Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Archive for April, 2006

Catching Up

Posted by Mike on April 27, 2006

The O's have lost 4 in a row to drop them to a .500 record and 4th place in the AL East.  Let's catch up with some various goings-ons.

  • New Mora Deal In Motion

Several sources are indicating that the O's and Melvin Mora have reached an agreement in principle on a 3 year extension at $26 million.  If/when it becomes official, we'll break it down further.  For now, check out my previous thoughts on how Melvin will age in the coming years.

  • BA Argues About Reimold

Baseball America's (subscription required) Chris Kline found two scouts that were willing to argue about OTT's #1 rated prospect, Nolan Reimold.  You'll have to subscribe to get the full account, but here are some snippets:

Optimistic Scout:

For me, he's got power, he's got the ability to hit for average, he'll steal you some bases–he isn't a burner, but he's an above-average runner–and he's an above-average defender with a classic right field arm. I don't think he's the second coming of Larry Walker, but he's definitely in that mold.

Pessimistic Scout:

I like him, but I'm not sold that all five of those tools we see are going to play.  To me, the speed is fringy, and the power comes with some question marks. Is this guy going to hit 30 to 40 homers in the big leagues? I just don't see it. He makes consistent solid contact, but he uppercuts and he has a lot of holes in there. I'd say he's more of a 20-a-year guy max, and that's OK.

The speed is something in particular that I don't see carrying over to the upper levels. I think he profiles as a first baseman with some pop down the road. But last I checked, Baltimore was pretty hungry for a power-hitting first baseman anyway. He's got some tools and he's going to be a quality big leaguer–I just don't see him staying in the outfield when it's all said and done.

While I do have an inherent bias after ranking him as the O's #1 prospect, I'm inclined to side with the optimistic scout on this one.  By all accounts, Reimold was fringy when handling CF last year.  Since switching to RF full-time, however, word is that he's been a plus defender.  It's also pretty easy to agree with the optimistic scout, since the other guy seemingly contradicts himself.  His main point is about Reimold's limited power potential and then he says "But last I checked, Baltimore was pretty hungry for a power-hitting first baseman anyway". 

  • BP Bashes Perlozzo

Joe Sheehan, fast becoming my favorite baseball writer, wrote an article for Baseball Prospectus detailing a few accounts of inefficient in-game strategy.  Not surprisingly, of the four examples give, two were blunders perpetrated by our beloved birds. 

You'll recall that I commented on a similar situation earlier, saying:

I think it was the seventh inning when Markakis led off with a single.  Immediately, Brian Roberts laid down a bunt.  According to this site, the O's had an 85.7% chance of winning the game before Roberts sacrificed him over to second.  Afterwards, they had an 85.3% chance of winning.  Nitpicking?  Yes.  Nonetheless, it was, at best, a pointless move (and those odds don't even factor in that Roberts is one of the O's best hitters).

Joe Sheehan had some better examples:

Sacrifice bunting is generally a bad idea, useful in certain clearly defined situations, almost all of which involve a pitcher or a late inning. It seems like the early part of the 2006 season, however, has seen a sharp uptick in the number of truly dumb bunts.

Brian Roberts: Foul, Ball, Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Roberts walked.
Nick Markakis: Ball, Pickoff attempt, Pickoff attempt, Ball, Roberts stole second, Ball, Strike looking, Markakis walked.
Melvin Mora: Ball, Mora sacrificed to pitcher, Roberts to third, Markakis to second.

This came in the third inning of Saturday's Orioles/Yankees tilt. There was no score, and the Orioles were hitting off of Shawn Chacon. Now, the two shutout innings notwithstanding, how many runs does it usually take to beat the Yankees? They score a bit more than six runs a game, so you have to count on getting, well, more than two. Not only did this bunt cut the knees out from under a potential big inning–Melvin Mora, you should note, is the O's everyday #3 batter, and presumably someone they think can hit a little–but it did so in the hopes of acquiring runs that would almost certainly not be the difference in the game. And as the Rockies did, the Orioles gave an out to a pitcher who didn't seem all that certain of getting one on his own. Thirteen pitches, eight balls to start the inning for Chacon, and he started Mora out 1-0. Throwing Chacon an out in that situation is like throwing Richard Kind a residual check.

The Orioles didn't score.

B-b-b-b-b-but wait! It gets worse!

Raul Chavez: Ball, Strike swinging, Bunt foul, Chavez singled to center.
Brian Roberts: Strike looking, Roberts singled to center, Chavez to second.
Nick Markakis: Strike looking, Markakis reached on fielder's choice to pitcher, Chavez out at third, Roberts to second.

Now, the Orioles are down 2-0 in the fifth, and they're again rallying against Chacon, who has been anything but dominant. It has been established, with certainty, that they will need at least three runs to win this game. Nick Markakis has cooled off, but Sam Perlozzo likes him enough to hit him second, and he's certainly not a player who's gotten a lot of reps laying down sacrifices. Which he shows by bunting the ball too hard and too close to the mound. The Orioles eke out a run on a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly, the only one they'll get in a game they would lose 6-1.

The first bunt was stupid, because it wasted a good hitter and let a faltering pitcher off the hook. At least, though, it set up a situation where you might take the lead. The upside of the second bunt was a two-run single that would have tied the game, with just 15 outs to get against a devastating Yankee lineup and a middle-relief corps that gainfully employs Jim Brower. Yeah, that might have held up.

