Vlad in Baltimore: Mysteries and Opportunities

If you ever get frustrated that your favorite team can’t seem to sign any free agents, just think about the poor fans of the Mystery Team, the perpetual Miss Havisham of the free-agent market. Just when you thought Mystery Team was finally going to seal the deal with Vladimir Guerrero (to whom they totally had offered $8 million), the Baltimore Orioles, like the vicious birds of prey from whom they take their name, swooped in and flew away with the allegedly-very-much-in-demand and soon-to-be-36-year-old designated hitter. Maybe next time, Mystery Fans… But what about those crafty Orioles, huh?

According to the report linked above, Guerrero’s contract is for one year and $8 million (with part of that money deferred). The deferred money makes things a bit murkier, but assuming an average market price of five million dollars per marginal win, the Orioles are paying Guerrero as something like a 1.5 WAR player. Much has been made of Vlad’s difficulties late in the 2010 season by people whose opinions I respect, but unless I’ve missed a Nerdosphere memo, first- and second-half season splits have yet to be found to have predictive significance. What does a more sophisticated forecast say? I usually prefer to use freely-available projections, but for this post I’ve decided to use Brian Cartwright’s Oliver forecasts for offense, as I haven’t used them yet this season and Cartwright’s new approach to minor league translations is intriguing (and useful for when I consider Nolan Reimold below). Oliver’s forecast for Guerrero (not yet adjusted for Baltimore) in 2011 shows some regression and decline, but hardly a collapse: .349 wOBA (.289/.337/.471), about 16 runs above average over 700 plate appearances. Once adjusted for playing time, that’s about a 1.5 WAR player.

If the Guerrero deal is average (that is, neither good not bad) without considering the context, once the specifics of the Orioles’ situation are taken into account, the deal makes much less sense. The Orioles have made some improvements in the offseason, but they aren’t going to contend in the stacked 2011 American League East. They might contend in the future, but at this point, the team is in a position where they should be looking for bargains, not getting leveraged by a 36-year-old right-handed DH who “runs” like he needs a walker.

Moreover, the Orioles did not need to bring in a new designated hitter. Luke Scott is better hitter than Guerrero, and probably (along with Nick Markakis) one of the Orioles’ two best hitters at the moment, Oliver projects a .355 wOBA (.263/.344/.477) for Scott in 2011. Despite spending most of his time lately at DH, Scott isn’t a bad left fielder, it’s just that Felix Pie is far better out there. However, bringing Guerrero aboard now just compounds the mistake the Orioles made when they failed to trade Scott (who turns 33 this coming June) last summer. If the Orioles had traded Scott, they could have still signed Guerrero if they were so inclined and have some sort of prospect(s) from the Scott trade, too.

However, even if they would have traded Scott, the Orioles still shouldn’t have signed Vlad, because they could have played Pie in left and Reimold at DH. No, that wouldn’t project to be as offensively potent as Scott and Guerrero at those positions. However, the difference would be smaller than some might think. Pie hasn’t been much of a hitter, but his superior defensive skills make up for part of the offensive difference between him and Scott (I’ll also confess to being a more optimistic about Pie’s upside than many). Moreover, Oliver projects Reimold to have a .347 wOBA in 2011 — virtually the same as Guerrero. Now, Pie has been up and down in limited chances (although he’s only six months older than Adam Jones), and maybe the MLEs are overly generous to Reimold (who could also be worth playing in the outfield). However, both players are relatively young (but not young enough that they need to waste time time in Triple-A, assuming Reimold has options left; Pie doesn’t) and cheap.

Bringing in Guerrero wouldn’t have been a good idea even if the Orioles had traded Scott last season, but since they decided to keep Scott, it’s even worse. Not only are the Orioles spending a lot of additional money on (at most) a two-win improvement (which might make sense if they were trying for their 87th win rather than their 81st), they’ve made their team older when they should be getting younger, all while also losing out on the opportunity cost in playing younger players who might be part of a future in which they might actually contend. That’s what makes the acquisition of Guerrero a bigger mystery than the identity of the team that the Orioles supposedly beat out for his services.




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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


91 Responses to “Vlad in Baltimore: Mysteries and Opportunities”

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  1. Rob Dibble says:

    But he can also act as a coach and show the younger players how to win.

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  2. Obligatory Sox Fan says:

    Maybe this won’t seems so pointless at the trade deadline?

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    • Vegemitch says:

      Which AL team that will be in contention could actually use him? Especially at his price, why spend $4-5 million for a player that is at most a 1/2 WAR improvement but most likely a step down from potential replacement?

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      • Joe R says:

        Easy, name brand recognition. Someone will fall in love with his .285 / 14 HR / 55 RBI triple crown at the break and offer an okay prospect. Heck even the Astros turned Berkman into something possibly useful.

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  3. Some of the reactions to this from other O’s fans have me so confused. Good article, Matt.

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  4. Shauntell says:

    That’s what Joe Morgan would say!

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  5. Matt Kremnitzer says:

    I’m still not quite sure why the O’s upped their offer all of sudden. Was Vlad really going to leave the best offer on the table (obviously assuming that no one else offered $3-$5 million, or whatever the O’s original offer was)? It’s not like the O’s are in a position where they absolutely need to add Guerrero to their lineup; they had the upper hand. It just seems like a haphazard move.

