04 September 2012

Indications of the Orioles Winning Over 90 Games

People tend to have a tendency to repeat some variation of Bill Parcels epic quote: you are what your record says you are.  I think more accurately it is that you were what your record says you were.  Wins and losses are one way to measure the talent of a team.  They are certainly the most definitive way to describe what happened, but for various reasons (i.e., non-skill based succession of events) it is not a great predictor for the future.  Though it is not bad.

In a previous post about six weeks ago, I simply illustrated that first half run differential was a slightly better indicator of second half record than it was to simply look at the first half record.  The primary issues of using either are basically that an inflated record can result in a team trying to play out their good hand by adding complementary pieces, increasing their talent level.  First half run differential can also be misleading because a good differential combined with an underperforming record could result in a team selling off their assets.

As we enter September, something new could be happening.  Many teams, such as one like the Twins or Astros, see this time as a chance to look at their younger players and get a read on them against MLB competition.  These teams still want to win, but they often put out a less than their best lineup.  As a result, September can be a pretty peculiar month.

For today, I will be assuming that a team's record to date is an accurate representation of their performance.  I will be trying to determine how many more wins the Orioles will add to their current 75.  To do this, I used Bill James' log5 method.  We get the following table:


Games Left Win Pct. ExWins
Blue Jays 6 0.448 3.7
Rays 6 0.548 3.1
Red Sox 6 0.456 3.6
Yankees 4 0.567 2
A's 3 0.567 1.5
Mariners 3 0.485 1.7
Log5 puts the Orioles at a 15.6-12.4 record for the remainder of the season.  This put the expectation for the team to finish with 90 (91 if you round up) wins.  Last year, Boston would have been the second wild card and they had 90 wins.  In other words, Baltimore is in a strong position.  Within the AL East, the Yankees have largely the same slate with divisional opponents along with the A's and Twins as their out of division series.  The Rays have it a bit harder as their out of division foes include the Rangers and White Sox which are both playoff contending teams.

It should be an exciting month.

03 September 2012

Expanded Roster: Optimism for Nick Markakis?

When the Orioles expand their roster, so do we.  Click here to find all of Camden Depot's Expanded Roster entries for 2012.  2011 Expanded Roster items can be found here.  As always, feel free to provide the Depot with suggestions for posts or with your own interest in writing an items or several to be posted here.  




Orioles Magic: Optimism for Nick Markakis?
by Albert Lang

Arbitrary end points, selection bias to suit a narrative, et cetera…whatever. See below:

Carl Yastrzemski side-by-side with Nick Markakis through age 26 seasons
3927
95
42
11.2%
11.7%
.165
.315
.293
.373
.458
3369
89
43
9.9%
14.5%
.165
.329
.298
.368
.463

*Above, and all subsequent charts, pulled from Fangraphs

At one point in time, a reasonable man could argue that Nick Markakis was on a Hall of Fame trajectory and that his career to date looked incredibly similar to one of the best to ever play the game: Yaz.

That said, certainly expecting any sort of linear or similar development from ballplayers, especially young ones, is faulty. However, it’s human nature to assume a commonality among players with this many plate appearances at such a tender age, yet the difference between Carl Yastrzemski’s age 27 season and Nick Markakis’s could not be wider.

In 1967, Yaz hit 44 HRs and batted .326/.418/.622. Yaz won the Triple Crown and led the league in total bases, runs, hits, OBP and slugging percentage.

In 2011, Nick Markakis hit 15 HRs and batted .284/.351/.406. He posted a worse slugging percentage than Yaz did OBP (wrong denominators, I know).

Unfortunately, given Yaz played a long time ago, it’s hard to see how/why he succeeded while Markakis “failed.” Yaz was a good player through his age 26 season, but he had only averaged 16 HRs a year – a far cry from the 44 he would hit as a 27-year-old. The following season (1968), Yaz hit just 23, before posting back-to-back 40 HR seasons. Following his last 40 HR season, though, Yaz averaged 18 HRs from 1971-1979.

In Yaz’s first six years, he had one 20 HR season; Markakis had two 20 HR seasons in his first three years. It wasn’t as if Yaz was hitting more doubles, either, as he collected just 21 more through age 26 than Markakis did.

Even if you were a pessimistic Orioles fan (like me), you could see a glimmer of hope leading into 2011 with Markakis, especially when looking at his similarities with Yaz. Heck, even if Markakis was half the player at 27 that Yaz was, he’d be a 6 fWAR guy.

That said, a baseball observer without much skin in the game or need for Orioles hope (magic) would have simply cited the decline of Markakis as reason why he’d come nowhere near duplicating Yaz’s tremendous season. There is no denying that Markakis had a three year decline in ISO and went from 12% (2008) to 8% (2009) to 6.1% (2010) HR/FB rates. In addition, after hitting 23, 20 and 18 HRs from 2007-2009, Markakis hit 12 in 2010.

However, Yaz had similar up and down power numbers: after hitting 19 HRs in 1962, Yaz hit 14 and 15 the following years – not quite a rock bottom 12, but still eons away from 40+.

