Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Projecting the 2012 Team: Starters

   The Orioles starting rotation is currently one of the most convoluted messes in sports right now. It's probably one of the toughest scenarios to predict as well. Are they going with the young "cavalry"? Are they going with the "veterans"? Or are the Orioles simply going to pick the best five pitchers? We sure as heck don't know right now, but it's pretty damn fun to guess.
   Rick and I (Follow him on twitter @odetorick ) have picked and projected our starting rotation for the 2012 Orioles. We both have plenty of differences, and are probably going to be wrong on many aspects. Why? Because this years' rotation is just that crazy of a mess.

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 Rick has a much more optimistic view than I, as you can see from the totals to the left.


   As you can see from above, we vary drastically in certain aspects of our projected rotation. The only common ground between us is essentially Hammel, Chen, and Britton. Below are our explanations and reasoning behind why we chose our five players, and why their numbers are projected as such.

Rick


   Having four left-handed pitchers can be beneficial in the AL East, especially because each team is built to bash right-handed pitching. Usually, teams will employ bench players to specifically hit against left-handed pitching, most likely because these players are old, cannot field, and have limited hitting skills. With this in mind, these teams will have to play these players more, and will eventually have to play their right-handed lineups more often.
   Of my starting five, three are proven ground-ball pitchers, two with 50%+ GB rates, the other having 45%+. The other two starters are strikeout pitchers. While they may be fly-ball pitchers by nature, having the strikeout attack helps a great deal. It doesn't mean they still cannot throw the ground-ball... they can, just not as often as the other three.
   In order for our pitchers to be effective in Camden Yards, the ball needs to stay in the ballpark. Having three ground-ball pitchers and two strikeout pitchers will cut HR/9 tremendously.

Jason Hammel
   Hammel has a nice repertoire of pitches, including a hard sinker and a 12-6 curve. The “bona fide” ace will have trouble against other #1 starters in the American League, but he can cut runs given up with his high ground-ball rate. He had career-highs in home runs, but let's face it, he pitched in Colorado –  The Mecca of Home Runs. I can see Hammel still getting 180+IP and a 4 ERA, but it would be a solid improvement from last year.

Wei-Yin Chen
   Chen will be the best pitcher on our starting staff. Mark my word on that. While Japanese imports come with inconsistency, 9 out of 10 times, the first year in the majors is the best (see blog post in future about Japanese pitchers). Most of the time, ERA, strikeouts and HR/9 are stagnant in the transition from NPB to MLB, however BB rates increase slightly. The transition for Chen will be a relatively smooth one, in my opinion, and his stats will show it.

Zach Britton
   Britton will flash his brilliance once again this year, with his powerful sinker. I see him improving in his stats all across the board. He can make adjustments quickly to accommodate hitters... his home run rate will be low once again, and his stats will show that.

Dana Eveland
   While I was surprised the Orioles traded for Eveland in the winter, I was quite pleased to see his underrated stats. Unbeknown to me, Eveland has averaged a 54% GB rate the past three seasons. Now I can see why Duquette wanted him to compete for a roster spot. With the highest GB% on the team, I can see Eveland finally thriving in the American League... he knows the division by now, when he was with the Blue Jays, so a transition shouldn't be too harsh. However, I do remember Eveland going 8+ against the Orioles, shutting them out.

Brian Matusz
   Another surprise, perhaps? Matusz had an atrocious 2011 after battling multiple injuries. I think finally this year, he exceeds his 2010 stats. Last year was a wake up call for Brian, he needed to fail miserably, for he has never done so before. With his ability to strike out the masses, and show brilliance with his 2-seam fastball, look for the same Matusz we saw in 2010, only he pisses excellence.

Tucker
 
   The rotation is going to make or break the Orioles 2012 season. Duquette has seemingly attempted to harness quantity over quality. While this is beneficial in a depth aspect, it does not necessarily mean the Orioles will improve in any aspect. I think the rotation will actually be better than last year, but let's be honest... that is not really saying much. I do think that Duquette and Showalter would like to take some pressure off of the young pitchers, and that they will do everything in their power to keep players such as Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman, and Britton from playing over their head.
    That being said, I am not nearly as optimistic as Rick is, and don't see many bright spots this season. I would feel a little bit better if the Orioles actually had a sound defense, but they are below the pack in many aspects defensively. I touched on that a little here. As we know, ERA can be varied through defensive performance, and the Orioles essentially suck at defense. 
   So while I wish the Orioles would be above average pitching wise this season, I highly doubt it. Here are my five starters.

Jason Hammel
   Hammel is an interesting piece for the Orioles in 2012. He is probably a lesser version of Jeremy Guthrie (2.1 fWAR in 2011), in the sense that he probably won't pitch as many innings (I am projecting ~20 innings less). I don't see anything "sexy" from him this season, but I think he can be a decent innings guy for the Orioles, while putting up half decent numbers. I am midly worried about his declining K-rate last season. If that carries over to this season, he will almost certainly get crushed in the AL East. That is primarily why I have his numbers where they are. I could even argue that I was actually optimistic with his 6.04 K/9 that I gave him.

Wei-Yin Chen
   I am probably one of the more optimistic people when it comes to Chen. From what I have seen on film, and read on scouting reports, it seems that Chen has the chance to be a surprise in the AL East this season. At age 26, he is actually the same age as pitchers such as Tommy Hunter, Brad Bergesen, and Jake Arrieta. I agree with Rick that he can potentially be our best pitcher this season, but I also want to say that it would not surprise me if my projections end up being the exact opposite. 

Zach Britton
   Britton was arguably the Orioles best pitcher in 2011. He certainly had his ups and downs, but that is to be expected out of a rookie. This season, I see Britton growing from his 2011 season. I think many are getting a little carried away with some of his projections, but if you had to choose one young pitcher who could take it to the next level, it would be Britton. I still worry that he does not have the durability as hoped, and that is why I have his innings at 162. Like I said though, if any young pitcher is making it into the rotation to start this season, I suspect it would be Britton.

Tommy Hunter
   Hunter has probably the largest variety of opinions out of all the pitchers on the Orioles' roster. Is he going to be a starter, reliever, long-man, possibly even traded? I think Showalter likes him, and plans to have him in the rotation. I am not 100% positive he will end up being the best option over the course of the season, but as of now I do not see his job threatened. I like Hunter as a 5th starter but am skeptical of his body of work in the rotation. He has been a very lucky pitcher with Texas, as indicated by his 2010 season ERA (3.73) and FIP (4.99) and 13-4 record. I still think he has value though, but on a club as a back-end rotation guy. I could see him moving to the bullpen at some point in the season also. Thus, why I put his innings at 143.0.

