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The Orioles
2005-04-07 23:55
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Baltimore Orioles

2004 Record: 78-84 (.481)
2004 Pythagorean Record: 82-80 (.506)

Manager: Lee Mazzilli
General Manager: Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan

Ballpark (2004 park factors): Oriole Park at Camden Yards (104/103)

Who's replacing whom?

Sammy Sosa replaces Jerry Hairston and a chunk of David Newhan
Bruce Chen takes over the starts of Eric Dubose and Matt Riley
Steve Kline replaces Buddy Groom
Steve Reed replaces Jason Grimsley and Mike DeJean
Chris Gomez replaces a long list of spare parts
Geronimo Gil replaces Robert Machado and himself

Current Roster:

1B – Jay Gibbons
2B – Brian Roberts
SS – Miguel Tejada
3B – Melvin Mora
C – Javy Lopez
RF – Sammy Sosa
CF – Luis Matos
LF – Larry Bigbie
DH – Rafael Palmeiro

Bench:

L – B.J. Surhoff (OF)
L – David Newhan (UT)
R – Chris Gomez (IF)
R – Geronimo Gil (C)

Rotation:

R – Rodrigo Lopez
R – Daniel Cabrera
L – Erik Bedard
R – Sidney Ponson
L – Bruce Chen

Bullpen:

L – B.J. Ryan
L – Steve Kline
R – Steve Reed
L – John Parrish
R – Todd Williams
R – Jorge Julio
R – Rick Bauer

DL:

R – Jason Grimsley
R – Kurt Ainsworth
L – Val Majewski (OF)

Typical Line-up

S – Brian Roberts (2B)
R – Melvin Mora (3B)
R – Miguel Tejada (SS)
R – Sammy Sosa (RF)
L – Rafael Palmeiro (DH)
R – Javy Lopez (C)
L – Jay Gibbons (1B)
R – Luis Matos (CF)
L – Larry Bigbie (LF)

There was a lot of talk going into the season that the Orioles had an outside chance to slip into second place in the east if one of the Big Two fell on particularly hard times. Most of the motivation for this comes from those infatuated with the Oriole offense. The thing is, the only change the O's have made to their line-up since last year is the addition of Sammy Sosa, and while that would seem to be a huge upgrade, the numbers just don't support it. Sosa replaces Jerry Hairston and takes away a significant chunk of David Newhan's playing time. Hairston was good for 2.2 WARP (Wins Above Replacement) in 2004 and Newhan was good for 2.4. Assuming Sosa takes just half of Newhan's 373 at-bats (which combined with Hairston's 287 would give Sammy 473 in 2005, just five fewer than in 2004), Sosa would have to replace 3.4 wins.

Sounds simple enough, but Sosa is a 36-year-old player who has put his body through a lot over his career and has seen nearly all of his offensive numbers (both counting and rate stats, traditional and sabermetric) decline in each of the last four years. His WARP totals over that span (beginning in 2001, the best season of his career) declined from 13.6 to 8.3, 5.5 and finally 5.0 in 2004. To paint an even uglier picture, Wrigley Field's park factor actually went in the opposite direction over that span (96, 98, 99, 106). With all of that in mind, I think assuming 5 wins above replacement for Sosa in '05 borders on generous, giving the Orioles a net gain of 1.6 wins, and improvement, yes, but a slight one.

By comparison the O's should get that much simply by replacing aging LOOGY (and current Columbus Clipper) Buddy Groom (1.4 WARP in '04) with shoulda-been Yankee Steve Kline (projected 3 WARP), and even more from replacing the tag-team duo of Jason Grimsley (out for the season following Tommy John surgery) and Mike DeJean--combined 1.5 WARP in '04--with 40-year-old submariner Steve Reed (projected 3.5). That's an additional 3.6 wins from a bullpen that could prove to have one of the best Big Three in the game this year with B.J. Ryan taking over for Jorge Julio as closer.

