19 July 2007

Defense Defense Defense

Every so often the UZR updates gets posted . . . of course on tangotiger.

How have the O's done?

1B Huff - his defense costs his team 25 runs a year . . . which is dreadful. Basically, his defense alone hurts the Orioles for 2.5 losses. Do the other O's balance him out?
2B Roberts - he saves 4 runs . . . down to a net -21 now.
3B Mora - dead even . . . he increases his range by cheating back, but in the grand scheme of things he is not hurting the team, yet. Still at -21.
SS Tejada - He saves 3 runs a year compared to the average SS. He has done well to keep himself there. People, including me, knock him for a loss of range, but he is making adjustments. Cal had no range, too. -18.
LF Payton - He saves 9 runs, which is actually 50% worse than last year. He should still be above average next year. His hitting is another story. -9.
CF Patterson - He saves 3 runs. Hopefully he continues to hit. -6.
RF Markakis - He saves 4 runs. This brings us down to -2.

We have a slightly below average defensive team. Though, I'd say dead average and give it a C. If Millar started at first we would be at +26. Yeah, putting Huff at DH would be worth 2 more wins over the course of the entire year.

How about the rest of the AL East?
BoSox . . . -52 . . . Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, and JD Drew are killing them defensively.
Yanks . . . -3 . . . Jeter is what negates the others.
Jays . . . +36 . . . their defense should give them 3 wins.
D-Rays . . . -123 . . . wow . . . just wow. That does explain their tanking even with the pitching and hitting they have.

Below the Surface: Minor League Spotlight

Brandon Erbe, P
Frederick Keys

One may remember my column on Pedro Beato. I mentioned how he was no Brandon Erbe. I still believe this to be true, even though Erbe has looked dreadful this year.

Some background . . . Erbe is a Baltimore boy. He pitched for McDonough and I was fortunate enough to work in an office building right on the other side of the school. I am not a scout, but he looked good. His mechanics were a little off, but he looked good to me. This means little as I have little understanding of biomechanics.

Anyway, we drafted him and threw him into Bluefield. At age 17, he averaged more than 2 K's per inning. After 23 innings of him blowing away dreadful and overmatched players, he recieved a call up to Aberdeen. He proceeded to get wailed on in three appearances, but kept his K rate up at about 11 per 9 inn. The following season, at age 18, he pitched the whole season for Delmarva in the Salley League. The O's kept him to a low inning total (116) which was within the realm of reason for an 18 year old. He kept a high K rate (10.4 per 9 inn), a somewhat low walk rate (3.7 BB/9), and an amazingly low HR rate (0.16 HR/9). This was done against talent about a year or two older than him. Quite a good season.

His K rate has dropped to 8.0K/9, which is troubling. His BB rate has risen to 5.0BB/9. His HR rate has increased to 0.94HR/9. Now, he is just 19 and playing against competition slightly older than him. These hitters are also light years above Rookie and low A ball, but he sure has been hit. May 16th he was tagged for 12 runs in 3 innings. Two days ago, he was cranked for 8 runs in 2 and a 1/3. Now, he has mixed in a gem or two (i.e., June 5th, 8 innings, 0 ER, 11 Ks, 1BB). Though he has really ranged between above average and awful more so than brilliant. He also seems to fall apart on the road.

Am I worried?
No, not at all. He is 19. This is not a 21 year old Mark Prior flying through the minors. It is also not a Matt Riley rush job. Erbe seems to be a good kid, but he is going through a rough patch. He should right himself up and the O's should keep him in Frederick for the rest of the year. He should only start about 7 more times before shutting him down for the year. They may have had some AZL dreams this offseason, but it looks like he should develop more and end this season on a high note.

He is still the Orioles best prospect.

16 July 2007

Oh, OK, 2B Free Agents

Rob writes:

Hey Crawdaddy, I know Brian Roberts is going to stay for the next few years, but what is your take on the 2B market after this year? Do you think there is anyone there to replace our Gomez-Bynum-Fahey beast?

Bryan -------

Well . . . I decided to finally answer an email, which is not really all that impressive as I receive few of them and rarely do anything with them. But, Rob is correct and I should have addressed that. Also, being refered to as Crawdaddy is weird.

Anyway, free agent 2B:

Guys who'll demand to start-

Luis Castillo, Twins . . . average defensive second baseman with the same offensive skills he has had. He is one of the most consistent ball players around primarily because he can only do two things: 1) hit for contact and 2) walk. He used to have more speed, but was never that adept a baserunner . . . he sure tried though. He will hit a pretty dry market and he should fetch a four year deal for about 6MM a year.

Jeff Kent, Dodgers . . . weird career path. He was pretty average until age 30 and he just continues to clean up. He has regressed from his peak, but still puts up above average offensive numbers to go along with below average defense. He'll see a 2 year deal at 9 or 10MM. He'll be a better deal than Castillo, but is riskier for an immediate decline. Particularly if a truck needs cleaning.


Taduhitu Iguchi, White Sox . . . for those who cannot afford Luis . . . Tad is your man. He is a marginal starter. Since his first year, he has regressed each season. He can pass as a low end starter next year, but will probably be relegated to a backup role in '09 for certain. I can see him lasting long in free agency unless he quickly realizes no one really wants him to start. Then again, Ned Colletti is crazy. 3MM as a backup or 5MM as a starter. I could see him destroying his own value and going as low as 2MM.

