29 February 2016

Keep Calm, Fowler Does Not Make Or Break The Season

To be honest, I was on the fence to even write about the Dexter Fowler exiting stage right deus ex machina, media bob and fake, signing with the Chicago Cubs.  It certainly took people by surprise and that manifested in different ways as a product of how they originally assessed the signing.  Here, we thought our view was largely understood: meh.  I wrote at length about Fowler (and suspect the other writers think similarly) that while Fowler is a good player, he simply did not move the needle much toward a playoff caliber squad.  Combine that with a lost draft pick and it made it more difficult to say positive things.  That said, it was a fair move and fair pay.  The move was simply arguable, so the non-move as well was simply arguable.

A column regurgitating our thoughts sounded quite boring, but we were inundated with requests to put this all into words and try to gain a corrected view as to where the Orioles are and where they are going or maybe even what would have been.  Avid followers of the media have heard the official line of Adam Jones, which can be paraphrased as it is all good, no harm no foul, and now we have money available to address needs that become more apparent mid-season.  That should resound a bit as last year Tommy Hunter was almost assuredly jettisoned in order for payroll to appear for Gerardo Parra.

I also asked a couple of folks in the industry: one an analyst and the other a pro scout.  What is transcribed is more or less my memory of those chats (I will correct if they tell me if my memory is poor):
JS: What is your take on the Fowler to Cubs news?
Analyst: Surprising, very surprising.  The Cubs were up there running laps with their talent and somehow they get him at half the QO price.  Demoralizing a bit.  It also must stink for those in the Orioles front office.
JS: Specifically, what?
A: He was a guy they wanted.  They were not getting much, if any, discount on him.  They were going to give up a draft pick.  As much as you can for a guy like that, they had internally come to terms with the cost and appeared eager to get him.  When you lose out on that at the end of the year when nothing else is out there, it hurts.  I imagine they are pinging agents and general managers, but they have little to give.
JS: Where do you think the Orioles are now without Fowler?
Pro Scout: Where were they before?
JS: You think he would not have helped the team?
PS: Listen, he is a good player.  A guy who can put up fringe first division numbers is a good player.  A role player.  You do not set your watch to him.  He complements the rest of the squad.  If he is making or breaking your season, then you probably do not understand who Fowler is.  With the Orioles, he has a skill set that would make a number of things easier.  He fits the lineup well and he can provide some backup help in center if anything happens to Jones.  With the Cubs, he is a 0-20 away from becoming a fourth outfielder.  They have depth and they meant more to them than a comp pick.  My guess is they are taking the three month look at this and will have outfielders to deal to fill in any holes in June.  This is the kind of guy who is around at the end of the year.  QOs do not impact meaningful players.
JS: Why did he turn down the Orioles money?
PS: I don't know.  Some guys want flexibility.  His family supposedly liked it in Chicago and he had a better experience there than some of the other places he had been.  He obviously was not excited to come to Baltimore and do you really want a guy on a three year deal coming into the clubhouse whose heart you have to win over.  I am not saying chemistry is everything, but it is not nothing.
Those are only two voices, but they fall in line with my general thoughts on the matter.  I also decided to gin up some batting lineup modeling that takes into account batting and baserunning.  These are not perfect models, but it suggests how certain players may affect the production of the lineup.

Here is a handful of players I thought up and plugged into the model:
xRuns Change
Baseline 747
Dexter Fowler 760 13
Austin Jackson 747 0
David Murphy 749 2
Pedro Alvarez 754 7
David Freese 754 7
Jay Bruce 749 2
Matt Kemp 759 12
Nick Markakis 759 12
Oswaldo Arcia 758 11
Marcel Ozuna 756 9
The above obviously does not take into account fielding prowess of any of the players.  The Baseline is defensively worth about -10 runs, which would be the same as the David Murphy, Pedro Alvarez, David Freese, and Matt Kemp options.  At -5, Dexter Fowler, Jay Bruce, and Nick Markakis.  Austin Jackson and Oswaldo Arcia fall in either at league average or +5.  Marcel Ozuna is either at +5 or +10.  Anyway, that is the rough way to look at it through this one data science way of looking at it.

