Sunday, January 29, 2012

Where do the O's go now?

Many O's fans were frustrated by the O's seemingly tepid interest in the Prince Fielder pursuit this offseason.  However, upon hearing the terms of his contract with Detroit, cooler heads prevailed and O's fans realized that they should thank Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette for not signing him.  That said, it does leave a hole in the heart of O's fans, as yet another offseason has passed without a major addition (so far at least).  This leaves O's fans with the following question:  What now?

To me, the O's have 2 likely directions to go (assuming we've learned anything from the past 14 years or so).  Let's tackle the better of the two options first.

Best Case Scenario

In 2012 some of the O's young pitchers show some growth and development, and give the team something to move forward from.  Young hitters continue to show annual improvement and dispel some of the critics they've had throughout their young careers.  Wieters has improved every year, and Jones has shown he's a premium talent in CF (especially if you don't put a lot of faith into his UZR ratings, which I don't).
Young guys like Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, Parker Bridwell, etc. continue to develop and are beginning to push their way into the conversation.

Heading into 2013 the O's peruse the Free Agent market and make attempts to sign impact players.  Cole Hamels and Zach Greinke are the most likely 'Aces' to be available as Matt Cain is almost assured a contract extension in San Francisco.  Perhaps Hamels and Greinke aren't cost-effective for the club and they begin to pursue potential trades.  Targets could include Tim Lincecum or Felix Hernandez, but would more likely be for younger, up-and-coming pitchers with a few years of control left.  Hitters are also an area where the team could improve, and targets could include David Wright (who could be a FA pending an option) or Joey Votto.

If the O's follow this plan to success, and some suggest this might be the path they take, it very well could follow the path that other teams like the Rangers have taken.  However, this is no slam dunk by any means, and things could go very very differently.

Worst Case Scenario

2012 is merely 2011 rehashed, and the O's young stars continue hinting that they'll never become the stars O's fans had hoped for.  Guys like Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta don't develop as the organization would like and the team realizes competing in the stacked AL East, even with an extra wildcard isn't likely.

Unfortunately for O's fans, stories like this will become all too common.  The organization, realizing the window to compete comes further in the future, will have to maximize its return on the young players and get a new bunch of prospects to give it another go.  This new group will feature Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy, and will likely include stars from trades involving guys like Matusz, Tillman, Jones, Wieters and Hardy.  This is obviously not what O's fans want to see, but it's possible, so you can't ignore it as a possibility.

What's Gonna Happen?

Honestly I think it will be a little bit of both.  Some of the young guys like Wieters and Jones have show that they are developing each year and getting better.  Others have struggled.  I think that the team can put itself in position to fight for a wild card spot in 2013 or 2014 if a few things break the right way and the front office continues to try to improve the player development department.  It's not going to be easy, but the O's have young impact players, and that's the best place to start.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“A Call to the ‘Pen”

As 2012 approaches it looks like the Orioles bullpen is pretty much set. Last year the O’s bullpen was not terrible, but not great either. Yes, they did have a 4.18 ERA, but some players did shine however, especially pitchers Jim Johnson and current Texas Ranger Koji Uehara. Johnson appeared in 69 games for the O’s last season and had the highest WAR for any pitcher in the bullpen of the O’s, 1.6, and he also finished with a 2.67 ERA. The latter had a 1.72 ERA with the O’s as well as having 11.87 K/9.

With 2012 come new goals and new faces. Like I mentioned earlier, Uehara is no longer on the Orioles after being traded on July 30th to Texas for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. Some new faces include Tsuyoshi Wada, Dana Eveland and Darren O’Day.

The Orioles have a lot of options for the bullpen with this season and these are who I predict to be the main contributors (in no particular order):

- Tsuyoshi Wada
- Brad Bergesen
- Tommy Hunter
- Darren O’Day
- Alfredo Simon
- Pedro Strop
- Kevin Gregg (pictured at the top)
- Jim Johnson

A few of the pitchers above do have some starting experience and will provide value as swingman, especially Wada, Bergesen, Hunter, and Simon.

Even though a lot of people predict Wada will be in the rotation, I expect him to be in the bullpen for the majority of the year. With the crossover from Japan to the Majors, I expect it to put a little wear-and-tear on Wada’s arm. He almost reminds me of Koji Uehara, who started off in the rotation, but ended up in the bullpen due to injury.