Mark Loretta, Astros . . . probably the best utility man to be had this off season, but with another plus offensive season, someone might want to make him a starter. He could probably be had for a 1 year deal at 4MM.

Mark Grudzeilanek, Royals . . . he should also be a utility guy. Some crazy team could give him 4MM to start or some savvy team could pay him 2MM to backup a couple positions. Though, he has a player option for 4MM . . . he'll probably stay.

Marcus Giles, Padres . . . the team has an option on him for 4MM. They won't pick it up. Giles doesnt have the defensive skill or offensive talent to be worth that anymore. I don't think anyone would be willing to pay it. I could see him dumped and waiting long into the offseason to backup a club in the playoff hunt. To think, if he went to arbitration the Braves would have had to hand him 6MM. He is a 2MM guy.

Ronnie Belliard, Nats . . . how did he find a place to start? Well, he is doing quite well and can probably trick a team like the Royals or Dodgers into giving him a 3 year deal around 5MM or so.

The rest?
Chris Gomez, Jerry Hairston Jr, Miguel Cairo, Damion Easley, Chris Woodward.

Not much.

15 July 2007

Breaking Down the Orioles 40 man roster - 2B

Brians Roberts

Brian Roberts - Roberts was the last and final 1st round pick of the Orioles infamous 1999 7 man 1st round. He is the only one to amount to anything, but he sure has amounted to quite a lot. His minor league track record suggested he would never amount to much. He always had a great eye, but had issues with contact rate and power. It was originally thought he would make a decent double play team with Jerry Hairston, Jr who had held his own against minor league pitching. Hairston's injuries and a resigned Mike Bordick dictated the Roberts try his hand at second. So began the Orioles 2B battle, which lasted for two years and an uncomfortable lame duck third season. During those years, Roberts bat emerged to go along with his plate patience. Handed the starting job in 2004, his power potential also arose as he hit 50 doubles. For a young player an upswing in secondary power suggests more power to come. His 2005 campaign saw him triple his HR career high mark. He also smacked 45 doubles. Unfortunately, late that season against the Yanks, Roberts suffered a horrible broken arm at first base. This injury carried over into the next season and resulted in a severe dropped in power as his power fly rate was cut in half and his groundball percentage rose about 15%. In other words, with his arms failing him, he turned to his legs. So far in 2007, his batting eye is just fine. He still has yet to regained his secondary power. One has to wonder if it will ever come back. He has remained rather productive with doubles, but everything tends to indicate they are weak gappers. This would suggest that in another three or four years, those gappers may drop a bit sooner and become only singles. Three or four years and that speed will begin to whittle away. Three or four years and that strong to average defense will begin to lose its range. Now, he is a very good ball player and will continue to be for five or six more years.

4.2MM this year
6.3MM '08 and 8MM in '09

Thoughts: This is an amazing deal. A 800+ OPS 2B is worth more than 18.5MM over the next three years. He is getting the same as Huff while playing a far more difficult position. Crazy. He is our 2B for the next two and a half years and he'll get a huge payday from someone for 2010.

No one else to speak of on the Major League roster. You could argue Bynum, but he is an outfielder. You could argue Gomez, but he is a strict utility guy. Brandon Fahey is just such a horrible hitter. I cannot see him being considered. The same goes to Luis Hernandez.

Cesar Crespo. Filler. Decent eye and can provide backup on the bench, but will never translate well to the majors as shown by his two stints with the Padres and one with the Bosox. He has always be a somewhat patient mistake hitter in the minors. That rarely translates well in the majors. If he hones himself and finds an opening, he could become a poor man's Chris Gomez.

Paco Figueroa. Interesting player. He won't be a star, but he could be a pretty good backup. He was an old collegiate player at Miami and his first pro year was 2006 in HiA Frederick at the age of 23. He displayed a good eye and absolutely no power. He has speed, but is horrible on the basepaths. This year at Bowie . . . really good eye and nothing else. His double rate has bounced up 30%. He is still older than his competition, but he looks like a solid bench player in the majors. In all honesty, I think he should be in AAA next year. I could see him hitting about 780-820 OPS there. He'll be a better option than Fahey as a backup come '09. An organization needs guys like this.

Gera Alvarez. Showed early displays on on base prowess, but had some rough skills. He always performed average against younger competition and fell apart in AA last year as a 26 year old. He won't ever get to AAA. He seems like a nice guy though and should probably start thinking about managing.

Jonathan Tucker. Interesting. Really interesting. He is another guy like Crespo who is a little too old for his league, but is displaying similar skills. Last year he played some outfield, but has been seeing more time this year again at 2B. He has no future in the OF with his vapid power. He has a good eye. A really good eye. 42 walks to 29 strikouts this year. That is awfully nice. Though he is a 24 year old in HiA ball. Backup material. He should make it to AAA, but may be 27 when he does.

Mid A
Miguel Abreu. Well, he has some power. Playing against slightly younger competition, he has shown he can hit the ball deep, but he has absolutely no ability to walk. His power should get even better, but if he is having difficulty taking a pitch in the Salley league . . . he is going to be stymied in AA and AAA ball when guys can actually pitch.

