It’s time for our monthly mailbag, and we’ve gotten lots of excellent questions. I’ll be answering some of them today and more on Friday. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Could you explain how WAR is calculated? The concept seems arbitrary, but you say that baseball hot shots embrace it. From: Wordly View via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Steve, WAR is short for Wins Above Replacement and, according to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince in his book, “A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics,” for position players, “it’s the number of runs above average a player is worth in his batting, baserunning and fielding +adjustment for position + adjustment for league + the number of runs provided by a replacement level player/Runs per Win.”
For pitchers, it’s “either Runs Allowed Per Nine Innings Pitched or Fielding Independent Pitching. These numbers are adjusted for league and ballpark. Then using league averages, it is determined how many wins a pitcher was worth based on those numbers and his innings pitched total.”
Both BaseballReference.com and FanGraphs have different ways of calculating WAR. I usually use BaseballReference.com because I’m on their site multiple times per day.
It’s a good way to compare players of different eras. Most of the players highest in WAR are the names you’d expect: Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.”
WAR rates Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker much higher than many Hall of Famers, giving them deserved recognition and helps build a case for their election to the Hall of Fame.
Teams have their own calculations, and certain great players don’t rate as high. Sandy Koufax is penalized because he had a short career, and Lou Brock’s defense takes away from his overall score.
Unlike some sabermetricians, I also like the traditional stats, and I think a mix of new school analytics, old world numbers and good scouting are an ideal mix for player evaluation.
Question: Let the debate begin: Who are the Orioles going to take at Number 1? Who are the top five, 10 candidates? Obviously, it can change a lot in the next nine months. From: Bman via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Bman, Baseball America did its first 2022 mock draft in July just after the 2021 draft. Here are its top five: outfielder Elijah Green, from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida; infielder Jace Jung, from Texas Tech; shortstop Brooks Lee, from Cal Poly; catcher Kevin Parada, from Georgia Tech; and shortstop Termarr Johnson, from Atlanta’s Mays High School.
Yes, a lot can and will change between now and the draft.
Question: Is there a fall instructional league in Sarasota? Intrasquad games or matchups with other teams? Any buzz on new Collective Bargaining Agreement progress? I saw somewhere that they might extend it for a year. From: Bob Kominski via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Bob, first thanks for stopping by in front of the press box a few weeks ago. Yes, there will be fall activities in Sarasota, but my understanding is that there won’t be games against other teams.
I would be surprised if there was an agreement to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement by a year. I think both sides are unhappy enough with the current CBA that they want major changes. Hopefully, there’s a new agreement by December 1st, when the old one expires.
Question: Will the layout of the schedule be up for debate in this winter’s Collective Bargaining Agreement? I would rather leave the weighted by division schedule. From: Orange DNA via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Orange, the schedule is up for approval each year, but major changes have to be negotiated. I don’t see any changes now. An unbalanced schedule means less travel. In a balanced schedule, the Orioles would play the Royals and Twins as often as the Yankees and Red Sox. I would be surprised if team ownership favored a change since attendance for Yankees and Red Sox games is much higher than for Royals and Twins games.
When baseball gets around to expanding to 32 teams, you might see substantial changes to the schedule.
Question: Why do bonuses paid to Oriole draft picks vary? I noticed that the 20th pick received a larger bonus than any other player picked in the 11th-19th pick? From: Jim Considine via email
Answer: Jim, three picks — John Rhodes, an outfielder from the University of Kentucky, the Orioles’ third-round pick; Creed Williams, a high school catcher chosen in the eighth round; and Trendon Craig, a junior college outfielder; received significantly higher bonuses than are slotted because they had leverage.
Rhodes could have returned to college. Williams could have gone to college, and Craig could have moved from junior college to a four-year school. The bonuses are an incentive to sign instead of going to school.
The Orioles signed each of their 21 draft picks. The lowest reported bonus was the $25,000 received by Alex Pham, picked in the 19th round. Craig, who was picked next, got a $250,000 bonus.
Question: How are the waiver-wire players evaluated and what goes into deciding to claim a player? How long do clubs have to put in a claim after someone is waived and so forth? I would assume that the scouting department is involved, but what are the nuts and bolts and timelines of the whole decision-making process? From: Scott Scheer via email
Answer: Scott, teams are looking for players who fill a specific need and want someone who’s better than a player who’s on the roster.
The Orioles claimed Jorge Mateo, an infielder from San Diego whom they didn’t think would become available, but they were looking for an upgrade in infielders and claimed him.