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    • Kyle says:

      Well while upping to his demands was retarded, leaving him high and dry on any more money is a bad way to approach someone who will become a teammate.

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  6. Tyler B says:

    I’m an Orioles fan and I completely agree with you. I don’t think the extra 1-2 wins is worth slowing the regression of Reimold & Pie (and I’m optimistic about Pie too). It’s not like Vlad’s going to make or break this year.

    This is a signing for the fans and to try to fill some seats, probably directed by Angelos. I would like to hear McPhails honest opinion on this one.

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    • joser says:

      Yes, Vlad is a fun player to watch. For a team looking at a “lost” season, that may be the best they can do.

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    • Bill says:

      Agreed that this is likely Angelos’s decision. That would also explain why they upped their offer. Baltimore is sacrificing a little bit of the future to put a more entertaining product on the field this year. As an O’s fan, I have mixed feelings.

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    • JoeC says:

      Correct. This is mostly a move to fill seats. I actually like it just for that reason. Yes, the Orioles aren’t going to contend, but they’re going to be exiciting to watch this year. They’ll definitely put up some runs and give up a lot more, but at least the fans will be entertained. By drawing more fans the team will be making more money, which allows them to increase payroll down the line when they have a better chance to contend.

      Makes sense to me.

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      • Jeff says:

        I don’t see how they will give up more runs.

        Clear that up for me. Because I see improvements in the pitching staff as a whole.

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  7. Steve says:

    I agree that the Orioles should be focused on getting younger, and that adding veterans doesn’t make much sense.

    But both UZR and +/- have consistently rated Scott as a better outfielder than Pie. If this deal moves Scott to LF, and Guerrero replaces Pie, doesn’t that represent a decent offensive upgrade with little defensive cost (or even a defensive upgrade)?

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    • I agree that Scott isn’t that bad in left. However, I think if you take into into account the relatively limited sample size of Pie in left field, the Fans Scouting Report, Pie’s obviously greater physical gifts, and Pie’s good numbers in center field (which would imply that his “true talent” in left is even better) that Pie will be a better left fielder than Scott.

      In any case, given the Orioles situation, I don’t think the difference justifies bringing Vlad on board, particularly since Scott is already around.

      Thanks for the comment.

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      • JoeC says:

        I have no idea why a lot of “experts” are so high on Pie. Potential, schmotential. The guy needs to do it at the MLB level and he hasn’t. I’d much rather have Vladdy and Scott in my batting order because you know that those guys are going to contribute.

        Pie is a bust and don’t even get me started on Reimold!

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  8. My echo and bunnymen says:

    Originally I thought this was a win in Baltimore’s favor. However after reading this, doing more research, and reviewing Reimold and Pie, I have found myself to be in the wrong. The $8 million spent on Guerrero is just to fill seats (maybe give away a bobblehead or some promotional item about him). There is very little upside to this that couldn’t be had cheaper than this.

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    • JoeC says:

      Wrong. Pie and Reimold don’t fill seats. Vladdy will.

      Isn’t the whole point getting people to watch you come play? The O’s know they aren’t going to win this year, so might as well field the team that draws the greatest number of fans.

      Plus I’m down on Pie and Reimold as far as being MLB-quality players, so I see this as an excellent move by management.

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  9. joser says:

    I am becoming a fan of this Mystery Team, and would like to purchase its merchandise. Where can I get a jersey or hat? (I presume the logo is a bat shaped like a question mark, dangling wads of cash, with the silhouette of an agent lurking in the background)

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  10. Steve says:

    The assumption of a lost season is a premature one. What braniac on Fangraphs predicted Cincinnati would make the playoffs last year? Or that San Diego would win 90 games? Which writer was it again that used deep, authoritative sounding highly technical “you-wouldn’t-understand” research to show that San Francisco could very well win the World Series? Oh, right, nobody. So much for taking projections as gospel.

    When you assume… well, you know the rest. Baseball is not a paint-by-numbers science. New York is not as good. Tampa is not as good. Toronto, probably not as good. Playing guys like Reimold and Pie everyday is what the O’s have been doing for the past 2 years – look where that got them. The majors is not player development. The majors is for winning.

    That’s why you spend $8 million on Vlad. To win.

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    • You know who else should go for it next season? The Royals. Sure, their rotation is in tatters, and they have maybe three above average hitters. But this isn’t an exact science, and the Al Central isn’t as difficult as the AL East. Anything can happen! Dayton should have gone all in for 2011 instead of waiting on prospects that might never pan out.

      But seriously folks… while I wasn’t that high on the Reds last season, in one of our very first podcasts (I think it was the _very_ first one) Dave Cameron said he thought the Cincinnati had a realistic shot at winning the Central. But maybe you aren’t numbering Dave among the brainiacs. If not, my bad.

      Thanks for reading, though.

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      • Steve says:

        I’m not ripping your work, man, but I’m just saying – when you are working off the assumption that Nolan Reimold, who hit .249/.364/.374 at *Norfolk* last year will produce at the same level as a 10-time All-Star who got 11 MVP votes just last year, well… maybe it’s time to rethink the thesis.

