Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Bullpen

Even the name of this post is enough to give me nightmares....

I went to the game on Friday night, and was obviously disappointed that the Orioles, ahead 4-1 going to the 7th inning, were unable to come away with a victory. More disappointing, however, were Dave Trembley's comments after the game about bullpen usage, calling Chris Ray his 7th inning guy, Jim Johnson his 8th inning guy and George Sherrill his 9th inning guy. Managers love to give their bullpen guys set roles, and those bullpen guys love to have innings define those roles. As Chris Ray said, "You don't have to jump every time the phone rings when you know what your role is." That's all well and good, but shouldn't relievers who are paying to attention to the flow of the game be able to anticipate when their manager might need them? Why do "defined roles" have to be defined in terms of innings?

The Orioles bullpen is filled with good match-up relievers, but no real dominant pitchers. Here are the career splits of those three key relievers:

George Sherrill: .169/.232./.280 against lefties, .268/.384/.402 against righties
Chris Ray: .192/.256/.311 against righties, .244/.345/.437 against lefties
Jim Johnson: .260/.328/.331 against righties, .237/.346/.259 against lefties

Johnson actually shows a bit of a reverse platoon split, but both Sherrill and Ray exhibit the traditional tendency to outperform against batters of the same hand. Since both have experience, and some moderate success, in the closer's role, it seems to me that the Orioles bullpen is tailor made for roles defined by the situation, not by the inning. Let's examine Friday night's game without being constrained by the inning.

In the top of the 7th, Koji Uehara was beginning to tire. He'd thrown very well, allowing just one run over 6.0 innings. Hank Blalock (batting left) led off the inning with a homer, Marlon Byrd (batting right) popped foul to third and Nelson Cruz (right) flew out to deep center. At this point, Uehara had thrown 94 pitches and Chris Davis (left) was due up. Davis homered off Uehara back on April 13, has prodigious power, and Uehara had already allowed a homer to lefty Blalock in the inning. Trembley went to specialist Jamie Walker, a move with which I agree. Unfortunately, Davis dribbled a swinging bunt and reached base on an infield single.

Now, decision time looms for Trembley. Walker is pretty much a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy), so it makes sense that he makes another call to the pen, right? Well, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (switch) is due up for the Rangers, followed by Elvis Andrus (right), Ian Kinsler (right), Michael Young (right) and Josh Hamilton (left). Trembley obviously won't let Walker face more than Saltalamacchia, but should he leave him in to face the Rangers catcher, or should he call for a right-hander to turn Saltalamacchia around? Let's look at Saltalamacchia's career splits: .214/.262/.325 batting righty and .289/.359/.451 as a lefty. In my opinion, Walker should face Saltalamacchia. Instead, since this is the 7th inning, Trembley goes to the pen for Chris Ray. Not surprisingly, Saltalamacchia (batting left) singles and Andrus (batting right) grounds out to end the inning. Ray needed just 10 pitches to get the final out of the 7th.

Instead of leaving a well-rested Chris Ray (he last pitched three nights ago on April 21) in to face Kinsler and Young, Trembley sticks to his formula and calls for Jim Johnson to start the 8th. After retiring Kinsler on a bunt, Young singles, Hamilton lines out, Blalock singles, Byrd reaches on an infield single (scoring a run to make it 4-3), and then Cruz reaches on an infield single. With two men on in the top of the 8th, Trembley rightly senses this is potentially the key at-bat and summons his nominal closer, George Sherrill, to face Chris Davis. Davis strikes out. Crisis averted, right? Well, maybe. Unfortunately, by rigidly sticking to his bullpen formula, Trembley has locked himself into a 9th inning with Sherrill on the mound. Which wouldn't necessarily be a problem, but there are no left-handed batters due up in the 9th. And, as we all know, Kinsler singled, Michael Young homered and Orioles fans went home disappointed.

What could Trembley have done differently? If he didn't want Walker to face Saltalamacchia, he could have still allowed Chris Ray to start the 8th. Kinsler and Young were both at a bigger disadvantage against Ray than against Johnson. Pending the results to those first two at-bats, you could either allow Ray to face Hamilton or summon Sherrill from the pen to face the lefty/lefty duo of Hamilton and Blalock. If Sherrill then runs into trouble, you still have Johnson available and there is just one more lefty in the Rangers lineup (Chris Davis). Unfortunately, that doesn't fit neatly with Trembley's innings constrained roles.

I understand that role definition is important. Players want to know what their manager expects of them, and they need to be mentally prepared so that they can physically succeed. Thus, Trembley should change his definitions, and I propose the following framework.

