Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Archive for July, 2006

Orioles.Scout.com

Posted by Mike on July 27, 2006

The time has come and I am now officially under contract by FoxSport’s Scout.com network.  I’ve spent the past week taking in games at various minor league affilliates, collecting some prospect photos and talking to various members of the organization.  I hope you’ll take the time to check out the stories, interviews and rankings to come in the near future.  You can also enjoy Scout’s free O’s message board (with almost 2000 members) and premium message board (that is soon to be chock full of insider information). 

Scout.com combines FoxSports’ access and reputation with a talented group of team-specific writers.  It is the only network of its kind and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.  It’s a daunting workload, to be sure, but I have every intention (and will be given every opportunity) to build the best website of its kind. 

I’m extremely pleased with the rapid growth of Orioles Think Tank and I’ve enjoyed my status as an informed outsider.  I’ve learned a great deal from the people that comment here and especially the ones that have taken the time to send me emails.  I’m going to miss this informal format, but I think blogging has taught me a lot of things that I can bring with me to an established media outlet.  And I certainly look forward to the new challenges and responsibilities that come with much more access to the organization.  I can only hope that you’ll tag along for the ride.

OriolesThinkTank.Wordpress.com will continue to stand as an archive of sorts.  You can get to the new site by using any of the following URLs:

http://www.OriolesThinkTank.com

http://www.InsideTheWarehouse.com

http://www.Orioles.Scout.com

In addition, the site is accessible from the frontpage at http://www.FoxSports.com

**(NOTE:  As of Friday, August 4th, the site is up and running.)**

Have any ideas about how I can build the best site possible?  Any features you’d love to see?  How about just a question you’d like to see answered by a player or coach?  Feel free to email me at Mike@OriolesThinkTank.com or Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com

Posted in Orioles | 9 Comments »

Grading Perlozzo

Posted by Mike on July 19, 2006

I try to stay away from seeming like I’m too big of a critic of Sam Perlozzo because, frankly, his job is not that important.  Unlike in football or basketball, baseball managers have very little effect on their team’s fortunes.

It’s been said before but the most important job for a manager is simply to control the clubhouse and command the respect of the team.  With superstars refusing to run out groundballs and such, it can be argued that Perlozzo is not at the head of the class, but I’d be reluctant to argue the opposite as well.  Sammy P. also did the birds a great service by bringing in, arguably, the best pitching coach in the history of baseball– his pal Leo Mazzone.  This is undoubtedly a strong positive, even if Mazzone magic hasn’t appeared as quickly as many had hoped.

Despite his positive attributes and despite the fact that such a thing is often inconsequential, I would argue that Sam Perlozzo is among the worst managers in baseball at optimizing his offensive attack. 

Why, you ask? 

Let’s see, there’s the decision to play Brandon Fahey in LF and bat him 2nd in the lineup.  Admittedly, Perlozzo had few attractive alternatives, but Fahey’s value is completely dependant on his above-average defense at shortstop.  On a team like the Orioles, where Ironmen shortstops reign supreme, Fahey should find it tough to crack the 40 man roster.  Instead, Perlozzo treats him like Carl Crawford. 

There’s also the matter of the Orioles leading the league in sacrifice bunts, a practice so rarely useful that I would advise Peter Angelos to institute a moratorium.  Take, for instance, last night’s game:

As you can see, Markakis walked to lead off the 9th inning.  Brian Roberts barely waited until he got to first to square around for the sacrifice to get Markakis to second base.  Predictably, Huston Street retired Brandon Fahey and Melvin mora and Markakis ended up stranded on 3B. 

The reason I included this WPA graph (hat tip to Fangraphs) is to demonstrate exactly how bad of an idea it was to have Brian Roberts sacrifice bunt.  You can see for yourself how the O’s chances of winning diminished by about 5%– and that’s after a successful sacrifice bunt.  Imagine if he failed.  And this is all without mentioning that Brian Roberts is one of the O’s best hitters.

Finally, Perlozzo could earn a few points with me if he would think a little more outside the box in terms of bullpen usage.  He has used Chris Ray for a few multi-inning save situations and, once again, he doesn’t have much to work with, so this isn’t as uninspiring as his offensive non-strategy.  Nevertheless, yesterday’s game provides another example of how the pen could be better deployed. 

