01 November 2018

Schrödinger's Farewell

On June 29, 2007, two things happened: Garabez Rosa was having his first professional experiences in the Dominican Summer League within the Orioles organization and I was making my transition from being a regular on the Orioles Baltimore Sun message board to a more fixed residence here at Camden Depot.  That first season, I basically had time on my hands in the midst of running laboratory experiments and was trying to figure out if I actually had anything to offer the local blogging community with the skills I was acquiring in my chosen profession.

As the years passed, I think the answer was indeed yes.  I along with others who came for the ride were able to take this fledgling of a site and turn it into a place where the baseball industry took notice.  I was once offered a position as well as several of my contributors, two of whom actually now work for organizations.  A couple others now work fully professionally at media outlets like The Athletic.  Others have taken off into the sunset to join sites like Baseball Prospectus or to form their own, like 2080 Baseball.

That sense of community, that sense of growth and accruing of baseball knowledge meant something to me.  Long ago, I knew as much as I loved baseball, it did not have my heart and for me to go into a field, at the bottom, with terrible pay, that I would need to have that unconditional desire to succeed.  I did not have that.  I had the skills, but not the want.  Nowadays, I lack the want and the database skills and it is something that is impacting the work here as well.  With a more archaic ability to handle data, I rarely get that call out of the blue from someone in baseball wanting to discuss something a little further.  My days as a sounding board are transitioning to days of being a friend.  While I still have a know how for developing methodology and planning how to solve problems, it reduces the imprint we leave when we find an ever growing inability to actually carry out those goals.

In addition to that, I have found a lack of community in the local blog ecosystem.  Good work and thoughts can be found at places like Orioles Hangout, Baltimore Sports and Life, Camden Chat, Eutaw Street Report, and others.  That said, the musketeer nature that existed when I began this romp with Camden Crazies, Dempsey's Army, and others is no longer there.  Back then, we were excited about our own little dirt hills along with being confused and exhilarated that we had any impact.  It felt a little revolutionary.  It felt a little subversive.  It was fun.  Days over 100 views were celebrated.  Back then to know one day we would count by thousands, or more if it strikes the right vein, would have seemed unimaginable.

As time passed, frustration and poor communication have littered this part of the woods with egg shells.  The internet has rowdy interactions at times and, for me, I basically assumed it as such.  When a message board community made fun of me for having a five minute ALS water challenge video where I discussed how the disease has impacted my family and how important sustained federal funding is for diseases like this, those attacks were tolerated by my site runner peers.  But, again, that cruelness and indifference is something that just often comes with this territory.  Though it was surprising to find the same site coddling local media.  If you criticize the process taken by a local writer for an established media site, the site runners for that message board community deletes those comments and openly acknowledges that they censor criticism of those writers because they fear that their dirt hill of a site will be adversely impacted by an angry sportswriter.  That undermining of taking a journey of truth, taking oneself oh so seriously when what we do on this edge of the internet is fairly without any gravity, any importance.  Yes, we can leave an imprint, but you cannot eat that, you cannot accrue interest.  To defend so heartily this mound of dirt, to me, shows a lack of awareness of where we exist.  At the very least, that sort of catering finds us in a much different environment than what we were all doing a decade ago.

To a greater extent, I think that belief in self-importance infects the sports writing world and easily spreads the contagion.  Branding is something that has emerged intensely over the past dozen years.  At first, it was a way to stylize your writing, to stand out amongst all the others putting their electricity to write words.  Jason Parks, to me, most memorably stamped his Brand while discussing prospects for Baseball Prospectus along with an equally adept Kevin Goldstein.  Ice cream in extra innings became a thing.  Prospect language shortly became quite sexually explicit in an ironic tone that now looks incredibly dated.  I think their success made others think they needed to more fully embrace the concept of Brand.  Eventually, though, I think Brand made a transition from style to lifestyle, from accessory to being the main article of expression.  The writers replaced themselves with the Brand they created.

Misuse of science is an area that annoys me greatly.  Writers who choose the brand of being evidence-based, science-first writers are almost to a rule either misleading you or are woefully blind to their own limitations.  It is frightful to see a sportswriter proclaim on twitter about how he knows about a topic because he read a peer-reviewed scientific journal article.  I mean, it is good to read those and try to comprehend them, but a smart baseball writer would use that to gain some background to then go and intelligently interview an expert in that field.  I mean, I am a toxicologist.  I know a lot about that.  I can read a journal article and slash it to pieces if it is done poorly because I have decades of experience with it.  You hand me something in a related field with a technique I am unfamiliar with like urban ecology, I can probably fake it, but before I make any grand statements or encourage people to do anything about it I better go talk to someone who actually knows about it.

Credibility is a major issue in baseball writing.  People think they know about medicine and arm injuries by talking to a carnival barking throwing guru who dabbles in science like an alchemist would.  People think any complex issue, such as sexual abuse and ex-convict reintegration, is a binary argument where you must choose a side instead of recognizing that there is nuance in a horrible situation.  There is a fear of not knowing when so much of life is not known.  Writers seem to want to avoid that aspect that we all tend to know is true about the things they discuss.  That uncertainty is ignored, papered over, denied.  The idea that there can be growth on a subject, a thinking process, a change of opinion appears quite foreign in this field.  Few acknowledge ever being wrong and most try to emphasize how they were in the know before anyone else.

