Baltimore Orioles

Posted by Baseball Bob at 18:38
Jan 182011

Baltimore Orioles

Overall 66-96 F

I think it is fair to say that 2010 was an unsuccessful season for the Orioles, who started off badly (2-16 by April 24), finishing April with a record of 5-19 (though they were in the midst of a 3-game sweep of the Red Sox). May saw them a little better but still bad (10-17) ending with 5 straight losses which became a 10-game streak before they broke it by beating the Red Sox Dave Trembley was fired in June when they were 15-39 and Juan Samuel assumed the role of interim manager. They got no better under Samuel.  June was a 9-17 wipeout, only that good due to a sweep of the lowly Nationals in interleague play. They staggered into the all-star game at 29-59, but oddly they ended the half on a high note: a 4-game sweep of eventual the eventual AL Champion Rangers.

The second half started more or less like the first half, as they won only 3 games in July after the break (3-13) and after yet another loss on August first they hired Buck Showalter, who took over a team that stood at 32-73. I remember remarking that if he won every game the rest of the year, the 89-73 record would almost surely miss the playoffs (but the 57-game winning streak would have been impressive) and for a while it looked like the Orioles might try to do just that! They won 4 straight and 8 of 9 out of the box for Showalter to improve to 40-74, then went 9-9 for the rest of August, 14-12 in September and 3-1 in October, finishing at 66-96 overall, but 34-23 under the Buckster. Oriole fans everywhere rejoiced, and the 34-23 record under Showalter gives them some hope for the future.

So I have decided to split my usual report card in two (WAY more work, though!) to see how it was accomplished. I don’t have stats for players broken down that way: does anyone know where I might get stats on a given day? I CAN break down some of the other things I often analyze, and we’ll see how it comes out.

So, for starters, Overall ratings: Pre-Buck 32-73 F, Post-Buck 34-23 A

Hitters Overall 46.75-115.25 F   Pre-Buck  31-74 F     Post-Buck  20.75-36.25 F

Runs Overall Pre-Buck Post-Buck
<3 61 42 19
3 21 14 7
4 24 13 11
5 21 13 8
6 14 10 4
>6 21 13 8

The Oriole hitters were dreadful. And, amazingly, by my runs scored analysis (< 4 runs scored is a loss for the hitters, 4 is ¼ of a win, 5 is ¾ of a win, 6 or more is a win) they got a LITTLE better under Showalter (.323 Pre-Buck, .364 Post-Buck) but it was a matter of improving from Catastrophic to Horrible.

Their best hitter was 32-year-old DH Luke Scott whose 142 OPS+ was the best on the team by 23. There were trade rumors about him, but he wound up staying put and should be the Orioles’ DH again this year. His 3.3 bWAR was by far the best of his career, but he can hit, so even regressing to the mean he should be solid for 2011.

26-year-old Nick Markakis in right field returned to his 2007 level of production with a solid .297/.370/.436/805 line (OPS+ 119) after an off-season in 2009. He is no longer a budding super-star, as he seemed after an OPS+ 136 at age 24, but he can play, and has been very durable (697 or more PAs 4 years in a row). His power numbers are down a bit, though, which is discouraging, as players this age are supposed to get BETTER.

24-year-old Adam Jones probably shed HIS budding superstar label, as well, as he turned in a .284/.325/.442/767 (OPS+ 107) campaign which is essentially exactly what he has done the past two years. Again, young players are supposed to improve, but he treaded water.

36-year-old Brian Roberts is a shadow of his former self, recording 1.1 bWAR (2007-8 he was over 4) as he is still above a league-average hitter (OPS+103) but his glove-work is pretty suspect.

Those were the ONLY Orioles with an OPS+ over 100 (well, 26-year-old utility infielder Robert Andino was 113 in 66 PAs).

Matt Wieters is 24, and is supposed to be a star in the making. Maybe so, but his 96 OPS+ of 2009 in 385 PAs became 89 in 502 in 2010, and .249/.319/.377/695 is not my idea of a star.

Ty Wigginton started the year at third, but moved to first base when (surprise, surprise!) the Garret Atkins experiment failed. His .248/.312/.415/727 is decent for a middle infielder, sub-par for a third baseman, and terrible for a first baseman. He signed a 2-year $8M contract with the Rockies (good luck with that!).

25-year-old Felix Pie also took a step backwards, as he followed his .266/.326/.437/763 rookie year with .274/.305/.413/718 while playing left field.

30-year-old Cesar Izturis continued to demonstrate that he really doesn’t belong on a ML roster, or at least with a starting job, as his 0.4 bWAR season is a perfect fit for a career in which he has 2.5 WAR (for the ENTIRE CAREER) in TEN seasons. Izturis was a free agent, but earlier this month the Orioles re-signed him for $1.5M. His OPS+ for 2010 was 50.

