20 November 2012

Orioles Acquire Trayvon Robinson for Robert Andino

Given Robert Andino's down 2012, I suggested the Orioles might want to look elsewhere for a starting second baseman for 2013 if they wanted to be competitive again. When the O's picked up Alexi Casilla, the writing was kind of on the wall Andino wasn't going to be getting a starting job with the team next season. And now, as it turns it, he won't be getting any kind of job at all with the Birds, as he's been traded to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Trayvon Robinson.

First a quick look at the Andino to Casilla swap:

Andino career: .235/.296/.323, 67 wRC+, average-ish UZR at 2B/3B/SS
Casilla career: .250/.305/.334, 74 wRC+, average-ish UZR at 2B, plus (in few innings) at SS

Both guys hit better in 2011 than 2012, with Casilla slightly better in both years. He's walked less than Andino in his career (7.7% to 6.9%), but also makes more contact and strikes out less often (12.8% to 20.4%). Power numbers are similar (.088 ISO to .084 ISO), though Andino does it slightly more with homers and a little less with doubles. Casilla's better on the basepaths, and is a switch-hitter with relatively small platoon splits (especially when regressed) which makes him a more attractive starter than the right-handed Andino. The hope is probably that Casilla - if he is the team's primary second baseman - can be as valuable as Andino was in 2011 (around average), with less "Andino in 2012" type down-side (below replacement level).

Now to the trade:

Trayvon Robinson is a 25 years old switch-hitting outfielder. In the last two years for Seattle he's accumulated 319 Major League plate appearance with a .217/.272/.330 batting line. He improved somewhat from 2011 to 2012, bumping his walk rate up from 5% to over 8% and dropping the K's from 39% (!) to 26%. Back in 2011 with the Dodgers organization, he hit .293/.375/.563 with 26 home runs in Triple-A, though that took place for Albuquerque. Robinson's generally not shown that type of power and the whiffs are clearly of some concern, but his patience at the plate looks like it's improved since the lower levels of the minors.

Robinson does bring some speed (169 steals at a 70% clip in the minors) and (supposedly) defense to the table, which at least makes him attractive as a fourth outfielder. And, though he's out of options like Robert Andino, he has more years of team control left and is going to be cheaper - Andino made $1.3 M in his first arbitration year in 2012, and would probably be closer to $2 M for 2013.

Quick scouting report from Jon: He is a four tool guy whose tools simply have not been able to play at the MLB level. Robinson adds to team speed, but his plus speed that is not quite effectively used on the basepaths. He's overly aggressive at the plate and can be fooled by offspeed offerings, and he is also kind of a platoon guy even though he's a switch hitter. If you want to force a comp, he's like Xavier Avery with a little more power. (Which all more or less lines up with the stats above)

The Orioles didn't give up much in Andino or probably get much in Robinson, but there's likely more upside with the latter. Can't complain too much about that kind of trade.

2012 Orioles Retrospective: Tommy Hunter

Quick; who was second on the Orioles in innings pitched this year (pretend you haven't seen the title)?

Right, Tommy Hunter with 133.2 IP. Sometimes you just need a guy to take the ball, I guess.

The O's picked Hunter up from the Rangers last season in the Koji Uehara trade, and moved him from the bullpen (where he spent all of 2011 for Texas) to the rotation. He began 2012 as the O's #2 starter, but that didn't go especially well.

It wasn't totally unexpected; Hunter maintained his excellent control (1.8 BB/9) but continued to not miss many bats (4.7 K/9). The biggest problem - by far - was that batters started to take Hunter deep left and right. Allowing 30 home runs in 20 games (2.3 HR/9) is not a recipe for success, and his ERA (5.71) and FIP (6.09) reflected that.

Of course some of that was poor fortune, as Hunter's 21.3% HR/FB rate was the highest in the Majors for starters with at least 100 IP. That's why his xFIP was a more reasonable 4.52, which still isn't good but is more in line with his career numbers as a back of the rotation starter.

Hunter was used in relief a couple times earlier in the season, but finally moved to the bullpen full-time in September. And that's where he may have finally found his role. Because Tommy Hunter the starter throws a 90-91 mph fastball, but Tommy Hunter the reliever throws a 95-96 mph fastball that he can actually blow by people. Here's the change in whiff rates against his pitches during the year:


As a reliever, he simplified his repertoire and is much more content to let it rip with the heater. It's also possible that the slider compliments things better that way than the curve, but this is a relatively small number of pitches to look at.