Jamie Walker: situational match-up lefty (LOOGY)
Chris Ray: late-inning, key situations where the hitters due up are predominantly right-handed
George Sherrill: late-inning, key situations where the hitters due up are predominantly left-handed
Jim Johnson: late-inning, key situations where there is no lineup bias

I know for sure that Chris Ray is a smart guy, and I'm assuming that George Sherrill and Jim Johnson can both read a lineup card. If not, let's hope Alan Dunn (bullpen coach) is able to do so. If Jamie Walker can be flexible as to the inning in which he pitches, why can't the rest of the pen? Because they lack a true stopper, Trembley needs to be flexible in his bullpen usage. Luckily for him, he has complementary weapons, Ray and Sherrill, that lend themselves very nicely to this flexibility. Let's hope that Trembley can understand his bullpen's very real strengths--and corresponding weaknesses--before the Orioles lose too many more games in the late innings.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

2009 Offense and Home Runs

One of the biggest stories in the early going this season (for better or worse) has been the number of home runs hit at Yankee Stadium. Brian Cashman commented in an story today that the Yankees are "monitoring" the situation. More interesting, and not really touched upon anywhere that I've seen so far, is this throwaway line:

But Cashman also said home runs are traveling about eight feet farther so far this year compared to last season. "It's possible that the ballpark is a home run-type park," Cashman said in an interview before his talk. "We'll see. The ball is going farther in every park, not just ours."

Is this true? Are home runs really traveling about 2% farther (8 feet/400 feet) than a year ago? I'm going to try and do some research today because this sounds like an excellent project for the blogosphere.

Update: I am NOT seeing the increase that Cashman is talking about. Heading over to Hit Tracker, I downloaded all the home runs hit in 2009 (through April 20) and all the home runs hits from April 6, 2008, to April 20, 2008 (to match the data set with the 2009; I also removed one bad data point). Here is what I found:

2008: 364 home runs, average distance = 396.15 feet, SD = 25.21, 95% confidence interval = 396.15 +/- 2.59 feet.
2009: 414 home runs, average distance = 397.7 feet, SD = 26.71

H0: 2009 HR Distance = 2008 HR Distance
Ha: 2009 HR Distance > 2008 HR Distance

With 95% confidence can we say that 2009 home runs have travelled farther than 2008 home runs? Using a one-sided hypothesis test, we cannot reject the null hypothesis. Our test statistic, 1.18 [(397.7 - 396.15)/(26.71/sqrt(414)], is less than 1.645, the z-value of 95% cumulative probability. Home runs in 2009 cannot be said to have travelled farther than home runs in 2008, unless there is better data (of which I am unaware) than what Hit Tracker can provide. It's possible Cashman and the Yankees have their own numbers, but I find it difficult to believe that they would vary so much from the publicly available data set.

Now, since 188 games have been played in 2009 and 414 home runs have been hit, I am comfortable stating (without running the numbers) that MORE home runs have been hit than in 2008 (205 games, 365 home runs), I am just not comfortable stating that the home runs have travelled farther.

If you have any questions about my methodology or data, I'd be happy to provide answers. It is entirely possible that I am looking at this the wrong way and I would appreciate feedback.

Update II: Inside The Book has a big discussion of this issue; looks like Cashman was quoting a number that is about a week old.

Also, I think there could be one biasing factor in the data: if there are truly more home runs being hit this year, it's also possible that there are more home runs just barely clearing the fences instead of falling as outs on the warning track. Thus, while the averages may not be changing, that number could be masking a significant increase in the distance batted balls are traveling. Inside the Book does a bit of looking at the distance travelled by the Top 100 homers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


A couple links to clean out the Google Reader...

1) Joe Posnanski has a comprehensive rundown of how the count affects the game.
2) This. Is. Awesome. I can't wait to delve into it for our site here.

When can the Orioles compete?

Childs Walker today, writing for the Toy Department, makes the claim that the Orioles "have to think about what would be best in 2011-2013, not what's best now." I think he has the concept right, but the timeline wrong. As I wrote in the comments:
I agree that the pitching would have to develop quickly, but I disagree that this is highly unlikely (at least in terms of the relative likeliness of any pitching developing). Bergesen is here, and Hernandez probably isn't far behind. Matusz is probably on the Wieters timeline, but he was regarded last summer as someone who should reach the big leagues quickly (as in potentially in 2009). Tillman is in AAA, and while he still has a ways to go, he's not exactly far off. Arrieta is off to a solid start in Bowie, and so is Brandon Erbe. Other than Matusz, all of these guys have had success in full season leagues, and all have reached the upper levels of the system. Is 2010 a dream? Sure. But is it unrealistic to expect that next year's rotation will be filled with four of those guys listed above? Definitely not. And when that's the case, the window for contention is open.
Now, we all know about the difficulty in developing pitching. There will be bumps and bruises and Tommy Johns along the way, which is part of why I omitted Troy Patton completely. But think about that list: Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, Brian Matusz and Troy Patton. Those are seven arms about whom Orioles fans have legitimate reasons to expect valuable Major League contributions. Will all of them reach their potential? Highly unlikely. But could a few of them be ready for Baltimore in 2010? I don't see why not. And that's why I'm willing to define the Orioles window for contention as beginning in 2010.

