26 February 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic: Netherlands

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, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

The body of the Netherlands article was written by Eli Moore.


Netherlands
IBAF Ranking (out of 74) 7th
2013 Pool Korea

Austrailia

Chinese Taipei
2013 Players of Note Jonathan Schoop, Inf

Jurickson Profar, SS

Andrelton Simmons, SS

Roger Bernadina, OF

Andruw Jones, OF


2009 Record 2 - 4, Round 2


2006 Record 1 - 2, Round 1



If you were going to set out to build a successful national baseball team you probably wouldn’t select a country with most of its land sitting below sea level.  You might consider constant clouds and rain a drawback as well.  However, throw in over a hundred years of baseball tradition, Caribbean territories charged with talent, the guts to call the game “honkbal,” and you would get the Netherlands.  The 2011 Baseball World Cup champions come into this year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) looking to improve on their 2009 seventh place performance.  Baseball may not be considered the national pastime in the Netherlands, but the Dutch national team is as dangerous as anyone to take home the 2013 WBC crown.
             
Baseball was introduced to the Netherlands in 1911 by J. C. G. Grasé, an English teacher from Amsterdam, after discovering baseball while on vacation in the United States.  Grasé translated the rules of the game and founded the Dutch Baseball Union in 1912.  He was also the founder of Europe’s oldest baseball club, Quick Amsterdam, in 1913.  The first official competition was played in 1922 with four teams from Amsterdam: Quick Amsterdam, Ajax (a branch of the famous soccer club), Blue White (also a soccer club), and Hercules.  Quick Amsterdam became the first Dutch champion of the inaugural season.

In 1925 a US Navy ship made port in Amsterdam.  Players from Blue White heard of the visit and were anxious to test their skills against a group of Americans.  The sailors accepted the friendly invitation and ended up making quite an impression.  After one inning, the Americans led 14-0.  After two hours of play the final score was 27-2.  At that time Dutch pitchers were selected solely on who could throw the fastest regardless of control.  It was considered unsportsmanlike for batters to take advantage of lack of control by a pitcher.  Reaching base on balls was a humiliation and it was much more respectable to fly or ground out.  Baseball gained popularity and quickly spread to Harlem later in the 20s.  In 1939 a group of Mormon missionaries from Salt Lake City played in the Dutch league with the team name Seagulls.  They lost just two games during the season.

Baseball in the Netherlands went through a difficult era after the German invasion in May 1940 when play was completely disrupted and materials became scarce.  Baseballs were made of rubber with a cork center by the tire company Vredenstein, and could only absorb a couple hits before breaking apart.  You could imagine old Dutch ball players were unimpressed by Roy Hobbs busting the guts out of a baseball in the “The Natural”.  Because there were no seams in the balls some pitchers would simply cut groves in the balls in order to throw curves, which made them even more fragile.  After World War II the Marshall Plan included baseball materials (bats, balls, uniforms) to be sent to the Netherlands to build morale.  The post war assistance helped keep baseball alive in the country and the Dutch national team went on to win their first European title in 1956, held in Rome, Italy.  Since then the Netherlands has been dominant in the continent, winning 20 European championships and nine second place finishes.

Up until 1963, baseball in the Netherlands was ruled by teams from Amsterdam and Haarlem.  That year Sparta from Rotterdam became champion and won a total of nine national titles from 1963 to 1974.  The unstoppable trio of players Hudson John, Simon Arrindell, and Hamilton Richardson, all from the Dutch Antilles, were known as the “magnificent three”.  In 1970 a Dutch born pitcher, who was raised in California, named Bert Blyleven made the Minnesota Twins roster and went on to have a hall of fame career (inducted in 2010).  The first Dutch Major League Baseball player who grew up and learned the game in the Netherlands was Win Remmerswaal, who pitched briefly for the Boston Red Sox in 1979 and 1980 before his MLB career was cut short by injuries.

