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Archive for March, 2006

Final Predictions

Posted by Mike on March 31, 2006

Be forewarned, the nature of overviewing an entire team (or at least most of the starters) precludes this from being extremely detailed.  Still, I wanted to get up a final set of predictions that I could re-visit after the season (and maybe at the all-star break).  Feel free to comment on the things you particularly agree or disagree with and we'll re-visit those as well.

First, let's make our way around the diamond:

Infield 

Ramon Hernandez- Should play solid defense and post a SLG in the .470 range.  He's not going to be a walk machine, so the .335 OBP I'm predicting will be heavily propped up by a .290ish BA.  I think it is likely that he misses up to 20% of the season with injuries, prompting Eli Whiteside to get a call-up at some point in the season. 

Javy Lopez- Expect his name to be bandied about in trade rumors come July.  The O's will likely split him pretty evenly between C, 1B, and DH until then to keep his trade value high.  He should match Hernandez with the bat: .280/.325/.475

Kevin Millar- I expect he will continue to look bad in the field, but will see some rebound with the bat after a dismal 2005.  Unfortunately, being away from the friendly confines of Fenway keeps that from showing up in his batting line. .275/.355/.400

Brian Roberts– The good news is that  Roberts looks good so far in spring training.  The bad?  Well, you know the adage about lightning striking twice.  I still expect him to be one of the better 2B in the league and a competent leadoff hitter:  .290/.360/.420

Miguel Tejada- He isn't as bad as his second-half last year, but I still expect a slight regression overall.  His name could also pop up in trade rumors if things don't break the O's way early in the season.  .295/.340/.490

Melvin Mora- Here's another candidate for trade rumors, if the O's aren't able to come to terms with him on a contract extension.  He should still be below average at 3B, but I don't expect his offensive numbers to dip lower than they were last year.  The O's will be crossing their fingers that he doesn't get hurt before July 31st, but it's unlikely he makes it the whole season without a trip to the DL.  .285/.365/.490

Outfield

Jeff Conine- He'll probably see just as much time, if not more, at 1B considering Javy's inability to stick there in ST and Markakis starting to force his way into the OF picture.  His power numbers were abysmal last year and, even moving away from Pro Player Stadium, it's unlikely they will rebound much in his age 40 season.  .280/.350/.400

Corey Patterson- As much as I really did like this trade, the fact is that the odds are against Corey Patterson ever becoming a useful major leaguer.  Certainly, Terry Crowley and the O's organizational tendency to overlook a player's proclivity towards making outs are not going to help matters much.  I'll be the first guy to be happy if this prediction underestimates him, but .240/.280/.390 is all I can muster with a straight face.  Should that happen, expect him to have many springs filled with NRI's ahead of him.

Luis Matos- As much as Matos represents the kind of false hope and, ultimately, disappointment that recent Orioles teams have been all too willing to dole out, we shouldn't be too quick to forget that he is still a useful major leaguer.  As lackadaisical as it might seem, his defense is above average and he makes for a very solid 4th option in the OF:  .280/.340/.390.  Look familiar?  Expect him to see significant time this year as attrition and disappointment reign supreme in left- and center-field.

Jay Gibbons- In some recent posts, we've learned some interesting things about Gibbons.  He doesn't walk much, but hits for power without striking out.  He also had a ridiculously low BABIP last year.  Nevertheless, as a player with an old player's skill set, it's likely that he'll have a short peak.  For 2006, though, I'll go along with the believers: .290/.340/.525

Nick Markakis- Markakis has been all the rage in the last few weeks.  It's looking quite possible that he makes the team out of spring training.  I see that as bad roster management, many of you seem to disagree- but that's a topic for another day.  I don't doubt that he could hold his own in the majors right now.  By the end of the year, he could even be pretty good.  I'll go with .275/.350/.410 with a noticeable split in his SLG before and after July.

Starters

Rodrigo Lopez- As much as is being made of some of the younger guy's getting to work with Leo Mazzone, I'd expect his influence will be felt by Lopez as well.  I look for Lopez to keep his K/9 around 6, but lower his BB/9 down to sub 2.5.  All in all, a 4.40 ERA while once again topping 200 innings is in his reach.  His name is another that could pop up in trade discussions if the O's fall out of contention fast.

Erik Bedard- My favorite Oriole going into last year (and my friends heard plenty about it after he got off to a hot start).  After battling a knee injury and struggling after his DL stint, I piped down quite a bit.  Still, I expect Bedard to enter his peak and be Baltimore's best starter (as long as he's healthy) in 2006.  8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 3.45 ERA

Kris Benson- Despite having his lowest ERA since 2000, Benson hinted at some possible regression last year.  Specifically, his K/9 rate dropped to a career low 4.9.  Fortunately, he did make marginal gains in his BB/9 rate.  Still, the analysts that hint at his as yet untapped potential are a little too wrapped up in his status as the #1 overall draft pick of 1996.  Even with Mazzone, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a breakout season from this 31 year old: 170 innings, 5.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.65 ERA

Daniel Cabrera– I'll spare you the extended version that you've no doubt heard over and over this off-season.  100 mph + lots of K's + lots of GB = Good Stuff.  I do see Cabrera breaking out in some respects this year; I just think it's more likely that he sees his first all-star game in 2007: 190 innings, 9.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 3.90 ERA

Bruce Chen- Baltimore's most valuable pitcher last year (as measured by VORP) will have a tough time duplicating last year's success without improving his peripherals.  He gives up a lot of home runs (1.51/9 last year) and likely always will.  But, close to league-average pitchers that can throw a ton of innings don't grow on trees, even if they don't often get the respect they deserve: 190 innings, 6.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 4.50 ERA

Hayden Penn- The first name that will be called in case of an injury or a Lopez trade.  Penn badly needed a consolidation season in 2005 and did not get it.  He lost a big chunk of the season to his premature call-up and then struggling in AA in the immediate aftermath of his demotion.  Hopefully, he will get left alone in AAA until July, at the earliest.  He shouldn't have much trouble in Ottawa but I think he will have a tough 10-15 start transition to the majors.  Predicting his usage is tough, given the uncertainty of the circumstances, but if you'll allow me to be sufficiently vague:  AAA= Real pretty; MLB= ~5.00 ERA, but watch the K rate.  Around 7 K/9 ip (in the majors) or more would help him get some recognition as a sleeper for 2007.

Bullpen

Chris Ray- Quite possibly my favorite Oriole right now.  I am bullish and expect him to be a league-average closer immediately, but his ERA was a little misleading last year.  He'll need to cut his BB/9 rate to 3 or lower.  I don't think it'll be a problem and coupled with a 9.5 K/9 rate, that should net him a ~3.00 ERA.  Watch out for injuries, though.  He's young and has had his mechanics questioned by more than a few scouts.

