Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Archive for May, 2006

Mora Deal Finalized

Posted by Mike on May 23, 2006

I'm a couple days late to the party, but the Melvin Mora deal is now official: 3 years/$25 million.  I'm certainly happy for Melvin and his 26 kids, but the deal is a bit overextended for my tastes. 

In a previous post, I took a look at Mora's top comparables and looked at how they fared in their age 35 to 37 seasons.  The results were a bit mixed, but the final graph looked like this:

I ended up concluding that a two year deal would be defensible, but a three year deal would not.  This is particularly true due to the fact that the money is certain to be backloaded for the 2009 season. 

Let's say that Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn, Brandon Erbe, Nolan Reimold, etc. etc. are all up and contributing to a winning club by 2009.  The Orioles will now have an $8 million sinkhole tied into the diminishing performance/playing time of a 33 year old Ramon Hernandez plus another $9 or $10 million tied up in a player who, according to his comparables list, has a six in ten chance of being an offensive drain or out of baseball.  And what are the O's going to do if the standard Melvin Mora midsummer 20-game vacations turn into 30, 40, or 50-game breaks? 

I don't mean to be overly pessimistic about this- Melvin's contract could certainly work out.  It's just that the odds aren't in his favor.  If the O's are ever going to get this rebuilding thing right, they're going to have to get away from aiming for .500.  Avoiding giving an injury prone 37 year old $10 million would be a good first step.   

As usual, Chris Kahrl had a few pithy comments concerning the signing:

PECOTA's valuation anticipates that Mora will be worth more than $12 million during that three-year stretch, and Mora's still hitting, so signing him to an extension might make all sorts of sense… unless it's for more than twice as much money, and the deal is reported to have enriched Mora to the tune of $25 million. As much self-pity as the Orioles like to indulge themselves in over whether or not free agents won't come to Baltimore unless they overpay–a la Ramon Hernandez and Javy Lopez–this seems more than a little excessive on the self-flagellation scale.

  • Penn DL'ed, Loewen Recalled

I really, really don't like this move.  Really.  But first things first- Hayden Penn will not be making Daniel Cabrera's starts due to the fact that he has appendicitis.  He'll have to be put on the disabled list, but how much time he'll ultimately miss is unclear.  If anyone out there has ever had appendicitis, feel free to let us know how long it was until you were full strength in the comments section.

Hayden Penn being called up makes a bunch of sense.  He's certainly the guy who would give the O's the best chance of winning every fifth day.  It would even have been likely that had he met any success, Chen would have been moved to the pen upon Cabrera's return.  Carmudgeon that I am, I would have rather the O's see if Cory Morris had anything to offer before forcing Penn up, but even I could understand the inclination to go with Penn.  Morris is not exactly tearing things up, after all, and Penn is doing just that.  Still, I speculated earlier that Penn would have to stay in Ottawa until June to avoid Super Two status after the 2008 season.  It would be a shame to waste an entire pre-arbitration season for one start during a season when the O's aren't viewed as serious contenders. 

Unfortunately, Penn got sick and all that reasoning was for naught. 

Now, Adam Loewen has been recalled and, what's more, may not even be starting.  For those of you that are unaware, the Orioles drafted Loewen out of high school with the 4th overall pick in 2002.  After a year at Chipola College, many speculated that he would be the 1st overall pick in 2003, before the O's and Loewen finally came to terms.  Those terms included a major league contract, which will force Loewen to stick in the majors by opening day 2007.  No matter how badly he struggles, he can not be sent back to the minors without being exposed to waivers. 

Fortunately, Loewen's star has grown continuously brighter since his disappointing 2004 season.  He dominated the AFL last off-season and now sports a 2.72 ERA in Bowie with 55 K's and 26 BB's in 49.7 ip.  He very well could be among the O's best five starting pitchers already. 

The problem I have is that the Orioles have dug a pretty deep hole for themselves if he is not.  With only a few months left in which Loewen will be able to polish his game, the Orioles can't afford to sacrifice any of his development time.  Both Hayden Penn and Jeff Fiorentino took several weeks to get back to normal even after they were demoted to the minors last year.  According to Deric McKamey, "…it isn’t uncommon for players to struggle after a promotion of this sort."  If that happens to Loewen, he'll have lost much of his final minor league season and will be that much further pressed to succeed in 2007.  With 49.7 ip above A-ball, how confident can you be that Loewen will succeed against major league hitters?

