17 May 2012

Orioles 2005 and 2012 seasons: Apple and Oranges? (Pt I)

Baseball is a difficult sport to predict.  The season is long, guys get injured, and players all of a sudden develop skills or lose them.  This can make it difficult for a long suffering follower of the Baltimore Orioles to feel comfortable with their current success.  If you believe in fWAR and project it out, you wind up with 44.3 expected fWAR for the whole team.  Add that to a replacement level expectation of 48 wins and you get a 92 win team.  If you are more of a pythagorean runs type of person, then you have an expectation of 89 wins if they keep this season rolling.  Or, perhaps, you are a Bill Parcels guy and believe your record is an accurate description of yourself . . . then you think this is a 102 win team.

So with 89, 92, and 102 wins, we have quite a bit of difference from my early season projection of 68 wins.  To be clear...there is no way I can see this team as anything much less than 75 wins.  I think the two big keys this year the rest of the way are that the peripherals look decent for many of the players and the upper minors are not completely devoid of talent.  Mind you, the upper minors do not have great talent, but it is talent that you can use in a pinch.  That really has not been the case for the Orioles for a long while.  It is good to have a guy like Chris Tillman as a 6th, 7th, or 8th option in your rotation as opposed to being your third or fourth guy.  It is also good to have someone like Brad Bergesen as DFA fodder as opposed to being in your starting rotation.  We can certainly disagree with some of these moves, but I think we have to recognize that there is a higher and broader base level of talent sitting at Norfolk buffering real star talent lower in Bowie and Delmarva.

That said, I am also a great believer in regression to the mean.  I have yet to feel comfortable with a reassessment of my season projection, so my current projections are simply the current record with a projected .420 winning percentage on the rest of the season.  That brings my projection to 77 wins.  Honestly, that is a pretty exciting season in and of itself.  Sometime Camden Depot writer Daniel Moroz tried to address where this season will be heading on his own site, Camden Crazies.  Looking at how performance has related to underlying statistics, he came up with a rough estimate that the Orioles are about 6 games over their heads at the moment.  That would lead to an expectation of something like 86, 89 or 99 final wins roughly when you prorate that.

Again, the assumption here is that there is a set talent level associated with runs or wins and that this talent level remains continuous (e.g., injuries do not drastically affect performance, strength of schedule).

This makes me wonder about 2005.  It was a season where the Orioles geared up by trading for Sammy Sosa to shore up right field and banking on further production and growth from their existing roster.  Javy Lopez had a great first season with the Orioles in 2004.  Rafael Palmeiro produced slightly below league average.  Tejada and Mora could be argued as the best SS and 3B combo in baseball.  David Newhan broke out big in 95 games as a super utility guy slashing 311/361/453.  Rodrigo Lopez was very good and the trio of Ponson, Cabrera, and Bedard flashed plus pitching from time to time.  Jorge Julio, BJ Ryan, and John Parrish also made for a formidable bullpen.  Additionally, the Orioles had John Maine and Hayden Penn mulling around in the minors, waiting for their chance.  Now, the expectations were not incredibly high, but there was a good deal of hope for this team.

How did the team look at the end of May?  In terms of pythagorean, fWAR, and win marks...the expectation could have been for final season win tally projections of 95, 106, and 98 wins, respectively.  At the end of May, the Orioles sat with an offensive fWAR of 10.7 and a pitching fWAR of 7.5.  Those would be on pace for finals of 34 and 23.8, respectively.

fWAR Pace Actual
Roberts 0.362 0.449 0.642 3.4
4 12.7 6.7
Tejada 0.313 0.361 0.588 -1.3
2.1 6.7 5.1
Mora 0.284 0.344 0.501 1.2
1.6 5.1 4.1
Lopez 0.273 0.316 0.483 -0.8
0.9 2.9 1.9
Gibbons 0.269 0.32 0.546 1.8
0.9 2.9 2.5
Matos 0.274 0.377 0.393 -1.1
0.7 2.2 1.2
Raffy 0.271 0.361 0.449 -3.6
0.1 0.3 -0.1
Sosa 0.239 0.309 0.394 -1.6
-0.2 -0.6 -1.2
Bigbie 0.235 0.27 0.311 -0.2
-0.4 -1.3 0.1

