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Fangraphs: The Orioles and Accepting Random Variation


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My attitude is that the Orioles haven't built their team to expect 95 wins. They built the team to hope for 80-some wins and some things going right, and it's a lot of fun when that works out.

It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, so I'd much rather be a 80-win team (on talent) that laps the division than a 97-win team that sneaks into the wildcard.

I was thinking about this earlier, and there's something that strikes me as kind of weird about this whole debate (not here, but throughout baseball). Overachievement is usually a good, admirable thing, but the way the stats-savvy writers talk about overachieving teams, it usually comes across as an attitude of "Eh, they're not really that good." I don't think they necessarily mean it that way, but as we can see from the debates here and elsewhere, that's how a lot of fans take it.

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Do any of these models factor in injury risk?

They usually hedge injury risk across all players on a team, since individual injury risk projections are wildly inaccurate. Players tend to play a full season or they miss large chunks of time, so for an entire team taking like 10-15 games off accurately represents the risk of 1 player going down for the season (like Wieters.)

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They usually hedge injury risk across all players on a team, since individual injury risk projections are wildly inaccurate. Players tend to play a full season or they miss large chunks of time, so for an entire team taking like 10-15 games off accurately represents the risk of 1 player going down for the season (like Wieters.)

I think the biggest difference between projection systems is how they deal with injuries and playing time. If you took all the different projections and re-weighted them by actual playing time at the end of the year the groupings would probably be very tight.

Basically everyone does some version of Marcel - they take the last X years, weight them by most recent, and throw in a pinch of aging. But nobody knows how to project that Wieters will miss four+ months, so they project nobody will play a full year, or just give up and present a list of what everyone would do in 600 PA/200 innings.

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I've posted in the comments section there, but I think it's time to start bashing the Yankees and Brian Cashman for exactly the same reasons.

Geriatric, high priced players with little to no farm system centered around free agent signings. Their offense has been woeful the last couple years. They've been doing it through smoke and mirrors as they've significantly outperformed their PWL. This year is perhaps rather interesting because their offense is one of the worst in all of MLB, yet they still are relatively competitive. Perhaps most interesting is that their bullpen isn't much to write home about outside of Betances and Robertson.

Hard for me to give Girardi any kind of credit. And some relative shame on Cashman for giving up what little depth/talent they had in the minors for relatively poor performers that are gone at the end of the year. I think a lot of it is just plain unsustainable luck.

If anyone thinks guys (long term) like McCarthy, Capuano, Headley (maybe not him), and Drew can reasonable help the Yankees this year...I feel they're doing so through pinstripe coloured glasses. Perhaps the only relatively smart pickup was Prado as he has a reasonable contract for a few years and basically solidifies their OF next year: Gardner, Ellsbury, Prado.

The big issue is their infield is an absolute disaster. In 2015:

- Jeter is gone (no SS)

- ARod comes back: old and injury prone...and most likely (hopefully) completely void of PED's. Look for his range and performance at 3B to be questionable.

- No 2B

- Tex at 1B: old and injury prone.

So, the only reliable players are their outfield and C (McCann). And McCann is having a rather poor year. And if you look to guys that the Yankees picked up in the offseason: Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann coupled with acquisitions around trade deadline: Prado, Drew, Headley, Capuano, McCarthy...can we legitimately start questioning the Yankees front office?

When you have a lineup of Gardner, Jeter, Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, Prado, Drew, Headley, Cervelli....what is the excuse about their offense being so poor?

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When you have a lineup of Gardner, Jeter, Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, Prado, Drew, Headley, Cervelli....what is the excuse about their offense being so poor?

They're old! It's beautiful. The 2015 Yanks are currently slated to have eight players on the roster who are at least 30, are in decline, and will be making over $10M a year. Sabathia may never be any good again, and he's signed at over $20M a year through at least 2016. ARod might also be done, and he's signed through 2017 at $20M+ a year. Prado is basically an average outfielder, but he's also 30, in decline, and making $11M a year. McCann is being paid $17M a year through 2018, and he is OPSing .680 and runs like Matt Wieters wearing steel-toed boots. Beltran has two more years on his deal, and this season he's basically a replacement-level 37-year-old making $15M. They literally have six or eight contracts that are worse than Ubaldo's, both more expensive and less likely to produce anything of value.

I know they have infinite resources, but it's going to be hard to recover from something like $100M of players who're near useless.

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This is exactly what I was saying earlier. In 2012, people like Cameron were pointing to Pythag records to show why the Orioles overachieved. (Our Pythag in 2012 was 82-80.) Obviously he can't do that now, since their Pythag only has them 3 games better than what they "should be". So that means he has to come up with some other reason as to why he was wrong about the Orioles. He chose "random variation".

You can't make this stuff up.

EDIT: Here's a link to his chat session with commenters. Lots of Orioles related questions.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/dave-cameron-fangraphs-chat-81314/

Yep. And as I said in the comments section of the article, the craziest thing is that this article is being written because the O's are 12 games over .500 in their last 32 games, all of which were against teams over .500. And they outperformed their pythag record in that span by 1 game.

So to sum up, they faced an incredibly difficult schedule over 32 games, went 21-11 pythag (22-10 actual) with some fantastic stats, and yet the article doesn't address the appropriate follow-up question:

Since the recent data does not suggest a regression, have the Orioles improved and established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball?

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They're old! It's beautiful. The 2015 Yanks are currently slated to have eight players on the roster who are at least 30, are in decline, and will be making over $10M a year. Sabathia may never be any good again, and he's signed at over $20M a year through at least 2016. ARod might also be done, and he's signed through 2017 at $20M+ a year. Prado is basically an average outfielder, but he's also 30, in decline, and making $11M a year. McCann is being paid $17M a year through 2018, and he is OPSing .680 and runs like Matt Wieters wearing steel-toed boots. Beltran has two more years on his deal, and this season he's basically a replacement-level 37-year-old making $15M. They literally have six or eight contracts that are worse than Ubaldo's, both more expensive and less likely to produce anything of value.

I know they have infinite resources, but it's going to be hard to recover from something like $100M of players who're near useless.

Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Jon Lester are going to be making a lot of money in a few months.

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Yep. And the last three years on all of those deals will be AWFUL.

With any luck the first three years won't be so hot, either. If you go with the assumption that any free agent deal over about $5M a year will be one of: almost halfway reasonable, bad, or crushingly abysmal you'd rarely be wrong. There are no good deals in big time free agency.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update:

As of 8/28/2014, the O's have the 5th best record in baseball and the 6th best record based on Cameron's BaseRuns algorithm. Yes, they have outperformed their BaseRuns record by 4 games, but it has hardly made a difference on where they would be compared to the rest of MLB.

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