Camden Chat: All Posts by Ryan Pollack Put a bird on it! 2014-04-15T10:00:26-04:00 2014-04-15T10:00:26-04:00 2014-04-15T10:00:26-04:00 O's Weekly Wrap: April 8th - April 14th <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Up, down, up, down ... up and down.</p> <h3>Standings</h3> <p>The O's are 6-7, fourth place in the AL East but just one game back.</p> <h3>Results</h3> <p>The O's looked good against the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Yankees</a>, taking two of three, and carried that momentum into the game against Toronto despite the cavalcade of errors by the defense. They eked out a 2-1 win over the Jays on Saturday, dropped a horrorshow of a game on Sunday, and torched the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Rays</a> on Monday.</p> <h3>Run Differential</h3> <p>+7 on 31 runs scored and 24 allowed. Not too shabby. The nine-run victory over the Yankees on Tuesday helped offset the eight-run loss on Sunday.</p> <h3>Predicted Record</h3> <p>I don't think it's a stretch to say the O's are about a true-talent .500 club. They can put it together for a couple days but usually fall back to earth shortly afterwards, or alternate spikes in between. This means they should do a tad better than their current .462 winning percentage over the rest of the season. Taking regression into account over the rest of the season, I'd predict an 80-82 record.</p> <h3>Best Hitter / Worst Hitter</h3> <p><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Delmon Young</a> <a href="">isn't a fan favorite</a>, but he beat the hell out of the ball this week -- 251 wRC+, with a .474/.474/.737 batting line. That includes a home run and two doubles in 19 PA. He didn't take a single walk, though. <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Nick Markakis</a> takes home the Worst Hitter award with a 28 wRC+ (.250/.241/.250). Yes, his OBP was less than his batting average.</p> <h3>Best Pitcher / Worst Pitcher</h3> <p>I don't think it's a stretch to name <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Chris Tillman</a> as the week's best pitcher. He struck out six and walked one in 8 strong innings against the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Blue Jays</a>.</p> <p>I'd probably say <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ubaldo Jimenez</a> as the worst pitcher of the week, maybe because I unknowingly picked his painful Sunday start to recap. As bad as it was though, he got many ground balls, which is what fans expect from him. Unfortunately he struck out only three, which is not what fans expect from him.</p> <h3> <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Adam Jones</a> "The Power and the Patience" Update</h3> <p>Jones walked once and banged his first home run.</p> <h3>Team Steve!</h3> <p><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Steve Lombardozzi</a> had eight hits, including a triple, in 26 PA. Steve Pearce had one hit in 5 PA, and <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Steve Clevenger</a> had no hits in 6 PA.</p> <h3>Upcoming Week</h3> <p>The <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Orioles</a> finish up against the Rays then continue their brutal AL East schedule by traveling to Boston for a four-game set and Toronto to start a three-game series.</p> <h3>Your Moment of Zen</h3> <p><iframe src="" width="400" height="224" frameborder="0">Your browser does not support iframes.</iframe></p> Ryan Pollack 2014-04-13T16:47:35-04:00 2014-04-13T16:47:35-04:00 Blue Jays 11, Orioles 3: Davis, Wieters homer in loss <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Chris Davis tried to make up for his team's lackluster offense and terrible pitching by hitting his first jack of the season.</p> <p><span>After two mediocre starts to the 2014 season, <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Ubaldo Jimenez</a> was surely looking to rebound. But he looked </span>erratic to start the game and ran his pitch count up early. He needed 27 pitches to get through the first, and he wasn't throwing first-pitch strikes. On the 10th pitch of the game, <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Colby Rasmus</a> started what would be a 3-for-4 day with a solo shot to make it 1-0 Jays.</p> <p><span></span></p> <p><span>The <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Orioles</a> were aggressive against Jays starter <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Mark Buehrle</a>, with "aggressive" being a synonym for "impatient". <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Nick Markakis</a> singled on the first pitch he saw, <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Delmon Young</a> doubled him to third on the second pitch of his plate appearance, and <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Adam Jones</a> grounded out &mdash; scoring Markakis &mdash; on the first pitch of <i>his</i> plate appearance. Whew. </span><br><span></span><br><span>With the game now tied at 1, Jimenez worked quickly in the third, retiring Cabrera and Rasmus on just four pitches before <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Jose Bautista</a> rocketed a ball over Young&rsquo;s head in left field. A sure double, or so Bautista thought. Young fired a laser to second base in time to nail Bautista, ending the inning. It was a heads-up play that most fielders would've given up on. Meanwhile, the O's put two runners on but did not score in the bottom half. Jones did record the 1000th hit of his career.</span><br><span></span><br><span>Jimenez came unglued a bit in a wacky fourth inning. He walked Lind to lead off the inning, and Encarnacion ripped the first pitch he saw down the third-base line. The umpire signaled fair but the ball girl fielded the ball as it rolled by. It was scored a ground rule double and Lind was placed at third. </span><span>He scored on a <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Dioner Navarro</a> groundout to make it 2-1 Jays, and Encarnacion himself scored three pitches later on a suicide squeeze by <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Jonathan Diaz</a>. 3-1 Jays.</span><br><span></span><br><span>Jimenez looked much sharper in the fifth, but Toronto smacked him around in the sixth. You could hear the sharp cracks off the bats of Diaz (flyout to deep LF), Lawrie (home run, 4-1 Jays), and Goins (long single off the right-field wall). With Jimenez at 98 pitches and struggling, Buck pulled the trigger and brought in <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Josh Stinson</a> to relieve. <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Melky Cabrera</a> cracked a high chopper that bounced over <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Chris Davis</a>&rsquo;s head and into right field for a freak double. Colby Rasmus then singled past a drawn-in infield to score both runners, making it 6-1 Jays. Bautista popped out, but Lind singled and Encarnacion slammed a double into the gap that scored both runners. 