Baseball Prospectus' Clay Davenport wrote this year's Orioles chapter, and grew up an O's fan in Virginia. He has long been part of the sabermetrics community, starting in the 1980s. I had a chance to ask him a few questions, and he was generous enough with his time to give us some answers. Again, if you don't have your copy of the 2007 Baseball Prospectus, do yourself a favor and pick one up today.
Q: What are the chances that Brandon Snyder bounces back with a strong season? He's still very young.
CD: There's a very reasonable chance, although far from certain. The season he had in 2005 was a little bit above average - for 18-year-olds in the Rookie leagues who are going to make it to majors by age 23. It wasn't as good as what David Wright or Joe Mauer did in 2001, but it was better than, say, Edwin Encarnacion or Josh Barfield. The lost development time isn't good, but it isn't outrageous or even unusual for players his age. The bigger worry for me is whether the shoulder recovers its strength, because while we are all pleased to note that it wasn't his throwing shoulder, it is his front shoulder in hitting. If that has any kind of permanent damage - and I have no reason to think that, just a general knowledge that shoulder problems frequently don't heal well - than you can throw away whatever he has done in the past, because he is no longer the same player that did those things.
Q: At age 31, will Miguel Tejada's power reach its former levels? Will a bit more "lineup protection" help him?
CD: BP has never been big on the lineup protection hypotheses, and I'm still in that camp - particularly since I don't see how his protection will be any better. Huff hasn't been as good a hitter as Jay Gibbons the last two years - or Kevin Millar, for that matter (Huff has a .277 EQA for 2005-06, Gibbons has .288, Millar .284.) Jay Payton (.265) will be an improvement over Fahey, but he was about the 25th-best left fielder last year, so its a small improvement at best. There's no reason not to expect Tejada's power to continue at least where it is or even step back up a bit - I'd be more worried about deteriorating range at age 31 than diminishing power.
Q: Adam Loewen has become one of the hot topics in O's circles. BP remarks, "it is also possible that he's only going to become the monster he was drafted to be by switching to relief." Is this simply a reflection of his control issues, or something bigger?
CD: It's a reflection of a study that Nate did last year, trying to figure out what types of pitchers benefit most by being switched from starting to relieving, and Loewen fits the profile almost perfectly - high walks, low home runs, and low hits in general. In other words, hard to hit, even if (or maybe because?) they themselves have no idea where the ball is going.
Q: Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera both pitched well as the 2006 season progressed, and are now the 1-2 starters in the 2007 rotation. While Bedard has shown that he can carry his share of the weight, Cabrera has yet to do anything on a consistent basis other than walk batters and strike them out. Can Cabrera be a front-end starter?
CD: I'm a little pessimistic there. The number of pitchers who have had control issues like Cabreras through the age of 25, and then learned to control it, is very small, almost to the point where you have to say that if he hasn't figured it out by now he isn't going to. And while he strikes out more than his share of batters, it isn't by an overpowering, Randy Johnson/Nolan Ryan margin - it's good, not great, and he needs great to overcome his walks.
Q: If you had to wager a guess, how does Nick Markakis pan out in the long term, assuming he stays healthy?
CD: Better than our stats say. Markakis has a history, brief though it is, of exceeding the numerical expectations, and it seems - speaking anecdotally here - that guys like that continue to do so, and it takes the numbers 2-3 years to catch up.