Teams have 48 hours to decide to place a claim, and it’s a confidential process. The Orioles don’t know if other teams have placed a bid. Because of their record, the Orioles have priority on all players placed on waivers by an American League team, and if a player is put on waivers by a National League team, and isn’t claimed there, they have priority over other AL teams.
Question: Do you agree with the decision to bring manager Brandon Hyde back? From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, I think Brandon Hyde deserves a chance with a more talented club and, with an infusion of some top prospects expected next season, we’ll see how the club performs.
I think Hyde could be a much better manager with better players.
Question: Living in Florida I don’t get to see a lot of O’s games. Based on what you saw this season, do you pencil in either Ramón Urías and/or Jorge Mateo as starters at second base or shortstop next season or are they utility guys? From: Greg Fuchs via email
Answer: Greg, if the Orioles don’t trade for or sign someone else, I think Mateo and Urías could be the starters, but I expect there to be competition. I think that Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson could be ready at shortstop and third base later next season.
The Orioles are intrigued by Mateo’s speed. It’s something they don’t have enough of, and Urías filled in well when Freddy Galvis was injured and after he was traded.
Question: Thank you and the staff for providing such quality coverage this season. My question is what can you tell us about prospects from the international side of the farm system? I know none of them are close to the majors but can you give us any names of players to watch out for in the upcoming seasons? From: Rene Linares via email
Answer: Some of the Orioles’ international signees in 2019 played for Florida Complex League teams and the most recent ones played in the Dominican Summer League.
There are two intriguing international prospects who the Orioles didn’t sign but traded for. One is Jean Pinto, who the Orioles got in the trade from the Los Angeles Angels for José Iglesias. Pinto is a 20-year-old right-hander who after a nice start in the Florida Complex League, was 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA in nine games with Delmarva.
Another is 19-year-old outfielder Mishael Deson, who the Orioles got from Colorado in the trade for reliever Mychal Givens. He hit .369 in 32 games in the Florida Complex League and played six games for Delmarva at the end of the season.
Question: There’s a talent pool of shortstops this offseason and we need a reliable one desperately. Will we go shortstop hunting? From: Scott Bupp via Facebook
Answer: Scott, I think the Orioles might go hunting for another shortstop, but I would be surprised if they bid for Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons or Trevor Story.
If one or two of those players doesn’t see his market heat up, it’s possible the Orioles could get involved, but I don’t see them getting in a bidding war.
Perhaps, a reunion with Galvis, who was popular in his time with the Orioles is possible. Iglesias also will be a free agent.
Question: How do organizations like the Orioles keep meeting their payroll and other expenses when they attract only 1/5th or 1/6th of their capacity in attendance per game? From: JR on the Shore
Answer: JR, while ticket sales, parking and concessions are important to the Orioles and other major league teams, that’s not the principal source of revenue.
According to Forbes, about 30 percent of revenue comes from ticket sales.
Major league clubs split national television revenue from FOX, ESPN and TBS, and that’s massive. MLB.com is a huge moneymaker, and this week, MLBTV reported record use. There’s money made from local TV and radio and then there are sales from jerseys and caps.
Question: With regard to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, are there some things that both sides are likely to agree on? From: Cedar via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Cedar, I know that neither side is thrilled with seven-inning doubleheaders and starting extra innings with a runner on second (I like both rules), and I don’t think they’ll return in 2022. I think the universal designated hitter will be instituted next year, too. Those are pretty easy. The rest of the negotiations are likely to be harder.
Question: Is it foolish to hope for a backup catcher with a stronger batting average than Austin Wynns? I am fairly new to baseball and would not mind someone explaining to me what makes Wynns valuable other than his salary and having good character or professionalism. From: Lanky Rat via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Lanky, good catchers are hard to find and good backup catchers are harder to find. With Adley Rutschman likely to be the starter next season, selling a potential free agent on playing 30-to-40 games is a pretty hard sale.
Most experienced catchers want to go to either a contender or a team where they can play often. That won’t happen with the Orioles.
As for Wynns, he’s a good defensive catcher, works well with a pitching staff and would mentor Rutschman. You could do worse than having Wynns as a backup catcher.
Question: Do you think providing service time stays the same, that Grayson Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman make the club out of spring training? From: @NTom35
Answer: Tom, I think the service time issue will be addressed in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and I think Rutschman makes the club out of spring training. I think Rodriguez starts at Triple-A and makes his Orioles debut a month or two into 2022.