Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:24 pm

Statistical Debates, Analysis and Predictions

This debate is actually comical. Not one person on Planet Baseball doesn't look at the 2011 Orioles everyday lineup and doesn't think that its not significantly improved over last year's. And, that it is more formidable and will compete with the other teams in the AL East, AL and MLB on a daily basis. Nobody. 

I get a kick out of people who quote the sabermetric mathematical analysis as actually scientific ways to describe player's abilities. Anyone that knows anything about those statistics knows that it takes years (like 7) to make the data reasonable. If in fact, you believe that those stats actually tell you something you don't already know or try to tell you something that just does not exist. In other words, its fantasy and tells you nothing that means anything. 

Wikipedia: Sabermetrics is the analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity rather than industry activity such as attendance.
Try this load of crap for a stat.  dERA: This is a measurement of what a pitcher's earned run average would have been, if not for the effects of defense and luck. It uses batters faced, homeruns allowed, walks allowed, intentional walks allowed, strikeouts and hit batsmen in a complex mathematical formula.

Sites like FanGraphs and others like it, spew out garbage numbers that have no bearing on the true standards of baseball. I'll stand corrected when the first Cy Young award is given to a pitcher with the best DICE and DIPS.  Or a player wins the MVP for a stellar VORP or MLV.  

For over 100 years the standard stat lines were perfect descriptions. BA, OBP, HR, RBI, RS, SB, ERA, W, SO, BB, SV and a few others were the only categories needed to compare players and seasons. Do we really care if Nick Markakis has a RC/9 of 8? So, if Kakes was to hit in every spot in the line-up for the entire game, the O's would score 8 runs. Really? Is this a stat based on any reasonable possibility of that actually happening?

Why is it that everything has to go right for the Birds to be more than "above average" and to stay competitive in the AL East? Are we assuming that every other team in the division will remain healthy but the O's players won't? If not, then we are assuming that everyone on all the teams will stay healthy. 

If that's the case, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Justin Duchsherer, J.J. Hardy and all of the O's will be at their healthiest and therefore at their best. And at their best, they are scary good. Every bit as scary as the Yankees for instance. Who would you rather have? New York's starting outfielders/DH (Swisher, Granderson, Gardner and Posada) or the Orioles (Scott, Jones, Markakis and Guerrero). Or the starting staffs? New York has Sabathia who's a true ace, but Hughes/Matusz is a wash and Guthrie has outperformed Burnett for the past couple years rather easily. Duch, Bergy, Jake, Tillman and Britton versus Mitre, Colon, Garcia, Prior, Nova and Backman? You choose. And the difference in the infielders has dramatically shrunk. Tex/Lee, Cano/Roberts, A-Rod/Reynolds, Jeter/Hardy, Martin/Wieters. A-Rod, Tex and Jeter all had "down statistical years" last year (and were healthy).

If Mark Reynolds can cut down on his strikeouts, then... (a strikeout does matter.  I have mentioned this before, but I  live in AZ and I could not tell you how frustrating it has been to watch Reynolds strikeout, when all that was needed was a sac fly to win/tie the game)
This is a horrible analysis IMO. It wasn't frustrating when Reynolds knocked in those 85 to 100 runs. Or belted all those homers. His at bats were VERY productive last season even without a high BA and a ton of K's. He still had a .320 OBP, rarely hit into a DP (which is two times as bad as a K), and he is atypical for a prototypical power guy because he doesn't clog up the basepaths. He's quick and steals some bases too. And he did that for a Diamondbacks team that had a lineup that offered him little help or protection. He had a down year at 27 years old. So what? That's exactly what happened to Markakis last season in his "down year." He had no lineup protection. Yet we rationalize his problems.

Pitt up some numbers based on "real statistics." They point to a very improved Orioles team. Those trying to be "cautiously optimistic" (to a ridiculous degree) are looking for cracks in the armour. To make predictions one must assume that everyone is on an equal playing field in terms of health. It won't remain that way, but you can't predict injuries or what effect they'll have until it happens. You can't predict decline in a player until there is a pattern. Lee had a monster year in 2009. He was injured in 2010. Guerrero had a huge bounce back season in 2010. The second half stats could have been that the 105 degree heat in Texas had a toll on him. He's not on the Rangers team any longer and may hit for better numbers in 2011 playing in a cozy hitters park in Baltimore.

And for comparison purposes, what if the Boston Red Sox players who were injured last year remained injured or became re-injured? Boston (who I like to win the AL East based on their paper team) was without Pedroia, Youkilis, Beckett, Dice-K, Ellsbury and Cameron for huge parts of last season. Lackey, Drew and Papelbon had down years, and Ortiz was horrible early. Their two best offensive players last year was V-Mart and Beltre, both who have signed elsewhere via free agency. In comes Crawford and A-Gonzo. Will the change of environment help or hinder these two stars? They actually have big shoes to fill because Martinez and Beltre put up significant offensive numbers last year. What if they don't, and all of the injure players don't return or bounce back? IMO, a healthy Orioles team could easily pass them in the standings.

Did the champion Rays improve? Is Manny and Damon enough to offset the loss of Crawford? Garza's gone, and so is every reliever from the top ranked bullpen.  Price is a beast and Hellickson will be too. But Shields? Davis? They're not scary and they don't have a ton of bullpen support now.

How about the Blue Jays? Like the O's, they are relying on their very talented young pitching. They also have young hitters like Snider and Lind. But they lost their closer, Kevin Gregg, and their CF and leader, Vernon Wells. An OF of Snider, Rivera and Davis is a far cry from Bautista, Wells and Lind. Granted Bautista stays in the lineup at 3B, but Lind platoons with Encarnacion now. 