These nine players were the primary starting nine.  If you believe in the performance to date for these guys, it would seem quite natural that this 2005 team would make the playoffs.  You have Brian Roberts on pace to produce one of the greatest seasons ever.  Tejada and Mora provide two additional star quality players.  Lopez, Gibbons, and Matos contribute as solid average performers.  Bigbie is a guy you can rotate out or trade for a better piece.  Raffy and Sosa are detriments to the team whose experience and contracts prevent replacement.  Roberts' performance will easily cover them.  If the pace would have held out, with all of these guys players, and replacement players contributing 0 fWAR, this would be a 30.9 fWAR offense.  That would have put them second in the AL behind the Indians and in front of the Red Sox.

Instead, the team wound up with 20.3 fWAR from this group.  Roberts could not sustain hitting one out of every four fly balls out of the yard and suffered an injury toward the end of the season.  That cut 6 wins off the pace.  Simply looking at BABIP, Roberts (.392), Tejada (.358), and Mora (.347) ranging about .046 to .081 over their career average BABIP.  That should have looked ripe for a regression.  Everyone else was within .030 of their career rates.  The offense should have simply looked like it was subsisting on three guys who may be a little lucky.  Introduce, regression, injuries, and positive drug tests . . . the team collapses to an average offense over the course of the season and a poor one after May.  After putting up 10.7 fWAR in the first two months of the season, the Orioles accrued 9.3 over the final four months.  The meme is that what killed the Orioles that year was the pitching falling apart, but the change in fortune (i.e., lost wins) was about 60/40 on the shoulders of the offense.

In part 2, I will take a look at the 2012 Orioles offense, which will probably be rather redundant with Daniel's analysis...who knows?

13 May 2012

Cup o' jO's: Hardy and Hall on Young and the Restless

Last night EME from the Camden Chat crew mentioned that Bill Hall was on Young and the Restless.  It appeared from the tweet that his source forgot that J.J. Hardy was also on that episode.  For your viewing pleasure, enjoy a behind the scenes video:

And the footage:

Yes, you have lost five minutes of your life.

09 May 2012

2012 Draft Coverage: Weekly pref list, May 9, 2012

Scouting obligations have kept me out of pocket on the Camden Depot coverage, but we return to our pref list this week with an updated list and brief comparison of the two high school outfielders on the list: Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.) and Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.):

Tale of the tape:
Albert Almora measures in at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, showing average speed in the field that plays up on the bases due to his aggressive approach to the game and advanced feel.  Buxton is a true burner, among the fastest 1st Round players the draft has seen in the last few years -- on par with Derek "Bubba" Starling, the fifth overall pick last year (Kansas City Royals). Physically, he stands 6-foot-1, 175-pounds with a broad frame that will hold additional thickness as he matures.  Almora will be 18-years, 2-months old in June, while Buxton will be 18-years, 6-months.

In the field:
Buxton has the sexier tool set, with true "80" speed (top of the charts on the scouting scale) and a plus-plus arm that some evaluators have likewise rated as an "80". His approach and feel are still generally raw, the effect of which can be spun two ways.  If you are an optimist, you see this as a player with the speed to outrun mistakes in routes and first steps, with a chance to improve his execution with pro instruction.  If you are a little more conservative, you wonder if the missteps off the bat and the sometimes deviated routes will negate the foot speed that should allow him to cover gap-to-gap without effort.  Overall, he is a starter kit for an elite defensive center fielder, but inconsistent time on the diamond makes it difficult to determine how easy it will be to assemble the kit.

Almora, on the other hand, has a feel for the outfield that you seldom see outside of the pro ranks.  His jumps off the bat are among the best I've ever seen in a prep player, and his routes and ability to close and finish belie his average foot speed.  He covers a wide swath in center, with his feel for the craft potentially allowing him to provide plus defense up-the-middle.  He has the arm strength and accuracy for center field, as well.  While Almora lacks the elite defensive upside of Buxton, he comes with much more probability, and can still be among the better defensive players in the game.

