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Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Nobody Cares About Baseball This Weekend Edition

Sully Baseball lists all the reasons Hoyt Wilhelm was awesome and they are all 100% correct.

Zach Sanders highlights Jeremy Guthrie as an undervalued fantasy baseball asset. They’re catching on…

Mark Reynolds talked to Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix about his trade to Baltimore. You’ll have to get past factual errors (Reynolds hit .198 not .192) and brutal sentences like this: “One might expect a player who was traded from a team he had just signed a lucrative extension with to be bitter, but Reynolds wanted fans to leave fans and the organization on a different note.” It’s like I wrote it or something.

Dean Jones, Jr. and Mike Miller rank the top ten Oriole prospects for the Baltimore Sun. Like that Matt Hobgood is still hanging in there at #10. Just don’t read the comments below. At least half of them are retarded.

Camden Crazies offers up his very preliminary win projections for next season’s team.

Ross Gore at Baltimore Sports Report examines new Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg. He’s not crazy about him either.

Roar From 34 continues the Eutaw Street Chronicles.

PressBoxOnline give us an update on the renovations being done to Ed Smith Stadium, spring training home of the Orioles.

Autograph vouchers go on sale for the Oriole FanFest for $15. Fans ages 4-14 will still be able to get autographs. Not being a autograph collector myself, I find the stir about this new fee amusing. But I think I support it. The kids should be the first ones getting the autographs but the lines at these things are usually filled with binder-laden guys between the age of 22 and 52 trying to get cards signed leading to long lines and disappointed fans after the time is up. It will control crowds, cut down on piggish behavior and help a charity. Kudos.

Lineup Optimization for the Baltimore Orioles

Now that the regular 2011 Oriole lineup is pretty much set, I thought it was time to mess around with lineup optimization. What, you have something better to do until Spring Training?

Using ZIPS projections and BaseballMusings.com ‘s lineup optimizer, I constructed what I thought would be the optimal “traditional” style lineup. Here’s the lineup and the projections I used initially:

Player 1:
Player 2:
Player 3:
Player 4:
Player 5:
Player 6:
Player 7:
Player 8:
Player 9:

* I couldn’t find a ZIPS projection for J.J. Hardy yet…I used the FanGraphs.com fan projection instead.

According to the lineup optimizer, this lineup will produce 5.0 runs per game, 810 runs for a season. By contrast, the Oriole offense only scored 3.8 runs per game in 2010. 5.0 runs a game in 2010 would have put Baltimore among the offensive elite in the American League, only behind the Yankees (5.3) and tied for second with the Rays and Red Sox. Hopefully, these projections have some merit.

Anyway, here’s the optimal lineup given by the calculator. It would produce 813 runs over a season.

Markakis
Scott
Jones
Lee
Reynolds
Hardy
Wieters
Pie
Roberts

I would really like to think that Roberts power has been sapped so much that he would be a bottom of the lineup hitter in 2011 but that’s my heart speaking more than my head. But I can’t find a projection that has him slugging .450 again.

Regardless,the offensive talent has improved greatly which as we’ve seen in the past matters much more than the order of the lineup. With health and a little luck (like Matt Wieters finally starts to hit like we all think he could), this offense could actually be something special.

The Crystal Ball 2011: Jeremy Guthrie

I don’t know how Jeremy Guthrie will pitch in 2011. But I’ll wager on one thing; he will outperform his FIP. After all, he’s done it for the last three seasons.

When I looked at the 2011 Bill James Handbook last week, I discovered that Guthrie is among the best at keeping opposing batters off the bases, among the likes of Justin Verlander, Josh Beckett and Felix Hernandez.

I decided to pull some data from FanGraphs and see where Guthrie ranked in terms of outperforming his FIP over the past four seasons. The results:


FIP - ERA
Trevor Cahill 0.97
Johan Santana 0.67
Jeremy Guthrie 0.62
Shaun Marcum 0.61
Matt Cain 0.46

That’s good company for Guthrie. Really, those top 4 are head and shoulders above the rest of baseball in this regard.

How do they do it? Three of them have BABIP’s under .280 and the other (Santana) only had a .286 BABIP. Those numbers help but they are just results. What do they do to keep the BABIP down? How do they outperform their FIP year after year? What do they have in common?