In any case, it's working. Out of the bullpen, Hunter pitched to a 3.71 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 3.39 xFIP. Only Troy Patton had a lower xFIP (and his was just 0.01 lower) of pitchers with more than Tommy's 17 innings out of the pen. Hunter struck out 16 batters in those 17 innings, while handing out just 3 unintentional walks. he also threw the fastest pitch of any Oriole this year, at 100.1 mph.

As nonplussed as I was about the excitement some had when the O's added Hunter to the team as a starter, I can definitely get on board with him as a power-reliever who can potentially throw multiple innings out of the pen (I think I'm more comfortable with him in the 7th or 8th than Pedro Strop, at the very least). This could be one of those not-often-seen situations where a guy is so much better in shorter outings that he's more* valuable despite a somewhat reduced workload.

* More likely he'd be about as valuable; perhaps 1+ win in 80 innings as a reliever versus 1+ win in 120 innings as a starter.

19 November 2012

Clutchest Hits of 2012

During the magical 2012 season, the Orioles came up with a bunch of clutch hits. After all, you don't outperform you Pythagorean Win totals buy 11 games without coming up big in some close games. The Orioles were no exception.

So I took the 10 biggest hits in terms of Win Probability added and listed them below. Lots of heroes, not all of them obvious.

10. Wilson Betemit - .43 WPA - 4/13/12

The Orioles were in Toronto with two outs in the 8th and the bases were loaded. Betemit singled on a sharp ground ball up the middle scoring Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis turning a 1-run deficit into a 1-run lead. Reimold would tack on a run with a solo homer in the 9th and the Orioles would win 7-5, breaking a three game losing streak early in the season.

9. Adam Jones - .43 WPA  - 9/19/12

It was the top of the 11th in Seattle and the game had been tied since the 4th inning. Nate McLouth hit a 1 out single and then Adam Jones put the O's on top for good with a long home run to left field. The win put the team 21 games over .500 and kept them a half game back of the Yankees for the division lead.

8. Taylor Teagarden - .44 WPA - 7/14/12

The game versus the World Series bound Detroit Tigers on July 14th is the clutchiest team performance in terms of offense of the 2012 season. Taylor Teagarden's game winning 2-run homer in the bottom of the 13th is not even the biggest hit of the game in terms of WPA and is one of three hits that moved the winning probability more than 40% in the Orioles' favor.

7. Adam Jones - .44 WPA - 7/14/12

There would have been no Teagarden walk-off in the 13th without Adam Jones' big hit in the 11th. Down to their final out with two men on, Jones drove a liner into left scoring Nick Markakis and tying the game at 5 runs apiece.

6. Mark Reynolds - .45 WPA - 7/19/12

With two outs in the top of the 8th, Mark Reynolds singled in Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit turning a one run deficit into a one run lead. The O's would beat the Twins 4-3.

5. Nick Johnson - .45 WPA - 5/11/12

Remember him? He didn't play much but he did have one of the biggest hits of the year for the Birds. With two outs in the bottom of the 7th, Johnson hit a 2-run homer and turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. (Sound familiar?). The bullpen made it stand up for the one run win over Tampa Bay.

4. Matt Wieters - .46 WPA - 6/24/12

The Nationals had shutout the Orioles for 7 innings but in the bottom of the 8th, Adam Jones singled and then Matt Wieters hit a homer to deep left-center. The blast gave Baltimore the 2-1 lead and, once again, the bullpen made it hold up.

3. Nick Markakis - .46 WPA - 4/22/12

Like many others, Nick Markakis turned a one run deficit into a one run lead with a bases loaded single in the top of the 8th. For good measure, after Angels had tied the game, Nick singled home the go-ahead run yet again in the top of the 10th off of La Troy Hawkins to give the O's their 3-2 victory. With those two big hits, Markakis had .741 WPA for the game, the clutchiest game for an Oriole hitter during the season.

2. J.J. Hardy - .47 WPA - 7/14/12

Back to the July 14th game against the Tigers, the Orioles were down by one run with one out in the bottom of the 13th. Taylor Teagarden was able to give the Birds the win thanks to J.J. Hardy's game tying homer earlier in the inning bringing them back from the brink of defeat.

1. Nate McLouth - .54 WPA - 8/27/12

Pedro Strop gave up three straight singles in the top of the 8th to give the White Sox the 3-2 lead. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Mark Reynolds walked and Nate McLouth hit a 2-run homer to deep right to give the Orioles the 4-3 lead that Jim Johnson would again make stand up.

Looking over this list, you can make the argument that the July 14th game versus Detroit was the turning point of the season. The Orioles were just 4 games over .500 heading into that game and went 48-28 the rest of the way, 20 games over .500. There were lots of great moments in this Oriole season but July 14th may have been the greatest game they played and sparked them to greater things as the rest of the season played out.

