25 January 2016

Orioles Are The Worst Team In The AL East

The title of this post comes from FanGraphs' current projection for the 2016 season.  The inspiration for this post comes from several tweets during the snowstorm asking for my perspective on where the Orioles are now and what exactly they can do to improve their situation.  Anyway, here are the FanGraphs projections:
Red Sox 91-71
Yankees 86-76
Blue Jays 84-78
Rays 82-80
Orioles 77-85
Now, you might wonder what that all means (which we kind of covered a couple years back).  In rough terms, those numbers show the typical result given the projected talent level of the rosters. These projection models perform roughly the same and we should think of the 77-85 figure as a 50th percentile outcome.  If we go out to one standard deviation (68% of all possible outcomes), then we are looking at 68-86 wins.  Therefore, we are looking at about a 16% chance at the team being Wild Card or better competitive and about 7% chance for a strong placement into the post season.

That said, I think there are a couple problems with the depth chart that FanGraphs is using.  The first issue is obvious: Hyun Soo Kim is not on the board.  The second is slightly less obvious, but still notable: they have the Orioles as insisting upon using Jimmy Paredes at DH even though he is below replacement value there.  I doubt Duquette has much loyalty to Paredes.  In fact, I would be surprised if he winds up on the club on Opening Day.  Anyway, I will wander down the list and note where I think there might be a noticeable issue.  Then we will put it all together and see if our future might be brighter than it originally seems and perhaps where the couple may still be able to improve.

Here are the projections for each position for FanGraphs:
Catcher 3 WAR
First Base 3.4
Second Base 1.4
Third Base 5.3
Shortstop 1.7
Left Field 0.6
Center Field 3.1
Right Field 1.0
Designated Hitter -0.5
Starting Pitcher 8.8 (w/3 +1.5)
Relief Pitcher 3.7
As I mentioned above, left field looks to be an issue.  The current iteration has the following:
Nolan Reimold 385 PA 0.2 WAR
Mark Trumbo 140 PA 0.3 WAR
Henry Urrutia 105 PA 0.2 WAR
LJ Hoes 63 PA 0.0 WAR
Joey Rickard 7 PA 0.0 WAR
It is a glaring absence with Kim not being on that list.  If we take ZiPS' Kim rating of 1.1 WAR over roughly 550 PA and then add in 150 PA from Reimold and Rickard, a final position WAR comes in at 1.4.  That is a 0.8 win increase and every little bit helps.

Right field has issues related to the left field situation plus a peculiar selection at designated hitter.  As it stands, the suggested depth chart reports:
Mark Trumbo 350 PA 0.6 WAR
LJ Hoes 210 PA 0.1 WAR
Henry Urrutia 70 PA 0.1 WAR
Dariel Alvarez 70 PA 0.1 WAR
Although I would want him out there as little as possible, I could see Trumbo finding himself with 30-40 games in right field.  It would be similar to a Nelson Cruz situation where the club gives Trumbo an occasional start in the outfield, but then finds him there a little more often than planned.  In the end, I could see Trumbo having about 150 PA in RF with Reimold and Alvarez filling out the rest of the 550 PA.  I do not see the new arrangement meaningfully pushing the needle here.

Designated hitter is the other major head-scratcher simply because the depth chart suggests that the club will repeatedly send Jimmy Paredes to the position even though it projects him to fail grandly at playing the position.
Jimmy Paredes 385 AP -0.7 WAR
Christian Walker 245 PA 0.1 WAR
Mark Trumbo 70 PA 0.1 WAR
Trumbo will likely see around 400 PA at designated hitter.  He alone should see around a 1.0 WAR. Other position players pulling in a few plate appearances here should add another 3 or 4 runs to the mix.  Overall, the -0.5 WAR should actually be about a 1.5 WAR.  This, alone, is a two win increase.

As it stands, the above corrections push the club to the 80 win mark.  However, there is considerable weakness in the starting rotation with only three starters projected above a 1.5 WAR and slightly weak performances from the corner outfield, designated hitter, and second base.  With perhaps at most 15 MM available in the budget, player acquisition might be a troublesome issue.

Carlos Gonzalez (1.7 WAR over 525 PA)
As was written a few days ago, Gonzalez is a fringe first division outfielder.  He has the ability to play a respectable, but not thrilling, right field.  His inclusion would raise the positional projection from about 1.0 WAR to 2.0 WAR (overall wins to 81).  At 17 MM in 2016 and 20 MM in 2017, Gonzalez will be difficult to fit under the payroll.  Perhaps, the Rockies would be willing to swallow 2-10 MM for 2016 with the Orioles shouldering the full contract in 2017.  The Orioles may be able to include a player like Vance Worley or Miguel Gonzalez to help reduce salary obligations as well.  It may enable the Orioles to also go after a pitcher such as Mat Latos or Yovani Gallardo who would increase a win as well (82 total).

