10 January 2012

Jorge Posada, Wally Schang, Jason Varitek, and Chris Hoiles

With Jorge Posada retiring, I wondered how his numbers stack up against the all-time greats.  The easiest and perhaps most effective way to do this is simply to look at the career WAR of a player. 

Every catcher who has been eligible for the Hall of Fame and has a higher WAR than Posada has made it.  Those above him fall into three basic tiers.  You have the best catchers ever according to WAR (66.3-71.3; Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and a not yet eligible Ivan Rodriguez).  The second tier includes one player (Yogi Berra) at 61.3, but will soon include Mike Piazza at 59.1.  The third tier (50.3-54.4) has three players: Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, and Gabby Harnett.  All of these players have been or will be awarded with a place in the Hall.

What is interesting to me though is that Posada comes next at 44.9 during his 17 years playing and is basically equal to the following players: Wally Schang (43.8 during 19 years), Thurmon Munson (43.4 during 11 years), and Bill Freehan (43.3 during 16 years).  All four of these players share one thing in common: none are in the Hall of Fame.  The BBWA elected Roy Campanella in with a 36.2 WAR and the Veteran's committee voted in Ernie Lombardi (39.0), Rick Ferrell (22.9), and Ray Schalk (22.6).  Lombardi fits on the list right at 16th below Joe Mauer and Darrell Porter.  Campanella comes in at 18th right after Jason Kendell. Ferrell is 36th right behind Jason Varitek and Schalk is 41st right behind Ramon Hernandez.

This leaves a question as to whether or not Jorge Posada deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  If he enters, he certainly will be a lower tier HOFer.  The players after him appear to be all questionable.  Why?  The three Posada is basically tied to have not been admitted.  There has been a bit of discussion about Munson, but I have never heard anyone make the effort for Wally Schang.  For me the sizable difference between the third tier run at 50.3 and Posada at 44.9 appears great enough to make that a line in the sand.  The Hall of Fame is full of arbitrary considerations though and I typically do not care one way or another what happens.  However, we can certainly say Posada was not one of the greatest catchers ever and I doubt anyone was claiming that anyway.

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As mentioned earlier, Jason Varitek comes in as the 35th ranked catcher with a 23.0 WAR over 15 years.  At 34th with 23.4 WAR over 10 years is Oriole Chris Hoiles.  I have always thought of Varitek as a very good catcher and Hoiles as a notch below.  It appears that I underestimated Hoiles as he put together as valuable numbers as Varitek with 5 less years to play.  That is pretty exceptional.  Without his career ending injury, his bat (never failing) would have put him in Posada territory.  Yes, there are many assumptions here.  However, I think if he was able to catcher 20% more games during his established career his number would be around 28 WAR.  His bat was good enough to pass by at first base on those awful turn of the century Os teams, so maybe he is able to play another six years with a 2 WAR average.  That would put him in at 40 WAR.  My point simply is that outside of the injury, Hoiles was actually heading toward performance on a Posada like level and by that I mean Hoiles was a good catcher and Posada was a good catcher with health.  Neither were exceptional, but both should be remembered.

09 January 2012

Adam Jones' Potential

Well, this site is becoming Adam Jones Depot.  This past week Dave Cameron wrote an article on Adam Jones titled "Adam Jones, Unfinished."  The timing is right with such an article because there is a great deal of disagreement out there on Jones' current and future worth.  At the Depot, we tend to think of Jones as a promising left fielder while many professional view him as a promising center fielder.  I think that distinction is worth about 3-5 MM each season.  To me that means the Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado deal is about a lower top 100 prospect away from being an even deal or two lower top 100 prospects if you think Jones really is a center fielder.  However, there has been a great deal of backlash from the Braves followers that Jones is not Prado's equal, which seems to be a bit of hyperbole.  Many who follow the Depot appear to be fine with a Jones for Jurrjens deal, which I think is also problematic.

Cameron's article tried to suss out part of Jones' value: his potential.  This was done by making a:
a list of all player seasons from the last 10 years where the hitter was 25 or younger, swung at 50% or more of the pitches they were thrown, and posted an ISO of at least .150 (to eliminate the middle infielders and catchers who are simply in the sport for their glovework). This group is essentially a collection of athletic players who got to the show based on their physical skills, but showed a significant lack of polish early in their career.
This produced 24 players who are rather interesting with respect to their future performance.  So 14 of the 24 players listed are useful regulars or better.  Nine star level players are in the group, including Matt Kemp and Adrian Beltre.  Five good players come in the next tier, which includes Hunter Pence.  Nick Faleris has actually compared the Pence deal to what the Orioles should expect for Jones if he is dealt to a team who sees him as a center fielder.  The tradeoff being Pence's average for Jones' center field.  That trade involved Pence and cash to the Phillies for Jonathan Singleton (top 25/50 1B prospect), Jared Cosart (top 100 pitching prospect), Domingo Santana (raw power OF), and Josh Zeid (maybe middle reliever).  That deal is similar to what has been mentioned on the Depot as a potential trade framework of a top 25, 50, and 100 prospects for Jones.  I would say that Jones currently skirts the role player/good player level.  With respect to the Braves package, I would call both Jurrjens and Prado are role players.

I do find Cameron's method a bit crude, but it is a useful exercise.  The idea is to look over the entire cloud of possibilities and recognize that the tools Adam Jones flashes are tools that may take time to package together.  Torii Hunter didn't learn how to take a walk until he was 27.  Dale Murphy doubled his walk rate at age 26.  This made me wonder what exactly is a decent projection for Adam Jones over the next three years (his two years of arbitration and one free agent year, which would be a good idea for an extension).

I used selected all players from 1961 to 2008 who by the end of the age 25 year had at least 1500 plate appearances, an on base percentage less than .330, an isolated slugging greater than .140, a batting average greater than .260, and an OPS+ less than 110.  This results in the following list of players: Tony Horton, Rich Gedman, Tim Wallach, Dale Murphy, Larry Parrish, Lance Parrish, George Hendrick, Rocco Baldelli, Cliff Floyd, Juan Samuel, Carlos Lee, J.J. Hardy, Stephen Drew, Juan Encarnacion, Zoilo Versalles, Aramis Ramirez, and Juan Uribe.  Due to the special circumstances surrounding Horton's and Baldelli's health, I removed them from the list as an outlier.  Adam Jones, according to batting runs, would rank 10th out of 17 on this list.  Batting runs does not consider position, so it is a good representation of the worth of a bat outside of any context.  Jones, of course, would be worth more when his bat is combined with a glove that can cover center field.  Using rWAR, Jones is the second highest rated player in this group.

What I am interested in for each player is how his batting average, walk rate, strikeout rate, and isolated power changed from his 25 and under years to his 26-28 years.  Those differences may then be able to inform us as to what we could expect from Adam Jones.  The follow are how certain metrics change from those two data sets for each individual in those data sets:
On Base Percentage = 4.7 +/- 10.8 %
Isolated Power = 6.9 +/- 24.2 %
Batting Average = 1.1 +/- 10.9 %
Walk Rate = 26.5 +/- 26.9 %
Strikeout Rate = -0.7 +/- 19.3 %
What is interesting is that as a group, there was basically improvement across the board.  This included marginal improvements for on base percentage and isolated power, but also a substantial improvement in walk rate.  Adam Jones is likely to improve and is pretty much certain not to walk any less.  It also is informative that although walk rate improve drastically, it does not greatly improve on base percentage.  This illustrates how poorly this group earns walks during their under 26 years.

