Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Irony 2.0

Just as I finish up a blog post with this:

"Of course, this all goes out the window if the O's do something nuts like trade for an Adrian Gonzalez or sign a Matt Holliday, but there's not much chance of that happening right now."

I flip over to Twitter to see that it's alive with the sound of groaning, because it looks like Andy MacPhail made Matt Holliday an 8 year, $130 million contract offer. No word if that offer is still good, of course. Maybe Jason Bay's contract has depressed the market slightly.

Useless Lineup Masturbation

Because right now, there's not much else to do.

Let's pretend this is your day-in, day-out Orioles starting roster for 2010:

2B Roberts
CF Jones
RF Markakis
DH Scott
1B Reimold
3B Atkins
C Wieters
LF Pie
SS Izturis

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From the Files of Why the Fuck Not: Give Aubrey a Shot

No, not Huff. My admiration and enjoyment of Aubrey Huff and the way he plays baseball is well-known, but no, I'm referring to the guy the Orioles brought up to replace him after they sent Huff to Detroit to earn the temporary disgust and ire of that franchise: Michael Aubrey.

If Jim Rice Scares You, John Olerud Should Make You Piss Yourself

A couple years back, Red Sox slugger Jim Rice got inducted into the Hall of Fame following a major press blitz by the Sox organization coming off the afterglow of their 2004 World Series Championship. There is something I need to admit up front: I have never seen Jim Rice play baseball. I have no idea what the man looks like. Furthermore, I have no interest in doing so. The man apparently got into the hall because someone working for Theo Epstein convinced the BBWAA that he was the Most Feared Hitter of His Generation, or Era, or something absolutely insane like that. As far as I can tell, Rice had a mediocre career in which he didn't do much of anything, really. That's not to say he was a bad player, mind you -- just that he was an .850 OPSing corner outfielder/designated hitter whose defensive measureables are woefully bad. You know, sort of like Luke Scott, just with fewer walks, a higher batting average, and a much longer career.

There's a statistic (actually, there's a bunch of statistics, but we'll only be using one) called WARP3 that Baseball Prospectus uses to give a concise overview of a player's cumulative career contributions to his team, as measured by advanced sabermetrics. The acronym -- yes, acronym, because you're supposed to say the stat like you're ordering the Starship Enterprise to gun it -- stand for Wins Above Replacement Player, level 3. You can find an explanation of how it returns the number it does here, but really all you need to know to understand this list is that the stat is cumulative across a player's entire career, takes both offense and defense into account, and the higher the number, the more you contributed during your time in Major League Baseball.

Without further ado, here is a list of selected players who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame (or in the case of current or recently retired players, are currently not projected to make the Hall) that have higher career WARP3s than former Boston Red Stocking slugger Jim Rice.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birdwatch 12/23/09

Less with the jokes today, I think; the Javier Vazquez trade has soured my mood. You can mentally update the previous post about the Yankees as you see fit; the upshot is that instead of coming into the season with a rotation in the middle of the top ten in Major League Baseball, the Yankees are now top five. It is realistic to expect that they are not yet done, and will likely take fliers on undervalued guys with concerning contracts at positions of need, whether through trade or free agency. Wouldn't be surprised to see them pick up a guy like Kiko Calero. They were talking about trading for Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs, and one would think the Vazquez acqusition would put paid to that, but you never know. I wouldn't put it past them to contact Erik Bedard about coming to the team later in the season on an incentive-laden one-year make good contract that sees him coming out of the pen; in their new park the Yankees value strikeout specialists over all other kinds of pitchers, and Bedard fits the bill perfectly.

