Answers to your Orioles questions, Part 1 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Answers to your Orioles questions, Part 1

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

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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.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. dlgruber1

    October 7, 2021 at 7:21 am

    Rich, I guess I’m just thick but even after you’re explanation of WAR I’m still a bit lost on it. I think it’s the word “Replacement” that throws me off. I mean, once upon a time a fella named Lou Gehrig was a replacement for poor ol’ Wally Pipp. In any case, I wanna compliment the questions, there were some very good ones, and your answers. I love the monthly mailbag. Seems kinda strange tho not seeing questions about CD any more.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 7, 2021 at 8:24 am

      In this case, Dave replacement means average. How much better or worse is Player X than the average player?

      • markakis21

        October 7, 2021 at 8:32 am

        Exactly. And to clarify, this doesn’t mean an average starter (Ji-Man Choi, Ramon Urias), it means just an average player overall.

        A better way of saying it is that a replacement level player is one that you should be able to easily acquire through waivers, cash trade, or minor league FA. Think of some of the random reliever guys we cycled through.

      • WorldlyView

        October 7, 2021 at 11:55 pm

        Rich, In response to your detailed explanation of WAR, I believe that the best word to describe it is ‘specious.’ It has too many moving parts to be remotely scientific. “WAR” calculations are sufficiently complex and iffy that there are at least two ways of calculating it. At best, it offers some guesswork about past performances. I cannot believe that it offers anything statistically valid about the future. But if it gives the stats guys something to chatter about, fine.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 7, 2021 at 11:27 am

      Dave, thanks for the good words about the mailbag. Wally Pipp’s WAR was 31.7. Gehrig’s was 113.7. I’m sure there will be questions about Chris in the future, don’t fret.

    • dlgruber1

      October 7, 2021 at 3:16 pm

      Ok, so, one last attempt at understanding WAR me. I saw that the average MLB batting average this season was .244. That was the lowest since I think it was 1968. So, if player X hit .280, and league average was .244, but had 3 fewer HRs and 8 fewer RBIs, which player wound have the higher WAR? I’m really trying to understand this as it appears WAR is THE biggest strike against RM for RoY and I simply look at his stats and think he should either win or place no lower than 2nd yet everything I see has him not even in the top 5. I promise I won’t bring this up again. Well, maybe I shouldn’t promise that.

    • dlgruber1

      October 7, 2021 at 3:20 pm

      Shoot, I did forget to add something. I’ve read RM had a bad defensive WAR. Well, he committed but 1 error in all the games he played at 1st base and quite frankly I thought, with my untrained eyes, that he actually played an excellent 1st base. I just wanted to add that because as I said, I’ve read his defensive WAR is what hurts him. Ok, now I’m done.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 7, 2021 at 4:18 pm

      Dave, Mountcastle’s composite WAR was .9. His offensive WAR was 1.5. His defensive WAR was -1.5. The defensive WAR takes into account many factors besides errors.

      Randy Arozarena’s WAR was 4.2. His offensive WAR was 3.8, and his defensive
      WAR was -.2.

      Adolis Garcia’s WAR was 3.8. His offensive WAR was 2.1 and his defensive WAR was 1.6. He had 16 outfield assists, an extraordinary number.

      WAR tries to paint a full picture of a player, offensively and defensively.

      • Northern Oriole

        October 8, 2021 at 9:38 am

        Garcia’s 16 outfield assists got me thinking about Joe Orsulak. In 1991 he led the AL in outfield assists with 22 (even though he only started 118 games). He only made one error, but according to Baseball Reference his defensive WAR was just 0.3. He must have had poor range? His OPS was .679 (9% below league average), and his overall WAR was 1.8. I sort of thought of him as better than that.

    • CalsPals

      October 7, 2021 at 5:54 pm

      So a part of WAR is dictated by how many chances someone gets defensively, which they have no control over, so theoretically someone may not have the range of another player, but since they cannot get to something they may or may not be penalized by their lack of range…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2021 at 8:25 am

      Steve, it’s also a fun tool to use when you argue with your friends about players from different eras or great players from the past.

      It takes into account offense and defense.

      Willie Mays had a moderately higher WAR than Henry Aaron. Was he greater?

      And, as I stated earlier, it helps us appreciate some terrific players in the past like Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker and Dwight Evans.

      I do still like the traditional stats, but it’s another tool to help us understand the game.

  2. CalsPals

    October 7, 2021 at 7:33 am

    Accountability? Padres fire manager with .523 winning %, O’s retain manager with .340 winning %….go O’s…

    • Birdman

      October 7, 2021 at 8:15 am

      Padres had a payroll of about $175 million, about 700% higher than Orioles payroll … therefore, higher expectations for their manager.

