04 March 2013

Do the Orioles have the 4th worst farm system in baseball?

Victor Wang, I assume, is a pretty smart guy.  He began to break out on the sabermetric scene when he was 16 years old, worked his writing and analytical skills for a few years, joined the Cleveland Indians, and is now the Assistant Director of Professional Scouting.  He is one of the guys made good.  One of many, many baseball analysts who have presented their work on forums, blogs, and journals and then wound up employed in Major League Baseball.  While the mainstream has been arguing the value of modern qualitative and quantitative measures against traditional qualitative and quantitative measures, baseball moves along slowly, but surely.  Success (or perceived success) produces mimicry and we now have a flooded market of front office analytical types that seem to greatly benefit their teams.

Back to Victor Wang and, perhaps one area where analytics seem to have some trouble, the valuation of minor league systems.  The August 2007 edition of the Sabermetric newsletter, By the Numbers, included a piece by Wang where he attempted to measure the value of prospects.  The idea was to use established sources, Baseball America's top 100 prospects and John Sickels' yearly prospect grades, to determine not only the likelihood of production by being a recognized prospect, but also how much money that meant to the team in control of said prospect.  This article had a great deal of fanfare attached to it as we could then use his work to calculate how productive a team's minor league system might be.

This is quite an important concept because by changing over the murky qualitative expressions of how good certain prospects are, even the most attentive follower of baseball can be overwhelmed of the scouting process and their myriad determinations of a player's current and future worth.  The confusion is a good reason why so much white noise has been generated in the past five years or so with everyone trying to generate prospect rankings and scouting reports that are often based on a few sources (e.g., Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, John Sickels).

There is nothing inherently wrong with a freelance blogger trying to figure out the scouting game.  Former writer, often podcast guest, and friend of the Depot, Nick Faleris (now with Baseball Prospectus) made his way from forum evaluator to Camden Depot writer to BP writer through great skill and sheer determination in a way that was very transparent.  That transparency is something I think is essential and was the main reason why Nick and I eschewed our forum handles on this site a few years back.  That transparency in process and in identity is important when the audience is trying to gauge the utility of the information.  It is a major reason why I tend to ignore (and probably you should, too) prospect sites that simply give lists or short evaluations without any description of the process or clear identification of the contributors.

So, in this prospect evaluation fog, Wang's work appeared to be a possible light house to lead the way to some concept of reality.  By using trusted sources, with clear track records and some semblance of methodological explanation, you could determine just how good your team's best prospects likely were and what the whole system could mean to the success of the parent club.  Beyond the Box Score was one of a few who used the system to devise a way to express organizational worth back in 2009.  I was not able to find any more recent, so either this one off was do to simple lack of future interest or it may well be that the crew at BtBS determined that maybe there were issues using Wang's work in this manner.

If you read the article in By the Numbers (do it now if you have not), his conclusions were basically that prospects are worth a lot and that position players are more likely to achieve a higher level of performance.  What it does not say is that position players are worth more than pitchers.  How can one player perform better and not be worth more than another player?  Scarcity.  If one players is part of a population that is needed, but has a higher rate of failure, then that player may still be worth the same or more than another player who is part of a group that has a much lower level of failure.  Though the 2009 thoughts of Wang seem to indicate that he did not follow this perspective at some point in time.

Anyway, these are not exactly new sentiments here at Camden Depot.  I have addressed, somewhat briefly and quite clumsily, this approach on two occasions.  In 2009, I used it to assess the 2008 draft and how the Orioles' and the Camden Depot Shadow Orioles' drafts differed from what I suggested would have been an approach more in line with what Wang suggested.  That is it is more effective to build with elite hitting prospects and second tier pitching prospects.  Wang's paper showed that a top 100 hitter performed better than a top 100 pitcher.  However, a Sickels' B level, non-Baseball America top 100 pitcher performed better than the categorically equivalent hitter.  This meant that a draft consisting of 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Tim Melville, and LHP Tim Murphy would have trumped the actual draft of LHP Brian Matusz, OF Xavier Avery, and OF L.J. Hoes.  I think we can all agree that the actual Orioles draft has been superior.  Although, one comparison does not prove the Orioles having taken the right approach just that their approach appears far more useful in this single instance.

