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.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Corey Patterson Update

Well, it looks like CP is on his way.  The only question is who goes and who stays: Lou Montanez or Nolan Reimold?

Montanez is, at very best, a 4th outfielder.  He doesn't play exceptionally good defense, he doesn't hit very well, and he's not very versatile.  Other than that, he brings lots of value.  Roster-wise, it makes the most sense to send him back to Norfolk for Patterson (who at least is capable of playing solid defense at all three outfield positions).

Reimold, though, is really struggling.  He's hitting just .205/.302/.337, and he has made several defensive miscues in the past few games.  However, he has hit safely in five out of his last six games and he remains one of the few players willing to accept a base on balls (walk rate: 11.5%; Reimold, Markakis, Scott and Wieters are the only regulars with a walk rate above 8.0%).  Assuming that he's healthy (a big assumption), Reimold needs to continue to play every day.  His track record suggests that he is a much better hitter than he's currently showing, and he will likely turn things around eventually.

Thus, the question becomes what the team plans to do with Patterson once he arrives: will he platoon in left field with Reimold?  Will he get nearly all the left field at-bats, at least in the near term?  Or is he up just to provide some more bench value than Montanez?  If Reimold won't be getting regular playing time, I'd prefer that he head back to Norfolk to work through his funk.  While he's there, I'd love for him to break out that first baseman's mitt again, too.  I'm not sure who started the meme that Reimold really is better than Pie in left, but that is clearly not true.  If he's going back to Norfolk, he might as well learn a new position while he's there.  And maybe, just maybe, when he comes back up he can replace Garrett Atkins.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Orioles and Sabermetrics

Sparked by a comment about Reggie Jackson's one season in Baltimore, I was surfing today and clicked on Ken Singleton.  I was amazed.

Singleton's career spanned 15 seasons, from 1970 to 1984, the final 10 of which he spent in an Orioles uniform (note: I was born in 1981, so I can't really remember his career).  After playing his first two seasons with the Mets, he was traded to the Expos for Rusty Staub.  In Montreal, he had three very good seasons, including a monster 1973 campaign where he led the league in on-base percentage, hit 23 homers and drove in 103 runs.  A "disappointing" 1975 season (he only hit 9 homers en route to a 110 OPS+) led the Expos to trade Singleton to the O's for a 31-year old Dave McNally (who would pitch 77.1 innings in 1975 and then retire), Rich Coggins (a speedy outfielder who peaked in 1973 at age 22), and AAA pitcher Bill Kirkpatrick (who would never reach the Majors).

In his first seven seasons with the O's, Singleton was among the very best players in the American League.  He hit .298/.403/.471, numbers good enough for a 149 OPS+ (interestingly, his slash line an awful lot like another underappreciated Orioles rightfielder), but he only managed to make three All-Star teams.  He was 2nd in the MVP balloting in 1979 (35 homers and 111 RBI, but Don Baylor, who hit behind Rod Carew's .419 OBP, drove in 139) and 3rd in 1977 (when Carew hit .388 and posted a 178 OPS+).  All told, Singleton finished his career with a .282/.388/.436 line, good enough for a 132 OPS+ (remember, the 1970s favored pitchers, generally, and Memorial Stadium favored pitchers, specifically).

Shockingly, Ken Singleton did not receive a single vote for the Hall of Fame in 1990. Not. A. Single. Vote.  And why not?  Because he didn't hit home runs or accumulate big RBI totals.  Jim Rice, career OPS+ 128, is in the Hall of Fame, yet a reasonable case can be made that Singleton was actually a better player than Rice.  So what's my point?

Orioles fans grew up on sabermetrics; we just didn't realize it.  Ken Singleton is exactly the type of player saberists love but who goes underappreciated: he doesn't hit tons of homers or put up big RBI totals, but he gets on base a ton.  Earl Weaver understood this, which is why Baltimore was the perfect fit for Singleton.  And it's also what makes Baltimore fans so frustrated with this year's team.

Miguel Tejada racks up gaudy RBI totals (or, at least he did in a previous life), but only gets on base 34% of the time.  Adam Jones swings at everything.  The manager fails to put relievers in a position to succeed.  The defense is awful.  Outfielders throw to the wrong base.  I can go on and on.

