16 June 2017

O's Position Players Aren't Getting The Job Done Either

Fans already knew before the season that the Orioles would make a ton of roster moves in hopes of finding a couple of workable fringe roster solutions. That has always been the plan of action under Dan Duquette, and it's mostly helped (even if it is annoying and/or easy to mock). The goal is to avoid negative players, and sometimes that leads to finding a diamond in the rough or at least someone who can perform well for a stretch. Sometimes you find Miguel Gonzalez. And sometimes you give five disastrous innings to Edwin Jackson and move on (after way too much talk about his opt-out date and ability to both start and relieve). Oops!

What we didn't know is that many of the players the team relies on most would take steps back. That's where some of the criticism leveled at Duquette misses the mark. He has absolutely made mistakes. There have been bad signings and trades, and he surely regrets them. But the 2017 Orioles were mainly built around a core of veterans, and they are not performing well.

If you're looking for bright spots so far, there are few. There's Dylan Bundy, Trey Mancini, Jonathan Schoop, and Welington Castillo. That's really about it, unless you want to give a couple of nods to Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Wade Miley (for not being a complete disaster until his last few starts), and Alec Asher for at least contributing something when he was acquired for little.

So who's underachieving? Keep in mind this is just a look at position players, as plenty of deserved criticism has already been handed out to Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, and Ubaldo Jimenez. (Remember wondering how the Orioles would compete while Tillman was out?)

Here are five of note:

J.J. Hardy: 39 wRC+, -0.8 WAR
Chris Davis: 104 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
Adam Jones: 89 wRC+, -0.1 WAR
Manny Machado: 83 wRC+, 1.3 WAR
Mark Trumbo: 91 wRC+, -0.3 WAR

Those are five of the six players (the other being Schoop) the Orioles were counting on as everyday players, and three of them have negative WAR numbers. That's really bad! Only Davis has a wRC+ over 100, though the major league average for first basemen is 118. In addition, he's in just the second year of his lucrative contract. Surely that isn't the kind of production the Orioles had in mind -- and now he's on the disabled list with an oblique injury.

In terms of wOBA, let's see how those five compare to their preseason ZiPS projections:

Machado: .301 vs. .363 (-62 points)
Hardy: .236 vs. .283 (-47 points)
Trumbo: .313 vs. .337 (-24 points)
Davis: .332 vs. .355 (-23 points)
Jones: .309 vs. .320 (-11 points)

Hardy has been truly awful at the plate and ranks as the second-worst qualified hitter in the majors, and yet Machado's struggles are the most noteworthy. He's the best player on the team and is barely ahead of Schoop in WAR, and only his outstanding defense is saving him right now. Maybe he's just been ridiculously unlucky; maybe he has an issue with making contact; or maybe he wanted to become even more of a power hitter and is searching for his identity at the plate. The last possibility seems more narrative driven, and anyway, Machado is so talented that you'd bet on a turnaround at seemingly any minute. Still, Machado playing at a superstar level would sure be helpful.

Some teams might be able to still win games with so many underperforming players, and that team would probably need an outstanding collection of starting pitchers. That team is not the Orioles.

If you're looking for any kind of silver lining if the Orioles end up in a position to sell, well, Machado is the only trade chip of note above. Hardy's terrible play has nullified any of his trade value (not to mention that his $14 million club option would vest with any trade). Jones looks worn down and has been on a steady decline; he also now has 10-and-5 rights and can reject any trade. Trumbo's three-year, $37.5 million deal seemed like a bargain, but that also requires much better offensive performance. And Davis? Nope!

There will be plenty of time to handicap the team's full collection of trade chips if the O's don't get out of this funk, but their trade options don't look nearly as good without including Machado and Zach Britton.

1 comment:

Roger said...

Do we really think someone's going to be able to pull off an Erik Bedard trade? Or Shelby Miller? Either of those would require a special amount of desperation and/or stupidity on the part of the other trader. I wish someone would analyze a possible return for Manny and really say with some certainty that a trade return would garner players who will return more WAR at a lower cost even if he gets his big contract. Zach Britton may be more expendable and bring a better return but only because his position is more overvalued. Still, you can see what happened to the O's bullpen without him. The Yankees never did have to rebuild. How did they do it? Traded off a few overvalued pieces and brought up ready to play pieces from the minors (and spent a few big bucks on free agents). Is CIN ever going to be a good team? SD? PHL? MIA can't even get to .500. I just don't feel like taking a few seasons in the tank.