Again, you'll have to subscribe to BP to see the whole article, but Sheehan reaches some obvious conclusions.  In an era where the marginal value of each run is considerably lower than decades ago, in-game strategies to eek out one run in a given inning are rarely worth the wasted out. 

It's even worse when a team that has no idea how to bunt, like the Orioles, tries to do it.

Posted in Orioles | 6 Comments »

Official Top Prospects List Thread

Posted by Mike on April 24, 2006

This is where you can comment on the new Top Prospects page

The rules were simple:

  1. Players were ranked as a reflection of their ceiling and likelihood of reaching it.  In the simplest terms: Who would I rather start an organization with?
  2. Players that have or are about to exhaust their rookie status are not included (ie no Nick Markakis).  This is not a hard and fast rule, so you may find exceptions.  Just so you can sleep at night, Markakis would've ranked #1.
  3. I'll update the list around mid-season and again in the off-season.
  4. This is my list, but I created this thread so that you can feel free to tear into it.  I'll get you started with a few choice topics…

Erbe or Liz?  Penn or Loewen?  Reimold or Snyder?  Who is David Hernandez?  Fiorentino or Majewski?  Any personal favorites?

Posted in Minor Leagues | 11 Comments »

Tejada Happiness Update

Posted by Mike on April 21, 2006

The Orioles are 10-7, one and a half games back from the first place Red Sox.  Injuries are starting to pile up, but as long as they keep winning, complaints are going to be few and far between.  In yesterday's New York Times, Jack Curry addressed this very issue and how it relates to Miguel Tejada's off-season antics (The link will take you to the article, but it requires registration.  Since you're lazy, I've reproduced the best parts below). 

He hits, he runs, he fields, he jumps up and down and clicks his cleats, he gives animated handshakes to teammates, he signs autographs for fans and he looks perpetually blissful. The only thing Tejada does not do is speak. Perhaps that is by design. Words can speak louder than actions.

First off, I love the animated handshakes reference.  For my money, the Orioles have no better marketing tool than the ridiculously complicated handshakes that Roberts, Mora, and Tejada are all too willing to break into.  I think it's a pretty cool thing that the NYT took notice. 

More to the point of this passage, Curry is right- no one really knows how happy Tejada is at this point.  As upset as he's made me in the past, I'm willing to concede that the root of the problem is that he is uber-passionate about winning on a franchise that hasn't been able to do so for the better part of a decade.  So is that going to change now that the O's are off to a decent start?  What about if the O's are 10 games back at the all-star break? 

How many losses might it take for Tejada, who is in the third year of a six-year, $72 million contract, to resurrect his desire to move to another baseball address? Because there will be lots of losses for Baltimore this season.

"Everything is done," Tejada said. "The team is getting better. That's what I want. I don't want to think about that no more."

The Orioles think about it. Although Jim Duquette, the vice president for baseball operations, said he believed Tejada was content and spoke glowingly of him, the Orioles were disparaged by Tejada once, so they will surely be ready if there are any more words out of shallow left field.

Curry thinks the O's are going to have lots of losses.  Tejada is quoted as saying he believes the team is getting better.  Again, he's not denying that his happiness is contingent on winning, so the Orioles had better be prepared if the author is right. 

I do believe the O's hand will only be strengthened if they are forced to move him this summer.  For one, trading partners will be willing to put more on the table if they are in the thick of a pennant race.  They'd also be forced to deal young talent, as opposed to established stars, if they expect anything more than lateral movement for 2006.  Finally, Tejada's value was still very high this offseason, but he was facing concerns about possible steroid use amidst a sharp decline in the second half of 2005. 

"He had to deal with the B-12 thing," Manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He's such a proud guy, and the fact that someone was questioning him, it hurt him."

Tejada's two drug tests in 2005 were negative, but he was worried that his reputation had been forever stained. Tejada said he navigated through it by reminding himself that he was simply trying to help a fatigued Palmeiro.

"Everything that happened there, I didn't make it happen," Tejada said. "Somebody else made it happen."

While Tejada said he never asked Palmeiro for an explanation, he added that he would accept an apology if Palmeiro offered one. Tejada considers Palmeiro a friend, he said.

I find it interesting that Tejada is still taking the high road in regards to the Palmeiro controversy.  Claiming that he still thinks of him as a friend strikes me as a bit over the top, but I commend him for moving passed it.  If that was, in fact, a major contributor to his desire to leave Baltimore, I don't think the same could be said today.

But in the first week of January, Tejada called Duquette and rescinded the request. It was a dizzying period for the Orioles, who, no matter how they depict it publicly, now have a different relationship with Tejada.

"When we first talked to Miggy, we told him we wanted to turn the page," said Duquette, referring to Tejada by his nickname. "That's what we've done."

Mora, who lives in Baltimore in the off-season, said Tejada called him from the Dominican Republic "50 million times" to ask how fans had reacted to his remarks. The fans want to win, Mora told Tejada, so they were not angry.

It's true, the O's will never have the same relationship with Miguel Tejada.  Before the controversy stirred by Palmeiro and Tejada's own silly actions, he was thought of as the second coming of Cal Ripken, or at least the latest in a long line of notable Orioles' shortstops.  Now, it's easier to draw parallels to the likes of Manny Ramirez. 

