18 February 2013

Revisiting the Kevin Gregg Era

In January 2011, the Orioles signed Kevin Gregg to a two-year, $10 million deal with a team option for 2013. Gregg, signed by Andy MacPhail, was brought in to be the team's closer, primarily because he compiled 37 saves in 2010 after having somewhat of a rebound year with the Blue Jays.

Gregg has been a replacement-level reliever (-0.1 fWAR) throughout his career. In 2009, he posted a then-career worst fWAR of -0.3 after being traded to the Cubs and avoiding arbitration with a one-year, $4.2 million deal. The Blue Jays signed him for $2 million the next season, and he was decent but not great (0.8 fWAR). After receiving a $750,000 buyout because the Blue Jays declined his team options, Gregg was offered arbitration, declined, and became a free agent. Also, because Gregg was a Type B free agent, Toronto obtained a supplementary first-round pick in the 2011 draft. So that ended up being a shrewd signing.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Baltimore's decision. The signing didn't make sense, not because Gregg was horrible, but because the Orioles inked him for multiple years and paid him too much money. As Daniel Moroz (linked above) pointed out at the time, the O's were essentially paying Gregg to be worth two wins above replacement in 2011 and 2012 combined. Instead, he ended his Orioles career with an fWAR of -0.5 and a rWAR of -0.4 when he was designated for assignment last September.

In his first season in Baltimore, Gregg struck out fewer batters and walked more of them than in 2010, while his HR/FB rate increased by about four percentage points -- a bad thing for any pitcher, but especially so for a flyball pitcher like Gregg. His velocity also dipped a bit, which was a trend that continued into 2012. His ERA jumped from 3.51 in 2010 to 4.37 in 2011.

With Dan Duquette in and MacPhail out, the Orioles did what they could to rid themselves of Gregg and his contract, offering to pay a chunk of his salary to ship him out of town. However, such a trade never materialized. But maybe fans were being too hard on Gregg, one Baltimore Sun columnist said. Maybe he would regain his Toronto-pitching form, "where he developed the reputation of a gamer who loved getting the ball in tight situations." That didn't happen. Gregg wasn't much better, posting a 4.95 ERA, though he did cut down on his walks. His HR/FB rate increased another three percentage points, but he was a little unlucky on batted balls (.338 BABIP).

Buck Showalter eventually learned how to use Gregg: let him mainly pitch in garbage time. In 2011, Gregg had seven blown saves in 29 total chances and pitched in many important/winnable games. In 2012, he had none because he didn't receive a single save opportunity. He also went from pitching in 59.2 innings in 2011 to just 43.2, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2003.

I doubt that's what MacPhail envisioned when he signed Gregg, but Showalter adjusted and figured out that he just wasn't that good. Maybe that's why average relievers shouldn't receive two-year, eight-figure contracts.

Still, I guess we should thank Gregg for sort of contributing to the Orioles' return to the playoffs last season. But mostly, we appreciate his exciting interaction with David Ortiz in July of 2011. Plus, we'll always remember the glasses.

17 February 2013

Sunday Comics: Happy Spring Training!

I apologize for disappearing last week - I was swallowed by graduate school work, but now that I'm able to breathe again here's this week's cartoon!

Really, Spring Training is just an excuse for baseball players to play golf and all of us to get really excited.


