Friday, December 10, 2010

Kevin Gregg

Jeff Zrebiec at The Sun has news today that the Orioles have a 2-year, $8-$10 million offer out to former Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg.  Jeff is wondering whether Gregg would "unseat" Koji as the closer if he signs.  Leaving aside whether or not the O's should be throwing millions of dollars at free agent relievers (they shouldn't be), having Gregg close games might not actually be a bad idea.  He's a Proven Closer (TM), though not a great pitcher (career 8.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9), meaning that the Orioles don't really want him pitching in the highest leverage situations.  Moving Koji--and his great strikeout numbers--into potentially higher leverage situations with runners on base in the 7th and 8th, could be a better use of bullpen assets.  I don't know if this is how MacPhail is approaching the situation, but if that's how it works out, we probably shouldn't complain too much.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2011 Roster

At the risk of getting overly excited and jumping the gun, it appears that the O's may be getting close to trading for J.J. Hardy.  If true, the Orioles will have gone a long way toward filling out their 2011 roster.  Let's take a quick look at how things are shaping up.

CA: Matt Wieters
1B: open
2B: Brian Roberts
3B: Mark Reynolds
SS: J.J. Hardy
LF: Felix Pie
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Luke Scott

B: Nolan Reimold
B: Craig Tatum
B: Jake Fox
B: open (utility IF - Robert Andino/Cesar Izturis?)

SP: Brian Matusz
SP: Jeremy Guthrie
SP: Brad Bergesen
SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Jake Arrieta

CL: Koji Uehara (rumored)
LRP: Mike Gonzalez
RRP: Jim Johnson
RRP: Jason Berken
RRP: Alfredo Simon
LRP: open
?RP: open

That leaves four open spots (assuming the O's come to terms with Koji): 1B, utility IF, another lefty for the bullpen, and one more bullpen arm.  There appear to be lots of irons in the fire for 1B (maybe Derek Lee?), and utility IF won't be tough to fill, but what to do with the bullpen?  My guess is the O's sign one of the many available righties and also bring back Mark Hendrickson.  They could also bring in another veteran starter to provide some depth, perhaps shifting Tillman or Arrieta back to Norfolk (again) or to the bullpen for the time being.  Either way, the 2011 roster looks close to being set.  Not a contender, but that looks to me like a big improvement over what was on the field for most of 2010.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beer at the Ballpark

It looks like Delaware North, the new concessions company for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, is taking a food tour of Baltimore today.  The Orioles (@BirdlandInsider) and Delaware North officials (@BallparkRick) are tweeting about.  If you're a beer fan, be sure to let them know we want good craft beer at the Yard in 2011.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Adam Dunn


The Orioles need a first baseman.  This is obvious.  In 2010, the six players that donned a mitt combined for an amazingly low -1.1 fWAR.  From Adam Dunn to Xavier Nady, there's a veritable alphabet soup that the Orioles could target to provide an easy three win (or more) upgrade over this year's club.

One option with which I am not enamored is Adam Dunn; certainly, I don't think the Orioles should offer 4-years and $15 million per season for him.  There are a few reasons that I think Adam Dunn is a bad choice, some recounted ably by Dave Cameron:

1) He will cost the O's their second round draft pick.
2) There are lots of other, cheaper options for first base.
3) He's been worth $15 million or more exactly once in the past six seasons.
4) His "old player" skills and body type make me think he's susceptible to rapid decline.
5) His 2010 season showed a decline in walk rate and a rise in his strikeout rate, which combined for a very large increase in his K/BB ratio.

I think it goes without saying that Dunn's value lies entirely in his bat.  At the very best, he's an average defender at first base (both Fangraphs and B-Ref have him as a -3 defender in 2010), and he's not going to provide any value on the bases (his last stolen base came in 2008).  Historically, though, his bat has been a good one, driven by prodigious power and a keen batting eye.

From 2001 to 2009 he posted an aggregate line of .249/.383/.520 built on a .292 BABIP, 26.5% strikeout rate and 16.9% walk rate (1.57 K/BB ratio).  His 2010 line, .260/.356/.536, doesn't look out of line at all with his career performance, but his ratios diverged significantly.  His BABIP rose to .329, he struck out 30.7% of the time (previous high: 28.6% in 2004), and he walked in just 11.9% of his plate appearances (previous non-rookie half-season low: 15.8% in 2003).  He had never before posted a K/BB ratio above 2.0.  This season it spiked to 2.58.  As Keith Law notes, he also saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance of his career in 2010.  His batting eye clearly regressed in 2010; how much longer will the power last?  Yes, Dunn has been durable and healthy, but that question makes me extremely hesitant to offer anything longer than a three year deal.

All told Dunn was worth about 30 batting runs last season, right in line with his average from the past six seasons.  Subtract 10 for a positional adjustment, add 20 for replacement level, and assume 0 for his defensive abilities, and Dunn is a 4.0 win player.  At $4m per win, that suggests he could get about $16m for a one year contract in 2011.  I suspect that most teams, though, aren't going to value him as an average defender (knock off $4.0m), and a long-term deal may well come with a slight discount (knock off another $1m), right in line with the Fangraphs crowdsource (which has Dunn priced at 3/$12.5m) and Dave Cameron (who guesstimates 3/$11m).

I can accept that an offer of $15m per season may be what it takes to convince Dunn to come to the American League, but, for me, 4/$15m is just too rich a deal for a 31-year old bat-only player coming off a season where he showed some early signs of aging in the weaker league.  This Orioles club isn't yet ready to contend, and if it is, it will be because the pitching takes a huge leap forward.  If that happens, by all means, trade for someone like Adam Dunn.  Right now, though, the money would be better spent targeting a cheaper option at first base and spending the balance on some more hitting prospects, including the one the O's could take in the 2nd round of a very deep 2011 draft class.  First base shouldn't require an imperfect, expensive fix.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Elias Rankings

Those antiquated, head-scratching Elias Free Agent Rankings that will drive the market for many a veteran this off-season are out over at, and the Orioles have two players on the list, Koji Uehara and Kevin Millwood.  Should the O's offer either of these Type B free agents arbitration?

In this discussion, it's important to remember that a Type B free offered arbitration nets the player's former club a supplemental compensation draft pick but does not cost the signing club it's own pick.  Thus, unlike Type A players who come with a cost over and above the contract dollars for which they sign (a surrendered draft pick), Type B players that are offered arbitration won't see reduced demand for their services.  With the technicalities out of the way, let's analyze the situations for both Koji and Millwood.

Koji Uehara: 2 year/$10 million contract expired
2010 stats: 44.0 IP, 11.25 K/9, 1.02 BB/9, 2.40 FIP, 2.91 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR, 1.2 bWAR
2009 stats: 66.2 IP, 6.48 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, 3.56 FIP, 4.51 xFIP, 1.7 fWAR, 1.2 bWAR

Despite pitching barely 110 innings over two seasons, Koji earned his $10 million keep, returning 2.5-3.0 WAR (depending on your methodology).  He was especially good out of the bullpen this season, proving an effective closer for the final two months of the season. Most impressive (other than his sideburns, of course)?  His walk rates.  He didn't walk a single batter after August 4, a span of 26.1 IP.  And, oh, yeah: he struck out 35 during that time. His overall numbers weren't BABIP aided, and both his FIP and xFIP back up the notion that he can be an excellent reliever.  Now, I am far from an expert on arbitration awards, but he only had 13 saves and made $5 million in 2010.  That seems like a recipe for an award in the $7-$8 million range, and I think Koji is a solid bet to worth that amount out of the 'pen.  Recommendation: Offer arbitration.  If he accepts, fine.  If you resign him and avoid arbitration, great.  If he declines, take the pick.

Kevin Millwood: 5 year/$60 million contract expired
2010 stats: 190.2 IP, 6.23 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 4.86 FIP, 4.66 xFIP, 1.3 fWAR, 0.5 bWAR
2009 stats: 198.2 IP, 5.57 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 4.80 FIP, 4.78 xFIP, 2.4 fWAR, 3.4 bWAR

Millwood is clearly on his last legs as a Major League starting pitcher.  He's been roughly the same pitcher since 2007, striking out a bit more than 6 batters per nine while walking about 3 per nine with an ERA fluctuating between solid and poor as his BABIP moves around the league average.  He's not a good bet to be worth more than a win (or maybe two), meaning that he'll almost assuredly be overpaid in arbitration.  He is, however, a very durable pitcher with the ability munch a lot of innings.  Plus, an arbitration award would mean just a one year commitment.

