Wednesday, March 31, 2010

AL East Q&A: Daniel Moroz Talks O's

Next up in our AL East Q&A series, we are pleased to welcome one of the best Orioles bloggers on any of the intertubes.

Daniel Moroz is the proprietor of Camden Crazies and a contributor to the excellent Beyond the Box Score. For a sampling of his sabermetric chops, take a look at the five part series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that he did exploring Nick Markakis' drop in walks last year. Daniel is also the man behind the sensational Matt Wieters Facts. Please give him your undivided attention.

Fack Youk: Is it true that saying Matt Wieters is perfect would underestimate his abilities?

Daniel Moroz: One of the more amusing parts of the Matt Wieters Facts phenomena has been that my analysis of his actual performance hasn't been all that complementary. He did well – for a catcher - last year, but I don't think he's going to be a dominant force quite yet. I was expecting him to walk a little more than he did in 2009, though (not that it means much) he has been doing that this Spring. An above average bat in 2010 may not make Wieters an MVP candidate, but it should make him one of the better catchers in baseball already - with plenty of room for more development in the coming years.

FY: Aside from Wieters, what young position player on the O's do you have the most hope for going forward? Is it Adam Jones? Nick Markakis? Nolan Reimold?

DM: I have the most hope for Markakis, because we've seen him play at an elite level before with his .306/.406/.491 line from 2008. If he can return to that echelon - largely by getting his walk rate back up - then that would really help the offense. I don't know that Adam Jones can reach those levels with the bat because of his less than stellar plate discipline, but a .300/.375/.500 peak with plus defense in center-field would also be very valuable. Reimold I'm not quite as high on - though I was one of his biggest fans as he was coming up through the minors - as I think he's more of a role player (above average bat, but average to below defense in an outfield corner - average player overall) in the Luke Scott mold than a star. Honestly, I might have more hopes for Felix Pie, who is already a very good defensive outfielder and who could become an above average player if he improves at the plate.

FY: With Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Brian Matsuz, Jake Arrieta and Brandon Erbe the Orioles seem to have a fine crop of young pitchers either already in the MLB or reasonably close to it. Do you think Bergesen can duplicate the success that he had in '09? Will Tillman and Matsuz be breaking camp with the club? Will Arrieta and Erbe contribute this season?

DM: I think Bergesen can largely duplicate his success - getting groundballs and limiting free passes - but I doubt he posts another ERA that low (3.43). He's more of a mid-rotation starter to me, which is less glamorous but certainly still valuable. Matusz will definitely break camp with the club, and might already be the team's best starter (and if not now, then by the end of the year). Tillman will start out the season in the minors - he still needs to work on a few things (more K’s, fewer BB and HR) - with David Hernandez getting the 5th starter spot, but he'll be up before too long and should get plenty of innings in the majors. Arrieta and Erbe might see a cup of coffee at the end of the year, but I don't expect them to really contribute unless there is a big wave of injuries to the first 7-8 guys on the depth chart.

FY: With all this young talent, when should we Yankee fans start to worry about the O's becoming a legitimate threat in the division?

DM: Not this season - or maybe even next - but by 2012 I do expect the O's to be contending with the Yankees (and Red Sox and Rays, and maybe Blue Jays, depending on how quickly they can turn things around). If the Yankees get old quickly and the free agent well starts to run a little dry, then Baltimore might be in a pretty good position to capitalize on it. It's a very tough division though.

FY: What are your feelings on the return of Miguel Tejada? What have you heard about his defensive transition to third base? Does he deserve to be hitting cleanup? What are the chances Josh Bell sees some playing time at the hot corner this year?

DM: I like Tejada, so it's nice to see him back. The contract wasn't bad, and the only reason I didn't think the deal made sense was because it pushed Garrett Atkins to first-base (where he's especially overpaid). He's made 5 errors at third this Spring, but I think he'll adjust relatively well to the position and be average to only a little below. He shouldn't be batting clean-up, since he's maybe the team's 7th best hitter at this point and so should be further down in the line-up. Bell - like Arrieta and Erbe - will probably make an appearance later in the year, but everything I've heard leads me to believe that Miggy is the team's third-baseman for 2010.

FY: And lastly, can you list off the order you think the AL East will finish in this season?

DM: Yankees, Red Sox (Wild Card), Rays ... gap... Orioles, Blue Jays. The top three should be pretty close though.

FY: Daniel, thanks for your time.

Humpday Linkaround

This links came up a little short, kind of like Nick Johnson trying to leg out a double last night:
Ben from River Ave. Blues joined Cliff and Alex from Bronx Banter to do a video preview of the 2009 season. The first part (about pitching) is here, the second one (focusing on the offense) is here and the final installment (concerning the competition) is here.

Two of the characters from that series (Cliff and Ben) join Steve Lombardi from Was Watching and Justin Sablich of the New York Times for part one of a written preview over on their dot com.

Good news: Mark Teixeira is scheduled to take batting practice today.

Mike over at The Yankeeist has rounded up the Spring Training stats for both hitters and pitchers. Nothing to get worked up about - we'll have plenty of time to make a big deal out of small sample sizes when the regular season starts - just something interesting to scan over.