There are plenty of organizations that get accused of coddling their prospects.  The Orioles sit on the other end of the spectrum.  I see a lot of fans arguing "let's see what the kid's got, etc." and the O's seem to be listening.  Unfortunately, that's an overly simplistic approach that can cut short a lot of promising careers.  It took Brian Giles and Jason Bay until their mid-20's to establish themselves as major league hitters.  It took Melvin Mora until his thrities.  Randy Johnson didn't become The Big Unit until he was almost thirty.  And all of these guys are all-stars. 

Yet, many expect a 22 year old kid to either be ready for the major leagues or they'll consider him worthless to the organization.  Just like people in other facets of life, baseball prospects develop at different paces and follow varying career paths.  The key for the O's organization is to identify each prospect's personal developmental needs and protect them as long as is reasonably possible.  I highly doubt that a promotion to the majors after less than 50 innings above A-ball is what is best for a kid that is still walking a batter every other inning, especially when he will never get another chance to address his command issues in the minors.  Don't get me wrong, the Loewen call-up might very well work out.  But what if it doesn't?  In this case, I think the potential downside far outweighs the potential benefits. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 3 Comments »

The Curious Case of Daniel Cabrera

Posted by Mike on May 19, 2006

A couple weeks ago, I profiled Corey Patterson based on his difficulty in comprehending the concept of a strike zone.  Today, I hope to do the same for Daniel Cabrera.

Clearly, the point of this toiling is produce pitchers comparable to Cabrera in terms of both promise and their ability to frustrate fans.  Let's first take a look at a few of Daniel's key indicators for the past few years:

                      K/9                BB/9  

2004             4.63                 5.42

2005             8.76                 4.85

2006             9.36                 8.49

There are a few notes I should make right off the bat.  First, Cabrera has the added benefit of being an extreme groundball pitcher.  But I have no way of tracking that historically, so we will have to make do with K and BB rates.  Secondly, we should most concern ourselves with the statistics from 2005.  Clearly, Cabrera had no business pitching in the major leagues in 2004 and I would be remiss to hold that against him (although you should feel free to hold it against the organization).  Conversely, 2006 is still young and his statistics are skewed by a few ridiculous outings. 

With that in mind, here is the criteria I opted to use for creating a list of comparables for Daniel Cabrera:

  1. Season occurred after 1980
  2. Pitcher pitched at least 100 innings
  3. K/9 is equal to or greater than 8.50
  4. BB/9 is equal to or greater than 4.50
  5. Pitcher is 25 or younger during the season in question

Here is a list of matches:

Bobby Witt 1986 & 1987

Like Cabrera, Witt was called up well before he was ready.  By his age 26 season, 1990, Witt did the best of his career.  He maintained his high strikeout rate but cut his walk rate to 4.46 per 9 ip.  For the majority of the rest of his long career, Witt was close to a league average performer with wildly fluctuating strikeout rates. 

Mitch Williams  1987

No surprise that Wild Thing makes an appearance on this list.  Being a reliever, the applicability of this comparison isn't very high.  Nevertheless, Williams had a successful career out of the pen while remaining wild throughout. 

Scott Williamson 2000 

Another immensely talented reliever, Williamson has also battled injury problems.  He's generally been effective when available to pitch.

Chan Ho Park  1996

We all know the story with Park- he went on to become one of the game's best before the Rangers rewarded him with a ridiculous contract.  He promptly broke down.

Kerry Wood  2000 & 2001

Wood's story is similarly familiar.  Yesterday, after his most recent rehad stint, he made his first start of the season.

Oliver Perez  2003

Perez broke out in a big way in 2004.  Since then, he's stuggled with injuries and inconsistency.  He's still only 25 and, personally, I am a big fan.  So, I'll forgive the Pirates for being patient. 

Mark Clear  1980 & 1982

Another reliever- maybe I should have put a games started filter in there…  Anyway, Clear was a useful, if inconsistent, reliever into his early thirties.

Randy Wolf  1999

Wolf went on to become one of the better starters in the National League, until injuries started to drag him down these past two seasons. 

Pedro Martinez  1993

Simply ther most dominant pitcher of all time.  I recently saw a respected writer compare Martinez to Koufax.  That's underselling what Martinez has accomplished.  In their respective primes, I would take Pedro over anybody that has ever thrown a baseball.

