Archive for Orioles

It’s Time to Talk About the Orioles and Their Physicals

You can give it this — the Orioles’ signing of Yovani Gallardo seemed like it was going to be pretty dull all-around, but now it’s becoming fascinating, thanks to a recent and familiar little twist. See, Gallardo still isn’t officially signed, and word is it’s because the Orioles aren’t comfortable with what they’ve seen so far in his medicals. I believe they’re waiting on results from more tests; I believe the issue is the health of his shoulder. So for the time being, the Orioles don’t yet have a starting pitcher they want, and that same starting pitcher is having to worry about an even further depressed market for his services. Nobody roots for these things.

It feels familiar because it’s the Orioles, and this is far from the first time the organization has wound up in a place like this. This further cements the team’s reputation for having an almost impossibly rigorous physical, and it can be rough, on Orioles players and fans alike. No one likes having the rug taken out from under them, and that’s exactly how it feels when these issues come up. It seems like it reflects poorly on ownership, and Peter Angelos has certainly taken a large amount of crap over the years. I’m not here to broadly attack or defend Peter Angelos. It just feels like it’s time to talk about the Orioles’ reputation, how true it is, and what it could mean.

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Dexter Fowler: A Fit in Baltimore

A couple weeks back, Dave Cameron wrote about how Dexter Fowler would be a good fit for the Orioles in the wake of the presumed Yovani Gallardo signing — and when he did so, the post began like this:

“While nothing is officially done yet, it seems reasonable to assume the Orioles are going to sign Yovani Gallardo, with reports that a deal just needs some tweaks before it is finalized.”

Dave had no reason to believe the Gallardo signing wouldn’t work out, but now it hasn’t, as the Orioles seemingly have a higher expectation than most when it comes to physicals, and so you understand that I’m cautious to say anything is set in stone between Fowler and Baltimore.

That being said, it sure looks like Dexter Fowler’s going to be playing in Baltimore next year! Just need to see that physical! Operating under the assumption Fowler does indeed pass his physical, it sounds like the Orioles will pay him $33 million over three years. That’s a year and some AAV fewer than the crowd’s estimation of four years and $56 million back in November. The qualifying offer strikes again.

If the Gallardo deal falls through, and it looks like it could, then the Orioles will surrender the 14th-overall pick in next year’s draft for Fowler. With Gallardo in the mix, it would be 14 and 28. Doesn’t much matter who’s responsible for the loss of which pick — 14 is gone either way. The 14th pick is worth something like $15 to $20 million, and so you can factor that into Fowler’s cost, if you’d like. Even with an extra $20 million tacked on for the pick, Fowler’s total guaranteed money falls short of the crowd, and so it’s easy to think of this as something of a bargain price for a quality outfielder who’s still on the right side of 30 for another 27 days.

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Three Other, More Subtle, Yovani Gallardo Trends

Thinking so much about Yovani Gallardo is in part a function of context. Had Gallardo signed a couple months back, he probably wouldn’t have drawn all that much coverage, but the longer he remained available, the less news he was competing against. Gallardo became increasingly interesting on a relative scale not because he was getting more interesting, but because the landscape became less interesting around him. I know that Gallardo isn’t very exciting, from an analytical perspective. I know he’s no one’s idea of a big splash.

But, here’s the deal. For one thing, we need to write about baseball! For another thing, Gallardo has finally signed with the Orioles, for three years and $35 million. They give up a draft pick, and so on and so forth. It’s a risky move, and quite possibly or probably not a good one. And for a last thing, there’s a bit of a bias in the conversation, because so much talk about Gallardo focuses on his declining strikeouts. And that’s important — strikeouts are important — but there’s more that’s been going on. Yovani Gallardo is about more than his strikeout rate, and just in the interest of presenting him as something fuller than one-dimensional, I’d like to show you three more things. They might not do much to predict the future, but they at least allow you to understand him a little better.

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Waiting On the Next Zach Britton

Two years back, after Zach Britton emerged as an effective closer for the Orioles, he drew a lot of attention for his sinker. At the time, I used PITCHf/x information to try to find some similar sinkers. For the most part it was a forgettable post — most of these are forgettable posts — but there was one thing that stuck with me. One name I haven’t been able to wipe from my mind.

