pro season. His arsenal is currently light for a pro starter, but his fastball/slider combo will be enough to live on through A-ball, giving him time to refine his change-up or look to add an off-speed in another form, such as a splitter. This is a slight reach in our opinion, but if Jordan and company are correct in viewing Wright as a starter, they could be landing a true #3/#4 on the cheap.

Depot Selection
Logan Verrett (rhp, Baylor Univ.) Verrett didn't thrill this spring, and didn't get much ink in the national press. But the Baylor righty was solid and continued to show the three-pitch mix that projects well to a pro rotation. He can miss bats with both secondaries (change-up and slider) and will scrape 94 mph, sitting more regularly 89-92. He lacks Wright's size, and his fastball, but has a more well-rounded complement of offerings. His ceiling probably isn't any higher than Wright's, but he may have a slightly better chance of reaching it.


4th Round
Orioles Selection
Kyle Simon (rhp, Univ. of Arizona) Simon throws from a low, almost side-armed, slot, relying primarily on a fastball/change-up pairing. Like Wright, he is a big-bodied righty with some arm strength and a chance to start if things break right. Inconsistencies in his release and his low-angle make it difficult for him to command his slider right now -- improving that offering will be key in determining whether or not he ultimately ends up in the pen. Like Wright, he's tough to lift because of the sink on his heater and his change, allowing him to go 128.2 IP while allowing just two homeruns. He doesn't miss may bats right now, but the hope is that he will once he finds a more consistent breaker.

Depot Selection
Charlie Lowell (lhp, Wichita St. Univ.) Lowell is an arm-strength lefty with a solid slider, sitting low-90s with his fastball and touching 95 mph. He comes with deception and creates a tough angle on his pitches. We view him as a likely bullpen arm with enough size and stuff to make it to at least Double-A as a part of a rotation. If he can find consistency in an off-speed offering, he could stick as a back-end starter.


5th Round
Orioles Selection
Matt Taylor (lhp, Middle Georgia Coll.) A Jordan special, Taylor is a JuCo arm with some velo and some projection in his stuff. Taylor likely profiles in the pen, where his upper-80s to low-90s fastball might see a bump in shorter stints. His change-up is workable and will even show flashes above-average, but the secondaries are a step behind. At the time of the draft we considered Taylor an over-slot sign due to his opportunity to join the Georgia Bulldogs next year and further improve his stock. But the Orioles proved us wrong, inking the lefty this past weekend. Taylor doesn't wow you, but he is a solid upside lefty that could provide solid innings in a pro pen or potentially develop into a back-end arm with mid-rotation ceiling if a pro development staff can help him get more out of his secondaries.


Depot Selection
Matt Skole (3b/1b, Georgia Tech) Skole's best assets are his head and his raw power. He is a savvy hitter, commanding the strikezone well and showing competency in hitting-where-pitched. The Tech third baseman is likely not long for the hot corner, however, which will put pressure on his bat to tap into the plus raw power he possesses. His swing and approach is geared more to the gaps, but our hope is that some adjustments in pro ball will allow him to generate a little more loft. He could be a bit of a tweener, but after missing out on Cody Asche by a dozen or so picks, we felt we needed to grab a corner bat and Skole was a nice fit.



Rounds 1 through 5: Summary

Essentially, the comparison between the Orioles's draft and the Depot's draft will come down to how the kids up top perform. Assuming Bundy, Rendon and Starling all sign, the pairings we'll be watching will be Bundy/Machado vs. Rendon/Starling. While we love the upside of our picks, there are questions with both Rendon (health) and Starling (refinement), making it difficult for us to trumpet our selections over Jordan's. Where we did surpass Baltimore's approach, I think, is in the 2nd Round, where we grabbed another 1st Round calibre talent in Dillon Howard. Time will tell if he signs, but provided he does he will be another entry into our growing low minors talent base.


Outside of the first two rounds, the Orioles did an excellent job of identifying players with solid upside and high floors. There is a little more potential swing-and-miss for us with Skole and Lowell, but ultimately we think the Depot Shadow Draft was well balanced through the first five rounds. Tomorrow we'll look at Rounds 6 through 10, including two examples of Scouting Director Joe Jordan reading the draft pool noticeably better than us.

Cup of jO's: Early draft signings

Game Wrap
Baltimore 6, Tampa Bay 9
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

The Rays took two of three from Baltimore this weekend, including an extra-inning victory on Saturday after a blown save by Kevin Gregg. Yesterday afternoon Brian Matusz had difficulty commanding any of his offerings, and fluttered around 4-5 mph shy of his typical fastball velocity. It is still early in Matusz's season, and it can be expected that it will take several starts for him to once again get fully comfortable on the mound to the point that he can let things fly. If we are still seeing these results at the beginning of July, it will be time to worry.

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is the fact that Baltimore has announced that they have come to terms with 5th Rounder Matt Taylor (lhp, Middle Georgia Coll.). While it isn't uncommon for a 5th Rounder to sign this quickly, the fact that Baltimore is inking a JuCo player to a slot deal in the early rounds is solid news. It isn't uncommon for JuCo talents worthy of high round consideration to hold out for overslot deals, as more often than not they will have a chance to transfer to a 4-year school and increase their value significantly for the following year's draft. With Taylor's deal announced now, we can be certain Baltimore is getting him for slot (overslot deals cannot be announced without approval of MLB, and they would not give such approval this early). That means more money for some of the later potential overslot guys, including TCU's Jason Coats (lf).

Further heightening my excitement for Baltimore's slot pull is the fact that conversations with Area Scouts this weekend revealed a number of 4th and 5th Rounders who have stated overslot demands after claiming they would sign for slot pre-draft. Ultimately these deals will all get done, but it is certainly preferable to have the player and the drafting organization on the same page. The harder either side digs in, the more confrontational the other side must be in negotiating. Put another way, the greater the distance between player/organization demands, the greater the likelihood that someone is going to get their feelings hurt during negotiations. Great job by Joe Jordan and the signing scout (and will give a nod to Lady Luck, as well) for reading the situation correctly with Taylor and getting this deal done quickly.

Part 1 of our review of the Depot Shadow Draft and the O's top ten picks will post around 1pm, with a look at Rounds 1 through 5.

12 June 2011

The Science of Baseball: June 12, 2011

We have three more topics this week in this edition of the Science of Baseball.  We will dive into different techniques to generate more bat speed while standing in the on-deck circle.  I used to always use donuts and multiple bats when I played.  I mainly did this because the bat "felt" lighter and, more so, everyone else did it.  Second, we will take a look at base running.  A study focused on differences between untrained sprinters and college baseball players when running bases.  Finally, with the draft over and the signings beginning...what effect does the presence of prospects have on Minor League attendance?

Effect of various warmup devices on bat swing velocity of college baseball players.
Szymanski et al 2011 J Strength Conditioning Res

This study focused on the effects of certain warm-up devices to increase bat speed at the plate.  The subjects were 22 DI baseball players.  The warm-up devices included: resistance tubing device worn by player while swinging standard baseball bat (33 in, 30 oz), 96 oz on-deck implement, weighted batting gloves (25 oz each) worn while swinging a standard bat, 25 oz weight (added to standard bat), 16 oz donut ring (added to standard bat), 14 oz plastic fins (air resisted device added to standard bat), 34 oz wood bat, 26 oz aluminum bat, 22 oz fungo bat, and a 33 in, 30 oz aluminum baseball bat.

