31 October 2017

Does Jonathan Schoop Have Another Gear?

We can all agree that the Orioles need bounce-back (and healthy) seasons from several players: Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Manny Machado, Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, etc. But even if it's asking for a lot, they could also use even better play from some of their most improved players.

By both FanGraphs' version of WAR (4.1) and Baseball-Reference's version (5.1), Jonathan Schoop was easily the O's best player in 2017. That might be a surprise to anyone who wasn't paying close attention, simply due to the presence of Machado on the O's roster.

While Machado tied for the the worst full-season wRC+ in his career (102), Schoop flourished, posting a career-best wRC+ of 121. Schoop put up career highs across the board: batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.338), slugging percentage (.503), home runs (32), and isolated power (.211). Plus, although Schoop hasn't seen a linear improvement in offensive production through his first four seasons, it's hard not to appreciate his development in the walk/strikeout department:

2014: 2.7 BB%, 25.4 K%
2015: 2.8 BB%, 24.6 K%
2016: 3.2 BB%, 21.2 K%
2017: 5.2 BB%, 21.0 K%

Also encouraging: Schoop posted a career low chase percentage of 36.5% (while also swinging less overall, at 52.5%). Opposing pitchers didn't challenge him as much either, throwing him just 42.7% of pitches in the zone (also a career low).

After taking a step back in 2016 with a 99 wRC+, Schoop was clearly much better this past season. But it wasn't because he hit the ball much harder:

2015: 89.7 avg EV (t-102)
2016: 87.3 avg EV (t-284)
2017: 87.8 avg EV (t-176)
Minimum 30 batted ball events (data via Baseball Savant)

He didn't even hit the ball much farther, on average:

2015: 186 avg distance (t-123)
2016: 165 avg distance (t-313)
2017: 170 avg distance (t-266)

Schoop didn't hit the ball as hard or as far as he did in 2015, but he did get back to hitting more fly balls overall (FB% over 37 in both 2015/2017; 34.9% in 2016) and, as a result, hit fewer balls on the ground (43% in 2015, up to 45.3% in 2016, then down to 41.9% in 2017). It also fits that pattern that his launch angle ticked back up in 2017:

2015: 12.75
2016: 11.98
2017: 12.97
Average launch angle (data via Baseball Savant)

As Jon discussed yesterday and plenty of other times before, Schoop clearly has useful defensive skills, like excellent tagging skills, a powerful arm, and nifty footwork around the bag. But his range and flexibility are concerns, maybe less so for right now than a couple years down the road (and that could affect any possible contract extension talk). I don't think Schoop needs to move off of second base now, but the main point is that he's extremely unlikely to see a jump in value due to his glove. Still, him being an average-ish second baseman is tolerable, if not ideal.

Schoop's leap in 2017 was with his bat, and it's unclear whether this is his ceiling. If it is, he's become a valuable player and one of the best second basemen in the majors. It would be unfair to expect a Jose Altuve-like season, or even one that Jose Ramirez just posted. But can he make more incremental improvements?

Schoop's batted ball data suggest that this might be the limit of his power potential. When he's at his best, he can hit the ball just about as hard as any other player. But he doesn't do so consistently. Still, what about inching up to a .350 or even .360 on-base percentage? It might be improbable, but considering that Schoop even walking 5% of the time seemed impossible just a couple seasons ago, you can't say it's unachievable. If a free-swinger like Schoop can slowly, steadily improve his habits, it should give others hope as well.

30 October 2017

BORAS (po) 2.0: Improving Upon the Original BORAS Position Player Contract Model

A few years back, I introduced two models to predict contracts terms: BORAS (pi) and BORAS (po).  That acronym, like many in the data science world, came first and then the words later, but it means Baseball Observation-based Renumeration Assumption System.  The idea being that the bias in determining contract value (even in comp model systems) could be removed, perhaps, by throwing all the recent contracts together in a big pot and regression modeling them with certain performance parameters.

The BORAS (pi) system, which is for pitcher contract, worked remarkably well.  The cumulation r2 of the model is 0.86 and the median miss is 1.7 MM.  Some of the misses are great, such as being off on Ian Kennedy by 11 MM AAV.  Simply put, highly encapsulated pitching metrics were rather effectively in projecting what a contract would be for pitchers.  Traditional metrics were batched together and more "advanced" metrics were batched together.  The previous three years of performance were considered.  It worked out.

I used the same approach with the BORAS (po) system for position players.  Encapsulation of traditional and those more "advanced" metrics appeared to be the wrong move.  Where the pitching metrics for starting pitchers largely all met needed confidence points, the data for position players was more varied.  For instance, fielding metrics for position players needs about two to three years to really stabilize and I was batching this information into more certain offensive data.  In other words (and this is very simply stating it), I was valuing a great fielding season the same as a great offensive season which is a no good, terrible, oh so awful way to do things.  It yielded an r2 of 0.47 and median value off of 3.9 MM, which is decent if you know nothing.  However, a passing interest in contract terms would make you far more away of probable terms than this model would.

This performance has led me to think about other ways to utilize data and come up with, perhaps, a better performing model.  First, I wanted to thin down data sources and noted that, unlike the pitching model, the hitting model valued similar statistics regardless of their traditional nature or more "advanced" nature, so I decided to just go ahead and use less encapsulated "advanced" metrics and ignore the traditional ones.  I also separated out fielding metrics and put them in a more appropriate bin with similar certainty.  So, now we have BORAS 2.0 (po).

Below is how the models compare.

Yr Total Yr Total
Alonso 2 18.7 3 34
Duda 2 19.6 2 21.4
Holliday NRI NRI
Hosmer 4 61.2 5 93.8
Lind 1 7.9 2 17.5
Moreland 2 21.4 2 16.1
Morison 3 34.8 4 59.8
Reynolds 1 9.5 1 7.7
Santana 3 45.2 3 51.4
Kendrick 1 10.6 2 20.4
Utley NRI 1 6.8
Walker 2 22.3 3 41
Cozart 4 59.3 5 83.7
Escobar NRI 1 8
Frazier 3 50.6 3 37.7
Moustakas 3 34.2 3 35.2
Reyes NRI 1 8.7
Nunez 2 20.8 4 53
Cabrera NRI 1 8
Dyson 2 25.2 3 32.5
Granderson 1 12.7 2 25.9
Jay 1 9.2 2 17.6
Martinez 4 64.8 4 85.1
Maybin 2 21.8 2 20.5
Upton 5 83.9 5 100.8
Cain 5 92.2 4 64.7
Gomez 2 21.2 3 31.3
Jackson 2 21.8 2 20.6
Bautista NRI NRI
Bruce 3 30.1 3 37.5
Ethier NRI 1 7.2
Gonzalez 1 8.6 2 15.7
Smith NRI 1 8
Sogard 2 17 2 14.1

BORAS 2.0 appears to do better with the higher end players.  Justin Upton at 5/100.8 made more sense than 5/83.9.  Cain makes more sense as a 4/64.7 than 5/92.2 player.  However, BORAS 1.0 seems to be more into handing our NRIs.  It will be interesting to see how this offseason plays out and whether BORAS 2.0 is an actually improvement on the original model.

27 October 2017

The Camden Depot 2017/18 Blueprint for the Offseason

Every offseason we engage in an exercise.  We look at the previous season's payroll, payroll changes over the past few seasons, league-wide payroll changes, and local interest in the club.  From those variables, we set our sites on what next year's club could reasonably anticipate as an opening day payroll.  We then construct a plan with respect who is staying and who is leaving.  That plan though is restricted to free agent acquisitions due to the wide openness of possibilities of trades.  By ignoring the silliness of trade discussions, we root ourselves into a more realistic world.

For free agency, that realism is bounded by the BORAS model for contract projections.  The model over the years has been fairly accurate for pitchers (r2=0.86, median miss is 1.7 MM AAV).  The model for position players leaves something to be desired (but I have been constructing a second model for position players, but it is not included in this exercise--more on that in a later post, maybe next week).  These contract terms give us a better way to see what exactly is possible.