At bat:
Almora might be the best pure hitter at the prep ranks, and profiles as a potential .310/.400/.500 bat, with his slugging a solid mix of doubles and homeruns.  While his "now" power is somewhat limited in-game, his bat speed, ability to square, swing plane, loft, and pre-game showings indicate he could easily grow into 55/60 power when all is said and done.  His understanding of the strikezone is advanced, and his quick hands afford him the opportunity to delay the start of his swing long enough to get him an extra few feet to identify pitches. 

As is the case with his defense, the upside in Buxton's bat is incredible.  If everything clicks, he profiles as a monster three-spot hitter with slash potential of .290/.360/.550 bat (and that might be light on the hit tool).  Also as is the case with his defense, Buxton is a ways off from realizing this potential.  He gets long with his swing path and couples that with an extended stride that can throw off the rotational flow of his core, sapping pop.  While he has received dings in the media due to the lack of homeruns this spring, there is no lack of raw power here.  What we are likely seeing is a slightly out-of-whack swing leading to inconsistent hard contact, which should be addressed as he receives pro instruction and shortens his stride and swing.

Bottom line:
Do you like probability or upside?  Buxton has all of the physical tools you look for in a baseball player, and a true five-tool player that can be plus or better across the board simply doesn't come along very often.  At the same time, Almora provides a refinement and feel that you seldom find in a prep player.  Both are legit top-5 overall talents, and your personal preference between the two likely depends on your philosophy towards investment in and development of teenage prospects.

On to the updated 1:4 pref list. As a reminder, this is not necessarily the list of the top 10 players in the draft, but rather a list of players that, for various reasons, we have identified as targets for Baltimore at 1:4, were we doing the drafting:

Current Preference List (May 9, 2012)
1. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana St. Univ.
2. Albert Almora, of, Mater Acad. (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
3. Carlos Correa, ss/3b, Puerto Rico Baseball Acad. (Gurabo, P.R.)
4. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford Univ.
5. Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS (Baxley, Ga.)
6. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard-Westlake HS (Studio City, Calif.)
7. Kyle Zimmer, rhp, Univ. of San Francisco
8. Mike Zunino, c, Univ. of Florida
9. Gavin Cecchini, ss, Barbe HS (Lake Charles, La.)
10. Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona St. Univ.

For today's draft video, here's a look at our new #1 on the pref list, LSU ace Kevin Gausman -- video shot on my Louisiana scouting trip this spring:

07 May 2012

Buying or Selling?: Matt Wieters

Still in shock after watching the Orioles take five of six from the Yankees and Sox, I figure it's time to start digging into the particulars of the 2012 season. It's still about four weeks too early, in my mind, to get too attached to a narrative, but let's be honest -- O's fans haven't had excitement like this in a long time and there is no shame in basking in the wins a little prematurely.

Over the next two weeks we hope to tick through some of the key components to Baltimore's hot start (certain players and stats) in order to make a determination as to whether these are trends are likely to continue.  We start with the player Camden Depot highlighted as the contributor fans should be most excited about entering 2012: Matt Wieters.

Who:  Matt Wieters
What:  fWAR and rWAR both on pace for approximately 9.25
Buying or selling:  Buying

Discussion:  Let's clear-up right away that it is highly unlikely Wieters hits the 9.25 WAR mark this season (only nine position players in all of baseball topped the 7.0 rWAR mark in 2011, none topping 8.4).  So "buying" isn't buying the 9.25 pace, but Wieters can absolutely be one of the ten most valuable position players in baseball this year.  For comparison's sake, in 2011 Wieters was worth 4.6 wins above replacement according to Baseball-Reference.com (rWAR) and 5.0 wins above replacement according to Fangraphs.com (fWAR). For purposes of this discussion, we will focus on rWAR, as that presents us with the largest discrepancy between current pace and last year's performance.

Defensively, Wieters continues to shine.  He displays soft hands, quick feet side-to-side, and works well to gameplan, calling an effective game much more often than not.  His catch-and-throw skill set remains among the best in game, showing easy plus-plus arm strength with accuracy.  With 37% of would-be basestealers caught in 2011, Wieters was second to only Diamondback's backstop Miguel Montero (40%) among catchers logging more than 82 games.  Thus far in 2012, Wieters continues to mow down runners, currently at a 44% clip.  Additionally, he fields his position well, particular receiving throws from the outfield, handling your typical 'tweener hops with ease while blocking the plate. 