As a writer, I have been pulled in directions that I do not wish to go in.  I try to keep true to my principles and move forward.  I have had material censored, understandably, from MASN and then got it published, understandably, without a word changed at ESPN.  When I see room for growth or simply intellectual laziness in other writing, I try to critically criticize that.  I tried over these dozen years to truly keep in step with the goal of describing reality.  To try my best to know what is really going on.  Brand conflicts with that.  Brand now owns some.  I think, many people have lost their way or have become disenchanted with it.  I think a lot of writers are lost.

The disillusionment, isolation, and frustration of writers is expected.  This market is one that exploits those who can write and those who inexplicably think they can write.  In 2011, ESPN came to me and asked me if I was interested in having ESPN affiliate themselves with Camden Depot.  Their initial offer was for me to put in a few months, writing two to three posts a day, and working up to doing a once a week item for the main site.  I bristled at the volume and negotiated a once a day, five days a week, obligation.  They agreed.  I inked the contract while watching Robin Hood Men in Tights around the same time a SEAL team had arrived at Osama Bin Laden's compound.

It seemed like a good deal.  ESPN is a known entity in sports writing.  It would add credibility, maybe some doors would open.  Maybe this would lead to an interesting path.  However, I also could see the landscape and recognize that cheap writing was plentiful with ESPN trying to figure out how to get in on it.  That is why I held back and refused to commit anything more than an article a day, five days a week.

No money was mentioned except for a $75 flat rate per article for the home site, a fee I never bothered collecting when I wrote for them.  At other places like Bleacher Report, SBN, FanSided, etc. the pay scale is worse.  Writers put in hours and hours often thinking that maybe this is a path for them.  Often they find relief in the few that break through, a few that never should have been using it as a path to journalism.  Often they do not see the difference in their own ability and that of those who graduated.  So what you mostly have is an exploited class of effectively unpaid workers.  They get stuck in the process and prevent themselves from other opportunities that could elevate them.

At the Depot, I never promised any opportunity. I noted that we had a platform, but that I refused to take a dime for it.  In a dozen years, we never accepted any money in writing this site.  I never got paid.  I never put on an advertisement where I or my contributors earned any income.  I felt it necessary to present this site as purely academic.  To present the site to writers as something you do when you feel compelled to do it organically as opposed to feeling that you have to write.  The idea was that this site would be one of passion and a search for reality.  To figure out how things worked at the writer's own leisure.  I think that perspective made it easier for long term writers to write and hone their abilities.  I think it let passionate writers driven to become professionals in this field to become that.  I think the model enabled writers to get their head up and notice other opportunities in the field that could take them higher.

I think that model worked and still works.  I think that sites like SBN and FanSided are exploitative and immoral even when adults are giving their consent to be used by that system.  Those systems are grinding pyramid platforms with those on top profiting on the toil of writers below.  I would also contend that the greatest issue is not really about pay, but about the amount of work they demand without any intention for the writers to be fairly paid.  This creates conflict, stress, and frustration.  It rises up to making people think these things that are largely unimportant are actually important and can lead somewhere desirable.  And, while the writers are often complicit in their own situation, I would suggest that the audience the sites cater to also share in the exploitation of the writers.

As consumers of these media sites, I think you should care about how your writers are treated.  Maybe I am wrong, but I think you should avoid the most exploitative media entities.  You should be attracted to sites that genuinely push fan writing forward.  You should be attracted to sites that try to pass as much money as possible to their writers without working their writers to the bone.  You should definitely subscribe to local newspaper with solid reporters like Jon Meoli at the Baltimore Sun.  You should try to empower alternative methods to empower writers like the effort with the local Baltimore Athletic site.

Writers are people.  People's time is worth money.  As consumers of media, we should recognize these things.  We should be willing to put our money where our eyes go.  We should be supportive of good, genuine work.  We should hesitate to benefit groups that are the worst actors in this field.  These are my thoughts.  Maybe, these thoughts are wrong.  They do not feel wrong today.

While this final post is one where I step up on a soapbox and wish for things to be different, I must state that this has been a wonderful ride.  I met a lot of cool people.  I learned so much over the last decade and it has vastly changed my perspective.  I have developed such a greater appreciation for those who write as those who are in the industry.  Their skill and ability are often overshadowed by a cutting comment by those on the outside who truly do not appreciate what it takes to get to this level or how the inside world of baseball almost always is light years ahead of what is happening outside.

ESPN treated us well.  They demanded a crazy and exploitative structure like SBN or FanSided, but let us do our own thing and at our own pace.  The Sweetspot experiment has unraveled over the years, neglected, but those first few years it was truly a great time where a lot could happen.  MASN was a fun venture and they let us do things that were not within the criteria of their desire for fan posts.  We ignored the idea of fan posts and, to some extent, changed their format, broadened it for those following.  That said, we pushed boundaries and it was understandable why we eventually amicably split.

The Orioles also did very well by us.  They welcomed us into the press box.  We liked to keep our distance, but the beat crew was always pleasant to us almost to a man.  Roch, Brittany, and Eddie were great.  Jon Meoli came in right when we stopped hitting the games.  Moments on the field and chatting about nuances in baseball with players and front office personnel were rare events, but illuminating and enjoyable.  Being able to get into the underbelly of the stadium for press events was also rare, but great.  Amanda Sarver  and others made our inclusion into events rather seamless.  I am quite thankful for them all.