This year's plans:
Option 1 - So You Think Yu Can Pitch. Our very own Nate Delong put forward his plan, which is largely constructed around the notion that Yu Darvish is indeed an elite pitcher with strong support from Alex Cobb, a solid pitcher with a lot of red flags.  Though, the first rotation slot would be entering the Spring as an up for grabs opportunity.  Delong chooses to non-tender Zach Britton, which is within the realm of reason though is a direction I find highly unlikely, in order to shoehorn in the flexible depth targets Jon Jay and Howie Kendrick.
Option 2 - Put it All into Pitching and a Proven Veteran. Obviously, pitching is an issue and the Depot's Matt Kremnitzer concurs with that.  His plan targets Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Jason Vargas.  The first two are desirable targets and Vargas covers that strangely coveted southpaw starter (which really only has any importance in the playoffs and do you really have Vargas starting in the playoffs?).  To address the need for a good left handed batter who can provide some coverage for Trey Mancini and Austin Hays in the outfield, Curtis Granderson was pushed forward.  Granderson does fit the bill, but his collapse this season and exclusion from the Dodgers' World Series roster leaves doubt on how much is left in the tank.
Option 3 - Clearing out the Trumbo. Joe Wantz wanted to improve roster flexibility (one of my tender spots), so he decided to advocate for the release of Mark Trumbo (I have a harder time taking that direction).  That saves no money based on our blueprint rules, but it does open up roster space.  With the cash, he moves in first with Tyler Chatwood.  Four years feel steep, but he is a target that speaks to me.  He does not project as an expensive talent and his repertoire works far better outside of Denver.  Alex Cobb is the other rotation stabilizer and he solves the outfield with Jarrod Dyson.  Wantz also puts Eric Sogard and some fringe players to round out the roster.
Option 4 - Pushing Machado. Matt Perez' idea starts first with sliding Machado over to shortstop.  This opens the team up to adding a third baseman where Mike Moustakas is a solid option as well as pushing Tim Beckham into the utility role that the club wished Ryan Flaherty was.  The pitching solution then goes with the unspectacular, but potentially solid threesome of Chris Tillman, Ricky Nolasco, and Jaime Garcia.  Garcia is the kind of southpaw that, if the stars aligned, you could see starting a playoff game. The other two could work out if injuries are recoverable and pitchers reclaimed.
Option 5 - Veteran Presents. Our first reader submission was from H. Davis.  The main difference from above is the acquisition of CC Sabathia.  Rounding out the proposal are other heavy breakdown candidates like Lance Lynn and Curtis Granderson. Hector Santiago provides a cheap option to tick the lefty starter box and Fernando Abad helps make the bullpen a little deeper.
Option 6 - DJ and the Kids. S.L. Siler pumps in the second reader submission and it relies heavily on using the minor leaguers who have held their own at AA.  Supplementing that talent flow would be the aforementioned Chatwood, Cobb, and Sogard as well as Juan Nicasio as long-term bullpen depth.
Option 7 - From John. Reader submission from John has also declared that the most important target for the Orioles and the context they find themselves in would be CC Sabathia.  Cobb continues his role as best man.  Offensive solutions would include Kendrick and the mixed bag that is Jayson Werth.
Option 8 - You Had Me at Eduardo. Roger's submission hits on some of the regulars from this series: Jarrod Dyson, Jaime Garcia, Alex Cobb, and Chris Tillman.  His new wrinkle was the inclusion of poor man's Ben Zobrist, Eduardo Nunez.  As I mentioned before, I am a sucker for roster flexibility because it helps you when players go down to injury.  It is an approach that needs to be expressed.
When you group think this approach, one player immediately rises above the puddle of ideas: Alex Cobb.  Why Cobb?  For one thing, BORAS thinks he will be pretty cheap which is because he missed all of 2015 and nearly all of 2016.  BORAS finds that risky.  Second, when he does pitch, he pitches well.  Again, though, it must be noted he has never been particularly healthy and last year's 179.1 IP was his most in a season for his career as well as his most appearances (29).  That said, his performance is something to dream on.

Tyler Chatwood is the slightly less impressive twin brother of Cobb.  Chatwood also has trouble appearing in a full season, but he also has some shining attributes.  He throws hard and his stuff is actually pretty impressive outside the thin air of Denver.  BORAS recognizes his mile high challenges and tacks on another year in comparison to Cobb.  But, yes, you can dream on Chatwood, too.

And, yes, I agree with those two targets.  I think Darvish and Sabathia, while strong pitchers, both have caution attached to them that makes me feel uncomfortable paying what BORAS reckons they will earn.  Darvish has certainly had a wonderful time with the Dodgers, but it is hard for me to ignore what happened before then.  He still is a wonderful pitcher, but save me $7 million to patch a hole elsewhere and I will do that.  Sabathia's cost is lower, but he is at the point where he is at the threshold of a breakdown.  He has adapted to no longer being a flame thrower, but another mile or a reduction in spin could make him unplayable without a decent backup role.

This leaves us with a fifth slot to fill and not really a great set of options.  I hesitate to dedicate another multi-year contract to a starting pitcher.  I want more flexibility, not only this year if I have to let someone go, but also to next year where money may be falling off the payroll and another batch of starting pitchers could be available.  I also want the easier ability to cut bait if a fringe option like Miguel Castro truly emerges.  That leaves me with:
  • Francisco Liriano 1/5.8
  • Scott Feldman 1/5
  • Hector Santiago 1/4
  • Tyson Ross 1/3.4
  • Derek Holland 1/1.5
None of those really look any bit good.  I also think adding a left-handed starter for the purpose of having a left-handed starter is pointless unless you have a decent reason why you think said lefty is going to start a playoff game for you.  I have trouble seeing Liriano or Santiago in a playoff game.  Still, handing a lefty to the manager might be seen as at least listening to his wants, so I am going with Santiago.  He does not have the ceiling of Liriano, but Liriano showed that he is not useful as a bullpen arm and I'd rather save the extra change in someone who can at least get the ball over the plate.

Pitching Solutions:
Tyler Chatwood 4/41.9
Alex Cobb 3/31.1
Hector Santiago 1/4

On the offensive end, I love the idea of adding Eduardo Nunez.  This would put the infield in a needed area of flux where someone like Jonathan Schoop, Tim Beckham, or Nunez could be explored as an option in right field.  Yes, Schoop has great footwork and tagging skills that would go unused in left field, but his range and ability to get down on balls is becoming an issue.  His arm is live enough for right field.  That said, adding Nunez into the starting mix makes a squad that is weak against right handed starters even weaker.  For me to ink Nunez, I would want to have a more balanced offensive approach that cannot be so easily stymied in late innings by a revolving door of flame throwing right handers.

That encourages me to leave the infield alone and instead look to improve the outfield.  An ever present concern has been defense as well as a longer term succession plan.  Curtis Granderson does not answer those problems for me.  His defense has tanked the last couple seasons, making him unworkable in centerfield but still capable with the glove and arm in the corners.  However, he has taken the Chris Davis plunge where his contact rate is so poor that his power no longer seems to play and it is a major question whether he can break the surface again.  The Dodgers have lost enough confidence in him that was left off the World Series roster.

This leaves Jarrod Dyson who is a league average or better hitter against right handers, but someone who against left handers should only be seen after prime time hours.  He provides near elite defense for every outfield position.  In a few blueprints, he was noted as an $8 million dollar player even though BORAS thinks he should be paid 12.6 MM.  It would be fair to assume that lower figure due to the platoon penalty players like him, Luis Valbuena, and others seem to pay for not being able to hit lefthanders.  However, in my blueprint I am securing all 12.6 MM funds for him.  Dyson also gets a two year deal, so if the club is left in a lurch next year for a centerfielder, he can fill that role.  He can also soak up innings in left field to rest Mancini (or push him to DH) and the same could be said about Hays in right field.

This would leave us with the following lineups:
vs. RHP
SS Beckham
3B Machado
2B Schoop
1B Davis
DH Mancini
CF Jones
COF Hays
COF Dyson
C Sisco
vs. LHP
SS Beckham
3B Machado
2B Schoop
1B Trumbo
DH Mancini
CF Jones
COF Hays
C Joseph
COF Santander
These lineups are decently strong but contain one major issue, which is that I have made Davis and Trumbo a very expensive (28 MM) platoon tandem at first base.  I think we can all settle into the truth that Davis has been disappointing for two seasons and his value against left handed pitching is atrocious.  Trumbo is less of a platoon hitter, but has shown consistently throughout his career that he has trouble performing while sitting most of the time on the bench.  He needs to be in the field, but he is a disaster in right field.  This leaves us with a very useful though expensive platoon at first base with both players available to fill in on same-hand starting pitcher days when someone needs a rest.  Davis could be a full time player as a 1B vs. RHP and DH vs. LHP with the latter happening if Santander or Hays forces Mancini to be in the field.  If Davis or Trumbo rock the world and go back to crushing the ball, then the lineup could be adjusted to give them more playing time.