Eddy Rodriguez pitched 2.1 innings after the rain delay mercifully ended the newest chapter of the Russ ortiz experiment.  Thanks to his own throwing error, Rodriguez ended up giving up 2 runs, 0 earned.  But I certainly wouldn’t argue that he wasn’t in a bit of a mess even before the error.  Anyway, his leverage index for the game came in at 1.44, much higher than any other O’s pitcher yesterday.  Had Perlozzo the gumption to recognize it was a critical situation and that Rodriguez was struggling (4 BB), perhaps it would’ve made sense to make a move to Britton or Hawkins earlier (See?  I stayed away from arguing that ray should be pitching in the 3rd inning.  Such self restraint). 

Ultimately, I see Perlozzo as a decidedly unskilled decision-maker.  I mean, can you imagine getting paid six figures to make a handful of decisions a day and consistently being this self-defeating?  Nevertheless, based on the merits of his access to Mazzone and the minimal impact of in-game decisions in general, I’ll give Perlozzo a grade C and pray that someone hands him a copy of this book

Posted in Orioles | 4 Comments »

Snippets

Posted by Mike on July 17, 2006

  • Cabrera, Rleal Optioned; Loewen, Rodriguez Recalled

I have to admit, it never occurred to me that Daniel Cabrera might get sent to Ottawa.  But Adam Loewen has shown that he has little to learn in the minors, even if the results have yet to be there in the majors.  Plus, recalling him will have no substantive effect on his service clock, since he’s up for good next year anyway.  And Cabrera has regressed quite a bit this year.  Rich Lederer wrote a blurb on this topic that prety much sums up how a lot of people feel about Cabrera’s performance this year.   He’s still a big part of what this rotation could be, but there is no masking how disappointing his season has been.  Finally, I have to admit that I am impressed that the organzation followed through with their decision  Whether or not you deem the move necessary or not, it is encouraging to see an Orioles administration with the fortitude to make potentially unpopular decisions because they believe them to be correct.

As for Rleal getting sent down, it’s about time.  He’s a flyball pitcher who walks a lot of batters and doesn’t miss bats.  I’ll admit being a staunch spporter of his in the past but, lets face it, I was wrong.  Eddy Rodriguez, on the other hand, has been lights out in Ottawa this season.  He’s striking out over a man an inning, has a newfound respect for the strike zone, and has yet to allow a home run in over 36 frames.  He’s held righties to a .307 OPS and has excelled in close and late situations.  He finally appears poised to shed his perennial project label.

  • Jim Bowden the Genius

I’m sure you’ve read about how Wayne Krivsky is an idiot and how Jim Bowden actually ripped someone else off for a change, so I won’t bore you with any self-evident analysis.  But my friend text messaged me the other day with Why don’t we have Austin Kearns? and it got me thinking.  Kearns’ value had never been lower than after last season.  He was jerked around from the minors to the majors and back again and ended up posting career lows across the board.  Yet, statheads looked at his excessively low batting average, consistent batted ball data and sustained secondary hitting skills and remained united in their optimistic outlook for his future.  Thus far this season, he’s justified that faith and what happens?  He gets traded for some middle relievers, a good relief prospect, and one present and one future utility player.  Oh, and he was only part of a package that included the 26 year old reigning silver slugger at shortstop and a 23 year old pitcher that took about a week to reach the majors.  Quite simply, a lot of things would have to go wrong for the Nats to not get the best of this deal now and later.

I’m not trying to insinuate that the O’s are any more guilty of any other non-Bowden team, but Kearns would be a pretty tasty fit on a club so devoid of OBP as this generation of birds.  And if seemingly all it would have taken was some combination of LaTroy Hawkins and/or Kurt Birkins… then doesn’t it make you whince just a little bit that someone else beat them to the punch?

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 12 Comments »

Mid-Year Non-Recap

Posted by Mike on July 12, 2006

I’m sure you’ve read your share of mid-season team recaps or mid-season grades type articles, so I’ll try not to be redundant.  What I hope to show here is a very visual, if a bit cursory, argument of how the Orioles should proceed from now until July 31st (the non-waiver trading deadline). 