The big jump in value this year has been at the plate.  From a scouting perspective, the biggest change has been Wieters patience.  His approach was advanced, even as a prospect, but has really shone through over the Birds' first 28 games.  Wieters has better tapped into a selectively aggressive approach at plate, laying-off more borderline pitches, and charging into the ball with more violence during hitter's counts. While the statistical sample size is too small to provide us adequate ammo for a decisive report, a cursory glance generally matches-up my scouting observations.

According to pitch f/x, as compared to 2011, Wieters has generally maintained his contact rate on pitches in zone (85.4% against 87.9%) and out of the zone (81.6% against 82.2%), and has maintained his swing rate on pitches in the zone (66.9% against 65.3%).  Where pitch f/x shows the greatest change is on swing rate on pitches out the zone, where Wieters has cut down to 22.2% from 32.3%.  Again, the sample size is small, just 28 games into the season, but this matches with my scouting observations.

On batted balls his LD%, FB%, GB% and IFH% are all within 1% of his 2011 rates, and his GB/FB rate in 2012 is 1.10 versus 1.12 in 2011.  His BABIP has climbed to .309 from .276 in 2011, which on the surface might indicate that Wieters has been a little lucky.  Keeping in mind the backdrop that batters can more directly impact their own BABIP than can pitchers, and noting the improvement in selection of pitches to attack, it could very well be that we are witnessing Wieters identifying a BABIP baseline more in line with his natural talent. It would not surprise me to see Wieters maintain a BABIP around .300 for the remainder of the season -- no small feet considering his "20" speed on the scouting scale (bottom of the barrel) all but eliminates infield hits from the equation.

Where I'd expect to see the biggest drop-off is in the homeruns. Right now Wieters is on pace to hit around 40 homeruns over the course of the 2012 season, assuming health and rest on par with the first 28 games.  That is dramatically higher than what you would expect from a player with his power tool (I graded as a "60" as a prospect, estimating around 25+ homerun potential).  Again, in a small sample size, the numbers seem to back-up the scouting.  Thus far, Wieters has a HR/FB rate of 24.1% -- an incredibly high number.  For comparison, the 2011 homerun champion Jose Bautista hit 43 dingers with a HR/FB rate of 22.5% and a FB rate of 47% (compaired to Wieters' FB rate of around 38% throughout his entire MLB career).  Wieters isn't going to hit 40 homeruns, but that HR/FB rate could stay up around 17-18%, considering the improved selective aggression he is showing in 2012, which could lead to around 20 to 23 more big flies over the remainder of the season.

Summary: Matt Wieters is for real, and if Baltimore can stay in contention in 2012 he is the AL MVP without question.  He is among the best defensive catchers in the game, and is now establishing himself as not only one of the best offensive catchers, but one of the best middle-of-the-order bats in all of baseball.  Expect some backslide as the season takes it's toll on Matt's big body, but make no mistake -- this is what the beginning of a 7.0-7.5 rWAR season looks like.

02 May 2012

What Effect Moving the Fences at Camden Yards Would Have?

I have been wondering how fence distance affects home runs.  I thought I had read somewhere that a ten foot difference results in a 20% difference in home runs.  However, I can not find that article, so I decided to figure it out myself.  I used Hit Tracker and simply graphed a section of the wall at Camden Yards with ten foot sections marked off.

In this section 138 home runs were hit from 2009-2011.  In the graph above, if the fence was at line 1 (the bottom most line), then 138 home runs would be hit.  If the fence is set ten feet back at line 2, then 108 home runs would have been hit.  That is a reduction of 30 home runs that were hit in that 10 foot space along this section of the wall.

The following graph shows the relationship between moving the fence back and home runs:

You can then use this information to predict the effect of moving a fence.

