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O’s Q&A with Dan Szymborski, Baseball Think Factory / ESPN

As the schedule prepares to turn to May, Baltimore Sports and Life has once again reached out to Dan Szymborski for his thoughts on the O’s, and what he has seen from the Orioles so far.

Szymborski is the Managing Editor for Baseball Think Factory, and a contributing writer to ESPN.

You can find Szymborski’s work with Baseball Think Factory at:
http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/

You can find Szymborski’s work with ESPN at:
http://search.espn.go.com/Dan-Szymborski/

You can find Szymborski on Twitter at:
http://twitter.com/#!/DSzymborski

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

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Cleveland recently locked up Carlos Santana for 5 yrs $21M. Wieters is a Free Agent after the 2015 season. If the O’s attempted to sign him to an extension, paying for his Arbitration years, and his first two years of Free Agency; what do you think would be be a reasonable contract for both sides? With Wieters coming off of a productive offensive season, and a outstanding defensive season; the off-season talk was that he was one of the best Catchers in the game. Will we end ’12 saying Wieters has arrived as one of the games real elite players (regardless of position)?”

Szymborski: “The O’s probably should have signed him long-term last year, though I guess that could look a little like the benefit of hindsight.  He’s got enough service time that you’re going to have to buy out a few years of free agency and they will probably be very expensive – they’re not getting him anywhere close to the Santana price.  I’d probably offer him 6/50, something like 3/5/7/10/12/12and hope he bites.  But he might not at this point, the longer you wait, the more a player can afford to not be risk averse and take a good deal.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Adam Jones is a Free Agent after 2013. What makes more sense to you from the perspective of the O’s – A 5 year $60M extension, or trading Jones for 2-3 well regarded, cost-controlled prospects?”

Szymborski: “Honestly, if it comes down to keeping Wieters or Jones long-term, I rather keep Wieters.  After the start of this season, I don’t think the O’s would be able to keep him for 5/60.  He’s not a great defensive centerfielder, so I would definitely listen to trade talks, assuming the O’s drop out of serious contention.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “After 5 starts, Arrieta is: 1-2, with a 4.45 era (4.05 FIP). In his 30.1 ip, he has allowed 24 hits, 4 hr’s, 9 bb’s, with 24 k’s. His OPS against is .639, and his G/F is 0.69. James projected Arrieta’s 2012 FIP as 4.74, ZiPS projected it as 5.10, and Marcel projected 4.65.

Last Month, Camden Depot took a look (http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-good-is-al-ace-mean-performance-of.html) at the 2011 FIP performances for American League starters by slot.

An AL Pitcher in Slot 1, had a Median FIP of 3.26
An AL Pitcher in Slot 2, had a Median FIP of 3.71
An AL Pitcher in Slot 3, had a Median FIP of 4.06
An AL Pitcher in Slot 4, had a Median FIP of 4.36
An AL Pitcher in Slot 5, had a Median FIP of 4.90

Where do you currently think Arrieta will slot in, to end 2012?”

Szymborski: “His walks are down, which is a very encouraging sign (walk rate stabilizes pretty quickly).  His fastball speed (up just over a MPH) is especially interesting as April fastball speed tends to be the slowest month across baseball, about a MPH short of where it peaks in the summer.  He’s probably a reasonable #4 starter at this point.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “If Jim Johnson approximates his 2011 season production (while racking up saves) will he command a package at the non-waiver deadline which value wise is similar to what Texas sent to San Diego last year for Mike Adams?”

Szymborski: “That’s a little too much to expect.  Adams had really been a lights-out reliever for years and with a trade partner in the Rangers, the Padres were in the right place at the right time.  The may get one Erlin-type prospect but they certainly wouldn’t get a Wieland added to the mix.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Working with Rick Peterson, Chris Tillman had a solid Spring Training. He showed an ability to repeat his mechanics, with improved velocity and movement. The 24 yr old has not translated that into AAA success so far to begin 2012. If it becomes clear that his Major League future in in the bullpen, how long would you keep him starting this year at AAA?”

