Recapping 2018: Baltimore Orioles Edition | The Process Report

Recapping 2018: Baltimore Orioles Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each. The order will mirror the final team rankings running in reverse order so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get one to two of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts. Here’s a link to the report for this club from last offseason

Past:

30 – 21: BAL

The folks that do all the big thinking for the rest of the baseball universe have been waiting for this day for quite some time. For years, they explained why the Baltimore Orioles were a poorly constructed team because their passel of players did not represent what the big thinkers think a team should look like. For years the team proved these prognosticators and their projection systems as fools. Years two through six of the Buck Showalter era in Baltimore reminded fans that performance is what matters, but the eighth, and likely final, season for one of the very best managers in the game showed that a house of cards has little chance once the winds change direction.

While many fans root for teams where the expectation is championship or bust, for the rest of us, merely being a contender is good enough most years. Via trade and draft the team built a young core of talented players then lived off those proceeds for half a decade while remaining a contender. Supplementing via scraps meant that depletion would be inherent, but this was a solid run of performance that was always going to inevitably fall off a cliff at some point. After years of proclaimed doom, the onlookers were finally right when 2018 cascaded into utter free fall as the club put up the second lowest team win total since the most recent bout of expansion trailing only the historically bad 2003 Detroit Tigers. Being one of the worst teams of all time takes everything going wrong, but let’s begin our review with the less bad of the two components, the hitters:

Large deviations between actual and true performance, awOBA* and twOBA*, respectively, were few and far between leaving the analyst to feel that the predominantly below average results were fully justified even upon regressing balls in play. A couple of brief peaks look more like good days rather than good weeks or months, and if there was a strong run of play it came to start the season when the team showed their best sustained offensive performance on the year. They would get back to or even exceed that level at times, but in between shows a below average offense coming out to play just far too frequently. Mid-season trades saw soon to be free agent slash best player on the team, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop, who was unable to build upon a very good 2017 that this model felt was due to a good bit to fortune on balls in play, end up elsewhere. Their departures enabled a close to the season that saw the team throw spaghetti at the wall with very little of it finding purchase.

Despite being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers two weeks prior to the first trade deadline, Manny Machado still proved to easily be the most productive Oriole in 2018. Running an average walk rate with a strikeout rate roughly half the league average while hitting the ball really hard makes Machado one of the very best hitters in the game, and are good indicators that if a team is in position to spend in free agency then Manny Machado would be an excellent target for those investment dollars.

Trailing behind the phenom turned master you’ll see a few corner only guys that don’t inspire confidence with the gloves in Danny Valencia, Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo. With a strong half season doing his typical lefty mash mode, but also holding his own versus same handers (see below for handedness breakout), Valencia put up strong offensive numbers around a groin issue, and then lost playing time to others before being released outright. Both he, and Mancini, underperformed their expected production to a decent extent, though credit to Mancini for getting through his second full season with an increased workload. Trumbo looked like an above average hitter before succumbing to a knee issue that prematurely ended his season. Rounding out the group of above average producers we find Adam Jones who put the ball in play a ton with expected production a bit under the average. Another free agent, he might be a guy that can play up a little more next year if he can get some regular rest instead of playing everyday at the top of the order.

The below average group shows a little bit of promise from Renato Nunez as something approaching a league average hitter as a waiver claim from the Texas Rangers, and something fairly similar from Jonathan Villar whom came over in the Jonathan Schoop deal amongst others. Both players should probably break camp with defined roles next year, and opportunity can beget improvement for some players. The team might like the glove of Jace Peterson, but as a hitter he looks like a powerless guy that has no business running that absurd walk rate. Chance Sisco had an inauspicious debut, but hit something like an acceptable catcher albeit with a very high strikeout rate, and falling well short of his expected production when he did put it between the chalk. Another guy that saw an extensive trial around injuries was Tim Beckham who showed he’s probably not a shortstop with the glove, and doesn’t have the stick if he has to move to third base.