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      • I see your point, and I did acknowledge the question about MLEs in my piece. Without getting into every little detail of Reimold and Guerrero’s various projections, I’ll simply say that I don’t think that’s the only assumption I’m working on in criticizing this contract is Reimold being as good as Guerrero: there’s the presence of Scott, the defensive value of Pie, the Orioles current situation, and the opportunity cost of playing older guys on one year deals versus younger guys with the potential for upside, etc.

        None of this means I’m “certain,” (I feel like I put too many “likely”s and “probably”s in my stuff already), but altogether I think the Orioles are making a poor “bet,” as it were.

        Cheers.

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      • B N says:

        I have to back up Matt on this one. Playing a guy like Riemold or Pie IS the correct movie. Firstly, they’re both cheaper. Save the money, use it later. Secondly, they’re both guys that you can keep for more years. Is Vlad better this year? Probably. Next year? Who knows if he’ll even still be in baseball.

        Additionally, I am quite surprised that when people are ragging on Riemold that they seem to forget that he was REALLY good in 2009. At which point, this happened:
        ******************
        “Orioles rookie outfielder Nolan Reimold has been placed on the 15-day disabed list with tendinitis in his left Achilles’ tendon, ending his season.

        Reimold has been battling the injury for the most of the season. The pain intensified this week, and the Orioles decided it would be best to put him on the DL so he could get a faster start preparing for next year.

        He is expected to undergo surgery next Wednesday. After a rehabilitation program of three to four months, he is expected to return for the start of spring training.

        Reimold is batting .279 with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 104 games. He leads AL rookies in home runs, on-base percentage (.365), slugging percentage (.466), walks (47) and total bases (167).
        ” – AP
        ******************
        That was Sept 2009. So the guy has one great half-season, playing through pain, at which point he has to rehab from an Achilles and a shoulder injury? Isn’t there a slight possibility that something like that MIGHT lead to a down 2010? Now admittedly, surgeries and tendons are tricky things. He might just never be right again. But he could rebound to 2009 form.

        Considering that the Orioles have no rational shot at the division, why not? You state: “New York is not as good. Tampa is not as good. Toronto, probably not as good.” They may not be as good as their 2010 teams, but they’re still MUCH better than the Orioles. Let’s be serious here: there are 4 teams in the division better in basically every aspect of the game. (Though one could argue the Jays have worse defense). Red Sox are better than the O’s at the plate, in the field, in the rotation, and bullpen. Same with the Rays (though it’s close at the plate). Same with the Yankees (though it’s close in the rotation). Same with the Jays (though their defense might be worse than the O’s). Unless the Orioles have discovered a 5th facet of the game called “Orioles Magic” they should be prepared to sharpen their knives to make a run in a year or two.

        So yah, Vlad is a bad pick.

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    • Casadilla says:

      @Steve – you nailed it. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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    • Dwight Schrute says:

      I agree 100% with Steve. I hate when people completely write off a team before the season starts. Sure the likelihood that Baltimore makes the playoffs in the brutal AL East is extremely slim but even if they don’t make the playoffs winning more games can have a positive impact on the organization.

      For instance Baltimore was rumored to be in the mix on many of the FAs this offseason and they swung and missed on majority of them, mostly due to how bad they have been. Say this year they win 82 games(I wouldn’t say that’s completely unrealistic) maybe it won’t be as hard to convince guys to come there after that. Not to mention it can help boost morale for the players and their fans. I know that stuff is completely written off on here but that has to account for something.

      Now if they gave him a long term contract that could hinder their chances in the future I would have a problem with it but this is just money that would’ve gone back in the owners pockets if they didn’t sign Vlad and it’s only for 1 season so I don’t have a problem with it.

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    • arch support says:

      Wow. That’s an impressive list of instances where the predictions were wrong. I guess that means the predictions and the analysis behind them are complete bunk in every given circumstance.

      /sarcasm

      You’re criticizing an analysis site for using “deep, authoritative sounding highly technical ‘you-wouldn’t-understand’ research.” First, if that’s your criticism, you’ve got to provide a better argument than “You morons didn’t predict SF would win it all!” Second, point out to me in Matt’s article where he DOESN’T show his work. For that matter, find me ANY saber-based article on Fangraphs where the author doesn’t labor to show his work in the article (and usually address further questions in the comments).

      Also, the site’s writers make every effort to make their “you wouldn’t understand” methodology available to the average reader. They’ve put up a Glossary complete with a Saber Library. Some of the onus is on the reader to be informed on the basics; otherwise every article would be 3,000 words explaining how wOBA is calculated.

      |”That’s why you spend $8 million on Vlad. To win.”

      Shutting down the conversation with near-meaningless statements like that serves no one.

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    • JoeC says:

      Ridiculous. The Orioles have NO CHANCE, repeat NO CHANCE to win the AL East this year. I’ll even go out on a limb and say they have no shot at the wild card either (I know, daring, aren’t I?).

      The O’s WILL score some runs this year, which will make for exciting games. But they will give up many more than they score with that lame excuse of a pitching staff and that will be the end of it.

