21 June 2011

They lathe bats, don't they?: Making Bats for Orioles

We here at Camden Depot enjoy looking at baseball in ways that we think are often overlooked.  Sometimes this includes interviews.  In the past we have interviewed a fellow evaluator of talent in A ball, a writer of Japanese baseball, the author of a book on baseball statistics, an agent that represented several Orioles players, a blogger of Cuban baseball, and a film maker who is putting together a documentary on baseball in the Dominican which featured Miguel Sano.  I typically do not go out of my way to grab interviews, but when something interesting falls into my lap . . . it makes sense to me.  

A month or so ago, I was talking to one of my readers about the utility of the way I was evaluating college hitters.  In the midst of that conversation, he mentioned that one of his ex-teammates on Purdue's baseball team had recently started up a baseball bat wood working operation, DS Wood Bats (twitter).  To make it more relevant to the Baltimore Orioles, this outfit supplies several players in the organization with bats.  I contacted one of the founders, Allan Donato, and will share his answers about how he started his business and bat making in general.

Jon Shepherd: What led you to becoming a professional bat maker?  What is the proper name for someone who makes bats?

Allan Donato: I grew up in Harrisburg, PA where I didn't necessarily focus on baseball primarily, but always had a huge love for the game.  I was an all-state baseball player in high school and ended up taking a scholarship to play collegiately at Purdue University. I played for a bit after college in the Frontier League (Independent) before being approached with the idea to begin this business by my business partner, Richie Schwartz.  Rich played collegiately at Lebanon Valley College and was working in politics at the time and had decided he wanted to continue to be in baseball.  He had a true passion for hitting and loved bats.  He had some woodworking experience and sold me on the fact that he could make bats.  We bought a lathe that week and the rest is history.  It took a great deal of research, trial and error, and effort to get this point.  We have come a long way. 

JS: Interesting.  By the way, what is the proper term for someone who makes bats?  I'd hate to get this wrong.

AD: I have no idea what the proper term would be for a people who make bats, but I truly believe it is an art.  Most people don't understand the craftsmanship that goes into producing a bat for someone.  When people come visit our shop and watch us they really appreciate it afterwards.

JS: I have noticed that several players in the Orioles organization use bats you make.  How have you been able to take a small business and rapidly make such gains in the market?

AD: It took a few things to really take our small business and make us grow this rapidly.  First, the product itself has been amazing.  We are extremely confident in the wood and the craftsmanship, and truly believe we make the best bats on the market.  Not only the product, but it takes being approved for use in the major and minor leagues and also the relationships we have developed.  Once we became approved, myself and our VP of Operations, Jared Smith, traveled down to spring training and went camp to camp to develop the relationships we have established today.  Finally, it also takes flat out luck.  
We got in touch with Nick Markakis through luck.  Billy Rowell, one of our clients on the Bowie Baysox, ordered bats a few days before Bowie was in Harrisburg to play the Senators.  When Richie delivered the bats, he brought a few extras and happened to run into Jeff Fiorentino who tried our bats and loved them.  Jeff raved about our product, ordered from us, and then offered to contact his close friend Nick for us.  Once we got bats to Nick, he was very happy with them also and has continued to work with us to this day.  So as you can see, it definitely takes a great deal of skill and hard work, but it takes some luck also.

JS: Which players in the Orioles organization use your bats? 

AD: We have bats in the hands of Nick Markakis, Jake Fox, Brandon Snyder, Robert Andino, Billy Rowell, Joe Mahoney, as well as a few others.  I also have several other minor league players who have reached out to me to try our product as they have seen it at several levels.
JS: What are the future plans for DS Wood Bats?
AD: Our plans for the future have changed quite a bit over the past year because of how quickly we have grown.  Right now I would say our plans for the future are to continue to build the clientele in the major and minor leagues through showing the great quality of our product and ability to give the client exactly what they are looking for.  I think in turn, we will expand our amateur market drastically by showing the drastic rise in popularity of our product in the pro market.  Again, we have grown so much so quickly, that our plans can change quickly, but ultimately we definitely want to make sure we entrench ourselves in the pro market.
In part II (which will be posted on Thursday), Allan and I discuss focus more on how bats are made.  This will include some information on what players ask for when ordering a bat and even a little bit on issues with bats breaking into splinters.