Position Solutions:
Jarrod Dyson 2/25.2

In the end, I am fairly comfortable with this arrangement.  The rotation is still held together with duct tape and is set up for failure, but is put together with a high ceiling.  No, Cobb and Chatwood have never been workhorses, but they do show a high level of potential.  It may well be that grabbing Garcia and going in a different outfield direction would make more sense, but Dyson seems to provide a great deal of support for an outfield that needs a solid backup option for multiple positions.  Maybe I am not giving Cedric Mullins and D.J. Stewart enough respect, but I prefer going in with someone like Dyson picking up the slack.  Additionally, grabbing another starting pitcher would likely require a multi-year deal that locks the club into a rotation, which was a major issue last offseason.  This club simply cannot sign on eight starting pitchers like the Dodgers do.

Anyway, Mr. Duquette, let's get this done.

26 October 2017

Blueprint for the 2018 Orioles (Option #8): Can I Have More Money?

Once the Orioles stop playing, we begin playing around with the roster and look toward the next year. The Depot's Blueprint Series tries to take a well focused look as to what the potential solutions are to what ails the club. A subset of our writers take part in this exercise and we invite our readership to submit their own ideas. Below is our third reader submission. This submission is from Roger H.

This is our last blueprint option.  I will now be sorting through the recommendations to formulate the "site" plan.


All of the roster recommendations have pretty much followed the same initial assumptions with the exception of one Britton non-tender and a Trumbo release.  I’ll not do either and just start from the same base everyone else has of $113.5M in contract obligations.  The leaves $41.5M to spend on the rest of the roster.  

I am going to start from a base of the following: C. Davis, A. Jones, Trumbo, O’Day, Machado, Britton, Schoop, Gausman, Brach, Beckham, Joseph, Bundy, Mancini, Givens, M. Castro, Bleier, Hart, Sisco, Santander, Rule 5 (or Joey Rickard or Ryan Flaherty only at minimum).

That is a total of $118 spent and $37M left to spend and five roster spots to fill.

First, about primary needs.  We all know the SP issue, but OF defense, speed, predominant RH lineup, and consistency (avoiding team hitting slumps) are also issues.  Many of these overlap so there is hope.  One other item I’d like to address is the future.  Everything I see from the bloggers say either trade the stars or the O’s fall off a cliff.  I personally think the O’s should also be planning for the next year and build a team Machado might want to stay on.  Plan for a COF role for Adam even if he is re-signed.  I would like to have some faith the O’s could be competitive next year too (e.g. like the Beckham move).

With all of the above in mind, here are the FA’s I would buy into
  • Jarrod Dyson at the revised price of 2/16
  • Jaime Garcia at 2/22.9
  • Alex Cobb at 3/31.1
  • Chris Tillman at 1/3
  • Eduardo Nunez at 2/20.8

This adds up to $43.3M.  This is $6M over budget.  I’ll address this later.

Here’s the logic.  Dyson is the CF we need to convince Adam Jones that it’s time to move to COF.  Even Adam could not look at the statistics and argue the point.  Adam can still be an above average COF and he can still play CF against tough lefties.  Dyson is also a LH OF and adds speed which could be the key to avoiding the team slumps.  And a two year contract is enough to hopefully bridge the gap until a successful Mullins can be integrated into the lineup (or Hays if he can play CF).

Garcia is better than his statistics.  He had some real stretches of dominance last year and was never really bad.  In fact, he is an elite 4-inning pitcher until you notice the ERA of 9.51 in the fifth inning.  My guess is that many of those runs were given up by a Braves bullpen that couldn’t put out fires although he did give up most of his HRs in the 5th.  If he makes it through the 5th (specifically the third time through the lineup) then he is good for the full 100+ plus pitches in 6-7 innings.  Using Joseph as his personal catcher would be a good idea to keep his walks down.

I choose Cobb over Lynn because I think Cobb has more upside but this is one area where we could save money by going with Lynn over Cobb.  Plus, signing Cobb for three years vs. Lynn for two makes more of a commitment to the future with a pitcher who could be a third stud better than even Gausman or Bundy.  On the other hand, signing Lynn would save $1.2M leaving us only $5M over budget.  Signing Lynn and eliminating Tillman in favor of Ynoa or Yefry Ramirez would pretty much solve the roster cost overage.  That’s what I’d do to stay within the rules of this exercise.  I just don’t think that is the best way to go.

With regards to Tillman, his bad season is actually the best thing that could have happened with regards to next year.  There is no one on the FA agent list with more upside potential even if he just pitches up to his average statistics, which I think he can.  The O’s must splurge on a make-good one year contract for Tillman.  With Ramirez and Ynoa and Castro in the fold (along with the whole list of AAAA pitchers at Norfolk), the risk with Tillman as a #5 is miniscule.

Finally, I can’t believe no one is jumping on Nunez.  He played every position last year except C, 1B, and CF.  He could get nearly a full year’s worth of ABs by rotating through the IF and OF giving everyone a rest one day a week (especially Jones).  Not to mention, as a former All Star, he has the potential to step right in for the eventual injured starter.  His batting line was superb for a super util.  Further, he could play 3B reasonably if Machado does bolt next year (another Beckham-ish signing).  With Mullins, Hays, and Mountcastle getting closer, there is hope if we have a bridge to get there.

That brings us to the elephant in the room.  Hays should begin at AAA with the current roster situation but trading Trumbo should be a priority to clear a roster spot for Hays.  If Santander doesn’t perform within 45 days then he can be sent to AAA and Hays brought up.  Once Hays is brought up, the need to make space for him forces Trumbo to sit or get traded.  Further, a trade straight up for a prospect of any sort would clear enough payroll to get under the $155M cap assigned here.  Or he can be traded for someone else’s problem that’s not an OF/1B, preferably a pitcher.  Trading Trumbo for the veritable bucket of balls might be OK if you really want to clear salary.

Also, I think the O’s should aggressively negotiate with Britton to extend him at a lower AAV (maybe 3/34 (10M/12M/12M)?).  Getting him down to $10M for next year would surely also solve the budget overage.  And the Dyson logic (platoon/part-time player) could also apply to Nunez.  Or he could be offered an escalating contract at a lower AAV for next year.

25 October 2017

Timelines for Success: Late Bloomers and Those Following the Script

Every fall, as my birthday approaches, I repeat the same thing, mostly kidding: "my shot at being a pro athlete isn't over until I'm older than the average player!" I mean it for every sport, even though there's very little demand for 160 pound guys under 6 feet tall in any sport. This year, I can even sprinkle in that I'm about to be 27 - the age at which baseball players enter their prime - and promise that this is the year I can really break out (I've never even played baseball). I still maintain that I can hit a home run in batting practice (again, mostly kidding, but maybe not). If I was ever going to do it, it's now! I'm entering the prime of my career! I doubt I'll get a call from any Major League teams, but you never know - untested players entering their theoretical prime may be the new market inefficiency.

Thinking about my own age relative to baseball players got me thinking about the ages of actual players. Maybe some hit their stride a little late, like I still might. Others are joining the league right on schedule, but what that means for their careers is still to be determined. I ignored the players joining the Majors at unusually young ages, because the more of them there are, the less of a chance I have.

*** Late Bloomers: The Oldest Players to Have their Best Seasons Late in their Careers ***

The distribution of the best season (by fWAR) players have recorded by their age resembles the aging curve that has come to be accepted as common knowledge. Just like players tend to have their personal best seasons at age 27, with a rapid ramp before it and a slower decline after, most players have their career seasons at age 27, with fewer players having their career years prior and quite a few having career years in the seasons shortly after age 27.
However, there's a bit of a tail on the older age of the above chart; there are a small handful of players who posted career years in their late thirties. Over the last 37 years, about 20 veterans have had their best seasons after age 35. The 20 oldest of which are shown below, with one caveat:

The caveat: because our data runs from 1970 to 2017, we cut off the beginnings of careers of players whose careers began in the 1960s or before. I've done my best to weed out those instances by limiting this list to players with at least 5 seasons after 1970.

This list is full of pitchers, likely because good pitchers can reinvent themselves as relievers when they age past their usefulness as starting pitchers. For average starting pitchers, entering a late-season renaissance as a reliever gives them a chance to build up fWAR that compares favorably to their early- and mid-career fWAR. Interestingly, RA Dickey finds himself on this list not because of a successful transition to the bullpen, but because of a successful dedication to a new pitch. Dickey was middling at best up until he went all-in on the knuckleball, and gave the Mets a Cy Young Award performance in 2012 just a few years later.