The 1980s and 90s were rough decades for Dutch baseball when many teams went bankrupt.  The Haarlem Nicols was the most striking example as the team won 7 pennants in a ten year period but declared bankruptcy in 1994, only 5 years after their last pennant.  Imagine what the MLB would look like if every small market team folded because of multiple losing seasons after a pennant.  Despite the struggles of Dutch baseball clubs, the Netherland’s national team expanded its international presence in the 1980s and 90s by hosting the Baseball World Cup in 1986 and competing in the 1988 summer Olympics.  The Netherlands best Olympics finish was 5th in both the 1996 and 2000 games.
             
The WBC has made the influx of Dutch players to the MLB more apparent as recognizable Major Leaguers players have played for the Dutch national team including Andruw Jones (hometown: Willemstad, Curacao, WBC performance: 2006), Sidney Ponson (Noord, Aruba, 2009), Randall Simon (Willemstad, Curacao, 2006, 2009), Jair Jurrjens (Willemstad, Curacao, 2006, picked up by the Orioles on Feb 15th), and Kenley Jansen (Willemstad, Curacao).  The Netherlands finished 11th in the 2006 WBC and 7th in the 2009 WBC.  The 2009 performance included two wins over the very strong Dominican Republic team.  However, they lost their second round games to Venezuela and the United States, knocking them out of the tournament.

While the Dutch showing in 2009 included some impressive wins, five years earlier the baseball hotbed of Willemstad, Curacao was exploding with young talent that would help propel the national team’s success in the following decade.  In 2004, Willemstad won the Little League World Series and were runners up in 2005.  From the 2004 championship team, Jonathan Schoop, who is now in the Orioles organization, joined the national team in 2011 along with six additional players, including Jonathan’s brother Sharlon, from the small city of Willemstad (population 140,000).  Four more players from the Caribbean, a number of players from around the Netherlands, and one Canadian born member made up the 24 man roster lead by American manager Brian Farley.

In the 2011 World Cup the Netherlands went 6-1 in round one pool play including a 19-0 blowout win over Greece and a 7-5 win over defending World Cup champions the United States.  In round two pool play the Dutch team knocked off Cuba 4-1 giving the Cuban national team their first loss of the tournament.  The two teams would have the best records from round two pool play and face each other again in the finals.  Cuba would score first in the 4th inning of the championship game on a sacrifice fly by slugger Alfredo Despaigne driving in Frederich Cepeda.  The Netherlands answered right back with two runs in the bottom of the 4th on an RBI single by Bryan Engelhardt bringing home Sidney de Jong and another RBI single by Jonathan Schoop scoring Curt Smith.  Netherlands pitchers would not allow any more hits until the 9th inning when two Cuban batters reached base on singles.  With two outs and two on in a one run game pinch hitter Hector Olivera lined out to Jonathan Schoop at 3rd base to close out the win for the Netherlands.  Robbie Cordemans was the winning pitcher with Juan Carlos Sulbaran pitching an inning of relief and David Bergmans picking up the save.  Dutch player Curt Smith was named Cup MVP, with the most RBIs, and teammate Tom Stuifbergen had the lowest ERA of the tournament.

The Netherlands finished 2012 ranked 7th in the IBAF national rankings.  They enter the 2013 WBC with 10 players on their provisional roster returning from the 2011 World Cup championship team including position players Curt Smith and Jonathan Schoop.  Seven of the ten returners are pitchers, indicating the staff has the potential shut down opposing offenses in international play.  Additional Major Leaguers Roger Bernadina (Washington Nationals) and Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers) are on the provisional roster as well although Profar is reportedly undecided about participating in the WBC or reporting to spring training.  Andruw Jones is also listed on the roster and will bring valuable experience to the team having played in the 2006 WBC, 17 years in the majors, and a season in Japan’s Pacific League.  With the success of their Caribbean players, consistent championship performances in Europe, and gutsy honkbal to pull out close games, the Netherlands is sure to be an international contender for many years in the future.

25 February 2013

Kyle Lohse Needs to Wait, But Not for O's

Spring Training has been going on for a while now and Kyle Lohse finds himself still without a team.  Recently, he claimed that he had seen no offers, but that is likely a product of him demanding a certain salary level that teams find prohibitive.  What likely makes the salary prohibitive is that it is tied to the forfeiture of a draft pick.  The Cardinals offered Lohse arbitration salary just over 13 million, which Lohse declined due to him (and his agent) incorrectly assessing his worth.