Of course, 1993 was his age 21 season and by 1994, he was throwing strikes at a rate that Daniel Cabrera will likely never reproduce.

C.C. Sabathia  2001

Sabathia has quickly become one of the more reliable starters in the AL, although his K rate has fallen along with his BB rate.  Until recently, many believed he could become similar to Livan Hernandez.  That still may happen, but it's unfair to expect any young pitcher to carry the workload that he has.

Scott Garrelts  1985

The former first round pick (and another reliever) had his second best season in 1985.  He switched to starting in 1989 and, despite a plummeting K rate, helped lead the Giants to the World Series.  He was out of baseball by his 30th birthday.

Bartolo Colon  2000

Colon has succeeded by improving his control, even if it costs him a few K's.  His hard work culminated in an incredibly undeserved Cy Young Award last year.  Nevertheless, Colon is a very valuable player. 

Rick Ankiel  2000

After injuries cut short a phenomenal young pitching career, Ankiel has decided to try to make it back to St. Louis as an outfielder.  He hit very well in High A last year and his power translated to AA as well, albeit with no plate discipline.  Earlier this season, Ankiel broke his clavicle, once again proving my point that God hates Rick Ankiel. 

Conclusion

This list doesn't need much more commentary.  Aside from Rick Ankiel (Quick aside: Has anyone thought of making Rick Ankiel novelty voodoo dolls?), the comparables are quite positive.  To my surprise, most people on this list either developed more control or managed it in some way (usage patterns?) to maintain effectiveness. 

I should note that many of the people on this list have some kind of advantage over Cabrera.  Pedro Martinez was 3 years younger than Cabrera was when he qualified for the list and even then, barely so.  Nevertheless, I don't think many of you would be surprised to discover some objective confirmation of Cabrera's tremendous upside.  What surprises me most is that so few of his comparables failed outright.

One word of caution is that many of these pitchers suffered through injuries.  In some cases (Wood, Perez), the jury is still out on what type of career they will ultimately carve out for themselves.  You could argue that the sample is inherently risky since it only considers pitchers 25 or younger, but it makes sense that this particular breed of pitcher would suffer disproportionately.  Even those on this list that carved out long careers for themselves, like Pedro, are constantly scrutinized for health concerns.  Luckily, you couldn't ask for much better of a pitcher's build than Daniel Cabrera's, but that, and because his pitch counts are easy to lose track of, are not good excuses for abusing him

Finally, one name you guys might have been expecting to see is Randy Johnson's.   He missed the list because of the age cutoff, which was meant to convey the possibility of rapid development, but his 1992 season would have otherwise qualified.  His example is as good as any to leave you with.  Like most of the other examples, Johnson's career demands patience with the enigmatic Daniel Cabrera.

So rest easy, O's fans.  It might not happen this year or even next, but Daniel Cabrera's upside is as high as any young pitcher's in baseball.  For that, I'll gladly wait and endure the rough patches.

Posted in Orioles | 7 Comments »

A Closer Look

Posted by Mike on May 16, 2006

The O's are 18-21 and fans are already starting to express some frustration.  Before we react too strongly, I think it's important to look at some stats that might be a little more meaningful than a simple W-L record.  All stats are courtesy of the fine folks at The Hardball Times

RS– 201  RA– 233

The O's have been outscored by 32 runs so far.  If anything, I'd expect their record to be a bit worse than 18-21.  Pythagorean formulas would put them at 17-22.

Record in 1 or 2 run ballgames– 9-6

That helps explain the discrepancy.  Teams generally regress to .500 in close games.  Just think about how the Nationals won more than a dozen 1 run ballgames in a row early last year before losing several in a row.  It's luck.  So, if anything, the O's are a bit lucky to be 18-21.

R/G– 5.15

That's higher than the AL avg. of 4.98.

Team Batting Line– .270/.330/.440

The aggregate AL line is .269/.339/.432.  The O's don't walk much but they can slug better than most clubs.  We already knew that, right?  I'd actually prefer the aggregate AL line, so why have the O's scored more R/G than the avg. AL team?

BA w/ RISP– .289 

The aggregate AL line- .267.  The O's have been lucky with men on base, so they've scored more than their share of runs.  That or they've been clutch.  Just kidding, they've been lucky.  But there is good news…

BABIP– .280

The aggreagte AL BABIP sits at .298.  The O's BABIP should come up as their BA w/ RISP comes down. 

