Yet Another Word on Vlad


Fact: I am fatigued of Vladimir Guerrero talk.

But then Stacey told me that we can never escape talking about Vlad Guerrero because he's going to lead the Orioles to the World Series and I thought, hey, that seems like a pretty good trade on my part. I'd be dumb not to keep talking about the guy! And anyway, judging from the rash of commenting, it seems like if I have a duty as a blogger to keep milking Vlad for all the discussion in the world.

Also I wanted to bring up two new totally separate points for you all to ponder.

The first takes us back to the heady days of Jay Gibbons: Oriole. He was a man who had a handful of okay seasons in the black and orange and was foolishly signed to a somewhat lucrative contract extension in January of 2006. Immediately after signing said contract, our old pal Jay began what some would call a cliff dive of horrors, playing (sometimes - the guy was hurt a lot) poorly for two years, through the summer of 2007.

That summer was noteworthy for the Orioles because it brought Andy MacPhail to the team. And when spring training of '08 rolled around, Andy MacPhail said that he'd rather pay Jay twelve million dollars not to play for the Orioles than to watch him continue to flop about and embarrass himself and the organization. When that happened, I know that I finally believed in MacPhail as a man who would not accept bad performance, regardless of the cost. I was ecstatic.

Three years later, and it's a pretty easy joke to make that if a player used to be on Andy MacPhail's Cubs teams, then he will probably be targeted to come to Baltimore. MacPhail does love his old Cubbies. And on one level, I understand entirely. We all have our favorite players that we hang our hats on and are proud to say "I wanted this guy, I believed in this guy first, and he's proven to all of you how right I was about him".

I don't know if GMs (or any of us) think in such clear and concise ways. But it does seem (sometimes horribly) true that the players a GM brings into an organization get far more opportunities than the players a GM inherits. Jay Gibbons was inherited, he wasn't Andy's guy, and he was let go almost immediately. And that, importantly, was to the benefit of the team.

Signing Vlad Guerrero signaled to me rather definitively that Andy MacPhail doesn't see much more promise of stardom in Felix Pie, who was a top Cub prospect under MacPhail and was then brought to Baltimore by MacPhail and who was given a lot of perhaps unearned opportunity on the Orioles. And I suspect that the decision to take playing time away from Felix was a hard one for Andy MacPhail, but I also suspect that it was a good one for the franchise. Even if you disagree about Pie specifically, you have to be encouraged by the mindset. After all, nothing - not one thing - is more important to team building than recognizing precisely what you do and do not have.

I know this sounds very small and very patronizing, but I don't know how else to put it: Kudos for that, Mr. MacPhail.

And now for something completely different.

 

The other day I talked briefly about how my offensive expectations for the 2011 Orioles had altered by replacing Felix Pie and Corey Patterson from the '10 lineup with Vlad Guerrero. I presented a couple of different kinds of scenarios, invited you to make your own private guess at what the difference would be in runs scored, and declared that I would expect about ten extra runs* (for whatever that's worth).

*I was later talking on twitter to my e-friend Daniel Moroz. We agreed that while 110 extra runs scored over 2010 is a decent expectation, this lineup certainly has the ability to go higher, up to an additional 40 runs (if not more). But that'd be a pleasant surprise more than anything else, I think. Then again, they could also score a lot less than what I expect, which would be rather unpleasant.

But what I didn't talk about was how Vlad affects everyone else, and mostly what I have in mind is to talk about Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. These two guys have stagnated offensively and I think there's logical sense in suggesting that the enormous pressure on them (particularly in 2010) to become middle of the lineup type hitters contributed to that stagnation. Perhaps moving them to the 7 and 8 holes will lessen the pressure and allow them to perform.

I'm not sure I buy that for Adam Jones. His best numbers, and where he's spent more time hitting than anywhere else, come in the 2 hole, which isn't exactly hiding him from the spotlight. Additionally, if the pressure to carry a team that needed more help than it had in 2010 got to Adam, it didn't manifest in him hacking at more pitches, nor did it result in him swinging and missing at more pitches, both of which would be strong indicators for me of frustration and/or pressure (see, for example, Josh Bell). Jones also recovered well in the middle of the summer after a miserable first two months.

In short, I suspect that Adam Jones has a lot of holes in his game, but I don't think pressure to perform or lack of supporting talent is to cause for any of them.

Matt Wieters' peripherals remained constant between his rookie season and his very disappointing 2010 with one exception: he didn't hit nearly as many line-drives. Instead, he rolled the ball onto the ground more often, and predictably watched his batting average suffer, even while he was walking more, striking out less, and hitting for a similar amount of power.

Is that a result of a lack of supporting talent in the lineup around Wieters, or having too much pressure on himself? You know, it really could be. The kid is playing with such monstrously large expectations that it seems obscene to suggest that pressure doesn't factor into his poor performance. I also suspect that Wieters would be the first to offer that obscene suggestion, which is a part of why I like the guy so much.

So I don't really know if Wieters or Jones or anybody else will get better because of the revamped lineup. I expect to see them perform better in 2011 independent of the lineup around them, and I do hope that Vlad and Derrek Lee and the rest of our new hitters do give them a more development-friendly atmosphere to hit in. But should I expect even more runs being scored out their bats because of any one free agent signing? I don't think so.

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