Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prospect List Review, Part 3

This is the third and final portion of analysis on the comparison I've done for the three major prospect lists.  I should mention that some other sites have done interesting work compiling data similar to this, so I highly recommend you search that out if this stuff tickles your fancy.

The first two portions can be found here, and will be helpful to understanding the analysis in this post:

Post 1 - 2007

Post 2 - 2008

Once again, the data can be found here (or in excel format by e-mailing us):

Prospect List Review

Anyway, interesting notes about the 2009 prospect list data.  The list contains 130 players, 82 of which have produced a positive WAR to this point in their careers.  However, due to the more recent time frame that this data covers, the average WAR is only 1.91.  Matt LaPorta brings up the rear posting a -1.4 figure, and Andrew McCutchen paces the field producing 12.9 WAR to this point.  So how did the data break down?

The average differences are again in the 30s, with Baseball America leading at 32.30 and Goldstein coming in last at 37.25.  Keith Law, just as in 2008, splits the difference with an average difference between WAR ranking and his list of 34.21.  The 'MISSES' data shows yet another similar story with the 3 lists coming in the same order, ranging from BA's 33% to Goldstein's 42% with Law coming in at 38%.

It starts getting interesting though when you look at the number of times each analyst was closest to the actual rankings in their predictions.  Here Law paces the field at 42.31%, while BA and Goldstein finished with 41.54% and 33.08% respectively.  This is certainly interesting as it is the first time anyone has bested Baseball America's team of analysts in any of the categories.  Breaking it down even further, one can determine that Law simply predicted more players that produced positive WAR as all 3 analysts were similarly accurate (or inaccurate) in predicting which players wouldn't produce.  It should be noted that the difference between Law and BA here is only 1 prospect, so any arguments about the difference being negligible would be valid as well.

In summary we can determine a few things about the overall process of creating a prospect list.  Of the 383 prospects (including repeats) named by each of the sources, 258 or 67.4% have produced a positive WAR to this point in their careers.  That's actually pretty impressive considering the uncertain nature of developing prospects and all the issues I mentioned in the first post of this series.

Additionally, it seems that having more information is better.  Baseball America has a team of evaluators that determine their top 100 through individual ranking, discussion and voting.  Similarly, Keith Law uses his personal evaluations as well as opinions of scouts and executives he trusts around the game.  These approaches seem to give a more fitting view of a prospect, possibly due to The Wisdom of Crowds.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions, as well as any takes you had on the data or process.  Let me know in the comments section.  I know there is a lot more to gain from using this data, not to mention much more data to gather.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Prospect List Review, Part 2

Yesterday we started a series reviewing the prospect lists from Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law of ESPN.  For a primer on the language and necessary background, I suggest you read the post from yesterday describing the research.

The data can be found here:

Prospect List Comparison

You can also send us an e-mail at WarehouseWorthy@Gmail.com if you would like a downloadable excel version of the data.

With all that out of the way, let's get on to 2008.

2008 introduces Keith Law's list into the mix resulting in a much larger data set than we had in 2007.  On the other hand, each year we move forward the restrictions of age and injury come into play more significantly.  The players in each successive year are younger and as a result have less major league experience than the previous year's lists.  This explains the 2.5 WAR drop over the average of the two data sets.  This can also be seen through the 52 prospects that either have produced 0 WAR or posted a negative figure to this point in their careers.

Looking at the cumulative data one might notice that once again BA has produced the 'best' list featuring the fewest misses and the largest number of times closest to a prospects actual ranking.  Goldstein once again falls behind with Keith Law falling right between the two.  These figures also hold up when considering the average difference between a prospects actual ranking and their ranking according to each of the 3 sources.  These figures on the whole went up since 2007 as a result of a larger sample.  By adding in a third list, each forecasters' list will inevitably have more guys ranked 125 thus raising the average in the difference column.

One other interesting point to note about 2008 is that all 3 sources were equally good at avoiding 'busts'.  Keith Law lead the group by being the closest at predicting players that have produced 0 WAR or less at 50%.  Kevin Goldstein came in at 48% and BA wrapped up the group at 46%.

Let us know anything you find interesting by mentioning them in the comments.

Tomorrow we'll wrap up this series by looking at 2009.

