O’s Q&A w/ Brandon Warne, FanGraphs

With the Orioles Pitchers and Catchers reporting to camp tomorrow, Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Brandon Warne for his thoughts on the O’s.

You can find Warne’s work with FanGraphs at:
http://www.fangraphs.com/

You can find Warne on Twitter at:
https://twitter.com/#!/Brandon_Warne

Baltimore Sports and Life thanks Mr. Warne for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Baltimore Sports and Life: “In Tsuyoshi Wada and Chen Wei-yen, the O’s have added two lefties to their rotation (or at least as rotation possibilities). Wada (who turns 31 in February) is described as a cerebral, soft-tosser. Last year the Japanese native was 16-5, with a 1.51 era. In his 184.2 ip, he allowed 7 homers, 40 bb’s, with 168 k’s. The 26 year old Chen is known as a power arm, whose velocity dipped in ’11, as he dealt with a leg injury. In ’11, the Taiwanese native was 8-10, with a 2.68 era. In his 164.2 ip, he allowed 138 hits, 9 homers, 31 bb’s, with 94 k’s.

Career Numbers
Wada:
107-61, 3.14 era, 1,444.2 ip, 1,263 hits, 142 hr’s, 395 bb’s, 1,329 k’s
Chen: 36-30, 2.48 era, 631.1 ip, 518 hits, 47 hr’s, 153 bb’s, 500 k’s

Chen appears to be a lock for the rotation, while Spring Training will decide if Wada joins him or begins in the bullpen. Do you find it realistic to believe this duo could combine for 350 innings, at a 4.50 era for Baltimore?”

Warne: “The ERA might — and that’s a very uneasy might — be realistic, but that’s just too many innings. That would be 175 innings apiece, which seems unlikely for two hurlers who haven’t seen an inning in the big leagues yet. Very few debuting big leaguers’ — only Jeremy Hellickson comes to mind from 2011 — throw that sort of workload. My best guess would be something more like 300ish innings at a 5.00 ERA. I think Duquette and the O’s would have to be pleased with that, too.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “My interpretation of the trade of Guthrie for Hammel and Lindstrom was that the O’s received fair (maybe better) value back. Hammel profiles similar to Guthrie overall (though Guthrie regularly exceeds his FIP, while Hammel regularly does not), and is arbitration eligible in ’13. The O’s will hold a $4M club option on Lindstrom for ’13. Guthrie will be a FA after this year. While it is possible the two obtained pitchers could be flipped later, my problem with the trade was that the O’s did not get any youth under long-term team control back. Duquette has said such youth was not available. Would you have held Guthrie until the non-waiver deadline, and attempted to move him then; or would you have made the trade as is?”

Warne: “It’s really a tough situation to gauge. I, for one, think Guthrie is sort of the Brad Radke of the Twins; he’s a guy that held more value to his home club than he would on the free market. As such, I think I would have held onto him, only trading him if straits were dire at the trade deadline — they may well be in an increasingly difficult AL East in ‘12 — and the offer was worth my time. You always have to consider if Guthrie would have garnered compensation after ‘12, and I think the O’s would have made the qualifying offer that would have garnered them compensation, all things considered. Worst case scenario? They end up with a guy that they clearly liked, and he gets to stay put. Duquette was in a tough spot, but I think it was one of those “darned if you don’t/danged it you do.” He did OK.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “If the O’s are ever going to be competitive in the near term, their young pitching has to produce. Matusz was extremely strong over his last 10 starts of 2010, and abysmal over his 12 outings in 2011.  I think the truth about Matusz is probably somewhere in the middle, but he appears very unlikely to earn a spot this Spring. In 2011, Arrieta saw improvement in his K/9, Line Drive %, Ground Ball %, and First Strike % numbers. With the removed bone spur not directly at the elbow (and with him having surgery when he did), there seems to be confidence in his ability to have a normal throwing program this Winter. Obviously 21 homers in 119.1 ip is too much, and his fastball command has to increase.There was been a lot to like about Britton’s rookie season, especially with how he responded to the adversity of July. Overall he finished 11-11, with a 4.61 era. In his 154.1 ip, he allowed 162 hits, 12 homers, 62 bb’s, with 97 k’s. His OPS against was .735, and he had a G/F ratio of 1.24. Like Arrieta, his fastball command needs to improve. What are your current thoughts on these three?”