18 November 2012

Sunday Comics: Grand Theft Awards

In all seriousness, I think Bob Melvin did an excellent job with the Oakland A's this season - his work was just as stellar as Buck's was. That being said, this idea popped into my head when I was doing some holiday shopping at Dick's Sporting Goods and wouldn't go away, so it's been drawn.

Relax, Buck, you've won the Manager of the Year award twice already.

17 November 2012

Former Tides Now Minor League Free Agents

by Joe Reisel

Five days after the conclusion of the World Series, all players who (1) are not on forty-man rosters and (2) not under contract for the following season become what are known as “six-year minor league free agents.” Earlier this month, Major League Baseball declared 549 players minor league free agents. Twenty-five of them ended the year in the Orioles’ organization.  
Of those twenty-five, nineteen had played for the Norfolk Tides at some time, seventeen in 2012. Most were low-level non-prospects used who played for the Tides when they desperately needed pitching; or long-term veterans who re-entered the minor league baseball with the Tides in mid-season, and who may decide to retire; or players signed as minor-league free agents before the 2012 season and are free agents again. But six were recent prospects who have been squeezed off the roster or have fallen out of favor. I’ll take a look at those six, four of whom were 2012 Norfolk Tides.

Ryan Adams was once considered the Orioles’ best bet to succeed Brian Roberts at second base; after the 2010 season, Baseball America ranked him as the Orioles #8 prospect. He projected to be a .280 hitter with doubles power, but with marginal defense at second base. But Adams had a terrible 2012. After getting off to a slow start at Norfolk, he broke his thumb in a fit of frustration. He came back after the all-star break and rebounded a little, but for the season he hit .224 with a .665 OPS and worse-than-ever defense. After the season he tested positive for amphetamine and was suspended for fifty games. Adams has clearly fallen out of favor with the Orioles, and needs a fresh start in a new organization to restart his career. He’ll be 26 in 2013.

Blake Davis was a lower-tier shortstop prospect who has spent at least part of the last four seasons with the Tides; after the 2008 and 2009 seasons, he was named the best defensive infielder in the Orioles system.  He played 25 games with the Orioles in 2011. His glove is steady, rather than spectacular; he’s a .250-range hitter with neither great speed nor real power.  Davis’ major-league upside is that of a utility infielder, and at age 29, he’s most likely to be a career AAA middle infielder. The Orioles have apparently decided that he’s replaceable if he leaves the organization.

Brandon Erbe is a right-handed starting pitcher. He was drafted by the Orioles out of a Baltimore high school and was rated the #2 prospect in the system after he struck out 133 in 114 innings in A-ball at age 18. Although it took him two years to work through High Class A Frederick, Erbe was progressing on the normal prospect path (at age 21 in AA) when he got hurt and missed half the season.  He started 2010 in the Norfolk rotation and suffered through a terrible half-season – 0-10 with a 5.73 ERA in 14 starts. He was diagnosed with a torn labrum and missed the second half of 2010 and essentially all of 2011. He struggled to regain his control pitching relief at Frederick last season, although he did strike out nearly a batter an inning. Erbe, who’ll be 25 in 2013, has been surpassed by many other pitchers in the Orioles’ system and the Orioles don’t think they need to protect him.

Rhyne Hughes is a first baseman, originally acquired from Tampa in a 2009 trade for Gregg Zaun. In 2009, Hughes hit 25 home runs for three teams, and when he got off to a hot start in 2012 was promoted to the Orioles. He didn’t hit well in the majors and cooled off when he returned to Norfolk. He split time with Brandon Snyder and Michael Aubrey and didn’t establish himself.  After the 2011 season he was suspended for fifty games after testing positive for amphetamine use and became a minor-league free agent. He re-signed with the Orioles, served his suspension, and was sent to Bowie. Although Hughes performed well, he didn’t become one of the 75 players on the 2012 the Norfolk Tides -- with Joe Mahoney playing first, there wasn’t a spot for him. Hughes is limited to first base and designated hitter, and doesn’t project to hit well enough for either position. He didn’t have a future with the Orioles and will likely be Triple-A roster filler for the rest of his career.

Zach Phillips is probably the new six-year free agent the Orioles most want to keep. Phillips was acquired from the Rangers in July 2011 for Nick Green in a trade whose circumstances remain murky. Phillips had struggled as a starting pitcher and was converted to the bullpen in 2009. He’s been consistently effective as a relief pitcher, and has a 3.21 ERA in fourteen major-league innings. He’s not just a left-handed one-out guy; he’s consistently averaged over an inning per appearance in the minors. But the Orioles have a lot of pitchers and unproven left-handed relief pitchers are plentiful; the Orioles probably think that even if Phillips goes elsewhere they can pick up a replacement. 