A year later, I wrote about the approach again on the Depot.  It was spawned from a reader who asked me to comment on an evaluation similar to Beyond the Box Score's evaluation that appeared as a fan post on John Sickels' Minor League Ball.  In my response, I attempted to articulate what I mentioned before: scarcity.  People certainly like to overstate TINSTAAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect).  However, it is not like we can simply ignore pitchers and simply expect the baseball to find its own way from the mound to home plate within the vicinity of the strike zone.  Pitchers simply are a frustrating necessity in that teams must put in a great deal of effort (just as much as acquiring and developing a hitter), but wind up with considerably more failure (reviewing 2004 data for prospects I found that 44% of ranked pitching prospects suffer significant career altering injuries within 6 years of being ranked versus 14% for position players).  That scarcity to me means that even though pitchers are likely to produce less value than a hitter, pitchers are worth more than their production would seem to suggest given this methodology.

With that said, I created the following graph using an adjusted methodology from the initial paper.  The changes simply are accounting for the increase in free agent salaries and collapsing price differences between C level prospects and their age.  The latter change was simply one that I felt would vastly speed up my analysis and would not greatly alter the final tallies.

The following is the organizational values for each team based on the 2013 top 100 prospects ranking from Baseball America, the prospect grades assigned by John Sickels, and using the adjusted Wang methodology.

Click on graph to increase size.

As expected, teams that are deep in positional talent (e.g. Minnesota with Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Oswaldo Arcia) are valued much higher than those who have considerable pitching talent (e.g., Baltimore with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman).  Additionally, teams with incredibly deep B level reserves of pitching (e.g., Tampa Bay) are valued much higher than teams with shallower systems (e.g., Baltimore).  Again, this methodology would place great importance on elite positional prospects as well as teams with deep second tier pitching prospects.

As mentioned earlier, I find this approach does not adequately consider scarcity.  In response, I decided to multiply pitching prospect worth by a coefficient to reduce the effect of injury flameout.  To equate the two groups, I multiplied pitching prospect worth by 1.55.  This is not a perfect methodology as it assumes that our ability to assess the future impact of pitchers and position players are equivalent.  Nor does it more greatly define scarcity.  To summarize, this is simply an injury adjustment.

Click on graph to increase size.

There is a slight readjustment in organizational value by measuring in this way.  For instance, Baltimore received more credit for having two elite pitching prospects, but the shallow nature of their system works against them from jumping ahead too far with them placing 25th instead of 27th.  The team that moved forward the most were the Atlanta Braves who had five B level pitching prospects and two pitchers ranked in the top 100.  San Diego went from 10th to 6th based on seven B level pitchers and two top 100 ranked pitchers.  Both the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers fell back five slots due to their positional heavy systems.

As it stands, I do not think that the second graph is the "reality" of organizational value, but it does provide a decent starting point to address other potential issues in order to harmonize the statistical perspective and the way in which Baseball America, John Sickels, and others (including MLB) values prospects.  Some have suggested that teams like Baltimore are being unfairly labeled as a mid to low quality minor league system because of the supposed value of having two potential aces on the farm.  This small effort in this post does not reconcile that view with what various publications have been reporting.

As it stands, I think we are still limited in our knowledge about the true value of these players.  Simple evaluation of the success of past prospects is inadequate in determining the true value of players because position scarcity plays a major role in that value.  Future studies need to more completely define that scarcity to determine if, in fact, there is a significant population of MLB teams that inadequate evaluate their players in a way that other teams could exploit.


Bret said...

I love Baseball America and the rankings but farm system is an overly simplistic thing for evaluating. For example, regarding the O's.