Cup of jO's (June 21, 2011): Bad luck or poor planning?

Game Wrap
Pirates 3, Baltimore 8
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

The O's jumped on Charlie Morton and the Bucs for five runs in the first inning last night, and never relinquished the lead. Nick Markakis continues to improve on his hard contact rate, goin 3 for 5 with a double and extending his hit streak to eleven games. Jake Arrieta wasn't his best, but he spotted his fastball well enough and continues to show improved consistency -- particularly in snapping off his curve. Click here for Stats LLC's preview of game two of the series, which features Jeremy Guthrie taking the hill for birds opposite James McDonald.

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning was an article at Fangraphs.com by Steve Slowinski, touching on some misfortunes that have contributed to a disappointing first half of the season. First, let me say that I've run into Steve's work at DRaysBay.com and have generally found it to be fair and thoughtful. This article in particular is nice because it serves as a snapshot of what an informed outsider thinks of the O's, their 2011 season and their future potential.

What jumps out right away is the inclusion of Brian Robert's injury, the struggles by Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero and the inconsistencies in the bullpen on the list of misfortunes that have beset Baltimore on all sides. Technically, I don't disagree with any of this. The same, none jump out as particularly surprising. And this is, I think, the issue that most critics of the front office will point to when complaining of "lack of progress."

At the start of the season I expressed strong support of the acquisition of Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds. All were low-risk moves that represented potentially large improvements over their 2010 counterparts. Additionally, Reynolds represented a potential multi-year solution. I still believe Lee will prove to be a fine contributor for the 2011 season, though it likely leaves Baltimore looking to fill a first base hole again come November. Hardy is mixed blessing, as a strong 2011 would be a blessing coming from the shortstop position, but probably limits the chances of Baltimore extending him at a reasonable rate (plenty of good organizations will be willing to pony up some cash for a quality shortstop coming off of a successful year). Guerrero has been trending sharply downwards for some time, with a first half uptick in 2010 glaringly out of place. The extra money tacked on to his deal this year means Baltimore likely will not be able to offer arbitration (again) to one of its players, for fear it might be accepted.

The acquisition of Kevin Gregg, Jeremy Accardo and (last year) Mike Gonzalez continue to leave me scratching my head. While the outlay for Accardo was minimal, both Gregg and Gonzalez represented not insignificant cash, with Gonzalez also causing Baltimore to forfeit their second round pick in 2010. Considering the volatility associated with relief pitching in general -- and both Gregg and Gonzalez in particular -- these moves seem to underscore a valuation system that is not well suited to the savvy AL East. Baltimore cannot afford to be the organization that shuns the "risk" associated with low seven-figure deals for elite Latin American prospects, while shoveling multiple years, eight figures, and draft picks at relief arms.

As for Brian Roberts, the situation is just unfortunate. Camden Depot has been on the record for a few years as generally being opposed to an extension for the aging second baseman, and hard set against the length and cash investment Baltimore ultimately doled out to Roberts. As one of our favorite Birds, it's disappointing to see him off the field so much these past two years, and nothing would please Jon or me more than being proven absolutely wrong for doubting his production over the extension would match the money paid. But the reality is that Baltimore owes another $20 million through 2013, and it's unlikely at this point that they will receive even production worth even half of that.

For an organization that continually claims to be limited in available payroll resources, these simply aren't the moves you like to see being made. Long eight figure extensions for aging second basemen, relief arms and aging designated hitters simply cannot be spun as sound investments in the long term, and it's tough to see why a team like the Orioles would push so many resources into simply scraping .500, rather than taking their lumps and building and implementing a long term plan with a chance to produce one of the top five teams in baseball -- and make no mistake that is what you need to be to compete in this division.

