Friday, October 12, 2012

Joining Baltimore Sports and Life

I just wanted to explain some of my inactivity on the blog recently.  I have received an offer to write for Baltimore Sports and Life, something that was definitely exciting for me in terms of exposure and getting to talk even more about Orioles baseball.

As for Warehouse Worthy, it will continue to operate, with myself as a part-time contributor.  There will likely be a month or two of inactivity as we work out the kinks with transitioning much of the ownership of the site to Chad, but you'll still be able to find the same O's analysis here that you've always gotten.

If you want a taste of what I'm doing at BSL, check out my first post.

- Jeff

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Catching Up

First I want to apologize for the absence of posts over the past week or two.  I moved, started a new job and attended a Ravens' game and two O's games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of last week.  Busy is probably a good way to describe it.

That said, there's something I find really interesting about the O's playoff run.  Having gone to two games early this past week I noticed something special about the attendance.  People on twitter, including myself from time to time have called out "O's fans" for not showing up to the yard and supporting the team.  I can tell you that it was amazing to have 45,000 fans at the Cal Ripken game screaming their heads off and supporting the team.  However, the Rays series this past week saw between 20,000 and 25,000 fans.

Again, calls for people to show up rang out and they might have been warranted.  That's irrelevant though.  If people don't want to enjoy this run and take in the Oriole magic, it's their loss.  I'm perfectly happy to have 25,000 people around at the yard supporting the team.  O's fans, I urge you to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and just get out to the yard for the Jays and Red Sox series to see this season to a close.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is Zach Britton Back?


That is the only word that can be used to explain Zach Britton’s last four starts.

In his last for outings, Britton is 4-0 with 0.94 ERA and has a K/BB ratio of 29/7. He has also been able to produce at least 10 groundball outs in each of his last four starts.

A big part of Britton’s success is being able to locate his fastball and sinker in the lower-half of the strike zone and the ability of his slider to become an out pitch.

The Blue Jays were absolutely fooled by his slider last night, and were unable to make good contact on any of his fastballs or sinkers.

This is the Zach Britton that Orioles fans were used to seeing in the first half of the 2011 season when Britton was arguably the Orioles best starter until June, when he hit a brick wall (not literally) and ended up on the DL with a strained left shoulder.

But the Britton of the 2011 first-half is back and possibly even better.

While Britton has a still needs to lower his WHIP, 1.44, his strikeout total is starting to increase, going from 5.66 K/9 last season to 7.96 this season.

In his last four starts he has lowered his ERA considerably, going from 6.23 on August 18th to 4.15 as of September 5th.

Britton just needs to keep attacking hitters the way he has been, using his fastball, sinker, and slider. If he continues being aggressive on the mound and being able to locate his pitches, he will continue his dominant ways.

Britton is an integral part of the Orioles rotation right now and his recent success has helped vault the Orioles into a First Place tie with the ailing Yankees.

Hopefully Zach Britton will be able continue to build upon his recent success against American League hitters, because dominate performances will go a long way in bringing the Orioles the AL East title. 

The answer to if Zach Britton is back is yes. If he continues to pitch like this then he's more than back.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Unfamiliar Territory for an Unexpected Team

It’s September 4th and the Orioles are 75-59. They are one game out of first place, behind a Yankees team that is having problems with injuries and old-age.

If you were to ask a baseball fan at the beginning of the 2012 MLB season about the possibility of the Orioles making the playoffs, let alone possibly winning the division, I guarantee no one would have said they could make the playoffs. Not even close.

The only people that would believe the Orioles would make the playoffs were the following: Peter Angelos, Peter Angelos again, someone who is experimenting with hard drugs, and that overly-optimistic Orioles fan that says that team will make the playoffs every year.

While many experts and fans alike believed that the Orioles winning ways were all due to luck, it is no such thing as luck anymore.

Maybe it was luck in April, May, and June. But July, August, and September are the months that show which teams are for real. Despite the Orioles being “lucky”, I do not think luck is the case anymore.

While their run differential is -31, it only shows that when the O’s win it is usually in close games and when they lose, they really lose badly.

The main reason for their successful ways is because of their Einsteinian manager Buck Showalter and because their bullpen has been near-lights out the whole season.

However, a team cannot just win with two good qualities. The O’s may have an unstable rotation, but that rotation has won them plenty of games this year, even with the mixing and matching Buck Showalter has had to do. The O’s lineup may be considered average to below-average, but different players throughout the whole year have been able to contribute each and every day.