The graph above is a bit confusing.  Somehow my tired brain could not figure out how to do it.  Anyway, the way the x-axis works is that you go out to the furthest distance the fence could stand with no home runs and move back in.  The stretch of wall I looked at had a distance of 340 to 395 and correlates to the 80 mark.  Knowing that, we then can produce the following table showing how distance affects home runs over the course of three seasons:
Beginning End Projected Home Runs Actual Home Runs Percetage
260 315 469
270 325 417
280 335 367
290 345 321
300 355 278
310 365 238
320 375 201
330 385 167
340 395 137 138 100
350 405 109 108 80
360 415 85 83 62
370 425 63 62 46
380 435 45 47 33
390 445 30 31 22
400 455 18 17 13
410 465 9 12 7
420 475 4 2 3
430 485 1

01 May 2012

Revising the Season Projection: May 1st

With a month in the books, Camden Depot's projections have not exactly panned out in the short term.  Projections rarely line up over the short term, but tend to do a decent job with a greater data set.  Much of this is about finding true talent levels of players.  The Orioles are a team I think performance projections have difficulty because so many pieces have a poor amount of data.  For instance, WeiYin Chen's performance is difficult to project because the NPB is a completely different environment than MLB.  Or, projection models are unable to predict that Jason Hammel will find amazing success with a 2 seamer.

The revisions I present for the AL East over the course of the season will give the teams credit for what they have accomplished, but that they will perform according to their predicted talent level in the future.

Current Preseason May 1st Change
New York 13 97 97 0
Boston 11 92 90 -2
Tampa Bay 15 83 87 4
Toronto 12 79 79 0
Baltimore 14 68 72 4

If the Orioles can keep their pace of pulling in four more wins than they were projected for each month, they will finish with 92 wins.  That would put them in very good position for a Wild Card.

25 April 2012

Is Dylan Bundy Being Mishandled?

Recently there has been some discussion on how the Orioles are handling Dylan Bundy.  Baseball Prospectus' podcast Up and In discussed it, Keith Law mentioned it on Baseball Today, and Steve Melewski has responded peculiarly as he seems to derisively mention that Law has a podcast (Does Melewski have podcast want?). 

My personal thought on it is that I found the supposed Orioles perspective as half way defensible.  I disagree with Keith Law in that I think it can be argued that with Bundy's inning limit, which is also defensible, that it is good to ease into 5-whatever inning starts as the season progresses.  I do agree with him that Delmarva is simply too low of a level. 

Melewski mentioned that the staggered process of giving Bundy a few starts in Delmarva, a few more in Bowie, and then getting him to Bowie was in part:
... getting acclimated to the pro game, the bus rides, new teammates and many other things away from the field. To me, letting him settle in to his surroundings and ease into the games makes sense.
This is just a silly statement to me.  If you want a guy to settle into being a pro, then do you (A) shuttle him around through three affiliates over the summer or (B) keep him basically sitting in one affiliate all year?  If you want a guy to have stability, don't you want him to have the same teammates and coaches to give him some stability over the season?  It is not like he is working on skills to socialize and develop support structures on a rung by rung move. 

This whole discussion does beg the question: how have other elite high school pitchers been handled over the past few years?

Dylan Bundy
6'1 195
20yo in 2012
Bundy is starting out in A ball in Delmarva.  Melewski wrote in the above article that this will be the Orioles' plan:
Three starts at three innings, for a total of nine.
Three starts at four innings, for a total of 12.
Around 10 starts at five innings, for a total of 50.
That leaves around 50-60 innings for his last eight or so starts beginning around mid July.
That will result in about 120-130 innings pitched at Delmarva, HiA Frederick, and maybe some time in Bowie.

Archie Bradley
6'4 225
20yo in 2012
Bradley has an amazing fastball and curveball that has resulted in a lot of swing and misses.  His has a changeup in progress and has spent less time pitching than other prospects because he was also a quarterback in high school.  I do not know what the long term plan is for Bradley this season, but they are letting him make full starts and he has been dominant.  They may keep him in low A to work on the change up, but I think they could promote him right now.

Jameson Taillon
6'6 225
20yo in 2011
The Pirates were criticized a bit last year for their handling of Taillon.  The team is notorious for putting their pitchers through a strict fastball diet their first year in order to work on fastball command.  As elite a selection Taillon was, it appears they did the same with him.  He spent the entire season at A ball West Virginia and was about 30% better than league average. 