Low A
Ryan Adams. He is still young, but he has never given much of an indication he can hit the ball. Very good defense for a guy his age. He may be Brandon Fahey part duex, but younger. He was average offensively at Bluefield. With the Ironbirds, he is struggling something awful. Not Jay Gibbons circa 2007 awful, but not good. He looks like a backup as well.

Rookie Ball
Wow, are our Bluefield teams always this old? They are all in their 20s. Are we now using it to weed out college signings who play with poor competition? Anyway, here we have mercy draftee Eric Perlozzo and Pedro Silveren. Perlozzo is Sammy P's son, who is a nice kid from what I remember. A friend of mine dated Perlozzo's daughter in college . . . hmm, maybe they are married now. Anyway, he is from Shippensburg and is overmatched at the moment. Silveren? He was an international signee at age 21. Not good. He is repeating Bluefield. Not good. Perlozzo is getting most of the at bats. Not good. Anyway, I think Silveren will be going away after the year. Eric Perlozzo will probably not get the promotion to Aberdeen, but may repeat Bluefield and see it next year. I would be shocked if we ever see him in Bowie though.

Free Agency
No point, we have Roberts through '09.

Conclusion: We have nothing in the pipeline, but we don't need anything. Crespo or Tucker could be a patch job in '10. It won't be good, but it could do. If they trot back out in '11, we could be in trouble. Or . . . they could transform like Roberts and get dedicated to the gym.

12 July 2007

A-Rod and Oriole?

Ken Rosenthal, Buster Olney, etc, etc, etc . . . they all bring up the Orioles as a potential landing zone for Alex Rodriguez. They talk about his adoration of Cal Ripken, his desire to play in a less intense environment, and the money that Peter Angelos could send his way. I believe they write these things because they need some filler. He is not coming here. Why?

1. The Yankees are not as ignorant as many Yankee fans seem to be.
The only reason why the Yanks are sniffing 500 ball and not 470 or 460 is because of their star third baseman. Yes, the guy who has won an MVP for them. The guy who has been just as successful in the post season as the rest of the Yankees these past few years. The guy Torre and Jeter go out of their way to be indifferent to in the media. He will go down as one of the best ballplayers in history. Him, Bonds, and Clemens. We are sure in an era where we hate our stars. So, yeah, life without A-rod and his subsidized salary is far worse than life with him. In fact, it is even better. The front office has begun the machinations to extend his contract, a necessity in order to keep the Rangers footing the bill.

2. Who else could the Yanks get?
Maybe Troy Glaus. Maybe. There is no one else worth a damn on the trade or free agent market at thirdbase.

3. Angelos has trouble paying 15 million a year for a player.
A-Rod is going to maybe high 20s or low 30s. Mark my words. He could be the first 35 million dollar a year player. This is where the Yanks have leverage. With the Texas deal and an extension, the Yanks can save now and later. They can use the seven million a year Texas gives them and apply that to the extension. Maybe four more years at 25+7 = 32MM. He'll be 38 at the end. Seems like a Yankee deal to me. And . . . I think that is conservative.

4. Melvin Mora
Our worst and saddest reason. He has a no trade. He is also our third best hit, by far, this year. We have other needs.

Well, it isn't going to happen. I'd love an A-Rod and Tejada combination on the left side of the infield, but the money seems too much. We have Bedard coming up and he'll be worth about 20 million a year. Roberts is worth 12 or so. Any free agents will be expensive. We are going to have to become a smart $150 million dollar team to keep this team together and compete. We'll have to stop giving stupid money out to guys whose peak years are average . . . like Gibbons. Or give three year deals to players who are experiencing a downfall in production (read: Huff . . . yeah, I was wrong about him).

Anyway, let's move on from A-Rod.

10 July 2007

Underperforming Orioles

As we all know, sometimes things just fall apart for a long period of time and then come back as strong as ever. There is a term for this and it is regression to the mean. So . . . who is the Oriole most likely to regress to the mean and improve from their 1st half play? Well, JC Bradbury has developed a tool called PrOPS that works pretty well.

Jay Gibbons.
You probably already knew that. Gibbons is having a historically bad season for himself. He is barely looking worse than he did three years ago when sutures had yet to dissolve in his wrist affecting his bat momentum. So what is behind his current wretched play? You may laugh, but wretched, wretched bad luck. His BA/BIP is .247, which is quite low. Couple that with a line drive percentage of 19.2 and it makes no sense. Gibbons, hitting .212, should actually be hitting about .260 with a few more homeruns and doubles. All of his peripherals suggest this should be a bad year for him, but it is not as bad as we have seen. Of course, his K rate has increased and his walk rate . . . well, it has always been awful. If he gets a few hits through and feels a bit chipper, the K should drop and his peripherals suggest an average season. If he keeps his line drive percent up I expect a large rebound.

1st Half:

Ramon Hernandez
Although not as extreme as Gibbons, he has also be victimized by poor luck. His rates are worse than his recent seasons, but nothing suggests he is this bad. His BA/BIP is too low, but his power seems to have left the stadium. Hopefully, he hasn't become a different hitter.

1st Half:
That is a good line for a catcher.

Corey Patterson
Yes, he is that bad.