I suspect that the team would very much like to have another veteran arm to complement Guthrie and Matusz; Arrieta, Bergesen and Tillman are still wild cards in terms of their performance, and Zach Britton may or may not be ready for the big league rotation.  Thus, the question becomes whether or not the club can entice a similar pitcher to Millwood to sign in Baltimore for a lower cost (for clarity's sake, I'm working on the wild assumption that Cliff Lee isn't coming to Baltimore).  Looking at the list of free agent pitchers, filled with injury question marks and guys seeking longer-term deals, I'm not sure they can.  Recommendation: Offer arbitration, assuming an award in the $10-$12 million range.  Ideally, you'd sign a player like Millwood for about $6 million, so if he accepts, you've overpaid for stability, but haven't locked yourself into a long-term deal.  If you resign him and avoid arbitration, you've still overpaid, but haven't locked yourself into a long-term deal.  And if he declines because he doesn't want to return to Baltimore and he's willing to accept less money elsewhere, take the pick.

I realize my Millwood recommendation is both expensive and controversial.  Disagree with my conclusion?  Let  me know why.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hitting Drill

As Daniel at Camden Crazies has been telling us for months (and as others have detailed more recently), Nick Markakis struggled to hit with any pull power this season, and that makes this article extremely interesting to me.  As the article details, "There is a core of players who regularly use Long’s drill, which teaches players to pull the ball for power."  Sounds like just the medicine he needs!  In a related story, the Orioles still haven't made any decisions about bringing back Terry Crowley for next year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The Orioles need a shortstop.  Cesar Izturis is a free agent, and there are no viable internal options (sorry, Mr. Andino).  The Orioles could potentially resign Izturis, but his bat has deteriorated so incredibly far that even excellent defense leaves him below replacement level (-34 batting runs brought him to -0.4 fWAR in 2010).  The options on the free agent market are also extremely thin.  There is, however, one intriguing (potential) option: Hiroyuki Nakajima.  There is no guarantee that he will be posted this off season, and there are certainly questions over how well he would make the transition to MLB, but given the dearth of domestic options, this is one import the Orioles would do well to give a long, hard look.  Could signing Koji two years ago have also helped address the shortstop position?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adrian Beltre

Last winter, Adrian Beltre didn't like the options he had for signing a long-term contract and instead signed a 1-year deal with the Boston Red Sox for $9 million (plus a player option he's sure to decline).  In their excellent contract crowdsourcing series, FanGraphs took up his free agent case today.  The result: 4 years/$13 million per.  At that price, the Orioles should absolutely pursue Beltre for a long-term deal.  The club has no clear cut option for anyone on the left side of the infield (if Josh Bell succeeds in 2011 I'll happily eat those words), and the club could really use a right-handed hitter capable of hitting for some pop.  No, he doesn't bring the on-base skills this club really needs, but he sure does bring the glove.  He's probably a 3-win player, making the $13 million annual value appropriate, and he would fill a much needed hole for the O's.  This would be a good signing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Craft Beer

The Sun website picked up a Chicago Tribune article on craft beer today, entitled "Craft beer market draws attention of big breweries".  There's nothing new in there (it could have easily been written in 2005, only without the focus on recession), but there is one epic fail: there's not a single quote from a craft brewer!  The writer quotes PR people from Diageo, Tenth & Blake (MillerCoors), and several industry publication sources, but fails to talk to anyone from the other side of the story (have you ever met a craft brewer not willing to talk?).  Sigh.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Last weekend, Alewife opened about 0.4 miles north of Gate H at Camden Yards. Always on the lookout for great beer, especially within a short walk of the ballpark, I thought I better check it out.  It was well worth the trip.

As anyone who visited the building in its former incarnation as Maggie Moore's or Lucy's can attest, Alewife is an impressive bar space.  High ceilings, ample seating, beautiful stained glass windows; it's tough to imagine a better setting for a drink.  And, speaking of drink, Alewife aims to please.  The bar has 40 draft lines and, once they're fully up and running, will stock more than 100 different bottles.  If they regularly pour a draft lineup anywhere near as good as their debut efforts, though, that bottle list will be superfluous.  After much consternation, I decided to try a Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanco ($8) and a Smuttynose Big A IPA ($5), both new to me.  Other options included beers from Oscar Blues, Bear Republic, Green Flash, Stone, and Victory, several Belgians, and a healthy selection of IPAs (hops seem to be the owners' Achilles heel).  I chatted with a knowledgeable bartender, Brian, who explained that the beer list will change regularly, with one or two taps changing on a daily basis that so every two to three weeks nearly the entire list will turnover, keeping the beer fresh and regulars from getting bored.  There are also plans in the works to regularly put casks on the bar, but a permanent pump system is unlikely.  As for food, I really enjoyed my Smoke Burger ($14).  The beef was of very high quality and actually cooked to order (medium), while the gruyere, gouda and bacon topping was a divine combination.  Oh, and did I mention the rosemary garlic duck fat fries?  Fantastic.  I can't wait to go back and try the Cubano ($12).

Two early criticisms I've seen of Alewife are 1) a lack of local beer and 2) bartenders who weren't beer geeks.  As to the first, while Flying Dog Pale Ale was the only Maryland beer on tap, I would certainly define Victory and Dogfish as local brews.  Heavy Seas is sure to make an appearance in the rotation, and, hopefully, Troegs and Stoudts will soon follow.  Personally, it doesn't matter to me if there are only one or two Maryland options at any given time since local beer has become fairly ubiquitous (at least at the places I visit).  At a place with a draft list like Alewife, I like to branch out and try new things.  However, I certainly think local beer needs to have a strong presence; treating the locals guys right will only benefit the business.  Guys like Hugh Sisson and Steve Jones are tremendous advocates for craft beer and the local beer scene, and showcasing their products is important.

As for the second, I had no problems with my two bartenders.  Before Alewife opened, the owners sponsored a two week intensive seminar for all the bar and wait staff where they tasted more than 200 beers across two full weeks of training, and the research seems to have paid off.  The staff could certainly explain broad style differences between beers, and while I didn't test for intricate knowledge of subtle differences between the Belgian brews, I was offered a sample of the two IPAs I was trying to choose between.  Aside from perhaps the beer geekiest of craft drinkers, I can't imagine most people needing more technical knowledge from their barkeep.

Of course, I've largely ignored the elephant in the room when it comes to Alewife: location.  The bar is gorgeous, the draft list impressive, and the food delicious.  But will all that be enough to draw in paying customers?  I certainly hope so, and I'm optimistic.  In recent months, several new (albeit lunch focused) restaurants have opened in the same block, and this area is the focus of an incredible (after accounting for the recession) amount of new commercial investment; plus, the new owners are saying all the right things about being committed to the neighborhood's renaissance.  During the day, there are plenty of office and hospital workers, plus students from several schools, in the area, but will those people stick around for happy hour or trek back on a Saturday night?  Special events--like the upcoming October 1 Stone Brewing event--should help.  Still, while there are countless reasons, from poor cash flow management to bad food, that restaurants fail, it is an ominous sign that both Maggie Moore's and Lucy's didn't make it in the same location.  Let's hope the third time is the charm, because Alewife is an excellent addition to the Baltimore beer scene.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Felix Pie and Terry Crowley

Felix Pie, via The Baltimore Sun, talking about Terry Crowley: "The Felix Pie that everybody sees right now, that is because this guy made that person."  And later, Terry Crowley on Felix Pie: "He’s shown us that he can hit for an average, and he’s shown us that he’s got power."

Felix Pie has a .304 OBP and a 4.1% walk rate in 2010.  In 2009, he walked 8.5% of the time.  In his short Cubs career, he walked 8.4% of the time.  Across parts of 8 minor league seasons, he walked 7.4% of the time.  Note that Terry didn't say "He's shown us that he can get on base."  I like Felix, and I think he can still become a good player.  But has he really made the kind of progress that is a good thing to attribute to the hitting coach?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Matt Wieters Facts

On May 29, 2009, Baltimore though the future had arrived when one of baseball's top prospects, complete with is own facts page, made his Major League debut.  Unfortunately, a bit more than a year later, that future still looked bleak.  On June 19, 2010, Matt Wieters completed a third consecutive 0-for-4, dropping his career line to .263/.318/.377 in 625 plate appearances over 158 games.  His 2010 line was a woeful .222/.283/.321, hardly worthy of his survivor-free batting practice sessions.  In a season where nearly everything that could go wrong had gone wrong, Wieters' failures were among the most frustrating for Orioles fans.