Yes, 2011 has included some truly unfortunate occurrences. Looking past the surface to the decisions shaping the general direction of the franchise, one has to wonder if even the best of luck will ultimately make much difference in the standings. This upcoming off-season looms large, as Baltimore has entered their "window" with a young core. They will need to decide between July and November whether there is enough in this core to make a hard off-season push worth while. If the answer is no, fans will have to start looking to the arrival of Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy (assuming he signs), and whatever fellow prospects help consitute the next "wave" promising that, yes, one September in the future the O's will be playing meaningful baseball.

20 June 2011

Dempsey's Army Presents: Last Week in Chats (June 12 - June 19, 2011)

Monday afternoons Heath from Dempsey's Army will recount all things Baltimore Orioles from the previous week's chats.  It is a convenient way to learn what national writers think about specific issues that relate to the Orioles.

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

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

1:48 Comment From Tim
Favorite sabermetric book, aside from Extra 2% and Baseball Between the  Numbers?

1:48 Jonah Keri:
Weaver On Strategy

Matt Eddy, Baseball America

Kyle (Maine):
Does Andrew Miller still have a chance to be a quality major league starter?

Matthew Eddy:
Given what pitchers like Phil Humber and Jeremy Guthrie have accomplished after being written off, I would say just about anything is possible for Miller if you pair him with the right pitching coach and in the right situation. He's a tough look for lefty batters, so I could see him thriving in a relief role the rest of the way. Miller's three primary pitches have distinct velos and shape to them, and I have to say I'm kind of intrigued.

Jack Moore, FanGraphs.com

11:59 Comment From Joe Braga
Which trade was worse for the Twins - getting rid of Hardy or getting rid of

12:01 Jack Moore: This is a pretty tough one. On the one hand, the Twins  dumped Hardy for almost nothing in order to clear room for Alexi Casilla,  which, I think to anybody not named Bill Smith or Ron Gardenhire, is pretty clearly a silly move. On the other hand, the Twins dumped their only  capable backup catcher for a reliever who costs seven million dollars, which, if you listen to the front office, may have actually forced the Hardy trade.

So it depends, if you think that adding Capps to the payroll forced the Hardy trade (not sure I actually believe that), then the Ramos trade is worse. For this year, the Hardy trade is worse to me because I don't think you envision Mauer missing so much time at such a young age, whereas the Ramos trade was likely to have its impact farther down the road. Long-term, losing Ramos is probably a bigger deal, especially now with Mauer's issues.

12:03 Comment From Brendan
Rank the AL shortstops? Yunel, Hardy, Asdrubel, Lowrie, and Alexei?

12:04 Jack Moore: Actual baseball: Alexei, Hardy, Yunel, Lowrie, Asdrubal, but these guys are all quite good players.

12:04 Comment From Patrick
10-team head to head league, keep Britton or pick-up Daniel Hudson?

12:05 Jack Moore: I would prefer Hudson to Britton, yes. Britton has been overachieving all year (not that I think he's bad, just that he's not quite ready to pitch like he has), and Hudson's been underachieving.

Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus

fgbaloh (allentown):
I don't understand anyone thinking Bundy over Cole. They have similar great stuff but Cole has performed and stayed healthy for 3 more years. Besides that, most reports I read suggest Bundy has little projection. Bunndy has a chance to either get hurt or flame out in the next three years. Without ever seeing either I think Cole hands down. Your thoughts?

Ben Lindbergh:
Like you, I'd basically be echoing someone else's opinion either way. I can't say I have any special insight here.

David Schonfield, ESPN

Josh (NJ)
David, I think one thing the current MLB has going for it is the rivalries within the divisions. I feel that some of that would be lost with the proposed restructuring plan. That could have a big time negative impact ($$$) especially for teams who sell more tickets in during this rival series throughout the year. Your thoughts?

