Robert Andino came into the season looking to be one of the team's back-up infielders. Injuries (JJ Hardy, Cesar Izturis, Brian Roberts) opened up spots though, and that allowed Andino to more than double his career total of plate appearances (adding 511). He took advantage too, by starting off the year hot (.382 wOBA the first month) and still ending up hitting non-terribly (.305 wOBA) despite his BABIP dropping off (from .417 in April to .311 overall).
Andino didn't display much pop, as usual, but cut his strike-out rate to 16% (his contact rate was a career high 85% - solidly above average) while also upping his walk rate to 8% (he showed more patience at the plate than he had previously, and didn't expand the zone too much). Those two factors helped keep his OBP at a slightly above average level, despite on overall line that didn't look too impressive (.264/.327/.344). That isn't awful production from someone playing second, third, and short almost every day (while seemingly not hurting the team defensively anywhere), which is how Andino ended up 5th on the O's in position player fWAR with 1.8 (bringing his career total to... 1.7). He also led the team in stolen bases with 13 (out of 16 attempts).
Given that he was unexpectedly called into regular duty, getting close to league average play from Andino seems like one of the few pleasantly surprising outcomes for the Orioles in 2011. It doesn't seem likely that he's going to develop into a starting caliber player, but having decently above replacement level production (with some versatility - he started two games in left-field as well) on the bench certainly isn't bad.
Tommy Hunter started out the year as a member of the Texas Rangers - well, their Triple-A affiliate anyway. When he was called up to the majors at the beginning of July, he was used exclusively as a reliever despite his past experience starting. The Orioles acquired him right before the trade deadline (with Chris Davis) in return for Koji Uehara. I didn't like the move - initially here, and then more here - in part because even though Hunter should provide the team with some value, there isn't much upside there (despite people being excited about him throwing 95 mph out of the pen and the team/announcers even referring to him as a building block).
After one relief appearance in Baltimore, the O's moved Hunter to the rotation. He ended up starting 11 games for the team, posting a 5.00 ERA, 4.71 FIP, and 4.38 xFIP in the process. His fastball velocity dipped some - from 92-93 to 90-92 - but was still better than the 89-91 of past seasons (we'll see if he can keep it up over a full season though). Even with the improved velocity, Hunter only managed to strike out 4.6 batters per nine as a starter (5.5 K/9 as a reliever), which actually isn't all that far below his career rate (5 K/9). None of his pitches miss many bats, so even when ahead in the count and going to the breaking stuff, he's not too likely to get the whiff.
Hunter's exceptional "control" - 1.3 BB/9 - got him through, but it's unlikely he can continue walking so few batters (career 2.3 BB/9). Part of the reason for the low walk totals was that batters went up to the plate hacking and rarely missed; only one starter in the majors (min. 50 IP) - Scott Baker - had batters swing at his pitches more often (over 51%), and Hunter's contact rate against was the 8th highest (over 88%). Hitters ended the at bats too early to draw many free passes. Could Hunter at least limit the hits on balls in play as he had throughout his career (.273 BABIP)? Nope... .313 BABIP; expecting the low BABIP to persist after only 250 IP isn't a great thing to bank on (it can happen - Hunter could become Jeremy Guthrie #2 - but it's not likely).
Overall, things went about as expected. Few K's, few walks, some home runs (1.5 HR/9, though a 11.5% HR/FB rate seems a touch high) - Hunter pitched like a serviceable back of the rotation guy. About 0.6 of his 0.8 total fWAR on the season was accumulated as a starter; over a full season that would put him at around 1.5 fWAR. That's not all that bad - and it's certainly solid return for a relief pitcher, given that Hunter isn't even in his arbitration years yet (I believe) - but it's not anything to get excited about (I'd gladly trade Hunter and Chris Davis for two good pitching prospects).
Looking back at the 2011 season, it seems like Brian Roberts was out all year. It's surprising to see that he actually accumulated almost 200 plate appearances. Roberts missed much of the 2010 season as well, but the big injuries there (mainly his back, but also the abdomen) looked mostly resolved. In a May game this year though, a head-first slide into first-base (trying to beat out an infield single - I hate that play) resulted in a return* of concussion-like symptoms that ended up keeping him out for the rest of the season (and it's unclear if he'll ever really be back).
* Brian also missed a bit of time at the end of last season due to a concussion when he hit himself in the head with a bat, so this incident may have built off of that one.