1. Manny Machado can't yet drink legally but he isn't considered a part of farm system anymore. Had he not come up in August but started opening day with the O's this year he would be the #1 or #2 overall prospect and the O's would have 2 of the top 3. But because he played 2 months they have a below average system even though the 2 months changed nothing.
2. Obviously everyone wants a great system all the time but theoretically if Schoop is an above average regular starting next year and Wieters doesn't want an obscene amount of money you should have 5-6 positions covered for the next 6 or so years. Markakis will play this year on the right side of 30, he should be a solid player through 34-35. Swisher and Hamilton are getting huge bets placed that they won't slip at that age. Wieters is only 26, Jones 27. Machado 20, Schoop 21. We will see on Davis but he is only 27. Angelos certainly has the money to keep his own players. Then you add in Hoes and the pitching and they have plenty to win going forward.
3. Look at the Yankees. If they sign Cano he starts next season at 31 and a half. They have major age in RF, 3B, SS, CF, 1B and two SPs. Yeah, if you take the current Yankees system in a vacuum and compare it to the O's the Yankees win. But the Yankees need at least 7 positions filled long term at the major league level plus Kuroda, plus Pettitte, plus a closer. The O's need maybe 2 position players and every important pitcher they have is under 31 plus they have 2 of the top 5 or 6 pitching prospects in all of baseball.

The fact that pitching is unpredictable is true and I agree with that aspect of the post knocking the O's down a peg but focusing just on the farm system is a very obstructed view of things.

Jon Shepherd said...

Well, I think it evens out because everyone is graded under the same system. Just thinking about the AL East, you are looking at Will Middlebrooks and Anthony Gose not being considered.

Anyway, with Machado and all other 2012 rookies in place, then you are looking at the Os as a high third tier or low second tier system.

If we include under 25 talents...well, things stay pretty much the same, but the Rays then jump up.

Jon Shepherd said...

In other words...whatever perspective you subscribe to...you could probably argue that the Os have at best the 10th system. I think that would be the edge of being reasonable. On the other end? I could see low 20s.

Bret said...

I think it is a combination of perpectives. Farm system is a large part of it but the conversion rates on farm systems are nowhere near 100%. The biggest key is what long term holes do you have. For the O's 2B (hopefully Schoop replaces), LF, DH are the main issues. Boston has a very old DH, no decent catcher, FA center fielder, FA 1b etc. Toronto has a bad system but are built to win now.

Strictly techically speaking I think it is clear both Boston and New York have better farm systems the O's. But I would much rather be the O's over the next 5 years than those two because the O's have much less of a need for major league talent over that time period. Derek Jeter and David Ortiz and Ichiro aren't going to play forever.

Bret said...

One other point, I know some will say those two teams can buy the talent they need but over the past few seasons the trend has been locking up young players. Building through FA is much harder due to dearth of high quality players hitting FA combined with stringent rules in the CBA on 189 million etc. Plus 3 of the top FA are their own players (Granderson, Cano, Ellsbury) so they will have to spend big just to maintain status quo.

Jon Shepherd said...

So are you also considering the cost for the Orioles to lock up all of their young talent? They did so with Jones. They can do it with Wieters. At that point, money might start getting tight based on previous spending and assumed increases in revenue and spending.

Bret said...

Angelos is going to have to expand some but given the fact that Roberts 10 mill comes off the books and they may not need Hammel back (if Gausman/Bundy progress) they have room.

I don't have a problem locking up your own players as long as the dollars aren't obscene and it doesn't go deep into the aging curve. I'd give Wieters Jones contract if he would take it. I'm not going to give him Joe Mauer money because he doesn't deserve it yet and I don't want it going through age 37 or whatever. They should be fine with money as long as they don't start signing free agents. Keeping Wieters is really the only pressing concern at the moment, I don't see Markakis leaving and Machado and the others won't be arb eligible until 2015 minimum.

Jon Shepherd said...

Check the contracts. Arbitration and escalation of Jones' contract swallows up the savings on Roberts and more.

There really is not a lot of money around if the team continues a similar spending trajectory.

Bret said...

It depends on how they play things. If they bring back the same positional team except Schoop instead of BRob they wouldn't need to bump it up much. Markakis 14 salary is same as 13, ditto on Hardy. Jones makes 4.5 mill more, Wieters let's say 4 more. Davis maybe 3 more. Other than rounding errors that isn't enough to worry about. You could replace McLouth with Hoes and it would be almost the same.

The big issue is relief pitching. I think JJ is overpaid, this year is okay but they can't give him 9 million next year if he repeats. We will see how things shake out, they have enough options to cover that over and relief pitching is very overrated. Hammel makes 7 million, replace him with Bundy and you can have a solid rotation.