David Schoenfield (2:28 PM)
I don't know if I agree with that. The Orioles may draw more for the Yankees or Red Sox -- but everybody draws more for the Yankees or Red Sox. I don't think the Orioles are packing it in for Tampa Bay or Toronto. There are few good rivalries, but for the most fans want to see a winning team and don't care much about the opponent.

Matt Klaasen, FanGraphs.com

12:42 Comment From Jack
Magglio or Vlad to the M´s anytime soon? Jack Cust is terrible

12:43 Matt Klaassen: Not sure why the Ms need an older, just as terrible DH who is an even worse fit for their park.

1:34 Comment From Ben
Seems like the world has forgot the *ultra* hype machine Matt Wieters. He's actually having a very good year for a catcher and he's still pretty young. You see continued improvement?

1:35 Matt Klaassen: Yes I do. He won't ever be "Mauer with Piazza's power" or whatever people thought he would be, but he's got a decent bat and approach, some athletic upside, and combined with good defensive skills, that's still a potential star.

Keith Law, ESPN

Steve (Baltimore MD)
Any chance you'll get to travel to DR for games? Also, Jonathan Schoop ... top 25 next year?

Klaw (1:09 PM)
Not planning on it. I feel better about saying top 50 on him than top 25.

Luke (Baltimore)
Brian Matusz -- concerned?

Klaw (1:38 PM)
Sure, although as I said last week it's likely he's not 100% recovered from the injury.

Cup of jO's (June 20, 2011): Britton taking his lumps

Game Wrap
Nationals 4, Baltimore 7
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

JJ Hardy and Mark Reynolds made the front office look good today, as the left side of the infield (acquired this offseason) led the way with a combined 5-8 with two doubles and two homeruns. For the second straight series the O's avoided a sweep by salvaging the final game of the set. The team heads to Pittsburgh for the final third of their road trip. Jake Arrieta takes the hill opposite Charlie Morton.

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is Zach Britton's game log. It shows that over his last five starts he has posted a line of 28 IP, 34 H, 21 R, 16 ER, 12 BB, 18 SO and 3 HR. Britton's BB/9 currently sits at 3.2. With his SO/9 still below 6 (he has brought it up to 5.3), that is a lot of batted balls and probably too many baserunners between the walks and the balls that find their way through the defense. In early April I published up a brief scouting report on the young starter (original article here), noting the following:

[T]here could be some not insignificant growing pains as he finishes his development at the Major League level...The hard-throwing southpaw has a higher ceiling than any arm in the organization, though his proximity to that ceiling is still a ways off.
This wasn't exactly stepping out on a limb -- young arms often take their share of lumps while learning to make adjustments at the Major League level. Still, I received a fair number of challenges to my "take" on the young hurler, with the highest degree of umbrage being taken with my statement that Britton was "a ways off" from his ceiling. Today's writing may seem like an "I told you so," but that couldn't be less the case. Rather, it's meant to be a reminder that these sorts of rough patches are to be expected, and fans have no reason to feel any less excited about having Britton as a fixture in the O's rotation for the foreseeable future.

Prospects will always excite a fan base, and the proliferation of prospect blogs and websites have grown into an echo chamber adding to the hype machine. As we touched on last week in discussing Major League deals for top draft picks, we need to keep in mind that the path through prospect development is seldom linear. That holds especially true for the final jump from AAA to the Bigs. With an immense talent like Britton, O's fans simply need to show a little patience and enjoy the ride.

19 June 2011

The Science of Baseball: June 19, 2011

In the pitching study, the pads were situated on the pitching arm.
Due to seasonal trips and obligations, the Science of Baseball will go on a two week hiatus after today.  To send you off, we are going to focus on three interesting topics.  First, we are actually going to look back on studies done in 2006, 2009, and 2010 that assess whether or not interleague play truly increases attendance for the league.  Second, we'll review a Korean study that tries to assess how well "Small Ball" works for Korean league teams for scoring runs.  The final study this week is one that considers three different ways to replenish strength of a pitcher between innings.