LaTroy Hawkins– You mean the O's actually got something useful for Steve Kline?  Yup, and the Giants even gave them $900K to even out the salaries.  He doesn't walk many batters and generally keeps the ball in the park.  7.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, ~3.30 ERA

As for the rest of the pen, I have gone on record as saying that I thought it's shortcomings were being overblown.  That was before two key cogs, Todd Williams and Aaron Rakers, went down with injuries.  I do expect Ray and Hawkins to be a decent 1-2 punch at the end of the pen, but after that it gets a little thin.  Here are some players either on the roster or in the minors that could surprise this season: Orber Moreno, Sendy Rleal, Chris Britton, Ryan Keefer, and I'm a bigger believer in Tim Byrdak than most.

One caveat: I have to admit it's a little silly to forecast ERA's, since pitchers generally have about as much control over it as a batter does over his RBI total.  Since relievers often enter or leave games with runners on base, their ERA is even more out of their control.   

AL East Standings

  1. Boston Red Sox, 96-66
  2. New York Yankees, 92-70
  3. Toronto Blue Jays, 87-75
  4. Baltimore Orioles, 78-84
  5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 75-87

Sorry folks.

That's all for now.  I'll get to a minor league overview in the next couple of days. 

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Posted in Orioles | 8 Comments »

Arroyo for Pena

Posted by Mike on March 29, 2006

In his first big move since becoming GM (if you don’t count resigning Adam Dunn), Wayne Krivsky decided to trade one of his most valuable resources for a 4th starter (well, on any other team).  After a breakout season in 2004, Arroyo saw his ERA jump over half a run and his strikeout rate decline from 7.2/9 ip to 4.4 K/9 in 2005.  Pena, on the other hand, continued to struggle with his control of the strike zone.  But when he got ahold of the ball, well… his .238 isoP says it all. 

Let’s take a look at a few of their top comparables according to PECOTA.

Arroyo- Esteban Loaiza, John Thomson, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Millwood, Todd Ritchie

There’s certainly some promise in that group- just look at the salaries that Weaver and Millwood pulled this off-season.  In addition, Arroyo has escaped the the injury nexus that so often claims young pitchers, is able to handle a significant workload, and is signed to an affordable 3-year deal that was brokered with a hometown discount in mind.

Pena- Jesse Barfield, Willie Stargell, Pete Incaviglia, Dale Murphy, Jose Canseco, Albert Belle

Wow.  PECOTA sure seems to like Wily Mo Pena.  Nate Silver, PECOTA’s puppet-master, has explained in the past that prodigious power helps a young player develop plate discipline as more and more pitchers start to pitch around him.  And better plate coverage is about all Pena is missing to become an all-star caliber player.  Of course, it is always dangerous to assume a player will develop a skill that is just not there yet,  but if Pena never develops any further, he’s still Joe Carter

Ultimately, it’s hard to see how the Red Sox didn’t come away the winner in this trade.  Below is a graph of Pena and Arroyo’s 2005 WARP‘s, plus PECOTA projected WARP’s through 2010.

PECOTA has Arroyo being more valuable this year, followed by a season where the two are roughly equal.  After that, Pena’s advantage only continues to grow.  Imagine if Pena ever tops 513 PA’s (which is where PECOTA has him topping off at).

It’s worth mentioning that both players are only under their respective team’s control for the next three years.  Should Pena reach his potential, however, I have trouble believing the Sox wouldn’t figure out a way to lock him up. 

As much as it is clear that Boston will eventually be a better team because of this trade, I do not think it necessarily makes them better for 2006.  Sure, Pena makes a nasty lefty-masher to caddy for Trot Nixon.  And sure, the Sox have some starting pitching depth so the loss of Arroyo is not going to kill them.  Neither of these points, however, is as big of a deal in 2006 as many are portraying it to be.

Specifically, Pena will either be severely limited in his usefulness as a platoon partner for Trot Nixon or be taking away AB’s from Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz when they need a rest.  In neither of those scenarios do the Sox come away much stronger.

Last year, Pena hit .291/.345/.536 against lefties.  Unfortunately, that’s not as impressive as it seems.  In fact, last year Chris Gomez hit .317/.400/.394 against lefties.  Package that with the fact that he can play middle infield and you have a $850K player.  What’s my point?  Well, hitting left-handers is a skill that a lot of guys floating around have.  The other merits of this trade aside, the manner in which Pena will likely be used during the 2006 season renders him less of a factor than he might be on another team.  In fact, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t a few veteran guys in AAA right now that are just as capable of thriving in a similar role.

The final point I’ll make about this trade- as it pertains to 2006- is that it is simply not true that Arroyo’s loss will not be felt.  As it stands right now, according to MLB.com, the Red Sox rotation sits like this:

  1. Curt Schilling

  2. Josh Beckett

  3. David Wells

  4. Matt Clement

  5. Tim Wakefield

Between Wells’ trade demands/age and Schilling and Beckett’s constantly wavering health, I’m not going out on much of a limb to see this as essentially swapping Arroyo out of the rotation for Jonathon Papelbon.  The problem here is that people seem to have unrealistic expectations for Papelbon.  Sure, he had 34 good innings in relief last year, but pitchers almost always pitch significantly better in relief than as a starter.  To better gauge his effectiveness as a full-time starter, we’d have to look all the way back to the beginning of 2005 when he was in AA.  There, even as a 24 year old, he failed to strike out a batter an inning.  As a comparison, as a 23 year old in AA, John Maine struck out 34 batters in 28 innings.  I’m not arguing that Jon Papelbon isn’t a major league caliber starter, just that his 34 MLB innings last year have tricked a lot of people into thinking that he is an elite prospect.

PECOTA has Papelbon pegged for a 4.94 ERA this year, which is understandable when you look at his #2 comparable- Gil Meche.  There are a few more encouraging names on that list (Kelvim Escobar, Rich Gossage) but it is unreasonable to expect him to seamlessly switch to the rotation and pitch at a level that will make the Sox forget about Arroyo.

  • On another note, Rich Lederer dropped me an email detailing some of his thoughts on the latest round of O’s transactions.

Concerning the possibility that Markakis, Matos, and Patterson might all make the opening day roster:

I’m perplexed by the [apparent] decision to keep Markakis.  It’s not like he is tearing it up this spring.  Why not let him get some more time in at AA or AAA, then bring him up later in the season?  What’s the rush here? 

Oh, and if you are going to keep him on the roster, then by all means let him start.  No way he should head north and not be in the lineup everyday.

 

I can certainly agree with these sentiments.  If anything struck me about what Rich had to say, it’s that the buzz around the Orioles right now is that Markakis is tearing it up this spring.  I’m certainly not going to take anything away from Markakis’ .900 OPS through 56 AB’s, but maybe it only looks so good because we are comparing him to his decidedly mdiocre competition.  Plus, the fact that he only has one HR thus far certainly seems to indicate that his power could stand more time to develop in Bowie or Ottawa.  And it’s not like the WBC hasn’t rendered the level of play even lower than normal this spring.  Finally, let’s not forget that there are similarly young prospects that are having even more impressive springs (Elijah Dukes- .700 SLG, Kendry Morales- .649 SLG).  So, at this point, let’s try to keep the hype machine from getting out of control and prioritize Markakis’ future over some fleeting hopes of competing this season.