16 February 2013

Baseball America's Evaluation of the Orioles' Farm System -- A Critique

Every year, Baseball America (BA) publishes its Prospect Handbook, in which they profile their top 30 prospects for each team. Because I get to see so many Norfolk Tides’ games, I read the Handbook to learn about the players I’ll be seeing. It’s also interesting to see how more expert evaluators regard players I may have already seen. This article will review Baseball America’s assessment of the Orioles farm system in general terms. While I don’t claim to be as expert as Baseball America, I see more Norfolk games and focus on different things as a milb.com datacaster and BIS scorer.  I’ve also seen many players exceed their projections and many more fail to meet theirs.
Baseball America rates Baltimore’s farm system, overall, at #17.  I think that’s too high; I would rate them #21 or #22. Baseball America’s rating is driven by one player – Dylan Bundy. BA rates Bundy as the best pitching and #2 overall prospect in baseball; I’ve never seen Dylan Bundy pitch so I am not going to disagree.  But I believe that BA gives Bundy too much weight in evaluating the Orioles’ farm system. BA argues that having one outstanding prospect – who, in the best case, projects to being historically great – is better than having several prospects projected to be solid players or occasional all-stars. Looking back, when Albert Pujols was in the Cardinals’ farm system, he was so valuable that even though the St. Louis Cardinals had very little depth in their farm system behind him, it would be foolish to claim that the Cardinals had a substandard farm system. BA editor Jim Callis puts their philosophy best as “You win with stars.”
I have two issues with their approach. The lesser point is the safety-in-numbers point, which is that a farm system with a very small number of prospects is vulnerable if something goes wrong.  I do agree that an Albert Pujols is worth more than ten middle relievers or utility infielders; I merely think that one Albert Pujols-type prospect isn’t enough to say that a team has a good farm system. The bigger point is that having a star, or even two or three stars, isn’t enough to guarantee that your team will be successful. The 1967-1973 Cubs with Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Ferguson Jenkins, the 1979-1984 Expos with Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, and Tim Raines, the turn-of-the-century Mariners with Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey – won one division title among the four of them. Stars aren’t enough; you need solid regulars around them.
And the Orioles farm system doesn’t have the prospects that will produce those solid regulars. #1 prospect Dylan Bundy looks like the new Greg Maddux. And #2 Kevin Gausman looks like a solid #2 starting pitcher. But after that, there isn’t much there.  #3 Jonathan Schoop is starting to remind me of Luis Rivas; he’s been very young for the levels he’s played at, but he also hasn’t really done much at those levels. He’s highly rated because of his youth and projection, and as a farm system’s number three prospect, he’s okay. But #4 Nick Delmonico is a corner infielder with a history of back problems who slugged .413 in low-A ball. #5 Ed Rodriguez is a one-year wonder who struck out 6.1 batters per nine innings at Low-A.  Again, these are two players who have to develop but about whom there are large question marks. I’ll discuss #6 L.J. Hoes below. #7 Xavier Avery and #14 Glynn Davis are raw outfielders with athletic talents and undeveloped their baseball skills. #8 Mike Wright and #11 Tim Berry are college pitchers who might become innings-eating starters, but with have current career ERAs over 4.50. #9 Branden Kline, #10 Adrian Marin, and #12 Christian Walker are the second-, third-, and fourth-round draft picks from 2012; they aren’t any better than other second, third, and fourth-round picks. #13 Henry Urrutia is a Cuban defector who hasn’t even been cleared to play.  These players can still develop. But when you compares those prospects to the equivalent prospects  in Kansas City, Colorado, or Atlanta – the systems BA ranks immediately below the Orioles –they fall far enough short that Dylan Bundy isn’t enough to lift the Orioles over those teams.


I also believe Baseball America has underrated L.J. Hoes.  He’s listed as their #6 prospect, and I believe he should clearly be at least #4 and I might be persuaded that he should rank at #3, ahead of Jonathan Schoop. I’ve written before about L.J. Hoes, and why I think he can become a legitimate starting left fielder in the major leagues. Baseball America doesn’t think so. They believe his ceiling is as a “platoon / utility player,” although they do think he’s likely to reach that level and almost certain to have a major-league career beyond his 2012 cup of coffee. Their #4 and #5 rated prospects – Nick Delmonico and Eduardo Rodriguez -- have ceilings of “second-division regular … #4 starter on [a] good team”. BA acknowledges that they are much riskier prospects, since they’ve just played low-A ball and didn’t dominate.
Even by BA’s own standards and scale, L.J. Hoes should rate above Delmonico and Rodriguez. If you think that Hoes’ ceiling is at least equal to Delmonico’s and Rodriguez’ – if you think that Hoes could become at least a second-division regular – it’s no contest. L.J. Hoes is the Orioles’ number-4 prospect.

14 February 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic: Brazil

This is the sixth in a series to introduce everyone to teams participating in 2013's World Baseball Classic.  As this series progress, you will find all of the articles under this key world: 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Previously, we reviewed Australia, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

The body of the Brazil article was written by Jon Shepherd.



Brazil
IBAF Ranking (out of 74) 20th
2013 Pool Cuba

China

Japan
2013 Players of Note Andre Rienzo, RHP

Rafael Fernandez, RHP

Luiz Gohara, LHP

Rafael Moreno, RHP

Leonardo Reginatto, 3B


2009 Record Did Not Appear
2006 Record Did Not Appear
The origin of baseball in Brazil is unique among the countries South of the United States.  Where other countries in the Western Hemisphere saw baseball flow through US colleges via Cuban students as well as American serviceman as the country decided to impart greater influence areas south of their borders.  This pattern was mentioned previously in our posts on Puerto Rico and Cuba.  You will also hear it again when we cover Venezuela.  Brazil though, as I mentioned earlier, does not follow this path. 

Of course, the arrival of baseball in Brazil began in the United States where the game more or less came to be in its most popular incarnation.  From American colleges, the game traveled to Japan where the first recorded games were played in 1878 by a returning engineer.  In Japan, the game developed isolated from the United States and their sphere of influence.  Japanese baseball more fully embraced slap hitting small ball and a pitching strategy that valued hiding the ball more than velocity or pitch quality.  That style of game is what arrived in Brazil in 1908.

