Archive for Orioles

Corey Dickerson and the Best Bad-Ball Hitters

While writing about Miguel Sano last week, I connected two thoughts that had laid dormant next to each other for a while.

Those thoughts, as follows:

  1. It’s easier to lift and drive balls that appear in certain parts of the zone; and
  2. How pitchers approach batters in terms of location is part of an endless loop of adjustments that makes judging a batter’s true talent difficult.

That confluence of ideas led to an innocuous enough question: could we adjust exit velocity for pitch location?

The answer is yes, of course we can. The next question, however, was much more interesting: what the heck does this measure?

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Did the Orioles Steal Tim Beckham?

Tim Beckham has been baseball’s best player in August. (Photo: Keith Allison)

In one of the least noticed trades before the July 31st deadline, the Rays and Orioles made a seemingly minor swap, with Tampa sending shortstop Tim Beckham to Baltimore for minor leaguer Tobias Myers. After acquiring Lucas Duda to take over at DH, the Rays had filled their infield and didn’t have regular at-bats for Beckham anymore, so they shipped him off to Baltimore for an 18-year-old in short-season ball.

Only since that seemingly inconsequential swap, Beckham has been the single best player in baseball, and we have to ask if the Orioles somehow stole a quality shortstop from their division rival.

August Leaderboards
Tim Beckham 60 0.500 0.517 0.897 0.584 278 1.6
Giancarlo Stanton 55 0.367 0.436 1.041 0.579 264 1.3
Joey Votto 63 0.435 0.587 0.783 0.551 243 1.2
Mike Trout 59 0.386 0.542 0.727 0.521 242 1.2
Josh Donaldson 54 0.341 0.481 0.854 0.524 237 1.1
Andrew Benintendi 47 0.425 0.489 0.875 0.540 244 1.1
Nelson Cruz 52 0.396 0.423 0.979 0.558 266 1.0
Charlie Blackmon 59 0.396 0.508 0.729 0.503 197 0.9
Joey Gallo 48 0.275 0.396 0.900 0.509 224 0.9
Kris Bryant 60 0.412 0.483 0.647 0.472 193 0.9

Know how Giancarlo Stanton has been hitting homers every game? Beckham has been better.

Notice how Joey Votto is closing in on the record for consecutive games on base multiple times? Beckham has been better.

Enjoying how Mike Trout is establishing a new level of greatness, even by his own standards? Beckham has been better.

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Updated Top-10 Prospect Lists: AL East

Below are the updated summer top-10 prospect lists for the orgs in the American League East. I have notes beneath the top 10s explaining why some of these prospects have moved up or down. For detailed scouting information on individual players, check out the player’s profile page which may include tool grades and/or links to Daily Prospect Notes posts in which they’ve appeared this season. For detailed info on players drafted or signed this year, check out our sortable boards.

Baltimore Orioles (Preseason List)

1. Chance Sisco, C
2. D.L. Hall, LHP
3. Ryan Mountcastle, OF
4. Austin Hays
5. Cedric Mullins, OF
6. Cody Sedlock, RHP
7. Keegan Akin, LHP
8. Hunter Harvey, RHP
9. Jomar Reyes, 3B
10. Anthony Santander, OF/1B

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Ranking the Prospects Traded During Deadline Season

Among the prospects traded in July, Eloy Jimenez stands out. (Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

Below is a ranking of the prospects traded this month, tiered by our Future Value scale. A reminder that there’s lots of room for argument as to how these players line up, especially within the same FV tier. If you need further explanation about FV, bang it here and here. Full writeups of the prospects are linked next to their names. If the player didn’t receive an entire post, I’ve got a brief scouting report included below. Enjoy.
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The Curious Cases of the Relievers Who were not Traded

Again, Zach Britton found himself waiting for a phone call that never came.

Fellow left-handed reliever and fellow significant trade chip of a motivated seller, Brad Hand, is also staying put.