What do the future Adam Jones' lines look like?  The following are three lines.  The first line is if Jones meets the 85th percentile for each metric, the second is if he hits the 50th percentile for each, and the final is if he hits the 15th percentile for each.  I am unsure how linked the metrics are, so obviously these lines do not mean Jones has a 15% chance to be great or a 15% chance to be unplayable.  The range of performance is likely to be far narrower around the 50th percentile line here.

85th: 308/369/520; 18 WAR; ~80MM
50th: 278/334/451; 11 WAR; ~50MM
15th: 248/300/382; 4.5 WAR; ~21MM
As you can see, Jones profiles as a solid center fielder over the next three years and that has a lot of worth.  The key to Jones becoming a superstar involves one of two paths.  The Aramis Ramirez path is thought of as the more likely one and that is to experience a massive improvement in making not only contact, but meaningful contact with the baseball.  He increased his batting average by 17% with a 50% increase in his ISO, decreased his strikeouts by 36%, and also manage to eek up his meager walk rate by 31%.  The second path is the Dale Murphy path, which is to drastically improve your walk rate (47%). Carlos Lee actually managed to up his 71%.  To boil it down, Jones needs to see a significant increase in making meaningful contact and either increase contact in general or improve his ability to earn walks.  The paths are not common, but certainly are not rare.  At worst, Jones is someone over the next three years is a marginal all star.

Now, if you are the Orioles and thinking of an extension, then you would likely look to offer something in the neighborhood of a three years for 40MM deal or a four years for 55MM.  That would cover two years of arbitration and one or two of free agency. 
If you are the Orioles looking to trade Jones...then you are certainly asking for more than Jurrjens and Prado.

A final note: this of course is a statistical exercise using an informed selection process to predict performance and should be treated as such.

03 January 2012

Trading Adam Jones: AL East Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This fourth part will focus on packages from AL East teams.

Boston Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts, 3B
Sean Coyle, 2B
Anthony Renaudo, RHP

Jacoby Ellsbury.  Next.

New York Yankees
Dellin Betances, RHP
Mason Williams, CF
Manuel Banuelos, LHP

Curtis Granderson.  Next.

Tampa Bay Rays
Alex Torres, LHP
Chris Archer, RHP
Drew Vettleson, RF

I find it doubtful that the Rays would deal out one high priced center fielder (B.J. Upton) and plug in another high priced center fielder.

Toronto Blue Jays
Jake Marisnick, CF
Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Justin Nicolino, LHP

Marisnick is one of my favorite prospects.  During our 2009 shadow draft, I pestered Nick to select him probably more than deserved.  Everything he does is above average.  His contact, his power, his speed, his defense, and his arm.  No tool stands out as plus to me, but the package is an excellent prospect and one who could roam center for the Orioles in 2014.  The Blue Jays tinkered with Sanchez and worked on his control.  He has room for growth and works steady in the low 90s with a curve ball that flashes plus.  He is several years out, but looks like a 2 slot pitcher.  Nicolino is another prospect who is several years out, but he shows a fringe plus fastball and a fringe plus change up.  He projects to be a middle rotation pitcher.

Conclusion

None of these deals are good enough and three of the potential trade partners would likely have no interest in Jones.  Toronto has a large number of interesting pieces, but very few of them are show ready.  I could see a Travis Snider being added to the above deal to provide some 'now' value.  Going through the teams so far, I still think the Braves and maybe the Giants match up the best.

29 December 2011

Trading Adam Jones: NL West Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This third part will focus on packages from NL West teams.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Tyler Skaggs, RHP
Matt Davidson, 1B/3B
A.J. Pollock, LF

The is likely just a simple exercise.  Chris Young mans center for the Diamondbacks.  He is, of course, a good center fielder.  Backing him up now is Gerrard Parra, who should be a starting centerfielder on a first division club or a starting left fielder on a second division club.  Adam Jones is just not a player of need for them.

Colorado Rockies
Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kent Mathes, LF

Dexter Fowler is the Rockies' starting CF.  His defense is less than impressive and Jones might be an upgrade.  Jones' offensive production is also slightly greater than what Fowler is capable of.  This package delivers a top notch pitcher, a replacement in center field with some potential upside, and a left fielder who has a slight chance to turn into something special.  Pomeranz was acquired from the Indians and has a 2 slot ceiling.  He throws in the low 90s with a plus curveball.  He spent some time in the Majors last year, but could be served with some time in AAA.  However, he may be one of those lefties whose stuff is so good and polished that the Minors are just not enough to challenge him to get better.  This is similar to the issue with Matusz as he can take care of AAA hitters, but has troubles at the Major League level.  Fowler has three years of control left and profiles as Adam Jones light.  He does not have the raw power Jones has, but is able to use his speed on the base paths to work extra base hits.  Kent Mathes is a prospect who has had to deal with reworking his swing and staying healthy over the past few years.  He comes into AA as a 25 yo.  There is a good upside there.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Nate Eovaldi, RHP
Allen Webster, RHP
Garrett Gould, RHP

Matt Kemp.  No Benjamins.

San Diego Padres
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Jedd Gyorko, 3B
Casey Kelly, RHP

They like Cameron Maybin and also have a money issue.

San Francisco Giants
Gary Brown, CF
Tommy Joseph, C
Ehire Adrianza, SS

The Giants need someone like Jones badly.  He could vastly improve their outfield.  However, Brian Sabean has proven reluctant to deal what remains of his elite prospects, Gary Brown.  Brown is a couple years off, but profiles as an average to above average center fielder with a solid offensive profile.  The Giants appear to be so enamored with Brown that they may not see the need to get the 'now' value Jones would provide and instead opt for putting Brown in the fast lane to the Majors.  It may be that the Giants are more comfortable dealing out Brandon Belt than Gary Brown.  Joseph has a plus plus power, but is a bit too aggressive at the plate.  The Giants have Posey and Susac in the system behind the plate and Belt at first, so Joseph may not be as highly valued.  If Belt was dealt then Francisco Peguera would replace Joseph here.  Adrianza would provide a plus defensive option at short stop for the Orioles.  His bat is iffy, but he could be useful if Machado has to shift to third.

Conclusion

This is the division of center fielders.  The Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Padres are set up the middle for a while.  The Rockies could improve themselves, but have slightly less production at about half the price in Dexter Fowler.  The Giants would be the team to improve the most from dealing for Adam Jones, but the question comes down to whether or not they would be willing to deal Gary Brown or Brandon Belt.  However, doing so would largely remove young cheap talent from their 40 man roster.  In the past, Sabean has not been afraid to go after the "proven" veteran instead of holding on to the prospect.  In light of that, they are probably the only team that might be interested in dealing for Jones in this division and that interest may not be incredibly high as the Giants might believe that Gary Brown could be big league ready soon.