It's also a bit heartening to hear of his concern for the fans.  Though, at this point, I think it's clear that Mevin Mora does not read the Orioles Think Tank.

"I don't think I hurt nobody," Tejada said. "I think what I said I speak for everybody in here. Everybody wants to win. That's the thing I asked for."

This is the part that bothers me.  I'm sure Tejada is correct in concluding that everyone on the O's wants to win, but he did a whole lot of damage to an organization that already commanded little respect.  Does he honetly believe that his antics will have little or no bearing on the next time the O's have negotiations with a big time free agent?  What about international signings out of his native Dominican Republic?  Unfortunately, Paul Konerko proved this offseason not every player out there values money over everything.  At some point, it would be refreshing for Tejada to take some ownership of his faux pas.

"What I told Miggy is this," Mora said. "You say you want to win. If you leave, how are we going to win?"

No real commentary is needed here, I just thought it was funny that Mora was playing boolean mindgames with Tejada over the phone.

Posted in Orioles | 6 Comments »


Posted by Mike on April 18, 2006

It's only the 8th inning, but I feel pretty safe projecting tonight's game as a loss. 

The top half of the 6th inning felt like late-2005 all over again.  Miguel Tejada seemingly didn't even try to catch a cut-off throw, Brian Roberts got caught on his heels on what should have been a double play ball, and then Nick Markakis showed one more time that he is not yet a major league CF.  For that matter, Markakis hasn't looked much like a major league hitter since the opening series against Tampa Bay.  And I think I could've collected a few hits against that pitching staff…

That's not to say that a 15 game sample is enough to draw any broad conclusions off of, but the same could be said for his performance in spring training.  Everyone is marveling at Markakis' plate discipline, but part of getting ahead in counts is that you force the pitcher to throw in your comfort zone.  If the pitcher is able to pipe a fastball down the middle in a 2-0 count, while you take it and hope it's a ball, then you actually need to be more aggressive.  It sure would be nice if there were some sort of infrastructure in place that allowed Markakis to play everyday and work on this against a more age-appropriate competition… 

I'm rooting for the kid, I really am.  It's just that it should have dawned on everyone by now that Markakis is not Albert Pujols part deux.  And, like I'll probably bring up fifty more times throughout the season, what is the point of burning a year of Markakis' service time if he A) isn't the difference between contending and not contending and B) still has things to learn in the minors?  Even just an average regular making the league minimum is a very valuable thing, but the O's seem content to waste that potential value in favor of "seeing what the kid's got".  Meanwhile, about eight other outfielders line the O's bench. 

Speaking of which, can anyone explain to me why Corey Patterson didn't get into the game until the 7th inning?  Even then, why couldn't he have batted for Gibbons instead of just pinch-running?  Was Perlozzo hoping that Gibby would launch one of his patented 13-run homers?  These are exactly the types of games when you need to swap out your regulars for those who are hungry to prove themselves.

Bruce Chen "pitched" tonight and left after 4+ innings with the following line:

4.0 ip, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 K, 3 BB, 2 HR

Yup, two more HR's.  That's 6 altogether through 16.7 ip, or 3.24/9 ip.  Not good. 

Last year, Chen gave up 1.51 HR/9 ip.  Looking at his batted ball data, he gave up a HR on 15% of his flyballs.  Since we can expect that top regress towards the mean (13-14%), it only seems reasonable that he would give up slightly less HR's this year.  In fact, PECOTA projects 28 HR's over 197.0 ip, or 1.28/9 ip. 

Just for kicks, I decided to take a look at pitcher seasons that met the following criteria:

  1. Occurred in 1990 or later
  2. Logged at least 110 innings

The first thing I want to look at is HR rate.  Out of 1,982 such seasons, Chen's 2005 ranks as the 143rd worst in HR rate.  The worst was Jeff Fassero's 1999, in which he gave up 34 moonshots in 139.0 innings.  The two best HR rates are held by Greg Maddux– in 1992 and 1994. 

Now, let's filter out all of these pitcher seasons where the HR rate was less than 1.3.  Even in this sample, Bruce Chen has a below average HR rate- 143rd out of 368.  But let's compare this sample to those filtered out before we get ahead of ourselves- pitchers with 1.3 HR/9 or more vs. pitchers with <1.3 HR/9.

                           1.3 HR/9+               <1.3 HR/9         Chen's 2005

n=                            368                            1614                     1

K/9=                        5.73                            6.24                   6.07

BB/9=                      3.18                            3.02                   2.87

ERA=                        5.07                            3.95                   3.83

To be honest, I was a little bit surprised that the pitchers who kept the ball in the park came out on top in every category.  I assumed there would be some selection bias in play (ie pitcher X doesn't walk anybody so HR's hurt him less and that's how he still holds a starting gig despite giving up lots of them).  Nevertheless, the differences are not significant at either the 90% or 95% level, so feel free to conclude that HR rate is not a decisive indicator of K rate or BB rate. 

If there is one thing you take away from these numbers with respect to Chen, it should be that he is well within the average range in every respect- except for giving up lots of home runs.  So if he doesn't start keeping the ball in the park, a 5.00+ ERA seems a lot more likely than the sub-4.00 ERA he posted in 2005. 