Walker's post begins with a discussion about the fate of Nolan Reimold. Here are The Nest, I'm a big fan of Nolan Reimold. He's a potential power bat, but also someone who plays a position (leftfield) at which the Orioles have a surplus of serviceable players (Pie, Scott, Freel, Montanez). I have absolutely no problem with the Orioles allowing Felix Pie to play everyday. No, he hasn't done much so far (.212/.276/.316 so far in 329 career plate appearances), but Brian Roberts, over 441 plate appearances in his age 23 and 24 seasons, hit .253/.284/.341 and .227/.308/.297 and that seemed to work out OK. Pie is a talented athlete, and when you consider his minor league track record, he deserves a shot to prove himself in the Majors. Unfortunately, so does Nolan Reimold. What to do?

One solution would be to allow Reimold to play every day in Norfolk and promote if and when there is an injury to Pie, Huff or Scott. I believe that it is far better if he gets four or five plate appearances per game in Norfolk than if he plays once or twice a week in Baltimore. Could Reimold play a bit of first base? Now would be a good time to find out. Then, he could provide the right-handed part of a platoon among LF, 1B and DH. Regardless, if he continues to hit in Norfolk, he's going to force the Orioles hand at some point. Scott is not part of the long-term plans for this club, and he could be moved for a useful part to free up at-bats. Having too many players for too few positions is something very new for the Orioles, and it's not a bad problem to have.

Little Big League

Last night, the first of a bevy of talented young pitchers, Brad Bergesen, impressed Oriole fans in his Major League debut. I was tremendously excited to get my first glimpse of the future, and even kept a running diary of his first start. Since Bergesen was so successful, the conversation has naturally turned to when we'll get to see Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and other young pitchers. After all, it's not like the guys currently in the rotation are really performing adequately. Besides, what harm could come in at least getting the fans excited, right? Peter Schmuck:
Everybody, me included, wants to see these kids as soon as it makes sense for both them and the team, but there is plenty to lose if it doesn't [work out]. There are all kinds of examples of top pitching prospects who came up too soon and had either
their arms or their psyches damaged before they could reach their full potential.

We all know 2009 is a bridge season. The hopelessness of the last decade is gone, but the team hasn't quite fully emerged from the Tunnel of Darkness to the sunny lands of Contender Meadows. There is still work to be done, and just because Brad Bergesen met expecations doesn't mean we should throw The Plan out the window. Remember, we suspected all along that Bergesen was ready and that he would be in the Baltimore rotation in short order. In other words, things are going according to The Plan, not ahead of it.

I fully subscribe to the idea that the Orioles actually have better pitchers--not just more talented ones, actually better ones--in the minor leagues than in the Major Leagues, but that does not mean they should all be starting in Baltimore every five days. Young pitchers are fragile beings, especially when rushed--just look at Hayden Penn and Adam Loewen. Allowing them to develop in the minors, where it is much easier to control pitch counts, workloads, and definitions of success can be just as valuable as experience against Major League hitters. Is there a learning curve associated with the jump from the minors to the Majors? Absolutely. But making sure these guys are ready to tackle that learning curve is MacPhail's job one right now. If he deems them ready in June or July, that's perfectly fine. But just because we see the 2009 Major League season slipping away and Brad Bergesen made an excellent debut, does not mean the careful planning should be thrown out the window. It just means everything is pretty much as we expected it to be two months ago.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brad Bergesen

We (or at least Buck Martinez) may not know how to say his name yet, and this moment may be a bit rain delayed, but it's Brad Bergesen time! Updates with thoughts here as the game progresses...

Update (8:43): This guy works fast! I like it.

Update (8:45): He's getting some serious armside run on his fastball. That pitch may have only been 90mph, but it rode right into the kitchen of Josh Fields to induce a dribbler to the mound.

Update (8:49): Thirteen pitches later, Carlos Quentin strikes out. Three up, three down! When do Matusz, Tillman and Arrieta come up?

Update (9:00): Bergesen allows his first baserunner, a one-out, four-pitch walk to Jermaine Dye. He bounces right back with a first pitch strike to Konerko.

Update (9:03): A ground ball to third starts a 6-4-3 double play and Bergesen has faced the minimum through 2.0 IP. We also find out that, had he not signed with the Orioles after being drafted in 2004, Bergesen would have been teammates with Brian Matusz at the University of San Diego. They'll likely have that chance shortly.

Update (9:17): Another ground ball out to start the third inning, and one pitcher later Wiggington makes another nice play to retire the second batter of the inning. Eight outs: one strikeout, six ground balls.

Update (9:19): Strikeout. Man, that was a fast inning.

Update (9:27): After a Markakis single, Aubrey Huff crushed a home run down the right field line. 2-0 Orioles!