Why is 1908 important?  Labor.  A large portion of Brazilian exports were based on their productive coffee plantations.  The hard labor was originally fulfilled by the African slave trade, but slavery was outlawed in 1850.  The business stumbled for a decade or two before offering incentives to bring Italians into the country by paying for their passage and then forcing them into low paying, grueling positions on the plantations and into a culture that often ignored their well being.  The brutalization of the Italians led to the Prunetti Decree in 1902 which no longer allowed Brazil to subsidize Italian immigration, once again leaving Brazil with a cheap labor shortage.

Fortunately for Brazil, this time coincided with the social and political modernization of Japan which resulted in a large and incredibly poor rural population.  With few opportunities at home, opportunities were sought abroad.  Labor was needed in the rapidly growing industries found in the United States, Australia, and Brazil.  Japanese-American relations had soured in response to Japan's militaristic coming of age in the Far Pacific leading to multiple tense diplomatic events before the two nations agreed in 1907 to end all Japanese immigration to the United States.  Australia also had concerns about non-white individuals, which led to a series of actions roughly known as the White Australia Policy that also prevented any Japanese immigration.

Brazil stood to gain with their more tolerant acceptance of origin for their cheap labor.  Japanese farmers first came over on the Kasato Maru and later on other vessels with most beginning work out in the coffee plantations.  The systems set up on these plantations were similar to the coal communities that were common in the United States for much of the 20th century.  Essentially, labor is paid minimally while the company gauges the employees on rent as well as over charging for food and other supplies by owning all of the businesses in the community as well.  For anyone who doubts the utility of unions, the pain and suffering in those mines as well as in the Brazilian coffee fields should cause some second thoughts about how benevolent management is when left to there own devices.

Why is this important?  Well, those farmers originally saw the move to Brazil as a short-term plan.  They would leave their home, make some money, and then return a success to their ancestral home.  The truth wound up being though that only an incredible few would ever be able to save up enough money to afford the trip back home.  Almost all remained in Brazil, largely shunned by the locals, and became an incredibly insulated community.  Part of this insulation was the strong survival of baseball in spite of these Japanese communities being surrounded by ravenous support for soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Baseball survived as a sport that is played by a small part of society and in a way that is not entirely conducive to the way it is played in the Major Leagues.  This is where Andres Reiner comes in.  If you have not read it, you must read Venezeula Bust Baseball Boom.  That book is about how Venezuela became a major player in developing prospects for the Major Leagues.  Reiner plays a major role as a member of the Astros organization.  He found guys like Bobby Abreu, Johan Santana, and Melvin Mora.  He made baseball work in Venezuela by developing a system for professional scouts to move in and acquire talent.  After Houston decided to dry up their efforts in Venezuela, Reiner followed a former Astro GM to the Tampa Bay Rays organization where he was put in charge of making Brazil a viable source of baseball talent.

Reiner's work was discussed in Jorge Arangure's piece for ESPN Insider.  Briefly, the Rays were able to secure a very sweet deal from a town called Marilla.  The government there built a 29 acre academy for the Rays to use and the local population agreed to deviate from the Japanese game to play a more familiar American style (which is also being pushed by Cuban coaches who are more frequently being hired).  The Rays did not need to contribute any money for any of this to occur.  However, they are on the hook for maintaining the facilities that were bought for them.  They are also not on the hook for any medical coverage as Brazil has a quite progressive universal health care system.  In total, the Rays look to be investing about 750k per year to run the facility.

Of course, this is not easy work.  Yan Gomes is the only Brazilian to appear in the Majors.  He did so last year with the Blue Jays, the other team who has pushed significant resources into Brazil (though not an academy).  Over in Japan, only a handful of Brazilians have played the game there.  The country though is becoming more important.  The Orioles signed Rafael Moreno in November of 2011 and has received some positive marks for his performance last year in the Dominican Summer League.  Moreno will also be part of the Brazilian World Baseball Classic Team who will face the Orioles in Spring Training in March.

What to expect in WBC 2013?
Few people thought that Brazil would make it to the WBC.  This was Panama's spot to lose and they lost it.  Brazil's strength lies mainly in their power pitching.  Andre Rienzo is a 24 year old pitcher who performed well last year in the White Sox organization and is equipped with a low 90s fastball and an above average slider.  Youngsters, Luis Gohara and the aforementioned Rafael Moreno, should provide strength out of the bullpen.  Rafael Fernandes, a NPB pitcher, rounds out the squad.  Offensively, did I mention their pitching?

13 February 2013

Adam Jones's Extension and Saving Some Money

Last May, the Orioles signed Adam Jones to a six-year, $85.5 million extension. The deal, which also bought out his final year of arbitration in 2013, is the largest contract in Orioles' history. That's a lot of money, and Jones arguably didn't give them much of a hometown discount (which he's not required to do). On Sunday, Jon discussed Jones and how his extension still likely saved the team future money.

