12 October 2012

The 2012 Baltimore Orioles

Couldn't bring myself to write something up about the Orioles losing Game Five of the ALDS. Instead, a look back (in no particular order) at some favorite memories from 2012 (with some help from O's fans on Twitter):

* The best moment of season for me - the one that was the pinnacle of the "is this even real?" feeling that permeated everything - was Chris Davis on the mound in Boston. Not only did he pitch 2 scoreless innings, but he struck out 2 - including Adrian Gonzalez, on three pitches! For a long while, Davis had more pitcher wins than Cliff Lee. And not to be forgotten, it was an Adam Jones three-run homer that gave the O's the 9-6 win.

* There was the September 6th game against the Yankees in Baltimore - Cal Ripken Jr. Statue Day - when New York scored 5 runs in the 8th to tie the game at 6-6 (after the O's went ahead on homers by Wieters, Andino, and Reynolds). And then the Orioles countered with Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds (again), and Chris Davis each going deep in quick succession to make it 10-6 and get that W.

* There was Manny Machado coming up as a 20 year-old, when the O's needed a third-baseman, and hitting two home runs in his second game in the Majors.

* Then there was Machado with a - I dared to say - Jeter-ian play against the Rays, faking a throw to first on a grounder before spinning and catching the runner rounding third.

* There were the packed houses in the home games of the ALDS, as the play-offs finally came back to Baltimore. And the Orioles coming back after a tough lose in Game One to get back into the Win Column (!) in Game Two.

* There was the return of the cartoon Oriole Bird.

* There was Chris Davis being strong enough to hit a broken bat home run. And strong enough to destroy a baseball against James Shields, who struck out 15 on the day, to give the O's a 1-0 win.

* There was Miguel Gonzalez, who no one expected to do anything (and most had never heard of), pitching like a top of the rotation starter for stretches - especially in Yankee Stadium.

* There was Adam Jones hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th against the Phillies. And hitting the game-winning home run in the top of the 11th in Seattle. Starting the year scorching hot. Signing a contract to keep him in Baltimore for years to come.

* There was the previous day's game in Seattle that went 18 excruciating innings, before Taylor Teagarden drove in the winning run in the wee hours of the morning (for us watching on the East coast, at least).

* There was JJ Hardy hitting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 13th against the Tigers after the O's fell behind, and then Teagarden sending everyone home happy with a two-run bomb three batters later. 

* There was the joyous celebration in the locker room after the O's beat the Rangers in Texas in the Wild Card game.

* There was Joe Saunders pitching well in helping the team win elimination games in the play-offs. Twice!

* There was Nate McLouth walking the O's off with a single against the Rays (driving in Manny Machado), and then Chris Davis carrying him around on his shoulders.

* Heck, there was Nate McLouth in the ALDS, being the best position player on either team, after months of jokes about the Orioles actually playing Nate McLouth.

* There was that crazy finish in Baltimore against the Yankees, where Mark Teixeira grounded into a game-ending double play (but not really). Mark Reynolds, Lew Ford, and JJ Hardy all took CC Sabathia deep in that one.

* That came shortly after the Orioles took two of three in New York, with Mark Reynolds hitting two home runs in each of those victories.

* There was Ryan Flaherty capping a six-run first inning against the Red Sox in their final series in Baltimore by hitting a grand slam.

* There was Matt Wieters capping a six-run 10th against the White Sox with a grand slam earlier in the year, giving Flaherty the idea.

* There was Nick Johnson going 0-26 in April, but getting hit by pitches three times and stealing a base.

* There was Omar Quintanilla doubling his career home run total (from 3 to 6) in the span of about two weeks.

* There was Mark Reynolds patenting his "fall-down" stretch at first-base.

* There was Darren O'Day throwing funny but almost always effectively, Pedro Stop never giving up runs early in the season (and his hat), Jim Johnson saving oh so many games with a dirty sinker, Tommy Hunter touching 100 mph as a reliever, Brian Matusz being almost untouchable out of the pen, and even Kevin Gregg sometimes not being awful (or it not mattering given the O's were behind when he came in). Also Troy Patton still paying dividends from that Miguel Tejada trade.