Part 1           Part 3

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prospect List Review, Part 1

This particular post was inspired by this post and the subsequent discussion from MLBTradeRumors.Com.  Every year, many fans look forward to the top prospects lists to help them understand who the future of their favorite MLB club might be.  This can also cause a lot of confusion though, as the 3 main sources often differ in their opinions on the players.  The 3 main prospect lists can be found here:

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus

Baseball America's Top 100

Keith Law of ESPN

What I've done is go back and look at the top 100 lists from each of these sources from 2007 through 2009. I then used WAR as a measure of MLB success or lack thereof to determine if each source 'hit' or 'missed' on a particular prospect.  However, before getting into the data there are several limitations to doing such objective analysis of these prospect lists.

The first limitation is prospect age.  Some prospects on this list can not be listed as a failed prospect merely because of their career performance thus far.  For example, Domonic Brown, listed on both BA and Keith Law's top 100 lists for 2009 has produced -0.6 WAR thus far in his career.  However, he is by no means a failed prospect.

Injury is another huge limitation to evaluating these lists.  A player might be a top prospect until an injury limits them or even ruins their career entirely.

Prospect mismanagement could also be a huge issue for evaluating a player.  One might argue that this could be the case with Domonic Brown, but it is a factor that is prevalent across baseball.  A player may have immense upside, but his future is heavily dependent on the team for which he plays.

Finally, one must consider limitations in using this analysis to interpret future lists.  One factor is that methodologies change over time.  It is reasonable to believe that in evaluating each crop of prospects each source weighs performance and scouting, as well as upside and proximity to the majors differently.

Those are just a few of the limitations, and there are likely countless more.  When using this data to come to a conclusion one must consider what outside forces are impacting the data, and understand how those impacts influence the interpretation.

That said, let's take a look at 2007.

Most of the data is pretty self explanatory.  I should mention that a 'MISS' is defined as:

A prospect is on a top 100 list but has failed to provide a positive career WAR to this point.  It could also mean that one of the other lists named a player that produced a positive WAR.  For example, Brandon Wood is a 'MISS' for both BA and Kevin Goldstein as both men had him on their top 100, but he has produced negative WAR thus far.  An example of the other type of 'MISS' would be Elvis Andrus, who was number 65 on BA's list, but went unmentioned by Kevin Goldstein.  To this point in his career Andrus has accumulated 10.1 WAR.

Additionally, the 'Closest' column lists the source that most closely predicted a prospect's performance.  For example, if a prospect ranked 8th in WAR, the list that had him closest to 8th would be named the closest.  For the 'DIFF' columns then allow you to determine just how close their predictions were.  When a prospect was not ranked on a list it was given a default value of 125, resulting in differences greater than 100.

Looking at 2007 from an objective point of view, one would likely come to the conclusion that Baseball America was more accurate overall.  Baseball America missed on only 26% of prospects compared to Goldstein's 32%.  Similarly, Baseball America was the closest to the prospects actual WAR ranking an impressive 60% of the time.  Again, this data could be misleading for a variety of reasons, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Tomorrow I will post Part 2 and discuss 2008.  If you would like the data in excel format (which is significantly more usable/pretty) send an e-mail to WarehouseWorthy@Gmail.com.

Part 2        Part 3

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Best Time of Year

Baseball season is back.  After a long offseason where there were no walk-off hits or near no-hitters (unless you count Vlad's Free Agency hopes) it's finally time for players to report to spring training.  O's pitchers have been in Sarasota for a few days, and the position players begin to slowly arrive and warm up for the regular season.  Following the slowest time of the year baseball season, and baseball reporting is in full swing.

This however leaves the fans with a huge problem.  What do we take out of spring training?

Do spring training stats really matter?  Any O's fan should know the answer to this, at least from experience last season.  Jake Fox hit 7 HRs last spring, good for the major league lead.  This however did not guarantee him a spot on the team, though he did make the cut.  He did not end the season with the O's though after hitting just .246/.313/.443 and putting up a negative WAR (-0.1).  This piece by Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs gives even more statistical anecdotes to prove that statistics this time of year don't matter a whole heck of a lot.

Position battles are a crucial part of spring training though, right?  Yes and no.  Some players are definitely fighting for a spot on the 25 man roster.  Others, not so much.  Guys like Adam Jones know their role and wouldn't get benched unless he showed up 50 pounds overweight (which he didn't).  Jai Miller and Endy Chavez on the other hand are fighting for the 4th OF spot, and could maybe fight for a starting spot with Nolan Reimold, though it's highly unlikely.  These battles come down more to intangible factors though, rather than stats for aforementioned reasons.