While the O’s may have a more difficult schedule left than AL East opponents New York and Tampa Bay, going .500 (14-14) still gives the Orioles a great shot of making the playoffs as one of the two Wild Card teams.

If you still don’t believe in the Orioles chances then I’m not sure what to tell you.

They have been proving everyone wrong this season, and can continue to do so for the next month.

The Orioles could end a 15-year playoff drought and I really believe that they can.

The question all O’s fans have been asking is “why not us?”

Why can’t we do it? The Orioles still continue to prove everyone wrong.

A playoff berth would really be “lucky”, wouldn’t it?!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Ails Mark Reynolds

A little over a month ago I took a stab at analyzing some of the Oriole hitters using the Pitch F/x for hitters tool from Baseball Prospectus and Brooks Baseball.  Here's a second go-round with the data, this time looking at everyone's favorite 1B/3B/DH Mark Reynolds:

Mark Reynolds has been well, Mark Reynolds this season with one glaring exception.  In fact, look at these numbers from this year and last year:

As you can see, his numbers this season compare fairly favorably to last year with the exception of one little thing.  Those two numbers out to the right highlight the severe power outage that Reynolds has experienced this season.  A drop of .081 in his SLG and ISO (ISO or isolated power is a component of SLG which is why the numbers match) shows that Reynolds has lost considerable power.  For reference, that's the difference equivalent to 2012 Michael Young (0.79 ISO).

So what is the problem?  Well, it's not his ability to hit fastballs, as you can see below:

2011 ISO vs. Hard Pitches (FB, Sinkers, Cutter, etc.)

2012 ISO vs. Hard Pitches (FB, Sinkers, Cutter, etc.)

While there are some differences in these two depictions, the changes are, in my opinion, nominal and don't explain Reynolds' drop off in power.  The following graphs however, might.  They show Reynolds' ISO on breaking pitches, which is how pitchers have been attacking Reynolds since he came to Baltimore.

2011 ISO vs. Breaking Pitches (Curveball, Slider, etc.)

2012 ISO vs. Breaking Pitches (Curveball, Slider, etc.)

As you can see, Reynolds has been demonstrably worse this season against breaking balls than he was in 2011.  Last year Reynolds was able to cover almost the entire strikezone with breaking balls, meaning pitchers would need him to chase.  However, this season pitchers should have no fear of leaving a breaking ball in the zone, so long as it's not right down the middle.

Reynolds' inability to hit breaking balls for power is definitely something O's fans should watch for as the season comes to a close.  If he improves, then maybe bringing him back in 2013 seems like a good idea.  However, if he continues to struggle against breaking balls then he may never get back to those power numbers he once used to be known for.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Not Us? (#WhyNotUs)

Last night I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 movie about the Boston Red Sox improbable comeback in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.  While the stakes were significantly higher for Boston at that point than they are for us now, their motto rings true for O's fans.

Why Not Us?

Baseball is a sport where change is slow, teams must build up organically and players often "regress to the mean".  Unlike any of the other big 4 major US sports, baseball is a game where strategy and planning is vital.  A 162 game season demands teams make hundreds if not thousands of personnel decisions each year.  Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter and the rest of the Oriole staff have continually put this team in a position to succeed this season, and the team has paid them back with wins.  Nobody saw this coming, heck, we had the over/under for the season at 74 wins.  74 wins and we weren't even the low end of the predictions.

So why not us then?  Well, our pitching isn't terribly reliable.  We're hitting Nate McLouth third in our lineup that occasionally features other offensive juggernauts like Omar Quintanilla.  Half the starting lineup at any given point this season was comprised of bench guys, role players, AAAA guys or minor league journeymen.

We've won a completely unsustainable number of 1-run and extra inning games.  If you listen to the industry pundits, our run differential is the most absurd thing they've ever encountered in a winning team.

After 15 years O's fans have begun to expect the team to falter.  Every dip in performance is expected to be the beginning of the end for this fairy tale.  When the team struggled earlier this summer O's fans jumped off the bandwagon because it's not fashionable to support a team like the Orioles.

Our Time

This is our time damnit.  Adam Jones has risen to the level of the elite CF in baseball, and is the superstar that Baltimore and the Orioles have missed since guys named Ripken, Murray, and Robinson gave O's fans something to cheer about.  The young guys like Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Dylan Bundy and more have fans buzzing about the minor leagues and flocking to the yard to see these kids play.

Wei-Yin Chen has been a huge find for the O's, as has Jason Hammel's resurgence.  Guys like Steve Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez and others have stepped in and filled holes with good starts for the team.  They've battled through injuries and their strong bullpen has given the team 51 wins when they lead after 7 innings.