* There was Steve Johnson making his father - and a lot of other O's fans - proud, somehow throwing a 90 mph by people (and that 65 mph curve!).

* There was Jason Hammel adding a new pitch and potentially turning into a top of the rotation type starter.

* There was Chris Tillman finding some of the velocity we thought was lost forever, and bringing hope back for his career.

* There was Buck getting ignored by Mark Reynolds when looking for a high five.

* There was the Orioles somehow, someway, winning yet another one-run game.

* There was extra-inning win after extra-inning win after extra-inning win...

* There was Orioles Magic. There was a lot of it. Maybe more than we'll ever see in a season again. And it was awesome.


Tom said...

Yes. Yes, it was awesome.

Aaron said...

Jason Hammel's near no-hitter in Atlanta...

Daniel Moroz said...

That's right! Hammel took a no-hitter into the 7th, and ended up pitching a complete game shutout (1 single) with 8 strike-outs.

Bret said...

If Mark Reynolds is back on the team I will buy a Cano jersey and pull a full Mike Mussina.

The O's need to stop worrying about people's feelings and put the best team on the field. NY doesn't accept failure - see Arod.

Baltimore thinks it is just peachy that 10 runs in 52 innings ended the season. It isn't acceptable, it shouldn't be tolerated and major changes need to be made. Roberts/Andino are not acceptable, Reynolds is not acceptable, Jones and Hardy's piss poor plate discipline should not be accepted and if they can't work on it they need to be benched at times. The fact Wieters has not progressed at all since 2009 should not be accepted. Hack at everything may work against Aaron Cook, it doesn't work in postseason when you face good pitching with precise location.

Happy to be there does not work for me. They got a lot of breaks and they won't get them again. This may have been the best shot. Duquette needs some major offensive upgrades, Keppinger for starters, platooning Davis strictly for another, sending Reynolds packing for another, sending Roberts to the glue factory for another. This isn't 3rd grade tee ball.

Daniel Moroz said...

Agree that they need a second-baseman who can do something and an actual first-baseman, but Wieters:

'09: 1.4 fWAR, 95 wRC+
'10: 2.4 fWAR, 84 wRC+
'11: 5.0 fWAR, 110 wRC+
'12: 4.1 fWAR, 106 wRC+

Just plain wrong on Wieters.

Also, you can't just take a day to step back and enjoy the good times? Jeez.

Bret said...

Wieters w/OBA 2009 - .331

Wieters w/OBA 2012 - .331

And that doesn't include postseason where he absolutely vanished.

WAR is in large part determined by games played, it didn't make him worse that he didn't come up until late May in 2009.

He has gotten absolutely no better as a hitter. No better from age 23to age 26.

So I'm not just plain wrong. My last email was strictly related to offense, he may have gotten a bit better defensively or at handling pitchers, but most players in the big leagues by 23 get better from age 23-26 in a big way with the bat. He hasn't. Fact.

Daniel Moroz said...

The run environment is down from 2009 to 2012 - as noted by the change in wRC+ despite the same wOBA. Wieters is walking more, striking out less, and hitting for more power. Very clearly a better hitter than he was in 2009.

Bret said...

He is not a star player. He is not living up to being a top 5 6 million dollar bonus preseason Keith Law #1 2009 minor league player.

His actual production is no better now than it was in 2009 (though underlying stats are better) and he was worth less WAR this year than last. Given 23-26 are supposed to be huge learning and improvement years there is no other conclusion to reach than he has been underwhelming.

I'm not saying get rid of him, he is probably the least of the Orioles offensive problems at the moment (mainly because of his defensive value) but if he had truly developed into anything near what people expected the O's would have won the East easily and may be in the ALCS now.

Context is important, he didn't come to Baltimore with the hype of Pete Kozma or something. He was expected to be a star. He is far from it.

Going 9-63 as Davis, Wieters and Jones did in NY would not have been cause for celebration and meeting everyone when they got off the bus. It would have been cause for benchings and riots. If you expect me to be happy about it you will be waiting a while.

Anonymous said...

I would love, Love, LOVE if you could link to pictures/gifs where appropriate. McLouth carried by Davis, Davis striking out Gonzalez, the "Manny" deke, etc.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think some folks overestimate how much value there is in the average top 5 pick. I'd extend Wieters or try to. He is a very good catcher. One of the best.

