31 August 2016

Manny Machado Hit His 100th Homer Last Night, Which Is Pretty Cool

Manny Machado is one of the best players who has ever donned an Orioles jersey. He's only 24 years old. And yet, he's already 24th among all Orioles position players in career wins above replacement (via the Baseball-Reference Play Index), and he's quickly closing in on guys like Rafael Palmeiro, Al Bumbry, and Nick Markakis. In the next few years (if he's still in Baltimore), he'll likely pass Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, and Melvin Mora. Not bad for one of the very best defensive players in the game, and also someone who's had two knee injuries and missed half of the 2014 season.

Last night, Machado clobbered career home run No. 100 against J.A. Happ and the Toronto Blue Jays. He's the youngest O's player to accomplish that feat. Here's the blast, for good measure:

I don't know if Machado will still be with the Orioles beyond 2018. I do know that watching him play is a treat.

26 August 2016

The NL Needs A Handicap For Interleague Play

Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote the other day that the Nationals were a superior team to the Orioles despite the fact that the Orioles annually spank the Nationals in interleague play. As anyone that is familiar with Boswell's work could surmise, his argument was pretty simple. Over the past seven seasons, the Nationals have won more games every year except for 2014 when they tied. In addition, Boswell also noted that the Nationals have a larger average attendance than the Orioles --- unsurprising given that D.C. is twice the size of Baltimore.

Boswell’s metric of using overall wins is reasonable on the face. After all, we use total wins and record to decide which clubs go to the playoffs. However, it isn’t clear that total wins can be used to compare clubs in the National and American Leagues. Teams play most of their games against teams in their own league, so if the NL is far inferior to the AL in a given season, then total record would tell me little. After all, we wouldn’t say that the Tides are better than the Nationals if the Tides had a better winning percentage in a given year.

The way to test this is by seeing how the two leagues do in interleague play. When we do that comparison, it becomes pretty clear that total wins isn’t the best parameter to compare clubs in different leagues for at least 2016. Through 8/24, 266 interleague games were played. In those games, the AL held a 146-120 advantage. This is good for a 54.9% winning percentage and would put a random team in the AL on pace to win 89 games against a team in the NL. The average AL team would be a wildcard contender if they could just play against NL teams.

Of the 15 teams in the AL, only 5 are below .500 against opponents in their league. These five clubs have gone just 38-51 against the NL, resulting in a 42.7% win percentage. Against the AL, these five clubs have gone 232-308 resulting in a 42.96% win percentage. It appears clear that the bad teams in the AL haven’t improved their record by playing against teams in the NL. However, the ten teams in the AL that are above .500 have gone 580-504 against other teams in the AL for a 53.5% win percentage. They’ve also gone 108-69 against teams in the NL for a 61% win percentage. This puts top teams on pace to win 98.85 games against the NL. This indicates that pretty much any of the top teams in the AL would have the best record in the majors if they could just play against NL clubs. Unfortunately for them, that’s not an option.

In contrast, 8 out of 15 teams in the NL are below .500 against other NL teams. These teams have a 41.4% winning percentage against the AL and a 44.2% winning percentage against the NL. This is what you’d expect to see if the AL is stronger than the NL. In addition, the 7 teams above .500 in the NL have a 56.7% winning percentage against the NL and a 49.2% winning percentage against the NL. Basically, the story that this data is telling is that even the best teams in the NL are only as good as the average AL club. And these top seven NL clubs are largely padding their record by beating up on teams like the Braves, Phillies and the Reds. It’s probably no coincidence that Jimenez had an excellent outing last night because he played against an NL team. This chart shows the data above.

Meanwhile, while the NL is largely getting dominated by the AL, the AL East has shown itself to be the strongest division in the pack. At 278-263 against other AL teams, the AL East is the sole division with a winning record against the AL. This means that while the Orioles play most of its games against the strongest competition, the NL plays most of its games against weak competition.

The Nationals, in a division devoid of any quality competition, have staked themselves to a seven and a half game lead. They’re almost a lock to make it to the playoffs. To a certain extent, it doesn’t really matter. Each team in the division plays roughly the same schedule, so each team has a fair chance of winning their division. However, it does suggest that the Orioles would have a higher winning percentage than they do if they were able to play AAAA teams like the Nationals. Obviously, this suggests that Boswell’s argument is flawed. The AL is simply far better than the AL and therefore you can’t compare win percentage between two teams in different leagues. It probably means you can’t compare runs scored and allowed without controlling for the better quality in the AL either.