09 July 2007

Below the Surface: Minor League Spotlight

Pedro Beato, SP, Delmarva Shorebirds

A promising high school pitcher who had really only his fastball. It ran in the low 90s and scouts love that. Beato ran into some arm trouble, specifically Tommy John surgery, and was a 32nd round pick by the Mets in '05. A draft and follow guy, he eluded the Mets attempts to sign him and landed in the 2006 supplemental first round, 32nd overall to the Orioles. He had fully recovered at this point and began working on a curve and a changeup . . . both are incredibly raw.

2006 saw him sign quickly (for a cool 1MM) and assigned to the Aberdeen Ironbirds. He threw 57 innings. He had some strong outings and fell apart in others. He threw 8 Ks/9 and walked 3.6 batters per 9. Hitters averaged 7.4 hits per nine. The numbers suggest a powerful pitcher with average control. His ERA was 3.63, which is deceptive. He is a groundball pitcher, inducing nearly 50% of his hits as grounders (most likely due to an overpowering fastball with slight control problems . . . 19 and 20 year olds will have trouble hitting that . . . 22 and 23 year olds won't) resulting in nearly a 1/3 of the total runs against him to be unearned. His "true" ERA should be around 4, which is a solid prospect. Not Mark Prior, but certainly someone who would become a strong setup man or a solid number three pitcher.

2007 is seeing him go deeper into games and throwing a lot more innings. He has already hit 89 innings, which suggests that the Orioles may go to a six man squad or end his season early. Typically, you do not want to have your pitcher go too far beyond a 30 innings increase in inings from the previous year. If they treat Beato like Erbe, they'll give him about five more outings and shut him down. Of course, he is not pitching like Erbe. Beato has dropped to 7.2 K/9, increased to 3.9 BB/9, and increased to 9 hits/inning. This is actually fine though. He is young and it looks like he has progressed at the same rate as the rest of the talent. His Ks are down and his BBs are up for two reasons: 1) better control and 2) smarter hitters. His hit rate is going up because he is: 1) facing better competition and 2) striking less people out. His ERA is at 3.54, but should be around 3.80. He is still a groundball pitcher, but single A defenses are slightly better.

So what does this all mean?
He has not injured himself, which is good. He did make some progress in learning his ware. He has not shown the amazing ability of Brandon Erbe. So . . . to me he looks like a potential fourth starter or a setup man if he develops a second pitch. He could be a number 2 if he fully develops both of his secondary pitches. I don't see that happening. I figure he'll be a number 3 when it is all said and done . . . but it is hard to see that from here. He has a great arm . . . he just needs to hone it. We should expect him to break out next year in Frederick or the following year in Bowie. If he does well in Frederick in '08 . . . look for him as a September callup in '09. If he breaks out in Bowie in '09, he'll surface midseason in '10.

06 July 2007

Breaking Down the Orioles 40 man roster - 1B

Aubrey Huff
Kevin Millar

Aubrey Huff - Huff was almost a can't miss prospect. Not much defense, but a pure hitter. He rolled out of Miami putting up big numbers in the Salley League in 1998. Plate discipline was something to desire. That tightened up as he spent a full year AA in Orlando in 99, again displaying power. The following year was more improvement at AAA and a call up to the big league club. He showed glipses of power and was considered the new wave of Devil Rays. In 2001, he saw his first full year and he was dreadful. His batting eye evaporated and he couldn't lift the ball. He was still young at 24 though. The following season begun three straight 120+ OPS seasons and a plethora of trade rumors as the Devil Rays flopped. Unfortuately for the Rays, they kept him. One and a half average seasons later and he left to the Astros. Not much happened for him on the free agent market, so we picked him up with hopes he would become dominant again. April and May of this year, he was awful as a first baseman. In June, he was good with a 120 OPS. What happened? Well, he didn't get any better. He still is not showing any power. Rather, hits are just falling in. He is just not displaying the power he used to. This is the third year in a row and it looks like we'll have to suffer because this is what the guy is. No contact, no plate discipline, and no power. Maybe he'll get hot, but I don't see much here.

4MM this year
8MM in '08 and 8MM in '09.

Prediction: He should experience more of an upturn in his production, but it would be hard to see him exceed 850 OPS. He'll give you the same production as Millar, but at 3 times the cost over the term of the contract. He is not a trading piece until his last year unless we ate a large portion of the deal. Another possibility is that he may be switched back to 3B if we do get a legit 1B on the team.

Kevin Millar (aka Mike Butcher) - The Rodney Dangerfield of the Orioles, Millar has been solid. He is the most successful scab to play the game. Undrafted out of college, he raked it in the independent leagues. The Marlins picked him up and he proceeded to fare well against minor league pitching until he reached AA at age 25 and killed them. The Marlins then brought him up. He immediately hit and never looked back. He has never had a below average offensive season. His almost defection to Japan seems bizarre. No one was going after him even though he hit a 130+ the previous year. Anyway, his power has begun to evaporate, but the wily veteran is figuring out how to be more selective and is increasing his obp%. He is good. This year, he is the Orioles second best hitter (Roberts being the best). Many fans still don't understand his value. He looks bad doing it, but he does it well. He would fit well on a team that is poised to go all the way, but needs a 1B.

