Monday, May 5, 2008

No Offense Intended

The O's offense has been sputtering this season, so I wanted to take a look at it position by position.

C: Ramon Hernandez - .198/.232/.374, with 3 HR. His .204 EqA is awful, and his RARP (Runs Above Replacement, Position-adjusted. A statistic that compares a hitter's Equivalent Run total to that of a replacement-level player who makes the same number of outs and plays the same position.) of -2.4 ranks him 55th (if I counted right) amongst MLB catchers - just ahead of Colt Morten (who?) and 29 spots behind Guillermo Quiroz. Kenji Johjima is actually last. Ramon is hitting line drives at a 22.6% rate, so his BABIP, which is at .185, should be up closer to .346. He is also hitting the ball in the air more, so the home run totals should be up from last year. That he has lost some patience (only 10 walks and 3.5 pitches per plate appearance - down from 3.7) are somewhat concerning, but things should get better as the hits start dropping in.
2008 Marcel: .270/.330/.430. ["The Marcels are a simple way of calculating a player forecast...they simply consist of averaging a player's previous experience (with greatest weight on the most recent years) and regressing to the major league average depending on the number of years the player has been in the majors. This is done for each component (home runs, doubles, walks, etc.) A simple aging factor is applied, but no park factor...We have included them in our player pages because we think they provide the best, most accessible baseline to compare to a player's actual performance during the year. " - HardballTimes] They Marcels aren't that accurate for players without much experience.

1B: Kevin Millar - .214/.285/.342, 4 HR. EqA - .214, awful. RARP is at -3.6, which is 39th among first baseman and is third from last (Adam LaRoche). The LD% is only 16.2, but that means his BABIP of .221 is still below the expected rate of .282. His HR / fly ball is right where it was last year, but he isn't getting the ball in the air as much as he was before. After seeing an increasing number of pitches per plate appearance in recent years, that number has dropped down to 3.8 this year. Millar's walk rate is also down from last year, but it was to be expected some. It is common for an aging player's walks to go down after a spike (he walked a lot more last year than he had previously) as the player uses them to compensate for diminishing skills, while the opposition figures out that that is what's happening. The average should come up a bit, but it looks like the OBP won't be at .365 again.
2008 Marcel: .260/.350/.410.

2B: Brian Roberts - .266/.352/.435, 3 HR. EqA - .278, solid but not outstanding by any means. RARP of 7.7 has him third (Dustin Pedrioa is at 7.8, and Chase Utley is destroying the competition at 26.4). Robby Cano has actually been really bad (last at -8.8; Jayson Nix is next to last at -4.2). His BABIP is fine at .294, but still below the .351 implied by his 23.1 LD%. Everything else is pretty standard for Roberts, and once a few more hits drop in he should be where he usually is.
2008 Marcel: .290/.370/.440.

3B: Melvin Mora - .258/.306/.411, 4 HR. EqA - .232. RARP of -0.4 ranks him 34th among third baseman, below the immortal Matt Brown (anybody know what team he plays for?) but more than 10 spots ahead of last (that's something, at least). Ryan Zimmerman is next to last at -4.3, with a tough (unlucky) start to 2008. His .272 BABIP should be about .303 (where it's been the last few years) but he isn't going to see too many home runs if he keeps hitting the ball on the ground so much (46.2% - up from about 40% recently). His walks (and K's) are down, and he too is seeing less pitches this year. Mora is clearly in his decline, but I don't think he'll completely fall of a cliff this year, even if he is sub-par for a third baseman.
2008 Marcel: .270/.340/.410.

SS: Luis Hernandez - .246/.304/.262. EqA - .221. RARP of 0.1 actually has him 27th out of 47 shortstops. Just to continue the pattern, his LD% of 16.4 implies a BABIP of .284; his is at .268, which isn't a big difference but he's still been a bit unlucky. He's hitting the ball on the ground way too much to see any power, but the 3.7 pitches / PA is nice, as are the 6 walks. If he would be playing the defense that was advertised, then it wouldn't be such a problem to keep him in the line-up. I kind of want to see if he can finish the year with an OBP above his SLG.
2008 Marcel: .290/.340/.430 (everybody can have a good laugh at this one - if the Pelican out slugs Jones I'll eat my own hat).