Tsuyoshi Wada
   Last but not least, the first NPB pitcher the Orioles signed. I think he starts the season in the rotation regardless of what happens in spring training, unless he is injured of course. Duquette promised him this when they signed him, so it wouldn't come as a shock to see him there. I also feel as if he will not be terribly effective in the rotation. I see him as easily being the worst guy in the rotation, but I do like him as a long-man or relief pitcher. I think he pitches most of the season in the rotation, but is eventually moved to the bullpen due to fatigue, ineffectiveness, and a young pitcher proving their self ready.

We also compiled our Outside looking in candidates, which also varied obviously.


Rick 

Tsuyoshi Wada
   I see Wada fulfilling the long relief role and filling in for Chen in the occasional spot start. Having a Japanese tandem like this will help the rest period for one or the other.

Tommy Hunter
   Even though Hunter had one brilliant season in Texas, I still think he would be better suited for the relief role. It seems to me he can only get through a lineup once before he starts to falter.

Alfredo Simon
   While Simon has a good chance to start, he can be a Jack-of-all-trades. I see him in a plethora of relief positions, and thriving at it. I might see him as a starter in September, if we have injuries to the team once again.

Jake Arrieta
   I think Arrieta needs to start the year in AAA to work on the control aspect of his game. He gives up too many walks for my liking, and should be polished up. I see him coming up later in the year to fulfill a starting spot if one of the starting five starts to blow monkey nuts.

Chris Tillman
   Tillman right now looks like a AAAA player to me. I think when AM was GM, we rushed him up too early. He should have stayed in the minors until he proved himself. Now, that is tarnished. He should stay in the minors until he can absolutely dominate with his cutter and secondary pitches.

Tucker

Jake Arrieta
   I think Jake has first shot at the rotation once Wada, Hunter, or someone else falters or moves to the pen. He realistically should work on his command down in AAA to start, but I also would not be surprised if he made the rotation out of camp. I really like Arrieta, but I also know he needs to improve. He would be a damn good reliever in my opinion.

Brian Matusz
   I think Matusz needs to stay in the minors and force his way back up to the show. He had one of the most historically bad seasons last year, and it is really tough for me to see someone be thrown into the rotation after that. They need to absolutely earn it back.

Dana Eveland
   I think he could be a decent long-man but I don't have much confidence in him as a starter. Maybe he can be a surprise, but I honestly doubt it. He could become effective in shorts stints though. I'm just not sure if he is the type of starter you want to rely on in the AL East.

Brad Bergesen
   Oh believe me Brad, I did not forget about you. Bergesen is the ultimate enigma, and I am not quite sure what he truly is as a pitcher still. I wrote in much detail about him here. I think he could be a solid insurance option for the Orioles though.

Chris Tillman
   I view him the same as Matusz. He needs to force his way into the rotation by showing sheer dominance in the minors. He needs to learn how to pitch longer than 5-6 innings and this largely comes down to control. 2012 is probably a very big year for him, as he needs to prove his value all over again.
 
   There you have it, our projections, expectations, and analysis of 10 pitchers that will or could be in the rotation. As I said in the beginning, there is probably a large chance that we are terribly incorrect. I'd like it very much if the Orioles were closer to Rick's projections over mine.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Projecting the 2012 Team: Offense

  Since spring training has finally started to roll along, I figured it would be an appropriate time to show my projections for the players. I'd also like to take the time to welcome the newest member of the EntreprenOriole, Rick Bass (Follow him on twitter @odetorick ). He will be posting his projections along with mine, and will also be contributing to the blog in the future.

These projections are for position players who figure to get substantial playing time.
Notable exceptions: Brian Roberts, Matt Antonelli.
I figured that Roberts is essentially done, and Antonelli is a wild-card right now.
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Below are the projections and our reasoning for each one:

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Matt Wieters

Rick: Wieters will get better every season offensively. His power numbers will go up, his strikeouts will decrease, and his OBP will progressively increase. Look for a monster year from him.

Tucker: I agree. Wieters is on his way to becoming a star catcher, and is only going to improve offensively this season. With a slight improvement offensively, he will only add to his solid resume which already has him as one of the best defensive catchers in the game.

Chris Davis

Rick: Davis should be the favorite to start at 1B, hence 500+ PA. He will be just like he was in Texas, low AVG, low OBP, high SLG.

Tucker: He is certainly the favorite, but I think the Orioles will grow tired of his obsolete on-base skills. Unless he can hit for extreme power, I doubt he gets those 500 PA. Our numbers are very similar though besides the PA.

Robert Andino

Rick: Andino will probably be the lead-off hitter without Roberts in the lineup, but look for him to get less at-bats with the chance he becomes a super-utility type in the end of the year.

Tucker: He could very well lead-off. I would actually like a Reimold/Andino platoon at the top (Reimold vs Righties and Andino vs Lefties). I think that would work very well. Antonelli could take PA away from Andino, so I agree with your comments. we both kept him under 500 PA as well.

JJ Hardy

Rick: If Hardy wasn't injured for a month, he could have nearly had 40hr/100rbi. I see a repeat of his 2011 season, but without injury. Hence, the 37hr projection.

Tucker: I took the exact opposite approach. I think the Orioles were lucky he didn't miss more games last season. This is why I think he has a drop in power numbers, simply from losing PA due to being injured. Besides the obvious HR difference in our projections, we were fairly close.

Mark Reynolds

Rick: Reynolds proved his power last year with 37 home runs. Now that he has seen AL pitching, I see him getting off to a fast start and blasting more home runs in Camden Yards.

Tucker: I agree on the HR and power aspect. I see him only getting better in the AL East. I even went as far as saying he has a much better year defensively, hence the higher fWAR. I am probably a little higher on Reynolds than others.

Nolan Reimold

Rick: Reimold will finally get more than 500 PA and will be an offensive force in the lineup. His plate patience will cause more walks and XBH, thus a high OBP and wOBA.

Tucker: I think Reimold does NOT get 500. I wish he would, but I envision a scenario where Endy Chavez steals playing time due to being donned the "lead-off man". I still think Reimold proves that he can be a productive major-leaguer.

