Friday, January 29, 2010

Projection Season Begins

The 2010 Projection Season is here! Baseball Prospectus pegs the O's for 79 wins, which is looking to be right about where I think the O's finish as well. I'm hoping to get my season preview up this weekend, but that is entirely dependent on finishing homework for Monday's and Tuesday's class.

Update, 7:58 PM: BP reports that there are problems with the data. I'll repost once they have it fixed.

Update, Feb 3, 7:20 PM: The link above should be to good data again. 80 wins for the O's.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More on Miggy

Peter Schmuck loves it.
The veterans on this team want a chance to compete, and the fact that Tejada had 199 hits last year appears to outweigh any concerns about the negative aspects of his previous incarnation as an Oriole.
Well, maybe. But he also managed just 19 walks and 14 home runs while playing in the weaker league last season. I hope people aren't expecting the same Miguel Tejada that posted a .311/.362/.501 line in his four seasons with the Orioles.

Also, there's this:
The Orioles ranked fifth in the league in batting average last year but only 11th in runs, which is an indication that they are an RBI guy or two away from being a pretty good offensive team. Tejada's run-production potential isn't what it was when he drove in 150 runs for the Orioles in 2004, but he's still a difference-maker.
Egads. The O's were 8th in OBP, and 10th in slugging percentage. They don't need a good "RBI guy", they need a guy who can get on base and hit with some pop. At this stage in his career, it is unclear if Tejada (.313/.340/.455 in 2009) is that guy, regardless of his past RBI accumulations.

First Base

With the signing of Miguel Tejada over the weekend, the Orioles appear to have finalized their roster for 2010. Tejada will play third, while Garrett Atkins will man first base. Given Atkins' shift across the diamond, I think it is worthwhile to reevaluate his acquisition.

As we saw when the Orioles signed him a few weeks ago, Atkins is probably a bit above replacement level as a third baseman. When moving over to first, however, he no longer benefits from the positional adjustment, pushing him darn near close to replacement level as a player. This might be excusable if there were no other options or Atkins was reasonably expected to improve in 2010, but he's 30-years old and coming off a truly awful year in the weaker league (and in a great hitters' park). I can understand the roll of the dice if Atkins is going to play third base; not so much if he's going to play first.

Rather, I would have liked the Orioles to sign Ryan Garko. He's two years younger, has played in the American League, and projects to post a higher OBP and ISO than Atkins. Both are right-handed hitters and could thus platoon with Michael Aubrey or Luke Scott. In fact, check out Garko's career split versus lefties: .313/.392/.495 in 485 plate appearances. Aubrey, in a small-sample size 122 Major League plate appearances, has a .283/.336/.487 line against righties. That seems like pretty decent production from a corner infielder put together on the cheap, no? (Full disclosure: Atkins is a career .301/.384/.486 against lefties, and was .268/.363/.428 in 2009). Mostly, I think the Orioles could have come up with a productive solution at first base for less money and less risk than paying Garrett Atkins $4.5 million.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Miguel Tejada

Frankly, this is shocking. The 1-year, $6 million deal seems about right, and the type of player that Tejada is today is a good fit for the Orioles (experienced right-handed hitter that can play an infield corner), but I'm really surprised the club is bringing him back. If my feelings are any indication, the fan base was more than ready to move on. He was bad on defense, perceived to be both lazy and a malcontent, and his involvement in the Palmeiro fiasco seemed indicative of deeper clubhouse issues. Maybe this will all work out in the end, with Tejada being a model citizen while keeping the hot corner errr... hot for Josh Bell, but I can't think of very many signings that would be quite so controversial.

On a happier note, this means that the O's roster is pretty much set for the coming year and I can put the final touches on my season preview. I doubt I will get it done tonight, but should have most of it complete in the next few days.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Relief Pitching

Back in the dark ages of 2006, the Orioles had a really bad bullpen (I know, hard to believe). A relief corps anchored by LaTroy Hawkins, Bruce Chen, Russ Ortiz, John Halama, and Todd Williams somehow managed to punch up a 5.27 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 512.1 IP. In response, the club decided to spend big money on middle relievers in the free agent market: Danys Baez (3 years, $19 million), Jamie Walker (3 years, $12.0 million), and Chad Bradford (3 years, $10.5 million) received a combined $41.5 million. The results? Disastrous.

