Saturday, June 30, 2012

Orioles Trade Lino, Simon for Thome

Warning: Eutaw Street-goers beware.

The Trade

The O's have sent two minor leaguers to the Phillies for Jim Thome, who will likely DH for the club going forward.  The minor leaguers in question are RHP Kyle Simon and C Gabriel Lino.  Simon was a 4th round pick who has been putting up decent numbers at Frederick: 3.96 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 14 starts.  Lino is a 19 year old prospect who has the potential to be plus defensively behind the plate and could hit for big power.  Question mark on Lino is his ability to hit enough to get to that power according to Kevin Goldstein.


Lino isn't lighting the world on fire, but has shown flashes of the potential he has at Delmarva this season.  The real question for me is one of value.  What does Thome give you that Betemit, Reynolds and Johnson don't?  Thome just isn't a huge upgrade for the O's because he represents a slightly better version of a guy we already have 3 of.

So the value for us is marginal, and the value for the Phils is pretty solid.  Thome likely wouldn't start at 1B so they're selling high on a guy who is raking as a DH in interleague play.  The O's give up Simon, a decent relief prospect and Lino.  My big issue here is Lino, as he's a high upside guy.  Granted, he isn't likely to reach that upside, but he's an interesting prospect nonetheless.

In the moment this seems like an overpay for a guy that likely won't help the O's win all that many more games this season.  That said, this is hardly the end of the world, and we could certainly use some more pop in the middle of our lineup.  At the end of the day, it's really not a big deal either way. I just think that if the O's are going to be sending prospects elsewhere they should be focusing on guys who could be bigger upgrades to the roster.

As with any trade, time will tell. Would love to hear your thoughts on the move in the comments.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Buck Showalter: Tactical Genius?

Jim Johnson's Dominance

Let's start this conversation by saying that this is going to be one of those stat-heavy posts.  In this case we'll be utilizing the win probability data from fangraphs, which you can find here.  The first point I'd like to note is that according to Win Probability Added, Jim Johnson is the best pitcher in baseball this season with a fairly sizable lead over Justin Verlander.  Here's an explanation of WPA if you're not familiar with the stat.  Not necessarily that important, just something interesting to think about as we look at the bullpen usage more in depth.

Buck Showalter's Bullpen Usage

The stat I really want to focus on is gmLI which basically gives an indication of how intense the situation is when the pitcher enters the game.  Using the same page from before we can sort the pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings in MLB by gmLI.  If you want more info on Leverage Indices and how they work, click on the link in the first sentence of this section.

As you can see, Jim Johnson is tied for 9th in MLB with an average leverage index of 1.79 for the games he enters.  As stated in the fangraphs explanation, anything above 1 is an average leverage appearance, so that figure shows that Buck is using his best pitcher in the most critical situations.  Johnson's 1.79 leverage index leads the Orioles, but looking at the rest of the staff gives more insight into how Buck has used the bullpen.

If we sort out the Orioles' pitchers we can look at the average leverage index when each guy enters the game, and get an idea of who pitches in the highest leverage and lowest leverage appearances.  Johnson paces the O's with a gmLI of 1.79, followed by Strop at 1.71.  These two guys have pitched in the most crucial situations, and their performances have backed up Buck's aggressive usage.

The O's also have a bunch of pitchers between average leverage at 1.00 and 1.16, slightly above average.  From most to least these guys are: Ayala, Lindstrom, O'Day and Patton.  All of these guys have provided quality innings out of the bullpen, though these mainly come earlier in games which might play a role in their lower gmLIs.  At the opposite end of the spectrum Kevin Gregg and Dana Eveland bring up the rear with 0.81 and 0.60 gmLIs.  These are almost certainly a function of their usage, as Gregg rarely pitches in close games and Eveland is the de facto long-man coming in when a starter exits early.

What Does It Mean?

Well to assess the seasons these guys have had, we'll use a stat called ERA-.  Basically ERA- adjusts a pitchers ERA for their league, home park, etc.  For this particular stat a score of 100 would be league average, and the lower your number is the better.  Here are the ERA- stats (among other stats) for the O's pitchers:

Johnson, Lindstrom and Strop have absurd ERA- stats of 29, 31 and 34 respectively, showing that they've been absurdly better than league average to this point.  O'Day and Ayala both also have scores below 50.  This presents an opportunity for Buck to perhaps spread out some of the high leverage situations among these guys as well as they've shown the capability to handle it.  Will they be this good for the whole season?  Probably not.  What we have, and can hope to continue to see is that Buck using his pitchers well. I'm thinking of Buck putting Jim Johnson out there in tie games against the Phils and Yankees earlier this season rather than saving him for the "traditional save chances".

Buck has used the bullpen really well so far this season despite them having to throw a lot of innings.  That said, he needs to continue to manage the bullpen well to put guys in positions to succeed.  Using Johnson as he has allows him to utilize his best pitchers in the most critical situations - giving the O's the best chance to win.  Buck's decision on the lineup and who starts where might be questionable, but his usage of the pitching staff has been really solid so far.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who in the world is Steve Pearce?