While the headlines Monday were tied to the top front-line starters traded, the Yankees adding Sonny Gray and the Dodgers beating the 4 p.m. eastern buzzer to land Yu Darvish, this was a reliever-heavy deadline period. This should be remembered as the trade deadline of The Reliever when more and more teams are focused on improving bullpens and attempting to build super relief corps. Read the rest of this entry »

Projecting the Prospects Traded on Friday Night

Three minor-ish trades went down on Friday night. The Mets acquired A.J. Ramos from the Marlins for Merandy Gonzalez and Ricardo Cespedes; the Nationals acquired Howie Kendrick from the Phillies for McKenzie Mills; the Orioles acquired Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies for Garrett Cleavinger and Hyun Soo Kim.  Below are the projections for the prospects who changed hands. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

None of the players dealt last night are top prospects, and as a result, their likelihood of outcomes graphs are heavily skewed towards “no MLB”. Kyle Glaser recently found that fewer than one in five prospects traded at the deadline contribute more than one positive WAR season. All three of these pitchers seem like good bets to fall into that bottom four-fifths.

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The Phillies’ Returns for Hellickson and Kendrick

Philadelphia made a pair of trades Friday, sending Howie Kendrick to Washington for LHP McKenzie Mills. They also traded RHP Jeremy Hellickson to Baltimore for LHP Garrett Cleavinger and OF Hyun Soo Kim. Philadelphia also received bonus pool money from both clubs.

Baltimore gets
RHP Jeremy Hellickson

Washington gets
2B Howie Kendrick

Philadelphia gets
LHP McKenzie Mills
LHP Garrett Cleavinger
OF Hyun Soo Kim
International Bonus Slots

Mills is a 21-year old, big-bodied lefty with advanced changeup feel. He was an 18th round pick out of Sprayberry HS (GA) in 2014 and then spent each of his first three pro seasons in either rookie or short-season ball. Mills struggled with control. His strikeout and walk rates — 20% and 12%, respectively, in 2016 and 28% and 5% this year — have both drastically improved this year and he’s having more success as the season goes on despite having already doubled his innings total frmo last year.

As far as the stuff in concerned, Mills is a deceptive 88-92 with downhill plane and could have an above average changeup at maturity. His below average curveball has shape but not power. He can locate it, and his other pitches, and projects to have starter’s control/command. He has K’d 118 hitters in 104.2 innings with Low-A Potomac and is a potential backend starter.

Cleavinger, a 2015 3rd rounder out of Oregon, is a pure relief prospect with a low-90s fastball and loopy, twisting curveball. His command is very erratic and, while he has premium loogy funk and repertoire, it needs to develop significantly if Cleavinger’s to have a steady big league role.

The Phillies also acquired $1 million in international bonus money yesterday General Manager Matt Klentak’s post-trade comments indicate that money will be speculatively used to as yet unidentified or available talent on the international market. The Phillies were originally allotted a $4.75 million bonus pool for the international period and spent a significant amount of it on five players, including SS Luis Garcia ($2.5 mil) and four other players who all signed for around $500k each.

Dylan Bundy on Preparing for a Start

A few weeks ago, we heard from Baltimore infielder Manny Machado on how he prepares for an upcoming series. Today, we explore the subject from a pitcher’s perspective. On the same day I spoke to Machado, I asked Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy about how he goes about readying himself for his next start.

Like most every other member of a rotation, Bundy throws a bullpen session between starts, and he follows that up by watching video and reading scouting reports. But not every pitcher goes about those things the exact same way. Bullpen routines differ, as do the approaches to studying opposing lineups. Here is how Bundy does it.


Dylan Bundy on preparing for a start: “Not every bullpen is the same. Some days I go out there knowing my curveball wasn’t very good in my last start, so I’ll work on my curveball that day. But most of the time, I’m throwing fastballs and changeups, and that’s it — 20 to 25 pitches. I have a basic routine. At least the first nine or 10 pitches are usually fastballs — up, down, in, out — and then I’ll throw four or five changeups. If I feel great after that, I’ll shut it down. If not, I’ll throw a few more pitches.

“Sometimes my body isn’t feeling all that great — the ball isn’t coming out the way I want it to — so I’m not going to work on pitches. I’m not going to work on things like movement, or even location, because I don’t have my body in the right shape to do all that stuff. That day, I’m just kind of moving. I’m throwing pitches and loosing up my arm and my body. I’m working mechanically, trying to feel the way I need to feel for the next game I’ll be starting.

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Do Sidearmers Get Hip Problems?

When Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler made the switch to throwing out of a submarine motion, his new mechanics made him sore. In the hips, as he remembers it. Ask fellow submariner Darren O’Day if his delivery was related to his hip labrum surgery, and his answer is succinct: “Absolutely.” Now fellow side-slotter Andrew Triggs is headed for that same surgery and it’s fair to ask: is the sidearm or submarine delivery hard on the hips?