At age 27 (his birthday is in August), Jones established career highs in batting average (.287), slugging percentage (.505), and wOBA (.361). For those who like counting stats, he also hit the most home runs of his career (32), scored over 100 runs (103), and stole 16 bases (also a career high). Arguably the team's best player (it's either Jones or Matt Wieters), Jones helped lead the O's to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

So was the extension a good idea? Would it have cost a similar amount if it had been handed out this offseason? Let's take a look by comparing his deal with that of another young and talented center fielder, B.J. Upton, who received a five-year, $75.25 million contract from the Braves.

Let's look at some quick numbers on the two:

Player Age wOBA fWAR rWAR
Adam Jones
27
.336
13.7
13.2
B.J. Upton
28
.333
23.1
13.6

Jones is a year younger and has about 950 fewer plate appearances than Upton. Up to this point at the plate, they've had similar value. But Upton is the superior defensive center fielder (career 3.5 UZR), which bumps up his fWAR. Jones's defense hasn't rated highly on FanGraphs since 2008, and for his career he has a career -20.6 UZR. Oddly enough, Jones has won two Gold Gloves to Upton's zero, though Gold Gloves aren't an accurate indicator of true defensive value/ability (Derek Jeter has five of them, for example). Upton is also a much better baserunner and has stolen 172 more bases than Jones.

While Jones and Upton currently have similar wOBAs, there's one important difference between the two: Jones had his best season at the plate, and Upton just had his worst since 2009. Upton had his best year in 2007 and was also very good at the plate in 2008, but he's struggled since.


Source: FanGraphs -- B.J. Upton, Adam Jones

If Jones improves a little more at the plate and also plays somewhat better defense, he could be a 5.0 fWAR player next season. Such a performance would make the contract extension look even more timely for the Orioles.

Jones's extension averages about $14.25 million per season (depending on performance bonuses), while Upton's contract averages $15.05 million per season. Again, Upton is a year older, but he also has the advantage of being better defensively and on the basepaths. But Jones was very good offensively last season, primarily in the power department, and could very well do slightly better or have a repeat performance.

Jones ended up having his best season in 2012, and the O's look smart right now. If Jones had waited until the offseason, he may not have been rewarded with an extension that was significantly larger than he received, but he possibly could have gotten a deal that paid him $15 or $16 million per season.

Regardless, any money saved on future years is good for the club. So, nice work, Dan Duquette and the front office. Now maybe it's time to figure out what to do with Wieters.

12 February 2013

Where Markakis Bats

I’m not a huge fan of endlessly discussing where hitters should be placed order-wise, but I do like to see guys at least slotted in about the right area in a lineup. Nick Markakis is one of the Orioles’ best hitters, and until last season he had primarily batted either second or third. Because of a couple of injuries he only played in 104 games last season, but he did get his first opportunity in the leadoff spot.

In 246 plate appearances batting first, Markakis put up the best numbers of his career. Let’s compare his leadoff numbers to the two other spots where he’s primarily batted.

Batting 1st: .335/.390/.489; 8.1 BB%; 5.7 K%; .337 BABIP (246 plate appearances)
Batting 2nd: .313/.384/.489; 10 BB%; 12.7 K%; .336 BABIP (1,340 plate appearances)
Batting 3rd: .281/.355/.438; 10 BB%; 14.6 K%; .310 BABIP (2,413 plate appearances)
Career: .295/.365/.455; 9.6 BB%; 13.5 K%; .322 BABIP (4,556 plate appearances)

Obviously his numbers batting second and third are better samples because of the larger amount of plate appearances. His leadoff numbers, besides the strikeout rate difference, are pretty similar to his numbers batting second. His on-base and slugging percentages are about the same, but he’s not striking out as much and is trading walks for hits (mostly singles).

Markakis, as you'd imagine, isn’t concerned about where he’s placed in the order:
"It wasn't any different (batting leadoff). Just another spot in the lineup. One thing that I could gain from it, I swung a little more. I was a little more free swinging. Somebody had to fill the spot. Glad I was successful at it. It doesn't matter where I bat. Guys (opponent pitchers) know who I am," he said.
He’s probably right. Markakis batted leadoff more as a need than anything, since there weren't many other good options. But it was interesting to see how much more effective he was out of the leadoff spot than hitting third last year.

Through May, Markakis batted third and in 225 plate appearances hit .256/.333/.452 (.339 wOBA) while walking about 10% of the time and striking out 16.4% of the time. After missing all of June with a wrist injury, he returned in mid-July and was placed in the leadoff spot. He stayed there until breaking his thumb in September and had a .378 wOBA in 246 plate appearances (see above). As shown, his walks took a slight dip, but he cut down on his strikeouts by more than 10%.

Markakis's apparent altered approach also led to a lot of line drives -- 28.7% out of the leadoff spot. For his career, his line drive percentage is 20.1%, but for the entire 2012 season he was at 26.8%, by far the highest of his career. Maybe this was something he was focused on, or maybe it's just an anomaly.

It's not a big sample size, and there's no guarantee Markakis bats leadoff again in 2013 or beyond, so who knows whether we'll get to see if his leadoff strategy is really that much different than what he regularly does at the plate. But it's interesting that he views the leadoff spot as a place to swing the bat more than usual. The leadoff hitter is typically viewed as someone who will take more pitches, draw some walks, and just get on base. But apparently Markakis is only worried about the third part, which is fine if it works, but maybe not completely sustainable. I couldn't locate plate discipline splits, but, interestingly enough, Markakis overall did swing the bat slightly less in 2012 (40.9%) than his career mark (41.1%). But he did make more contact on all pitches last year (91%) than throughout his career (88%). Maybe over a full season of batting leadoff the swing percentage numbers would be a little more skewed, though we probably won't get to see that.

Markakis did swing the bat more out of the leadoff spot, though. Despite having 21 more plate appearances out of the leadoff spot, he saw 50 fewer pitches. But he was definitely doing some damage when he did swing. His leadoff numbers were partly fueled by a .337 BABIP, but that's not that far out of line with his career mark (.322). I'd be concerned with fewer walks out of the leadoff spot in more leadoff at-bats, mostly because I doubt he'd be able to keep hitting the ball as hard and having as many hits drop in. I also doubt he'd be able to keep from striking out more, unless that was something he was trying hard to avoid.

Regardless, Markakis batting leadoff, even if he's not as effective as he was in 2012, is way better than handing out leadoff duties to hitters who are speedy runners but not very good hitters -- like Robert Andino or Endy Chavez last season. Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold might be decent leadoff options, depending on match-ups, so Markakis may not be needed at that spot. But if he does get the opportunity again, it will be intriguing to see what his approach is.

10 February 2013

Arrivals and Departures (2/10/12)

A short primer on options was provided in an earlier post found here.  If you have any further questions about this issue or other baseball related issues, feel free to email us at CamdenDepot@gmail.com.



40 Man Transactions since 2/8/2013:
February 9, 2013 - The Orioles avoided two years of arbitration with Darren O'Day by agreeing to a two year deal worth 5.4 MM and a 2015 club option worth 4.25 MM with 0.5 MM buyout. 
There is a significant number of baseball analysts who view any long term commitment to relievers to be anathema.  The idea behind that is that relievers are a volatile commodity that can be difficult to measure by performance.  For instance, 60 innings pitched informs us to a limited extent how good a pitcher actually is.  For instance, you may remember Kurt Ainsworth's 3.82 ERA over 66 IP with the Giants before the Orioles acquired him in the Sidney Ponson deal.  You may also remember short stretches where John Parrish, Eric DuBose, or Chris Waters might actually have a solid place in the rotation for years to come.  For relievers, an unrepeatable performance level is more likely to occur because a reliever can be limited to a few batters with a handed advantage.  Pitchers, such as Chris Britton, Jason Berken, and Jorge Julio demonstrate that.  Part of the mentioned failings are due to exceptionally lucky performance while others relate to injury issues.

For followers of the Orioles, there are also some shallow wounds.  Money was directed from other potential assets and forced toward players like Jamie Walker (3 years, 12 MM), Danys Baez (3 years, 19 MM), and Chad Bradford (3 years, 10.5 MM) all in 2007.  It was a relatively decent idea in concept.  The Orioles had the worst bullpen in baseball in 2006.  The bullpen actually had a negative fWAR of 1.5, meaning that they gave up about 15 runs more than an abstract team composed of generically available AAA relievers.  That is awful.  The following season saw an increase to 1.4 fWAR for the pen, which is what you expect when you sign three pitchers who are worth about 3 wins.  Unfortunately for the rest of the team plan, the Steve Trachsel addition did not provide much and neither did Daniel Cabrera or Adam Loewen break out to be average or better pitchers.  For the offense, Aubrey Huff struggled in his first season with the team and Corey Patterson, Ramon Hernandez, and Melvin Mora all entered into spirals.  So, yes, relief investment is a tricky thing when it is part of the larger plan for a team to compete.

However, Darren O'Day's contract seems like a good deal to me.  It buys him out of his last two years of arbitration and sets up an option year for the value less than what a win will go for in the market place.  Essentially, the Orioles are securing a player at a price roughly equivalent to 1 win value (when considering arbitration) for three years.  If you like fWAR (pitchers are not wholly responsible for batted balls), then 3 fWAR looks pretty spot on for the next three years.  If you like bWAR (pitchers are more responsible for balls in play), then he is worth about 6 bWAR over the next three years.  In other words, he appears to be something between a good to great reliever.  Not too shabby for a waiver wire pickup.

However, you may have some concern about his 2011 season, which saw horrible performance coupled with a labrum injury.  For comparison, here are his run rate stats over his career:


ERA SIERA FIP xFIP HR/FB
2008 4.57 3.82 3.64 4.29 4.9%
2009 1.84 3.18 3.03 3.80 4.7%
2010 2.03 3.45 3.50 3.89 6.8%
2011 5.40 2.97 7.59 3.86 30.4%
2012 2.28 2.75 2.96 3.40 8.2%
ERA and FIP are none too fond of the 16 and two thirds innings O'Day pitched in 2011.  A major reason for that is neither of them regress the contribution of home runs in their formulation.  Both SIERA and xFIP are descriptive metrics that try to measure player ability during a certain year with the assumption that weird things happen outside of a player's ability.  There also appears to be a tendency for sidearm pitchers to, on average, outperform their SIERA, FIP, and xFIP values with respect to ERA.  O'Day, of course, is a little different than traditional sidearmers in that he enjoys living up in the zone and does it quite effectively by inducing infield flies consistently above 15% of the time.  That combined with a track record of consistently allowing fewer than 10% of flyballs out of the park is something that is quite special and effective.

Injury issues may be another concern with O'Day:


Injury Days Lost
2008 Labrum (shoulder) Offseason
2009 None
2010 Elbow Bone Bruise Spring Training

Back Soreness 13
2011 Labrum (Hip) 66
2012 Groin Tightness Spring Training
With pitchers, the major concerns are in the throwing arm, lower back, and legs.  Any recurrent or major injury in those players is something to throw up a red flag.  Although O'Day has had noted injuries all over, really only the cartilage issue in his shoulder in 2008 and the hip labrum of 2011 are of concern here.  The shoulder labrum injury does not appear to have affected him since it occurred.  It makes me feel comfortable that it is improbable to be an issue going forward in the short term.  Surgery was required for his hip labrum in 2011 and he was not the same pitcher when he returned, based on performance.  Last spring, further concern about his hip arose when he suffered a groin strain, but was somewhat relieved when he was able to pitch without incident for the entire year.  From that perspective, I see that more as a yellow flag: something that would prevent me from paying first division money for a reliever (>5 MM).

As is, I find the deal to be agreeable, but not exceptional.  If O'Day stays healthy and the Orioles assume the 2015 season, then it gives them about a million or two savings for a middle reliever or perhaps four million in savings for a closer if he takes over from Jim Johnson.  Not every extension can be expected of accruing a massive amount in savings and this one, like Adam Jones', fits in as a reasonable slightly cost saving maneuver.  My guess is that the Orioles signing Jones last spring probably saved the team about 5 - 10 MM over six years if they had taken him to free agency.  I think someone would have valued him similarly to B.J. Upton if not slightly more so if they believed in Jones' glove.  In that case, maybe the Orioles saved 15 - 20 MM, which would be a major cost savings though an ultimate value that probably is not reflective of Jones' actual worth.



Options Remaining

* 3 2 1
Pitchers 



Jake Arrieta 
7/6/2012 O O
Luis Ayala 
X X X
Mike Belfiore 
O O O
Zach Britton 
7/9/2011 6/6/2012 O
Dylan Bundy  3/11/2012 O O O
Wei-Yin Chen 
| | |
Zach Clark 
O O O
Miguel Gonzalez 
O O O
Jason Hammel 
X X X
Tommy Hunter 
8/16/2008 4/1/2009 5/7/2012
Jim Johnson 
6/3/2006 3/12/2007 5/1/2010
Steve Johnson 
6/3/2012 O O
Brian Matusz  3/14/2009 6/30/2011 7/1/2012 O
TJ McFarland
1/5/1900 1/5/1900 5
Darren O'Day 
5/13/2008 O O
Troy Patton 
3/14/2009 3/15/2010 3/11/2011
Todd Redmond
3/16/2009 3/18/2012 O
Pedro Strop 
3/10/2008 3/24/2010 5/4/2011
Chris Tillman 
3/30/2010 5/29/2011 3/31/2012
Tsuyoshi Wada 
X X X
Catchers 



Luis Exposito 
3/17/2011 3/23/2012 O
Taylor Teagarden 
7/21/2008 4/27/2010 3/29/2011
Matt Wieters 
O O O
Infielders 



Wilson Betemit 
X X X
Russ Canzler
3/30/2012 O O
Alexi Casilla 
3/23/2007 3/14/2008 5/6/2009
Chris Davis 
7/6/2009 4/23/2010 3/29/2011
Ryan Flaherty 
O O O
J.J. Hardy 
X X X
Manny Machado 
O O O
Yamaico Navarro 
3/17/2011 5/29/2012 O
Brian Roberts 
X X X
Jonathan Schoop 
O O O
Danny Valencia 
3/19/2010 5/9/2012 O
Outfielders 



Xavier Avery 
5/29/2012 O O
L.J. Hoes 
O O O
Adam Jones 
X X X
Nick Markakis 
X X X
Nate McLouth
X X X
Nolan Reimold 
3/20/2009 5/12/2010 3/28/2011

A "|" denotes an understanding that the player must agree to being sent to the minors.

