29 August 2011

Adam Dunn Might Edge Mark Reynolds

A little known record Mark Reynolds hold is one that is exceptionally difficult to do.  He has the greatest number of strike outs over hits in the history of baseball.  He set it last year with 112 by striking out 211 times and getting a hit 99 times.  Before this year, the next closet would be the immortal Rob Deer at 175 Ks and 80 hits in 1991 as a Detroit Tiger.  Behind him was Melvin Nieves at 75 with 157 Ks and 82 hits.  The difference between first and third is 37.  That is a pretty incredibly difference.  You need to be quite an unusual player to accomplish this feat.  You need to be a three true outcome hitter.  That is what you call a player who can do three things: hit home runs, walk, and strikeout.  Those first two outcomes typically need to be good enough for clubs to stomach the last outcome.

Coming into 2011, it looked as though Reynolds record would be safe.  Only Carlos Pena and Chris Davis showed any proclivity to accomplish such things.  However, Adam Dunn's collapse has given Reynolds a true contender.  This year Dunn has 96 differential with 156 Ks and 60 hits.  He is on pace to finish with a differential of about 108, so he is going to have to pick it up a bit.  Dunn though is more of a two true outcome hitter, he strikes out and he earns a lot of money.  His salary is what gets him in the lineup.

We'll see.

28 August 2011

What is the Value of a Compensation Draft Pick?

This past season Tyler Beede decided not to take a signing bonus north of 2MM with the Blue Jays and instead committed himself to college.  He was the 21st selection in the first round.  As compensation, the Jays will receive an unprotected pick in next year's draft, which is the 22nd selection in the first round.  A question quite a few asked was: what, if anything, have the Blue Jays lost in terms of value?  There are several considerations.

A pick being delayed a year.

A team often relies on waves of highly talented, cost-controlled players graduating to the Majors each year.  If these players are not available, the team has to utilize the free agent market where costs are significantly higher.  For instance, if a team loses it's 21st round pick it will have to supplement it's lineup roughly the cost of what that pick would have provided.  The 21st round pick is worth about 10MM on average over the course of his career.  If that first year needs to be covered, then it will cost the team arguably 1.7 MM.  This value is not uniform for all selections, of course.  The higher up in the draft a player is selected, the greater the expected value of a player as players with greater value are typically chosen earlier.  If it was a first round pick being lost, the expected loss of one year of value would be around 13.3 MM.  The graph below shows the relationship between cost-controlled (first six years) WAR and draft pick selection.  The drafts used for this graph are from 1991-2000.

click to enlarge


It may be argued that in the grand scheme, a one year delay on receiving value is largely inconsequential.  This is likely to be a rather accurate assessment.  The difficulty in projecting players into the future and when they may be able to help the Major League team means that teams largely are not relying on these players to develop.  In a general sense, they need these draftees to develop and contribute, but few teams will set their watches to players producing except at the front end of the draft.  Only there do you find truly remarkable talents that teams will expect to advance quickly and be productive members of the organization at the highest level.

Draft Budget and the Unprotected Nature of Draft Pick Compensation

In practice, the greater concern in practice is how having multiple draft picks in the first round affects the quality of talent being selected.  Additionally, compensation picks are unprotected, which has tended to cause teams to select players more conservatively and reach a little bit.  In 2009, the Nationals selected Drew Storen for 200k less than slot.  Storen has been incredibly successful in the Majors as a reliever.  However, one wonders how important it was for the Nationals, a team in need of impact players, to select a pitcher who throws an inning every few days.  This, however, is not a uniform strategy as this year the Diamondbacks drafted and signed top ten pitchers Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley.  Both required significant investment and the Diamondbacks accomplished that.

So, how much more useful is one approach than the other?  In the graph below, picks are grouped in fives over the course of the first thirty picks in the draft from 1991-2000.  Those players' control year WAR is compared to players selected the following year a selection behind them or a more conservative ten places later.

click to enlarge


The graph shows that there is a negligible difference between the value of the initial selection vs a selection a year later and a pick later.  However, there appears to be a sizable difference if a team with a compensation pick in the first 20 selections decides to be conservative and draft a signable player (defined in this study as a player taken 10 slots later).  A conservative approach for a top 5 pick would result in a loss of about 4 WAR (~20 MM) while picks 6-20 result in a loss of about 2 WAR (~10 MM).  It appears to be a rather large misfire if a team does not fully utilize their picks.  A simple investment of an extra 1-3 MM results in a several fold return.  Even if an unprotected draftee recognizes his signing team is in a position where they need to sign him, it is highly unlikely the pick would ever receive more money than what the average pick would give back to the team.

Differences in Talent Between Draft Classes

However, this brings us back to the Blue Jays.  Are they worse off for not signing Tyler Beede?  According to this quick study, no they are not worse off.  In an average year, players available at pick 21 are typically equally available the following year at pick 22.  The assumption is though that this year is an average year and next year will also be an average year.  The following graph shows differences in total six year WAR for the first 30 picks in each first round from 1991-2000.

Click to enlarge

This past year's draft was considered one that was quite full with talent.  The majority opinion would find that this year's draft is likely to be similar, in total value, to those in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1998.  The early opinion for next year is that it will be an average class which would be similar to 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, or 1999.  The difference between this and next year is about 30% if these opinions are accurate.  That assumed difference in draft classes between this year and next is illustrated on the following graph which takes the values in the second figure and adjusts them according to general draft worth.

click to enlarge


In general, if the talent level in the current draft appears to be significantly greater than the following draft then it makes sense to aggressively sign those players.  However, if the following draft appears to be more talented then it might make sense to be not so giving during negotiations and to feel free to utilize a compensatory pick the following draft. 

25 August 2011

Flanny, in their words....



This will be an open post where we will provide links to some of our favorite remembrances of Mr. Flanagan. Please feel free to add to the thoughts/links in the comment section.

------------------

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal speaks about Flanny (Video) -- a player of substance and a representation of The Oriole Way.

MLB.com's Jon Star and Jordan Schelling provide quotes and comments on Flanagan, including video of MASN's post-game coverage last night (video of Jim Palmer, Buck Showalter, Cal Ripken and Joe Jordan sharing heartfelt thoughts).

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian shares fond thoughts regarding a memorable man. If you're going to read one piece today, Kurkjian's is the one to read. Some quotes:


In 1980, as another Orioles pitcher, Steve Stone, was on his way to winning the Cy Young, Flanagan determined the different stages of Cy: He was the reigning Cy Young. "[Jim] Palmer is Cy Old," he said. "Stone is Cy Present and Storm [Davis] is Cy Future. When you get hurt, you become Cy-bex. When you're done, you become Cy-onara."



I covered a game in 1991 in which Orioles DH/first baseman Sam Horn struck out six times consecutively, the first non-pitcher in AL history to do that. After the game, I went to Flanagan. "Three strikeouts is a hat trick," he said, "four is a sombrero, five is a golden sombrero and from now on, six will be known as a Horn. Seven will be a Horn-A-Plenty."



Flanagan played in his high school alumni game one year, and scored 63 points. He played freshman basketball at UMass with Rick Pitino. Flanagan tried out for the varsity the next year. "I pulled up for a jumper on the break from the top of the key, and Julius Erving blocked it, then swoop-jammed on the other end,'' he said. "I knew then it was time to work on my slider."

Some quotes from MASN's Roch Kubatko on Flanny:


[Former pitcher and current MASN analyst Dave] Johnson watched from the dugout on Oct. 6, 1991 when Flanagan, as the last Oriole to throw a pitch at Memorial Stadium, struck out the only two batters he faced in the top of the ninth inning and walked off the mound to a rousing ovation.

"I remember thinking, 'I wish that was me,' " said Johnson, who started the previous day. "I meant that I wish I had that type of career where I was the guy out there to close that ballpark. It was neat and fitting that it was him doing it because he had that type of career and he deserved to be out there."

