Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Forecasting 2006- Upper Minors

Posted by Mike on January 31, 2006

Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. Today, I figured I’d look at a few players in the Orioles system that are either close to cracking the big leagues or have recently done so.

In this post, I’ll utilize two forecasting programs– Dave Szymborski’s (of Baseball Think Factory) ZiPS and Nate Silver’s (of Baseball Prospectus) weighted mean PECOTAs. I’ve provided the links so that if you really want to know how each of these works, you can check it out yourself. The short version is that they are both intricately developed, well regarded and highly utilized in stathead circles. I’ll add some commentary and we can re-visit this post as the season wears on.

Onto the good stuff…

ZiPS- .266/.333/.398 in 417 ABs

PECOTA- .263/.326/.403 in 539 PAs

Well, that worked out pretty well. Both system’s do not think Markakis is ready yet. Between Gibbons, Millar, Patterson, Matos, and Conine, one would hope that the OF is covered for the majority of 2006- and in this case, that’s a good thing. I suspect that Markakis could exceed these projections, but that isn’t saying much. Most intriguing to me about his development is that his production has increased across the board as he’s moved up to each new level.

Nevertheless, let’s hope that the O’s stick him in AA Bowie or AAA Ottawa (depending on if they decide to actually send prospects to AAA next year) and leave him there until September. He’s not so advanced that he can’t refine his game at those levels and the O’s will keep him on the cheap for another year.

ZiPS- 69 ip/75 K/23 BB/9 HR/3.91 ERA

PECOTA- 53 ip/43 K/ 21 BB/ 6 HR/ 4.12 ERA

PECOTA seems to be weighing Ray’s 2004, when he was used as a starter in the low minors, too heavily. ZiPS comes closer to what I expect his K rate to be, but PECOTA is closer with regards to his BB rate and HR rate. Put it all together, and I am more optimistic than both systems.

Short-term, I think Ray could see a slight rise in his ERA from 2005 (2.66), but it will more likely due to his less-than-perfect control than his HR rate (as ZiPS is implying). He’ll still strike out more than a batter an inning and be a league-average closer in 2006.

ZiPS- .279/.332/.432 in 412 ABs

PECOTA- .277/.327/.460 in 243 PAs

Interestingly, both systems think Majewski is closer to be able to contribute than Markakis. PECOTA certainly penalizes his lost season in terms of plate appearances, but it certainly doesn’t doubt that his power is major league ready. As I noted in a previous post, I like Majewski’s chances to come back- even from a career-threatening injury. He will start the season in Ottawa and probably serve as a full-time DH for a while. His contact and on base skills should be there right away. Watch his power numbers to see how he’s progressing. At this point, it would be a shame if he were promoted to Baltimore only to lose consistent playing time. Let him work out the kinks in AAA.

I’ll predict that he gets a mid-summer call-up and that his power numbers will actually look better in Baltimore than Ottawa, since he’ll be further away from his shoulder injury. He should be ready by 2007.

ZiPS- 143 ip/ 112 K/ 63 BB/ 22 HR/ 5.10 ERA

PECOTA- Strangely missing… (EDIT: my mistake, check comments)

Well, the ZiPS projection looks pretty bad at first glance. Looking closer, however, the 7.1 K/9 are actually pretty intriguing. As I’ve said before, I think if Penn pitched full time in the show in 2006, we should expect slightly below average production with hints of promise that make us look forward to 2007. I think the ZiPS projection is pretty consistent with that. Fortunately, in my opinion, the O’s filled out their five man rotation with the trade for Kris Benson. This should allow Penn some time to develop in Ottawa, at least until any injuries strike.

Left at one level, I’d expect Penn to have an exceptional year. But, I do not think he will respond well to shuttling back and forth between Ottawa and Baltimore. When the O’s do call him up, let’s hope they are willing to let him work out the kinks with consistent starts at the major league level. Otherwise, they’ll only hinder his development. Ideally, that call-up wouldn’t come before August and the O’s brass would be smart enough to shut him down before he reached 170 ip.


Well, that’s enough for now. I’ll get to some more on another day. If there’s anyone specific you want to hear about, let me know.


14 Responses to “Forecasting 2006- Upper Minors”

  1. Anonymous said

    You must have just missed Hayden Penn… PECOTA – 146 ip/ 94 K/ 63 BB/ 21 HR/ 4.94 ERA

  2. Mike said

    My bad– long work day.

    Even though PECOTA projects a better ERA than ZiPS, that line is much less appealing. Absolutely nothing about a young pitcher’s line is as important as his K rate. Look at Daniel Cabrera. He went from flukey one year wonder in 2004 to everyone’s favorite breakout candidate in 2006 just by showing he could miss bats.

    Anyway– Hayden Penn will struggle quite a bit next year in the majors, but the K rate will tell you if better days are ahead.

    ZiPS line= looking forward to 2007.