It’s even more interesting now, with Britton having graduated into the class of the elites. You might not yet recognize Britton as an elite reliever, but he for sure most recently was an elite reliever, again driven almost exclusively by his fastball, which he threw 90% of the time. Compared to the year before, Britton generated way more strikeouts. Compared to the year before, Britton trimmed his number of walks. And compared to the year before, Britton somehow increased his grounder rate, which was already absurd.

You look at what Britton did, and you see that he did it mostly with one pitch, and you realize, hey, that’s one hell of a pitch. Wouldn’t you be interested in knowing there’s someone out there who throws an almost identical pitch? It’s time to get to know Blake Treinen. Blake Treinen pitches for the Nationals, and Blake Treinen throws the Zach Britton sinker.

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Questioning Dexter Fowler’s Defensive Improvement

With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, we just about have all the major free-agent signings wrapped up. It looks like Yovani Gallardo is about to sign with the Orioles, and there are rumors that Dexter Fowler could soon join him now that Baltimore has apparently decided to give up their first-round draft pick. With so many good outfielders available this winter, as the music stops, the available chairs for Fowler seem less desirable than we might have thought at the end of last season. Fowler’s defensive numbers have been pretty bad over the last few seasons, but his UZR figure was close to average in his only year with the Chicago Cubs. Determining change in skill from small sample size can be difficult, but it does not seem likely Fowler greatly improved his defense last season.

Defensive statistics are much-maligned outside of the analytic community, and even among those who use advanced statistics, there’s a degree of doubt regarding their utility. Much of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding about how to use defensive statistics given the larger sample size necessary to draw meaningful conclusions. Looking at three seasons worth of UZR can seem like going too far into the past, leading to rationalizations about short-term spikes in defensive numbers.

Over the last four seasons, Fowler has put up a UZR numbers in center field of -13.6, -1.7, -21.8, and last year’s -1.9 mark. Taken on the whole, it would be reasonable to conclude that Fowler is a below-average center fielder. It might be easy to look at the last three years, point to two that are pretty close to average, and call the -21.8 an outlier. This isn’t advisable, however, as doing so completely ignores a full year of data and merely cherrypicks the good seasons. The graph below shows two lines: yearly UZR for Fowler over the past five seasons, and a three-year average of UZR over the past five seasons, which is more representative of Fowler’s defense.

DEXTER FOWLER- UZR 2011-2015

Using three years of data smooths Fowler’s numbers considerably. The inconsistency of the yearly numbers largely evaporates and places Fowler’s defense somewhere between six and 12 runs below average at center field over the past few years. That inconsistency carried over to his WAR numbers as well, as the graph below shows.

DEXTER FOWLER- WAR 2011-2015

Instead of a 1.4 WAR season followed a 3.2 WAR season, we see a pair of 2.5 WAR seasons the last two years. Not surprising for the soon-to-be 30-year-old, ZiPS sees Fowler as a 2.4 WAR player heading into next season.

But what about the possibility that Fowler’s defensive improvements are real? It does happen. Jhonny Peralta made himself a much better shortstop later into his career — and improved positioning could have helped Fowler last season, as could getting out of the ballparks in Colorado and Houston. That narrative was getting pushed early last season and it does have some validity.

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MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.
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Baltimore’s Dexter Fowler Opportunity

While nothing is officially done yet, it seems reasonable to assume the Orioles are going to sign Yovani Gallardo, with reports that a deal just needs some tweaks before it is finalized. The Orioles are reportedly giving Gallardo a three year deal, but more significantly, they’re sacrificing their first round pick (#14 overall) since he rejected the Rangers qualifying offer at the beginning of the off-season. After losing Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles certainly had a hole in their rotation, and so after months of talking about replacing him internally, they’ve apparently decided that Gallardo’s price has come down enough to justify surrendering the draft choice in order to sign him.

Given the Orioles position as a bottom-tier AL club, in a league where all 15 teams are trying to win in 2016, giving up the 14th pick to sign an average pitcher in decline is a questionable move. Currently, our forecasts have the Orioles as a 78 win team, and while adding Gallardo will help, he realistically can’t be expected to push them much past 79 or 80 wins. This is still a team with some significant flaws, and while they’re good enough to contend if things break their way, Gallardo isn’t really a put-them-over-the-top kind of acquisition.