The experimental design included a warm-up, five minutes rest, three full effort swing with warm-up device, two swings with the standard bat, and then three game simulated swings with a 20 second rest period between swings.  Bat velocity was measured on the game simulated swings.  No differences were found between the different warm up devices.  This includes being compared to the control which is when no warm up device is used.  In other words, weighted bats do no appear to increase bat speed.  However, this does contradict previous research.  Here is one example where it was found that warm up routines with different weighted bats had different effects on bat speed.  This might require a few more studies before we can determine whether or not weighted bats help or hurt.

Comparison of base running in baseball players and track and field athletes.
Miyaguchi et al. 2011 Health 3:26-31. pdf

I adore Japanese studies on baseball.  They certainly look at the game in a more nuts and bolts sort of way.  Yes, tradition is big, but there are some elements of assured knowing that seem strange to me.  For instance, the idea that catcher ERA means much of anything.  Yes, catchers do affect the game, but it is in a way that it would be quite difficult to ascertain through something as generic as ERA.  However, this is a tangent.

In this study, the researchers took students on the baseball team and those on the track and field teams and evaluated their speed and speed efficiency.  They measured straight sprints of distances similar to running home to second as well as completely around the bases.  They also measured these same distances with the players actually running the bases.  As expected running with a twist slowed the runners down.  Runners were about a half second slower for every turn (1 second slower to second, 2 seconds slower to home).  What was interesting (and obvious) is that baseball players were most efficient in retaining speed.  Where sprinters had a higher mean speed in a straight line sprint, they lost that advantage when turns were included.

Perhaps the limiting part of this study is that these were not elite athletes.  It may be that elite talent would differ in that elite runners are considerable faster than elite baseball players.  There are a lot of 80 runners in track and only a handful in the Majors.  However, it does show that athletes with relatively similar ability benefit from knowing how to take turns when running.  So, yes, the sky is still blue.

Top prospects and Minor League Baseball attendance
Gitter and Rhoads 2011 J Sports Econ 12:341-351

This is an article written by two individuals located at Towson University.  They have written several papers in the past looking at how different aspects of a Minor League team affects attendance.  For one, they found new stadiums attract fans.  However, in this article they find that for the most part top prospects do not bring more fans out to the ballpark.  This study found that the only prospects that improved attendance were prospects that ranked in the top 5 of Baseball America.  That bump in attendance was 4% (for top 5 prospects).  As a prospect focused person, I do not find it all that surprising. 

We run several prospect pieces on this site and we do it because we enjoy it.  The readership numbers on those pieces are rather low.  This made me look up numbers for the Delmarva Shorebirds as this year they have a number of great talents on their team and that contrasts greatly with last year.  Last year, the Shorebirds averaged 3,157 per game.  This year with their prospect heavy team, 2,895 per game.  This might be an issue with whole season vs first part of season comparisons (one imagines when school ends that attendance will jump up), but it seems that the prospects presence does not account for much.

Some of us remember that a reason that was floated for Rochester to end its arrangement with the Orioles was that the Orioles' AAA squads were awful and had been awful for about two decades.  It was claimed the lack of prospects and the poor play led to poor attendance.  The team not winning likely affected things.  The lack of top prospects?  Only indirectly through not winning.

Cup of jO's: Orioles Announce Military Appreciation Program

Last night, Mark Reynolds hit two homeruns and is making us look a little silly.  Unbeknownst to you all, we were involved in an exercise with ESPN's Sweetspot network to simulate an expansion draft.  Mark Reynolds was left off our initial protection list, our first pull back, and our second pull back.  Our perspective was that the money due to him would be better spent elsewhere.  Oh well...more troubling was Kevin Gregg harking back to his Cubs and Marlins' says when he had average luck.  O's lost in extra frames.

---

For those of you in our Armed Forces, we felt the Orioles new program would be of interest:

Orioles Announce New Military Appreciation Program

Program includes ticket offers, suite donations for military and families

Aspects of the Program:
  1. Ticket discounts at every game - the Orioles are offering a $3 discount off of all tickets for all military (active, retired, and reserve) and their families, available at the Oriole Park Box Office.  More significant discounts for military members can be arranged by contacting their ITT/Leisure Travel office.
  2. Military Sundays - During non-prime games on Sundays, members of the military (active, retired, and reserve) are available for buy one, get one free for select sections through their ITT/Leisure Travel Office.
  3. Sunday Suite Program - Every Sunday game, Orioles donate a catered private suite to wounded soldiers and other active military groups and their families.  Guests will be treated to a special player meet and greet before the game, recognition after the playing of "God Bless America" and will receive t-shirts and hats.  Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Jim Johnson, Luke Scott, and Matt Wieters will all participate in the program.
  4. Active Duty Special Offer - Show your active duty ID badge at the Warehouse's Fan AssistanceCenter to receive a complementary Orioles cap.
  5. Welcome Home Scoreboard Messages - Orioles offer free "Welcome Home" messages, call 888-848 Bird to get more information.
Hope this enables the Orioles to thank many of you.

11 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game

The O's won their fourth straight last night, blanking Tampa 7-0. Guthrie and Price will lock horns today, as Baltimore looks to keep their momentum moving towards a plus-.500 record!

As part of this weekend series, Camden Yards will host (after Sunday's game) the Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game. While it was not a strong year for the local high school crop, from a draft perspective, there are a number of interesting names to keep in mind for those taking in the showcase. First, here are the rosters:

Brooks Robinson North Team

1 Justin Fratantuono - Calvert Hall
2 Eric Upton - Dulaney High School
3 Patrick Rogers - Mount St. Joseph
4 TJ Pipik - Reservoir
5 Ryne Willard - Smithsburg High School
6 Andrew Clow - C. Milton Wright
7 Brendan Butler - John Carroll (Orioles, 50th Rd)
8 Shane Campbell - Kenwood
9 KJ Hockaday - John Carroll (Orioles, 14th Rd)
10 AJ Lardo - Loyola Blakefield
11 Bobby Ruse - C. Milton Wright
12 Cody Harman - Westminster HS
13 Kory Britton - Atholton
16 Ryan Redinger - Mountain Ridge High School
17 Matt Bosse -Calvert Hall College HS
Larry Sheets - Gilman
Steve Myers - North Hagerstown
Anthony Blackburn - C. Milton Wright

Brooks Robinson South Team

1 Buddy Elgin - Kent County High
2 Zachery Hawk - Meade Senior High School
3 Coty Mulder - St. Michaels
4 Ernest Baldwin - Bishop McNamara
5 Peter Bowles - Quince Orchard
6 Danny Breen - Northern High School
7 Chris Brown - Rockville
8 Alex Brown - Meade Senior High
9 Brent Jones - Severna Park
10 Kyle McKelvey - St. Michaels
11 Ryan Metzler - Archbishop Spalding High School
12 Zachary Sterling - JM Nennett
15 Matt Armour - Elkton High School
16 William Bouey - Sherwood
17 Zach Morris - DeMatha Catholic High School
Brain Femi - St. Michaels
Billy Goodman - Sherwood
Jim Simms - Chesapeake

**Bolded names selected in this week's MLB Draft

Draft fans will immediately recognize Kevin (K.J.) Hockaday, whom the Orioles tabbed with their 14th Round pick on Tuesday. Hockaday will be spending the summer with Youse's Orioles of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (a wood bat league consisting primarily of college players). He is a strong kid with the potential to develop some true pro power as he continues to mature. Hockaday was just outside our Top 300 draft-eligible players, and will be scoped this summer to see if his skillset is far enough along that he can tackle Rookie ball in the Minors. If not, he'll ship off to College Park to join the Terps, and could emerge as a top 5 round talent in three years.