Szymborski: “Tillman’s still relatively young, so it makes sense to keep him starting until you’re absolutely sure he has no future as a starter.  I don’t think the O’s are quite there with him yet, though it’s getting close.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Last Summer, JJ Hardy signed a 3 year $22.5M extension. In the 3 years he has played 129+ games (’07, ’08, and ’11) his slugging has been above .463 in each of those seasons. He is also a quality defensive SS. Prized prospect Manny Machado is already at AA Bowie. If Machado ends 2012 appearing to be ready to join the show to start ’13, would you trade Hardy, or move him to 3rd?”

Szymborski: “It’s too bad that he can’t move to both second and third simultaneously.  It’s hard to say exactly what the circumstances will be at the time, whether the O’s should seek to trade Hardy or to keep him.  If the pitching is still non-nauseating, it may be worthwhile to keep him.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “In ’11, Reynolds was amazingly bad at 3rd (-30.3 UZR/150). If left alone at 3rd, would you expect his defense to rebound closer to his ’09 (-7.4 UZR/150), and ’10 (2.5 UZR/150) levels? the Orioles hold a $11M option for Reynolds in ’13. In ’09, FanGraphs valued him as 3.5 WAR player equating to $15.7M in production. In ’10, FanGraphs valued him as 2.3 WAR player equating to $9.2M. If he was primarily a DH, do you think Reynolds would be a 3 WAR player next year? Should the O’s be willing to pick-up that option?”

Szymborski: “At this point, I wouldn’t, but luckily the O’s don’t have to make that decision quite yet and he did have a putrid start last season as well.  As you note, Reynolds’s defense, though rather ugly, probably isn’t 30 runs worse than average, I’m not sure Brooks right *now* would be that bad at 3rd defensively.  Again, a lot will depend on the status of the organization at year-end – if Reynolds starts playing at the level at which his option becomes a good idea, someone else might want to actually trade something for him.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Nolan Reimold has a game built on power, plate discipline, athleticism, and constant hustle. He is an easy player to like. The primary knock on him is that he turned 28 in October, and entered ’12 with just 741 previous ML ab’s.What do you see from him, what do you think his ceiling is?”

Szymborski: “Reimold may have a couple 280/340/500 seasons in him at his very, very best and given that he’s not expensive yet, that’s very usable to the O’s.  The team just has to remember that he’s going to have a short shelf-life given his age, even if he hits his upside consistently.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Markakis signed a large extension after an absolute monster 2008 season. During that year, Markakis had a .897 OPS, with 69 xbh’s, and superior defense. During ’11 Markakis had a .756 OPS, with 47 xbh’s. While I think he is as good defensively as any RF in the American League, the metrics say he is slightly below average. Markakis deserves credit for rebounding from a very poor start last year (.561 OPS in April, .708 OPS in May) with a .806 OPS after the All-Star break. I think there is more there, but at this point you have to consider him a ancillary piece as opposed to a star. If he is not going to be a run producer, should he be utilized as the lead-off hitter to best take advantage of the skills he continues to provide?”

Szymborski: “Leadoff is certainly a possibility, given that even if his power has generally been disappointing, at least compared to expectations, he’s usually gotten on-base quite a bit.  Showalter’s willing to use Reimold at leadoff and Reimold’s as far from a traditional leadoff hitter than one could imagine (see Brian Downing), so it’s at least a possibility.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Heading into 2012, the favorites for the AL Rookie of the Year were Yu Darvish, Matt Moore, and Yoenis Cespedes. You could also find supporters for Jesus Montero, and Mike Trout. Based on what we have seen, I don’t know if Chen Wei-yen can elevate his way into that conversation, but I think it is entirely plausible he ends the year as a league average 3rd starter. Through 4 starts, Chen is 2-0, with a 2.22 era. In his 24.1 ip, he has allowed 24 hits, 6 er, 2 hr, 8 bb’s, with 19 k’s. His OPS against is .665, and his G/F ratio is 0.56. Your thoughts on him?”