Now that the season is officially on the horizon, baseball reporting has become seemingly omnipresent.  Some of the reports add value to the discussion and keep fans in the loop.  Others not so much.  Fans should take care to not read too far into the reports coming out of spring training while still getting their information.
Dylan Bundy meeting Scott McGregor

The three best functions of spring training, in my estimation, are this:

1. Getting players ready for the regular season and/or their minor league assignments.

2. Giving coaches, FO staff, etc. the opportunity to evaluate, critique and provide instruction to players.

3. Giving young players the experience of working with the major league squad and getting acclimated to the pro game.

This is the time of year we've all been waiting for.  Spring training schedule for the O's can be found here.

Enjoy the return of baseball everyone.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Predicting a Breakout Season for Chris Davis

For the first time in a long time, Chris Davis will actually get an opportunity to play every day without worrying about being benched or sent down.

Eduardo A. Encina from the Baltimore Sun reported last week that Manager Buck Showalter said he wanted Davis to play first base and that Davis shouldn’t be concerned about his starting spot. (Here is the link: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-02-09/sports/bal-some-thursday-morning-thoughts-20120209_1_orioles-executive-vice-president-jonathan-schoop-nick-markakis)

With that said, is it possible for Chris Davis to finally have a full season in the Majors where he gets an opportunity to breakout?

Some people may say he had a breakout season in 2008, when he played 80 games for the Rangers.
He originally started out in Double-A for Texas but was moved up to Triple-A after 46 games. On June 26th he was finally moved up to the Major league club. In 80 games, he finished with a .285 average, 17 home runs, and 55 runs batted in.

2009 was supposed to result in similar numbers, but strikeouts became an even bigger issue for Davis. Compared to 2008’s strikeout percentage of 27.8%, his percentage moved up to 35.8%.
He managed to still hit 21 home runs in 113 games, but his averaged decreased significantly to just .238.
In 2010, Davis spent the majority of the season in Triple-A where he played in 103 games and finished with an average of .327, 14 home runs, and 80 runs batted in. However, in 45 games with the Rangers, he finished with an average of .192, only 1 home run, 4 runs batted in.

He still managed to struggle with striking out, finishing with a percentage of 29.4%.

In 2011, he played 48 games in Triple-A and 28 with the Rangers.
On July 30th he was traded to the Orioles along with RHP Tommy Hunter for RHP Koji Uehara.

In 31 games with the Orioles last year he was able to hit .276, but only hit 2 home runs, and only drove in 13 runs.

Unfortunately, he had a small tear in his shoulder on August 16, 2011 and played the final month of the season recovering from the injury.

So what really are the chances he can put together a solid major league season?

Davis finally has an opportunity to play a whole major league season this year. But over the past few years there have been many whispers that he could be your prototypical “AAAA Player”.

Some people have been able to shed this label (Nelson Cruz), however some people have been less fortunate (Dallas McPherson?).  The obvious key for Davis is to limit his strikeout percentage and increase his on-base percentage, by increasing his walk rate.  Other issues for Davis are hitting off-speed pitches and hitting left-handed pitching.

In the end if Davis is able to translate his stats from the minors to the majors then fans could expect a decent season from him.  With Spring Training coming up, Davis will have a chance to continue to improve and with a full season in the majors Davis has a chance to reach his full potential.

With that said: nothing is ever guaranteed.  Hopefully Chris can figure it out and be able to shine and be a potential bright spot in possibly another dark year for the O’s.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Prospects, Prospects, Prospects

Everyone knows the most important thing in real estate is location, location, location.  Well, the most important thing in baseball is often the prospects.  There is little debate over the best way to build a baseball team these days.  Prospects that come up through the system to the major leagues are cost-controlled and often provide teams with surplus production.  This is the type of production discussed in Michael Lewis' Moneyball, as the A's capitalized on performance during a player's cheapest years.  Consider that last season Matt Wieters provided the O's with $19.2 million dollars worth of production last season despite making only $452,250.

That said, the future of the Orioles sits in the minor leagues.  Keith Law ranked the Orioles right in the middle of the pack in terms of their minor league situation stating:

I see two likely superstars, one more potential superstar with lower probability … and after about seven or eight names, it goes off a cliff.
Manny Machado at the Futures Game

Those likely superstars are Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado, and represent the future of the organization.  Jonathan Schoop is another bright spot in the organization, signed out of Curacao when he was 16.  Schoop has played SS, 2B and 3B in his short time in the minors.  O's fans can begin to imagine a potential double play tandem or perhaps a left side of the infield headlined by Schoop and Machado in the future.