In short, they have little in common. They don’t all have live fastballs, they are not all groundball pitchers, they are not all big strikeout guys. They don’t all pitch in front of great defenses, they pitch in pitcher and hitter friendly stadiums, some throw a ton of changeups, others throw a ton of sliders.

The only thing they all do reasonably well is limit their walks but FIP should already account for that.

It’s probably not any one thing that these pitchers do but a combination of characteristics. But they all have a knack for outperforming their FIP, however they arrive at it.

My theory on Guthrie? He gives up a lot of weak flyballs and his outfielders have pretty good arms. But that’s a weak theory, I’ll admit. If anyone else has some ideas, let me know.

Guthrie in 2011 will be a slightly above average pitcher again and go for 30+ starts. Considering the rest of the rotation will be 25 and under, it’s nice to have one guy who should be steady, if not spectacular.

Three More Things I Learned from the Bill James Handbook

While we sit here and wait for Spring Training, here’s some more tidbits I found while perusing the 2001 Bill Jame Handbook. These three factoids all concerned players who are no longer with the team, coincidentally.

1. Corey Patterson Has Some Value

At least as a fourth outfielder. For a guy who was plucked from the waiver wire and started his 2010 Oriole season in Norfolk, Corey Patterson had a successful season in Baltimore. The batting line was about what you would expect from him (.269/.315/.406) but he brought more than his bat to the table.

According to the Handbook, he was the best baserunner on the team, by a good margin, while only playing 90 games. He did well in every aspect, stealing 21 bases at an 84% rate, scored well above average in going 1st to 3rd, 2nd to Home, and 1st to Home and grounded into double plays only 3 times in 47 opportunities.

In addition, on John Dewan’s +/- scale, he scored a +3 for his work in left and center and saved 4 defensive runs.

Patterson has moved on to Toronto and there really wasn’t room for him in Baltimore but he’s a good guy to have as your fourth outfielder. I’m sure he’ll cause some headaches for Baltimore next season.

2. Ty Wigginton Doesn’t Have As Much Value As You Might Think

According to the Handbook, the Orioles were 27th in baserunning last season. As a group, they lost 31 bases  compared to average baserunners. Ty Wigginton lost 21 of those bases by himself. Not only was he a poor base stealer, he grounded into a bunch of double plays and he was very poor at advancing on hits. Even Matt Wieters, as slow as he is, only scored -10.

He was also a poor fielder. He scored -8 in terms of Runs Saved and was just passable (+3 Runs Saved) at first base.

Given his .248/.312/.415 2010 batting line, it’s hard to see what the Rockies liked so much about him when they gave him $8 million over the next two years. That could be an ugly little contract.

3. Really? That Guy?

The Handbook breaks down reliever performance and has a stat called Clean Outings which are outings when the reliever does not give up any runs or allow any inherited runners to score. The leader for the Oriole bullpen. Matt Albers with 34 Clean Outings. Matt Albers. Koji Uehara was second with 33 in many fewer appearance. I’m not sure that this doesn’t say more about the poor bullpen than the effectiveness of Albers.

What Has the Oriole Farm System Produced?

I have beat this point like a drum, almost since the inception of this blog more than 4 years ago…but why stop now? The Oriole farm system, once the best in baseball, has been abysmal for the last 25 years or so. And this is the #1 reason that the Orioles have lost for 13 straight seasons, why they have had 19 losing seasons since they last won the World Series and why they have trouble competing in the AL East. Andy MacPhail has done his part to restore it but he had a big hole, nay, a chasm to fill.

How deep was that pit that is the Oriole farm system? Really, really deep. To demonstrate that point, I decided to look at how many homegrown players it has produced for the club since 1988, the season the Orioles posted the worst record in franchise history.

I’m not looking for stars. My criteria for position players and starting pitchers was a 5.0 WAR during their Oriole career and 3.0 WAR for a reliever’s Oriole career.

The player also has to have spent significant time in the Oriole system. Players traded for who had already reached AAA in their former organizations (or players who had dominated AA so thoroughly that starting them in AAA the next season was a no-brainer) were excluded. Chris Hoiles and Brady Anderson, for example, don’t count.

These are not lofty standards. The Tampa Bay Rays had 7 players on their 2010 roster alone who met this criteria.

Here’s the list, in order their Oriole debut along with their Oriole career WAR.