The batters that had a late-career renaissance are an interesting group. Barry Bonds, like many of the pitchers on this list, reinvented himself and had what amounts to a second Hall of Fame career. Raul Ibanez put up his 3.4 fWAR in a shorter season, playing only 134 games but hitting a career high in home runs. Torii Hunter hit for more average than ever before and amassed better baserunning numbers. Like Ibanez and Hunter, Pete Rose simply had an unusually good year. Bonds was the only one to reinvent himself the way a pitcher might.

The Orioles only have a handful of players on the precipice of the latter half of their 30s, and only one is a regular starter. JJ Hardy has not gone about reinventing himself at the plate, and in fact his offensive play has slipped pretty dramatically. Unless Hardy becomes an even better defensive shortstop, it's unlikely that he will post his career best performance in the next few seasons. Among pitchers, Darren O'Day is the only one about to turn 35, and he's already been a very good reliever. H, in theory, has a chance to top his career best of 1.5 fWAR (amassed in 67 innings), if only because the Orioles continue to ask him to throw about that often during the season.

*** On Schedule: Expected Career Performance by 25-Year-Old Rookies ***

In the middle of the age spectrum are players who don't join the Majors very early or very late, the players who follow the script. For batters, this usually means a rookie season at age 25:
Most batters join the Majors for their first qualifying season between ages 23 and 27, with most rookies in the last (nearly) 40 years joining the Majors at age 25. After that age, the likelihood of making the big leagues seems to drop significantly for position players. 

The 25-year-old rookie - seemingly the typical rookie - is an interesting one after 2017 for the Orioles. This season, the Orioles' own Trey Mancini made a splash at the Major League level as a 25-year-old rookie, and the team was introduced to the homer-happy face of one of their division rivals: 25-year-old Aaron Judge.

Early in the season, Mancini and Judge were frequently compared, as both were power-hitting rookie outfielders for their respective clubs, and fans from both teams felt that their breakout young player had a chance at end-of-season awards. Even today, Googling the names "Trey Mancini" and "Aaron Judge" together results in many asking questions about whether they should trade one for the other in fantasy baseball. The other result is telling of how the season progressed: Aaron Judge became the Next Big Thing, while Mancini continued to produce at a respectable clip while not maintaining his early-season breakneck pace.

Fans of both teams should feel fortunate to have quality young players, and a fair question is what to expect of them in the future. Since 1970, position players to debut at age 25 have produced wins with some consistency:
Among position players that reached the Majors at age 25, most realize a growth in fWAR over their first 3-4 seasons, then slowly taper off as they enter their mid-30s. The best stick around and continue to add 2-win value to their teams, while the others begin to retire.

In 2017, Trey Mancini's 1.8 fWAR was below the average for 25-year-old rookies in the last 37 years. He showed potential and the Orioles likely expect him to progress to providing 2- to 3-win value over the next few years. That would make Mancini a valuable and low cost member of the Baltimore Orioles. Aaron Judge, for comparison, put up an 8.2 fWAR season (hitting 52 home runs helps; ask Chris Davis). Judge is well above the average 25-year-old rookie, and pending a huge collapse, the Orioles can expect to have to deal with one of the game's best players for the foreseeable future.

To further illustrate the performance of Mancini and Judge relative to their 25-year-old rookie counterparts, we can look at a boxplot distribution of fWAR from 25-year-old rookie position players:
This is slightly more favorable to Mancini. It appears that the average fWAR from 25-year-old rookies is weighted up by the outliers like Aaron Judge, while the median performance is only just above what Mancini provided the Orioles in 2017. Mancini is well within the average range of players debuting at his age. Even if he's not Aaron Judge, Orioles fans should feel secure that the team has a capable young player who should produce in the outfield for some time.

24 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #7)

Once the Orioles stop playing, we begin playing around with the roster and look toward the next year. The Depot's Blueprint Series tries to take a well focused look as to what the potential solutions are to what ails the club. A subset of our writers take part in this exercise and we invite our readership to submit their own ideas. Below is our third reader submission. This submission is from John.


Hearing patients talk about "blowing up" or "rebuilding" underestimate the difficulty and pure luck that is involved with trading a known commodity for unproven prospects. So this blueprint will be based on making a quality baseball team that will compete in 2018. Lets go position by position in this breakdown.

Catcher- Thank you Wellington Castillo for a great season and we wish you the best as you sign a multi-year deal with another team (preferably a National League one). Caleb Joseph had a renaissance of hitting after his RBI-less year and provides above average defense. He is a tremendously underrated player. Chance Cisco has been one of our top prospects for the past 3 years and he is ready for MLB pitching. Caleb should begin the season as the starter and allow for a slow transformation of Cisco to be our primary starter by the end of the year.

First Base- Chris Davis is signed for a very long time. He isn't going anywhere. No one is going to take on his contract unless the Orioles take on a bit of it which is a distinctly NON-Angelos thing to do. The silver lining of having a hitter that bats below the Mendoza line is his gold glove fielding, something that should never be underestimated. The eternal optimist would point out that Davis is a known streaky hitter and hopefully if he makes a few adjustments or gets contact lenses then he could rebound after his terrible season.

Second Base- Jonathan Schoop is young, controlled for two more seasons, and the best overall player on the roster. He is loved by his teammates and management alike and signing him to a long term deal will be significantly cheaper (and a better investment due to his lack of injury history) than Manny.

Third Base- Manny Machado is a superstar. He is a clutch hitter and poetry in motion while playing defense. My fear is that he won't want to stay in Baltimore and will go back to Miami (Jeter would be drooling at the prospect of signing him). Regardless, the Orioles should attempt to sign him to a 5 year, 155 million dollar deal with a player option. They could even sweeten the pot with a player opt-out after year 3. Hopefully the length of the contract would keep Angelos from getting scared of the commitment and the commitment to winning would hopefully re-invigorate the club and the city. Also Mountcastle is about 3 years away from being ready for the Majors.

Shortstop- Tim Beckham is a streaky, sparkplug player who is under team control for a few season at a cheap rate. The errors are upsetting but not every player will be a gold glove. I will accept that this was a good trade by Dan and has solidified a position with an above average player that can be controlled cheaply for a few more years.

Left Field- I was delighted by the hustle and defense of Trey Mancini in left field last year. He often times caught opposing teams off-guard with a great throw or a great catch. Its troubling that a rookie was our most patient hitter and he will hopefully be an Oriole for a long time coming.

Center Field- Adam Jones is the heart and soul of this team. He will most likely resign and remain in Baltimore for the entirety of his career. I foresee a statue of him one day as I walk into Camden yard. He is getting older and can no longer handle a 160 game schedule.

Right Field- Austin Hays epitomizes the city of Baltimore and has become a fan favorite. He is tough, hard working, likable, and constantly proving nay-sayers wrong. He will begin the season and have a mix and match with an OF free agent (more on that later) and will be moved to CF to let Adam have a day off.

Designated Hitter- ANYONE EXCEPT TRUMBO. Team chemistry is as important to have a winning club as good defense and pitching. Our season ended when he was hit with the second pie and went on to complain. If he was hitting 40+ home runs and batting over .300 then being a stick in the mud would be acceptable. You can either be no fun or no good, not both. You could see the energy and fight just leave the team after that day. Luckily he has only 2 years left at a not outrageously terrible price tag. He must be traded at all cost. We already have Chris Davis, there is no need for him.

Free agent hitters
-Jayson Werth for 1 year. This is a classic low risk, high reward Dan Duqette signing. Jayson will come cheap after a disappointing season for the Nationals. I think that coming to a hitter friendly park would allow for him to rebound and have a productive offensive season.
-Howie Kendrick for 2 year deal. Howie Kendrick should be our starting DH next season, with the occasional day in the outfield to give one of the starters a day off. He is an extremely effective hitter who would provide more veteran leadership to the team and whose personality will mesh very well for the established core players.

Starting pitchers
-There is good news and bad news with the starting pitching. The good news is we have two starters that are young, controllable, and could develop into an Ace. The bad news is that we have nothing else. We have 60% of our rotation empty. At this rate we would garuntee lose 60% of our games (a similar statistic to when Ubaldo and Miley took the mound towards the end). The first no brainer move is to resign Tillman to a one year deal. I believe that he never fully healed and rushed himself back when he saw the struggles of the team only to worsen the situation. The most important signing of the offseason would be C.C. Sabathia. I hope we can lock him in at 2 years and 22 million. Having a proven leader in the rotation could hopefully help the inconsistency problems that have plagued Bundy and especially Gausman. The second free agent signing should be Alex Cobb. He will most likely cost 35 million over 3 years. He has already had Tommy John and is one of the most consistent pitchers on the market. A one year minor deal to Derek Holland would also be a great insurance policy for Tillman.