LF: Luke Scott - .283/.365/.413, 1 HR. EqA - .276. RARP of 3.7 places him 16th, and 20 spots ahead of Jay Payton (-0.6). This is the first guy who has been lucky, as his .362 BABIP should be .320. He's hit only 3.8% of fly balls over the fence, which has to go up (16.2% last year). Though he is still seeing 4 pitches / PA, Luke's walks are down. If that doesn't improve, then once his BA goes down it'll really drag the OBP down with it. I'm just waiting for the power to show up - hopefully the platoon with Jay Payton (and that's what it is, even if nobody admits it) ends soon.
2008 Marcel: .270/.360/.490.

CF: Adam Jones - .239/.282/.376, 2 HR. EqA - .240. RARP of 0.5 for 30th, a spot behind Jeff Fiorentino and two ahead of Corey Patterson. What's left of Andruw Jones is in last. His BABIP of .289 is a little below where it should (.310) be given the 19 LD%, but it's not so bad. He's only hitting home runs on 5.8% of fly balls, which will go up, but the 3.7 pitches / PA and 6 walks to 25 K's aren't good. Once the power starts coming he should be able to draw a few more walks, but things aren't great right now.
2008 Marcel: .270/.330/.410.

RF: Nick Markakis - .273/.403/.473, 5 HR. EqA - .307, which is pretty good. RARP of 9.2 has him just 8th, but he's behind guys like Eric Hinske and Xavier Nady, who aren't going to keep hitting this well. He's been just a little lucky on balls in play (BABIP of .312 to .301 expected - I thought that Nick would hit more line-drives than he does). He's showing more power this year (HR/FB of 17.9% to around 12.2% career) and despite seeing just as many pitches as he had before (3.8 per PA) is walking much more. The strike-outs are also way up, but I'll accept that as the price of an increased OBP and more home runs. That he has more HR than doubles is surprising thus far, and I expect that to change going forward. If he is going to hit .280/.400/.500 instead of .300/.380/.480 then I am all for it.
2008 Marcel: .300/.380/.480.

DH: Aubrey Huff - .277/.352/.482, 5 HR. EqA - .280. RARP is 5.1, placing him 4th among DHs and pinch hitters. Seattle has a second player bringing up the rear at his position, with Jose Vidro being last in this category. His LD% is down all the way to 14.4, which means that his .306 BABIP will be coming down. He is the one Oriole really staying in at bats, seeing 4.2 pitches / PA. That's resulting in more walks and K's, but he hasn't slugged .482 since 2004 so I'll take it.
2008 Marcel: .270/.340/.440.

Just to rank the players by VORP:
Huff: 9.4
Kakes: 8.9
Roberts: 8.4
Luke: 3.5
Mora (and Quiroz): 0.8
Payton: 0.2 (and behind Scott)
Jones: - 0.5
Pelican: - 0.6
Ramon: - 3.6
Millar: - 3.9
There are some other guys in there, but only seven players are above zero. Exactly half of the players to get an at bat with the team this year have produced below replacement level.

Only Roberts, Markakis, and Huff are hitting really well. Luke Scott has been OK, but the other players have produced poorly compared to others at their positions (and in general). On the bright side, many of those performing poorly have been unlucky with balls in play. That implies that as things even out, the team should see an increase in offense overall, even if a couple of players do a little worse. I was expecting higher walk rates than others had predicted going into this year, but so far I have been sadly mistaken. If they can work the count a bit better, then when the hits start to to drop in this team will be able to score some runs.

It's been the much maligned pitching (and defense) that has kept this team going, led by Jim Johnson (9.8 VORP), Brian Burres (8.3), Daniel Cabrera (6.9), and Matt Albers (6.5). With Adam Loewen (-4.9) and Greg Aquino (-6.2) gone for now, and Steve Trachsel (-7.6) likely to follow soon, the team might be able to hang around until the bats heat up.

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