Per Wikipedia, a golf handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer's lack of ability. In match play, bad golfers are given a handicap so that they have a chance to compete with good golfers. Perhaps MLB should consider the same concept for inter-league play. They could spot NL teams a one run lead, or perhaps give them an extra out every third inning. Because it sure doesn't seem that NL teams can compete against good AL teams without some kind of help.

24 August 2016

Ubaldo Jimenez Is Back In The Rotation, For Now

Chris Tillman is indeed headed to the disabled list. He received a cortisone injection in his shoulder to combat the discomfort, but the injury is apparently not severe enough to warrant an MRI. Tillman could be back to full strength in a couple weeks, or perhaps not. The Orioles and Buck Showalter don't seem overly concerned, but that doesn't always mean a whole lot. You know better than to just believe everything a manager says.

So out with Tillman, and in steps Ubaldo Jimenez -- or, at least, he'll get the first crack at replacing Tillman. There's a lot of hyperbole surrounding Tillman (comparing him to Mike Mussina? Come on), but he's meant a lot to a starting rotation that has a few holes. Tillman has been the team's best starter this season, and now the O's will need to go on and win without him for a while.

They can do that, by the way. Any team can get by without a single player for a couple of weeks, or even longer than that. Weird things happen in baseball. The Dodgers can win a bunch of games without Clayton Kershaw. It's not advised, but it does happen. And Tillman is certainly nowhere near Kershaw. It's easy to look at the performance of the O's rotation in the first half of the season and then wonder how they're even still in the playoff race.

Oh, yeah -- so, Ubaldo is back. Jimenez hasn't started a game since the O's July 28 makeup game in Minnesota against the Twins. In those five innings of work, he allowed just one run and struck out eight, but he allowed eight baserunners (five hits, three walks). That's typical Ubaldo stuff, except with less runs scoring. If the O's get that kind of performance in the next couple of starts, they'd be thrilled. Since that outing, Jimenez has only pitched three times out of the bullpen at a few innings per appearance. It's not surprising that the O's would be trying to hide someone with an ERA near 7 and a walk rate again over 5.5.

You probably don't need to hear yet again that Jimenez has had some bad fortune on balls in play and that he's not this terrible. That is true, but the O's are in a tight race for the AL East crown, and if not that, then the consolation prize of a wild card spot. We're not talking about Jimenez's long-term outlook (hint: not good), just about what he can do for the next couple of weeks (if that). So the sympathy probably won't be there for someone with a two-run gap between his ERA and FIP.

The O's could use a couple of good outings from Jimenez. But also from Wade Miley (who pitches tonight and has been terrible) and Yovani Gallardo (who pitches Friday and has also been bad). Everyone who has started a game for the Orioles this year not named Tillman, Gausman, and Bundy has an ERA of 4.50 or above in those starts. The O's have been dealing with these concerns all year. Just be glad that Bundy is filling in admirably, or else things would, amazingly, be much worse.

22 August 2016

Has Gallardo Turned The Corner?

Note: Sunday's game is not included in this post.

Yovani Gallardo is not having a particular successful season as an Oriole with his 5.18 ERA and 5.14 FIP. However, it seemed to me that lately he had been somewhat more successful than he was earlier in this season. This seems to be the case, in August he has had a 3.18 ERA in three starts and he’s improved his ERA from 5.82 in the first half to 4.50 in the second half. Neither of these numbers are particularly good, but the second number is a significant improvement and would be acceptable for a #5 starter. Has Gallardo improved over the first half of the season or is this just good luck?

One of Gallardo’s major problems is that he has a horrible K-BB%. Of 161 starters that have thrown at least 50 innings as a starter, his K-BB% of 3.5% ranks 155th.  In part, this is due to his poor strikeout rate of 15.9% (136th) and in part due to his poor walk rate of 12.4% (157th). In this regard, it’s fair to argue he’s one of the worst starters in baseball. To put this in context, batters have had a .443 OBP against him when they haven’t put the ball into play. This largely hasn’t changed in the second half. He had a 3.6% K-BB in the first half and a 3.4% K-BB in the second half. Clearly, this hasn’t been how he improved.

Likewise, his improvement isn’t due to contact against pitches out of the strike zone. In the first half of the season, 29 batters put a pitch out of the strike zone into play and had a wOBA of .237. In the second half of the season, 30 batters put a pitcher out of the strike zone into play with a wOBA of .246. Out of 171 starters that have had at least nine starts, this ranks 26th in the majors suggesting that Gallardo has been fortunate in this regard.