Relief pitching
- Nothing should change. Don't rob from peter to pay paul.

23 October 2017

Cup of jO's: BORAS Contract Pitching Model Accuracy

I have seen some off-site comments speaking negatively about the perceived accuracy of the BORAS pitching model contracts.  Now, these comments do not find their way here, so I have yet to really address them, but briefly.

2015/16 Model: R2 = 0.81
2016/17 Model: R2 = 0.87
Overall: R2 = 0.84

What does all of this mean?
Half of the contracts projected by BORAS to be above 8 MM per year are accurate within 1.7 MM.  The entire range of contract project misses are right on the mark to a miss of 7.1 MM (Jeff Samardzija).

Each year, the model is new.  Each year, the model assumes a certain growth rate of contracts.  Recently, there has been no growth in contract money, so the model projects cost per win to not go up this year.  The model also does not do anything to make up for lost time due to injury.  In other words, it would value a pitcher who lost a year to an injury to be equal in value that particular season as a pitcher who logged in 200 IP of replacement level work.

The intent of the model was to eliminate potential biases and see how close a model that knows very little can hit the mark.  So far, each iteration has done well.  We shall see what this season brings.


I have seen in some insulated message boards and argument about my use of AAV as the way to look at this model.  The reason why I use AAV and not total contract is because it is less applicable.  Putting the two together, from my perspective, is more or less an academic exercise because we get things like a 1.2 year contract.

However, if you do choose to go that route and want to see the accuracy of a contract with terms like 1.2 year at 12.6 MM per year, then for the pitching models they have a cumulative r2 of 0.87.  The is a better fit than the AAV as you would expect by adding a second meaningful variable.  However, I do not see 0.87 being meaningfully different than 0.84 in this context.

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #6): DJ Play My Song

Once the Orioles stop playing, we begin playing around with the roster and look toward the next year.  The Depot's Blueprint Series tries to take a well focused look as to what the potential solutions are to what ails the club.  A subset of our writers take part in this exercise and we invite our readership to submit their own ideas.

Below is our second reader submission.  I have edited it for clarity.  If I have been too extreme with my editorial skills, we will surely see the author complain in the comments. Our second submission is from S.L. Siler.


For this exercise, I’m buying out JJ Hardy and Wade Miley. Miley makes you think a little because of the lack of dependable starting pitching on the roster and the fact that outside of the control issues he was ok. He missed bats as well as ever and his velocity was also as good as it ever was. There are likely better options for the 11.5 million difference between the option salary and the buyout.

I’m tendering contracts to all of the arbitration eligible players. All of these are pretty straightforward
decisions, although lingering injury issues do make Zach Britton’s salary a bit concerning.

So now we get to pre-arbitration players already on the team. I’m going with a youth movement here. Dylan Bundy is obvious. Trey Mancini, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens will be on the team as well, no surprise. Gabriel Ynoa is the #5 starter. Anthony Santander needs to at least start the season on the club, so here’s there as well. Now for the fun part, Tanner Scott is the second lefty in the bullpen (Bleier is AAA depth). Chance Sisco is a platoon catcher along with Joseph. Austin Hays is in RF except and will fill in at CF when Jones is taking routine rest days. DJ Stewart is a part-time LF, playing against most righties (Joey Rickard is AAA depth) . On days Stewart is playing, Mancini will be at DH or 1B and Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo will get the day off. Lucas Long is the first man up in AAA to spot start or eat innings in relief.

Payroll Remaining: 37.62 million

I didn’t leave too many holes but we still need two starting pitchers, a reliever, and a utility infield. Fortunately there are some excellent options in my price range.

Starting Pitchers
Tyler Chatwood 10.47/year, 4 years
Alex Cobb 10.36/year, 3 years

Juan Niscasio 7/year, 3 years

Utility Infielder
Eric Sogard 9.5/year, 2 years

I think this creates a stronger 25 man roster top to bottom than 2017. Alex Cobb and Tyler Chatwood are clear upgrades to Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley. Chatwood saw a velocity spike last season and could be coming into his own as he further distances himself from Tommy John surgery. Plus at 28, he’s one of the youngest free agent options available. Cobb had a good season and will also be further removed from injury. Gabriel Ynoa still needs to develop his change-up as more than just a show-me pitch, but the mid-90’s fastball with life and slider combo will play. He doesn’t have to do much to be a major improvement over the ghost of Chris Tillman (who was allowed to pitch most of the season with a changed arm slot and reduced spin rate for some reason).

The bullpen is a real strength if Zach Britton recovers anything near his old form. The addition of Juan Nicasio who has been excellent since has move to the bullpen, allows Buck to use Darren O’Day as a RH specialist (his best role). Tanner Scott can be eased into the Majors as a LOOGY/mop-up guy. Miguel Castro is your long man/jack of all trades.

As for the position players, one of the things I tried to achieve is the ability to give guys more rest. Adam Jones at this point needs a game off a week at least. Hays can play CF in those games. When Jones is playing, Hays and Santander can split RF starts. When Hays is on the bench he can be a late inning defensive replacement in any OF position (I think he’s better defensively than Jones at this point). 

In LF, my goal is to not have Mancini play out there most of the time. He was better than expected, but his arm is weak (albeit accurate), and his speed limits his ceiling there. DJ Stewart is not a name on the lips of most Orioles fans, but the former first round pick is living up to his draft status after a rough year or two. Without doing a full prospect write-up, I’ll make a quick case for him. Stewart had a weird, crouched batting stance when drafted that most scout thought wouldn’t play against pro competition. Either he resisted changing it or the Orioles let him keep it and he struggled. He wasn’t getting to any power with the wood bat. In 2016 he bought into a change and by mid-season this year he finally got comfortable with a new batting stance (he said in an interview that he finally could have an AB where he wasn’t thinking about cues for his stance). He had an .859 OPS this season in Bowie, and added 20 steals while only getting caught 4 times. He hit righties to the turn of a .892 OPS and had a .952 OPS after the all-star break. He has the most advanced approach at the plate of all the Orioles’ prospects and while he’s not a defensive whiz, he was much better this season and scored high marks with Clay Davenport and Baseball Prospectus’ MILB defensive metrics. DJ Stewart can play LF against RH pitchers and allow for rotating off days for Trumbo, Davis, and Mancini. 

Having a solid utility option like Eric Sogard will allow for Manny, Schoop, and Beckham to get rest when needed. Sogard plays a great 2B, a solid third, and can fake it at SS. He brings a different type of bat to the Orioles line-up. He had the lowest swinging strike rate in the majors last year at 3.3%. He only swung at pitches outside of the strike zone 18.5% of the time, a significant plate discipline improvement from previous seasons, leading me to believe that he can replicate his strong 2017 campaign. The reduction in swings at bad pitches also led to his highest line drive% and highest hard hit% of his career.

In conclusion, the team gets much younger without punting 2018. The line-up will benefit from the additions of OBP guys Sisco, Stewart, and Sogard. The bullpen will be deeper and throw harder with the additions of Nicasio and Scott. The rotation adds a solidifying third starter, and a young fourth starter with great velocity and some upside. The outfield defense improves with no Smith, no OF appearances for Trumbo, and less Mancini.

20 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #5): Play The Veterans

Once the Orioles stop playing, we begin playing around with the roster and look toward the next year.  The Depot's Blueprint Series tries to take a well focused look as to what the potential solutions are to what ails the club.  A subset of our writers take part in this exercise and we invite our readership to submit their own ideas.  You have until October 22 to submit one yourself to CamdenDepot at gmail.

Below is our first reader submission.  I have edited it for clarity.  If I have been too extreme with my editorial skills, we will surely see the author complain in the comments.

Our first submission is from H. Davis.


Okay, let’s be real before I get to the business. A $155 million payroll will not get this done.  But it’s fun to try.

My expectation is everyone who could be back on some form of an option won’t be. Welington Castillo would be a fool to not decline his $7 million player option as he is obviously the best offensive catching option on the free agent market. Declining the club options on both J.J. Hardy and Wade Miley is necessary. Hardy should be able to find a starting job for another team (ala the Padres) and Miley needs to rebuild value back as a bullpen arm. The Orioles do not have the time to wait for this.