28 December 2011

Expanded Roster: Was Earl Weaver correct about the 3 Run HR?


Sometimes, Camden Depot expands the rosters beyond Nick Faleris and Jon Shepherd.  This enables our audience to speak directly outside of the comment box as well as shine a light on other Orioles writers.  This article is from Danny Black.

Was Earl Weaver correct about the 3 Run HR? 
By Danny Black

Note: This piece was completed before the release of Mike Fast’s Baseball Prospectus article “Spinning Yarn” which examines the hit and run.

Earl Weaver often talked about his preference for the 3 run home run. In his book “Weaver on Strategy”, Chapter Two is titled “The Offense, Praised Be the Three-Run Homer!” Weaver talks about his approach to offense, hitting, and his love of 3R Homers. The question I wanted to examine is weather or not there is a correlation between 3R Homers and wins. The Orioles have not won more than 69 games over the last 5 years. I have chosen this time period to look at the success (or lack thereof) of the 3R HR.

The following list shows the total number of 3R HR hit by The Orioles and their ML rank:

Year            3R HR HIT          ML RK          WINS
2007                  21                     12t                  69
2008                  17                     15t                  68
2009                  19                     10t                  64
2010                    9                     29t                  66
2011                  21                       9                   69

On its surface it would appear that there is no direct correlation to 3R HR totals and total wins. The Orioles went from 29th in the Majors in 3R HRs in 2010 to 9th in the majors in 3R HRs in 2011 but only won 3 additional games. Also, in 2008 The Orioles went from middle of the league to 2009 when they were in the top 10 in 3R HRs. The result was 4 fewer wins with the additional HRs. So is it time to cancel the bronze statue for Earl? Not necessarily. If hitting 3R HRs is good, giving them up must be bad, right Earl?

Below is the same chart as above but showing 3R HR allowed:

Year    3R HR ALLOWED      ML RK       WINS
2007               23                          9t                69
2008               25                          2                 68
2009               26                          2T               64
2010               31                          1                 66
2011               27                          2                 69

Finally a category The Orioles are in the top of the league: 3R HR allowed! This chart is fascinating. Consistently in the top 10 in HR against, there is a correlation between those numbers and Orioles wins. Over the 5 year period of 2007-2011 The Orioles have a net of -47 in 3R HRs while never once hitting more than they allowed. For comparison, The Yankees have a net of +29 and The Red Sox have a net of +28 over the same time frame.

Is Earl vindicated? Maybe. Clearly hitting 3R HRs alone does not guarantee success, but avoiding them avoiding them certainly helps.

26 December 2011

Trading Adam Jones: NL Central Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This second part will focus on packages from NL Central teams.  The first piece discussed NL East teams.

Chicago Cubs
Brett Jackson, CF
Trey McNutt, RHP
Josh Vitters, 3B

There is more value to this package than at first glance.  I view Jackson similarly to Jones a few years back, but slightly underrated likely in how others view that comparison.  Jackson could be a first division center fielder or he could be a fringe average left fielder.  McNutt looks like a top end relief arm.  He has move his fastball into the upper 90s in short stints and a plus slider.  If he can improve his change up, then he might be a mid-rotational arm.  Josh Vitters falls into what I call the Shea Hillenbrand mold.  He has a poor ability to walk, but he does a good job meeting the ball.  For me he profiles as a guy who will deliver a few solid average seasons with a couple 300/340/440 seasons ideally at third, but maybe at first or right.  Regardless, I do not think Theo Epstein has any interest in trading for Adam Jones.  Epstein needs a young group of players to build upon and someone like Jackson is that player.  McNutt and Vitters are small pieces that Epstein has been willing in the past to hand out.  I'm not sure the best use of Jones is pulling back a potential replacement, a backend bullpen arm, and a potentially average third baseman or a poor first baseman.

Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton, SS/CF
Zach Cozart, SS/3B
Todd Frazier, 3B/LF

The Mat Latos deal removed a great deal of talent from the Reds system that would interest the Orioles.  Hamilton would be the prize here.  He is an 80 runner with raw hitting and fielding skills.  He profiles as a first division shortstop or could be moved to center field.  Hamilton needs to work on improving his skills, so that he can take advantage of his tool box.  He would likely break into the Majors in 2014.  Cozart could be the Orioles starting third basemen in 2012.  He has good hands and an accurate arm and his hitting should be sufficient.  His true value is likely as a first division utility infielder, but he should make a career as a second division third baseman.  Frazier could also be the Orioles starting third baseman in 2012 or he could be in left field or even fill in at second.  He has spent some time in the past year as a utility infielder.  Frazier has been one of those players whose plus power plays well in the minors, but has questions surrounding it in the Majors.  I used to think highly of him, but Nick would chide me commenting on Frazier's arm bar (a similar issue Nick had with Gordan Beckham).  Frazier may never hit well enough to be a full time player in the Majors, perhaps being better suited as being a platoon player against lefties.  This deal would help fill out the team a bit with more utlity/fringe second division types.  It all basically hinges on your evaluation of Billy Hamilton.

Milwaukee Brewers
Wily Peralta, RHP
Scooter Gennett, 2B
Logan Schafer, CF

This is a poor man's version of the Cincinnati Reds deal.  Peralta profiles as a top end closer or a potential 2/3 starting pitcher.  He throws in the low 90s and primarily works off his fastball.  He has average, perhaps less than average, offerings in his change up and slider.  He had a successful stint in AAA last year and could open the year in Baltimore if given the chance.  Scooter Gennett is a low minors second baseman.  He reminds me a little bit of Brian Roberts and like Brian Roberts, Scooter will likely need to prove himself at every rung on the ladder.  He has less speed than Roberts and is showing power at an earlier age.  Schafer has lost a great deal of time in his minor league career due to injuries.  However, he has shown the ability to play center and show above average power.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon, RHP
Pedro Alvarez, 1B/3B
Robbie Grossman, LF/RF

Click.  I imagine that will be what Dan Duquette would hear upon mentioning Taillon.  The Pirates do not need Adam Jones, so this is an exercise that likely is not realistic.  Adrew McCutcheon is an very good center fielder.  He will also be a very good left fielder when Starling Marte is promoted.  Maybe the Pirates would want Jones to form an excellent defensive outfield of Marte, McCutcheon, and Jones, but that seems like overdoing the three center fielder idea.  I do not think they would entertain Marte's inclusion here along with Taillon's.  You could probably flip the two and maybe get traction.  We are big fans of Jameson Taillon and openly wished for him to fall to the Orioles instead of Manny Machado.  Taillon throws an easy plus fastball in the high 90s, a plus table drop curve, and a plus slider.  He is a monster.  Grossman profiles as an average to above average corner outfielder.  He is competent defensively and shows a good understanding of the strike zone.  There are some questions as to whether his 2011 performance was more a matter of repeating a level than actually improving to such a remarkable degree.