But signing Gallardo does present a potential opportunity. By surrendering the 14th pick to upgrade their rotation, they’ve also lowered their acquisition cost of making a second move, and Gallardo isn’t the only free agent on the market still tied to draft pick compensation. In fact, there’s one more free agent out there who makes a ton of sense for the Orioles. Read the rest of this entry »


Yovani Gallardo’s Obvious Fit, and Even More Obvious Fit

Let’s check in on the latest in Yovani Gallardo rumors:

It took a while for any Gallardo talks to surface, but when they did, it was the Orioles, Rockies, and Astros at the forefront. Everyone agreed: those three were the lead suitors.

But the thought of a non-contending Rockies team forfeiting a draft pick for a pitcher entering his age-30 season seemed a bit peculiar, and then GM Jeff Bridich came out and said the talks were “overblown,” so people scratched the Rockies off the list. The Astros went and signed Doug Fister, and people scratched the Astros off the list. So on January 28, just the Orioles were left. On February 4, just the Orioles were left. And on February 7… just the Orioles were left.

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TV Dispute Might Be Hurting Nationals in Free Agency

In the offseason, teams are frequently characterized as “winners” and “losers” based on the players they’ve acquired relative to the players who have left. Often, the so-called winners are simply the clubs who’ve been most active, bringing in the most players — regardless of cost — while the losers often are those clubs which have been more idle, making smaller moves to improve their rosters. These characterizations do not always translate to the field, as the case of the San Diego Padres illustrates. The Padres followed an active 2014-15 offseason with a poor 2015 campaign.

With that caveat having been made, many have declared the Washington Nationals losers this offseason not simply because Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, and Jordan Zimmermann are gone — replaced by a relatively modest group including Shawn Kelley, Daniel Murphy, Ben Revere — but mainly because they failed to land Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, or Ben Zobrist in free agency. While the team might be hidden winners of the winter, the Nationals are claiming their failure is due to a tightened budget caused by the Baltimore Orioles’ refusal to pay market value for their television rights.

For those who might not be aware, the Orioles — principally Peter Angelos, through regional sports networks MASN and MASN2 — air the Nationals broadcasts. The Orioles control the Nationals broadcasts as a result of negotiations with the team when the Nationals moved to Washington, D.C., thus encroaching on the Orioles’ television territory. Nathaniel Grow characterized the situation like this after the last major decision in the legal dispute between the teams:

In order to alleviate the Orioles’ concerns, MLB structured a deal in which Baltimore would initially own 87 percent of the newly created Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), the regional sports network that would air both the Orioles’ and Nationals’ games. In exchange, the Nationals were scheduled to receive an initial broadcast rights fee of $20 million per year from MASN, an amount that would be recalculated every five years.

Jump forward to 2012, when Washington requested that its rights fee be increased to $120 million per year. MASN and the Orioles refused, and as a result the dispute ended up in arbitration, with a panel of MLB team executives – the Mets’ Jeff Wilpon, the Rays’ Stuart Sternberg, and the Pirates’ Frank Coonelly – ultimately awarding the Nationals roughly $60 million per year in broadcast fees.

The Orioles believed they should pay the Nationals roughly half the amount the arbitrators awarded and appealed, getting the decision thrown out due to conflicts with the Nationals’ counsel. (For more on the decision, read Grow’s full piece linked above.) The case is still ongoing without a resolution and the Nationals are pushing the Orioles to head back to arbitration. The Nationals retained new counsel, and have filed a motion to compel the parties to arbitrate the case and set a value for the television rights. In their recent motion, the Nationals indicated that the Orioles’ failure to pay fair-market value for television rights has hamstrung the team in signing free agents to multi-year contracts.

“MASN’s underpayment of rights fees has already required the Nationals to fund payroll and other expenses from its own reserves, and further delay could require the Nationals to seek new financing,” says the team’s memorandum. “This is not only burdensome in its own right, but it places the Nationals at a competitive disadvantage to other baseball clubs, which typically receive fair market value from their regional sports networks for their telecast rights. Without this added income, the Nationals are handicapped in their ability to invest in efforts to improve the team. For instance, without this added and steady income, the Nationals cannot bring full economic confidence to investments in multi-year player contracts to keep up with the fierce competition for top players — especially when such control over finances is in the hands of a neighboring club.”