With this, I bid farewell.  An excellent ride.  Lots of memories to cherish and lessons that I have learned.  With no good reason, the world of baseball opened up to me and let me try to know it.  Now, this time seems done.  Perhaps, my journey will continue in other ways, public and private.  Perhaps, I may even come back to this site in the future.  I doubt I will, but I shall leave the door ajar with the utilities disconnected.

Take care.

31 October 2018

Scattered to the Winds...

As of November 1st, you may find our past writers...

Jon Shepherd - Taking a long walk.
Matt Kremnitzer - Matt left the Depot this past year to join the Athletic - Baltimore.  His writing at his personal site impressed me and I got him to agree to come on about five or six years ago.  He was a great addition and was the leader of the site for a year as a took a break and joined Baseball Prospectus for a failed attempt at creating a data based model for prospects that merged qualitative and quantitative metrics.  Matt can write about anything and make it interesting, which is probably why you should subscribe to the Athletic.
Nate Delong - I found Nate over at Orioles Proving Ground.  He became quite important in carrying on the torch of our podcast, the Camden Highball (which was a drink we created that mixes Orange Crush with what wound up to be your choice of whiskey (the Buck), vodka (the Pearce), or gin (the Jones)).  I believe he left the game.
Patrick Holden - Patrick was more or less the brother at arms with Nate. They both onboarded at the same time and I somehow lodged into my brain they were the same people.  Patrick moved on to a hockey focus and for a few years I kept sending him updates because I could not get my brain to work.
Nick Faleris - I met Nick over at the old Baltimore Sun message board.  I grew tired with the transient nature of comments on a message board, so I created the Depot.  Nick's scouting perspective was a solid addition to the site and he became an equal for several years.  Moving on from the Depot, he has had many hats.  He did some associate scout work for a MLB team, created his own scouting consultation group, led Baseball Prospectus' scouting department for a bit after current Diamondbacks Assistant GM Jason Parks left, and then helped create the new venture 2080 Baseball.
Stuart Wallace - Stuart was brought on from his personal site to the Depot.  He had a great eye for detail and communicated it well for our baseball science push.  We had him for a year or two before he graduated to the Pirates and then promoted as he transitioned to the Reds.
Matt Perez - Matt was a writer's writer.  His posts were heavy and some patience was needed, but he churned out solid work.  He addressed the overwrought concept of There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, identifying how scouting and development improvements have progressively made it easier to project pitchers in comparison to projecting hitters.  He also broke up the 40-60-80 arbitration idea.  He was also the best source of MASN dispute news on the internets.
Patrick Doughterty - Patrick is a great data visualist.  His main claim to fame here was helping me implement out batting order optimization program that took a look at sequencing. Existing optimizers merely looked at each player in the lineup in a vacuum while we decided to see how the players in front of each batter impacted their own ability to drive in runs.  It was one of the last articles that spawned conversations with front office executives.  That used to be a common thing when we started, but the talent in the field has grown astronomically.  It really has been an amazing twelve years of baseball.
Joe Reisel - Joe was our Norfolk connection for many years.  He worked for John Dewan's BIS, logging games with data that helped determine fielding ability and other descriptors of play.
Avi Miller - Avi is a veteran of the golden age of Baltimore baseball blogging and pulled in a short tenure with us before departing for good.  We will always remember him for accidentally purchasing an entire section of tickets off of StubHub.
Elie Waitzer - Waitzer was a solid writer with a good eye for visuals.  He wrote for us for a short bit before dedicating himself back to school and working on a law degree.  Glad my recommendation helped or maybe glad it didn't hurt too much.  His twitter is now defunct.
Jeff Long - Jeff consults for a professional team now.  After he did some platform broadening with us, he went on to Baseball Prospectus where he made quite an impact.  If you do not know his name, then you have not been paying attention.  Funny, his capstone work on tunneling actually echoes something I wrote about years ago that he never read.  His work came in at a different angle and never exactly reflected my abstract hypotheses, but seeing it come to fruition through another path was truly a joy to see.  What he and his co-authors did was well beyond what I imagined.  Now, get on those visual aspects!
Chris Lindsay - Lindsay loved peppering his conversations with obscure European conflicts, which was something only I enjoyed.  He wrote several things for us about the World Baseball Classic.  Last I heard, he was out scouting in the hinterlands.
Daniel Moroz - Moroz read our site, got inspired and delivered Frost King Baseball and then Camden Crazies, which rode the baseball blog boom to stardom.  Moroz was behind the first wave of smart and witty t-shirts, which was overwhelmed by far less witty and more easily accessible t-shirts.  Before he burned out in the 2012 craziness, he wrote for us for a bit.  Every year or two, I asked if he was going to get back into the game.  Always hoping.
Ryan Romano - Ryan popped up on our radar as an incredibly frustrating and overly confidant teenager that peppered our site with criticisms, many valid but all fairly obnoxious.  He grew up and is moving into actual journalism.  He is finishing up at UMD as the editor of their paper, but has done rotations for the Roanoke Times and the Tampa Bay Times (which is where for Sun writer Eddie Encina is now covering the Bucs, I am sure Ryan put a good word in).
Ryan Pollack - The second Ryan came to us from Camden Chat to write in a different format with a different tone as he was crossing platforms.  He has been an active member in the central Texas SABR chapter.  He currently applies his wares at The Hardball Times and Beyond the Box Score.  I think he has a podcast, too.  Or he did.
Andrew Gibson - He never wrote for us, but he contributed on our original podcast format.  After a few years at BIS, he was snapped up from the Pirates and progressed through their system.
Steph Diorio - Steph was our resident cartoonist for a few years.  She is still creating.
Jonathan Bernhardt - Jonathan wrote for us for a very short bit before editors at large realized too his talent.  He moved on to many entities during the sports media online boom and now writes for the Athletic Baltimore site as well as a couple other locales.
Zach Mariner - While in college Zach wrote a few items for us and then graduated on to ESPN where he is now a senior researcher.
Joe Wantz - A solid contributor over the past year.