      Oh, and you forgot to include Boston in your list of teams that didn’t get better over the offseason. Cause they did… big time. They are your AL East winners.

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  11. Me says:

    Of course this is a signing for the fans. And they needed to do it. I think the team has given up on Pie and Reimold and I can’t blame them. There is no way that Reimold hits those projections and yeah Pie may have good defense, but after 10+ years of mediocrity defense doesn’t sell.

    No one thinks that this move is going to make the Orioles a contender, but it adds a lot of excitement to the lineup. Adds a veteran presence to help the young guys mature and provides a potential trade candidate later in the year.

    The O’s have cut a lot of payroll recently so they could afford to pick up a guy like Vlad on a short contract. In the end as an O’s fan what gets me more excited about a team that is going to flounder in an impossible to win division… watching the same old Pie and Reimold not hit at the bottom of the order, or watching Vlad in the four hole?

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    • Eric says:

      Reimold already topped that projection in 2009, by a lot.

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      • JoeC says:

        Yeah, I don’t buy it. Let’s see him do it again before we write that down as his expected level of production. Since then, he’s started to look more and more like a one-hit wonder.

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  12. Azmanz says:

    I think you forget that Mystery Team signed Cliff Lee this year. Sometimes they do get the free agent.

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  13. pressure says:

    Signing Vlad may have been a bad baseball decision, no doubt. But If the signing convinces 150k to 200k casual fans to drop money on tickets to see “Vlad the impaler” (Admittedly those are numbers I guessed at -but seem within reason) well then you’ve not only paid his 8 million but at least prevented a few of those fans from forgetting that your franchise exists as an entertainment option in their city. Maintaining a fanbase is sometimes a necessary evil in a market economy.

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    • Nick says:

      Maybe, except tickets at Camden Yards cost $5. So you’re still $7 million short.

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      • adam says:

        Except they just raised the price on tickets… maybe there’s a correlation here?

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      • Dwight Schrute says:

        The stadiums make a ton of money on concessions so if they did indeed get 200,000 more people in the game because of him they would very easily recoup their money because of him, especially if most of those people are drinkers since that’s where they make their serious cash. If the beer prices are anything like most of the stadiums I’ve been to they’re probably making a $7+ profit per cup. If each fan has 2 of them they could make close to 3MM profit just off their alcohol purchases. Obviously they won’t all be drinkers but I’m sure many of the ones that do will have more than 2 drinks though so it could average out to close to that amount.

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    • Vegemitch says:

      Winning games is what brings fans. Vlad isn’t going to help them win anymore games than the players that they already have. As a matter of fact, given his reputation as a middle of the order hitter, his presence may actually be a negative given that his production doesn’t warrant a good lineup spot.

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      • hunterfan says:

        Vlad is a better DH than Scott and Scott is a better LF (offense + defensive contributions) than Pie.

        So yeah, it’ll help the team win more gammes…..

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      • Dwight Schrute says:

        True, but having some hype or big names also brings in fans. For example the 2008 Tigers sold out the season despite a struggling Detroit economy and a last place finish because the fans foolishly bought into the hype of the team in the offseason.(admittedly I was one of them) So with all the new faces in Baltimore this season the team could probably convince many fans(lets face it most aren’t statheads, they pay more attention to names) that this team has a chance with their new “superstar” which could lead to alot of ticket sales.

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      • JoeC says:

        Wha??? So the guy who hit .300 in 593 at bats and knocked 29 home runs and drove in 115 runners, basically a guy who out-hit anyone on the 2010 Orioles, is NOT going to help the Orioles win and doesn’t deserve a middle-of-the-order lineup spot?

        Um… okay.

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  14. Tito Landrum says:

    Matt (or anyone else who cares to respond) :^),

    You seem to be going off the assumption that the O’s have NO chance going into this season. Obviously, McPhail and Buck, rightly or wrongly, don’t quite see it that way. Not saying they expect the O’s to contend (we’re talking Wild Card here), but it is not out of the question, even in the East.

    What do you think of this staff? Do you take into account, at all, how well they pitched the last two months of the season (Duchscherer excluded.)
    Guthrie
    Matusz
    Duchscherer
    Bergeson
    Arrieta

    Koji Uehara
    Kevin Gregg
    Mike Gonzalez
    Jim Johnson
    Jason Berken
    Jeremy Accardo
    Mark Hendrickson/Rich Vanderhurk

    just curious for opinions.

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    • Ricky says:

      If Guthrie is your #1 option then you are not in good shape. Additionally, you are in even worse shape if Guthrie is your #1 and you play ball in the AL East.

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      • Tito Landrum says:

        But what do you really know about Guthrie? Honestly? Obviously, he is not an ace. But I suspect he is much better than you assume.

        Are you just dismissing him out of hand?

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      • Tito Landrum says:

        And actually, he’s been pitching very well in the AL East for the last few seasons.

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    • KB says:

      The bullpen looks decent enough. I just doubt that that rotation has enough firepower to contend in the AL East (not even considering the difference in position players between NYY/BOS/TBR and BAL).