Update (9:33): Chris Getz walked to lead off the 4th, but Bergeson gets Fields to strike out. One out and a man on for the middle of the lineup.

Update (9:36): Wiggington boots a routine grounder off the bat of Carlos Quentin, putting runners on the corners for Jim Thome. Those leadoff walks always seem to haunt a pitcher.

Update (9:39): Big strikeout! Bergesen freezes Thome with a fastball up in the zone and over the middle of the plate.

Update (9:41): Jermaine Dye makes the Orioles pay for the walk and the error as he singles to center to plate the first White Sox run. Konerko then singles to right to score Quentin, but Markakis cuts down Dye at third base to end the inning. The pair of unearned runs tie the score at two.

Update (9:55): A.J. Pierzynski grounded a single through the hole to lead off the 5th, and then Alexei Ramirez doubled down the line in left. A ground ball to shortstop scores Pierzynski and gives the Sox the lead. Bergesen hasn't looked quite as good the second time through the order. He's up to 78 pitches, and with 46 going for strikes. He is still getting lots of groundballs, however.

Update (9:59): After a hit batter, a fly ball to right by Fields advances Ramirez to third. Should have been another run for the White Sox, but Ramirez didn't move up on the ground ball to short. Buck Martinez and Jim Hunter are all over it; a good piece of announcing. Another ground ball from Quention, Getz force out at second, and the 5th is history. So far for Bergesen: 5.0 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs (1 earned), 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, 85 pitches, 52 strikes, 9 ground outs, 1 fly out.

Update (10:05): Markakis is a great hitter. What a beautiful double up the gap in right center. His 17th RBI of the young season ties the game.

Update (10:11): Luke Scott gets the Orioles the lead, driving in Markakis with a single to right.

Update (10:17): Bergesen gives up a looong fly ball to centerfield, but Pie makes the catch against the wall. One down in the fifth.

Update (10:18): The ground ball machine is back on, as Dye grounds out to short.

Update (10:19): Trembley heads to the mound to lift Bergesen in favor of Baez as Paul Konerko comes to the plate. If you're trying to win tonight, I don't necessarily agree with this move, but if you're focused on developing Bergeson win in the future, I have no problem at all with lifting the kid now. 95 pitches, 58 strikes, 5.2 IP, 3 runs (1 earned), 4 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, 10 groundouts, 2 flyouts and he's in line for the win since Baez gets Konerko to ground out to first. Quite the successful debut; Orioles fans have a lot to be excited about considering that Bergesen is (at best) the 4th best pitching prospect in the system.

And, with that, I'm heading to bed to dream of the 2010 World Series.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dave Trembley

I know that Dave Trembley is quite the popular manager, but I think he's pretty terrible at constructing lineups. Exhibit A: Cesar Izturis batted second today. Izturis has a .298 career OBP. He should never bat anywhere near the top of the lineup. What would have been wrong with having Ryan Freel (career .357 OBP) hit 2nd instead?

On a related note, let's hope that Freel is OK after leaving today's game following being hit in the back of the head by a pick-off throw.

Update: Joe Posnanski is trying to keep track of inexplicable managerial decisions. Let's help him keep track of those that originate in Baltimore.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

And so it begins...

The past week has been a rough one for the Orioles pitching staff. Dating to last Sunday, the staff has allowed 60 runs in just six games. Needless to say, the natives are getting restless. But this morning's paper brought some good news: Brad Bergesen will start on Tuesday, in Baltimore, against the White Sox.

Unfortunately, that same notebook has news that Matt Wieters left Friday night's game with a mild hamstring strain. He's likely to miss a few games; let's hope he has a speedy recovery, but also that the Orioles don't take any chances on this one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Minor League Report

Back when I was working for the Orioles, my fellow intern deskmate (yes, we shared a desk... and a phone... and a computer) and I were responsible for authoring a weekly minor league report. Today, this would be a relatively simple task. In 2003, however, this project consumed our entire day on Friday, even after significant prep work Monday through Thursday. There was no publically available player database, and our computer was s-l-o-w. Still, this was one of my favorite tasks; I love scouring box scores and day-by-day stats. Since this Orioles season is split into two parts--offensively on the Major League level and pitching in the minors--I thought I'd give a Minor League Report a shot again, at least for the upper levels of the organization. Hopefully, this will be a recurring feature.

AAA Norfolk Tides... The Tides are 3-4, 3.0 games behind South Division leading Durham. After being swept in a 3-game set at Durham, Norfolk bounced back to take 3 out of 4 from Charlotte. The club completes a 10-game road trip this weekend with a 3-game set at Gwinnet and returns home to face Charlotte in a 3-game series beginning on Monday.

