2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Baltimore Orioles

The tour makes its last stop in an American League stadium in Baltimore.  It must be frustrating to be an Orioles fan.  Listing off what the Orioles have done in the past few years sounds like a record on repeat (4th, 4th, 4th, 4th…)
Record: 69-93, 4th in AL East (see there it is again)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 70.22 wins (756 runs scored, 868 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
MVN Blog:
Oriole Magic
More Orioles Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status 
Trade Rumors
Overview: If the rumor is true, then Cal Ripken is trying to step in to save the Orioles.  For the Orioles’ sake, he’d be best advised to grab a glove.  Melvin Mora played third last year.
What went right: Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts are really good players and the Orioles are really lucky to have them.  (What’s that?  Oh… yes I see.  Seattle?  The Cubs?  What do you mean it’s not exactly done?)  Well, the Orioles were lucky to have had them.  Erik Bedard has managed to string together a high strike out rate, low walk rate, high groundball rate, low line drive rate, and nary a speck of luck on the BABIP and HR/FB front.  In other words, if you liked what you saw this year, prepare for more of it.  Almost 11 K’s per nine innings.  Roberts is more of the fantasy heartthrob because he steals bases, although a second baseman with an .808 OPS is a nice luxury to have around.
If there is a medal that the Orioles give out for consecutive games played (wonder after whom that one could be named…) it would go to Nick Markakis who appeared in the first 161 games of the season for the Orioles and then sat out the season-ender.  At 24, most guys are content with being the best guy on their AA team.  This year, assuming Roberts actually finally moves to Chicago, he’ll probably be the best player on his Major League team.  I suppose I could tell you why he’s Sabermetrically very good and how he’s going to get even better (because that’s what guys in their early 20s do).  Someone pointed out that Bill James (I think…) did a study that said if a player at 23 is holding down a regular MLB job, he has a 1/3 chance of becoming a Hall of Fame player.  At 23, Markakis was putting up All-Star calibre numbers.
Also, the Orioles would make a great fantasy team.  What do fantasy owners spend their nights doing?  Worrying about stolen bases.  The Orioles, thanks to Corey “I can run but not do much else” Patterson, Roberts, and Markakis stole 144 bases and led the American League.  Huzzah!
What went wrong: The Orioles had the idea that if they threw a lot of money at some good middle relievers, this would solve their problems.  They brought in Chad Bradford (who had a pretty good season with some bad luck), Jamie Walker (who had a pretty good season with some good luck) and Danys Baez… who… had an OK season.  They laid out 3-4 year contracts for these guys figuring that they would repeat their past glories.  And they still finished fourth.  It’s not that a strong bullpen isn’t an asset, simply that it’s hard to leverage it into a lot of wins.  There was also the problem that Chris Ray got hurt and that the Orioles also had 8(!) guys pitch at least 10 appearances in relief who were functioning below replacement level for relievers.
What the heck happened to Miguel Tejada?  His OBP has been fairly steady over the past few years, but his power stats (SLG, ISO, HR/FB) have been trending downward and he’s progressively begun hitting more and more ground balls.  He seems like a guy whose muscles are withering away.  (…What?)  And now he’s Houston’s problem.
Yeah, that about sums it up: And now a list of Orioles batters who had positive WPA contributions to their team as hitters.  Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, backup outfielder Tike Redmond, Tejada’s replacement Luis Hernandez, Aubrey Huff (barely), Erik Bedard (you read that right), and swingman Brian Burres.  That’s swingman as in sometime reliever sometime starter who had an RBI single in there somewhere in 2007.
Jeremy Guthrie and the Rookie of the Year vote: Did anyone else notice that Jeremy Guthrie led the American League in VORP among rookies?  Guthrie, after fumbling around with the Indians for a few years, figured out that walking people wasn’t a good idea and reaped the benefits.  I was surprised to see that a few ROY votes didn’t wander his way, especially given that everyone’s favorite Sabermetric heart-throb Brian Bannister got a first-place vote.  (Huh?)  Actually, last year when MVN passed around the ballots for the “all the baseball writers vote for the major awards” column at the end of last season, Guthrie got one vote for Rookie of the Year.  Mine.
They got who?: For Tejada they got Luke Scott (blah), third baseman Michael Costanzo (strikes out a lot, hits a lot of long flyballs), Matt Albers (middling pitching prospect), Troy Patton (did OK in AAA at 21), and Dennis Sarfate (who was just flipped from Milwaukee.  For Bedard, they got Adam Jones (drool), the very under-rated George Sherrill, and a few other spare part pitchers.  For Roberts, they’ll probably get Ronnie Cedeno (an intriguing shortstop with a .900 OPS at AAA), and some young pitching.  Not a bad haul to re-build a team. 
Outlook: With Tampa Bay on the rise, is this the year that the Orioles finally break their long streak of finishing fourth and instead finish last in the AL East?  In the distant future, they’ve got a lot of really good young kids and can build around that nucleus, but Baltimore fans who surely have been pining for a winning season are going to be disappointed over the next 2-3 years as the kids have some growing pains.


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