"Rule 5" denotes that the player cannot be sent down without being offered back to his previous parent club.

09 February 2013

Jair Jurrjens and Brian Matusz' Future

The Orioles have signed former Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who becomes the tenth realistic candidate for the Orioles' starting rotation. This depth is especially good news for one candidate, Brian Matusz. After a rapid rise to the major leagues and a promising debut, Matusz has struggled during the past two seasons. The Orioles' starting pitching depth may give Matusz a chance to get back on track without the pressure of being in a contending team's starting rotation.

To review, Matusz reached the major leagues in 2009, his first professional season. In 2010 he was in the Orioles' rotation the whole season, and pitched well, given that he was a pitcher in his second professional season and that the Orioles were a bad team. However, he missed the first two months of the 2011 season after he being injured in spring training. When he returned, he had one of the worst seasons ever by a pitcher — 12 starts, 49 2/3 innings, 1-9 record, and a 10.69 ERA. The Orioles hoped that his off-season was due to his injury, and he began 2012 in the Orioles' starting rotation. While his 2012 ERA was less than half of his 2011 ERA, that still wasn't very good, and he was sent down to Norfolk. Toward the end of the season, the addition of Joe Saunders settled the starting rotation somewhat. Matusz pitched out of the bullpen because the Orioles were hoping that he could help them as a left-handed spot relief pitcher.

Matusz has pitched for Norfolk in both 2011 and 2012 — he bypassed AAA on his initial surge to the big leagues — and I actually haven't seen Matusz pitch very often. I saw him make two starts at Norfolk in 2011, one during his rehab from the spring-training injury and one later in the season when he was trying to recapture his form. By chance, I didn't see him make a start at Norfolk in 2012, and I saw him make only two relief appearances.
The first 2011 game in which I saw Matusz pitch was his rehab start on May 27, against Columbus. Matusz pitched five innings plus two batters, giving up one run on four hits and one walk, with seven strikeouts. Although his line resulted in a game score of 61, he didn't pass the eye test. He fell behind eleven of the nineteen batters he faced and of his 84 pitches 28 were fouled off.

The second 2011 game in which I saw Matusz pitch was August 6, against Rochester, after he had struggled in Baltimore. Given a 7-0 lead after two innings, Matusz went seven, giving up one run on five hits and two walks, striking out 6. His game score was 67. Matusz pitched well, although it's hard to tell how much was Matusz and how much was Rochester giving up. When Norfolk took a 9-1 lead after the fifth inning, Matusz retired six straight Rochester batters in the sixth and seventh, using only 23 pitches.

The first 2012 game in which I saw Matusz pitch was August 15, against Gwinnett. Gwinnett's starting pitcher in that game was the newly-signed Oriole Jair Jurrjens, who left in the third inning with an injury. Matusz entered the game in the top of the seventh with a 5-0 lead. In the seventh, he struck out the side while allowing a run on a walk and two singles. In the eighth, he walked the leadoff batter on five pitches before retiring the next three batters on six pitches. In the ninth, he retired the first two batters, gave up a run on two singles and a double, and finally getting the third out on a fly ball to the warning track. By pitching three innings and preserving a lead, Matusz earned a save, becoming one of the fifteen Tides' pitchers to earn a save.

The second and final 2012 game in which I saw Matusz pitch was August 19, against Charlotte. Matusz entered the game with two out in the top of the seventh. The Orioles had a 4-2 lead, but Charlotte had runners on first and second. Matusz retired Jordan Danks on a fly ball. Matusz stayed in to pitch the eighth and surrendered the lead, on a walk, single, balk, wild pitch, and single. Zach Phillips relieved him with the score 4-4. Phillips got the last out of the eighth and then was credited with the win when Ryan Flaherty homered in the bottom of the inning.

Although he has been regarded as a top prospect, I haven't been very impressed with the games I've seen him pitch. Even when he's pitched well, he didn't have an overpowering fastball and his command was far from perfect. I still can't write Brian Matusz off; here's an example of where limited observations may be misleading. He was so good a prospect, and so promising in his first season-and-a-third, that I think there's still a good pitcher there. I am confident in saying that if he'll be a significant pitcher, it will be as a starting pitcher, and not as a closer. He's got starting pitcher stuff, not relief ace stuff.

And this is where Jair Jurrjens — and the rest of the Orioles starting pitchers — come in. With ten realistic candidates for the starting rotation, the Orioles will have the luxury of starting Matusz in the bullpen or in the Norfolk rotation. If Matusz does, in fact, have the ability to be a good pitcher, he'll have the chance to rebuild his confidence in low-pressure environments. If he does earn a spot in the Orioles bullpen, he can still mature into a good starting pitcher. There have been many successful starting pitchers, especially left-handed pitchers, who pitched in the bullpen for a time at the start of his career; Jimmy Key, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, and Darren Oliver are all examples. If Matusz is to have a successful pitching career, and the Orioles are to get something out of him, I think Matusz should pitch a season in the bullpen and get another shot at the rotation in 2014, or start the season in the Norfolk rotation.