Elsewhere, the only change to a starting rotation that was tenth in the AL in ERA last year (beating out only Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Texas and Chicago), is Bruce Chen replacing Matt Riley (traded to Texas at the end of spring training) and Eric Dubose (minors). After pitching for eight teams in seven years (not counting the Blue Jays who signed him but never promoted him last year), Chen is still just 27 and, thanks to seven strong starts with the O's to end 2004, owns a career ERA that is exactly the league average. If Chen can put it together under Ray Miller the O's should break even or better with the 1.7 combined WARP they got from Riley and Dubose in '04 and the 1.6 WARP Chen contributed himself over those seven starts (and one relief outing). I would hold my breath, however. More likely the O's stand to loose a win here.

On the bench, Geronimo Gil picks up some extra playing time from Robert Machado and Chris Gomez replaces a long list of spare parts. Neither change should impact the Orioles' fortunes in 2005 as it's basically nothing replacing nothing, unless Gomez has a last gasp and adds a win.

As for those returning from last year, I would expect the various improvements and regressions to about even out. If they don't, it will likely be because the seniors (Sosa, Palmeiro, Surhoff) collapsed or the youngsters (Bigbie, Gibbons, Matos), particularly the latter two, failed to bounce back. Both worst-case scenarios seem as likely as not, so I'm going to round down and give this Orioles team 85 wins, which will not be enough to catch the Yanks or Sox (knock wood).

Comments
2005-04-08 05:21:30
1.   Alex Belth
It looks like the Yanks will miss the 6'7 Daniel Cabrera. I don't know if anyone caught this, but Cabrera lost his cool two nights ago against the A's. Oakland clobbered him for a bunch of runs and then Cabrera hit two batters. The second, Scott Hatteburg, look blantant. I don't think there is any question that it was intentional. Hatteburg, who seems as mild-mannered as they come, whipped around and gave Cabrera a look. As he walked down to first base, Cabrera gave him the evil eye.

It was a thoroghly unimpressive moment for Cabrera. It should be interesting to see if he blows up again this year. The O's, A's game was on ESPN last night and I watched most of it. Danny Haren plunked Sosa, with a high-and-tight pitch in the middle innings. Was it retaliation for the night before? It could have been. Sosa was pissed but home-plate ump Laz Diaz escored Sammy to first, talking him down all the way.

Eric Chavez led off the next inning, and O's pitcher, Erik Bedard hit him in the leg. Then Diaz issued warnings to both benches. I thought he handled the situation very well, and wish more umpiring crews would allow the players to police themselves in this manner. There were no further flare ups.

Bedard, a lefty, was good. He can throw hard and has a nasty breaking ball. He had the lefties stumped all night.

The O's line up is stacked but they didn't have distinguish themselves last night. Part of that was because Haren pitched well, but late in the game, against Oakland's bullpen, they had some awful at bats.

Still, I think Sammy looks great in an Orioles uniform. He fits well into that line up and it feels as if he's been there for years.

2005-04-08 05:47:42
2.   jayd
The great thing about the beloved (of Yankee fans everywhere) O's is how they match up fiendishly well against The Carmine Hosers. If we could just get Toronto or Tampa Bay to do the same here and there, the O's will make that 2nd place finish. If you posit the Sox NOT making the wild card, then you always have to figure on how big the implosion will extend. And with any team that has a Curt Schilling, well, implosion looms large and real.

The thing about predictions is that you really have almost two teams during the course of the year. You figure the Sox have to do something about their pitching; but even A.J. Burnett is not going to save this starting rotation. If the Yanks pray for Mariano, imagine what RS Nation thinks when they can focus on the aging combination of Embree/Timlin (who always go on a hellish streak at some point in the season). The arms are not there, bullpen or otherwise.
The O's are far more solid as a club.