In general long term I agree, they need to raise the bar some on the budget but Angelos has done that in the past and I don't think they need to go crazy as long as they stay out of free agency and develop players.

Jon Shepherd said...

Once you figure in arbitration and all of that...you have a payroll that is about 5-7 MM less. On that, you are expecting for internal solutions to be actual solutions and that players returning are actually valuable.

It is not a great position to be in.

Bret said...

What is it for Angelos to go from 90 mill in payroll to 110 million in payroll? His payroll is covered by MASN before one hot dog is bought, one ticket is purchased or one parking voucher is paid for. I don't think it was ever an unwillingess by him to spend, he had the highest payroll in baseball in 1998. What happened is he realized FA is not efficient. You can't have a huge payroll and suck, I agree. The Marlins figured that out also 14 years later.

There are tons of options pitching wise for the O's in 14. Bundy, Gausman, Tillman, Britton, Chen, Arrieta, Gonzalez and none of them will be making big bucks. They have a solid core offense and plenty of options pitching wise. I think that is a pretty good position.

Boston has who exactly? Will Middlebrooks walked 13 times and struck out 70 last year. That won't work. He isn't Machado in the same way I'm not Brad Pitt.

NY? Are you excited about Francisco Cervelli? Ichiro and Derek Jeter's Medicare reimbursement? What am I missing? Other teams have long term commitments to aging players. The O's don't.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think you are overly forgiving of the Orioles warts and rather stringent with the other teams in the division. All the pitchers you mention for the Orioles, none of them have incredible track records or are prospects. Bundy and Gausman are incredible pitching prospects, but that is by no means a sure thing. Very easily this rotation is mediocre. It will be a struggle and teams like the Rays, who are well stocked, or the Red Sox and Yankees, who are well stocked and have better money sources.

The Orioles really do not excel in any specific department.

Bret said...

Yankees pitching.

Kuroda - 38 (39 in 14)
Pettitte - nearly 41 (42 in 14)
Hughes - free agent
Sabathia - I'll give you though his age, weight and innings are a concern
Nova - hardly a sure thing

beyond that they have nothing other than Pineda (coming off shoulder).

Boston - Lackey (enough said)
Lester (FA after 14)
Buckholz (injury prone and average)
Dempster - 36.

TB - Other than Price their staff is just as unproven as the O's and they can't afford Price much longer. Matt Moore was league average last season. Niemann is always hurt.

I will give you that pitching is a bigger weakness comparitively. Offense is a huge advantage. TB has Longoria, Zobrist is 32, they have no catching, no 1B, no DH, a headcase SS, Jennings has shown nothing yet etc.

The O's aren't perfect but they are in fine position long term in their division.

Matt P said...

You have to understand something Bret. The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox prospects WILL succeed. The Orioles prospects are question marks.

Here's the deal. In six years, Machado, Bundy and Gausman will either have disappointed or will be making considerably more than 10million per year. If Wieters is still on the team he'll likely be making twenty million (or something went wrong). I believe Jones would be making 18 or so. Those five would likely cost near 100 million by themselves and then you've got all the other young guys who we hope pan out (Tillman, Gonzo, Schoop, etc...). The Yankees and Red Sox can afford to keep that talent but the Os and Rays can't.

Young talent ain't cheap forever. Either the Os need to get more of it quickly (which means we need a better farm system then we currently have) or we'll struggle. If we have young talent in the majors now we can do well for a year or two but once it gets expensive we can't afford it.

You'd be better off limiting the discussion to the next three years when guys like Machado, Schoop, Bundy and Gausman are still cheap. If they're doing well after that then the Os have some hard decisions to make.

Jon Shepherd said...

Matt...that is the take I have.

There is a window here. Some guys will become stars and others won't. As it stands, the Orioles do not have much wiggle room in fitting all of their players under a mid-tier payroll and they really need most of their guys (prospects and their meandering young MLB talent) to consistently step forward and produce.