Over the past three seasons (and including the season and a half Bradford spent with Tampa Bay), those three "pitchers" (and I use that term loosely) were worth a combined 0.8 wins above replacement, with Bradford the only one earning positive returns. That's right, the Orioles paid $51.9 million per marginal win! Granted, the rest of the league wasn't so good either that offseason. Seven relievers (Baez, Walker, Bradford, Keith Foulke, Guillermo Mota, Scott Schoeneweis, and Justin Speier) received $80.3 million in guaranteed money and returned -0.8 wins to their clubs! I think it's safe to say that the free agent market is not a good place to go looking for wins from your bullpen.

Monday, January 18, 2010


A few links for your reading pleasure...

1) FanGraphs runs down the remaining free agent first basemen: Branyan, Delgado, Garko, Thome, Giambi, Blalock, and Tatis. I think Ryan Garko would be my preferred option out of that group, based on age, defensive abilities, and his recent success in the American League. Delgado would be a reasonable risk to see if he can bounce back from an injury plagued 2009.

2) Orioles Top 10 prospects, also courtesy of FanGraphs. This is a much deeper list than the pre-MacPhail years.

3) A rundown of recent Orioles drafts, from (you guessed it) FanGraphs. Notice that while many people criticized the O's for going cheap at the top, they signed quite a few guys to significant over slot deals last year. Additionally, the last time the club lacked a 2nd and 3rd round pick, it spent heavily on Wieters, Arrieta, and Tim Bascom. Remember when I panned the loss of a 2nd round pick on the Mike Gonzalez deal? Well, let's see how the Orioles spend the money saved by not having a 2nd round pick before passing final judgment.

4) One last FanGraphs item: Matt Klaassen discusses the Orioles surplus of young, talented outfielders. I'd still like to see how Nolan Reimold looks with a first baseman's mitt. It wouldn't have to be permanent, and there's no reason he couldn't still play 60 games in the outfield as sort of a mini-platoon with Pie and a day off every couple weeks for Adam Jones (with Pie playing in center those days).

5) The Orioles have been fairly quiet in the reliever market, signing one (Gonzalez), trading one away (Ray), and losing one to free agency (Hendrickson... maybe), but the bullpen should be much improved next year. Spencer Fordin has the rundown. He lists Uehara, Meredith, Sarfate, Albers, Hernandez, Berken, Mickolio, Lebron, Castillo, and Perez; ten guys who each have legitimate chances to be something from key late inning options to match-up lefties, from swing men to insurance in the minors. Throw in Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, Troy Patton and maybe even a few others, and the Orioles could potentially have an above average bullpen. If Millwood allows the starting rotation to stabilize (with Guthrie, Matusz, Tillman and Bergesen) and Gonzalez takes the 9th inning, the Orioles could be much improved at run prevention. I'll have much more about this in the days ahead.

Corner Infield

This from John Perrotto at Baseball Prospectus:
The Orioles are targeting Joe Crede, Tejada, and Hank Blalock as free
agents to play third base now that LaRoche has been signed; Garrett Atkins would
be shifted to first base. Another idea the Orioles are kicking around is moving
left fielder Nolan Reimold to first base and playing Felix Pie in left.

Hey, that sounds like a familiar idea!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Annals of the Stupid

When I awoke yesterday morning, I was in a great mood. It was Extravamanza day, the sixth annual version of my festival of all things man: beer, football, and food. Friends and family (all men, of course) travel far and wide to attend, and I look forward to this day for the entire year. Unfortunately, the Orioles did their best to ruin it for me.

See, when I opened my Google Reader, I was greeted with the following headline: O's to charge extra for tickets purchased on game day. As an MBA student, I am required to be a fan of price discrimination, the method by which companies charge their customers different prices according to their willingness to pay. This is why seats behind home plate cost more, and why I fully support charging Red Sox and Yankees fans an arm and a leg to attend a game at Camden Yards. However, I do not support charging game day walk-up purchases a higher price.

People choose to wait until the last minute for many reasons: weather, pitching match-ups, work schedules, etc. Since the Orioles rarely sell-out, they should be encouraging, not discouraging, walk-up purchases. Several times a year I purchase tickets at the walk-up window. Now, I'm less likely to say "Let's go to the game tonight" if I know that tickets for my wife and I will be somewhere between $2 and $10 more expensive.