Chron.com's Richard Justice -- "If you were lucky enough to know Mike Flanagan, you were better off for it." Some fun stories in Justice's piece here:


Did you hear the one about the Orioles mascot falling from the roof into the dugout onto the concrete floor below? Yeah, unfortunately he landed at Flanagan’s feet.

His head was turned completely around, and from inside the costume, groaning could be heard.

“Listen,” Flanagan told the guy, “take two bird seed and call me in the morning.”


Peter Gammons with more Flanny stories at MLB.com. Select quotes:


If you've ever seen the famous video of the argument between Weaver and umpire Bill Haller in Oakland (in which Earl correctly predicted he would go to the Hall of Fame), it began because Haller called a balk on Flanagan. The obscenity-laded argument lasted a dozen minutes, and, finally, as Earl passed the mound en route to the third-base dugout and the clubhouse, Earl told Flanny, "You got [hosed]."

"Actually," Flanagan replied, "I balked."


There have been few greater baseball humorists in the last 50 years than
Flanagan, a New England iconoclast as well as a brilliant pitching mind. He
threw the last inning at Memorial Stadium because he was so revered in
Baltimore, where he won the American League Cy Young Award in 1979 and helped win the O's the World Series in 1983.

24 August 2011

Peter Angelos Releases Statement on the Passing of Mike Flanagan

It is with deep sadness that I learned of the death of my friend Mike Flanagan earlier this evening. In over a quarter century with the organization, Flanny became an integral part of the Orioles family, for his accomplishments both on and off the field. His loss will be felt deeply and profoundly by all of us with the ballclub and by Orioles fans everywhere who admired him. On behalf of the club I extend my condolences to his wife, Alex; and daughters Kerry, Kathryn and Kendall.

-Peter Angelos









I met Mike Flanagan a couple times as part of my duties here with Camden Depot this past season.  In those brief interactions I came to think of him as a smart, insightful, and interesting person.  It saddens me to learn of his passing and my thoughts go out to his family and friends.

23 August 2011

Camden Depot Wants You!: September Call Ups

In the spirit of September call ups, Camden Depot is offering to expand the writing staff for a cup of coffee.  As you know, the Depot is a member of ESPN's Sweetspot Network and we can provide a rather decent size platform for aspiring writers with a bent on the Baltimore Orioles.

Who is eligible?
Everyone is eligible.  If you already have a site, that is fine.  We can tastefully tag your article with that information.

What kind of article do you want?
We don't have any guidelines other than we want good writing.

What is the process?
1. Send your article to camdendepot@gmail.com
2. Nick or I review your article and decide whether: a) it is good as is, b) requires editing, or c) outright rejected.
3. The article is published on the Depot.

We promise nothing.  It could be what we receive is just not of our particular taste.  We truly hope you surprise us.

21 August 2011

The Science of Baseball: August 21, 2011

This week's Science of Baseball will consider two articles: one on using sling exercises in lieu of throwing to warm up pitchers and another on the effects of caffeinated gum on the performance of cyclists.

Sling exercise and traditional warm-up have similar effects the velocity and accuracy of throwing.
Huang et al. 2011 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25:1673-1679

A growing number of athletes have begun using sling exercises to work out or warm up for competitive play.  There has been some discussion whether or not these exercises might be useful for pitchers.  The idea is two fold: (1) sling exercises involve whole body action which may help a pitcher and (2) it reduces the number of throws a pitcher makes in total.  This study used collegiate pitchers from DI schools.  I'm not sure which schools because the mean pitch was about 75 mph. 

I doubt this study has anything conclusive to say.  The study claims they found no difference between the two techniques and suggest either would be useful.  I don't agree with that.  It is an interesting concept though that one could use alternative ways to warm up muscles needed for pitching without overtaxing tendons and ligaments used for pitching.  It might be a good idea to redo this study a few times.  It is also probably a good time to recognize just how little we know about how pitching impacts the health of an arm short-term and seasonally.  It is a field of study where teams and players both have great reasons not to participate in any studies.  More information is not always something that benefits or, at least, it can be perceived that way.  In the autumn, I will be reviewing several articles on pitching.

Caffeinated chewing gum increases repeated sprint performance and augments increases in testosterone in competitive cyclists
Paton et al. 2010 European Journal of Applied Physiology 110:1243-1250

This article was published last year, but it deals with an issue in which I have a lot of interest (case in point).  Since sports began, players have tried to get advantages outside the spirit by which the rules are written.  The research described in this paper look at how chewing gum impregnated with affects fatigue and hormone responses during cycling sprints.  The study included nine male cyclists (age 24 +/- 7 years) who completed four high-intensity exercises that consisted of four sets of 30 second sprints (five sprints each set).  The cyclists were given the caffeinated gum after the second set.  They found the caffeine reduced fatigue and increased performance by 5.4% as measured by power output.  Testosterone (measured in saliva) increased with the addition of caffeine.  Cortisol levels also were decreased.

Baseball is a game of repeated sprints.  For those of us who have played, we are generally aware of many players who drink copious amounts of drinks like Fuel or other highly caffeinated drinks.  While cognitive function has been shown to not rebound greatly with caffeine, other functions are shown to be boosted by the chemical.  I can see how caffeinated gum could be quite useful to pitchers and, perhaps, fielders later in the game.  The question then becomes: what is cheating?  We tend to think of illegal drugs (e.g. steroids, hGH, amphetamines), but ignore the drugs that are effective but over the counter (e.g. caffeine, aspirin).  Where does that line stand?

15 August 2011

Napkin Scratch: To Overslot or Spend on International Free Agents

After Zach Davies signed today, I asked myself a question.  I have always been a proponent of overslotting several players in drafts and I have also been heavily supportive of dedicating money to sign international free agents.  So, this question was simply...what is a more efficient use of funds: spending more than 500k for players after the tenth round or 500k for an international free agent.

1) Reed MacPhail wrote a solid piece on the value of overslotting players later in the draft.  His basic conclusion was that it costs about 400k to sign a third round talent in the third round.  To sign the same quality player after the tenth round, it costs about 600k.  Quality of player is defined by Wang's work using prospect rankings and resulting performances in the Majors.

2) Various sources have looked into how much the draft depresses the amount of money a player can earn if he was able to sell his services in the free market.  Jim Callis suggested that the draft reduces a player's value by a factor of four to five.

3) When I looked at the differences between IFAs and Rule 4 Draftees, I came up with with a 400k draft talent as costing 570k internationally.

Based on these pieces we have a couple things we are sure of: it is cheaper to get third round talent in the third round and that overslotting players past the third round is not more expensive than signing international free agent talent.  What becomes a bit more confusing is to what degree are overslots a good deal?  If you go by Callis a third round talent may be worth up to 2 MM.  My calculations placed that IFAs and overslots were basically equivalent.  This may mean that if you believe in your scouting, feel free to go crazy with overslots because these domestic players are just as valuable as IFAs.

It also makes it look more reasonable to hand Josh Bell a 6MM deal.  He would cost that much if he was Dominican or Venezuelan.  Does it really matter that he is an American?  Value is value and hard slotting is likely around the corner.

13 August 2011

Cup of jO's: The Ball is Juiced (1961 style)

An article from 1961 that focuses on how the ball has changed throughout the years and whether it was a time of 'Rabbitball.'  This is just another in a long line of articles since the dawn of baseball trying to explain why certain remarkable performances occur.  I find perusing the magazine and the history intertwined in the pieces.