Gallardo’s improvement has come on pitches that have been put into play in the strike zone. In the first half, he allowed 112 batters to put a pitch in the strike zone into play and they had a wOBA of .447 with an OPS of 1.044. In the second half, he’s allowed 91 batters to put a pitch in the strike zone into play while allowing a wOBA of .406 (OPS of .941). Part of his success is that batters aren’t quite performing as well against these pitches, but also that more batters are putting bad pitches into play.

A closer look at his stats shows that this is because opposing batters are swinging more often at pitches outside of the strike zone while swinging less often at pitches in the strike zone. In the first half of the season, opposing batters swung at 63.9% of pitches in the strike zone and put 31.3% of all pitches in the strike zone into play. In the second half of the season, opposing batters swung at 62.1% of pitches in the strike zone and put only 29.7% into play. As a result, opposing batters did less damage on pitches in the strike zone. Likewise, batters swung at 22% of pitches not in the strike zone and put 6.5% of all pitches not in the strike zone into play. In the second half of the season, batters swung at 24.5% of pitches not in the strike zone and put 8% into play. It’s pretty clear that batters have been swinging at worse pitches in the second half then they did in the first half. Gallardo doesn’t have good enough stuff to really take advantage of this, but he has seen some benefits due to random selection.

He has also been ridiculously lucky in the second half with two or three men on base. Gallardo has allowed just a .287 wOBA on pitches put into play in the second half of the season, with a BABIP of just .143. In the first half, opposing batters had a .438 wOBA in those situations with a BABIP of .353. Going forward, I would expect Gallardo to have numbers more akin to the latter rather than the former. However, it also has something to do with pitch location in those situations. Gallardo threw 44% of pitches in the strike zone in the first half of the season, but just 34% in the second half. This has resulted in a preposterously high 26.9% walk rate with two or more runners on base, but has also resulted in batters doing less damage when putting the ball into play. Given the poor quality of his pitching, hoping batters swing at bad pitches is probably an intelligent strategy.

Gallardo has had acceptable results over the second half of the season. However, it’s pretty clear that his stuff isn’t good enough to start and that he probably isn’t going to turn his season around. It’s probably fair to say that his best strategy is to throw junk and hope that players swing at it and put it into play. He simply isn’t good enough to strike a significant amount of batters out and bad things happen when batters do put a pitch in the strike zone into play. In reality, his best chance of success is either as a middle reliever relying just on a fastball and curveball or as a starter for Bowie.

Many poor pitchers are able to make changes in the off-season that allow them to significantly improve their performance. Indeed, Chris Tillman had a terrible 2015 that was followed by a strong 2016. As a result, it’s theoretically possible that something similar could happen to Gallardo in 2017. However, if he doesn’t have a strong Spring Training, the Orioles should cut Gallardo. He’s not going to be successful as is and is just wasting a roster spot. And perhaps the Orioles need to consider asking themselves why the pitchers they’ve acquired at significant cost such as Jimenez, Gallardo and Miley have floundered so badly. The Orioles are going to be wasting a lot of cash on those three starters next year.

19 August 2016

Yasiel Puig Doesn't Need a Change of Scenery, but the Orioles Should Give Him One Anyway

There are two distinct instances in which a player is thought to need a change of scenery to change his performance. First, there are players that we look on with disappointment and maybe a little pity: "If only he could get out of that forsaken club and see more reps with a better staff." Then, there are players identified as malcontents (often early on, long before they've earned the reputation): "He's a pest and shipping him off would help him realize that he needs to change if he wants to stick around this league."

Yasiel Puig falls squarely into the second group in most people's minds. His alleged and actual bad behavior has upset a lot of his teammates before and given him as much real estate on ESPN and radio talk shows as his formerly stellar play. He is also the odd man out from the Dodger's outfield this year, as his performance has dipped and the team has decided that it can put up with "antics" and "distractions" when Puig is one of the best outfielders in baseball, but not when he isn't. I get it - winning cures a lot of ills.

