Bird Food: Fangraphs 2011 Organizational Rankings: #15 – Baltimore

For the past couple of weeks, fangraphs has been publishing their annual rankings of baseball franchises. As you may know, these rankings came under quite a bit of scrutiny last year because they were perceived as being arbitrary and highly subjective. In particular, Dave Cameron may never live down the #6 ranking given to the Mariners last year. This year, fangraphs has published an explanation of their logic behind the rankings in order to make the rankings more transparent. And on Monday, fangraphs declared the O's as the 15th best franchise. Why? Well, let's take a look-see.

Average performances in all four categories leads to the biggest surprise in the rankings thus far. Baltimore certainly should be considered a team on the rise, but is it enough to justify their lofty position here?

Well, it's no fun when the authors begin with the notion that your team is crappy however justified. But 15th is "lofty'? Try not to kill us with too much praise. How dare you rank the O's as decidedly mediocre!

Baltimore finished with an Overall Rating of 77.45, but the teams that finished in the 15-19 slots were separated by less than a single point. This means that the rankings were extremely tight, and there’s no real difference between the placements of the teams in this grouping. If you wouldn’t have been upset with Baltimore at #19, then treat this accordingly, as a small change in voting could have knocked them down several pegs.

And just in case you're still offended by the O's lofty ranking, the author wanted to point out that 15th is really interchangeable with 19th. So maybe the O's are really just as bad as you initially believed.

Present Talent – 75.00 (T-20th)

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Financial Resources – 72.69 (23rd)

Baseball Operations – 62.50 (30th)

These rankings struck me as odd. As far as financial resources go, I'll refrain from commenting on that. But future talent is fifth? I'm assuming a lower number means better in this case. If so, 5th seems awfully generous. The O's have two uber prospects and then a whole lot of uninspiring prospects. I'm not sure how that type of talent ends up fifth since that category is suppose to measure the strength of the farm system.

And baseball operations as 30th? This category is suppose to measure:

Here we will evaluate the relative merits of each organization in terms of acquiring and developing talent. The organizational philosophy and interest level by the executive level will be included, as will the abilities of the front office to identify how to put together a big league roster, the perceived quality of the organization’s scouting department, and the on-field development staff that helps the players develop their talent into productivity.

I'm not a huge fan of Andy MacPhail, but 30th seems a bit harsh. Surely, Andy MacPhail and his various player development/scouting departments rank ahead of the Nationals, Astros, and Royals who, despite having an uber farm system, haven't developed anyone outside of Butler and Greinke. I'm not sure if there was another article detailing the scoring, but certain individual scores assigned to each component still seem a bit arbitrary.

Their present talent doesn’t rate well now, but a big reason for that is based on the fact that they recently promoted many of their youngsters who are still adjusting to the major leagues. If Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz,Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta (to name a few) start to reach their potential, the Orioles major league talent could experience a significant jump in the rankings.

Fair enough.

When the team did contend in the mid-90s, Angelos authorized heavy spending to import key free-agents. The Orioles tried the same approach in 2004, when they signed Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro andJavy Lopez to lengthy contracts. When Angelos realized that approach didn’t work, the team attempted to focus on building a strong farm system.

I don't think Angelos realized squat. He went with a youth movement because that's what Andy wanted and he supported his decisions.

While the Orioles’ 2010 off-season was relatively quiet, in recent years they have aggressively pursued Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko; a sign that the team may start spending once they realize the gains of their young stars.

Aggressively pursued Mark Teixeira?! The O's made a substantial offer but it was well below market value. They were counting on a hometown discount to land Teixeira and didn't want to get into a bidding war him with the Yankees. That's understandable, but let's not pretend they were aggressive in their pursuit.

While finishing in last place every season makes the Orioles look like a hopeless franchise, it’s more a statement on the talented teams within their division. If the Orioles were in the NL Central or NL West, for instance, they would be talked about as a potential surprise team by many analysts this season. Unfortunately, they have to compete with three of the best teams in baseball and the Blue Jays (who look dangerous under Alex Anthopoulos). This gives the perception that the Orioles will continue to fail when they would most likely be competitive in other divisions, but divisional strength wasn’t a factor in these ratings.

Yeah, yeah. I mean I realize that this statement has a lot of substantive merit. And even with all of the crap Keith Law gets about how he's pessimistic about the O's, even he was willing to make a similar point. I realize the author is trying to give some (faint) praise to the O's. But all it seems hollow because of this thing called reality. Until the O's learn to outsmart the other AL teams, it'll never look good. I was listening to Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind while writing this post. As Bobby D said, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there."

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