You make the call. Can the Orioles stay with Boston, Tampa, Toronto and New York for an entire season? IMO, if this O's team had played in 2010 against the Jays, it wouldn't have lost half those games. The Rays pitching staff would have had to work harder to record outs. And the oft injured BoSox and pitching poor Bronx Bombers would have fallen more often too. The difference would have easily been 15 wins over the course of the season. And that, would have been good enough to play .500 ball last year.  

So, you want predictions. Here's what I think about the AL East:

 Tampa lost the most this offseason. They won 96 games and scored a ridiculous amount of runs for a team with a poor team BA. However, I attribute that to Crawford and he's gone. So is that tremendous bullpen of last season and Garza who was their second best pitcher behind Price. Manny and Damon have chips on their shoulders and Hellickson is going to be a stud. But this team is probably 12-14 wins less than last year's club. Prediction: 83-79

New York will have to buy parts at some point this season. They won 95 games last year with a rotation that included a mechanically flawed A.J. Burnett, an injury riddled Andy Pettitte and a completely overmatched Javier Vazquez. Sabathia dominated and Phil Hughes had a great first full time season in the rotation (although he faded some late because of fatigue). I expect Hughes to continue his success and expect Sabathia to dominate again. But as a few Yankees fans have alluded to, "its Sabathia, Hughes and then we lose!" I'm not sure its that drastic, but couple that with an aging offense (Jeter and Posada have appeared to slow down and Tex and A-Rod were statistically down last season) and its possible that the Evil Empire takes a tumble in 2011. Even though Robinson Cano has now become a MVP candidate, this team needs better years from their veteran studs A-Rod and Tex. IMO, the New York pitching staff, even with the spectacular Riviera and Soriano at the end to shut down opponents, will end up being the team's achilles heal. They too, like the Rays will lose more. Near 10-12 more games because of that staff and aging offense. Prediction: 84-78

Boston, if healthy, could dominate the division. I look for new additions Gonzo and Crawford to fit in nicely, and expect Beckett to perform well (it is an odd year). Lackey will provide innings and Lester is the team's ace now, and a good one. Dice-K is probably not going to bounce back because he has no control any longer. Buchholz, on the other hand, has the ability that other young upstart AL pitchers have like Matusz, Hellickson, Romero and Hughes have. The ability to become a top of the rotation guy. The offense with a healthy Pedroia and Youk will have this team in the post season.They didn't win 90 last year, but they'll easily surpass that mark this year. Prediction: 98-64

Toronto mashed the ball last season and without Buck and Wells won't come close to last year's numbers in 2011. The loss of Vernon Wells is bigger than most think. He was the face of the franchise. The young pitching is going to be very good. Romero, Cecil and Drabek are the real deals. The bullpen may not be. Overall, this team took a step backwards. Until that young staff starts to consistently produce (and it will very soon) and young power hitters Lind and Snider do the same , this team will hover around the .500 mark which is a few games worse than last season. Prediction: 81-81

The Orioles are the most improved offensive team in baseball on paper. Hands down! The team was next to last in runs scored and in ERA in the AL. A combination that nets you about 66 wins. That won't happen this year. Like Toronto, the Orioles young staff will improve this season. Unlike Toronto, Baltimore has a rock solid bullpen in the making. The team ERA which peaked at over 4.5 runs a game should be much improved. My guess by at least a half a run. That would place the Orioles in the middle of the pack and behind the leaders by about a half run. The offense didn't average 4 runs per game (3.83 I think). That WILL change. By at least one full run. The Yankees at 5.3 led the AL last season. If those numbers do move as I expect them to, the Orioles will score more than they give up. Something that hasn't happened in a very long time. And that, equates to more wins than loses. that means as much as a 20 win increase from last season's 66. But at 15 more wins the O's will have played .500 ball. I think it happens. Prediction: 82-80

Bottom line: All 5 teams in the AL East play .500 or better. The Red Sox easily win the division. The Yankees, Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays will all battle for 2nd place. None make the playoffs as a wildcard.  The deciding factor after who's healthy or not and to what degree, will be the starting pitching. No revelation there. Its always been that way. Long before any saber-stat or baseball stat-geek told us so by formulating it through a maze of statistical data.
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 18, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 3:13 pm

Finally, Not The Same O's In 2011

Thankfully, the 2011 winter version of the Baltimore Orioles is not a regurgitation of the typical offseason under President of Baseball Operations, Andy MacPhail. The 2010 season, although a major disappointment in both prospect progress and team wins, finally provided clarity to the team's front office. In a previous blog I outlined the three steps the Orioles needed to take to become competitive. 

The first realization seemed obvious to everyone but Andy. It was time to to throw out the "nice guys" like Dave Trembley who proved over and over again that he couldn't manage a pitching staff or put together a lineup that would produce. The clubhouse had become chaotic and the losing atmosphere was embedded in the soul's of the players. And it showed daily. The remedy was to bring in a manager who was well versed in all phases of baseball (on and off the field), who commands respect throughout the sport and demands accountability from his players and front office. And voila! Success to the tune of a .600 winning percentage playing baseball mostly against foes in the east. A team playing well enough to have won the AL East in the second half of the season if it was actually divided into two half seasons.

Part One Result: Finding and hiring the proper manager (Buck Showalter) and coaching staff (led by Willie Randolph and John Russell)...ACCOMPLISHED!

The second part of the equation was a little trickier. The evaluation of the team's young prospects became nearly a grueling task under Buck. The Josh Bell experiment at 3B was like pulling teeth because Bell never really progressed and it became both disappointing and daunting. As a result of his failures, Bell's value as a prospect took a big hit. It became obvious to the Orioles front office that a power hitting 3B was a club's top priority.