Posted in Orioles | 6 Comments »

Cabrera Finally Looks Good, O’s 8-6

Posted by Mike on April 17, 2006

Daniel Cabrera went 7 strong innings for the win against the Angels tonight.  He had 7 K's, 1 BB, and allowed 1 run (0 earned).  He threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes.  It's good to finally see him looking like he did in the WBC again.

According to Baseball Prospectus, here is what Leo Mazzone had to say after Cabrera's last start:

Well, I tell you what. I’ve got all that I can handle right here. I mean, (Wednesday night) we had a ball game where we had a young kid named Daniel Cabrera, and listen to this line score: Five innings, three hits, one run, nine walks and 10 strikeouts and 110 pitches.

Translation:  Lots of talent, lots of work ahead.

  • Newhan Breaks Fibula

David Newhan broke his right fibula after stealing second base in the 1st inning.  It's a tough break (rimshot) because he was just starting to get consistent playing time. 

The Orioles already have 12 pitchers on the active roster, so Newhan is likely to be replaced by a position player.  It's anyone's guess as to who might get the call, but let's explore a few of the options:

Val Majewski* (AAA)– Struggling too much in AAA to warrant decreased PT

Keith Reed (AAA)– Killing the ball in Ottawa (although 0 BB in 32 AB)

Andy Tracy (AAA)– Hitting ball well (.556 SLG)

Eddy Garabito (AAA)– Versatile defensively, ML experience

Ed Rogers (AAA)– Versatile defensively, struggling with bat (I hardly noticed…)

Fernando Tatis (AAA)– 1.000+ OPS right now, ML experience

Eli Whiteside* (AAA)– Would give O's 3rd C, struggling with bat

Alejandro Freire (AAA)– If he's not hitting, what is he good for?  And he's not hitting…

Jeff Fiorentino* (AA)– Got a look last year, which is actually even more ridiculous than if he got a look this year.

Raul Chavez (AA)– I'm guessing this is why he's in Bowie and not Ottawa…

*on 40-man roster 

Who do you guys think gets the call?  I'll guess Chavez, but few of these options would surprise me.

  • New Blog on Orioles Hangout

I finally took a look at the new blog on Orioles Hangout, Tony's Take.  The latest entry is called 'The Book Everyone Should Read' and refers to Charles Euchners' The Last Nine Innings: Inside the Real Game Fans Never See.  If you peruse the entry, the author is basically naming the reasons he likes this book.  I have not read the book, but it certainly sounds interesting.  Unfortunately, in an attempt to make his arguments for the book, the author of the blog says the following:

If you are pure stat head, you should read this book. He goes into great detail as to why the game is played and managed by human beings and not computers. And the fact he brought up Tom Tippett's detailed research that crushed the ridiculous notion by Voros McCracken that pitchers can't control what happens to a batted ball, but can only control whether it's hit or not, makes it even sweeter. Not to get too far off the book, but I still don't get how anyone who follows baseball on a regular basis believed that report. Anyone who watches pitchers like Mariano Rivera saw off batters continually can visually see that his very success is determined by the movement of his cutter and the batter's inability to get good wood on it, thus creating a lot of poorly hit balls. Trying to say that a pitcher has no effect over how hard a batter hits a ball was ridiculous and one of the very reasons that you don't take everything these guys write as gospel, even if they do a lot of great statistical evaluations.

Managed by humans and not computers?  What the hell does that mean?  This has already gotten off on the wrong foot.  Then he implies that Tom Tippett crushes the ridiculous notion by Voros McCracken that pitchers can't control what happens to a batted ball.  This is a rash misrepresentation of the disagreement between the two for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is that, in Tom Tippett's words:

In an article published on Baseball Primer last year, McCracken softened his original conclusion a little, saying that there are small differences among pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls in play, and those differences are "statistically significant if generally not very relevant." Except for the regulars on Baseball Primer, I don't think many people in the baseball research community are aware of this update to McCracken's thinking. 

That was four years ago that McCracken altered his original conclusion and it greatly alters the degree of difference between his and Tippett's findings.  By now, most people that take statistical analysis seriously are aware of McCracken's adjusted conclusions.  McCraken also conceded that knuckleballers are a special case- something that, if accounted for in Tippett's research, would also have minimized the differences in their findings.  Nevertheless, here are the most relevant of Tippett's findings, in his own words:

2. Their influence over in-play hit rates is weaker than their influence over walk and strikeout rates. The most successful pitchers in history have saved only a few hits per season on balls in play, when compared with the league or team average. That seems less impressive than it really is, because the league average is such a high standard. Compared to a replacement-level pitcher, the savings are much greater.

3. The low correlation coefficients for in-play batting average suggest that there's a lot more room for random variation in these outcomes than in the defense-independent outcomes. I believe this follows quite naturally from the physics of the game. When a round bat meets a round ball at upwards of 90 miles per hour, and when that ball has laces and some sort of spin, miniscule differences in the nature of that impact can make the difference between a hit and an out. In other words, there's quite a bit of luck involved. 

5. The fact that there's room for random variation doesn't necessarily mean a pitcher doesn't have any influence over the outcomes. It just means that his year-to-year performances can vary randomly around value other than zero, a value that reflects his skills. 

6. Unusually good or bad in-play hit rates aren't likely to be repeated the next year. This has significant implications for projections of future performance.  

