02 November 2012

Why is in Left? The Orioles 2013 Edition

Previously, we discussed second base.

On this blog, and I assume elsewhere, left field has been an area of argument for what the Orioles should do in 2013.  In 2012, it was an up and down year.  Nolan Reimold came out strong, but quickly was injured.  Xavier Avery and Endy Chavez took the team nowhere.  Finally, Nate McLouth settled the position.  McLouth had spent two and half troubled seasons with the Braves maligned with injuries and poor performance.  The Braves declined his 2012 option and he wound up signing with the Pirates for 1.75MM.  He scuttled with Pittsburgh, was released, and then chose the Orioles over the Yankees as he felt the Orioles had a worse situation in left.  Then Orioles Magic happened.

That said, the Orioles' production was rather lousy over the full season as shown in the graph below.

For many, the ideal solution for the Orioles would be to solve the position internally.  This often means Nate McLouth being resigned or entrusting the position again to Nolan Reimold.

LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Nate McLouth 31 70 102 0 -0.2 1.4 1.2
Xavier Avery 23 62 79 0 -0.4 0.0 -0.3
Endy Chavez 35 66 67 5 -0.1 -0.3 -0.5
Lew Ford 36 72 67 0 -0.1 -0.7 -0.8
Bill Hall 33 88 71 -5 0.1 -0.8 -0.8
LJ Hoes 23 81 77 0 0.0 -0.1 -0.1
Nolan Reimold 29 100 105 -5 0.3 1.2 1.5
Chris Davis 27 88 114 -10 -0.1 1.4 1.3
Steve Pearce 30 93 71 -5 0.2 -0.8 -0.7
Ryan Flaherty 26 64 80 0 -0.3 0.1 -0.2
Steve Tolleson 29 73 71 0 -0.1 -0.5 -0.6
The solutions within the organization are not exceptional.  The three best solutions are projected to be Nate McLouth, Nolan Reimold, and Chris Davis.  McLouth is a platoon hitter who struggles mightily against lefties and has had 55 adequate games offensively over the past three seasons.  Nolan Reimold has shown the potential to be a beast offensively, but has repeatedly had issues staying on the field throughout the minors and majors.  Chris Davis has a decent bat, but lacks the range and mechanics to be considered adequate.  Xavier Avery and LJ Hoes may be the future of the Orioles' left field, but that likely is not this year.

To improve upon the less than 1 WAR performance from last year, it may be useful to invest in a solution via free agency.

Free Agents
LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Melky Cabrera 28 118 120 0 0.9 2.5 3.3
Jonny Gomes 32 127 91 -10 0.8 0.0 0.8
Josh Hamilton 32 123 142 5 1.1 4.1 5.2
Juan Pierre 35 81 80 -5 -0.1 -0.3 -0.4
Cody Ross 32 131 92 0 1.1 0.8 1.9
Shane Victorino 32 117 86 5 1.0 0.8 1.8
Angel Pagan 31 93 108 10 0.6 2.5 3.1
Grady Sizemore 30 71 101 0 -0.2 1.3 1.2
BJ Upton 28 118 100 10 1.1 2.0 3.1
Torii Hunter 37 121 112 5 1.0 2.3 3.4
Nick Swisher 32 132 116 0 1.2 2.2 3.4
Ichiro Suzuki 39 91 85 10 0.5 1.1 1.6

Left field appears to be a wonderful bounty, potentially.  Ideal targets in this group would include Melky Cabrera, Torii Hunter, and Nick Swisher.  Solutions here can be addressed as short term (e.g., Torii Hunter, Melky Cabrera) or long term (e.g., Nick Swisher, Angel Pagan).

Cheaper options may be available in the non-tender market.

LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Kyle Blanks 26 92 105 -10 0.0 0.8 0.9
Ben Francisco 31 86 86 -5 0.0 0.1 0.1
Sam Fuld 31 78 79 5 0.1 0.4 0.5
Nyjer Morgan 32 42 84 15 -0.4 1.4 1.0
At most, these players would be worth less than 1MM for a one year deal.  All four, in fact, may be able to be had as spring training invites.