St. Louis Cardinals
Shelby Miller, RHP
Oscar Taveras, LF/RF
Zach Cox, 2B/3B

This is an interesting collection of players.  Miller is as sure a bet to be a star as a pitching prospect can be (that will likely be the reason why the Cardinals would never consider having him included in a deal).  He commands his fastball in the mid 90s with workable curve and change.  Without his inclusion, I do not see how the Orioles could get a good return for Jones.  Taveras holds a lot of promise and could be an excellent player as he matures.  He makes great contact and has good secondary power.  He is likely to play in AA this year as a 20 year old.  Cox would provide sure mid-level value.  He will likely profile as an average or above average bat at second or third with value coming from plus contact.

Conclusion

Pittsburgh has the least need for Adam Jones as they sport two above average centerfielders on their 40 man roster.  Chicago is a club that is likely to be short on want as they will very much like to have a player like Brett Jackson who could provide production similar to Adam Jones for a lower cost and a long time frame (if he pans out).  The Cardinals simply are not going to give away a prospect who is a short distance from the Majors and has ace potential.  Although Jones would be of use, the cost seems too high for the Cardinals.  Milwaukee could use Jones to help mitigate the loss of Prince Fielder.  However, Nyjer Morgan and Logan Schafer are two internal options that will be cheaper and not impact the club in the long term as losing prospects might.  Milaukee is dealing with a short window to bring in a World Series Championship, so a move here might make the most sense to them.  For the Orioles, the package is underwhelming.  It is, more or less, Peralta and odds and ends.  The club needs more value here or a higher ceiling value.  A mid-season deal involving both Peralta and Jungman/Bradley would be more suitable, but likely will be asking for too much for only a season and a half of Jones.  That leaves Cincinnati who could use Jones, but would they leverage so many of their assets for 2012?  Hamilton will not factor into their 2012 or 2013 plans and may in fact never be more than a loose set of impressive tools.  Cozart and Frazier would be useful to their 2012 effort, but the Reds may be able to find other ways to fill them in with other players.  It is possible they could add a Robert Andino and Drew Stubbs side deal in there. I could see a Cincinnati deal being workable on both sides, but prefer the options discussed in the NL East post.

25 December 2011

Orioles Celebrating the Christmas





















That may not be the Orioles you are primarily interested in.


22 December 2011

Trading Adam Jones: NL East Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This first part will focus on packages from NL East teams.

Atlanta Braves
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Randall Delgado, RHP
Edward Salcredo, 3B

This package would involve two pitchers who have the potential of being 2/3 slot pitchers on a first division team and a corner infield/outfield bat with an above average offensive profile.  Both Vizcaino and Delgado will be able to help out Baltimore in 2012 to varying degrees.  Atlanta used Vizcaino in the pen last year, but has the tools to start.  He has a mid 90s fastball and a plus curve.  Delgado also spent time last year in the Majors, but in the Braves' starting rotation.  His ERA was under three, but his peripherals suggest a great deal of luck was involved.  He has some issues with command and depends more on his curve and change up.  Salcredo held his own as a 19 yo in the SAL.  He shows an above average profile at the plate with power.  His defense may push him to right field where his plus arm can still be used.

Florida Marlins
Christian Yelich, LF
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Marcell Ozuna, RF

The Orioles need more position prospects in their system and the Marlins match up the best to provide those pieces.  This deal consists of an above average all around left fielder, a defense first third baseman, and a young tools oriented right fielder.  Yelich has come out strong since being drafted in 2010.  His arm is merely average and he does not throw well, so he may be shifted to first base where his bat would look more average.  Dominguez has a gold glove caliber glove, but his bat is at best an average one.  He shows poor meaningful contact and does not show much power.  Ozuna is a few years away from the Majors.  He shows a strong arm in right field and plus power.  He has had issues making contact.

New York Mets
Zach Wheeler, RHP
Matt Harvey, RHP
Jenrry Mejia, RHP

This deal involves three pitchers at varying stages of development and varying probabilities for reaching a 2 slot ceiling.  Wheeler was who we suggested to take in the 2009 draft when the Orioles preferred Matt Hobgood (we still feel good about that one).  Wheeler has a plus-plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a plus / fringe plus-plus curve.  He is a year or two away from MLB.  Harvey also has a live arm and sits in the mid 90s and shows a plus slider.  His change up is lagging behind Wheelers, which leaves some to think Harvey might be better suited for the bullpen.  Mejia also showcases a mid-90s fastball, but uses a change as his second offering.  His ability to stick as a starter is how his curve develops.  Of the deals available in the NL East, this one has the highest ceiling.

Philadelphia Phillies
Trevor May, RHP
Brody Colvin, RHP
Jesse Biddle, LHP

This is one of the weaker packages as all three profile as mid-rotation arms and none of them pitching above A ball last season.  May throws a low 90s fastball with good movement and is working on his curve ball and change up.  He ate up HiA ball hitters last year with 208 ks in 151 innings.  Colvin was another shadow selection we made back in 2009.  He struggled with a back injury last year.  He has a heavy mid 90s fastball and above average secondary offerings (curve and change).  I still think he has an outside shot of being an ace, but that probability has slimmed up quite a bit.  I liked Biddle coming out of high school.  The long season though saw his fastball velocity dip below 90 mph, which is problematic long term.  He needs to get stronger and be able to add velocity.  If not, he may be best suited in relief where it might be easier for him to regain velocity.

Washington Nationals
Brad Peacock, RHP
A.J. Cole, RHP
Sammy Solis, LHP

Ideally, Anthony Rendon would be in play here, but he won't be due to him signing last August.  It is unrealistic to think the Orioles could let him stick with the Nationals for almost the entire season before he could be spun.  Peacock could break camp with Baltimore.  His low 90s fastball and curve are plus pitches and he is gaining better use of his change up.  He could be a 2 slot pitcher.  A.J. Cole has two plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball and his curve.  However, he needs to improve his command of the curve as fewer batters will swing at it as he moves up the ladder.  Solis throws in the mid 90s and has less control and command of his curve than Cole.  All throw pitchers look like mid-rotation arms.  A.J. Cole though could be special if he figures out his curve and develops his change up.

Conclusion

The Nationals, Braves, and Marlins need center fielders.  The Phillies have Victorino and the Mets need to hold onto their young talent right now.  I am not fond of what the Marlins have to offer.  Yelich could provide a good average to above average option in left field, Dominguez could be an average third base man, and Ozuna might flare out in the upper minors.  I am of the opinion that a team wins based on star talent and this package does not flash that enough for me.  The Nationals package does flash star talent with A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock.  A downside here is that the value is all pitching.  The inclusion of Salcredo makes me prefer the Braves package here.  An infield of Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, and Edward Salcredo could be an excellent infield core.  If Salcredo's defense falters then he could spell Markakis.  Vizcaino and Delgado are excellent pitching prospects that are essentially MLB ready.  I doubt the Braves would do it, but it is what I would target.

20 December 2011

Some Writings of the Os New Numbers Guy

Here are a few of Steve Walters columns at the Wages of Wins blog.  Enjoy.