Relievers Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day will provide decent value for the O’s in the middle-to-late innings of the game, especially the 6th and 7th innings. Bill James predicts Strop to finish with 30 innings in 2012, with a 3.90 ERA and a 9.60 K/9 and a 4.5 BB/9. The key for Strop will be to limit his walks and to be able to control his off-speed pitches, such as his slider and his splitter. O’Day‘s main concern is staying healthy. In 2011, O’Day hit the Disabled List twice- the 60-Day DL with a torn labrum in his left hip, and the 15-Day DL once with right shoulder inflammation. His best two seasons came with the Rangers in 2009 and 2010, where he had 1.94 and 2.03 ERA. He also had 0.95 and 0.88 WHIP.

As for the back-end up the bullpen, Kevin Gregg should set-up Jim Johnson. Yes, Kevin Gregg is a so-called “proven closer”, but even though he’s saved over 20 games the past 5 years, he still does not have good numbers. As a closer, the lowest ERA he has had was 3.41 in ’08 with the Marlins. He also has spotty command at best. Last season he walked 6.03 hitters per nine.

Johnson should definitely be the closer for the Orioles. Like I said earlier, Johnson was arguably the Orioles best reliever last season and has chance to put up similar numbers this year. In an earlier post, Jeff mentioned why Johnson would be a better reliever than starter (here is the link:

All in all, the Orioles bullpen will most likely not drastically improve, but there is a chance for a few different pitchers to establish themselves as solid relievers for the Orioles in the next few years. Hopefully they will not have as much weight on them as they did last year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Looking Back: Jerry Hairston, Jr. vs. Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts is, to me anyway, the epitome of Orioles baseball.  Every year, I go into the season thinking B-Rob will firmly plant himself in the class of the 2B elite with guys like Kinsler, Cano and Utley.  However each year I'm left wanting more, feeling let down, and a little more disillusioned.  It was 7 years ago that the O's made the decision that would send two careers in opposite directions.

Click on the images for links to their respective Fangraphs pages.

Jerry Hairston Jr. was the de facto starting 2B for the Orioles for the 2004 season.  However, he had been platooned more often with each passing year with up and coming prospect Brian Roberts.  Roberts jumped into the starting role due to, ironically, an injury to Hairston.  Upon Hairston's return, Roberts had 'locked-up' the 2B job and Hairston was shuffled into RF to keep the younger Roberts in the lineup.  This was the beginning of the end for Hairston in Baltimore.

Prior to the 2005 season Hairston was sent, along with a few prospects, to the Cubs for Sammy Sosa.  While Sosa's time in Baltimore was forgettable, it's the careers of Roberts and Hairston that are interesting here.  Hairston has played for 10 teams since then, hitting just .255 over that time.  He has however, proved to be durable even through last year, his 14th in the majors.

Roberts on the other hand has hit .289 since being named Baltimore's franchise 2B, accumulating 1200 more ABs than Hairston in that time.  The difference however, is that Roberts has been injury prone the past few years.  Roberts' injuries include herniated discs, abdonimal strains and of course the concussion he struggles with today.  O's fans are still hopeful, but Roberts isn't likely to contribute significantly any time soon as he is still recovering from concussion symptoms.

At the end of the day though, the O's made the best decision at the time, and it isn't even close.  Hairston has accumulated 8.1 fWAR since 2005, with Roberts nearly matching that in 2005 alone.  Over the same time Roberts has posted 25 fWAR and been the face of the franchise.

I hope B-Rob gets back on the field and plays like his old self this season.  If not though, the O's and I still have no regrets.  Brian Roberts is modern Oriole baseball, in more ways than one.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prince Fielder Fallout from FanFest

Here's another guest post from Jonathan Foreman on the O's outlook on Prince Fielder from today's FanFest.  Thanks to Jonathan for another great post.

There was one consistent message from both times Manager Buck Showalter was asked about the chances of the Orioles signing Prince Fielder today at FanFest.  Showalter stated, “Never overlook an orchid when looking for a rose.”  This was followed by a glowing review of Chris Davis.  A player who Buck feels could hit twenty homeruns in addition to above average defense.