Ditto for Chris Tillman's performance, although there was some progression later in the season. Fortunately for the O's, there is a good number of young arms within the organization that the team can look at to fill the last rotation spot. Names that include the top pitching prospect Zach Britton among others. And although the team would love to find another Kevin Millwood type veteran innings eater, its not an absolute necessity. Especially if the veteran isn't providing an upgrade at the position but increasing the payroll.

But not every young player took a step back or under performed. Felix Pie seemed to flourish under Showalter. And with Nolan Reimold still projected to be a major leaguer as well,  the LF position appears to be their's to lose. The team could sign another big bat like Vladimir Guerrero and send Luke Scott to LF regularly which would send Pie to the bench and Reimold to Norfolk to begin the season. But it appears unlikely unless the O's can get a contract from a pure DH that is very team friendly.

Others like Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta also played very well under Showalter. That bodes extremely well for a young pitching staff that needs its starters to progress and take that next step. And even though Jeremy Guthrie isn't a true ace, his numbers were very good last season especially when you consider he pitched for a team that lost nearly 100 games. So, if the top 4 of Guthrie, Matusz, Bergesen and Arrieta continue to develop, the O's should be fine.

The bullpen was a disaster from week one when Michael Gonzalez was totally ineffective and injured. Koji Uehara spent much of his season out as well, as did Jim Johnson and Jason Berken who had a great first half. Matt Albers, Alfredo Simon, Mark Hendrickson and the rest had an occassional bright moment, but were below average mostly. The bullpen was in desperate need of good health and in dire need of a veteran or two. 

First base was also an issue after the failed Garrett Atkins experiment. Ty Wigginton did a nice job filling in, but Wiggy is a super utility type guy that shouldn't be a team's starting 1B and cleanup hitter. A power hitting 1B became a priority after about 50 Atkins at bats. Add SS to that equation too where Cesar Izturis played gold glove caliber defense but finished last in the AL offensively.

Part Two Result: Evaluating the young talent and identifying team needs (1B, 3B, SS, RP, SP)...ACCOMPLISHED

Once the evaluation process was concluded and the team needs identified, it was the job of the front office to fill the holes. Something they have done in the past with the likes of Garrett Atkins, Miguel Tejada, Julio Lugo, Cesar Izturis, Kevin Millwood and other stopgap starters like Rich Hill that I'm too embarrassed to include. But 2011 with Buck Showalter, Willie Randolph and John Russell (all with managing and personnel experience) on board, it would be different. Very different.

Although the top 5 free agents (Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, Victor Martinez and Jayson Werth) all signed elsewhere, the team still made very fruitful and affordable moves that included two trades and a number of free agent acquisitions. By trading for Mark Reynolds, the Orioles got a truly good, young slugger who rarely hits into double plays, has a very good OBP and provides serious power and lineup protection. He strikes out a ton, but his run production is well documented. Ditto for the free agent signing of 1B Derrek Lee who brings a veteran presence, a power bat and a very good glove to OPACY. Add the addition of SS J.J. Hardy via trade who brings a solid bat and glove with him, and the O's revamped 60% of the starting infield. The re-signing of Izturis provides a gold glove infielder off the bench. Something Baltimore has not had the luxury of in the past. And Brendan Harris, also acquired from the Twins along with Hardy, offers versatility in that he can play the corner outfield positions and all of the infield positions (except catcher).

The additions of Jeremy Accardo and Kevin Gregg, and the re-signing of Uehara solidifies the bullpen. With Gonzo, Johnson, Accardo, Uehara and Gregg, the O's have 5 of the 7 bullpen pitchers with closing experience. With Berken taking on the long man role, the team is one LOOGY away from being one of the best bullpens in all of baseball if healthy. A far cry from last season when the BP continuously let down a starting staff which struggled to find a win to begin with.

Part Three Result: Filling team needs (Reynolds, Lee, Hardy, Uehara, Gregg, Accardo, Izturis and Harris)...ACCOMPLISHED

Now that the Orioles front office and field management teams have succeeded in taking those three important steps, its up to Buck, Willie, John and the rest of the coaching staff to put it all together on the playing field. But its not their task alone. The players themselves must take the next step in their progression as well. They need to learn how to win and get the most out of their potential on a daily basis. And lastly, the front office can't sit on its laurels. They must continue to add or subtract players in an effort to further build this organiztion into a perennial contender.

After more than a dozen years its about time the O's fans can smile and feel truly better about their team. Past disapointments have nearly all of us cautiously optimistic. But 2011 doesn't reak of losing like seasons past. That cloud over our heads is gone. This year may be the first real step forward to becoming relevant again. i think so. I hope so.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 22, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2010 1:48 pm

The Orioles Just Need Baseball Minds And Players

Let me set everyone straight that thinks I'm a pessimist. I'm not. I'm an optimist (I did predict an 85 win season barring managerial collapse). But, I am absolutely a realist. If you want a good debate, I'll set the stage with my views which seem to bring out a whole lot of different views from you guys. There will be no finger pointing or bad will intended. We are all Orioles fans and each one of us wants the O's to succeed. 

The Orioles are not a lost cause. The Orioles have a good young pitching core that includes Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta. Even Jeremy Guthrie is young enough to include. And, the Orioles control his contract for two more years. In the minors, Zach Britton is inching closer to the big club that could use his sinkerball in the worst way. There is also Pat Eagan and Kam Mickolio who both stand at least 6'8" tall and are intimadating on the mound. Add Frank Mata, Troy Patton, David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and Tim Bascom to the mix and the Orioles should be able to not only set a formidable rotation in the near future, but stock the bullpen with better arms than they have now in Alfredo Simon, Mark Hendrickson, Jim Johnson and Matt Albers. The biggest needs the young arms will have will be with direction, development and run support. That is simply the staple of needs of any successful pitching unit. The O's offer none of those needs at this juncture. That will have to change immediately (and I'll address those issues later).

