Thursday, July 8, 2010

MacPhail's moves not paying off

Before the current MLB season started, the general consensus was that the Orioles were going to be better -- probably not a whole lot better, but at least improved. Last year the O's were 64-98 and finished in fifth place in the AL East, and many figured that the O's would play better this season and at least move out of the AL East gutter and possibly finish in fourth place. Right now, the O's are 25-59 and 16.5 games behind fourth-place Toronto and a whopping 28 games behind the first-place Yankees.

Now, the O's weren't supposed to compete for a title or anything by any means, but they were supposed to be showing signs of at least some improvement by this point. Several things, including injuries, youth, and overall poor play, have prevented that from happening, but the O's also haven't received much help from Andy MacPhail's offseason moves.

Just as a refresher, here are the offseason moves the O's made. Let's take a closer look at those moves:

Mike Gonzalez: Gonzalez has been dealing with a strained left shoulder since early April, and he has only appeared in three games. But in those few games he was terrible, giving up four earned runs in two innings and blowing two saves. He did save one game, though, so he had one OK performance (even though he allowed a hit and walked two batters in that inning). In his brief time on the mound, Gonzalez displayed a lack of control and decreased velocity, which obviously were reasons for the DL stint. There's still time (the rest of this season and next) for Gonzalez to help the O's bullpen out, but if he can't stay healthy and regain his pitching form, the O's wasted $12 million AND the No. 52 overall pick in the draft on Gonzalez.

Miguel Tejada: The O's brought Tejada back with a one-year, $6 million deal -- a decent gamble for a team without many corner infield options. Tejada was both willing to come back to Baltimore and move from shortstop to third base, so the move made sense (if not for the whole Garrett Atkins signing). Unfortunately, Tejada just hasn't played that well. Considering the position change, Tejada is doing a decent job at third, I guess, but he's still playing defense at a below-average level, with a -3.0 UZR at this point. He has a great arm, but sometimes he relies too heavily on it to make plays. At the plate, Tejada hasn't been much better: .277/.310/.370 with six homers and 33 RBI. Since he doesn't walk (3.1 BB%) or strike out much (9.3 K%), Tejada obviously puts the ball in play a lot. But he's not hitting for much power (his ISO is down to .093) and is hitting fewer line drives (18.5%) than the last two seasons (23.4% and 20.3%, respectively). One main problem: Tejada is chasing too many pitches out of the zone (37.2% O-Swing%). If he finishes the season with that number, it'll be the highest of his career. Tejada currently has been worth 0.2 wins above replacement (WAR) and $0.9 million -- so he's been slightly above replacement level. Still, that's not very good for someone who's been slotted in the No. 2 hole in the lineup for a few months now. If Josh Bell is still on the roster in a few weeks, there's no reason why the O's shouldn't give him more of a chance than Tejada, who probably doesn't deserve to be brought back next season.

Kevin Millwood: The Rangers sent Millwood and $3 million in cash to the O's in exchange for Chris Ray (and Rule 5 pick Ben Snyder). On the surface, the move made sense: The O's needed a veteran pitching presence to go alongside Jeremy Guthrie, and if Millwood pitched well the O's could possibly trade him to another team for something of value. Millwood's deal also expires after this season, so even if he pitched poorly, he wouldn't be a salary burden. Unfortunately, after a solid start, Millwood's numbers have dipped recently, and the O's just placed him on the DL with a strained right forearm. At the moment, here are Millwood's numbers: 2-8, 5.77 ERA, 84 K, 35 BB. Overall, his strikeouts are up and his walks are slightly down; he's also been a little unlucky (.344 BABIP). Still, opposing batters are hitting the ball hard off of him (23.0 LD%), and he's not getting as many ground balls as usual. He has room to improve -- his HR/FB ratio of 14.8% probably won't stay that high -- but he'll have to show that he's healthy if the O's are going to be able to trade him.

Garrett Atkins: The Atkins signing has already been covered. It was an awful move, but at least he's gone now.

Mark Hendrickson: The O's brought Hendrickson back after a decent 2009 season with a one-year, $1.4 million contract. Oddly enough, he's arguably pitching better this season despite having an ERA of 5.52. His strikeouts are up and his walks are down from last season (when he finished with a 4.37 ERA), and he's also allowing fewer home runs. Hendrickson's problem, despite allowing a few more line drives, is that he's been unlucky (.367 BABIP). If that number was closer to his career BABIP of .315, his numbers would probably be similar to last season's, or even better. Hendrickson hasn't been great, but he's almost reached the value of his contract ($1.1 million according to FanGraphs, at least) with some room for improvement.

Will Ohman: The O's signed Ohman to a minor league deal, and so far it's paid off. Ohman's strikeouts are up and his walks are down, and he's put together a solid 2.84 ERA so far as the team's late-game situational lefty. He's probably pitching a little over his head, but the O's just may be able to flip him for a decent prospect. Hopefully they don't wait too long to do so.

Craig Tatum: Tatum was claimed off of waivers from the Reds, and he's been a competent backup to Matt Wieters. Tatum is hitting .229/.327/.271 in limited duty, and he's played pretty good defense behind the plate -- a necessary attribute for a backup catcher. According to FanGraphs, Tatum has been worth 0.1 WAR and $0.5 million, and since that doesn't factor in his defense behind the plate, he's probably been worth slightly more.

So that's basically it, besides the decision to bring back Scott Moore with a minor league deal and to pick up Julio Lugo because of injury concerns with Brian Roberts. Lugo has been terrible (-0.3 WAR), but the O's basically received him for nothing. It's funny that the only deals that are paying off are for guys like Hendrickson, Ohman, and Tatum, which were all low-risk moves. Instead, the major signings/moves for Gonzalez, Tejada, Millwood, and Atkins haven't given the O's much of anything to this point, and when actually factoring in their value to the O's this season, those four have a combined WAR of -0.5. Atkins and his -1.1 WAR obviously weigh that group down, but that's not exactly the best way to spend over $25 million ($6 million for Gonzalez this year, $6 million for Tejada, $9 million for Millwood after subtracting the $3 million received from the Rangers, and $4.5 million for Atkins).

If the O's are going to eventually compete in the next few years, there's no question that the team's young talent is going to have to start producing. But the O's can't make the kind of mistakes they did this past offseason and expect to be a whole lot better.

Stats/info via FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

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