This team isn't sexy.  This isn't Detroit with their 800 pounds of man hitting 3-4-5.  This isn't the Angels who have the former and current best players in baseball in their lineup everyday.  We're not the Yankees with a $200 Million payroll.  We don't have a reliable rotation like the Nationals or famous owners like the Dodgers.

This Orioles team is fun, and above all else, they win.  I don't know if this team will catch the Yankees and Rays to win the division.  They certainly could, but they might not.  I don't know if this team will beat out the Tigers or White Sox and Angels to get in the wild card this season.  They certainly could, but they might not.

I'm not really worried about the O's making the playoffs this season.  This season has been fun and I'm just trying to take it all in.  Hopefully this is just the beginning of a series of runs into the playoffs for the team, and I'm just glad to be a part of it.  Are you?

There's magic in the air folks.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

So Far, So Good

Just a few days ago the Orioles called upon their top position prospect Manny Machado.

Machado, the 3rd overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, was called up to play third base for the O’s, a position where he has limited experience.

Scouts were surprised by the early call-up for the 20 year-old Machado, because his numbers in Double-A were sub-par.

So far the call-up of Machado has paid off.  Manny is hitting .417, with 2 HR, and 5 RBI. He has also provided an upgrade on defense from Wilson Betemit.

However, O’s fans should still temper their expectations. It’s not going to be a piece of cake for Manny. There is no doubt that Manny has started off great, but there will be struggles to come. It takes a while to adjust to playing every day in the Major Leagues. Other teams will also make adjustments to Machado, figuring out his weaknesses at the plate (yes, he will have some weaknesses).

I’m not saying that Machado will slump for a long period, but he is human. He will have struggles, but I’m sure he will have many successes.

Machado is going to have an extremely successful career.  But for now limit your expectations. There will be an adjustment period for Manny.

However, the call-up of Manny Machado has brought a new sense of belief to O’s fans. It shows fans that the organization is doing everything it can to put a winning product on the field.

The next two months will be exciting to watch. Hopefully Manny can make a significant contribution to the Orioles playoff run.

The O’s may not be done with big name call-ups. There could be another top prospect called up in September...

 Dylan Bundy?!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

(Don't) Blame It On Angelos

I may catch some flack from some O's fans for saying this.  I don't mean to offend those of you that this post addresses, it's just that... well, we've gotten lazy.  You see, I've been watching the Orioles lose for the past 14 years just like the rest of you.

I've been listening to Orioles fans curse the name of Peter Angelos for years now.  After all, it's his fault for not putting a winning team on the field, or so the logic goes.  Now listen, I'm not here to say that Angelos is without blame.

The truth is, I honestly don't know the full extent to which the Angelos family is involved in baseball / business decisions.  I would imagine it's safe to say they have significant input given their positions within the organization:

Peter Angelos - Chairman of the Board / Chief Executive Officer (Owner)
John Angelos - Executive Vice President

The problem is, we don't know what input or decision-making power the Angelos' have in baseball or business decisions.  There has been A LOT of speculation, but at the end of the day we just plain don't know.

The most egregious complaint in my mind however, is about the money the team spends.  Fans often claim that Peter Angelos doesn't want to spend money, that all he cares about is pocketing revenues.  To address this, let's look at some data from the past few years...

FACT 1 - The Orioles were the last team not named Yankees to lead MLB in payroll.
According to this website the Orioles outspent the New York Yankees by about $6 Million in 1998, spending a total of $71,860,921 on player contracts.  To give some context, that would be the equivalent of $101,070,212.38 in 2012 dollars.

FACT 2 - In 2000 the Orioles spent the equivalent of $108,451,977.36.
The Baltimore Orioles 2000 payroll came in at $81,447,435 putting them in 4th place behind the Yankees, Dodgers & Braves.  That doesn't sound like an owner pocketing money to me.

FACT 3 - The Orioles have spent over $90 Million on payroll within the past 5 years.
Hard to believe, but in 2007 the Orioles payroll came in at $93,554,808 according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.  In today's dollars that comes out to roughly $103,489,831.86.  Even at $93 Million the O's weren't among the top five in the league, coming in at 10th overall in terms of payroll.

Listen, I get it.  Payrolls of $67 Million, $73 Million, and $84 Million don't exactly make us believe that they're putting in a full effort to build the team.  The facts though are that as the team gets younger, more of the players are cost-controlled and will receive big raises when they are closer to free agency (a la Adam Jones). The team likely can and very well might expand payroll as attendance picks up and the roster demands it.  I just don't see using player salaries as a good point of emphasis when complaining about the team's leadership.