With the injury bug hitting the Orioles outfield they have had to try different players in different positions. One of them is Steve Pearce.

Pearce was acquired by the Orioles on June 2nd in a deal with the New York Yankees. Pearce was absolutely crushing in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, hitting .321 with 11 home runs and an OBP of .422.

For fans that follow baseball really closely Pearce may be a familiar name.

Pearce was drafted in the 8th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2005 MLB Draft after attending the University of South Carolina and leading the team in average, home runs, and runs batted in.
Pearce never had a hard time hitting in the minors. However, his big year came in 2007 when he was named Minor League Player of the Year and he was also a Futures Game Selection. 

Throughout three levels Pearce hit .333 with 31 home runs and 113 runs batted in. On September 1st the Pirates called Pearce up and he played 23 games for them in September.

In 2008 Pearce was called up on several different occasions and in 2009 he failed to make the Opening Day roster but he got his chance when the Pirates traded their starting first baseman Adam Laroche. Pearce failed to impress however.

In 2011 Pearce finally the Pirates Opening Day roster but only hit .202 in 50 games.

Pearce’s time with the Pirates finally came to an end and he signed with the Minnesota Twins. However, the Twins released him at the end of Spring Training and he was immediately scooped up by the Yankees.

Once the O’s traded for Pearce, he immediately was inserted into the line-up the next day. Pearce has had a very solid start with the Orioles, hitting a cool .324 in 10 games, to go along with 1 home run and 9 runs batted in.

Don’t get too crazy though Orioles fans, Pearce has yet to prove it in the major leagues and is considered a “Quad-A” player, which is someone who can hit in the minor leagues but can’t hit in the major leagues.

However, Orioles fans should hope Steve Pearce can be a solid fill-in while the Orioles wait for Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold to return from injury.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baltimore Orioles: Trade Deadline Buyers?


Dave Cameron of Fangraphs wrote a piece yesterday breaking down every MLB as either potential buyers, sellers or holders at this year's trade deadline.  He broke down the buyers into two groups: 'likely buyers' and 'buyers' so separate out those firmly entrenched in picking up talent from those who might buy, but might not.

Cameron listed the Orioles as 'likely holders' at the deadline suggesting that despite playing over their heads to this point, they could hope to hold on to veterans with the outside shot at a second wild card spot.  Cameron suggests that teams like the Orioles, Mets or Pirates could benefit greatly from a rare playoff appearance with a 're-energized fanbase'.

Are The O's Buyers?

Many fans certainly want the O's to be buyers at the deadline.  Over the past month or so fans have been clamoring for the home team to go look for a third baseman, starting pitch depth, even an ace to anchor our rotation.  Apparently Dan Duquette said some thing along the lines of, "If we're in it in July we'll be in it to win it. We're out right now taking stock of our minor league system to see what we have to offer teams" prior to the game on Friday June, 8th.  Does this mean the O's are looking to trade?  Who can we get?  Is Garza up for trade?  These, and hundreds of other questions undoubtedly start surfacing looking for ways to push the Orioles into contention.

I don't know what Dan Duquette and the baseball operations team in the warehouse are thinking with regards to trade targets.  If you want an answer for that, try calling up the executive offices and ask the operator to speak to Dan himself.

What I can tell you is what I would do if I were GM - what I think the Orioles should do.

What We Should Do

Recent success in MLB is predicated on developing and bringing up a stream of talented young players that can fill in holes left by veterans.  We're not talking about the Yankees here, the Orioles are not the Yankees and likely never will be.  What the Orioles can be is a middle ground between the Rays and Red Sox.  The model used by Tampa, Texas and Boston to a lesser degree has proven to be successful time and time again.

What exactly is that model you ask?  Fill the farm system with talent, build up a strong core on your roster, and then add pieces to fill in holes as necessary.  This does not require, nor does it preclude you from making splashy free agent signings.  A perfect example is Texas, the best team in baseball the past 2 seasons despite missing out on winning rings.  Texas built up a core of Hamilton, Andrus, Kinsler, Young, Cruz etc by acquiring talent and letting it develop.  Then, when the team was ready to compete they went out and brought in Adrian Beltre to hold down 3B.

The Orioles are starting down this path with promising young players surrounding established young veterans like Wieters and Jones.  The future of Machado, Schoop and Bundy gives the Orioles a core to build around and add to.  This should be the basis of the team going forward.

So Let's Trade For Our Core!

Not so fast.  Trading, especially in a seller's market, will be expensive as Cameron points out.  It will take 2 or 3 top prospects to get a guy like Matt Garza.  Sure, maybe acquiring a guy like him puts us in the playoffs this season, but we won't have guys to call up a year or two from now to add on to our roster.  We'd be trading in long-term sustainable success for one potential playoff appearance.

I know Oriole fans have been waiting way too long for a playoff run.  I know that being patient is hard and knowing we could have made the playoffs if we just made one move is worse.  The fact of the matter is that baseball is getting younger, and the Orioles can't afford to be short-sighted and accept another long stretch of losing for one shot at the postseason.