8-1 Jays. Mercifully, Encarnacion was tagged out between second and third to end the inning.</span><br><span></span><br><span>The O&rsquo;s did nothing worth mentioning in the 6th or 7th. In fact they looked like they were trying to get things over as quickly as possible. Jones, in particular, swung at the first pitch in nearly every plate appearance. Some sparks flew in the 8th, though. In the top half, Bautista crushed a three-run homer off Stinson to push Toronto&rsquo;s lead to 11-1. And in the bottom half, Davis and <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Matt Wieters</a> went back-to-back to nudge the score to 11-3. <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Jonathan Schoop</a> impressed Gary Thorne with a nice two-out double in the bottom of the ninth.</span></p> <p><span>Tomorrow the O&rsquo;s look to rebound against <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Chris Archer</a> and the <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Tampa Bay Rays</a>. They&rsquo;ll send out&nbsp;<a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Wei-Yin Chen</a> to try and start the series off on a good note.</span></p> Ryan Pollack 2014-04-13T11:00:03-04:00 2014-04-13T11:00:03-04:00 Chris Davis, singles hitter <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Chris Davis has yet to go yard. What's going on?</p> <p>Through Friday's games, Chris Davis had just a 96 wRC+. His slash line was .297/.333/.378. The first two numbers are acceptable given what we know about Davis, but the third one is out of character for him. More interesting is the fact that he hasn't hit a single home run yet.</p> <p>There are a few reasons to stay calm. First, we're only two weeks into the season. Plenty of hitters are doing unexpected things in this tiny sample size, and those unexpected things are often extreme. <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Chris Davis's</a> power outage is no different than <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Emilio Bonifacio</a> hitting .435/.480/.500. Pick any two-week period during the year and you'll find <i>some</i> hitters doing <i>something</i> out of character.</p> <p>Second, Davis created unrealistic expectations last year. He was <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" href="">very lucky</a> through April and May of 2013, particularly on his percentage of fly balls that went for home runs. In the past 20 years only <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ryan Howard</a> sustained a HR/FB rate over 30% for more than one year. That&rsquo;s one batter out of thousands! Expecting Davis, who ended the year with a 29.6% HR/FB rate, to sustain that rate was unrealistic.</p> <p><span>But "everyone else sucks too!!" and "it&rsquo;s luck!" don&rsquo;t tell the whole story. Pitchers have adjusted to Davis and he hasn't adjusted back. Look at where teams pitched him for the first two weeks of 2013: </span></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-12_at_10" class="photo" src=""></a></p> <p><span>They were trying to jam him inside and make him chase middle-away. </span><span>Now look at how pitchers are treating him in 2014:</span></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-12_at_10" class="photo" src=""></a></p> <p>No one&rsquo;s coming inside anymore. They learned he can turn on those pitches and hit them out. Now they're working him almost exclusively down and away, with an emphasis on down. So although Davis is hitting plenty of line drives (27.6%) and fly balls (41.4%), he&rsquo;s pulled only 10% of those fly balls, instead of the 20% he pulled last year. It&rsquo;s good that he&rsquo;s trying to go with the pitch, but it means trading home runs for singles, line-drive doubles, and flyouts to left field.</p> <div> <div>Davis is probably champing at the bit to yank a pitch over the right-field fence and get off the schneid. The following graphs are of a small sample size, of course. But look at how much more he's swinging at offspeed pitches this year:</div> <div><br></div> </div> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><img src="" class="photo" alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-12_at_10"></a></p> <p>Unfortunately when he does swing, he misses half the time:</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><img src="" class="photo" alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-12_at_10"></a> <br id="1397365214532"></p> <p>As a result, he's putting fewer offspeed pitches into the air:</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><img src="" class="photo" alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-13_at_12"></a> <br id="1397365332177"></p> <p>His flyball rate has remained steady only because he&rsquo;s launching a few more fastballs in the air. But he&rsquo;s also been hitting more infield flies than ever before. His IFFB% rate this year is 8.3%, well above his career norm of 4.1%. The explanation for this drastic increase is almost certainly luck. He&rsquo;ll stop hitting fly balls over the infield soon enough. It&rsquo;s also worth noting that in April of 2013, Davis didn&rsquo;t hit a single infield fly.</p> <div> <div>Davis's dingers will come. On Friday he would&rsquo;ve had two solo shots if not for the wind blowing in at OPACY. But he&rsquo;ll have to adjust to how pitchers view him in order to stay afloat. The Davis of 2013 probably isn&rsquo;t coming back, at least not this year, but he&rsquo;s got plenty of time to prove he can mash.</div> </div> Ryan Pollack 2014-04-08T11:00:13-04:00 2014-04-08T11:00:13-04:00 O's Weekly Wrap: March 31st - April 7th <img alt="" src="" /> <p>A poor start to the season has fans thinking "small sample size! small sample size!"</p> <h3>Standings</h3> <p>The O's are 2-5, cellar-dwelling in the AL East at two games back.</p> <h3>Results</h3> <p>The O's started the season off well with a win against Boston ace Jon Lester. Then they dropped the remaining two games of the set as well as the first two games against the <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Tigers</a>. They rebounded with a hard-fought win over <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Justin Verlander</a>, but faltered in New York as <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Hiroki Kuroda</a> shut them down.