What I think the take home message here is that sometimes athletic achievements are the result of three general factors: the natural (e.g. a player's own genetic makeup and environmental history, changes in regional and national weather), the 'unnatural' (e.g. cheating, changes in ballpark dimensions, characteristics of the baseball, fluxes in competition level due to schedules/teammates/expansion/racism/etc), and general luck (e.g. sample sizes, improbable sequences).  In general, the sporting world often focuses on the first two.  People like accomplishment that are earned and love to despise those that are perceived not to be earned.  I think few actually rail on about luck except those of us who study the numbers and recognize how much we need of a sample to say something somewhat meaningful.

11 August 2011

Adam Jones: the second best defensive outfielder in the AL or the second worst?

Each year Baseball America polls every manager in the Majors and asks them who they think has the best tools.  The Orioles were able to notch two mentions in the lists with Matt Wieters being named the best defensive catcher and Adam Jones noted as the second best defensive outfielder in the American League.  The former should not be surprising if you read this blog, check the numbers, or listen to scouts.  Matt Wieters had some questions and his future was thought to be a catcher with a heavy emphasis on the bat with an average glove.  Instead, the bat has been relatively average while his defensive work has been incredibly impressive.  Jones' mention, however, should be a surprise as we often refer to him as ideally a left fielder.

Even though Adam Jones was ranked the second best defensive outfielder by skilled professionals, the probably are not the best professionals to ask.  I would like to say first that I very much respect and value what managers do.  Truthfully, few of us could actually competently manage a ball club for an entire season.  I think many would be capable of telling someone skilled at managing how a ball club should be run day-to-day and inning-by-inning, but a lot of running a club has to do with working with players and being able to communicate well with them.  Skills that make a good manager are not always exactly the skills you need to scout and evaluate players.  You will find managers who are good scouts, but the two are not interchangeable. 

In light of that, I wonder why Baseball America does not do something perhaps a bit more interesting.  Compare the tools rankings when different groups assess the players.  What do General Managers think?  How does that compare to Major League scouts?  Ditto for managers.  All three of these professions have skills that overlap to some degree, but their jobs do not require the skills needed for each.  General managers need the ability to negotiate value, recognize good evaluation, and have vision.  Scouts need to be able to recognize skill sets, potential, and to some extent put that on a monetary scale.  Managers need to be able to reason with and motivate players.  A few can do all three, but many cannot.  So, if I was interested in knowing who had the best tools . . . I'd ask the scouts.

I certainly do not discuss much with professional scouts, but the general take I seem to hear is that Adam Jones very good speed and an above average arm for centerfield.  He has the potential in sheer ability to be a great center fielder, but that he does not position himself well and does not immediately recognize the trajectory of a ball in flight.  This is not a consensus opinion.  I get the feeling a minority think that Jones is a center fielder, but that most think his defensive skills are fully baked and suggest a better fit in left field.  Again, this is not a consensus opinion.  Sometimes the minority is correct.

As more of a numbers guy, I am interested in defensive metrics.  Defensive metrics are notorious for there inability to competently measure defense on a season by season basis.  The metrics require more data points than that to be dependable.  It is fairly obvious that dividing a career by seasons makes intuitive sense, but is actually somewhat arbitrary.  I think two years is typically what people suggest, but I prefer three.  The difference is better repeatability.  The idea being if a statistic repeats its value it is more likely representative for the value of a skill.

Anyway, Adam Jones right now ranks second to last in UZR/150 (-11.1 runs), fifth to last in RZR (.912), and second to last in DRS (-7).  Over two seasons, Jones is third to last in UZR/150, middle of the pack for RZR, and fourth to last in DRS.  Over three seasons, fourth to last in UZR/150, a shade below middle of the pack for RZR, and average for DRS.  The statistics generally show that Jones is likely to be average or below average as a center fielder.  These stats alone, though, should not be something that completely convinces you one way or another to decisively declare a player inept or stellar in the field.

I think the key here is looking at the balance of the evidence at hand.  You have managers clamoring for Jones to be considered one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball.  You have many scouts thinking he might fit better in left field.  You also have defensive metrics that rate him anywhere from very poor to average.  To me, logically and ignoring my own evaluation, he appears to be somewhere around a second or third tier outfielder in terms of defense.  This begs the question: how are the managers so wrong?  Jones makes flashy plays and it may be that managers do not exactly view players the way a scout would.  As such, you remember what Jones does as opposed to what he does not do.  I may be wrong.  Statistics, particularly defensive ones, sometimes measure the wrong things.  Statistics are surrogates for measuring skill, they are not skills.

09 August 2011

Life After Andy MacPhail: Experienced Hands Outside of the Organization

Gerry Hunsicker
In the previous two posts, we considered potential General Manager candidates within the organization and those without GM experience, outside of the organization.  Our feeling is that Buck will have a great deal of say in who the next GM is as well as MacPhail having some infuence as well.  Ultimately, the final choice will need to be someone willing to let Buck dictate the organizational direction while being able to hand the day to day duties of a General Manager that Buck would be unable to do if he remained in the dugout.  There are several candidates that have GM experience and who might be interested in such an arrangement.

John Hart
Senior Adviser, Texas Rangers

Hart has accomplished a great deal in his time in Major League Baseball.  He moved up through the ranks with the Orioles in the 1980s as a minor league manager and a season as a third base coach.  He then flipped over to the Indians where he served as a scout and, for 19 games, the interim manager before being promoted to Director of Baseball Operations.  In the 1990s, he oversaw the Cleveland powerhouse teams that won 6 division titles and appeared twice in the World Series.  He was known at that time for the unusual approach of signing young players long term in order to keep their costs down while buying out free agent years at an assumed lower cost to the franchise.  In 2001, he flipped over to the Rangers and had an uneven record of success with them.  Him and Buck seem to get along together quite well and they may have a decent enough partnership to lead the team together.  I do think though that Hart would not want to be Buck's fixer and adhering to Buck's plan.  Hart's experience would also make him a good Angelos candidate as well.  My only hesitation comes from when he said during the 2010 draft that he would not think twice about drafting Machado ahead of Harper.  I thought that Harper at C, 3B, or RF was clearly a better prospect than Machadon and his ability to stick at shortstop.


Jerry DiPoto
Senior Vice President, Scouting and Player Personnel, Arizona Diamondbacks

You may remember Jerry DiPoto as a relief pitcher for the Indians, Mets, and Rockies back in the 90s.  In the past ten years he has made a quick charge from reliever to a scout in the Boston system to the Director of Scouting and Player Personnel with a short foray as an interim GM for the Diamondbacks.  He is known as a true baseball man and even though his GM tenure was quite short . . . it is anticipated he will returned to that level of management.  His biggest deal as an interim GM was getting Daniel Hudson along with a few other in exchange for Edwin Jackson.  That is pretty good.  With Buck remaining, DiPoto might be a good mix of being willing to listen to someone else's direction due to be being hungry to be a GM.

Wayne Krivsky
Special Assistant to the GM, New York Mets

I assume Krivsky is Sandy Alderson's details man...a sort of GM by function, but not by name.  Orioles fans may remember him best as Andy MacPhail's Special Assistant for the 2009 season.  They may also remember him for his love of Justin Turner.  Wherever Krivsky goes, Turner winds up there via trades or waiver acquisitions.  If MacPhail is part of the process, Krivsky makes the most sense as the two of them share a good relationship with each other.  Krivsky is also known for making smart trades such as acquiring Brandon Phillips for nothing and Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena.  He is also known for trading somewhat valuable commodities in Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals* for a few overworked bullpen arms in a misguided attempt to make the playoffs.  Hopefully, he learned from that mistake.  All things said, he is a very smart guy and is probably itching to get back to being a GM.  I think he would be willing to take on a role similar to MacPhail and would not bristle too much with Buck giving him organizational direction.