Two other names to note for Sunday's All-Star game include Shane Campbell and AJ Lardo. Campbell spun a one-hitter the last time I saw him, down in Jupiter for the WWBA World Championship. He was a member of the Royals Baseball Club, a prestigious tournament team that also boasted premium draft talent in Roman Quinn (Port St. Joe HS, Fla.), Derek Fisher (Cedar Crest HS, Penn.), Julius Gaines (Luella HS, Ga.), Daniel Norris (Science Hill HS, Tenn.) and Carlos Rodon (Holly Springs HS, N.C.). In the game, Campbell was 87-89 mph with his fastball out of a compact delivery with some deception. AJ Lardo has been a mainstay on the showcase circuit, and has just been caught as a "tweener" when it comes to Major League attention. He does everything well, just nothing spectacularly. As a bit undersized, he'll head to the University of Maryland along with Campbell, Hockaday, William Bouey, Bobby Ruse and Kory Britton (think the UMD staff will be in attendance?).

Congrats to all the players, their families and their high school teams -- the experience playing at Camden will be a wonderful one, and hopefully one that some of them are able to repeat several years from now wearing orange and black.

10 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Father's Day Contest Reminder

No game last night and I spent much of it writing an article for the main Sweetspot blog for ESPN.

Here is a reminder for the DVD Father's Day contest.  I do not think anyone has entered yet...so lots of chances to win.

---

Father's Day Contest
I am pleased to announce that we are able to provide four (4) DVDs of Baltimore Orioles Vintage World Series with the help of A&E Entertainment and MLB Productions. Surprising to us, four DVDs do not cover out daily readership, which now numbers in the hundreds (Thank You). This means we need to have a contest to determine where these DVDs go.

More about the prize:
All the glory and classic moments of the Orioles' World Series Championships from 1966 to 1983 are digitally preserved on this official DVD. Spanning three decades and three managers - Hank Bauer, Earl Weaver, and Joe Altobelli - the enduring, common trait of the Baltimore Orioles' success was stellar pitching, well-timed power, and peerless defense.
The arrival of Frank Robinson in 1966 catapulted the Orioles to their first Fall Classic. Baltimore's pitchers dominated, holding the Los Angeles Dodgers to just two runs for the entire four-game World Series. Four Octobers later, the Birds power hitting and fielding were on display. The rally-ending defense of Brooks Robinson and the club's 10 home runs in five games helped the O's to a second championship. In 1983, the familiar formula and a familiar face held an encore. The Orioles' staff, including Jim Palmer who provided a bridge to the 1966 victors, stifled the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing only seven runs in five games.

To enter, like us on Facebook and post on our wall about a memory you cherish where a father or father figure (you can be the father figure, it can be an Uncle, neighbor, Grandfather, etc.) took a child to a baseball game. We did not have anything to give away on mother's day, so moms are certainly welcome here as well. There are not many rules . . . PG-rated stories only, at least as long as a haiku and try not to exceed three paragraphs. On Father's Day, we will highlight the stories randomly chosen on the blog and will then start getting information from the winners for the DVDs to be mailed directly to them.
Good luck and we look forward to reading all of your stories on Camden Depot's Facebook page (you can access it from the Facebook inline on the left hand side of the screen).

09 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Some quick thoughts on signing picks

Last night was a good one for Zach Britton.  He had not pitched well in his previous two outings and came out strong last night.  Mark Reynolds has been secretly good with the bat over the past 28 days with an 844 OPS.  We need to score more runs though.  We keep hovering around .500, but our run differential is about 50 runs worst than the next closest team in the AL East.

---

Bluefield is now part of the Blue Jays' system
When I look over the draft, I wonder how many players will actually be signed to contracts.  A concern when the Orioles eliminated Bluefield from the minor league system was that there would be fewer chances for a player chosen later in the draft to prove himself.  However, that wound up seeming like an expense with a minimal return.  Later round picks signing for near minimum are highly unlikely to be useful pieces.  The exception are overslots, but those guys are committed to and do not need to prove themselves in rookie ball.  The contract keeps them.

The players that are hurt most by the elimination of Bluefield are going to be the later round, less competitive college guys.  Players such as the recently released Brian Conley might be a good example.  He was an older college player with good plate discipline.  That sort of player might have no role with the team these days.  Several players are sitting back in extended spring training and waiting for Aberdeen to open up.  The Gulf Coast League Orioles have only so many slots with Dominican Summer League players taking a couple of them.

So, my ballpark figure would be the team signs at most 25 of this year's picks.

08 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Recapping Day 2 of the Draft

Last night the Orioles appeared to tire of scoring runs by stringing singles.  Instead, they won by stringing solo home runs.  Luke Scott, a last minute addition in left field when Nolan Reimold woke up with neck spasms, did not let his bum shoulder affect him much.  He played decent defense, cranked a home run onto Eutaw Street, and barely missed another (settling for a double).  Ryan Adams displayed some soft hands at second, but his range looks rather limited there.  With Brian Roberts given another two weeks before new time tables are set for his recovery, we may see a lot of Robert Andino and Ryan Adams playing second.

I would also like to thank MASN for hosting me at the game last night.  I was able to interact with Adam Jones (who was verbally engaged with an older fellow trying to convince Adam that he needs to tell Buck to have the team sacrifice bunt more and take infield/outfield before each game), see Rick Dempsey's ring up close, shake Flanny's hand, briefly hang out with Joe Orsulak, and engorge myself on crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp.

---

Day 2 of the draft mildly surprised me.  After selecting Dylan Bundy and opening up the second round with the selection of Jason Esposito (3B, Vanderbilt, selected 64th, composite rank 53rd), I figured that this year's M.O. would be to address organizational needs with slot players.  To me, Esposito is an organizational guy with some upside.  He has a good glove, but questionable bat speed.  Bat speed is an aspect of a player that can be quite difficult to correct.  I think the only waste to significantly improve that with a college player would be to rework a swing.  The Orioles' scouts may see something there.  The next two picks were also slot moves, I think.  Mike Wright (RHP, East Carolina, selected 94th, composite rank 200th) and Kyle Simon (LHP, Arizona, selected 125th, composite rank 198th) were both reasonable selections, but should certainly be around slot.

Jordan then surprised me with some picks that are overslots.  Matt Taylor (LHP, Middle Georgia JC, selected 155th, unranked) is a JuCo with a commitment to Georgia.  You will often see JuCos move on to a four year school to improve draft status.  A lefty successfully competing there is likely to pull more eyes with success meaning a higher round and more money.  JuCos are historically underscouted and the players know this.  As such, you typically need to throw a little bit more money at them to get them to sign.

The next pick, Nick Delmonico (3B, Farragut HS (TN), selected 185th, composite rank 51st) is said to be asking for first round money, which would be about 1-2 million.  That kind of money is not typical for a Joe Jordan overslot.  I imagine this might be more of a summer follow and if he shows more improvement with the bat, maybe the Orioles go in deep on him.  Personally, I would have gone in a different direction with overslotting higher up in the draft.  I think later overslots become a function of competing scouting groups.  I am more comfortable with an overslot several teams identify as being a quality player rather than those who only a few think that way.  Every organization saw Delmonico and probably saw him several times.  The O's snagged him at 185.  That imparts me with a bit of doubt.