Miguel Tejada played third base and DH, hit poorly (OPS+ 82) and was traded away. Garret Atkins started the year as the first baseman, hit .214/.276/.286/526 (WOW) and was released.

This is a bad hitting team, and the OPS+ are higher than you would expect, as runs scored were down throughout baseball. My metric, which doesn’t adjust for park or league context, is harsh, but this is a bad hitting team by any standard you would care to name (OK, they would have been GREAT in 1906, but the papers would have decried their lack of speed).

Starters Overall 71.25-90.75 D   Pre-Buck 36-69 F  Post-Buck 35.25-21.75 A+

Starter GS IP ERA W-L Deserves Pre-Buck Post-Buck
Jeremy Guthrie 32 209.1 3.83 14-11 16.75-15.25 9.5-6.5 7.25-3.75
Brian Matusz 32 175.2 4.30 10-12 15.25-16.75 6.5-14.5 8.75-2.25
Kevin Millwood 31 190.2 5.10 4-16 11-20 5.5-15.5 5.5-4.5
Brad Bergesen 28 170.0 4.98 8-12 12.25-15.75 5-12 7.25-3.75
Jake Arrieta 18 100.1 4.66 6-6 7.5-10.5 3.5-6.5 4-4
Chris Tillman 11 53.2 5.87 2-5 2-4 4.5-6.5 2.5-2.5
David Hernandez 8 79.1 4.31 8-8 3.5-4.5 3.5-4.5 0-0
Mark Hendrickson 1 75.1 5.26 1-6 0.25-0.75 0.25-0.75 0-0
Rick VandenHurk 1 16.1 4.96 0-1 0.25-0.75 0.25-1.75 0-0

WOW. It was a lot of work, but rarely has something come out so clearly after an analysis that began not knowing where I was going! Buck Showalter took over a starting rotation that was AWFUL and, using the same exact pitchers, created one that was excellent. The rotation deserved better than it got – the hitters were not much better, at all, but the starters excelled game after game.

And look which ones: Guthrie was good before, and better after. Millwood was terrible before, decent after. Arrieta was bad before, decent after. But Matusz went from terribly disappointing to very exciting, and Bergesen did the same. Since these are their 23 and 24 year-old future, it may actually be that the turnaround is at least in part sustainable. That is, if Showalter in fact has skill at getting young pitchers to do what everyone already thought them capable of, then this could be a MUCH better rotation in 2010 than it was in 2010. As good as the last 57 games? I have no idea, but if it were, then an average hitting and relief pitching team would win 100 games.

In the season-long version, of course, the only starter above league average in ERA was Guthrie (ERA+ 111) with the other mainstays coming in at: Millwood 83, Matusz 98, Bergesen 85, Arrieta 91 and Tillman 72. But there is clearly hope. Millwood is a type-B free agent, currently unsigned, and all the others are back, and all in their mid-20s except Guthrie (32 this year). There is hope.

Relievers Overall     43/446 C-

Pre-Buck       27/305 C-

Post-Buck      16/141 C

Pre-Buck                           Post-Buck

Reliever Games IP ERA Value Grade Games Value Grade Games Value Grade
Matt Albers 62 75.2 4.52 5 C- 42 2 D 20 3 C+
Mark Hendrickson 51 75.1 5.26 -4 F 33 -3 F 18 -1 F
Will Ohman† 51 30.0 3.30 8 C+ 51 8 C+ 0 0
Alfredo Simon 49 49.1 4.93 -3 F 31 3 C- 18 -6 F
Koji Uehara 43 44.0 2.86 16 A+ 17 4 B 26 12 A+
Jason Berken 41 62.1 3.03 16 A+ 38 18 A+ 3 -2 F
David Hernandez 33 79.1 4.31 11 A 24 8 A 9 3 A
Mike Gonzalez 29 24.2 4.01 2 D+ 9 -4 F 20 6 A-
Jim Johnson 26 26.1 3.42 2 D+ 10 -6 F 16 8 A+
Cla Meredith 21 15.0 5.40 5 B 21 5 B 0 0
Frank Mata 15 17.1 7.79 -1 F 15 -1 F 0 0
Alberto Castillo 14 10.2 10.13 -7 F 14 -7 F 0 0
Rick VandenHurk 6 16.1 4.96 -2 F 0 0 6 -2 F
Armando Gabino 5 4.2 13.50 -5 F 0 0 5 -5 F
Kam Mickolio 3 3.2 7.36 -1 F 3 -1 F 0 0
Brad Bergesen 2 170.0 4.98 2 A+ 2 2 A+ 0 0
Pedro Viola 2 1.1 13.50 -1 F 0 0 2 -1 F
Troy Patton 1 0.2 0.00 -1 F 0 0 1 -1 F

Showalter did not get the same spectacular results from his bullpen that he got from his starters – they were essentially the same before and after the change. It is remarkable that ALL the dramatic turnaround was directly attributable to a single source.