Other young guns to look out for are Nicky Delmonico and Jason Esposito from the O's 2011 draft.  Delmonico has a higher upside and Esposito a more likely prospect to develop (which makes sense given that they were drafted out of high school and college respectively).
Dylan Bundy struck out 158 batters in 71 IP

Some pitchers to look out for are Dylan Bundy's brother Bobby, as well as Parker Bridwell.  Both guys made huge strides last season, and could enter the rotation discussion as early as September.  The future for the Orioles will likely rest in the team's ability to continue adding talent to the system, and developing it once it's there.  There's definitely some promise, but the system still has room to grow.

For more on the Orioles prospects, check out our page: Baby Birds.

Updates to the Site

Just a few updates to the site today:

Projected Starting 9

Projected Rotation and Bullpen

Baby Birds

Also, look out for a post later today on the best prospects in the O's minor league system.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Reaction to the Jeremy Guthrie Trade

Today Jeremy Guthrie was finally traded. There had been rumors and speculation of Guthrie being dealt the past few years.

Earlier this off-season there was speculation that the Rockies were interested in Guthrie, but it never moved past the point of speculation.

Guthrie was traded to the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jason Hammel (pictured above) and RHP Matt Lindstrom. I know most Orioles fans are probably upset that the most reliable pitcher on the team was finally traded. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad deal for the Orioles.

Yes, some fans probably think that the O’s could’ve gotten more for Guthrie, but at GM Dan Duquette’s Press Conference today he was quoted as saying that “We didn’t have any offers of young prospects for Jeremy.”

What this means is that the Orioles took the best deal they could possibly get.

With Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom we get a back-end of the rotation starter and an average to above-average setup man.

Hammel originally started off in the AL East, pitching three years for the Tampa Bay Rays. However, with Tampa having a logjam in their rotation, Hammel became expendable and was flipped to the Colorado Rockies.

In 2009, Hammel finally got a chance to start, appearing in 34 games, and making 30 starts. He finished 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. The next season he had similar numbers, posting a 10-9 record, with an extreme increase in ERA to 4.81 and a 1.39 WHIP.

In 2011 his numbers took a turn for the worse. He finished 7-13 with 4.76 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Part of the reason for these poor numbers was because of his increase in walks- going from 47 in 2010 to 68 in 2011, and because of a decreasing number of strikeouts- going from 141 in 2010 to just 94 in 2011. Another issue for Hammel is that he is prone to giving up home runs, despite being a “groundball pitcher”: 36 have come in Coors Field however.

Hammel will fill in the back-end of the rotation for the Orioles. Despite the move out of Coors Field, it will still be difficult for him to produce mediocre results, especially being in the AL East. Hammel will definitely have a chance to eat a lot of innings for the Orioles though. I expect him to have an ERA of around 4.70 and a WHIP of about 1.40- based on his career averages. Even though he has some familiarity with the AL East, he still will have an adjustment period based on the fact that he will be expected to pitch a lot of innings for the O’s. His home run rate will also still likely be high, somewhere around 1.20 HR/9 is a reasonable projection. I also expect him to still have a low strikeout rate, somewhere around 6.00 K/9, and walk rate of about 3.10 BB/9.

With Matt Lindstrom we get a solid setup man who also has some closing experience. Lindstrom made his debut in 2007 with the Florida Marlins, posting a 3.09 ERA and an 8.03 K/9. After 2007, he had an increasing ERA each year and a decreasing K/9 to about 7.00 K/9. In 2011, In December of 2010, Lindstrom was traded to the Rockies and officially become their setup man. In 2011, he posted very solid numbers- finishing with 3.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Despite a decrease in his K/9 to 6.0, his BB/9 fell to 2.3.

With that said, Lindstrom has a chance to be a very reliable bullpen piece for the O’s this season. He should be able to fill-in as the setup man for Jim Johnson and also has a possibility of taking some save opportunities in the case of injury of ineffectiveness. His numbers should rise from last year though, based on the fact that he has always pitched in the NL and that the AL East can sometimes really hurt pitcher’s numbers. An ERA of around 3.40-3.50 is very reasonable, with a WHIP of about 1.30. If he can keep his walks down, then he should be able to survive the season with average numbers.

In the end, the Orioles lose their most reliable pitcher and gain a pitcher who can fit in the back of the rotation and a solid setup man. Overall, I think the Orioles got the best part of the deal. It should be interesting to see who replaces Guthrie as the “number 1” in the rotation, but anyone in the rotation has a chance. Hammel will be under team control for the next few years, unlike Guthrie, who is a Free Agent after the 2012 Season. With the addition of Lindstrom, the bullpen has become slightly stronger and it gives the Orioles a more reliable setup man than Kevin Gregg.

With Spring Training coming, the Orioles may finally be done with making newsworthy transactions. But with new GM Dan Duquette, he could have a few more moves going on behind the scenes.