Adam Jones

Rick: Jones will keep growing his offensive numbers, but his OBP will be relatively stagnant.

Tucker: I am more pessimistic on Jones. I think he stays about the same as last year in pretty much every aspect. There will be some marginal improvement due to maturity, but not enough to move him to the next level.

Nick Markakis

Rick: Markakis will go back to his 2008 form, now that there is power protection in the lineup.

Tucker:I am probably more pessimistic than most when it comes to Markakis. I think he has grown into an average RF, and I need to see a strong swing in improvement before I change my opinion. It's tough writing that because there was a time when I thought he could be a 25HR .820+ OPS guy.

Wilson Betemit

Rick: Since Betemit will focus mainly on hitting, and not fielding, he will bolster his stats with pretty above-average numbers in the XBH category in a smaller ballpark.

Tucker: I think he will be a nice addition to the club under his cheap contract. I don't have him hitting nearly as many HR, but understand the reasoning. He certainly helps with depth. I question whether he should be getting more than 400 PA though.

Endy Chavez

Rick: I really don't think Chavez will get to 200 at-bats this season, because I have projected the outfield (Jones/Markakis/Reimold) playing a majority of the games. He will be in for defensive purposes in the late innings and play day game – after – night games.

Tucker: As I said before, I think he gets 300 PA due to leading off occasionally and filling in for injuries.I could see Markakis taking it slow the first month due to the surgery he got. It's probably not a good thing for Chavez to get 300PA, but it might happen. Chavez will be a solid 4th OF though.


As you can see, we both have varying opinions. I am a little pessimistic compared to Rick, who is optimistic in certain aspects. Later this week we will make our pitching projections.

That Awkward Moment When They Sign an Expensive RP

   The Orioles went into the 2007 off-season with one main priority. The Orioles bullpen ranked near the bottom of the league, posting a 19-25 record with a 5.27 ERA (29th) and a 5.45 FIP (30th). It was clear that they needed to somehow, someway, bolster the pen. Orioles management went on to sign three relief pitchers.

   The first, Chad Bradford, had been a strong asset to the Athletics and Mets bullpens' in years past. He was given a 3-year $10M deal. the second, Jamie Walker, had also been a formidable bullpen arm throughout his career with the Tigers. He was given a 3-year $12M deal. The third pitcher, Danys Baez, had been a strong closer for the Rays before getting traded to the Dodgers and struggling a little. He was given a 3-year $19M deal. Overall, the Orioles shelled out a total of $41M on three relief pitchers. None of them were closers. Take a look at their numbers the year before their deal, and the year(s) after:

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   These statistics do not look terrible at first glance. Bradford went on to pitch at a respectable performance, possibly warranting his $10M deal an asset instead of a sunk cost. However, the Walker and Baez numbers are far less impressive. Walker essentially pitched one above-average season before plummeting below a respectable level of performance. That means he was paid $12M for one above-average season out of the bullpen in a non-closer role. The Baez contract is even worse. He had a horrific first season with the Orioles and then missed the entire 2008 season due to injury. He had an average season in 2009, but it did not nearly make up for the terrible contract he was given. The Phillies then went on to sign Baez, and it was the same story all over again. below-average numbers and a decent amount of money spent on him.

   So why do teams bother spending such a high amount of money on relief pitchers if they usually tend to backfire or not live up to their expectations? The 2007 Orioles are a prime example of why it is not a good idea to throw around silly amounts of money to them. Funny enough, it seems even the Orioles did not learn from their mistakes. Take at look at the next two pitchers on this dubious list:

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   Most Orioles fans know the deal with Gonzalez and Gregg. Gonzalez was given a 2-year $12M deal, while Gregg was given a 2-year $10M contract with a $6M club option. Both were supposed to become the closer. Both pitchers lost the closer role and have now become painful memories for the fans. It's never been a good idea to overpay for a relief pitcher, and it probably never will be. Of course there are exceptions like Mariano Rivera, and even some other low-risk guys such as Ryan Madson on his 1-year deal this year with the Reds. I think most fans would not have a problem with that since the Reds made significant gains this off-season and could compete in their division this year. Take a look at a few AL East signings that have potentially come to bite them in the rear-end recently:

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   Obviously the Soriano deal brought plenty of backlash from the fans. His 3-year $35M deal looks to be a huge overpay. This is for a setup man. Obviously the Yankees have the luxury of making a signing like this, but that does not mean it was a good signing by any means. I will assume Soriano pitches better this season, but recent history shows that these expensive relief pitcher deals rarely work out. The Jenks deal has been a disaster for the Red Sox. After a decent season in 2010, he went on to pitch a measly 15.2 innings for them. He has already been placed on the 60-day DL for the 2012 season. I put Rauch on this list because of the type of team he signed with. The Jays were a lot like the Orioles last year in an aspect. They had enough hitting to compete, but the pitching was a work-in-progress. Of course they had the luxury of a front-line pitcher in Ricky Romero, but they had little depth at the major league level after him. Rauch was a veteran arm coming off a good season with the Twins, and he presumably was figured to solidify the back-end of the pen. Of course as the numbers indicate above, he had a poor season. At $3.5M it was not a terrible signing, but not exactly the best use of money for a team still a little bit away from truly contending.

   In conclusion, relief pitching is a tough water to tread through during free agency. Teams such as the Orioles are probably better off going after guys with upside or cheaper options, such as Pedro Strop, Darren O'day, and even Luis Ayala to an extent. These guys might not light the world on fire, but they are cheaper, can be just as effective, and don't limit the teams' spending in other areas like a Kevin Gregg type signing does. Other clubs have made similar signings as well. The Red Sox found a gem in Alfredo Aceves last season. They paid triple the amount for Bobby Jenks, and probably got triple the value out of Aceves. The Rays found a gem in Kyle Farnsworth at $2.6M, which was cheaper than guys such as Jenks, Gregg, and Gonzalez in 2011. Maybe the Orioles have finally realized that spending more is not always the best idea, as Dan Duquette spent much less on the pen than the Orioles have in years past (although he did trade for Lindstrom and take on his $3.6M salary). In the future, it probably is not a good idea to go overboard on relief pitching.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spring Training Hype