The Orioles are remaking their bullpen, as they seem to every year:

Their two most frequently-used relievers, Albers and Hendrickson, are both [unsigned] free agents. So was Uehara, but he re-signed with the Orioles (good choice among the 3, though he is 35). They will pay him $3M for one year, reasonable enough.

Ohman, their 3rd most-used, was traded in July, which tells you something.

Simon, their “young” closer (30) was much worse under Showalter, is still there, still pre-free agency and making the minimum. Berken (27) is in a similar situation.

Hernandez and Mickolio were traded to Arizona in the Mark Reynolds deal.

Hard to know what the Orioles bullpen will look like in 2011.

On to 2011

Competing in the toughest division in baseball, the once-proud Orioles are now clearly the worst team in the division. To make matters worse, perennial doormat Tampa Bay has now won the division twice in three years, and expected fellow cellar-dweller Toronto made strides and had a winning record, leading MLB in home runs. That left Baltimore an astounding 19 games out of next to last place. Wow. And how much worse could it have been, without the 34-23 turnaround under Showalter? Well, when he took the reins the O’s were on pace for a 49-111 season, not a record but 17 games worse than they did actually finish.

Neither MLB nor ESPN is currently listing actual rosters at this point, but I am going to use Cot’s Baseball Contracts as my source, to outline the Orioles roster at this point. Obviously this will miss any minor-leaguers projected to come up, as well as any signings not yet made, but it is what I have.

Nick Markakis RF $10.25M
Brian Roberts 2B $10M
Derrek Lee 1B $7.25M
JJ Hardy SS $5.1M
Mike Gonzalez P $6M
Mark Reynolds 3B $5M
Kevin Gregg P $5M
Luke Scott OF/DH (arbitration)
Jeremy Guthrie P (arbitration)
Koji Uehara P $3M
Brendan Harris IF $1.75M
Cesar Izturis SS $1.5M
Brian Matusz P $0.55M (signed through next year – good planning by O’s)
Jeremy Accardo P $1.08M
Adam Jones CF (arbitration)
Robert Andino IF (arbitration)
Jim Johnson P (pre-arbitration)
Felix Pie OF (pre-arbitration)
Brad Bergesen P (pre-arbitration)
Jake Fox 3B-OF-C (minors)
Matt Angle OF (minors)
Jake Arrieta P (pre-arbitration)
Chris Tillman P (pre-arbitration)

That’s 23 guys, and is (sort of) a roster. The lineup, then, looks like this:

C Wieters, Fox
1B Lee
2B Roberts
SS Hardy, Izturis
3B Reynolds
UT Andino
OF Pie, Jones, Markakis
UT Angle
DH Scott
Rotation Guthrie, Matusz, Bergesen, Arrieta, Tillman
Bullpen Simon, Uehara, Gregg, Johnson, Gonzalez

Best guess is that the Orioles would add a couple of young bullpen arms and call it a roster. How will it play? The honest answer, of course, is that I have no idea. But we can compare it with the Orioles of last year, and make some guesses.

Hitters

Of the projected regulars (I am projecting Hardy instead of Izturis), Pie, Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Roberts and Scott all played for Baltimore last year, while Reynolds, Lee and Hardy are new. Further dividing the lists, Pie, Jones, Markakis and Wieters are all young, and should improve, while Roberts and Fox are both 33 and are likely to decline. No player in the Orioles 2011 lineup, except Luke Scott, had a “career year”, so I don’t expect collapses. Here is my projection for the Orioles this upcoming season, with 2010 fWAR in parentheses:

C Wieters 3.0 (2.5)
1B Lee 2.2 (Orioles 0.1, Lee 1.5)
2B Roberts 1.6 (1.1)
3B Reynolds 1.6 (Orioles -0.4, Reynolds 1.1)
SS Hardy 2.0 (Orioles -1.0 Hardy 1.4)
LF Pie 1.0 (0.5)
CF Jones 3.0 (2.8)
RF Markakis 3.8 (3.2)
DH Scott 2.0 (3.3)

Thus I expect the Orioles offense to improve by more than 8 games, (2010 Orioles 12.1, 2011 Orioles projection 20.2) based on this projection. As I was doing it, though, I noticed something interesting: EVERY player in the Orioles lineup has had a season MUCH better than his projection, WITHIN THE PAST THREE years. If I were an Orioles fan, and not an analyst (well, OK, I’m NOT much of an analyst), I would do a projection based on the best recent season for the specified players, or the projection based on age (whichever is higher) as follows:

