In Pondering Fanposts, CC's number 1 bad boy suggested Fanposts analyzing a particular article in-depth. I thought I'd kick off the series. I don't have a name for these type of articles. I thought about using Birdman's Corner then I thought something to complement Bird Dropping might be better. So Bird Food worked in that regard. Maybe it'll stick, maybe it won't. In any case, I imagine I'll either pick articles that I really like or hate for these type of posts. In this case, I picked an article that I really liked. Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies was interviewed as part of the Sun's series, Blogger on Blogger. The interview touches upon a lot of different issues. I comment on some of the more interesting sections in order to facilitate further discussion. BRING THE HATE!
MV: Matt Wieters was recently labeled one of the 50 most disappointing prospects of all time by Baseball Prospectus. Where do you weigh in on the Wieters debate?
DM: The issue is that disappointment is relative to expectations. BP had Wieters projected to be a monster even coming into his rookie season, even though I think most people (including the crew that's there now) thought it was overboard (I was admittedly still too high on him, but I definitely thought there would be an adjustment period). If you expected Wieters to have already won an MVP award, then I can see him being a huge disappointment. On the other hand, he is a solid major league catcher at 24 years old (when you're a plus defensively at the position, the bar to clear offensively to be valuable is quite low) and still has the tools to turn into -- if not an MVP candidate -- at least an occasional All-Star type player.
The notion that Matt Wieters is a bust is silly. In his professional career, Matt Wieters has earned about $7M including his signing bonus. Since then he has been an average catcher accumulating 3.8 fWAR the last two years. That type of production has been well worth $7M in terms of free agent costs and certainly a good deal at pre-arbitration salaries. As Moroz points out, he's only been a bust relative to the Piazza/Mauer expectations placed upon him. Given those olympian expectations, the bust label was almost unavoidable. Obviously, an average catcher is not what we expected from Wieters, but he's still a valuable commodity. Not to mention, the chance to develop into a superstar still exists. So let's save the epic bust labels for Brandon Wood, Andy Marte, Sean Burroughs, and Ryan Anderson who have never even managed to eek out two consecutive decent seasons despite similar (although not quite as high) lofty expectations.
MV: I believe Brian Roberts is the team's most irreplaceable offensive player because he's the catalyst and because the Orioles seem to lack a viable replacement. Would losing him wreck the Orioles offense?
DM: Brian Roberts might be the team's most irreplaceable offensive player in a practical sense, since the drop-off from him to Cesar Izturis (who I assume would take his spot) is so big (approximately 30 runs). In a vacuum, he's a good -- not great -- hitter (which is good for a second-baseman) but not one of the team's best (maybe fourth or fifth).
This is a great point. Do the O's even have a replacement level back up at 2B (Izzy and Dino)?
The "catalyst" and "lead-off hitter" stuff doesn't really matter. You know what you need at the top of the line-up? Good hitters.
Or a guy who can take a walk.
DM: I'm higher on Pie, due mostly to his glove. He doesn't need to outhit Reimold to be the more valuable player. I'm still a Reimold fan though -- I love his plate discipline. I wanted to see those two guys get a full season in the majors this year, which is part of the reason I didn't like the Vlad signing. If the O's could find a team to take Vlad's contract off their hands for nothing, I'd like to see them go for it. Otherwise, it depends in the offers; if they could get a solid prospect or two for Luke Scott, then they need to make that move. I wouldn't just give him away, though.
NOT. TOUCHING. THIS. ONE.
MV: Speaking of the rotation, how do you see the young rotation shaking out his year, and when will we see Zach Britton?
DM: Brian Matusz is probably the team's best pitcher -- and he might be the team's best player (which says a fair bit about the O's lack of top talent). Hopefully Brad Bergesen can do a little more of what he had going at the end of last season than at the beginning, and settle in as a decent No. 4-type starter. Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman still need to work on some things, and I'd be surprised if they combined for an ERA much under 4.75. Regardless of who starts the year in the rotation, both should get plenty of innings (very rarely will a team be able to get through a season with only five starters).
I'm really worried about the rotation. If the O's win 64 games, I suspect the rotation rather than the offense or pen will be the main culprit. I like Matusz. Guthrie does have a history of outperforming his peripherals. As long as he keeps the flyballs inside the park, he'll be fine. After that, it could get ugly. I only see 5-7 starts from the Duke. I'm just hoping competency from 3E1N. And Arrieta and Tillman could experience some serious growing pains this year.
MV: If there was a WAR statistic for managers, would Buck Showalter's be in the triple digits (I ask this half-jokingly, of course)?
If you told me that Buck would add one or two wins to the team over, say, Juan Samuel, next year, I wouldn't argue. I would like to know where those wins are coming from, though. In-game decisions? Playing time distribution? Line-up construction? Buck doesn't magically add to the win column -- those W's have to come from somewhere.
I really liked this point. Any type of correlation is meaningless unless there's some mechanism to explain the relationship. With Buck, I'm sure he did something but I'm not sure what. And whatever he did, I agree with Daniel that the influence is probably limited to a 2 win swing. And this is just guesswork on my part. I don't think managerial contributions can be measured in any reliable way so estimating a win effect for managers isn't possible.
MV: What's your season outlook for the Orioles? Do they break .500?
DM: I have the team around 76 wins right now, which gives them a fair chance to break .500. If 76 wins is the expectation, then anything from 66 to 86 or so would be pretty reasonable outcomes.
I understand that making a seasonal win prediction can involve giving a guess with a large interval, but 66 to 86 wins? I don't need a fancy formula to tell me that! That's like telling a student that you predict he or she will earn anywhere from a D to a A on the final exam. But I guess the important part is that 86 wins will probably fall a bit short of reaching the playoffs, which is really the most important point about predicting seasonal win totals. I'm going with 77 wins now that I'm worried about B-Rob's health.