Rich also had this to say about placing Geronimo Gil on waivers:

Big mistake if you ask me.  Don’t like the idea of two catchers only, especially if one of them is also going to play 1B and DH.  Just doesn’t make sense.  I mean, this really reduces the team’s flexibility during games quite a bit. 

So there you have it- the first argument I’ve seen anywhere on Gil’s behalf.  The Orioles do still have Eli Whiteside on the 40-man roster and I find it unlikely that he could be worse than Gil, should they be inclined to use him.  In the end, though, it will be up to the Orioles to somehow make enough use out of the additional roster space to justify any compromises in game strategy that Gil’s departure may cause.

What say you, Orioles Nation?

Posted in Orioles | 10 Comments »

Crowded Outfield Situation

Posted by Mike on March 27, 2006

Jeff Zrebiec wrote a column for the Baltimore Sun's website that detailed the Orioles' crowded outfield situation.  Considering the attention that this subject has gotten in my comments sections, I suppose it is time it got its own post. 

The premise of the article is to lay out the various scenarios that could unfold by opening day.  Let's see what Zrebiec had to say:

The Orioles could make a trade and they have let teams know, according to multiple sources, that Patterson, Newhan and Matos are all available. They nearly traded Matos to the Cubs for Todd Walker, but the talks have ceased, at least for now.

But if they trade Matos, they'll have very little insurance if Patterson, who hit just .215 last year, and Markakis, who has played only 33 games above Single-A, falter.

I know these are Zrebiec's words and not Flanaquette's (TM), but this makes little sense to me.  Let's say that Matos gets traded and Markakis starts the year in Bowie- don't you think the O's would have to give Patterson a full six weeks or so to prove he is every bit as bad as he was last year before they pull the cord?  And if Markakis is then promoted and struggles, don't you think he would be given an even longer look before the O's sought out a third option?  By then, the O's would be months into the season.

Oh and earlier in the article, Zrebiec mentions that:

"Newhan, once thought to be the odd man out, is the Orioles' leading hitter this spring with a .429 batting average and has earned a role, Perlozzo said." 

If Newhan is not good enough to be that third option in CF, then I have some serious doubts about his place on this team at all.

I'm going to put Zrebiec's next two points back to back.  Trust me, I'm going somewhere with this:

(1)Perlozzo could keep all six of the outfielders on the 25-man roster, but that would mean that they'd only keep two catchers, leaving Perlozzo short-handed late in games.

If he decided to pinch run for starting catcher Ramon Hernandez, he would be left with Javy Lopez, the team's likely starting first baseman, as the late-inning defensive replacement, a role he's not suited for.

(2)Perlozzo could play either Patterson or Matos in center and Markakis in left, but that will take a ton of at-bats from both Conine and Millar. Conine agreed to sign with the Orioles, largely because Perlozzo told him he'd play regularly.

"I wish I could tell you," Conine said when asked about his role. "I'm preparing myself to be ready to play left field and first base. But we have a lot of options in the outfield and at first base."

Let's say the situation comes up where Perlozzo wants to pinch-run for Hernandez, is that really good enough reason to keep the likes of Geronimo Gil on your roster? 

Looking at BP's Davenport Translation Defensive Rate's of both Geronimo Gil and Javy Lopez's defense, we can see that Gil is the superior defensive player at this point.  In his career, for every 100 games, he has saved 2 runs above-average.  Surprisingly, so has Lopez.  Of course, Lopez is aging and had his worst defensive season last year at 8 runs below-average per 100 games.  Now, let's say that there are 10 instances this year when Hernandez has to be pulled so someone else can run the bases for him.  And let's say that the backup catcher would have to catch for an average of 3 innings each time.  For you math majors, that leaves 30 innings in the hands of either Lopez or Gil.  Using Gil's career average and Lopez's worst season, Gil would save the team 1/3 of a run being used in those situations over the entire year.  It's quite possible that a discrepancy that small could be compromised simply by plugging in a superior defensive 1B, like Conine, at the same time.  Clearly, as so often is the case, keeping a third catcher is a waste of a roster spot.

As for Conine, I find it hard to believe that he still wouldn't find a way to get at least 350 AB's.  With Josh Willingham apparently getting reps in LF and Mike Jacobs at 1B, even his former employer would have trouble squeezing him in that much. 

Perlozzo could start Markakis in center, where he has looked better than in left, and primarily use Conine or Millar in left. However without a trade, that would leave Matos and Patterson as backups. Privately, club officials are concerned how Patterson, whose confidence they are trying to build up, and Matos, whose work ethic has been much questioned in the past, would react to reserve roles.

First off, LF is the only outfield position that Markakis does not have experience playing.  It's quite possible that he has actually looked better in CF than LF, but I would hesitate to draw any sweeping conclusions about his ability to play the easier position from only a handful of games. 

Beyond that, I see little reason to keep both Matos and Patterson in reserve roles.  Should this situation present itself, and it won't, Patterson should be left to dominate AAA for a while and be forced to address his strike-zone issues.  Matos, however, makes an ideal 4th OF- speed, defense, and the ability to sub in for a few weeks at a time without killing you. 

I certainly don't mean to pick on Mr. Zrebiec, it's just that I have seen all of these arguments in lots of different forms and this was a convenient way to address them at once.  Still, Zrebiec left out what I feel are the most important points of all- Nick Markakis A) is not so advanced that sending him to the minors for a while would impede his development; and B) will not be arbitration eligible until after 2009 or eligible for free agency until after 2012 if he starts the year in the minors.  Bump both of those one year closer if he makes the team out of spring training.

2006 is a season when Markakis being on the roster an extra two months will almost certainly not be the difference between contending and not contending.  It makes little sense to threaten his development and fast-track his salary bumps all for the sake of seeing what the kid can do.  Furthermore- should the Orioles decide to play Markakis on opening day over recent acquisitions like Jeff Conine or Kevin Millar, then I fail to see the purpose of those signings in the first place.

So, what do you guys think?  Is Zrebiec off base?  Am I?  Who do you think should start 2006 in the OF and why?

Posted in Orioles | 10 Comments »

Orioles Clear More Roster Room

Posted by Mike on March 24, 2006

I had held out some hope for Bottalico, mostly on the stength of his 2004 season with the Mets:

 IP       H    R    ER   HR  BB   SO  HBP  WP   ERA

69.3   54   30   26    3    34   61     4     3    3.38

Unfortunately, even the uncertainty of the O’s pen couldn’t guarantee him a job after the spring he had.  Thinking positively, Bottalico’s travails did inspire what is probably the best line in Nate’s report from Florida.

 

  • The Orioles also sent Alejandro Freire, Andy Tracy, Brandon Fahey, Val Majewski, Jeff Fiorentino, and Hayden Penn to the minors.  Nothing unexpected.

Freire and Tracy are nice guys to have around in case you want to keep Jeff Conine or Kevin Millar from earning their playing time bonuses in September.  Otherwise, they should do well in the middle of the Ottawa lineup.  Tracy did manage to put up a 105 OPS+ in 192 AB’s with the Expos in 2000 but has shown little since.  Last year, after admittedly raking in AAA (in the most extreme hitter’s park in the hitter-friendly PCL), he only managed to hit .209/.324/.360 in Japan.