   The start of spring training is quite possibly the best moment of the new year. It's an indication that spring weather is right around the corner, the costly holiday seasons have ended, and that baseball is finally on the way. Added along with spring training is an over-abundance of hype. Each year there are a few players that either come out of nowhere with amazing debuts, or play well over their head in terms of statistical accolades. As a baseball fan, it is hard to not be excited when a non-star hits .380 in 50 spring training at bats with 5+ HR. But it is important to remember this is only spring training, and that statistics are essentially meaningless. Take a look at the amazing spring training numbers these players put up for the Orioles the past few seasons:

Jake Fox: 2011 Spring Training: .297/.325/.797 batting line with 10 HR in 74 AB
Lou Montanez: 2010 Spring Training: .319/.360/.426 batting line in 47 AB
Scott Moore: 2009 Spring Training:  .333/.373/.587 batting line with 3 HR in 63 AB
Jolbert Cabrera: 2009 Spring Training: .457/.469/.609 batting line in 46 AB

   Obviously, these four players had little-to-zero impact in the majors at any point for the Orioles. Jake Fox was probably the best player out of this bunch, and he was designated for assignment. I'm not even sure most people even remember Jolbert Cabrera (I had to do a double-take on that one myself). The point is, spring training statistics are largely overblown by the media and fans. But it's totally understandable in some aspects. Why would you not get excited? Baseball is starting, you cheer for the underdogs, and they are on your respective team. Take a look at the non-star leaders  from 2009-2011 league-wide:

Eric Almonte: 2011 Spring Training: .416/.438/.636 batting line with 3 HR in 77 AB
John Bowker: 2010 Spring Training: .312/.386/.623 batting line with 6 HR in 77 AB
Mitch Maier: 2010 Spring Training: .475/.530/.814 batting line with 3 HR in 59 AB
Mike Wilson: 2009 Spring Training: .261/.316/.681 batting line with 8 HR in 69 AB
Matthew Brown: 2009 Spring Training: .468/.527/.787 batting line with 3 HR in 47 AB

   The only one of those players with extensive playing time over the past few years is Mitch Maier. He has been a solid 4th OF for the Royals. You might have heard of the other guys before, but they are nothing more than AAAA guys at this point. John Bowker got 326 AB in 2008, but phased out rather quickly after that season.

   In conclusion, spring training is an amazing time of the year. It's a time for celebration, joy, and excitement. However, it is important to keep a level head when a guy puts on a show. There is a player from every team, every year, that hits the cover off the ball. As you can see from above, it doesn't necessarily mean that much.



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is There A New Mike Cameron On The Way?

   After a wonderful 17 year career, Mike Cameron has officially retired from baseball.  I remember Cameron as the other great center fielder of his era, apart from Ken Griffey Jr. Cameron played the game the right way, and played the game hard. I think most teams would love to have a "young Mike Cameron" on their club right now.

   With that being said, do the Orioles have that "young Mike Cameron" already? If you have followed Adam Jones' career, you know that he has often been compared to Cameron during his days working through the minors with the Mariners. Maybe it was because of the Seattle connection that they both have, or maybe it is truly because scouts envision him as a Cameron-like player. I decided to compare both players statistically and see if there could be any truth to this comparison.

Take a look at Cameron through his first four years starting compared to Adam Jones' career numbers:

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As you can see, both players are eerily similar in an aspect. Cameron was clearly the bigger base-threat, but he had a worse BA and SLG than Jones. Obviously Jones has quite a few more hits, but Cameron still edged him out in OBP. How? Take a look at the BB% and K% of the two players throughout their first four years starting:

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 Cameron has the higher rating for both BB% and K%. Cameron was clearly better at taking a walk, but surprisingly struck out more. I think this probably accounts more to Jones swinging earlier in the count more often, and not working the count as much. It does explain why Cameron has a better OBP though.

Take a look at the advanced metrics of the two players throughout their first four years starting:

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   Once again, they are close enough to draw a viable comparison. The ISO (Isolated Power) is not that surpising to me, as they both had relatively close 2B and HR numbers throughout their first four years. The BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is a little higher for Jones', which may give a theory in why his average is a little higher than Cameron's. The wOBA seems to stick with the trend that Cameron is better at getting on-base.

   Mike Cameron went on to have a great career after his first four years starting. He was an all-star, and touched 30 HR in 2004. He ended up with 278 HR and a batting line of .249/.338/.444. It probably is not overly ridiculous to say that Adam Jones is heading down the path of a similar career. His current batting line is .275/.319/.437, which is not terribly close to Cameron's, but enough to show that they could have a similar-enough career path.

   The Orioles are in an interesting position in 2012. Do they trade Jones to stock the system? Do they give him an extension in hopes that he can mold his game in a way that Cameron eventually did? It will be a tough choice for Dan Duquette and the front office.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three Greatest Parts of 2011

2011 was obviously a disaster of a season for the Orioles. However three things were born in this disastrous season that made me oh so happy:

1. The Blooper that made me laugh all night:

This play will forever stick in my mind. It happened in the Orioles very first series of the year down in Tampa. Johnny Damon, I just want to take the time to thank you for the greatest laugh I had the entire year.

2. Strop Sign

The birth of the Strop sign happened once the Orioles traded Mike Gonzalez for Pedro Strop. Most Orioles fans rejoiced because they had traded away Gonzalez. I rejoiced because we got the Strop Sign in return. I am prepared to tweet this image every time he K's someone in 2012.

3. Trollioles

Last but not least, the ultimate part of the 2011 season. It was the very last game of the season, when Robert "Swagdino" Andino  and the Orioles knocked the Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs. That was a great moment, and it allowed the Orioles to end the season on a strong note. But then Fangraphs posted this image, making it that much better of a moment.

I hope 2012 has a few hilarious and awesome parts like the three above.

Prospect Watch: Ryan Adams

   After a 36 save season, BJ Ryan left the Orioles via free agency and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles were compensated with a supplemental pick for their loss and took Ryan Adams in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft out of Jesuit High-school (New Orleans, Louisiana).

    Adams, 24, has slowly worked his way through the Orioles minor league system. At rookie ball in his age 19 season, he put up a respectable .256/.361/.376 batting line in 156 plate appearances. His second season in A- ball, he struggled with a .236/.296/.329 batting line in 272 plate appearances. It wasn't until his age 21 season at A ball where he really started to find himself.
   Adams put together a terrific season in Delmarva, with a .308/.367/.462 batting line in 497 plate appearances. The next season he was moved up to A ball in Frederick, and hit .288/.349/.381 in 235 plate appearances. In his age 23 season at AA Bowie, he arguably had his best season yet. He posted a .298/.365/.464 batting line with 15 HR (a career high) in 594 plate appearances. He followed up this great season with another respectable season at AAA Norfolk. He posted a .284/.341/.454 batting line in 415 plate appearances before he was finally summoned to the majors.