This year in HiA Bradenton, he has been eliciting a miss rate of 62%.

Zack Wheeler
6'4 185
20yo in 2010
Wheeler also started out in A ball Augusta and put in 58.2 innings.  This was largely the result of a fingernail injury that kept him off the mound.  In 2011, he spent the entire season at HiA and put in 115 IP.

Jacob Turner
6'5 210
19yo in 2010
Turner split his first full season as a pro divided relatively equally between A ball West Michigan and HiA Lakeland.  In 2011, he moved through AA and AAA to hit the MLB level.

Tyler Matzek
6'3 210
20yo in 2010
Majority opinion had Matzek as the top high school pitcher in the draft back in 2009 and he slipped due to his perceived asking price.  The Rockies started him out in A ball Asheville where he showed he had amazing swing and miss stuff, but that he had difficulty hitting the strike zone.  Add in some issues with the Rockies tinkering his mechanics and he has had a rough couple years.  In 2012, he is making another run at HiA ball and is still experiencing issues getting strikes.

Every single elite high school pitcher wound up throwing at A ball to begin their first full season.  Some teams (e.g., Pirates) were conservative and left the player there while other teams (e.g., Tigers) pushed their guy to HiA.  None of the four pitchers from the 2009 and 2010 draft classes made it to AA.

There is a thought that Bundy is so polished that he should not be treated like other high school pitchers.  If you look at the pitchers drafted before him; first selection Gerrit Cole is at HiA, Danny Hultzen is at AA, and Trevor Bauer is at AA.  I think you could make the argument that Bundy would be better challenged at HiA.  That said, although I think having him throw at Delmarva is wasting an opportunity for him to pitch against higher competition and have more stability off the field over the course of a season...it is doubtful to have any long standing effect on him one way or the other.

24 April 2012

All or Nothing: Oriole Long Balls

The Orioles are sitting here today, 16 games into the season, with a 9-7 record (still above .500 - w00!). They have hit 23 home runs already (lead by Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold with 5 each), which is the third most in the majors (behind the Yankees' 27 and the Rangers' 26) and puts them on pace for 230 on the season. Despite the power display, the O's have scored just 68 runs - their 4.25 runs per game is barely above the Major League average, and a quarter of a run below the AL average. That is, well, not so great.

The Birds have scored just under 3* runs per home run they've hit. That is not only lower than average (not surprisingly), but easily the worst in baseball - the Yankees would need to have their next 6 runs all come on solo home runs to pass the O's. They've gone deep 18 times in their 9 wins (scoring 5.4 runs per game), and only 5 times in their 7 losses (and never more than once a game, 2.7 runs on average).

* Last year the teams who "got the least" out of their homers were the Braves and... the Orioles (3.71 R/HR).

Obviously teams win more when they score more, and home runs should lead to more runs overall, but the gist of it is the offense is home run dependent, and when they don't go deep there are some struggles. With runners in scoring position, the team has just a .682 OPS (with only 3 home runs in 128 PA) - compared to .732 in general (and teams tend to hit better than normal with RISP) - and they've done a poor job of turning base-runners into points on the scoreboard.

Overall, the Orioles are hitting .244/.301/.430 - that's a bit below average (95 wRC+). And that line is partially carried by the home runs, which means that if other things don't pick up as the team's power drops off - a 15% home run to flyball ratio is not going to be sustainable (no team has maintained that for a full season since the '05 Reds) - the offensive production could be a bit ugly. So far this season they haven't walked much (6.5% walk rate is 4th worst in baseball), have struck out a fair bit (22.1% K rate is 2nd worst), and have a slightly below BABIP (.281).

It still very early. The offense is likely to improve, and has a good chance of being above average on the season. As long as things continue on as they've been going though, it'll be a bit of a schizophrenic* team to watch - one day they'll hit 3 homers and win 6-4, and the next they'll be kept in the yard and lose 4-1.

* Commonly incorrect usage noted.

23 April 2012

Arrivals and Departures: 4/23/12

Sorry, this has been overdue for a couple months.  We should be firing on all cylinders from here on out.

Orioles' 40 man roster and options.  You can find more information on options here (e.g., what they are, how they are used).