</p> <h3>Run Differential</h3> <p>22 runs scored vs. 33 allowed is not how you want to run a ballclub. The offense has been sputtering since the beginning. The team's hit only three homers and has a batting line of .231/.273/.342. That's a 70 wRC+, dead last in the American League.</p> <h3>Best Hitters / Worst Hitter</h3> <p>There are some bright spots, though. <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Matt Wieters</a> owns 1/3 of the team's HR total and is hitting for a 172 wRC+ (.391/.391/.565)<b>.</b> Of course he hasn't taken a single base on balls. He's left that to <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Nelson Cruz</a> who owns the other 2/3 of the team's HRs. Nellie's not hitting a lot but walked four times and made hard contact. As a result he's got a 153 wRC+ (.250/.357/.542). That'll play.</p> <p>Poor Ryan Flaherty. He gets the "dunce of the week" award with a<b> </b>-70 wRC+.<b> </b>He's struck out nearly 37%<b> </b>of the time while walking just 4.5% of the time. That plus zero extra-base hits will lead to a .048/.091/.048<b> </b>batting line. His .077<b> </b>BABIP indicates he's not <i>this</i> bad, although his career BABIP of .252 means his ceiling is still very low, and his career strikeout rate is worse than average. No one else on the team comes close to being this miserable offensively, although <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Nick Markakis</a> and his 67<b> </b>wRC+ are trying.</p> <h3>Best Pitcher / Worst Pitcher</h3> <p>You have a tossup here, depending on your evaluation philosophy. <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Chris Tillman</a> excelled with 9 K and 2 BB in 13.1 IP pitched. He's increased his K rate every year since 2010, so there's reason to believe he'll ramp up the strikeouts in 2014. He's the only O's starter to have prevented every single baserunner from scoring. If you remember, he was <a href="">quite good at stranding runners</a> last year also.</p> <p>On the other hand, if you place stock in the FIP statistics and FanGraphs' pitcher WAR, you're compelled to pick <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Wei-Yin Chen</a> as your best starter. He pitched just 5.2 innings but struck out a higher percentage of batters than Tillman did (18.6% to 16.7%), did not walk anyone, and did not give up a dinger. As such he's compiled more fWAR than Tillman (0.2 to 0.1) despite allowing 4 ER to Tillman's two.</p> <p>It's your call! Personally I'd give the edge to Tillman for pitching more than twice the innings and being only a smidge worse.</p> <p>Similarly, although <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Bud Norris</a> and <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Miguel Gonzalez</a> both had poor starts, Gonzalez struck out fewer batters, walked more (Norris didn't walk anyone), and surrendered two home runs to Norris' one. Who's worse? It's your call. FanGraphs says it's Gonzalez with -0.2 fWAR, while Norris was merely replacement-level.</p> <h3> <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Adam Jones</a> "The Power and the Patience" Update</h3> <p>Jones has not gone yard yet, but he has two walks already!</p> <h3>Team Steve!</h3> <p>The Steves made some noise this week. <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Steve Clevenger</a> led the way, with a double and a triple in five PA and a run scored. That's a .400 batting average, folks. <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Steve Pearce</a> didn't have so much luck, as he did not reach base in two PA. Steve Lombardozzi was in the lineup much more; in 19 PA he's hit five times, all singles, for a banal .263/.263/.263 batting line.</p> <h3>Upcoming Week</h3> <p>The O's have two more games agains the <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Yankees</a> then return home to take on the <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Blue Jays</a> and the <a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Rays</a>.</p> <h3>Your Moment(s) of Zen</h3> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="224" width="400" src="">Your browser does not support iframes.</iframe></p> Ryan Pollack 2014-04-06T11:00:02-04:00 2014-04-06T11:00:02-04:00 Analyzing Ubaldo Jimenez's first start <img alt="" src="" /> <p>In four words: mediocre fastballs get hammered.</p> <p><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ubaldo Jimenez</a> looked okay in his first start of the season. He went six innings, which is the norm these days, and struck out six, which is good. He walked three, which is not good, but that's the kind of pitcher he is. He also gave up two two-run dingers, which is not good.</span></p> <p><span>I</span>f the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Orioles</a> weren't hitting like grade-schoolers at the moment, he would've left with the game tied at 4 or even with the lead. Giving up jacks to hitters like <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="" style="background-color: #ffffff;">David Ortiz</a> and <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="" style="background-color: #ffffff;">Mike Napoli</a>, in the bandbox that is apparently OPACY these days, is nothing to be ashamed of. We as fans also need to keep in mind that we didn't sign <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="" style="background-color: #ffffff;">Justin Verlander</a> here. A four-year $50m deal is what <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="" style="background-color: #ffffff;">Ricky Nolasco</a> and <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="" style="background-color: #ffffff;">Matt Garza</a> got. These are pitchers that can best be described as "serviceable" (although Garza is in a higher tier when healthy).</p> <p>Jimenez is a study of a power pitcher who&rsquo;s coming to grips with losing his fastball velocity. Against Boston, his fastball sat around 91.2 MPH. This is over a mile and a half slower than his average velocity of 93 MPH last year.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Brooksbaseball-chart__3__medium" class="photo" src=""></a></p> <p>Should we be worried? After all, many pitchers throw harder as the weather warms up and their muscles stretch out. Unfortunately, Jimenez doesn't exhibit this pattern. Throughout his career he mostly starts the season throwing as hard as he's going to:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Brooksbaseball-chart__5__medium" class="photo" src=""></a></p> <p>The last time he really <i>gained</i> velocity during the season was in 2011. <span>This makes 2014 unusual, unless we expect his velocity to dip even further, which would not be a positive sign. There could be other factors involved though. He could be tinkering with his mechanics, or he could not want to blow out his arm during his first game with a new team and contract. He also could be following a philosophy of his new pitching coach, Dave Wallace. He also could be realizing that he's over 30 now and wants to save his bullets as much as he can.