So, sorry Orioles fans.  You're going to have to find something else to complain about because the facts just don't support your opinions here.  If you're interested in looking at inflation adjusted values, I'd recommend using this pretty cool & intuitive tool: Inflation Calculator.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Exploring Trades and What the O’s Should Do

With less than four hours until MLB’s Trade Deadline, the O’s have yet to make a move but are currently engaging in talks with different teams.

The biggest name that the O’s have been targeting so far is SP Joe Blanton of the Philadelphia Phillies. The O’s have been in constant talks with the Phillies the past few days. The biggest issue is that the Phillies want the O’s to pay the rest of the $3M Blanton is owed the rest of the season. However, if the O’s do not want to pay the rest of Blanton’s contract, then the Phillies want a more highly-regarded prospect such as a Jonathan Schoop.

Trading Schoop for two more months of Joe Blanton would be a trade the O’s should never ever make.

With that said, trading prospects is always something teams need to look into before they make the move. Some trades can make or break a franchise.

In this column we will talk about the impact of trading prospects for major leaguers.

There have been a few deals where trading prospects for above-average or average major leaguers have to yet to have a determined outcome.

Take for example one of the trades that the Boston Red Sox made the past off-season.
Boston traded Josh Reddick and two minor leaguers for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. While Sweeney has done a great job filling in for Boston this season, Reddick has enjoyed a breakout season for Oakland and leads the team in the majority of offensive categories.

The jury is still out on this trade however, because Bailey has been injured, but still has the potential to be a top-5 closer.

Another trade that has yet to be determined is the deal the Reds and Padres made this off-season for Mat Latos. The Reds received SP Mat Latos from San Diego in exchange for C Yasmani Grandal, 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, SP Edinson Volquez, and RP Brad Boxberger. Latos is currently 9-3 for the Reds and is helping lead them to a playoff berth. Grandal recently strained his quad and will likely land on the DL, Alonso has had his ups and downs so far this season, Volquez has been extremely inconsistent, and Boxberger has been dominating Triple-A.

The jury is still out on this trade because five years from now Grandal, Alonso, and Boxberger could be three of the best players on the Friars.

The one thing to notice about these two trades is that they both happened last off-season. Therefore there hasn’t been enough time to judge their impact on each respective team.

It takes at least five years to determine whether a trade was “won” or “lost”.

One trade O’s fans are familiar with is the Erik Bedard trade. This could be considered one of the most lopsided trades in history.

The O’s sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners for OF Adam Jones, SP Chris Tillman, RP George Sherrill, RP Kam Mickolio, and LHP Tony Butler.

Bedard was coming off a career year and was arbitration-eligible for the first time. The O’s sold as high as they could, getting a great haul for the lefty.

Jones had played some for the Mariners, but they were never sure if he would turn out to be the player they envisioned him to be. Tillman was one of the Mariners’ top prospects and had a lot of promise. Sherrill was an older relief pitcher who the Mariners believed was not really needed. Mickolio and Butler were two pitching prospects also added to the deal.

Four years later I don’t think any GM would trade Adam Jones for Erik Bedard. At least I hope not...

It took a few years to develop, but Jones has become one of the premier players in the American League.

Besides the Bedard trade, there are so many more trades that have worked out in the favor of the team getting the prospects.

But back to the Orioles… since this is an Orioles blog and all.

If the Orioles want to trade for an impact player, they have to really think about the risks of doing it.
If the Phillies want Jonathan Schoop for Joe Blanton, we shouldn’t even come close to considering it. Schoop could end up being our future second baseman, while Blanton is a free agent five days after the World Series. I don’t think two months of Blanton is worth five years of control of Jonathan Schoop. Blanton is a homer-prone pitcher, already giving up 22 this year. As one insider said “he’s an above-average Tommy Hunter”.

I would only take Joe Blanton if the Orioles had to send a low-ceiling prospect or future utility-man, as well as the Phillies paying the $3M owed to Blanton.

Besides Blanton, it has been reported that the Orioles have been interested in Phillies OF’s Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Juan Pierre.

Victorino and Pence are reportedly on their way out, Victorino going to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pence to the San Francisco Giants.

However, Pierre is still available and would be a good acquisition for the O’s. He will not cost much at all and could play left field and hit lead-off for the Orioles.