I thought Roberts might miss a little time with lingering issues from 2010, and have some decreased performance as a result, but things turned out oh so much worse:
Maybe things would have improved with a full season - probably - but Roberts didn't really produce even when on the field. He was less patient than usual, but kept from striking out by doing a better job of putting the bat on the ball (though his contact rate has always been quite good). The low BABIP is probably partially attributable to Robert hitting the ball in the air a ton (flyballs generally go for hits less often than groundballs), but a mark that low is almost surely due to quite a bit of poor fortune.
The home run power looked pretty normal (he was on pace for 9-10 in a full season), but the extra-base hits were still down (even accounting for the lower BABIP). Only 24% of Roberts' in-play hits ended up getting stretched to doubles and triples. For his career it's 29%, and in the couple years before his injury-marred 2010 it was 34-35%.
The base-stealing efficiency was still present (6 for 7), but he seemed to run less often; stolen base attempts over singles plus walks was 19% (the lowest that rate has been in a season for him; career it's 23%). That's good in my book - the extra base is probably not worth the increased injury risk*.
* Actually (calculation unitalicized for easier reading):
If a stolen base is worth about 0.20-0.25 runs on average, and Roberts is successful 80-85% of the time, then a stolen base attempt for him is worth around 0.18 runs. Assuming Roberts is a 2 win player over 150 games, then that's ~0.013 runs per game. If on a stolen base attempt his chances of injury are as follows: 25% chance of hitting the 15 day DL, 15% chance of missing a month, 7% chance of going on the 60 day DL, and 3% chance of missing 100 games, then the run value of the injury probability is about 0.19 (just a touch higher than the value of the base).
I somewhat doubt the actual injury risks are that high (50% total), so perhaps it's OK to roll the dice.
With only 1.6 fWAR over the last two seasons and a great deal of uncertainty about his future, Roberts' contract extension now looks much worse than almost anyone could have imagined (and it wasn't expected to turn out that well to begin with). The two years and $20 M left on it probably won't provide any significant return. Obviously, that's not the biggest issue though (and I imagine insurance will cover part of the deal anyway). Brian Roberts was a major part of the Orioles for many years, and the way things have gone recently is very unfortunate. Hopefully he can recover well enough for there not to be any serious lasting effects for him, even if he never makes it back onto a baseball field.
The news is now official; Andy MacPhail is leaving his post as the Orioles' General Manager. Who is going to replace him is still up in the air (Buck Showalter declined to move up, but that he will unfortunately have a strong hand in what the next GM will be doing). Instead of looking forward to prospective candidates - there are many who seem good, but we can't really know and, in any case, who can say if a potentially good hire will even be allowed to do what he needs to - I'm going to take a quick look back at MacPhail's tenure in Baltimore.
It seems like there has been progress in non-on-field related matters with the Orioles, but it's hard to judge the real affects of that and areas like player development surely have a long way to go. This is not a complete list of moves, but I tried to hit all the significant ones and the others should close to balance out.
The fWAR is the player's Wins Above Replacement as an Orioles (if he was added) or the fWAR he produced for another team for the time he would have been under the O's control. The $fWAR is the free agent market value of the fWAR. $ is the salary, and Net is the difference there, with the sign switched for players dealt (so if Miguel Tejada was overpaid by $2 M, then that's actually a plus to Andy MacPhail who moved him).
|Traded for Tommy Hunter||0.6||2.6||0.2||2.4|
|Traded for Chris Davis||-0.3||-1.2||0.2||-1.4|
|Dealt Koji Uehara||0.1||0.5||1||0.5|
|Traded for JJ Hardy||4.8||21.8||5.9||16.0|
|Traded for Brendan Harris||0.0||0.0||1.0||-1.0|
|Dealt Jim Hoey||-0.4||-1.7||0.4||2.1|
|Traded for Mark Reynolds||0.3||1.3||5.0||-3.7|
|Dealt David Hernandez||1.3||5.9||0.4||-5.5|
|Dealt Kam Mickolio||0.2||0.8||0.4||-0.4|
|Traded for Kevin Millwood||1.3||5.2||9.0||-3.8|
|Dealt Chris Ray||0.2||1.0||2.0||1.0|
|Traded for Josh Bell||-1.1||-4.6||0.5||-5.1|
|Dealt George Sherrill||-0.1||0.0||5.3||5.3|
|Traded for Rhyne Hughes||-0.1||-0.6||0.4||-1.0|
|Dealt Gregg Zaun||0.5||2.2||1.0||-1.2|
|Traded for Robert Andino||2.3||10.2||0.8||9.4|
|Dealt Hayden Penn||-0.2||-1.0||0.8||1.8|
|Traded for Felix Pie||-0.4||-2.1||1.8||-3.9|
|Dealt Garrett Olson||-1.1||-4.4||0.9||5.3|
|Traded for Ryan Freel||0.1||0.3||1.5||-1.2|
|Dealt Ramon Hernandez||-0.1||-0.3||7.5||7.8|
|Traded for Adam Jones||9.1||39.7||4.5||35.2|
|Traded for Chris Tillman||0.7||3.4||0.8||2.6|
|Traded for George Sherrill||1.4||6.2||2.9||3.3|
|Traded for Kam Mickolio||0.4||1.8||0.4||1.4|
|Dealt Erik Bedard||2.9||13.0||14.8||1.8|
|Traded for Luke Scott||6.0||25.7||13.3||12.4|
|Traded for Matt Albers||1.3||5.7||1.5||4.2|
|Traded for Troy Patton||0.5||2.4||0.8||1.6|
|Dealt Miguel Tejada||6.1||27.6||29.6||2.0|
The best trade, by a mile, is sending Erik Bedard to Seattle for Adam Jones (+$44 M overall for the O's). That was an easy slam-dunk at the time, and has pretty much turned out that way. Next is Miguel Tejada to Houston for (mostly) Luke Scott at +$20 M total. JJ Hardy was so good and was acquired so cheaply that after one year that deal is already +$17 M. Overall, the trades came out to +$86 M, so this has been an area of strength for MacPhail. No move that didn't look like an obvious win when it was made has turned out tremendously well, but at least there aren't any big clunkers.