30 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Pitcher-palooza

As noted before, the BORAS model does not look at relievers, so starting pitching is the final post of the BORAS model blowout this offseason.  Other positions we have covered are:

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

As a reminder, the BORAS model looks at contracts signed from 2013/14-2017/18 in relationship to performance and biological metrics.  Basically, how good were they in the years leading up to the contract, what type of player is he, and how old is he.  Over the years, the model in whole has finished as the most accurate or second most accurate every single year for players who signed multi-year deals above 8 MM per year.  Below those markets and the certainty in the projections decreases significantly.

Below are included several player who have player or team options.  Chris Sale will not be let out of his contract, so there goes a big name.  The same with Carrasco.  David Price will not see in the market what his current contract hands him, so he will stay.  An intriguing name below is Clayton Kershaw.  He has two years and 65 MM left to him on his current deal, but can opt out.  BORAS comes up with his market value as 4/88, which sounds like maybe he should not opt out.  BORAS worries about the missed time Kershaw has experienced over the past few years and his age.

Year Total
Madison Bumgarner 2 24.6
Clay Buchholz 2 17.2
Trevor Cahill 2 19.4
Carlos Carrasco 6 160
Bartolo Colon Invite
Patrick Corbin 7 182
Marco Estrada 1 8.7
Nathan Eovaldi 2 21.4
Doug Fister 1 4.9
Jaime Garcia 1 5.8
Gio Gonzalez 3 43.8
Miguel Gonzalez Invite
Cole Hamels 2 27
Jason Hammel 1 6.3
JA Happ 3 51.6
Matt Harvey 2 12.1
Jeremy Hellickson 1 8.6
Derek Holland 2 15.4
Clayton kershaw 4 88
Dallas Keuchel 5 84
Francisco Liriano 1 3.8
Jordan Lyles 2 9.8
Lance Lynn 3 37.5
Wade Miley 2 17
Matt Moore 1 4.6
Charlie Morton 3 46.2
Martin Perez 1 6.7
Drew Pomeranz 1 8.1
David Price 3 46.5
Garrett Richards 2 14.4
Tyson Ross 2 10.2
Hyun-Jin Ryu 3 29.7
CC Sabathia 2 25.2
Chris Sale 8 286
Anibal Sanchez 2 18.6
Ervin Santana Invite
Hector Santiago 1 2.6
James Shields Invite
Chris Tillman Invite
Josh Tomlin Invite
Adam Wainwright Invite
It appears that the 2018/19 off season will be like the 2016/17 offseason where no truly front end talent is available.

29 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Designated Hitters

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

Yeah, the month is coming to an end, so we are data dumping.

Years Total (MM)
Pedro Alvarez 1 9.1
Nelson Cruz 2 38
Evan Gattis 2 18.2
Victor Martinez Invite

26 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Right Field

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

Just chopping some wood, clearing out the BORAS modeling projections.  Here is right field:
Years Total (MM)
Jose Bautista Invite
Melky Cabrera 1 7.7
Lonnie Chisenhall 3 31.5
Curtis Granderson 1 11
Carlos Gomez 1 8.1
Carlos Gonzalez 2 14.5
Brandon Guyer 1 7.3
Bryce Harper 7 138.6
Jason Heyward 2 22.4
Matt Joyce 1 11
Nick Markakis 2 17.6
Andrew McCutchen 3 45.6
Hunter Pence Invite
Yasmany Tomas 4 46.4
BORAS model really thinks Bryce Harper will get a fairly underwhelming deal in comparison to the murmurings of a 400 MM contract for the past few years.  Some thought the 10/250 Manny projection felt light and, well, a Harper deal of seven years just shy of a 20 MM annual value will result in some tsk-tsking.  Regardless, while he has shown glimmers of brilliance, he also seems to have some shortcomings that undermine that value.

A second interesting note is that BORAS thinks Adam Jones is more valuable than Nick Markakis.  I think a lot of folks will disagree with that.  I ran an unscientific twitter poll a while back and four to one think Markakis will see a better pay day.

My last thought is on Yasmany Tomas, who will not opt out of his deal.  That said, 4/46.4 would not be happening for him.