Nick will come through later and give more specific writeups for players selected.  He are the rest of the players ranked in the composites:

Rd 8 Johnny Reutiger, OF, Arizona State, 245th selection, 196th composite rank
Rd 12 Jason Coats, OF, Texas Christian, 365th selection, 89th composite rank

07 June 2011

2011 Depot Draft Coverage: Day 2 Chat

We are going to open up a draft room here, where we'll run our Shadow Picks and comment some on what path the Orioles take with picks 2-10. As always, comments and questions are welcome!

Cup of jO's: Recapping Day 1 of the Draft

The Orioles won last night in Major League play.  The score was good, but it certainly is difficult to win games by stringing singles together.  No extra base hits were hit last night.

---

With the fourth selection in last night's draft, the Orioles chose Dylan Bundy (RHP, Owasso HS OK) who is the younger brother of Oriole farmhand Bobby Bundy.  There was much hand ringing and gnashing of teeth before the selection as many thought the Orioles would pass on the "30 million dollar man" and instead select the "20 million dollar man," Archie Bradley.  It would have been disappointing to have selected Archie Bradley, but the different in talent and the likely signing bonus is not much between the two.  I personally am disappointed with Dylan Bundy because I see better options.  That said, both Bundy and Bradley are potential first selection picks some years in the draft.  This year's talent is just deep.  A prospect in year's past, like Deck McGwire, would have dropped from being a top 10 pick to going in the supplemental round.  That is how much talent there is in this year's draft.

In real time, Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, and Trevor Bauer went off before the Orioles' selection.  Anthony Rendon was available, but the Orioles chose to pass.  I am of the opinion that you do not pass on elite positional talent.  The report on his shoulder injury might be worse than I am aware, but it is difficult to pass.  To me, it is unquestionable that Rendon has the best chance of anyone in this draft to become a star.  With our Shadow Draft (we have done a real time shadow draft for several years now), we selected Anthony Rendon with our unprotected pick (we chose Karsten Whitson last year and he did not sign with the Padres, so we received compensation) and prep bat Bubba Starling.  We are also targeting prep LHP Daniel Norris in the second round.  He is asking for over 3MM to sign.

The reason we went big in our Shadow Draft is largely due to Boston and Tampa having a plethora of picks in the first and first supplementary rounds.  The Rays selected ten players yesterday and most of them have the potential of being above average or star level.  Boston chose an amazing collection of for talents.  For these reasons, the real Orioles should also be willing to go big in the second round today.  That might mean throwing down money for Josh Bell (LF, Jesuit Prep HS) or Daniel Norris (LHP, Science Hill HS).  The Orioles need to be aggressive and they need to collect as much falling talent as possible because other teams in the AL East have the benefit of taking great quantity of high quality talent.

Do I think the Orioles will overslot like mad?

No, I don't.  I think you will see them put their eggs in the Bundy basket and then apply themselves to Jordan's typical fringe overslots peppered in with slot college bats and arms.  I am expecting to write about my disappointments tomorrow morning.

Here is a good interview with the for-all-intents-and-purposes new Oriole Dylan Bundy.  It should also be mentioned that Dylan's older brother, Bobby, pitched well for Frederick last night going 7 IP with 1 run and 6 strikeouts.  We have long been a fan of his and are excited to see him finally putting it all together this year.  It would not surprise us to see both Bundys in the O's rotation in 2014.  Bobby profiles as a 3 slot and Dylan could be an ace.

06 June 2011

Dempsey's Army Presents: Last Week in Chats (May 30- June 5, 2011)

Where we distill all the week's baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...

Jack
Moore, FanGraphs.com


12:14
Comment From Walt
Hellickson or Z Britton in dynasty league?

12:17
Jack Moore: I prefer Hellickson. I think his process is a bit more repeatable,
as he's shown that he has strikeout stuff prior to this year (and I'd expect his
current 6.4 K/9 to rise soon). Britton is too reliant on control and ground
balls and I don't think we have enough of a sample to say he can keep up his
rates in either BB/9 or GB%

12:30
Comment From Dan
Mark Reynolds ranked 11th overall in ISO from 2008 - 2010. Do you see that power
returning this season or are you worried that something is wrong with him and
that power is gone?

12:31
Jack Moore: Power is pretty fickle in small samples. I haven't seen him play, so
there very well could be something wrong, but there's nothing in the numbers
that's overly concerning.

12:53
Comment From J
Thoughts on Eric Bedard?

12:55
Jack Moore: He's looking almost like the Bedard of the past. He might slip a
little and injuries are always a concern, but at the same time I also wouldn't
expect a pitcher in Safeco to keep a 13.2% HR/FB rate, so with that evening out
I don't think a 3.50-3.75 ERA the rest of the year is out of the question.

Jim
Callis, Baseball America


Dan (Lansing): Better pure stuff Bundy or Cole and how close are they?

Jim Callis: Better pure stuff is Cole, but Bundy is right on his heels and may
use his better. If I could only have one of them, I would take Bundy. That said,
I'd be thrilled with Cole too.

Nick (Tallahassee, Fl): What are your thoughts on the Oriole's taking Dylan
Bundy. How do you think them drafting Matt Hobgood effects that, if it does at
all?

Jim Callis: Not at all. Hobgood was drafted higher than his talent merited
because he would be a relatively easy sign. Hobgood was a legitimate late
first-round pick, but he's not comparable to Bundy.

Brooks Ripken (Philly): O's at 4? Just whoever is left of
Rendon,Cole,Hultzen,Bundy?

Jim Callis: Wouldn't rule Trevor Bauer out either.

Steve (Huntington Beach, CA): Out of all the good arms towards the top of this
years draft board, which do you think has the highest ceiling?

Jim Callis: Gerrit Cole, followed closely by Dylan Bundy.


JJ Cooper, Baseball
America

Jon (Michigan): Which would surprise you more, a frequent Hot Sheet contributor
becoming a ML bust or a Hot Sheet no-show becoming a solid ML regular? Is Zach
Britton the latter?

J.J. Cooper: Neither would surprise me. The Hot Sheet isn't the Top 100
Prospects list. This is a look at which prospects are hot right now. And when
you're looking at pitchers, strikeouts are one of the factors that works into
making the Hot Sheet. So a guy who piles up groundballs like Britton but few
strikeouts isn't going to make a lot of Hot Sheet appearances. But yeah, it
wouldn't surprise me at all to see Britton have a long big league career.

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus


Greg (Hanover, PA): Kevin, The Orioles will obviously come away with a big name
at #4. But the farm system needs a lot more help than that. Will there be 1st
round talent available when they pick again (#64) if they are willing to spend?

Kevin Goldstein: There are going to be a lot of big talents floating around
after the first, but whether or not they are at 64 is an open question. That
said, I don't think they'll spend big
after Bundy.

Jordan (Chevy Chase): Where would Manny Machado go in this year's draft?

Kevin Goldstein: Before Lindor.


Thom (Cincy): Who would be the one team in the top-half of Round 1, and the team
in the bottom-half, that you feel you have the least sense of how they'll pick?

Kevin Goldstein: First half, either Arizona at 3 or Baltimore at 4. Second half
is tough because of all the variables in front of them, but I have a good feel
(I think) for how some of the high school arms might go off the board.

JH (chicago): Love the Cole vs Hultzen comparison from earlier. How quickly
would you expect each to make their MLB debuts?

Kevin Goldstein: I'd but Hultzen gets their first. By end of 2012 wouldn't
shock. CRAZY polished.