The few conclusions that I didn't reproduce here can be found here.  I encourage you to read it for yourself, lest I be accused of misrepresenting the argument myself. 

Basically, Tippett is saying that a pitcher does have some impact on whether a ball in play goes for a hit or not but that it is subject to a high degree of fluctuation and extreme examples usually regress to the mean.  For example, Bruce Chen had a .262 BABIP last year, which is part of the reason that no one outside of Baltimore expects him to repeat his 3.83 ERA.  No one is saying that Chen's ability to mix speeds has no effect on his low BABIP, just that his true ability to control hits in play is not that extreme (league average BABIP is usually in the high .290's).  If his true ability (ie if we had a large enough sample) were to hold opponents to a .285 BABIP (which would be well above-average), then he would be just as likely to post a .320 BABIP this year as he would be to repeat what he did last year.  Conclusions # 3, 5, and 6 confirm this notion.  Unfortunately, it's not only difficult to determine a pitcher's true ability to control BABIP over the small sample of one career, its implications are limited by both the small degree of difference and the statistical noise that often clouds it.   

McCracken, on the other hand, has said that these differences are statistically significant if not generally relevant.  By relevant, McCracken is suggesting that setting a pitcher's BABIP to league average is more useful than using his BABIP in any given year as a means of predicting future outcomes.  With Tippett conceding the large degree of luck involved, I fail to see where this is contradictory to the conclusions that he came to.  

Just for good measure, let's look at the specific example that Tony's Take refers to, Mariano Rivera.  According to his PECOTA player card, Rivera's ability to control BABIP is somewhere near the 90th percentile of all major leaguers.  Yet, his BABIP's for 2003-2005 are .299, .282, .239.  Certainly that seems well above average, in 2005 at least.  The problem is that the BABIPs fluctuate wildly around what seems to be his true ability, between .239 and .299.  By no means, however, does this mean that he is a safe bet to post an above-average BABIP in any given year.  So what would be more generally relevant– using an extreme single season example of .239 or setting it to league average?  At this point, I think the answer is clear.  Tippett even says it himself in conclusion #6.

Misrepresentations of McCracken aside, I should mention that Tony's Take has some legitimately useful and interesting information.  I particularly enjoyed his interview with former prospect Chris Smith that highlights some of the past failings of Orioles player development. 

  • OTT Finally Addresses the Steroid Issue

I know you guys have all been waiting for the Orioles Think Tank to finally weigh in on the steroids issue.  After all, someone has to talk about it.  The reason I've been reluctant to in the past is that I largely see it as a farce.  Never have my personal feelings been more eloquently stated than in this article by BP's Joe Sheehan.  Here is an excerpt:

Bonds’ grand-jury testimony was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, an event which became the impetus for an investigation into his life that produced a book, Game of Shadows, a book that now becomes the impetus for a perjury investigation, the news of which also gets leaked.

Maybe people don’t like Bonds’ recent bout of self-pity, but go back and read that sentence again. Think about how that cycle might make you feel if you were in the middle of it. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, and just because you’re unpopular doesn’t mean you have to surrender all your rights as a citizen. There have still been no repercussions for the leaking of that testimony.  

I'm a big believer in Barry Bonds' ability to be a jerk.  I also accept that he almost definitely used steroids knowingly.  That said, I've always found myself defending the guy. 

The reasons?  For one, the media has completely turned a blind eye towards their past failures to cover this issue- particularly considering all the access they are granted.  Now that it's out of the bag, everyone wants to act like Bonds is some kind of monster.

Also, I'm one of the few people I know that believes that many have been topo quick to jump all over Bonds for playing the race card.  In many cases, I have no doubt that he is overreacting.  In others, I'm not so sure.  Consider the fact that there is arguably as much evidence that Lance Armstrong has done steroids as there is against Bonds.  Despite the fact that it hasn't been covered in the U.S. nearly as much as the round-the-clock, Pedro-Gomez-watching nature of Bonds' saga, most sports fans are at least aware of the allegations.  Yet, one of these men is a national hero while the other is public enemy #1.  I do not believe this is entirely a race issue, but I can see how a rational person could come to that conclusion.

Posted in Orioles | 5 Comments »

Bedard Looks Solid, O’s 7-5

Posted by Mike on April 15, 2006

Erik Bedard looked sharp through an uncharacteristically efficient 8 innings. Though he only had 4 K's, Bedard was able to take advantage of the free-swinging Angels and hold off the equally sharp Bartolo Colon for the victory.

As mentioned, the key to Bedard's start were his efficient pitching sequences.  He certainly appears to have come a long way from the 25 year old who led the major leagues in pitches per inning in 2004.  In fact, he was able to make it through 8 innings in a reasonable 102 pitches; 75 of which went for strikes.  Perhaps he got some assistance from the team that tied for the second worst isolated discipline (LAA-0.55) in the AL last year (note: Bal was 5th worst at 0.58).  Only time will tell.

Here are a few other observations from the game:

– Nick Markakis either A) had a tough time dealing with the sun today or B) is not yet a major-league caliber CF.  Either way, he spent the evening looking a bit lost out there and that near-collison with Jay Gibbons was scary. 

– Corey Patterson looks like he has quickly been pigeon-holed as a defensive replacement.  I'm not saying it isn't the correct move, just that I'm surprised it has happened so quickly.  Here is a guy that is making over 250% the salary that Luis Matos is, while Matos has received 250% more plate appearances.  I doubt it would change things much, but I was certainly expecting him to get a much longer look as a starter.