Millar is signed for 2.75MM with up to ~1.8MM in bonus
2.75 team option in '08

Prediction: He is valuable. If Gibbons was not on this team, Millar would exist peacefully with the rest of the lineup. Honestly, I'd like to keep him for that second year and deal him then. Then again, this is his best year in 4 years . . . so maybe now is the time to sell. Especially when we have such redundancy on the active roster. He should keep it up. He is walking like mad and his BA/BIP is in line with his other peripherals. He should finish the year in the 800-850 OPS ranged and it will be OBP heavy, where Huff is SLG heavy. I think we will trade him at the break this year. Gibbons is just too impossible to move.

Other Options:

Mike Cervenak: 1B at AAA. Fodder. He has never sniffed the majors. Poor plate discipline. Is just in the past couple years coming through and producing . . . though doing well in AA at age 28 is not much of an accomplishment. Next.

Luis Jimenez: 1B at AA. Fodder with low probability upside. Power guy with awful discipline. 6th organization. 25 years old. Not much here.

Brandon Sing : 1B at AA. Signed from the Cubs as a minor league free agent. Has shown power and was dominant at A+ and AA . . . his second time through. He has been owned last year and this year by AA pitchers. Not sure if he has gotten injured or something, but he looks done.

Mark Fleisher: 1B at Frederick. Drafted in '05 out of Radford. He showed good power there, but questions about plate discipline, contact rate, and defense arose . . . which dropped him down to the 14th round. At Low A, he showed glimpses of power, but was easily handled. In Mid A, he again showed glimpses of power, but was easily handled. This year, is the same at Hi A. He does not project well as he is basically amounting to a mid 700 OPS type of guy. Maybe he will get it one of these days, but at best he may be a guy he sits on the bench for a couple years for a few cups of coffee and nothing more.

Chris Vinyard: Was selected in the 2005 draft as a "draft and follow" guy. He went to community college and then accepted a deal, playing in Aberdeen last year. He showed glimpses of power with a homerun every 30 at bats and a solid double rate of 1 every ten, but he also struck out 1 in 5. Still, an 855 OPS is respectable for a 20 year old. Not mindblowing, but respectable. This year he K rate is the same as is his homerun rate. His double rate actually dropped slightly. Unfortunately his BB rate also dropped a bit. He'll not be able to bypass HiA with these rates. He still has a few years to hit his stride and can be quite capable. His ceiling might be Carlos Pena, but it is still quite early. He could also be Jim Traber. Or worse.

Brandon Snyder: Well, he isn't much of a catcher anymore with his labrum injury. He is toiling in Delmarva as a 1B. He is still young and shows lots of promise. His pro debut was made as he tore apart Bluefield and Aberdeen as few 18 year olds do. 19 was a rough year for him as both Aberdeen and Delmarva spit him up. His season was ended with surgery. This year he is recovering playing 1B and will likely stay there with the assumed emergence of Mark Weiters. Snyder strikes out about a third of the time. He walks about ten percent of the time. He gets a homerun every forty at bats and a double every 15. He will need a lot of seasoning, but it looks like he can hit . . . he just . . . doesn't. He'll stay with us for two more years and then we'll have to reassess. He is nowhere near the majors, but a good growth and mental spurt in his early 20s would help. He'll never have good plate discipline though.

Free Agency
Sean Casey . . . he gets on base, but has only 1 HR in over 250AB this year. No thanks.
Tony Clark . . . maybe if it was 9 years ago.
Jeff Conine . . . two times was good enough.
Julio Franco . . . again, we need to get younger.
Mike Lamb . . . gives Millar numbers, but a few years younger . . . and platoons. Millar is more valuable and would be cheaper.
Doug Mientkiewicz . . . good glove, decent obp usually, nothing else. Not worth it.
Dmitri Young . . . poor plate discipline and old. Someone will pay him 6 or 7 though. He is playing too well this year.

Conclusion: We have nothing in the pipeline to get here soon. We are keeping Huff and betting he can be what he once was . . . he isn't though. If we can jettison Gibbons, then we'll keep Millar. If not, then Millar goes. Our closest 1B will be ready for a September callup in '10. Teixeira might be the way to go if we can.

05 July 2007

Joe Girardi, Manager At Large

This is a few weeks late, but, eh, he is still on the market and he'll probably be facing the O's next year as Joe Torre's replacement (for some reason Don Mattingly has been knocked around a bit in the front office). Girardi was one of those not hit, some glove catchers who miraculously was allowed to be a full time player for the Cubs and Yanks, predominantly. He won some rings and is held highly within Steinbrenner's inner circle. He also performed well for Andy MacPhail's Cubs and somehow got an All-Star spot, though he never got in. It wasn't like he was the Cubs only rep either as Sosa was voted in. The team had 4 catchers on the squad. Not sure what was going on there. Anyway, he became the Marlins coach. He took a young squad to a fourth place finish, 19 games behind the Mets in the Nl East. This was so impressive that he won the Manager of the Year Award and is the only manager to win that award with a losing record. It was also noteworthy that he had an open feud with Jeffrey Loria, which pretty much led to his dismissal.

So are the Marlins wasting away again without their beloved captain? Not really. They are a little worse, but not too much. Their hitters are hitting, but their pitchers have underperformed. Hmmm and some are battling injuries. Oh my . . . I wonder if this is a case of pitcher overuse from last season. I wonder if deep sixing Girardi may have been easier to do because he killed a bunch of their pitchers.