The Oriole Way was the original sabermetrics way: pitching, fundamentals, and the 3-run homer.  I hope the O's figure out a way to bring it back someday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Josh Bell

O's SweetSpot blogger Dave Mc asks an interesting question today:
Imagine that Bell stays hot as Las Vegas summer for the next six weeks. He plays good defense and hits lefties well enough. He is pounding on the door of the majors. Would the Orioles promote him? I'm not so sure because I'm not sure where Bell would fit defensively.
Dave's reasoning is that the club would be hesitant to move Miguel Tejada--admittedly one of the O's only bright spots on offense thus far--off third base and also wouldn't want to shift Bell to DH, first base or the outfield.  It's an interesting conundrum, but one that I think makes the mistake of overvaluing a few more wins in 2010.  Personally, if the hypothetical Dave posits comes true, I don't think MacPhail will hesitate to promote Bell.  If Tejada, who was signed specifically to be a one-year stopgap, is playing well, he could be traded to a contender looking for some help at third base (perhaps Anaheim, Minnesota or Detroit) or be moved to first base, where the O's don't exactly have a plethora of quality hitters.  In any case, this would be a happy problem for several reasons.

First of all, it is far from clear that Bell can handle third base defensively.  While errors are not a perfect (or even good) measure of defensive ability, Bell certainly makes a lot of them.  There have also been questions about his atheticism, which of course leads to speculation that his ultimate position will be first base.

Mostly, though, Bell is currently half of a hitter.  He shows good pop and plate discipline from the left side (.303/.371/.514 in his minor league career and .291/.330/.524 this season), but he is Cesar Izturis with a few more walks from the right (.237/.319/.355).  That's a huge split and one that isn't likely to close in just a couple of AAA months.  Rather, it wouldn't surprise me if the Orioles have Bell give up switch hitting.  In that case, he would clearly need a few more months in Norfolk to accumulate at-bats against lefthanders.*

*Assuming there are any left-handers to hit against.  No one on the Tides has more than about a dozen at-bats against left-handers.  Are there no left-handed pitchers in the International League?  How can I sign up for some of that?

But this actually brings up another reason that MacPhail would go ahead and promote Bell to Baltimore: he could platoon with Tejada.  Bell could play third base against right-handers, with Miggy manning the hot corner against lefties.  This would likely push Luke Scott out of the DH role (which Tejada would assume against righties), but considering that he's struck out in roughly 127% of hit at-bats this season, that would actually be a good thing.

The lesson?  MacPhail will stick to the plan.  If the O's had busted out of the gate with a surprising start (like say, the Blue Jays), maybe things would be different.  Instead, the Orioles have the "luxury" of focusing only on 2011.

Corey Patterson

Just in case you haven't been paying attention, the Orioles are bad at scoring runs.  Their 107 runs scored (3.34 runs/game) rank ahead of only the lowly Astros, Mariners and Indians, while their .305 team on-base percentage bests only the Astros.  Four players are pulling their weight offensively: Ty Wigginton (a shocking 169 OPS+), Nick Markakis (131), Matt Wieters (110), and Miguel Tejada (109).  The other regulars rank somewhere from really bad (Reimold, 76) to awful (Luke Scott, 72, and Adam Jones, 65) to execrable (Garrett Atkins, 57, and Cesar Izuturis, 43).  Unsurprisingly, Andy MacPhail isn't happy, and changes might be on the way.

There has been a strong movement over at the Sun blog and on Twitter to bring up Corey Patterson.  After all, he's hitting .367 in Norfolk, and the O's could sure use some offense, right?  The problem, of course, is that Corey Patterson can't provide any offense.  In his career, he has a .290 OBP.  Bad as he has been, Nolan Reimold has a .304 OBP this season, and even Adam Jones isn't that much lower (.257).  Yes, Patterson plays a good defensive outfield, and thus he makes more sense as a fourth outfielder than Lou Montanez; we all saw his center field "skills" on display in New York last week.  But the notion that Patterson will fix what ails the O's offense is misguided at best and delusional at worst.