It also strikes me as a bit odd that Patterson has forced Matos to LF a few times in the later innings.  While they're both above-average CF, Patterson's Rate2 last year (102) was 5 runs lower than Matos' (107).  Despite Matos' lackadaisical body language, having him defer to Patterson in CF would cost the O's half a win for every 100 games.

– I think it was the seventh inning when Markakis led off with a single.  Immediately, Brian Roberts laid down a bunt.  According to this site, the O's had an 85.7% chance of winning the game before Roberts sacrificed him over to second.  Afterwards, they had an 85.3% chance of winning.  Nitpicking?  Yes.  Nonetheless, it was, at best, a pointless move (and those odds don't even factor in that Roberts is one of the O's best hitters).

– Jeff Conine hit a double today, doubling his hit total to 2.  The first hit was a HR, so at least his isolated power looks good…

– Remember when I said this?

Ramon Hernandez may be worth the money in the early part of his contract, but he is unlikely to be the difference between contending and not contending in those years. And towards the back end of his contract, when the Orioles might be in a better position to contend, he is unlikely to be worth the money.

Of course you do (insert winking emoticon).  I guess I should clarify that my commentary was contingent on him not hitting .526 this year, in which case he could very well be the catalyst for the O's contending.

– I'd like to reiterate that Chris Ray is my favorite Oriole, just in case anyone had forgotten.  Through 5.3 ip, he has 7 K's, 2 BB's, 2 hits allowed, 4 saves, and a 0.00 ERA.  It's getting really hard to continue being realistic about what this kid can accomplish, but I'd be hard-pressed to name an AB where Vladimir Guerrero looked worse than in the 9th inning today.  This is a guy who struck out all of 48 times last year and Ray made him look like Corey Patterson.

Posted in Orioles | 54 Comments »

Cabrera Dominates, Frustrates/ Around The Minors

Posted by Mike on April 13, 2006

Once again, Daniel Cabrera failed to throw half his pitches for strikes (57/117). Somehow, though, he still put the birds in a position to win, as he allowed only 1 run on 3 hits.

As if you hadn't noticed, Cabrera just might be the most intriguing talent in the AL East right now. In yesterday's game, he allowed an amazing 9 BB's and 3 wild pitches over 5 ip. Meanwhile, he struck out an equally amazing 10 batters. Daniel Cabrera has officially crossed over into Rick Vaughn territory. Let's just hope that next year he doesn't show up to camp wanting to preserve his arm by throwing off-speed pitches with clever nicknames.  For that matter, let's hope that Luis Matos isn't replaced by Omar Epps

As astounding as Cabrera's performance was, perhaps the most ridiculous item of the day is that he was allowed to throw 117 pitches in April.  Note to Perlozzo: This isn't how you build a staff workhorse.

Now, let's get caught up with some notable performances around the minors:

Ottawa Lynx (AAA)

Eddy Garabito, 2B– .353/.476/.412  Still twice the player than Ed Rogers will ever be

Brandon Fahey, SS– .364/.417/.455  Picking up where he left off after a strong spring

Eli Whiteside, C– .077/.077/.077  Only 13 AB's, but 7 K's and 0 BB's look ugly

Val Majewski, RF– .059/.158/.118  Struggling to regain his form

Cory Morris, SP– 3 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Will fight to get in the mix for a second (legitimate) call-up

Scott Rice, RP– 2 ip, 1 K, 1 BB, 4.50 ERA  May see some time in the bigs later this season

Bowie Baysox (AA)

Ryan Hubele, C– .235/.316/.412  Fighting to pass Whiteside as 'backup of the future'  

Jeff Fiorentino, CF– .231/.364/.500  So far, Bowie's best hitter.  He won't stick in CF long-term

Adam Loewen, SP– 12.3 ip, 17 K, 1 BB, 4.38 ERA  Was stellar in opener, not so much in last start.  Still, 1 BB is a good sign

James Johnson, SP– 11.3 ip, 9 K, 2 BB, 3.18 ERA  Last year's organizational POY looks sharp so far

Brian Finch, SP– 6 ip, 5 K, 4 BB, 0.00 ERA  His ERA looks a lot beter than his peripherals thus far

Rich Stahl, SP– 4 ip, 5 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA  Looking to get back on the radar

Brian Forystek, RP– 3 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 9.00 ERA  Needs to keep the ball in the park

Marino Salas, RP– 4.7 ip, 5 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Starting to justify place on 40-man roster

Frederick Keys (High A)

Jarod Rine, OF– .444/.524/.833  Toolsy outfielder off to a hot start, but is 24 years old

Nolan Reimold, OF– .333/.429/.389  3 SB's though 5 games, could emerge as a top prospect

Paco Figueroa, 2B– .294/.294/.353  Speedster needs to get on base to to steal bases (1 for 2 so far)

Freddy Deza, RP– 5.3 ip, 7 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Age 23 season will be crucial to fringe prospect

Garrett Olson, SP– 5 ip, 5 K, 0 BB, 3.60 ERA  Polished lefty should move fast

Beau Hale, RP– 5 ip, 5 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Remember him? 