Subject 1: Dontrelle Willis
Overrated might be a good word to use. A lot of people consider him to be an ace when he really only had elite numbers for one year and the others come in about average or below for a typical number one pitcher (115 ERA+ is typical for a team's no. 1). His 2005 season (1.13 whip; 2.53 ERA) was so extraordinary in comparison to his other seasons, I would expect there to be some craziness to the data. Over his career, Willis has usually given up 19% (18.9% - 19.5%) line drives which suggest a BA/BIP of .310 . . . which is exactly what we get . . . except for 2005.
In 2005, his line drive percentage bounced up to 23.8%, but his BA/BIP went down to .290 . . . weird. He also cut his walks down to 2.2/9 innings and kept in the 6s for k/9. Somehow he dropped his HR/Fly ratio nearly in half from his career values . . . which is weird. Now, what this tells me is that he learned to pitch . . . somewhat. He went longer into games by not walking guys, but keeping his K/9 up. Plus, he threw a lot of balls that died in the outfield . . . he plays in the NL East. Anyway, that season looks like nothing he is currently doing. So what about Joe?

2006 Willis looks in line with 2004 Willis. In '04 Willis was about a 100 pitch/game pitcher. In '05 he became a 110 pitch/game pitcher. Girardi used Willis at age 24 as a 118 pitch/game pitcher. These outings add up. This year he is a 100 pitch/game pitcher. I think he is injured. He has been their workhorse and they are just killing him with this routine. They are not even holding him back this year. They are trying to get what they can, but he falls apart at the end. He doesn't have the stamina he had a year or two ago. I think he has been misused since he came out in '05. Girardi didn't help things, but he certainly didn't start it. I just don't think he was smart enough to stop it. Willis workload increased as the season progressed in '06, which suggests that Girardi was really trying to win no matter the long term cost.

Conclusion . . . kind of bad management.

Subject #2: Scott Olsen

Not too many pitching prospects look as good as Scott Olsen. At 19, He killed the Salley League. At 20, he obliterated the FSL. At 21, he held his own at AA. So, hey let's call him up. He held his own, but didn't fair too well. The next year, Girardi liked him enough to put him in the rotation. There isn't a lot of data to go on here, but he certainly is getting hit . . . strangely a lot are line drives . . . but few homers. As opposed to Willis' '05 . . . these are actually falling in for hits. He has also lost 2 strikeouts per 9 innings. His peripherals do not suggest the 1 run difference in ERA is real . . . they suggest a 0.50 decline. So what about Joe?

The kid was kept to about 100 pitches/game. Never having pitched above AA . . . Joe upped his workload by 80 innings over the previous year. Not too smart. Typically, you want to stretch your guys about 30 innings up per year. And . . . that is all I got.

Conclusion . . . Joe did alright with him except pitching him way way too much. Scott's current problems probably do not stem from that overuse . . . though they might. We'll know more in a couple years because he is so young (23). He may have been exceptionally lucky last year or not so lucky this year. He still has some big K games . . . who knows. Scott had not suffered the excessive use Willis has been subjected to.

Subject #3: Josh Johnson
A marginal, but promising prospect (think a shinier version of Garrett Olson), who broke out big last year. His increase in workload was appropriate. He threw about 105 pitches per game. He started out well and was actually a bit lucky . . . then tailed off, but finished with a 3.10 ERA. Looking at peripherals . . . it was more accurate to call him a 4.00 ERA pitcher. This year he began on the DL and has proceeded to get knocked around. He has pitched in 4 games this year and only yesterday made it to 5 full innings. Control has never been his strong suit, but he is just walking so many people right now. Taking about 20 pitches to get out of an inning.

Conclusion: Nothing really hits you to pin this on Joe. 105 pitches per game just feels wrong to subject a 22 year old to in the majors. This isn't Dusty Baker killing the Cubs with 120 pitch outings . . . but . . . it's marginal. Definately not a smart thing to do if you are worried about your future.

So Blame Joe:
I just do not see enough evidence to say he buried his pitchers. Willis was being misused before. Olsen should not have been given so many innings. Johnson should not have been made to throw so many pitches. Oh, and Annibel Sanchez isnt that good to begin with. I guess we would have to see a few more years and just throw some more conjecture up there. Also, none of these guys falling to where they did is all that surprising. The difficulties Olsen and Johnson faced toward the end of their seasons could have been fatigue or it could have been the other teams figuring out their scouting report. Willis is close enough to his career norms and I wouldn't be shocked to learn he is hurt. Sanchez is a 4 or 5 guy, nothing more. Remember Bud Smith threw a no hitter.

Would I want Girardi?
I think he is overpriced in comparison to what he has done. I don't know why people think he is such a good manager. His team is playing just as well with the same components. The hitters are all doing well if not better. The pitching is a notch down, but lots of them look to have been lucky last year. It is similar to the ChiSox pitching during their World Series run and then the following year.