You could argue that baseball games are like airline tickets: the inventory expires and, if it goes unsold, generates no marginal revenue. Airlines typically charge higher prices at the last minute, capturing the willingness to pay of customers who have to travel today. Baseball doesn't benefit from the same immediacy, however. In fact, it's more like a hotel: unsold rooms generate no revenue, but hotel customers are usually unwilling to pay a higher price at the last minute. Why? Options. Fliers might be able to drive or take a train, but those aren't legitimate options in many situations. Hotel guests can typically walk across the street or around the corner and find another room. Similarly, baseball fans can stay home and watch the game, head to their local watering hole with friends, or do something else entirely, like watch a movie. I fully support variable pricing, raising or lowering prices based on demand, but a blanket price increase for walk-ups is not variable pricing; it's a ticket price increase. I don't know about how other Orioles fans feel, but I don't perceive that the franchise is in any position to raise prices.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beer Tragedy

I try to keep this blog reserved for baseball—and specifically, the Orioles—but I recently suffered a beer tragedy that has forced me to pen this non-sports post.

As you may know, I love beer. I don’t mean that I love polishing off a dozen Miller Lites, I mean that I love beer. The good stuff. IPAs, stouts, pale ales. In fact, I’m a bit (ok, a lot) of a beer snob. This is no secret amongst my friends and relatives, and for Christmas this past year my brother-in-law gave me the ultimate beer lover’s gift: 202 ounces of delicious Pacific Northwest brews, shipped directly to my home! That’s seven 22 oz bombers and four individual 12 ouncers representing eight different breweries and 10 distinct beers. Unfortunately, the package he mailed from Portland, Oregon, just before Christmas has never arrived at my home in Baltimore. If you are reading this and you are the postmaster of some small town in Nebraska where my package was lost along the way, please send it along.

My brother-in-law selected these beers with care, and he chose a wide array of brews that were sure to please my discerning palate. Come along with me as I imagine how delicious each would taste (all descriptions below are from the brewery).

1) Lompoc Brewing C-Note Imperial Pale Ale (22 oz): To call C-Note very hoppy would be an understatement. It's brewed with the seven "C" hops (Crystal, Cluster, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus and Challenger) and pushes the bitterness limit to 100 International Bitterness Units (6.9% abv. 100 IBU).

2) Lompoc Brewing LSD (Lompoc Strong Draft) (22 oz): A Portland Classic! This strong ale has a deep mahogany color and is crafted with seven different specialty malts. A touch of smoked malt gives it a complex aroma and incredible flavor. LSD is also generously hopped with six hop varieties to help create an awesome beer (6.9% abv. 58 IBU).

3) Cascade Lakes Brewing IPA (22 oz): For those hop lovers out there, this is the beer for you. It is a traditional American Style I.P.A. featuring a significant amount of Northwest hops balanced with a hefty grain bill. If this beer doesn’t make your taste buds scream hops then we don’t know what will (6.0% abv. 65 IBU).

4) Cascade Lakes Brewing Santa’s Little Helper (12 oz): This is our winter seasonal beer which arrives early fall and stays around till after the holidays. Crystal malt and Cascade hops produce a well-balanced strong ale that is perfect for nights around fireplace with friends and family (6.4% abv, 50 IBU).

5) Deschutes Brewing Hop Trip (22 oz): This Fresh Hop Pale Ale is all about celebrating the hop harvest in the fall. Fresh picked hops have to be added to the brew immediately and in abundance. Roughly 680 pounds of Crystal hops from Doug Weathers' farm outside Salem, Oregon will be added to each 120 barrel batch in addition to some dry kilned whole flower hops. That adds up to approximately 5.7 pounds of hops per barrel brewed (5.5% abv, 30 IBU).

6) Terminal Gravity Brewing IPA (two 12 oz): Terminal Gravity's "India Pale Ale" is pale copper in color but big in flavor with a heady hop character. It is a true beer drinkers beer and brings a smile to many a face. We use spring water and snow melt from high in the Eagle Cap Wilderness! This is the beer that was named Beer of the Year by the Oregonian (6.9% abv).

