Tuesday, April 19, 2011


While the Orioles may not have any top-notch prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues, it looks like Delmarva may have a number of solid talents this season. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus wrote about Jonathan Schoop today:

Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles (Low-A Delmarva): 2-for-4, HR (2), RRBI, K
"In a system very low on prospects, Schoop entered the year as the No. 6 prospect following an impressive showing in the Appy League, but he was slid from shortstop to third base (where his tools profile better) to accommodate 2010 first-round pick Manny Machado, and suddenly the Orioles have one of the more impressive left sides of an infield in Low-A. A 19-year-old native a Curacao, Schoop has good defensive fundamentals, a plus arm and burgeoning power, and is now hitting .326/.396/.605 in 11 games while become one of my better non-Top 101 sleepers of the early season."
Looks like I need to take a trip across the Bay Bridge this summer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Outfield Defense

This is an interesting piece by Howard Megdal on outfield defense in left and right field (HT: Rob Neyer) for the New Yorks Mets, and one that may also be applicable to the Orioles. Nick Markakis has a reputation among fans and the media as being excellent defensively, but I suspect most scouts (and certainly the defensive numbers) would say he has perhaps average range and a very good arm. Felix Pie may be the opposite in left field, while Luke Scott is a bit below average on both counts.

Neyer notes that if  more balls are hit to left field than to right field (a right handed batter pull bias) then it stands to reason that left field defense would be more important than right field defense. That may well be true, but I'll suggest one more reason: left field is inherently more difficult than right field. In my experience, it is much easier to pick up the flight of a ball hit by a right handed hitter in right field than it is in left field (reverse that for left handed batters). With more right handed batters than left handers, this difference does suggest that the outfielder capable of getting better reads should play left field.

There are, of course, a few other issues that we might consider:
1) Who has a stronger arm? This is certainly important; throwing is more important in right field than in left.
2) Are there any ballpark specific factors that affect the decision? For instance, right field in Camden Yards, with its high wall, grounds crew viewing zone, and tricky corner, may be more difficult than left field.
3) How do the day's starting pitcher and opposing line-up project batted balls? Perhaps with left-hander on the mound against a right-handed heavy line-up a manager should place more emphasis on left field defense.

If Nick Markakis is one of your two corner outfielders, then it certainly makes sense to play him in right field; his arm is his most valuable defensive attribute. If, however, you're going to give Nick a day off and are trying to decide which corner should by manned by Luke Scott and which by Felix Pie, perhaps the counterintuitive but correct response would be to play Scott in right. Anyone have some data?

First Place!

The Orioles got off to a 4-0 start and are an impressive 6-3 after facing the Rays, Tigers and Rangers to open the season. The ballpark has shown signs of life, and the Orioles are the talk of the town. So why am I not more excited? Because the fundamentals don't support the hot start. To wit:

The offense (all numbers coming in to games of 4/11, league ranks in parentheses):
Team OBP: .282 (12th)
Team SLG: .348 (10th)
Team Runs: 35 (9th)
RISP: .360/.424/.720

The Orioles offense has scored more runs than its OBP and SLG would suggest because they've compensated by doing an excellent job of driving in those few runners that do reach scoring position. Based on the team-wide .243 BAbip (.400 with RISP), I would expect a bit better performance in general but with less clutchiness and for this to be a roughly league average offense.

And the pitching:
Team K/9: 6.2 (10th)
Team BB/9: 3.6 (9th)
Team HR/9: 1.1 (9th)
Team Runs Allowed: 32 (4th)

Much like the offense, the pitching is outperforming its peripheral numbers. Why? A .234 BAbip allowed. I'm willing to bet that number finishes closer to .300 than .234 (above .267). The young staff absolutely has some upside to it, but the aggregate numbers don't suggest much staff-wide improvement yet. And before you say "But the defense is much improved!," the BAbip for the 1970 O's (with Brooks, Mark Belanger, Davey Johnson, Don Buford, Merv Rettenmund and Paul Blair) was .264.

I would like nothing more than to see this O's club make a run at contention, but so far, nothing has dissuaded me that this is still a .500 team with the same odd roster construction and personnel decisions we all scratched our heads over earlier this spring.