Everyone's favorite catcher, Matt Wieters, hit his first home run of the season last night. After an 0-for-7 start, Wieters has 6 hits in his last 16 at-bats (.375). OF Nolan Reimold is also off to a hot start, hitting safely in 6 of the team's first 7 games. He homered in back-to-back games to open the season and is currently batting .367/.394/.600 with 4 runs scored and 7 RBI. OF Lou Montanez leads the Tides with a .483 batting average having hit safely in every game thus far and recording multiple hits 5 times. P Brad Bergesen is making his case for joining the rotation in Baltimore, throwing 11.0 innings over two starts, allowing 3 ER (2.45 ERA), 6 hits and 3 walks while recording 9 strikeouts. He recorded his first victory in Wednesday's win over Charlotte. P Chris Tillman impressed in his first start of season, tossing 4.0 no-hit innings, allowing 3 walks while striking out 5. P David Hernandez threw 4.2 innings against Durham on April 12, allowing just 1 earned run, 2 hits, and 2 walks while recording an impressive 9 strikeouts.

AA Bowie Baysox... The Baysox are 5-3, 0.5 games behind Southern Division leading Akron. Bowie opened the season by dropping 3 out of 4 at Akron, swept a 3-game set at Erie and defeated Akron in Bowie last night. After completing the 4-game series with Akron on Sunday, Bowie will host Erie for a 3-game series beginning on Monday.

1B Brandon Snyder recorded a 7-game hitting streak to begin the season, going 13-for-30 (.433) with 2 homers and 7 RBI over that stretch. P Troy Patton opened the season 2-0, tossing 11.0 shut out innings while striking out 9 and allowing 6 hits and 3 walks in his first two starts. P Jake Arrieta is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA (9.o IP, 1 ER) after his first two starts. He's struck out 12, given up 8 hits and allowed 5 walks. P Brandon Erbe has made one start, giving up 1 run in 3.0 no-hit innings (3.00 ERA), walking 4 while striking out 1.

High-A Frederick Keys... The Keys are 5-3, 1.0 games behind Northern Division leading Lynchburg. Frederick opened the with a 4-game split at Salem and took 3 out of 4 in Myrtle Beach. Tonight is the home opener against Salem, and after wrapping up the 3-game series, the Keys hit the road for a 3-game set against Lynchburg.

2B Ryan Adams is off to a hot start, recording 8 hits in his first 22 at-bats to lead the team with a .364 batting average. OF Billy Rowell popped his first home run of the season last night, and has record two doubles and a homer in his last four games. 2008 first round draft pick P Brian Matusz picked up his first professional win on Tuesday. He's allowed 5 ER in 9.2 IP (4.66 ERA) while striking out 10, allowing 9 hits and walking 5.

If there are any specific players you'd like me to follow, let me know. I'll try and keep up with the top draft choices and a few other fan favorites, as well as anyone playing particularly well. In the meantime, so far so good for your 2010 Baltimore Orioles!

Off Day

I don't typically comment on other teams here at the Birds Nest, but since yesterday was an off-day for the Orioles, I'll make an exception, especially since this story completely validates my love for baseball. What makes baseball so great? The fact that, on any given day, you're likely to see something you've never seen before.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


You remember Albert Belle, right? The surly slugger that signed a 5-year, $65 million deal with Orioles before the 1999 season, played for two seasons and then retired because of a degenerative hip? He's been the target of much Oriole-fan derision. But it wasn't always that way.

Chris Tillman

The Baseball America Prospects Blog has a good profile of Chris Tillman today, highlighting the work he's done to improve his change-up.
"He’s really made the effort to improve his changeup this spring," Schmidt said.
"He, on his own, he threw it sometimes in some games exclusively, not throwing
his curveball, just throwing fastballs and changeups. When you do that, you
commit to making the pitch better, and he’s made a lot of progress with it, so
we’re really happy with adding that third pitch and becoming confident in it.

Tillman, just 21 years old, is one of the best reasons to be excited about the Orioles future. Adam Jones alone makes the Bedard deal look like a smart one; Tillman makes it a steal.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Matt Wieters: The AAA Experience

A special thanks to Baseball America...

An inauspicious start as Wieters strikes out in his first at-bat. He atones quickly, however, gunning down Rays prospect Reid Brignac with a 1.91 pop time. For the Yankees today, Molina threw a nice pop to nab Felix Pie, but I didn't have my stopwatch out. Anyone seen the replay and timed that one?

In his second at-bat, Wieters lined out to a leaping second baseman. In other news Brad Bergesen seems to be pitching well, striking out six, allowing one earned run (two total) and just one walk and four hits through 5.0. He's not a hard-thrower, sitting at about 88-89 mph, so command is critical for him.

Update: Wieters just walked on five pitches in his third at-bat of the night.

Update II: Wieters struck out in his final at-bat, but Nolan Reimold homered to give the Tides their only run of the night. Elsewhere around the minors, both Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz pitched tonight. Arrieta threw 4.0 shutout innings for the Baysox against Akron, striking out eight, walking two and allowing just one hit. Matusz, in his professional debut, threw 6.0 innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out six, walking two, and giving up five hits. He is line for the victory if the Keys hold a 5-3 lead over Salem in the 9th. A pretty good night for your 2010 Baltimore Orioles.