      As far as the comment about the last two months of the season, that sort of thing has little predictive power. I suppose it’s possible one of them “figured something out” a la Derek Lowe’s slider at the end of last year or Joel Piniero’s Dave Duncan magic two years ago, but it’s rather unlikely.

      As an outsider to all of the AL East teams, I see it shaking up like this:
      1. BOS, 2. TBR, 3. NYY, 4. TOR, 5. BAL. It’s going to take a lot more than Jeremy Guthrie and Nick Markakis to win that division anytime soon.

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    • Vegemitch says:

      I’m not real sure what you’re getting at with the O’s pitching. On paper it would appear that they have the worst starting rotation and also the worst bullpen in the AL East even if they have good health and the young players progress.

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      • Tito Landrum says:

        I’m not really getting at anything, I swear. I’m just trying to get additional outsiders perspectives on the O’s (I’m obviously an O’s fan). You supplied yours and I thank you for it – sincerely.

        I’m not saying that I expect the O’s staff to continue exactly as they had over the last 2 months of the 2010 season, but at the same time I think many fans are either not aware (because of how irrelevant the O’s are) of how well this staff pitched (including the bullpen) at the end of last year, or are ignoring it. Bergeson (who pitched very well in 2009) was healthy and Arrieta was improving. Matusz was lights out and Guthrie was his usual solid self. Duchsherer will most likely replace Tillman in the rotation. Koji was incredible in the closer’s role and once Mike Gonzalez was healthy he pitched like his usual self, same with Jim Johnson.

        I think the pitching, which will be the key for the O’s, is underated.

        we’ll see…

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  15. bmt24 says:

    When the rumors of the O’s interest in Vlad first surfaced I was a little perplexed too. I believe Felix Pie still deserves a chance as an everyday player and Luke Scott was easily the best hitter on the team last year. But after thinking about it I like the move and I think there will be enough plate appearances to go around.

    Amazingly, Vlad played over 150 games last year, but I think he suffered for it in the latter half of the season. Maybe his second half performance was just bad luck, but I wouldn’t count on it. He doesn’t have a particularly large platoon split, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to give him a day off against some RHPs once in a while to keep him rested. Barring serious injury I see him starting maybe 120-130 games and adding some more plate appearances as a pinch hitter. And that’s if he’s not traded by the end of July, which, I think, is what MacPhail is hoping to do.

    Felix Pie, I believe, had two DL stints last year and the Orioles were forced to call on Corey Patterson (Reimold was still struggling in AAA) for 90 games. Adam Jones gets banged up once in a while too, but Markakis is pretty reliable.

    I’m not suggesting a strict platoon, but since Vlad and Lee are both right handed I think it makes sense to have Luke Scott fill in for them (Scott can play first, although he’s no Keith Hernandez) on some planned days of rest against right-handed pitchers. I think between DH, 1B, LF and PH Luke Scott can easily get 350 plate appearances, even if nobody gets hurt. And between fragile Felix, the two 36 year-olds and Scott himself a 33 year old predicting no injuries is foolishly optimistic.

    The Orioles had injuries in the outfield last year and Reimold wasn’t hitting enough to merit a promotion. He needs to start the season at AAA this year (assuming he has options left) and prove himself before getting the call.

    If everything goes right Vlad hits like an all-star and gets dealt in June or July leaving Luke Scott as the regular DH (or maybe Luke Scott gets dealt too?) while Reimold hits enough to merit a promotion and gets the plate appearances that Luke Scott would have gotten. If things go wrong there are injuries or poor performance all over the place and more than enough playing time to go around. If nobody gets hurt and Vlad doesn’t get traded (how does he not? The O’s found a taker for Miguel Tejada last year!) and Reimold does play well enough to deserve a promotion… well then there’s a problem. But really, isn’t an overabundance of Major League talent a problem you want to have?

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  16. tntoriole says:

    Have you ever actually watched Felix Pie play left field? While he is faster than Luke Scott, in 2010, Pie had little idea about the correct lines to take to balls and also how to effectively play the gaps in relationship to center fielder Adam Jones.
    While there may be a gap in speed, Luke Scott has played primarily in left field most of his major league career and plays it more effectively than Felix Pie does at the present time.
    Pie is better as a centerfielder and is still a work in progress in left.
    Reimold needs to go to Norfolk and show that he actually has his act back together and maybe even be switched to first base or he is not going to pan out at all.
    Either way, neither Pie or Reimold will cause the kinds of problems for opposing teams that Guerrero will in 2011 and a one year deal with 3million deferred (and deferred for a long time according to the Baltimore Sun) is a smart deal for the Orioles.

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  17. srock says:

    Vlad is depth. You can project Reimold/Pie all you want, but those guys have history of injuries and Nolan has had a rough 18 months off the field. There is no shame is letting him get his groove on in AAA instead of counting on him all season. Vlad lets them do that and opens the door for a variety of trades this season.

    He is a bit expensive for depth…but the O’s are paying for the upside. He could have a great season.

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  18. Tim says:

    That mystery team bit was hilarious. Go angels!

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  19. Christo P. Ney says:

    True. Big difference between 87th and 81st win. I agree.

    And Matt, you say anything is possible but you wouldn’t bet on it. I wouldn’t either for the standard MLB franchise. Baltimore MIGHT be different.

