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Orioles Q&A with Rob Neyer

Rob Neyer, SB Nation's newest superstar, was kind enough to take a few questions from Camden Chat regarding the Orioles and baseball in general. The questions were created by Andrew_G, zknower, duck, and me, and the answers from Neyer won't exactly warm your O's fan heart.

There is a divide at Camden Chat over the merits of acquiring older players who won't help the team long term at the expense of the development of younger players who may not pan out at all. Arguments for the veterans include finally reaching .500 and building a respectable team that will be more attractive to free agents. What are your thoughts on that?

Free agents are motivated by any number of things, but No. 1 on the list is MONEY. So if the goal is to attract free agents, wouldn't it make sense to save your MONEY until you really need it? As for finally reaching .500, I think that's sort of a personal issue. If it's my team, reaching .500 is a lot less important than assembling the pieces that might eventually lead to 90 wins (rather than 81). But that's me.

It's Andy MacPhail's last year on his contract. Does he deserve an extension from the Orioles?

Before this winter I would have said yes. Now I'm on the fence, and would wait and see how this season goes. But yeah, probably. He hasn't made many terribly glaring mistakes, and stability is generally a good thing.

How much of a difference can Buck Showalter (or any manager, really) actually make on a team?

Well, the easy answer is not much, but I do believe that the right man at the right time actually can make a real difference, and I think Showalter is one of the few "right men" who we can actually identify, considering that he's done it three times now.


Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, Justin Duchscherer, and Zach Britton are the seven pitchers who are mostly likely to make starts for the Orioles this season, with all but Duchscherer likely to pitch beyond 2011 in black and orange. What is the ceiling for a rotation built on these players and how far can it take the team?

Have you ever heard of "Sam's Law"?

Young pitchers will break your heart.

Not always, of course. But maybe there should be a modification: Young *groups* of pitchers will break your heart. The ceiling for the Orioles' young starters, as a group, is obviously very high. But history suggests that if just three of those five young starters become solid major leaguers, the Orioles will have beat the odds. Which is why it's not easy to build a competitive team around young starting pitchers.

It can happen. It's just exceptionally rare.

What is your opinion on Jeremy Guthrie? Since joining the O's rotation he has outpitched his peripherals. Can he continue that trend? Do you think he might be part of the next great Orioles team or should he be looked at as trade fodder?

Trade fodder. Guthrie's a perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-rotation guy for a good team, but by the time the Orioles are good he's probably a little over-priced for them. I think management has to hope he limits the home runs in the first half of the season - which should keep his ERA hovering somewhere near 4 - and they can trade him to a contender for a couple of prospects.

Can Matt Wieters and Adam Jones take the next step forward offensively in 2011? Does the new star-power in the lineup take some pressure off of them and will that help their development?

I'll buy that theory if someone can show me some evidence that adding veterans to a lineup makes even a little bit of difference to young hitters. My guess is that it doesn't. I'm not wild about Wieters or Jones, both of whom actually went backwards last season. I do think that both will enjoy good seasons, at some point. But they're sure not looking like the future superstars we expected not so long ago.

Do you think the severe competitive imbalances in baseball would be lessened by the institution of a salary cap, perhaps combined with a salary floor?

First, I would probably argue with your characterization of the imbalances as "severe." The imbalances are neither desirable nor attractive, but a poor team that's well-managed can compete for a playoff spot, at least for a few years. Would a salary cap/floor situation make a difference? Yeah, maybe some. But there are imbalances in the other big sports, too, and all of them have salary caps. It might be a useful tool, but it's not a panacea.

Newer statistics, particularly Wins Above Replacement, cause a number of disagreements on our site. What are the cracks in the WAR metrics that would allow a team to substantially outperform (in the win column) their total WAR over the course of a season?

Do they? I've actually never seen team WAR compared to team wins. Just off the top of my head, WAR doesn't account for baserunning (except for steals). Nor does it account for luck. And that's the big one. The vast majority of fans simply don't understand the degree to which luck impacts wins and losses, even over the course of 162 games.