    • CalsPals

      October 7, 2021 at 8:28 am

      Agree, wins are still wins, your statement also shows another area of accountability for the O’s, trying to win…go O’s…

      • Phil770

        October 7, 2021 at 9:41 am

        CP, Padres post All Star game record was closer to the O’s 2nd half record. Reminds me of 2nd half of 2017 season of the O’s. Good article recently in The Athletic detailing the issues with an inexperienced manage r. The GM built a top tier minor league pipeline, then acquired players through trade, signing top free agents and added front line pitching and promoted and extended their top young prospect. Former Oriole coaches Kirby and Dickerson are there, plus Ryan Flaherty in a special assignment. The manager lost the clubhouse.

        • Nellie

          October 7, 2021 at 12:21 pm

          Easy to lose the clubhouse when you have Machado standing in the middle of it. Ask Buck.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            October 7, 2021 at 9:12 pm

            Certainly possible

      • willmiranda

        October 7, 2021 at 10:24 am

        Take heart, CP, the O’s just fired Kendall and Mills from jobs at the top and bottom of the O’s Number One Farm System, apparently for losing too many games. Maybe the rhetoric of “development is everything; losses don’t matter” is sounding hollow, even for the Warehouse. Whether firing the managers is accountability or scapegoating is another question. I don’t think there’s much evidence that the Norfolk Shuttle did anything to help either the Tides or the O’s, nor do I think that the managers have any control over player movements, aside perhaps for some choices in their daily lineups.

    • markakis21

      October 7, 2021 at 8:33 am

      Padres were expected to be a top 3 team in MLB this season and fell short of .500.

      Additionally, Tingler has become the scapegoat for their GM going all-in too early. Preller fired him to protect himself. The Padres are a good example of what happens when you lose patience with a rebuild. The White Sox are a good example of seeing a rebuild through to the end.

    • CalsPals

      October 7, 2021 at 8:38 am

      White Sox did the same thing with their manager last yr & brought in LaRussa, how is that seeing it through to the end?…go O’s…

      • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

        October 7, 2021 at 1:59 pm

        CP, Your Denseness! White Sox made the post season in 2020! How about that for seeing it through to the end/psotseason…smh

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          October 7, 2021 at 9:19 pm

          Where was there a mention by CPs about the Sox NOT making the postseason?

          Evidently I’m not the only one around here with a reading comprehension issue.

          But at least I CAN spell postseason ….

    • Orial

      October 7, 2021 at 11:17 am

      Nothing like good ol’ all American complacency.

    • CalsPals

      October 7, 2021 at 2:04 pm

      Denseness, they made it to the playoffs & still canned Renteria, seeing it through would have been keeping Renteria, not bringing in LaRussa, can’t believe I even responded to you, WTH is psotseason anyways?…LMAO…go O’s…

  3. markakis21

    October 7, 2021 at 8:37 am

    I’d love to see Jeff Mathis signed as the backup catcher for next season. His bat is awful, so he probably wouldn’t provide that much on-field value, but there isn’t a better defensive catcher out there currently, and I think he’d have a lot to teach Adley.

  4. Northern Oriole

    October 7, 2021 at 8:46 am

    I’m surprised you’re not higher on Urias. I thought his defence was very good and he handled himself well at the plate. .361 OBP, 115 wRC+. He’ll be 28 and make the league minimum next season. Galvis and Iglesias are older and likely more expensive.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 7, 2021 at 8:58 am

      I thought he was fine, but they can’t go into next spring training thinking Urias, Mateo and Gutierrez will be the starters.

      Urias was hurt late in the season, and hasn’t played a full year. I liked what I
      saw from him, but he played only 85 games. There needs to be competition.

    • CalsPals

      October 7, 2021 at 9:05 am

      Galvis & Iglesias shouldn’t be considered in any way shape or form…go O’s…

  5. BalBall

    October 7, 2021 at 9:19 am

    Hi Rich, I really enjoyed and learned a few things too reading your answers. My comment is about Austin Wynns. When I was up in Baltimore at the last three games v Red Sox, I noticed that he wasn’t playing. Before the start of each game, even before the position players came out to warm up, he came out of the dugout, signed for any kid or adult who asked him, answered questions, and just engaged with the fans. That’s a class act; actually not an act, that’s just the kind of person he is. I’m an Austin Wynns fan. Jeff Maynard

    • Baltimore Castaway

      October 7, 2021 at 9:38 am

      Agreed. He is a very good fellow.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 7, 2021 at 11:09 am

      Thank you, Jeff. Always good seeing you at the park.