So what is the situation?

Lohse is worth about 15 MM in 2013 if he falls in line with his projections (mid to upper 3s for ERA).  The value of a draft pick (starting with the Mets at 11 and ending with the Indians 3rd rounder) ranges from around 12 MM to 3 MM (value comes from the probability of a player becoming a starter as well as how much a team saves while having a player under the renewal and arbitration control rules).  For most teams (meaning the most likely teams to acquire him), their picks are in the late teens and twenties, which roughly translates to 9 MM.  I shared some of this approach back in December.

The following contracts are based on his worth with expected 0.5 WAR decreases due to aging and an increase in cost per win of 5%:
1 yr 15 MM
2 yr 28.1 MM
3 yr 39.2 MM
With the draft pick value attached we get the following deals:
1 yr 6 MM
2 yr 19.1 MM
3 yr 30.2 MM
However, I think there really is another option.  What if Lohse simply waits?  If he signs after the draft in early June, then he can sign without a draft pick associated with him.  That would be a cost savings to a team of 9 MM.  Of course, with him signing in June and needing a couple weeks to get back into MLB playing shape...he will be able to give whatever club signs him only 18 games to start.  That value would be about 8.4 MM or a loss of 6.6 MM.

This would be a net gain of 2.4 MM for Lohse.  Turning the contracts into:
1 yr 8.4 MM
2 yr 21.5 MM
3 yr 32.6 MM
I think this is actually a conservative perspective on how much Lohse could earn.  By waiting it out, you may wind up with teams becoming more needy in terms of arms and more willing to sign Lohse to a backloaded deal.  Of course, it would be prudent for him and his agency to put in for insurance in case he somehow injures himself before he is able to sign a deal, but, at this point, I think Lohse can wait.

So what about the Orioles?

Well, a common refrain is that Lohse is a flyball pitcher who would be crushed at Camden Yards.  Busch Stadium is actually rather kind to flyball pitchers by depressing homerun rates by 9% while Camden increased them by 31%.  That sounds to many as a recipe for disaster, but I question that perspective.  Lohse is indeed a flyball pitcher, but not by much.  The average pitcher induces groundballs 44% of the time while Lohse does so at 42%.  Lohse's 19 home runs given up would go up to 27 if he played only at Camden Yards.  Wei-Yin Chen gave up 29.  Lohse does not strikeout as many batters as Chen, but he also does not walk as many.

To me, that is not the issue.  To me, the issue is really about what kind of team this is and I think the Orioles are a 4th or 5th place squad.  I think spending market rate for a 2 or 3 win improvement over whoever our 5th slot pitcher becomes is not incredibly useful when this team will be fighting hard to finish above .500.

2013 World Baseball Classic: China

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, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

The body of the China article was written by Chris Lindsay.




China
IBAF Ranking (out of 74)                  18th
2013 Pool                                            Japan
                                                            Cuba
                                                            Brazil
2013 Players of Note                          Ray Chang, 3B
                                                            Jiangang Lu, SP
                                                            Kun Chen, RP
                                                            Wei Wang, C

2009 Record                                       1-2, Round 1

2006 Record                                       0-3, Round 1


China's rapid economic growth since 1980 has turned it into a major player in just about every field. This has certainly held true for sport, but baseball in China, although growing, is still in its infancy. China's economic power and enormous population give it great potential, but baseball there lags far behind sports such as badminton, ping pong, and basketball.

China's baseball history actually dates back to the nineteenth century, when a group of Chinese students studying at Yale University formed a team, and upon their return to China introduced the game to their home country. The game also was spread in many provinces by American missionaries. In fact, the only major league player to have been born in China is Harry Kingman, the son of one of these missionaries, who was born in Tientsin in 1892 and played four games for the Yankees during the 1914 season. Baseball continued to be played in the country during the first half of the twentieth century, and enjoyed considerable popularity within the People's Liberation Army. 