There is one thing the Orioles need to try to do at the deadline though and that is upgrade their starting rotation. If they want to continue to stay in the playoff hunt they will need to upgrade their pitching. But to upgrade their pitching they should not trade any of their top prospects.

The main point that the Orioles should stick to is that their top prospects are not available in trade. 

Making a trade that involves their top prospects could possibly help the team now, but what will it do to the team in five years?

If the Orioles do trade in the next four hours or so, they need to really calculate the risks of trading their prospects

Before making any trade, they really need to calculate the pros and cons.

Hopefully the O's can make some upgrades today!

Stayed tuned to Warehouse Worthy for news on O’s acquisitions!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Recap of the Orioles/A’s Series and The Week Ahead

After losing the first 2 games of the series against the scorching-hot A’s, the Orioles, behind Wei-Yin Chen, were able to win the last game of the series 6 to 1. Chen pitched 5.2 innings and struck out 12. With the win, Chen improves to 9-6 on the year.

To recap the series the Orioles started the series against Oakland on Friday night, where Zach Britton faced off against A’s rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker. This game went back-and-forth, with the A’s getting off to a 5-0 lead by the 2nd inning. However, the O’s rallied back with a homerun by Chris Davis in the 2nd inning and a homerun by Adam Jones in the 5th inning. Jones homerun put the O’s up 6-5. In the 6th inning the A’s pinch hit Seth Smith for Johnny Gomes and Smith hit a base-clearing double to put the Athletics up 8-6. However, the O’s battled back in the 8th inning and eventually took the lead 9-8. The A’s came up in the 9th against O’s closer Jim Johnson, who has pitched extremely solid this season, and scored six runs off of him. The O’s fell 14-9.

In the second game of the series, Tommy Hunter squared off against Bartolo Colon. The game was kept scoreless until the 4th inning, when smoking-hot A’s OF Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run homerun off of Hunter. Hunter, who has been plagued by the long-ball all year, gave up another homerun to A’s 1B Chris Carter in the 6th. The O’s lone run came in the 9th inning when Nick Markakis homered.

Thankfully for the Orioles, Chen was able to put together a great outing today and Matt Wieters finally showed some sign of life with a three-run homerun in the 3rd inning off of A’s success-story Travis Blackley. Recently-acquired Omar Quintanilla also homered for the O’s.

(Another note from the today’s game is that the Orioles started OF Lew Ford in left-field today and he batted 5th. Ford hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2007, when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins. It’s great to see Ford make it all the way back to “The Show”.)

However, the two losses against Oakland did hurt the O’s in the Wild Card Standings. They are still 2.5 games back of Oakland and Anaheim.

The Orioles have some very crucial games in the upcoming week. If the O’s want to stay at the top of the playoff hunt they must win both series against the Yankees and the Rays.

The next week could really determine whether the O’s stay in the playoff hunt or return to their former ways of being at the bottom of the cellar in the AL East. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going Fishing?

Earlier today, it was reported by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the Orioles and Marlins were discussing different trade scenarios. It was also reported by ESPN’s Jim Bowden that the Marlins could make a blockbuster deal within the next day.

With that said, it could be entirely possible that the Orioles are interested in acquiring 3B/SS Hanley Ramirez and possibly SP Josh Johnson as well.

Ramirez (pictured above) is only 28 years old and is signed through 2014. Ramirez has put together some very solid seasons with the Marlins, especially from 2006 to 2010. In 2009, Ramirez led the NL in batting average, hitting an impressive .342.

However, Ramirez has struggled the past few seasons, hitting an underwhelming .246 this season. The on and off field struggles have led to Ramirez falling out of favor with the Marlins organization.

Ramirez has the ability to be one of the top players in baseball, but a lot of scouts have questioned his desire to reach the level of peak performance.

Right now a change of scenery could really benefit Ramirez.

Johnson, also 28, is an imposing right-handed pitcher, who at times has the ability to be one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball.

The only issue with Johnson (pictured above) is his history of injuries, ranging from shoulder inflammation to undergoing Tommy John Surgery.

So far in 2012, Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance but has been extremely inconsistent.

The real question is what would it take to acquire these two players?!

They definitely won’t come cheap. Despite both of their values being at their lowest point right now, both are extremely coveted by teams around the league.  Johnson even more so than Ramirez due to the fact most teams have a lack of starting pitching and are looking to add a front-line starter.

For the Orioles to get these two talented Marlins, it would probably cost top prospects such as Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. It would also cost underachieving pitchers like Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.