We could have a long discussion about payroll inequality in the sport, but it's been done before, and I'm tired of having it. It's not really something that's fucked the Orioles that badly, anyhow; the past twelve years are due more to institutional idiocy and hubris than anything else. J.P. Riccardi's Toronto Blue Jays from 2006 to 2008, however, are a bleaker story; their pythags over those years puts them around a 90 win team, but the division they played in combined with terrible luck (Dustin McGowan, Shawn Marcum) and one horrific contract (Vernon Wells) -- and the inability to pay that bad luck to go away like the Yankees and, to a much lesser extent, Boston Red Sox are able to -- have seen them fire Riccardi, trade the face of their franchise and one of the best pitchers of the last decade for prospects, and essentially enter rebuilding mode. They, like the Orioles, will continue fighting for the scraps of the AL East in 2010, while the Rays and Sox battle for second. And unless there's a major sea change in New York City soon, that's the way it's going to be for the next few years.

Friday, December 18, 2009

And Now, a Quick Word on the Monsters in the Attic

There is one hard, inescapable truth the Baltimore Orioles will face in 2010:

The New York Yankees will be the best team in baseball.

And barring a catastrophic mixture of regressions, fall-offs, injuries, and outright derelictions of duty in the Bronx, it won't even be close.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Acquire G. Atkins


The Baltimore Orioles Acquire A Gonzalez

But unfortunately, he is not A. Gonzalez.

He is Mike Gonzalez, lefty reliever out of Atlanta, recent recipient of Tommy John surgery and now a 2 year, $12 million deal from the Orioles. The contract has incentives in it that could bring his total paycheck for the deal up to $16 million.

The first thought I had regarding this was, "That's not how you spell Kiko Calero." And I'm right, because "Mike Gonzalez" is spelled with two Z's and a second round pick. He's a Type A free agent -- deservedly so, for once -- and that means that the Atlanta Braves are now the proud owner of the third pick of the second round in next June's amateur draft. That's concerning.

Out of Left Field

Yes, "Out of Left Field." En garde, Kubatko.

The topic of what exactly to do with the Orioles outfield, particularly Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie, in 2010 is something that Baltimore's fans and front office have been debating since last September. My proposal is not unique -- I mean there's only five or six things they could do total, and that includes bringing back Brady Anderson to play left -- but I think it's easily the best of the choices available and I want to work through the thought process behind it before we do something stupid like trade Pie for a soft-hitting, mediocre third baseman.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Know What Fucking Ruled About Freddie Bynum, Jr.?

"I can do anything and everything you want to do on a baseball field. If you want me to run the catcher over I can run him over. If you want me to drop kick somebody I'll drop kick them. I am ready. I am ready to play ball."

-- Freddie Bynum, Jr.

Cliff Lee's a Pretty Cool Dude at a Pretty Good Price

Don't really have time for a mega-post tonight, but really, just a thought: If you're Andy MacPhail and you hear the Seattle Mariners are about to turn an injury-prone reliever and a light-hitting middle infielder who was only mediocre in A Ball into a Cy Young award winner and consensus Top 10 pitcher, why the hell are you not already on the phone with Rube Amaro trying to steal the man's pants off his ass?

I don't mean that the Orioles should acquire Lee. He fits them absolutely not at all. But this is about the principle of the matter. At least drive the price up.

And now, gin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baltimore Reliever Aggregation Station

Now that the Winter Meetings are over, the General Managers have retreated each to their own cities to pursue whatever ill-conceived plans they weren't able to get done in Indianapolis. For the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, this appears to be trolling fans of the New York Yankees, as always; for the St. Louis Cardinals, it's salivating over talented pitching castoffs and driving drunk, as always; and for the Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies, and Toronto Blue Jays, it's building the Ozymandias of offseason trades, an orgiastic majesty of prospects and extensions. The bandit prince of Oakland Billy Beane is also lurking around somewhere out there in the shadows, still disgruntled he signed Eric Chavez to a long-term deal. And as always, the Baltimore Orioles are considering precisely which relief pitcher of dubious quality they should throw six or seven million dollars at each of the next couple years.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Birdwatch 12/12/09

Two years ago today, former Orioles utility infielder Chris Gomez, then age 36 and notable mostly for putting up a higher slugging percentage in 2007 than two-thirds of Baltimore's starting outfield, signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. That slugging percentage was .391.