Gerry Hunsicker
Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations, Tampa Bay Rays

To be honest, I think Hunsicker is the next General Manager of the Rays.  I think the incredibly talented Andrew Friedman is going to be offered a great deal to take over the Houston Astros.  Friedman will then proceed to win there.  In the resulting void, the Rays will likely try to keep the current framework in place to remain successful.  I could also see them going after someone like A.J. Preller.  However, if Hunsicker is not valued as a GM, I think he would be excited to find opportunities elsewhere.  The reason I think highly of Hunsicker is that he truly appreciates the value of international talent acquisition.  As a GM of the Astros, he helped bring along their Venezuelan program which provided the team with a steady stream of talent (that they would then ship off for valuable veterans).  After being fired and joining the Rays, he scrabbled together some of his old hands in the Astros system and built the Rays Venezuelan effort as well as worked on starting up a Brazilian academy with Andres Reiner.  I think Hunsicker would make do with paying service to Buck while broadening out the Orioles acquisition of talent.  He would be a solid hire.

Allard Baird
Vice President, Player Personnel and Professional Scouting, Boston Red Sox

Some people think Baird was given a raw deal with the Kansas City Royals.  The David Glass ownership was incredibly tight fisted and certainly inhibited the way a team could be run.  However, Drayton "The Process" Moore has been able to develop the Royals farm system into the best in baseball.  Moore's MLB moves are just as confounding as Baird's was, but Moore's group does seem to value scouting appropriately.  That said, Baird is a smart guy and he interviews well.  He is highly experienced, can operate the team in a day-to-day fashion and is likely to put up with Buck calling the shots.  He is in the Red Sox system, so he must know something.  As an organizational type, he might be pleasing to Angelos.

How Would I Rank Them?

Gerry Hunsicker
John Hart
Jerry DiPoto
Wayne Krivsky
Allard Baird

The Orioles' weakness is development and getting enough talent into the system.  Hunsicker's experience will devoting resources to international talent pools is a known commodity.  It is also an area that Buck would have little insight in, giving Hunsicker a free hand.  The Orioles are also known to have issues with organizational personnel in the Dominican, but Hunsicker would likely have free reign in other countries that suit his strength.  Hart is appealing because a unified organization tends to be more successfully then several groups acting separately from one another.  DiPoto is at the break even point for me.  He has been a hard charger and hopefully the Peter Principle would not be in play for him.  Krivsky is interesting, but that reliever trade is the typical misevaluation.  Baird has shown me nothing from his tenure in Kansas City to suggest he is capable of building a winner under restrictions.

I think Hart and Krivsky are the two likely ones from this group to have consideration to replace MacPhail.  The one selected would be based on whoever had more power: Buck or MacPhail.  In future articles, I will go over the choice we see most likely one by one.


* In the original article, I accidentally named the Indians as opposed to the Nationals as the other team in the deal mentioned.

08 August 2011

Dempsey's Army Presents: Last Week in Chats (August 1 - August 8, 2011)

Mondays 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 chats down to their Oriole essence...

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

2:03 Comment From Boog Powell
Thoughts on the O's Uehara deal and failure to trade Lee and/or Kevin Gregg?

2:04 Jonah Keri: Um, they did trade Lee. but yeah, Gregg, Guthrie, there were other guys. Suspect there were fewer buyers willing to shell out real talent for fill-ins this year.


Jerry Crasnick, ESPN

Sam (Baltimore)
What did you think of the Os deal with Texas? Seems like we got two pretty good potentially good players for a flash in the pan middle reliever.

Jerry Crasnick (1:21 PM)
Sam, I can certainly live with it. Chris Davis has a lot of holes, but he's a pretty athletic kid and certainly has power. And Tommy Hunter, to me, is a decent back end of the rotation guy. I thought Andy MacPhail did just fine with that trade.


Dave Cameron, FanGraphs.com

12:00 Comment From daniel
Does Chris Davis' high strikeout rate, poor walk rate, and insane BABIP at .500 prevent him from being worth a waiver claim (only two claims left for me in my league) despite having the 1B job and 3B eligibility?

12:01 Dave Cameron:
I'd say that Davis is not likely to do particularly well in the majors, yes.

12:02 Comment From The Oriole Bird
Glad to see you here, Dave! Is there any data to back up the common knowledge that, other things constant, a team shouldn't have too many high-K players? Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds sure swing and miss a lot.

12:02 Dave Cameron:
The mid-90s Mariners struck out a lot too, but they scored a lot of runs anyway. Strikeouts aren't a problem in and of themselves. They are a problem if they cause your hitters to suck.


Dan Szymborski, FanGraphs.com

12:02 Comment From Zach Britton
there's no way I throw 40 pitches in the 1st inning and get pulled tonight v. the Royals, right?

12:02 Dan Szymborski:
The O's have reached that inevitable point of the season in which the wheels have come off and ALL things are possible. The Royals could probably sign Andy Abad, and he could no-hit the O's as a non-pitcher and I wouldn't be too surprised.

12:04 Comment From Stan the Caddy
What's your background Dan? What team are you a fan of?

12:04 Dan Szymborski:
Econ major, O's fan.

12:08 Comment From Paul D
I'm starting to think that the Blue Jays might have a chance... but the Orioles? Is there any help?

12:09 Dan Szymborski: Not with the ownership they have. A team in Baltimore's position can't be as confusedly conservative and risk-averse as they are. They just don't seem to relish high-upside plays.

12:14 Comment From Chris Davis
So exactly how long is my new orange and black leash? What happens in the offseason if I can't start making a little more contact?

12:15 Dan Szymborski:
The team kept playing Mark Reynolds, with crazy no-contact early and playing defense about as well as I would in the majors, so they'll probably give Davis every chance. It's not like the O's are overflowing with guys like Davis organizationally (is that a word?)

12:20 Comment From Louis
How do you continue to justify being an O's fan? There is nothing good about the organization (besides the Unis) and I don't see it changing for at least another decade. Every consider becoming a baseball agnostic?

12:21 Dan Szymborski:
Good pit beef. I'm not really the rah-rah sort anyway, I hope that someone reading my work wouldn't know what team I root for unless they already knew what team I rooted for.

12:28 Comment From Myles
I'm not a die-hard O's fan, but I see the trend of disappointing home-grown SP's, despite the fact that no one really raised a brow when they were drafted. What do you see as the biggest problem within their development process?

12:29 Dan Szymborski:
I can't exactly say why the O's particular pitchers have failed, but there's a pattern in the O's organization in which they seem to make decisions based on what they *want* a player to be rather than *what* the player is.

12:35 Comment From Matt Wieters
Will I ever be a truly worthwhile fantasy catcher? Where did my power go?

12:36 Dan Szymborski:
Well, he's *still* going to end up with 15 home runs or so. I know it's disappointing for Wieters to be merely an average catcher, but catchers have weird developmental curves.

12:48 Comment From Jimmy
I'll tell you what's wrong with the O's: Zach Britton has contributed more offensively than Vladimir Guerrero. True story.

12:48 Dan Szymborski:
I think I mentioned that on Twitter last week. At the time, Britton had more offensive WAR than Vlad *and* Lee combined.

12:55 Comment From steve
Thoughts on the Uehara trade?

12:56 Dan Szymborski:
I really liked it from the O's perspective - they don't really have a lot of great prospect depth and could use guys like that (if you still call them prospects). The Rangers are giving up a lot ofr their relief help, but they did at least get actual good relievers and they're in a competitive position where you *can* trade away future value without worrying to much.


Keith Law, ESPN

Luke (Baltimore)
Hearing anything on Nick Delmonico's signability for the O's as we approach Aug. 15?

Klaw (1:30 PM)
My take on him predraft is that he was headed for school.

dc (dc)
Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds on the same team. Thoughts?

Klaw (1:35 PM)
Is there a window open? I feel a breeze here.