Pedro Viola joined the Orioles in early 2010 on waivers from the Reds. Viola is a left-handed pitcher with an outstanding fastball, subpar secondary stuff, and terrible control. He’ll turn 30 next June. In his AAA career (with Louisville and Norfolk) he has walked 7 batters per nine innings, leading to a 7.30 ERA. When you see Pedro Viola throw his fastball, you can dream that if he just figures it out he can be a possible Mitch Williams-type closer. But at some point you have to stop dreaming, face reality, and accept that he’s just not going to figure it out. The Orioles are facing reality.

16 November 2012

2012 Orioles Retrospective: Lew Ford

Before the 2012 season, the last time Lew Ford played in the Major Leagues was in 2007. The last time Lew Ford had even 300 plate appearances in the Major Leagues was in 2005. So when the Orioles signed him to add some outfield depth to the team, it was largely viewed as a joke by many.

The 35 year-old Lew Ford then proceeded to hit .331/.390/.500 with 11 homers in 62 games in Triple-A. He was called up at the end of July to help fill some in when Nick Markakis got hurt, and ended up hitting just .183/.256/.352 for the Orioles in 79 PA.

Ford actually didn't play that poorly - his walk and strike-out rates (9%, 16%) were virtually identical to his minor league numbers and were both better than average. His .169 ISO was also above average. The main difference after his promotion was the nose-dive his batting average on balls in play took, from .365 to .182. Part of that was bad luck, and part of it was him hitting as many pop-ups as Joey Votto has in the last four years (combined).

Used mostly as a platoon guy, Ford posted an above average .330 wOBA against lefties compared to a .123 wOBA against righties. Part of that was BABIP-fueled, but he also walked twice as often against southpaws and hit all 3 of his home runs off of them (CC Sabathia, Chris Sale, and Francisco Liriano, no less).

Add in some decent defense in outfield corners, and Ford was a replacement level player even with the horribly low BABIP ("freely avialable talent" indeed). It's very possible - maybe even likely - that he showed enough to catch on with some team as a fourth-outfielder and righty bat, which is certainly a pretty neat story.

Given the current roster make-up though, I doubt it's worth bringing him back for 2013 on anything more than a minor league deal. But that doesn't at all take away from the fact that Lew Ford started a playoff game for the Orioles - as the designated hitter! - or that he hit  .375/.375/.500 in the post-season overall.

15 November 2012

Examining the trend: Two hitting coaches

After John Farrell was acquired by the Red Sox to be their manager he set to work, as any manager does, to round out his coaching staff. After hiring Juan Nieves to be his pitching coach, he made a statement in an interview that piqued the curiosity of the media. When asked who he was considering for hitting coach, Farrell said that it depends on who the first guy is, but they are looking at hiring two hitting coaches, as that position has evolved over the years into more of a two-person job. There has been a lot of coverage on the subject, as it was being considered to be a radical idea, however there are already six teams in MLB that employ two hitting coaches, with BOS looking to become the 7th.

For years teams have been employing two pitching coaches, having an assistant pitching coach is fairly common these days, using the Red Sox for example, late last season when they fired their lame duck pitching coach they promoted their in-house assistant pitching coach to fill the role for the remainder of the season. For a few seasons now some teams have been adding assistant hitting coaches to the team as well. These assistant coaches aren't listed on the team's roster of coaches, and have to watch the game from the stands as there are MLB rules on the number of coaches allowed in the dugout, but assistants are a  trend. Currently, the Tigers (Lloyd McLendon, Toby Harrah), Padres (Phil Plantier, Alonzo Powell), Giants (Hensley Meulens, Joe Lefebvre), Braves (Greg Walker, Scott Fletcher), Phillies (Wally Joyner, Steve Henderson) and Royals (Jack Maloof, Andre David) are the teams with two hitting coaches, and St. Louis is temporarily without a second as Mark McGuire left for LAD, promoting assistant John Mabry to hitting coach. Matheny has said that he will continue the trend set forth there by Tony LaRussa and they will add an assistant hitting coach at some point. Boston isn't exactly breaking the mold by hiring an assistant coach, but they are part of a growing trend.