Having recently been passed through optional waivers en route to AAA and not being claimed (per Jeff Long, it's something of a gentleman's agreement not to claim players that can be pulled back), Puig is available for trade. He'd cost the Orioles quite a bit in a swap, but is making a relatively low salary for his play and potential. The Orioles would probably prefer to have an actual right fielder instead of the power hitters that they currently hide there. I'm not going to go into why Puig is a good option for the Orioles, and frankly, between his acquisition cost, salary, headaches (real or perceived), I don't know whether he is. But he's young and exciting and good and has shown for extended periods that he can be one of the best outfielders on both offense and defense in all of baseball. I like Yasiel Puig, and I don't care who knows it! #PuigMyFriend

However, I do want to examine whether a simple relocation helps Puig or others like him: Change of Scenery candidates. These are the players who are somehow so befuddling to professional baseball coaches that fans and executives alike are willing to throw their hands up and say, "I dunno, maybe he just needs to stand in the same spot in a different ballpark. Let's give it a shot."

To create an analysis around roughly equivalent players, talent-wise and potential-wise, I pulled the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 prospect lists from 2008-2014. I searched (via Bing, in case you want to recreate this) their names and "change of scenery," and recorded the number of page results. Yasiel Puig was mentioned along with "change of scenery" in 965,000 articles. That's not even half as many as the former-top-prospect that leads the COS pack: David Price, 2,700,000 articles.

Players in the top 175 for "change of scenery" articles were considered high-COS candidates, or ones that people thought of frequently as beneficiaries of switching organizations. The remaining 216 were considered low-COS candidates, or players that fans and reporters thought were doing just fine where they were. I cut the list of high-COS players at 175 because it looks like the above chart of search results dips significantly around there and it seemed like a good cutoff to great two roughly equal groupings.

With the help of a FanGraphs table, I compared Major League performance of high-COS players that actually did switch teams to those that did not. Similarly, low-COS players who changed teams were compared to those that did not.
As shown very generally on the left, high-COS players like Yasiel Puig did worse in the years following their relocation than before it. This is not at all adjusted for playing time or position, so keep in mind that these were players whose regard had slipped anyway and were likely to see reduced playing time with their new team. High-COS who never moved at all have better career performance than those that moved. Again, their performance could have improved and convinced their team that they didn't need a change of scenery at all.

Interestingly, players rarely targeted for switching teams performed better after they were traded, but not as well as those who were never traded. While there are likely many reasons for this, my preferred narrative is that these young players were sought after in trades for established talent, and were going to be good either way. By that extension, the low-COS players who weren't traded are ones that a Major League team valued so highly because of performance and makeup that they would never let them leave.

Would a change of scenery help Yasiel Puig perform better? I have no idea. Probably not! There's no reason to think that wearing orange and black would somehow make him a better hitter than wearing blue and white. But Puig is too good and too cheap (at least salary-wise) not to give him a serious look this fall. If the Dodgers are as done with Puig as many people assume, he could be a lottery ticket for the team that picks him up - why can't the Baltimore Orioles be the lucky ones?

Zach Britton is the 2nd Best Pitcher in the American League

Begrudgingly, nearly everyone in baseball data science will say that they do not completely comprehend the value of relief pitching.  Often, you will hear how dominant relievers are incapable of starting.  That is pretty much true.  Often, you will hear that closers are not employed at the most consequential moments and often are given a clean slate when entering a game.  That is also true.  Often, you will hear how utterly confused analysts are when a reliever is paid big money, given a lot of years, or is acquired in exchange for multiple, notable prospects.  Often, you will hear how several teams put together dominant bullpens that are collections of spare, rubbish heap arms, which is also true.

If you simply read what most data analysts say, relief pitching continues to be overrated and dominant relievers are failed starters.  Of course, this statement seems a little silly, right?  How many failed starters are there each year at the MLB level?  At least 30.  Very few of them become dominant relievers let alone dependable middle relief arms.  There certainly is something more to it.  Relief arms tend to need one or two above average pitches and at least mediocre control.  The reality is that this is not a common thing among those failed starters.

Furthermore, maybe our ability to appreciate relievers with metrics like WAR simply measures their value inadequately.  In this post, I try to look at things from a couple different angles.  First, a somewhat traditional way looking at saves and blown saves.  To do this, I took the players with at least 60 save opportunities from 2013 to 2015 and selected the top 20 players.  I assumed replacement level closing was the average success rate of the bottom 5 of those top 20 closers.  This might actually be an overestimation simply because to rack up 60 save opportunities, you have to be an arm that a club has been devoted to.