</span></p> <p>He's also not a fastball pitcher anymore. In 2013 he ditched his heater and became a sinker/slider guy:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Brooksbaseball-chart__6__medium" class="photo" src=""></a> <br id="1396711321879"></p> <p>Look at that drop in fastball usage from 2012-2013. That says to me that Jimenez realized his fastball wasn't working. After all it got hit pretty hard in 2012 (.558 SLG against, down to .266 SLG against in 2013).</p> <p>For a sinker/slider guy, fastball velocity should not be a large concern. But what is interesting is that, after laying off his fastball in 2013 and experiencing success, he went right back to it in 2014. He threw fastballs nearly 44% of the time to Boston hitters. He hasn't thrown that many fastballs in a game since August 2012.</p> <p><span>Why did Jimenez seemingly ditch the sinker/slider combo he developed? It could be ego; maybe he still thinks he can blow his fastball by hitters. I can imagine that wielding a 97 MPH fastball gives one a masculine rush. It could be that he didn&rsquo;t feel he had command of his breaking pitches. It could be wanting to keep things simple for his first game for his new team, especially his new batterymate. Maybe Matt Wieters needs more time studying what makes Jimenez effective.</span></p> <p><span>Whatever the case, Ortiz and Napoli provided ample evidence that Jimenez can't fool hitters with his fastball anymore. If he's going to rely on his heater going forward, I'd be very worried. But if he goes back to a sinker/slider combo, I won't care about his drop in velocity so much.</span></p> <p>He also got only one grounder all night. I'd say that's surprising, but it's not, given that he threw only seven fastballs to the lower portions of the hitting zone:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-05_at_10" class="photo" src=""></a></p> <p>The majority of his fastballs were in the middle of the zone or up. That's, er ... that's not good. Not when your fastball averages 91 MPH, not when you're facing an offense like Boston's, and not when your sinkers and sliders are also up in the zone:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-05_at_10" class="photo" src=""></a> <br id="1396713235936"></p> <p>He needs to do better than this. Jimenez came to the team with the highest groundball rate on the O&rsquo;s rotation, a skill that&rsquo;s sorely needed in the launching pad that is OPACY. In 2013 his GB rate was nearly 44%, which would have been the best on the O&rsquo;s staff. Yet against Boston he produced only one worm-burner, a double play by <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">A.J. Pierzynski</a>.</p> <p>Let's look at the home runs he surrendered. The jack by Ortiz came on a 1-1 fastball that was inside but up:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-05_at_10" class="photo" src=""></a> <br id="1396712117953"></p> <p>That's not a bad pitch, but it wasn't where Wieters wanted it. He called for a fastball down and in to try and get a double-play grounder. Jimenez simply missed a few inches up, and Ortiz does what he's been doing for years:</p> <p><iframe src="" width="400" height="224" frameborder="0">Your browser does not support iframes.</iframe></p> <p>Two innings later, Mike Napoli homered on an 0-2 fastball, this time with two outs and <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Daniel Nava</a> on first:</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><img src="" class="photo" alt="Screen_shot_2014-04-05_at_10"></a></p> <p>Like the pitch to Ortiz, it looks like Wieters wanted this fastball lower than Jimenez delivers it. It's hard to tell though; Wieters sets up, drops his glove, and raises it again. I wonder if that kind of movement is distracting to the pitcher? Does Wieters do that a lot? It's something I'll be watching in future O's games.</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="224" width="400" src="">Your browser does not support iframes.</iframe></p> <p>Again, giving up homers to Ortiz and Napoli is not like letting <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ben Revere</a> take you yard. But it's instructive to see these homers against the backdrop of mediocre fastballs that were mostly up in the zone. If Jimenez continues to throw like this, he'll wear out his welcome pretty quickly.</p> <p>I'll end on a positive note. Jimenez notched six Ks, good for a 23% strikeout rate. The <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Red Sox</a> as a team have struck out 23% so far this year, so there's nothing to be worried about here. He also stranded every baserunner besides Pedroia and Nava. And the groundballs will come, one way or another, eventually.</p> <p>As you can see with the pitch mix chart above, he already reinvented himself once and experienced success. Maybe Wieters and Wallace just needed another reminder that Jimenez can't rely on his heater anymore. I'll be curious to see how he approaches his next start.</p> Ryan Pollack 2014-04-02T10:00:24-04:00 2014-04-02T10:00:24-04:00 The Orioles are 1-0. How excited should fans be? <img alt="" src="" /> <p>How much does starting 1-0 matter to the O's? Like many questions, the answer is "it depends".</p> <p>As fans, we often use the first game of the season as a proxy for the rest of the year. After five months of no baseball, the daily wait for news on the rumor mill, the offseason moves, the signings and trades, the releases, the picks and pans, and the tease that is Spring Training, the team's first game feels like a herald of things to come. If our team wins, we feel elated and like the sky's the limit. If the team loses, we become depressed and curse ourselves for getting our hopes up.</p> <p>But just how meaningful <i>is</i> the first game of the season? What does starting 1-0 or 0-1 indicate about how many games the team will win? And does starting 1-0 mean something different from an 0-1 start?</p> <p>To answer these questions, I used Bayesian analysis along with research into the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Orioles</a>' past seasons to estimate the probability of hitting the interesting points on the <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" target="_blank" href="">marginal win curve</a>, given that the team had started 1-0. I looked at how the O's started each of their seasons, noted whether they'd hit certain win thresholds (converting shorter seasons into 162-game ones), and went from there.