Now for the pitching/defense…

R/G– 5.97

That's much higher than the AL avg. of 4.98.  It's slightly lower than the Royals, but if you're taking solace in that, then your standards are simply not high enough. 

It's not all the pitching staff's fault…

Defense Efficiency Rating (DER)- .683

This is the inverse of BABIP.  It measures the rate of balls in play that the defense converts into outs.  The avg. AL defense has a DER of .696.  In case you're wondering, John Dewan's plus/minus system distributes the blame equally among the OF and infield, at -6 runs apiece. 

There are a few flukey things going on that also bode well for the pitching staff. 

LD%– 20%, HR/FB-14%

Year to year correlations of line drive percentage is much lower than for any other type of batted ball.  In english, that means that pitchers have little control over how many line drives they give up.  The AL avg. is 19%, so O's pitchers have been a bit unlucky.  Same deal for HR per flyball.  The AL avg. is 12%.

Of course, the pitching staff's struggles has a lot to do with the pitchers themselves as well.

K/9– 5.5, BB/9– 4.4

The AL avg looks like this: K/9- 6.0, BB/9- 3.2.  The O's are the third worst team in the AL at striking batters out and are, by far, the worst team in the AL at allowing free passes. 

All in all, the most glaring problem is the same as it has been the last several years: walks.  The O's allow too many of them and don't take enough of them.  Leo Mazzone has his work cut out for him.  And Terry Crowley, well, he needs to learn how to teach hitting. 

Posted in Orioles | 2 Comments »

Notes

Posted by Mike on May 13, 2006

  • Injuries Abound

Will Carroll had this to say in his latest UTK column:

The Orioles are overworking Richie Bancells and his staff. Melvin Mora is the latest to spend time in the training room with a lower back strain that sources tell me is muscular. “He’s tied up in knots,” the source whispered. Mora’s problem–in combination with other injuries–has the O’s in such despair that Jeff Conine may be forced back to 3B.

It strikes me that during tonight's telecast, MASN's Sights and Sounds of the Ballgame focused on Mora dancing during batting practice along with Rick Dempsey.  Pure speculation, but I'm left wondering if Carroll's source wasn't exaggerating a bit.  If Melvin did go down, I wonder if the O's would make room for Fernando Tatis or Andy Tracy.  Both are bopping a bit in Ottawa and can handle 3B (better than Conine, anyway).

Later in the article, Carroll has this to say:

Brian Roberts was unable to run on Wednesday. His return from the DL is going to be later than expected

  • Not Everyone Likes Me

That headline may seem hard to believe, but it's true.  A new and very well-written O's blog, Roar From 34, dismissed OTT as a member of the "blogosphere's zombie statisticians".  I sense a rivalry brewing. 

  • Minor League Splits

This is one of the coolest things I've come across in some time.  Brew Crew Ball has made available some pretty extensive minor league splits. 

Wondering who could help out the O's in their struggles against lefties? 

                  BA/OBP/SLG vs. LHP

Ed Rogers– .417/.440/.542  Maybe he has more use than I give him credit for.

Fernando Tatis– .310/.429/.379  All the more reason to give him a spin if Mora goes down.

Some more interesting tidbits on select prospects:

Hayden Penn has shut down opposing righthanders to the tune of .053/.053/.053

Jeff Fiorentino has struggled against fellow lefties (.105/.217/.158), but has done better against righties (.220/.315/.520).  Both figures have been held down by a ridiculously low .170 BABIP (ie he's doing better than his batting line suggests).

Marino Salas has the makings of a ROOGY.  Both HR's he's allowed have been to lefties, which explains why LHP have a higher OPS against hime (.741 vs. .493)

Nolan Reimold is a stud, but he still has some work to do against lefties (.231/.375/.385)

Freddy Deza has a pretty strong reverse platoon split, holding lefties to .105/.190/.105

Brandon Snyder has struck out in 10 out of 19 trips to the plate against lefties. 

Brandon Erbe's ERA is at 2.48.  That might come down as his BABIP comes down from .351

Go ahead and take a peek.  There's tons of information in there.  Let me know if you spot anything good.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 7 Comments »

The Bullpen

Posted by Mike on May 8, 2006

The recent struggles of the bullpen have to be a major concern for the Orioles, but let me start this entry off on a positive note:  Jim Brower is gone.