Just in case you gave up at that bleakest of moments, I'm here to rekindle your faith.  Here is the line that Matt has posted since June 20: .299/.383/.494 with 19 extra base hits (12 doubles, a triple, and 6 homers), 25 walks and just 26 strike outs in 193 plate appearances.  Small sample size, yes, but for a prospect with his pedigree, these numbers cannot be ignored.  Let's dig a little deeper into Wieters early career.

First and foremost, let's examine Wieters approach at the plate.  In 2009 and the first half of 2010 (which I'll designate herein as ending June 19), Matt was overmatched.  He struck out in 22.1% of his plate appearances, and walked about one third as much (7.4%).  When he did make contact, it usually wasn't very authoritative; he knocked extra base hits in just 5.9% of his plate appearances.  FanGraphs doesn't break out plate discipline numbers intra-season (at least, I don't know how to do that), but in 2009, Wieters swung at 70.2% of pitches  in the strike zone (above the league average of 66.0%), and he made contact on just 83.4% of those swings (below the league average of 87.8%).  Combined, Matt was swinging at at 47.2% of the pitches he saw, 190 basis points over the league average rate of 45.3%.

Now, though, Wieters doesn't look anything like the same hitter.  He's lowered his strike out percentage markedly (13.5% since June 20), and raised his walk rate to nearly match it (13.0%).  The contact he makes is much more solid: 9.8% of the time he's poked an extra base hit.  Even his full 2010 plate discipline numbers have improved.  His in the strike zone swing percentage has dipped (to 60.7%; league average is 64.4%), and he's making contact at above average rates (91.5% of the time in the strike zone; league average is 88.2%).  Rather than swinging more than most hitters, Matt is now more selective, swinging 43.2% of the time (below the league average of 45.6%).

Wieters' full 2010 season line is also a bit deceiving in that he is likely the victim of a bit of bad luck in the BABIP department.  Plugging in his 2010 season totals, I calculate his xBABIP as .318.  Adjusting his line (by adding 9 singles and 2 doubles) to reflect these additional 0.028 BABIP points turns him into a .283/.353/.429 hitter for the season.  Importantly, his hot streak since June 20 has been built on the back of a .316 BABIP, a number right in line with his career total and his xBABIP calculation.

So, what's the takeaway?  Well, it sure looks to me like Matt Wieters has successfully adjusted to Major League pitching.  He's striking out less, walking more, and being more selective at the plate.  His recent hot streak is absolutely not driven by luck in the BABIP department.  Combined with his prospect pedigree, there is every indication that this turnaround is real.  The Orioles now have the stud catcher we were all expecting.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Orioles Attendance (Revisited)

Remember a few weeks ago when The Sun ran a piece asserting that despite the Orioles awful start to the season attendance was actually running higher than a year ago?  And remember how I did a little fancy math and took issue with their assertion?  What's happened since then?

Well, things look like we would expect them to for a team threatening to turn in the worst season in franchise history.  That is, attendance is lower than a year ago.  Last year, on August 31, the Orioles were averaging 24,365 fans per game; today (with one game still to go in August), the O's are drawing 21,069.  That's a decline of 13.5%.  Interestingly, the model I built this spring predicts 24,115 fans per game for the O's, very similar to last season's actual results, indicating that the two seasons have now seen a similar attendance generating schedule for the club.

Bluefield Orioles

The news this weekend that the O's were ending a 53-season relationship with the Bluefield Orioles hit me harder than most Baltimore fans.  See, I became a Baltimore Orioles fan largely because of the Bluefield Orioles.  My dad's family is from Bluefield, and we have a long history with the organization.  My grandparents were season ticket holders for many, many seasons, my dad and his brother were both batboys for the team, and my uncle currently serves on the club's board of directors; many of our most frequently told family stories revolve around the stands at Bowen Field, especially the grilling my grandfather would give to umpires failing to call the strike zone in favor of the home town team.  When I interviewed with the Orioles for my summer internship, I explained my Bluefield connection to illustrate my ties to the organization.  Thus, the announcement came as a particularly sharp blow.

No, it probably won't matter for the long-run health of the Major League club whether or not the Baltimore Orioles have an Appalachian League franchise, but every Orioles fan should be just a little bit saddened by this announcement.  Bluefield--and towns like it all across America--epitomize the small-town Americana image of minor league baseball.  Bluefield, which was the longest-running relationship in affiliated baseball, was still a link to that long-lost "Oriole Way", the idea that a freshly signed draft pick would enter into the organization and learn the same methods and practices that the big leaguers in far-off Baltimore were using in the Major Leagues.  I hope Bluefield attracts another big league club to take over its operations, but the city just won't be the same without the Baby Birds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zach Britton

I hate to say I told you so, but... I told you so.  As reported today by the various O's outlets, Zach Britton is most likely not going to make his Major League debut in 2010.  He's slated to pitch August 30 for the Tides, and then will likely start once again before the season is over (the final Norfolk game of the season is September 6).  That will bring his total number of AAA starts to a dozen, giving him somewhere in the range of 65-70 innings at the minors' highest level, pushing his season total right near 160, a modest increase from his totals of the past two seasons*.  If the Orioles really wanted to give him a taste of the Majors, he could easily handle another start or two, but considering that he's not on the 40-man roster, patting him on the back and handing him the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year award is probably the smartest way to go.  Congrats on a great season, Zach.  We'll see you in Baltimore real soon.  Please bring that sinker when you come.

*If minor league stats are to be believed. Seriously, every source reports something just a little bit different.

Triple Crown

Over in the National League, things are shaping up for quite the month of September in the NL Central.  The Cardinals and the Reds looks set to battle down to the final weekend for the division title, with the victor perhaps propelled by a Triple Crown* winner in either Albert Pujols or Joey Votto.  You would think that MLB would be trying to capitalize on the chase for this rare feat, but their stats page fails miserably.  Take a look:

Why can't I click a button that shows me only the NL leaders?  Then, I could see Joey Votto's smiling face atop the batting average leaders (.326, over Carlos Gonzalez at .320 and Pujols at .319), Pujols grinning as the leader in home runs (33, over Votto's and Adam Dunn's 31), and then Pujols again above the pack in RBI (92, over Votto's 90).  C'mon, MLB - make it easy for me to follow the Triple Crown race!

*I know the Triple Crown race is virtually meaningless, but it would still be a hugely exciting achievement.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fans Scouting Reports

Got a view on the just how good (or average) Adam Jones or Nick Markakis is at defense?  Then let your voice be heard!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2011

Inspired by the Royals Authority, I decided to take at look at what the Orioles can expect in 2011, in terms of WAR.  According to FanGraphs, the 2010 Orioles have posted a mere 10.8 WAR, 29th in baseball (ahead of only Pittsburgh).  At the other end of the spectrum, the Twins (43.3), Red Sox (40.0), Rays (37.2), Yankees (35.7), Giants (35.6), Braves (35.4), Padres (35.0), and Rangers (34.2) show what it takes to be a contender.*

*On the other hand, the Blue Jays (34.0) show just how hard it is to compete in the AL East.  They'd be fighting neck-and-neck in nearly any other division in baseball.

In 2009, both the Yankees (58.4) and Red Sox (52.5) topped 50 wins, while the Red Sox (59.5) and Cubs (51.4) turned the trick in 2008; in 2007, the Red Sox posted 55.9 WAR with Yankees second at 49.7.  (Full results available here; you have to add pitcher and hitter results).  Thus, since the Orioles must build a team capable of being the best in baseball in order to challenge within its own division, the O's need to build a 45 to 50 WAR team in order to compete for a playoff spot out of the American League East.  Can they do that in the near future?  Let's go position by position.