It’s never easy to answer these sorts of questions because of the problem of sample. There might be two true submariners in baseball today (O’Day and Ziegler), and then a few who others who live low — a group that includes Steve Cishek, Pat Neshek, Joe Smith, and the like. Head any higher on the release-point list, and you’re already at Chris Sale, nobody’s idea of a sidearmer.

If you just take the list of pitchers who have recorded hip problems in the last 10 years, you get 33 different names. Hardly an epidemic. Take those 33 pitchers, and look at their average arm slot, and you might think you’ve found something.

Hip Problem Pitchers and Release Point
Player Height (in.) Vert. Release (in) Difference
League Average 75 71.2 3.8
Average Hip Problem 76 68.7 7.3
SOURCE: Jeff Zimmerman

Pitchers with hip problems release their pitches, on average, three-and-a-half inches lower than the general population.

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Manny Machado on Preparing for a Series

It’s quite possible that — as recently as last night, with the Orioles preparing to finish their series against the Brewers — that Manny Machado had no idea who’d be on the mound for the Twins this evening. That sort of knowledge, and the preparation that goes along with it, would have to wait until Baltimore was finished with Milwaukee. The young third baseman doesn’t like to look too far ahead. I learned that when I spoke to Machado earlier this season.

At the time of our conversation, the Orioles were in Boston to play the Red Sox. His club would be facing the White Sox next, and I was interested to know when Chicago — and, specifically, their pitchers — would begin entering Machado’s consciousness. Here’s what he had to say.


Machado on preparing for a series: “I don’t really think ahead. I think it’s the same way for most of the guys in this clubhouse — you have to stay in the moment. Today we have to face Chris Sale, so why would we think about the White Sox coming up? We have to worry about one of the best pitchers in the game, and what we’re going to do against him. We just prepare for the guy we’re going to face tonight. We stay with our same routines in the cage, and on the field, as well.

“Every time you go into a series, you kind of want to know who the three or four starters are going to be, but that’s just right before the series starts. I don’t know who is pitching for Chicago yet. Once the series here is over, I’ll take a look to see who we’ve got coming. I’ll kind of prepare myself mentally and start creating my plan for that series.

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What’s Up With Manny Machado?

In this, The Year of Higher Launch Angles and Homer and Strikeout Spikes, most of the game’s marquee offensive players have joined the party. Mike Trout was Mike Trout when healthy, Bryce Harper is back, while Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano, and others are leading the youth brigade. In the meantime, though, has anyone seen Manny Machado?

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It’s Time For the Orioles to Rebuild

Let us first pause to reflect on what the Orioles have accomplished in recent history.

As a small fish in the largest and richest on ponds, they have won more games than any other team in the AL East since 2012. The Orioles have advanced to the postseason three times in the last five years. They have consistently beat the pre-season expectations of projection systems at FanGraphs and elsewhere. And while they’re not out of the race yet, one has to wonder if this is the year the Orioles need to take a step backwards. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Prospect Notes: 6/19

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Breiling Eusebio, LHP, Colorado (Profile)
Level: Short Season  Age: 20   Org Rank: NR   Top 100: NR
Line: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 7 K

It’s been a strong 2017 affiliate debut for Eusebio, who looked quite good throughout extended spring training, his fastball often sitting 90-94 with some tail. His low-70s curveball improved as we inched closer to the summer and it, too, was missing bats as June arrived and is currently average, flashing above. Eusebio has trouble timing his delivery, which can negatively impact his command, but he’s deceptive, throws hard for a lefty starting-pitching prospect, and has breaking-ball feel. Very much a prospect.

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The Race for the AL Wild Card Could Be Crazy

We’re still 100 games away from the end of the season, but we’re getting closer to that time when teams have to decide whether they’re in or out of contention for the playoffs. Some clubs might have to make the tough choice of moving themselves out of contention despite having a reasonable playoff shot. In the American League, nearly every team is still in the race. That might change over the course of the next month, of course, but the field certainly looks like it will still be crowded come July.