Free Agency, Losing a Pick or Two
Howie Kendrick (2.4 WAR over 545 PA)
This is a bit of a curveball suggestion.  As it is, STEAMER doubts Jonathan Schoop will build off of his offensive breakout last year and instead will produce a .307 wOBA.  Kendrick would add another win to the projection.  Schoop would then be shifted out to Right Field.  He has the arm for the position, but he has never played there and his range in questionable.  Kendrick would also provide the club the flexibility to put Schoop at third base if Manny Machado has to replace J.J. Hardy at Shortstop.

Kendrick will require the club to lose a draft pick as he has a qualifying offer on him, so a three- or four-year deal may be preferable.  Kendrick has experience at first base, second base, and a tad bit in left field, so he may give some flexibility in the coming years depending on the team needs.  A multi-year deal could potentially be back-loaded to provide more flexibility to 2016 in order to fit a pitcher like Latos or Gallardo onto the roster.  This is another option that tacks on a couple wins.

Free Agency, Keeping the Picks
The only big moves that can be accomplished without losing draft picks would be to go in deep with bounceback candidates in the starting rotation.  In this scenario, the club would sign Doug Fister to a back-loaded two-year contract and Mat Latos to a one-year deal.  Bumping Miguel Gonzalez, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright to another team, Norfolk, or the bullpen would give the club a couple projected wins as well.

What Does 82 Wins Get You?
Moving from 79 to 82 projected wins does not seem like much of an increase, but it pushes the needle from about a 7% sure appearance in the playoffs to about 16% (again, this is based on past projections and where clubs wound up).  It also pushes meaningful late September baseball from around 16% to 35%.  Those are rather considerable jumps.  The question then becomes which route is best?  Losing a mid-level prospect and shouldering a major cost in 2017 to get Carlos Gonzalez.  Or, maybe, punting important picks in the draft to secure a "proven" veteran like Howie Kendrick or Yovani Gallardo.  Or, perhaps, rolling the dice on bounceback starting pitchers with hope that there still is something left in the tank or that makeup issues are overblown.


Anonymous said...

Wondered when this story was coming after I saw the Fangraphs predictions and the Kim thing was pretty glaring but I'm not sure they want to make a prediction for him. In the Fangraphs world moving Trumbo to DH might even make a bigger improvement considering how they slammed his fielding and considering his total WAR is already 1.0. Also, I think it's more likely that you would see Trumbo 30-40 games at 1B and Davis in RF.

Secondly, one of the biggest problems with full season projections is that teams and players change so much during the season (yes, I get that we are looking at mean performance for the whole season). Paredes is a special example. Can anyone tell me what his WAR was for just the first half? Obviously, he lost all of it and more in the second half. This discussion was the same during all last season - Paredes had nowhere to play, he was slumping, but his raw hitting tools did not allow for his release - he was too good. Last year was the first time he exceeded 300PA; I think there is good reason to believe he might get a priority shot at DH especially with a good spring. Oh and, by the way, check his numbers at #2 in the lineup - he never did really cool off in that slot. Plus, he's cheap. Reimold's advantage too.

Thirdly, where is your Blackmon idea??? Why go for CarGo at a high salary when you can get Blackmon at a low salary. Look at Blackmon's recent tweet; he knows he's on the chopping block. Plus he is a better complementary piece for the O's - add a little speed and defense instead of another HR, K type. The O's are desperate for OBA and speed at the top. When they were hitting on all cylinders last year with Machado/Paredes at the top, the lineup was ferocious. With Blaxkmon/Machado or Machado/Blackmon, we would be there again more reliably. I guess it moves the WAR needle more but Blackmon makes so much more sense.

With regard to pitching, 0.9 for Bundy is pretty damn optimistic if you ask me (having been accused here of being a pollyanna myself). But I like that they give Wilson the nod over Wright - that's what my gut tells me too after watching them both. We need to sign Fister and someone else - maybe Latos (minus the personality). We should NOT go the "lose dradft pick" route - no one left out there is good enough.

Here's an idea. The Rockies need pitching. What do you think of Miguel/Matusz/Wright for Blackmon. Then we could sign Fister and someone really under the radar like Billingsley or Josh Johnson. Then draft a damn pitcher and develop him without trading him. Then you have a rotation of Gausman/Tillman/Jimenez/Fister and a real fight for the 5th slot between Wilson/Worley/Chris Jones/Billingsley or Johnson or someone else cheap and on the rebound. Note: Riefenhauser/Cabral/Olmos could fill the LOOGY spot.

P said...