Pos: Projected 2011 Player (2010 WAR, 2009 WAR)

CA: Matt Wieters (1.7, 1.6)  Wieters is a key for the club going forward.  His scouting pedigree and minor league track record suggests a future MVP candidate.  His current Major League production is solid average.  2011 Projection: 2.5 WAR

1B: Nolan Reimold (-0.3, 1.3)  After a very solid offensive debut in 2009, Reimold fell off a cliff in 2010.  I'm inclined to chalk it up to his Achilles injury, and he has been hitting better at Norfolk of late, but September will be a crucial audition for Reimold.  2011 Projection: 1.5 WAR

2B: Brian Roberts (0.3, 3.9)  From 2003 to 2009, Roberts posted win totals of 2.5, 2.4, 6.7, 3.2, 4.7, 4.8 and 3.9.  Then, he suffered a back injury while working out this past off-season and has been slow to return to his former self.  Most ominously, his range in the field looks severely diminished.  Will an off-season lead to further recovery and a return of the B-Rob of old, or is he destined to make laughable his contract extension?  2011 Projection: 2.0 WAR

SS: I have no idea (Cesar Izturis: -0.5, 1.1)  Thanks to a replacement level bat and a good glove, Cesar Izturis posted a postive WAR season in 2009.  His glove has slipped in 2010, making him sub-replacement level.  Given the scarcity of shortstop options likely to be available this off-season, it's tough to project anything more than replacement level for next season.  2011 Projection: 0.0 WAR

3B: Josh Bell (Bell and Miguel Tejada: -0.1, Melvin Mora: 1.2)  Bell clearly has some talent, but he's also looked over-matched in his initial Major League at-bats. 2011 Projection: 1.0 WAR

LF: Felix Pie (-0.2, 1.2)  I'm a big fan of Pie, but I'm unfortunately not sure if its warranted.  He may be just a 4th outfielder, capable of producing in the right spot, but not good enough to merit an every day job.  2011 Projection: 1.0 WAR

CF: Adam Jones (1.6, 1.8)  Another super athletic outfielder with an incredible ability to both amaze and confound.  Sometimes he makes baseball look easy, and then he'll chase three straight down and away sliders and let a double fly over his head in center field.  The whole package is still good, but he always leaves us expecting greatness that I'm not sure will ever be there over the course of entire season.  2011 Projection: 2.0 WAR

RF: Nick Markakis (1.8, 2.2)  Is Nick the guy with the 7% walk rate from 2009 and the second half of 2010, or the 14% walk rate from 2008 and the first half of 2010?  Is his defense above or below average?  Will he ever hit 20 home runs again?  He'll probably never again be the 6.3 WAR player he was in 2008, but can he be a 4.0 win guy over the life of his contract?  For the Orioles to contend, he needs to be.  2011 Aggressive Projection: 4.0 WAR

DH: Luke Scott (2.7, 1.5)  With a career .240 ISO, it's clear the man can hit for power.  He's not a great defender, but he's not a bad one either, grading out just about average in left over the course of his career.  Why the O's refused to let him play first base and instead signed Garrett Atkins I have no idea.  2011 Projection: 2.5 WAR

That's a total of 16.5 WAR from the regular offense.  On to the pitching!

Starting Pitching:
Jeremy Guthrie (1.5, 1.1)  2011 Projection: 1.5 WAR
Brian Matusz (1.8, 0.8)  2011 Projection: 2.0 WAR
Jake Arrieta (0.2)  2011 Projection:  0.5 WAR
Zach Britton (n/a)  2011 Projection:  0.0 WAR
Chris Tillman (0.0, -0.1)  2011 Projection:  0.0 WAR
Brad Bergesen (0.0, 2.3)  2011 Projection:  0.0 WAR

Do you have any better suggestions for how to project the pitching for next year?  Clearly, these individuals are going to have an extremely large variance surrounding their projected outcome.  I think that 2010 Guthrie is about what we can expect from him, while I'm hoping we see more of pound-the-strike-zone Brian Matusz going forward.  As for the others?  Well, maybe Tillman will finally put it all together, and maybe he won't.  Britton could be a left-handed Brandon Webb, or he could be a left-handed Brad Bergesen.  And Brad Bergesen?  Well, I haven't a clue.  Starting pitcher total: 4.0 WAR

It's pretty useless to project a bullpen this far in advance, but with David Hernandez, Jason Berken, Alfredo Simon, and a quite a few other live arms in the organization, Andy MacPhail should be able to piece together a serviceable bullpen.  What's a serviceable bullpen worth?  Well, great relievers are worth 2.0-3.0 WAR, while about 100 individuals have accumulated  a positive WAR value.  As a team, the Orioles 2010 team has posted 1.1 WAR.  On the other hand, a great bullpen properly leveraged can be worth 8.0 wins or more.  Let's give them 3.0 WAR for 2011.

Add it all up and the Orioles project for about 23.5 WAR in 2011.  While clearly far short of our 45 to 50 goal, how many wins is that?  About 70.  Yikes.

So, how can the Orioles break out of this path that they're on?  Clearly, the easiest way is for the starting pitching to develop.  Teams with great pitching pitching staffs can easily earn 15 or more wins from their starters and this group of young pitchers clearly has impressive upside potential.  In our dream world, everyone develops at the same time; let's say there are an additional 10.0 potential WAR (2.0 from Matusz, 2.0 from Arrieta, 3.0 from Britton, and 3.0 from Tillman) on the starting pitching front.  Next, we'll make Buck Showalter a bullpen match-up genius.  Rather than the 3.0 WAR a mere mortal would achieve from the O's bullpen, we'll double that total and make the 'pen worth another 3.0 potential WAR.  Now we're up to 36.5  and  the O's are above .500!  Where can we find another wins?

1) Acquire a quality shortstop.  This won't come cheap, nor will it be easy, but this is the Orioles most glaring hole.  Finding 3.0 WAR at the shortstop position is necessary for our rebuilding program to be a success.  If not, the absolute best glove available should be sought and "for the best" should be hoped.
2) Find the Matt Wieters that left no survivors after batting practice.  Can Wieters be the MVP candidate everyone thought he would become?  He'd add another 2.0 WAR (or more) if he did.
3) Proper use of bench and platoon players.  With Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott, the Orioles have surprising flexibility to play match-ups and rest regulars.  Add another 1.0 WAR for bench players.
4) This still leaves the O's about 6.0 wins short of being a contender and lacking a stud bat in the middle of the lineup.  Can Adam Jones add a few WAR to his total?  What about Josh Bell; should the O's make a move to acquire a third baseman or first baseman?  Can Brian Roberts bounce back?

While a realistic projection again foretells a losing season for the O's in 2011, the orange-tinted glasses look reveals enough upside on the pitching staff to push the club close to .500.  A further clicking of the ruby orange slippers shows that enough development out of the young hitters could move the club into range to compete with the Blue Jays.  If the team really wants to compete, though, it's going to have to do more than hope everything goes right (hint: it won't) with the existing roster.  There are no stars on this team, and the lack of true top tier talents means that a reasonable ceiling for this club is probably the .500 mark, even if all goes well.  To compete in the AL East, this team needs top shelf talent.  Unfortunately, I don't have many suggestions for Mr. MacPhail when it comes to acquiring that talent.


One thing that drives me crazy is when announcers, writers and analysts bemoan a lack of "consistency."  Usually, the player subject to such comments is actually quite consistent: consistently bad.  In reality, though, this is a completely meaningless comment.  Baseball is a game of binary outcomes.  You either get on base, or you make an out.  You either win, or you lose (and sometimes it rains).  Are you asking for the player to do the same thing every at-bat?  Or post the same aggregate outcome for each game?  And how come consistency is never used with a negative connotation?  So the next time you want to say a player needs to develop some "consistency," please instead use the English language correctly and explain that what you really want is to see positive outcomes on a regular basis.  Of course, it doesn't sound as smart to say "Adam Jones needs to get some hits," does it?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gary Thorne and Stats

If you follow @theorioleway on Twitter, then you know that I'm not exactly a fan of Gary Thorne's play-by-play "analysis."  Just this week, he was amazed by the concept of regression to the mean, and I distinctly remember Thorne praising Cesar Izturis for collecting more hits than any other #9 hitter in baseball.  Well, it turns out that nerds like me aren't the only ones who don't like Thorne.  Take it away, anonymous Baltimore Sun commenter:

Pete, I think they should throw the stats books in the trash. They have ruined the game.
Managers manage more from stats than feel of the game. I do like the fact that Buck is old school in the way he looks at the game. If a pitcher is pitching well, let them pitch. A quality start to me is one we win, period. Who cares if the guy goes eight and looses.
We have guys in the big leagues who don't get to play because they are a left hander against a left hander and if the occasion comes that they do get a start against a left hander and they don't produce immediately, they almost never get another shot.
To me if the guy can play he can play against all types, let 'em play.
The chances of seeing a guy with 300 wins is gone because they aren't around for a late game ralley's or they get pulled for a match up reliever who blows the game. This is an easy game made complicated by stats.
In addition, have you listened to a Gary Thorne broadcast, he spouts stats all game long to the point I want to scream. Who cares if guy hits .300 on days where the sun shines from west instead of the east.
The game is way over analyzed. Just play ball.