All of the seven arbitration eligible players will be offered contracts including Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Caleb Joseph, and Tim Beckham. After arbitration raises, that'll leave about $41.5 million to use in free agency. Now the fun begins. (113.5 MM)

“Reloading” the rotation…

The last thing the Orioles need this year is another revolving door of a rotation. Currently, I’d argue the SP 1 and SP 3 spots, filled with Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, are written in with pen (as Buck would say) and Gabriel Ynoa is penciled in for now as the SP 5. but I argue that should only be a possibility in case of injury or lack of production.  Of the 41.5 million available, I would expect 25 million to be spent improving the rotation next year.  Now could that afford one front of the line starter? Sure.  But we would still need about one to two more after that. So Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are out of our price range.  The spread should be two starters each at 10-12 MM AAV for 2018 and one for 5-8 MM AAV for 2018.

Using the given updated BORAS projections, I’d sign:
CC Sabathia: 2 years, $23 million ($11.5M AAV)
Lance Lynn: 2 years, $18.4 million ($9.2M AAV)
Hector Santiago: 1 years, $4 million ($4M AAV)
Total 2018 Costs: 24.7 MM
This rotation setup brings a LOT of question marks.  Can CC Sabathia replicate his 2017 season and be the needed veteran presence in the rotation? Can Lance Lynn transition to the hitter-favored American League?  Can Hector Santiago bounce back from a god-awful injury-plagued season? Those are a lot of question marks.  No doubt it can bring some stability.  This keeps Castro and Ynoa out of the rotation and makes them depth pieces.  I’d be very Duquettian in that I would attempt to bring back Tillman as a NRI and see if Henderson Alvarez and Tyson Ross would be interested in auditioning as NRIs as well. This rotation meets my goal of coming below my $25 MM budget for improving the rotation as well. (138.2 MM)

“Refining” the lineup...

With about $16.8 million left, the priority needs to be adding one (or two) left-handed hitting role players.  With a significantly right-handed hitting lineup, an additional lefty is useful to have either platooning or coming off the bench.  The best five candidates are Curtis Granderson, Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Carlos Gonzalez, and (unlisted on the BORAS model) Ben Revere.  I think the best option of the group given is Granderson (12.7 M AAV) for his required contract range and consistency.  He would represent another great clubhouse presence and a role player to strengthen the daily lineup. Carlos Gonzalez would be an intriguing candidate IF two things which to occur; 1) Mark Trumbo was moved and 2) he was still available on the market as late as mid-February. I think both Dyson and Jay will require multi-year deals which if I am the front office have little interest in right now.

One of biggest glaring holes on our bench is the lack of a reliable bench player.  My advice would be to follow the following steps:
  • One, pursue a super utility player in the Rule 5 draft (which I would do anyway).  
  • Two, give both Steve Wilkerson and Luis Sardinas a Spring Training invites to see how they look in a utility roll.  
With our rotation concerns and budgetary concerns, acquiring a good, all-around bench role player with be difficult.  Names like Jed Lowrie and Martin Prade come to mind but would come at a cost.  Unfortunately, an in house candidate may be the best alternative. (151.4 MM)

"Retrofitting” an already strong bullpen…

With an already strong core, why not improve that core.  My last move would be adding an additional left-handed reliever to bolster the pen.  Fernando Abad had a decent 0.5 WAR season which is definitely worth (2 years, $9 MM).

In Summary:
CC Sabathia 2 years $23 million $11.5M AAV
Lance Lynn 2 years $18.4 million $9.2M AAV
Hector Santiago 1 year $4 million $4M AAV
Curtis Granderson 1 year $12.7 million $12.7M AAV
Fernando Abad 2 years $9 million $4.5 M AAV
Steve Wilkerson minor league, 1 year $550,000 $0.55 AAV
A final total brings me out to 42.45 million in additions to the final roster. I went over by less than 1 million dollars! (draws pinky finger to mouth.)

After everything, the Orioles end up with this 25-man roster...

A Starting Infield of:
C: Caleb Joseph 1B: Chris Davis 2B: Jonathan Schoop SS: Tim Beckham 3B: Manny Machado

A Starting Outfield of:
LF: Trey Mancini CF: Adam Jones RF: Austin Hays

A standard model DH:
DH: Mark Trumbo

And a more respectable bench:
OF Curtis Granderson C: Chance Sisco UTL: Steve Wilkerson COF/DH: Anthony Santander

A balanced rotation:
SP: Kevin Gausman SP: CC Sabathia SP: Lance Lynn SP: Dylan Bundy SP: Hector Santiago

A strong bullpen:
RP: Zach Britton RP: Darren O'Day RP: Brad Brach RP: Mychal Givens RP: Miguel Castro
RP: Richard Bleier/Donnie Hart RP: Fernando Abad

I believe the additions can bring more solidity to the rotation and the bench while adding to our strength. My last advice for the Orioles to not hold back.  Be wise but not fearful of adding to the already present team.  IMO, I would prefer to add a bigger name like Darvish but know the cost would not be had with our limits.  I imagine after under going this exercise that Duquette will do a lot to made improvement through the trade market.  I do expect for two free agents to be signed to fill in the rotation, but I do feel that one may be added via trade (hello Scott Kazmir or Ian Kennedy).  Subtracting Trumbo would be boon to team for many reasons as well.  It’s hard to say what the future holds, heck if one or two of these guys is signed by the Orioles I’d take that as a victory.  

19 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #4): Coach Them Up

Per Camden Depot tradition, a number of writers write up their blueprints for the upcoming offseason. Here are the rules and the BORAS contract numbers.

Like the rest of the writers, I would decline the player options for JJ Hardy and Wade Miley. Wade Miley had a terrible season last year, and I don’t think he has good enough stuff to be a starter in the American League. JJ Hardy has failed to play more than 120 games in a season since 2014, and had a terrible .217/.255/.323 line. I can’t justify paying him an extra $12M to put up those kinds of numbers.

I would tender all of the Orioles arbitration eligible players’ contracts. There has been some debate over whether to tender Britton a contract, but I don’t recommend dumping one of the best relievers in 2015 and 2016 simply due to having a terrible 2.89 ERA in 2017. That stated, the Orioles know more about Britton’s health than myself, and I could change my mind if his health was a concern.
By decree of Jon, the Orioles projected payroll has been set at $155 million. The Orioles have $53 million committed in 2018, and MLBTR projects the Orioles to spend another $55 million in arbitration. I’m not a fan of the MLBTR arbitration model, but it’s an objective way to determine arbitration salaries. In addition, $2.5 million goes towards buyouts. This leaves me eleven players and $45.5 million to complete the roster.

Backup Catcher

I think the best way to start something like this is give people what they're really interested in and talk about the backup catcher. The Orioles have Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco, so one could be persuaded to go into 2018 with just these catchers. However, I’m not convinced that Sisco is ready for MLB right now, and even still the Orioles need some help in Norfolk. So, I’m going to suggest adding Orioles’ favorite Francisco Pena to the club on a minor league deal. Ideally, Pena would be the backup catcher until Sisco is ready for a promotion, but it’s possible that the Os will decide to promote Sisco regardless because of the importance of this upcoming season, before a number of key Orioles hit free agency.


I’d have liked to sign a player to play right field so that I could store Austin Hays in Norfolk. This would give the 2018 Orioles some depth and give Hays a bit more seasoning before he goes to the majors. Adding Lorenzo Cain would make a good deal of sense, as he could play RF in 2018 and take over CF from Adam Jones in 2019. The problem is that I’m not willing to go to 5/90 in order to add him. Other decent defensive options like Dyson, Gomez and Jackson are projected to earn more money than I’d be willing to spend. Curtis Granderson is getting to be too old and slow to be effective in the majors, and Carlos Gonzalez is unable to hit left-handed pitching or have success on the road. I’m going to suggest starting the season with an outfield of Trumbo/Jones/Rickard/ Santander. Ideally, Hays will start the season in Norfolk, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Orioles call him up to the majors to play right field.


The Orioles already have a decent infield/dh with Mancini, Davis, Schoop, Beckham and Machado. However, Beckham had his huge month in 2017 against poor pitchers and I’m not sure that I want him as a starter. That’s why I’m going to recommend going after Moustakas for 3/34.

I can understand why BORAS has Moustakas receiving less than I’d expect. He was injured in 2016, has limited defensive range and is only a good offensive player. If his range gets worse and can’t play 3B, then he’d be yet another addition to the Orioles collection of 1B/DH type players. Having four of those guys is not a good thing. Still, he was able to show significant power in Kansas City and will still be in his prime for the length of this contract. He has decent plate discipline, isn’t terrible against left handed pitching and may see significant improvements in a hitter-friendly stadium like Camden. It’s hard to find a player with his offensive abilities that isn’t a 1B/DH that will earn just $10M. I expect him to get a richer deal than BORAS expects and for him not to fit into the Orioles’ budget.