April 2007
It Ain't Necessarily So

May 2007
Baseball's Arm Race and the Prisoner's Dilemma

June 2007
Optimistic to a Fault
Rocket Science

December 2007
Stop the Presses

August 2009
Why Smart GMs Do Stupid Things


19 December 2011

O's Scouting: Shake-up and fallout, follow-up

On Friday we discussed news of Baltimore gutting its pro scouting department. As not much information was available at the time the story broke, we wanted to make sure we followed-up Friday's discussion in order 1) to fairly portray the moves that were made, and 2) to provide a useful commentary on the impact of these moves. That is what we will do this morning. If you have not read Friday's piece, it might make sense to do so before diving into this piece. It contains a couple of longer threads regarding the shift from pro to amateur scouting that are not rehashed here, and it also touches on a couple of assumptions (both here at the Depot and in the media at large) that have proven incorrect with further digging.

What has changed?
Entering 2011, Baltimore's roster of non-amateur scouts included one advance scout (scouting future Orioles opponents), two Major League scouts (primarily responsible for evaluation of talent on other Major League teams), and seven pro scouts (primarily responsible for evaluation of talent in the Minor Leagues). These evaluators were not limited to their primary scouting responsibilities, and might be assigned to assist in other areas as needed. Because the primary amateur scouting season runs February through May, leading up to the draft (spring training through the first third of the season on the pro side), it is generally uncommon for pro scouts to regularly participate on the amateur side.

Upon Dan Duquette's taking over as President of Baseball Operations this November, filling the office vacated by Andy MacPhail, the Orioles began an overhaul of the pro scouting department. Late November, the Director of pro scouting (Lee MacPhail IV) was demoted to pro scout, with the position of "Director" rumored to be removed altogether. At the end of last week, word came down that the Orioles were reassigning five pro scouts and their MLB advance scout to the amateur side. The specifics are as follows:

Advance scout, Jim Thrift (new assignment, area scout in western Fla.)
Pro scout, Lee MacPhail IV (new assignment, area scout in Mich./Ohio/W.V.)
Pro scout, Jim Howard (new assignment, area scout in N.Y./N.J./Penn.)
Pro scout, Ted Lekas (new assignment, area scout in New England)
Pro scout, James Keller (new assignment, rover/area scout in California)
Pro scout, Todd Frohwirth (new assignment, area scout in Wisc./Minn./N.D./S.D.)

By my count, this leaves the remaining pro scouting department as follows:

MLB scout, Dave Engle
MLB scout, Bruce Kison
Pro scout, Chris Bourjos (based out of Arizona)
Pro scout, Gary Roenicke (based out of California)
Pro scout, Fred Uhlman, St. (based out of Baltimore)

Brady Anderson will apparently be joining the organization in some official capacity, though it is unclear what his role will be.

Argument for restructuring
The removal of a full-time advance scout is probably fine. Statistical analysis is highly effective at the Major League level, due to the relative stability in year-to-year output and overall predictability of player performance. That is not to say that the advanced metrics used by front offices (versions of which can be found at sites like BaseballProspectus.com, BillJamesOnline.com, TangoTiger.com, and Fangraphs.com) are infallible. But for the most part you can get a good idea of players' relative strengths and weaknesses in various situations by giving the right numbers to the right people and letting them go to work. Additionally, HD video is publicly available for every inning of every game, so to the extent you need to see game tape, it's there. It isn't perfect, but if you want to rely on stats and video at the Major League level when it comes to advance scouting, you can probably get by.

The number of MLB scouts has not changed, it is around the typical number of evaluators that you will see an organization devote primarily to the MLB-level. Many organizations do not have an official "advance scout" position, instead opting to divide the duties of an advance scout between the MLB scouts on payroll and perhaps a pro scout or two, depending on timing.

Argument against restructuring
The biggest argument against the restructuring is that Baltimore is gutting the group of scouts listed as "pro scouts", which are primarily responsible for Minor League evaluation. Stats and video are much less useful tools when evaluating players from other organizations at the Minor League level, and become increasingly less useful the further away you get from the Majors. Totaling three pro scouts at this point, the Orioles would be significant outgunned in this department should they opt to proceed without filling the void with new hires. Toronto and New York (A), for example, each boasted double-digit pro scouting positions in 2011. Tampa had fewer listed pro scouts in 2011, but also mix-in "special assignment" scouts and one or two dual role international/pro scouts.

The loss of manpower means fewer eyes on Minor Leaguers and less information for the front office when trade talks take place. As free agent bargains become fewer and fewer, and with modifications to the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA removing teams' ability to spend without ramification on amateur talent, the trade market is quickly becoming one of the most important avenues for talent acquisition. Accordingly, Baltimore needs to be a leading organization in talent evaluation to maximize their efforts on the trade front.

One of the largest questions currently facing the Orioles is whether or not they will extend Adam Jones. If they elect, instead, to trade him, it will likely be for a package of players. Making sure Baltimore gets the most out of that package is of the utmost importance. Will the three remaining pro scouts have enough opportunity to cover five or six levels of Minor League baseball such that the Orioles will be able to not only accurately gauge the value of a proposed package of players, but to also compare that package against other possible packages in order to determine which of two or three deals is preferable? Perhaps more important, will Baltimore be able to spot that struggling prospect that an organization might undervalue and add as a piece to close a deal?

In a world where knowledge is power, it makes little sense to limit your avenues of information gathering. No stat line/video combination will tell you what you need to know about an Advanced-A arm when trying to project whether he will be able to improve his command, or whether he will work hard enough on his change-up to make it the third Major League average-or-better offering he needs to stick in a rotation long term. You need eyes on the field before the game and after the game. You need to be able to talk up the people at the field and around the team. A player's make-up is an important factor in determining whether he will be able to weather the challenges of rising through the Minors and transitioning to playing the game at the highest level in the world. While not tangible, make-up is real, it is important, and it needs to be evaluated.

The importance of timing
This issue was touched on in last week's post, but should be reiterated. There is negligible positive value for Baltimore in adding these five evaluators to the amateur side, as they are starting out a good deal behind their competitors when it comes to identifying the draft-eligible follows and getting multiple looks at those talents. Additionally, these evaluators will need to make inroads in creating contacts with the high school, JuCo, 4-year college, travel team and showcase coaches and personnel in order to stay on top of pop-up talents (e.g. arms that see a big bump in velocity during the spring). It is simply a large ask and places these evaluators in a difficult spot when trying to make judgments on volatile assets such as amateur players, and doing so with limited views and potentially limited access to info from third party coaches and evaluators.

There is some danger that shuffling scouts around outside of the general "hiring/firing/assignment" period for scouts -- generally the fall -- will make outside evaluators wary of joining the Orioles organization for fear that a similar restructuring could take place in the future. Baltimore can explain some of this away by pointing to the late hiring of Duquette, and the accordingly late ripple of moves in restructuring the scouting department. One evaluator from another organization commented, "Definitely weird [timing to shuffle things up]; somewhat understandable with [the late GM hiring]."

Unfortunately, while this reasoning makes sense it still reflects poorly on the organization as a whole. The fact that Andy MacPhail was unlikely to stay after October was the worst kept secret in Baltimore, starting around early-July. The long hiring process for MacPhail's replacement, highlighted by a handful of very public rejections from would-be candidates, did not sit well with those watching from afar in other organizations, and reinforced a stereotype that the Orioles, as an organization, lack focus and professionalism.