</p> <p>I chose the 84-96 wins range because we as fans care more about the 84th, 85th, 86th, etc. win than we do about the 70th, 71st, and 72nd. That's because we know that wins in the mid-to-high 80s put the O's in spitting distance of a playoff spot. And after about 96 wins, you've usually locked up the division. As a fanbase, that's great, but the games <i>mean</i> less and less at that point. It's the wins in between 84 and 96 that hold the most meaning.</p> <p>Put another way, I answered this question: If all we know is that the Orioles have started off 1-0, what is the probability they will win at least 84 games? 85? 86? And so on, up to winning at least 96 games. In probability notation, I estimated P(B | A), where B = "the chance that the Orioles will hit a win threshold" and A = "a 1-0 start".</p> <p>Bayes' Theorem has three variables:</p> <ul> <li> <i>x</i> is the probability that an event will happen. In this example, <i>x</i> is the probability that the Orioles will in 84 games. In their 60 seasons they've done this 31 times. 31/60 is .517. So if history is any guide, the Orioles have a better-than-even shot at winning at least 84 games, but only barely.</li> <li> <i>y</i> is the probability that an event will happen, given that the thing you care about has also happened. In this example, <i>y</i> is the probability that the Orioles will win at least 84 games, given that they started the season 1-0. In their 31 seasons of at least 84 wins, the Orioles started 1-0 23 times. 23/31 is .742.</li> <li> <i>z</i> is the probability that an event will <i>not</i> happen, given that the thing you care about has also happened. In this example, z is the probability that the Orioles will win <i>fewer than</i> 84 games, given that they started the season 1-0. <i>z</i> quantifies the possibility that your hypothesis is incorrect, that starting 1-0 has nothing to do with winning 84+ games. In the 29 seasons that the Orioles won fewer than 84 games, they started 1-0 15 times. 15/29 is .517.</li> </ul> <p>With these variables in place, the algebra is straightforward: (<i>xy</i>)/(<i>xy</i> + <i>z</i>(1-<i>x</i>)). In this example, plugging in the values results in .605. So Bayes's Theorem estimates nearly a 61% probability of the Orioles winning at least 84 games, given that the team started the season 1-0.</p> <p>I analyzed every win threshold between 84 and 96 wins. The data:</p> <table align="center" border="1"><tbody> <tr> <td><b>Win Threshold</b></td> <td><b>Probability of reaching threshold, given 1-0 start</b></td> </tr> <tr> <td>84</td> <td>.605</td> </tr> <tr> <td>85</td> <td>.579</td> </tr> <tr> <td>86</td> <td>.553</td> </tr> <tr> <td>87</td> <td>.526</td> </tr> <tr> <td>88</td> <td>.500</td> </tr> <tr> <td>89</td> <td>.447</td> </tr> <tr> <td>90</td> <td>.421</td> </tr> <tr> <td>91</td> <td>.421</td> </tr> <tr> <td>92</td> <td>.316</td> </tr> <tr> <td>93</td> <td>.289</td> </tr> <tr> <td>94</td> <td>.263</td> </tr> <tr> <td>95</td> <td>.211</td> </tr> <tr> <td>96</td> <td> <p>.211</p> </td> </tr> </tbody></table> <p>Remember that the win mark is a threshold. I'm estimating the probability the team will win <i>at least</i> that many games. Seasons of 86 wins count as reaching the threshold of 84 and 85 wins as well. So think of the results as an over/under, Vegas style. This year, you have a 50/50 chance of winning a bet on the O's to win over 87.5 games. How much would you bet on that?</p> <p>Here are the results in graph form:</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><img src="" class="photo" alt="Chart_6__1__medium"></a> <br id="1396316746497"></p> <p>You can see how fighting for those extra wins becomes progressively harder, at least when you're the Orioles, and especially if you're talking about more than 92 wins. That's a pretty high plateau to reach. In part, that's because history is wishy-washy on the team. The successful run from 1961 to 1983 was balanced out by the miserable years from 1998 to 2011. Baseball is hard.</p> <p>So, what does starting 1-0 indicate about an O's season? It indicates that winning at least 84 games is worth hoping for and that 87 games is not out of the question, depending on how much of your sanity you're investing. But what if the team starts out 0-1? That can't make that much of a difference, can it? Everyone knows the first game of the season is meaningless. It's just one game!</p> <p>To find out, I ran the same analysis for the same win thresholds except this time, I analyzed what happened when the Orioles started out 0-1:</p> <table align="center" border="1"><tbody> <tr> <td><b>Win Threshold</b></td> <td><b>Probability of reaching threshold, given 0-1 start</b></td> </tr> <tr> <td>84</td> <td>.364</td> </tr> <tr> <td>85</td> <td>.364</td> </tr> <tr> <td>86</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>87</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>88</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>89</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>90</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>91</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>92</td> <td>.273</td> </tr> <tr> <td>93</td> <td>.227</td> </tr> <tr> <td>94</td> <td>.227</td> </tr> <tr> <td>95</td> <td>.182</td> </tr> <tr> <td>96</td> <td> <p>.136</p> </td> </tr> </tbody></table> <p>Not good. Compared to a 1-0 start:</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><img src="" class="photo" alt="Chart_6__5__medium"></a></p> <p>The gap starts off pretty large but narrows as the team shoots for wins 91, 92, and 93. By 94 wins the team's chances are similar no matter how they started the season. This could mean that winning 91+ games takes a lot of luck, no matter how skilled the team is. It could also mean that the first game has little to do with winning 91+ games. It probably means both.</p> <p>So we have a slightly nuanced answer to the "does a 1-0 start mean something different from an 0-1 start?" If you're talking about the team winning at least 91 games, then yes, the first game of the season should factor into how you feel about the team's chances. You'd be happy with the team starting 1-0 and not so happy if they started 0-1.</p> <p>But if you're talking about whether the Orioles have the talent to win 92-93 games, then the first game doesn't matter so much. Win or lose, the O's have about the same chance of hitting that mark. For what it's worth, the average AL Wild Card team wins 94 games.