19 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Centerfield

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

The BORAS model projections for centerfield are a bit more interesting than the other recent ones.  One, it takes a look at what Adam Jones can expect.  Two, I decided to take a gander at two player who are not free agents: Mike Trout and non-centerfielder Mookie Betts.
Years Total (MM)
Gregor Blanco Invite
Rajai Davis Invite
Craig Gentry 1 7.6
Carlos Gomez 1 8.1
Jon Jay 1 8
Adam Jones 2 18.7
Leonys Martin 3 19
Cameron Maybin 1 9
Andrew McCutchen 3 45.6
AJ Pollock 3 38.1
Denard Span 2 20.4
Mike Trout 12 407
Mookie Betts 12 417
Lets talk Adam Jones first.  Last year, I made some favorable assumptions and pegged Jones as looking forward to a 2/22 extension.  I cannot find the series of tweets, but someone tagged him on the projection and he voiced his displeasure at the number.  2018 was not exactly kind to Jones in a few ways, including his performance in the field.  BORAS downgraded him to a 2/18.7 deal.  I have a hard time seeing him accept anything below an annual 10 MM salary, but the market may well dry up.

What is going for him that BORAS does not consider is that he is a good clubhouse presence and he is considered able to play all outfield positions even though his effort or comfort looked very subpar in right field as his season ended.  Jones could find himself a second wind.  He has the bat speed and the other qualities that made him an all star quality player.  Perhaps moving to a corner position will help him.  Maybe focusing on a more contact oriented approach to improve his barrelling.  I do not know.  The only negative is that he has sure slowed down a bit over the years.  His speed never played well on the basepaths, but he was a plus runner.  He now is a 45/50 runner, but maybe that was impacted by overuse and injury.

So...I also looked at Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.  The reason why was because I wondered about Manny Machado's 10/250 projection.  I had thought that perhaps the model, lacking data in the young superstar area, might underproject the Machado deal.  The Trout and Betts projections indicate otherwise.  The 400+ MM deals for Trout and Betts appear to validate the model and suggest that we should expect a monster deal for Machado, but far less than was expected a few years ago.

18 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Left Field

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

And after a little respite, here we go with the next batch.  The BORAS model projections for left field:
Years Total (MM)
Gregor Blanco Invite
Michael Brantley 4 55.2
Melky Cabrera 1 7.7
Rajai Davis Invite
Daniel Descalso 2 18.8
Brett Gardner 2 24.4
Craig Gentry 1 7.6
Carlos Gonzalez 2 14.5
Marwin Gonzalez 1 11
Brandon Guyer 1 7.3
Jon Jay 1 8
Cameron Maybin 1 9
Gerardo Parra 1 5
This group includes a number of players who have been addressed before.  I think the main miss here, as it has all along, is Marwin Gonzalez.  He is so flexible and useful that I imagine he finds himself a larger deal.  He is a poor man's Ben Zobrist or a rich man's Steve Pearce.

As always, once the model sinks below the 10 MM mark, things can get weird.  No, Gentry will not find himself a 1/7.6 MM deal.

12 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Third Base

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

Alright, after being leveled by some respiratory disease for a week, we are back on with the third base installment of the BORAS model.  Some long time readers of the site still think that I call up Scott Boras and get his take, but no.  I have already mentioned it a few times in this series and have gone through some messy bits in years past, but the BORAS model stands for Ballplayer Observation-based Renumeration Assumption System.  The name is a very stretched out attempted to make it BORAS.  So there you go.  Again, I look at the historical relationship between several different performance variables for years prior to signing a contract and the contract itself.  The current model is now a collection of really six models that are split by position and age.  I hope this clears things up.  Go back to the older introduction articles to get more of a history.

The third base batch below contains projections for those who retired as well as a few who have been covered in previous positions.
Years Total (MM)
Adrian Beltre 1 9.7
Asdrubal Cabrera 3 30.9
Josh Donaldson 3 54
Logan Forsythe 1 7.6
David Freese 2 20.6
Marwin Gonzalez 1 13.4
Chase Headley 1 7.4
Jung-ho Kang 2 17.4
Jed Lowrie 4 56.8
Manny Machado 10 250
Mike Moustakas 2 28.6
Eduardo Nunez 1 6.6
Jose Reyes Invite
Andrew Romine 1 5.3
Pabl0 Sandoval 1 6.5
Luis Valbuena Invite
David Freese looks a little bizarre, but he is one of those guys who when skillfully deployed really helps to boost an offense.  For instance, he only netted himself about 300 PA for the Pirates and Dodgers this season, yet he was able to have a 2.1 bWAR.  That kind of quality usually comes with some investment in years and total money from a club.  However, Freese is considered a platoon bat against left handers, which usually limits the market.  Plus, he may now be more of a first baseman than a third baseman, which also limits the market.  A 1/6 or 1.7 deal would be my expectation instead of a 2/20.6.

Some might think Josh Donaldson's 3/54 deal is a bit light.  From 2013-2016, Donaldson was a golden god with an average bWAR of 6.6.  However, 2017 and 2018 were mired with injuries.  That said, he has had a very late season boost since becoming an Indian and could see a team take a chance.  If you completely ignore last season and have him repeat a modest 4 WAR season, then BORAS would change the expectation to 5/115.  Third base, however, is a fairly bountiful position right now in the Majors, but I could see a club tossing out a 4/100 deal to him.