The O's also have a few solid position players that form a strong nucleus to build on. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones have high ceilings. Jones, like the young pitchers, lacks the proper attention needed to help develop his game at this level. Markakis is in dire need of line-up protection so he can rediscover his power stroke. Nick may not ever be a 30+ homer guy, but he should be able to hit 20-25 on a yearly basis. Jones too. Matt Wieters, Luke Scott and Brian Roberts are also excellent core type players. Roberts adds speed, disipline and a veteran presence to the line-up that often goes overlooked until its missing. Wieters is simply trying to be a franchise savior which is truly unfair to the kid. He and Scott need other decent power bats around. Both would probably blosoom as hitters if the O's FO would provide some impact bats to the order.

Every O's fan and most baseball fans knew that Dave Trembley wasn't the answer when he finally was fired. For the life of me, I don't know why it took some of you so long to see that Dave just wasn't a good fit. And now, many fans here and certainly on other sites, are starting to fall off the Andy MacPhail bandwagon. I never liked his hiring either. He has no successful track record. The Twins handed him a winning club and he gutted their farm. The Cubs waited twelve years for his phases and plans to work. They didn't and he was finally fired. He is also given too much credit when it comes to the O's farm system. Many prospects (including Markakis and Wieters) were already in the system or drafted before MacPhail's arrival. Actually, the farm took a turn for the better with the arrival of Joe Jordan, the director of amateur scouting, who proceeded MacPhail in coming to Baltimore. The farm's success has more to do with Jordan than MacPhail and that includes setting up facilities in the Dominican Republic and Asia. Even Sarasota was being discussed (Dodgertown in Vero Beach too) before Andy's arrival. Don't be so quick to credit him for all of these things. Remember, he opted to keep Trembley, Kranitz and Crowley too. Three hundred losses later, the worst ERA for two years running, a team that can't hit or drive in runs, and all young prospects regressing is the result of such poor personnel decision making. That, however, you can credit MacPhail with.

That aside, MacPhail, if he makes the correct managerial hiring, can save face. The losing culture that holds Baltimore hostage can be reversed rather quickly with an overhaul of coaches and a new manager with a successful ML track record. The core players are already here and under contract. Developing those players at the ML level and putting them in situations where they can succeed will go along way in turning this franchise around. It can actually be done fairly quickly. The team desperately needs structure, disipline and an identity. New management could put their stamp on all of those things right away.

Once a new management team is in place, its imperative that the team's needs are identified quickly. That includes the progress of minor leaguers who are still projected to be big league players. Britton, Bell and others will need evaluating, as will the entire ML roster which like the minor leagues, is thinning out rather fast. The Orioles hold an option on Atkins (which they won't take) and lose Izturis, Wigginton, Lugo, Hendrickson, Uehara, Ohman, Millwood, Patterson and Tejada at year's end. It appears that Moore, Albers, Tatum, Simon and Montanez are not in the future plans either. That leaves Roberts, Wieters, Jones, Markakis, Pie and Scott as the only position players next season. The starting staff if no free agent is added would include Guthrie, Matusz, Tillman and Arrieta, with Bergesen, Patton, Bascom and Britton vying for the fifth spot. The three losers of that competition could join Hernandez, Gonzalez and Berken in the pen. So, the pitching, going forward, looks solid even though its very young. An experienced bullpen arm or two and a veteran starter would be a recipe for further success next season, however.

So, here's what I would do if I was in MacPhail's shoes:

The first priority is to hire a manager with a successful ML record. No more nice guys! I like Showalter, but Wedge is also intriguing. The rest of the former managers are too old. Rick Dempsey, IMO, is just not managerial material. He's too clumsy in his statements and I watched his entire career and he's just not that impressive as a baseball mind. As a player I loved him.

Next, identify needs. Obvious ones are a veteran starter, a power hitting 3B, a power hitting 1B and a bullpen arm which may or may not be a closer (but who has some experience in that role). Once identified, target certain players and have a back-up plan. Know the free agent market this season and next. Its not necessary to fill all the needs with one free agent year. Spend wisely but open the wallet and bring in impact players. Talented guys in their prime. Make commitments in years and dollars. Signing the right free agent is also an investment in your core players like Wieters, Markakis and Jones. Protecting them in a line-up is critical to their growth and development.
The Orioles spent $16.5m this season on Tejada, Atkins, Lugo and Izturis. Adam Dunn cost the Nationals $20m over two years ($10m avg), Alex L. Gonzalez cost the Blue Jays $2.75m, and Placido Polanco signed with the Phillies for $18.0m over three years ($6.0m avg). With Lugo and Atkins as nothing more than bench players, it certainly appears that the O's did a poor job of free agent signing over Andy's tenure. Dunn, Gonzalez and Polanco cost a combined $18.5m which is roughly $2.0m more than the O's spent on Tejada, Atkins, Lugo and Izturis. Dunn at 1B, Polanco at 3B and Gonzalez at SS would have made the Orioles club much stronger. And Gonzalez and Dunn were signable last winter for sure.

The last part of my plan would be to continue to draft well and continue to add pieces via the farm, trade or free agency. The prospects would be ready not rushed, I'd sign free agents that would have an impact on the team (including role players and BP arms), and I'd trade from the team's strength (something the team doesn't have yet although the pitching is being developed).