What we find is that the bottom rung long term closer blows 6.5 games per 40 opportunities (84% success) every year.  A top five closer blows 3.1 games per 40 opportunities (92% success) every year.  That is a difference of 3.4 games.  A blow game does not mean a loss.  I would guess that a blown save in a closing situation may be a loss 70% of the time, which would mean that the bottom run closer would lose 2.4 more games per year.  At a cost per win of 7 MM, that would suggest on average that the elite closing arm is worth about 18 MM, which suggests that maybe closers are somewhat undervalued in the market.

Zach Britton is currently 37 for 37.  Based on the above, we would expect a bottom run closer to blow 5.92 games over that stretch.  If we depreciate those blown saves in a conversion over to losses, then we have 4.1 losses.  This would suggest that Britton has actually been worth over 4 wins so far this season.  This would nestle him right behind Corey Kluber's 4.3 fWAR for second in the AL among all pitchers.

Maybe the simplicity of looking only at save opportunities leaves your brain unmoved and your heart cold.  Well, we can dive into RE/24.  RE/24 looks at run expectancy before and after each event in a game and attributes those to a pitcher without consideration of anything other than run expectancy.  A starting pitcher can benefit simply by racking up successful innings and a reliever benefits by coming in to high leverage situations.  RE/24 often is most unfair to closers who tend to enter the game with a clean slate and somewhat indulgent to middle relievers who successfully enter games with men on base.

Anyway, I batched all starters together and all relievers together for each team, ran those variables along with RE/24 for team batting, and regressed all of that against team wins.  What I found is that relief RE/24 was 78% the value of starting pitcher RE/24, which is not accounted for with innings pitched.  I then took the RE/24 AL pitcher leaderboard and scaled down relief pitcher RE/24.  Next, I accounted for park factors in home and away stadiums as well as the defensive ability for each team.  What resulted was a RE/24(x) metric that I created.  Here is that leaderboard:


Britton shows up as sixth on this board.  He is not exactly challenging the leaders much, but he still shows he is in the conversation for Cy Young.

Of course, the argument might wind up being that while Britton excels at closing, so would several of the other pitchers on this board.  One way to look at that would be to see what exactly the impact of higher velocity might have on a pitcher's success.  An increase of 1 mph in general decrease a player's FIP by about 0.40.  Not all starters when pressed into relief roles enjoy an increase in velocity, but lets be kind and simply assume all starters would see a jump of 3 mph that suggests a FIP improvement of 1.20.

Our leaderboard using the players above would yield:

1 Corey Kluber 1.81
2 Zach Britton 2.00
3 Aaron Sanchez 2.09
4 Danny Duffy 2.13
5 Jose Quintana 2.22
6 Michael Fulmer 2.26
7 Chris Sale 2.29
8 Cole Hamels 2.46
9 Justin Verlander 2.46
10 J.A. Happ 2.69
11 Marco Estrada 2.96
12 Chris Tillman 3.07
All of this tends to suggest that maybe all those who are upset with Zach Britton being in the Cy Young conversation might be relying a bit too heavily on unsteady data science analysis with respect to relief pitching.  Many analysts may be harping loudly about concepts and ideas that have been firmly in place within the sabermetric community for over a decade and may be forgetting that this is an area of baseball that has yet to firmly establish what exactly the value is of a closer in a definitive way.

Perhaps in the coming years, data science will find ways to measure relief pitching quality that has a more substantial methodology than we currently have.  Maybe that methodology will show that closing is not the realm of inadequate pitchers, but more perhaps something completely different.  The skill set needed to be an elite pitcher differs from those who start and maybe that means these are truly two different positions within the pitcher class instead of a first and second tier.

Or maybe not.

18 August 2016

How The Orioles Could Get By Without Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman's shoulder is hurting, and that's bad for the Orioles. For now, he may only be required to miss one start. Clearly that's what the Orioles are hoping.

Tillman has had quite a bounce-back year (arguably the best of his career), and it's come when the O's need him most. Tillman was awful last year, and yet the O's said goodbye to both Wei-Yin Chen via free agency and then Miguel Gonzalez at the end of spring training and proceeded anyway with mostly in-house solutions (plus Yovani Gallardo). That left an early season combination of Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Gallardo (pre-injury), Ubaldo Jimenez, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, and Vance Worley receiving starts. Tillman has been the best of that group by far, and Gausman is the only other to perform like an above-average starter.

It would be tough to ask for much more than what Tillman has provided, and he's a big reason why the O's are still in the race for first place in the AL East. There's no question that losing him for any extended period of time would be a tough pill to swallow. It seems likely that he'll be back soon, but lingering shoulder pain isn't anything to gloss over.