As Farrell has said in interviews, one of the reasons for an assistant hitting coach is that the job has become more of a two-person job, and there aren't enough hours in the day for one person to be everywhere preforming the duties that a hitting coach should. In Spring Training alone, there are multiple fields, underground cages, and side sessions where hitting is taking place and it is hard for one person to see all of these guys with the grueling schedule Spring Training dictates. During the season, there are cage sessions for each player that the coach needs to be present for, and those sessions eat time away from time he could be meeting with players that need more individualized help, breaking down tape or meeting with the manager to report and discuss various players. In this new role, the assistant is the guy who usually watches each cage session for each player, while the coach handles the other day to day duties. Another possible reason for multiple coaches is that not every player is made for a certain coaches hitting specialty. Some guys are better at getting more power out of guys, some are better at teaching contact and small ball, and some are better at teaching patience and strike zone recognition. Every hitter is different, and a leadoff guy whose skill set is aimed at on base percentage and contact might not get the most he could out of a coach that specializes and focuses on driving the ball and hitting for power. For instance when Keven Seitzer was let go from KC this offseason, part of the reasoning given was that KC was looking for a coach that could help bring out more power from their hitters, they were also looking for guys that had success with young hitters coming up from the minors, even guys that worked directly with those young hitters when they were excelling in the minors. Hosmer, and Moustakas for instance, worked with both of the new hitting coaches they hired in the minors. Maybe it's just a case of the same general philosophy but a different approach to teaching that is required, not every person learns the same way, and that holds true for baseball players.

In PHI, Steve Henderson, formally hitting coach for TB, was hired with the agreement that he would be taking on an assistant hitting coach. Even though the Rays set team records in runs, HR, OBP, and walks, Henderson was let go out of a concern that their team situational hitting wasn't where it should be, anyone who has watched Joe Maddon manage a game completely understands that point. Wally Joyner was brought in as Henderson's assistant exactly for that reason to give a different point of view and get information across in a different way. Phil Plantier, in SD has a philosophy that you have to adapt to the hitter to bring out what they do best, and for him he learned a little bit from everyone he worked with, so the more people to get input from the better. His counterpart, Alonzo Powell spent years overseas in Japan, while he was there he mastered the art of studying and breaking down video, which made him an excellent assistant candidate. The Rays replacement for Steve Henderson, Derek Shelton, earned praise from manager Joe Maddon, who values situational hitting which suits his managing style. Shelton earned the ire of fans however when the team settled into the bottom half of baseball in hitting statistics, and now going into next season, they are considering hiring an assistant for Shelton for many of the reasons listed above.

For years, talk of reuniting pitchers with pitching coaches they had success with has been made when a pitcher struggles under a new regime, and adding assistant coaches to the major league staff allows teams to have the hitting or pitching coach they would like as a team, and also allows a spot for a guy that maybe had success with a young group of the teams hitters or pitchers in the minors, or a guy that specializes with a different type of learner than the main coach does. More variety on a staff means more knowledge to share with players, and more knowledge can't be a bad thing, not to mention having a replacement ready in case a move needs to be made as in the Red Sox case last season or St. Louis this offseason.

14 November 2012

2012 Orioles Retrospective: Robert Andino

Robert Andino was pressed into duty last year with the loss of Brian Roberts, and acquitted himself relatively well. A solid walk rate and an OK strike-out rate can play at second-base when they come with some defense. Brian Roberts wasn't expected to play much (if at all) this year, leaving Andino as the starter at second again. Things went... less well.

On the plus side, the improvements Andino made with his plate discipline were solidified and extended. He upped his walk rate from 8% to 8.6%, and did an even better job of not swinging at pitches out of the strike-zone. He also showed a bit of pop early in the season, with 3 homers in his first 27 games (after hitting only 5 in 139 games in 2011). As late as May 15th, the home run leader-board read Robert Andino - 3, Albert Pujols - 1. (Pujols then homered in consecutive games, and finished with an impressive - given his start - 30 on the season).

Every else was not so good. Andino's contact rate fell to 80%. That, in and of itself, isn't terrible - it's actually a touch above average. The problem is that pitchers had no reason to fear him (they weren't checking the home run leader-boards, apparently), and just pounded the strike-zone. Of Major Leaguers with at least 400 PA, Andino saw the third highest proportion of pitches in the zone. And on those pitches, he swung and missed more than the average batter. Seeing strikes + swinging and missing them = strike-outs, and Andino's K rate jumped to over 23%.

Often, strike-outs will come with power production. That was, sadly, not so much the case here. Though Andino hit a career high 7 home runs and improved his isolated power from .081 to .094, that second figure is still poor. Of the 39 batters who struck out more often than Andino did, only one had a lower ISO (Everth Cabrera, who was to play half his game at PETCO).