What the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees have that the Orioles do not have is a very wide, broad base of minor league talent. The Os have two elite pitching prospects, a couple second tier guys, and then a lot of dreams. Good chips end with the Os around 5 prospects down and maybe 2 or 3 of them become MLB starters. BoSox, Yanks, and Rays? They are anywhere between 8 to 15 guys deep in second tier talent. Sheer probability is on their side to develop talent. The Red Sox and Yankees have less need for it because they can overpay any talent that lands in free agency.

It is tough.

Matt P said...

It all depends on the young pitching. Are Tillman and Gonzo for real? Can Matusz, Britton and Arrieta contribute in any capacity?

But the Orioles have three years to rebuild their system because they've graduated a lot of guys recently. And if we end up trading Hammel and Johnson then that could get us three top hundred fifty guys in a hurry. The Yankees and Red Sox haven't graduated anyone of consequence except Middlebrooks. But they've had a lot of top guys get injured before making it to the bigs. Or choke in the upper levels.

The Red Sox and Yankees do have a number of good prospects but combined they only have one guy as good as Machado, Bundy or Myers. Many of their top guys aren't even in AA. The ones that are have failed miserably or have injury problems. The sheer probability is that most of their guys flop.

In the six year time frame, the Yankees and Red Sox have all the advantages because they've got money. In the three year time frame it's nowhere near as bleak as you think/hope iti s.

Jon Shepherd said...

Ha...I hope it is bleak? Really? The issue now is talent level in the bigs and the future is about not keeping what they already have. I don't hope for this. They simply do not have great footing.

Additonally...you can claim the Orioles fail to develop guys as much as either of those 2 teams.

Bret said...


Every year the Yankees and Red Sox have prospects that are going to succeed as you state. In the recent past it hasn't happened. You can look it up in BA Prospect Handbook or you can look at the age of the position players and pitchers. Had they developed all these great players their youngest starter wouldn't be 30 years old. Banuelos, Betances, Brackman, Jesus Montero. All those guys were can't miss.

The O's have proven guys. I'm far from in love with Wieters or Jones but they are legit big leaguers, even the biggest Boston fan wouldn't argue that. Who does NY or Bos have that are young enough in a 5 year window to help and is established at the big league level? No that doesn't include Middlebrooks and his Dave Kingman strikeout ratio. Prospects are prospects, especially pitchers. The O's have many more established big league players than the other teams THAT ARE YOUNG ENOUGH TO MATTER.

The other thing. Free agency only helps you if there are things to buy. If you go into a store with 50K but they are out of rolexes does that help you? There aren't many FA anymore and the ones that come have big flaws (Hamilton age and drugs, Swisher age, Grienke way overpaid, which is how you get into big trouble). The Yankees are retrenching in case you haven't noticed and in 4 years they will still be paying Arod and Texieria and Sabathia. If the O's payroll is 100 million and the Yankees is 180 million but the Yankees are paying 80 million for deadweight the payroll is equal. The O's don't have those albatrosses. To assume this is 2008 is wrong, the CBA has changed things, long term contracts failing have changed views and the draft spending is capped. Boston and NY have a much slimmer financial advantage than they used to.

Jon Shepherd said...

I'm not sure why strikeouts for a batter still are something that make people overly excited. Middlebrooks and Machado actually had very similar seasons with respect to how their rate convert into overall performance. You have to give Machado the nod (a decent size one) for his age, but to speak poorly of Middlebrooks is really a struggle. He is an excellent talent and any team would love having him on the roster.

So let's try to be realistic.

Also, no need to overstate players. Betances, Banuelos, and Brackman? Really? When are a 43rd, 29th, and a 78th ranked prospect considered can't miss guys? Even Montero has some issues because no one in their right mind believed he could be a catcher and a solid 1B bat is a risky thing to bank on.

If we want to have a genuine conversation about organizational strength, then I think we need to be a bit better here assessing talent levels of prospects. I mean, the Yankees are generally right in the middle year in and year out for minor league systems because they traditionally did not put much into the draft and drive deeper into IFAs. Boston has traded most of their top tier prospects otherwise we just might have seen Rizzo, Reddick, and Kalish out there (all being B level prospects).

Point being, I am not sure why you both think the developmental system of Boston or New York is significantly better or worse than the Orioles.

Bret said...