And yet, Tillman's absence wouldn't necessarily lead to a collapse or an end to the Orioles' postseason chances. I see two reasons to stay optimistic: Dylan Bundy and an improved offense.

Last night's start isn't the best example, but Bundy has far exceeded expectations this season. Many fans (myself included) were simply hoping that Bundy would stay healthy and just pitch reasonably well out of the bullpen. He did that, seemingly improving each month, and then entered the rotation after the all-star break and hasn't looked back.

It's easy to marvel at Bundy's ability to both make it all the way back to the majors and pitch well. Still, the O's may also have painted themselves into a corner by inserting him into the rotation so soon. Perhaps the O's limited Bundy's innings and pitches at the beginning of the season specifically with the intent of turning him loose as a starter, but even if they wanted to remove him from the rotation, they wouldn't be able to do that now unless they drop out of the race or he gets hurt. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it's impossible, at least right now, to not be worried about Bundy's long-term health every time you watch him pitch.

Adding Bundy to the rotation seemed like a desperate move, but it's undoubtedly given the rotation a shot in the arm. Even after dropping both games at home to the Red Sox, the O's are still in the division race, and Bundy will play a part in what happens in the next few weeks.

With Bundy and the serviceable Wade Miley, the O's are at least better positioned to deal with Tillman being out for a while than they were before the break. Worley would likely take Tillman's place, or perhaps Jimenez. No one wants to see Jimenez in the rotation again, but it's not like someone like Gallardo is pitching all that much better. It's still surprising to see the pass Gallardo gets with fans when he's pitching just as poorly as Jimenez did in 2014.

The rotation was terrible in the first half of the season, though, and the Orioles still performed well as a team. It's difficult to repeat that level of success, but it's at least possible. And a big part of that was the team's ability to score runs. Overall, the rotation has been better in the second half, but the offense has been stagnant. The (reasonable) excuse early on was a few of the team's players (Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, etc.) were battling illness after the break, and that led to some offensive issues. But the poor results have been staggering.

The O's scored 5.1 runs per game in the first half. So far in the second half, they have scored 3.5. And after posting a collective wRC+ of 111 in the first half, the O's have a wRC+ of only 76 in the second half. Four regulars -- Jonathan Schoop (56 wRC+), Davis (52), Wieters (50), and Mark Trumbo (43) -- have been particularly bad. Nolan Reimold has a wRC+ of 7 in 54 plate appearances. (What exactly does Reimold bring to this team? He's not a platoon bat, and he's maybe an average defensive outfielder. I've always rooted for Reimold to recover physically and play well, but it's time to move on.)

Things can always get worse -- remember, we're talking about what happens if the O's best starting pitcher misses multiple starts -- but you'd have to figure the O's lineup is due for a turnaround very soon. But if not, and the meager results continue, the O's chances won't look that good even with Tillman's shoulder all ready to go and him firing on all cylinders.

17 August 2016

Afternoon Cup o' jO's: Chris Davis' First Plate Appearance

Chris Davis does not have to do all that much at the moment to live up to his contract.  He is being paid about 17 MM this year (let us ignore the deferred payments), which comes to an expected performance of about two and a half wins above replacement (WAR).  When he signed, the greater concern was about how much he would produce on the backend of the deal.  With six weeks to go, Davis sits at a 2.1 fWAR and a 2.2 bWAR.  He should just barely tread water, contract-wise.  Although, certainly expectations were greater given that his WAR was above five last year.

Davis' peripherals largely look the same and where things deviate from his 2015 and 2013 performances, they also do not match his struggles in 2014.  It is difficult to find a theme, except for his performance per trip up to the plate against the starting pitcher.

1st PA, SP
2nd PA, SP

There is a peculiar pattern where in 2014 and 2016, he has experienced particular trouble his first time to the plate.  As many of you know, there is a general rule that with each time a batter sees a pitcher during a game that his performance improves.  This particularly seems true for the third time the batter faces the pitcher.  However, that increase for the American League is 741, 753, and 798.  Those 2014 and 2016 seasons seem to really jump out.