</p> <p>Despite the idea that the first game doesn't matter so much, I'm glad the Orioles are on the happy orange line.</p> <fieldset class="poll-box"> <legend>Poll</legend> <h5 class="poll-title">How many Orioles wins would make you happy?</h5> <div id="poll_container_227527_1278325288" class="poll_container"> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">0%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>75+</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">0</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">4%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>82+</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">13</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">24%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>85+</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">75</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">49%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>90+</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">154</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">6%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>95+</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">18</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">4%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>100+</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">14</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <div class="poll_option clearfix"> <div class="poll_option_percentage" style="display:none">12%</div> <div class="poll_option_result"> <h5>I don&#39;t care, as long as Adam Jones walks more than 12 times</h5> <div class="poll_option_bar"><span class="vote_count">39</span> votes</div> </div> </div> <p class="poll-total-votes"><strong>313</strong> votes | <span class="poll-has-closed">Poll has closed</span> </p> </div> <script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ new SBN.Poll('poll_container_227527_1278325288').animateResults({renderImmediately:true}); }); </script> </fieldset> Ryan Pollack 2014-03-18T09:00:35-04:00 2014-03-18T09:00:35-04:00 2014 AL East preview: Toronto Blue Jays <img alt="" src="" /> <p>The 2014 season is almost here! As we continue to sit through Spring Training games, Camden Chat will spend the rest of this week previewing the O's foes in the AL East. First up: those other birds, the Toronto Blue Jays.</p> <p>The 2013 <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Blue Jays</a> were in win-now mode. On November 14, 2012, they acquired Josh Johnson, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Mark Buehrle</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Jose Reyes</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Emilio Bonifacio</a>, and <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">John Buck</a> from Miami for a boatload of prospects. They traded more prospects for then-reigning Cy Young winner <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">R.A. Dickey</a>. They signed <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Melky Cabrera</a>, who&rsquo;d been tearing it up in San Francisco before getting busted for PEDs. And to cap things off, they brought back John Gibbons to manage the team.</p> <p><span></span><span>It was a worthwhile gamble. The <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Red Sox</a> were awful in 2012, the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Yankees</a> were getting older, and the <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Orioles</a> had overperformed. But the result was the exact opposite of the expectations. The Red Sox surged, the Orioles and Yankees didn&rsquo;t fall that far, and the Jays finished in last place at 74-88.</span></p> <p><span>This offseason, the Jays didn't lose anyone who was really effective for them. The big names:</span></p> <ul> <li><span>Josh Johnson (signed one-year deal with San Diego)</span></li> <li><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">J.P. Arencibia</a> (non-tendered; signed one-year deal with Texas)</span></li> <li><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Rajai Davis</a> (signed two-year deal with Detroit)</span></li> <li><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Mark DeRosa</a> (retired)</span></li> <li><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Darren Oliver</a> (retired)</span></li> </ul> <p><span>If none of the losses were key, none of the acquisitions were either. The team added only </span><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Dioner Navarro</a>, although if you stretch the definition of "major-league hitter", <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Chris Getz</a> got a minor-league deal. </span>To be fair, the core of <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Jose Bautista</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Edwin Encarnacion</a>, Jose Reyes, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Adam Lind</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Colby Rasmus</a>, and <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Brett Lawrie</a> can produce runs. It's the lackluster starting rotation, and the team's failure to upgrade it, that worries Jays fans.</p> <p><span>Also, the injuries, Oh so many injuries. </span>Don't believe me? Last year, 21 Blue Jays spent time on the DL: <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Brandon Morrow</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Brett Cecil</a>, Brett Lawrie (twice), Colby Rasmus (twice), Darren Oliver, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Drew Hutchison</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Dustin McGowan</a> (twice), Edwin Encarnacion, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">J.A. Happ</a>, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson (twice), <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Kyle Drabek</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Luis Perez</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Maicer Izturis</a>, Melky Cabrera, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Michael Schwimer</a>, Rajai Davis, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ramon Ortiz</a>, <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Sergio Santos</a>, and <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Steve Delabar</a>. For perspective, 13 O&rsquo;s, 21 Yankees, 11 <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="" style="background-color: #ffffff;">Rays</a>, and 17 Red Sox went on the DL in 2013.</p> <p><span>Basically, everybody except Buehrle is an injury concern. </span>Which is a shame because, when they're healthy, Bautista and Encarnacion are a terrific one-two punch. They were each worth more than 4 fWAR last year, and their combined 64 HR last year helped the team rank 4th in the AL in ISO (.158). Even better, they get on base a lot. So does Jose Reyes.