I think the Headley, Kang, Sandoval, and Romine deals are overly kind.  They exist in this little bubble of the model where they it has a hard time discerning whether a player is really worth a contract and it feels fine putting down a 6 or 7 or 8 MM cost to it.  I think all of these guys are more or less invite quality players.

Anyway, this is the third base group.  Come Monday I will be posting left fielders.

05 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Shortstops

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

As I have marched through the model projections, today was one that quite a few folks had circled with some anticipation.  I mentioned the projection on twitter, but here it is in its full glory. Shortstops (aka Manny Machado and some other guys).
Years Total (MM)
Elvis Andrus p58 1 10.5
Asdrubal Cabrera 3 30.9
Alcides Escobar Invite
Eduardo Escobar 1 15.4
Freddy Galvis 2 14
Marwin Gonzalez 1 11
A. Hechavarria Invite
Jose Iglesias 2 22.6
Manny Machado 10 250
Jordy Mercer 2 13
Eduardo Nunez p5 1 6.6
Jose Reyes Invite
Eric Sogard 1 5.9
Machado's value of 10/250 is an astoundingly large contract.  With whispers of a 400 MM deal being considered by the Depot just a year and a half ago, the total value might feel lean.  It is good to remember though that 2017 was a rough offensive year for Manny and this year was a fairly unspectacular defensive one with a shift to Shortstop.  With that in mind, it makes sense that the model is not saying that Machado should be handed a deal that results in the air being sucked out of the industry.

But is the model unable to value machado properly because he is an exceptional talent?  Well, lets consider that by looking at two exceptional players: Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.  I think we can all agree that these guys are stunningly good baseball players.  What does BORAS think about them?
Mike Trout 12/407
Mookie Betts 12/417
That seems to sink that argument for Machado.  Again, one of the murmurs that has followed Machado for years has been when will he go from being one of the 20 best players in baseball to one of the all time greats.  He simply has not gotten there, but he seems to have that potential.  Will a club pay him like an all time great or will they pay him like a current great?

Once you get past Manny Machado, the shortstop position opens up to Asdrubal Cabrera, Eduardo Escobar, and Jose Iglesias.  Cabrera has put in a few good seasons and looks to benefit from those.  Escobar has rebounded nicely from his 2016 season and will probably squeaked out a three or four year deal around 10 MM per instead of the BORAS estimate of 1/15.4 (but who knows?).  Iglesias is fully converting his glove into money, which may or may not pan out.

All in all, looks like a decent set of projections.

04 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Second Base

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

So far, we have looked at catchers and first basemen.  Today is second base.  Again, the BORAS model looks at historical performance and regresses it against contract values.  It is a multivariable, multistep approach.  We have been running the models for several years and they are one of the best projection tools for contract terms for regular players.  Things tend to drop off the table for role players or extreme platoon players.
Years Total (MM)
Asdrubal Cabrera 3 30.9
Daniel Descalso 2 18.8
Brian Dozier 2 28.4
Logan Forsythe 1 7.6
Marwin Gonzalez 1 11
Josh Harrison 2 18
Ian Kinsler 1 8.9
DJ LeMahieu 4 47.2
Jed Lowrie 4 56.4
Daniel Murphy 2 34.4
Eduardo Nunez 1 6.6
Jose Reyes Invite
Sean Rodriguez 1 6.5
Eric Sogard 1 5.9
Neil Walker 2 18.2
For fun, I also ran former Orioles Jonathan Schoop through the model.  He is currently under contract with the Brewers and has one more arbitration year left if the Brewers wish to hold onto him.  BORAS thinks holding onto Schoop a bit of a wash and probably worth it.  If Schoop was a free agent, BORAS pegs him as a 5/52.5 player.  This past year undercut his projection by about 30 MM.

Overall, the numbers suggested here are not all that surprising.  Jed Lowrie would be signing through his age 38 year, but he has shown decent versatility and a good bat.  He is not exactly in the same class as when Ben Zobrist signed with the Cubs, but he is not far off.  My guess is that he gets three years and an option.

Daniel Murphy sees his years dwindle due to his acceptable, but not great year this past season.  The model still thinks he can garner something around 17 MM, which would surprise me.  However, he really is not all that far away from his offensive years.  Neil Walker is often thrown in the same bucket as Murphy, but Walker has taken more of a progressive nose dive.  The model can forgive a one year drop, but it finds trends harder to ignore.

Shortstops are next.

03 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: First Base

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

Yesterday, I wrote about catchers and a bit about the new BORAS model system this year.  Today, we move on to first basemen.  While catchers had a potentially big name in Yasmani Grandal, the big name here (Justin Smoak) has a club option for eight million, which seems like an easy decision for the Blue Jays to pick up as Smoak has accounted for quite a bit of offense these past few years in Toronto.

Here is the BORAS projection for first base.
Years Total (MM)
Matt Adams 1 11.1
Lucas Duda 2 18.2
Marwin Gonzalez 1 11
Joe Mauer 1 10
Logan Morrison m8 2 22.6
Steve Pearce 2 21.8
Hanley Ramirez 1 7.2
Mark Reynolds 1 8.5
Justin Smoak c8 3 44.1
Danny Valencia 1 7
Chris Davis Invite
Mark Trumbo 1 8.3
As this is an Orioles site, I added two players who are not free agents, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. Neither live up to their current deals, but Davis is the hard one to take for Orioles fans.  BORAS is so unimpressed with Davis that the invite status is an incredibly kind designation.  For Trumbo, there is an upside there.  He notoriously underperforms as a designated hitter, but if he had put up his on field batting numbers while at first base then he would be looking at something more in the neighborhood of 3/40 or even more.