However, in 1965 the government banned the sport, as it was seen as an American game not in keeping with communist and Chinese values. (Conversely, basketball, although clearly American in origin, was not subjected to such a ban, and is now a huge sport in China, with an estimated 300 million Chinese playing basketball, compared to 4 million playing baseball.) In 1974 with the relaxing of restrictions following the Cultural Revolution, baseball in China was again permitted. Since that time, it has been slowly expanding, with the formation of school and amateur teams.

In the leadup to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the government aggressively developed athletics of all sorts, with a view to winning international prestige by an impressive showing at the Games. Baseball benefited from this drive, with the building of new stadiums and increased media attention. (However, the Wukesong baseball stadium built for the Olympics was always envisioned as a temporary stadium and was demolished after the Games.)

International Competition

For political reasons, the Chinese national team have always been considered rivals of Taiwan (or Chinese Taipei, if you prefer). Generally, however, the baseball rivalry between Taiwan and China has resembled a baseball rivalry between a minor league team and a little league team. With a well-established baseball culture, Taiwan has historically been dominant in these contests.

The Chinese team has competed internationally in the Asian Baseball Championship since 1985. This tournament is held every other year between the top national teams in Asia and not surprisingly has historically been dominated by Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. China's best performance to date came in 2005, when they finished third. 

In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, China competed in Pool A with Japan, South Korea, and Chinese Taipei. The Chinese team was soundly defeated by all three opponents, with two of the games ending early due to the mercy rule. They were outscored by a total of 40-6 and committed eight errors. 

Beijing hosted the final Olympic baseball tournament in 2008, allowing the Chinese team to compete in the tournament under the Olympic host's automatic qualification. The Chinese team's performance overall was not impressive, as they lost six of their seven games and were outscored 60-14. However, the other game was psychologically important for China, as they succeeded in defeating Chinese Taipei 5-4 in 12 innings.

In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, China seemed to show some marked improvement from 2006. Most impressively, they were able to repeat their Olympic feat and defeat Chinese Taipei 4-1, and although they lost 14-0 to South Korea, they lost to Japan by a more respectable score of 4-0. This represented a combined score of 22-4, with only four errors. Of course these numbers are all in small samples, but nevertheless they represent the kind of rapid improvement that China has demonstrated in many fields of endeavor. 

The China Baseball League

In 2002, a professional baseball league, the China Baseball League, was established with the participation of foreign businessmen. Consisting initially of four teams playing a one-month season, the league has since expanded to seven teams and the playing season has been lengthened.  Each team may include up to three foreign players.

Major League Baseball has been working hard to try to build up the game in China. MLB now runs two baseball academies in the country and has a program to introduce baseball into the athletic programs of 120 elementary schools. Several teams have signed contracts with Chinese players, but no Chinese player has yet reached the majors. Commentators have expressed the hope that China will sometime produce a baseball Yao Ming who can achieve prominence abroad and thereby build the popularity of the sport at home. But judging from the small numbers of Chinese who have made it into the minor leagues, it may be a while.

Nippon Professional Baseball has also been very active; it has partnered with the China Baseball League, each team in the CBL being assigned an NPB team as a sponsor. Under this arrangement, Japanese players may play in China, and Chinese teams may be able to train at Japanese facilities. It seems conceivable that this could at some point develop into a more formalised farm arrangement, with Chinese players being regularly recruited for NPB teams. 

Current Players and Outlook

Since there are no Chinese-born major league players and very few minor leaguers, the Chinese WBC team is pretty much composed of unknowns. In fact, even people who closely followed the 2009 squad would be unfamiliar with this year's roster, as only seven of the 2009 players are returning this year. However, there are a couple exceptions.

Former Oriole and current Royal Bruce Chen, a Panamanian of Chinese descent, was expected to play for China following Panama's failure to qualify, but has withdrawn in order to concentrate on spring training.

Ray Chang, a 29-year-old Chinese-American third baseman now in the Reds' organization, played last year at AAA Rochester, batting an unimpressive .241/.304/.271. Chang was China's best batter in the 2009 WBC, when he was 5 for 11 with the team's only home run.