Is Chris Davis Buck’s choice for starting First Baseman next season or are we going to bid for Fielder?  The answer is different depending on which panel you attended. 

During the morning panel with season ticket holders, when Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette was asked about Prince Fielder, Duquette said “I don’t know about that.”  The answer was short, definitive, and seemed to indicate that the signing was simply not even being considered.

During the afternoon session with the general fan base Duquette seemed much more upbeat about Fielder when asked.  Duquette echoed that he had owner, Peter Angelos’s support and wanted to do whatever he could to make sure the team had a winning record next year.  Does that include signing Prince? “I don't know.” Duquette said, “But if we don't get him, we'll look for somebody like him and we'll certainly do our best to give you guys some stars players that you can identify with.”

Tough to tell which way Duquette is leaning, but I for one have been and continue to be optimistic the O’s will be competitive in the Fielder sweepstakes.

- Jonathan

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just A Few Notes

  • Jonathan Foreman and I will be attending FanFest tomorrow.  We'll likely write a 2 part follow up for those of you that couldn't attend the event.  I'm excited to attend the first official event representing the blog.

  • The Orioles signed a 17 year old player out of Australia.  He plays(ed?) softball primarily prior to signing with the O's.  Interesting.  Roch Kubatko has the details.  Additional info here.

  • Apparently the reports about the O's signing Armando Galarraga were premature.  There seems to be mutual interest but nothing is finalized.  We'll see if the O's can sign the pitcher famous for an almost perfect game (this was one of my favorite books when I was a kid).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Looking Ahead: The 2012 Orioles Rotation

With Spring Training less than a month away it looks like the Orioles have a lot of spots open in the rotation. There aren’t many surprise candidates for the rotation, but there are a few additions to the ballclub.

After Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles have rotation spots 2-5 up for grabs. The O’s have acquired a few pitchers during the off-season, including the international signings of LHP Tsuyoshi Wada and LHP Wei-Yin Chen. In addition to Wada and Chen, the Orioles traded for journeyman Dana Eveland.

Those aren’t the only candidates for rotation spots. The Orioles also have Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergeson, and Alfredo Simon.

Here is what I think the Orioles 2012 rotation will be:

Jeremy Guthrie - Guthrie has been the Orioles most consistent starter since 2008, making at least 30 starts each season. He also has won 10 games each year, except for last year, when he only won 9. Even though he has lead the American lead in losses in 2009 and 2011, he is the best the Orioles have to offer right now and he does have to go up against other number 1 pitchers, which hurts Guthrie’s numbers.

Wei-Yin Chen - Chen, who is only 26 years-old, is the one of the most recent signings by the Orioles. He has posted great numbers in the Japan Central League, with an average of a 2.48 ERA and an average WHIP of 1.06. I know that Chen’s numbers will not come close to the stats he posted in Japan, but it shouldn’t be a terrible season for Wei-Yin. It will be interesting to see how many innings he will be able to throw with the Orioles as he makes his transition to Major League Baseball.

Zach Britton - Britton was drafted by the Orioles in the 3rd round of the 2006 Draft out of Weatherford High School. He made his debut last season taking the rotation spot of Brian Matusz. In his Major League debut, Britton threw 6 innings of 1-run baseball and earned his first career victory. He had a great first-half to the 2011 season, posting an ERA under 4.00 until July 8th. Britton’s second-half ended up being miserable, as his ERA rose to 4.61 by the end of the season. Besides a rising ERA, he was also sent down the Minors to work on his mechanics. Britton’s sophomore season should be an interesting one to watch. Like Brian Matusz, Britton will have something to prove this year, trying to show that his 2011 first-half is what the real Zach Britton will pitch like. Britton will most likely have an innings cap for the 2012 season.

Jake Arrieta - Even though Arrieta is coming off a season-ending surgery, where he got a bone spur removed from his right elbow, I still expect him to compete for a spot at the end of the rotation. Arrieta did finish with 10 wins last season, despite his season ending in August. Last year he only posted a 5.05 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, which are much higher than league averages, I expect him to post better numbers this year, with an ERA below 5.00 and a WHIP below 1.40.

