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.