Another general thought is that designated hitters and pinch hitters suffer a penalty from sitting on the bench.  This has been proven across populations, but there do seem to be some hitters who defy this penalty.  It makes me wonder if Davis may be experiencing something similar at the front end of a game.  Some think him not getting an allowance to take his prescription for some form of attention deficit disorder may have contributed to his poor 2014 season.  If so, on a limb, maybe his disposition is one where he has trouble locking into a game situation similar to most designated hitters and pinch hitters.  Maybe he needs a couple innings to focus.

It might be that with this disposition, he might be susceptible to lacking confidance in that first at bat due to his overall struggles this year.  Maybe things are snowballing.  I have no clue.  Hopefully, things right themselves and he begins to snowball in the right direction for the club's fortunes.

16 August 2016

Cup of jO's: Zach Britton, Cy Young Award Winner?

A long time ago, Rob Neyer and Bill James came up with an equation to determine who would win the Cy Young Award.

Cy Young Points (CYP) = ((5*IP/9)-ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + Shutouts + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + VB

The above is rather self explanatory except for VB, which is Victory Bonus.  An additional 12 points is given to a player whose team wins their division. It has worked pretty well over the years.
Justin Verlander
Clayton Kershaw
David Price
R.A. Dickey
Max Scherzer
Clayton Kershaw
Corey Kluber
Clayton Kershaw
Dallas Keuchel
Jake Arrieta

The only miss in the past five years was Dallas Keuchel who the system saw as coming in second place.  Pretty nifty.  As it stands, the Orioles have two players in the top four and it appears whichever team wins the AL East will be pushing someone over the top.

2016 Cy Young Predictor - AL
1J.A. HappTOR144.82323143.0471240016-32.9612
2Zach BrittonBAL144.252050.03593702-10.5412
3Rick PorcelloBOS130.52424158.0581290016-33.300
4Chris TillmanBAL130.42525151.0581260015-43.4612
5Aaron SanchezTOR127.22323152.1481270012-22.8412
6Cole HamelsTEX124.62424153.1491490012-42.8812
7Chris SaleCHW116.32323160.2591570114-63.300
8Corey KluberCLE114.22323157.0561560212-83.2112
9Steven WrightBOS111.72222146.2491230113-53.010
10Roberto OsunaTOR110.452052.111642602-11.8912

 The safe money is that the Cy Young Award will go to J.A. Happ, Rick Porcello, or Chris Tillman depending on who wins the AL East.  The dark  horse is Zach Britton simply because relief pitchers have a particularly difficult time winning this award and more recent voters will look at WAR calculations and disregard Britton entirely.

12 August 2016

Afternoon Cup of jO's: 2016 Orioles GM Election

Let's assume that the Dan Duquette is leaving the Orioles and that the choices to some extent mirror the current election for President of the United States of America.  This silly little exercise will propose potential GM candidates that resemble the current presidential candidates as well as my reasoning as to why they resemble the candidate.

First, which candidate is most like Hillary Clinton? (Trump's comps follow Clinton's)

Clinton is a long-term establishment political figure who is loved by a few, disliked by many, and found acceptable by others.  She certainly produced successes over her career, but none have been as a top executive.  Additionally, as a major player she has been associated as part of the process to policy or events that did not turn out well.

Please go to the polls and submit your vote.  This is not about who you want, but who you think most resembles the candidate.

Here is the Clinton poll on Twitter (ends on Monday).

Eddie Murray
Murray was a very promising prospect who had a career so solidly above average that some consider it great.  His poor relationship with the media and how he talked fueled a dislike of him.  He put in several years of hard work trying to earn an MLB head coaching job that never came to fruition.

Rick Dempsey
Dempsey has been around a number of great successes, directly led to a few successes, and has long sought after a baseball position with considerable decision-making potential.  He is loved by a few, appreciated by many, and completely disregarded by others.

Cal Ripken, Jr.
His selection almost seems obvious and his proponents are completely confused by those who dread seeing him in charge.  He had considerable success as a player and has successfully headed a foundation that bears his last name.  Some think his highly esteemed status is more a product of appearing in many consecutive games rather than his actual performance.  Some think his future success is a by product of the entitlement his surname possesses.

Jim Palmer
A big name player who has been rewarded with many accolades.  However, his actual performance does not seem to completely line up with one of the greats and to some extent seems a bit reliant on the abilities of others in the field.  He has stepped away from the limelight from time to time, but always feels himself being pulled back in.  He seems fairly competent, but occasionally says something peculiar.

Second, which one of the follow is most Trump-like?

