Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gold Gloves

I've kept silent about Adam Jones winning the Gold Glove award this season, largely because the various defensive metrics indicate that he had a poor season in the field (I even highlighted it in my look ahead to the offseason). Joe Posnanski found an interesting tidbit, though:
The Doyen of Defense, John Dewan, wrote an interesting thing the other day. He
was trying to determine if Torii Hunter or Adam Jones deserved their Gold
Gloves. And while he hit several points, the one that stuck out for me was this:
Adam Jones led the league with four home run saving catches.

That explains it perfectly! Of course Adam Jones would score highly on the system used by Rawlings to determine the Gold Gloves: he looks like a great defender. He makes spectacular catches, runs gracefully, and has a great arm. Franklin Gutierrez, who turned in an all-time great defensive season for Seattle, was more deserving of the Gold Glove, but it's difficult to fault the voters when Jones made so many memorable plays. People who watched the Orioles play all season long picked up the same thing as the metrics: Jones, who frequently plays shallow, had difficulty on deep balls. Most evaluators, though, don't have the luxury of watching a full season, and it's these situations where objective metrics need to supplement subjective opinions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cool to the Touch

As was totally, predictable, the Hot Stove hasn't really heated up yet. But, as Baseball Prospectus reported on Sunday, the Orioles have payroll to burn and figure to be active participants this offseason:
The Orioles have money to spend and they are eying a number of free agents,
including left-handers Erik Bedard and Randy Wolf, right-hander Rich Harden,
closer Billy Wagner, and first baseman Nick Johnson.

That's a pretty impressive list of targets.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turning on the Hot Stove

As the leaves fall and the air turns crisp, the baseball calendar turns to some of my favorite events: free agent speculation, trade rumors and prospect ranking season. On that last note, Baseball Prospectus is already out with their Top 11 Orioles Prospects and FanGraphs recently posted a Minor Review of the Orioles organization. We'll get more into the rankings and their implications as the winter wears on.

I sponsored my first page today, lending my name to the 2003 Baltimore Orioles (the sponsorship should be posted tomorrow). This is the team for which I interned in the PR department, spending a glorious summer working at the ballpark, living in a penthouse suite, and drinking $1 Yuenglings at this blog's namesake (and now defunct) dive bar. It's also the summer where I made my brilliant proclamation that an outfield of Luis Matos, Jay Gibbons, and Larry Bigbie provided a solid building block for the organization. Combined career line: .260/.316/.418 with a 162-game average of 17 homers and 65 RBI.

Friday, November 6, 2009


One of the few bright spots defensively for the Orioles in 2009 was shortstop Cesar Izturis. Signed
for $6 million over 2-years last offseason, Izturis returned nearly the value of the whole contract last season, posting a 1.3 WAR, worth $5.8 million according to FanGraphs. Chalk up a big win for MacPhail.

Still, Izturis, who will play 2010 at age 30, is not a long-term solution for the position. He is a pretty terrible hitter (his .256/.294/.328 mirrors perfectly his career numbers), and he's starting to get old. He's a fine option for 2010, but I'm sure the Orioles would love to have a younger option that could provide some more offensive punch for the long-term. This winter's trade market may provide one such option.

In 2007 and 2008, J.J. Hardy was one of the best shortstops in baseball. He hit; he played defense; he was a star. But in 2009, the bottom fell out for his hitting and he posted a .229/.302/.357 line--not so different from Cesar Izturis. His defense, though, remained stellar. In fact, FanGraphs rates him as the 3rd best defender over the 2007 to 2009 period. As noted in that article, the Brewers installed rookie Alcides Escobar at shortstop last season, perhaps making Hardy expendable. Should the Orioles take a look?

He's three years younger than Izturis, and plays defense just as well, but is a bit more expensive. Hardy earned $4.65 million in 2009, would be arbitration eligible for next season, and is slated to be a free agent after the 2010 season (according to Cot's; I'm not sure about that. Given that he was sent to the minors for a part of this season, I think that his free agency will be delayed by a year). Importantly, though, J.J. has significant upside with the bat. His down year last year can partly be attributed to a lower BAbip (.260 vs. career .278), but he also seemed to lose some of his power stroke; his line drive percentage fell, and he hit fewer home runs per fly ball. Still, if he can be had fairly cheaply, he would be a good risk for the Orioles to take. Since the team is unlikely to add a power bat on the corners, the O's will need to get extra production from nontraditional sources. Matt Wieters behind the plate and Adam Jones in centerfield are a good start, and J.J. Hardy could provide above average offense from the shortstop position.

Update: Nevermind. Hardy is off the market.