Norfolk Season Opener

If you're interested in the Norfolk season opener (I hear Norfolk has some hot prospect behind the plate), the Baseball America Prospects Blog is offering live updates. Brad Bergesen is set to pitch for the Tides against the Durham Bulls; David Price will throw tomorrow.

Tough Inning

The Yankees have used a ground ball back to the mound and a pop up barely to the outfield grass to score three (and more) in the 6th. And now I remember why I don't come to Yankee games at Camden Yards. DEREK JETER! (clap clap clapclapclap)

Woooohooo! Double play!

Swisher Homers

Was Markakis close to catching that? Why do they refuse to show replays at the ballpark? There is a GIANT television screen!

Also, Teixeira homered. I booed.


Pie singles nicely on a liner over Jeter's head. He could have stretched it to a double; I wish he had been more aggressive there.

At least he stole second base!

Beer Man!

First inning complete and still no sign of a beer man for section 56...

Just in time...

Made it for first pitch. Pretty good seats!

Mobile Test Post Two

Mobile test again...

Mobile Test Post

First mobile test post...

First Place!

There is nothing more beautiful than this. Who cares if we're just 1/81 of the way through the season?

Just snagged the company seats for this afternoon's game. Springtime, 65 degrees and sunny, the Orioles are in first place, and I'm heading to my first game of the year. And taking a half-day from work. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hot Start for Adam Jones

One of the biggest stories of Opening Day (well, other than this) was the great game played by Adam Jones. The 23-year old started the season with a bang, recording three hits, including a triple, two walks, two RBI and two runs scored. I was just walking into the school building on Lombard Street, following ESPN's Gamecast on my BlackBerry, when he connected on his triple; the roar from the stadium could be heard loud and clear six blocks away. A few minutes later, a business school friend walked in and proclaimed 2009 to be "the year of Adam Jones." And Orioles fans aren't the only ones with high expecations. Joe Sheehan:
I really need to get that "My Guys" piece together before all of them become too
obvious. Adam Jones, who I love just slightly less than I do the salt-and-pepper
Kettle Chips, had three hits and two walks yesterday, and basically killed the
Yankees. He's also two years away from his first Gold Glove in center field.
What you saw yesterday from the Orioles, the quality ABs, the big hits, the good
defense... that's the reason to think they're on the way back. It's when the
back of the rotation shows up that you'll see the problems, but for one day, you
could see the return of baseball in Baltimore, and it looked great.

When Adam Jones started the season last year, he struggled. In April, he slashed .263/.311/.389 and May was worse (.226/.273/.312). But as spring turned to summer and Jones accumulated more at-bats, he improved mightily in June (.323/.349/.455) and July (.280/.330/.450) before an injury derailed his breakout. Watching games in the early going, it was obvious that Jones was overmatched; he swung at balls out of the zone and frequently struck out. However, when watching him play in July, it was like watching a different player. His walk and strikeout rates did not improve, but he was more selective at the plate and was able to recognize pitches to drive. The difference was palpable, and it showed in his numbers. While a sample size of one is obviously too small to draw any conclusions, 2009 could very well be the year of Adam Jones if he continues to improve at the rate he did last season.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2009 All Baseball Predictions

Your 2009 The Oriole Way predicted standings, playoff winners and awards. Better late than never...

American League East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees*
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

The Red Sox, Yankees and Rays are all going to be really good. I think the pitching depth of the Red Sox gives them a leg up; the Yankees lineup looks much less fearsome without A-Rod in the middle, and we don't know exactly when he'll return. The Rays are the odd team out in my rankings, but if they finish first I certainly wouldn't be surprised. The Orioles and Blue Jays are both solid teams that would be contenders in the NL Central, AL Central or AL West.

American League Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

This division lacks a true standout team, and the Indians are the pick by default. Grady Sizemore is an MVP contender, and the rest of the pieces are solid, if unspectacular. I'd like the Twins more if Joe Mauer were healthy. Just a blah division.

American League West
1. Oakland A's
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

This division could best be described as "lots of question marks about the pitching." Did I really pick a division winner that started Dallas Braden on Opening Day? Healthy returns from John Lackey and Ervin Santana are crucial for the Angels, and the Rangers are a year away, even though they have a lot of young talent in the field and on the mound. If Felix Hernandez turns into the King and Erik Bedard returns to 2007 form, the Mariners are dangerous, too, but would be moreso with Brandon Morrow in the rotation.

National League East
1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves*
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

When your core is David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana you're going to win lots of games; too bad Oliver Perez is the # 2 starter. All those pitchers the Braves signed would sure look good at Citi Field this October, but 2/3 of the opening day starting outfield (Jeff Francouer and Garret Anderson) could combine for a .310 OBP. Like the Mets, the Phillies have a championship caliber core; I like the rest of the pieces less, though. As always, the Marlins have some live arms, and hopefully Washington can dig itself out from the Jim Bowden debacle.