Daniel Moroz said...

Top fWAR for catchers over the last couple years:

Yadier Molina, 11.2
Buster Posey, 9.8
Miguel Montero, 9.3
Matt Wieters, 9.1

Not too shabby.

Bret said...

Of course you extend him, but you don't give him 200 for 10 years or whatever the heck Boras is going to want. Arbitration the next 3 years, then if he wants to walk at 30 I can live with that and the draft picks.

A big part of his value comes from defense. He hasn't progressed as a hitter. That is just a fact. Unless you think he will there is no reason to give him big money or years, I've given up on that after this season which I thought was make or break.

I did say he was probably the least of their problems, but he isn't a good hitter and if he is your cleanup hitter going forward you can kiss any chance of going very far in postseason goodbye.

The team in general needs to become more patient and more contact oriented at the same time. You can live with 1 Adam Jones and 1 JJ Hardy but not much more than that. Davis as an everyday player, Reynolds King 30% of the time, Andino and Betemit striking out like no tomorrow. It has to change hard feelings or not. Reynolds comments that he wants to come back really pissed me off, that presumes anyone would want him back and if the O's have half a brain they won't. AT ANY PRICE.

Bret said...

Reynolds just went 3 for 19, no extra base hits and 8 strikeouts including the biggest out of the game yesterday.

He had one two week hot stretch which for some reason the Baltimore media ate up like a Sunday buffet while they somehow forgot the other 5 and a half months where he flat out SUCKED.

He was brought here to play 3rd. Not 1st. He doesn't hit enough to play first, not close and he doesn't field or hit nearly enough to play 3rd.

After what he did in the last 5 games saying he wants to come back is like Custer saying he wants to be General after Little Bighorn or Napolean saying he wants to rule France after Waterloo.

He is a joke. If I was in earshot of that in the locker room I would have punched him in the face. Of course, no other Oriole other than McClouth did anything either. If the team brings him back my 30 years of Oriole fandom will end. And I hope Duquette or Angelos reads the comments section because I spent a ton of money there this year.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You seriously need to get a life and lighten up. I have been a huge O's fan for a long time and want them to do well but you seem to have missed out on enjoying this season. Sad. Also, you are crazy if you think that Duquette or Angelos reads the crap that people post on the comments sections of these blogs or anywhere else. If you would buy a Cano jersey if Reynolds is back - good riddance!

Philip said...

Guys, why are you carping about the best season since '97?
There's plenty of time to complain about this and that.
I regularly complain to God about mosquitoes, but I still enjoy Creation.
Enjoy the season.
It was somethig special.
For me it was Chris Davis pitching, and the Back to back to back home runs to open the game against Texas.
And Josh's four homer game, gotta love history....

Philip said...

This is birdland
And all the game highlights are there

Jay said...

This Bret guy reminds me of Philly sports fans. Relax dude. They'll figure it out. First time in 14 years we've been able to talk about this. We gave NY the best fight they would get in the AL outside of the one Detroit will give them for this current series.

Reynolds was a Gold Glove first basemen btw. He makes that entire IF better. If you're moving him, you BETTER get a defensively oriented 1B back because that's been an Achilles for us as long as I can possibly remember.

It's not all about sabermetrics. I'm a stat guy as much as post people are these days but there's a certain chemistry this team has that I haven't seen in a long, long time and to break it apart just because of obsession of stats would be foolish and disheartening. That crap didn't work in the late 90s and it won't work now so don't even think about it.

Matt P said...

Wieters has played 90 more games than Posey over the past two years. The fact that Posey still has a higher fWAR really tells you that Wieters is nowhere near as good as either Posey or Molina.

If you don't trust the defensive component of fWAR then one can see how one may rank Wieters below the elite catchers in MLB. If you look at his hitting stats, he's well below about eight catchers in wRC or wOBA.