2011 Depot Draft Coverage: Day 1

Hi all, and welcome to Camden Depot's coverage of Day 1 of the Draft! We are going to be adding more to this entry, including links to our player reports and players to target for Day 1. Baltimore only has one pick -- 4th overall -- but Camden Depot will be selecting twice for our Shadow Draft. One for the Orioles actual spot, and one as a compensation for Karsten Whitson heading to Florida (Whitson was our shadow selection last year).

Our preference list for this first pick is as follows (click on player names for links to our full scouting reports):

Anthony Rendon / 3b / Rice Univ.
Gerrit Cole / rhp / UCLA
Bubba Starling / of/rhp / Gardner Edgerton HS (Gardner, Kan.)
Sonny Gray / rhp / Vanderbilt Univ.
Dylan Bundy / rhp / Owasso HS (Owasso, Okla.)
Jed Bradley / lhp / Georgia Tech
Taylor Jungmann / rhp / Univ. of Texas
Danny Hultzen / lhp / Univ. of Virginia

Word is that Baltimore will be going off of this list and selecting Archie Bradley (rhp, Broken Arrow HS, Broken Arrow, Okla.). Bradley is ranked 6th overall among pitchers on the final DiamondScapeScouting.com positional rankings (click here). We'll have more on Archie Bradley a little later. Regarding our Shadow Draft, it looks like Gerrit Cole (rhp, UCLA) is set to be selected by Pittsburgh. Rendon's likely destination is Seattle, and it appears Arizona will be selecting between Danny Hultzen (lhp, Virginia) and Trevor Bauer (rhp, UCLA). With one protected pick and one unprotected pick this lines up well for us to select Sonny Gray (rhp, Vanderbilt) and Bubba Starling (of, Gardner Edgerton HS, Gardner, Kan.).

I am going to be chatting all day long starting at 1pm Eastern, along with the fine folks at ProjectProspect.com -- we'll be broadcasting the chat through ProjectProspect.com, DiamondScapeScouting.com, and of course right here (window below)! Let's hear you O's fans; hopefully lots of comments and lots of questions!


2011 Draft

A few items...

If you are in need of a comprehensive draft site, go here.
If you want a summary of potential Orioles selections, go here.
If you want to see some overslot targets after the first round, go here.

Feel free to leave questions on this post or later ones.  Twitter might be a bit crazy for some of us today.

Cup of jO's: No, Mr Jones. You Don't Have to Run Out Every Ball.

Yesterday, I was finally able to make use of my press pass again and make it to the rubber match between the Orioles and Blue Jays.  Mark Reynolds crushed a home run.  We do not need to speak of anything else.

Today is the draft and we aim to have a lot of draft items coming at you over the next couple days.

---

One thing I would like to rehash from yesterday's game was something that I wrote that resulted in a number of my readers becoming upset with me.  In one of Adam Jones' plate appearances he hit a rocket to shortstop, Yunel Escobar.  Escobar got good glove on the batted ball, Jones broke his stride, and then the ball popped out of Escobar's glove.  Jones momentarily sped up until he saw that Escobar quickly recovered.  Jones never had a shot at first whether he was running full speed the entire time or not.

In response, I wrote something close to the point of Jones really should not have been running that ball out at 100% because it really did not matter.  This upset some people who follow my twitter account.  I will try to go through my thinking on this one.

Chance of Success

When I was in instructional league, I played for the First National Bank Brewers.  It is a memorable year for two reasons: 1) other kids cried when they faced me because I threw hard for a third grader and 2) I managed to get on base every plate appearance except for one.  Only the second feat is pertinent to this conversation.  I got on base every time because I was in the left handed batter's box, I was reasonably fast, and fielders at the instructional level can barely field and are almost completely unable to throw a ball in the air on target to first base.  You have to run out every single batted ball because the chances of success are great.

As you move up through the ranks, fielding becomes exponentially better until it begins to plateau after high school and flat lines at the MLB level.  At the MLB level, a batter facing an average defense is likely to benefit from an error once every 75 times up to bat.  At my high school over a decade ago, a batter had a chance for an error to occur once every 15 at bats.  I think we can all appreciate that difference.  The chances that hustling will result in a man on base at the MLB level is far, far below what that would be at the high school level just using these two teams as examples.  It simply does not happen very often, so hustling on every play should not be valued equally at each level of play due to the diminishing value of the effort.

I will try to put a number here using some assumptions.  We already established an error now occurs once every 75 plate appearances (9 times every 700 PA).  Let's assume that 1970 was the golden age of hustling.  Then a batter had a chance of benefiting from an error every 55 plate appearances (13 times every 700 PA).  When these two numbers in mind, lets say a modern batter, if hustling, would get on base an extra four times a year.  Reaching on base via error is worth about 0.5 runs per eventThis would mean that a batter would produce two more runs a year if he hustled all the time.  That would mean an additional 0.2 wins per player hustling.  An entire teams of hustlers would give you almost two wins more a season.  That would be consequential to teams right on the bubble.

What is the cost?

It is also important to recognize that effort is not limitless.  There is a cost.  Players often speak of the grind of a season wearing down on them.  Many will also speak of how a brutal sun and humidity leaves them barely hanging on at the end of a night.  These qualitative assessments we have all heard and some of us have even felt these things.  There is a cost to trying hard.  Let's step through this in an extreme form of effect: injury.
a. At full exertion, we are forcing our body to our limits.  This increases injury rate because we are challenging our tissues to withstand the stress we are placing on it.  Simply put, you are more likely to injure yourself running a full sprint than you are walking. 
b. As we tire, injury rates also increase.  As our muscles fatigue, they are not able to access needed nutrients in a timely manner which increases chance of injury.  As our muscles fatigue, we are less likely to be mechanically sound in our efforts.  As we fatigue, our ability to focus decreases and we are more likely to put ourselves in situations that are not ideal.  All of these increase the chance of injury.
If a starter gets injured, it is likely that the player that will replace him in the lineup will be around replacement level.  If you have a 3 WAR player (good but not great), the break even point would be losing 10 games to injury.  If we are talking about an MVP caliber player, the break even point would be losing four games to injury.  When you factor in the possibility of a catastrophic injury (career-ending or elite performance ending) the cost to a team's current play as well as creating a new need for the future along with enormous sunk cost resulting in roster inflexibility seems impossible to think that hustling all the time is beneficial.

Running out plays is a Cost / Benefit analysis

This last step is the most difficult one to take.  I personally do not know how more likely a player is to be injured (or to become less effective) due to hustling.  We can all agree there is a cost there, but I am not sure what that cost is.  I am also sure we can agree that players should not fully hustle on every single play.  It would be surprising to me to talk to someone who thinks a player should slide into the bag at the end of each play.  It would simply make no sense because a player would be pointlessly increasing his chance of injury.

For me, a line drive straight at an infielder or a simple ground ball as occasions that would not make me demand a player to press his luck.  I would prefer having his glove and his bat in the lineup instead of risking ineffectiveness by legging out a play that results in an out 98% of the time.  I might be too conservative here.  I don't think I am.  To me, it seems like common sense.  The problem is that hustling is risky for the team if the best players hustle.  Their performance cannot be replaced and an extra ten runs a season is not worth a lot if there stands a small chance that a catastrophic injury might occur.  It really is not about babying a player . . . it is about preserving your resources and employing them in a fashion to have the greatest chance of success.