Anon, your points are an interesting response to a very interesting article.
May I suggest that you give yourself a letter? My name is Philip and I post here frequently, and using a P separates me from the Anons and allows for clarity in replies, because there are often multiple Anons.
Meanwhile, Jon, you've sold me on the outfield question. How about the Dodgers surplus?
Regarding pitching, the Angels are about to crash hard, and Jered Weaver is probably on the block and definitely still useful.
Are there any markups there?
Thanks again for the interesting Article! Dump Paredes and hope for glory from Kim!

P said...

"Match ups"
#%^ non-edit feature.....

Matt Perez said...

The first thing that confuses me about the Fangraphs Depth Charts is that they're expecting teams to have 1,055 WAR this year. Call me crazy, but I'm taking the under on that prediction.

The second thing that confuses me is that their predictions call for the Os starting rotation to throw 943 innings with a 4.28 ERA. If the Os ERA is that poor then I'd expect the rotation to throw ~ 910 innings which should save the Os about 3 runs. Obviously, impact is minimal in such a case but it is interesting.

The third thing is that if the Os have a 4.06 ERA as Steamer predicts then they'll be on pace to allow 658 Earned Runs. This fits the Os normal pattern from 2012-2015 of allowing between 558-678 ER. On average, the Os give up 30 unearned runs.

Fangraphs, however, has the Os giving up 757 runs this year which would be a drastic change. This may not necessarily be an error as Fangraphs uses baseruns rather than ERA to determine their projected standings. However, I don't understand how using baseruns rather than ERA is proper procedure for these depth charts. By definition, ERA projects runs scored even if Baseruns has strong predictive value.

Unknown said...

1,055 total WAR implies a WAR level of 45.83 wins per team.

Matt P said...

Joe - I don't actually think Fangraphs changed their WAR baseline. I think their calculations are slightly flawed. I brought it to Neil Weinberg's attention and he said it was an error that they'd keep an eye but they suspect will self correct.

But until it does, then it's clear their data isn't as accurate as it could be.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think it is a little embarrassing for them. I figure most optimistically that it might shift a club by 3 or 4 wins, but that would be extreme.

P said...

Jon, I made a comment earlier, to which this was an addition based on a typo.
Did it not post?
Anyway, I asked about whether The Dodgers or another OF-heavy team might also be worthwhile trade partners, and mentioned the Angels as possibly moving Weaver and asked whether we might be interested in him.

Jon Shepherd said...

Unsure what happened.

Dodgers, possible area as well but they seem less inclined to accept a deal as money is not much of an issue for them.

I have heard nothing about Weaver. A lot about CJ Wilson and Hector Santiago.

P said...

And now it appears, and I look like a total doofus… Maybe being "anonymous" isn't such a bad idea after all

Jon Shepherd said...

Sometimes blogger thinks people are spamming, so it may take longer for posts to appear. Wonder why that comment was flagged.

Matt Perez said...

P - I had seen your comment earlier and I was also surprised to see it disappear. I had the same reaction as you did.

Anonymous said...

Wound up wasting the off-season waiting on the wrong player! Could have gotten a good RF, a good starting pitcher for less money. A guy one year removed from .196 and an Adderal suspension is not worth 161 million!!!

Roger said...

OK, as P suggests, I guess I should not be anonymous especially after that last post (not mine). However, the long-head post at the beginning is mine but I haven't seen any reaction.

Jon, why did you choose CarGo over Blackmon? Any comment on my trade idea (I guess, bleech would be a reaction). Also, don't you think Bundy's prediction is high? Wouldn't Blackmon/Fister be worth more than Miguel/Matusz/Wright? How about a comparison of a Blackmon/Machado lineup vs a Machado/Paredes lineup from the first half last year. Does Paredes really have such low potential as to be useless? He sure showed different last year during the first half. Blackmon comes in and who goes? Reimold? Rickard? Paredes?

tony2302 said...

this club was projected at 78 wins last year. won more. so even thought it was only 3 more than projected i give it as much credibility as the last place projection for the Washington football team. injuries and bad luck and under performance from other teams key players can make a difference.

Anonymous said...

If my memory is correct, FanGraphs projected the Red Sox to win the AL East in 2015.

After all, these are projections and they do make for good discussions. Beyond that . . .

Jon Shepherd said...

Eh, I tried to provide context for the projections. Yes, they mean something. That is why there is a nice distribution around the projections. I team with a projection of 85 wins is meaningfully different than a team whose projection is at 75 wins. There are statistically significant probabilities associated with those bins of projections. You can sit there and go on about how this club did this or that club did that, but you are looking at trees and not the forest. Sometimes you need to drop back to see the utility here. If you require a binary outcome, then you are looking at any team below 70 wins will not be in the playoffs and any team above 110 wins will be in the playoffs. However, we do have the ability to discern more than that. If you ignore projections that is OK, but they actually do communicate information.