I'm also not sure it's fair to use just two years of stats when Wieters has had three full years. Given that he had an excellent 2011 and a poor 2010, just using 2011 and 2012 creates a major pro-Wieters bias. If you use 2010-2012 stats, Wieters ranks 6th out of 48 catchers using fWAR. If you consider he's played 50 more games than nearly everyone, he's probably really around #8 or #9. Three years of being healthy on a team without a DH doesn't tell me much about the future. If we have a DH, then he probably wouldn't have played so many innings but we don't.

Obviously what he does has value, but it's not elite. Wieters hasn't turned into the elite player we hoped he would even if he has been good (maybe even very good). He's not close to Mauer in his prime or even Posey currently.

The Orioles don't have a chance of extending Wieters this year. If Wieters is able to put up an elite hitting performance, say a 130 wRC or so, he's worth Mauer money. Given his current above average performances, he's probably worth Molina or Napoli (had a good 2010 and 2011) money. I'd say there would be a difference of nearly 10 million per free agent year and it simply doesn't make sense to split the difference.

Jon Shepherd said...

Is it really prudent to simply toss out defensive metrics when scouts, players, and managers conclude that Wieters is a very good defensive catcher?

To evaluate him without that component is a troublesome evaluation for me. To ignore so much of a player's worth results in an assessment that is rather incomplete.

Daniel Moroz said...

You make some good point Matt. Wieters as a plus hitting Gold Glove caliber catcher (just the caught stealing numbers are worth something, even if you don't believe in the rest) may not be the best catcher in baseball, but it does make him a very good player. Being able to play a lot of games is worth something. Signing Wieters to a Molina-like contract (which many people thought was an overpay at the time), would be fine with me.

Bret said...

Molina's contract is fine, Boras will never go for it.

I threw Wieters into the original discussion because he is frustrating, not because I want him released. He hasn't improved hitting, what he does is good enough assuming you have all the other parts. But when those other parts include Mark Reynolds those aren't good enough parts.

I would be much more comfortable giving Machado 12 years or more than I would be giving Wieters 7 or 8 years. Wieters hasn't shown me much in terms of fire or determination to get better. He seems like he knows he is incredibly talented and that is good enough for him. I don't want to encourage that behavior with the safety of a very long term contract.

Andy Lyttle said...

I seriously believe that Wieters would indeed be a elite hotter if he got over the fantasy that he's a switch hitter. I know he had more home runs from the left side this year, but only because he had so many more at bats. He certainly would not hit right handed pitching worse than he does batting right. My suspicion is that, batting solely as a righty, he would be in the 30-35 hr range with an average comfortably above .300.

Andy Lyttle said...

I seriously believe that Wieters would indeed be an elite hitter if he got over the fantasy that he's a switch hitter. I know he had more home runs from the left side this year, but only because he had so many more at bats. He certainly would not hit right handed pitching worse than he does batting right. My suspicion is that, batting solely as a righty, he would be in the 30-35 hr range with an average comfortably above .300.

The Oriole Way said...

Dan, thanks for chronicling all these fantastic moments. This season was an incredibly fun time to be an Orioles fan. The club had obvious flaws, but I know that I really enjoyed setting aside the analytic tools from August through October and just enjoying the ride. Walk-offs, one run wins, incredible extra inning drama, fantastic individual performances; this season had it all, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Easily the most fun I've had as a baseball fan, and I'm incredibly sad that it's over.

Matt P said...

The question isn't whether Wieters should get credit for his defense. It's how much credit is his defense worth. Given that his offense is pretty much league average (101 wRC+ from 2010-2012), the only reason why he's anything more than good is due to his defense.

Does his elite defense make him a very good/elite catcher? According to WAR it does. According to wOBA, he's nothing more than average. I think it makes sense to say he's somewhere in the middle.

And it's true that playing a lot of games does give him value. But it most definitely overinflates his current WAR totals. You don't want to be put in a position where he needs to lead the league in innings as a catcher in order to maintain his value. I find it highly unlikely he'll go his whole career without an injury just because it hasn't happened from 2010-2012.

I don't think he signs a contract that values his free agent years at 15 million. He'll hit his prime when he ends arbitration. If he can put up an wRC+ in the 130 range (very good for a catcher and not impossible) with elite defense, then he'll get 25 million per year. Provided he doesn't suffer an injury that forces him to stop being a catcher, he'll probably remain worth 9 or 10 million even if he never figures it out. Why not take the gamble that he'll start hitting and be the next 200 million player?

