Zach Britton’s Historic Season

Zach Britton had an excellent 2015, but in at least one respect his season was better than anyone’s giving him credit for.

What was it? Read my recent article at Camden Chat to find out.


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A Trade Target for the Orioles

The Orioles’ production in left field and right field in 2015 was terrible. It was so bad that the team designated two entire outfields (six players!) worth of OF talent for assignment: Delmon Young, David Lough, Travis Snider, Alejandro de Aza, Nolan Reimold, and Chris Parmalee. That they ended re-acquiring a few of these guys speaks to the dearth of quality in the farm system.

Perhaps in 2015 they should consider acquiring some long-term talent at the corners. There is one particular guy, currently with the Miami Marlins, who may be available.

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Miguel Gonzalez Did Not Have the Season You Think He Had

My latest post at Camden Depot explores why Miguel Gonzalez didn’t struggle in 2015 — because you can’t struggle if you are exactly the same.




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A Blueprint for the 2016 Orioles

My first piece for ESPN affiliate Camden Depot is up. Check it out here!

In it, I lay out a general approach to the 2016 season for the Baltimore Orioles. I say they should focus first on defense by shelling out for top-shelf free agent Jason Heyward in order to paper over the organization’s lack of pitching talent and depth. I also suggest a huge raise for Manny Machado, in part to reward him, and in part to generate goodwill the team can cash in later when they want to extend him long-term.

Jake Arrieta, Your Squat Form is Terrible

Ugh. Jake, I love you man, even though you never found success with the Orioles (I blame them, not you, don’t worry). I’m very happy you found such great success with the Cubs! And congratulations on your NL Wild Card game win!

Here’s one reason I blame the Orioles: they were giving you terrible advice on your squat form. You’re going to hurt yourself squatting like this:

You’re hyper-extending your lower back, placing a lot of stress on it. You should lift with a neutral spine to prevent your lower back from carrying all the weight.

Your upper back is not tight. This is going to make it hard to keep your chest up throughout the squat (especially when combined with a hyper-extended lower back). The bar will also hurt your shoulders by digging into the muscle. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a nice ‘shelf’ of muscle for the bar to rest on.

I’m assuming this was taken at the deepest point in your squat. (The safety pins look like they might prevent you from going much lower, anyway.) If so, you’re going to hurt your knees by using only your quads to squat the weight. You need to break parallel, get your hip crease below your knees. This will activate your hamstrings, glutes, and entire posterior chain. It’ll save your knees because your hamstrings will prevent your quads from pulling on them too much. Plus, more muscles used = more weight squatted = more velocity on that fastball.

Jake, please. Have a look and squat properly. I know this tweet is two years old; it was taken before you were traded. Hopefully the Cubs fixed your form!


What Question Are you Asking?

I think that confusing the question is a big part of miscommunication. It’s no different in sabermetrics.

When I write or read an article, I try to separate out whether the writer is attempting to answer any or all of the following questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Does the player deserve blame/credit for what happened?
  3. What is likely to happen going forward? (Which is the same question as: what is the player’s true talent level, absent any good or bad luck?)

It sounds simplistic, but most sabermetric articles can be broken down in these three ways.

In particular, when the question isn’t clear, commenters tend to assume that the author is answering question 1 when really they are trying to answer question 3. Or vice versa.

For example, let’s say a pitcher strikes out 10 batters in 7 innings. That’s very good. Now let’s say he walks two batters. That’s pretty good too. Now let’s say he gives up only one fly ball all night, and that fly ball turns into a home run, and that home run came with three men on base. A grand slam. All other balls in play he allows are ground balls. (Obviously, some went for hits.) And since his team scores only 2 runs offensively, the pitcher’s team loses 4-2.

  1. What happened? Well, I described it above.
  2. Does the pitcher deserve blame for the home run? Maybe, maybe not. After all, the catcher called the pitch. And the pitcher had to execute it. And he how has a 100% home run to fly ball ratio for the evening. That right there is suspect in terms of blame. I would guess that he just got unlucky. We would have to study video of the pitch to be sure.

    You also have to call into question his defense. A ball in play leading to a hit could have involved a defender either making a poor play or not making a play at all due to their lack of range, arm, etc.

    Finally you have to look at sequencing. Pitchers generally can’t control when they give up hits. (Because defense is part of the equation.) A sequence of single/single/single/home run is more damaging than a sequence of single/home run/single/single.

    Which leads us to …

  3. What is likely to happen going forward? Assuming that the high ground ball rate is not an aberration, that grand slam is not likely to happen again anytime soon. It is more likely he will have another high-K/low-BB game, and over the long run those kinds of games will produce good results for the pitcher’s team.

If I wrote an article answering question 3 and did not make it clear that I was doing go, or did not address question 1 at all, I think I would get a commenter on said article disagreeing with me on the terms of question 1. They might never state that assumption in that comment. Giving up a grand slam tends to produce strong negative emotion in a team’s fanbase, especially if that team is on the cusp of a playoff spot or has been playing poorly as of late.

So it’s important for everyone to clarify. Of course this is a utopian ideal. But isn’t that worth shooting for? :-)

The Worldwide Leader

I’m very excited to announce that I am now a writer for Camden Depot, which is ESPN’s affiliate Orioles blog! In addition to reaching a new audience, the gig comes with the possibility of publishing the occasional piece on, which … I mean c’mon, who wouldn’t want that opportunity?

Look for me to link to my pieces there as the seasons winds down, during the offseason, and into next year. I will continue to write at Camden Chat as well.

Where did the Orioles go Wrong? Part 1

Over at Camden Chat, I measured and analyzed the offensive and defensive decline of the team from 2014 – 2015.

2014’s team won 96 games and romped to a division title, but this year’s team will be lucky to finish at .500. As many predicted would happen, the losses of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz contributed heavily to the team’s offensive (and even defensive!) decline. Something I didn’t realize at the time but that makes sense now is that when Cruz left he took with him production at not only left field but also designated hitter.


Umpires Getting Better, Particularly at Calling Strikes

At its heart, baseball is a battle over the strike zone. As we can see from PITCH F/X data, umpires have been getting better at adjudicating this battle. From Noah Davis and Michael Lopez at FiveThirtyEight:

Umps are getting better, and they’re also remarkably consistent. An ump who makes more accurate calls in one year will likely do the same the next; an ump who misses more calls in a given season will likely be as bad the next. Umpire accuracy is more steady than a player’s batting average or a pitcher’s ERA, and as consistent as OPS (on-base plus slugging) and wins above replacement.

I would love to see an update about this and other data-driven topics to As They See ‘Em, which is a great book about umpiring that covers the history of the position, how they’re trained, what their jobs are like, and so on.