Adding Moustakas pushes Machado to shortstop and lets Beckham become a poor mans’ Ben Zobrist – especially if he can play a passable center field. This would allow him to get a significant amount of playing time and keep other players fresh. He could also play a good bit of right field until Hays is called up.

Starting Rotation:

The Orioles current starting rotation is Gausman and Bundy, with minimal help available in Norfolk so clearly the Orioles need to focus on this.

It would make sense for the Orioles to go after one of the top arms on the market – either Darvish or Arrieta. However, I don’t see the Orioles taking that big of a risk. I think signing Rick Nolasco, Jaime Garcia and Chris Tillman is a more plausible scenario.

Ricky Nolasco has not had such good performance over his last contract. In the four year period, his best ERA was 4.42 and last year he had a 4.92 ERA and a 5.10 FIP. In 2017, he had ok numbers (wOBA of .376 or about average) when left handed batters put the ball into play but had a poor 14.3% k-rate and an 8.2% walk rate. Against right handed batters, he had a strong 22% k-rate to a 6.6% walk rate, but they had a .487 wOBA against him – ranking last out of 56 qualified pitchers.

The reason why he’s an interesting pitcher is that he has good enough stuff to strike lefties out. His splitter has a 22.5% swinging strike rate against lefties. He’s able to get a decent amount of swinging strikes with his slider and knuckle curve. He just can’t seem to convert his success at getting swinging strikes early in the count to getting swinging strikes when the batter already has two strikes.

Part of the problem is that left-handed batters were able to put his splitter into play at very high rates in 2017. Part of the problem is that left-handed batters swung at pretty much every slider and sinker he threw in the strike zone. Part of the problem is that his splitter has a higher swinging strike percentage without two strikes than with two strikes. If you can just find the minor tweak that lets him have success with two strikes, then he’ll be dangerous against lefties.

Against right-handed hitting, he just needs to throw his splitter more often. His two-pitch repertoire of fastballs and sliders seems to be enough to get him strikeouts, but not enough to avoid getting drilled. Make opposing batters guess a bit more about what’s coming, and they should hit him less.

He hasn’t performed well where it counts over the past four years, but he does have good enough stuff to be successful. In the worst case scenario, he averaged nearly 5.5 innings per start in 2017 and over 6 in 2016, which suggests he can at least eat innings. For 2 years and $16 million, that seems fair enough. If he didn’t have issues, he’d be earning more than $16M a year.

Next, the Orioles should sign Jaime Garcia. Garcia is another pitcher that hasn’t had much success lately. He’s been pretty solid against left-handed batters with a 26% k-rate, 4% walk rate and just a .303 wOBA against. His problem is that he didn’t face many of them last year --- just 21.3% of the batters he faced were left handed. His bigger problem is against right handed batters who have a .342 wOBA against him – in part because he has a decent 17.3% strikeout rate and a high 11% walk rate against them.

One of his problems against righties is that he uses six pitches, but not all of them are effective. Resorting to a Fastball, Slider and Changeup repertoire will allow him to use his most effective pitches more often and let him focus on his best pitches.

With the money they have remaining, they should sign Chris Tillman to a one year $4 million deal. BORAS has Tillman signing a two year, $7 million dollar deal, but I can’t see Tillman agreeing to sign a multi-year deal at that low of a salary. Tillman probably isn’t a great option, and I don’t have high hopes for him. But he may have a bounce-back season and is probably a better option than Wright/Wilson.


With Britton, Brach, Givens and O’Day on the team, it doesn’t make sense to add a free agent reliever. I see Bleier, Castro and Hart making up the rest of the bullpen.

Remaining Cash:

At this point, I have about $3.5 million remaining for one bench spot. With that cash, I’d be looking for either a player with good speed that could be used as a pinch runner/defensive replacement and preferably could play corner outfield. Perhaps someone like Craig Gentry? Most likely, this money would be saved to make a move at the trade deadline. It doesn’t hurt to have a bit of extra cash to make a splash at the trade deadline like trading for Hellickson, Parra or Norris.

2018 Roster:

Final Thoughts:

The problem with free agency is that there’s never enough cash to get everything you want. If the Orioles had kept some of their young pitching prospects that have panned out for other teams, their situation would be different and they’d be able to use their cash on Darvish or Arrieta. Instead, I recommended free agents that haven’t had much success lately but that I think have potential. If I’m right about these guys, then they could easily solidify the Orioles rotation, while helping their offense become elite. But many of these guys haven’t been effective the past few years, and that’s probably a bad sign.

18 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #3): Shake It Up

Before we get going, be sure to check out the rules of the game, the BORAS contract numbers, and the blueprints my fellow Depot residents have already posted. Did that? Ok, good. So let's talk about this off season for the Orioles. In many ways, 2018 already feels like the end of an era. It is possible that, after next season, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, Buck Showalter, and Dan Duquette (among others) will no longer be a part of the Orioles' organization. Those men have been integral, in one way or another, in turning around a team mired in 14 straight losing seasons with little reason to think there wouldn't be a 15th. Though the Orioles have not attained the ultimate goal of winning a World Series, and indeed have only won a single playoff series during that time, that the team became even highly competitive is an outcome O's fans would have yearned for around, oh, 2008. It has been a very good run, but barring some sort of dramatic shift in organizational philosophy the team is almost certain to look very different in 2019 than it has for the past half-decade.

In my mind, this should actually be considered a good thing. My template for the Orioles would be to start a rebuild this off season while attempting to sign Machado and Jonathan Schoop to long-term contract extensions. That is problematic for this exercise, however, because trades are the only way to actually complete a rebuild. More to the point, however, I know that the Orioles are not going to do this. Every single thing the team has said has been with an eye on competing in 2018, so unless all of that is just a major smokescreen it is more than safe to say that the Orioles will likely approach this off season in the same way they have approached pretty much every off season under Dan Duquette: avoid huge money free agent deals for pitchers, work around the edges of the roster to build depth, and sign one-dimensional sluggers for triple what anyone else is offering. Ok, that last one might not happen this year. While I don't think this is necessarily the correct path forward for the franchise, I'm very certain that it is the path the team will take. I also do think that it is possible to make this team a contender next season, if probably not a serious threat to win it all. 

Contract Extensions and Options

As a reminder, we have set the projected payroll at $155 million. The Orioles have $53 million committed in 2018, but the big money is tied up in arbitration with seven players being projected to earn a total of $55 million. Given the relatively tight budget after arbitration and the need to significantly upgrade the rotation, major contract extensions are basically out of the question at this point.

The two easiest calls on the roster are the player options on JJ Hardy and Wade Miley. Hardy has a $2 million buyout, but there's just no way the Orioles can pick up his $14 million deal. Miley, who was in the conversation for worst pitchers in the American League last season, has a $12 million option with a $500,000 buyout, so enjoy that cool half a mil, Wade.


Nate outlined the case for non-tendering Zach Britton, and in principle, I agree. The preferable course would obviously be to trade him, but given that the Orioles didn't find a suitable package in July and his price has almost surely only gone down since then, it seems likely that Britton will be on the team in 2018. If I were running the team I'd probably non-tender Britton and maybe even attempt to re-sign him, but I highly doubt the O's will consider this. As a result, I am going to tender Britton his deal for his projected $12.2 million. 

Where I will break with orthodoxy is with Mark Trumbo. The no-trade rule hurts me here, though that would be an avenue I would aggressively pursue if it were available. Trumbo was really, really bad this season, producing a nearly incomprehensible -1.2 fWAR and seeing his power evaporate. Trumbo was 20% worse than the league average hitter and provides negative value defensively. While it's certainly possible that he will bounce back to being around a league average hitter again it also seems possible that he's just done. 2017 was the second season in the last four in which Trumbo produced a negative WAR, and even in his "good" years he's barely a league average player. Additionally, he clogs up the DH/corner OF spots that would be better served by other players.

So, my hot take: DFA Mark Trumbo. I know this is very unlikely to happen and it flies in the face of how the Orioles operate (see Ubaldo Jimenez for more information) but sometimes you need to just admit you made a mistake and move on. Trumbo's contract, in a year in which the market for sluggers cratered, was such a mistake and having him on the roster limits flexibility in addition to having to play him almost every day. This doesn't save any money, of course, but it does open up a needed roster spot.

With all that out of the way, our total payroll left is $42.6 million.