1. Hire a successful ML manager (and his coaching staff)
2. Identify needs and target free agents (with a back-up plan)
3. Sign impact free agents and make a commitment to those players

The Orioles may not win the pennant next season, but shaking the "loser" tag and altering the culture that has consumed the club will be positive moves in an attempt to make the team more competitive and more attractive to talented free agents. Everyone insists that  a good foundation (the farm) is how to grow a team. I disagree. It starts at the top first. Without the proper baseball minds in place at the top of the organization, player development and drafting amateur players is greatly compromised.  Every team up and down the franchise's system must be on the same page. Teaching and developing right up to and including the ML level. Consistency is key. It definitely starts at the top. MacPhail has to make the right call with the next personnel move or he will set the Orioles franchise back another three or four years. 

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 11, 2010 2:50 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2010 5:09 pm

The State Of The Orioles Is Sorry At Best

The Orioles are the worst team in baseball after the completeion of 20% of the season. The 9 win start is second worst in the history of the franchise. This was supposed to be the breakout year. Year 3 of the 3 year plan. The team was going to be competitive. The team was going to be judged by the win and loss columns. What happened? What happened is that the Baltimore Orioles are not in good hands. They never were. It was just smoke and mirrors. From the owner Peter Angelos, to the President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, to the manager Dave Trembley and his coaching staff.

MacPhail has a sub .500 record as a President, V.P. and GM of the Twins, Cubs and Orioles. Although he had most of the parts in Minnesota, he traded away the farm for a few veterans. He got away with 2 world series wins, but he put the Twins in a 8 year downward spiral where they fished fourth or last in the division. The longest and roughest span in their history. His tenure with Chicago resulted in nothing significant. The Cubbies started to win after he left and Lou Piniella was hired and the new FO made some savy trades. Andy has little success attached to his resume. Three 90 loss seasons and a stubborness to retain brain dead coaching has many observers outside of the organization wondering when Angelos will fire him. The Orioles fan base, after being promised that the 3 year plan was being fully executed and that the team will be judged by wins and loses, is losing its patience with MacPhail. He risks alienating what's left of the fans (as proven by plummeting attendance at Camden Yards) if he sits still much longer without making at least a manager change.

Any Baltimore fan that remotely follows the O's knows that Trembley has no professional baseball training at any level. His managerial success in the minor leagues was less than stellar where he accumulated a 1369-1413 record and his teams finished above .500 just 7 times in 20 years. As the manager of the Baltimore Orioles he has led his team to three consecutive 90+ loss seasons for a pathetic 284 loses to just 201 wins.

Last year at about this time everyone was calling for the coaching staff's collective heads, except Terry Crowley. I was not one of those. I think Crowley sucks and always has. He was a horrible major leaguer who got DFA'd by the Braves and Expos, and released by the Orioles twice. He never had 250 AB's in a season and amassed a total of 42 HR's and 229 RBI in 15 seasons. He was not liked by Earl Weaver and certainly does not reflect the "Orioles Way." And IMO, the fans have witnessed an absolute decline in the young players once they got to the ML level under his guidance. Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold are particularly worse off since joining the big league club. 

Rick Kranitz never made the major league. He was 37-39 in 7 seasons in the minor leagues. His ERA at the highest level was 5.17 and his lifetime BB/9 ratio was an incredibly high 5.7 (that's average walks per nine innings over his entire career). And this is the idiot that is supposed to help a young pitching staff.

Jeff Datz played 9 seasons all in the minor leagues and hit .243 lifetime.

Alan Dunn played 2 seasons in the minors and had an ERA of 5.51 and like Kranitz sports a lifetime BB/9 of 5.17 in A and AA ball.

John T-Bone Shelby was a decent defensive OF for 11 seasons, but had a career average of only .239 and had no power. He did steal 98 bases but was thrown out 40 times (that's a poor 71% success rate).

Juan Samuel was a career .259 hitter. He did steal 396 bases but was caught 143 times (a not-so-good 73%). He also led the league in strikeouts 4 times. We have all seen his blunders as the team's third base coach.

The Orioles have employed the worst field management team in the history of their franchise and perhaps in the history of professional baseball. Today's team plays baseball like they are in a coma induced state with a manager who looks out from the dugout with a dumbfounded stare that makes one wonder what planet he's from. And he is surrounded by minor league failures and average veteran players. None of which have ties to the "Orioles Way". For some mysterious reason, the O's FO chooses to stay away from true professionals who exemplify the rich tradition that was once the trademark of this franchise. In their stead, they hire retreads, wanna-bes and failures. If Peter Angelos truly wants the Baltimore Orioles to be a successful baseball organization, then its time to bring in successful baseball people. The Birds have some excellent young talent at the ML level now with Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters and Brian Matusz, and there is more talent down on the farm. But without true proven leadership and guidance, this group may never realize that talent. If new leadership is applied now, however, it could turn this season and the franchise around rather quickly.

The FO is running out of excuses. Injuries, like those to Brian Roberts and Felix Pie, come with the territory and every team endures them. Those teams that are adequately prepared (and have some depth) get through those kind of hurdles more easily than the unprepared teams (like the O's). The difficult early season schedule primarily played against the beasts of the east has been played. But the team was swept by the weaklings of the A.L. west (the Athletics) and beat up pretty badly by the mediocre Mariners during that stretch too. The offense has been unquestionably anemic at times and the back of the bullpen has been pretty bad more often than not, but the starting pitching has been very good and boasts 16 quality starts. Yet the team has only 9 wins to show for it. The defense has not been as porous as advertised and ranks 12th in all of baseball. That's in the top half with Miguel Tejada at 3B, Ty Wigginton at 2B and Garrett Atkins at 1B.