Fahey opened up some eyes in spring training, hitting .273/.385/.318.  I suppose it speaks volumes about his defense that his batting line could be seen as a pleasant surprise.  If nothing else, it looks like the O’s will have a solid middle-infield back-up for the league minimum in 2007.  And who knows?  Maybe they’re a little more open to re-assessing Miguel Tejada’s situation when the July trading deadline comes around. 

Rumors swirled that Penn might make the big club out of spring training to help out the depleted bullpen.  Thankfully, he will be kept in a starter’s role and gain some needed additional seasoning in Ottawa.  I see Penn as having some initial problems adjusting to big league hitting, but I’m pretty bullish on his chances to emerge as an even more well-regarded prospect as long as he’s left in Ottawa.  And, of course, it makes sense to keep his arbitration-eligibility clock from ticking as long as possible since he is unlikely to be the difference between contending and not contending in 2006.

Majewski had an understandably disappointing spring, as he continued to shake off the rust after missing 2005 with a torn labrum.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think he’ll have much problem in the contact department, but his early power numbers will be a better indicator of how his recovery is going.  I’ll be interested to see if he continues to get playing time at 1B in Ottawa.  Perhaps the O’s won’t need Freire or Tracy after all.   

Fiorentino will start the year at Bowie, likely as their CF (although scouts see him as a LF long-term).  A strong showing could get him a September cup-of-coffee as well.

 

  • The Orioles apparently have some interest in Wil Nieves, the future waiver-bait catcher with the New York Yankees.  Since they’re already on the hook for half a million to Geronimo Gil, it makes little sense why they would pursue a similarly awful player like Nieves. 

 

Really?  It’s his salary that’s the problem?  I could understand if the Pirates were asking for too much in return, and that may yet be the case, but $3.3 million for a guy that would almost certainly hit in the heart of your batting order?  That seems like a bargain to me. 

It’s true that Wilson is not an asset defensively, he missed over half of last season with finger injuries, and he is a free agent after this season.  But this is a guy who has substantial power and has never had an OBP below .354.  He’s had an EQA of .283 or better each of the past three seasons.  Know which Orioles can make that claim?  None.  Even Miguel Tejada’s EQA dipped to .280 in 2003.

  • Rodrigo Lopez has been named the opening day starter.

Sam Perlozzo must be a big believer in patterns.  Over the last four years with the birds, Lopez has alternated good and bad seasons:

         ERA+ 

2002- 123

2003- 75

2004- 133

2005- 85

If this were a logic test, it looks like Rodrigo is due for a season with a 143 ERA+.  We should be so lucky.  Nevertheless; entering his contract year, Lopez makes an interesting candidate for 2006’s Jarrod Washburn Award.

  • Too many baseball books out there for you to keep track of?  This review of Baseball By the Numbers and The Book may be tragically biased, but the analogies work for me.  I certainly wouldn’t start your journey into sabermetrics with The Book, but both are among the better publications to come out this offseason. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 1 Comment »

Forecasting: Melvin Mora

Posted by Mike on March 22, 2006

In my interview with Rich Lederer, we had the following exchange:

OTT: Melvin Mora’s contract is up after this year and there have been talks of an extension in the three to four year range.  He is entering his age 34 season and presents a very interesting case in the study of career paths.  On the one hand, he is athletic and has a varied skill-set, which usually bodes well for how a player will age.  On the other hand, he was an extremely late bloomer, which often indicates the opposite.  What kind of player do you think Mora will be through 2009?

Rich: Mora has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles for a number of years now.  His 2004 season was certainly underappreciated by MVP voters.  He had a Jekyl and Hyde season last year.  Melvin performed well up to the point when he pulled his hamstring in late June, then went into a two-month slump before hitting like the Mora of old (rather than an old Mora) in September.  Seven stolen bases in the first half and none in the second half paint a pretty good picture as to the type of year he experienced.

A fully recovered Mora should hit .280-.300 with 20+ HR in 2006.   That said, I would hesitate to give him a three- or four-year extension at full market value at this stage of his career.  One or two years, yes.  Three or four, no.  For what it’s worth, his most similar players (according to Baseball Reference.com) have not performed well from age 34-on.

 

It got me wondering if there was anything that a list of comparables could tell us about what the future has in store for Melvin Mora.  Is Rich right?  Will Melvin not be a good player in four years?  Will he still be a good player in two years? 

I figured the easiest way for me to display my findings was by impersonating the collective talents of Dave Studeman and David Appleman.  After all, graphs are fun- at least when other people make them. 

Both of these graphs will utilize Basball Prospectus’ EQA.  This is a measurement of a player’s total offensive output per out made.  EQA incorporates all offensive production, even baserunning.  The great thing about EQA is that the league average is always set to .260, so it’s about as easy to utilize as batting average and still allows you to make comparisons across eras. 

Some of you may wonder why I am using a rate stat as opposed to a counting stat (like VORP or WARP) to predict how valuable a player might be to his club.  The answer is simple: a comparison of VORP may account for injuries or reduced playing time, but it’s applicability to Melvin Mora is significantly depreciated.  By using a measure that simply accounts for how well a player performs when he gets to play, we eliminate a lot of variables that a player often has little control over.  Similarly, WARP may account for defensive performance in addition to offense, but Melvin’s defensive situation is fairly unique.  If you are desperately searching for defensive indicators- we know that Melvin upgraded his defense at 3B from abysmal in 2004 to below-average in 2005.  My guess is that is that he stays in below- average territory as his growing comfort with the position is countered by his aging body.  As for predicting injuries that will affect how often he stays on the field, we know that Melvin gets hurt a lot and is approaching his mid-thirties.   Baseball Prospectus puts his chances of dropping completely out of the league (Drop Rate) as follows:

2006- 0% (but it’s always zero for the upcoming year)

2007- 5%

2008- 14%

2009- 30%

 

Now, onto the first graph:

 

In 1999, when this graph starts, Melvin Mora was 27.  That was his first taste of major league pitching.  Even then, it took him until he was 30 to become a league-average hitter.  The graph takes us all the way through this past season, when Melvin was 33.  He took a downward turn, but still maintained above-average production.  Keep in mind that average (.260 EQA) denotes the average player, not average starter.

Next, let’s take a look at where Melvin might be headed.  To do this, I looked at his most comparable players list  on Baseball Prospectus.  My original intent was to use the list on Baseball Reference, but a cursory (and completely arbitrary) glance indicated, in this instance, that BP’s list seems more applicable.  I’ve graphed every player on his comparables list that met the following criteria:

  1. They are over 37
  2. The seasons looked at occurred after 1970 (again, an arbitrary date- but I wanted to weed out players from drastically different eras)

I’ve included each player’s age 33 season which, for Mora, was this past year. 