Another returning player is Jiangang Lu, 34, a starter for the Tianjin Lions who recorded China's lone victory in the 2009 WBC by pitching 5.1 innings of one-run ball. Reliever Kun Chen, 32, recorded the save in the same game.

Catcher Wei Wang, 34, who played in 2006 but not 2009, hit the first home run of the World Baseball Classic against Japan.

China is slated to compete with Japan, Cuba, and Brazil. It's tough to imagine them advancing, and it will be challenging enough for them to win a game this year. Baseball in China certainly benefits from plenty of interest, determined effort, and great potential. International success will have to wait.

24 February 2013

Sunday Comics: Say Cheese!

I love photo day. I love it even more when the players don't take it so seriously or take otherwise stupid pictures so that I can make fun of them. (Affectionately.)

Clicking on the cartoons will take you to the actual photos I've drawn.








Yes, the Chris Davis image is on my personal Tumblr. Feel free to follow me if you don't mind history, comedians, Top Gear, and pictures of my cats and Old English Sheepdogs along with baseball and cartoons. 

23 February 2013

Stars or Depth -- One Dylan Bundy or Two Other Prospects?

Just how good a prospect is Dylan Bundy? He’s the consensus best pitching prospect in baseball. The Orioles are lucky to have him in their farm system; every other team would love to have him in its farm system. But a team needs more than one superstar to be a contender. Are the Orioles better off with Bundy than with, say, two prospects ranking in the high teens? Two prospects who rank around #50? Baseball America has just come out with their 2013 Top 100 Prospects for 2013. In this article, I will look at their list and try to identify how valuable Bundy is.
Last year, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper was the consensus #1 prospect in baseball. The number 2 and number 3 prospects were Mike Trout and Matt Moore. Obviously, the package of Trout and Moore would be superior to Harper alone. Numbers 10 and 11 were Orioles’ system-mates Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado; again, the combined package of Bundy and Machado would be superior to Harper alone. I don’t remember where I thought Harper would be equal to the package of two consecutively-rated prospects, and redoing the process now would be tainted by what happened in 2012; I think the spit was somewhere around #40 and #41.
For 2013, Dylan Bundy ranks #2, in a tightly bunched group with #1 Jurickson Profar of Texas, #3 Oscar Taveras of St. Louis, and #4 Wil Myers of Tampa Bay. Given a choice, any sane, unbiased GM would rather have any two of the other three than Bundy alone. The question is, at what level does Dylan Bundy become more valuable than a package of two prospects at that level?
I want to make a couple of points. First, this will be my opinion; you or someone else may put more valuable on best-case ceiling, or worse-case floor, or position, and thus rate player packages differently. Also, this won’t be an absolutely consistent ranking. Sometimes, two prospects you or I don’t happen to like are rated together, and so we might think Bundy more valuable than a specific package but less valuable than a similarly-rated package. For example, BA rates two teenage Twins prospects, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, at #9 and #10. I would rather have Bundy, a more advanced and more certain prospect, than even a package of Sano and Buxton, both of whom have a fairly good chance of not making the major leagues at all. On the other hand, #13 is young shortstop Carlos Correa and #14 is major-league-ready pitcher Trevor Bauer. Bauer’s already pitched in the major leagues and is almost as likely as Bundy to be a star. Correa is more than adequate compensation for having Bauer over Bundy.
Since I’ve compared Bundy to the #13-#14 package, I’ll now take a look at the players around #25. #24 is Kyle Zimmer, a right-handed pitcher in the Royals’ system; #25 is Archie Bradley, a right-handed pitcher in the Diamondbacks system, and #26 is the Orioles’ own Kevin Gausman. Bradley and Bundy share a lot. They were both #1 draft picks from Oklahoma high schools in 2011; Bundy went #4 and Bradley #7. Bundy raced through Low-A and High-A to AA in 2012; Bradley pitched all year at Low-A. Bundy showed more control, but the Diamondbacks let Bradley pitch thirty more innings. While Bundy is a better prospect, if someone told me they’d take Bundy but I could have Bradley AND either Zimmer or Gausman, it’s a no-brainer – I’ll take the two-prospect package.
Let’s move down to around #40. #40 is Matt Barnes, another 2011 first-round pick, this time in the Red Sox’ system. Barnes pitched brilliantly in 4 Low-A starts, but because he’s a college pitcher and was age 22, that doesn’t tell us much. He pitched well but didn’t dominate at High-A. Barnes looks to be a good bet to be a solid rotation starter, maybe making the all-star teams in his good season, but he’s unlikely to be a star. #39 is Cardinals right-handed pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, who is kind of hard to evaluate. He pitched very well as a major-league relief pitcher. He pitched well in the minors as a starter in 2012, less well in 2011. #41 is Oswaldo Arcia, a corner outfielder in the Twins’ system. His 2012 performance is much better than his performance in an injury-plagued 2011, and he’s already lost some speed and may lose more. This is a close call, and I would be okay with either Bundy or the Barnes-Arcia package.
And that’s about as far down as I’d go. After Arcia, the top 100 prospects don’t project to be stars, are substantially higher risk, or both. There are individual pairs that I might take -- #59 Alex Meyer and #60 Kaleb Cowart might tempt me, as might #67 Lucas Giolito and #68 Kyle Gibson – but those are the exceptions. So, based on the past couple of seasons, a top-three or top-four prospect in baseball is roughly as good as having two prospects around the fortieth-best in baseball.