Joe from River Ave. Blues cranked out some excellent pieces yesterday including this one on the delicate balance the front office has to find between winning now, winning later and appeasing the media and this one that looks at the back up plans for each position.

The Yanks are set to spend 16 times more than the Blue Jays on their starting rotation this year. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, but that's like, a lot.

I should have done this a while ago, but if you'd like to thank Tom Tango for the excellent sabermetric work he's done over the years, head over here and fill out a playing time forecast for the Yanks. Somehow, they are pretty underrepresented at this point and it doesn't take long to do. If you feel like you are familiar enough with another team, do one for them too.

Add Mike Cameron to the list of Red Sox who is inahguably nawt appreciated for his true talents. When will the rest of the country finally acknowledge the players in Boston for their incredible production and work ethic? It's borderline criminal!

Joe Posnanski is asking for help in selecting players for the Bad Baseball Hall of Fame and the nominations are rolling in. The cut offs are 462 1/3 IP for pitchers and 843 PAs for hitters. Any Yankees come to mind?

Ross from NYY Stadium Insider has the scoop on an iPhone app called Venuing that will have features specially designed for sporting event and concert experiences. It will be live in Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park when each of them opens this season.

Time Warner is now offering a package that will allow you to watch all of the 127 games that YES carries on your computer, provided you are in the Yanks' market. I'm sure there are some select circumstances where this would be convenient (you don't have cable, but do have high speed internet, etc), but for most of us it doesn't apply. It does, however, illustrate why is blacked out within local areas - because cable companies want the opportunity to charge people themselves. If there was one price people could pay to watch any game, anywhere, these subscription services would be a lot more popular. Not that I'm going to hold my breath for it...

Will Leitch did an excellent review of the movie Fantasyland for New York Magazine's website. I hadn't heard much about the movie before but I definitely want to see it now.

Man, the Mariners have some good advertising and promohshonz.

Finally, I'm not sure if this guy is still taking emails, but if you left a briefcase with $78,383 on the Lower East Side the other day, you might want to claim that.

Maybe you could use some of it to buy a piece of Yankees/television memorabilia.
That's it for now. Our AL East Q&A's roll on at noon.

Garko A Good Fit For Bench Spot

Good morning Fackers. The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. Outfielders David Winfree, whom we touched upon briefly last week, and Jon Weber (pictured to the left) were sent to minor league camp. If you are to believe the story being bandied about in various media outlets, Weber, despite leading the organization in the all important category of Spring Training batting average, was farmed out for the sin of being a left handed batter. And I'm sure that has everything to do with it; the fact that Weber is 32 years old with 11 years of professional experience and zero days of Major League service time assuredly has no bearing upon the decision.

The demotions of Weber and Winfree leave Marcus Thames as the only non-roster outfielder left in camp. Thames, unlike Weber, is right handed batter and that's something specific the Yankees are looking for in their fifth outfielder. With Curtis Granderson's well-documented struggles against left handed pitching, lingering concerns about lefty swinging Brett Gardner's ability to hold down an everyday job, and Randy Winn coming off the absolute worst season of a right handed batter vs. lefty pitching in the past 55 years, the team wants a lefty masher for the fifth outfielder spot.

It's been assumed that Thames has all but won the job since Jamie Hoffmann was returned to the Dodgers last week. But, Joe Girardi said last night that Thames is not yet assured a spot, and Brian Cashman has said repeatedly over the past week that the Yankees would continue to monitor the trade market and waiver wire for other options.

Interestingly enough, another option came available just yesterday. The Seattle Mariners have decided to waive Ryan Garko, whom they signed just last month after he was foolishly non-tendered by the Giants. The Mariners, perhaps the most run prevention focused club in baseball, decided that Casey Kotchman's defense, Mike Sweeney's clubhouse presence, and an open roster spot were more valuable to the team, despite Garko's economical $550k contract, two remaining options, and rather potent bat relative to the rest of their roster.

Garko, like Thames, mashes left handed pitching. His career line of .313/.392/.495 in 485 PA against southpaws is actually better than Thames' .256/.329/.516 line in 691 PA. Garko's also four years younger and has two years of arbitration eligibility left.

The potential fly in the ointment is that Garko isn't really an outfielder, with just twelve games of professional experience there. However, Thames is a poor outfielder as well. And with plus defensive players in Gardner and Winn, the team could afford to sacrifice some defensive proficiency in the fifth outfielder spot in exchange for offensive prowess.

Garko is of some value defensively, as he's a passable first baseman and was a catcher for the first three years of his pro career. While he shouldn't ever again don the tools of ignorance unless it's an absolute emergency, his ability to play first would be of use to the Yankees. Nicks Johnson and Swisher figure to be Mark Teixeira's back ups should he need a day off or miss some time due to something like a hit by pitch square on his elbow. The pitfall with that arrangement is that if Teixeira were to miss more a few games at a time, the Yankees would be shifting one of their regulars to first base and replacing him with an offensively inferior player such as Winn. Garko's presence on the roster would safeguard against that.

Garko projects as a close to a 1.0 WAR player this year and his $550k salary is easily absorbable. With two open spots on their 40 man roster and more than $2M of payroll flexibility following the release of Chad Gaudin, the Yankees would be wise to place a claim on Garko if he falls that far down the waiver wire.