Bill (CT)
Keith, it has been speculated that teams with GMs on the hot seat such as in Baltimore (McPhail) and Chicago (Hendry) that the reason such highly sought after pitchers such as Guthrie and Garza were not dealt at the deadline was so these teams could win a few more games down the stretch so that these GMs could some how save their jobs. Isn't this the reason why these teams haven't won in the first place? Short term veiw vs long term in terms of getting good prospects for these guys?

Klaw (1:57 PM)
Hendry, yes, although I've also heard that Ricketts promised him the 2012 season to turn things around (which would be so Cub-like if true). I keep hearing that MacPhail will step down after the year, so I don't see why he'd be motivated to win a few more games this year. He's not the type of guy to deliberately do something against the franchise's long-term interests just to let himself leave on a higher note.

Klaw (1:58 PM)
I should clarify what I'm hearing on MacPhail is not from him or from Baltimore sources, but from other FO guys around the game.

06 August 2011

Life After Andy MacPhail: Newcomers Outside of the Organization

Former O's Front Office Employee Scott Proefrock
Since our last piece on potential replacement for Andy MacPhail, we have seen a good deal of conjecturing and pulling for Buck Showalter to leave the dugout and climb the management ladder.  There are many who subscribe to the belief that Buck is an accomplished franchise builder as every team he has been fired from had appeared and/or won a World Series within five or so years after his termination.  If that is not convincing for you, there are many that wax on and on about how incredibly prepared Buck is for each game.  That nuanced day-to-day preparation may serve a front office well.  Of course, the skills that make one a good manager may not necessarily make one a good General Manager.  For instance, managers are typically skilled at getting specific short term objectives whereas General Managers require long term planning and vision.  Well, that is unless you get a sweetheart deal like Ruben Amaro where you can just blow through all of your resources to keep that window wide open.

Another option that would likely work well with Buck would be to hire a young up-and-coming GM prospect who can take care of the day-to-day front office tasks while Buck gives broad organizational directives from the dugout.  This certainly could be done and some argue it is exactly what is being done in St. Louis for better or worse.  St. Louis has won a World Series, but a great deal of luck and Albert Pujols helped that occur.  Anyway, here is a list of GM prospects outside of the organization.

Rick Hahn
Assistant GM, Chicago White Sox

What is there to say about Rick Hahn that has not been said already?  He has routinely been mentioned as the top GM candidate over the past three or four years by Sports Illustrated, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus.  It appears almost every year he is offered an interview by prominent organizations and either winds up backing out of interviews or being given better terms/responsibilities within the White Sox organization.  He essentially runs the White Sox with directives handed out by Kenny Williams, so one would have to wonder whether he would find the Orioles a good destination if he had to answer to Buck as well as finding himself having to compete with a stacked AL East.  I think he certainly would be someone who Angelos would like as Hahn is very competent with running organizational duties.

Dan Jennings
Vice President, Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager, Florida Marlins

Jennings has been rumored for GM positions for about ten years now.  Last year he was a finalist in the Mets opening before losing out to Sandy Alderson.  Jennings is known as being skilled at scouting and would probably complement Buck Showalter quite well.  As a long time Florida employee, he is also well aware of Joe Jordan.  If the Orioles want more continuity along with revamping the organization to be more efficient, Jennings might be that guy and Jordan might be a great help to him.  The weakness here though is that this leaves no one in the front office in control who has experience running the day-to-day operations of the team.  Buck would need someone who is well skilled to be able to turn deals that Buck cannot do while sitting in the dugout.  I do think Jennings would be an interesting choice.

A.J. Preller
Senior Director, Player Personnel, Texas Rangers

This is my hope.  Preller is a high energy, at-all-costs type of GM and is quickly climbing through the ranks.  An often recounted story is that Preller took up Spanish while working for the Rangers in order to more freely communicate with people in Latin America, strengthening the Rangers' ability to acquire talent there.  He often is compared to his boss Jon Daniels with the same major concern: he is too inexperienced.  However, he has been employed at a high level on the baseball operations side and has been given high marks for the last several years.  The Orioles could be a good launching pad for him.  If Buck could act more like a Nolan Ryan and give Preller the freedom to fit the system to Buck's ordered shape then it might be a good pairing.  With or without Buck, Preller would be my choice.

Tyrone Brooks
Director of Baseball Operations, Pittsburgh Pirates

Brooks is an alumni of the University of Maryland, so you have some local roots here.  He has spent a lot of time working in the scouting and personnel departments for the Braves, Indians, and the Pirates.  He is another young GM prospect (at 34, I think, he is a year older than Preller) who would be willing to cede power to Buck in exchange for the chance to more directly shape an organization.  Brooks' is most known for his effort in social networking.  In 2009, he founded the Baseball Industry Network which tries to connect those interested in baseball operations to find those opportunities.  He also fits the Buck mold well as he is directly involved in high level roster management, such as the Pirates deadline deals for Ludwick and Lee.  He could be the combination of new blood, communication, and front office operation skills to be a successful GM.

Scott Proefrock
Assistant General Manager, Philadelphia Phillies

This would be the choice that makes sense to me if Andy MacPhail is involved in the hiring process.  Proefrock was a member of MacPhail's front office for several years.  It seems he left to go to the Phillies only due to them offering him a position with more responsibilities.  Proefrock has cut his teeth some more with the Phillies and would come back to Baltimore with familiarity of the current system in place, but also with new ideas and honed skills to manage the franchise.  Additionally, Proefrock's experience has largely been high level operations and contract decisions.  He is more business oriented than baseball oriented, which is something that could pair well with Buck.

My Ranking of These Five?

A.J. Preller
Rick Hahn
Dan Jennings
Tyrone Brooks
Scott Proefrock

I think Preller is a special talent.  I think Hahn could run things smoothly and am willing to blame many of that organizations' mistakes on Kenny Williams' apparent shoot from the hip strategy.  I am intrigued by Jennings' experience in scouting and developing players with Florida as well as there being some continuity with Joe Jordan.  Trust me, Jordan is not great, but he certainly is not a problem in Baltimore.  Brooks is an interesting wild card.  I find that intriguing, but am at the point here where I'd begin looking elsewhere.  Finally, I am not sure whether Proefrock has the skills to diagnose the Orioles' problems and be able to fix them.  Outside of that, I'm not sure to what extent a guy who is great at nuts and bolts is going to do for the organization.

I think that Proefrock, Preller, and Jennings are all options here.  I think it would also be accurate to say that those options are in that order.

04 August 2011

Cup of jO's (August 4, 2011): Callis on Bundy/Bauer deals

Game Summary
Orioles 2, Royals 6
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore's quest for its first AL series win in almost two months will last at least one more night, as Jeremy Guthrie and the Birds fell to Kansas City 6-2. In what has become a frighteningly routine occurrence when Guthrie takes the hill, the Baltimore bats were nowhere to be seen, with just three runners reaching base after the third inning (two by hit and one by strikeout). Baltimore will look to Zach Britton to break his streak of "meh" starts tonight; he's opposite Jeff Francis. STATS LLC preview here.

Of interest....
Trevor Bauer became the first top 10 pick in the 2011 draft to ink a deal when he agreed to a Major League contract with a $4.45 million bonus and a structure that could allow him to earn over $7 million through its duration. Bauer, selected one pick before Orioles top pick Dylan Bundy, was this year's recipient of USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award, as well as Baseball America's Collegiate Player of the Year Award. At first glance, it would seem that Orioles fans should be pleased that an advanced college arm selected in front of Bundy received such a "reasonable" package. After all, it would follow that a lower pick, with a riskier developmental profile, would likely be looking at a slightly lesser deal, right? Wrong.