22 February 2013

ESPN3: College Baseball to watch Feb 22-24th

Well, the college baseball season is upon us, which means that each weekend ESPN3 will be airing a schedule of games every weekend that I plan on highlighting each week. I'll try to give you a rundown of games to watch and the players to keep an eye on in those games as it pertains to the draft.

Up this week on the schedule are: (all times EST)


Fri, Feb 22 4 p.m. St. John’s at No. 21 Georgia Tech
ESPN3
Sat, Feb 23 2 p.m. South Florida at No. 9 Florida State
2 p.m. St. John’s at No. 21 Georgia Tech
Sun, Feb 24 1 p.m. South Florida at No. 9 Florida State

Players to keep an eye on:
Georgia Tech
SP - Buck Farmer 
1B/OF - Daniel Palka (Whose grandfather, Eugene Palka, played 2 years in the Orioles org.)
OF - Brandon Thomas

Florida State
LHP - Brandon Liebrandt (Son of former ML Charlie Liebrandt)
2B/SS - Justin Gonzalez

20 February 2013

Dan Duquette's Grand Pitching Plan: Its Jurrjens Time!

Last year, Dan Duquette disappointed many an Orioles fan.  I will not go through most of the transactions, but here is a subset involving acquisitions of pitching talent:
November 22, 2011 - Signed P Miguel Socolovich
December 8, 2011 - Traded P Jarret Martin and UTL Tyler Henson for P Dana Eveland
December 13, 2011 - Signed P Tsuyoshi Wada
December 16, 2011 - Signed P John Link
January 4, 2012 - Signed P Willie Eyre
January 9, 2012 - Signed P Ross Wolf
January 10, 2012 - Signed P Wei-Yin Chen
January 18, 2012 - Signed P Armando Galarraga and P Oscar Villareal
January 20, 2012 - Signed P Dennys Reyes
January 21, 2012 - Signed P Chris George
So...how inspiring is that list?  Faced with a mess of a rotation at the end of 2011, Duquette decided to keep Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Brad Bergesen, and Zach Britton.  At this point, he was also far along in sending Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel.  Duquette decided to collect additional bottom tier arms in Eveland, Wada, Wolf, Chen, and Galarraga.  What this does is that it allows you to play the entire field to figure out your actual rotation.  If you collect a bunch of bottom fringe arms, it enables you to cast away players who do not perform well with those who might be doing well in spring training or in the minors.  That gives you a lot of freedom by not hindering the Major League club with big money deals on players who will not agree with being sent to the minors.

