You always expect mixed reactions when a player is traded, especially a fan favorite like Jeremy Guthrie. In reading message boards, columns, etc. yesterday, it appears that most of Birdland thinks that the Rockies got the best of the trade. From the outset, I thought that it was what one might term a “bum deal.” However in reality, Dan Duquette might have did what he did for legitimate reasos. I would say that at face value, the trade appears to be exactly what the other Duquette moves were: underwhelming. However the true test of that will be time.
I would agree with what MASN’s Amber Theoharis said in a column regarding Duquette channeling his inner Billy Beane. We all saw Moneyball when it came out this past autumn, right? The idea of course being that you can have in effect replace big power hitters by getting players who yield specific statistics. While the general consensus is that this tactic was a failure, I would point out that the 2002 Oakland A’s were in the playoffs. Would the Orioles not take that kind of competitiveness at this point?
But let’s put that aside for a moment and go back to the Jeremy Guthrie trade. The Orioles’ arbitration hearing with Guthrie was scheduled for yesterday afternoon (he wanted $10 million and the Orioles were offering $7.2 million). I would agree that Guthrie’s demands were a bit high, but you expect that of a player. Had he won the O’s would have been overpaying for their own guy. Had the Orioles won they would have saved on salary but who knows where that would have left Guthrie. In 2006 the O’s beat Rodrigo Lopez in arbitration, and he sulked his way into spring training and through the season. You get my point I’m sure; you don’t want Guthrie to turn into a malcontent. Furthermore he was a free agent after this season anyways, and who’s to say that he would have re-signed had the O’s beaten him in arbitration?
Most people seem to agree that dealing Guthrie was a good move, however they’re concerned about what the O’s got in return. Duquette seems to think that Jason Hammel is going to take the spot of Jeremy Guthrie in terms of being an innings-eater. Hammel is also slightly younger, and more importantly perhaps he comes with an extra year of team control. Hammel’s line over the course of his career is: 34-45, 4.99 ERA, 86 HR, 253 BB, and 508 K’s. That’s actually slightly better than Guthrie’s 47-65, 4.19 ERA, 138 HR, 304 BB, and 626 K’s (keep in mind that Guthrie’s played for longer). In the case of Matt Lindstrom, Duquette said that he felt the Orioles got a decent power arm for the back end of the ‘pen…
…stepping back into the Moneyball world again, isn’t the bullpen an area where the O’s have struggled over time? So in effect, this is Duquette addressing an area of weakness from the last couple of years. Take that idea and apply it to some of the other aquisitions. As opposed to perhaps someone like Luke Scott, the Orioles now have Wilson Betemit and Endy Chavez as utility players. How does this make a difference? The Orioles have had trouble with situational hitting in that they couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). These two guys provide that potential as opposed to players who were otherwise one-dimensional. Scott and Vladimir Guerrero could swing a pretty hot bat without a doubt. However Vlad would either homer or strike out, and Scott was one of the streakiest hitters that you could find.
For his career, Luke Scott has an on-base percentage (OBP) of .349, while Betemit stands at .336; so if anything Scott gets on base more often, right? Yes and no. Scott’s OPB is essentially that high due to him posting a .426 in his second season with the Astros. For the rest of his career he’s been lower than that, and last season he posted an OBP of .301 (although he only played in 64 games). Betemit’s OBP in 2011 (with Detroit) was .346, and he’s posted in the .340′s for the past three seasons. As for Chavez, he’s considered a good fielder with speed on the base paths. He can also hit to all areas of the field; how often did teams employ a shift against Luke Scott, and why did they do it? Because Scott only hit to one part of the field for the most part. This is not to knock Luke Scott in any way, because he was a positive force on this team in many ways. However it’s just a different way of building the club.
This is not to say that IF Dan Duquette is trying to take the Billy Beane course of action there isn’t risk involved. If Beane’s philosophy had any merit league-wide, every team would do it. Yet there are still teams like the Yankees that buy every slugger available. That 2002 Oakland team had a payroll of $41 million, while NY had a payroll of $125 million; both teams made the playoffs that year.
With this in mind, let’s also not forget that the problem in 2011 was not necessarily the offense per se, it was the pitching. Again at first glance, it appears that Duquette reduced the quality of the pitching staff. However combined with many other moves, what he’s done is create a scenario where eight or nine guys are now competing for five rotation slots. What Duquette is ensuring is that the Orioles will take the five best starting pitchers when they break camp. So while they’ve traded their best pitcher, perhaps the statistics that were put out by that pitcher might in themselves be replicated by spreading them across several different guys. As I’ve maintained, let’s at least wait to see how the team meshes on the field before judging Duquette’s moves.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala