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July 14, 2010

Explaining the Orioles' midseason grades

I’m not much into the self-promotion thing, like my buddy Peter Schmuck, but I wanted to provide a link for my All-Star break report card for the Orioles.

I’ve never graded individual front office officials or managers or coaches, but obviously if I was grading the organization as a whole, the Orioles would get an F for the first half. I would think no explanation is needed, not with the team sporting a league-worst 29-59 record at the break.

However, if you’re not convinced, consider the fact that most of the top young players at the major league level have regressed or at least not shown much improvement so far. Consider that the two major free agent acquisitions (Garrett Atkins and Michael Gonzalez) have been huge busts, and Miguel Tejada has been OK, but certainly not a difference maker.

The blame for those signings obviously rests on the shoulders of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, but also on the professional scouting department that recommended that the team targets those players. The amateur scouting department and player development officials also have not had a banner first half as very few of the top minor league prospects – Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta would obviously be exceptions – have taken steps forward either. Any way you look at it, the first half has been a thorough, organizational-wide failure, and everybody should be held accountable.



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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:23 AM | | Comments (40)
        

Comments

I'm surprised, but the grades given are pretty much spot on. I'm still trying to figure out why the all young players have regressed so much. Bad advice? Poor preparation? Lack of what? Anyway, good job.

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Jeff Z's reply: Most people around baseball think the regression is a result of the Orioles simply putting too much on the young kids and not surrounding them with enough veterans. The sense is they are being asked to do too much, too soon and in the toughest division in baseball. But certainly, the major league coaching staff and the player development staff have to share in the blame, as does MacPhail who brought in players that didn't do too much to take heat off youngsters.

I think Miggy is a bit more than ok. He has has been an improvement over Mora at 3B. His mid season stats are just about what Mora's was for the 2009 season.

Miggy - HR=7, RBIs=35 and Batting .276

Mora = HR=8, RBIs=48 and batted .260

Sorry Dean but your wrong about the young guys. The FO has brought them up (Pitchers and Pos Players) and put a hugh amount of self imposed pressure on them because of the lack of big bats in the lineup. All of this regression is the fault of the FO because they failed to get the "bats". Wiggy, Miggy, Adkins, Lugo, Itsuris, Patterson, and various other role players failed these kids. So at this point, the regression lies at the feet of Andy

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Jeff Z's reply: Hey Norm, I wrote it, not Dean, and I'm not sure what I'm wrong about. I said it was an organizational-wide failure. Andy has to wear a lot of this, as does the coaching staff, player development and scouting staffs. And the players shouldn't be free of all the blame. I agree they've been burdened with a lot of responsibility and pressure (Wieters especially), but these guys are very talented and they have to produce as well.

I'm interested in why you gave Luke Scott a C. Sure, he's hurt right now and you list his low average with RISP, but he's arguably been the team's best hitter in the first half of the season. He doesn't get on base as much as Markakis, but he hits for more power, which sort of evens out their offensive production value.

Since he's basically the team's DH, he doesn't provide much defensive value, but when he's in the field he has been at least about average.

Were you expecting more from Scott this season, or is it something else? His numbers right now are slightly better than his career averages, so maybe you could explain your rationale.

Also, one small thing: You mention Felix Pie as adding right-handed pop to the lineup, which is probably just a typo considering he's left-handed.

Anyway, I enjoyed the list and agreed with most of the grades. Good work.

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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks Matt. The Pie thing is being fixed. They used Jake Fox's information under Pie's image. As for Scott, his struggles with runners in scoring position was part of it, and I also think I probably focused a little more on his slow start, though he certainly wasn't only one. Scott's average didn't get over the Mendoza line until mid-May. He's also missed some time. But I'd be lying if I said his numbers at the break weren't pretty much what I expected. The consistency with him remains the issue. In consulting with a couple of people within the organization, they thought I was being a little harsh on Scott as well.

There's only one grade I will quibble with. Based on what was expected of him I fail to see how Weiters gets a grade higher than F. He's been a huge offensive (in both meanings)disappointment.

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Jeff Z's reply: As I responded to another poster, I was torn between D or C- for Wieters and opted with the C- because I think his defense has improved dramatically and he's started to hit the ball a little bit better for hamstring injury. But I wouldn't quibble with a D, or the suggestion that I gave Wieters a little more benefit of the doubt than his performance has deserved.

O's seem to grade out at about a "C" average, which would seem to indicate they're playing about .500 ball, or per your explanation you had to mark on the curve because the talent is so sub-standard.

My only complaint is your assertion that Miguel Tejada has been OK. He's produced 0.0 WAR: exactly replacement level. I don't know if you give that to MacPhail or to Tejada, but either way, he has provided zero value. Especially since the club insists on batting him in one of the two most important lineup slots (second or fourth).

I think you did a good job with the grading. No arguments here.

I completely agree that the front office deserves a lookover here, as well. The euphoria of the great Beddard deal is years old, now, and far too many of the player moves in the intervening period have proven to be awful.

As for the managers and coaches, who else can one look to when assessing the regression of players and their all-too-common lack of discipline at the plate?

As for your player ratings, they all made sense; I didn't see a single outlier among the bunch.

"C-" for Adam Jones? I guess that Jeff expected him to hit .300, 40 homers, and 120 rbis and win another gold glove. He is on pace to hit almost .280 with 27 bombs, which far exceeds his career production. He is 24. T-W-E-N-T-Y-F-O-U-R.

I guess if was two years older though, had a higher on base percentage, and played a much less demanding OF position, he would get a "B", right? Even if his power and run production numbers were FAR below career averages. ABSURD.

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Jeff Z's reply: Jones' homer and RBI production are good. The on-base percentage, walks and defense are not, and his defense particularly has a lot of people within the organization scratching their heads. I think Jones is going to be a very good player, but when you are looking at players who have disappointed this year, Jones has to be on that list. Though with that being said, he's really come on offensively in recent weeks.

The only thing wrong with Jeff's rankings was that he said Felix Pie provided the right handed pop Atkins couldn't. Pie is lefthanded.

I think his grades are fair. The problem with this team, besides the terrible RiSP numbers, is that while one or two guys are going good, three or four others are going bad. When the pitching is good, the hitters don't hit and when the hitters hit, the pitchers get hit. When the starters go six or seven strong, the bullpen gives it up, or when the starter gets knocked out in the third, the pen throws five scoreless.

If this team could only put it all together for a stretch and see what they can. We've seen glimpses of it, like the Texas series, or the five out of six string when the had all those comebacks. But until all facets of their game come together, this is what we're going to have. The talent is there, I'm convinced of that, they need a manager to bring it out of them. Let's hope Showalter is that guy.

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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks for head sup, Ken. They actually put the info for Jake Fox under Felix Pie's image. Either way, it's getting fixed.

Absolutely right on the button.

The organization has been shown to be in disarray, and with the minors / scouts underperforming it actually gives more concern for the future than the abysmal performance at the major league level.

Other than Samuel the whole organization acts like a blind squirrel, searching for an acorn.

With a .500 record for the last 24 games, it makes perfect predictable sense for this team to cut off Samuel at the knees before a management performance assessment can be OBJECTIVELY completed.

The only grade I'd quibble with is Weiters. I don't think I'd go so far as to give him an F, since he has improved defensively, but he has regressed at the plate since last year, and shows none of the power we expected. Maybe a D. Otherwise I think you got it about right given your criteria.
A bunch of "C" caliber players in the AL East is bound to get clobbered, and that's just what's been happening.

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Jeff Z's reply: I was torn between D or C- with Wieters. Ultimately, I took into account that he has improved defensively, specifically with his game calling, and bumped him up to C-. But I wouldn't quibble with a D for Wieters by any means.

How about grading Trembley and Samuel and the rest of the coaching staff? I'd be interested in the thoughts on that subject within your inter circle of friends and Oriole observers.

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Jeff Z's reply: We do midseason and end of season grades every year and it's something we've considered JB. But it's real tough to do. I'm not sure how I'd be able to grade the bullpen or first-base coach. I mean, would I judge Alan Dunn on the bullpen ERA and John Shelby on how many runners get picked off first base? It would be interesting and I'm not dismissing it but it would be difficult.

If I were to grade the O's I'd put them in academic probation and kick them out of MLB for continuous lack of improvement. Actually total disregard and disrespect for the game of baseball, the history of the team and what it has meant to the city. Shame on you Peter Angelos!

Jeff, is there any word from Angelos on how HE feels this season has gone?

I mean he is the owner and all, yet he rarely ever goes to games, is rarely ever at the Warehouse, and the last time he talked about the O's he said he "hoped they get their act together."

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Jeff Z's reply: It is not easy to get Peter to speak on the record about the state of the team. I've contacted him several times and he's declined comment. But I think it goes without saying that he's not pleased at all with how the season has gone.

Jeff:Any business is as good as it leaders from top to bottom.To grade players this year to look for an answer is ok but not accurate. Baltimore has been a losing operation for the past 14 years. it is a management problem.We have a losing attitude & reputation & that takes a lot of work to overcome that. Now we have Showwalter. Big deal. Lets get rid of McPhail, Bring in Cal As GM & let Dempsey manage. This would be a start on the winning modus operantis. Both of these men are winners & played the game hard. Bill Koch, BelAir

Very good report card. Individually they average a C. Put them together they rate an F .Need to greatly improve their team play. If they get on the same page, pitching, hitting, defense, more often then not, then they might win more games than they lose in the 2nd half.
Still a disappointing season. Been hard times for O's fans since Edward Bennet Williams bought the team, he was just as bad as Angelos.

Go O's!

Izturis might have given the team what we all expected, but a negative WAR is still worthy of at least a D.

A lot of B's and C's for a team that's a virtual lock to lose 100 games.

Jeff,
Great first half synopsis! I like the previous post suggestion to grade the coaching staff and perhaps Andy McPhail on free agency. My only comments are minor you gave Koji a D....He has been off and on the DL, and he can only pitch 1 inning every three days in moderate temperatures, and his most recent return has seen him get hit very easily.....F! I respect that Chris Tillman has not sulked on his demotions to AAA but not making the team out of Spring Training, and getting sent down twice already, his last start was superb but I would give him a D. Thanks for not being afraid to take a risk with your reporting!

Jeff, I consider your marks very fair and accurate. I think these performances in the context of the powerful American League East, without adequate/ consistent veteran batting support sets the stage for a long season. Add unexpected injuries to key veterans and the fans are always holding their breathe and hoping for miracle results.I n a real sense, The way things have occurred, the O's of 2010 are a AAA team under development but expected to be Yankee quality. Time will prove the quality of that plan but I worry that some of these young players will tire of the experiment and leave for greener pastures when they can. Winning and self worth are paid better premiums than loyalty to a team of the future. Mike Mussina keeps flashing in my head.
Good report I like your risk taking; LOOK FORWARD TO BETTER GRADES IN THE FUTURE at the end of the season.

I don't know how you can find Markakis's power numbers alarming. His SLG percentage is right in line with last year, and he's the best hitter in an abysmal offense. He's on pace to put up the 2nd-best OPS of his career. He deserved an A, but the rest of your grades are pretty fair, I'd say.

Overall, pretty good job. I would have given Ohman and Simon higher grades because along with Berken (they will blow his arm out in one year if they don't reduce his workload in the second half) they have saved this team from total disaster.

A couple of other things, I agree that player development and player assessment is below average for the league [the 2009 draft looks bad - can anyone tell me where the second pick, Givens, is playing] and I believe the second half will see these guys continuing to improve.

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Jeff Z's reply: Givens, if I recall correctly, had hand or wrist surgery and is currently out.

Izturis: F (Totally clueless, especially at the plate.)
Lugo: F (See Izturis.)
Moore: D (Defense is still killing the team.)
Tejada: D (Defensively looks like Matthew Perry's imitation of Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure.)
Wigginton: C (Didn't deserve the All-Star berth.)
Markakis: A (The only Orioles position player who actually knows what to do on the ballfield, especially with the bat.)
Patterson: C (Needs to work on his positive consistency.)
Tatum: B (A HUGE upgrade from Chad Moeller.)
Guthrie: F (Bug's the team's worst fielding pitcher.)
Albers: F (No improvement; still inconsistent.)
Hendrickson: F (See Albers.)
Johnson: F (No improvement.)
Meredith: F (There are reasons why he got faxed to Borneo.)
Simon: D (Just glad I'm not a nicotine addict.)
Ohman: C (Hasn't looked too well lately.)

I agree with the ratings.

But I have to give an "F" for the online presentation of the report card. 33 clicks?

"C-" for Adam Jones? I guess that Jeff expected him to hit .300, 40 homers, and 120 rbis and win another gold glove. He is on pace to hit almost .280 with 27 bombs, which far exceeds his career production.

I agree with the C--because he didn't produce in april or may, the season was lost. Forget that "on pace" stuff--you still only get one win per game.

Mid Season Numbers:
52-110 - Win/loss pace of the Baltimore Orioles after they ended the first half on a four game win streak.

17 for 30 - The success rate of Oriole closers this year.

The Orioles magic number is 102!

Jones plays sometimes like he's a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Mental errors, lack of hustle, etc.... don't know if that will ever be fixable. He should be pulled when he shows he's not into the game. We have extra outfielders who can play center. Maybe a slap in the face once in awhile will wake him.

mostly I agree, however Lugo should have a failing mark. either he is lazy or doesn't care, or both. I have watched him not run down the first base path far too many times to give him any sort of passing grade. he is exactly the type of veteran you DO NOT want your young players watching. When Showalter gets hired, I'll be extremely interested in watching his response to guys like Lugo when they just don't try. Here's betting he gets benched or released.

Great article. Glad to see you put the onus where it belongs - on the scouts and the player development people, not to mention Macphail. You should have given an F- to the teams medical and training staff. This number of injuries seem related to conditioning more than anything else. Finally, your mentioned Gonzales' injury being pre-existing. Isn't it normal for these signings to be conditional on passing a physical? Isn't this exactly the type of injury they look for. I hope the physical included more than asking him to cough.

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Jeff Z's reply: Yes, and you would think that a two-year, $12 million deal for a pitcher with a pretty extensive injury history would include MRIs on the elbow and shoulder.

When Buck Showalter arrives expect a housecleaning of the current roster and changes in our scouting thats so sorely needed as well. A lot of these guys will have their cages rattled because they have earned it.

Attila the Hon,

I think you need to stick to plundering and pillaging! I take exception to some of your grades and evaluations.

Gutherie is not our worst fielder.
That distinction belongs to Frank Mata.
As for Izzy. I think if we found a competent and legitimate 2nd baseman.
Izzy would be fine. This season has not risen and fallen on his shoulders.
How in the world can you poo poo Simon? That's right poo poo. I think the guy has great stuff with exception to his last save against the Rangers. I think his arm was tired. Other then that and two blown saves. He's been pretty good. If you think he causes stress, just check out some of " Lights Out" Lidge's performances for the phillies.
Miggy is ok, I don't really have a problem with him and Nick M has been consistent. I mean no one is going to confuse this Oriole team with the 27 yankees. But sakes alive you need to chill.

Articles like that are a lot of fun - thanks Jeff! I think most of the grades are spot on, but there's two I have issues with. Some O's fans have big time rose colored glasses for their favorite players. But I don't see how you can give Luke Scott a C when he was .139 w/RISP. If those were your expectations, he shouldn't have even been on the team. That performance rates an F if I ever saw one. The biggest reason this team is so much worse than just a losing team is that they just plain don't score runs. That's all about RBI failure. Like it or not, one of the worst guys on the team in that regard is Nick Markakis. Yes, I love the guy too, but look at his RBI total. It's pathetic. He has been anything but clutch this year.

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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks Cliff. I respectfully disagree, however, with Scott getting an F. His average with runners in scoring position is obviously not good but you can't totally judge him on one category, albeit an important one. His other numbers across the board are actually solid and before his injury, Scott appeared to be on his way to his best season as an Oriole. As for Markakis, he's hitting a more than respectable .316 with runners in scoring position so the low RBI total isn't toally his fault. Sure, it would be nice if he'd have a few more extra-base hits with runners in scoring position. It seems he's gotten a ton of singles with a runner on second and that runner hasn't scored. Some of it is on him, but the batters in front of him need to do a better job of getting on base and Patterson and Tejada have been lately.

Jeff,
I'm getting to this late in the game (day), but I wanted to toss in that I appreciate the effort on doing these grades. I know it was time-consuming with 33 guys to evaluate and calls to other team dudes to make. As a fan, it was fun. And some of the commenters were also fun to read. Look, at this point in this dismal year, I've got to find something that's fun; so midterms 2010 were pretty cool. Baseball is such a difficult game to play, and we've got all these kids trying to do it without enough quality veterans around to show them the way. I see that as the main reason for the W-L record. This team needs a No Child Left Behind program, and maybe then the potential within the kiddie pitching corps and the Weiters-Jones-Markakis nucleus can move up a grade or two.

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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks a lot, Bob.

Too many "gentlemen's C" grades for my liking.

If C=average how in the world is this team 30 games below .500 at present?

My main concern is that Adam Jones has million-dollar abilities, yet seems to display a 10-cent head both at the plate and in the field.

Still, the scouting and management areas of this franchise are rock-solid "F" performers and have been for quite some time.

Going through 33 clicks to see one grade at a time is too imposing on my patience with my work computer (small screen) or on my iPad.

Grades are always a difficult endeavor because one has to weigh productivity versus expected productivity. Atkins is an easy F because while many (me included) expected little from him, he still under-performed at an alarming rate.

Izturis is more difficult because his career productivity makes one believe he is basically a "C" player waiting to happen anyway. He has under-performed by either a little compared to realistic expectations (a C- is what I would give, too) or he has underperformed by a lot compared to what one might want from an everyday SS.

I don't know what grade Markakis received but he is another interesting study. I know from past observations, he has been mildly criticized for not providing more HRs from the #3 hole, but hitting the long ball was never his forté. His runs scored and runs batted in numbers are not great but I for one would forgive him for that given the lack of opportunities with people batting in front of him and the lack of protection he has behind him. To me, he is a B+ to A- player so he deserves a B from me.

This may not be popular but I would give Gonzalez an Incomplete. Yeah, his few performances were significant on a micro-scale but on a "mid-season" report, he was hardly around. His acquisition deserves an F, and that's only because no lower grade can be given (an effin F, perhaps?). His lack of activity regardless of what he said, how he felt, when he felt it, and how stinky it was -- and it was planty stinky -- gives him the ol' INC in my book.

Nice summary. I have 2 issues...

1) I agree that a text-only version would've been nice, to spare us 33 clicks and make it readable on hand-held devices.

2) Corey Patterson gets a higher grade than Nick Markakis?! Are you kidding?! I know you explained your reasoning... but come on Jeff!! Nick has ZERO protection in this lineup... yet still leads the majors in doubles, and is a respectable 15th with 103 hits. He also stepped to the forefront and took on a more vocal leadership role. If you're gonna peg him for his HRs... then go with an A- or B+. But NO outfielder on this team should be scored higher than he is. Sorry.

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Jeff Z's reply: Hey Eric, as I explained at least in the newspaper version, I didn't grade these guys in relation to any teammates. They are all separate cases. I also said I graded according to expectations, and Nick Markakis has pretty much done what I've expected him to do. He's better in some categories and worse in others, thus the B. Corey Patterson, however, was out of baseball when the Orioles called him earlier this year and offered him a minor league spot. They really didn't envision him helping out the big league club. Patterson obviously has a prior relationship with certain Oriole officials and MacPhail from Chicago, so they wanted to give him a place to work out and perhaps open some eyes. Instead, he came up and really sparked the club both with his legs and with his power. He deserves that grade and I would have given him an A had his defense in left not been so shaky. I'm not saying he's a B+ ballplayer and Markakis is a B. Obviously Nick is far better, but I was grading acording to expectations.

Jeff

More falls on MacPhail than even you mentioned.

The pro scouts told him NOT to sign Gonzalez but he did anyway.

A month later the Tigers signed Valverde.

MacPhail has made terrible move after terrible move and that's the main reason he presides over the worst team in the league.

McFAIL and the Orioles are synonymous with each other.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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