The key though is looking at this group and being able to discern which players are the useful ones and which are the ones the team should feel free to expose on waivers.  It can certainly be argued that the Orioles made mistakes by designating Alfredo Simon instead of releasing Kevin Gregg or designating Brad Bergesen instead of releasing Kevin Gregg when the team acquired Omar Quintanilla.  Both Simon and Bergesen were lights out coming out of the bullpen for the Reds and Diamondbacks, respectively.  Their loss was not felt much by the Orioles because they had a massive amount of relief arms that could fill in any role.  However, again, the bulky contract given to Kevin Gregg probably is a big reason why he stayed instead of the lower cost pitchers like Simon or Bergesen.  But, yes, they were not big losses and the team, with a large stable of fringe arms, was able to find effective replacements.

The point is that if you acquire a great deal of low end talent, you provide yourself with cheap opportunity to find talent or performance that was overlooked.  It can be argued that signing a half dozen sixth starters is much more useful than signing someone like Joe Saunders to a three year deal when he likely represents 4th or 5th slot performance for a first division team.

Why bring all of this up?
February 15, 2013 - Orioles sign starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens and designate for assigment.

Jurrjens is familiar with many an Orioles fan due to his appearance in many a Adam Jones to Atlanta deal.  Based on what information there is available it seems an impasse arose when the Braves offered Martin Prado, who was recently a big piece in a deal for Justin Upton, Jair Jurrjens, and a couple fringe low minor arms for Jones.  The Orioles balked and demanded that two of the following be added: Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Arodys Vizcaino.  Unfortunately for the Braves, they broke off talks as 20/20 hindsight shows that offering Jurrjens, Teheran, and Vizcaino would have been a steal for them.  The value of those three has tanked.  Beachy wound up going under the knife and won't be much of a contributor until 2014.  Delgado is going West in the Upton deal.  Mike Minor is healthy and looks like a good mid-rotation arm.  In other words, it is probably a good thing the Orioles kept Jones.

Why did Jurrjens' value drop even though he was dominating the NL halfway through the 2011 season?  Injuries have led to Jurrjens coming over the top more in his release.  Changes in his mechanics have led to a higher release point, poorer command, and reduced velocity.  He used to sit around 91 mph and creep up to 96 mph, but injuries lowered that to 89 mph, topping out at 91.  That may not seem like a major drop in velocity, but you can consider Chris Tillman here.  Tillman, of course, uses a different repertoire, but losing two or three mph results in a lot less swing and misses.  He saw an increase in batter contact from 83 to 90% with much of that, amazing, coming on contct with pitches out of the zone.  If players are connecting, then it increases the likelihood that they will be getting on base.  Based on Jurrjens velocity at the end of last year (before a groin injury ended his season), he was still an upper 80s pitcher.

Ok, so why did Duquette signed a low end pitcher with three seasons upended by leg injuries and continued reduced velocity?  Well, he is cheap and he can be optioned if he makes the 40 man roster.  Jurrjens can be optioned to Norfolk this year, go through arbitration next year, and be optioned again in 2014.  That maneuverability make Jurrjens a player that you can shuttle back and forth between Baltimore and Norfolk, hoping he gets back on the right track.  This would be similar to how Tillman and Matusz were treated. Hoarding and moving fringe rotation talent does seem to be a characteristics of this regime.

Here is a probably starting pitching depth chart:
Jason Hammel
Wei-Yin Chen
Chris Tillman
Miguel Gonzalez
Zach Britton
Jake Arrieta
Steve Johnson
Brian Matusz
Jair Jurrjens
Tommy Hunter
Dylan Bundy
Tsuyoshi Wada
I would group Hammel and Chen as locks.  Tillman would have to do something awfully wrong to get bumped.  Gonzalez, Britton, and Arrieta are likely in some measure in a fight for two positions.  Johnson will have a hard time finding an in while Matusz will be given an opportunity if he is dominant in Spring Training.  Of the rest, Jurrjens and Bundy are the two who could race up the chart and nestle in behind Hammel and Chen.  On April 2nd, Jurrjens has a better probability to have done that.  On August 1st, Bundy would be the one with the better probability.