Huggy Bear

…if I wasn’t so worried about getting tossed by security, I’d head over to the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos and give the big guy a hug. Getting Vladimir Guerrero could be that huge.

I read this statement in a column 3 days ago and immediately thought to myself, “this is gonna be good.” I, of course, was being sarcastic and man was I right.   It has taken me 72 hours to pen my rebuttal for a few reasons, the most significant of which is that is how long it took me to convince myself to go back to that webpage and attempt to read this dreck  for a second time.  But for you, the seven people who read this blog still for some unknown reason…maybe pity fans, I went back and read it in order to break down and illustrate how idiotic this jumbled, mislead arrangement of sometimes seemingly random words thrown together really is.

Let’s start at the beginning:

I come today not to bury the Orioles, but to praise them. In fact, if I wasn’t so worried about getting tossed by security, I’d head over to the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos and give the big guy a hug. Getting Vladimir Guerrero could be that huge.

First off, I could tell from this first sentence that this guy thinks he is way funnier than he is in reality.  Can’t really fault him for it, I suffer from the same affliction.  I’ll cut him some slack in the first 7 seconds of a piece.

Give the Orioles credit. After all their offseason wheeling and dealing, they still had a gaping hole in their lineup. They needed a bona-fide clean-up hitter. And now they have one.

We’ve all given them credit.  You have to give them credit when they probably double their infield production without it being a detriment to their defense or pitching staff.  Much credit has been given, and you are late to the party.  Oh wait, I read the next sentence and I suddenly couldn’t disagree with you more.  I’d also like to know what your definitions of “gaping hole” and “bona-fide clean-up hitter” are.  We’ve all been told that everyone is entitled to their opinion and usually I agree with that.  But, I can’t think of any way that this opinion can be correct.  Let me explain.

You see, even if you are one of those, what I call “old school baseball guys”, and you don’t really know how stats work but still use things like batting average, RBI, and home runs to back up every statement you make about a hitters ability then you would probably be of the opinion that your #4 hitter is your home run threat.  In this case, the Oriole with the best probability to hit 40 dingers this year is Mark Reynolds, so you are wrong about Vlad being the guy that was missing.  Secondly (and probably most likely), you don’t really understand how statistics can be used or even what they mean.  If you did understand, than you can do what I did and objectively look at the numbers of our four best options for the cleanup spot which would be Mr. Cowherd’s choice, Vlad Guerrero, newly acquired Derrek Lee, slugging third baseman Mark Reynolds (who admittedly is only in this discussion because I love him) and the longest tenured Oriole of this bunch, Luke Scott.

Let’s take a little detour to talk about stats and why I used them.  Against my better judgement I included batting average in this argument just because I don’t want to hear all the bitching about how I undervalue it as a stat.  I value it as a stat, just not on its own as determining whether someone is a good hitter or not.  I also included OBP, slugging, OPS, HRs, and extra base hits because we are talking about the fourth hitter in the lineup and all of these things apply to this place in the batting order.  “Jjaks, if you’re talking about the 4 hole how can you not bring up RBI?”  Because they are a joke.  You can’t tell anything from them because they are all about opportunity and show very little about a batters worthiness at a spot in the lineup.  I do understand that a hitter slotted fourth in the batting order is expected to produce by capitalizing on runners that are in scoring position but I just don’t think runs batted in is a good away to measure that.  Instead I used BSR% (baserunners scored percentage) which takes into account all situations where a runner was on base when said batter came to the plate and then figures out at what percentage of those runners scored as a result of that hitters time at the plate.  Lastly, I used GIDP % as well because for the first time in a long time, the O’s have legitimate batters past the leadoff and second spots in the order, so not getting two outs in one at bat becomes more important.