   With Robert Andino taking most of the reps at second, Adams only saw sporadic playing time at the big league level. In this sporadic time, he managed to put together a respectable line of .281/.333/.326 in 96 plate appearances. But with the recent acquisitions of Matt Antonelli, and Ryan Flaherty (Rule 5 pick), it seems the Orioles have made it difficult for Adams to break camp with the club. Is it because they do not believe his bat is strong enough? Is it because his defense has not improved in the manner they want it to? These are some questions that Adams enthusiasts have wondered over the past year or so.

   In reality, it may be a little mix of both questions asked. His glove is clearly below-average and has been the deciding factor for a lot of scouts on whether he can play at the major league level. While Adams has shown he can be a reliable bat at times, he has not stood out in any aspect. He has decent power for a second baseman, but nothing overly special (44 HR in six seasons). His average and on-base percentage have been good in the minors, but not without flaws. Take a look at the K% of Adams throughout his minor league career:

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    I have a tough time believing a hitter can get away with these K% levels once they reach the majors. The way Adams plays his game, he needs to put the ball in play, and get on base to be an effective major league hitter. When you are striking out 20% or more of the time, it is going to hurt your game. Unless you have some form of extreme talent in an area like Mark Reynolds does with HR, it is going to be tough for that player to stay at an expected level of major league performance. Adams still has time to work on this at the AAA level this season, as I expect him to start there after the additions mentioned earlier. However, with the K% trend above, it would be reasonable to believe that he may never cut back on them. Maybe with some more practice it is possible, but probably not likely at this point.
Take a look at a few second basemen that I believe have some similar skills and statistics as Adams:

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    As you can see from above, most of these players have their career K% below the 20% mark. They all are flawed players in some aspect, but have that one common denominator. Robert Andino was able to drop his K% in 2011 down to a respectable enough number. Brian Roberts has always had a low K%. Neil Walker probably fit the bill of Adams the best under my impression, and he has been able to keep his K% hovering around the 16-17% mark. Jason Kipnis is a top talent coming up through the Indians system, and has kept his K% below 20% except for his cup of coffee in 2011 in which it was 22.7. That was the outlier of his career so far. Finally, Howie Kendrick has kept his below 20% each year besides 2011. That was an extreme outlier for his career, as his next highest K% was 17.8% in 2009.

   The point is, these players have found ways to keep their K% below 20%, and thus have been successful in some form. I think Adams will need to do this as well, but the trends do not favor this. It will be an interesting season for him, as he most likely gets stuck in AAA to start the season. Can he force his way to the pros?

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked Ryan Adams the Orioles 9th best prospect in 2011.


Prospect Watch: Xavier Avery
Prospect Watch: Joe Mahoney

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Defending the Orioles

   The Orioles had one of the lower-tier defenses in 2011.  Some of this is due to poor fielders around the diamond. However, one could argue that the club also had too many shifting pieces at positions such as left field and second base. One could also argue that Mark Reynolds existed at third base.

They ranked 21st in errors with 110 (tied with the  Jays and Indians).
69 of those 110 were fielding errors, which ranked dead last in the league. They had 40 throwing errors, which surprisingly ranked 9th. I am not quite sure where the missing error went (69+40=109...).

We can get a better idea at how the Orioles fared defensively by looking at some advanced statistics as well:

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As you can see, the Orioles had some positives, and a ton of negatives.

   -It really is not too much of a surprise that the Orioles ARM (Outfield Arm Runs) ranking is so good. They have strong arms in players such as Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Markakis had a 1.8 ARM ranking last season, while Jones had a 5.4 ARM ranking. They also tend to place high in assists each year in the league. Jones ranked third with 16 assists, while Markakis ranked fifth with 14 assists.

   -DPR (Double-Play Runs) might be a little more surprising, but JJ Hardy and Robert Andino are two above-average fielders in my eyes. Hardy had a 1.5 DPR in 2011, while Andino had a 2 DPR.

   -Once we get down to RngR, you start to see where the Orioles go wrong. The advanced ratings really do not favor the Orioles defensively when it comes to range. Mark Reynolds was dead last in RngR with -15.2. Following close behind him was Adam Jones at -13.2, and Felix Pie at -13.3. Even Nick Markakis is not favored in these ratings, as he owns a RNgR of -8.6. Only three players with significant time had + RngR ratings; Nolan Reimold at 0.7, JJ Hardy at 1.3, and Derrek Lee at 4.8.

   -UZR and UZR/150 tell the same story. While the Orioles outfield defense seems better on the field, it is rated poorly. Felix Pie had a UZR of -13.4, Adam Jones -8.7, Nick Markakis -5.0, and Nolan Reimold 1.4. Obviously those are terrible, but I do have to point out the age-old myth of Camden Yards hurting a players' advanced defensive metrics. I took a look at that here. On the infield, players such as JJ Hardy, Derrek Lee, and Robert Andino did wonders for the defense. Hardy had a 10.7 UZR, Lee 3.4, and Andino 0.4. Andino was not excellent, but he was probably better than what Brian Roberts would have been defensively. It really came down to Mark Reynolds at third. His -22.8 UZR was near worst in the league. He also had a -5.3 UZR at first in his time there.

   -Also, everyone at this point knows that Matt Wieters is one of the top defensive catchers in baseball. I am not going to go in-depth with him, but he clearly helps out the defensive perspective of the team.

   After looking at the above statistics, you can see where the Orioles struggled defensively in 2011. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it really does have a lot to do with one player. That player is Mark Reynolds. But it is important to remember that he was not the only player that was viewed as a negative defensive player. Even the usual top defender Nick Markakis had a terrible year defensively. So with the above mentioned in mind, how can the Orioles get better defensively for 2012? Clearly they need to cut back on fielding errors. Here is my projected defensive team:

C: Matt Wieters
1st: Chris Davis
2nd: Robert Andino
SS: JJ Hardy
3B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Endy Chavez/Nolan Reimold
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis

   At this point, I see no reason to believe that the Orioles' defense improves in any significant aspect besides LF. It is certainly possibly that Mark Reynolds comes into this year with better discipline and footwork at third. It is also possible that Nick Markakis has a bounce-back season in right field. But overall, I see no reason to be overly optimistic about the defense going into 2012.