All in all, the numbers above look about right with a few issues.  BORAS does not know that Valencia is a weakside platoon bat, that will drop his value in the open market (not to mention the mumbling of clubhouse concerns).  Reynolds and Ramirez also feel a bit high as they are uneven veterans with younger talent undermining their value.

BORAS loves it some Steve Pearce.  It always has and it really has always been correct about his value, if not his contract terms.  Teams seem to be concerned about his injuries, streaky bat, and positional concerns, but he always seems to do well as a strong role player.  His arm may not be what it was, but he should be a highly sought after bench/role bat.

BORAS seems a little confused by Marwin Gonzalez and his 1/11 deal seems a little rough.  I see Gonzalez as a healthier Steve Pearce.  These are the kind of guys teams really need.  Their bat can be surprisingly good and they positional flexibility enables a team to use the best player available in the minors when an injury arises instead of the best available player at a given position.  My best is that teams are willing to hand over a greater commitment to Gonzalez.

All in all, I think the projections are roughly about where they should be given that this system does well with 2+ year commitments and AAVs over 8 MM.

02 October 2018

BORAS Blowout 2018/19: Intro and Catchers

For the past several Octobers (give or take an extended playoff appearance), the writers here at Camden Depot would put together organizational blueprints for the off season to suggest what the Orioles should do to improve the squad.  That will not happen this year.  However, a major component of that work was our contract projection model: BORAS.

Catcher | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP

In case you forgot or never knew, BORAS takes into consideration several characteristics of a player (e.g., age, offensive performance, defensive performance, historical contract comparisons) and uses that information to project what the new contract will look like.  Each year, we add on another season of data and try to tinker with the model to improve upon it.  This year, the primary model improvement comes from using a batch age model to weight things differently.

Our first series of posts will consider BORAS(po), the position player contract model.  What we found was that younger players and older players were really being valued differently beyond their age.  For instance, our analysis suggests that older players are sought after for their offense with considerably less value placed on their defense.  If we look at encapsulated metrics, defense was valued about half as much on a per run basis as offense was in the 31 and older player set.  For 30 year olds and younger, the value gap shrank from 52% to 17%.  Differences like these can really impact the quality of a model.  By taking these into consideration, we improved the performance of our model internally by about 15%.

In the past, I would just drop the whole player list and then run away.  This year, we will try to be more comprehensive and cover a large swath of the player market as well as putting in some arbitration eligible Orioles because...eh, why not?  Again the caveats remain as they have in the past.  This model does not know about injuries or suspensions.  This model is based on a data set that largely ignores players who get bench level playing time.  Those can be two major blindspots at times.  Finally, our first post here deals with catchers and this model has always struggled with catchers.  In my opinion, this will probably be the worst performing projection group.

BORAS(po) 2018/19 Catcher contract projections
Years Total (MM)
Drew Butera Invite
Robinson Chirinos 1 9.9
AJ Ellis 1 6
Yasmani Grandal 3 45.3
Nick Hundley 1 5.6
Jonathan Lucroy 1 4.4
Martin Maldonado 1 4.6
Jeff Mathis Invite
Brian McCann 1 7.7
Devin Mesoraco 2 14.9
Wilson Ramos 3 26.3
Rene Rivera 1 7
Kurt Suzuki 2 20
Matt Wieters 1 4.1
Caleb Joseph 1 3.9
The adjustments made this year have resulted in a much more competent model at first look, but there are a couple peculiar projections.  I have a hard time seeing Suzuki making 2/20 even though he has experienced a bit of a late career bloom.  Second, I think the model might be a bit too hard on Wilson Ramos who has had to deal with some misfortune with respect to his health.  I also think Ramos gets dinged a bit due to his poor base running, which I think in general does not impact catchers all that much when it comes to signing a contract.

As this is an Orioles blog, I added arbitration eligible Caleb Joseph.  He should be looking at 1.5 to 2 MM in arbitration while BORAS projects Joseph to be worth slightly more in the open market.  With the Orioles organization in possession of a few decent catchers that would come in under the 1.5 MM mark, it may well make sense to non-tender Joseph even though his arbitration value might be a slight bargain.

Tomorrow, I will post first basemen.

28 September 2018

Cavalry Is Here, But They Are a Little Irregular

The Orioles have had a few calls for the cavalry.  The first utterance was under the Andy MacPhail regime and it spoke of talents like Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Radhames Liz, Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, Troy Patton and those are just the arms that appeared on Baseball America's top 100 lists.  The idea behind it all was about buying bats and not spending a great amount of money on pitching, to simply grow the arms.  It did not work.  Of those starters, the Orioles only saw starting pitching success with Tillman.  The others failed to provide the club with what the club was anticipating.  The cavalry was called, it showed up, and they mainly rode donkeys.