Today, the Orioles reached terms with relievers Matt Albers (6.58 K/9; 1.73 WHIP) and Cla Meredith (5.12 K/9; 62.9 GB%) before the tender deadline at midnight tonight. Terms have not yet been released, nor do they really matter; they won't be large enough or long enough to stop the Orioles from jettisoning them if either can't get it done. Considering Albers's WHIP and that Meredith is an extreme groundball pitcher on a team with a below average defense and whose most intelligent move to fill the hole at third might be to bring back Miguel "The Butcher of Baltimore" Tejada, that could happen as early as the first round of cuts from spring training.

The Orioles have yet to reach terms with Jeremy Guthrie or Luke Scott, the only two other arbitration-eligible guys on the roster, so that's probably where they're headed. Relievers Brian Bass and Dennis Sarfate are candidates to be non-tendered, though Sarfate (7.83 K/9) is at least worth a look.

The reason for my focus on K/9 may or may not become clear in an upcoming blog post.

Steve Melewski over at MASN launches a well-meaning but somewhat bizarre defense of General Manager Andy MacPhail.

Apparently all the Orioles' big names are cool with Kevin Millwood joining the team, which is both nice to hear and so uncontroversial that I'm going to pass on finding a link and ask you to trust me on this one.

More around the league after the jump.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Birdwatch 12/11/09

It's the day after the Winter Meetings, and neither Fernando Rodney nor Hideki Matsui are Orioles, something we should all file under the heading "Small Victories."

Otherwise things have been very quiet, other than the commenters at Peter Schmuck's blog losing their shit about how awesome Garrett Atkins is. One guy even busted out the inverted crucifix of sabermetrics: the dreaded Batting Average/Home Run/Runs Batted In offensive split. He thought ".300/20/100" was reasonable, which at first I read as ".300/.200/.100," a projection that struck me as not only slightly pessimistic but mathematically impossible. But then, if anyone's going to do it, it might as well be a guy that's put up a whopping .725 career OPS away from Coors Field and who's moving to the AL East to start everyday at a position where he's got a -5.0 UZR/150 at over six years. Everyone has to have a dream. Maybe Garrett Atkins and Andy MacPhail have the same dream, and maybe that dream centers around breaking my will to live.

Meanwhile, Roch Kubatko is linking another ex-Rockie, Jason Marquis, to the Orioles, I suspect in part just so he can get the "marquee" pun out of the way early. Marquis put up a 4.10 FIP in 2009, a year where the league average was 4.32, and he did it at Coors for the most part. But his career numbers say he's more of a 4.60 FIP guy and also, he's Jason Marquis. I just wasted five minutes of my life writing about Jason Marquis. Don't make me waste more, Andy. I swear to God I'll do it.

Buck Martinez leaves MASN and the Baltimore Orioles for Rogers SportsNet and the Toronto Blue Jays. As this will directly lead to more late-inning, suspiciously drunken-sounding pitching rants from Jim Palmer in 2010, it is by far the best offseason move either franchise has made. Hopefully Jack Daniels will be returning as the sponsor of the seventh inning. The preceding sentence is not a joke.

The "third baseman" "hunt" is more or less down to Joe Crede, Garrett Atkins, and Dan Uggla. Reading that sentence as someone new to Orioles fandom must be vaguely akin to how the Virgin Mary would feel looking up from Christ Jesus's manger and realizing the three wise men were none other than Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, but we're old hands here at Ripken Is 8; we know better. Sure, Crede has a spine made of worn shoe leather, Atkins is the Antichrist and the dip in Uggla's 2009 slugging percentage makes you wonder if he even remembers where third base is, but we'll remain steadfast and true: Miguel Tejada could come back to us now, at the turn of the tide.