This team doesn't need to send Adam Jones to Norfolk. This team doesn't need to release Garrett Atkins or Julio Lugo. This team doesn't need to demote Nolan Reimold or Luke Scott. This team needs a fire lit under their collective butts. This team needs to hire the leadership that will to do just that. Enough with the 3 year plans, bring in the right management with the right tools and the right attitude. Let's get this damn thing rolling. If Andy can't get it done, then be done with Andy.
Posted on: February 25, 2010 8:54 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2010 9:03 pm

Meet The 2010 AL East Champs: The Orioles

Okay, maybe that's taking it a little too far.They do have to pass the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays first. That's right, the O's finished last again last season. After winning just 64 games a season ago, it seems nearly insane to think that the 2010 version of the Baltimore Orioles could win as many as 85 games (maybe more if the pitching falls into place early on in the year). But its possible. And its not lunacy. The rotation has an 80% turnover rate (a great improvement I assure you) and the young hitters have a year of experience or more now at the ML level. Then, adding just the right combination of productive veterans and you have a recipe for success beyond just a few games in the standings. Here's my take:

Last season the O's blew 9 saves after George Sherrill was shipped off to the Dodgers for Josh Bell at the trade deadline. This offseason the Orioles front office moved swiftly and signed lefty Mike Gonzalez to take on the closer role for the next two years. Gonzalez, who turns 32 years old in May, was a 30th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1997. He was the primary closer for the 2006 Pirates and the 2008 Braves, and has a career 10.6 K/9. In 2007 he was injured and in 2009 he spent most of his time as the set-up man for Rafael Soriano who left Atlanta for the Tampa this winter. In 2006, Gonzalez was a perfect 24 for 24 in save opportunities. In 2008, he was 14 for 16. That equates to a 95% save rate. He alone, should make an 8 game difference. (That would take the win total from 64 to 72.)

The O's used 11 different starting pitchers last season. They finished last in the AL with a horrible 5.15 ERA, last in the AL with just 2 complete games and last in the AL with only 3 shut-outs.

The rotation coming out of Ft. Lauderdale last spring (with actual number of starts that they had last season, wins-loses and ERA) consisted of Jeremy Guthrie (33 10-17 5.04), Alfredo Simon (2 0-1 9.95), Koji Uehara (12 2-4 4.05), Mark Hendrickson (11 2-5 5.40) and Adam Eaton (8 2-5 8.56). By the end of the summer Brad Bergesen (19 7-5 3.43), Jason Berken (24 6-12 6.54), David Hernandez (19 4-10 5.42), Chris Tillman (12 2-5 5.40) and Brian Matusz (8 5-2 4.63) had made their Orioles and ML debut. The other two starters were southpaws Rich J. Hill (13 3-3 7.80) and Chris Waters (1 1-0 1.80).

I'll start with Guthrie because he is the only holdover that should begin the season in the rotation for both this and last season. Guthrie won 10 games in 2008 with a very good 3.64 ERA. He took a step backwards last season even though he equaled that win total. Many baseball analysts have agreed that the WBC took Guthrie out of his rigid pre-season routine and he never fully recovered. With an improved offense from the 2008 season when he posted his excellent numbers, the addition of a veteran pitcher (Millwood) to take over the role of defacto ace, no World Baseball Classic, and with a new million dollar bank account, Jeremy should be able to put up at least a dozen wins in the 2010 season. (That would take the win total to 74.)

The addition of Kevin Millwood was a sensible move. He is a talented veteran pitcher whose work ethic should rub off on the young arms. He has averaged 12 wins a season in his 12 full years in the majors and the O's should be able to expect that number again this year. If he accomplishes that, he will have won the same number of games that Hernandez, Hendrickson and Berken did in 54 combined starts in 2009. And although its not likely that Millwood will have a sub 4.00 ERA in the AL east, he should post a considerably better number than those three (a combined 5.91 ERA). (That would keep the win total at 74.)

Bergesen won 7 games in 19 starts last year with a sparkling 3.43 ERA before he was put on the DL after taking a line drive to his leg. If Bergy starts 33 games this season and paces the same wins total over the additional 14 starts, he would also finish with 12 wins. He may find it difficult to keep his ERA in the mid 3's, but 12 wins seems realistic. (That would take the win total to 79.)

Tillman struggled wit the long ball in his short stay with the club last season, but the soon to be 22 year old has ace stuff and is a mature young pitcher. The Orioles want him to win that 5th rotation spot and will give him ample opportunity to do so in Sarasota. If Tillman breaks camp with the club, he may be the biggest surprise of the 2010 season for Baltimore. He should win 10 games easily this season. (That would take the win total to 87.) (Less the 8 wins from Simon, Uehara, Hill, Eaton and Waters and the total stands at 79.)

Matusz pitched fairly effectively in his brief exposure to the big league. His 4.63 ERA should come down some this season and there is little doubt that he will mature into an ace. A role that IMO, he will soon share with Tillman. Brian won 5 games in just 8 starts. Its highly unlikely that he'll win at a 63% clip this early in his career, but the O's should be able to expect at least a dozen wins from him this year. (That would take the win total to 86.)

The offense should be better with the veteran additions Of Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins, and the continued growth of second year players Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters. Add the ongoing development of other young veterans like Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, and this offense should score in bunches.