A softer bugle was called a few years later as Kevin Gausman was cutting his teeth and experiencing flashes of extreme success.  High upside arms appeared in the form of Dylan Bundy, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Hunter Harvey.  Gausman could never sustain his highs, but was solid rotation arm before being dealt to the Braves this past deadline.  Bundy, after experiencing injury woes, looks like a top shelf pitcher when his fastball sits in the mid 90s and then a shell of himself if it dips below that.  It has dipped often below that.  Harvey no longer looks like a starting pitcher and some question whether he can stay healthy enough to experience long term success in any role in the majors.  And, of course, Eduardo Rodriguez was traded off to help the Orioles better manage their bullpen in the 2014 playoffs, a short term benefit with long term consequences.  The deadening of the starting rotation these past three years has been a product of this cavalry not being able to beef up the rotation (though not as unspectacularly as the previous incarnation of the cavalry).

However, past drafts and a few deadline trades rejuvenated the minors with arms.  So much so, that the club probably has some concerns about how exactly to get those arms the right number of innings against the right kind of competition.  The only certainty the Orioles face is their top three slot in their rotation.  Dylan Bundy, who again fatigued along the way with terrible effect, will be top arm in the rotation.  Andrew Cashner, who did his secret Wade Miley impersonation in eating innings while getting roughed up, is the second sure feature of the rotation.  Alex Cobb, who habitually is unable to complete 30 starts a year, rounds out the top three.

Behind those guys is a bit of a free-for-all.  The Orioles might seek stability or upside and go after a free agent starter this off-season.  However, the more arms you sign to be in the rotation, the more you depend on injuries to give the younger arms a chance to showcase their talents on the MLB stage.  At the moment, the competition for the last two slots appears to be one between Yefry Ramirez and David Hess against Josh Rogers, John Means, and perhaps Keegan Akin.  One also figures that Luis Ortiz, Dillon Tate, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Hunter Harvey might also get a shot.

Whoever shakes free from that group would fill out Norfolk.  If you assume that Hess and Ramirez start in Baltimore, then you probably have Ortiz, Akin, Rogers, Means, and Dean Kremer in Norfolk.  Again, you have some other arms up in the air like Yacabonis, Harvey, Gabriel Ynoa, and Jordan Kipper.  Bowie likely fills out with Tate, Michael Baumann, Bruce Zimmerman, Brian Gonzalez, and Cristian Alvarado.  Lucas Humpal and Ofelky Peralta should also get a mention here.

Down to Frederick, Brenan Hanifee, Luis Perez, Cody Sedlock, Jhon Peluffo, and D.L. Hall look slated to compete there.  Matthias Dietz may be finding himself in the pen.  Delmarva may bring out Grayson Rodriguez, Blaine Knight, Hector Guance, Jake Zebron, and maybe Jimmy Murphy.  Really, you can get down to Delmarva and really not see any obvious holes opening up to bring in veteran pitching.  This is a problem that the club has not had to deal with in a while.

It should also be noted that while there is a cavalry, a deep cavalry.  It does not speak to the quality of those arms.  As you go through the system, you find a lot of fringey talent.  You can imagine arms like Ortiz, Tate, Harvey, and Akin to make meaningful contributions in the Majors.  You might even be able to imagine Kremer, Baumann, Zimmerman, and Hanifee to swoop in as well.  But, really, Grayson Rodriguez is the lone arm that is truly seen as special.  He has a couple years to go before he can see Baltimore if he advances quickly.

So, all in all, the depth is there for Baltimore.  It is depth that they have not seen since the late 2000s.  It is a collection of pitchers whose profile is not as well considered compared to those cavalry classes a decade ago though.  This cavalry is a bit irregular.  But, the hope is there that perhaps a few of them will emerge and beat the odds.  If they do, then the Orioles rebuild will be quicker than anticipated.

26 September 2018

September has been an Organizational Car Wreck

A day ago, Jon Meoli wrote this:
They have 19 pitchers on the active roster; seven of them — Alex Cobb (finger), Andrew Cashner (knee), Miguel Castro (knee), Josh Rogers (shut down), Evan Phillips (shut down), Ortiz and Ramírez — are dealing with injuries or otherwise unavailable. That gives them the numbers of a pre-roster expansion pitching staff with a minor league call-up quality to it. September baseball is a manager’s nightmare, but this is a level unto itself.
Injuries happen.  For some clubs injuries and fatigue can coincide in a way where the bullpen and starting rotation is obliterated.  The pitching staff thins out and a manager has to ask the remaining healthy arms to shoulder the burden.  This happens before September.  This happens before the roster expansion.  What the Orioles are experiencing now is something they should not be experiencing.

Not only are the Orioles are experiencing an arms crunch with an expanded roster, but there is no solution.  The club last offseason curiously decided against filling up their AAA roster with fringe starting arms.  I wrote about the problem with that last Spring.  A club needs about three viable starting pitchers in AAA.  A club like the Orioles, who had a measure of breakdown and trading out arms, needs more.

Jhan Marinez, Tim Melville, David Hess, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Jayson Aquino were the Tides starting rotation in April.  Marinez and Melville are relievers.  Yacabonis and Aquino effectively were relievers from their minor league careers.  Hess is a fringe starter.  He, really, was the only one who set out with the Tides who fit the role that the club was apparently going to need.  The perennially short-armed Orioles decided from the get go to be short-armed.  It led to issues earlier in the season and it is how the club finds itself now.

It is a mess.  It is an organizational failure that was foreseeable.