If you want to look at it from a win perspective, about 9 runs is the value of an added win.

In conclusion, the loss of 13 to 18 runs is obviously not good, but the larger question of how good a team the Orioles are is a bit more open ended.  Analytics range on this from a distant fifth (thanks, PECOTA) to perhaps a mid AL East table team (hi there, ZiPS).  For a team like that, 13 to 18 runs is not all that meaningful because so many other things needs to go right for the club to make that jump up into the next realm.  Those things going right include Chris Davis maintaining performance, Jonathan Schoop taking another step, J.J. Hardy actually having two working arms, and the rotation not repeating last year.  It is a steep order, but one that might well happen.

This brings up back to Adam Jones and the value of having money left to spend mid-season.  So many of those things have to go right, that we should assume that some will go wrong.  Having money mid-season means that under that more restrictive market, you still have the financial wherewithal to fill an actual need as opposed to a projected need (which is what signing Dexter Fowler resolved, a projected need).  That might well be the best way to go about it.  We shall see.


vilnius b. said...

While I agree that not signing Fowler doesn't make or break a season, if you're going to lose that #14 pick, wouldn't you prefer to have Fowler over Gallardo? In other words, before signing Gallardo, make sure you have Fowler signed first? And if you can't get Fowler---and clearly there was a problem with the opt-out clause all along---pass on Gallardo and look at internal options.

But that's water under the bridge now. Kemp in RF sounds nice, but the Padres appear to be in rebuilding mode. So what do the Orioles have to offer that the Pads might want? I would imagine that since the Orioles mantra has been "grow the arms, buy the bats", they won't part with Harvey even if he has had a problem staying healthy.

And regarding defense: Kemp isn't much of a defensive outfielder. Trumbo may be worse, but is he that much worse that signing Pedro Alvarez to be the DH (Camden Yards favors LHBs with power) doesn't make more sense than going after Kemp? And there's the price tag: Kemp is still owed $72 million/yr. through the 2019 season. You should be able to get Alvarez for considerably less.

Anonymous said...

Any trade involving Matusz would be a plus!!!

Pip said...

None of the options you mentioned is worthwhile. Alvarez in particular would be a useless acquisition. If you're not going to sign Austin Jackson, or make a creative trade for a good outfielder ( which Kemp is not ) The only remaining option is to just roll with what we have and hope that somebody produces. Yet another morass into which Dan has driven the team

Anonymous said...

I pray to God the O's don't sign Austin Jackson -- giving that guy 350 ABS before we realize he sucks would be such a waste. There's clearly an overload of talent in the O's Bullpen; Matusz, Tj McFarland, I'd be just fine with seeing them go in exchange for someone who is 105 OPS+ or better in the past two years/850 ABS

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland do not represent an "overload of talent." And Matusz's salary clearly limits his trade value.

vilnius b. said...

You still need at least one LOOGY in your bullpen and Matusz fits the bill nicely. And with a group of starters that are all right-handed, it's probably a good idea to have two lefties in the pen.

The one trade we might have been able to make that would've landed us both a left-handed bat and a pretty good hitter was the Corey Dickerson for Jake McGee trade. The reports from the Denver newspapers is that he's completely recovered from the plantar fasciitis problems that plagued him a year ago. He may take some time to get over the Coors Field effect---he'll certainly see more breaking balls than he ever saw in Colorado---but he's a good enough hitter that he should be able to make the adjustment.

The Rockies wanted a pitcher who throws primarily fastballs. We didn't have an arm that satisfied their needs? Did the Orioles even talk to the Rocs about a deal? The Rays got a pretty good hitting OF and four years of team control.

Jon Shepherd said...

Depends on the Rockies...Orioles do not specifically have a guy like McGee. Britton is closest to that. Yes...it was reported extensively that the Orioles and Rockies talked. I do not have first hand info on that though.

Dickerson would have been nice. RF would be a slight stretch for him. Extreme platoon bat, so he would need some RHB help. He should enjoy facing the all right handed SP of the Orioles.

Anyway...we wrote about Dickerson a bit in the weeks leading up to his deal.