  • March 11, 2012 - Dylan Bundy and Ryan Adams optioned.
  • March 15, 2012 - Oliver Drake and Joe Mahoney optioned.
  • March 26, 2012 - Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, Zach Phillips, Chris Tillman,  and Matt Antonelli are optioned.
  • March 29, 2012 - LHP Dana Eveland was designated for assignment in conjunction with the Orioles claiming INF Zelous Wheeler off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.  Eveland was not claimed and accepted assignment to Norfolk.
  • April 3, 2012 - RHP Alfredo Simon was designated for assignment and was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds.  OF Jai Miller was designated for assignment and passed on to Norfolk.  These two moves opened 40 man roster spots for 1B Nick Johnson and C Ronny Paulino.
  • April 17, 2012 - Orioles claimed C Luis Exposito off waivers from the Boston Red Sox and designated 3B Josh Bell who subsequently was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later who is not expected to be anyone significant.
40 Man Roster

Jake Arrieta 3/3
Luis Ayala 0/3
signed as free agent; no options
Brad Bergesen 0/3
#1: 4/20/2010
#2: 4/9/2011
#3: 3/26/2012
Jason Berken 1/3 (serving his second one)
#1: 5/20/2011
#2: 3/26/2012
Zach Britton 3/3
Dylan Bundy 3/4
Four options as he was signed to a MLB deal when drafted
#1: 3/11/2012
Wei-Yin Chen 3/3
May be unable to use options due to contract, unsure
Oliver Drake 2/3 (serving first option)
#1: 3/15/2012
Kevin Greg
Signed as free agent; no options
Jason Hammel 0/3
Tampa used all of his options a long time ago.
Tommy Hunter 0/3
#1: 8/16/2008
#2: 4/1/2009
#3: 4/28/2010
Jim Johnson 0/3
#1: 3/12/2006
#2: 3/12/2007
#3: 5/1/2010
Matt Lindstrom
No longer qualifies
Brian Matusz 2/4
#1: 3/14/2009
#2: 6/30/2011
Darren O'Day 1/3
#1: 5/13/2008
#2: 7/14/2011
Troy Patton 0/3
#1: 3/14/2009
#2: 3/15/2010
#3: 3/11/2011
Zach Phillips 0/3 (serving last one)
#1: 3/17/2010
#2: 3/12/2011
#3: 3/26/2012
Pedro Strop 0/3
 All used prior to joining team
Chris Tillman 0/3 (serving last one)
#1: 3/17/2010
#2: 5/29/2011
#3: 3/26/2012
Tsuyoshi Wada 3/3
Unsure if options can be used.

Luis Exposito 1/3 (serving second one)
#1: 3/17/2011
#2: 3/23/2012
Ronny Paulino
No longer qualifies for options.
Taylor Teagarden 0/3
 #1: 7/21/2008
#2: 4/7/2010
#3: 3/29/2011
Matt Wieters 3/3

Ryan Adams 1/3 (serving second one)
#1: 6/18/2011
#2: 3/11/2012
Robert Andino 0/3
#1: 3/25/2006
#2: 3/23/2007
#3: 5/25/2008
Matt Antonelli 0/3 (serving last one)
#1: 3/23/2009
#2: 3/28/2010
#3: 3/26/2012
Wilson Betemit
signed as free agent; no options
Chris Davis 0/3
#1: 7/6/2009
#2: 4/23/2010
#3: 3/29/2011
Ryan Flaherty 3/3
Rule 5 player; cannot be sent to minors in 2012
J.J. Hardy
No longer qualifies for options
Nick Johnson
No longer qualifies for options
Joe Mahoney 1/3 (serving second one)
#1: 3/14/2011
#2: 3/14/2012
Mark Reynolds
No longer qualifies for options
Brian Roberts
No longer qualifies for options
Zelous Wheeler 2/3 (serving first option)
#1: 3/29/2012

Endy Chavez
Signed as free agent; no options
Adam Jones 1/3
#1: 7/14/2006
#2: 4/1/2007
Nick Markakis
No longer qualifies
Nolan Reimold
#1: 3/20/2009
#2: 5/12/2010
#3: 3/28/2011 

22 April 2012

What does April's Pennant Mean?