Szymborski: “Chen’s been solid so far, though I don’t expect him to to get as much ROY attention as he should.  The voters have been a little grumpier about considering foreign major leaguers to be “rookies,” even though I totally think they are, and for those that are more willing to consider foreign players rookies, it’s going to be hard for Chen to not get overshadowed by Darvish.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “For his career, Kevin Gregg has been a guy that is typically durable, that allows around a hit per IP, with a K per IP, and walks too many. Basically a below average / to average reliever. He drives O’s fans crazy, with his approach of refusing to challenge hitters. Even though Gregg is owed $5M this year, my feeling is that the O’s should be willing to eat his contract, if they are unwilling to use him. Do you agree with that? Do you think it would be better for the O’s to give him further opportunities?”

Szymborski:
“They should eat the contract.  Gregg’s a sunk cost, they’re eating it one way or the other.  Gregg is not the future of the team, Gregg doesn’t keep the games close now, and nobody’s going to give anything of value for him.  Gregg’s best role on the Orioles is one in which he is not pitching, maybe he can lend a hand at Boog’s on busier weekend games or something.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Like Reimold, Chris Davis has gotten off to a good start. Unlike Reimold, Davis’ on-base % will remain a concern. I asked people prior to the season if they would take the over/under on Davis finishing ’12 with a .750 OPS and 20 homers. Your thoughts? If both players (Reimold and Davis) reach that level, how much better do you feel about the O’s positional core?”

Szymborski: “A little better, but I expect Davis, even in a good season, to be a rather flawed player, one you still actively seek to upgrade from.  Wieters/Machado is who you build around.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Zach Britton could return to the O’s in late May / early June. Injuries and performance will dictate who he replaces in the Baltimore rotation. Hypothetically though, if Britton is physically ready to return, and Matusz and Hunter are both healthy and providing relatively equal performance; who would you have him replace? Matusz has youth, and the upside potential. Hunter might lack that upside, but might be more likely to be a steadying influence at the back of the rotation.”

Szymborski: “I’d rather have the upside, the O’s can worry about a steady back of the rotation when they’re tied for first in June or July rather than April.  It’s a question for another time, but I actually think long-term, Britton may be better suited for the bullpen.  His changeup is still not really up to snuff and there’s only so far you can get on a good two-seamer and slider if you’re not driving everything into the ground.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “With a 4th consecutive strong start Wednesday night, Jason Hammel is now 3-0, with 1.73 era. His FIP is 2.40. In his 26 ip, he has allowed 18 hits, 5 er, 1 hr, 8 bb’s, with 25 k’s. He has induced 42 grounders. His OPS against is .537, and his G/F is 1.62. He is apparently utilizing his 2 seam FB more than he ever has before. Due to that, would you buy into the idea that he could exceed the performance which was expected of him going into the year?”

Szymborski: “I would definitely buy it, given that he’s also striking guys out for a change (strikeout changes stick very quickly).”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “I’m buying into the growing hype with Pedro Strop. His stuff is absolutely electric. If Johnson is not traded, do you think Strop and Johnson will end ’12 as one of the better 8th/9th combinations in the AL?”

Szymborski: “Guys like Strop is why you send guys like Gregg to the funeral pyre.  The minors are full of hard-throwing relievers that walk too many batters and hanging onto the Greggs is what keeps you from checking your lottery tickets.  Strop, if used carefully, can really contribute even walking 4 batters a game.  The O’s will probably have to deal with the walks – the team probably tried *too* hard to turn Daniel Cabrera into a pitcher rather than a thrower.”

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Written by Chris Stoner
6 years ago
Baltimore Orioles, Q&As / Podcasts,

Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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