I was cautiously optimistic about the pen this year, but the results have been ugly.  Frankly, I still think the O's handled it correctly.  In a season where a great many things must go right for the Orioles to contend, they decided to use it as a test to figure out which guys could be useful in future seasons.  They handed the closer's role to Chris Ray, avoided costly middle-relief signings, and went into 2006 with every intent of exploiting the free talent market.  The lone off-season move of note that they did make, acquiring LaTroy Hawkins, only came at the expense of the middling Steve Kline. 

So far, a lot of things have gone wrong.  Todd Williams went down to injury early.  Franklyn Gracesqui threw 10 mph slower than advertised.  Ricky Bottalico had one of the least effective spring training's in recent memory.  Leo Mazzone's pet project (Brower) flamed out.  And AAA superstar Aaron Rakers lost the season to injury in spring training. 

Rest easy, O's fans, it's barely May.  Things have to get better, right?  Let's take a look at the pen thus far:

Chris Ray- Our bullpen ace is living up to his billing.  His 5.6 BB/9 will have to come down if he hopes to sustain his success, but those walks have come in chunks, giving hope that some consistency can be gained as the season wears on.  What I worry about most is his inconsistent usage, which is a direct result of this ballclub's inconsistency.  As a first-time ML closer, Ray isn't used to this sporadic usage pattern, and it will be up to Mazzone and Perlozzo to keep him fresh.

Sendy Rleal- Low K rate + High BB rate + High HR rate= 3.38 ERA?  Expect Rleal's usage to go down (14 Games) unless he improves.  Luckily, his track record indicates that he is fully capable of becoming a solid set-up man in the long run.  He may always let up more HR's than ideal, but he is certainly going to improve on his 1:1 K:BB ratio. 

John Halama- No one expected Halama to be anything more than a last resort, long-man type.  But if the early goings are any indication, and this deceptively handsome and self-assured blogger believes they are, than it won't be long before he is swapping roles with someone in Ottawa.  4.0 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 2.0 HR/9.  Not good, folks.

Todd Williams- He's back and he's generating grounders at a pace Brandon Webb would be jealous of.  Williams is a perfect example of what the free talent market can provide, if you know where to look.

Latroy Hawkins– He has not looked particularly sharp thus far.  While he's always endured an unjust stigma after blowing a few saves in a major media market, I was very fond of the Kline-Hawkins swap.  For years, Hawkins has been an elite set-up man, and the Giants even gave the O's $800K to even out their salaries.  He may be a tier below what he once was, but his K/9 rate will rise from 3.14 and he should provide some stability for the pen while just about everyone else gets shifted around.

Eric DuBose- In very limited usage, Dubose has shown very limited effectiveness.  But his 2003 season is another good example of what can be found in the free talent market.  Dubose's presence on this year's staff can be seen as a strike against the O's ability to cut bait, but I'm more than happy to give him a few more outings while more promising options get some seasoning in Ottawa.

Eddy Rodriguez- A perennial project, Eddy is back in Ottawa to work on his control.  He could end up being a useful part of future O's pens or he could end up as their 13th man for years to come. 

Tim Byrdak– Now on the 60-day DL and unlikely to contribute this season.  Many would argue that the latter part of that sentence was not contingent on the first part, but I have a soft spot for Byrdak.  At 32, it's unlikely he'll ever harness his crippling command issues, but his K rate still intrigues me.  He also held lefties to a .214 BA last year.  But he walked 12 righties in 11.2 ip, while allowing a .300 BA.  Clearly, he needs to be utilized more judiciciously. 

Chris Britton- With the ascent of Chris Ray, Britton is the best relief prospect in the system.  That still doesn't justify the way he was yanked into the bigs after 2.1 ip above A-ball and then sent back down after 4+ ip.  As an organization, the Orioles have to do a better job of protecting their prospects, particularly when they offer very marginal gains on other options in a season where they're not expecting to contend.  Britton is just the latest example.  His ridiculous CB will go a long ways to helping him dominate the Eastern League this year.  By 2007, he should be bridging the gap to Ray for years to come. 

Julio Manon– The 32 year old Manon has seemingly pitched everywhere.  He was an undrafted free agent signing by the Cardinals in 1992.  It took him 5 years to get out of rookie ball and another 6 years to make it to the show, where he was in effective for the Expos in 2003.  Most recently, the O's stole him from the Korean and Taiwanese professional leagues to close for Ottawa.  Seriously.  Along the way, he has always posted solid K rates with his FB-Splitter combo.  I can't say I'm especially optimistic he will work out, but this example at least signifies some creativity on the part of the front office.  He's certainly one worth rooting for. 