OK, so a little explanation is in order… the basic premise of this chart is to map out who the O’s have targeted to play each position for the next three seasons.  Obviously, the further out you get, the less uncertain the forecasting becomes.  But, this should provide an adequate visual demonstration of my argument.

I did not address bench players and I left the bullpen’s assembly, beyond the many names jumbled together, to one’s own imagination.  You should also note that my chart has been assembled while wearing some pretty heavily tinted orange colored glasses.  I highlighted a few of the areas where plans are, shall we say, tenuous, but you might as well add almost every pitching slot to that group as well.  For instance, by no means do I believe that Penn, Loewen, Cabrera, Olson, and Bedard will all be effective major league starters and pitching for the Orioles in 2009.  But that is the plan as of now, July 2006.  When financial restrictions, injuries, ineffectiveness, et al become realities, then the plan gets adjusted.  At no time, however, is it excusable to have a gap on this chart that is not actively trying to be resolved.  Take, for instance, the Ryan Shealy rumors.  That would fill in a few gaps, but it would also open another one up, say, where Hayden Penn’s name used to be. 

My intention is not to propose any specific trades or target any specific players but,  with the trading deadline fast approaching, the Orioles have at least six guys on their active roster that are not at all in their plans for next year.  If you accept the argument that competing in 2007 is not realistic, then there are even more guys to add to that list who aren’t in their plans for 2008.  As many of them as possible should be moved.

The O’s have to accept the fact that Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, LaTroy Hawkins, Javy Lopez, Rodrigo Lopez, etc. are all going to get paid the full amount of their contracts.  If other teams refuse to take on payroll in a deal for any combination of them that would send back a player that might fill in any of the gaps, isn’t it in the best interest of future O’s teams to eat the salary?  And shouldn’t that be the focus for a team in its 9th consecutive losing season? 

Addendum:

To clarify my chart-

C, SS, and 3B are all covered through 2009 by existing contracts.

1B and at least one of the OF/DH slots are completely open after this year.  Also, I belive that Gibbons, considering injuries and defensive prowess, is mostly a DH for the life of his contract.

Patterson can be an unrestricted free agent after next season but, if he continues to be effective, there is no reason he shouldn’t be resigned if possible.  There is no one in the minor league system currently who profiles as an everyday CF.

Ditto for 2B and Brian Roberts. 

We all hope the best for Markakis and Reimold.  Let’s leave it at that for now. 

My projected starters list speaks for itself.  Cabrera will be eligible for arbitration after next season and under O’s control for three more years.  Bedard is under control for three more years. 

Chris Ray and Chris Britton could form a decent 1-2 punch for years to come.  Projecting a relief core through 2009 beyond them is a tough business, but should be addressed on a year to year basis. 

As for Miguel Tejada: Aside from the fact that he is rapidly gaining his share of detractors in Baltimore (even outside of this little realm of fandom), his defensive Rate2 has deteriorated from 113 to 103 to 100 the past three seasons.  He might be able to stick at short through 2009 but he won’t be especially good.  Of course, that hasn’t affected Derek Jeter, but I digress.  Beyond that, he is playing in his age 30 season and I find it unlikely that he will ever surpass his current value.  If the Orioles decide that they can compete no earlier than 2008 or 2009 (which is the correct conclusion, with or without Tejada,  I might add), it makes sense to deal him for other players that will be ready to contribute by then.  If we wait until 2008, his naturally declining production could make his contract the type the O’s wish they could move instead of the current company line that he is a guy we could build around.  Basically, the O’s need to have a target year in mind and aim for everything coming together in that season.  If that year is 2007, then keep Miguel.  If it’s 2009, I’m not convinced he will still be the championship caliber player that he is today and he should be traded at his peak value.

I know this entry is filled with many topics and that none of them get too far in-depth, but perhaps I can expound on a point or two based on your feedback.

P.S. Check out Ted Cook’s new O’s blog, Cookin’ With Gas

Posted in Orioles | 7 Comments »

One Week Without the Internet

Posted by Mike on July 9, 2006

A week without internet has given me much time for introspection and if I’ve come to any conclusions, none are greater than this:

I hate Millenium Cable. 