I just don't think you are looking objectively at the situation. The last truly good position player the Yankees developed was Cano. He entered the big leagues 8 years ago. I'm also a Gardner fan but he turns 30 this year. Their team is FA at 6 positions even if you exclude Jeter and Cano. The proof or lack thereof is in the pudding. The prospects they have now aren't going to help any time soon. Sanchez hasn't played above A ball. Mason Williams hasn't either and was hurt to end his season. Players in A ball or lower are more times than not lottery tickets. The O's have 3 impact guys that will almost assuredly be in the SHOW before the end of next season. The Yankees probably have zero.

I've had this conversation with you before (last year regarding Castellanos) but you can't have horrible plate discipline and be an elite player. Here are the issues.

1. Machado is 4 years younger.
2. Machado has shown solid peripherals in the minors (10.5% BB rate, 15.3% K rate at AA). Yeah his splits weren't great in Baltimore but you don't expect a 20year old kid not to have some growing pains. At every level he has shown patience and a solid contact rate.
3. I'm not just talking majors with Middlebrooks. In AA his walk rate was 5.3% and K rate 23.9%. If you think he can BABIP .363 all his life I have some real estate to sell you. I'm not saying Middlebrooks is the next Cesar Izturis but he is nothing to get excited about. It is a function of the Boston media hype.

Jon Shepherd said...

And Castellanos is a function of the Detroit media hype?

It seems like there are inconsistencies or at least a strong desire to add narrative in your perspective here.

Strikeouts mean less opportunity to put a ball in play, but not all balls in play are equal. Middlebrooks' future success depends on his home run and doubles power. Hw can succeed as a .250 hitter. Additionally, K rates can change a great deal for younger players. That is why you look at approach and scout in person. Numbers are useful but don't always take you the entireway.

Bret said...

I don't think Castellanos is hype but someone else here said how great he was last year. I simply pointed out that he struck out 76 times in AA and walked 14 and that needs to change dramatically to be the star people are projecting. The difference between Castellanos and Middlebrooks is Castellanos was playing at AA at age 20 last year similar to Machado. Middlebrooks is 24 and a half years old. That isn't young and his plate discipline probably isn't going to improve much going forward. Has Jeff Francoeur's plate discipline improved? Because their numbers look very similar except Francoeur made more contact.

Jon Shepherd said...

Jones' has. So have others. Simply, data needs to be shown that these are issues running against conventional wisdom.

Jon Shepherd said...

It is not exactly the kind of study you should do, but a year ago I looked at this related to Adam Jones:

Matt P said...

In a five year window, the Yankees and Red Sox have a dozen guys who could be good as well as the next two draft classes at a minimum. I have no ability to discuss what the systems will look like in five years. You'd need a time machine to do that. Teix and CC aren't bad players at this point.

Machado and Middlebrooks do have some similarities. They both play third base. And their last names both start with an M.

But Machado has shown some understanding of plate discipline while Middlebrooks has shown far superior power. Middlebrooks was doing well in AAA when he was called up while Machado was rushed.

They are so different and Machado is so unproven that there's no reason to compare the two.

If you want to compare Middlebrooks to someone then compare him to Chris Davis. Both have plus power. Both have a terrible K:BB ratio. Both have high BABIPs. Both were similarly rated as prospects. Davis gets more strikeouts and more walks.

If Middlebrooks is a .250 hitter without improving the K/BB rate then he's probably at least below average. Provided the proportions of his hits remain the same, he'd be a .251/.290/.442 guy. He would need a 7% walk rate with a similar strikeout rate to be successful. But maybe he is a .290 hitter.

If Matusz, Arrieta and Steve Johnson can become good relievers then we can add them to O'Day, Patton, Strop and Hunter and we'll have a cheap bullpen until 2015. If Tillman, Gonzo and Britton can figure out starting then we have a rotation for cheap.

Sure, we've been talking about Matusz, Arrieta, Tillman and Britton for a long time and they mostly haven't got it done. But who do Boston or New York have in the upper minors with as good of a track record? Phelps? Nova? Drake Britton? At least the Rays have Archer and Odorizzi.

If the pitching comes together with the young guys then the team will be ok until they draft the next set of prospects. If it doesn't then they're most likely in trouble.

Bret said...