With that said, it would be great if they O’s could acquire Hanley Ramirez or even Josh Johnson but it is extremely unlikely to happen. The Marlins would do better to maximize both of their values by trading them in separate deals.

However, the Orioles could look into trading for other Marlins such as Logan Morrison and Ricky Nolasco. 
While they may not make the impact that Ramirez and Johnson would make, they still would provide immediate upgrades to the Orioles lineup and starting rotation.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Adam Jones: Offensive Savior?

Many experts and knowledgeable Orioles fans believed that this was the year that Adam Jones finally launched himself onto the level of baseball star.

While I do not believe that Jones is a star, I do believe that Jones is a very, very good player and has carried the Orioles offense this season.

Jones currently leads the team in almost every offense category and carries an Offensive Wins-Above -Replacement (OWAR) of 3.7. His 3.7 OWAR currently ranks 9th in the Major Leagues.

Who knows where the Orioles would be without Adam Jones this season. Yes, he may still have some things to improve on, i.e. walks and his defense, but he has been the player that has been carrying the Orioles on his back.

However, if the Orioles want to keep up their winning ways, they need other players to step up and help Jones lead the Orioles to the playoffs.

Jones is one of the main reasons why the Orioles are currently tied for the American League Wild Card.

Without the successful season that Adam has been having, who knows where the Orioles offense would be right now, and who knows where the O’s would be in the standings.

Friday, July 20, 2012

From One Bay to Another

Trading Season

It's trading season.  Personally, this is my second favorite time of the baseball year, slotting in just behind the playoffs but ahead of the draft.  We have about 11 days until the trade deadline, but already the trades have been pouring into the commissioner's office for approval.  This morning the Jays and Astros worked a deal that lead to 10 players switching teams.  Shortly thereafter, the Rockies worked out a trade that sent ex-Oriole Jeremy Guthrie to Kansas City for ex-Giant Jonathan Sanchez.  This afternoon the Orioles, not to be left out of the fun, acquired Omar Qunitanilla for cash considerations from the Mets.

The most obnoxious part of the trade deadline involves experts and novices proposing trades left and right.  I will now try my hand at proposing an obnoxious trade.

The Deal

Baltimore sends JJ Hardy, Darren O'Day and a prospect or two to the Giants for Brandon Belt and a prospect or two.



Orioles' fans may not be a big fan of this deal, but for the O's this trade makes a lot of sense.  We haven't had a big time first baseman since Rafael Palmeiro, and Belt could step right in and play a very solid 1B for us.  Trading Hardy is a hard pill to swallow as he's a fan favorite, but running a baseball team is about winning.  Belt clearly fills a hole and adds another solid core player to this building Orioles squad.  While Hardy provides immense value to the team now, he'll likely be supplanted by Manny Machado on the next 90-win O's team.

The Giants are in a similar situation where this deal won't make many fans happy as they would love to see Belt get more playing time.  However, the Giants have a chance to make a serious run this season and Hardy & O'Day help fill big holes on the team.  While Hardy hasn't played well lately, he's a superb defensive SS and is slowly coming out of his slump the past few days.  The Giants could use the offensive bump he'd give them.  Belt is beloved by the fans, but the organization has shown that they won't give Belt regular at-bats for a reason far beyond me.

The "& prospects" listed on both sides is just a nod to the common swapping of lower level prospects to balance a deal.  A perfect example of this was in the Pineda/Montero trade where both sides sent a lo-A player along with the headliner.

Do you think this trade makes sense for the O's?  How about the Giants?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fun With PITCHf/x for Hitters

Recently Dan Brooks of Brooks Baseball fame and Baseball Prospectus teamed up to supply some pitchf/x data for hitters in  really unique way on the Baseball Prospectus website.  Dan is constantly adding functionality to the application, and his most recent update has some pretty cool implications for understanding the data behind batter performance.  This post is going to highlight a lot of the really cool visualizations that this new tool allows us to create.

Adam Jones

This first breakdown compares Adam Jones' True Average on breaking balls down & away versus his True Average on those same pitches this season.  Keep in mind that the typical Small Sample Size (SSS) warning applies here, but it's interesting nonetheless.  For a description of True Average check out Baseball Prospectus' glossary here.
Adam Jones TAv Career - Normalized for RHH

Adam Jones TAv 2012 - Normalized for RHH

The interesting point here is that, over his career, Jones has performed well below average on breaking balls down & away compared to other MLB right-handed batters.  However, so far this season, Jones' performance has been above league average (.260) in all 4 quadrants of the low and away portion of the zone.  This is certainly interesting, and could be a reason for Jones' success thus far this season.