These numbers are interesting, first of all because I didn’t realize just how good Vlad was.  Yes, was.  Not is, was.  He has a career OPS of .946, that’s damn good.  But even his “great” year last year that everyone keeps telling me about was far off of this pace, down to a respectable .841.  But clearly, and there can’t be anyone that doesn’t admit this, he is in decline.  Two years ago he was nowhere near his career numbers and his bounce back year in 2010 was worse in all but one of the criteria I used to evaluate these hitters.  Derrek Lee is coming off of a down year, but also doesn’t have the career numbers to hold up to Vlad as the 4th hitter, that is fine.  I don’t think anyone really expected him to hit there anyway.  Mark Reynolds had a down year as well, but has a history (although short) of being better.  There is no way yet to tell which is his normal output and which was the outlier but I suspect that 2009 is closer to what we can expect that 2010, even though I (and Buck) will take those power numbers in a “down” year.  That leaves us Luke Scott who save for homers, batting average and runners scored percentage outperformed Vlad last year.  Luke slugged almost 40 points higher and got on base at a better clip.  And while Vlad converted a higher percentage of runners into runs, the trade-off in runs produced with Luke getting on base more often should result in a higher run total for the team.  Not to mention he grounds into double plays less often which as I mentioned earlier is a huge plus for this version of the Orioles.  So if you use logic, Vlad is a great 6th place hitter for this team.  He will still have a good number of opportunities to convert runners into runs with Roberts, Markakis, Lee, Scott and Reynolds all getting on base at a decent clip ahead of him, and won’t hurt the turnover of the lineup too badly grounding into double plays and swinging at terrible pitches like he would batting in front of two of those five guys who are not only capable of driving in runs at a good enough rate but also getting on base to help set the table for those batters behind them to drive them in as well.

Back to the article…We do have a cleanup hitter Kevin, but unlike you suggest he was already on the roster before this offseason.  I win again.  Your move Cowherd.

Even though this deal has Angelos’ fingerprints all over it, give Andy MacPhail credit, too. The Orioles president of baseball operations took major heat for his team’s train-wreck of a start in 2010.

If you think this deal is mostly Peter’s doing (which I do, so we agree there) that’s like giving a computer credit for putting these words on my screen.  I’m telling it what to say, it is just following protocol.

Sure, he got props for bringing in Buck Showalter to manage last August. And Showalter made him look like a genius when the Orioles made that great turnaround in the final two-and-half months.

But MacPhail was still under the gun going into this offseason. Attendance figures at Camden Yards were plummeting. The fans were in near-rebellion. MacPhail knew he needed to do something drastic.

He didn’t blow up the team. But he damn sure changed it dramatically with trades and free-agent signings. There are so many new faces, they’ll need name tags on their uniforms for the first spring-training workouts.

Three-fourths of the infield is new: Derrek Lee at first base. J.J. Hardy at shortstop. Mark Reynolds at third. Kevin Gregg will probably be the new closer. Jeremy Accardo is a new guy in the bullpen. And Justin Duchscherer is a new veteran starter — assuming his arm doesn’t fall off first.

I can live with these statements.  The new infield is welcomed, the bullpen should be solid even though I think it is too highly priced.  All in all, I can get on board with you here.

But getting Guerrero was easily the Orioles best offseason move.

And they overpaid to get Guerrero, too! A one-year deal for $8 million? For a soon-to-be 36-year-old DH? They definitely overpaid.

Doesn’t matter. It was still a good move.

Then you lost me.  You agree that they overpaid, probably by a lot.  Not only did they overpay, but they were the only ones bidding, and decided they needed to double their offer in order to beat…themselves.  That isn’t a good move.  That is a terrible move, especially for someone who is on the decline and is a shell of his former self in a year that isn’t as good as everyone thinks.  He had two really good months last season that made his stats look a lot better than they actually were, but he also had 2 months where he was slightly better than Cesar Izturis with the bat.  I’ve given you enough stats so I won’t shove them down your throat but if you want to see what I mean, they are over here at baseball reference.

Wasn’t everyone and his brother saying the Orioles had to sign a big-name slugger to fire up the fan base? Even if they had to overpay?

No, people are saying we need to overpay to get premier free agents in the prime of their careers.  Only idiots were saying we needed to way overpay for an aging, declining DH.

That’s certainly what I was saying.

See, only idiots were saying that.

Oh, yeah, I love telling others how to spend their money. Especially big shots like Angelos who own professional sports teams. It’s one of the true pleasures of my job.

In real life, I’m the kind of guy who’ll circle the aisle 10 times before buying a quart of orange juice when the price goes up.

But I have no problem saying to Angelos: “C’mon, big guy, what’s another $20 or $30 mil on the Orioles payroll? The Steinbrenners, they drop that on the team party every year.”

Does that make me a hypocrite? Guilty as charged.

We don’t have the budget the Yankees have, never will.  Money is no object to them which is why we need to be wiser with ours.  If fans expect Angelos to spend like the big dogs, then they need to stop complaining every year when ticket prices go up and promotions are slashed.  Yes, this makes you a hypocrite.

OK, so how much has getting Guerrero improved the Orioles? A whole bunch, if you ask me.

I’m glad I didn’t ask you because I would have been angry at the stupidity of the answer.

Sure, there are still questions surrounding almost everyone in the lineup. Some are coming off injuries. Some are coming off off-years. And you can put a question mark next to Guerrero’s name, too.