 

In their age 33 season, all ten players were above-average hitters.  By their age 35 season, only one player was drastically below-average and it was Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg.  That can be thrown out because what would have been his age 35 season (in 1995) was lost to an unsuccessful retirement attempt.  However, by their age 37 season, fully six of the ten players were either out of baseball or producing at a below-average rate. 

What does this tell us?  Well, for starters- Rich was right.  My first inclination is still to wait until July and see what Mora’s value is to contending clubs, but a close second would be signing him to a two year extension. 

The nature of any three or four year deal that Melvin would receive would almost certainly be backloaded.  Do you want $8 or $9 million committed to a guy in 2009 that, according to his comparables list, stands a good chance of being ineffective or out of baseball? 

That sounds like a good way to sustain mediocrity well into the future. 

Posted in Orioles | 12 Comments »

Interview: Rich Lederer

Posted by Mike on March 20, 2006

Today, we’re lucky enough to have one of the blogosphere’s most popular writers chime in with some of his thoughts on the Orioles.  Rich Lederer is probably best known to many of you as one of the two writers at Baseball Analysts.  Along with Bryan Smith, Rich has formed a site where you can find college, minor league and major league analysis; interviews of several notable baseball writers; and a series of poignant abstracts on Bill James’ own Baseball Abstracts that culminate in an interview of the big guy himself.  

Of course, that’s not the whole story.  As the son of George Lederer, Rich grew up engrossed in baseball culture.  In fact, his father served many roles in the baseball community.  George Lederer started out covering the Dodgers for the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram from 1958-1968.  In addition, he served as the  president of the Los Angeles chapter of the BBWAA; on the Board of the national BBWAA; and as the dean of west coast baseball writers.  In 1969, George Lederer joined the California Angels organization as the Director of Public Relations and Promotions and served in that capacity until 1978.  Koby Clemens isn’t the only one with impressive bloodlines.

I first noticed Rich Lederer as the man behind Baseball Beat; part of the All-Baseball network.  Of particular interest was his series of articles scouting Jered Weaver during his days at Long Beach State.  I’d try to link them here, but there are simply too many posts with too much information to do it any justice in such a cursory overview.  If you’re looking for a starting point, try clicking here.  In addition; starting on December 26th, 2003, Rich began a series of articles detailing the injustice of keeping Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame that have been a catalyst towards Blyleven garnering his highest vote totals yet in this past induction cycle.  After the success of this and much of his other work, Rich joined up with Bryan Smith to form Baseball Analysts- where you can still find fresh Rich Lederer material three times a week.

Oh, and his high school baseball coach, John Herbold, just happened to be Jay Gibbons’ coach at Cal St.- Los Angeles.

Without further ado, here is the interview that Rich was kind enough to grant me: 

OTTLike many others in the baseball analyst community, you’ve recently pegged Daniel Cabrera as a breakout candidate in 2006.  Specifically, you’ve cited his impressive K rate and GB tendencies that put him in elite company.  Are there any qualifiers you’d like to put on that statement?  How likely do you think a frontline-type season is?

Rich:  Cabrera has the potential of stepping it up this year and becoming one of the top pitchers in the game—if not this year, then certainly down the road.  Cabrera has flaws, but I like the fact that Leo Mazzone is now his pitching coach.  From what I can tell, Cabrera wants to get better and is eager to learn.  Both are good signs for his immediate and long-term future. In a nutshell, Cabrera needs to throw more strikes and become a more consistent pitcher rather than just a hard thrower.  That said, the guy can really bring it.  He throws as hard as any starting pitcher in the AL.  In fact, Cabrera threw more pitches at 100+ mph than anyone else and was second (only to AJ Burnett) as far as 95+.  Give me a big, hard-throwing pitcher who strikes out batters and induces groundballs, and I will show you someone who has a high ceiling.  In short, I like his chances to succeed quite a bit. 

 

OTT: Another name you’ve bandied about as a breakout candidate is Jay Gibbons.  I think people may be more surprised to hear that name than the aforementioned Cabrera.  What makes you inclined to think Jay could improve on his 2005 season?

Rich:  What I like most about Gibbons is his bat.  Although he is a liability defensively and on the bases, Jay can flat out hit.  Like Cabrera with his Ks and GB, Gibbons has a rare combo of skills that I find really intriguing.  Last year, he was 14th in the AL in HR rate, yet was the 10th most difficult batter to strike out.  Put it another way, Gibbons was fourth in the majors in HR/SO, (among players with a dozen or more home runs). The top three? Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, and Aramis Ramirez.  If that isn’t enough, Gibbons was 31st in the AL in runs created per game despite the fact that he had just a .268 batting average on balls in play. You have to go all the way down to the 63rd batter (Nick Swisher) to find someone with a lower BABIP.  Assign a league-average BABIP to Gibbons and he would have hit over .300 last year (instead of .277).  If healthy, I don’t see why Jay couldn’t hit .290 with at least 30 HR this year. 

 

OTTGiven that, do you care to defend the contract given to Gibbon’s this off-season (4 years/$21.1 million)?

Rich: Sure.  I think it was a good deal for both sides.  Gibbons gets the security of a long-term deal now, while the Orioles lock him up in what would be his free agent years in 2007-2009 at no more than the current market for such hitters.  Five to six million per year seems pretty reasonable to me given the fact that run-of-the-mill third outfielders like Jeromy Burnitz, Juan Encarnacion, Jacque Jones, Reggie Sanders, and Preston Wilson all signed one-to-three-year contracts for that type of money during the off-season.With salaries spiraling upwards at about 10% annually, I think one could make the case that the 2005 version of Gibbons would have more than matched the $5M, $5.7M, and $6.2M that he is scheduled to earn in the last three years of his deal.  If I’m right about what Gibbons might do this year, then I have no doubt that he would be worth quite a bit more in the open market for his 30-32 year-old seasons than the Orioles are obligated to pay him. 

 

OTT: On the surface, Bruce Chen had a breakout season in 2005 – leading the O’s staff with a 33.7 VORP.  Do you think he can maintain that and continue to perform as a solid #3 starter or do you see his absurdly low .262 BABIP catching up to him?

Rich:  I’m not real big on Chen.  Unlike Cabrera, Chen is neither a strikeout nor a groundball pitcher.  I realize there’s more than one way to get batters out, but his style is always going to lead to a lot of home runs by the opposition.  His propensity to give up the long ball (33 HR in 197 IP in 2005 and 123 HR in 698 IP for his career) is about twice as high as what you’d expect from a good pitcher.Don’t get me wrong.  The guy isn’t terrible.  He just doesn’t have a whole lot of upside.  There is a reason why Chen has been involved in more trades than the New York Stock Exchange.  He didn’t buy into Mazzone’s philosophy when the two were in Atlanta in 1998-2000 and hasn’t gotten along with a number of other pitching coaches at his eight stops this decade.  Chen is older, more experienced, and perhaps more willing to work with Leo now that he has essentially adopted the idea of not only throwing strikes more often but down and away.  