04 July 2007

Remember the Fourth

Once again the day is upon us for celebrating our country's birth and the ideas/beliefs with which she was founded. Now, as we all know, Key set sail to meet to the British in the Northern Chesapeake off the Baltimore Harbor. He was on a mission, under a flag of truce, to arrange a prisoner exchange with the blessing of James Madison. FSK's friend, an elderly doctor from Upper Marlboro, was captured under the charge of aiding American's in the arrest of British Soldiers. He was invited to dinner abound the flagship Minden to discuss the prisoner release. Also discussed were the war plans to take Baltimore. Because of this, they were not permitted to leave until the battle had been completed (who discusses war plans in front of the enemy?). The British attempted to skirt the western defense and make landfall, but were repulsed by the defenses of Baltimore (particularly a line of sunken ships). No one was really injured as the American guns lacked range and the British guns lacked accuracy. The Brits left September 14th, 1814.

Read more!

So, in honor of defense, let's go into former MLB consultant Dan Gassko's defense ratings for the Orioles. This data is a couple weeks old, but it is probably about as accurate now as it was then. The idea is basically looking at how often a player is able to make plays within the accepted range minus plays made by someone invading their range. For instance, if a left fielder is called off by a particularly rangey centerfielder . . . that data point is ignored. Out of zone plays are noted, but not typically included in these rough calculations. For instance, if you had two guys beside each other with great range, the opportunity to notch some out of zone plays would be reduced . . . where if you placed a rangey guy next to a statue . . . he would have more opportunities. Anyway, let's take a look:

C . . . sadly not enough data to qualify at this point
1B . . . Huff: -2 runs saved compared to average
2B . . . Roberts: 4 runs saved
3B . . . Mora: 0 RS
SS . . . Tejada: 8 RS
LF . . . Payton: -4 RS
CF . . . Patterson: -4 RS
RF . . . Markakis: 1 RS

So according to this measure, 3 runs have been saved. What to make of it? I'm not sure. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Right make sense to me. Tejada was having a better year than I thought. Payton and Patterson both getting minus notches is surprising to me. Payton may not have enough innings logged in for this to be a true indication of his ability. It would be interested to see how it plays out.

02 July 2007

So you are saying there is still a chance?

Clay Davenport over at Baseball Prospectus updated him postseason odds table. He takes existing data from this year and then runs a Monte Carlo simulation 1 million times to determine odds of a particular team for making the playoffs. For the Orioles . . . they have a 0.58% chance of winning the division and a 1.9% chance of garnering the wild card. Hurray!

As late as June 1st, they were calculated as having a 1 in 4 chance of making it. Then the team remembered they do not have enough talent. June was a cruel month.

To me it looks like it will be a Bosox, Angels, Tigers, and Indians (with a believable chance the A's could knock of one of those last two). I'd only place sure money on the Bosox though.

And Representing our 2007 Orioles . . .

Brian Roberts
Second Base, Backup

413/457/870 62 RC 10.9 WS

Well, he certainly is deserving. He has actually slightly outperformed Al starting 2B Placido Polanco who has registered a nifty 57 Run Created, so far. His rate stats are higher than every AL second baseman except for BJ Upton, who has an insane .457 BA/BIP. For those who are fantasy inclined . . . wait for Upton to get healthy and sell. So, we have an All-Star second baseman . . . will he continue. His RC and WS are about to eclipse last year's totals, illustrating how severe his forearm injury was 20-some months ago.

The player we see in Roberts now is not the burgeoning fringe power hitter we saw in 2005. That year he just hit the ball hard with a heavy 10% HR/Outfield Fly ratio. Last year, he was at 5.6% and this year even lower, perhaps understanding that his value is now woven into contact hitting and patience. Roberts' 2007 BA/BIP is .363 . . . which is pretty high. Just looking at that, I would be inclined to say he is due for a dropoff in batting average just because of luck. Digging in a bit more, we find that his LD% is a high 22.2%. Now, line drives have a decent correlation to batting average to the tune of about LD% + 12%. The deviation from that is something the baseball stats community has yet to figure out. Anyway, add that up and you get .344 . . . so he should see a downturn of about 20%, which is not much.

It should also be mentioned that this hitting skill is not what is really making Roberts valuable. He has increased his plate patience as well. Last year, he had 55 walks . . . this year, if he keeps his rate, he'll be near 90. That is remarkable. He has never shown such a degree of patience. Add that to his league average defense . . . you have a pretty special player.

Current Line:
My Predicted Line:

01 July 2007

On the links . . .

MLB Trade Rumors seems to think that maybe the O's would like to escape the last couple years of Ramon Hernandez, read on. The idea being that the Mets would like to replace Paul Lo Duca this offseason. They may be setting groundwork for Pittsburg's Ronny Paulino, who has shown some power . . . though not much plate discipline. Ramon is thought of as a more mature version of Ronny and with the Mets set up to win now . . . it might make sense to go with a plus offensive catcher with plus defensive skills. I agree that Brad Ausmus would be a good fit with the Mets. He has to be close to backup catcher material pretty soon though. Maybe a Paulino-Ausmus platoon would be viable.