He’s getting up there in age, for one thing. And he struggled in the second half of last season with the Texas Rangers, hitting just nine homers and driving in 40 runs in 69 games after batting .319 with 20 homers and 75 RBI the first half.

He wasn’t exactly Mr. October in the playoffs, either, batting .220 with no homers and six RBI in 15 games while striking out 16 times.

So the Orioles are taking a chance on him, no question.

These are your arguments in favor of signing Vlad?  What would you say if you were against the signing?  You really aren’t making this very challenging for me.

But if I’m MacPhail, I’d rather take a chance on a guy like Guerrero who’s put up solid numbers in the past.

I’d rather take a chance on a nine-time All-Star with 436 homers on his resume. And 1,433 RBI. And a career .320 batting average.

Wow, if you’re a gambler I bet the casinos love to see you sit down at the blackjack table.  Taking a chance on a guy with those second half numbers coming off of the previous year where he was in clear decline is like hitting on a 16 with the dealer showing a 5.  Paying him $8 million is like doubling down.

One thing’s for sure: Orioles fans are going to love watching this guy at the plate.

Every at-bat is an adventure. The guy hacks at anything. If the pitch is in the same area code, he’ll swing at it. And usually he’ll make contact.

He can definitely get the bat on pretty much any pitch, which some people do find entertaining.

Luke Scott, who now moves to left field, calls Guerrero the best bad-ball hitter he’s ever seen.

That’s not necessarily a compliment.

(Speaking of Luke, I want to see if he demands to see Guerrero’s birth certificate. After all, Vlady wasn’t born here. And Luke has a thing about knowing where people are born, right?)

(Sorry, couldn’t resist. It was like a hanging curveball.)

This is what I meant earlier about him thinking he is a lot funnier than he really is.  This might have been funny when it was fresh in the news, you know in December, but now it is just someone reaching for a bit of humor that didn’t really work.  I am surprised, and definitely relieved, that he didn’t make any sweater vest remarks while talking about MacPhail though.  Well done on that front.  In fact, sidebar real quick (again):

ATTENTION ORIOLES FANS:  Those “sweater vest” references to Andy MacPhail are not funny.  They never were, and they never will be.  It makes my blood curdle every time I read one and I immediately picture you as that out of touch teacher we all had at some point in high school that would try to remain “hip” by being funny.  Only he wasn’t, and neither are you.

The bottom line is this: Vladimir Guerrero is the kind of slugger the Orioles need if they ever hope to actually compete in the AL East.

Then why was no one else in the AL East even remotely considering this guy?  In fact, they didn’t even consider considering this guy.  At all, even when the best offer on the table was $4 million, they weren’t interested.

You can beat on Angelos for a lot of moves he’s made with this team over the years.

But not this one.

This time he really came through.

Came through on what exactly?  Overpaying for an over the hill one way player so that he can use it to justify another rise in ticket prices?  In fact, my opinion is that this was a defensive signing by MacPhail at the urging of Angelos.    For all the crying and bellyaching I’ve heard in Birdland over the past few years saying that PA is only concerned with making money, I cannot believe this is not seen as just that.  Not one team in the league was in on this guy, but the Orioles were.  To put asses in the seats.  That is the primary reason for this move and I blame all of you.  FanFest was full of questions and support for a Vlad signing, and don’t think that didn’t have weight on the decision.  But the signing makes no sense at all in regards to the rest of the offseason where the team either got younger, or went in the way of low risk, high reward deals.  This signing was neither of those.  It was about 98% to sell tickets (which is fine, you give the fans what they want, and in this case it is a big name and not a better chance at winning…see stats above…), 1% because it is possible he could repeat last years production, and 1% so they can say “We went out and we spent money like we haven’t before.  We got you the power bat you wanted at DH and it didn’t work out.  It’s not our fault we  still only finished in 4th place.”

This is a classic public relations signing and somehow it made it past almost all of you disguised as a solid baseball move.  It’s not, we were just as good with what we had.  I don’t think that Pie is better than Vlad.  I don’t think that Reimold is better than Vlad.  But I do think that Pie and Reimold together are at least comparable to Vlad and the extra money they decided to throw in for no reason at all. I hope I am wrong, and in reality I don’t hate the signing. I just see it for what it is, about $5 million wasted dollars.

~Jjaks Clayton


Filed under General Posts

2 responses to “Huggy Bear

  1. Milch harris

    You could never work for the sun. Angelos would have you canned. Does he not have their whole sports section in his pocket?

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