One final thought, when I think of hustling I think of catchers and second basemen.  These are rough and tumble positions.  The career life span of players who play these positions are rather short.  A career of getting bounced around at second base making the turn or getting hit by foul balls and barreling catchers at home results in a age curve where it is difficult to be a useful player past the age of 32.  Although I have no proof that hustling causes similar effects, I think it is a reasonable position to assume that it does.

With that in mind, I must say: No, Mr. Jones, you do not have to run out every ball.

05 June 2011

Science of Baseball: June 5, 2011

Umps checking out a corked bat.
For this evening, I chose a wide selection of articles.  The first article is a review paper focusing on the use of human growth hormone (hGH) for athletes.  For many of you, it might be an irritable old hat topic, but I think it is definitely an issue we need to stay on top of.  In general, people following the game automatically assume that hGH positively affects performance when the actual data predominantly suggests otherwise.  Recently, I have written two articles on the subject: one on why athletes use drugs without knowledge of their efficacy and a second on the literature available.  The paper on hGH I chose today is a more substantial review than what I wrote.  However, it should be noted the authors are the only researchers who have found any positive effect of hGH on performance.  This might mean there is a bias.  Additionally, there are reviews on the efficacy of different ways of cheating and on how balance may affect pitching accuracy.

Growth hormone and physical performance
Birzniece et al 2011. Trends Endocrin Metab 22:171-178

This review covers a great deal of territory we have covered before.  The drug, hGH, is widely abused through sports due to a poor ability to detect this type of doping and as a result of uncertain effects.  The science literature has found scant evidence of hGH helping improve athletic performance.  It has been found not to affect muscle strength, power, or aerobic capacity.  Ho's groups' own studies have observed that it does improve anaerobic capacity.  However, his findings have not been duplicated (nor has anyone published anything attempting to duplicating them).  This means there is a slim bit of hope that hGH might improve a baseball player's ability to sprint, but not much else.  That improvement, if true, is likely to be largely ineffective.  The effects they found could have ramifications in events for short distances in track and field, but would wind up being the difference of a half or a full step.  As far as I am aware, there has not been a massive increase in infield singles in professional baseball.

Corked bats, juiced balls, and humidors: the physics of cheating in baseball.
Nathan et al. 2011. Am Ass. Phys. Teach. (pdf)

In this study, the researchers looked at how corking a bat affected how a ball traveled off a bat, compared how lively balls were between now and the 1970s, and to what degree a humidor affects the distance traveled by a baseball.  They found that corked bats would result in a shorter distance traveled, but a faster bat speed.  This reiterates what has been repeatedly found: corked bats help slap hitters, not home run hitters.  With balls from different eras, they found essentially no difference between them.  Studies focused on this question have run back and forth, it would be interesting to see a better done study on this with full characterizations of unused game balls over several eras.  Finally, the ylooked into how humidors affect distance traveled.  Unsurprisingly, they found that the use of a humidor can account for the decrease in home runs at Coors Field.

I think the first and third questions have been largely answered.  I am not entirely pleased with how they answered the second question.  I would have preferred a greater range of baseballs and a greater degree of characterization.  Additionally, I would also like to see more information about how game used balls differ from unused ones.

Balance ability and athletic performance.
Hrysomallis 2011. Sports Med 41:221-232.

Previous studies have shown that in general, athletes of specific sports are less injury prone if they display better balance.  In this study, they reviewed past articles on how balance could affect several skills in several sports.  With respect to baseball, they reviewed a Marsh et al 2004 study.  That study found that using several different balance metrics did not correlate to distance missed from a glove target when pitching.  It is not an ideal study, but it certainly is an interesting question to pose an interesting way of answering it.  Balance certainly predicts success with archers and sharpshooters.  It might be good to expand this study beyond pitching accuracy to other aspects of the game (i.e. defense, contact rate) or including mechanics into the balance equation for pitching accuracy.

Cup of jO's: Father's Day Contest

First things first, Mark Reynolds had a thrilling grand slam last night that made the difference in the game.  It has felt like this season has had a major effect on power hitters.  Mark Reynolds is scuttling along on pace to barely break 20 home runs where he 76 the previous two seasons combined.  Adam Dunn is lost and gone.  ARod's production has decreased.  Albert Pujols is going through his worst season as a pro.  Hanley Ramirez is doing his best 2011 Nick Markakis at the plate.  However, home runs per game have decreased from 0.97 to only 0.93.  Doubles have also decreased from 1.77 to only 1.73 per game.  It does not appear that there is any power outage.  Yes, it has decrease slightly, but it may just be a squirrelly year where we see a downturn by several players.  Hopefully, Reynolds and Markakis start lighting the world on fire.

---

Father's Day Contest

I am pleased to announce that we are able to provide four (4) DVDs of Baltimore Orioles Vintage World Series with the help of A&E Entertainment and MLB Productions.  Surprising to us, four DVDs do not cover out daily readership, which now numbers in the hundreds (Thank You).  This means we need to have a contest to determine where these DVDs go.

More about the prize:
All the glory and classic moments of the Orioles' World Series Championships from 1966 to 1983 are digitally preserved on this official DVD.  Spanning three decades and three managers - Hank Bauer, Earl Weaver, and Joe Altobelli - the enduring, common trait of the Baltimore Orioles' success was stellar pitching, well-timed power, and peerless defense.
The arrival of Frank Robinson in 1966 catapulted the Orioles to their first Fall Classic.  Baltimore's pitchers dominated, holding the Los Angeles Dodgers to just two runs for the entire four-game World Series.  Four Octobers later, the Birds power hitting and fielding were on display.  The rally-ending defense of Brooks Robinson and the club's 10 home runs in five games helped the O's to a second championship.  In 1983, the familiar formula and a familiar face held an encore.  The Orioles' staff, including Jim Palmer who provided a bridge to the 1966 victors, stifled the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing only seven runs in five games.
To enter, like us on Facebook and post on our wall about a memory you cherish where a father or father figure (you can be the father figure, it can be an Uncle, neighbor, Grandfather, etc.) took a child to a baseball game.  We did not have anything to give away on mother's day, so moms are certainly welcome here as well.  There are not many rules . . . PG-rated stories only, at least as long as a haiku and try not to exceed three paragraphs.  On Father's Day, we will highlight the stories randomly chosen on the blog and will then start getting information from the winners for the DVDs to be mailed directly to them.

Good luck and we look forward to reading all of your stories on Camden Depot's Facebook page (you can access it from the Facebook inline on the left hand side of the screen).

---

The draft is soon approaching.  Some things we will offer:
1. A few more draft pieces by me and Nick.
2. A co-hosting of a general MLB draft chat live on Monday with Diamondscape Scouting.
3. More specific draft chats focusing on the Orioles on Tuesday and maybe even Wednesday if everyone is diehard enough.

04 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Final Leg into the Draft

Last night Zach Britton had another tough night that was a mix of poor luck and reduced command.  For any pitcher, we should expect a couple games where these issues pop up.  I think in the past he has had some good luck with bearing down and preventing base runners from scoring.  He was outperforming his fielding independent pitching metrics, so some regression was certainly expected.  It is highly unlikely he is a sub-3 ERA pitcher, but I can certainly see him in the upper 3's.  I would not fret.

---

As we began to stop counting down to the draft with days and switch over to hours, we generally see a tightening up of mock drafts.  This tightening up is often due, in my opinion, to writers like Keith Law and Jim Callis getting slightly more information and the masses reacting to that and devising their own mock draft.  I also think the major changes in the mock draft with high profile names dropping may be more a product of magnetic journalism as opposed to any real change, but I digress.  This morning I am going to run over the two most recent mocks by Keith Law and Jim Callis with respect to whom the Orioles have available.