They are roughly the Internet Service Provider equivalent of a pitching rotation so bereft of talent that it could employ the likes of Russ Ortiz.  OK, I exaggerate, but they do stink at their job.  And I’m realizing that perhaps the thing I’m looking most forward to in my impending move downtown is reliable internet access.  It’s certainly not waking up to find whatever vagrant that Silent Joe met in a bar the previous night using my Frankie Avalon beach towel or eating my Fruity Pebbles. 

Anyway, the downtime has left us with much to catch up on, so let’s get to the bullet points:

  • Majewski Not Looking So Hot

I was just thinking about how it had been a while since I got a report on Val Majewski when John Kazlo (of Minor League Watch) shot me an email (that I accessed at work):

I watched Ottawa and Richmond last night….Val Majewski looks like he is on a rehab program.  He worked with the trainers for about a hour before the game when the pitchers were on the field and the position players were in the clubhouse.  I watched his swing and it is very weak…..not as good as his swing last fall in AZ. 

He followed it up with this email two days later:

I went back on Monday night and Val played first….did a pretty good job of it I believe, although he did bobble a short hopper in front of him.  He did connect with some pitches and hit them on the left side of the field and CF.  His swing did look smoother on Monday than it did Sunday….but still stiff and slow!

Thanks for the update John, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.

  • Tejada Trade Update

I caught this snippet from an article in the new Baltimore Examiner:

“That’s the goal. We’re not shopping him. I think you’re not doing your job if you don’t listen to potential deals for all players. I don’t think the general public probably has an idea of how frequently we talk about everybody in the game, everbody’s star player,” Flanagan said. “Again, it just shows you their value. It’s a constant weighing of players’ worth to see what the market will give you.”

For those of us in the Trade Tejada camp, it’s encouraging that Flanagan is keeping his options open.  There are very few sluggers on the market as the trading deadline nears and Tejada would be the most coveted of them all.  The Orioles are not going to contend this year.  They are probably not going to contend in 2007 either.  There’s just too many holes on this roster.  So let’s try to fill a few of them with talented youngsters that might contribute to a contending team in 2008.  Frankly, I’m more than a little tired of Tejada’s unwillingness to hustle in any way, shape or form.  A carmudgeon might even worry about the sticky scenarios that Jason Grimsley’s deposition could unearth.  Luckily, I am not a carmudgeon. 

Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to see Brandon Fahey play a position where he actually has some value?

  • Matos DFA’d

The O’s have essentially cut bait on the one time promising young center fielder.  I was listening to Anita Marks on ESPN 1300 the other day and she mentioned that a player on the O’s had remarked to her about how much fatter Matos is than he used to be.  I’m sure that doesn’t surprise many of you, since Matos is well known for his lackadaisical approach.  And I’m sure it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get motivated to play for a franchise that has done little but lose ever since you’ve known it, but for a seven figure salary, I’d give it a shot.

This move will allow for Luis Terrero to get another shot.  Terrero is probably best known for his 0-17 performance in the bigs thus far, but I assure you that he was raking in Ottawa (.321/.373/.594 in 187 AB’s).  The one time prospect is still only 26 and I am genuinely impressed with this free talent find.  If it works out, it’ll sort of be like Flanagan’s Corey Patterson Lite move and it’s possible that he has carved out a little niche.  Most O’s fans would settle for a capable 4th outfielder and, in this case, I’m optimistic.

  • Aberdeen Ironbirds A-Doings

As promised, I did go to the Aberdeen game last Sunday and I paid special attention to two fellas.  The first was Chris Vinyard, the O’s 2005 38th round draft and follow.  This boy can rake.  I didn’t see enough of him at first to effectively determine if he is as, ahem, stiff in the field as some reports, but he worked deep into counts and hit the ball hard.  Through 65 AB’s, he is now hitting .431/.486/.692.

Pedro Beato also made his first professional appearance coming on in relief to pitch a perfect 9th inning with two K’s.  After a second appearance this week, his line sits at:

2.0 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 0 H, 0 R, 0.00 ERA

Unfortunately, I missed seeing him pitch.  I left after the second rain delay when the opposing manager tried to stop the grounds crew from putting out the tarp.  I did, however, get a great picture of Beato swinging a bat in his pre-game warm-up. 