Yes, this is why I can't read the Sun.  But I think it's funny that Gary Thorne makes all types of people want to scream.


Don't look now but Nolan Reimold is hitting .327/.500/.500 in August with 16 walks and 9 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances.  His July slash line (.235/.361/.382 driven by a .238 BABIP) isn't much to write home about, but he walked 18 times (against 14 strikeouts) in 122 plate appearances.  The power doesn't look to be all the way back after his season ending injury from last year, but he sure does bring a good approach to the plate.  I'm looking forward to seeing him come back to Baltimore (and play a little first base!) this September.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Inconsistently Consistent Adam Jones

For those missing me, I was in China for two weeks and thus unavailable to comment on the O's.  Of course, the Orioles chose this time period to put together their best stretch of the season, starting the Buck Showalter era 9-2.  I landed in the U.S. on Saturday, and since returning to North American airspace, the O's are 1-3.  I think we all know who is the problem.

While I was overseas, one of the most pleasing developments was Adam Jones' hot hitting.  From July 31 to August 13, he hit .400/.444/.600, a line I'd take any day of the week.  That brought his season line to .282/.318/.452, virtually identical to his current reading (you need only to add a single point to his OBP).  What I find amazing is just how similar that line is to his final 2009 numbers.  Take a look:

Given how poorly Jones started the season (.245/.268/.383 through June 4), I find it pretty impressive that he was able to match last season's numbers. If he can keep his .315/.362/.514 line since that date going, we might very well be seeing Jones become the player everyone anticipated.  If not, well, a .280/.330/.450 line from your centerfielder isn't the worst thing in the world, either.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Orioles History

The One Royal Way blog (Twitter @OneRoyalWay) asked me to write up an introduction to Orioles history over at their site, and I was happy to oblige.  This looks like an excellent resource not only for Royals fans, but for anyone seeking out grassroots coverage of any of the teams around baseball.  I'm looking forward to checking out some of the new O's bloggers on his list.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poll Results

I ran a poll a few weeks ago, but I'm not sure how scientific my results are.  For instance, my home computer never did show me that anyone else voted, but my work computer tallied away.  Regardless, O's fans are a pessimistic bunch: half the voters picked the O's to finish with the worst overall record, and the other half picked the club to finish with the second worst record.  Given the way the club has started the second half, I fear those who picked the O's to finish out of the top (bottom?) spot are a bit optimistic.  At least we don't have to play the Blue Jays tonight.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista has crushed the Orioles this season, posting a .326/.400/.884 line with six homers in just 50 at-bats.  It's safe to say that the former Oriole is a big reason why the O's are 0-11 against the Blue Jays this season.  More interestingly, though, Bautista has enjoyed a truly break out season at age 29, leading the league in home runs and posting 2.5 WAR in 400 plate appearances.  This has of course led to a great deal of analysis about whether or not his break out is "real" or simply a fluke.  R.J. Anderson has the latest piece at Bloomberg today.

Unfortunately, every single thing I've read about Bautista this season falls short in one important respect: no one has mentioned his path to the Majors.  In 2003, Bautista played 51 games at A+ Lynchburg where he posted a .242/.359/.424 line at age 22.  At this point, he had accumulated 990 plate appearances across the Gulf Coast, NY-Penn, Sally, and Carolina leagues.  Then, the Baltimore Orioles selected Bautista in the Rule V draft and jumped him straight to the big leagues.  In 2004, he received a combined 96 plate appearances with four different organizations.

Since he didn't stick in the Majors, Bautista returned to the Pirates in 2004, and the Bucs did the sensible thing and assigned him to AA in 2005.  There, he posted solid numbers, hitting .283/.364/.503 with 23 home runs in 507 plate appearances.  His development looked to be on-track.

In 2006, the Pirates jumped him to the Major Leagues after just 119 plate appearances in AAA.  Add in the 55 pa's he received in AAA in 2005, and Bautista had only 174 plate appearances at the highest level of the minor leagues.  Over the next four seasons, Bautista was largely a full-time player for Pittsburgh and Toronto, accumulating 1911 Major League plate appearances and posting a .242/.334/.412 line, equivalent to a 96 OPS+.  Certainly not great, but he was just a bit below average with the bat.  Add in a bit below average glove, and Bautista was only marginally more effective than a replacement player over that span.

Bautista's 2010 exploits have been well chronicled, so I won't rehash them here.  I do, however, want to raise an important question: how did Bautista's non-traditional path to the Major Leagues affect his long-run development?  Certainly, 2004 was a lost developmental year, and he also spent negligible time at AAA before his final promotion to the Majors.  Yet, all along the way, Bautista showed good plate discipline.  Should we really be so surprised by his break out season?  Let's throw out 2004, and also toss 2006,  Bautista's first full Major League season.  Would a 27-year old hitter with an 11.6% walk rate a 96 OPS+ in about 1500 plate appearances across three seasons, and who also showed power potential in the minor leagues, enjoying a break out really shock us?  For instance, Brian Roberts had nearly 1700 Major League plate appearances and an 83 OPS+ before his breakout 2005 season.

I don't know the answers to those questions, but I think they have important implications for player development.  The Orioles have tended to rush their young pitching prospects, and they definitely pushed Nick Markakis aggressively.  I don't think you can make a reasonable case that Josh Bell was big league-ready at the time of his promotion this year. While each player is obviously unique, how do aggressive assignments affect player development, in aggregate?

Is Bautista's 2010 season a fluke?  Quite possibly.  But given his handling during his key developmental years, I'm absolutely not willing to casually dismiss his power surge.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Second Half Poll

I've decided to run my very first poll here at the Bird's Nest; check out the sidebar and vote.  I'll report the results next week.

Question: Where will the Orioles select in the 2011 First Year Player Draft?

Here are two valuable resources for research:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Midseason Review

It's the All-Star break, and that of course means a celebration recap of the first half.  New to this year's review, each award gets a Twitter hash tag!

Most Valuable Oriole: Nick Markakis
Nick's .308/.395/.452 line is good for a .371 wOBA and 2.2 WAR.  He may only have 6 homers and 31 RBI but I'll take a league-leading 28 doubles, a 1:1 K:BB ratio and a 12.9% walk rate any day of the week.  And, for the record, Nick has a .316/.421/.408 line with runners in scoring position. #RBIfail

Jim Palmer Award (since Cy Young was a Red Sock): Brian Matusz
Slim pickins.  I considered Matusz, Guthrie, Berken, and Simon, and really, none of them deserve the honor.  I went with Matusz since he's just 23 years old, and when he's on, he's brilliant.  Maybe we should change this to the #JorgeJulioAward.

Rolaids Relief Award: Jason Berken
There's been no shortage of heartburn from the O's bullpen (for instance, the team has allowed an .842 OPS in the 8th inning, an .878 OPS in the 9th, and a mind boggling 1.001 OPS in extra innings), but Berken really does spell relief.  Across 50.2 IP, he's post a 1.95 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.  He began the season in a long relief role but has earned the right to pitch higher leverage innings.  A prime example of the way a former starter's stuff can play up in the bullpen. #ProjectingRelieverPerformanceIsHard

Biggest Bust Award: Garrett Atkins
That was $4.5 million wasted.  Too bad we didn't spend the money on some more scouts or something. #NeverSawThisComing

Biggest Bust Award II: Mike Gonzalez
Another $12.0 million well-spent.  At least he's on pace to void my prediction that he never pitches in an Oriole uniform again. #ProjectingRelieverPerformanceIsHardSoDon'tSpendBigMoneyOnThem

Biggest Disappointment: Matt Wieters
Finally, a category where we have lots of candidates from which to choose!  Nolan Reimold (now batting .215 in Norfolk), Adam Jones (.304 OBP), and Chris Tillman (two stints in Norfolk) have all disappointed in one way or another, but Wieters production is the most worrisome.  Expected to be the cornerstone of a revitalized lineup, he's instead batting a measly .245/.315/.357.  To my untrained eyes, he's looked overmatched at times.  At least his defense has received rave reviews. #BaseballIsHard

