08 December 2012

What the Orioles Lost -- Joe Mahoney

On November 30, 25-year-old first baseman Joe Mahoney was claimed on waivers from the Orioles by the Miami Marlins. Mahoney spent most of 2012 with the Norfolk Tides; he got a two-game, four at-bat cup of coffee with the Orioles. According to Baseball America, Mahoney ranked as the Orioles’ #11 prospect after 2010 and as their #13 prospect after 2011. Mahoney played 132 games with Norfolk in 2012, of which I saw and scored about 40. What did the Orioles lose in Mahoney? How will his loss affect the organization?
Mahoney was the Orioles’ sixth-round draft selection in 2007, a semi-local selection out of the University of Richmond (VA). His progress through the Orioles farm system was steady but affected by nagging, minor injuries — he played 95 games in 2008; 115 games in 2009; 124 in 2010; and 88 in 2011. After two productive half-seasons (at total of 137 games) at Bowie, he was ready for Norfolk in 2012.
Mahoney is 6’6”, 240 and bats left-handed; he looks like a prototypical first baseman. But he didn’t really have a good year with the Tides; he hit .265/.319/.389. While Norfolk’s Harbor Park is an extreme pitcher’s park — probably the most extreme pitcher’s park in AAA — there’s a “short porch” down the right field line, so Harbor Park hurts left-handed power hitters less than other hitters. Mahoney’s disappointing season can’t be completely blamed on the park.

I saw two trends that contribute to Mahoney’s disappointing season. First, Mahoney simply didn’t hit very many hard ground balls. In the games I saw, he hit 54 ground balls and only 4 (7%) went through the infield and were initially fielded by an outfielder. In Mahoney's career, he has not drawn a large number of walks -- less than 8% of his plate appearances. So it's likely that he swings at too many pitches and too often makes weak contact. Second, when Mahoney did hit the ball in the air to the outfield, he didn’t pull it often enough. He hit 19 fly balls to the right fielder (41%), 15 to the center fielder, and 12 to the left fielder. While hitting the ball to all fields can be a good thing, a power hitter – especially a power hitter with a short porch to right field – needs to pull the ball more frequently to take advantage of his power. He did start to pull the ball more as the season went on.

Mahoney looked to be a pretty good defensive first baseman, but that may just be because Norfolk has recently had some really bad defensive first basemen. He has gotten mixed reviews for his defense. Mahoney looks like he has the tools to play left field, but he hasn't played there much because of his nagging leg injuries. 
Joe Mahoney would have made a nice insurance policy stashed away at Norfolk, ready to be promoted in case of injury or lack of first-base production. If he did learn to turn on pitches, he might have become a useful complementary player. But it's unlikely that the Orioles lost a future star, and he probably wouldn't have helped them much in 2013.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I saw Mahoney once all year - doing the BIS games for Lehigh Valley, I got one game when the Tides were in town. He really is a huge guy, and he absolutely clobbered a mistake pitch out to right.

Looking at the boxscore, he also drew two walks that night. I'm guessing he simply couldn't put that kind of performance together often enough to establish himself. Maybe he just didn't see enough pitchers like Tommy Cochran. I dunno.

Not that that really adds anything, but those are the only things I really remember about the guy.