Warne: “It’s a trio you have to like, but maybe not love. Still, it’s odd to think about all the arms that have flamed out in Baltimore — Hayden Penn, Radhames Liz, the list goes on — and start to wonder if there’s something going on along the line that’s preventing these guys from developing. As for the three listed here? I think I like Arrieta best — I love strikeouts, after all — but really think he and Britton should be league-average or better starters in ‘12. Couple that with Matusz and Tillman as potential options, and there’s no reason the O’s rotation can’t be at least competent. With that said, I don’t trust any of them. Sometimes old habits/feelings die hard.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “The O’s had a league average offense last year. The primary changes will be moving Chris Davis (1st), Nolan Reimold (LF), and Wilson Betemit (DH) into the everyday lineup. Would you take the over or under on these three collectively combining for a .750 OPS and 50 homers?”

Warne: “Over, if Chris Davis stays healthy and gets his ABs. Davis and Reimold alone should get close to 50, and Betemit may help more in the OPS department than the HR department. None of them will help much in the fielding department, though. It’s a fascinating, if a bit troubling quandary, especially when considering Mark Reynolds in there too. None of these guys can field a lick, and that might be part of what’s troubling all the up-and-coming arms.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Wieters finished with 50xbh’s (.450 Slugging) and was lauded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. If you were starting a team – which catchers do you take before him? Your expectations for him in ’12?”

Warne:“If there’s no financial implications, I’d only take a handful of catchers before him. Brian McCann, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, and a healthy Joe Mauer. Otherwise, he’s right in the mix there. It’s a good cautionary tale about hype too, because I think a lot of people were ready to write him off after such an ordinary beginning to a career that was supposed to be the next Mauer, if I’m not mistaken. Don’t be surprised if that OPS creeps above .800 this year.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “I would be pleased to be wrong, but I believe the O’s will reach a buyout with Roberts during Spring Training. Hardy spent a lot of time leading off last year, but would prefer not to be used in that capacity, and has a relatively low career on-base % anyway. Who should leadoff for Baltimore? Markakis? Reimold? Antonelli (if he were to start over Andino at 2nd)?”

Warne:“In surveying the 2011 landscape of O’s hitters, the only one that really stands out going forward is Markakis. He’s the only one competent enough with the bat/eye combo to do so. Sure, it’s not ideal to have your best all-around hitter leading off — at least not in the ‘traditional’ sense — but if he isn’t going to regain any of the pop he showed earlier in his career, he could make an ideal leadoff hitter. I’d probably go Markakis-Wieters-Hardy-Reynolds-Jones for my top five, but I’m by no means an O’s expert! Andino in the nine-hole could be a nice little piece down there, too.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Reynolds was abysmal at 3rd last year. The prior two years, he was below average, but ‘livable’ at the position. I’m pleased the O’s are giving him another chance at 3rd instead of moving him across the diamond. What would you need to see from Reynolds this year, to advocate Baltimore picking up the $11M club option in ’13?”

Warne: “An average defensive season — which may be quite a stretch — and the exact same offensive season. Basically, if he is a 2-3 win player via FanGraphs WAR, I’d probably pick up the option. Face it, there’s only Chris Davis to play at third otherwise — in terms of youngish, projectable talent — and he’s over at first anyway. Unless there’s a better option at either corner, you probably pick up that option.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “In a Baseball America poll (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/majors/best-tools/2011/2612213.html) of Major League Managers, Adam Jones was ranked as the 2nd best defensive CF in the American League. On the other-side you have the most advanced defensive metrics which state Jones is a below average CF. Like Matusz, I tend to believe that the truth lies between those two extremes. In ’11, Jones had a Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) of .339, and Isolated Power (ISO) was .185. For the 2nd consecutive year, he played in 149+ games. For the 3rd consecutive year his OPS fell within the range of .767 to .792. He finished with 25 homers, and 26 doubles. Jones is a Free Agent after the 2013 season. Jones avoided arbitration for this year with a 1 year $6.15M contract. Most agree he can be a piece of a good team, but not a franchise player. By Opening Day 2012, do you think the O’s need to have either extended him or traded him? If you would like to see him extended, what type of contract do you think would be fair? If he were to be traded, he has to bring back players who can be under long-term team control. What type of trade could you see as fair?”