"Terminal Gravity India Pale Ale is one of the best beers in the state, and therefore the country. It is a rich copper in the glass with a lucious hops aroma betraying a vigorous hopping rate. Complex maltiness balances the hoppy bite, as do the peachy notes... imparted by the yeast." John Foyston, The Oregonian

7) Heater Allen Brewing Sandy Paws (22 oz): Our Christmas beer. This year's Sandy Paws will be a little on the light side for a Baltic Porter, actually more of a roasty Bock. Still no light-weight, and still a great beer to sit by the fire with. Our "cover dog" for this year's label is Monty, a year old Labradoddle owned by Bill Sweat and Donna Morris of Winderlea Vineyards. Thanks again to Bill and Donna for their generous contribution to the McMinnville Education Foundation. 120 cases produced (6.25% abv, 36 IBU).

8) Roots Organic Brewing Island Red (22 oz): We call this a RED stout. Very full bodied complex ale brewed with a good amount of oats and barley, which lend to the nice bread and malt flavors and help give this RED a very rich & creamy head (5.6% abv, 62.5 IBU).

9) Oakshire Brewing Ill Tempered Gnome (22 oz): Take a little gnome home this winter! However, don’t put him in the front yard. The neighbors might steal him & he’ll definitely lose his cool! He’s a malty, hoppy brown ale of pure winter deliciousness (6.8% abv, 65 IBU).

10) Bridgeport Brewing Ebenezer Ale (12 oz): Our special Holiday brew, Ebenezer Ale is a smooth ale with a complex palate derived from four different roasted malts and a blend of local and imported hops. Deep mahogany in color, its malty first taste and full body is balanced with a light hop aroma, leading to a caramel finish. It’s a festive elixir that can transform the mood of any scrooge! So forget the egg-nog and have a pint of Ebenezer (6.4% abv, 40 IBU).

Now, if we had really been traveling down this lovely beer road, the spelling and punctuation on this post would not be nearly so accurate, and I would be smiling. Alas, the beers are missing. And I am not smiling.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Joe Torre

I'd like to thank Joe Posnanski for helping me to recall this memory.

Back when I interned for the Orioles, one of my daily responsibilities was to head down to the clubhouse after the game, record the manager's interview with the press, and then head back up to the pressbox to type the quotes so that the beat writers could include the comments in their stories. My intern desk-mate* and I would alternate between the home and visiting clubhouses, thus giving us both a chance to listen to each visiting manager. I really enjoyed seeing the quirky personalities of each manager; Ron Gardenhire conducted his interviews standing up while the Minnesota press sat, Dusty Baker would never take off his sweatbands until the interview was over, Lou Piniella was half-naked and already drinking beer, Buck Showalter was thoughtful and articulate, and Grady Little was barely understandable thanks to his hillbilly accent. Joe Torre, though, was the consummate professional.

* Yes, the club made us share a desk and a computer. Not some modern, fast computer, but and outdated machine that surfed the Web at the speed of molasses. It would literally take us hours to complete tasks that should have taken us no more than 30 minutes. In hindsight, it's clear that Peter Angelos hadn't really invested in the infrastructure necessary to run a first rate front office. I can only hope that things have changed.

As everyone knows, the Yankees have a huge media contingent, so big that we had to prepare name cards for the press box so that all the Baltimore regulars wouldn't lose their seats. The media for most clubs has a routine that it follows; this person asks the first question and maybe a follow-up, and then that person follows, and the Yankees were no different. After the game, the herd crowded into Torre's office where it dutifully waited for the YES Network to ask the first question. Torre, still fully clad and not yet eating or drinking, answered the three or four standard post-game questions, and then the YES Network hurriedly rushed out to the clubhouse to talk with the players (probably to Jeter or some other sissy) while most writers stayed behind to get one or two more quotes from Torre.

Only, whoever was supposed to ask the next question never spoke up. I was standing right next to Torre, and after a few seconds of silence I found myself speaking up. Torre had never seen me before, and I'm sure he suspected that he would never see me again (my shirt and tie were a dead giveaway that I was not a member of the media). Still, he looked me in the eye as he answered my question, and even gave it a few sentences more than it probably deserved. He was a master of the media, and that's a large part of what him so successful in New York.