Newest Man Crush: Zach Britton
He's gotten ground balls nearly two-thirds of the time in Bowie and Norfolk and was one of the standout performers at this weekend's Futures Game.  Granted, allowing ground balls is a terrible strategy considering the Orioles infield defense, but maybe one day we'll get some guys with more range than the Babe Ruth statue out there. #FutureAce

Best Nickname: Alfredo Simon

Biggest All-Star Snub: Nick Markakis
No, he probably doesn't deserve to make the team without the one player from each team rule, but that's no excuse for Joe Girardi selecting Ty Wigginton instead. Since he clubbed two homers on May 15 to bring his OPS to 1.070, Wigginton is hitting .212/.303/.272 with just two home runs in 211 plate appearances.  A .562 OPS in 152 plate appearances from Garrett Atkins got him designated for assignment, but a .575 mark from Wiggy means he goes to the All-Star game.  I guess now would be a good time to point out that Oriole clean-up hitters are hitting a stout .229/.292/.315. #TimingIsEverything

In conclusion, the first half of the season has been a disaster.  The O's are just 29-59, but at least they're finally off the pace of the 1962 Mets.  The club is about to hire its third manager of the year.  The young talent has regressed.  There are serious questions about the ability of the coaching staff to develop Major Leaguers.  And attendance continues to dwindle.  But with bright spots like Nick Markakis and flickerings from Adam Jones, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Jason Berken, David Hernandez and Alredo Simon, there are still plenty of reasons to watch in the second half.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trade Deadline Primer

If you're like me, you've noticed that Daniel Moroz at Camden Crazies hasn't recently been blogging quite as frequently as is usual.  Well, now I know why.  The 2010 Trade Deadline Primer is out, and it's an incredible piece work of work by Daniel and other bloggers from around the league.  Would you like to know which Major Leaguers are likely to be available from each of the 30 teams?  How about the prospects each team has to offer in return?  Or perhaps you're more interested in specific first basemen or shortstops the Orioles could chase at the deadline.  It's all there, plus rundowns of the first half for each team and essays from around the league.  This is a fantastic work from the analyst community, and a prime example of why I enjoy baseball on the Internet so much.  Check out the free version (about 1/4 of the book), or spring for the whole thing; I suspect it will be $10 well spent.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Zach Britton

In a year of disappointments, one major bright spot within the Orioles organization is the performance of Zach Britton.  The O's 3rd ranked prospect this offseason has been excellent at AA Bowie, racking up a 3.44 FIP (91.2 IP, 68 K, 28 BB, 4 home runs allowed) and an incredible 64.1% ground ball ratio.  Now, he's been called up to Norfolk, a promotion that he has certainly earned.  Understandably, this has caused speculation about whether or not we'll see Britton in Baltimore this season (assuming he keeps up his stellar performance in AAA, of course).  Britt Ghiroli sure seems to think its possible, but I'm a touch skeptical.

By my count, the Tides have 65 games remaining this season, meaning that Britton is likely to make about a dozen starts in the International League.  He's already thrown 91.2 innings across 15 games this season, and another 12 starts would likely add about 70-75 innings to his season total. Britton tossed 140.1 innings in 2009, and 153.0 in 2008, so I can certainly see the Orioles pushing him to about 160 or 170 innings this season.  As we all know, 91 + 70 = 161.  Would the Orioles bring Britton to Baltimore just for one or two starts, or perhaps a handful of relief appearances?  It's certainly possible, but I don't think that's the most likely scenario.  Britton is still just 22 years old, and the club handled young pitchers Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman very carefully in September just a year ago, shutting down the youngsters at the first signs of fatigue.  As a fan, I'd love to see Britton make it all the way to Baltimore this year, but I've got my money on a 2011 debut.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mike Flanagan

I got into a good exchange with @CamdenDepot today regarding the potential re-re-hiring of Mike Flanagan as pitching coach.  He contends that the "current pitching development system the O's run is still the model Flanny put in place."  Since Flanagan was previously the pitching coach in 1995 and 1998, I naturally wondered if that covered the entire time between now and then, or if this was a relatively recent plan put in place during Flanagan's tenure as an executive (which began in 2003).  Since pitching busts like Matt Riley, Mike Paradis, Richard Stahl, Beau Hale and Chris Smith all hail from the intermediate time, I think it's important to ask just when the development program took effect.  I think Crawdaddy is arguing that most of the plan went into effect in recent years (and not in the late 90s), but since this is difficult to discuss over Twitter and it seems like an important part of the organization's direction, I wanted to open up a thread for discussion.  If you've got anything to add, please do!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Orioles Attendance

Yesterday, the Baltimore Sun had a big article stating that, despite the Orioles miserable start, attendance at Camden Yards has actually increased since last season.  Here's their assertion: "Even with the Orioles' ineptitude, attendance is up 9.5 percent, from 21,653 to 23,720, through 32 home games compared with the same number of games last year, according to Major League Baseball."  Technically, that is true, but it certainly doesn't tell the whole story.  The Sun does offer one caveat, noting that the Orioles have had an attractive slate of opponents in the early going, hosting "the Boston Red Sox in two weekend series, the Yankees in two midweek series and the New York Mets on a weekend,"  while at this point last year the club "had hosted two Yankees series — one on the weekend and one during the week — and no Red Sox games," but they did nothing to quantify the effect.  Since they couldn't be bothered, I will do so for them!

First, let's try and build a model that would predict attendance for any single game.  What sort of factors might you be interested in?  I identified several variables to test: 1) Day of the Week, 2) Attractive Opponent (defined as Yankees, Red Sox and Mets), 4) Opening Day, and 5) Summer (defined as between Memorial Day and Labor Day).  Now, obviously, you could also add in things like win loss record, game time temperature, and day game vs. night game, but I'm going for a quick and dirty model here (plus, this is the data I can easily access).  After running the regressions on 2009 data*, I came up the following statistically signficant variables (95% confidence interval): Attractive Opponent, Friday, Saturday & Sunday games, Opening Day, and Summer.  Thus, games taking place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday do experience a change in attendance from Monday nights (the baseline case).  I think those results are very inuitive.  Here's the regression equation:

Attendance = 13,803 + AttOpp(12,185) + Friday(9,538) + Saturday(12,557) + Sunday(6,519) + OpenDay(22,617) + Summer(4,256)

Using that equation, we would expect attendance for the first 32 games of 2010 to be 25,889.  Instead, actual attendance came in 8.4% below that number.  So where did the Sun go wrong in its analysis?

First, all those attractive opponents make a huge difference.  In 2009, the Orioles played a total of 21 home games against the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets (average attendance of 32,747 including Opening Day), but had played just six of those games by the 32nd home date (average attendance 35,340); they've already played 15 games against those teams in 2010 and averaged just 28,299 fans.

Next, the use of 32 games--and not the calendar date--is also significant.  In 2009, the Orioles played home game number 32 on Thursday, June 11.  On Friday, June 12, the O's welcomed in the Atlanta Braves for the start of a summer weekend series that averaged 28,295 fans.  This year, home game 32 occurred on Sunday, June 13.  If you include that Atlanta series to normalize the date, the year on year comparison is less favorable, with the Sun's 2009 number moving from 21,653 to 22,222.

The use of game 32 (and the omission of another weekend series) highlights another important point: the day of the week.  The 2009 Orioles played 20 of their first 32 home games a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday; the 2010 O's contested just 17 of 32 on those days of the week.

Thus, when adjusting for opponent, day of the week, and the calendar, the Orioles 2010 attendance is almost assuredly running lower than last season, and I suspect that upcoming series (serieses? serieii?) against the Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Blue Jays, Twins, Angels, White Sox, Mariners and Rangers (the O's next nine home series) will reveal just that.

*If you would like to see the data set, please email me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mainstream Media

I (and the rest of the saber community) do lots of mainstream media bashing, so I feel its equally important to point out when the media does something well.  Jeff Zrebiec did just that in his big feature on Nick Markakis this morning.  The money quote:
Overall, the Orioles are second to last in the AL in on-base and slugging percentage. They have the fewest walks in the league, and they see the fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.73). They also have the fifth-worst "chase percentage" in baseball in that they swing at 30.2 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone.
Perfect.  He used on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and plate discipline, and he did it in a way that is accessible to the casual fan.  Nowhere does he mention batting average, and he doesn't rail about the Orioles lack of clutch hitting (which is certainly a problem, but is more a symptom of their poor approach than the cause of their woes).  Thanks, Jeff.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nick Markakis is Not a Happy Camper

And he wasn't afraid to tell the Sun about it.  I don't blame him.  Some of his comments:
Sometimes, guys are going up there and it looks like they have no idea what they’re doing. 
You can have anybody come here and you still are going to have a couple of guys who are not going to change their approach and fix it. It’s worthless.
Well then.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mike Gonzalez

Yesterday, Britt Ghiroli reported that Mike Gonzalez was getting close to returning (perhaps by the end of the month) and that he touched 88 mph in his latest bullpen session.  If both of those facts are true, I have one prediction: disaster.