2005-04-08 06:32:09
3.   jayd
The great thing about the beloved (of Yankee fans everywhere) O's is how they match up fiendishly well against The Carmine Hosers. If we could just get Toronto or Tampa Bay to do the same here and there, the O's will make that 2nd place finish. If you posit the Sox NOT making the wild card, then you always have to figure on how big the implosion will extend. And with any team that has a Curt Schilling, well, implosion looms large and real.

The thing about predictions is that you really have almost two teams during the course of the year. You figure the Sox have to do something about their pitching; but even A.J. Burnett is not going to save this starting rotation. If the Yanks pray for Mariano, imagine what RS Nation thinks when they can focus on the aging combination of Embree/Timlin (who always go on a hellish streak at some point in the season). The arms are not there, bullpen or otherwise.

Go O's, but not this weekend.

2005-04-08 07:28:22
4.   Knuckles
swore I posted this earlier, but I musta messed up- unless the toaster bosses dinged it for some reason...

Watched some of the O's last night...
The inning in which the A's scored 4 runs last night was a comedy of errors. Pitcher fielded a bunt between the mound and 1st, and tried to throw the batter out, but Gibbons, playing first base (2B was covering the actual bag) cut the throw off in no man's land. Everyone safe.
Next batter, Byrnes lays down a foul bunt along the 3B line, then blasts the next pitch over the CF wall. You don't see that too often.

Then with 2 outs and Chavez at 2nd, Durazo hits a blooper into CF that definitely should have been caught (or attempted to be caught) by Matos, but he gets confused and not only lets it drop but it gets by him and almost to the wall. With 2 outs and the man running on contact, you have to at least try and make that play.

2005-04-08 08:27:32
5.   Chris Needham
Two things on the Orioles from being subjected to them all of last year...

Newhan started off amazingly hot last year. He was hitting close to .400 for most of the season, before he completely fell off the cliff at the end of the year. I think he's closer to the cliff than the .400, so Sosa's a better upgrade than it appears.

The pitching was actually quite good once they jettisoned Mark Wiley and brough Ray Miller. With Wiley, it was a walk-fest. (Remember the game against the Yankees where they walked 10 times or so -- I think Cabrera had the start in that one)

Once Miller came back, the walks halved and the team's ERA climbed from the bottom to the middle of the pack.

People's impression of their pitching is from earlier in the season. And it was a completely different team at the end of the year.

If Matos can get closer to where he was two years ago and Bigby can keep improving, it's a dangerous team, and one that should contend for the Wild Card for a while.

2005-04-08 21:26:05
6.   Cliff Corcoran
Chris, your point about the Orioles pitching is a good one, but with regards to Newhan, you misunderstand how my system works. It's something like this:

Pythagorean record is based on runs scored and allowed. Thus the Pythagorean record is just another way to represent the collective on-field 2004 run production and prevention of the team's individual players. If the O's Pythagorean record had them winning 82 games in 2004 they need to repeat the same run production and prevention (or at least the same balance of production and prevention) they had in 2004 to reach 82 wins in 2005, more production/prevention would get them more wins, less, less.

Thus someone has to be able to replace the production of 2004 David Newhan for the O's to reach 82 wins, let alone 85 or more. That appears to be half the job of Sammy Sosa and half the job of David Newham himself. So Sosa should be compared to 2004 Newhan, not 2005 Newhan. If Newhan is not as good in 2005 as in 2004, that is irrelevant to the improvement the O's will enjoy with Sosa. Newhan's 2004 production is what he needs to replace. However, if Newhan is not able to reproduce the other half of his 2004 production in 2004, it could actually cost the Orioles an extra win or so. So ultimately, your point about Newhan is worse news for the Orioles, not better news.

2005-04-08 22:54:51
7.   brockdc
Is it possible that the three best lineups in baseball are in the AL East this year? The O's can flat-out hit the crap out of the ball, especially with Jaret Wright, Karsay, and Stanton pitching batting practice to them.

By the way, the over/under for the point at which Torre finally realizes that Mike Stanton is NOT a LOOGY is June.

2005-04-09 08:29:14
8.   Cliff Corcoran
I take the over.

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