This might sound a bit like whining coming from a billionaire owner who just one year ago signed Max Scherzer to a seven year, $210 million contract, and reportedly made offers to Jason Heyward for roughly $200 million and Yoenis Cespedes $100 million, but those claims do have some merit.

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2016 Breakthrough Candidate: Kevin Gausman

In 2015, there were fewer pitchers (74) qualifying for the AL and NL ERA titles than in any season going back to 1995 (70). In any given season, the number of first-time ERA qualifiers is about a quarter of that population. This last year was no exception, as 18 pitchers qualified for the ERA title for the first time.

What was unique about 2015 was the high quality of those first-time ERA qualifiers. AL first-timers included Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Taijuan Walker, Collin McHugh, Trevor Bauer and Marco Estrada. Their NL counterparts included Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Kyle Hendricks, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. There are some heavy hitters on those two lists; you might have to go back to the Class of 1984, which boasted Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, Mark Langston, Mike Moore and Oil Can Boyd among its members, to find a comparable group at the top.

This week and next, I’m going to attempt to reach into the large population of zero-time ERA qualifiers to identify the top breakthrough candidates for 2016 in both leagues. Today, it’s the American League, and the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman.

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The Other Side of the Chris Davis Contract

At the kind of money he wanted, Chris Davis basically had a one-team market. Other big-spending teams didn’t have openings at first base, and other big-spending teams weren’t buying Scott Boras’ pitch of Davis as a versatile could-be outfielder. The Orioles sensed even a month ago they would be bidding against themselves, and they attempted a couple leverage plays to try to force Boras’ hand. Yet Boras won, as he almost always does. Here’s what’s being reported: Davis re-signed with Baltimore for a seven-year deal worth $161 million. Somehow, the commitment got bigger from what was reported weeks back. The Orioles were the only team around $150 million, and Scott Boras got them to add on more.

That makes it kind of a bad look for Baltimore. The easy takeaway is that Peter Angelos just got played. And at the end of the day, it’s highly unlikely another team would’ve been willing to come close to this, had the Orioles walked away. But for one thing — however much this is worth — this does send a good message that the Orioles will spend to keep good players around. People have doubted that in the past, and now Davis joins Darren O’Day as a returning key player. And there are other factors, as well, in support of the idea this isn’t a certain catastrophe. This isn’t quite a straight-up $161-million commitment. There are, let’s say, special considerations.

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With Chris Davis Deal, Scott Boras Strikes Again

This morning, after a long and protracted negotiation that finally resulted in the team threatening to pursue alternative free agents, the Orioles reportedly agreed to re-sign their slugging first baseman Chris Davis. The price? $161 million over seven years, giving Davis the same annual average value as Jason Heyward, the winter’s best available position player. And Davis was able to land this contract despite the fact this contract is probably going to be a disaster and that the market for hitters has been quite frigid this winter.

Given the limited suitors looking for a first baseman, the remaining crop of quality outfielders, and the risks surrounding Davis’ skillset, this might be Scott Boras’ most impressive victory over reason yet. As an agent, he has perfected the ability to go around the baseball operations department, dealing directly with owners who simply don’t have the same level of knowledge as the people they employ to run their team on a daily basis. Except in this case, even Peter Angelos had to know he was bidding against himself.

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FG on Fox: A Possibly Troubling Trend for Chris Davis

Let’s face it — there’s no way not to feel uncomfortable about the Chris Davis sweepstakes.

I’m not just referring to how the Orioles and Davis seem to be at something of an impasse. I’m not just referring to how Davis has to this point been unable to drum up much of a market. It’s just, this is going to require a lot of money, and it’s hard to know what Davis is going to be. He’s as much a boom-or-bust player as you can find: Last year, he hit as well as Jose Bautista; the year before, he hit as well as Jed Lowrie. He’s been bad and he’s been an MVP candidate, and there’s a whole lot of space in between.

I don’t think player comps can be much help. For one thing, there just aren’t very many. Davis is an unusual player, historically speaking, given his massive power and his massive strikeout side effect. Maybe the two best comps are Jim Thome and Ryan Howard, and their careers went in completely opposite directions. Those comps are as unhelpful as Davis’ recent track record. He could turn out really amazing. He could be a disaster. This isn’t particularly illuminating.