The fact that issues at the top have rippled down to effectuate reassignment of scouts well after they could reasonably be expected to find work elsewhere is not the end of the world, but it is another reminder to the industry that Baltimore continues to struggle putting together any sort of coherent plan for the future. Now, with Duquette apparently set to turnover larger chunks of the organization over the next ten months, some of the talented up-and-comers throughout the ranks of Major League baseball may be more inclined to wait out the upheaval to see what the organization looks like before signing-on as part of the rebuild.

Conclusion
Ultimately, the restructuring is not a huge deal, provided that Baltimore brings in additional evaluators at the pro ranks to help more thoroughly cover the Minors. Assuming that is the case, the Orioles have still weakened their pro scouting for at least four or five months (some of the area scouts can assist in pro scouting post-draft, based on several other variables which we can discuss in another post if the reader interest in there) and will be getting additional help at the amateur level, though the evaluators will be operating at a handicap.

One has to question the wisdom behind removing these evaluators from positions in which they were comfortable, and thrusting them into a world in which they will (at least initially) be out of their depth. The addition of amateur scouts is a great strategy, and one already employed by the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, each of whom outmanned Baltimore in this department. Baltimore also handled the assignment well, placing each of Frohworth, MacPhail, Howard, Lekas and Keller in areas tied to their home, cutting down some on travel. As luck would have it, the addition of scouting eyes in California, Florida and Ohio will be useful in at least cross-checking some of the top talents in this year's draft, with each state boasting multiple early-round talents (and potentially multiple first round talents in each state).

While the ultimate goal of more amateur scouts and less in-person focus on MLB advance scouting is potentially a solid direction for the organization, doing so at the expense of Minor League scouting is dangerous. Further, while their pay may remain the same (word is that it will), it's tough to not view this as a demotion when you are moving from covering pro ball to covering high school and college ball -- the general "starting point" for many evaluators in the game and a job that usually requires a great deal more travel and inconvenience.

Baltimore could have lessened the immediate impact on Minor League scouting, and potentially avoided any hard feelings on the part of the evaluators, had they opted to rename the position as "special assignment" scout, or even allow the evaluators to keep their titles and simply asked them to chip in on the amateur side for the February to June time period. It's a small point, but one that other evaluators in other organizations have noticed. No one expects that these former pro scouts are going to jump in and be able to operate as seasoned area scouts right off the bat, so their utility is limited for 2012 already. By allowing them to cover their region on the pro side, while dipping over to cross-check the amateurs in their region, all parties would have gotten what they wanted out of the situation.

Finally, and delving into the world of conjecture, it is slightly troubling to hear that the position of Director of Pro Scouting might not be filled -- particularly if the organization is not planning on hiring more pro scouts and, instead, decides to pull eyes from the amateur side as needed. For organizations that opt to assign their area scouts to pro coverage periodically throughout the year, the task of coming up with those assignments is a difficult one. The organization must consider the responsibilities of the area scout in covering their draft-and-follows (players selected and then watched over the summer before deciding upon a signing bonus offer), covering amateur showcases, tournaments and summer leagues in their area, and the distribution of talent across Minor League levels and the teams at those levels. Almost every Major League team has a Director of Pro Scouting, and there is a reason for it -- there is simply a lot to keep track of and a strong need for the creation and implementation of an organization-wide plan.

The situation is not as dire as it appeared on Friday, but the decision to unnecessarily forfeit short-term gains in pro scouting for minimum benefits of handicapped additional eyes on the amateur side is a head-scratcher. If those pro vacancies are not filled in the coming months, the whole issue can be summed up with a very simple question: For an organization struggling to keep pace with the four other organizations in the American League East, what is the likelihood that the key to bridging that gap is putting fewer assets into the evaluation and acquisition of talent at any level?

16 December 2011

O's Scouting: Shake-up and fall-out

UPDATE -- 1:40pm -- I received word that the scouts being shifted to the amateur side were responsible for Minor League coverage as well as MLB advance work. If this is true than the impact is even worse for Baltimore. While statistical analysis can work wonders on the advance level, and more broadly when evaluating Major League players with track records, it is limited in usefulness at the Minor League level. Certain statistical work can aid in evaluating and projecting developing Minor Leaguers, but eyes-on scouting is still an intregal aspect of the process. Gutting that side of your scouting department would be a highly questionable move. Hopefully, the initial reports are true and the evaluators removed were limited to pro scouts at the MLB level, only.

UPDATE -- 2:05 -- More word that Minor League scouting is tied into the pro scout gutting. We will have a reaction to that news in a second piece later this evening. The main takeaways are 1) Baltimore is seriously hindering its ability to maximize value in trades, and 2) scouts from other organization, if ever asked to come over to Baltimore, will note the timing of these moves and the manner in which they were handled.

The shake-up
Jen Royle passed along word of unrest in the Orioles' scouting department this morning via Twitter:

Consensus amongst sources is that #Orioles scouts are not happy with new assignments. Another source: "They thought it was a joke." -@Jen_Royle


Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal shed further light on the situation with a morning snippet explaining the nature of the "new assignments":

[Dan] Duquette, the team’s new general manager, essentially dissolved the Orioles’ professional scouting department Thursday, reassigning six pro scouts to the amateur side.

Dave Engle and Bruce Kison will remain major-league scouts, and the Orioles will make greater use of video and statistical analysis in scouting the majors, Duquette said.


Rosenthal went on to provide a quote from Duquette, explaining the shift:

It’s a more efficient way to structure the Orioles, better for identifying talent and utilizing people’s strengths to help the team.


So what is the fallout, here? Is this something that should excite Orioles fans? Well, there is some good and some bad...

The fallout: Good
For an organization who has put limited resources into staffing its scouting department, it's odd to think that six of the professional scout positions were being utilized for advance scouting.

As Duquette touches on in his comments, technology has limited the utility of advance scouts. Statistical analysis has matured to the point that batter and pitcher data is available and accessible such that managers can be armed with an iPad full of splits to access for nearly every in-game situation you can think of. Further, anyone with $119 and a computer, PlayStation 3, tablet or smart phone can watch every inning of MLB baseball, including archived games, in HD quality. In short, stats can tell you most of what you need to know about MLB players you will be facing. For everything else, there's HD video.

That's not to say that there is no need for advance scouting. But for an organization who has utilized a limited fund for scouting endeavors, there is little need for an abundance of advance scouts. The thinning of these ranks is probably something that should have occurred much sooner, which segues us to "the bad".

The fallout: Bad
This move, and particularly the timing, should have Orioles fans concerned in that it removes scouts from an area in which they are familiar and comfortable and drops them into an area from which they are years removed and in which they will be operating at a severe disadvantage.

Talent is talent, and there is little reason to believe that a pro scout is not capable of evaluating amateur talent. That is, the former advance scouts turned amateur scouts, I'm sure, have the evaluative tools to do the job of an amateur scout. However, the process itself is different for an amateur scout than it is for a pro scout.

Amateur scouts are tasked with two goals: 1) identify the current talent of an amateur talent (someone who has yet to sign with a MLB organization), and 2) accurately project the type of player that this amateur will be at the Major League level. To achieve these goals, amateur scouts must weigh numerous factors, including physical aspects of the player, athleticism, baseball tools, baseball skills, coachability, dedication to the game, as well as the player's interest in and willingness to make baseball the sole focus of his life.