And while more strike-outs will obviously hurt the batting average, Andino's plunged even further with the drop in his BABIP from .311 to .266. That'll happen when you hit fewer line-drives and more pop-ups, I guess.

So at the plate, Andino went from a perfectly respectable .263/.327/.344 to just .211/.283/.305. He couldn't even be platooned that effectively, as he couldn't hit lefties (67 wRC+) or righties (57 wRC+). Piling on even more, he made 13 errors at second (up from 4) which put his UZR underwater (-2 runs; plus another -2 from his time at third).

In a season where he could have established himself as a decent starting position player, it was unfortunate to see Robert Andino go from 1.8 fWAR to -0.6 fWAR and contribute to the black hole that was the second-base position for the Orioles this year. But hey, credit to him for being one of the few players on the team to remember to bring his (or someone else's) bat to the post-season, where he hit .417/.417/.500. He can probably still be a productive bench player, but it might behoove the O's to actually find a good second-baseman if they want to be competitive next year.

13 November 2012

Measuring Bullpen Management: Bucking Up the Bullpen

A common thought among many of us is that much of the Orioles' success in 2012 was largely dependent on the bullpen.  An fWAR breakdown shows that the bullpen (6.4 fWAR, 5th) was better ranking-wise than either batting (15.3 fWAR, 25th) or starting pitching (10.2 fWAR, 19th).  The bullpen was largely constructed with existing pieces, half of the return for the Guthrie trade, and a small late winter free agent signing.  A more thorough discussion of the various pieces of the bullpen can be found in an article Jon Bernhardt wrote in August.  This post however will take a look at whether bullpen performance can be attributed to a manager.

Generally, conventional wisdom has it that individual relief pitchers are a widely varying lot in terms of performance.  These pitchers put up about 50 innings or so each year, which really is not enough time on the mound to statistically inform an assessment of future performance.  However, it may well be that a manager (or perhaps a manager with his General Manager) may actually be able to create a high performing bullpen on a relatively consistent basis.

A Hardball Times article suggested using WPA - WPA/LI as a measure of bullpen performance that would be useful in assessing bullpen management.  WPA is the acronym for Wins Probability Added.  This is calculated as the difference in win expectancy before and after an event. LI is the Leverage Index.  It is a measurement of how consequential a specific scenario is based on the inning, outs, score, baserunners, and baserunner position.  By using the two statistics in concert, you arguably have a measure that gives you a context neutral wins added metric.

To test whether this metric would give an indication that managers have skill associated with using a bullpen well, I decided to take the last five seasons of several recent managers.  I compare each manager's mean for WPA, WPA/LI, and WPA-WPA/LI (ANOVA).  WPA will inform us simply if certain teams wind up with better outcomes for winning based on reliever usage.  WPA/LI will neutralize all situations and measure reliever ability in general (similar to wOBA).  WPA-WPA/LI is being used to inform us about whether relievers actually perform better in clutch situations.  If one of these statistics indicate an actual skill then the numbers associated with a manager should be (1) repeatable and (2) result in managers being different from each other.  Of course, this assumes that these things are, in fact, measurable.

Bob Melvin 3.75 0.83 2.92
Bruce Bochy 2.98 0.13 2.84
Joe Giraldi 7.37 4.88 2.49
Buck Showalter 5.61 3.67 1.94
Terry Francona 5.56 3.69 1.88
Mike Scioscia 1.94 0.13 1.81
Ozzie Guillen 1.86 0.31 1.54
Joe Madden 4.42 3.21 1.22
Ron Gardenhire 2.78 1.59 1.19
Charlie Manuel 2.60 1.49 1.11
Ron Washington 4.35 3.25 1.10
Bud Black 1.74 0.80 0.94
Dusty Baker 2.76 2.19 0.56
Joe Torre 2.81 2.28 0.53
Jim Leyland 1.16 0.90 0.26
Ned Yost 1.00 1.29 -0.29
Tony LaRussa 1.28 1.74 -0.46
Eric Wedge -0.80 -0.15 -0.66
Bobby Cox 0.31 1.63 -1.31
Interestingly enough, both WPA (p=0.12) and WPA - WPA/LI (p=0.45) were not found to be significant in this study using this data.  However, WPA/LI was found to have significant differences within the population (p < 0.05).

So who typically has a good bullpen based on WPA/LI?