Davis is 230 pounds of uncertainty. The extent of his success will be determined by what happens with a handful of swings every season, and there’s a lot of room for that to go right or wrong. Basically, there’s no achieving actual comfort. There’s only pursuing artificial comfort. That comes out of just learning more information — more knowledge has to be a good thing, right? — so let’s take a look at something that’s been going on under the hood. Let’s learn more about Davis, even if it might not ultimately help to understand what his future’s going to be.

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How Zach Britton Blew His Saves

There were only four of them. Blown saves, that is. I presume you’ve read the title. Zach Britton blew four saves last year, which actually isn’t a particularly noteworthy fact. Britton blew four saves in 40 tries, which is great, but it certainly wasn’t the best, and Britton blew four saves the year before too, in one more try. It’s great but not spectacular, especially relative to Britton’s season as a whole, which was both great and spectacular and plenty of other adjectives like awesome (in the literal sense of actually inspiring awe) or remarkable or astonishing or breathtaking or historic. Britton struck out nearly a third of all batters he faced and posted the highest ground ball rate in history. That’s spectacular. “History” in this case dates back to just 2002, but Britton stands alone at the top by a comfortable margin, 3.5 standard deviations above the mean and a full standard deviation above the guy in third place. History doesn’t reach back super far in this instance, but given the magnitude of his lead, we can expect Britton’s place in history to continue for some time, given Britton doesn’t go and break his own record.

The save is a mostly silly statistic anyway, which by proxy makes it’s cousin, the blown save, equally frivolous. But what if I told you that simply by watching how Zach Britton blew his four saves in 2015, you’d come away knowing more about Zach Britton, more about the nature of saves and blown saves, and maybe more about other things, too? Well, you’d either continue reading the blog post or you wouldn’t. That’s what would happen if I told you what I just told you. I’d prefer that you continue reading the blog post, but let’s be honest it’s 2016 and you’ve probably got a phone to look at, so really you could just scan the moving pictures and get the gist. I’m not gonna lie to you. Just know that my words would feel left out and sad. :(
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Still on the Board: Wei-Yin Chen

With the holiday break coming to an end, Phase II of the 2015-16 free agent and trade markets is about to kick off in earnest. As noted by August Fagerstrom earlier today, player movement is likely to be heavier than in the typical January, with plenty of top free agents, particularly on the position player side, still on the market.

The first wave of free-agent signings was particularly kind to starting pitchers, both at the top and middle of the market. Still, a handful of starters — Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy at the forefront — remain available. Does the market have enough suitors and dollars to satisfy those three? Today, we’ll look at the first of those three, who has spent all of his stateside career with the Orioles.

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Chris Davis and the Free Agent Bottleneck

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is traditionally a quiet one in baseball circles, as most home offices are closed, and many top executives vacation far, far away. This year hasn’t exactly been typical, with one big trade (Aroldis Chapman to the Yanks) and one reasonably significant free agent signing already in the books (Henderson Alvarez to the A’s) and another one pending a physical (Daniel Murphy to the Nationals).

There are still many big name free agents yet to sign on with their new clubs, and most of them are of the position player variety. Outfielders Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon, to name just three, are still on the board. So is first baseman Chris Davis, whose recent offensive contributions outstrip even those three. The Orioles reportedly offered Davis in the vicinity of $150 million over seven years to remain in the fold, only to be rebuffed. Has that offer clogged up position player free agency? And is an investment of that magnitude in this sort of player a wise one?

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Zach Britton’s Chapman Changeup

Aroldis Chapman throws a changeup, and I’ve written before about how unfair that is. It’s not the best pitch in baseball or anything, but because Chapman’s fastball might be the actual best pitch in baseball, it seems almost impossible to defend against both the heater and the change, not to mention the slider. When you have to prepare for 100, I don’t know how you adjust on the fly for 88, with the same throwing motion. My favorite fun fact from a couple years back is that, of all the swings against Chapman’s changeup, just one made contact.

Chapman isn’t the game’s only elite reliever, and he’s not the only elite reliever with a signature pitch. When you have an elite reliever with a signature pitch, you can imagine it’s difficult to try to hit anything that isn’t the signature pitch. Take Zach Britton, who within a couple months went from potential waiver bait to shutdown closer. This past year, Britton took another step forward, leaning heavily upon his sinker. It’s becoming a famously dominant sinker, which has been a wonderful development for Britton’s non-sinker.