08 February 2013

Arrivals and Departures (2/8/2013)

A short primer on options was provided in an earlier post found here.  If you have any further questions about this issue or other baseball related issues, feel free to email us at CamdenDepot@gmail.com.

40 Man Transactions since 2/5/2013:

February 8, 2013 - Right-handed minor league pitcher Todd Redmond was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds.  In a corresponding move, outfielder Trayvon Robinson was designated for assignment. 
Throughout his career, Todd Redmond has been a starting pitcher 200 times and a reliever 7.  However, his future most likely lies as a relief pitcher.  As a starter, he has a 90 mph fastball and an above average curve.  His change works well enough in the minors as a show me pitch, but likely is not good enough for him to work through lefties at the Major League level.  What gives some hope for his utility is that as a draft and follow in 2005, he had shown the ability to work up into the mid 90s.  That velocity decreased quickly with that, perhaps, due to shortened time between starts.  As a reliever, he may see his velocity return and he could be effective when placed in situations where he would face right handed batters.

Another benefit is that I am pretty sure he has an option remaining and can be moved back and forth between Baltimore and Norfolk (options were used in 2009 and 2012; an option was used in 2010, but Redmond was outrighted after 10 days which should negate the option).  You may remember that I bring up shuttling quite frequently.  I don't think it is necessarily a great strategy.  Having players with excellent, unquestionable talent is preferable.  However, if you are filling out the fringes of your roster then it can be quite useful to employ players who can be moved back and forth based on the needs of the need and the aptitude of the player.  Someone with any options, like Trayvon Robinson, locks the team down into a situation where they have a marginal talent with little leverage in dealing the player due to being unable to send the player down and a reduced market of teams in need of an extra outfielder at the end of Spring Training.

Daniel Moroz brought up Trayvon Robinson earlier in the off season.  Basically, Robert Andino was a pretty bad second baseman in 2012 and he was not going to be on the team in 2013.  The Orioles acquiring Alexi Casilla made that intention relatively clear.  The team could really only manage dealing for another player who had little value as well.  Robinson can probably be best summed up as Xavier Avery with a little more power and no more options.  That simply is not a very valuable player, but one that is similar in value to Robert Andino.



Options Remaining

* 3 2 1
Pitchers 



Jake Arrieta 
7/6/2012 O O
Luis Ayala 
X X X
Mike Belfiore 
O O O
Zach Britton 
7/9/2011 6/6/2012 O
Dylan Bundy  3/11/2012 O O O
Wei-Yin Chen 
| | |
Zach Clark 
O O O
Miguel Gonzalez 
O O O
Jason Hammel 
X X X
Tommy Hunter 
8/16/2008 4/1/2009 5/7/2012
Jim Johnson 
6/3/2006 3/12/2007 5/1/2010
Steve Johnson 
6/3/2012 O O
Brian Matusz  3/14/2009 6/30/2011 7/1/2012 O
TJ McFarland
1/5/1900 1/5/1900 5
Darren O'Day 
5/13/2008 O O
Troy Patton 
3/14/2009 3/15/2010 3/11/2011
Todd Redmond
3/16/2009 3/18/2012 O
Pedro Strop 
3/10/2008 3/24/2010 5/4/2011
Chris Tillman 
3/30/2010 5/29/2011 3/31/2012
Tsuyoshi Wada 
X X X
Catchers 



Luis Exposito 
3/17/2011 3/23/2012 O
Taylor Teagarden 
7/21/2008 4/27/2010 3/29/2011
Matt Wieters 
O O O
Infielders 



Wilson Betemit 
X X X
Russ Canzler
3/30/2012 O O
Alexi Casilla 
3/23/2007 3/14/2008 5/6/2009
Chris Davis 
7/6/2009 4/23/2010 3/29/2011
Ryan Flaherty 
O O O
J.J. Hardy 
X X X
Manny Machado 
O O O
Yamaico Navarro 
3/17/2011 5/29/2012 O
Brian Roberts 
X X X
Jonathan Schoop 
O O O
Danny Valencia 
3/19/2010 5/9/2012 O
Outfielders 



Xavier Avery 
5/29/2012 O O
L.J. Hoes 
O O O
Adam Jones 
X X X
Nick Markakis 
X X X
Nate McLouth
X X X
Nolan Reimold 
3/20/2009 5/12/2010 3/28/2011

A "|" denotes an understanding that the player must agree to being sent to the minors.

"Rule 5" denotes that the player cannot be sent down without being offered back to his previous parent club.