How Does Interleague Play Affect Attendance?
Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer (2006), Eric Rosen (2009), and Maury Brown (2010)

Typically, I try to keep the Science of Baseball discussions to more recent research, but I have been inundated with announcers and professional journalists telling me that interleague play is an attendance boom.  I am told that attendance goes up about 10-15% simply due to this novelty.  I could write an article on this, but it is simpler to point toward three solid pieces of research that have already been written and have all come to a similar conclusion: interleague play does not increase attendance league-wide as much as MLB claims.  The numbers MLB quotes are accurate in that they compare average attendance between inter and intra league games.  However, this ignores that MLB schedules interleague games for the summer when attendance is highest and that MLB schedules interleague games for weekend dates 50% more often than games within leagues. 

Adjusting for the differences in schedules, the numbers are at best half what MLB claims and perhaps no different from regular games held this time of the year.  The 2006 study puts the attendance bump for the '98-'06 seasons at 5.3%.  The 2009 study puts the attendance bump for the '00-'08 seasons at 0.4%.  The 2010 study compared attendance over two consecutive weekends and found the difference to be -0.63%.  At the very least, we can conclude that MLB's claims of attendance boosts over 10% to be unfounded.

A caveat should be made in which specific rivalries are bound to increase attendance over what normally would be available.  For instance, we should expect attendance to be higher for an Orioles-Nationals game due to geographic proximity.  However, we also see this sort of thing within divisions as attendance is also higher when the Orioles face off with the Yankees or Red Sox.  There does not seem to be anything remarkable about these games.  What I would like to see and what I imagine someone is doing somewhere is to create a year by year chart to show how the fan base grew more and more indifferent toward interleague play.

Is the small ball strategy effective in winning games? A stochastic frontier production approach.
Lee 2011. J Product Analysis 35:51-59

Lee suggests that small ball baseball is taking over Korean baseball.  That the success of Japan in the World Baseball Classics has convinced the majority of the team in Korean leagues to follow the ways of Japanese baseball as opposed to the American version of the game (which is far less about small ball).  The way Lee tries to characterize a team as small ball or not is to measure three things: stolen base attempts, sacrifice hits, and the number of batters to appear in a game.  He uses those three metrics as they are things he can measure and events that are largely the product of a manager's control on the game.  Korean teams attempt to steal about 30% more, sacrifice 100% more, and bat 20% more players per game than do Major League Baseball teams.  He then models these factors for the Korean league and finds that on base percentage and slugging are far more important than those three factors.  He also finds that attempting to steal correlates with a positive increase in run scoring.  He also found that sacrifice hits and pinch hitting negatively correlated with run scoring.  The lesson here might be that in the Korean leagues that managers are overvaluing the utility of bunting and pinch hitting.

I find this interesting because it reminds me of a regression I ran to determine how speed was valued differently between different positions in a batting lineup.  I have the numbers all calculated and the explanations in my head, but I have never gotten around to publishing it.  Anyway, what was most interesting to me was that speed was found to be negatively correlated to run production for the lead off slot in a batting lineup.  A quick assessment would lead someone to say that speed is not important for a lead off hitter, which would be an incorrect assessment from my perspective.  What that study actually told me was that managers were going out of their way to put fast runners first in the lineup without any regard for their actual offensive ability.  Speed is actually very good for a leadoff hitter, but it looked bad because players were chosen for that position without consideration of their other talents (or lack thereof).