Brian Matusz - The 4th pick in the 1st round of the 2008 MLB Draft, Matusz was looked at as the potential ace of the Orioles staff. He definitely looked the part, dominating the Minor Leagues and making 8 starts for the Orioles in 2009. In 2010, Matusz struggled for the 1st half of the season and the month of July. However, once August hit he caught fire. Matusz went 7-1 from August 4th until the end of the season. 2011 looked like a bright future for Brian, but it went in the completely wrong direction for his development. Like Jeff said in an earlier article, Matusz was a little unlucky and injuries and a loss in velocity caused his numbers to decline greatly. I expect a bounce-back season from Matusz, hopefully the off-season will allow him to regain confidence and recover from any injuries.

Another legitimate contender for the 5th rotation spot is Tsuyoshi Wada. I view Wada as a Koji Uehara-type who will have a slighty difficult transition to the States.

However, all of these pitchers mentioned early have a chance to start a game in 2012. It is impossible to exactly predict injuries or break-out seasons. There may also be inconsistency, which Brian Matusz had last season. Another question is, will Jeremy Guthrie finally be traded this season?

This may be a tough year for the Orioles, with the 4 other AL East teams having very competitive teams and decent farm systems, but hopefully the Orioles younger pitchers will continue to develop so the O’s will have a formidable rotation in the future.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Looking Ahead: Wei-Yin Chen

First, a little background on the Orioles newest international acquisition.  Wei-Yin Chen is a 26 year old Taiwanese pitcher who has played in the NPB (Japan's equivalent to MLB) for his entire professional career.  Chen stands about 6 feet tall, and throws left-handed.  Chen's repertoire includes a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s and tops out around 96, a mid-80s slider, and a 'forkball' that he is said to be developing.  Odds are, Chen will likely work on that and possibly a changeup in Spring Training with the O's this year.  It should be noted that Chen's velocity dipped into the high 80s for much of last season, though Dan Duquette attributes this to an oblique strain that Chen pitched through.  Duquette noted that Chen's velocity was back up in the NPB playoffs and that he is not concerned.
Chen pitching for the Chunichi Dragons in 2011

Chen's past 4 seasons give an idea of his ability to limit baserunners, posting a WHIP of 1.063 over that time.  For comparison, a 1.063 WHIP landed Doug Fister 10th in MLB last season (granted, NPB is not the same level of competition).  Additionally, over those 4 seasons, Chen pitched to a 2.48 ERA, comparable to Daisuke Matsuzaka, and only half a run worse than Yu Darvish.

It was kind of surprising that interest in Chen was limited compared to past NPB free agents.  After all, he's 26, left-handed and has the potential to throw a mid 90s fastball.  Regardless, the O's jumped on the opportunity, so their gain.

I'm going to take a stab at projecting Chen's production in the MLB this year.  Take it with a grain of salt or two, as I have never seen Chen pitch in person, nor am I certain he will regain his velocity.  That said:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Looking for DH Options...

With Luke Scott signing with the Rays, the Orioles lost a DH option and are still looking for more options at designated hitter. There aren’t a ton of options out on the market right now, but I believe there are a few players that can fill the void.

With that said, here are a few players (in no particular order) that would be possible DH for the Orioles next season:

1. Carlos Pena - In 2011, Pena hit close to the Mendoza line, with a .225 average, but he did hit 28 Home runs with 80 Runs batted in. Pena has very good power and is also an above-average fielder. That would be the only issue, since he would probably want to play first base every day. In that case, Pena could also play some first with the O’s. In the end, I think he would probably cost too much and would not fit the Orioles’ current budget.

2. Johnny Damon- Yes, I know Damon is 38. He is definitely up there in age but he still could have a decent year with the Orioles. Damon hit a mediocre .261 with 16 Home runs and 73 Runs batted in last season. Off the field Damon is a fan-favorite. Damon could fill a gap for the 2012 season for the Orioles and he wouldn’t be terribly expensive.

3. Lastly, Manny Ramirez – Ramirez recently took batting practice for teams and Buck Showalter and O’s Director of International recruiting Fred Ferreira was there. Ramirez has been a cancer in every clubhouse he has been in. We really don’t know what Manny has left though, but I do know that fans would come out to see him play and there is a possibility he could have a decent season. Like Damon, he could provide value as a one-year DH for the Orioles.