I think Wieters can hit 30 home runs but I doubt he can bat .300. He's simply too slow and strikes out too much. Not that he strikes out a lot, but given his limited speed he needs to strike out a minimal amount to put up a .300 batting average. If he can halve his k rate, than he has a shot.

It makes more sense to try and extend Machado.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think it always bears to keep in mind that a 101 RC+ mark for a catcher may be league average, but is above average for a catcher, right? I mean, these numbers make more sense in context.

Jeremy Strain said...

And as Jon mentioned before, defensive metrics are far from reliable, so spitting them out to say someone is good or bad defensively doesn't work. From a scouting perspective, Matt is one of the best in the game defensively, no matter what flawed numbers tell you otherwise. Strongest arm for a catcher, one of the top 2 or 3 at blocking balls, and his footwork is in the top 2 or 3, despite him being so much bigger than other catchers.

There is a lot worry about what numbers he is going to demand as a FA, when a) we are still pretty far away from that, and b) these numbers are being based on the hype before he debuted, he will not be asking for $25m per year, he doesn't hit quite enough for that.

Also, to say we should spend that crazy money to lock up Manny makes even less sense since you've got less data to go on as to how he is going to end up. As fans, we need to be a bit more patient and let things play out instead of waiting and expecting the sky to start falling again.

Matt P said...

You're right that Wieters is above average offensively for a catcher. I'm just saying that majority of his value is in his defense which is hard to measure.

Frankly, I think that Wieters is worth around 13 million per FA year at the moment. If Wieters shows no improvement over the next three years, I agree he won't be asking for anything close to 25 million as he doesn't hit well enough to earn that.

As Jeremy stated, Wieters hasn't lived up to the hype offensively. If he thinks he can start to do so in the next three years, he'll make a fortune. If I'm Wieters, I don't see any reason to rush.

Machado has shown potential but hasn't proven he's good enough to stick. That's why I think he may be willing to sign a long-term deal for a discount with team options because he could still bust. Wieters is a proven MLB regular at worst. I don't think he has any reason to sign for his current value.

Bret said...

Let's look at the differences between Manny and Wieters.

1. Manny is 6 years younger.
2. Manny reached the big leagues 3 years sooner than Wieters.
3. Manny is showing plenty of pop as a skinny kid that has 30 pounds of muscle easily to put on. Wieters was fully developed by the time he hit the big leagues.

The Wieters hype train express got out of control. Most "stars" reach the big leagues before the age of 23. Griffey, Jeter, Arod, Machado, Ripken - we can go on and on. Wieters was hyped way too much, I don't think Manny has been hyped enough. He has a top 3 infield arm in all of baseball, good hands, is already a decent hitter and will get much better.

I would give him 15 years 300 million and not think twice.

Jeremy Strain said...

Yes Manny made it 3 years earlier than Matt. Matt went to college, Manny did not. Manny is a great prospect, but he is still that, he's shown a decent bat, but has also shown that he can't hit advanced offspeed pitches yet, (pitch recognition that takes a while at higher velocities that he's seeing in the majors) he also has had half a season in the majors, you have no idea what he is going to be yet. Tied into that, is his BB/K rates which aren't where you want them to be yet either.

He does have room on his frame for more muscle, but with more muscle comes less range in the field too. You talk about Matt's hype train was out of control, but you are talking about giving a barely tested rookie a 15 year, $300m contract? Where would the Royals be if they did that for Bob Hamlin who won rookie of the year?

Matt P said...

Given that Machado still has three years of control(1.5 total) and three years of arbitration remaining(20 million max) that would be over 30 million per free agent year. That may be overpaying.

I was thinking something closer to 10 years and 60 million with say years 8, 9 and 10 being club options. Obviously, those are the most expensive years.

He gets financial security plus he'll hit FA young enough to get another major contract. But we get him locked up at what potentially is a discount.

Liam said...

How bout Tillman's "flu game," when he gave up 5 in the first, we rallied back with a Davis grandslam, and then Tillman actually settled in to go 5 strong and get the win. Doing that against the Yankees convinced me beyond all doubt we were for real.