Joe Giraldi 123~5~~~~~~
Terry Francona 12345678~~~
Buck Showalter 1234567~~~~
Ron Washington ~234567~~~~
Joe Madden 123456789~~
Joe Torre ~234567890~
Dusty Baker ~234567890X
Tony LaRussa ~234567890X
Bobby Cox ~234567890X
Ron Gardenhire ~234567890X
Charlie Manuel ~2~~567890X
Ned Yost ~234567890X
Jim Leyland ~~~~567890X
Bob Melvin ~234567890X
Bud Black ~234567890X
Ozzie Guillen ~~~~~67890X
Bruce Bochy ~~~~567890X
Mike Scioscia ~~~~~~7890X
Eric Wedge ~~~~~67890X
The above table shows groups of similar performance.  The bold numbers indicate how managers differ.  Most managers belong to their own specific number, but 7 (Baker, LaRussa, Cox, Gardenhire, Yost, Melvin, and Black), 9 (Leyland and Bochy), and 0 (Guillen and Wedge) are shared.  For instance all 1s are not significantly different from Joe Giraldi and Joe Giraldi is significantly different from groups 4 and 6 through X.  Eye-balling it there are essentially three tiers:
Tier 1
Giraldi, Francona, Showalter, Washington, and Madden
All five of these managers get consistently good performance out of their bullpens and, as a whole, have significantly better performance than groups 9 through X.  Joe Giralid's pens have produced very well making his group significantly better than all of the others except 1, 2, 3, and 5.  This actually provides a potential argument for leaving Washington out of this tier.  However, the relationships of his performance with the other managers' performances appear to fit best in group 1. Only Showalter had multiple GMs in this grouping.
Tier 2
Torre, Baker, LaRussa, Cox, Gardenhire, Yost, Melvin, and Black
This group appears no different from anyone other than Joe Giraldi's bullpen.  Torre, Yost, and Melvin account for the managers for more than one GM.
Tier 3
Manuel, Leyland, Guillen, Bochy, Scioscia, and Wedge
The bullpen performance out of this group are notable in that they are not included in some of the upper performing groups.  In fact, their performances are significantly worse than everyone in Tier 1 except for Francona and Madden.  Only Wedge and Guillen were managers under different GMs.

The above study shows that good bullpen performance when measured as context neutral does tend to relate to specific managers.  However, it is unclear exactly what is resulting in these managers having good bullpens.  It does not appear that certain managers are adept at putting their pitchers in certain scenarios to get the most out of them, but that may simply be a limitation in how I tried to measure bullpen management.

11 November 2012

Sunday Comics: Our AL Manager of the Year Finalist

Buck Showalter's a finalist for AL Manager of the Year. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope the man takes home the much-deserved award - he's got some fairly steep competition.

Anyhow, in honor of his nomination, I did this!

10 November 2012

2012 Orioles Retrospective: Stu Pomeranz

I had never heard of Stu Pomeranz before I saw him pitch for the Orioles in Spring Training this year. I came away relatively impressed, thinking Pomeranz would be able to contribute to the O's bullpen at some point during the season.

Injuries kept him out for much of the season, but Pomeranz did get into three games in Baltimore in May, pitching 6 innings with 3 K's, a walk, and 7 hits (including a two-run home run) allowed. His minor league numbers - split between Double-A and Triple-A - were slightly more impressive; 23.1 IP, and 35 strike-outs to just 3 walks. And a 0.00 ERA.

A tall guy who averaged 94 mph with his fastball in the Majors, Pomeranz also got a little bit of sink on some of his heaters which helped him keep the ball on the ground pretty well (59% groundball rate). The curve doesn't seem like a knockout offering, but it isn't the worst complement to the fastball (it can at least make the latter look better).

Already 27 years old, there's probably not much upside left with Pomeranz. I certainly wouldn't feel less comfortable going to him in the middle innings than to Kevin Gregg though, and if he sticks around with the O's for 2013 I wouldn't be surprised if he did a fine job in middle relief for the team.

08 November 2012

Who is on First? Orioles 2013 Edition

First base is the final position I will be reviewing for the Orioles to improve themselves.  The other positions I have covered have been second base and left field.  This will not be the first time we have discussed the position.  It likely will not be the last.  The point of this post and the other two are to provide an understanding of what level of performance the Orioles generated from these positions last year and whether internal or eternal options are needed in order to improve the talent on the roster.

Below is a graph that first appeared in the Mark Reynolds piece.  It identifies that the Orioles were not weak at first base, but they did not have first division production from that position.  Improvement is possible here, but it may cost a bit.

There are a few options for 2013 that already exist within the organization.  I tried to be incredibly open minded when looking at this position, so I included some of the catchers and Nolan Reimold.

LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Wilson Betemit 31 65 133 -15 -0.9 1.7 0.8
Chris Davis 27 112 121 -5 0.4 1.7 2.1
Joe Mahoney 26 84 82 -5 -0.2 -0.6 -0.8
Mark Reynolds 29 100 112 -5 0.2 1.2 1.4
Matt Wieters 27 143 105 -10 1.0 0.4 1.4
Taylor Teagarden 29 73 73 -10 -0.5 -1.5 -2.1
Steve Pearce 30 121 68 -5 0.6 -1.4 -0.8
Brandon Waring 27 107 62 -10 0.2 -2.2 -2.0
Nolan Reimold 29 100 105 -10 0.0 0.4 0.4
In an earlier post, I mentioned that a platoon of Betemit and Davis would work.  It should be noted that Davis all on his lonesome would also project to generate just as much offense as the platoon would generate.  I must say though that I find Davis' projection to be rather remarkable.  I do not believe in him as much as the model projects him.  Wieters would also be a good platoon partner at first, but it is quite doubtful that a sufficient catcher would be found to replace him at catcher.  Russell Martin would be a fit for that idea, but there is no way he would accept a role as a backup catcher, nor should he.

However, I think the take home message again from the above table is that Mark Reynolds' production can be replaced by what the Orioles already have.  Chris Davis, if he truly is the projected player, simply is better than Reynolds.  On the DH role, Betemit could face righties and, perhaps, Steve Pearce could face lefties.  Jeff Keppinger and Jonny Gomes would also be suitable DH platoon partners.  Whatever the solution is, it should be less than the 9MM Reynolds seems likely to earn in arbitration.

What is available for 1B as Free Agents?

Free Agents
LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Lance Berkman 36 93 134 -5 0.0 2.5 2.5
Eric Hinske 35 57 84 0 -0.6 -0.1 -0.8
Travis Ishikawa 29 81 108 10 0.2 2.0 2.2
Jeff Keppinger 33 116 65 0 0.6 -1.3 -0.6
Adam LaRoche 33 99 123 5 0.4 2.6 3.0
Carlos Lee 37 91 88 -5 0.0 -0.2 -0.3
James Loney 29 69 101 5 -0.2 1.3 1.0
Mike Napoli 31 134 111 -5 0.9 1.1 2.0
Nick Swisher 32 132 116 0 1.0 1.8 2.8
Kevin Youkilis 34 118 107 0 0.7 1.2 1.9
As I mentioned before, I am a Keppinger fan and would be very interested in having his bat on the bench or starting against lefties.  Another player I find interesting, one that I think might be available on a split minor league deal, is Travis Ishikawa.  His value is based more on defense, but he is sufficiently able to start against righties.  I am not completely sold on his value, so I would be hesitant to make much of a commitment to him.

Of course, the elite bats here are Berkman, LaRoche, Napoli, Swisher, and Youkilis.  If you are concerned about the Orioles late first round selection in next year's draft, then you may hesitate in signing LaRoche or Swisher as both have qualifying offers on them from their 2012 teams.  Berkman is considering retirement, has a severe platoon bat, and is at an age where abilities can fall apart.  Youkilis is more of a natural fit for 1B, but looks like he is not long for MLB as his injuries are beginning to sap his offense.  Napoli is an interesting player as he is a platoon bat that is strong against left handers.  He may be able to give Wieters a rest at catcher against lefties and rest against some righties with tough plus breaking balls.  Such a move would push Davis to more of a full time DH with some 1B work and Betemit to the bench as a pinch hitter against righties as well as an occasional DH against right handed starters.  Napoli has been a bit of an up and down player, so there may be some concern over committing to him for too many year.

LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Daric Barton 27 94 91 10 0.4 1.0 1.5
Kyle Blanks 26 92 105 -5 0.0 0.8 0.8
Dan Johnson 33 94 93 0 0.2 0.4 0.6
Casey McGehee 30 67 100 -5 -0.5 0.5 -0.1
Gaby Sanchez 29 72 112 5 -0.2 1.9 1.7
I'd like to see both Daric Barton and Kyle Blanks in the system.  Gaby Sanchez looks likely to find himself a role with a MLB team and that simply is not an offer I would make to him.  Barton and Blanks would not earn a 40 man contract from me though.  There are more than enough people in the organization who can eke out play at first.

As I mentioned before, Mark Reynolds simply is not worth 9MM.  If one insists on spending 9MM and assuming Wieters can play some first base, then Mike Napoli would be someone I would target.  Equally acceptable for me would be to have Chris Davis or Davis and Wilson Betemit take on first.