Effect of three different between-inning recovery methods on baseball pitching performance.
Warren et al. 2011 J Stren Cond Res 25:683-688

This study was interested in whether there is any truth to a few best practices suggested for maintaining pitching performance during a game.  Passive recovery was assessed.  This technique was tested by having the pitcher simply sit and not move.  The idea behind this being useful is that the body can focus on regenerating glycogen reserves, but it is thought that this can take 15-25 minutes to actually be useful in restoring those reserves.  In this study, pitchers were given six minutes between innings.  Another technique considered was active recovery.  You may be most aware of this with respect to Michael Phelps and swimming competitions.  After races, swimmers will often "cool down" with laps.  This is often thought to be one of the more successful techniques because it causes an increase in blood flow, which helps supply muscles with oxygen and reducing acid content.  In this study, the pitchers were told to lightly jog between innings.  The final technique used in this study was electromuscular stimulation.  This involves using electrical stimulation to cause muscle contractions which will increase the blood flow without straining the heart.  I personally am not aware of any athlete who uses this, but it would not surprise me if they did.  Though, it would surprise me if pitchers ever used this during a game.  For this study, college pitchers were used.  They threw on four days rest and they threw three simulated innings with six minutes between innings. 

The results of the study were interesting.  The pitchers reported that they felt more rested by implementing the passive recovery and electromuscular stimulation techniques.  These two approaches also resulted in pitchers being able to retain their pitch speed.  Active recovery was not perceived as beneficial.  When they measured the pitchers lactic acid content, they found that only electromuscular stimulation resulted in a decrease.  They conclude that teams should be more open minded and explore the utility of implementing electromuscular stimulation for pitchers between innings.

Me?  It sounds very interesting, but I would be interested in seeing more studies on this.

Cup of jO's (June 19, 2011): Introducing the 2011 July 2 IFAs

Game Wrap
Nationals 4, Baltimore 2
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

Don't look now, but the Nats are building the type of excitement that Baltimore was hoping to capture this summer. Now winners of eight in a row, and one game from .500, the other side of the beltway is starting to generate at least a little buzz. Add to that the expected arrival next year of Bryce Harper and the expected return of Stephen Strasburg, as well as a slightly more winnable division in the NL East, and you have a recipe for a team turning things around. Time will tell which organization flips the script first, but as Baltimore stares down the possibility of being swept by their perennial neighboring cellar-dwellers, it's tough to remain optimistic. Some good news -- despite a rough line, Brian Matusz saw a slight climb in his sitting velocity yesterday and much more feel for his offerings (though he did leave the game with a tweaked calf).

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is a series of articles by Baseball America's Ben Badler, upon whom many fans rely when it comes to getting a quick breakdown of the class of international free agents hitting the market on July 2nd of a given year. Each posted last, and the article I'd like to focus on is subscriber material only, focusing on some of the top outfielders available in this year's July 2nd crop.

One benefit of the increase in prospect/draft interest is that some of the showcase companies, as well as some of the trainers and agents down south, have started to work to get the talented Latin American ballplayers some exposure on the showcase circuit. Two Octobers ago top Dominican prospect Wagner Mateo traveled to Jupiter to lace them up with the Texas Yankees Scout Team (a team that also found O's top draft pick Dylan Bundy on the roster). Last August I got a sneak peak of power hitting outfielder Ronald Guzman (video below).

Guzman is exactly the type of talent for which O's fans are hoping Baltimore will eventually open up it's check book. Highly projectable with quick hands, leverage and enough raw power now to make it easy to envision plus or better in-game power in the future. He was overmatched at the Under Armour All-America Game (of course, he was just 15 at the time, playing against the top rising high school seniors in the United States.

Guzman is one of several potential power bats in a bumper crop of international talent. As with the First Year Amateur Player Draft earlier this month, 2011 represents a good opportunity for teams to invest in the future. These players are less developed than even the high school draft-eligible talents, and represent more risk, to be sure. But they also represent an open market for adding more potential premium young talent to the farm system.

Later this week and next we'll take a closer look at some other July 2 IFAs, as well as the question as to how much sense it makes to pump money into this market at this time.

