Search Archives
Follow Us

Featured Sponsors


Mailing List
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust
Twitter Feeds

This site utilizes the MLB analytics platform powered by TruMedia Networks

Entries in Baltimore Orioles (38)

Monday
Feb242014

Cruz to the O's: More Comp Pick Hijinx, or Sign of a Rational Market?

Nelson Cruz reportedly entered the offseason seeking a four-year, $75 million contract. Over the weekend, he settled for a one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Cruz's agent might take a page out of Scott Boras' playbook and label this a "pillow" contract designed to re-establish the 33-year-old, Biogenesis-linked slugger's value. If so, it's gotta be the world's lumpiest, hard-as-concrete pillow.

Some will point to Cruz's new deal as further proof that Major League Baseball's free agent draft pick compensation system is broken. In broad strokes, there's plenty to complain about. Free agents who receive and turn down a qualifying offer essentially have a tax levied on their next contract, with interested teams needing to consider not just the monetary value of the player's on-field production, but also the value of the pick they'd lose to sign him (Baltimore had less to lose than most, having already surrendered its first-rounder to ink Ubaldo Jimenez and its Competitive Balance Lottery pick to acquire Bud Norris; they'll lose the 55th overall selection to get Cruz). It's not fair, really.

And yet, you can make a pretty sound argument that in this particular case, Cruz is being paid what he's worth. He launches majestic homers with the best of them, but there's not much else to his game at this point. Consider:

  • Cruz's .319 on-base percentage over the past three seasons is a dead ringer for the overall MLB average, and south of the standards set by corner outfielders (.328) and designated hitters (.323). Once you adjust for park and league factors, his three-year OPS is 12 percent better than the MLB average -- good, but hardly the stuff of fat free agent deals.
  • He has a history of hamstring/quadriceps injuries, which have made him a plodding base runner and fielder. Cruz has taken an extra base between 22% and 30% of the time over the past three years, compared to the 40% big league average. He has been several runs worse than an average major leaguer on the bases each season, according to Fangraphs, and has cost his club about five runs per year in the field as judged by advanced metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Cruz may DH in Baltimore, but he's been DH-worthy for a while now.
  • Players with Cruz's profile -- lots of power, little defensive or base running value, frequently banged up -- tend to age poorly. His Baseball-Reference player comps include Henry Rodriguez (done as a productive major leaguer by age 32), Brad Hawpe (cooked at 31) and Jay Gibbons (last effective at 29). His number one comp according to Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system is Juan Gonzalez. These guys had lots of injury issues (I pulled a hammy just writing this paragraph), but that's kind of the point. Cruz hasn't been a beacon of durability, either. He's not the sort of player you want to sign to a long-term deal, much less the four or five-year pact Cruz initially wanted.

Let's be clear: There's nothing wrong with the O's signing Cruz at this price. It's a short-term commitment, and he's a definite upgrade over the likes of Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia. But put it all together, and Cruz projects to be about 1-2 wins better in 2014 than the sort of talent you can pull from Triple-A or the waiver wire. If the cost of a win is around $6 million, it's hard to say that he really got jobbed by the pick attached to his name. The qualifying offer system may well be broken, but Cruz's deal seems to be more a case of sanity prevailing in the C-suite.

Wednesday
Jan292014

Mark Reynolds Getting Beat on Inside Stuff

Since he clubbed his way to the majors in 2007, Mark Reynolds has been a one-tool player. He's got an iron glove, costing his team more runs (76) compared to an average defender than every infielder not named Michael Young, Yuniesky Betancourt or Derek Jeter. And his D looks pretty good compared to his contact skills: Reynolds has struck out 1,276 times, second-most among hitters since '07 (Adam Dunn is first). But Reynolds' one tool -- pure, unadulterated pull power -- is special enough for teams to hold their noses and focus on his epic blasts.