  6. Balt mp

    October 7, 2021 at 9:23 am

    I can’t in good conscience bring back Hyde despite the legitimate argument about lack of talent .
    The team continues to show a lack of discipline in fundamentals how many missed cutoffs, how many failures to move runners, how much poor pitch calling . Then we have a 204 hitter starting garbage from the dugout with Toronto.
    He has not developed the young talent that he did have particularly on the pitching side in fact most have regressed. He did not allow starters for the most part to throw more than 90 pitches or five innings and even when ahead would pull the starter at the first sign of trouble I would think you have to pitch out of jams now so you know you can do it in pressure situations .
    Questionable lineup decisions if you can’t see that Hayes is a better outfielder than DJ Stewart you need to see an optometrist better hitter better defense and capable of making adjustments and growing as a player all things DJ has showed no inclination to do which again is the manager’s responsibility. If you can’t see that Urias needs to play every day either at second or short you can’t judge your players how many clutch runs did he drive in ?
    I have said and still believe that a better in-house option is Buck Britton who has repeatedly shown he can win and develop.

    • ClayDal

      October 7, 2021 at 11:24 am

      By chance did you watch the 2 wild card games the last 2 nights? The Yankees pulled their 324 million dollar man Cole in the 3rd inning. Evoldi was removed after 5.1 innings and 71 pitches. Scherzer, a future first ballot Hall of Famer was pulled after 4.1 innings. Wainwright after 5.1. Granted these were elimination games, but the days of pitchers throwing 300 innings and 20 complete games are passed. In the case of Hyde, he was trying to preserve the young arms who were going from a 60 game season to covering 162 games. Many of the pitchers didn’t even pitch last year because of the cancelled minor league season. Wasn’t unique to the Orioles. Check the box scores from any date in the season and you will see a lot of 4.1 or less outings from starters

      • willmiranda

        October 7, 2021 at 2:29 pm

        Good points, Clay. I’d add that early in a playoff sequence if you take a top starter out early, he can come back sooner and you may be able to get an extra start out of him over the long playoffs. Of course, you have to have a reliable bullpen to take the risk, but once he’s qualified for the W, it’s not a bad idea. Similarly, if he’s not winning or hasn’t his best stuff, pulling him after a few innings will shorten recovery time. One reason for trying to avoid the one-game playoff is to save burning a top-level starter just to advance.

    • willmiranda

      October 7, 2021 at 11:50 am

      First, Balt, I am generally in agreement with your overall description of some of the team’s actions and their undesirability. However, I think they are so blatant, so frequent, and so enduring that I don’t think any supervisor would put up with them if he felt they threatened his own plans. Agree or disagree with ME, you have to give him credit for being a man with a plan, even if it isn’t always obvious. I think you also have to say that he pays attention to detail, makes firm decisions, and executes them with dispatch. It is my contention, regarding the manager, that he is in frequent communication with ME and following the latter’s instructions regarding personnel. With the results we have all. Perhaps you are right in suggesting that he should be replaced by Britton or someone else, but would you find someone equally compliant yet more competitive than Hyde?

  7. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    October 7, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    The Orioles ERA of 7.15 with Wynns behind the plate is not indicative of a catcher who works well with pitchers IMO but I guess his 0.540 OPS and -0.6 WAR compensate for his high CERA.

    • dlgruber1

      October 7, 2021 at 5:38 pm

      I’m guessing on the O’s whoever was catching the most when Means pitched was gonna have the lower CERA. Johnny Bench couldn’t have had a good CERA with this staff.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 7, 2021 at 9:23 pm

      More absolutely meaningless yet misleading numbers.

  8. dlgruber1

    October 7, 2021 at 9:04 pm

    Before Rutschman was the top ranked prospect Wander Franco was. If Rutschman can even come close to Franco I’ll be thrilled.

  9. dlgruber1

    October 7, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    I just have this horrible feeling Rutschman is gonna be the next Weiters. Don’t get me wrong, Weiters had a nice career but he never approached what the hype was for him. If you go back and read articles about Wieters you could probably just change the name to Rutschman and they’d read the same as you are seeing now about AR.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 7, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      I love Matt Wieters. Hopefully I’ll grow to love Rutschman more.

  10. Buzz1979

    October 7, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    Switch-hitting Jesus, one of the biggest LOL’s of all time! Good news, Plutko and Valdez have exercised their right to be minor league FA, like anyone else wants them!

  11. AkronOhioOriole1

    October 7, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    I wanted to see a couple innings of the Rays game and see what a winning team looks like, apparently nobody in Tampa wanted too…looked like their whole upper deck was empty. I’m glad Baltimore fans show up when they have a good team. Now if we can just get a good team.

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