18 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Jonah Hill is no Paul DePodesta

Last night's 8-4 loss to the Washington Nationals was full of interesting outcomes.  First, the Orioles racked up 18 hits while scoring 4 runs.  Typically, you would expect a team to plate about 41% of their players who hit the ball.  The Orioles on the other hand managed to do that 22% of the time.  This included 4 for 5 nights from both Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.  Neither scored once.  I am not sure I have ever seen that.  The worst case scenario is that at least three of the five times through the line up you would have both men on base.  Even if that event happened with two outs every time, the run expectancy value would be 1.41 runs.  Based on the actual scenarios last night, expectancy would have been 3.38 runs.  If the batters behind Markakis and Jones were able to hit last like like average hitters, this would have been a much tighter game.  Unfortunately, Wieters had a severe case of hitting grounders last night.

The second interesting event for me last night was Mark Reynolds' 15th error.  It amazes me how hot and cold he is.  One second he will make a fantastic play and the next he will botch a sure out.  His fielding takes away almost all of his value as a hitter.  That is a rare feat.  I will actually have more on this at a later date with numbers and maybe a graph.  For now, all I have to say is that the Orioles might be best served thinking about Reynolds as a first basemen or a DH next year.  However, there are just no good options out there for third base next year.  There is a splinter of hope that Josh Bell figures things out well enough, but his defense is just as bad and good as Reynolds.  Robert Andino has the glove for third, but not the bat.  The best bats at short who might be able to flip are Jimmy Rollins and perhaps Marco Scutaro.  Neither of their bats look considerably better than what we have so cheaply in Robert Andino.  Maybe the O's are stuck with Reynolds at third.

The third interesting thing was that Jeremy Accardo was designated for assignment.  I imagine he will pass through waivers and have the option of going to Norfolk.  Accardo is another example of a relief pitcher the Orioles signed on in free agency who just did not work out.  Thinking back to the past five or six years, I am hard pressed to think of a single free agent reliever the Orioles managed to sign and it turn out alright.  You could argue Kevin Gregg this year, but his peripherals look like he is in for some adverse regression.  You could also argue the second go around with Koji, which I could only muster that it was a resigning.  Outside of those two instances we have Mike Gonzalez, Mark Hendrickson, Danys Baez, Jaime Walker, Scott Williamson . . . well, Wil Ohman worked out.  Ohman netted us Rick VandenHurk.  You compare that to the Rays and Padres who turn relievers into gold and compensation draft picks.


A few days ago the Moneyball trailer was released.

What I find amusing is Jonah Hill as the representation of Paul DePodesta.  DePodesta played baseball and , I think, was a wide receiver at Harvard.  Jonah does not exactly strike me as an Ivy League wideout.  Perhaps that is why the character's name has been changed to "Peter Brand" in the movie, which is a change from the initial scripts.  Word was originally that the character was to be played by Demetri Martin.  Martin does not strike me as a wideout either.

Jonah Hill - - Paul DePodesta - - Demetri Martin
 I decided to run Paul DePodesta's image through face recognition software to come up with the top three actors who share the greatest resemblance.

Jason Biggs (33yo)

 Biggs is best known for the American Pie series.  He lately has been in a series of made for TV movies with a few straight to DVD offerings.  It also appears he has done some voiceover work.  Soon he will be back in another American Pie offering.  Jason Biggs is the right age abouts, has the face, and the rest of him is probably close enough, but with the trouble Moneyball had getting made . . . it may have been seen as him not having enough audience pull.  Jonah Hill certainly has his fans.  That might be a deciding factor against Jason Biggs.

Alexis Denisof (45 yo)

Denisof's wife Alyson Hannigan shares a connection with our first option Jason Biggs.  They were both prominent in American Pie series.  Denisof though is best known to followers of Joss Whedon.  He appeared in Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Dollhouse.  He has always made a few appearances on How I Met Your Mother.  Mainstream audiences are probably peripherally aware of Denisof, but I would be surprised if many would recognize his name.  There, Biggs has an advantage.  Denisof does the face and body type of Paul DePodesta, but is about ten years too old.  Biggs is probably a better choice. 