Thanks to Brooks Baseball's Pitch FX Tool, we can use facts.  Here is Gonzalez's velocity chart from April 28, 2009:

As you can see, his fastball velocity is between 93 and 95 miles per hour, and almost exclusively above 94 mph.  Now, here is his chart from three months later, July 28, 2009:

His velocity is a bit lower, 90-94 mph.  Now from the end of last season, September 26, 2009:

Hmmmm... lower still at 88-92 mph. And here is his velocity graph from April 9, 2009:

Sigh.  87-91 mph, and he got it up over 90 just once. Why, exactly, do the Orioles think that Mike Gonzalez at 88 mph 1) is healthy and 2) can be effective?  And, it should also be asked, if I can pull this information in between meetings and running reports before 8:00 AM, why the hell did the Orioles sign an injury-prone relief pitcher who showed notable velocity declines during what was easily his highest workload season to a 2-year, $12 million contract? This is exactly the type of decision making that has me thisclose to jumping ship.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Josh Bell

I was invited to guest blog today over at, where I discussed Josh Bell's struggles against left-handed pitching:
Josh Bell is a switch swinger. That is, he hits from the left side of the plate, but not so much from the right side of the plate. During his minor league career the difference is stark: a career .301/.367/.506 line against right handed pitchers, but a .242/.320/.360 line versus southpaws. The first hitter is a prospect; the second would never make it to the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Check out the rest here...

A (Very) Few Positives

I said I wasn't going to write again until I had something positive to say.  Well, I don't have much yet, but I want to start blogging again, so let's give it a whirl...

1) Brian Matusz turned in a very good start on Saturday night, needing 96 pitches to turn in a final line of 8.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, and 4 K.  He didn't walk anyone, but he did give up two home runs.  I'd like to see a few more ground balls (11:14 GB:FB ratio) but that rate is much improved from earlier in the season (interestingly, as he's given up more ground balls, he's concurrently given up more home runs. Such is the Orioles).
2) Adam Jones is hot.  From June 3 to June 13, he's hitting .324/.390/.514 with 2 homers, 2 steals, and 8 RBI.  He's also drawn 3 walks (matching his May and exceeding his April total) and was hit by a pitch in another at-bat.  Sure he's struck out 9 times in 10 games, but again, focus on the positives.
3) Jake Arrieta: 6.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks (I refuse to count the INT ones), 6 K, 3 ER in his Major League debut.  Against the Yankees, too!
4) David Hernandez earned his first career save, and blew some 97 mph cheddar in the process.  Since moving to the bullpen, he's accumulated 7.1 IP, allowed 3 hits and 1 run while striking out 6 and walking 3.  Maybe not lights out, but promising.
5) Zach Britton is a ground ball machine.  Across 77.1 innings for the Baysox, he has an eye-popping 64.8% ground ball rate.  Against lefty batters, he has more strikeouts (23) than hits allowed (21) and nearly as many K's as walks (4) plus hits.
6) Nick Markakis just keeps walking.  At 13.1%, his walk rate isn't quite as high as his 2008 season (14.2%), but I'll certainly take it on this team of hackers.  While I'd like to see him pull the ball in order to pop a few more home runs (1.1% HR rate vs. 2.7% career), seeing him lace a double to left center is still a thing of beauty.
7) Garrett Atkins has played just three times this month (2-for-8) and I can't imagine that he'll get significant playing time again this season.

Look, that's seven things to be happy about!  Unfortunately, none of them involve Orioles wins.  Alas, maybe next time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guest Beer Blogging

Last Friday night, I had one of the best experiences of my entire life.  You can read all about it here.  A quick excerpt:
Tactical Nuclear Penguin just might be the world’s most dangerous beer. Pouring a deep black, this stout measures 32% ABV, but it sure doesn’t taste that way. Instead, the rich, caramel malt character shines through, making this a truly outstanding beer. As BrewDog recommends, we drank it with an aristocratic nonchalance. Similarly, the Tokyo stout, which measures “only” 18.2% ABV, was easily drinkable despite its high alcohol content and subtle enough to allow the cranberry and jasmine flavorings to shine through. BrewDog’s success with these extreme stouts is impressive, and they’ve earned their distinction as one of the world’s most innovative brewers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back From the Ledge

The Orioles are terrible.  There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.  Virtually every thing that could go wrong with the 2010 season has gone wrong.  At 15-38 (.283), the O's are on pace for just 46 wins (or 116 losses, if you prefer), the third worst record of the expansion era (1962 Mets, 40-120, .250; 2003 Tigers, 43-119, .265).  I spent this past long weekend out of town, and flipped last night's game off after the Yankees took a 2-0 lead.  It was refreshing.  Thus, I'm going to take a little break from blogging.  This could be a week (say, after the draft), or it could be a month, but I'm going to wait until I have something positive to write.  I plan to keep watching and following the team, but its probably best if I recharge my orange colored batteries before doing much more writing about them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bergesen Batting

Brad Bergesen came to bat yesterday in the top of the sixth inning yesterday having thrown 98 pitches.  There were two men on and two outs in the inning, and the Orioles held a 6-3 lead.  Inexplicably, Dave Trembley let Bergesen hit; Bergesen grounded out and the rally was snuffed out.  In the bottom of the inning, Bergesen gave up a single, a triple and a single and was pulled from the game.

What the hell was Trembley thinking?  Yes, I realize the bullpen was shortstaffed thanks to Koji's elbow soreness.  But this is why they carry two long men!  Berken was unavailable after Brian Matusz's short outing on Thursday, but Mark Hendrickson hadn't pitched since taking David Hernandez's turn on May 16.  It is simply inexcusable that Trembley would allow his struggling starter to bat in that situation in the 6th inning and then immediately turn to that very same long man just 3 batters later.

Which is why I'm flabbergasted that the O's beat writer penned this: "Was it the right move? No. But it was his only move."  False.  Mark Hendrickson has a spot on this roster for this exact situation.  Pinch hitting for Bergesen and going to your long man is not only the right move, it is the only move.  What game was she watching?

On another note, if Koji had elbow soreness that originated during his outing in Texas, what the hell was the team doing adding another bench player instead of a pitcher when they called up Scott Moore on Friday?  I understand if you don't want Alberto Castillo in the 'pen, but does it really make sense to go shorthanded, especially after Matusz only lasted 2.1 IP on Thursday and Hernandez and Bergesen are the next two starting pitchers? 

This season has become an unmitigated disaster.  Between the Garrett Atkins signing, the fiasco of Mike Gonzalez's injury, Brian Roberts being pushed to come back quickly from his back injury, Matt Wieters never getting a day off, a plethora of ridiculous bullpen decisions, and the complete and utter failure of the young hitting to make progress, it's time for change.  Dave Trembley needs to go.  Now.  And that he isn't is another strike against Andy MacPhail.  I've been patient, realizing that rebuilding from within takes time.  The young pitching is oh-so-very-close to making a real impact.  But the rest of the club?  Wow.  They can't hit, they can't play defense, and the coaching staff doesn't seem equipped to help them improve.  What are you waiting for, Andy?  This is unacceptable.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

David Hernandez and The Rotation

With Chris Tillman (3.43 FIP, 6.75 K/9, 1.86 BB/9) and Jake Arrieta (3.87 FIP, 7.47 K/9, 4.58 BB/9) both pitching well in Norfolk and David Hernandez (42.1 IP, 5.31 ERA, 1.58 WHIP - virtually identical to the numbers he posted last season) again struggling in Baltimore, speculation is understandably ripe that one of the hot young arms will soon usurp Hernandez's spot in the rotation.  Fortunately for Hernandez, he "saved" his rotation spot last night by throwing 105 pitches (59 for strikes) across 5.1 IP, allowing one hit and one run while striking out three and walking five.  Huh?  That's the performance that saved his rotation spot?