Here is the Trump poll on Twitter (ends on Monday)

Peter Schmuck
Schmuck is a household name from his time at the Baltimore Sun.  He has a strong fan base that adores his voice of the common fan approach and his criticism of the current regime.  While he has not directly been involved in the game, he has succeeded immensely on the outskirts of it.  Some fans think his thoughts are na├»ve and merely intended to appease the crowd.

Roch Kubatko
Arguably the most dominant public, non-player in the Orioles fan sphere.  Well seasoned in observing and interacting with the game.  Fairly confidant in knowing what is going on and able to continually and capably shoot from the hip.  Somewhat notorious for thin skin and seeking out the haters to battle with them.

Buster Olney
Local guy who became one of the major voices in baseball media. Has had an off and on relationship with the Orioles in his writing.  His soundbites succinctly address issues and he seems somewhat progressive in his perspective.  Like the others, he has never been a part of the system.

Roy Firestone
One of the early major forces in cable sports and a life long Orioles fan who completely and utterly wants the Orioles to be Great Again.  His heart runs hot and orange, which you can regularly see with his frequent posts over at Orioles Hangout.  However, he has never run a club and his views are considered somewhat traditional.

Cup of jO's: 2nd Half, Orioles with .481 Winning Percentage

The season has been a peculiar one for the club.  Going in, nearly all projection models pegged the Orioles as a 78-82 win team with good offense, great relief, and a shoddy rotation.  The only outliers were PECOTA and the Depot model.  PECOTA was not impressed and put the over/under at 72 wins while the Depot model saw a mid-tier club in a tight AL East talent pool that would be pushed up to 1st (85 wins) with strong personnel control and a strong bullpen.

The first half surprised many as the Orioles opened up a 51-36 record powered by an elite offense and an elite relief corps while making up for wretched starting pitching.  It was mocked when people like Keith Law noted in April, May, and June what the Orioles record would be if you ignored their season beginning streak.  So it is strange there is no opportunity to mock anyone now when the club has gone 13-14 in the second half, which over a full season would be 78 games.  One might expect to hear that the Orioles are showing their true talent level now out of a flukey first half.  However, one should shrug at that suggestion.

1st Half 2nd Half
Batting wRC+ 112 (2nd) 73 (14th)
fWAR 14.7 (4th) -0.1 (14th)
Rotation FIP 4.73 (12th) 4.23 (6th)
fWAR 4.2 (12th) 2.3 (7th)
Relief FIP 3.86 (7th) 3.62 (4th)
fWAR 3.3 (3rd) 1.0 (5th)

When looking at the above, the immediate concern is how the offense turned into a rotten pumpkin while the bottom tier rotation has almost performed at a first division level.  It is not a complete flip, but close to it.  What is remarkable is that the second half rotation performance is only a little ahead of where most projections pegged it while the second half hitting is far behind projections and first half performance.

With this all in mind, I think we should feel fairly confidant that that club's batting and starting rotation should even out a bit and produce roughly the same total value in the second half that was produced in the first half.  It will look differently with simply an above average offense and an average starting rotation, but the total should come out about the same. 

That should be good enough for a playoff spot, though maybe not one that gets a bye from the Wild Card.  As it stands, the club is a half game out of first and three games ahead for the final Wild Card slot.  Regardless, the next seven or so weeks should be exciting.  Your heart should be racing until the club is in the clear, which will be about 3 games + the number of weeks left.  Right now, that number is 10 with Detroit, Seattle, and Houston all trying to make themselves relevant.

Tm W L GB vEast vCent vWest
TEX 68 48 --- 14-13 15-11 29-19
CLE 64 48 --- 12-16 31-16 11-9
TOR 65 50 --- 27-21 14-13 11-9
 BAL 64 50 --- 26-19 21-8 11-19
 BOS 61 52 --- 22-22 11-14 19-11
 DET 61 53 0.5 16-11 20-24 13-13
 SEA 60 53 1.0 17-9 13-14 19-24
 HOU 60 55 2.0 9-14 15-14 28-23
 NYY 58 56 3.5 16-24 19-11 16-11
 KCR 55 59 6.5 12-14 25-16 10-20
 CHW 54 60 7.5 16-13 19-27 13-13
 OAK 51 64 11.0 15-15 10-13 21-24
 LAA 49 65 12.5 8-16 15-11 20-27
 TBR 46 67 15.0 19-24 10-20 10-13
 MIN 46 69 16.0 10-21 14-26 16-13
Avg 57 56 15-16 16-15 16-16
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/12/2016.