James van der Beek (34yo)

There seems to be a theme here with actors who might be a few years out of the lime light.  Jonah Hill might be able to score himself as more relevant.  Like Jason Biggs, van der Beek is also well known for who he used to be . . . who was Dawson Leery on Dawson's Creek.  Like Denisof, he too has also appeared on How I Met Your Mother.  In terms of fit, van der Beek is the right age, right face, right body type, and he could pass with a dye job.  He currently is doing some TV work as it comes.  Of these three, I'd say the lowest scoring match would be the best option.  Moneyball could have been to van der Beek as Pulp Fiction was to John Travolta.

Do you have better options?  Perhaps an actor slightly more current in his popularity.

15 June 2011

Cup of jO's: Should Dylan Bundy get a Major League deal?

Game Wrap
Toronto 6, Baltimore 5
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

The Orioles once again find themselves in the midst of a losing streak, dropping their third straight game, and third straight to divisional opponents not housed in Boston or New York. Baltimore fought back in the late innings after Toronto grabbed the early lead against Chris Jakubauskas. The momentum seeming to shift definitively in the O's favor after Matt Wieters launched his sixth homerun of the year in the eighth inning -- a two run blast off of reliever Mark Rzepczynski. But Felix Pie was stranded at third base in the eighth, Nick Markakis was stranded at second base in the ninth, Derrek Lee was stranded at second base in the tenth, and Adam Lind ended the game in the bottom of the eleventh with a lead-off walk-off homerun off a hanging splitter from Koji Uehara. Jake Arrieta will try to stop the skid this evening.

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is an article by Baseball America's Matt Eddy, who took a look at the track record for college pitchers that signed Major League deals out of the Draft between 2001 and 2010. As part of my responsibilities as an associate scout for a Major League organization, I spent Saturday at the ball field with my area scout watching one of our draftees, speaking with his family and trying to figure out how much our organization should offer the young man to try and entice him to sign. Throughout the game we touched on a couple of our other signees and our progress towards signing them, the draft in general, and the media coverage of the draft (the loudest chuckle came when it was mentioned that one prominent outlet referred to a pre-glasses Ricky Vaughn-esque prep arm as a "strike thrower"). We eventually made our way to discussing Dylan Bundy (Baltimore's First Round selection) and our best guesses as to what a final contract would look like.

Much has been written about Bundy, and a few minutes of "Googling" will reveal a common sentiment that Bundy is generally as advanced as the college arms in the class, and thus could move very quickly through the minors. In presenting my best guess as to the final deal, I stated that the primary sticking point will likely be whether or not Baltimore gives him a Major League deal. My colleague took the opposite stance, stating they'll have no issue doing as much, and would be right to do so. To be clear, our opinion on the matter should have no impact on the actual negotiations, and neither of us saw enough of Bundy this spring to provide actual insight into how the process should shake down -- this was just two evaluators (one good; one learning) spitballing.

It is natural that Matt Eddy's piece caught my eye when I scanned through my morning readings, and as soon as I hit "publish" on the blogger.com interface I am going to forward the article to my Area Scout to stimulate further discussion. Essentially, Eddy concludes that the players offered Major League deals were "worthy" according to draft time evaluations, but neither the size of their deal nor the number of options they ultimately burned through (anywhere from zero to four) correlated with their future success. The group of 14 arms was a true mixed bag, with successes such as Justin Verlander, Mark Prior, David Price and Jeremy Guthrie (with Brian Matusz and Max Scherzer each showing promise) and flops the likes of Dewon Brazelton, Craig Hansen and Andrew Miller, with a whole lot of tweeners and TBDs*.

While the article doesn't point us in a particularly useful direction with regards to determining the correct course of action for Baltimore and Bundy, it does illustrate that even the surest arms in a given draft are not necessarily "safe", and even the arms that ultimately make it can take drastically different paths on their way to productivity.

* - Jeremy Guthrie's name was orginally mentioned twice in this sentence.

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.