National League Central
1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Cubs look like the class of the division, but don't come without significant risks. You can never take Albert Pujols lightly, and a Chris Carpenter comeback would help a lot. The Brewers missed their chance last year, and the Reds have some pitching but too many offensive holes. The Astros are a long way from contention, both this year and in the future. At least the Pirates are starting to rebuild.

National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Francisco Giants
5. San Diego Padres

The Dodgers are a very good team but might need one more starter. The Diamondbacks have a good top of the rotation and breakout seasons from Chris Young and Justin Upton could lead this team to the playoffs. The Rockies will be much improved with a full season from Troy Tulowitzki, and the Giants might have the best front four starters in baseball. Too bad they don't have any offense. Adrian Gonzalez is about the only thing the Padres have going for them; the Jake Peavy sweepstakes in July could get interesting.

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore, with condolences to Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton and Mark Teixeira
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, with strong consideration for CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay and Jon Lester
AL Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters, of course. Followed by Travis Snider and David Price

NL MVP: Albert Pujols. In the human division, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez merit stong debate.
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana edges out Tim Lincecum
NL Rookie of the Year: Andrew McCutchen collects the most points from a quintet of centerfielders (Cameron Maybin, Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus and Jordan Schafer).

American League Championship Series
Boston Red Sox over Cleveland Indians

National League Championship Series
New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series
New York Mets over Boston Red Sox

Hey, What About Me???

The five (ok, maybe four... if I'm lucky) of us here at The Baltimore Birds Nest take offense at not being included in the Sun's rundown of Orioles blogs. To spite them, I will fill out my own information.

Summary: A surprisingly optimistic take on the Orioles, with a focus on aggregating sophisticated analysis from around the web and adding a bit of my own fan-based, yet hopefully objective, commentary.

Web gem: I have a really big man-crush on Matt Wieters.

Traffic: I think my dad visits. And sometimes people randomly make intelligent comments. Otherwise, this is mostly a way for me to organize my Orioles thoughts without making my wife's eyes glaze over in boredom.

Prediction: Like everyone else, low to mid 70s for wins, but with significant tail risks on both sides. I can see moving towards 80 if Wieters lives up to his Baseball Prospectus projection and the young pitching develops, and falling below 70 if the pitching under performs and Adam Jones and Felix Pie fail to improve.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

2009 Orioles Season Preview

With Opening Day just 72 hours away (!), it’s time for the 2009 Orioles Season Preview. Most prognosticators look for the Orioles to win roughly 75 games, a 7-win improvement from last year’s 68-93 mark, and a 2-win bump from the Orioles Pythagorean record of 73-88. Given that the Orioles match-up with the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees—who just might be the three best teams in the American League—a whopping 54 times, I think that final record might be a bit optimistic but that the talent assessment is accurate. I don’t know if any research has been done on strength of schedule as it relates to under/over performing Pythagorean record, but I definitely think it is possible the Orioles will wind up on the losing side for more than their fair share of those intra-divisional match-ups.

As we know, the single best predictor of a team’s final record is its run differential, and there are two ways to attack that number: allow fewer runs and score more runs. Let’s look at each in turn.

First up, run prevention:
1) The Orioles starting pitching is going to be really, really bad.

In 2008, Orioles starters racked up a 5.42 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and struck out just 5.24 batters per 9 IP. The American League average (including relievers, thus improving the numbers) was a 4.36 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and 6.64 K/9. As a team, the Orioles 5.15 ERA was ahead of just the Rangers 5.37 mark. Unfortunately, 2009 projections don’t really show any improvement, at least for the guys in the opening day rotation. For the staff, much will depend on when David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman will be ready to contribute. While the first two are likely capable of helping by the second half (and maybe sooner), it may be 2010 before MacPhail hands the keys to the rest of the young guys.

2) But the defense should be much improved.

In the second half of 2008, the Orioles posted a .668 Defensive Efficiency rating and finished the season with a .688 mark, this after leading the Majors in Defensive Effiency as late as June 29. To put those numbers in perspective, the best defensive team in baseball last year was Tampa Bay, which turned 71.0% of batted balls into outs; the worst team was the Rangers, who turned 67.0% into outs. I would also like to point out that on the morning of June 29 the Orioles were a surprising 42-38; it was also the date of the infamous George Sherrill blown save against the Nationals.

Thanks to some astute additions this offseason, the defense is likely to be much better. Cesar Izturis, a career 4.5 UZR/150 player, at shortstop and Felix Pie, a career 11.5 UZR/150 player in centerfield, in left will both help turn all those balls the pitching staff allows to be put in play into outs. An outfield of Pie, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis might very well be the best defensive outfield in the Majors this side of Seattle.