    They got a lil bump with Showalter (34-23) on the field late last season for an otherwise moribund franchise, yet still saw total gate receipts in 2010 only hit $45 million (even that low number was buttressed largely by the 18 games a year at home against NYY and BOS). Detroit saw a modicum of success last year in an even more awful city economic environment and drew $65 million in receipts.

    From a purely economic standpoint, I think the rationale is debatable but MAY be worth the risk.

    The team just can’t be drawing under 10,000 for each of the two-game set against the Royals in mid-May if they want to, you know, make money.

    So with no outfield prospects in the higher minors/on the verge (Avery still needs to prove himself in AA and Reimold struggled a bit last year both up and down), signing Guerrero as a stopgap/deadline trade bait isn’t such a bad thing.

    Getting Lee, probably just above serviceable at this point, milking Duchscherer for a couple months until he breaks his eighth hip and using Guerrero for a few months until his knees fall off might be just enough to get the city all aflutter, no matter how illusory the whole thing might be.

    Their pitching still blows but with the addition of Reynolds as well, they might, MIGHT, be able to bludgeon enough mediocre-to-bad teams into submission early to create a bit of city buzz and get butts in seats, approaching something close to the Tigers’ $65 million in the end. If something like that happens – and it DOES smell a tad desperate in some sense – the deal and the boost in payroll might just balance out and be oodles more interesting for Orioles fans than watching the crap that’s been trotted out there lately.

    If a franchise can’t delay finding out if guys like Pie and Reimold might become MLB-average players for a couple years (probably their best hope and something that wouldn’t exactly jettison the Orioles into the realm of perpetual baseball-good either), they probably have bigger, more baseball-bad problems.

    And if anything, in the barest sense, maybe they’ll draw more than 9,200 a game for that mid-week, three-game set in late May against the Royals.

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    • Tito Landrum says:

      Does the pitching really “blow”? They were very good over the last two months of 2010, bullpen included.

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      • adam says:

        #arbitraryendpoints

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      • Tito Landrum says:

        Not totally arbitrary. Guthrie was solid all season. Matusz and Arrieta are young pitchers starting to figure things out and Bergeson, who was very good in 2009, was finally healthy.

        In the bullpen the Koji, Mike Gonzalez and Jim Johnson were all healthy.

        The O’s were a 66 win team last year and most everyone figured they’d be about a 75 win team. However, they had a lot of injuries to key players in key roles such as Brian Roberts, Koji, Gonzalez, Johnson, Bergeson to name a few. I don’t think 66 wins represents the team’s true talent level from last year. I’m also not saying that they are truly as good as they played under Buck either. But I think it is possible the team was closer to being as good as they were under Buck than as bad as they were in the first half.

        did that last sentence make sense? :^)

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      • JoeC says:

        Yes, the O’s pitching really blows.

        Next question.

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  20. sweets says:

    The orioles are not a team that should be written off this year. They have significantly improved at every infield position, deepened their bullpen(admittedly overpaying to do so), and have a potentially deep starting pitching staff filled with high upside young players. That said they are still very capable of finishing in fifth place in the AL East.

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  21. Sandy Kazmir says:

    I wonder how much the apparent vulnerability of the Yankees, and on-the-surface rebuilds by the Rays and Jays played into this. In MacFail’s mind he might think that they were only one more bat away from potentially sticking around a bit longer in the chase for the wild card this year. I’ve just been trying to find the logic as it seems like a Reimold/Pie platoon in the field and a full season of Scott at DH would be better than rolling the dice on Vlad for more money than Damon + Manny.

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  22. Ian says:

    Before Buck Showalter took over, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jeremy Guthrie combined to make 59 starts. In those 59 starts, they went a combined 10-31 with an ERA of 5.34, WHIP of 1.47. After Showalter, that same trio combined to make 33 starts. In those 33 starts, they went a combined 19-7 with an ERA of 2.77, WHIP of 1.05. They also averaged 6.5 IP/start (up from 5.7 IP/start before Buck). Their collective H/9 went from 10.19 to 7.26, their BB/9 went from 3.01 to 2.14, their HR/9 went from 1.31 to 0.92, and those go with a modest increase from 5.36 to 5.88 in K/9.

    I have never would have guessed that a managerial change could result in such a drastic change in Starting pitching performance. Ironically, the lightened strain on the bullpen didn’t help nearly as much as one would expect.

    I don’t think Matusz, Guthrie, and Bergesen will combine for a sub-3.00 ERA this season, but I do believe they can combine for a sub-3.75 ERA. That, along with a bullpen improvements (Kevin Gregg along with a healthy Mike Gonzalez, Koji Uehara, and Jim Johnson) could bring the team ERA into the top half of the AL. The overhaul to the lineup along with modest improvement from Adam Jones and Matt Wieters and relative health of Brian Roberts has me believing that they could score runs at a decent pace.

    I’m not saying a playoff berth, but an 85 win season is certainly within reach.

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      Too bad they didn’t make him the pitching coach, imagine how much even more better they would have been!?!?

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    • OhNoNotYett says:

      Matusz, Guthrie, and Bergesen combine for sub-3.75? In that division? Showalter magic dust or not, there’s no way. Sub-4.25, maybe.