   It is bothersome to watch this team struggle defensively though, when teams such as the Rays and Royals have an excellent defensive club behind their young pitching. Meanwhile, the Orioles rank near the bottom of the league. The Orioles' young pitching staff is going to need all the help they can get in 2012, so hopefully the defense plays much better.

*credit to fangraphs as usual*

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2/11 Updated FIP Projections

Updated Bill James' FIP Projections after the signing of Luis Ayala. I also added Pat Neshek, who was signed to a minor league deal and invited to spring training. I also added Armando Gallaraga to the N/A list.

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There was a slight increase in FIP after the above mentioned additions (4.26 to 4.29)
Here are past FIP Projections:

February 6th- Before Ayala Signing
January 17th- Before Guthrie Trade

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Curious Case of Brad Bergesen

Brad Bergesen is a 26 year old, 6'2'', Left-handed pitcher from Fairfield, California. He has enjoyed success throughout most of his baseball career, posting a 36-25 record with a 3.66 ERA in the minors. He even enjoyed a wonderful rookie season, posting a 7-5 record with a 3.43 ERA. However, his career has changed ever since the day he met Billy Butler.

It was July 30, 2009, when Bergesen was cruising for another win. He had gone seven innings giving up one earned run. He came on to pitch the 8th inning, and unfortunately might have made the most costly pitch of his career. Butler launched a fastball back at Bergesen, sending ball-to-bone echos throughout the stadium. It was an ugly scene for anyone that wasn't there or watching on TV. Since then, Bergesen has struggled to recapture the success he had during that season. Let's not also forget that he was injured filming a commercial before spring training as well. Take a look at 2009 compared to 2010-2011 to see exactly what I mean:

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As you can see from above, Bergesen struggled mightily throughout the 2010-2011 seasons. His BB/9 went up each year, which obviously means more base-runners. Add that to an increasing BABIP, and it is no surprise to see his ERA and FIP rising.

A few more things that really jump out when looking at his statistics are LOB%, GB%, and HR/9.

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More people left on base, added with an increasing HR/9, equates to disaster. The ground ball % indicates that he is serving up more line drives and fly balls, which probably is the reason for the increase in HR/9.

Essentially, Bergesen has all the negative trends you do not want to see in a pitcher. Could his injury in late July of 2009 really be the reason for his recent failures? Or was Bergesen simply all smoke-and-mirror in 2009. It's an interesting case to crack, with 2012 probably providing an important chapter in it.

Bergesen will have a fierce competition in spring training to make the team. He probably has four options at this point under my estimation:

1. He can win out a spot in the rotation. He would obviously need to revert back to 2009 form.
2. He can make the club as a long reliever. Maybe he doesn't win a spot in the rotation, but he was good enough to prove a valuable piece in the bullpen. His logical competition for that spot as of now would be Dana Eveland or Tommy Hunter.
3. Being optioned to AAA. Bergesen luckily has one more option left, so he does not have to worry much about job security...yet.
4. Finally, he could be a trade target. As a non-tender candidate earlier in the off-season, it wouldn't be a total shock to see Bergesen dealt. I would assume that the Orioles discussed that option at one point (regardless of whether they would follow through with it).


Overall, Bergesen is heading down a path that he does not want. A resurgent season is surely what he is looking for in 2012, and the rotation is completely up for grabs. It may be now or never for Brad Bergesen as a SP for the Baltimore Orioles.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Bullpen and Fastball Velocity

The Orioles come into the 2012 season with a much stronger bullpen on paper. The returns of Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, and the newly acquired Matt Lindstrom make a formidable 7-8-9 combo. All three of these pitchers have averaged a fastball velocity over 94mph in their careers.

Strop- 94.5 Average FB velocity
Johnson- 94.2 Average FB velocity
Lindstrom- 96.3 Average FB velocity

That is a lot of heat packed at the end of the bullpen. Add Alfredo Simon to the mix and you get even more fire-power. But does fastball velocity mean a stronger bullpen? Does it make the team better having more fire-power?

I went back over the past four years and took a look at the average fastball velocity of each pitcher on the club.

A few quick notes :

-In order for a pitcher to qualify for this list, they must have at least pitched 15 innings for the Orioles that season. I wanted to stick with using players who were primarily active that season. This limits out guys such as Armando Gabino (4.2 IP in 2010), who pitched less than 10 innings and really had no relevance.
- Some players started games as well, but I decided that as long as they pitched more than 15 innings out of the bullpen, they were eligible. Some players like Alfredo Simon, and Mark Hendrickson both pitched 15+ innings in the bullpen and played a role in the rotation.


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*** I also calculated the FB velocity without players such as Clay Rapada, Chad Bradford, Cla Meredith, and Jamie Walker. This just shows the speeds without them as outliers, since they primarily hovered around 85mph or lower***
As you can see from above, The Orioles' average fastball velocity has gradually increased each season since 2008.  Does this mean that they were more productive though? Let's take a look at the Orioles' ERA, FIP, xFIP, and fWAR over the past four years.

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As you can see from the chart to the right, the Orioles have hovered around the 2.7 fWAR ranking over the past three years, which is a significant increase from the terrible 1.3 fWAR in 2008. That year also happened to be the year with the worst average fastball velocity in the bullpen. Based off the ratings above, one could make a point in saying the Orioles had an average bullpen over the past three years. But does fastball speed really have any part in that? The Orioles bullpen has surely gotten better velocity-wise over the past couple years. The main reason why is probably not because of harder pitches, but better arms. In 2008 the Orioles had players such as Fernando Cabrera, Randor Bierd, Jamie Walker, and Chad Bradford.They were either "non-factor" players that pitched over 15 innings, or veterans on the decline. Each year after 2008, the Orioles' bullpen saw less and less "non-factor" players (although they still had their fair share, let's be honest). This could attribute more to the bullpens rise to mediocrity than the speed of their fastball. But it could possibly show that a better bullpen is probably filled with players whose average fastball is higher, rather than lower.

Another point to consider is that the starting rotation affects the bullpen as well. The more innings the bullpen pitches, the more likely their velocity will decrease due to getting overworked.

2008- 882 IP (29)
2009- 877.2 (30)
2010- 947.2 (24)
2011- 881 (30)

So looking at the innings pitched, it seems that the Orioles simply got more talented in the bullpen. The only year that I think less innings pitched helped the bullpen is probably 2010.