    PECOTA line= possible future #4 starter

  3. Eddie said

    Putting this in perspective, I think predicting a possible 7.1 K/9 at age 21 in the MLs is not a bad prediction at all. And, considering that, I don’t think PECOTA’s projection is necessarily an indictment against Penn either.

    Just like many young pitchers, you’d expect him to start off doing the minor league standard of having good enough stuff to set up batters into pitchers’ counts, only to nibble away trying to entice ML batters to swing. Most minor league pitchers with good stuff can have quite a bit of success in AAA using this technique but their success in the majors depends on their ability to realize that ML batters don’t swing at those balls. It’s ironic that most minor league pitchers try to get as many Ks as possible (because the K/9 stat is so valued), only to realize later that their success in the majors depends on their ability to upset batters’ timing by getting enough grounders and pops to keep their pitch count low.

    One thing I’d like to see Penn do is reclaim his high regard with a strong showing for a full season wherever he is, preferably all at one level. Last year’s lack of ML pitching depth forced the Orioles hand by rushing him and that shuffling back-and-forth knocked him out of the phenomenal string of starts at the start of the season. It would be great to see him to get back on that string and sustain it for a full year at AAA.

  4. Mike said

    Good post Eddie. I think we can all agree that the most important thing is to give this kid some consistent time at one level. As evidenced by the fact that he struggled in Bowie after coming back from the majors, Penn is a pitcher that takes a little time to make adjustments. He didn’t respond well to being rushed last year and, my guess is, he probably wouldn’t respond well to being rushed again this year.

  5. Anonymous said

    On my site today, I have done a preview/look at the AL East hitter. I have made projections for many of the players, at least one from each position for each team. If you have a minute, please take a look at it at http://www.SethSpeaks.net.

  6. Eddie Chu said

    Personally I think what will be lost in last year’s numbers for Penn will be the fact that after he got sent down there was an intense period of trade rumours for a solid month. Interestingly, Penn’s struggles at AA coincided during this month only to return to form after his first rotation turnover after the deadline passed. Every single rumour involving Burnett and the like started with Penn’s name. From Penn’s perspective, he must have thought that he got his shot at the majors, screwed up, and so the ML team is trying to trade him. We still have to remember that he’s a 20 yr old kid and the insecurity of not feeling wanted could have played a role in losing his focus. Obviously he has to learn to deal with such issues as he matures but that might have been the first time in his life dealing with that sort of thing. I wonder if last year’s mid-season’s struggles could be due to that since they are pretty isolated right in the middle of the year, book-ended with a strong start and finish to the season.

    This is exactly the sort of thing that homers will interpret in Penn’s favour but I wonder how much of it is a practical reasoning behind Penn’s mid-season slippage?

  7. Mike said

    I don’t think it’s being too much of a homer, Eddie. It’s both reasonable and applicable. Maybe it takes a homer to remember things like that, though.

    One more note, Jim Callis (BA) said during his Orioles top ten chat that Hayden Penn suffered a “dead arm” period that coincided with his call-up and put simply, caused a loss of “stuff”. He noted that this is not a particularly highly recurring type of injury and that Penn should be fine in the long run. Still, it’s completely reasonable that the lack of initial success could cause decreased confidence (speculating) and I’d like to see him put up some nice numbers at AAA before we see him in an O’s uniform.

  8. Eddie said

    I’d like to see how Penn’s curve develops. Supposedly he already has two plus pitches in his fastball and changeup, and, the curve is not too far behind. Recently I read that Penn’s fastball is clocked in the 91-93 range, but, prior to that I read that he was more like a 93-95 mph guy. Which is it?

    One of the best things I like about Penn is his physique looks to be able to take some punishment. I like Bedard but he’s not built like your prototypical 200 IP pitcher. Penn on the otherhand (and Loewen for that matter) is.

  9. Mike said

    I’d say you make some good points about both his curve and his physique. As to your question- You’re right, I’ve read differing reports on his velocity as well. You have to keep in mind that a lot of the national publications might see a guy only one time when they rate him. Covering hundreds of player necessitates that, I suppose. It doesn’t help that he had the whole “dead arm” thing, so the account could differ depending on what day someone watched him.

    Anyways, Penn has touched 96, but will more often work around 92 or 93 mph.

  10. Unknown said

    hey man, i really like your site

  11. No Speakz said

    Does anyone else think that these anonymous compliments are really just Mike trying to get some good word of mouth going?

  12. Mike said

    I think you are the secret admirer. You’ve been posting anonymous compliments all month in an effort to set up that hilarious joke.

    Truth be told, I went back and asked every lady friend you’ve ever had to post anonymous praise for my website (in my own comments section). That’s why there are exactly one and a half complimentary posts.

  13. No Speakz said


  14. Joe said

    I think anonymous was complimenting Seth for sethspeaks.net.

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