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Let’s Find a Home: Chris Davis Edition

In light of the tremendous success of last week’s edition of Let’s Find a Home — for which we took about 20 minutes to send Johnny Cueto eagerly off to San Francisco — I thought it would be right neighborly to take on a different, lonely, sad free agent this holiday season. So, people, won’t you help me find a new happy home for Chris Davis? He’s tall, he hits homers, and he is completely potty trained! Adoption fees start at $150 million.

There’s an alternate reality somewhere out beyond our galaxy (yes, I saw Star Wars a few days ago) where Chris Davis is taking one year “rebuild his value” offers from a few teams after another unsuccessful season. In that galaxy, Chris Davis is Mike Napoli, and when he signs, it doesn’t merit a press conference, only a few lines from his new manager amidst discussion of other business. That’s where things were headed for Davis after 2014. He was worth not quite a full win that season, batting below .200, just reaching a .300 on-base percentage, and slugging a hearty (for a middle infielder) .404. This came following a seven win season. Seven! Wins! Chris Davis posted a seven win season then wasn’t worth a single win the next season. Ahhhh baseball!

Then last season, Davis was worth 5.6 wins. Ahhhh baseball reprise! Chris Davis is your friend who insists on driving but doesn’t understand the subtlety required by brake and acceleration pedals. His car lurches forward off the line then, as soon as he sees anyone slowing in front of him, he slams on the breaks. Can you pay that guy like he’s a champion race-car driver?

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2016 ZiPS Projections – Baltimore Orioles

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Baltimore Orioles. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Cincinnati / Kansas City / New York AL / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / Texas / Toronto.

Batters
If there’s one thing that irks Dan Szymborski, it’s when people cast aspersions against great Polish-American war hero Casimir Pulaski. If there’s a second thing that irks him, however, it’s when people calculate the sum of the WAR figures displayed in the depth charts of these ZiPS posts, add those totals to 47.7 (i.e. the win total of a hypothetical replacement-level club), and then regard the result as Szymborski’s unambigious win projection for the team in question. Bad form, is what Szymborski has to say about that maneuver.

That caveat having been made, what one finds upon revisiting last year’s ZiPS post for Baltimore is that the club’s depth-chart projections accounted for roughly 34 WAR — which figure, added to 47.7, equals 81.7. Meanwhile, here’s the Orioles’ final record from 2015: 81-81. And their BaseRuns record, also: 79-83. What appears to have happened, at the most basic level, is that Szymborski’s computer regarded Baltimore as almost a perfectly average team and then Baltimore performed like almost a perfectly average team.

This is bad news for the current iteration of the club, which accounts for only about 27 WAR (i.e. seven fewer wins than last year) on the depth chart below. Among the position players, there’s a great deal of uncertainty after Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Indeed, right field and designated hitter actually receive negative-win projections. So, not ideal. That said, there’s some positive uncertainty, as well — particularly in left fielder Hyeon-soo Kim, whose combination of contact ability and power invite comparisons to the best version of Nick Markakis.

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Hyun-soo Kim Might Look Familiar to Orioles

Wednesday, the Angels quietly picked up Daniel Nava. They did so quietly because there would be no way to do so loudly, and after it was announced, some people started talking seriously about a potential platoon between Nava and Craig Gentry. I don’t know if that’ll happen — I don’t think that’s going to happen — but the mere possibility suggests the Angels aren’t thrilled with the options. It’s a curious thing to consider at the same time as the Orioles agreeing to sign Hyun-soo Kim for two years and $7 million. Kim will be coming from the KBO, so there are the usual questions, but he turns just 28 in a month, and this is middle-reliever money.

For reference, Chad Qualls signed for two years and $6 million. Oliver Perez signed for two years and $7 million. Jonathan Broxton signed for two years and $7.5 million and a no-trade clause. Perfectly useful relievers, all of them, but Kim is lined up to be a starting outfielder, and he’s right around peak age. Without even knowing anything about Kim, the potential value is obvious.

When I first started analyzing Kim, I thought about Nori Aoki. Some people would call that a lazy comp, but I do think it’s within reason. Also, I’ve just had Aoki on my mind lately, so I’m biased. As I’ve thought about this more, though, I’ve arrived at something else. What could Kim turn into in Baltimore? A very familiar-looking player. The Orioles know this skillset.

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