Fortunately, Jeff Zrebiec clarified his stance today (emphasis mine):
I think he’d be a good addition to the Orioles’ bench because of his defensive abilities and what he brings with his speed/bunting ability, etc. But all the talk about Patterson coming up and being a huge part of an offensive turnaround is a little much. Patterson has been in six different organizations since 2005, and this is his second go-around with the Orioles. He is a career .252 hitter with a career .290 on-base percentage.
The impetus for all this backseat general managing was an article that appeared last week in which Andy MacPhail put the O's hitters "on notice."  I think (hope) that MacPhail knows there really isn't anyone better in Norfolk; Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder have both struggled this spring, and we just discussed the (de)merits of Corey Patterson.  Rather, MacPhail is rightly placing the emphasis on performance.  Reimold and Jones are likely better hitters than they have shown so far this season, but with no one pushing them from behind, they haven't lost any playing time.  If bringing up Corey Patterson and sending either Reimold and/or Jones to AAA for some low pressure at-bats is what the club thinks is best for their long-term development, do it. Just so long as we're clear that Corey Patterson isn't going to help the O's win any more games in 2010 than either of those guys.  No matter what the stated goal was prior to the season, the Orioles have to be squarely focused on getting Reimold and Jones back on track to be valuable contributors for the future.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Strength of Schedule

Early in the 2010 season, the Orioles have played a very difficult schedule.  They have faced the Rays (21-7) six times, the Blue Jays (17-13) three times, the A's (15-14) four times, the Mariners three times (11-17), the Red Sox six times (15-14), the Yankees six times (19-8) and the Twins once (19-10).  Even if you take the Orioles games out of those records, only the Mariners (8-17) and A's (12-13) are teams playing below .500 against the rest of baseball.  Anecdotally, it also seems as if the Orioles have faced exceptionally good starting pitchers almost every night.  Does the data support that perception?  In a word, yes.

Opponents' starters have absolutely dominated the Orioles this season.  In 29 games, starting pitchers have thrown an average of nearly 6 2/3 IP per start, allowing just 7.8 H/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 6.3 K/9 on their way to a 2.27 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.  In other words, the Orioles offense has turned every opposing pitcher into one that would rank T9 in the American League in ERA.  Who would that pitcher be tied with?  Zack Greinke.  You'll also notice from that list several pitchers that have made multiple starts against the Orioles, including A.J. Burnett (5), Matt Garza (7), Jeff Niemann (8), and C.C. Sabathia (11).

Taken in aggregate, starting pitchers in the American League have pitched 2,217.1 innings against non-Orioles offenses with a 4.44 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  Combined (including double counting all pitchers that have made multiple starts against the Orioles), the starter's the Orioles have faced have a 3.68 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 762.1 IP against non-Orioles opponents.  So, yes, the starter pitchers the Orioles have faced this season are significantly better than league average.

Offensive Disappointments

Dan Connolly asked yesterday "which Orioles hitter has disappointed you most?"  He lists lots of candidates: Luke Scott, Garrett Atkins, Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Cesar Izturis, and... Nick Markakis.  And one person picked Markakis!  How is this possible?  Markakis is currently hitting .312/.411/.486, numbers which are a career high in batting average, on-base percentage and just .005 shy of a career high in slugging percentage.  He has 11 doubles, good for third in the American League.  If you are disappointed in Markakis, it is because he only has 9 RBI.  But it's kind of hard to get any RBI when you're hitting behind a lead-off batter posting a .242 on-base percentage.  Which, of course, means that Adam Jones and his 3 walks in 128 plate appearances is the easy answer for most disappointing hitter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Orioles Offense Fail

Is this the worst line-up a team has put on the field all season?

Julio Lugo (SS) .125/.176/.125
Ty Wigginton (2B) .295/.391/.654
Nick Markakis (RF) .314/.413/.500
Miguel Tejada (3B) .311/.357/.500
Garrett Atkins (1B) .270/.289/.338
Matt Wieters (DH) .277/.340/.744
Nolan Reimold (LF) .179/.282/.299
Craig Tatum (CA) .100/.100/.100
Lou Montanez (CF) .129/.156/.129

There are four hitters with an OPS+ above 75 in the lineup (Wigginton 179, Markakis 148, Tejada 131, and Wieters 102).  Five guys have OBPs below .300. The clean-up hitter has a .338 slugging percentage.  And the worst part?  It's not even good defensively.