Friday, March 18, 2011

BORT Triple Play: 3/18/11

Highlighting three posts, articles or stories you should be reading this week...

1. Crawdaddy of Camden Depot continues to examine the effects of hGH and steroids in sports by, you know, checking studies done by doctors and scientists instead of sportswriters and congressional leaders. In other words, people who might actually know something.

Somewhat blind assumptions, halo effects, and mob mentality tend to shape an uninformed perspective more so than what experts say is likely or know to be true...a study that surprised me was a study that consisted of telling participants various surprising facts.  These facts were differentiated in that some were attributed to "experts" and others were just given.  Participants were more likely to accept surprising facts from non-expert sources.  So . . . maybe there is a fourth effect, which is perhaps a societal suspicion of scientific literature, which I think would be largely due to a misunderstanding of the scientific method.  People often want definitive answers and there are awfully few laws in science.  Anyway, this is going on a tangent.

However, with all that being said . . . that players are using something to give them a competitive edge is a great reason to investigate on the efficacy of the treatment.  Sometimes lacking a full comprehension of something does not prevent someone from discovering something new.  What many baseball players have become are alchemists.  Alchemy had its usefulness as it encouraged the works of many, such as Isaac Newton and Paracelsus.  It also fostered some silly beliefs such as all things could be turned into gold.  So, it may be that baseball players and others have actually hit gold on hGH.

Craw goes on to summarize and draw together some studies on the effectiveness of hGH and PED's and comes to a more informed conclusion than 99% of baseball writers, fans and sanators on this issue. If only people were more apt to resist the hysteria surrounding this issue, they might learn that hGH (at least) is not the bogeyman it's been made out to be.

2. Continuing to highlight BORT contributors, The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel did a Q&A with Dan from Camden Crazies about various Oriole subjects yesterday:

Baltimore is blessed with a bunch of talented sports bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. I often link up to these local writers in my morning Coffee Companion posts, but instead of just exchanging anti-social links with them, I have decided to be slightly less anti-social by exchanging emails with them in a somewhat regular feature called Blogger on Blogger.

Although I've seen bloggers highlighted by The Sun before, I can't recall a long form forum like this before. Vensel asks good questions and Dan, as he always does, gives thorough, thoughtful, informed answers. I like the format. I'm not sure it has legs in the long run but it's a good feature and one that I haven't seen in mainstream Oriole coverage before.

3. Andrew_G of Camden Chat wonders why the Orioles can't seem to get something going with their international scouting.

One of the criticisms of the Orioles off season this year has been that their increased spending efforts on the major league roster prohibits them from spending more money on amateur players. A lot of the regulars on this very website have scoffed at that notion, and with good cause. The $8 million that Peter Angelos is paying to Vlad Guerrero was obviously not being taken out of what he plans on paying for the newly drafted Orioles this summer. There is no reason to believe that the budget for the roster and the budget for the draft are directly related in the Orioles set-up...

Of course, Andy MacPhail will be the first person to tell you how important spending on the draft is and that the Baltimore Orioles, over the past three years, have spent more on draftees than all but three teams (which unfortunately includes the Boston Red Sox). It would be a huge surprise to see the Orioles spend even a penny less on the 2011 draft than they did in 2010...

There is, however, another story to tell about amateur spending that isn't nearly as kind to Andy MacPhail and the Baltimore Orioles...

It will be interesting to see how MacPhail's strategy plays out and Andrew delves into that quite a bit. He is spending in the draft and that may yet bear fruit but as I've said and as Crawdaddy has also shown this week, there can be merit in even moderate spending internationally, even if you don't want to jump into the high stakes bidding.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fans Interested in Cheaters, Not Cheating

Yesterday, ESPN published an article on how Americans view PEDs:

New research conducted for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency finds that Americans rank the use of performance-enhancing drugs as the most serious problem facing sports today.

The USADA commissioned a study that surveyed about 9,000 Americans -- including adults, children, athletes, coaches and teachers -- to measure the impact sports has on values and culture in the U.S.
Strangely enough, of the last ten posts I published, my human growth hormone (hGH) post was by far the least viewed.  It brings up an interesting point though.  I think baseball fans are much more interested in being upset with pharmacological cheating than with the actual effects of pharmacological cheating.  I find this disappointing because the conversations would be much more interesting than the silly teeth gnashing we currently endure.

In a pure ethical sense, I can understand demonizing all cheating.  However, there is a difference between cheating and getting no advantage vs. cheating and getting an advantage.  Maybe that difference is merely a practical one, but I think that needs to be acknowledged.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Orioles Line-Up With Platoon Splits

With the roster projections more or less done, I thought I'd update the line-up post I did previously with platoon splits. This uses each player's career numbers and then regresses (with righties expected to have a slightly smaller split than lefties).