Kurt Birkins- He's only be expected to contribute as a situational lefty, which should push Halama back into long-relief duty, but that debut was inspiring enough.  Birkins was a draft and follow 33rd rounder in 2000.  He had soem success in his AA debut last year (as a starter) and was pitching OK in Ottawa when he was summoned.  If he can handle a LOOGY role, that would make things a bit easier on Perlozzo.  I can't say I was especially enthralled with the call-up at the time, but he has since pitched one of the more impressive innings of work I have seen in this young season.  That should go a long way to getting him more chances.

Beyond these guys you have the Ottawa clan, all awaiting their turns; Chris Piersoll, Brian Burres, Ryan Keefer (extended spring training), Winston Abreu, Scott Rice, and Cory Morris

None of these guys are likely to be more than decent middle relievers (with the possible exception of Morris, who offers a higher risk/reward), but every single one of them has a realistic chance of being a contributor on a major league team. 

So, what's my point?  Well, I'm not that worried.  The O's had a plan for this year's pen: throw a lot of young talent against the wall and see what sticks.  Many of these guys will wash out, but you can expect some of them to rise to the occasion as well.  It's not going to be pretty, folks, but I'm convinced that this is a necessary step towards building better bullpens for a team that has a better chance of contending in 2008 than in 2006.  Moreover, it's a good indication that the front office is inclined to believe the same.  For an organization that has too often confused rebuilding with stuck in neutral, this is a very good thing. 

Posted in Orioles | 5 Comments »

Sample Size Be Damned

Posted by Mike on May 5, 2006

Sam beat me to the punch here, but Bruce Chen looks nothing like the Orioles' most valuable pitcher of 2005.  Through six starts, this is his stat line:

W   L   ERA   IP     H    R  ER   HR   BB   SO

0     4   8.40  30.0  45  31  28    11    10    18

That's right folks, 11 HR's in 30 innings.  That's easy to explain when, on a night like tonight, Chen gets an out via the groundball once and via the flyball eight times. 

But, we all know that Chen gives up tons of homers (32 in 2005, 7 in 47+ ip in 2004).  So what has changed?  Let's take a look at his BABIP's from the last few years:

               BABIP        ERA           PERA

2004-       .232           3.02           4.63

2005-       .262           3.83           5.10

2006-       .309           8.40           7.47

As you can see, much of Chen's value has been wrapped up in the fact that he has allowed fewer hits per ball in play than the league average.  As we know, that is a difficult thing to repeat year in and year out.  It looks like lady luck finally caught up to Chen this year, as his BABIP has skyrocketed to slightly above-average levels.  And while change has been reflected in his PERA (or, what his ERA should be given his peripherals), it's not nearly as dramatic as in his ERA.

While the general perception of Chen has always been as the O's fifth best starter, it looks like the numbers are finally catching up to his reputation (in Baltimore, at least).  There are a few indicators that he may yet turn it around.  For instance, almost 25% of his OF flyballs are going for HR's, which is nearly double the average rate.  Couple that with the fact that his flyball tendencies this year are higher than his career established values, and it's certainly reasonable to expect his HR rate to come back to earth.

Add to the fact that he makes $3.8 million this year and we shouldn't expect him to go anywhere too fast.  But, at this rate, it looks like a return to the bullpen is becoming more and more possible.

Then What'll We Do?

You should know the answer to this question: Hayden Penn.  OTT's #3 prospect has been nothing short of brilliant in his two AAA starts this season, even taking a no-hitter through 7 innings in yesterday's start until he reached his pitch count (93).  Penn, however, already has roughly a month of service time from last year's grasp-at-straws major league stint (May 26th to July 1st).  So, anything the O's do involving Penn should at least let him stay in Ottawa for another month.  The benefits are as follows:

  1. It gives Penn ample time to build up confidence after he was a bit shellshocked last year.
  2. Penn avoids building up service time in excess of a year (or within spitting distance of the top 17% of players that don't reach that threshold).  That way, when the 2008 offseason rolls around, Penn won't be arbitration-eligible.
  3. The O's already screwed up with Markakis.  Screwing up with Penn would shake my faith in humanity.