My preference would be for the Orioles to secure a short term fix.  This would mean targeting a player like Torii Hunter or Melky Cabrera.  My personal preference would be to secure Cabrera up to 14MM.  I think it would cost a few million less than that for one year of service and I think the Orioles would present him with a solid opportunity to regain value as a free agent, enabling him to go back on the market and bring in a ton of money.  Torii Hunter would also be an interesting candidate as well.  Adam Jones often mentions Hunter as a mentor and Hunter could take on the role that Jim Thome had as the elder statesman.  Hunter though would be more useful as he still has a decent bat and glove.  Two things that sadly were lacking with Thome last year.


Matt P said...

I've changed my mind about Hunter.

I don't like how he is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone, that he's hitting a lower percentage of strikes and that his swinging strike rate is going up. His walk rate plummeted and his strikeout rate rose this year. Maybe he fixes what he was doing wrong but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens again.

I don't like that his fly ball rate plummeted this year. Not sure if that symbolizes the start of a trend. I don't like that the reason he had such a successful year was due to a .389 BABIP. That shouldn't be expected to continue.

If he puts up a .310 BABIP while hitting the same number of homers as he did last year and a similar walk and strike out results, then I project him to have a .255/.310/.380 line next year.

Pagan is likely to be the steal on the market. Realistically speaking, he's slightly better than Willingham. He has better defense but Willingham has better offense. Although, Pagan did a better job timing when to have a good season. An offer of 3 and 27 or 4 and 32 should be enough.

Unless of course, this team makes a trade.

Anonymous said...

I know this sounds crazy but as a one-year fix, why not go after Ichiro. Still a plus defender, can hit leadoff and steal a few bases.

I don't think the Yankees will sign him since they have Gardner and I can see them going after Cabrera, or Hamilton, or one of the other bigger names.

I know Ichiro is 39 but a 1-year deal wouldn't tie up the Birds too bad.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't a Riemold-McLouth platoon be effective. Both have pretty decent OBA's especially against opposite hurlers. Both decent gloves, decent speed. I do like the Ichiro option if available. Outfield of Ichiro-Jones-Markakis would be good "d" despite Jones' difficult defensive season this year. Tom C

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with the last comment. I think the outfield is the most solid thing we've got going for us with options of Markakis- who was one of the best outfielders in the league after the all star break and before getting hurt late, Reimold who was one of the best outfielders in the league in the first month or so of the season, and McClouth who was one of the best in the league when it came to clinching the wildcard. Add in 30+ HR and .270 Chris Davis (who may not have the best range or glove but has a CANNON) and Gold Glove winning superstar Adam Jones and it looks like, if they can stay healthy, the O's have one of the best (and deepest) outfields in the league. I'm much more interested in the O's paying big bucks for Greinke or another Ace. Either that or sure up second base.

kgwill said...

Just finished skimming Keith Law's analysis - say you're Duquette and you don't like signing pitchers to big contracts, you'd rather sign Saunders to be a 4/5 starter and hope Bundy can contribute at the top of the rotation. And say you don't want to pay Reynolds what other teams are willing to pay. So you've got some money to play with.
How about signing Michael Bourn to a big deal, ask Jones to move to left, and target Youkilis for a 1-2 year deal as he can play 1B or 3B. You start the year with Youkilis at 1B, you give Roberts a shot at 2B, if he fails shift Machado to SS, Hardy to 2B, Youkilis to 3B, Davis to 1B. You still have a Betemit/Reimold platoon at DH. Also in this scenario I think you'd look for a decent defender who hits LHP well to get some starts in the infield (Casilla or Nix from your list) - move Youkilis to 1B on those days and Davis out of the field.
I don't crunch the numbers well but I'd estimate a 5-6 win improvement over last year's team?

I guess that's two separate issues, the idea of moving Jones rather than signing a LF and then the idea of signing Youkilis.