Keith Law
June 3, 2011 Mock Draft (insider access)

Keith has the Orioles options including Danny Hultzen (LHP, Virginia), Dylan Bundy (RHP, OK HS, O's farmhand Bobby Bundy's younger brother), Bubba Starling (OF, KS HS), and Archie Bradley (RHP, OK HS).  I doubt the Orioles are looking for someone as raw as Bubba Starling with the first pick in the draft.  In earlier years with the Orioles, Joe Jordan selected raw high schoolers in the first round, but he has never done so at the front end.  The past few drafts, he typically focuses on players in that mold beginning in Round 2.  Nick mentioned Derek Fisher (OF, PA HS) as a target in the third round, but it would not be surprising to see Jordan target a player like him in the second round.

Law sees, according to this mock draft, the Orioles selecting Danny Hultzen.  This is a realistic scenario as long as Hultzen is not grabbed by the Pirates at number one or the Diamondbacks at number three.  Personally, I am not as enamored with Hultzen.  I think as the first tier college pitching prospects in the draft, he is the one I have the least faith in.  Pitching once a week, he has been able to work in the 91-94 range while flirting with 95 and 96.  A more regular pitching cycle typically shaves a few mph off a pitcher and, for me, that takes him from top of the rotation velocity to middle rotation velocity.  Losing a few feet off your fastball enables batters more time to identify your pitches.  He has a good change up, which helps.  It is likely his best pitch.  He is a good college pitcher merely using those two pitches.  What has helped him greatly this year has been his ability to command his slider.  It is not an impressive pitch, but a well located average slider is an effective weapon.  As it stands, I see Hultzen as a high probability Major Leaguer, but a low probability star.  With a draft as deep as this one, I would draft for players with better star potential.  You become a first division team with great players, not average ones.

Jim Callis
June 3, 2011 Mock Draft

Callis sees the front end of the draft differently with Danny Hultzen going first, followed by Anthony Rendon (3B, Rice . . . Rendon going first or second is the only thing I think is certain in this draft), and Dylan Bundy going to the Diamondbacks.  This adds Trevor Bauer (RHP, UCLA) and Gerrit Cole (RHP, UCLA) to the mix.  The Orioles have been connected to both of these pitchers in the past.  Callis goes with Bauer here.  I can also see this as a possible outcome.  However, it would be frustrating for me.  I have no qualms with his unique pitching mechanics, but I am not fond of Bauer's 'overusage' this spring.  His manager has let him stay out for about a half dozen outings of over 120 pitches.  With a college starter's schedule, it is not as bad as a 20 year old throwing that many every fifth day in the professional ranks, but it is still a high number of pitches for a young arm.  I also think he will suffer some velocity loss when he does convert over to the five day schedule.  As opposed to Hultzen, I think Bauer will be more successful with lost velocity by relying on his slow curve.  It is an impressive offering.  However, I'm weary of the overusage and would not actually consider him as the fourth pick.

Gerrit Cole is the best case scenario for the Orioles that I see.  I have Rendon as my top ranked player, but I see no chance he falls to us unless his medicals indicate he has no right arm and we have fallen victim to Rice using smoke and mirrors.  Rendon will be a Pirate or Mariners with my bet on the latter.  Cole, on the other hand, could fall.  I doubt he will, but he could.  He is likely to carry a large price tag, but most of these prospects will be gunning for a large payday.  He is also hurt by other college pitchers putting up better numbers than he has, including his rotation mate Trevor Bauer.  I contend that being a great college pitcher is not the same as being a great MLB pitcher.  You need plus offerings and Cole is unique in that it appears he could harness three of them.  He has a live fastball that he works in the mid 90s and flashes in the high 90s.  If he loses velocity here, he still has top of the rotation velocity.  He also has a plus slider that he throws with a similar delivery with his fastball.  He has also shown the makings of a plus change up this year.  If the Orioles let him slide by, I would be disappointed.

---

Note: I'll be selecting for the San Diego Padres on John Sickels' community mock draft today at 2 EST.  The past two seasons I have handled the Orioles' selection, but thought that others should get a chance and tabbed James over at Camden Chat with the opportunity.

03 June 2011

Cup of jO's (June 3, 2011): Orioles violating MLB's debt service -- so what?

No game last night -- let's jump right into what caught my eye this morning...

What caught my eye...

Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times wrote this morning that nine teams are reportedly in violation of MLB's debt service rules -- one the nine being the Baltimore Orioles. With dwindling season ticket sales and underwhelming performance of the MASN network (from a viewer and ad revenue standpoint), I don't think it comes as a surprise to many O's fans that Baltimore's financial cup doth not runneth over. Shaikin summarizes the rules MLB has in place as follows:


The rules, intended to ensure clubs have the resources to support their financial obligations, generally limit a team's debt to 10 times its annual earnings, although Selig has wide latitude to enforce those rules.


Shaikin also mentions that the individuals leaking this financial information about these nine teams were not authorized to do so? Put on your tinfoil hats -- it seems to me they most certainly were authorized to leak the info, and this is simply a first volley from ownership to frame the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLB Players' Association, due to be renegotiated this off-season. Jon and I will look at this more closely, but for today let's just get the basics out of the way.

Obviously the fluid nature of revenue streams in the sport make it such that teams debt leverage ratio will fluctuate -- potentially dramatically depending on the particular revenue streams on which the organization most depends. For the Orioles, it makes intuitive sense that diminished season ticket sales and in-season ticket sales could have a significant impact on the club's revenues. MASN, thought by many to be a stabilizing revenue stream once up and running, has struggled to attract advertising money due to poor viewership (who would have thought fans wouldn't necessarily be interested in watching the O's and Nats on a regular basis?). So it is quite possible that the team, run no worse than it has been in the past five years, could see its debt leverage ratio slip out of whack after prolonged fiscal seepage on the ticket and ad sales front.

This is all educated guesswork, and we'll dig into the details more in the coming weeks. The larger question -- are there financial troubles across the sport -- is the more interesting question, and I think an easy one to answer. Currently the Dodgers and Mets have received lots of ink relating to their dire financial straights, and it's quite possible that both franchises are in serious trouble, with the debt leverage report providing further evidence. For the other seven franchises listed in today's L.A. Times article, we have scenarios wherein teams have run up their debt past a level Major League Baseball set as "reasonable". At the same time. each of these teams have taken on this debt by entering into agreements with lenders who themselves have analyzed the credit risk and sided with the teams that they are in fine financial position to take on the debt.

Whatever work went into setting the recommended debt leverage ratio at 10-1 for MLB clubs was likely done with the interest of the sport in mind -- we don't want our teams running themselves into bankruptcy and forcing frequent changes in ownership. Stability is a good thing. But if financial institutions are sitting down with Major League teams, you can be sure they are aware of MLB's debt service guidelines. You can also be certain the due diligence run on the business of the borrowing team is thorough, particularly in this economic climate. So where does that leave us?

Essentially, we see banks are siding with the borrowing organizations in determining their business is sound and they will be able to pay off the debt they are accumulating. If banks are willing to take on these risks, it seems to me that it is unlikely these teams are in danger of folding any time soon (again, educated guesswork with more research to follow). But, wow, is it a nice storyline to start running out there if you are looking to construct a dialogue centered around ownership cutting costs in various areas. With issues surrounding the Dodgers and their ownership, and widely publicized financial woes plaguing the Mets, the media is ripe for an overarching story about desperate times facing MLB ownership on the whole.