As we have pointed out a number of times here at the Depot, bonus comps are rarely used among draft picks, and are almost never used among draft picks from different cross-sections (college vs. high school, pitcher vs. position player, two-sport vs. one-sport, etc.). Baseball America's Jim Callis sums up the issue well in a discussion with MASN's Steve Melewski:

"Bauer is a college pitcher but a high school guy (like Bundy) has got more leverage...I don't think it's a great comp (comparing Bauer and Bundy), even though they were picked back to back...I am sure the Orioles would love to tell Dylan Bundy's representation, 'Hey, Bauer got $4.45 (million) guaranteed, so Dylan has to come in under that.' But I don't think the Orioles would try to make that argument and I think B.B.I. Sports Group (Bundy's representatives) would laugh at them if they did...MLB likes to act like these deals impact everybody else and they really don't. As agents tell me, this isn't arbitration like the comps there; it doesn't work that way."
In reality, these bonuses are generally not very difficult to figure out. As someone with some experience in the process, I have found that generally history wins out and history tells us 1) bonuses for a player type are unlikely to improve be more than 40-50%, and only by that much in the rarest of circumstances, and 2) Andy MacPhail and the Orioles are unlikely to negotiate a record breaking deal.

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg were back-to-back "generational" players who received total packages topping anything previously handed out. Those record breaking deals topped their closest comp (for Strasburg, college arm David Price; for Harper, high school position player Donavan Tate) by around 50%. Using that as a general guide, we set Bundy's "max" deal at around $10 million, or right around 50% more that high school arms Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello received. In reality, Bundy is not a "generational" talent -- that is, he doesn't stand easily above his contemporaries, as far as scouting profiles are concerned. Accordingly, we put his expected bonus close to either what Porcello earned: around $3.5 million guaranteed and a Major League deal worth upwards of $7 million, or what Jameson Taillon earned as the top high school arm in last year's draft: $6.5 million in bonus money and a Minor League deal.

Inflation might bring those numbers up some -- let's bump the window to $7.0 to 8.0 million. Baltimore's sensitivity to slot suggestions, or more accurately not outdistancing early slot projections by to wide a margin, could cause this number to fall some. Additionally, the Orioles have proven to be shrewd negotiators willing to draw a line in the sand when they have determined that a player is incentivized to sign and they have made what they consider to be a fair offer.

Historically, the largest Major League deal Baltimore has given to a high school pitcher is Adam Loewen's 2002 Major League deal that included about $3.5 million in bonus and another $800 thousand in guaranteed salary. Baltimore's most recent 1st Round high school arm Matt Hobgood received $2.4 million and a Minor League deal as the fifth overall selection in 2009. It's safe to say that any Major League deal signed by Bundy will eclipse $800 thousand in salary given to Loewen and likely that the bonus will improve -- if only nominally -- over the $3.5 million offered to Loewen.

While Bundy has leverage as high schooler with the option of going to college and re-entering the draft, that leverage is limited due to: 1) the risk associated with playing as an amateur for three more seasons before being able to declare again (he is a Texas commit and four-year college players must wait until their junior year, or the year in which they are 21 within 45 days of the draft), 2) the uncertainty as to how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement might change the draft landscape (including instituting slot bonuses for 1st Rounders), and 3) the fact that he has very little room to improve as a top 5 talent in 2011.

Risk 1 can be avoided by retracting his commitment to Texas and enrolling in a junior college, as junior college players are eligible for the draft each year, regardless of age or standing. Risk 2 has not come into play with the negotiated deals to which I have been privy this summer, though the risk is much larger for a top 5 pick looking at seven figures than it is to a 3rd or 4th Rounder receiving mid-six figures and about 5% over slot recommendation. The final risk is the largest, and ultimately negates any perceived leverage Bundy has.

While it's true that Bundy could go to a junior college and re-enter next year as a favorite to go 1st overall, that choice carries with it risk of injury, change in draft slot structure and the risk of under-performance. The latter is the hardest to drum home to players and their families, as most top talents have difficulty envisioning struggling.

So where do we end up? The lower threshold for bonus/ML deal package is probably around $6.5 million -- what Jameson Taillon received as the top pick last year. The upper threshold is probably around $8 million -- about a 14% improvement on the total ML package received by Porcello. When discussing this signing with two National League evaluators, the consensus was that Bundy would receive a ML deal due to his advanced profile, with a bonus likely in the $3.5-4 million range and salary structure bringing the total haul to $7 million. Whether Baltimore keeps the number slightly under that or Bundy pushes the number upwards of $8 million will depend on a myriad of factors, the most important of which is probably as simple as who blinks first on the eve of August 15th.

03 August 2011

2011 Trade Deadline: Koji Uehara, reality vs. possibility (Part 2)

In Part 1 of our look at the Koji Uehara deal, we broke down Baltimore's haul (Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis). In Part 2, we will take a closer look at each of our suggested deals for Uehara, provide some more indepth analysis of the players we were targeting and finally compare our hauls with Baltimore's actual get.

The possibilities...
Detroit Tigers
Our suggested packages:



  1. Chance Ruffin (rhp, Tigers - ML) and Drew Smyly (lhp, Lakeland - AA)

  2. Andy Oliver (lhp, Toledo - AAA) and Drew Smyly
Whether you prefer option 1 or option 2 depends on whether you prefer a good relief arm that could be stretched out to start, or a potential solid starter that could be good in relief. I lean to to the Chance Ruffin package, as it gives you a "now" bullpen arm that can step into the 6th/7th inning and push everyone else back an inning. Eventually I expect Ruffin to be a late-inning guy if he stays in the pen. There is a chance he grows into a mid-rotation arm if stretched out.

Scouting Summarys (Ruffin and Smyly):
Ruffin is a slightly undersized righty that showed four pitches as both a starter and a closer at the University of Texas. He has pitched exclusively in relief for the Tigers, logging just 45 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before being promoted last week. You can find some of my scouting video on Ruffin here.

At UT, Ruffin generally sat 90-92 mph with his fastball and has bumped that to 91-94 mph this summer. There is some armside life and he has shown an ability to spot it to both sides of the plate. His slider is a wipeout offering at its best, coming with tilt and late bite (generally low-80s velo). Though he hasn't shown them often as a pro, Ruffin also has an 11-to-5 curve and a change-up in his repertoire. The curve doesn't have great depth, but when he snaps a good one its tight and can change the eye-level of the hitter. His change is undeveloped, and stands as the biggest hurdle to converting to a starter.

His armslot is true three-quarters, and the arm action is fairly clean. He'll flash the ball to hitters on the backside, but the ill effects are minimal since his slider and fastball grip are not easily discernable. If he were to fold a change-up in the mix more often, he may need to address this.

Ruffin is a potential late-inning arm with closer stuff if he can continue to grow his fastball and slider command. Even if he does not make the conversion to starter, it would be nice to see him drop his curveball from time to time, as it could be another putaway pitch and at minimum would give him a true change-of-pace offering.

Smyly was a 2nd Round selection in the 2010 draft and has spent the bulk of 2011 in Lakeland (A+), where he averaged 8.6 SO/9 and 3.67 SO/BB. He has made one start at Double-A Erie, tossing seven shutout innings while striking out eight and allowing just six baserunners (four via hit, two via walk).

Long and lean, Smyly's strength is his ability to change speeds and create tough angles with his long limbs. His fastball vacillates between 87 and 92, sitting most comfortably 89-91 mph with solid bore. His curve works well out of a high slot and is an above-average to plus pitch when he's hitting his release. Smyly has made strides with his change-up, which was fringy at best at Alabama and likely tops out as an average offering when all is said and done.

Smyly's high arm slot and long arms helps to produce excellent plane on each of his offerings, and makes him very difficult to square-up. His landing could be softened some, particularly on his curve which he has a tendency not to finish. He'll come across his body some, as well, but all in all there is a lot to like about his easy motion and release.