|Signed Derrek Lee||0.5||2.1||5.0||-2.9|
|Signed Vlad Guerrero||0.0||0.0||8.0||-8.0|
|Signed Kevin Gregg||-0.3||-1.3||4.2||-5.5|
|Signed Miguel Tejada||-0.4||-1.6||5.1||-6.7|
|Signed Mike Gonzalez||0.8||3.3||11.0||-7.7|
|Signed Garrett Atkins||-1.1||-4.4||4.0||-8.4|
|Signed Corey Patterson||1.0||3.9||1.0||2.9|
|Signed Koji Uehara||4.2||18.2||13.0||5.2|
|Singed Mark Hendrickson||1.0||4.3||3.7||0.6|
|Signed Cesar Izturs||0.5||2.5||6.5||-4.0|
|Signed Ty Wigginton||-1.0||-4.4||6.0||-10.4|
|Signed Gregg Zaun||0.8||3.8||1.0||2.8|
|Extended Brian Roberts||1.6||6.4||20.0||-13.6|
|Extended Nick Markakis||7.1||30.9||20.0||10.9|
Bringing Koji Uehara aboard - and then bringing him back - was a good move. Otherwise it's mostly a mess. The total is -$45 M. The JJ Hardy extension looks like it'll be good, but I imagine what's left of Brian Roberts' and Kevin Gregg's contracts will more than wipe that away (only through 2011 is included here). Nick Markakis was been plus, but he would have been under team control for this time anyway (so one could fairly disregard the +$11 M there), and I assume that if Andy MacPhail can go back he wouldn't have guaranteed a somewhat above average player $66 M.
Overall, Andy MacPhail's tenure has been OK but not particularly fantastic. That probably sums it up for everything (not just the signings and trades). One could say he got the Orioles out of the ditch, but the car isn't really running yet. Hopefully whoever is hired to replace him takes the next step (or three).
And finally, the MVP. A lot of guys had great years, so the ordering is really not set in stone by any means.
10. Ben Zobrist, 2B, TBR
.269/.353/.469, 6.6 fWAR, 5.1 brWAR
A good fielding second-baseman who walks, hits for some power, and plays virtually everyday.
9. Evan Longoria, 3B, TBR
.244/.355/.495, 6.1 fWAR, 6.3 brWAR
The .239 BABIP brought his line down, and yet he still could have had an argument for being the MVP if he hadn't missed a month of the season. Any one season of his career would be enough to justify the entirety of the guarenteed money on his contract.
8. Alex Gordon, LF, KCR
.303/.376/.502, 6.9 fWAR, 5.9 brWAR
KC finally just stuck him in left and let him play, and boy were the results a pleasant surprise. This was the kind of season people expected from Gordon when he was a top prospect. We'll see if he's really a plus defensive outfielder and if he can maintain his .358 BABIP.
7. Curtis Granderson, CF, NYY
.262/.364/.552, 7.0 fWAR, 5.2 brWAR
He lead the league in runs scored and RBI - as a lead-off hitter. The defensive numbers didn't love him though; but still an amazing season.
6. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, BOS
.338/.410/.548, 6.6 fWAR, 6.9 brWAR
He moves from Petco to Fenway and hits his fewest homers (27) since 2006. Go figure. The .380 BABIP helped save his batting line, but was that comes down next year there's a good chance the power with come back more. And his .406 wOBA was a career high this year to begin with.
5. Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX
.255/.355/.477, 7.7 fWAR, 5.4 brWAR
There's a fair chance Michael Young finishes ahead of him in the actual MVP voting, which would be a shame. Kinsler managed to stay healthy all year, and put up his second 30-30 season while flashing some leather in the field. One of the game's more underrated players.
4. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS
.307/.387/.474, 8.0 fWAR, 6.8 brWAR
Kinsler minus some power and speed, but with about 80 points of BABIP this year (.325 to .243). Was even better than in his MVP season ('08).
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET
.344/.448/.586, 7.3 fWAR, 7.1 brWAR
Only 28 years old and already has almost 44 career fWAR. Just an absolute monster at the plate.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, BOS
.321/.376/.552, 9.4 fWAR, 7.2 brWAR
He had 20 home runs, career, coming into 2011 (29 counting the minors, going back through 2006). Ellsbury hit 32 this year. Who saw that one coming?
1. Jose Bautista, RF, TOR
.302/.447/.608, 8.3 fWAR, 8.5 brWAR
Only hit 43 homers after 2010's 54, but his BABIP rose 75 points so his .441 wOBA eclipsed last year's .421. Bautista walked in over 20% of his plate appearances (without even leading the majors in intentional walks), and was tops in baseball in that as well as other offensive categories (homers, ISO, SLG, wOBA, wRC+). He has a good claim on being the best player in baseball (or, at least, the best hitter).
Quick NL Ballot:
10. Shane Victorino
9. Albert Pujols
8. Prince Fielder
7. Andrew McCutchen
6. Justin Upton
5. Jose Reyes
4. Troy Tulowitzki
3. Joey Votto
2. Ryan Braun
1. Matt Kemp
Now we move to the AL's best pitchers. No surprises at the top.
5. CJ Wilson, TEX
2.94 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, 5.9 fWAR, 5.0 brWAR
Amazing that he was a reliever just a couple years ago. Even improved his control this year, getting his BB/9 below 3.
4. Jered Weaver, LAA
2.41 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 5.6 fWAR, 6.6 brWAR
Starter the year off on a tear (0.99 ERA in April), but a FIP around 4.50 over the last couple months dropped him down (he gave up 12 homers in August/September, and 8 total the other four months).
3. Dan Haren, LAA
3.17 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 3.29 xFIP, 6.4 fWAR, 4.0 brWAR
Had a quietly great season; his 7th straight with over 200 IP (and at least 4 fWAR).
2. CC Sabathia, NYY
3.00 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 3.02 xFIP, 7.1 fWAR, 6.9 brWAR
Upped his strike-out rate substantially, after two seasons of drop. Not a bad time for it, as CC can opt out of his contract with New York - though I'm not sure turning down $92 M over four years is the best idea.
1. Justin Verlander, DET
2.40 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, 7.0 fWAR, 8.6 brWAR
Dude was hitting 100+ mph well after his 100th pitch against the Yankees in the playoffs. I don't think he's the MVP (I prefer to let pitchers just have their own award), but you could certainly make the argument. The 24-5 record has people going a little ga-ga over him, but Verlander did have a fantastic season.
Quick NL Ballot:
5. Cole Hamels, PHI
4. Ian Kennedy, ARI
3. Cliff Lee, PHI
2. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
1. Roy Halladay, PHI
With the regular season over, it's getting close to awards time now. Start things off with the AL Rookie of the Year:
3) Mark Trumbo, 1B, LAA
.254/.291/.477, 29 homers, 2.3 fWAR, 2.1 brWAR
The low OBP kills me, and this could easily be Brett Lawrie (2.7 fWAR), Dustin Ackley (2.7 fWAR), or Desmond Jennings (2.4 fWAR). None of them played in even 100 games though. Though really, that just helps their cases (since on a rate basis that makes them even better versus Trumbo - oh well).
2) Zach Britton, SP, BAL
4.61 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 4.12 xFIP, 2.5 fWAR, 1.3 brWAR
A left-handed groundball pitcher with Mark Reynolds at third? Brutal. Sure there's probably some home-town bias here. Sue me.
1) Michael Pineda, SP, SEA
3.74 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 3.53 xFIP, 3.4 fWAR, 2.8 brWAR
K/9 over 9, BB/9 under 3 - exactly 5 qualified starters did that this year; Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, and Pineda. Pretty good company.
Quick NL ballot:
3. Wilson Ramos, C, WAS
2. Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL
1. Danny Espinosa, 2B, WAS