3) As always, the bullpen will be a crapshoot. But at least it will be a cheap crapshoot this year.

Next up, run scoring:
The Orioles are likely to be an offense that is a little bit better than league average.

In 2008, the Orioles scored 782 runs (4.86/game), just above the league average figure of 775 runs (4.78/game), very much in-line with a team 103 OPS+. Joe Sheehan projects the Orioles for 824 runs, and the depth chart PECOTA projections show the Orioles at 821; the run environment looks similar enough to compare the cross-season numbers outright. How are the Orioles going to score 40 more runs than in 2008? Let’s look position by position.

Right away, we can see that the O’s shortstops combined for a jaw-droppingly bad 50 OPS+ in 2008. I’m pretty sure I could match those numbers today, and I haven’t swung a bat since having shoulder surgery in 2004. Cesar Izturis has a career 67 OPS+, and he still represents a significant upgrade. Elsewhere, depending on when Matt Wieters joins the team, and how Adam Jones and Felix Pie progress, there is room for improvement from the Orioles young talent. On the flip side, Melvin Mora salvaged a truly awful first half to turn in a respectable season; at 37, his best days are certainly behind him and I would anticipate his 2009 numbers look much more like those he posted in 2006 and 2007 than in 2008. Aubrey Huff, too, is very much a candidate for decreased production. Still, this has the potential to be an above-average offense.

Unfortunately, the positives that Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters bring to the table are far outweighed by the negatives taking the mound on a daily basis. I think 75 wins is a reasonable goal for this team, but without some significant contributions from the young pitching, that total could plummet quickly. However, if Hernandez and Bergesen are promoted early, and Matusz advances more than expected, it is possible for the Orioles to outperform, but an awful lot would have to go right. While I’m tremendously excited about the direction this organization is headed, the improvements the club has made may not show up in the wins column this year. Still, this easily the most I’ve looked forward to an Orioles season in quite a while.

What would make this a successful season? I think three things:
1) Matt Wieters establishes himself as an offensive force behind the plate.
2) Felix Pie and Adam Jones show that they are long-term solutions in the outfield
3) The young pitching does not suffer any significant development set-backs.

If each of those things happen, 2010 could be a great year for the Orioles. In the win column.

Joe Sheehan's Predictions

Joe Sheehan runs down his bottom 10 teams in 2009. Unfortunately, that includes the Orioles.

I'll update as he runs through the next two tiers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nerd Alert

For the nerds among us, Rob Neyer pointed me to two fantastic articles today. One, at The Hardball Times, raises serious questions regarding Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projections, specifically the Davenport Translations used in converting minor league stats to Major League equivalents. Baseball Prospectus almost never responds to criticism--a significant failing, in my opinion--and I'm curious to see if they address what would seem to be serious errors in their calculations. The second, in Sports Illustrated, writes to a more mainstream audience about the use of defensive statistics by front offices today. Given the additions made by the Orioles this offseason, specifically Felix Pie and Cesar Izturis, it is safe to say that, even if they aren't on the cutting edge, the Orioles have taken defensive metrics into account in their player evaluations.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Matt Wieters

I'm finally getting my Google Reader cleaned out from a few long weeks of slacking due to college basketball, family visits, 10k runs, exams, group projects and the like. And I learned the most amazing things. Did you know that Matt Wieters can bend steel with his mind, and that his tears turn into diamonds? Well, it's true.


I'm all a twitter with the fact I'm now on Twitter. I have no idea how to use it, how I could use it, or if I will use it. But I figure that in a day where I'm blogging up a storm, I might as well sign up for an account. Follow me @theorioleway.

2009 Opening Day Rotation

With the news that Hayden Penn has been shipped to Miami, it seems as if the Orioles Opening Day rotation is set: Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Alredo Simon, Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson (in some order). Just for fun, let's look at their 2009 PECOTA Projections.

First off, I'm not sure why PECOTA is so bearish on Guthrie, but I'll guess it has to do with BABIP regression from a very low .261 in 2008. Next, we can see that this projected starting rotation, which Baseball Prospectus projects to contribute just 635 innings (last year's rotation threw 250 more than that), is expected to perform only slightly better than last year's motley crew. Still, I think it's safe to say that if Simon, Eaton, and Hendrickson live up to those numbers, they won't be approaching the 110 IP that those projections expect. Since MLB refuses to shorten the schedule for the Orioles this season, someone needs to make those 162 starts. I just don't think it will be those threee guys. Perhaps the cavalry?

More 2009 Predictions

1. Baseball Musings
2. Replacement Level Yankees
3. Sports Illustrated

Hayden Penn

Has been traded to the Marlins. I'm quite surprised by this move. Even with his disappointing spring, I didn't expect the Orioles to give up on him; does the club really ve enough pitching depth to part ways with a talented 24-year old that has been so unlucky (appendectomy, flying bat shards, etc.) over the previous few seasons?