Pro scouts looking at Minor League players are in a similar situation to amateur scouts in that they are appraising a player now, projecting him, and determining whether his organization should try and acquire him, though much of the static in evaluation has been removed with the Minor League players more refined and closer to the Majors than are the amateur kids.

Pro scouts doing advance work are concerned with one thing: how does my team beat this player when we face him. They will be consulted in trade and free agent situations, and may be assigned to watch a player considered to be a trade target, but much of the projection element has been removed by that time, as the player generally "is what he is".

The switch from pro to amateur scouting will require the O's evaluators to rewire their thinking some, and it requires them to do this while operating at a competitive disadvantage.

It is late in the game for amateur scouts. Most, if not all, organizations have completed compilation of their follow lists for each region, noting (and in some form ranking) the various talents in each area that need to be seen during the spring. Area scouts, since last June, have spent time at high school travel team tournaments, showcases, workouts, college summer league games, and college fall workouts, enjoying multiple looks at the players eligible for the June Draft.

Multiple looks are particularly important at the amateur level, as players at this stage of development can log erratic performances from day-to-day. The more looks you can get of a kid, the more confident you can be in your appraisal. This group of converted amateur scouts will likely be getting their first looks at players in their region, starting this January and February, while their competition is checking-in for a fourth, fifth or sixth look. Further, while the converted amateur scouts are potentially hustling to get eyes on the top talents in the area, their competition, already comfortable in their appraisal of those talents, will be able to focus elsewhere. For example, a scout from a competing organization might skip his fourth look at an arm in order to check in on the projectable righty that was only 86-89 mph in October, but might be sitting 88-91 mph now six months later.

The converted scouts will also need to familiarize themselves with a landscape that is likely now foreign to them. While many may have started as amateur evaluators, these scouts will need to revist their process and slide back into the day-to-day frame of mind of an amateur evaluator. Which factors are most important to projecting out this particular player's skillset? Who does he remind me of and was that player successful? What's the best way to go about scheduling my spring to make sure I can hit all the players I need to see? Can I catch the power arm at XYZ University during a mid-week game, or does Coach ABC prefer to limit his workload to relief on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays?

That final question touches on another issue -- these converted scouts don't have the network that established area scouts can tap into. As important as evaluation itself is, it's sometimes even more important to have that JuCo coach that texts you about the arm his team faced today, or the high school coach that sends you the scheduled start dates for a pitcher in which you are interested. These are relationships that can take some time to grow, and the converted scouts will likely be operating without them for now.

Finally, no matter how Baltimore spins it, it is a demotion for these guys. Moving from watching elite-level MLB baseball each night and having a place at the table in discussing strategy at the MLB team level is a better gig than traveling all over your region, watching mostly bad baseball and sending a player report up the ladder. Amateur scouting is a wonderful experience, and a personal passion, but taking someone with the more regimented, and more comfortable, job of pro scouting and thrusting them into the world of lots of travel, lots of uncertainty and little prestige is quite simply a big ask.

End game
Most fans might say, "Suck it up and deal with it -- at least you have a job in baseball." To a certain extent, that's true. The utility of advance scouts has changed over the last five years, and it is understandable that the organization might want to reshuffle their scouting assets to adjust to these changes. But one has to wonder if the timing of this move makes sense. Regardless of how talented these evaluators are, are you going to be getting the most you can out of them by dropping them into a job in which they aren't mentally or emotionally invested? By making the move now, you've essentially taken away from them the opportunity to consider work elsewhere, as Major League teams tend to fill their scouting positions in October and November. Is a discontented evaluator the guy you want chiming-in on your draft targets?

The big picture says the move indicates that the Baltimore front office is attempting to be proactive and adjusting to a more efficient model for its scouting department. A closer look reveals that Baltimore might be alienating their evaluators and setting them up for failure -- at least in 2012 -- essentially pushing them out the door once they have the opportunity next fall. It seems like a gradual shift, involving periodic assignments to cross-check on the amateur side and at the Minor League level, could have accomplished the same thing by this time next year, without alienating the evaluators involved in the process. In short, there is relatively little gained in Baltimore making this move right now and in this manner, and it could likely cause them to lose these evaluators to other orgs. Time will tell if such a loss is impactful.

Non-tendered Relievers on the Market

Saunders could be an excellent reliever.
This post will focus on potential finds for relievers who were non-tendered this week.

Doug Slaten, LHP
32 yo
Washington Nationals

Slaten only managed 16 appearances this past season due to issues with ulnar neuritis.  When healthy, he is an effective LOOGY (lefty one-out guy).  Over his career, lefties have OPS'd .666 with righties smacking him at .864.  He uses a 90 mph two seamer and an effective slider.  Against righties he uses a changeup as a show me pitch.

Dan Cortes, RHP
25 yo
Seattle Mariners

Cortes was a top 100 prospect in 2008 and 2009 for Baseball America.  He uses a mid to high 90s fastball, a slider, and a curve ball.  The curve is impressive, but has shows little control of it.  It is a pitch that seems to be left alone by batters who instead sit on fastballs.  It is uncertain what he will bring to the table in the future.  He had an unspecified off field injury that resulted in surgery on his shoulder and his bicep.  He also apparently suffered a fractured hand as well.  If he does heal and if he gains just a little bit more command and control then he could be an excellent reliever.  He could be work a MiL deal.

Jose Mijares, LHP
27 yo
Minnesota Twins

From 2008 to 2010, Mijares was a dependable arm out of the Twins bullpen.  He was roughly a 3 ERA pitcher with 8 k/9 and 3 b/9.  In 2011, injuries finally took their toll on Mijares and he let the opposition get on base.  His fastball dropped from 91.3 to 89.8 and he lost the ability to effectively use his slider.  If he proves himself healthy, he could be a solid option.

Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP
30 yo
Los Angeles Dodgers

From 2008-2010, Kuo was one of the best relievers in the National League.  A lefty who was effective against both right handed and left handed batters.  He often suffered minor injuries, but his 2011 season was marred by them.  Of most concern was his tweaked elbow and the resulting loss of velocity in his fastball (from 94.2 to 92.5).  If a team thinks he can be healthy, then he deserves a Major League deal.

Aaron Laffey, LHP
27 yo
Kansas City Royals

Laffey is a Cumberland, MD native.  Dan Duquette speaks about investing locally, but Laffey may not be exactly what he has in mind.  He is a groundball pitcher who nibbles on the edge.  He walks 3.6 b/9 and manages 4.5 k/9.  Those are difficult percentages to live by.  He could be useful in the pen or as AAA starting depth.  He could be the Orioles new Mark Hendrickson.  He could wind up with a Major League deal for someone in dire need of rotational depth.

Clay Hensley, RHP
32 yo
Miami Marlins

Hensley surprised everyone in 2010 as he helped anchor the Marlin bullpen.  He came into the season with a refined curve and more effective usage of his changeup.  In 2011, his curve left him and he resorted to throwing his slider.  It did not work.  These issues probably result from him cracking his ribs in May and then suffering a shoulder injury in June.  If you ignore his horrific August, he actually had a pretty good year.  He could be a good pickup.