David Haehnel, SP– 4.3 ip, 4 K, 2 BB, 2.08 ERA  Development may be slowed by conversion to starting

Luis Ramirez, SP– 3 ip, 5 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Stat-head favorite still missing bats

Radhames Liz, SP– 5 ip, 13 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA  That line is not a misprint, Liz powered Frederick to a no-no last night.  Check this out.  My favorite part:

Avalanche catcher Neil Sellers fouled out to catcher Michael Russell in the third, and in the fifth catcher Jeffrey Mackor grounded out to short–the only ball hit in fair territory against Liz.

A little more consistency ought to face Liz off against Olson in a race to Bowie.

Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A)

Brandon Snyder, C– .320/.346/.520  19 year old is more than holding his own in full season ball

Mark Fleisher, 1B– .167/.231/.250  'The Orioles best 1B prospect' is not exactly a ringing endorsement these days

David Hernandez, SP– 10 ip, 14 K, 2 BB, 1.80 ERA  21 year old sleeper is looking to bust out

Bradley Bergeson, SP/RP– 6 ip, 2 K, 2 BB, 4.50 ERA  Still not showing much

Reid Hamblet, SP– 9 ip, 2 K, 3 B, 2.00 ERA  Last year's 5th Rd. pick has some ugly peripherals

Chorye Spoone, SP– 3.3 ip, 5 K, 3 BB, 2.45 ERA  Local product (Catonsville CC) and 8th Rd. pick is reputed to have good stuff and an attitude problem

Blake Owen, RP– 1.7 ip, 3 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA  2005's 6th Rd. pick off to a good start

Brandon Erbe, SP– 5 ip, 7 K, 1 BB, 3.60 ERA  When you're only 18, in full-season ball, and doing well, your top two PECOTA comparables tend to look like this: 1) Francisco Rodriguez 2) Felix Hernandez

I'm as excited about Erbe's potential as anyone in the Orioles' organization.  Anyone.  The downside of having an 18 year old pitching prospect this good is that he's only 18, and still has to pass through the injury nexus. 

None of the other affiliates have started up yet, but I'll be sure to keep the updates coming. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 15 Comments »

Britton Brought Up

Posted by Mike on April 12, 2006

In an odd turn of events, Chris Britton has been brought up from Bowie and Cory Morris, having never pitched an inning in the majors, has been optioned to Ottawa.  I haven’t been able to find out anything on why this move was made, so please post a comment if you find anything. 

Let’s review what we know about Britton. 

  1. He was drafted out of high school in the 8th round of the 2001 draft.
  2. He’s right-handed, 6’3” and 220 lbs. 
  3. He is playing his age 23 season.
  4. He missed 2003 to TJ surgery.
  5. He spent 2005 pitching for Frederick.  This was his third professional season and his first as a full-time reliever.
  6. He took quite well to the switch to relief, posting a ridiculous line of  78.7 ip, 12.58 K/9, 2.63 BB/9, 0.57 HR/9, and a 1.60 ERA.
  7. He is in the middle of the pack in GB/FB ratio.
  8. He struck out 6 batters through 2.3 ip in Bowie so far this year.
  9. His weighted mean PECOTA-projected ERA is 4.87 for 2006.  It doesn’t get much better in the next five years, although forecasting low-minors relievers is not PECOTA’s specialty.   
  10. Deric McKamey really likes him.  In his interview with OTT, he opined:

OTT- Are there any sleepers in the Orioles system you’d like to identify? Any players you could see taking a large step forward in 2006?

DM- I don’t know if you would call him a sleeper, but I really like Chris Britton and his knee-buckling curveball. He was very dominant at Frederick and I think he can be highly effective as a match-up righty.

In his book, Minor League Baseball Analyst, McKamey added:

[Britton is] one of the more dominating relievers in the minors, hitters are rendered helpless against his knee-buckling CB.  Locates FB well, though it lacks movement up in the zone.  Pitches with effort and has had a history of injuries, which makes the bullpen a bit more feasible.

All in all, I do expect this move to work out.  I would certainly prefer that he get at least one full season between Bowie and Ottawa, but Britton appears to have the stuff to succeed immediately in middle relief.  If pressed to speculate, I’d venture that the O’s were previously on the fence about whether to bring up Morris or Britton.  After Britton dominated a quarter of a game in AA, the O’s decided he was their man and sent Morris packing.  Whether it works out or not, it’s still an odd move- not that we aren’t getting used to that.  

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 6 Comments »


Posted by Mike on April 10, 2006

Let's catch up on some various O's-related news…

No big deal here.  Frankly, I was surprised that Halama didn't make the club out of spring training, but I expected it would more likely be at the expense of Nick Markakis' eagerly awaited debut.  That Dubose was designated for assignment so quickly after one (admittedly ugly) appearance shows just how little faith the O's brass had in him.  Let's hope he doesn't knock back a few on his way out of town.

Halama will serve as the long man in the pen and had a very solid debut yesterday: 2.3 ip, 1 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 0 R

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this move.  I like Mora, always have.  It's tough not to.  That said, I would much prefer a two year extension for $18 million than a 3 year deal for $24 million.  His comparables suggest that he is unlikely to be effective into his age 37 season.  There is still a chance that he will be re-signed during the season.