Player Projected wOBA
Overall vs. LHP vs. RHP
Matt Wieters .324 .311 .330
Derrek Lee .340 .358 .335
Brian Roberts .335 .319 .342
Mark Reynolds .342 .361 .335
JJ Hardy .318 .337 .311
Luke Scott .355 .332 .362
Adam Jones .337 .343 .334
Nick Markakis .361 .342 .370
Vlad Guerrero .346 .363 .340

I don't have it weighted by plate appearances, but the overall marks for the team seem pretty even versus righties or lefties (~.340 for both).

Wieters and Roberts - despite being switch-hitters - have been more like lefties in their careers. Because of that, it's entirely possible that batting Roberts lead-off against south-paws isn't the right move, though the last couple years he has been better versus them than against righties. Adam Jones has a fairly large reverse split for his career (.300 wOBA vs. LHP, .338 wOBA vs. RHP), but regressing makes it go the other way slightly.

Assuming Roberts is locked into the one spot (and if Brian can't go, I agree with Heath that Cesar Izturis shouldn't be batting above 8th ever, if even that high), the line-ups could shake out like this:

Against right-handed pitchers:

Brian Roberts
Nick Markakis
Vlad Guerrero
Luke Scott
Derrek Lee
Adam Jones
Mark Reynolds
Matt Wieters
JJ Hardy

Guerrero, Lee, Jones, and Reynolds are all more or less interchangeable (and Wieters isn't that far off). Batting Reynolds third to leverage his home runs might be a plus, but I can't see Buck not having Vlad somewhere in the middle there. Roberts-Markakis-blank-Scott definitely looks like the correct alignment versus righties. Actually, putting Felix Pie in left-field (.319 wOBA overall, .325 versus righties) and moving Luke Scott to DH might not be a bad idea, as the difference in batting between Felix and Vlad versus right-handed pitchers is only ~8 runs over 600 PA, while the difference in defense between Pie and Scott in left is close to that.

Against left-handed pitchers:

Brian Roberts
Derrek Lee
Mark Reynolds
Vlad Guerrero
Nick Markakis
Adam Jones
JJ Hardy
Luke Scott
Matt Wieters

Though switching Markakis and Lee wouldn't be too awful, and would keep the top of the line-up more "normal" looking, it isn't necessarily optimal (despite many people think Nick handles lefties exceptionally well, his regressed platoon split is only a little better than average). Relievers show up in most games though, so not making huge changes is possibly for the best. And I can't see Hardy being above Scott in the line-up regardless, but with the difference between the two being small I assume Luke would be a spot or two higher.

With Brian Roberts in Limbo, A Way to Cushion the Blow

With Brian Roberts in and out of the lineup this spring, you can't help but be concerned for the offensive prospects of the Orioles this season. There are plenty of mistakes to be made when considering who to bat leadoff should Roberts not be available for the regular season.

Unfortunately, many managers overvalue speed and base running ability when choosing a leadoff hitter. They seem to forget that none of that means much unless the leadoff man.

Can you imagine the team batting Cesar Izturis in the leadoff spot for a significant portion of the season and how damaging that would be to the offense? Before you start to think that batting Izturis leadoff is so ridiculous that no manager would do it, consider this breakdown of Izzy's career and where he and his career .296 OBP have hit in the lineup:

He has hit leadoff more than he has hit 9th or 8th individually. And he's batted 2nd quite a lot too. There are enough managers out there with big league jobs who looked at Izzy and said, "That's a guy I need at the top of my lineup." It has happened and can happen. When you lose a player who embodies the classic leadoff hitter like Roberts, there is an enormous opportunity to do something stupid.

And it can lead to disaster. To demonstrate, using the Lineup Analysis tool at Baseball Musings, I created a probable and pretty traditional lineup with Brian Roberts at the top of the order.

That lineup will score you 5.127 runs per game or 830 runs over the course of the season.

Now, place Cesar Izturis in the leadoff spot and you get 4.877 runs per game or 790 runs per season. In 2010, that difference would have been enough to drop your offense from second in the American League to sixth.

Here's a quick list of the internal "traditional" options and what happens when each of them bats leadoff:

R/G   Total Runs
Izturis   4.88      790
Andino    4.90      795
Hardy     4.92      797
Harris    4.95      801

(In the Hardy leadoff scenario, Izturis is also batting 9th...)

However, leave Izturis in the lineup (he is the most likely to play second base if Roberts can't, at least to start the season) but try a different configuration.

I have recently become more strident in my assertion that Nick Markakis has the skills to be a prototypical leadoff hitter. Let's give him a shot here. And instead of a guy in the 2 hole who "is a good bunter" or "can move the runner along", let's put a decent hitter there. A guy like Luke Scott who can get on base at a fair rate and actually drive in the leadoff man.

That lineup will get you 805 runs for the season. Even choosing the worst possible offensive option at second base, with Markakis and Scott at the top of the lineup, it beats every other option available.

The loss if Roberts will still hurt but it can be mitigated if you assess the skills of the players in your lineup correctly and construct your lineup doesn't have to be a disaster. Now we'll see if Buck can navigate his way through the pitfalls.

For more analysis, news and general musings about the Baltimore Orioles, visit Dempsey's Army...