There are five playoff spots up for grabs in the AL, and while a lot can and will happen the rest of the way, there are four teams to which our playoff odds give roughly an 80% or better chance of making the playoffs: the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. The Astros look well on their way to potentially 100 wins, while the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees appear to be moving toward close to 90 wins, a figure that generally amounts to a spot in the postseason. Those four teams total 359% of the 500% total odds available. After that, seven teams have something close to a 10%.

After the first four teams, no club has a better than a 50% chance at the playoffs. The team at the top, Toronto, is currently in last place in its division. Here are the playoff odds since the beginning of the season for the rest of the teams in the American League — with the exception, that is, of the rebuilding Chicago White Sox, who have been near zero all season long.

Does that look like an incomprehensible mess? Well, welcome to the AL Wild Card race. If it helps at all, the list of teams at the bottom of the chart is in order in terms of their current playoff odds. There are seven teams with close to a 1-in-10 shot of making the playoffs, with a couple more in Kansas City and Oakland that possess an outside chance of getting back into the mix. If you picked the top team currently by the odds, Toronto, taking the field is probably a better bet.

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The Orioles Rotation Is Terrible

On May 10th, Jeff wrote a post here called “Well, the Orioles Are Doing it Again“, recognizing that the Orioles were once again winning a bunch of games despite a fairly pedestrian BaseRuns record. At the time, the Orioles were 22-10, outpacing their BaseRuns expected record of 16-16, as they had clutched their way to the best record in baseball.

A little over a month later, the Orioles are 31-31. They’ve gone 9-21 in their last 30 games, and they’re now a half-game out of last place in the AL East. But this isn’t a case where their reliance on winning close games has come back to bite them, with the one-run bounces going against them. They are still outpacing their BaseRuns expected win total by six games. They’ve won 9 of their last 30 games because they’ve played like a team that should have only won 9 of their last 30 games. And they’ve played that poorly because their starting pitching is awful.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/7

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Dedgar Jimenez, LHP, Boston (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 21   Org Rank: NR   Top 100: NR
Line: 6 IP, 8 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 7 K

Jimenez has 60 strikeouts and just 17 walks over 57.1 innings this year. He’s big — 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds — but is a good athlete who repeats his delivery and not only throws a lot of strikes but often throws them exactly where he intends to. His stuff is fringey, his best pitch an average slider which he uses heavily, and he’s surviving purely off of command right now. Without any physical projection, it’s hard to envision him competing at upper levels with this stuff, even if he has plus command.

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An Annual Reminder About Defensive Metrics

This is now the third consecutive year in which I’ve written a post about the potential misuse of defensive metrics early in the season. We all want as large a sample size as possible to gather data and make sure what we are looking at is real. That is especially true with defensive statistics, which are reliable, but take longer than other stats to become so.

While the reminder is still a useful one, this year’s edition is a bit different. Past years have necessitated the publication of two posts on UZR outliers. This year, due to the lack of outliers at the moment, one post will be sufficient.

First, let’s begin with an excerpt from the UZR primer by Mitchel Lichtman:

Most of you are familiar with OPS, on base percentage plus slugging average. That is a very reliable metric even after one season of performance, or around 600 PA. In fact, the year-to-year correlation of OPS for full-time players, somewhat of a proxy for reliability, is almost .7. UZR, in contrast, depending on the position, has a year-to-year correlation of around .5. So a year of OPS data is roughly equivalent to a year and half to two years of UZR.

Last season, I identified 10 players whose defensive numbers one-third of the way into the season didn’t line up with their career numbers: six who were underperforming and four who were overperforming. The players in the table below were all at least six runs worse than their three-year averages from previous seasons. If they had kept that pace, they would have lost two WAR in one season just from defense alone. None of those six players kept that pace, and all improved their numbers over the course of the season.

2016 UZR Early Underperfomers
1/3 DEF 2016 ROS DEF 2016 Change
DJ LeMahieu -3.7 2.8 6.5
Eric Hosmer -11.7 -8.7 3.0
Todd Frazier -3.1 1.0 4.1
Jay Bruce -15.5 0.3 15.8
Adam Jones -4.9 -2.9 2.0
Josh Reddick -6.1 -0.2 5.9

The next table depicts the guys who appeared to be overperforming early on. If these players were to keep pace with their early-season exploits, the rest-of-season column would be double the one-third column. Brandon Crawford actually came fairly close to reaching that mark; nobody else did, however, as the other three put up worse numbers over the last two-thirds of the season than they had in its first third.