Starting Rotation

What, you thought I'd start with backup catcher? Obviously, the rotation was the biggest issue facing the team in 2017, as it posted the worst ERA of any Orioles team in history. Most of the main culprits will not be coming back in my blueprint, as I bid farewell to Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Miley. This does mean, though, that three rotation spots need to be filled. The big fish are Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, but I think it's very unlikely the Orioles pursue either for a variety of reasons. What I think is more likely is that the Orioles go after slightly better than average guys that can provide solid innings in the 3/4 spots in the rotation. The big acquisition here should be Alex Cobb, with a BORAS projection of 3 years, $31 million. Cobb has had trouble staying healthy during his career, which should limit his salary upside, but he is a very good to elite groundball pitcher that consistently beats his mediocre peripherals. He doesn't strike out many hitters and his home run rate spiked in 2017, but the price and fit work well for the O's.

In addition, the Orioles should make a run at Tyler Chatwood, with a BORAS projection of 4/42. This is a more significant commitment than Cobb despite Cobb having the bigger name recognition, but Chatwood is in many ways a younger, healthier version. His 2017 numbers certainly wouldn't predict this kind of contract commitment but there are some pretty good arguments that those numbers don't represent his true talent. First, he pitched in Colorado. At home, he was basically what Chris Tillman was this year: a tire fire. On the road, however, Chatwood was excellent, posting a 3.49 ERA in 77 road innings. While Oriole Park is not exactly a pitcher's haven, it is certainly no Coors Field, so I'd expect a stronger performance in 2017 as long as he gets out of Denver. Second, his walk and homer rates spiked but he didn't give up harder contact and he generated similar swing rates to the rest of his career. While I don't know if I'd call this a fluke I also don't think it's necessarily something that will automatically repeat. Like Cobb, Chatwood excels at generating ground balls, and at age 27 there is potentially room for growth in the strikeout department. This is a somewhat risky move, but there's a lot to like about Chatwood outside of Colorado.

Finally, I'd take a flyer on Derek Holland (BORAS 1/1.5). Holland is a lefty starter, and the Orioles have consistently said they really want one (which is a whole other discussion, but maybe another time). Holland was, well, bad as a White Sox this year, but that works in our favor as his market will probably not be robust. Additionally, there are some things to like, as most of his rate stats other than walks and homers (this is becoming a disturbing thing) stayed mostly constant. I don't think Holland is good, but he can be a 5th guy making a tenth of what Wade Miley would have made so I'll call that a win. The Orioles do have other internal options like Gabriel Ynoa and Miguel Castro, but I'd give Holland a shot to win that job out of spring.

Amount Remaining: $22.6 million


The bullpen was good last season, if not quite as good as it's been in the past, and better health from Zach Britton could be a huge improvement on its own. I leave the bullpen essentially unchanged from 2017, with Ynoa as a long man/swing starter. I personally do not believe in Miguel Castro and think he's in for serious regression in 2018, but the Orioles very clearly like him and I doubt they would send him to AAA, so he stays as the 6th inning guy. The one change I'd make is to replace Donnie Hart with Tanner Scott. Scott had a nice year in Bowie in 2017 and he brings a big-time strikeout arm to the pen, something the Orioles lack outside of Mychal Givens. I'd also take a look at non-roster guys, but there are no major bullpen additions in my blueprint, with Givens, Ynoa, Castro, Scott, and Richard Bleier making a combined $2.7 million.

Amount Remaining: $19.9 million


Most of the infield is set, with Machado, Schoop, Tim Beckham, and Chris Davis all returning. At catcher, we are assuming that Wellington Castillo will not pick up his 2018 option, and as a result will leave as a free agent. Castillo was solid enough, but there are too many holes to fill on the club to spend anything significant at the catcher position, especially because I'll be calling up top prospect Chance Sisco. While there are still some questions about his defense, his bat has the potential to be above average for a catcher, and it's not as though Castillo was a defensive whiz either. This will probably mean that Caleb Joseph sees more significant playing time this season, but with his offensive improvement in 2017 and his generally solid defense that seems fine.

My big acquisition for the infield will be Eric Sogard, with a BORAS projection of 2/17. Ryan Flahery has been the utility infielder since the dawn of time, but his usefulness to the team has declined dramatically, culminating in just 23 games played in 2017. Sogard brings a decent bat and above average defense and played second, third, short, and left field for the Brewers last season while racking up 1.9 fWAR. He probably had a career year offensively, but you don't need your utility infielder to post a .393 OBP like Sogard did in 2017. If he only produces his career average of .245/.341/.348 that would a huge bonus, and his left-handed bat gives the Orioles more flexibility as well. Given that there was some discussion about how various players may have run out of gas in September, Sogard playing 4-5 times a week at different positions could be huge.

Amount remaining: $11.5 million


Given my "this will definitely, totally happen" release of Mark Trumbo, there are a lot of interesting options in the outfield. Adam Jones will obviously be a big part of that, but given his defensive struggles in center and overall concerns about losing a step it may be time to move Jones over to a corner. While I don't doubt he would be resistant to this on a personal level, he could be sold on it as a way to save wear and tear on his body as he looks to get his last significant contract after 2018. Jones was actually quite good offensively this year and I think he would be at least average in left field defensively, so I'm making the move. Trey Mancini had a nice year and was better in the field than many thought he would be, but the metrics hated him and improving the outfield defense should be a priority this season. With Trumbo no longer on the team, I'll move Trey over to full time DH.

Right field was manned by a rotating, mediocre at best crew in 2017, but the Orioles have a top 50 prospect who tore up the minors who happens to play in right. So, yeah, maybe let's give Austin Hays a shot. Anthony Santander has to be on the team for at least the first 44 days of the season, and once he goes down the O's could bring up Joey Rickard to replace him, though perhaps Santander does enough to stick around.

This leaves a pretty big issue in center field, of course, which I will solve by signing Jarrod Dyson to a 2 year, $16 million deal. This is clearly below his BORAS projection of 2/25, but given that he is a platoon guy whose main value comes from defense I'm comfortable lowering the projection a bit (look to Luis Valbuena and even Pedro Alvarez last year to see how being a platoon player impacts your market). Indeed, Dyson got a paltry one year, $2.8 million deal last off season despite coming off an arguably better 2016 than 2017.

The big draw, here, is Dyson's defense, which consistently grades out as elite, as well as his speed and baserunning ability. Both defense and baserunning prowess were in short supply in the Oriole outfield last year, and Dyson's skill set would work well in an offense that desperately needs some diversification. Since he is a platoon player, however, I think the O's need one more piece in the outfield, so I'll bring in Peter Bourjos to serve as the right-handed side of the center field platoon. He made $1.5 million in 2017 and I'll give him that same salary for 2018. Bourjos was having a decent season for Tampa Bay before an awful September and brings a similar profile to the table as Dyson, so he is worth a little more than a league minimum type guy. In combination, there's a possibility of +3 WAR center field platoon.

Amount remaining: $0

2017/2018 Off Season Moves

Tyler Chatwood, SP: 4 years, $42 million
Alex Cobb, SP: 3 years, $31 million
Eric Sogard, IF: 2 years, $17 million
Jarrod Dyson, CF: 2 years, $16 million
Peter Bourjos, OF: 1 year, $1.5 million
Derek Holland, SP: 1 year, $1.5 million

2018 Roster

C:  Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Jonathan Schoop
3B: Manny Machado
SS: Tim Beckham
LF: Adam Jones
CF: Jarrod Dyson
RF: Austin Hays
DH: Trey Mancini
Bench: Chance Sisco, Peter Bourjos, Anthony Santander, Eric Sogard

SP: Dylan Bundy
SP: Kevin Gausman
SP: Alex Cobb
SP: Tyler Chatwood
SP: Derek Holland

Bullpen: Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Gabriel Ynoa, Tanner Scott

Final Thoughts

In a vacuum, this would be a fairly underwhelming off season for a team that finished in last place in 2017. That said, what the Orioles have long thrived on is the ability to avoid playing really bad players. They may not have had stars at every position, but the successful Orioles teams of this era rarely gave replacement level guys significant amounts of playing time. In 2017, the Orioles had five offensive players who played relatively significant roles that posted fewer than 1 fWAR. On the starting pitching side, there were four. Simply bringing in players with decent floors would improve the team, and subtracting Trumbo, Miley, Hellickson, Jimenez, and Tillman gives the O's a good chance of enduring fewer of the disastrous outcomes we saw this past season.

I'm not sure this restructured team would be a legitimate World Series threat, but if you squint, you could imagine Machado bouncing back to his +7 WAR self, Chris Davis getting back to being at least somewhat of a threat, progression from Gausman and Bundy, better health for Zach Britton, and suddenly this could be a team with legitimate playoff aspirations. Even if this isn't the off season I'd want if I had my way (and, really, everyone should just listen to me all the time) I think it's about as good as one could expect given the budget constraints facing the team.