The Orioles have been atop the AL East for much of April.  The Orioles' success has been largely due to the performances of Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Jake Arrieta, and Jason Hammel.  This is not exactly a new thing for the team.  Last year, the Orioles stayed above .500 for 11 games with 151 at or below that mark.  This year the team has been able to go 15 strong so far with their heads above water.  These games obviously are not meaningless.  They count in the record book, but with such low expectations coming into the season one has to wonder how meaningful they are.  Six of the eight wins so far have come against two of the least talented teams in the American League (i.e., Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox).  The other two have come against a very solid mid-level team (i.e., Toronto Blue Jays).  Games against teams with more elite expectations (i.e., New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) have been highly contested.  The end result being that this has been a rather pleasant beginning to the year.

The difficulty is trying to figure out what these 15 games mean to the future.  As an analyst who is somewhat statistically inclined, this is the part of the year where I am a bit uncertain what I can actually write about.  I was discussing baseball with one of my friends at lunch on Friday in front of the Capitol and discussing how everything I have begun writing so far has not inspired me to finish any of the pieces.  She, a peripheral Red Sox fan who enjoys the Fenway experience, replied how it is nice people write critical pieces, but so little has actually happened and so much is left to occur.  In other words, the famed words: Small Sample Size.  SSS has been an often used and often overused term for those of us who engage statistics with more vigor than most.  This means often that in moments like this when our counting stats are minimal in power, we need to lean more on qualitative analysis.

But what does winning April mean?  The Orioles have a shot at it being one game behind the Yankees with a little over a week left to play.

To try to answer this question, I looked at all fourteen American League teams last year.  Specifically, I took their monthly winning percentages and ran some R2s comparing a single month's winning percentage against the average winning percentage of the other months.  By doing this, we can see to how each month's performance was able to relate to the final total.  

Month R2
April 0.05
May 0.11
June 0.05
July 0.07
August 0.59
September 0.05
First off, we see there is an amazing correlation between a team's August record in 2011 and what that team's record was in every month excluding August.  Second, this is just one year with only 14 teams.  I think it is prudent not to automatically assume that August is the defining month.  It is also unfortunate that if it is the defining month then it makes the July trade deadline a bit murky.  Regardless, it appears that maybe April's record is not incredibly useful in predicting the final record for a team.

A secondary question can then emerge: how many games does it take to see how well a team will perform in the future?  To try to answer this, I used the same data and generated R2s comparing cumulative records against the remaining record.

Date R2
May 1st 0.05
June 1st 0.16
July 1st 0.41
August 1st 0.18
September 1st 0.05
The story here is likely that the more games you play, the more certain you are of the true value of a team (measured as wins).  By that I mean, 81 games played gives you a decent idea of the true value of a team and 81 games left to play allows for that talent to represent what they are truly worth.  Having 130 games in the bag will help you know the value of a team even more, but with only 32 games left, you can have some interesting things happen that can skew a record.

Finally, I decided to run a quick regression comparing individuals months (April, May, June, and July) to a club's final record.

Month Coefficient P
April 0.39 0.006
May 0.30 0.02
June 0.25 0.03
July 0.16 0.07
Again, I caution against taking these numbers as anything definitive due to what I assume to be a small sample size.  I find it interesting that the coefficient (weighted value of a month's record related to the final total record) would be the most valuable and that the coefficients trend downward.  I would like to see this with a more robust data set.  Second, I also find it striking that the record for July did not meet the level of significance I set (P = 0.05).  I also wonder how a more robust data set would affect that.  It should also be noted that standard error here is roughly 0.1 for each month's coefficient, so that is a pretty wide range that leaves none of the months statistically significant in difference to each other.

I am not exactly sure what to conclude here other than me want to see what happens with a larger data set.  The first two exercises suggest that winning the April pennant has little bearing on what happens for the rest of the year.  The third exercise provides numbers for a convenient narrative that the beginning of the season appears to establish a perspective for the rest of the year.  That narrative would mean that if a team starts off poorly, then for some reason that performance will have an effect on the rest of the season more so than whatever is accomplished in May, June, or July.  Tempering that perspective is the relatively large standard error.