 

OTT:  It looks like Erik Bedard might be getting overlooked a bit as a breakout candidate himself.  Personally, I’m looking forward to him working with Leo Mazzone almost as much as Daniel Cabrera.  Durability has been a concern, but his injury last year wasn’t to any part of his arm (knee) and he is only entering his third season back from TJ surgery.  Can you see him taking another step forward in 2006 and becoming a legitimate #2 type?

Rich: Yes, I like Bedard a lot.  He was on the verge of a breakout season last year when he sprained his knee in May.  His before (5-1, 2.08 ERA with a 3.7 K/BB ratio) and after (1-7, 5.44, 1.70) splits tell it all.  Over a full season, Erik won’t be as good as he showed early last year but neither will he be as bad as what he appeared to be from July through September. Bedard struck out 5.41 batters per 100 pitches in April and May.  He would have ranked 24th in the majors among starters had he continued that pace all year.  I think he could be really, really special. 

OTT:  A lot of Orioles fans seem worried about the bullpen this year.  How do you like Chris Ray’s chances of succeeding as a big league closer in 2006 and beyond?

Rich: Well, Mike, I can understand why Orioles fan would be concerned.  Ray appears to have what it takes to be a big league closer but is unproven in that role.  Chris blew the four save opportunities he had last year and doesn’t have much experience closing games, even at the minor league level.  But, goodness gracious, what a job he did at Bowie!  He flat out dominated “AA” hitters to the tune of a 0.96 ERA while allowing less than a hit every two innings and striking out almost 30% of the batters he faced.

Once in the majors, Ray had some problems with his control.  His minor league walk rate was certainly acceptable, so I’m not overly worried about it.  If Chris throws strikes and can get left-handed batters out, he will be a very good closer.

 

OTT:  After several years as one of the best set-up men in baseball, LaTroy Hawkins took a slight step backwards last year.  Is this the start of his decline phase or do you see him returning to form in 2006?

Rich: Oh, I think it is fair to say that his decline phase began last year.  But that doesn’t mean he still can’t get batters out.  Hawkins has a live arm and could be effective in a set-up role.  His walk rate inexplicably went up last year so I would keep close tabs on his control in the early going as perhaps a pre-cursor to what kind of year he might have in 2006.

 

OTT: Melvin Mora’s contract is up after this year and there have been talks of an extension in the three to four year range.  He is entering his age 34 season and presents a very interesting case in the study of career paths.  On the one hand, he is athletic and has a varied skill-set, which usually bodes well for how a player will age.  On the other hand, he was an extremely late bloomer, which often indicates the opposite.  What kind of player do you think Mora will be through 2009?

Rich: Mora has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles for a number of years now.  His 2004 season was certainly underappreciated by MVP voters.  He had a Jekyl and Hyde season last year.  Melvin performed well up to the point when he pulled his hamstring in late June, then went into a two-month slump before hitting like the Mora of old (rather than an old Mora) in September.  Seven stolen bases in the first half and none in the second half paint a pretty good picture as to the type of year he experienced.

A fully recovered Mora should hit .280-.300 with 20+ HR in 2006.   That said, I would hesitate to give him a three- or four-year extension at full market value at this stage of his career.  One or two years, yes.  Three or four, no.  For what it’s worth, his most similar players (according to Baseball Reference.com) have not performed well from age 34-on.
 

 

OTT:  What do you make of the battle for CF among Corey Patterson and Luis Matos?  I’ve argued that the Orioles should think outside the box and embrace a Roy Halladay-esque (circa 2000) bump down to the lower levels of the minors, forcing Patterson to confront his plate discipline issues.  Do you see any hope for him returning to level of play he showed in 2003 and 2004?

Rich: No, not really.  Patterson certainly isn’t going to turn things around magically just because he is now in Baltimore.  The scouts have always been in love with Patterson’s tools.  He is like the pretty girl that everybody wants to date.  But Patterson looks a lot better than he plays.  Sure, the guy can run and hit for power.  But his pitch recognition and plate discipline are horrendous.

I’d say you’re spot on, Mike.  Allowing Patterson to work through his problems in the minors is probably the only way he ever becomes a useful player again.

 

OTT:  The corner outfield/1B jam is another interesting battle.  What can O’s fans expect out of Kevin Millar, Jeff Conine, and Richard Hidalgo?  Who would you pick as the two favorites to emerge with regular playing time? (EDIT: Question was submitted before Hidalgo went all Mondesi on the Orioles.)

Rich: (Laughing) I think you can stick a fork in all three.  Millar is next to worthless outside Fenway; Conine didn’t really hit just three home runs last year, did he?; and Hidalgo…well, if the guy couldn’t hit in Texas, there’s little reason to suspect that he will hit in Baltimore.  I’ll let Sam Perlozzo earn his keep by making these decisions.

 

OTT:  How soon can we expect Nick Markakis and Val Majewski to make that situation even more crowded?

Rich: You would have a better handle on Majewski than me, but it won’t be a crowd once Markakis is ready.  However, Nick has had only two months playing above High-A so he still needs some additional seasoning.  At the earliest, maybe Markakis gets a shot in the second half.  But I think a September call-up is more likely.

 

OTT:  How would you have handled the Miguel Tejada saga this off-season?  Do you feel his value might be higher in July?  What kind of return can/should the Orioles expect if they choose to trade the best SS in baseball?

Rich: Taking each question one at a time…I would not have traded Tejada for Mark Prior, as rumored.  I love Prior but wouldn’t want to assume that he would be healthy this year.  I also would not have agreed to swap Tejada for Manny Ramirez, especially if Boston wasn’t willing to even out the money.

Tejada is going to have to show any potential suitor that his relatively poor second half last year was a fluke in order for the O’s to get more out of him in July than last winter.  As far as what they might get for him in a trade, one would hope an impact player and a couple of prospects but that might be overly optimistic in light of similar deadline deals in the recent past.

 

OTT:  What are your predictions for the Orioles in 2006?

Rich:  I look for the Orioles to win around 78-82 games and finish fourth.

 

OTT:  I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear that better times are ahead.  Care to indulge us?

Rich:  Well, everybody likes to think better times are ahead.  But I have a hard time coming to that conclusion.  The problem for the Orioles is that they are competing in a tough division.  The Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are all better right now, and the Devil Rays are likely to be better down the road.

I hesitate to say this, but I would expect the O’s to finish last more often than first over the next five years.  Put the Orioles in another division and they would clearly have a better chance of succeeding.  Gerrymandering, anyone?
 

 

 

I hope you all found Rich as informative and entertaining as I did.  I’d like to thank him once again for taking the time to participate.  Now go check out BaseballAnalysts.com.

 

 

 

  

   

 

Posted in Interviews | 31 Comments »

Around the MLB

Posted by Mike on March 18, 2006

  • A friend of OTT, John Kazlo, dropped me a note after checking out Padres camp:

I saw Big Walter last night in Peoria.  He came in to play in the 8th inning for Ryan Klesko.  Apparently, he has been Kleskos relief just about every game.  Not sure what this means for his chances to stick with the big club, but at least he is getting some playing time.   The Padres also have Jack Cust this year, he was on the bench but did not get into the game.   Big Walter has not lost any weight…..he still casts the largest shadow!   The big news I am hearing here is that there is a push to build a new stadium in Glendale so that two teams can be lured from FL for spring training.  One of the teams every one is talking about being lured here is the Orioles.  Even the mainstream press is reporting this.