Looking forward to 2012, the Orioles seem to have a bullpen packed with better velocity. Here is my projected bullpen and their average fastball velocity from 2011:
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-The projected average velocity is faster than all four past years.
-If you take out O'day, the outlier, it averages out even faster.

Of course, this average will drop once the season actually happens. Injuries, demotions, trades, and other things factor into play. But as of now, it seems the Orioles have a ton of fire-power in the pen, and it seems to be the best pen yet in four years. If the bullpen could get ANY help from the rotation, they could actually be very good.

*All credit to Fangraphs as usual*



Monday, February 6, 2012

2/6 Updated FIP Projections

These are the updated Bill James' FIP projections after the Orioles traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. Jeremy Guthrie had a projected FIP of 4.56 for 2012, so that was taken out.

Zach Britton
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.84
Brian Matusz
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.55
Jake Arrieta
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.79
Tommy Hunter
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.48
Chris Tillman
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.82
Brad Bergesen
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.63
Dana Eveland (only 30 Innings in 2011)
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.81(presumably projecting him as a reliever)
Jim Johnson
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.71
Pedro Strop
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 2.98
Kevin Gregg
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.48
Alfredo Simon
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.96 (looks to be projected as a starter though)
Troy Patton
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.55
Jason Berken
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.63
Jason Hammel
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.17
Matt Lindstrom
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.55

Updated Average Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.26
The Orioles were projected at 4.34 before this trade.


This would have been the seventh worst FIP in 2011, only better than the Houston Astros (4.35), Cincinnati Reds (4.37), Twins (4.30), Jays (4.29) Royals (4.27), and the Dreaded Baltimore Orioles (4.67!!!!!)

So yea....The Orioles are still projected to get better, but not enough to matter!
4.26 is still lower tier, and not enough of an improvement to really matter.
The Phillies had the best FIP in the majors at 3.24!!! For anyone wondering, the Yankees had a team FIP of 3.87 (13th).

Some things to consider:

-There are no Bill James projections for the following players: Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O'day, and Zach Phillips.
-They could provide the Orioles with some much better numbers, and who knows, they could even factor into other players producing better numbers in other roles (such as a starter in the bullpen).
-The Orioles still could be looking into adding more pitching.
- Players could actually do better than their projection, or for that matter, they could do worse.

Anyways, they are just projections and nothing more. But even as projections you can see how far the Orioles really have to go or how much the young starters really need to improve for the Orioles to be a contender. Some will argue that trading Guthrie was a terrible idea. Some will say it does not matter either way. I am leaning towards the second part, although I question the move still. The Orioles may be projected better, but they are losing out on ~200 innings and that puts a lot more pressure on the young starters.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Does Camden Yards Affect CF Defensive Metrics?

   Camden Yards is one of the best baseball parks in my honest and slightly homeristic opinion. As a fan growing up, there was not one place I would have rather been in Baltimore over Camden Yards. However, deep inside the walls of the luxurious stadium is a strange and dark mystery. It's been a running myth ever since the stadiums' inception in 1992 that defense is not accurately measured; specifically in Center Field. (Not Really, but for the sake of this blog, let's just act like it has been).

   So what could there possibly be to unravel this myth of defensive metric abuse in Camden Yards? It seems like a simple task to solve, but there are a few obstacles in the way:

1. Camden Yards has not been around for THAT long. The first 8-10 years of its existence were primarily all Brady Anderson era. During this time, UZR and advanced defensive metrics did not exist yet.

2. After Brady's time, the Orioles had a disastrous group in CF. 2001 was the year of Melvin Mora (Yes, he played CF primarily in 2001). 2002 was the time of Chris Singleton. 2003-2005 was the time of Luis Matos. 2006 belonged to Corey Patterson for the most part. Finally in 2007, Adam Jones took over.

   The problem with this is that none of these players have an extensive amount of time in CF at Camden Yards to truly diagnose whether they played worse there. Mora's first season was the YEAR BEFORE advanced defensive statistics were documented. Singleton and Patterson essentially had one season under their belt for the Orioles in CF.
   Another reason that Singleton and Patterson's statistics are useless is because their career stats have other home stadiums' numbers mixed in. For example, Patterson obviously played with the Cubs before the Orioles. There are no home/away splits for advanced defensive metrics per single team or stadium.
   This means that the only two players that could possibly be looked at are Luis Matos and Adam Jones. Matos started 400 games in CF from 2003-05,while Jones has started in 544 since 2007. Below are the advanced defensive metrics of their home/away splits.


           Adam Jones
Home                     Away
-15.7       RngR      -2.9       
 -0.9         ErrR      -1.3   
  9.0         Arm        5.5  
-7.6         UZR        1.3
-5.1      UZR/150    0.9

           Luis Matos

Home                     Away
-6.7       RngR          5.5      
 -0.1         ErrR       -1.4  
 -2.5        Arm         -3.3 
-9.2         UZR         0.8
-8.4     UZR/150      0.8

   As you can see, both players do significantly better defensively away from Camden Yards. Only the Arm and ErrR ratings are better at Camden Yards. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see how the statistics DO fluctuate from when Jones and Matos both play away from Camden Yards. Their UZR ratings significantly improved. Since both players played three plus years with the Orioles, it is probably safe to say that this is a close-to-accurate-rating.
  In the end, are these ratings proof that Camden Yards is a hell-house for anyone playing CF? I would say no, because there is simply not enough evidence. Although in the future, maybe when the Orioles have another CF or two who plays three plus years, we may finally be able to crack this strange and dark mystery that has been bothering everyone (not really) for so long.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Analyzing the Orioles On-Base Skills

 Dan Duquette has mentioned on various occasions that his goal is to increase the on-base skills of the club. I decided to analyze the team and see if the current moves have made any changes. To get a better understanding of where they currently stand, I went back and did a little recap of the team from last season.

The Orioles were middle of the pack when it came to getting on base in 2011.
They ranked 19th overall with an OBP of .316
They ranked 12th overall with a wOBA of .320
They ranked 20th overall with a BABIP of .288
They ranked 14th overall with a K% of 18.2%
They ranked 24th overall with a BB% of 7.3% (Tied with 3 other teams)

They really were not good in any category, although their wOBA is surprisingly a little higher than expected. I would attribute that to how many HR they hit as a club though.
If you look at each player individually, you can get a better idea of where they stand. I only chose to look at players who got more than 150 AB. Chris Davis did not make the cut (124AB).