Roger - I chose CarGo simply because he is the one Colorado is more likely to deal and most interested in finding a partner to deal him to. Typically, trades go in the direction of the least resistance, but certainly there are exceptions. The trade? It is rough to give up both MiGo and Wright because the club needs as many starting options as possible. With Paredes...lots of players have a good few months, but the difficult thing with him is that he has no base value with fielding. He is just a bat and if that bat struggles then he is nothing. As an evaluator you try to discern talent from performance and guys without much history of success will make you question that level of talent when you only see flashes of performance. If he had strung together 3 good years and had a miserable half year then you shrug and keep at it. If he strung together a good half season in the midst of several poor ones, then it is more likely that he needs to be jettisoned.

Roger said...

I echo Jon's sentiments. While I wouldn't put it statistically; I would turn it around and ask, "How do you know when you must do more to improve the team and what is the move likely to make the biggest difference?" This is where these statistical comparative differences mean something. Dombrowski can rest on his laurels for now. He seems to have assembled a pretty good team. How they perform is a completely different issue. The O's look like a team that needs specific improvement to compete. Whether that comes from bringing in players outside of the organization or expecting current players to perform better is a decision point. But the statistics tell you how likely it is that any decision will pan out. It's a tool, not the only tool, but a tool. For us, it's a jumping off point for discussion.

Jon, OK, CarGo is an excellent player, too, but isn't he just Chris Davis 2.0? I agree with your assessment about giving up Miguel and Wright, but "no pain, no gain". The Rockies wouldn't accept a deal that didn't hurt us as much as giving up Blackmon hurts them. Maybe we can give less for CarGo and more in the arena of money vs. talent. Angelos would have to be willing to pay. I really like Blackmon better as a fit for the team.

Paredes is indeed a difficult situation - a point of contention all last season. WEhat I would argue is that he has not had 3 years worth of chances yet. His other tastes of action were so limited as to not be terribly relevant. His two biggest sets of seasonal ABs ended up with decent numbers (even though last year had a terrible split). That's why I say he still needs a chance to prove if he is 1st half Paredes or 2nd half Paredes. One detractor is that, being a switch hitter, his LH/RH splits are not good enough to avoid a platoon. But the lack of fielding ability will always hurt him until he becomes David Ortiz.

The last question is who do you think is the best bet for a rebound among the remaining FA pitchers? Specifically, among the injury types not the attitude types (Latos). Someone who could be had cheap (i.e. not Lee).

Jon Shepherd said...

Latos is one of those interesting cases because I know of several teams who would not entertain him at league minimum wage. He also sees himself as only a starter. With that in mind, Fister is the most interesting bounce back candidate for me because he is willing to sit in the pen if he fails. That said...I would not want to hand him two years unless it was heavily incentive zed.

Pip said...

It's unusual for a comment sequence to continue after the original post for several days old, but I guess this turned into a very interesting discussion.
Jon, have you heard any reliable noise about what the FO is actually doing?

Jon Shepherd said...

Not really. I had a decent understanding of the MacPhail front office, but my awareness collapsed pretty quickly after he left. I only hear indirectly about the Orioles from other organizations.

Roger said...

Any possibility the O's are waiting until after arbitration results to deal Matusz? Efren Navarro is not what I had in mind for a new OF. Also, any comments on Billingsley or Josh Johnson? Both are a year removed from their injuries and have good track records.

Jon Shepherd said...

Before all you guys from MLBTR comment, this article is an adjustment of Fangraphs projection system using Steamer and Depth Charts. We have not issued a personal study on the merits of this club.

John said...

Last year, Fangraphs picked the Red Sox to win the AL East, the Dodgers to be the best team in baseball, and the Royals to win 72 games. Given that level of accuracy, I think being picked last by them is a good thing if you're an O's fan.

Jon Shepherd said...

We have explained what the projections mean. What you are saying is that if it rains yesterday then it will always rain.

Eric said...

Hello from Boston always read this site I'm from Boston and live here. Always make trips to Camden great park great fans and I actually like Dan Duke. The Sox last year were supposed to be great they stunk so I couldn't disagree more with this crap Tampa and Toronto will be in the cellar this year the three other teams anything could happen it's a toss up who has strong years and who doesn't. If David Price went down the Sox have basically the same team as last year and if he pitches he can't have an off year or they don't compete so the way he goes the way the Sox go the Yankees great bullpen but starting pitching is a huge problem and the Os we just read about.

Eric said...

Hello from Boston always read this site I'm from Boston and live here. Always make trips to Camden great park great fans and I actually like Dan Duke. The Sox last year were supposed to be great they stunk so I couldn't disagree more with this crap Tampa and Toronto will be in the cellar this year the three other teams anything could happen it's a toss up who has strong years and who doesn't. If David Price went down the Sox have basically the same team as last year and if he pitches he can't have an off year or they don't compete so the way he goes the way the Sox go the Yankees great bullpen but starting pitching is a huge problem and the Os we just read about.