Micah Owings, RHP
29 yo
Arizona Diamondbacks

Owings eats up right handed batters.  They manage a .647 OPS while a .912 OPS is what lefties enjoy.  If protected, he can be a useful member of a bullpen.

Joe Saunders, LHP
31 yo
Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona did not offer Saunders a contract after paying him 5.5 MM last year.  It would be unlikely to convince him to come out of the pen, but he destroys lefties.  Last year he had a .581/.810 left/right split.  A few years after winning 17 and 16 games as well as putting up a 3.69 ERA.  A possibility would be to throw a 5 MM deal under the expectation that he would shift to being a relief pitcher.

15 December 2011

Analyzing Dana Eveland's Fastball

After some time away from the confusion and hysteria that the Winter Meeting can impart, I thought it might be good to go back and focus on the Orioles' acquisition of Dana Eveland.  There was some disappointment when the trade went down as the Orioles acquired a player who has an uneven career that has been entirely unimpressive at the Major League level for two minor league players who some refer to as prospects.  The merits of Jarret Martin's prospect-dom can be somewhat argued.  He is likely at best a middle relief arm if he ever makes it to the majors.  Tyler Henson's prospect status unfortunately left him long ago.  It appears to be a not much for not much kind of deal.

Dan Duquette spoke highly of Dana Eveland after the deal.  Duquette mentioned that Albuquerque (where Eveland pitched 150 innings last year) and that is true.  Albuquerque is the least friendly ball park for pitchers in all of the minors.  It increases run production by about 18%.  Eveland's ERA was 5.40 at home and 3.33 on the road.  However, as well as he pitched in AAA it must be said that he was a 28yo in AAA.  Duquette also mentioned that Eveland had some bone chips cleaned out from his elbow in 2010 and that he likes Eveland's fastball.  In this post, I wanted to dive into the Pitch f/x data a little bit and look at Eveland's fastball and how it has looked over the years.

Velocity and Movement

With his elbow cleaned up, one might expect that his fastball would look a little different.  The graph below shows some of the highlights.



You can see that in the data available, fastball velocity has decreased over the last three years.  Movement has also changed where his fastball has more run to it than it used to have by about half an inch.  Vertical movement actually is about half an inch more than it used to be.  To some extent, this is a function of decreasing speed.  It may be with this greater horizontal movement along with slightly more drop results in a fastball that is more difficult to square up on, inducing poor contact.

Fastball Events

To see how the above change in movement has affected batted balls, I have compiled fastball events below.



The first thing to notice is that Eveland was throwing more strikes last year (remember that this is a pretty small sample size).  The increase in strike throwing correlates with an equal increase in the batter swinging at his pitches, so it seems like the batters are responding to an increase in strikes.  Even though they swing more and the swing and miss rate has not increased, balls put into play (fair territory) has not increased.  What has increased has been the number of balls hit into foul territory.

Is inducing foul balls a skill?

I would think it would be, but it is not something that seems to have been specifically assessed.  Mike Fast published two pieces on how pitchers can affect batted balls.  However, it appears that the main variable he focused on (horizontal velocity of a ball coming off a bat) is related to strikeout rate.  Eveland is not a high strikeout pitcher, but it may be that groundball pitchers may affect contact differently than your average pitcher.  It would follow reason that a pitcher who is able to induce a great deal of foul balls is messing with the batters' timing a great deal.

Conclusion

None of this is definitive.  The data is on the thin side, but it appears to depend on a slight difference in how Eveland's fastball moves and whether or not a pitcher can hone a skill that significantly increases foul ball rates.  I think it is prudent to be more conservative about this and attribute last year's success more to luck than skill.

13 December 2011

Science of Baseball: Best Way to Warm Up on Deck

Effects of Various Warm-Up Devices and Rest Period Lengths on Batting Velocity and Acceleration of Intercollegiate Baseball Players
Wilson et al.
published ahead of printing Nov 2011
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

The basis of this research was to determine how to improve a hitter's ability to make contact on a pitch.  The acknowledge that a batter needs 0.3 seconds to process a pitch and swing at it and leaves only 0.1 seconds for a bat to choose to swing at a pitch or not.  The human body cannot improve upon recognition to a greater degree, so the only way to improve hitting in terms of time is to increase bat speed.  The idea is that by reducing bat speed, you increase the time a time can choose whether to swing or not.

Previous study have looked at warm up devices/approaches and their impact on an individual's batspeed.  A study using high school players tested warm up devices that range in weight from 23 to 51 oz with the greatest bat speed resulting from warming up with bats weighing between 26 and 34 oz (Derenne et al. 1992).  Another study looked at the effect using a doughnut weighing 28 oz on a 34 oz bat.  It result in the change in swing mechanics and a decrease in bat speed (Southard and Groomer, 2003).  A third study found that using a 55 oz bat to warm up resulted in decreased bat speed when using a 31.5 oz. (Montoya et al. 2009).  A final study using different bat devices (a study we discussed earlier this year) found that collegiate baseball players did not have their bat speed altered with any tested approach (Szymanski et al. 2011).

What those previous studies did not investigate was what effect the rest period had between warming up and swinging at a pitch.  They used 16 Division II baseball players.  Players practiced with one of five warm up bats on successive days.  The weights were 23, 30, 34, 38, and 50 oz.  The individuals then swung a 30 oz bat one, two, four, and eight minutes after warming up.  Four metrics were measured: peak velocity, peak acceleration, peak velocity at peak acceleration, and time to reach peak acceleration.  Players would warm up and swing the 30 oz bat.  Have ten minutes of rest.  Then they would warm up with a specific experimental warm up bat and then swing the 30 oz bat.

The results were interesting.  None of the warm up bats affected the players ability to generate bat speed.  This agrees with the other study using collegiate athletes.  It may be that once a player reaches a certain level that warm up devices do not improve or impair bat speed.  However, they did find that the more time the player spent resting between his warm up swings and hitting resulted in greater bat speed.  For example, the lowest bat speed was measured during the warm up period.  The greatest bat speed was measured eight minutes after warming up.  No time period after eight minutes was measured, so it is uncertain when this effect tapers off.  Bat speed increased by 8% between warm up and eight minutes.  Peak velocity at peak acceleration increased by 6%.  Peak acceleration increased by 8%.

This seems to suggest a couple things.  First off, a batter might be more susceptible to higher velocity pitches earlier in the count.  Second, a batter might be best off warming up in the tunnel when he is in the hole.  It may well be that all a batter should be doing on deck is watching the pitcher and lightly stretching.

12 December 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospect Chat

Here is a link to all of our Winter 2012 Orioles Prospects pieces, including our "Minor League Year in Review" series and write-ups for each of the Top 25 prospects in the system. Our coverage concludes with our Top 25 Prospect chat below.

Top 25 Prospects:
Chat and all player write-ups together here.
*Primer for scouting grades here.

MiLB Year in Review:
Double-A Bowie / Triple-A Norfolk
Advanced-A Frederick
Class A Delmarva
DSL Orioles / Rookie GCL Orioles / Short-season A Aberdeen