</p> <p><span>The defense could be considered a strength, depending on how you look at it. In 2013 the team ranked 5th in the AL in DRS. (UZR is less kind, ranking them 10th.) And i</span><span>f you&rsquo;re reaching, you could call luck a strength. The Jays underperformed their Pythagorean total last year by three wins. That&rsquo;s a small window of hope for something like an 80-win season in 2014. If you're looking for any more positives, you're down to the fact that </span>Colby Rasmus is a pretty good on defense.</p> <p><span>But any strengths are undone by a lackluster pitching corps. </span><span>In 2013, the starting rotation ranked poorly in the AL:</span></p> <ul> <li><span>FIP: 13th (4.59)</span></li> <li><span>xFIP: 13th (4.23)</span></li> <li><span>SIERA: 11th (4.19)</span></li> </ul> <p>The relief pitching is better, but it&rsquo;s average at best. The bullpen&rsquo;s 2013 AL rankings:</p> <ul> <li><span>FIP: 12th (3.82)</span></li> <li><span>xFIP: 8th (3.74)</span></li> <li><span>SIERA: 8th (3.37)</span></li> </ul> <p>Second base is also a weakness. <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ryan Goins</a> is 26 and coming off a cup of coffee last year. With a .264 OBP and 62 wRC+, it&rsquo;s safe to say he&rsquo;ll be batting ninth. 121 PA is a tiny sample size, but so far he looks overmatched at the big-league level. Maicer Izturis could replace him if he struggles. And if that doesn't work, well ... there's always Getz.</p> <p><span></span><span>Depth is another weakness, given the brittleness of the starters. At some point, a bench player will be called upon to start while a regular is injured. But on that bench, only <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Moises Sierra</a> is a decent hitter. There won&rsquo;t be much help from the farm, either: a few pitchers could be called up, but Keith Law ranked the system 24th in baseball. </span>Finally, the team stinks against left-handed pitching. In 2013 the offense mustered only an 84 wRC+ against southpaws, third-worst in the AL.</p> <p><span>The 2014 Jays are still in win-now mode, but they'll need lots of luck to make the playoffs. I think they&rsquo;ll win 75 games at most. I also think GM Alex Anthopoulos will lose his job.</span></p> <p><span><i>All stats from FanGraphs. DL data from</i></span></p> Ryan Pollack 2014-03-07T10:01:04-05:00 2014-03-07T10:01:04-05:00 Comparing the A.L. East third basemen <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Comparing Manny Machado with Will Middlebrooks, Evan Longoria, Brett Lawrie, and Kelly Johnson.</p> <p>We end this week with a ranking of the third basemen in the AL East. The hot corner is an interesting position. It's not as important as second base or shortstop and yet you can't get away with stone hands like you can in left field. No one expects you to hit like Babe Ruth, but you can't hit like <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Brendan Ryan</a>, either. You're caught in between. Perhaps this is why your chances of getting into the Hall of Fame are slim; only 15 third sackers have been inducted, the fewest at any position and only five more than the number of umpires. Sheesh, twice as many executives have been enshrined!</p> <p>The AL East in 2014 will be home to some interesting players. There's a surefire star, a couple of young hopefuls, and one guy who's just kind of been stuck there out of necessity. You know their names; the following are their stats covering the 2012-2013 seasons:</p> <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="1" width="100%"><tbody> <tr bgcolor="#EDF1F3"> <th align="left">Name</th> <th align="center">PA</th> <th align="center">HR</th> <th align="center">BB%</th> <th align="center">K%</th> <th align="center">ISO</th> <th align="center">BABIP</th> <th align="center">AVG</th> <th align="center">OBP</th> <th align="center">SLG</th> <th align="center">wOBA</th> <th align="center">wRC+</th> <th align="center">WAR</th> </tr> <tr bgcolor="#FFFFFF" onmouseout="this.bgColor='#FFFFFF'" onmouseover="this.bgColor='#C7D9EC'"> <td align="left"><a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Evan Longoria</a></td> <td align="center">1005</td> <td align="center">49</td> <td align="center">10.2%</td> <td align="center">22.2%</td> <td align="center">.232</td> <td align="center">.313</td> <td align="center">.275</td> <td align="center">.351</td> <td align="center">.507</td> <td align="center">.366</td> <td align="center">137</td> <td align="center">9.3</td> </tr> <tr onmouseout="this.bgColor='#FFFFFF'" onmouseover="this.bgColor='#C7D9EC'" bgcolor="#FFFFFF"> <td align="left"><a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Manny Machado</a></td> <td align="center">912</td> <td align="center">21</td> <td align="center">4.2%</td> <td align="center">16.6%</td> <td align="center">.156</td> <td align="center">.316</td> <td align="center">.279</td> <td align="center">.309</td> <td align="center">.435</td> <td align="center">.323</td> <td align="center">100</td> <td align="center">7.5</td> </tr> <tr onmouseout="this.bgColor='#FFFFFF'" onmouseover="this.bgColor='#C7D9EC'" bgcolor="#FFFFFF"> <td align="left"><a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Brett Lawrie</a></td> <td align="center">978</td> <td align="center">22</td> <td align="center">6.4%</td> <td align="center">15.7%</td> <td align="center">.136</td> <td align="center">.297</td> <td align="center">.265</td> <td align="center">.320</td> <td align="center">.401</td> <td align="center">.317</td> <td align="center">97</td> <td align="center">3.8</td> </tr> <tr onmouseout="this.bgColor='#FFFFFF'" onmouseover="this.bgColor='#C7D9EC'" bgcolor="#FFFFFF"> <td align="left"><a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Will Middlebrooks</a></td> <td align="center">660</td> <td align="center">32</td> <td align="center">5.0%</td> <td align="center">25.5%</td> <td align="center">.208</td> <td align="center">.295</td> <td align="center">.254</td> <td align="center">.294</td> <td align="center">.462</td> <td align="center">.324</td> <td align="center">100</td> <td align="center">2.3</td> </tr> <tr onmouseout="this.bgColor='#FFFFFF'" onmouseover="this.bgColor='#C7D9EC'" bgcolor="#FFFFFF"> <td align="left"><a href="" class="sbn-auto-link">Kelly Johnson</a></td> <td align="center">988</td> <td align="center">32</td> <td align="center">9.8%</td> <td align="center">26.1%</td> <td align="center">.155</td> <td align="center">.285</td> <td align="center">.225</td> <td align="center">.310</td> <td align="center">.384</td> <td align="center">.305</td> <td align="center">91</td> <td align="center">1.6</td> </tr> </tbody></table> <p>Let the rankings begin!