Now, should the O's trade Hernandez with no heir apparent? Maybe we could turn Hernandez and questionable arm, maybe Johnson, for a Lastings Milledge and Kevin Mulvey. I might be one of the few to still believe in Milledge (if you discount the Mets top brass and some of the Bay Area graduates). I also believed in Jack Cust (he came out fine so far after his wrist surgery) and Milton Bradley (not so much). Mulvey is a good interesting arm that could develop into a bullpen guy. The thing is whether the Orioles can do with having no catcher for a year and a half. Who would they have in Hernandez' place? Some Bako-House combination. Although rather sad . . . it might be better to do that than give Hernandez 7MM or so to give us a minor tick up in offense. That is a contract more sensible to a team needing a final piece as opposed to one that needs to figure out most of the roster. It makes sense to me. Hernandez will not be the deciding factor in making this a playoff contention team, though it does leave us weak.

29 June 2007

Breaking Down the Orioles 40 man roster - Catchers

Ramon Hernandez
Paul Bako

Ramon Hernandez - Last year he blew away everyone's expectations with 23 home runs, which was a bit misleading. He had 560 PA, the most in his career. His rate levels were right on mark with his career years the previous three seasons down in PETCO. PETCO is a pitcher's park, so that looks more and more like a downturn than a career year. This year? He has fallen down a notch or two. He averaged around a 110OPS+ the last four years (quite amazing for a catcher), but is sitting in the high 80s now (a shade above average). His OBP is solid though, so maybe it is just a growing period.

6.5MM this year
7.5MM next . . . 8MM in '09 and a 8.6MM club option in '10 or a 1MM buyout.

I think he will probably finish the year around 100 OPS+. '08 and '09 will see him degrade into the low 90s and high 80s. A smart team would then drop him for the 1MM, and we just may be that smart. Weiters should emerge at the tail end of 2009 (hopefully) and then we could easily find some all glove, no bat catcher to back him up and teach him a few things. Hernandez could go off to the Mariners or something like that. So, yeah, I don't see us picking that up.

Paul Bako - He is one of those catcher who sticks on for no apparent reason other than he has caught before. The professional backup catcher is a breed that sees itself employed long after they are useful. They may need to live a vegabond lifestyle, but they get work. It is the most union-like job in the MLBPA. Bako started out in the minors as a rather impressive mix of offensive power and defensive skill . . . until he reached AAA and everyone realized that . . . oh he was old for those other leagues. Well, everyone except the Tigers who handed him the starting job in '98. He had a 73OPS+, the 2nd highest of his career. Joe Oliver served as his personal caddy that year with his shiny epitome of a no hit catcher, lowriding at 56OPS+. Bako peaked the next year at 80OPS+. If he even cared about hitting, he'd give his firstborn to be that offensively dangerous again. The next five years show Paul to be a low 60s OPS+ guy. He barely was in the majors in '05 with the Dodgers. He was downright horrific last year with a 25OPS+. The Royals wasted 167 plate appearances on him that year. It was like they were playing softball with one man short. Buddy Bell, a great comedian, somehow had him hit 7th on 19 occaisions. He must think very little of Joey Gathright. Now, Angel Berroa? Yeah, Bako out hit him. Anyway, we signed him and he has bounced back to his 50-60OPS+ ways. Wow, I sure dedicated a lot of space for this. I guess this whole thing about the backup catcher annoys me. There has to be guys out there better than this.

performance bonus which is is likely to hit will increase it to 0.96MM . . . he has an outside chance of maxing it out to 1.06MM.

He is what he is. He'll probably see about 80 games this year as Ramon is likely to be wearing down. Next year? Mazzone likes having a worthless backup catcher, so Bako might be it or maybe Ramon Castro or Gary Bennett.

Other Options:

JR House - sitting at AAA Norfolk and not on the roster, he is a competent hitter. Not well proven in the majors and prone to injury. He has always had loads of potential, but that injury rate and him basically not playing any position particularly well hurts him. He seems like he can mash the ball and it would be great to see him up with the O's as a backup, but the club seems reluctant. He'll probably be fed up with the organization and look to sign on elsewhere.

Alberto Castilla - Alberto is Paul Bako's older brother. He does the same exact things as well and as not so well. They are quite the pair. He won't be much of a help either.

Eli Whiteside - He is our homegrown version of Bako and Castillo. He was slowly making his way up the minors (we had no one else) with his peak coming in AA at age 24 (older than competition) with 18 homeruns, but a .310 OBP. Eh. He got knocked down to AA to give Castillo and House some time at AAA. I'd prefer him over Bako or Castillo, just for his youth and an extra 0.5MM in the wallet to spend on draft pick bonuses.

Brandon Snyder - He raked it in his first year then got all disheveled and fell apart in '06, coming down with an injury to his shoulder. This year he is playing first base and his batting looks even worse. The thought is that he is still working on his shoulder injury and should recover, but it doesn't look good right now. Anyway, he won't be ready until '10 or later . . . and it won't be as a starting catcher. If he can hit, he'll probably go to the outfield.

Mark Weiters - He looks good to me, but I am not a scout. I see him peaking up in the latter half of '09 and making a claim on the catching spot in '10. The draft guru over at HBT looked at 3 minutes of video and thought he was a huge overdraft at the 5 spot. We'll see, I guess.

We are paying top dollar for a declining catcher who, when healthy, will be at worst a league average hitting catcher. He is a good defensive catcher and that should last longer. Behind him, we have nothing of much use this or next year. Most likely nothing until Weiters pops his head up sometime in late '09 or early '10.

First Pitch

To fill the non-existent gap of Baltimore Orioles blogs . . . here we go.