2016 UZR Early Overperfomers
1/3 DEF 2016 ROS DEF 2016 Change
Brandon Crawford 11.9 16.1 4.2
Jason Kipnis 4.7 4.4 -0.3
Dexter Fowler 4.7 2.7 -2.0
Adrian Beltre 9.0 6.2 -2.8

Just like with the underperfomers, all four of overperformers had recorded defensive marks six runs off their established levels. Replicating those figures over the rest of the season would have meant a two-win gain on defense alone. Again, no one accomplished that particular feat.

A funny thing happened when I ran the numbers for this season. There weren’t any outliers of a magnitude similar to last season or the season before. It’s possible you missed the announcement at the end of April, but there have been some changes made to UZR to help improve the metric.

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Chris Tillman Ain’t Right

Joey Votto might have the most discerning eye in all of baseball, and this season he’s somehow made his own approach something even closer to perfect. Votto has swung at just 19% of pitches out of the strike zone, a rate which counts as especially low. At the same time, Votto has swung at 70% of pitches in the strike zone, a rate which counts as unusually high. When running discipline analysis, I like to compare those two rates. Votto has a swing-rate difference of 51 percentage points. It’s enormous. Joey Votto swings mostly at strikes.

Chris Tillman has started five games since coming off the disabled list, and he’s thrown 452 pitches. When he’s thrown a pitch out of the zone, he’s gotten a swing 24% of the time. When he’s thrown a pitch in the zone, he’s gotten a swing 75% of the time. Tillman, therefore, is running a swing-rate difference of 51 percentage points. Hitters who’ve faced Chris Tillman to this point in 2017 have, on average, been about as disciplined as Joey Votto.

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Baseball’s Toughest (and Easiest) Schedules So Far

When you look up and see that the Athletics are in the midst of a two-game mid-week series against the Marlins in late May, you might suspect that the major-league baseball schedule is simply an exercise in randomness. At this point in the campaign, that’s actually sort of the case. The combination of interleague play and the random vagaries of an early-season schedule conspire to mean that your favorite team hasn’t had the same schedule as your least favorite team. Let’s try to put a number on that disparity.

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Which Team Has MLB’s Best Double-Play Combo?

These days, we’re blessed with a number of amazing young shortstops. Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager, for example, are already among baseball’s top players. Manny Machado is a shortstop who just accidentally plays third base. All of them are younger than 25.

Second base isn’t as notable for its youth. Last year, however, second basemen recorded one of the top collective offensive lines at the position in the history of the game. Good job, second basemen.

So both positions are experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment. This led me to wonder which teams might be benefiting most from that renaissance. It’s rare that teams can keep a second baseman and shortstop together long enough to form a lasting and effective double-play combo. Right now, MLB has some pretty great ones. But which is the greatest — particularly, on the defensive side of thing? Let’s explore.

First, we want to know who has played together for awhile. Since the start of the 2015 season, 21 players have played at least 200 games as a shortstop, and 23 have done the same at second base. Cross-referencing them and weeding out the players who have played for multiple teams, we get the following list:

Teams with 2B & SS with 200+ G, 2015-2017
Team Second Baseman G Shortstop G
BAL Jonathan Schoop 281 J.J. Hardy 264
BOS Dustin Pedroia 279 Xander Bogaerts 346
CLE Jason Kipnis 297 Francisco Lindor 290
DET Ian Kinsler 335 Jose Iglesias 279
HOU Jose Altuve 338 Carlos Correa 288
MIA Dee Gordon 257 Adeiny Hechavarria 288
PHI Cesar Hernandez 270 Freddy Galvis 339
SF Joe Panik 257 Brandon Crawford 315
TEX Rougned Odor 300 Elvis Andrus 347

That’s a pretty good list. There are some tough omissions here. The most notable is the Angels, as Andrelton Simmons hasn’t been with them long enough to meet our bar here. Given Johnny Giavotella‘s defensive contributions, however, we can guess that the combo here would be quite one-sided. Also excluded are teams with new double-play combos, like the Dodgers and Mariners. Not only are the Logan Forsythe-Corey Seager and Robinson CanoJean Segura combos new this season, but thanks to injuries they haven’t even played together much this season. Cano-Segura has only happened 22 times this season, and Forsythe-Seager only 10 times.

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