          Thanks John, and be sure and check out some of his reports at Minor League Watch.

  • Here’s another entry into the long series of [insert name of prima donna ballplayer] being [insert name of prima donna ballplayer] articles.  Having read the entire thing, I’m still not sure what all the commotion is about.  Apparently Boston media types are as good at latching onto nothing and making a story out of it as they are at sticking within tightly regimented article-naming formulae.

 

  • Let’s see if you can follow this chronology:
  1. Will Carroll says Mark Prior is hurt.
  2. Hendry, Baker, Prior and co. say it ain’t so.
  3. The Chicago media collectively uses this incident to distance themselves from internet media. 
  4. Mark Prior gets hurt.
  5. Now, the latest entry- Mark Prior discounts the possibility that anyone could have possibly scooped his injury.

 

  • Bud Selig has apparently launched an official investigation against Barry Bonds.  Stop reading here if you hate spoilers, but here is how this turns out: Selig can’t prove anything, but everyone still knows that Bonds cheated.  Some people care, some don’t.  Around the Horn continues to get on my nerves.

 

  • The Marlins are reportedly interested in Desi Relaford, an Orioles NRI.  No word on what the fish might be offering for the man that actually managed to post a .627 OPS in Coors Field last year.

 

  • Another trade scenario has popped up involving Luis Matos- this time for Tony Graffanino.  The article paints Matos as a lefty-masher that could serve as a 4th OF/platoon partner for Trot Nixon.  There are two things that are very wrong with this analysis.  First, WBC hero Adam Stern is at least as good as Matos.  Second, the basis of calling Matos a lefty-masher is the .834 OPS he posted against them in 118 AB’s last year.  In 2004, he posted a .410 OPS against lefties.  In 2003- .697 (and he was actually good that year).  My point?  Let’s not get all giggly over 118 AB’s.  Before last year, Matos was known for his inability to hit lefties. 

 

  • David Newhan is making a strong push for a spot on this year’s roster.  Apparently, so are Desi Relaford and Ed Rogers.  I would imagine that no one is rooting for Relaford and Rogers more than Newhan, as they are among the few in camp that make him look like a bona fide major leaguer.   

 

Posted in General Baseball, Orioles | 9 Comments »

Greatest O’s Seasons

Posted by Mike on March 16, 2006

Since I rarely indulge in Orioles history here, I thought I’d take a look at some of the best offensive seasons in the history of the franchise.  All data used in this post was calculated based on numbers in the Lahman Database.

Let’s get some quick methodology out of the way.  The stat I will use is GPA, or Gleeman Production Average.  This can be calculated simply as ((OBP*1.8)+(SLG))/4.  I’ll be the first to admit that GPA is not perfect, but it is easy to work with and more accurate than something like OPS.  Of course 1.8 is not a perfect figure to represent OBP’s importance over SLG.  In fact, studies show that the relative importance of each fluctuates depending on context.  But, a point of OBP is always more important than a point of SLG and using a static figure is integral to getting this post done in one day.  GPA also does not account for things like offensive speed, but this is largely overrated anyhow.  In addition, only seasons in which the batter registered 300 AB’s or more were counted. I should also mention that I have made no attempt to adjust the numbers based on offensive eras or ballpark factors.

Out of the 426 qualified player-seasons in Orioles history, here are the top ten (offensively):

Rank (All-time)/Name/GPA/Year

  1. Jim Gentile .354 (1961)
  2. Frank Robinson .346 (1966)
  3. John Lowenstein .339 (1982)
  4. Brady Anderson .335 (1996)
  5. Chris Hoiles .332 (1993)
  6. Boog Powell .332 (1964)
  7. Melvin Mora .330 (2004)
  8. Frank Robinson .327 (1967)
  9. Ken Singleton .326 (1977)
  10. Boog Powell .325 (1970)

Jim Gentile at #1 over Frank Robinson’s triple crown year?  Well, yeah.  He had an OBP of .428 and hit 46 home runs in only 486 AB’s.

John Lowenstein at #3?  It helped that he platooned and barely qualified in terms of AB’s (322).  Still, very impressive.

Was Melvin Mora really that good in 2004?  Offensively- yes.  He just couldn’t catch the ball.

No Miguel Tejada?  He makes his first appearance all the way down at #51 (2004).  Miggy could be among the game’s elite hitters if he could take a walk at even an average clip.

Let’s look at it another way- out of the total sample of 426, here are where the qualifying hitters on the 2005 squad placed:

2005 Rank/Name/GPA/All-time Rank

  1. Brian Roberts .304 (#39)
  2. Miguel Tejada .287 (#74)
  3. Melvin Mora .276 (#118)
  4. Jay Gibbons .272 (#132)
  5. Rafael Palmeiro .276 (#156)
  6. Javy Lopez .260 (#198)
  7. Luis Matos .247 (#260)
  8. Sammy Sosa .228 (#349)
  9. B.J. Surhoff .218 (#373)

It’s true, B.J. Surhoff accomplished the unenviable task of beaing worse than Sammy Sosa.  I also suspect that some people will be surprised at the gap between Roberts and Tejada.  Well folks, that’s the value of not making an out in between extra base hits. 

Let’s take a look at a pair of players, their top GPA’s and where it ranks among the Orioles’ 426 player-seasons.

Cal Ripken (Year/GPA/All-time Rank)

  1. 1999, .313 (#28)
  2. 1991, .312 (#29)
  3. 1983, .298 (#55)
  4. 1984, .297 (#57)
  5. 1994, .280 (#95)

Miguel Tejada

  1. 2004, .299 (#51)
  2. 2005, .287 (#74)

As good as Miguel Tejada is, could it be any clearer how extraordinary Cal was?  In an era less known for prolific offense, especially among shortstops, Cal produced better offensive years than Tejada ever has (with the Orioles or otherwise).  I can only imagine how startling the contrast would be if I had the time (or inclination) to league-adjust these numbers.

Finally, let’s take a peek at the five worst offensive seasons ever by an Oriole:

All-time Rank (#1=Last)/Name/GPA/Year

  1. Willie Miranda .164 (1957)
  2. Kiko Garcia .174 (1980)
  3. Paul Blair .177 (1976)
  4. Billy Ripken .182 (1988)
  5. Mark Belanger .186 (1968)

Mark Belanger?  Check. 

My poker buddy Billy Ripken?  Check. 

Paul Blair?  Wait a second- wasn’t he good?  Nope- not at creating runs, anyway.  He made an out 70% of the time over his career, but his defensive reputation was enough to keep him employed for parts of four seasons after the travesty that Blair knew as 1976. 

That’s it for now, if you want to download the list of all Orioles player-seasons with 300+ AB’s and their GPA’s, go to my Spreadsheets and Charts page.  Feel free to tinker with it and try to come up with some fun ways of presenting the data.     