In another of those, "Wow, am I actually doing this?" moments from the summer, I was riding the elevator from the press box to the service level a few hours before game time when the doors opened at the main stadium entrance. In walked a short, slight man. It was Mariano Rivera. While I should have been thinking, "I'm riding an elevator with the greatest closer of all-time!" I was instead struck by how short and skinny he was. I also got to tell Derek Jeter "Out of my way!" (ok, "Excuse me") when he and Jorge Posada were playing catch in front of the home plate gate. Fun times.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Will Clark

Oddly, the theme of this year's Hall of Fame season seems, to me, at least, to be a player who was not even on the ballot: Will Clark. Perhaps it's the rash of just-less-than-great players from the 1980s recently elected, a renewed emphasis on defense, or just better context surrounding the offensive explosion of the 1990s, but I'm ready to declare 2010 The Year Will Clark Was Finally Appreciated. For someone who frequently posts around the Web with the handle WillClark4HOF, this is great news. A round-up:

1) The Strange Case of Will Clark, Lincoln Mitchell
2) Looking into Hall's Crystal Ball, Rob Neyer
3) Best Players in Baseball, Joe Posnanski (with a recap from Neyer)

Will the Thrill finished his career with an OPS+ of 137, tied for 88th among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. For comparison purposes, Jim Rice's 128 is 179th and Andre Dawson's 119 is 358th. His power peak was very brief (and early, 20+ homers just twice after age 27), and he retired early, but Clark deserves to be remembered as a great player, if for no other reason than he may have put together the greatest performance in LCS history: against the Cubs in 1989, he batted .650/.682/1.200 with two homers, a triple, and three doubles with 8 RBI and 8 runs scored across 20 at-bats in five games.

I think this quote from Posnanski perfectly sums up Clark's underratedness:

So what do you think? Good numbers, right? I mean, they don’t pop your eyes out or anything — if you were judging Clark’s Hall of Fame case, those numbers would probably register as being good but nothing historically special.

So how is it that those numbers made Clark the best player in baseball for those five years? Well, for one thing, he played half his games in awful hitting Candlestick Park. For another, it was a low-scoring time — those 109 RBIs in 1988 led the league as did those 104 runs he scored in 1989.

Then, you add that he did a lot of things that are not reflected in the traditional stats. He walked quite often — led the league in walks in 1988. Twice in the five-year
stretch, he led the league in times on base and in runs created. He led the league in equivalent average in 1988, was second in 1989 and third in 1991. He was an above average defensive first baseman.

People often talk about how it can be unfair to judge previous players by today’s standards. But I think it’s unfair that some of the players who did the things that helped teams win baseball games were so under-appreciated. Will Clark had baseball’s best OPS+ from 1987-91 too.

Poor offensive ballpark? Check. Played in a low-scoring environment just prior to a massive offensive boom? Check. Good at the things that don't show up as home runs or RBI? Check. Missed time with injuries to keep his counting stats down? Check. Sounds to me like a perfect recipe for under-appreciation. History will look very favorably upon Clark, perhaps much more so than his college teammate, Rafael Palmeiro.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Organization Wide Philosophy

First off, Happy New Year to everyone. While the naughties failed to provide many Orioles highlights, I am confident that the teens will be much more fruitful for those of us that care about baseball in Baltimore. In case you missed it, I put together my All-Decade Team back in June. I know, I'm ahead of the curve.

In cleaning out my Google Reader today (it's amazing how far behind you get in just two weeks), I came across a very interesting Baseball Prospectus interview with Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch. Hinch, a former catcher at Stanford and with the A's, Royals, Tigers and Phillies, was a front-office employee in Arizona when he took over the manager's job midseason in 2009. Thanks to his background, he brings a very unique perspective to the bench, helping make the entire interview well worth the read. I wanted to highlight his closing comments:
One of the things I've learned over the course of being in the front office, and
now as the manager, is that all of the on-field experience, the data research,
the statistical analysis—they're all parts of this pie. They're all pieces of
the pie that can help lead an organization to being a winning organization. What
I want to be is someone who never turns away a piece of that pie if it's going
to help us get better and help us win more games. Hopefully, that's something
that can turn out to be a competitive advantage for us, that we accumulate as
much information as we can and implement it to help us win.
If I were the GM, I'd be looking for a manager that held those same beliefs.