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  23. Mike P says:

    Just one final point to consider, in case anyone’s forgotten it. Would you rather have:

    Vlad: 8M

    Manny: 2M

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  24. Cidron says:

    then again, it may all be about Boogs stuff beyond the fences that drew Vlad to Baltimore! …..

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  25. BronxOrioleFan says:

    I love statistics. I also love the Baltimore Orioles. As someone deeply devoted to and intimately familiar with both, let me just say this:

    Anyone who thinks that the Orioles a) will have their top 3 starts combine for a sub-3.75 ERA, b) that the team is anywhere close to a possible 85 wins, c) that the Vlad signing made any kind of sense, at any price, or d) that the Orioles have even the slightest chance at finishing any better than fourth–no, let’s be honest, fifth–in that division…

    Anyone who thinks any of those things needs to pass me, and the rest of the O’s fanbase, whatever you are smoking. Because it is powerful stuff, and I would also like to spend my days this baseball season in drug-induced denial of the sheer mass of history, statistical projections, expert analysis, and just common effing sense that says the Orioles are finishing last.

    I will be thrilled if we win 75 games. Absolutely thrilled. You guys do remember it’s the Orioles we’re talking about, right? Even if we had the same quantity of high quality young talent as recent surprise teams like the Rays or the Reds (and we don’t), we are THE ORIOLES. That sort of seems to be the underlying problem.

    How’s Angelos’ health? Anybody? Can someone give Cal a few hundred million so he can buy the damn team?

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    • adam says:

      Well, it’s interesting (to me) that the Orioles are about 90:1 to win the World Series. That’s good for 24th in the MLB, which looks bad, but they’re doing it out of the AL East where Boston is 6.5:1, NYY is 8:1, Tampa is ~20:1, and Toronto is ~60:1. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they’d challenge for the AL West crown, or certainly the NL Central crown. Purely on account of their schedule we have to take the Orioles as a .500ish team, but otherwise they actually shape up to be an okay baseball squad.

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  26. pft says:

    I think Vlad was a good move. Their lineup now looks like this

    C-Wieters
    1B-Lee
    2b-Roberts
    SS-Hardy
    3B-Reynolds
    Lf-Scott
    CF-Jones
    RF-Markakis
    DH-Vlad

    Last year they were hit by injuries to Roberts and Pie and off years by Jones and Markakis. If they stay healthy and players perform as expected, they will score a bunch of runs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • pft says:

      Also, as others have pointed out, Vlad would have a ton of trade value come July given all the deferred money, and the Orioles could well end up with a nice prospect with a team needing a bat and thinking he could help them make the playoffs this year.

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  27. david says:

    vlad looks like slim charles from the wire. maybe they got confused. “that one’s for joe.”

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  28. Joe R says:

    Here’s the lineup I see for B’more
    C: Average w/ upside
    1B: Rebound candidate, sort of, I expect average 1B
    2B: Slightly above average
    3B: Below average w/ big upside (and big downside)
    SS: Average-above average, horrible underrated
    LF: Figure he returns to average-ish level
    CF: Average w/ upside
    RF: Above average w/ upside
    DH: Meh

    So, with some luck, who knows? PECOTA has them as the 11th best team in the AL out of 14, pre-Vlad signing (might bump them to 10th now). So I mean, it’s a lot of if’s (if Markakis can be a star again, if Jones/Reynolds/Hardy can put it together, if Matusz can become an ace, etc), and I still don’t like the signing of Vlad, but at least I can sort of justify it.

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  29. Bonus points for the Miss Havisham reference.

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  30. CircleChange11 says:

    This is the year Pie breaks out.

    Repeat annually.

    Pie is a below average hitter, but tolerable and an average fielder. He’s a usable piece. But to not acquire someone that provides overall better performance in favor of Pie’s “development” would be a waste.

    For a prospect whose big value was speed, he had 14 career stolen bases.

    Give up the dream of him being a 3 WAR OF. AAA All-Star …. sure.

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  31. Jon says:

    I could see the Red Sox wanting Vlad if Ortiz continue his struggles against lefties. Not that they’d be willing to offer much for a DH against lefties and occasionally PH.

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  32. doctorright says:

    STATs STATS STATS! I LOVE STATS!

    Too bad baseball is played by humans, not in video games or computer programs.
    Projection: most stat geeks will get laid once in the next 14- 17.5 months.
    (By the way- you guys should apply your brilliance to projecting the performance of the stock market; put your money where your lisp hole is…)

    Bring the dorky-ass hate:
    NOW!