Chris Davis

Here we're going to look at how pitchers have been pitching to Chris Davis so far this season, something that I think shows how well pitchers adjust to hitters over the course of a season.  The first image will show, compared to other left-handed hitters how often Davis sees "hard pitches" (fastballs) in a certain zone.  The second image shows Davis' True Average over the various zones against "hard pitches".
Chris Davis Frequency 2012 - Normalized for LHH & "Hard Pitches"

Chris Davis TAv 2012 - Normalized for LHH & "Hard Pitches"
As you can see, the league has adjusted.  Davis sees many more hard pitches, basically fastballs of various types, up in the zone compared to other lefties.  Consequently, hard pitches down in the zone, typically a staple for many pitchers, are not being seen by Davis.  This is likely because of his performance on those pitches, as exhibited by the True Average image above.  Davis has multiple zones where his TAv is significantly above the league average figure of .260.

Nick Markakis

The last player we'll analyze today is another long-time Oriole, Nick Markakis.  The interesting thing about Nick's data is that it seems nobody knows where to pitch Nick.  The lowest % in terms of pitch frequency is 85.63% which is quite high.  The second image shows how Nick has performed against pitches in the various zones, and highlights the lack of a hole in the zone for the most part.
Nick Markakis Frequency Career - Normalized for LHH
Nick Markakis TAv Career - Normalized for RHH
This color scheme shows just how good Nick has been at covering all zones across the plate.  Of the 25 zones in the breakdown, only 4 of them show TAv values that deviate significantly from the league average figure.


All in all this tool is very cool.  If you haven't already, you should play around with it here and see if you can find any interesting data.  I hope to do more of this in the future, and I really think the applications for this data are truly endless.  Let me know any interesting points you notice from the graphs above, or feel free to link to new graphs in the comment section.

Monday, July 9, 2012

First Half Reflections

I'll start with a personal note - for those loyal readers out there (do I have loyal readers?) my move is pretty much completed and I now have internet & cable hooked up so expect more frequent posts from here on out.  We should be back to the 2 posts a week standard we were on through May or so.

First Half Reflections

Ok, so this post is going to be less statistical and more of an overview of my opinions about the Orioles' first half.  We'll talk about the pitching first, the hitting second and wrap it up with a description of the team as a whole.  I might throw in some statistics as we go, but I want this to be more of a stream of consciousness type piece.

The Pitching

I'm going to refer to this section as the regression to the mean group.  We'll start with the starting pitching who, as a group started out pretty strong, but stumbled lately.  Or so it seemed... month by month breakdown of ERA/FIP/xFIP for the starters looks like this:

March/April - 3.63/4.42/4.39
May - 5.16/4.40/4.08
June - 5.45/4.42/4.19
July - 4.79/4.39/4.16

As you can see the Starters' FIP has fluctuated between 4.39 and 4.42 this season, which is oddly consistent.  Some months they've been lucky, but others they've been pretty unlucky.  Overall, this is above league average (surprise) which currently sits at 4.08.  It would be great for the team if the starters could come down to league average, and this is definitely reachable given the tumultuous nature of our rotation through the first 5 months of the season.

The relievers on the other hand have been less consistent, but better as a whole.  Here's a month by month breakdown for the relievers by ERA/FIP/xFIP:

March/April - 1.83/3.46/3.91
May - 2.64/3.97/3.85
June - 3.24/3.56/4.02
July - 4.43/5.97/5.13

There are two things to note here that I think are important for O's fans to understand going forward.  The first is that they have outperformed their peripherals (FIP) every month, suggesting that they aren't as good as they've been.  Also, they have trended upwards in ERA towards their FIPs (season average is 3.87).  I would expect them to be closer to that number than the 2 ERAs we have seen them put up.

A league average FIP would be 3.84, meaning the O's bullpen would fall in the middle of the pack as opposed to the top 2 or 3 teams as they have been all season.  This is not the end of the world, and if the starters can pick up their game a bit in the second half, the O's can still contend with the AL East powerhouses, though not necessarily for a playoff spot.

The Hitting

Let's start with some numbers here, as this is perhaps the most surprising development of the first half.  The Orioles currently boast a .305 wOBA, which would rank 21st in MLB to this point.  Only the Rays, A's and Mariners rank lower among AL teams to this point.  This likely stems from the Orioles ranking 26th in MLB in batting average, hitting only .240 on the season.  To be fair though, they rank 27th in BABIP at .278, besting only the Rays, A's and Mariners.