Warne: “It all depends on what kind of cash he’s looking for right now. With one more arbitration-eligible season after this, it’d probably take something like $10 million per annum to lock him up. If you think he’s going to grow into a bit more well-rounded at the dish, you probably lock him up. Especially if he gives you a somewhat accommodating deal, since he’d still be tradeable anyway. It does hinge on a lot of things, however. How soon do you see your club contending? Is Jones likely to be a part of that core group? If not, what can he fetch on the market? A good center fielder could fetch quite a bit. Maybe dangle him to the Nationals? In that case, wait and see if Jayson Werth crashes and burns in center. Desperation is an ugly thing in baseball, and could mean the Nats will want a centerfielder in the worst way. Long rambling diatribe aside, I’d hold Jones for the short-term, maybe open talks around mid-season, and all the while make other GMs aware that he’s not untouchable, but not cheap, either.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “I have been pleased by the organizational moves Dan Duquette has made since being introduced to the Baltimore media November 8th.
Some of the moves made include:
1) Amateur Scouting Director Joe Jordan has been replaced by Gary Rajsich (formerly the National Cross-checker for Toronto).
2) Under Rajsich, the existing Professional Scouts have been resigned to the Amateur side, and the O’s will rely more video and statistical analysis while evaluating players on other teams.
3) Boston’s Southeast Cross-checker Danny Haas has been hired as the National Cross-checker for Baltimore.
4) Fred Ferreira has come on-board as the Executive Director of International Recruiting. Ferreira has helped bring in 10 new international scouts, working in the Dominican, Venezuela, Curacao, Guatemala, Holland, and Costa Rica. Ferreira has stated the O’s are looking into adding a Venezuelan academy.
5) Ray Poitevint has also joined the International Department, as Executive Director International Baseball.
6) Former Phillies General Manager Lee Thomas has been added as an assistant to Duquette.
7) Rick Peterson has been hired as Director of Pitching Development.
8) Stephen Walters has been hired as an Economic Advisor.

What are your impressions of the Duquette hire, and the staff he has assembled? Do you believe the O’s would have been any better off had LaCava been hired instead? Do you believe adding a young up-and-coming Executive as Asst. GM should be a priority for the organization?

Warne: “It would be disingenuous for me to even address this question. I know Duquette has been much maligned for his offseason, but I can’t even pretend to be an expert on these people. I like the Rick Peterson hire, but the others I don’t know much about.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Between the lines, the 40 man roster has been upgraded, but only with minimal incremental improvements. Heading into the off-season, I wanted to see the O’s either commit to a full-rebuilding or augment what was already here with known game-changing talent. With the O’s doing neither, I deem this the primary mistake of the Winter. Your thoughts?”

Warne: “It would probably be best to blow it up and start over. Hardy, Markakis, and Jones should bring plenty in a trade, and that would probably be the best start. Reynolds might be intriguing to a club early in the season too if he can play a competent 3B; that position is pretty shallow league-wide, although not as shallow as 1B is in the NL. I don’t know that it qualifies as a ‘mistake’ or if it’s really just a new GM not wanting to be weak and ineffectual at the outset. Rebuilding teams don’t sell tickets, and rebuilding GMs don’t stay in the game for long. It’s not easy to say what to do in Baltimore.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “As Spring Training prepares to begin, I am looking at the O’s roster as:

Britton, Chen, Arrieta, Hammel, Hunter
Johnson, Lindstrom, Gregg, Strop, Ayala, Wada, and 1 of 3 out of Simon, Patton, Eveland

With Matusz, Tillman, Bergesen, O’Day, and Berken to AAA.

Markakis RF
Reimold LF
Jones CF
Wieters C
Reynolds 3rd
Hardy SS
Davis 1st
Betemit DH
Andino 2nd

Teagarden, Antonelli, Chavez, and Flaherty or Miller

General thoughts on this roster? What upside do you see? What do you dislike?”

Warne: “It’s very unlikely that this team will finish anywhere but fifth. The upside is that the order should be competent, but the parts don’t really all come together, especially in the East. I think this team would be hard-pressed to win 70 games.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Going into ’11, we polled 19 writers and analysts on their projected record for the O’s. The average pick was 78 wins. The O’s failed to reach those expectations, winning just 69 games. Baltimore has not reached the 70 win plateau since ’06, nor been at or above .500 since ’97. In 2012, Baltimore wins how many games? What would have to occur for you to consider the season a failure or a success?”

Warne: “75 wins should be deemed a success, to be honest. It’s going to be a pretty tough season in Baltimore.”

Note from Baltimore Sports and Life: You can discuss Mr. Warne’s comments at the BSL Message Board (http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/forum). We will be adding the responses of several other writers and analysts to these questions during the next few days.

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About the author


Chris Stoner   

Operations Manager

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, ESPN 1300, FOX 1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. You can reach him via email at Chris.Stoner@baltimoresportsandlife.com.


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