 

 

Posted in Historical | 3 Comments »

Ask Nate @ Spring Training

Posted by Mike on March 16, 2006

My buddy Nate is taking in some Spring Training games and left the following passage in the comments section.  I thought I’d clean it up a bit and post it again in case anyone had any specific questions for him.  Nate is not a scout or anything but he has played ball the majority of his life.  He’s an avid fan and I’m sure he has plenty of insight to offer; having watched several players in person.  Feel free to post questions to him in the comments section.

 

Nothing too exciting to report from Ft. Lauderdale stadium this week. A 3-2 win over the mets sunday which I’m sorry to say I left with 2 outs remaining in the ninth, down 2-1 with David Newhan up… and somehow we came back to win.

Today, however, Kris Benson looked in control on the hill and seemed to be spotting his fastball in tune with what Leo Mazzone was looking for. Melvin Mora went yard and Desi Relaford made an error. Other than that, not a whole lot to speak of.

The tone of the spring down here (as I was able to speak to about 3 O’s fans in the midst of 3,000 Sox fans) is that Nick Markakis has gained quite a bit of popularity. And, I must admit, I am sold. He carries himself with a big league demeanor and I personally wonder what the harm would be in letting him take Patterson’s spot.

Unfortunately, Val Majewski was only in the game for one inning out of the 2 games I was here and I was unable to see him do anything really. If I were to say two things for sure after my trip to Lauderdale they would be this: Nick Markakis is our top prospect in the field for a reason, and who in the fuck decided to invite Ricky Bottalico to spring training?

Also Eric DuBose had some pretty good stuff on Sunday and, in my opinion, would be a welcome southpaw in our bullpen- especially since Grasesqui has apparently failed to hit the numbers on the gun that he was supposed to.

To sum up… nothing too eventful to speak of out of these two games… I also have been drinking the whole time I’ve been here and thus may not have been as thorough in my report as some would like.  

Yours truly,

OTT correspondant Nate Barker

P.S. The lopsidedness of Red Sox fans to O’s fans definitely held true even in Spring Training… needless to say there were several shouting matches… disgusting.

Posted in Orioles | 3 Comments »

Matos/Walker Deal?

Posted by Mike on March 15, 2006

The Orioles are looking to trade Luis Matos for Todd Walker.  According to this article, talks “have intensified the past couple of days”, so expect this trade to either happen or fizzle in the next few days.  Incidentally, the author of that article (Childs Walker) occasionally offers some nuggets of non-traditional baseball wisdom (He even previewed the internet baseball community in this piece).  It will be interesting to see how much the Sun lets him get away with as the season goes on. 

Back to the point, the article gives a glimpse into the minds of the O’s brass:

The holdup appears to be the Orioles’ unwillingness to pick up the entire $2.5 million contract for the Cubs second baseman, who makes about $900,000 more than Matos.

Walker, 32, who is competing for Chicago’s starting second base job, hit .305 last season with 12 homers and 40 RBIs. Orioles officials view the left-handed hitter mostly as a designated hitter who could give Perlozzo another good bat off the bench. Walker also could provide some infield insurance if Roberts isn’t ready for Opening Day.

Matos, currently playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, is behind Corey Patterson in the duel to win the club’s starting center-field job.

Reading that quote, it seems like the O’s want some sort of DH/bench player.  Then, it occurred to them that they have an injured second baseman and could use this guy there.  I suspect that they are just posturing for the cameras, pretending all is well with Roberts’ elbow.  In baseball, though, actions speak louder than words, and there is clearly some growing concern over the injury.

As for Walker, it’s true that he is a butcher defensively, but it’s pretty difficult to come up with a scenario where I’d rather have Chris Gomez starting over him.  And as much as I’d like to see Eddy Garabito get a shot at some playing time, the fact is that he is behind Gomez on the depth charts. 

Let’s take a look at how Walker has hit over the last few years:

Year  Ag Tm  Lg  G     AB    R     H   2B 3B  HR  RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG

2002 29 CIN  NL 155  612   79  183  42  3  11   64   8   5     50   81  .299  .353  .431    

2003 30 BOS AL 144  587   92  166  38  4  13   85   1   1     48   54  .283  .333  .428 

2004 31 CHC NL 129  372   60  102  19  4  15   50   0   3     43   52  .274  .352  .468 

2005 32 CHC NL 110  397   50  121  25  3  12   40   1   1     31   40  .305  .355  .474

 

I’m certainly having a difficult time wrapping my mind around what the Cubs are thinking.  To me, it seems like the $900,000 difference in salaries is nothing when you consider it will be used to keep Neifi Perez as far away from the starting lineup as possible.  And for what?  To have Matos sit behind Marquis Grissom as the Cubs’ 5th outfielder?

On the other side of the coin, Luis Matos’ value to the Orioles is not something you can completely disregard.  He’s a solid defensive centerfielder and makes an ideal situational player.  Let’s look at his past few years:

Year  Ag Tm  Lg  G    AB     R    H    2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG

2003 24 BAL AL 109  439   70  133  23  3  13   45    15  7   28   90  .303  .353  .458  

2004 25 BAL AL  89   330   36   74   18  0   6    28    12  4   19   60  .224  .275  .333  

2005 26 BAL AL 121  389   53  109  20  2   4    32     17  9   27   58  .280  .340  .373 

 

Clearly, Matos has no place starting on a contending team, but he would make nice insurance against a non-reversal of fortunes for Corey Patterson.  The Orioles seem inclined to give Patterson at least a month or two to top his Neifi-riffic 2005 and by then, should he still be struggling, they are banking on the fact that Nick Markakis will have passed Matos on the depth chart anyhow.  This certainly seems like the sort of logical anticipation that I have not become accustomed to in recent years.

To sum it all up, the Orioles would be giving up a 27 year old defensive replacement/pinch-runner/spot starter who is, at most, a few months away from being rendered useless by minor league incumbents.  The Orioles would be adding a 33 year old championship-caliber bench player/insurance for Brian Roberts/league-average DH and $900,000 to the payroll. 

Another interesting scenario that this trade could present is shifting Walker to 3B.  He’s only played there 60 games in the major leagues and none since 1997, but it might be worth it to see if he has the chops for it.  That way, the Orioles might be more inclined to get a decent return on Melvin Mora come the trading deadline, since his negotiations aren’t going as well as he anticipated.

I, for one, did not expect Luis Matos to fetch this much in return.  I’m scoring this as a clear win for the Birds (should it happen).

  • In other news, the Orioles sent Franklyn Gracesqui down to the minors.  He was reported to throw in the upper 90’s from the left side.  After failing to crack 90 mph thus far in sping training, Sam Perlozzo offered:

We were looking for a real power arm out of him.  I’m just going to guess his arm strength is not up to where he should be yet.

  • OTT’s spring training correspondent, the secretly fat Nate Barker, just text messaged me that Markakis is starting in CF today- Corey Patterson is starting in RF.  This is yet another indication that the Orioles see Markakis as the best insurance against Patterson, not Matos.

Click Here to vote on whether or not you would make this deal.  The poll will open in a new window.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 4 Comments »