Ironically, the offense was the least of my worries going into the season, as the team ranked 12th in MLB last season for wOBA.  It seemed they made some upgrades over the winter & we expected young guys like Wieters and Jones to continue improving.

This isn't necessarily a fair judgment though as the team has been without some major players for much of the season, and frankly has started AAA guys at 3/9 of the lineup spots.  I honestly think that Markakis coming back will significantly improve the lineup, not necessarily because he's that significant of an upgrade, but because of the ramifications it will have on the rest of the lineup.  Similarly the offense will likely tick up as guys like JJ Hardy bounce back (.233 BABIP would be a career low).  I think the offense will likely be league average for the second half, assuming no significant Markakis-like injuries.

The Team as a Whole

There's kind of been a running theme throughout this piece, maybe you've noticed my opinion on the team to this point.  The Orioles are not as good as they have been so far this season, but they're not as bad as they've seemed the past few weeks.  Coming into this season, if I told you "this team will go .500 this season", you'd have been ecstatic.  Now though, that seems like a failure.  This team smells like a .500 team to me.  The offense is below average but has been unlucky.  The relievers look to be right around average if not slightly better.  The starters have a very real chance to get back to league average I think, especially given the lack of consistency to this point.

Before the season I had the Orioles' over/under for wins at 75 games.  It looks to me like they'll beat that, but not make the playoffs.  You know what?  I'm just fine with that.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Reinvigorated Chris Tillman

It's a small sample size.  Against arguably the worst hitting team in baseball (especially at their home field).  That said, Chris Tillman wowed.  Many of us were at friends houses or barbecues or picnics to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.  Chris Tillman and the birds took on Seattle and Tillman showed why he was such a prized pickup in the Erik Bedard trade years ago.

I always liked Tillman because he throws a knuckle-curve (and a nasty one at that) which was the same curveball I threw growing up.  You might remember a former Oriole pitcher that was pretty successful with that same pitch as well.  As a result, Tillman has a soft spot in my heart, and I've always been pulling for him, beyond what you typically would for any young Oriole.

We've been hearing for weeks that Tillman has been pitching well in the minors, albeit not going very deep into games.  He'd pitched to a 3.63 ERA in Norfolk but his FIP suggests he'd pitched better than that.  Tonight he went 8.1 IP with 2 Hits, 2 Runs, 2 Walks and 7 Ks.  Here's how he did it:

Pulled from Brooks Baseball

As you can see, Tillman sat in the mid 90s with his various fastballs, the 4-seamer averaging 95 MPH and the Cutter coming in at 93.  Tillman topped out at 97.2 MPH on the night, much higher than he threw last time O's fans saw him (in 2010 Tillman's FB averaged 90.2 MPH, in 2011 it was just 89.3).  The Cutter was a pitch that Tillman added to his repoirtoire in 2011, but only threw it about 5% of the time.  This trend holds here as just 7 of Tillman's 121 pitches were cutters.  The Cutter is a useful tool for him though, as you can see below:
From Brooks Baseball

This image shows the horizontal movement by speed for Tillman in the game.  The key is on the right, and you can see that 4-Seamers are green, Cutters - black, Changeups - yellow, Curves - purple.  You can see above the distinct clusters for Tillman on his 3 main pitches the 4-Seam Fastball, Curveball and Changeup.  The Cutter is clustered to the right of the 4-Seamer, with slightly less velocity, but positive movement.  This means that all of Tillman's fastballs moved to the arm side (as you would expect) except the Cutter which Tillman can use to fool hitters.  A perfect example of this is in the 4th inning where Tillman struck out Casper Wells with a well placed Cutter:
From Brooks Baseball
The 5th pitch in the AB was a perfect Cutter on the inside corner that Wells presumably expected to continue moving in off the plate.  Again, we're talking about 5% of all the pitches Tillman will throw in a game, but that's also why it's an effective tool for him.

I'm emphasizing the Cutter here because I think at the velocity he had today, Tillman really has multiple tools at his disposal to put away hitters.  I've always found Tillman's curve to be especially filthy.  For him it was a question of velocity and control.  Today Tillman showed he had velocity and he had control.  His excellent secondary offerings are what made him so intriguing just a few years ago.  It's a small sample size, against one of the worst hitting teams in baseball.  Despite that, I'm intrigued and I can't wait to see Tillman's next turn after the All-Star Break.  If this Tillman is what we'll get for the rest of the season, we may have just found our new #3 starter.