Smyly could be a mid-rotation arm with continued improvement in his secondaries. His easy motion has allowed him to locate well -- even with inconsistent off-speed stuff -- and he offers enough physical projection that you could dream on another uptick in velo, as well.

Conclusion:
Ruffin - Potential late inning arm, Major League ready, could handle late-inning work by 2012.
Smyly - Potential mid-rotation starter, Double-A in 2012, could be ML ready by late 2012/early 2013.


Texas Rangers
Our suggested packages:



  1. Robbie Erlin (lhp, Frisco - AA; Note: traded to San Diego, now San Antonio - AA)

  2. Mike Olt (3b, Myrtle Beach - A+)

  3. Jordan Akins (of, Rangers - Rookie) and Justin Grimm (rhp, Myrtle Beach - A+)
I ranked Mike Olt as a 3rd Round talent last spring, and the Rangers nabbed him in the Supplemental-1st Round, ultimately singing him for an affordable $715,000. In his first taste of pro ball he has improved his contact rate and his defense, while continuing to show good power. Still, at 22 years old in HiA, I have enough concerns about his probability to prefer the safety of option 1 or the disbursed risk of option 3. While option 3 may ultimately provide the highest upside, it probably makes more sense to focus on talent closer to contributing with the current "core" in place at Baltimore. That leaves Robbie Erlin as our suggested package with the Rangers.

Scouting Summarys (Erlin):
Robbie Erlin split his 2011 summer in the Rangers system between Myrtle Beach (A+) and Frisco (AA), before being moved to the Padres system as part of the Mike Adams trade. Erlin is undersized for a starter, listed at just 6-foot, 175-pounds, but possesses the arsenal and command to eventually land him in the middle of a Major League rotation. He has consistently hit a BB/9 rate around 1.0 as he's progressed through the Minors, while posting a career SO/9 rate over 9.0 through 246 innings (never dipping below 8.7 at any level).

His arsenal is lead by an upper-80s to low-90s fastball that tops around 92 mph -- an average offering that plays up because of Erlin's surgical placement. His secondaries consist of an upper-70s hard 1-to-7 breaker that flashes plus and is consistently and average or better offering, and a mid-70s change with fade and late drop. Both his breaking ball and change-up could be true plus offerings when all is said and done, and at minimum the diminutive lefty should boast three average or better weapons with easy plus to plus-plus command.

Erlin's mechanics are minimalist and clean, with excellent pacing, a short arm circle and consistent timing and release. He throws out of a high-three-quarters slot, giving his pitches some angle in spire of his size. With one of the prettiest motions you will find, there is little doubt that Erlin will continue to place pitches to the quadrants, which will help him make the necessary adjustments at Triple-A and eventually with the big club in San Diego.

Though he won't light up radar guns, Erlin is a strike thrower with two potential plus offerings in his curve and change-up, who shows elite command of all of his offerings and an advanced approach to pitching. He works with a purpose on the mound and will be providing valuable innings at the Major League level sooner rather than later. He tops out as a #3, but is a good bet to get there.

Conclusion:
Erlin - Potential mid-rotation starter, Triple-A in 2012, could be ML ready by early 2012.

Philadelphia Phillies
Our suggested packages:


  1. Jonathan Singleton (1b, Lakeland - A+; Note: traded to Houston, now Lancaster - A+)

  2. Brody Colvin (rhp, Lakeland - A+)
Jonathan Singleton was included in the Hunter Pence deal, along with fellow Lakeland prospect and Futures Game participant Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid (Reading - AA), and thus is highly unlikely to have been available to land a relief arm. Similarly, it seems unlikely Philly would unload Brody Colvin after already moving one third of the Lakeland Trio (Cosart, Colvin and Trevor May). Accordingly, we aren't going to dig into the details on Singleton or Colvin...yet. Check in tomorrow, as we'll be writing up two larger deals potentially available to Baltimore -- one of which could have netted Colvin, Singelton and more.

Conclusion:
Neither suggested package likely available for Uehara.


Pittsburgh Pirates
Our suggested packages:


  1. Zach Von Rosenberg (rhp, West Virginia - A)

  2. Starling Marte (of, Altoona - AA) and Brooks Pounders (rhp, West Virginia - A)

  3. Starling Marte and Jeff Locke (rhp, Altoona - AA)
None of the players listed above ended-up moved this past weekend. Further, Pittsburgh's acquisition of Derrek Lee (see yesterday's Cup of jO's) and Ryan Ludwick in exchange for organizational filler indicates that while the Bucs are still taking 2011 seriously, they aren't going to sacrifice any significant future pieces for a one year push. That leaves us dubious that any of the above would seriously be shopped for a relief arm. There were rumors that the Pirates were in on some of the big arms floating around, but we are comfortable striking them from consideration given what actually transpired at the deadline.

Conclusion:
Unlikely to move suggested players for Uehara.


Settling on our deal...
After narrowing our search and providing details on our targets, we are left with two potential packages for Uehara:


  1. Uehara to the Tigers for Chance Ruffin and Drew Smyly

  2. Uehara to the Rangers for Robbie Erlin
Saying this, we of course note that there is no guarantee that the Tigers or the Rangers would have agreed to these terms. It is our best estimation based on our own player evaluation, our analysis of what transpired at the deadline, and our analysis of the needs of all teams involved.

Erlin was moved to San Diego along with fellow Double-A arm Joe Wieland in exchange for relief pitching. Wieland's growth in 2011 puts him closer to Erlin in "value" now than he was at the beginning of the season, and it is not a stretch to think that had Baltimore pushed for Erlin they could have received him.

All signs indicate that Ruffin is to be the "player to be named later" in the deal that brought Doug Fister and David Pauley over from Seattle. With Francisco Martinez anchoring that trade from the Detroit side, it's certainly possible that the Tigers could have found another player -- perhaps Andy Oliver -- to include in the Seattle package. Further, the Tigers would have had no need for Pauley with Koji in pocket, so perhaps no player would have been needed to sub into that deal at all.

The benefit of the Detroit deal is two-fold: 1) you get back two pieces, each of which could be above-average Major Leaguers, and 2) you get a ready replacement for Uehara in the pen. The benefit of the Texas deal is the high-probability that Erlin will find success, given his command and approach. With the Orioles's influx of young arms in place and recently stumbling at the Major League level, and with many of them struggling in particular with command, the thought of adding a 1 BB/9 arm to the mix at some point next year is too good to pass on. Both packages are good value for Koji, but if we make the call we go with Erlin.

Camden Depot suggested trade:
Koji Uehara (rhp, ML) to Texas Rangers
Robbie Erlin (rhp, AA) to Baltimore Orioles

It's a toss-up whether we like Erlin more, less, or about the same as the Tommy Hunter/Chris Davis package actually received. There is big upside in Davis's bat and Hunter has already shown success as a starter and reliever in the pitcher-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. It will be interesting to compare these three over the next four years and revisit this post once everything shakes out.

Next up:
Did Baltimore miss the boat on a potential blockbuster? Another two part series exploring a few deals larger in structure and centered on two different O's.

Cup of jO's (August 3, 2011): Britt answers on Pie's antics

Game Summary
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Alfredo Simon shut down the Royals over seven innings, walking just one run on four hits and a walk. Tommy Hunter, acquired in the Koji Uehara deal, made his first appearance with the club, allowing two singles and a run. Chris Davis hit his first homerun as an Oriole, allowing an Everrett Teaford fastball to travel deep on the outer half before muscling it out to the opposite field. It was a good night all around for the Birds, who take a step towards winning their first AL series since the first week of June. Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound tonight opposite former 1st Rounder Luke Hochevar; you can check out the STATS LLC game preview here.