</p> <h4>Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles</h4> <p>Did you know that Machado just had the greatest age-20 season of any third baseman in history? The top five:</p> <ol> <li><span>Machado, 6.2 fWAR (2013)</span></li> <li><span>Rogers Hornsby, 5.3 fWAR (1916)</span></li> <li><span><a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Adrian Beltre</a>, 3.4 fWAR (1999)</span></li> <li><span>Freddie Lindstrom, 3.1 fWAR (1961)</span></li> <li><span>Buddy Lewis, 2.9 fWAR (1937)</span></li> </ol> <p>Eddie Matthews and Cap Anson are next on the list. That's some good company; however, Machado's the only one on this list who accrued his value primarily with the glove. The fact that defensive statistics are still somewhat of a mystery, and can fluctuate year-to-year with seemingly no warning, gives me some pause for 2014. He's also coming off that gruesome knee injury; while he's taking grounders now, he hasn't played in a game and probably won't start the regular season. Finally, it's a difficult pill to swallow but one that you must: when you do so well one year, it's reasonable to expect some regression to occur the next.</p> <p>So don't expect him to repeat his 6.2 fWAR season ... unless he learns some patience. His career walk rate of 4.2% leaves much to be desired. But there's pop in his bat (.435 SLG) and it all adds up to a 100 wRC+ during his time in the majors. Keeping in mind that he's 21, that's a significant achievement.</p> <h4>Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox</h4> <p>Middlebrooks had a great rookie campaign in 2012. He notched a 122 wRC+ (.288/.325/.509) but underneath it was a sky-high BABIP of .335 and an HR/FB of 21.4%. Regression bit hard; although Middlebrooks walked more frequently and hit the ball well, his BABIP regressed to .265 and his HR/FB slipped to a great-but-not-elite 17.5%. He also missed a few games with a strained lower back.</p> <p>As a result, he played only 94 games in 2013 and lost some of the shine he carried into the big leagues. After going 4-23 in the posteason, he was benched in favor of <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Xander Bogaerts</a> for games 5 and 6 of the ALCS and didn't start in <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">the World Series</a>. He did, however, manage to obstruct <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Allen Craig</a> at the end of Game 3 of the Series, giving the <a style="background-color: #ffffff;" class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Cardinals</a> the game and the Internet an occasion to pore over the official baseball rules.</p> <p>Middlebrooks is still young (25), displays good power, and is probably due for some positive BABIP regression in 2014. However, he strikes out a lot and hardly walks at all (5% MLB career walk rate, career OBP of .294). Additionally, he's a below-average defender at the hot corner. He's not a threat to be great this year unless he has some hidden tricks up his sleeve.</p> <p>According to, Middlebrooks right now is most similar to <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Frank Thomas</a>. No, not <i>that</i> Frank Thomas ... the Frank Thomas who accumulated just 16.6 fWAR from 1951-1966.</p> <h4>Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays</h4> <p>Longoria is the total package. An on-base machine (.357 career OBP) and power threat (.512 SLG), he's put up 5.5 fWAR every year except his injury-shortened 2012 season, and even then he notched 2.5 fWAR in 74 games. DRS rates him as the second-best AL third baseman since 2008; UZR rates him as the best. And get this, he will play his age-28 season in 2014.</p> <p>The fact that he'll make just $7.5 million in 2014 is absurd and a testament to Andrew Friedman's Darth Vader-esque powers. Longoria could easily make $25 million a year on the open market and would have a strong case for $30 million. Instead, the highest salary he can attain on his contract will be $19.5 million in 2022, and by then inflation will eat away at some of the value. He and <a class="sbn-auto-link" href="">Ben Zobrist</a> are the poster children for surplus value and are the two reasons why Tampa Bay is a contender on a shoestring budget.</p> <p>OK, enough hagiography. Can we leave it at I'm jealous?</p> <h4>Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays</h4> <p>Like Middlebrooks, Lawrie made a great impression in his first major-league campaign. In 2011 he put up an astounding 157 wRC+ (.293/.373/.580, 9 HR) in just 43 games. Also like Middlebrooks, Lawrie struggled to live up to that hype in the following years. His HR/FB rate dropped from 17% to 9%; meanwhile, his flyball rate plummeted from 45% to 30% (before inching up to 35%). As a result he hit just 11 homers each in 2012 and 2013. That's not what you'd expect from someone who hit nine in 43 games his first year. He has been victimized by several injuries, but was his power a mirage?</p> <p>Despite the power outage, he gets on base far more often than Middlebrooks (.328 OBP) and strikes out much less often (16.1% K rate). He's over a year younger than Middlebrooks and has more major league experience. Finally, DRS and UZR both rate Lawrie highly, whereas neither stat favors Middlebrooks.</p> <h4>Kelly Johnson, New York Yankees</h4> <p>With Alex Rodriguez out for the year, the Yankees named Johnson their starting third baseman. Johnson's good, but he is overshadowed by the youth and talent on the other teams. He's the old man of the group at 32 and rates as an average defender, although he's played just 118 innings at the hot corner. He hits dingers, at least 15 a year, but he strikes out more than Middlebrooks does without bringing the same amount of power. The result is a wRC+ of 104, which is Machado territory. Since both of these comps are younger than him and each have a more defined skillset, Johnson can't compete.</p> <h4>Rankings</h4> <p>The lowdown:</p> <ol> <li><span>Evan Longoria is the clear favorite here. He's been consistently excellent for six years now.</span></li> <li><span>Manny Machado ranks second. A league-average hitter with superlative defense at age 21? Count me in.</span></li> <li>Brett Lawrie ranks third. Injuries seem to be holding him back.</li> <li>Will Middlebrooks slides to fourth place. If he struggles in 2014, he may see Pawtucket again.</li> <li>Kelly Johnson brings up the rear in the AL East. Again, he's a good player, but he's outmatched in this division.</li> </ol> Ryan Pollack