Or, at least it used to be. Reynolds' home run total has dipped from 37 in 2011 to 23 in 2012 and 21 this past season, with his slugging percentage tumbling by nearly 100 points (.483 in '11, .429 in '12, and .393 in '13). Considering how often he punches out, Reynolds needs to maul the ball when he does connect. With elite power, he's a pretty good hitter (his park-and-league adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage was 16 percent above average in 2011). With average pop, he's a liability (his OPS was four percent below average in 2013).

The 30-year-old recently signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, though he's expected to make the opening day roster either as the club's primary first baseman or the short half of a platoon with Juan Francisco. Granted, even a diminished Reynolds would be better than the balsa wood-toting brigade that Milwaukee featured at the position last season (a combined .370 slugging percentage). But if he plans on giving Bernie Brewer a workout on Miller Park's homer slide, he'll have to reverse a three-year decline against inner-half pitches.

Reynolds' slugging percentage vs. inner-half pitches, 2011

 

Reynolds' slugging percentage vs. inner-half pitches, 2012

 

Reynolds' slugging percentage vs. inner-half pitches, 2013

            

Reynolds was a beast versus pitches thrown to the inner half of the plate in 2011, posting the eighth-best slugging percentage (.659) among qualified batters. But that figure declined to .575 in 2012, and just .398 this past season. Here's another way of looking at it: Reynolds crushed inside pitches like Jose Bautista and David Ortiz back in '11. In 2013, though? He barely outslugged waterbug shortstops Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar.

Reynolds simply doesn't have the sort of well-rounded skill set that allows him to hit for good-not-great power. He's either jacking 30-plus homers, or he's riding the bus in Triple-A. Short of a return to elite slugger status, he could be looking at a succession of minor league deals in the years to come.

Tuesday
Jan072014

Mike Mussina: King of the Called Third Strike

Mike Mussina seems like the type of pitcher whose brilliance may get lost in the translation between traditional, back-of-the-baseball-card stats and sabermetrics. He falls thirty wins shy of the revered 300 club, and his career ERA (3.68) is way above that of the average Hall of Fame inductee (2.96). Some voters will take a cursory look at Mussina's candidacy and dismiss him as a good, but hardly dominant pitcher. Former Hall of Fame research associate and Cooperstown swami Bill Deane projects that Mussina will receive just seven percent of the vote -- precariously close to the five percent minimum required to stay on the ballot the following year.

But Mussina's bubble gum card stats ignore context -- the long-time Oriole and Yankee pitched in a high-scoring era, against lineups filled with sluggers in the cut-throat AL East division. Once you adjust for park factors and the go-go run-scoring environment of the 90s and early 2000s, Mussina easily clears the bar for enshrinement. His adjusted ERA is 23 percent above average, which ranks 13th all-time among starting pitchers logging at least 3,500 innings pitched. With 82.7 career Wins Above Replacement, Moose trumps the average Hall of Famer (69 WAR) and resides in the same neighborhood as Fergie Jenkins (82.7 WAR) and Bob Gibson (81.9 WAR).

Mussina managed to vanquish AL East hitters up until the end, recording one of his finest seasons in 2008 at age 39. He topped 200 innings and had a 131 ERA+, good for sixth among AL starters. Talk about finishing strong -- Mussina had the highest WAR total (5.2) among starters during his final major league season this side of Sandy Koufax (who had to retire at 30 due to a bum elbow) and Win Mercer (who committed suicide at age 28).

Highest WAR totals for SP in last MLB season

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

So, how did Mussina turn in arguably the finest season ever for a pitcher voluntarily calling it quits? He was the best in the game at freezing hitters in two-strike counts. Moose got the most strikeouts looking in the majors in 2008:

Called third strike leaders among starters, 2008

Mussina got the vast majority of those looking Ks with his fastball (36) and slider (20), and most of them (56 percent) came on pitches thrown just outside of the rule book-defined strike zone:

Location of Mussina's called third strikes, 2008

Hopefully, Hall of Fame voters study Mussina's pitching as thoroughly as these batters did. This guy deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.