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  33. Me says:

    I’m going to sound like a naive noob here, but oh well, I just think it needs to be said. I like this signing for the team. I understand all of the metrics that come into play, and I understand how overpaying a DH, even a productive one, at the expense of player development is a mistake. However, the fan in me really appreciates this move, and I’m not even an O’s fan. Vlad hating seems to be a popular sport these days, and I don’t understand it. He’s a fun player to watch, who also has had exactly one season that that was “bad” enough to even approach MLB average in the last 14 years. This guy’s pretty good. Also, while they may lack a true 3-4-5 hitter, except for Scott, he gives the Orioles a really solid line-up top to bottom, even if they’re highly unlikely to compete in the AL East. When your team has had so many losing seasons in a row. It’s nice to put an interesting product on the field every so often. If Duchsherer bounces back, Matusz continues to develop, and they get a suprising year out of Guthrie, I don’t see any reason why this team can’t be in it in September. Fan interest is important. Look at the Red Sox last year. They won 89 games, had great performances from AAAA players all year, there were a lot of nice stories, and their TV ratings dropped 36%. Every so often teams need to go out and do something to make it more interesting. Does adding Vlad make the team that much better, maybe not. Does it make the team more interesting, absolutely. I, for one, look forward to seeing these new-look Orioles with Reynolds, Vlad, Lee, Hardy, Roberts, Jones, Markakis, Wieters, and Scott. Where’s the gaping hole in that line-up?

    Sorry, I just think that sometimes people get a little too caught up in the type of cost-benefit analysis that leaves the non-Sabrmetrician fans out in the cold. I love the stats, but they aren’t everything. As a Sox fan, I understand that David Ortiz’s L/R splits are god awful. Does that mean I want to see Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron DHing for him 30% of the time? No. I want to see DMac and Cam spelling Drew when lefties are up. Hahaha. Mathematically, love Drew. When he comes up in an important moment against a lefty, not so much.

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  34. Me says:

    Also, I’ve never used the word “Noob” before. And I probably never will again.

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  35. doctorright says:

    Now, see, if I had any self-control, I would’ve said what he just said.
    Minor platonic man-crush commencing…

    But for the rest of you (well, most of you probably…)
    continue to enjoy airings of Glee in between marathon bouts of ‘metric tantric self-wrangling.

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  36. Chris says:

    A link to my Q&A with the following National Writers:

    http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/?p=2032

    Mel Antonen, Sports Illustrated / MLB Network Radio (Sirius-XM Radio)
    Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs / Beyond The Boxscore
    David Pinto, Baseball Musings / Sporting News
    Ed Price, FanHouse
    Danny Knobler, CBSSports.com

    I am expecting to receive additional answers from a few other writers. Once their answers are received, I will edit their comments in.

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  37. O's fan in Glen Burnie says:

    I think Jeremy Guthrie is underrated as a stater as it is. His 1.16 WHIP was 7th in the AL and he always has around a 4.5 WAR (not great, but he’s consistently good). Plus, if you take in account if he had a better defense behind him and he wasn’t the only reliable starter, he could be better. In 2010, he was already good but got better as the rotation got better later in the season.

    I know I’m talking about “intangables” and for a stathead that’s impossible to grasp. But I think if Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen continues with the upward progress that they showed in the 2nd half, Guthrie will thrive off of it. Also, Jake Arrieta was impressive at times later in the season once he found his control.

    Also, as far as Guerrero is concerned, it’s a high risk that might set the team back. On the other hand, I think Andy MacPhail is depending the progression of the young starting rotation to take hold. Honestly, 2011 for the Orioles will come down to how well the rotation will do. If the young starters can live up to their potential, the O’s have an ok chance to make some noise, or at least a fair possibility to climb back to respectability. If they regress, it’s going to be another nightmare and back to the drawing board.

    I think MacPhail/Angelos are taking a huge gamble in depending so highly on such a young pitching staff. Us O’s fans can only hope…

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    • Z says:

      Since when is Guthrie a 4.5 WAR player?

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      • O's fan in Glen Burnie says:

        Ok, according to fangraphs, he had a 2.3 WAR in ’10, but according to baseballprospectus he had a 5.1 WAR in ’10, but according to baseball reference, he had a 4.3 WAR.

        Actually, I’m confused right now.

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  38. Garrett says:

    Why are we analyzing this as a “what will produce the best team”? Bad way to start.

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  39. Doug in Ellicott City says:

    As an older baseball guy, I truly love the view of the game from the stats. However, I also believe that those who so focus on the stats that they totally ignore what the baseball eye can see are really missing out. The 2010 Orioles as a whole were horrible. But they were a .500 team the last 98 games…49-49.

    ASSUMING THEY STAY HEALTHY (which you have to say about every team)… MacPhail has been slowly re-building this franchise. Showalter is a HUGE upgrade over anything they’ve had in the dugout for years. Wieters will continue to grow. Lee is a solid vet. Roberts is a solid leadoff stick. Hardy is a slight overall upgrade over Isturis. Reynolds is a big upgrade. Markakis is Steady Eddie and Adam Jones should continue to put up numbers like last season. Although the eye test tells me Reimold will be a ten year player, his injury and off the field issues raise questions about his 2011. Pie has tools more than he has game. If they mesh he’ll be a good one…the jury is still out.
    Bottom line: Vlad + Luke Scott + Pie > Luke Scott + Reimold + Pie.

    Of course, their starting rotation will have to produce closer to the stuff they put out there the last 57 games than the stuff they put out there under Trembley and Samuel. The bullpen looks better than last year. There will be pitching depth in AAA.

    My baseball eyes tell me they will be above .500. If they gel, they could play meaningful games in August and September for the first time in well over a decade. If they get lucky…we’ll see.

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