– Brandon Snyder started as the DH and did not look confident at the plate.  He swung big and missed on a breaking ball in one at bat and generally did not hit with any authority.  He’s now hitting .259/.281/.333 in his first 54 AB’s with the Ironbirds.

– Miguel Abreu, the O’s 2005 28th round pick, started at 3B instead of his usual 2B to make room for Todd Davison.  The move paid off as Davison made an incredible diving play to his left and Abreu used the opportunity to show off his surprisingly good arm.  It was pretty clear that Abreu wasn’t used to 3B, however, as he seemed to back up on his heels when the ball was hit hard to him.  No errors, though.

  • Radhames Liz Buzz Index

Liz had a pretty nice article written about him by Chris Kline over at Baseball America.  It covers a lot of ground, but this is one part I found very interesting:

Liz moved to San Pedro de Macoris to live with one of his older brothers when he turned 18, and he started taking the game seriously once he got to the big city. He worked with a group of other players for a year and a half with a part-time scout who had connections with several organizations, including Orioles director of Latin American scouting Carlos Bernhardt. “It’s not like college or high school players here in the United States,” he says. “I needed to learn more about the game because I didn’t really know what baseball was until I was 16, and then later on Carlos heard about me and signed me.”

Prospects are found in all sorts of places.  The O’s were lucky to get in early on this one. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 8 Comments »

Chris Vinyard Buzz Index

Posted by Mike on July 1, 2006

If you’re like me and you set Yahoo! as your browser’s homepage, you’ve probably noticed a feature they have known as Buzz Index, or some such play on the word Buzz.  It’s basically a measure on what people are entering into their search engine most frequently.  You might see the Fab Five up there one day (editor’s note: frequent commenter Nate looks just like the blonde one) or Paris Hilton the next. 

Luckily, WordPress allows me to see how a few dozen people use search engines to stumble upon OTT every day.  I’ve gotten everything from ‘Rachel Phelps cardboard cutout’ to ‘Windy City Heat DVD’ to, and I’m not making this up, ‘Peter Angelos naked’.  Lately, though, Chris Vinyard’s name has been cropping up in search boxes at an alarming frequency (not to mention in a few reader emails), so I figured this was as good of a time as any to catch you up on him and a few other of his short season cronies. 

The 20 year old Vinyard was drafted as a catcher with the 1143rd pick in the 38th round of the 2005 draft.  Originally planned as a draft and follow pick, he put up some daunting offensive numbers at Chandler-Gilbert JuCo.  He was confined to first base and will continue there as an Aberdeen Ironbird.  I have yet to see him in person, but all reports are that he is a liability just about anywhere in the field.  At bat, however, is a different proposition entirely.  He’s reported to have plus offensive skills across the board, including easy power to all fields, and has put it to use in his first 32 professional at bats (.406/.486/.750).  I’ll be attending Sunday’s game, with Patrick over at Pinstripes Plus and some pretty handy press credentials, and I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the O’s new buzz machine. 

Here are a few other notable draftees and some very early returns on their short-season jaunts:

Aberdeen Ironbirds

Brandon Snyder, C (2005 draft, 1st Rd.): .250/.282/.333

Daniel Figueroa, OF (2005, 43): .205/.279/.231

Jedidiah Stephens, SS (2006, 8 ): .129/.129/.290

Paul Winterling, OF (2005, Undrafted FA): .000/.231/.000 (*McDonogh/Hopkins grad*)

Michael Pierce, C (2006, 28): 0 for 1

Miguel Abreu, 2B (2005, 28): .296/.296/.444

Ryan Stadanlick, RHP (2005, 10): 2 ip, 3 K, 1 BB, 9.00 ERA

Tag Horner, LHP (2005, 41): 3.7 ip, 2 K, 3 BB, 2.18 ERA

Josh Tamba, RHP (2006, 7): 8.3 ip, 5 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA

Bluefield Orioles

Kieron Pope, OF (2005, 4): .421/.500/.684

Bobby Henson, SS (2006, 5): .273/.467/.364

Paul Chmiel, 1B (2005, 22): .000/.235/.000

Brian Bent, C (2005, 44): 0 for 1

Justin Johnson, C (2006, 16): .273/.385/.455

Aubrey Miller, RHP (2006, 23): 2.7, 1 K, 2 BB, 3.38 ERA

Joshua Faiola, RHP (2006, 24): 1.1 ip, 3 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA

Zachary Jevne, RHP (2006, 27): 7.0 ip, 10 K, 3 BB, 5.14 ERA

Be sure to take these stats with a heaping grain of salt, Aberdeen has played 9 games and Bluefield just 6.  So don’t get worked up about Abreu’s apparent lack of plate discipline and the like.  Also keep in mind that, in the case of pitchers, the demonstrated ability to miss bats at this level is a much better predictor of future success than ERA.  Nevertheless, it’s good to see the early returns on late draft picks like Jevne and Faiola, even if their success is tempered by the fact that they are both college products. 

I think the most encouraging signs from these early numbers is the hot start of Kieron Pope.  He was drafted as a raw high school kid with a major league body and he lived up to that billing with a tough showing at Bluefield last year (including 62 K’s in 41 G’s).  He’ll be confined to left field, but a good offensive start is certainly better than a bad one.

Further Minor League Notes

Thursday night was the best night of pitching the O’s farm system has seen in a long time.  While Lopez-to-Lopez had a decent but unspectacular showing against Ryan Madson and the Phillies, every stop from Delmarva to Ottawa saw performances good enough to transcend my Notable Performances widget in the upper-right hand corner.

Adam Loewen (AAA): 7 ip, 7 K, 2 BB, 2H, 0 R

A couple more performances like that and Russ Ortiz’s imminent implosion won;t be so hard to take

Garrett Olson (AA): 6 ip, 4 K, 1 BB, 6 H, 2R

A solid follow-up to his less than inspiring AA debut

Luis Ramirez (HiA): 6 ip, 7 K, 1 BB, 3 H, 2 R

So what if he can’t throw much harder than I can?  He has done nothing but miss bats as a pro

Brandon Erbe (LoA): 5.0 ip, 7 K, 0 BB, 1 H, 0 R

At just 18 years old, he is proving too great a match for his older competition

One Last Note(…s)

Tonight’s pitching matchup was every bit as interesting as I had anticipated.  On one side, there was a young fireballer who, thanks to some prospect-rushing tendencies of his parent club, has seen limited success  to go with his seemingly unlimited potential.  On the other side was a young pitcher who has seen nothing but success but, thanks to availability of minor league batted ball data, had received limited hype.  True to their reputations, Cabrera struck out 7 while expending 102 pitches to get through just 5 innings.  Chuck James, on the other hand, succeeded in recording a quality start, despite giving up 2 home runs and an unsettling 2-11 groundout:flyout ratio.

Also, Nick Markakis has officially joined in on the full-scale effort to make me look like an idiot.  He was 3 for 3 with a walk.  I find it very interesting that his recent success has come at a time when the O’s are facing an inordinate amount of young hurlers, though I’m not sure what, if anything, to make of it yet.  Any theories?

Finally, OTT is entering a transition phase.  Soon, I will be joining the ultra-cool Scout.com network.  It’s been a blast typing away about whatever is on my mind these past several months and an even bigger thrill to see that some folks out there are listening.  Scout.com, however, will afford me a ton of great opportunities even as it confines my content to the world of prospectdom (hence the empty Top Prospects page).  As a part of the vast FoxSports network, I’ll get unparalled access to all of the different minor league clubs, players, coaches and lots of other cool goodies.  Plus, I’ll actually be getting paid for the countless hours I study, think, and write about baseball.  Unfortunately, this will soon mean an end to OTT as we know it, but be assured that the new site is going to be much much better.  Dave Sanford, of Royals Corner, had a great post concerning his recent departure for Scout.com and I doubt I could sum up my thoughts any better. 

The transition isn’t exactly imminent and I will continue posting here for the time being, but I arbitrarily decided that today was the day to share the good news.

Posted in Orioles | 8 Comments »