Let's do a thought experiment.  Suppose you are Andy MacPhail and you truly believe that either Arrieta or Tillman (it doesn't matter which, or if it is both) is just biding his time in Norfolk waiting for one of the five starters for the O's to pitch his way out of the rotation.  The fifth starter you selected on the basis of a very strong spring training has really struggled, and he's now 150 innings into his Major League career and has yet to show that he's more than a useful arm for the bullpen or a spot starter, an opinion held by many scouts throughout the player's minor league career.  Now, this fifth starter just had an outing remarkably similar to the ones he's had the rest of the season: he struggled to throw strikes, he gave up nearly twice as many fly balls as ground balls, and he didn't strike many batters out.  Are you going to change your opinion of him on the basis of his most recent outing?

I would like to see either Tillman or Arrieta as much as the next O's fan, and I still think that David Hernandez could have a solid career as a bullpen arm.  However, there are very good reasons for both Tillman and Arrieta to spend a bit more time in Norfolk.  Tillman has added a new pitch to his repertoire this spring, and Arrieta is clearly walking too many people.  For both, service time and arbitration eligibility could potentially be deciding factors, but I personally wouldn't worry too much about that for young pitchers (the risk of injury is too great, and current research is having a difficult time finding a reliable aging curve for pitchers; better to have Major League ready arms pitching in the Major Leagues).

One day in the coming weeks, Hernandez is likely to relinquish his rotation spot and O's fans will get to see another one of the arms of the future.  In the meantime, though, let's not kid ourselves that 5.1 mediocre innings have a meaningful impact on when that day will be.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Garrett Atkins Bashing

Sure, I'll pile on.

1) Orioles firstbasemen have combined to hit zero home runs and post a slash line of .224/.267/.295.
2) Atkins has a 49 OPS+.  I feel obligated to point out again that he plays first base.
3) From Sports Illustrated's Power Rankings: "Garret [sic] Atkins has played 32 games and logged 115 plate appearances but scored only four runs. The major-league average is to score one run every 8.6 plate appearances; Atkins is averaging one run every 28.8."
4) This was entirely predictable.  Look at his wOBA progression:

5) Atkins is making $4.5 million dollars for his efforts.  Worst. Signing. Ever.  Time to cut bait, Andy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garrett Can't Find Consistency? tells me that Atkins is struggling to find consistency at the plate.

Funny, I'd take some inconsistency from Atkins.  Since that means he might actually have a good game everyone once in a while.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Terry Crowley, OBP, and Home Runs

Among the many things that have gone horribly, horribly wrong for the Orioles this spring, one of the most disappointing has been the dismal performance of the offense.  Understandably, many are calling for change at the position of hitting coach.  Kevin Cowherd somehow "doesn't get it," and Dave Mc responds:
When [Crowley] took over as hitting coach before the 1999 season, it was a different era. Without making judgments, lets just say it was an era in which power was the dominant aspect of offense...
It seems more likely that Crowley is still employing the same hitting philosophies that worked a decade ago.
Just one problem: the Orioles don't hit with power!  In fact, I think you can make a pretty good case that Crowley's philosophies have actually stunted power development from a number of Orioles young hitters.  Let's look at some numbers.

1) Nick Markakis hit 23 homers as a 23-year old in 2007.  He then hit 20 in 2008, 18 in 2009, and has just two this season.
2) Matt Wieters hit a home run once every 18 at-bats in the minors.  He has hit a homer once every 37 at-bats in the majors.
3) Adam Jones goes deep about once every 36 at-bats for the Orioles.  In his final two AAA seasons (at ages 20 and 21), he homered every 21.5 at-bats.

To be fair, the Orioles haven't had a lot of highly touted prospects over the last decade, but a few other young hitters that have failed to develop on Crowley's watch include Ryan Minor, Larry Bigbie, Jerry Hairston, and Gary Matthews, Jr.  About the only successes we can really count are Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Nick Markakis and (gulp) Jay Gibbons.

This team's (lack of a good) hitting approach drives me absolutely nuts; just give me quality at-bats, swings at pitches in the strike zone, and the indication that hitters have some idea of what they're doing when they go to plate.  Instead, I get to watch Tejada ground into double plays on the first pitch, Cesar Izturis waive his wet noodle, and Garrett Atkins look mind-numbingly older than 30.  Now, not all of that is the hitting coach's doing.  Tejada has always been hacktastic, Izturis an awful hitter, and I'm pretty sure Garrett Atkins is finished as a Major League ballplayer.  No, what really makes me mad is when I see no progress from Adam Jones or Matt Wieters, or when I read stories in the Sun hinting that Nick Markakis needs to be more aggressive at the plate.

Maybe Crowley really is doing a great job, and without his tutelage the O's offense would be even worse.  Maybe firing the hitting coach would be a symbolic gesture that wouldn't have any effect on the offense.  Or maybe Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold need a fresh voice in order to get their careers back on track.  In the wake of such a disappointing start and regression from so many of the highly touted hitters, I hope the organization is taking a hard look at the coaching staff.  Because I don't think this one is capable of effecting any on-field improvement.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Relief Pitching

After last night's meltdown, I went looking at some Oriole relief pitching stats and came across this gem: during 22.2 IP in the 9th inning, Oriole pitchers have allowed a .340/.431/.505 line and a 7.15 ERA.  Yikes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Miguel Tejada: Clutch Hitter?

Over at the Orioles Insider blog today, a post from Dan Connolly appears with the headline "No question, Miggi is clutch".  Certainly, Tejada's two run, bases loaded single last night was a clutch hit.  But is Miguel Tejada clutch?  Let's look at some numbers.  Remember, tOPS+ is a statistic that adjusts a particular split stat to compare it to a player's career or season total.

Tejada, Career: .289/.341/.469
Tejada, Career, RISP: .296/.354/.475, 105 tOPS+

So Tejada performs about 5% better than his career norm with runners in scoring position, mostly thanks to a better on-base percentage.  Sounds clutch, right?  Not so fast.  How do ALL batters perform with runners in scoring position?

League Average, 2010: .256/.330/.403
League Average, 2010, RISP: .254/.348/.391, 102 tOPS+

So ALL batters improve by about 2% with runners in scoring position in 2010 (and this what happens nearly every season), mainly because pitchers throw from the stretch (there are probably effects from defensive positioning as well).  Is Tejada's difference significant?  Maybe (I don't have the time this morning to make sure I'm doing the math correctly).

Here is the link to his "Clutch" table at  Looks to me like he performs in the clutch almost identically to the way we'd expect any hitter of his caliber.

Now, Tejada DOES have much better numbers in "High Leverage" situations (119 tOPS+), so I'm not going to dismiss out of hand the claim that Tejada have some sort of ability to raise his game in the clutch.  But I DO think the burden is on those who claim Tejada has superior clutch skills to cite more than his batting average with RISP in 2010 and tell an anecdote about how Tejada wants to be at the plate with the game on the line.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shutdown Sauce

Closers need nicknames.  I don't think that is disputable.  And Alfredo Simon, since he's taken the job and run with it in the last few weeks, is no different.  Daniel Moroz of has coined a fun one: Shutdown Sauce.  There's just one thing missing: t-shirts!  A colleague and I took the liberty of mocking a few up yesterday.

First up, the traditional baseball shirt look, complete with "Alfredo" in Orioles-esque lettering and "Shutdown Sauce 55" on the back (name and number the same for all).

Next, a similar look, but the Orioles-orange t-shirt.

And in black, with a bowl of noodles.

Who will be the first one to wear one of these to Camden Yards?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Andy MacPhail Video Message

While watching the Cavs get run out of the gym by the Celtics, I was clearing out the ol' inbox and watched Andy MacPhail's video message for O's fans.  He provides a very fair, realistic, and balanced assessment of the team's strengths and weaknesses in the early going.  While the early 2010 returns have understandably left me questioning my own faith in the rebuilding program, I am pleased that MacPhail is willing to discuss all of this club's shortcomings frankly and openly.  It makes me wish even more that I had been able to attend the Baseball Prospectus event earlier this season.


Corey Patterson's speed is gamechanging.  Or so I'm told:
Having a speed factor in Corey Patterson is a welcome change for an Orioles squad struggling to make do without Brian Roberts. Patterson's ability to steal bases should help the double play that the Orioles constantly find themselves on the wrong end of as well.
I agree entirely that Patterson's presence will help the O's avoid double plays.  Without anyone on base, all those ground balls to the middle infielders will only count for one out.