My bold prediction is that the Baltimore Orioles will win 85 games this year. More if the pitching finds its rythmn early in the season. A 21 win increase may seem like alot, but when you consider the talented (albeit youthful) pitching staff alone, they should win 10-15 more games collectively than those reclaimation projects and waiver wire claims that were in the rotation for much of last season. That's only 2.5 wins more per starter on the average. Add a solid closer who will convert nearly all of his save opportunities (the Birds blew 8 saves in the second half alone during the annual year end collapse), and you have an opportunity to increase your win total by as many as 21. If Dave Trembley truly has the team working on the fundamentals of the game such as bunting and baserunning, there is no reason to think that this team can play well enough to win with its offense alone on days that the pitching isn't at its best. There may even be some meaningful games played in September or later. Barring catastrophic injuries or total on field mismanagement, this team will surprise. You heard it here first, mark it down.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 30, 2010 2:22 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2010 2:39 pm

Its Time To Give The O's Ownership Some Credit

The Orioles started the 2009 baseball season with a payroll of $67,101,666 (which I'll round to $67.1M) and ended the season with a payroll of $77,169,792 (or $77.2M). As the season went on, Andy (along with Peter Angelos) increased spending by $10.1M. After the season concluded, money owed Ramon Hernandez ($2.0M) and Jay Gibbons ($6.2M) came off the books, along with some bad contracts (via trade or release) that belonged to Melvin Mora ($8.0M), Jamie Walker ($4.5M), Ryan Freel ($4.0M), Aubrey Huff ($8.0M) and Danys Baez ($7.2M). The O's, consequently, are only on the hook for $1.05M for players no longer on the roster this year. One was to buyout Melvin Mora ($1.0M) and $50k to buyout Chad Moeller. So, when the smoke cleared, Baltimore's payroll obligation to begin 2010 was just $29,568,000 ($29.6M). Granted, it doesn't include the arbitration eligible players and most of the young players. But that's where the FO and Andy began this offseason.

The O's have added Garrett Atkins ($4.5M), Miguel Tejada ($6.0M), Kevin Millwood ($12.0M of which $3.0M is being covered by the Rangers), Mike Gonzalez ($6.0M) and Mark Hendrickson ($1.4M). The team resigned Luke Scott ($4.05M) and Cla C. Meredith ($0.85M). 

Add the contracts of Ty Wigginton ($3.5M), Brian Roberts ($10M), Cesar Izturis ($2.6M), Nick Markakis (($6.75M) and Brian Matusz ($0.87M), and the Orioles have $58.5M commited to the 2010 season without the contracts (with figures from last season) of Matt Wieters ($0.40M), Nolan Reimold ($0.40M), Adam Jones ($4.4M), Felix Pie ($0.41M), Brad Bergesen ($0.40M), Chris Tillman ($0.40M), David Hernandez ($0.40M), Kam Mickolio ($0.40M), Jim R. Johnson ($0.42M) and Jeremy Guthrie (who has submitted $3.625M to an arbitrator where the O's submitted $2.3M).

If all of the young players are to get raises to just $500k each, and Guthrie loses in arbitration, that would add another $6.8M for a 2010 payroll of about $65.3M less the $3.0M due from Texas, plus the $1.0M due Mora. Grand total is approximately $63.3M, about where they started last season. Only this team has much more talent. 

Going forward, the team will need to sign Reimold, Wieters, Tillman, Matusz, Bergesen and perhaps Pie, Hernandez and Johnson to long term contracts. Then of course, comes Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, Troy Patton, Josh Bell, Brandon Snyder, Zach Britton, Brandon Waring and a slew of other potential stars. The payroll will be $100M in a matter of a few years if the O's FO plans on keeping this young club in tact and buying out arbitration years like it did with Markakis.  

So for those of you who think the Orioles aren't spending money or Peter Angelos is cheap, you may want to rethink your argument. As long as Angelos stays out of baseball operations and allows the baseball people like Andy to do their job, he will be a successful team owner and the Orioles franchise will succeed.

Posted on: August 25, 2009 4:01 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2009 4:09 pm

What Will The O's Do With A Payroll Under $30ml?

Owner Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles has shown a willingness to take the O's payroll to around $93M. If Baltimore had signed Mark Teixeira via free agency prior to this season the payroll would have begun at around $83m. The 2009 Orioles payroll began at just over $67.1m and with a number of additions and subtractions (which included taking on the balance of monies due) the O's payroll peaked at just above $77.1m which ranks 18th overall in the major leagues. After the 2009 season, however, the club's payroll commitments drop to around $29.5m.

After this year the O's shed the contracts of current players Melvin Mora ($9.0m), Danys Baez ($5.5m), Mark Hendrickson ($1.5m), Joey Gaithright ($0.8) and Chad Moeller ($0.8). They also take the salaries of current players that play for other teams off the books at year end. These players include Ramon Hernandez (Reds @ $2.0m) and Ryan P. Freel (DFA'd recently by the Royals @ $4.0m). Then there are the salaries of those no longer in baseball that come off the books too. Jamie Walker ($4.5m) and Jay Gibbons ($6.2m). The salaries of the above mentioned players make up for $34.3m with the balance of the  roughly $13.3m belonging to the one year contracts of mostly non-arbitration eligible players (many on the big league roster).

The Orioles will enter the 2010 season with only 6 players with MLB contracts. Brian Roberts ($10.0m), Nick Markakis ($6.75), Koji Uehara ($5.0m), Ty Wigginton ($3.5m), Cesar Izturis ($2.6m) and Brian Matusz ($0.8m). Matt Hobgood also counts approximately $0.8m because his signing bonus is prorated over the full contract years. Again, tht leaves the Orioles payroll at about $29.5m.

Every other O's player not mentioned above is under the club's control and most will be offered at least a one year contract for next season. After this year, Chris Ray will have the most ML service of the remaining players with 4. Luke Scott, Jeremy Guthrie, Rich Hill and Cla C. Meredith will have 3 years ML service. Felix Pie, Matt Albers, Jim R. Johnson, Adam Jones and Robert Andino will have 2 years service. Michael Aubrey, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters, Brian Bass and Chris Tillman will have 1 or less than 1 year service. Others such as David Pauley, Troy Patton and Louis Montanez will also have 1 or less years of ML service.