In the meantime, what should the O's do?  Stick with Chen in the hopes he'll turn it around?  Defy my advice and call up Penn now?  Cory Morris?  Eric DuBose?  John Stephens?

Just don't say Adam Loewen, I'll scream. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 16 Comments »

The Curious Case of Corey Patterson

Posted by Mike on May 2, 2006

Now that Corey Patterson has decided to look like a major league hitter again, I figured we better take another look at him.  It's no secret that Patterson has an unreal combination of atleticism, speed, and power.  It's also painfully obvious that he has little idea what a strike zone is.  Let's look at a few indicators over the past four years:

              AB/BB            AB/K

2003-       21.9                4.3

2004-       14.0                3.8

2005-       19.6                3.8

2006-       54.0                6.0

Keep in mind that 2003 and 2004 were Patterson's lone successful major league campaigns.  He still didn't walk and he still struck out a ton.  Looking at his performance thus far in 2006, his strikeouts are down a bit but he is walking less than ever.  Since his 2006 results are based on 54 AB's, we might be better served to just keep them as a reference point, rather than try to draw any meaningful conclusions from them.

Instead of trying to figure out if Patterson will develop a modicum of strike zone control, it might be worth exploring how many players have been able to contribute with a similar approach- just in case he doesn't spontaneously learn a new skill that he has never shown the slightest inclination towards learning.  Below is the criteria I used to find a comparable group of major leaguers, followed in parentheses by the resulting sample size:

1) Offensive seasons  that occurred in 1980 or later (n=29,949)

2) Player had at least 400 AB's (n=3,949)

At this point, here are the median batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage of the sample:

.276/.343/.434

3) Player had 19.0 AB/BB or more (n=373)

4) Player had 4.3 AB/K or less (n=15)

Of the remaining 15 player seasons, 2 belong to Corey Patterson (2002 and 2005). 

The new median BA/OBP/SLG looked like this:

.253/.291/.404

It's no surprise that this line looks much worse than the 'everybody' line.  But don't forget that there is an inherent selection bias here.  What do I mean by this?  Well, how does a player get 400 AB's while being completely unable to control the strike zone?  Like Patterson, they must have other things in their favor.  They could have been top prospects, have great tools, play a key defensive position, or play on a team run by Jim Bowden.  Whatever the reason, there is something working in their favor that counteracted the strike zone issue enough to allow them to get 400 AB's.  Considering this, the difference in the two median lines gets even more pronounced.

If you've read this far, I'm sure you're wondering what types of names are appearing next to Patterson's on this list of futility.  Here they are:

1981 Tony Armas

1984 Tony Armas

1984 Juan Samuel

1986 Jim Presley

1986 Juan Samuel

1986 Cory Snyder

1988 Dale Sveum

1989 Cory Snyder

1990 Cory Snyder

1991 Dante Bichette

1996 Orlando Miller

1998 Todd Dunwoody

2001 Marquis Grissom

The very best offensive season anyone has ever recorded while meeting the above criteria was Tony Armas's 1984:

.268/.300/.531

With Patterson's defense and speed, that sort of production could certainly be useful.  But keep in mind that the above line, historically, is the ceiling for a player that walks as little, and strikes out as much, as Patterson. 

Even if he is able to defy the odds, it should be noted that Patterson is already eligible for the arbitration process and will head into 2007 with a baseline of almost $3 million to work with (this year's salary- arbitration almost always results in a raise for the player).  Considering that his stat line is likely to be the type to fetch more than it is worth, his salary could quickly outpace any potential usefulness.

Final verdict:  If there is ever a player that will be able to have a solid major league career with this degree of strike zone ineptitude, it will be one with Patterson's complementary skillset.  But that is really masking the point that it is unlikely such a player will ever exist.  Put simply, if Patterson wants to come within spitting distance of his potential, then he'll have to learn to take a walk more than once a month.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to write a similar piece on Todd Dunwoody for my late 90's Marlins blog.

Posted in Orioles | 61 Comments »

Players Of The Month

Posted by Mike on May 1, 2006

Now that we're into May, I thought I'd begin what will become a monthly feature– a position player and a pitcher of the month for both the major and minor leagues. 