It's been a long and arduous journey as an Oriole fan, but there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel.  Rather than sprinting to the light and having to stop just outside the exit of the tunnel let's pace ourselves so we can keep running once we break through.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mike Trout. That Is All


Occasionally on Warehouse Worthy we like to write about non-orioles so long as we can, at least tangentially, connect them back to the local ball club.  Here is that tangent:

Last summer I went to an O's game and sat in some of my favorite seats - out in section 94 off Eutaw Street.  I ended up sitting right in front of and behind a group of folks that made the long trip from Millville, NJ.  These people happened to be friends and family of the 19-year old Mike Trout who was playing on the East Coast, allowing everyone from his town to head down to the Yard to see him play.  It should be mentioned that all the people I met were awesome, and seemed like genuinely great people.  Ever since, I've kept an eye on the career of super-prospect Mike Trout.

Mike Trout - Super Prospect

Trout has been at the top of many scouting lists, and his name has obviously been tied to fellow super-prospect Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.  Not only do I prefer Trout to Harper, Trout has out-performed Harper so far this season (although he is a bit older).

Trout's triple slash this season is: .340/.398/.544 and he's posted 2.6 fWAR in just 37 games.  Over the course of an entire season, that kind of production would translate to an fWAR of 11.4.  For those of you keeping score at home, that would be the 8th highest fWAR since 1950.  The guys ahead of him?  Barry Bonds (3x), Mickey Mantle (2x), Yastrzemski and Mays.  That's not bad company to be in.

Since May 9th Trout has failed to reach base just 4 times - the same number of times he's homered over that same span.  Granted, Trout's .395 BABIP suggests he might come down to Earth a bit, as he's been fairly lucky so far in that regard.  However, he's also only 20 and will likely develop more power as he grows and matures.

Mike Trout is truly a phenomenal talent, and one that any baseball fan can enjoy watching play.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

2012 MLB Draft - If I Were a GM

The 2012 Draft

The 2012 MLB Draft (well the first round at least) is scheduled to begin this Monday night, and fans across the country are waiting to see just who their favorite team will pick.  The Orioles have the 4th overall pick, just as they did last year in selecting Dylan Bundy from Owasso, OK.  Bundy has been, well, a revelation.  Fans can debate until their faces are blue about who they think the team will take, but my question is this - what would you do if you were the GM?

The Road to 2011

It all started in the summer following the 2010 draft as I began to scan the prep and college landscape for potential targets in the first round in 2011.  Typically this involved watching a lot of college baseball in the CWS and scouring sites like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus to see guys putting up good numbers as underclassmen.  For about 6-9 months my pick was set.  I hoped and prayed that the 3B from Rice named Anthony Rendon would fall to the O's at 4.  He put up crazy numbers, had a good glove, and seemed like the future at 3B for the Orioles.  Then he got hurt... a lot.  Doubt crept in.

The weeks leading up to the draft had me pulling up Dylan Bundy's stats weekly, checking to see how he performed the week before.  I followed Bundy's run through the state playoffs, losing to Archie Bradley (though Bundy did not pitch) in the Oklahoma state championship.  I had officially changed my mind and Bundy was 'my guy'.

When Bundy and Rendon both fell to Baltimore, I felt conflicted.  Do I want them to take my first choice, or the new guy that had blown me away in recent weeks?  The birds took Bundy, just as I hoped, and the rest is history.

My Draft Philosophy

This year I've thought a lot about who I would want, and why I would want to take them.  In the recent weeks my draft preferences have changed a lot, as you can see here.  My final rankings are this:

Buxton     Correa     Giolito     Gausman     Appel     Almora     Fried     Zunino     Zimmer     Hawkins

You might notice that I have an awful lot of high school guys in my top 10, but really I think there's something more fundamental here.  I'd rather take a chance on a guy who can become a superstar than draft a guy who is more of a sure thing.  I should mention that this is more for the first round or handful of rounds only, and that teams definitely need a balance of high floor guys as well.  My opinion is just that you need to take the guy with the highest upside possible in the first round and hope you can build him to meet that potential.  For the most part, I weigh hitting ability higher than fielding, but that's with the caveat that a lack of fielding abilities certainly hurts a player's potential impact on the field.

The MLB Draft is the most difficult draft in pro sports to manage because the players are so far removed from being MLB players that you really just have to focus on what they could be and how you will get them there.  Some players have huge upsides (Byron Buxton) but are still incredibly raw in terms of polish.  Others (Marcus Stroman) could likely step onto the field and hold his own this summer.

So for me, guys like Correa, Gausman, and Giolito present opportunities to really draft and develop a franchise player.  It's not that I don't think the guys in the lower half of my top 10 could help a team like the Orioles, it's just that I think that given the chance to draft a star player, you take it.

We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below about how you'd like to draft.  Prep arms?  Athletic college OF?  What would you do if you were your favorite team's GM?