If the O's spend approximately the same, let's say $15.5m, on the one year contracts, the payroll comes in around $45.0m without any free agent additions or contract extensions. And after the 2010 season, only Roberts ($10.0m), Markakis ($10.25m) and Matusz ($0.8) have MLB contracts (plus the $0.8m for Hobgood). Thats's roughly another $11.0m that the O's shed (Uhera, Wigginton and Izturis) bringing the 2011 payroll to just over $21.0m total. In perspective, the Orioles only have contractual commitments to three players after the 2010 season. Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Brian Matusz. So, with no bad contracts hanging over them, the front office will be able to negotiate in good faith with the young core of this team. Players such as Tillman, Bergesen, Wieters, Reimold and Jones among others, should be signed for the long term at reasonable salaries.

The O's are in an enviable position with the talent and the salary resources. There should be money to extend the young pitchers and hitters going forward (to include avoiding the awkward arbitration years), and will probably allow the franchise to spend some money (wisely) in the free agent market over the next few years as well. As long as the team continues to draft well and develop their own talent, its money will be spent almost entirely within the organization. That will keep the franchise competitive year after year. And then, when the team has a real hole it needs to fill, it will have the resources (cash or prospects) to add an outsider through free agency or trade.  

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 19, 2009 3:08 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2009 2:00 pm

The Orioles 2010 Priorities

I still don't believe that the Orioles will make any trades in the off season that would require them to give up any prospects. Trading a veteran for prospects maybe. I do believe however, that the team will sign a utility type player to take the roster spot of Melvin Mora, a tough lefty type specialist for relief and a top shelf starter via free agency. As far as a veteran starter goes, John Lackey immediately comes to mind, but Rich Harden and (if healthy) Brett Myers are also posiibilities. Here's my reasoning:

The O's starting pitching is going to be very good, very soon. Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman will join Jeremy Guthrie in the rotation next season. But with Jake Arrieta struggling some at Norfolk, Zach Britton still needing some minor league development, and Troy Patton still trying to stretch his arm out, the need for a young veteran appears to be the biggest priority. Lackey would be ideal for that role but his asking price is astronomical. If his price comes down though, every team from the Yankees to his current team, the Angels, will try to sign him. So, we need to overpay or look elsewhere like Harden of the Cubs or Myers of the Phillies.

The bullpen had some nice streaks through the season, but generally speaking, did not get the job done too often. The bullpen, IMO, lacks the strikeout pitchers needed to kill opponent's rallies and squelch big run innings. The only returning BP pitchers, who IMO, will be back with certainty, are Jim R. Johnson and Cla C. Meredith. The pitchers out there now don't put any fear into opposing hitters. Mark Hendrickson, Brian Bass and Matt Albers are not pitchers that overwhelm anyone. That's why, IMO, David Hernandez with his tremendous fastball will be in the bullpen along with a returning Koji Uehara. Kam Mickolio will also have a spot along side Johnson, Meredith, Uehara and Hernandez. The 6th spot will be a lefty that may or may not be in the organization right now. Wilfrido Perez and Chris Waters could fit in this role, but Perez has been injured and Waters has been very inconsistent. There's a good chance the Orioles sign a veteran free agent for this spot in the bullpen. The 7th and last spot should be Chris Ray's to lose. Jason Berken will get invited to spring training next year but probably won't make the team unless he snares the last bullpen spot from a struggling Ray and beats out this year's holdovers Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, and youngsters Jim Miller, James Hoey and Andy Mitchell. 

The corner positions will be addressed without going outside of the organization. Again, IMO, I believe that the starting 3B job will go to Ty Wigginton with the hope that prospect Josh Bell is ready sometime next season. At 1B, the O's will give the job to whoever wins it in spring training. The threesome of Rhyne Hughes, Michael Aubrey and Brandon Snyder will all get their shot next spring with the O's hoping someone takes the next step and stands out. Preferrably Snyder. Luke Scott may get some more reps there as well. 

To me it makes no sense to spend big money on a free agent hitter until the O's identify the positions of need. If Snyder and Bell regress, like Billy Rowell has, then the team can take the appropriate action. To trade any prospects at this juncture of the rebuilding process is pointless because, again, we have not identified any true weaknesses yet and don't really know how things will pan out over the next season.

I listened to FSN Tampa last night (MASN was not available on the extra innings package) and the Rays announcers were extremely high on the O's pitching and young players. They were saying that they expected the Orioles to start contending as early as next year. The NESN announcers for the Red Sox and the Blue Jays announcers said the same thing. Arrieta, Bell and Snyder's names were mentioned as impact rookies for next year, and of course, they raved about Matt Wieters, Bergesen, Matusz and Tillman as well as the potent young outfield trio of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold.

With a ton of salary purged by just trading or not resigning Aubrey Huff, Mora, Gregg Zaun, Danys Baez and Hendrickson, and the additional salary owner Peter Angelos has allocated, the Orioles will be able to sign the young future of the club through their arbitration years at resonable salaries, and dip into the FA market to grab a veteran arm or bat. This team is close to becoming legitimate players in the AL East. Another year of experience and an added veteran or two to go along with a new and stronger managing team (not Dave Trembley and his coaching staff) will finally put the Birds of Baltimore among the better MLB teams. The baseball world knows the O's are coming. So do the ML players themselves. That's why Huff and George Sherrill, in particular, wanted to remain part of the Baltimore organization. Its the fans from around the country that don't know. Those less knowledgeable fans still believe that Baltimore is where veterans go to die and young draftees dread to be headed for. But true Orioles and baseball fans know better. Go O's!
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com