Before I get into all this, allow me to digress a moment.  As you're all aware, Saturday's game was very, very strange.  Historically, I can not think of a time when I have seen a worse defensive infield assembled.  Ever.  At one point, injuries forced an alignment of Hernandez-Mora-Gomez-Conine.  I'm not out to make any critique or anything- Perlozzo did what had to be done- but if anyone out there is handy with Retrosheet, I implore you to top that infield in all-around out-of-placeness and futility. 

Another quick tidbit– according to this article:

For now, center fielder Corey Patterson will be Baltimore's leadoff hitter.

Patterson is swinging a hot stick and no one would be more pleased than me if my initial impressions were proven wrong, but the man has 1 BB in 50 PA's and is still making an out 70% of the time.  For future reference, here is a list of Orioles that I think would be more miscast as leadoff hitters than Corey Patterson:

  1. Raul Chavez

Speaking of which, the same article I referenced above also had this tidbit:

…That leaves the O's with two healthy bench players — backup catcher Raul Chavez and backup outfielder Luis Terrero.

"We're going to have to battle through it. Some other people are going to have to pick up the slack," Perlozzo said. "The only real problem right now that I would possibly have is Ramon [Hernandez] is going to have to be in there. But he's had some days off. He should be able to handle it."

Javy Lopez is having back spasms and is unable to catch for the time being.  Isn't this exactly why Raul Chavez is on the roster?  I happen to disagree with carrying three catchers (at least with Eli Whiteside still on the 40-man roster), but I can certainly understand why Perlozzo, or anyone else, thinks it's necessary.  What I can not understand is why any team would carry a player on their 25-man roster if they don't find it feasible to give him playing time after injuries have seemingly necessitated it.  And that's where the problem lies, Raul Chavez is one of the very few backstops in the major leagues that is not an upgrade on Geronimo Gil.

More notes:

  • Brandon Fahey looks good.  If Jack Wilson can nab $7M per based on his snazzy defensive work, I see no reason that Fahey can't have a successful major league career- small sample size be damned.
  • Luis Terrero has yet to do anything useful, but I do like the pickup in general.  His recent track record isn't much but, at one time, he was a somewhat coveted prospect.  I certainly see his potential usefulness when the team he's on employs as much health risk in the OF as the O's do. 

Onto the good stuff…

Pitcher of the Month- Major Leagues

Chris Ray

Let me start off by stating that this honor is not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Few O's pitchers have pitched particularly well in the month of April.  However, Ray is a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities and has solidified his role as the Orioles' closer.  Of special note was his performance against the Yankees on April 21.  After getting himself in some trouble by walking the bases loaded, Ray shocked everyone by striking out Hideki Matsui with a 3-2 slider.  It wasn't his best performance statistically, but that may just have been the best pitch of his young career. 

"Well, that's good," said Ray. "Maybe next time they'll look for it and I'll throw a fastball."  

I think he's getting the gist of it.

Player of the Month- Major Leagues

Miguel Tejada

After Brian Roberts stole a bit of his thunder as the O's MVP in 2005, Miguel Tejada has answered back with a .422/.459/.618 April.  In the process, he's put to rest many of the rumors swirling about the B-12 fiasco and his late season swoon.  He's even starting to wear on my reluctance to label him as a team leader after an off-season that saw him throwing his organization, teammates included, under the proverbial bus.  No one doubts his desire to win and a 1.077 OPS is a pretty good start on getting his team in the Win column a little bit more often.

Pitcher of the Month- Minor Leagues

Radhames Liz

Was there ever any doubt?  As good as Brandon Erbe (and even Adam Loewen) have looked this month, Liz is the hottest player in the Orioles organization right now.

20 ip, 39 K, 8 BB, 9 H, 1.35 ERA

Frankly, I'm surprised his ERA is that high- just look at that stat line again.  Liz has been unreal this month and I think it's only a matter of a few starts before he's putting up numbers in an already stacked Bowie rotation.

Player of the Month- Minor Leagues

Nolan Reimold

In an organization thin on positional talent, Reimold is proving a lot of teams wrong for letting him slip into the second round of last year's draft.  So far this season, he has raked to the tune of .329/.434/.600.  Furthermore, reports are that his defense has improved as the O's have confined him to RF. 

His 18 K's in 20 games stand out as the only potential roadblock to further development, but his 1.034 OPS is impossible to ignore.  I expect him to be promoted to Bowie by mid-season, at the latest.  If he hits like this in AA, look for his name near the top of a lot of off-season prospect lists.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 4 Comments »