Despite all of these options, I’m not sure if the Orioles would be willing to spend the money or take a gamble on any of these players. The Orioles will most likely look in-house for a DH. However, I believe we could take a chance on possibly one of these players.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The New CBA's impact on the O's and Potential Trades.

The details of MLB's new CBA are incredibly complex, and as a result, incredibly confusing.  However, there are two small changes that could play in the favor of the Orioles.  First, Bud Selig is expanding the playoffs to include two more wild card teams, one from each league.  This will either occur in 2012 or 2013, but it is definitely in the works as we speak.  The second is the revision of the free agent compensation system.

The new free agent compensation system does away with Type A and B free agents, and simply makes it so that teams must give an offer equal to the average made by the top 125 players from the previous season if they want to be compensated.  A more detailed account of the process can be found at

So what does this mean for the Orioles?  Well, adding wild card teams means more teams will "be in the hunt" for a playoff spot come the trade deadline.  This results in more teams buying, and fewer selling.  The teams that are selling however, will have more teams to offer their players to, and less competition amongs other sellers.  This inherently increases their leverage.

Additionally, the new compensation system encourages teams to trade away players unless they plan on paying them very well.  According to USAToday's salary database and a little math, the figure for 2011 would have been:


This means that a team would have to guarantee a player over $12 million in order to have a chance at compensation.  This means only the best players will stay put, and all other will be trade candidates.

This new system gives the Orioles, who likely will not be fighting for a playoff spot in 2012 or 2013 a chance to take offers for their trade-able assets.  The O's are in a position to ask for a lot for their players because they have much more leverage than most teams.  We might be seeing some Erik Bedard-esque trades in the coming years.

*** it should be noted that trading as a whole will be down because of these 2 new rules.  More contenders means less players to be traded.  This is part of what increases the leverage of the selling teams at the deadline.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Some Orioles Updates

The Orioles have made a few moves over the past few weeks...

- Not the O’s biggest move, but they agreed to a 1-year-deal, worth $1.5MM with OF Endy Chavez. Also, Chavez (pictured above) can earn up to $500K in bonuses. He will be used either in a platoon with LF Nolan Reimold or will backup CF Adam Jones.

- On December 14th, the O’s signed Japanese starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada agreed to a two-year-deal, worth $8.15MM with club option for 2014, where he would earn $5MM.

- On December 12th, the O’s non-tendered OF/DH Luke Scott, RHP Willie Eyre, and LHP Jo-Jo Reyes. Eyre was designated for assignment a week earlier. However, none of these non-tenders were surprising.

- On December 8th, The Orioles traded minor leaguers to the Los Angeles Dodgers for LHP Dana Eveland. . He is going to be able to compete for a rotation spot with the O’s.

Some Rumors…

- OF Coco Crisp is reportedly close to signing with a team, but it has not yet been revealed who the team is. The Orioles have been talking to him the past few days and are interested in signing him. We should find out who Crisp signs with in the next few days.

- A few weeks ago, FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Braves and the Orioles had a discussion about Braves SP Jair Jurrjens and IF/OF Martin Prado. However, the Braves would never be expected to trade both of them in same deal. It is also reported that GM Dan Duquette asked for two of the Braves top pitching prospects as well.

- After agreeing to terms with SP Tsuyoshi Wada, it was reported that the O’s are interested in another Japanese SP Wei-Yin Chen. Chen is only 26-years-old and will also cost more than Wada. Dan Duquette has been very active in the international market and is also apparently interested in starter Hishashi Iwakuma.

- Besides the international starters, the O’s seem to be interested in SP Joe Saunders. Saunders was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks this off-season and is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal.

- When it comes to current Orioles Jim Johnson and Brad Bergesen, Dan Duquette said that Buck Showalter will decide in the spring if they will be a part of the rotation or the bullpen. However, MASN writer Roch Kubatko believes he could end up being the O’s closer in 2012.

- The O’s appear to be monitoring the market for Prince Fielder, but they should not be considered a favorite to land him. It is also reported that the Orioles will not go over 8-years for Fielder.

More updates will come as the off-season comes to a close...