Bob Milacki – 6.1 WAR

If there’s ever a player who demonstrates how low these standards are, it’s Bob Milacki. Debuting at the end of miserable 1988 season, Milacki was a big part of 1989’s “Why Not?” team. I was surprised he was on this list because I had forgotten his rebound 1991 season. Most of Milacki’s value is wrapped in those two seasons.

Gregg Olson – 9.3 WAR

Like Milacki, Olson debuted in 1988 and was also a big part of the “Why Not?” team. Unlike Milacki, Olson spent 1989-1993 as a very productive player out of the Oriole bullpen.

Ben McDonald – 13.8 WAR

Debuting in 1989, McDonald would never live up to the hype but had a decent career. He was developing in to a very good pitcher when injuries began to take their toll in 1995.

Leo Gomez – 10.0 WAR

Gomez hung around for 6 seasons with a couple of decent seasons in 1992 and 1994.

Mike Mussina – 47.4 WAR

The only true star produced during this period, Mussina was one of the greatest pitchers in Oriole history.

Arthur Rhodes – 6.8 WAR

I had always thought of Rhodes as a Jose Mesa type, a guy the Orioles didn’t give a chance to relieve before they cut him loose. But he was primarily a reliever the last four seasons of his Oriole career. I had forgotten that.

Sidney Ponson – 11.6 WAR

Ponson’s up and down career was really not so bad. He was hyped as a #1 starter but was probably more of a back of the rotation guy. But he was decent.

Jerry Hairston – 6.4 WAR

Hairston had his moments. He must have if the Orioles were wondering if he or Brian Roberts would be the better player.

Brian Roberts – 28.7 WAR

He’s Brian Roberts. Enough said.

Daniel Cabrera – 8.7 WAR

A couple of tantalizing seasons…

Nick Markakis – 17.3 WAR

It’s amazing that Markakis made it at all. He only had 33 games above high-A ball when the Orioles made him one of their starting outfielders going into the 2006 season. It’s safe to say that Markakis succeeded in spite of the Oriole farm system. He was rushed to the majors at a ridiculous pace.

That’s it. These 11 players are the best that the Oriole farm system has produced for the major league club. In 23 years…this is it!

What’s the point? The point is that the Oriole farm system was so wretched over the past 25 years or so, that I can’t be upset with what the Orioles farm system is now. Andy MacPhail has improved the system by leaps and bounds. The starting rotation this season could feature four homegrown starters. There are two homegrown arms in the bullpen and the position player with the most upside is also homegrown.

That’s why I can’t be pessimistic about the future of the Orioles as some of my fellow bloggers are. Viewed in a vacuum, the state of the Oriole farm system is a bit bleak. In context, it is healthy and improving. Would I like them to produce more major league talent? Yes, but it is producing more than it has in years…decades. Should they spend more on the draft? Yes, but they are spending more than they ever have. Would I like them to be more active internationally? Yes, but they have signed foreign born players in the last couple years where their presence was nearly non-existent.

Slowly, the minor league system is coming along. It’s not a powerhouse but at least it’s functioning now. It’s a start.

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Hall of Fame Edition?

Sully Baseball highlights all the awesomeness that was Game 7 of the 1979 World Series. Except for the whole “Orioles lose the World Series” business. But it’s worth looking at for the pictures of Don Stanhouse alone. Trust me.

Stacey at Camden Chat takes a look at the recent history of multi-year contracts handed out to relief pitchers by the Orioles. And it ain’t pretty.

Camden Depot gives his thorough take on the state of the Orioles as we head in to 2011. Quick conclusion? He thinks he’s seen enough of Andy MacPhail.

Camden Crazies talks about the Kevin Gregg deal which makes any analysis I was going to write, redundant.

Kevin gives a send off to four former Orioles who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot today, including Harold Baines, one of my all-time favorite Orioles.

Eutaw Street Hooligans runs down the new Orioles. And quickly puts to rest the notion that Prince Fielder is coming in 2012.

Neal at The Loss Column has graded the Oriole offseason.

hObbled.

Baltimore Sports and Life wonders who will round out the Orioles bullpen. Bet you thought you’d heard the last of Bruce Chen.

Baltimore Sports Report breaks down who should break camp with the big club out of Spring Training.