It is hard to make progress with you when we can't even agree on past numbers. Jones' plate discipline has not gotten better. He has never walked 7% of the time in his career and his walk rate was much better in 2009 than it was the past three years. His K rate has been pretty constant. He is what he is at this point which is a solid player. No one should mistake him for Mickey Mantle. I think the contract is reasonable because he can maintain 4 WAR seasons until he is 31-32 even if he doesn't improve his discipline and it doesn't pay for the decline years. Middlebrooks strikes out more than Jones and I want to see him hit 32 HR in the big leagues before I agree they have the same power. But yes, that is the reason Jones will never be an elite player and that is a reason Middlebrooks is very much overhyped.


You have to understand, there is no inherent draft advantage anymore. Before the CBA the Yankees could spend 20 mill on the draft. It is capped now. Socialism is not only happening at the federal level. The Yankees have 4 or 5 decent prospects but none are imminent. Their AAA and AA teams sucked last year. Boston same deal, and like I said yesterday both teams have many more long term holes at the MLB level to fill than the O's.

Plus, you want the O's to sign all these free agents guess what happens as a result? You lose your draft pick which is how you get young players and prospects and improve your farm ranking which is supposedly your big concern. Can't have it both ways.

Jon Shepherd said...

Bret...do a study showing these things and I will post it. I just don't see why you are insistent with those conclusions.

Bret said...

It isn't a study. In his 5 years with the O's (08-12) these are his walk rates - 4.5%,6.9%,3,7%,4.7%,4.9%, Do you see any discernable improvement or trend? These are his strikeout rates - 21%,17.9%,19.2%,18.3%,18.1%. Again, it looks pretty consistent to me.

The reason his numbers jumped last year is his ISO went from .185 in 11 (and lower still in earlier years) to .218. That is probably sustainable and a result of increased strength, better understanding of counts etc. But make no mistake, he can't be a great player with the underlying numbers what they are. Because he plays at an offensively deficient position and because he has power he is a more than adequate player. I question whether Middlebrooks can put the ball in play as much as Jones or get to the power as often. Jones is succeeding as a very poor man's non-Orioles Vlad Guerrero.

Matt P said...

Aramis Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Miguel Cabrera, EE, Big Papi are all guys who had high strikeout rates early in their career and were able to cut it down.

Ben Zobrist, David Wright, Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth are all guys who had low walk rates early in their career and were able to bump it up.

That said, there is a strong correlation between rookie strikeout rates and career strikeout rates (r>.80). It isn't quite as strong of a correlation between rookie walk rates and career walk rates but still high (r>.75). This is for rookies from 1997-2007. Strong enough that we can say that your rookie results are predictive to your career results for both.

But is that really what makes sense to measure? It would really make sense to measure rookies with bad strikeout/walk rates and see whether they improved. But our sample would be biased by the fact that the ones who didn't would likely fail.

Jon Shepherd said...

Correlation may not tell the whole story with the range of rates. Correlation tends to be high, but there is also improvement. They do not contradict each other.

Jon Shepherd said...

I would treat walks differently than strikeouts. However, based on minor league performance and major league. I think Jones has seen improvement.

Bret said...

Jones turns 28 in August. He is probably past the point of learning new tricks. I'm hoping he will marginally improve the patience but he isn't the star the casual fan thinks he is.

With a guy like Castellanos, you wonder at his age whether it is a lack of plate discipline or maybe just being overwhelmed because the competition is so much older and better (like Machado's walk rate in the bigs).

In my previous comments though I wasn't expecting Jones to improve and the O's don't need him to improve to be a 90 win team. They don't necessarily need pure stars as the most recent posting surmised, they need certain positions not to be the Titanic anymore (2B, LF, 1B etc.).

Jon Shepherd said...

Well, having a couple stars makes it much easier to get to that point about 45 wins above replacement where you have a solid playoff team. Otherwise, you are planning to hit on basically every player at every position without fail.

That is how stars win championships. It enables you to have role players or worse on a team and still get somewhere. It is quite difficult to field a team of guys who are all slightly above average.

With respect to Jones, decreases in strikeouts tend to happen from youth to peak due to improved contact rates as opposed to improved plate discipline. This can be caused by many things.