Yaz did smack 20 dingers in 1965, but followed that up with just 16 in 1966. Basically, aside from 1965, his ISO was pretty much perched around .155, i.e., before 1966 it would have been hard to argue that Yaz was a budding slugging juggernaut cresting toward MVP world-beater status.

So, if there wasn’t much difference between their HRs, doubles or bulk power (ISO), how did Yaz succeed while Markakis “failed?”

Looking at the small chart above, the biggest difference in the two players occurs in walk and strike-out rates.

Season
Team
BB%
K%
1961
Red Sox
7.8%
14.9%
1962
Red Sox
9.2%
11.4%
1963
Red Sox
14.2%
10.8%
1964
Red Sox
11.6%
13.9%
1965
Red Sox
12.3%
10.2%
1966
Red Sox
12.4%
8.8%
Season
Team
BB%
K%
2006
Orioles
7.9%
13.3%
2007
Orioles
8.6%
15.8%
2008
Orioles
14.2%
16.2%
2009
Orioles
7.9%
13.8%
2010
Orioles
10.3%
13.1%



As Yaz matured, he walked more and struck out less. While, in 2008, Markakis showed exceptional walk skills (as Yaz did in his third year), Markakis was unable to maintain anything close to that approach. Furthermore, Markakis paired his walk rate with a much higher K%, while Yaz walked more and struck out less. Yaz took a step back after his third season, with his K% > BB%, but it’d be the last time he struck out at higher rates than he walked. Meanwhile, Markakis nearly halved his walk rate after his break-out plate discipline season, coming nowhere near maintaining that level of success.

Quite simply, while the power, doubles or batted ball rates weren’t all that different, it appears their approach was. Yaz quickly became a walk machine, who didn’t strike out. Markakis didn’t.

That said, there is some underlying optimism with Markakis, albeit in some small sample size mumbo-jumbo.

In just 304 plate appearances this season, he is posting his lowest K%. He’s also posting a tiny 3.9% swinging strike rate (the average is 9% this year and has been around 8.5% since 2006). In addition, his 12.5% HR/FB rate is nearly identical to his 2008 year, when he was a 6.3 fWAR player (i.e., half Yaz) (although a lot of value in that comes from defense). Lastly, his ISO (.173) would be the third best of his career and the first time he bested .160 since 2008.

Will Markakis hit 40 HRs in 2013? Doubtful. But, don’t be shocked with 30. Heck, he could hit 16 this year in 530 plate appearances (ZIPs projections). It’d be a cagey bet to put your money behind Markakis with 20+ HRs in 2013.

So, it seems there might be a bit of magic left in Markakis. But is there Hall of Fame magic?

Through AGE 28 Seasons

8050
314
137
11.1%
12.8%
.202
.295
.287
.366
.489
12358
465
223
9.8%
13.6%
.192
.296
.283
.353
.475
8230
340
77
15.3%
17.5%
.209
.289
.267
.379
.476
11092
384
34
9.6%
13%
.175
.303
.289
.356
.465
7905
151
224
7%
9.1%
  .121
.302
.290
.343
.411
4504
117
56
9.6%
13.5%
.160
.321
.295
.364
.455


This is a pretty interesting cluster of players. Winfield is the only Hall of Famer here, but legitimate (although failing arguments) can be made for Reggie Smith and Harold Baines and, to a lesser extent, Jack Clark being enshrined.

Can Nick Markakis become the next Dave Winfield? He is ahead of Winfield’s hits pace, and this takes into account that Markakis doesn’t have a full age 28 season. Of course, Markakis has nowhere near the speed or power that Winfield possessed. In fact, Markakis is overshadowed on this list when it comes to power by most players. Aside from Carney Lansford, Markakis has the lowest slugging percentage and ISO – and Lansford was an infielder.

That said, Markakis has the best OBP, owing to a decent walk rate and possessing the best batting average.

Production from Age 28 Season to the End of their Careers
8489
331
113
9.8%
13.9%
.197
  .294
.282
.351
.478
4281
186
56
12.5%
13.6%
.215
.303
.295
.381
.510
4179
188
18
19.3%
21.9%
.219
.297
.258
.402
.478
7015
244
5
11.4%
12.9%
.172
.305
.291
.37
.463
4067
70
134
7.2%
6.7%
.108
.290
.285
.342
.393


After turning 28, this group averaged just over 200 HRs and 1,381 hits. That would give Markakis at least 314 HRs and 2,537 hits for his career. In addition, doing some quick math gets this group to a .283 batting average and .376 OBP. Each one of these players increased their BB% after their age 28 season. So there’s some optimism that Markakis can start walking more, i.e., what Yaz accomplished in the earlier stages of his career.

If Nick Markakis finished his career with a .292 average, .373 OBP, 314 HRs and 2,537 hits, Orioles fans should be pleased and not overly shocked. Even if he comes up a bit short on those numbers, he’ll have been the best player the Orioles developed since Mike Mussina.