Of interest....
Last week Jon touched on Felix Pie's peculiar habit of chasing down batting helmets tossed during walk off celebrations. Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com asked Felix about this ritual and reported her findings at Britt's Bird Watch:


“It’s a touchdown,” Pie said of grabbing the helmet in celebratory glee. “It’s like we scored a touchdown.”
Makes perfect sense to me. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see a few more touchdown celebrations in 2011. When we do, make sure to keep your eye on #18.

01 August 2011

Cup of jO's (August 1, 2011): Derrek Lee dump

Game Summary
Orioles 2, Yankees 4
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore dropped the final game of the series to the Bombers and finish the AL East portion of their road trip with a 2-5 record against Toronto and New York. The Birds round out July without winning a single series and have now gone almost two months since winning a series against an AL opponent. They were outscored 33-10 in the Bronx.

Next up is Kansas City -- Alfredo Simon will toe the rubber opposite former Oriole Bruce Chen on Tuesday night in the opening game of a three-game set.

Of interest...
In addition to trading stopper Koji Uehara this past weekend, Derrek Lee was moved to Pittsburgh in exchange for first baseman Aaron Baker, a 23-year old org bat who has spent 2011 in the A-Advanced Florida State League. Baker has a tick above-average raw pop and a thick frame portending impressive batting practice displays. His bat speed is merely "okay", and it's unlikely he amounts to more than an organizational piece capable of playing a solid first base and providing average production until he runs into advanced arms.

While the return is nominal, no one really expected a haul for the veteran Lee, who has struggled through a disappointing 2011 posting a triple-slash line of .246/.302/.404 over 364 plate appearances. At the same time, Orioles fans have much to celebrate with this transaction. With a tip of the hat to Mr. Lee for serving his sentence in Charm City, and best wishes as he departs for a NL Central pennant race as the second newest member of the Bucs (Pittsburgh subsequently acquired Ryan Ludwick from the Padres), Baltimoreans can take away two big positives from the former All-Star's departure.

First and foremost, this signals that Andy MacPhail and the brain trust coordinating the personnel decisions appear to truly be dedicated to giving Chris Davis every chance to get comfortable and show what he has as a starting first baseman. This was a large concern following the Uehara deal, as noted in Part 1 of our Koji trade analysis, and it is terrific news that the organization is going to make at least a two month commitment to figuring out whether or not Davis looks like a future contributor.

Secondly, Baltimore should be saving a little over one million dollars once cash considerations on the Lee deal are taken into account. Hopefully we will see that saved money funneled into draft signings. It would be a nice chunk of change to tack on to the offer to Georgia commit Nicky Delmonico (3b, Farragut HS, Knoxville, Tenn.) or enough to sign TCU outfielder Jason Coats outright (with some jingle left over). Of course, it's possible that the freed-up cash is required to meet 1st Rounder Dylan Bundy's immense asking price, but with plenty of other troubles in Birdland we prefer to remain positive. Here's to looking back on August 16th and fondly remembering when Mr. MacPhail was able to move Derrek Lee for an org bat and an overslot signing or two.

Note: We will not be running a "possibilities" piece on the Lee deal. Baltimore achieved a solid salary dump -- little more needs to fleshed out here. We will discuss Koji a bit more today (promise) and will also share some thoughts on what, if any, other moves would have been nice to see prior to yesterday's 4pm Eastern trade deadline.

31 July 2011

2011 Trade Deadline: Koji Uehara, reality vs. possibility (Part 1)

In our last discussion of Koji Uehara we laid out some potential suitors and target packages we would expect attainable in exchange for one of the top relievers this summer. Between then and now, Koji was shipped off to the Texas Rangers for two reasonably young players ready to step in at the Major League level -- Chris Davis (cof/cif) and Tommy Hunter (rhp). Below we'll examine this return. This afternoon we will finish with our analysis as to what we would have liked to have seen done, as relates to Uehara.

Reality: Koji for Davis and Hunter
The trade package that Andy MacPhail landed ends up a very solid return from a value standpoint. Baltimore sold high on a mid-30s relief arm with one more year of control ready to vest ($4 million) and obtained two mid-20s talents with no need for any more time in the Minors. My assumption is that the deal was structured around Uehara for Hunter, with Baltimore pushing for Davis's inclusion and Texas agreeing in exchange for the O's picking-up $2 million of Koji's 2012 salary. The $2 million is not insignificant in this context, but even as a fringe-average ML bat Davis will be worth more than that over his next four seasons under control.

Chris Davis (corner infield/corner outfield)
Most prospect enthusiasts are well aware that Davis's calling card is his elite raw power, which grades as a 75/80 on the scouting scale. The issue comes in trying to get that raw power to manifest in Major League game action, as he's long to contact with a max effort swing. This forces Davis to commit early to pitches and has lead to far too many empty swings chasing off-speed pitches at the Big League level. If Davis can make some adjustments and shorten his swing, he should see a decrease in strikeouts, which in turn should give him extra contact opportunities to get his power involved. There is Mark Reynolds upside, but it is going to take just short of an overhaul in approach and swing. As a secondary piece to the deal, this is a fine risk, but the odds are against Davis until he proves he has the ability to start making adjustments.

Defensively, Davis has soft hands at first base, and enough athleticism to fill in at a corner outfield spot or even at third. While his athleticism gives him enough flexibility to move around some, his best fit is at the three spot, and it seems unlikely he tops out at more than a fringe average defender in the other three corners.

Tommy Hunter (rhp)
Hunter is an established back-end starter with five more years of control before he can leave via free agency. Not a bad start, eh? In fact, that alone is certain "enough" return on Koji to make this a smart deal. Hunter is a big, durable body with an easy arm and uncomplicated motion. His fastball lives in the 89-92 range, but can bump as high as 96 mph when he's reaching back for it. He'll drop an upper-70s breaker for a different look, he commands the solid average pitch well enough. His change-up is also a legit average Major League offering, and when he turns it over he gets some fade.

While Hunter boasts a true average arsenal and commands each of his three offerings, his ceiling is limited due to his lack of a true out pitch and a corresponding inability to miss bats. Baltimore is hoping for a durable innings-eater that consistently will get them 6 or 7 innings a start. With continued growth we could see Hunter put together a season or two of legit #3 production, placing him on par with the likes of Jake Arrieta from a "value" standpoint. All-in-all a nice arm to have under control for the next four seasons, and someone that will hopefully provide some stability at the #4 spot while Baltimore waits for Matusz, Britton and perhaps Tillman and Arrieta to take a step forward.

Final thoughts
It is impossible to look at the deal and consider it a loss for the O's. In return for a relief arm with no real role in the club's future, Baltimore landed two 25 year olds -- one with a bit of upside and not a lot of probability, and the other likely to be a solid contributor but not much more than that. Further, adding $2 million to the deal is a no brainer if it gets you back Davis. It is another strong value package landed by MacPhail and another feather in his "good trade" hat.

The biggest challenge for Baltimore is going to be not falling into bad habits moving forward. While the return for the deal is solid, much of it is negated if Baltimore turns around and commits another $5-7 million per year on a two or three year deal for more relief pitching this off-season. Further, the Orioles can't approach developing Davis the same way that they have Nolan Reimold. Davis needs to play and the Orioles need to see what they have in the once promising slugger. Considering the monster year Davis has had at Triple-A Round Rock, it would behoove Buck Showalter to slide Davis right into the recently vacated hole at first base (discussion of the Derreck Lee trade to follow) and see where things stand come October.

Our preferred return for Koji would have been a more forward thinking package, sacrificing some proximity to the Majors for additional upside. One of Davis or Hunter and one higher upside talent, further away, would have been a boon. The same, this is hardly a package to be disappointed in. Hopefully the pro scouts pushing for Davis have identified what they would like fixed, and the Orioles end-up with two two 30-35 homerun run bats at the infield corners in 2012.

In a bit we'll post our suggested trade packages for Koji and provide some more info on the players we were hoping to see come back to the Birds.