Now down into the very worst performances you can see Cedric Mullins, Joey Rickard and Caleb Joseph looking like non-viable bats, but at least the bookends play at premium defensive positions. The real anchors that caused a bad team to be one of the worst of all time were Chris Davis and the aforementioned Jonathan Schoop. Davis walked at a fine rate, but struck out at league leading levels, and while his expected production on balls in play was fairly strong, he didn’t get to very much of it falling more than 20% lower when looking at the actual. Schoop never walked while striking out around the league average and even when he ran into one he wasn’t hitting the ball all that hard, though his actual performance was a good deal higher.

While the bats were merely bad, the pitching was worst in the game. You can see above they rarely approached the average spending most of their time around 10% worse than average. Over the course of a season and the thousands of batters that are faced that 10% becomes enormous. What you’re left with are short starts, exhausted relievers, and a lot of games where it feels like you’re out of it long before the ninth.

Any semblance of success can be attributed to a handful of relievers that collectively faced roughly a sixth of the total batters. Mychal Givens was once again quite good, while old hand Darren O’Day was excellent in the very limited time when he was able to go. He would end up traded to the Atlanta Braves alongside Kevin Gausman. Richard Bleier, Paul Fry, Brad Brach and Tanner Scott saw fairly similar exposure while showing out as something like a league average pitcher.

While mostly being prime sellers at the deadline, the Orioles did trade some international money to the Yankees to bring in Yefry Ramirez. The last two months saw him put up fairly strong production despite walking too many. He should be in the conversation for next year’s rotation, and could be a click away from becoming a useful starter. In viewings, Jimmy Yacabonis seemed like a guy that was stretched (by necessity, in this case) who might profile well as a pitcher that only sees a lineup once. This role is a need for every team, but it’s likely Baltimore will continue to miscast the player in order to get through games. Two lesser known righties in David Hess and Miguel Castro saw a ton of opportunity. Hess was used as a starter primarily and showed a nice increase in his strikeout rate as the season wore on (far below). He’s probably something like a backend starter, but with any further improvement he could become something a little nicer. Castro walks far too many to ever be a useful piece on a top-half team, but serves as fine filler when fortune favors his balls in play as they did this year.

Long having to live up to the expectations of others, and seeing that compounded this year when he became the default opening day starter, Dylan Bundy has not had an easy road to the Show. The strikeout to walk presents well, but he just gets torched on his balls in play, which actualized even worse this year. There is little doubt that he belongs in a big league rotation, but no longer should he be seen as a top of the rotation type of talent. That’s fine, most guys don’t get there, and if he hangs around long enough I’d bet he has a very good year somewhere down the line. The rest of the rotation also resides down at the bottom of this table with homegrown Kevin Gausman sharing a lot in common with Bundy with slightly worse results earning him a ticket to the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves at the deadline.

Free agent acquisitions Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner saw some of the heaviest workloads with Cobb showing some promise here and there in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, but he will need to regain previous strikeout heights if he wants to get back to being a better than average pitcher. Cashner, on the other hand, was one of the worst in the game even as he constantly tried to reinvent himself within a season that occasionally led to good runs before inevitably reverting to prior terribleness. Chris Tillman finally played his way off the team after a distinguished career with the club, and Mike Wright Jr. doesn’t look like anything more than a shuttle piece.

Below you will find the prominent players from this past season and how they broke out in four different ways. I will save the commentary here as the charts speak for themselves once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking at, and by cutting down on the verbiage it allows for looks at more players. Each chart looks at a rolling 100-plate appearance (or ball in play) average with the top left showing each player’s true and actual wOBA* over the course of the season. Top right shows the rolling strikeout and walk plus hit by pitch rates, and the bottom left shows the exit velocity and launch angle combinations for every ball in play. Lastly, the bottom right quadrant shows each player’s exit velocity and launch angle over the course of the season. Feel free to start a conversation on twitter if you have any questions or want to talk about any of these players. More than happy to have those chats.

Manny Machado

  

Danny Valencia

Mychal Givens

Trey Mancini

 

Mark Trumbo

 

Adam Jones

 

Yefry Ramirez

 

Jonathan Villar 

 

Renato Nunez

Jace Peterson

Tim Beckham

David Hess

 

Miguel Castro

Dylan Bundy

 

Kevin Gausman

  

Chris Davis

 

Alex Cobb

 

Jonathan Schoop

 

Mike Wright Jr.

 

Andrew Cashner

 



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