There has already been some speculation that Mora would embrace the Phillies organization since they are close to his home in Baltimore, are competitive, and have a hole at 3B.  Should I be inclined to give the Orioles enough credit to think they would actually deal him mid-season rather than lose him to free agency, the Phillies don't have much to offer.  Outside of Cole Hamels, they have little in the ways of minor league talent.  And it would likely take another injury to the promising hurler for getting Hamels in return to become a viable option. 

On another note, this "negotiation" smacks of the same organizational ineffectiveness that has plagued the Orioles for close to a decade.  Reports are that Mora came down from 3/$30 to 3/$27, while the Orioles would not budge from their initial offer of 3/$24.  I think it's pretty clear by now that I would not give Mora any three year deal.  If I were so inclined, though, I would certainly make it a point to avoid offending the man who has given more hope to O's fans over the past three years than any other player while simultaneously sending yet another signal to the baseball world that the Orioles are not serious players.  Seriously, $3 million over 3 years?  C'mon now, Corey Patterson is making that in 2006 alone.

A week ago, I made a prediction:

The company line has been that Chavez is a defensive upgrade on Gil, but I'd wager that the most significant part of this shit swap is that I will have to upgrade my 40-man roster page; both in the coming days and again when the O's release him in the next few weeks. 

It looks like I gave Chavez too much credit when I pluralized that last word.

Cory Morris, on the other hand, could be useful to the parent club.  He had largely mixed results ascending through the minors before breaking out in a big way for Bowie last year.  According to Deric McKamey, he's an intelligent pitcher, setting up hitters and working with a deceptive delivery.  Despite being a starter, one of his biggest flaws has been his inability to extend past the 5th inning.  Perhaps a switch to the pen was inevitable.  A successful transition would certainly make things easier on the O's depleted bullpen.

Posted in Orioles | 6 Comments »


Posted by Mike on April 8, 2006

After a hot 2-0 start, the O's have lost their last three games.  Let's get right to the bullet points.

  • Daniel Cabrera Looked Absolutely Atrocious Friday

In one and a third innings, Cabrera threw 60 pitches- only 22 of which went for strikes.  The net result?  7 walks, 7 runs, and a 47.25 ERA.

Since being targeted for a breakout season; Cabrera has been lights out in the WBC, effective but wild in spring training, and now- has had his worst professional start in his young career.  Everyone understands what Cabrera does and does not do well.  The ability to miss bats?  Check, 8.8 K/9 in 2005.  The ability to keep the ball in the park?  Check, 0.78 HR/9.  The ability to induce groundballs?  Check, 52% of balls put into play against him were groundballs.  The ability to throw strikes?  Crap.  Last year, Cabrera allowed 4.85 BB/9, which was actually an improvement on his 5.42 BB/9 in 2004.

BUT, Cabrera is still young and even an average walk rate could result in dominance.  So what are his chances of actually getting there?  For starters, let's take a look at these graphs c/o  David Appelman (The link will open in a new window).  Notice that Cabrera is solidly in the poor zone, despite a solid stretch in the middle of last season. 

Now, let's take a look at Cabrera's PECOTA comparables list and see how/if they ever developed any modicum of control.  Below, I have graphed each player's translated BB/9 in their age 25 through 29 season (Cabrera is in his age 25 season).  Keep in mind that this will be slightly different than their actual BB/9 rate.  Cabrera's translated BB/9 in 2005, for instance, was a slightly worse 5.0/9 ip. 

As usual, players on the comparable list will only be used if they meet the following criteria:

  1. They are over 29 (A.J. Burnett is 29, but I really wanted to include him)
  2. The seasons looked at occurred after 1970 (arbitrary date, but weeds out drastically differing eras)

In their age 25 seasons, 7 out of the 17 pitchers (41%) had above-average walk rates (ie below 3.0/9 ip) for an unweighted average of 3.8 translated BB/9.   By their age 29 seasons, 6 out of 14 pitchers (43%) had above-average walk rates for an unweighted average of 3.4 translated BB/9.  The trend isn't very pronounced, but there are some notable cases of substantial improvement.  Some reverted back to being wild, others didn't.  In some cases, Ron Darling for instance, pitchers actually took a leap forward in their age 25 seasons, so their improvement would not be reflected in this graph. 

  •   A Few Birds Have Yet To Take A Walk This Season

Player/ AB's without a BB

Corey Patterson- 6

David Newhan- 4

Chris Gomez- 2

Raul Chavez- 0

I guess I shouldn't get too worked up just yet, especially in the case of Chavez.  Any bets on who will go the most AB's this year without a free pass?  The smart money is on Patterson, in my opinion.  I'll go with a guess of 32 AB's.

  • New MASN Commercials Are In Full Effect

You may not realize it from this website, which contains more than a few hastily written entries, but a huge pet peeve of mine is improper use of the English language.  And of course, I realize I am being a bit over-the-top.  That said, I cringe every time the new Leo Mazzone spot airs.  It goes something like this:

(Inspirational music in background)

Cue shot of Miguel Tejada on the on-deck circle

Cut to Leo Mazzone's press conference this winter

Mazzone: They say there is a time and a place for everything.  The time is now… the place is now

It's a cute idea.  Mazzone comes to Baltimore and restores faith in a once proud tradition of Orioles pitching.  Still, the place is now?  They couldn't find anything better to use than that? 

Maybe it's just me.  OK, probably. 

Posted in Orioles | 6 Comments »