C Wieters 3.0 (projection)
1B Lee 4.3 (2008)
2B Roberts 5.0 (2008)
3B Reynolds 2.2 (2009)
SS Hardy 4.7 (2008)
LF Pie 1.4 (2009)
CF Jones 3.0 (projection)
RF Markakis 4.8 (2008)
DH Scott 3.3 (2010)

You then add THESE up and conclude that the Orioles COULD get 31.7 wins out of their offense, which is ANOTHER 10 wins, total of 18 over 2010. This is a rose-colored-glasses way of looking at things, but from where the Orioles are at the moment, is not entirely a crazy way to try to get back to reasonable: 1) buy low (Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy and Derrek Lee are ALL acquisitions of this nature) for players who have recently been good, but were not good last year, 2) hang on to players who are young (and so could improve or return to form) or your own players who have recently been good (Roberts, Scott) and dump those that fit neither profile.

Rotation

I have already belabored this point, so I won’t do it again, but the Orioles have a very young rotation, and it EXPLODED under Showalter. Projections for young pitchers are pretty hard anyway, but if this staff performs at anything CLOSE to what they did for 57 games last year, they could add a big bunch of wins.

Bullpen

There is currently no reason to suspect that the Orioles bullpen will be anything more than ordinary, but a B- offense, an A+ rotation and a C- bullpen = a contending team.

Conclusion

Of course, I don’t expect the Orioles to contend next year – I think if you offered the management a .500 season, they would sign up in a heartbeat, and I expect that most forecasters (including me, if I ever get around to it) will project them much worse than that. But this is an improving Orioles team, and potentially an exciting one.

If someone offers you 1000-1 against the Orioles winning the World Series, bet a nickel against $50.00: they are nowhere near that much of a long-shot. In fact, if they offer you 100-1 against them making the postseason, I would recommend that you take THAT bet as well (risk $0.50 to win the same $50.00) – I think their chances are better than that. That said, the conditions for a Tampa Bay-like explosion are NOT really there – you need two or three position players that are unproven and could explode (Longoria, Zobrist) to go with the young unproven pitching.

Finally, a warning to O’s fans: remember Fletcher’s Rule: Young Pitchers can Break your Heart.

6 Responses to “Baltimore Orioles”

  1. Have you ever gone back and checked your preseason predictions against season performance, just to see how close a metric it is? For example, I am constantly amazed and amused at how accurate the Pythagorean approach to W-L is–and how explainable the outliers are. It would be fun to see if your wins approach holds up, because if it does have value as a predictor, it could be very useful.

    • I have reviewed my predictions at season end in the past, but not statistically. Many seem quite close, but the outliers can be WAY out there! Often I adjust the model (which is not all that scientific anyway) to go with my gut, and often that CREATES the outliers!

      One other problem with my prediction system: it assumes (for the most part, not for Nick Johnson) good health. The result is that first blush every team is predicted to do better than I should predict, because the sum of the wins makes the average more than .500.

      Still, in all, I have done pretty well in the past few years.

      • One way to adjust for injuries is to apply a factor for injury-prone-ness (prone-osity?). For example, you obviously can’t ever assume a full season for Nick Johnson, but you could adjust his projected value by how many games he has averaged over the previous five seasons, or what the projected games played ratio is for players at his position, or something. Surely Bill James has come up with some way of adjusting a player’s projected performance for his injury quotient, right?

        • Undoubtedly you could do this, but it is already on the margin of how much work I am willing to do, to do what I already do (boy, convoluted sentence alert!). Yes, Bill James and others estimate playing time, though for most players it just guarantees they will be wrong: if the average of the past 5 seasons is 149 games, you pretty much know that won’t work: either a player will be hurt and miss more time, or he won’t and will play more. The guys like Bill James 1) get paid for this, 2) have a staff to do the grunt work, and 3) are much better at it than I.

          Fun, to me, is the name of the game. As long as I am having fun, I will do this, and if I have no readers because I am not particularly scientific, or (better still) if my few readers are my friends who don’t CARE that I am not all that accurate, that is just fine! And thanks for reading.

          • Could you take your projected value and pre-rate it over the amount of games the PECOTA system projects the player will play? I do not know how readily available those projections are though, but that system in particular makes predictions based on a player’s past and correlating that performance with all similar performing players of the past.

            • In some ways the projected value is ALREADY prorated for durability – since I calculate it based on WAR from previous seasons, if you missed a year or part of a year, it hurts your value. Nick Johnson projects to about 0.5 WAR in 2011, because he had no value in 2010 and not much in 2008.

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