Selected news from around the league below the jump.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Kurious Kases of Kevin Kouzmanoff and Kila Ka'aihue

Orioles General Manager Andy MacPhail will, barring any last minute insanity, be leaving the MLB Winter Meetings in Indianapolis having completed only one transaction, that being RHP Chris Ray and LHP Benjamin Snyder (formerly of the San Francisco Giants; see Rule V notes below) for RHP Kevin Millwood of the Texas Rangers and $3 million cash. This is important, because none of the names in the previous sentence are "Pedro Feliz." Astros GM and noted rabies victim Ed Wade took care of that by signing the former Philadelphia third baseman to a 1 year, $4 million contract, which in the context of his earlier signing of RHP Brandon Lyon is actually reasonable, all things concerned. Pedro Feliz is notable for being 2009 Melvin Mora, except three years younger, and without the eight cute kids.

Now that Feliz is off the table, there's really one other big ("big") name the Orioles have been linked to at third, and that's Kevin Kouzmanoff of the San Diego Padres.

Birdwatch 12/10/2009

Today is the last day of the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.

Earlier today in the Rule V Draft, the Orioles did some bookkeeping, selecting LHP Benjamin Snyder from the San Francisco Giants with the third pick and sending him right over to the Texas Rangers as the PTBNL tacked on at the end of the Kevin Millwood deal.

Then they lost RHP Steve Johnson to those same Giants, who took him with the 23rd pick. He most likely will be headed back to the Orioles at some point in the season, as he's never pitched above AA and the Giants would have to keep him on their 25 man roster the entire year.

In the minor league round of the draft, the Orioles took Jose Duran from the Houston system, and lost Rodolfo Cardona to the Pirates.

Roch Kubatko thinks the Orioles are done at the Winter Meetings, but will be sticking around anyway because he remembers being suckered out of breaking the Miguel Tejada signing a couple years back.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kevin Millwood Is Hungry, Baltimore. Hungry for Your Innings.

The most important thing to note about the news broken by Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers have agreed in principle to swap reliever Chris Ray and starter Kevin Millwood is that it is not yet a done deal. Both teams are reportedly reviewing the medical records on their proposed acquisitions, and one or both players may have to pass a physical before the trade is complete.

The second most important thing to note is the number .279.

That was the batting average opposing hitters had against Kevin Millwood in 2009 when they put the ball in play, excluding home runs. It's a statistic called BAbip, and it's generally used as a shorthand for measuring how lucky a pitcher or hitter is -- or isn't.

The Joke Is That the Last Time the O's Were Good Was When The Pixies Were Actually Relevant

The joke is also Ty Wigginton at shortstop.

Welcome to Ripken Is 8! There are precious few Baltimore Orioles blogs on the internet, especially if we exclude the ones currently agitating for General Manager Andy MacPhail to trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff. A number of the good ones out there are news blogs run by reporters for either the Baltimore Sun (Peter Schmuck) or (Roch KubatkoSteve Melewski) that are heavy on news coverage and player updates, and in Kubatko's case, horrific jokes and puns.

That means they're understandably uninterested in either doing hard analysis or making sarcastic, snide, and demeaning throwaway jokes about men with whom they constantly interact and upon whose favor their jobs rely. Those aren't problems we have here at Ripken Is 8, as we are all unemployable trolls living under the Route 40-MLK overpass.

Our purpose is to examine not only the bafflements, missteps, and poor base-running decisions of the Baltimore professional baseball franchise (of which there will be many), but also their occasional quiet triumphs - see Pie, Felix and Reimold, Nolan - and to still be here when with any luck, Andy MacPhail, Dave Trembley, and their ragtag band of cost-controlled misfits surprise the world and finish a season over .500.

But enough about us! Word has come down from on high that MacPhail has just traded reliever Chris Ray to the Texas Rangers for crafty veteran starter Kevin Millwood! First, we're going to call our therapist's emergency line and talk through our PTSD flashbacks to Steve Trachsel.  Then, an update.