Don't believe the hype...

02 June 2011

2011 Depot Draft Preview: Positional Targets (2:4 - 5:4)

Thus far, we have focused on targets for Baltimore at 1:4, arriving at the following preference list (which we may tweak Monday morning as bonus demands begin to leak):

Anthony Rendon / 3b / Rice Univ.
Gerrit Cole / rhp / UCLA
Bubba Starling / of/rhp / Gardner Edgerton HS (Gardner, Kan.)
Sonny Gray / rhp / Vanderbilt Univ.
Dylan Bundy / rhp / Owasso HS (Owasso, Okla.)
Jed Bradley / lhp / Georgia Tech
Taylor Jungmann / rhp / Univ. of Texas
Danny Hultzen / lhp / Univ. of Virginia

Click on the above names for our full scouting reports with video courteosy of DiamondScapeScouting.com

We now shift our focus to Rounds 2 through 5, which we will divvy up into two separate posts. This first post will look at 12 targets on the position player side. Tonight we'll focus on 12 pitchers to target for these same four slots.

Targets for 2:4
Joe Panik (ss, St. John’s Univ.) could easily be off the board in the Supplemental-1st Round, and he is well within the top 60 players on our preference list. But the experts chatting-up the front office folks seems to view him as more of an early-Day 2 talent, which would be terrific for Baltimore. Panik has the smooth hands and footwork to play as an average shortstop at the pro ranks, but could also slide across the bag to second base where his arm may play a little better. He is gap bat without big homerun pop, but the hit tool is one of the best in the draft class.

Baltimore has just one selection in the first 60 picks, while Tampa, Toronto and Boston will be in a position to load up on a deep draft class due to compensation picks in the 1st and Supplemental-1st Round. Accordingly, Baltimore should be looking to grab anything and everything that slips through Day 1 due to signability. The dream scenario has Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, Rancho Rio, N.M.) falling to Baltimore due to his commitment to Texas and likely sizeable bonus demands. It’s anyone’s guess as to what number “sizeable” ultimate equates. If he’s still around, he’s a huge upside pick that would be equivalent to Baltimore landing two top 10 overall talents.

Number two, and not far behind Swihart, on the 2nd Round wish list is Joshua Bell (of, Jesuit Coll. Prep., Dallas, Texas). Bell has some of the highest offensive upside in the draft, and would be slated to come off the board in the early- to mid-1st Round had he not sent a letter to the MLB Scouting Bureau stating he had a strong desire to attend Texas and does not wish to sign a pro contract. Many see this as a negotiating ploy, perhaps suggested by advisor Scott Boras. If the goal is to push Bell down to hometown Texas in the Supplemental-1st Round, Baltimore won’t get the opportunity to grab him. If Joe Jordan and the Orioles Dallas Area Scout thinks he is signable, they should jump at the opportunity to grab him if he’s still on the board at 64 overall.

Targets for 3:4
Kyle Gaedele (of, Valparaiso Univ.) is another talent that could be off the board before the O’s pick for the third time, particularly if he is high enough on the preference list for Tampa, San Diego and Toronto (as teams with numerous extra picks in the Supplemental-1st). Gaedele has huge raw power, plus speed and potentially enough arm strength for right field, though it would be a bit of a stretch. His instincts in the outfield may limit him to corner, but the pick here is for power.

B.A. Vollmuth (3b, Univ. of Southern Mississippi), like Gaedele, is a play at a big power bat. Vollmuth is going to swing and miss, but the potential is there for a legit 25 – 30 homerun corner infielder. As a collegiate shortstop, Vollmuth has the arm for the left side. His range will limit him to third as a pro, but he should be able to stick there. Like many of the names we are listing, he could be off the board early if another team is particularly high on the stick, but he fits well on our preference list in early-3rd Round.

A soggy spring prevented extended looks at Derek Fisher (of, Cedar Crest HS, Lebanon, Penn.), who stood out both at the East Coast Pro showcase last August and the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Florida last October. Fisher is a potential five-tool talent that could potentially play center but likely fits better in right. He has some of the better power upside in the prep ranks, and could be a great “get” if he slips this far due to his strong commitment to the University of Virginia.

Targets for 4:4
Cody Asche (3b/1b, Univ. of Nebraska) is a big corner infielder likely to end-up at first base at the Major League level. He comes with a track record of performance in the prestigious summer wood bat Northwoods League, and a strong 2011 with the new BBCOR bats. There is still a lot of swing-and-miss here, but Asche handles the barrel well enough that he could grow into a future #5 hitter with 25 homerun upside (perhaps more with an improved contact rate). A solid gamble at this stage in the draft – particularly if Baltimore has yet to add “power” to their draft portfolio -- Asche would fill an organizational need on two fronts (first base and power).

Dan Vogelbach (1b, Bishop Verot Cath. HS, Ft. Myers, Fla.) is the other side of the “fisrt base/power” coin, as an all-bat prep talent with plus-plus raw power and a nice feel for the craft of hitting. He has showcased his power pre-game, in showcase settings and in homerun derbies, but also shows current ability to square-up good prep pitching in-game. Despite working hard to slim down to around 240 pounds (standing just 6-foot-1), his body type is always going to come with concerns as to his ability to keep the weight in check. He isn’t as advanced as Prince Fielder at the same time, and his upside is a step behind. But Vogelbach could be an interesting roll of the dice at this point in the draft if he hasn’t already been scooped.

With backstops always in demand, Brett Austin (c, Providence HS, Charlotte, N.C.) may come off the board as early as the sandwich round. We have him valued as a 2nd or 3rd Rounder, but hold out hope that he could slip due to his commitment to N.C. State. Austin shows a solid approach from both sides of the plate, profiling as a gap-to-gap hitter that could provide good offensive output for the position. There are enough questions with his receiving (he is a little stiff and his actions generally do not scream “athleticism”) that he could just as easily dip into the later rounds if the right organizational fit doesn’t line-up.

Targets for 5:4
Jason Coats (of, Texas Christian Univ.) looked to be lined-up potential top 50 selection after a strong summer on the Cape, but the production has not repeated this Spring. Coats has good pop from the right side, and when he squares it the ball really jumps. His value is hurt some due to his arm and foot speed limiting him to left field. It’s a “buy low” thought that could pay off with the right adjustments.

Kevin Cron (1b, Mountain Point HS, Phoenix, Ariz.), brother of potential 1st Rounder C.J. Cron (1b, Univ. of Utah) has a big swing and legit “70” raw power. He set single-season and career records for the State of Arizona and has parlayed his monstrous high school career into a scholarship to play at TCU. As you can tell, we are focusing heavily on potential power prospects, and Cron is yet another name Baltimore should consider if available.

Rookie Davis (1b/rhp, Dixon HS, Sneads Ferry, N.C.) is a two-way talent, sitting 89-92 on the mound with a very heavy fastball, and providing good power from the right side at the plate. Davis showed well in Under Armour All-America workouts, and again in Jupiter last October. While he received mixed grades from evaluators this spring, the return on investment at this point in the draft is well worth the investment. He is committed to play at ECU, but is generally considered signable if he goes high enough in the draft.

Next Up
Tonight's post will look at three potential pitching targets for each of the above rounds. Tomorrow we'll cover Rounds 6 through 10.