Orioles Leaders:
OBP: Nick Markakis .351
wOBA: Mark Reynolds .348
BABIP: Robert Andino .311
K%: Vlad Guerrero 9.5%
BB%: Mark Reynolds 12.1%


Matt Wieters:
OBP: .328
wOBA: .339
BABIP: .276
K%: 15.2%
BB%: 8.7%

Mark Reynolds:
OBP: .323
wOBA:.348
BABIP: .266
K%: 31.6%
BB%: 12.1%

JJ Hardy:
OBP: .310
wOBA:.343
BABIP:.273
K%: 16.2%
BB%: 5.5%

Robert Andino:
OBP: .327
wOBA:.305
BABIP:.311
K%: 16.2%%
BB%: 8.0%

Vlad Guerrero:
OBP: .317
wOBA:.318
BABIP:.302
K%: 9.5%
BB%: 2.9%

Derrek Lee:
OBP: .302
wOBA:.308
BABIP:.290
K%: 22.8%
BB%:6.9%



Nick Markakis:
OBP: .351
wOBA:.334
BABIP:.300
K%: 10.5%
BB%:8.7%

Adam Jones:
OBP: .319
wOBA: .339
BABIP: .304
K%: 18.3%
BB%: 4.7%

Nolan Reimold:
OBP: .328
wOBA:.341
BABIP:.264
K%: 18.7%
BB%: 9.2%

Luke Scott:
OBP: .301
wOBA:.307
BABIP:.250
K%: 22.9%
BB%: 10.2%


Brian Roberts:
OBP: .273
wOBA: .274
BABIP: .236
K%: 11.8
BB%: 6.7%

Felix Pie:
OBP: .264
wOBA: .244
BABIP: .273
K%: 18.3%
BB%: 5.7%

A few things jump out when looking at these stats. This team simply does not have the necessary patience at the plate. Only three players had BB% over 9% (Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds and Luke Scott). That alone will drag down a teams' OBP. Six players had K% over 18%(Felix Pie, Luke Scott, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds)! If it was not for Vlad Guerrero and his 9.5 K% outlier, the Orioles would have been even worse in that category. Finally, Felix Pie and Brian Roberts in 353 AB last season collectively had a .255 BABIP and .259 wOBA. Those 353 AB really drag down the teams' overall stats.

So how can this team get better in 2012? Well first let's start at looking at the new projections for the starting lineup. I compiled all of Bill James projections for the starting lineup together.
I did NOT consider Brian Roberts in the 2012 projections. I just do not see him ever being healthy this season unfortunately.
Here is the starting lineup:

C: Matt Wieters
1st: Chris Davis
2nd: Robert Andino
SS: JJ Hardy
3B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Nolan Reimold
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Wilson Betemit

Notable Bench Players:
Endy Chavez
Matt Antonelli

These are the guys I see getting significant (or relevant) playing time.
Unfortunately there are no projections for Matt Antonelli at this time. I would consider him a boost to these stats if anything.
 
Here are their projections for 2012 in RED


Bill James Projections:
OBP: .332 They ranked 19th overall in 2011with an OBP of .316
wOBA: .336 They ranked 12th overall in 2011with a wOBA of .320
BABIP: .308 They ranked 20th overall in 2011with a BABIP of .288
K%: 19.68% They ranked 14th overall in 2011 with a K% of 18.2%
BB%: 8.37% They ranked 24th overall in 2011 with a BB% of 7.3% (Tied with 3 other teams)

If the 2012 projections were ranked with the 2011 stats they would be:
7th overall in OBP
4th overall in wOBA
4th overall in BABIP
21st overall in K%
13th overall in BB%

  I tend to think that Bill James' projections are STRONGLY optimistic at times. I don't think anyone projects the Orioles to really improve substantially in each category like these projections indicate (Besides K%, which is due to the loss of Vlad Guerrero and the gain of Wilson Betemit and his 27.3%). They project players such as Nolan ReimoldNick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis to all take significant steps forward. At the very least, I would doubt that all four do. Also it is very hard to project BABIP, as it  has a lot to do with luck and opponents defensive abilities.

Overall, I would still say that the 2012 team has a much better chance at getting on base, but to not get overly excited with the outcome of these projections. Let's remember a year ago at this time when everyone thought the Orioles lineup projected to be a force in the AL East!

Prospect Watch: Xavier Avery

In the second addition of Prospect Watch, I want to talk about a raw, but talented Outfielder. Xavier Avery has all the physical gifts to be a very good player at the MLB level, but will he ever be able to fully put it all together?

Avery, 22, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft out of Cedar Grove HS (Georgia). At 5'11' 180lbs, he has the prototypical body of a speedster. Stealing bases has always been one of Avery's strengths, as he has stolen 117 bases throughout his four year minor league career. He is widely considered one of the fastest people in the Orioles system, and projects to be an above average fielder as well.

Of course, fielding and base running are not the problem when it comes to Avery. His plate discipline and overall approach are the problem. Avery has a career batting line of .265/.324/.355. While not terrible, it is certainly not the line one would expect when you think of a potential "lead-off" or speedster type of player.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had this to say about Avery in his latest prospect ranking:
"Speedster held own in Double-A, but approach is a mess, as is swing."

As you can see, it is widely known that Avery has much work to do before he gains access to the MLB. However, there are some positives to his game. He has never faltered extensively when moved to the next level, and is usually a year behind his competition in terms of age. He has plenty of time to grow still, and it seems that the Orioles are in a position to not rush him with Adam Jones still patrolling CF.
Unfortunately, his career K% of  22.7% in the minors is a telling sign still needs to learn how to stay off the junk and figure out how to hit the off-speed stuff.
Add that with his career BB% of 7.9% and you can get a better picture of why he has trouble getting on base.
After watching him on occasion at AA last season, and from what I saw in the AFL games broadcasted, he still has much work to do in the above areas mentioned.


Overall, Xavier Avery has plenty of upside, but his on-base skills will determine whether he becomes anything more than a 4th OF. He does not have the power(13HR in four seasons), like Adam Jones, to get away with such a high K% and low BB%. Avery will most likely start the 2012 season in AA or AAA, depending on whether the Orioles deem him necessary for the next level. He is certainly a guy to watch in the future though.

*Credit as usual to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for the statistics*