Projecting the 2014 Orioles: Offense

Following a surprise playoff appearance in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles finished the 2013 season with an 85-77 record, 12 games out of first place in the American League East and 7 games out of the wild card spot.  Despite not making the playoffs, the 2013 team was arguably more talented than the 2012 team, due to reasons that we’ve discussed before. This offseason was relatively quiet until around the start of spring training when the team made several moves to improve roster holes leftover from 2013 (starting rotation and designated hitter). Despite what looks to be an upgraded team, the Zips Projection System at Fangraphs currently sees them finishing the 2014 season at the bottom of the AL East with a record of 78-84. Let’s take a closer look at how Zips came to that conclusion.*  This is more informative than actual analysis, but I think it is still be a worthwhile exercise.

*Note: this post as written before Zips made its final projections for the season, so things will probably change slightly in the next week.

Catcher

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

In 2013, Baltimore catchers produced a total of 1.9 fWAR, which placed them 18th in all of baseball. The bulk of that production came from Matt Wieters (2.4 fWAR), but the backups added -0.5 wins in only 101 plate appearances.  Offensively, Zips sees Wieters improving on his disappointing 2013 season, while once again playing a lot at the position.*  I personally believe that the projection for Wieters is slightly on the low side, and that he has a decent chance to exceed it.

*Note: As I’m writing this, Zips has Chris Snyder (who was just released by the Nationals) as the primary backup. As a result I added his plate appearances to Steve Clevenger’s projection since he will be the primary backup.

2014 Projected Difference: +1.9 wins

First Base

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

Baltimore first basemen produced 6.4 fWAR in 2013, which put them 1st in all of baseball.  The mighty Chris Davis was worth 6.8 wins, but in the few games he didn’t play first base, his replacements contributed -0.4 wins in only 23 plate appearances. Zips sees Davis as being worth exactly half of what he was in 2013, which I also think is on the low side.  I’m not saying that he’ll be an MVP candidate again, but I think he’ll be worth closer to 4 or 5 wins rather than 3.4.

2014 Projected Difference: -2.9 wins

Second Base

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

Orioles second baseman contributed 2.4 fWAR last year, putting them in a tie for 14th in baseball (actually better than I remember).  Most of this production came from Ryan Flaherty, and most of THAT production came from Ryan Flaherty’s glove.  I do think Zips is a little optimistic on the number of times Jemile Weeks will come to the plate, and I would bet some his PA’s will go to Flaherty.  Obviously Zips hasn’t been updated to reflect the trade for Steve Lombardozzi, so these numbers will change, with the most likely outcome of Schoop’s plate appearances going to the new guy. The number of overall wins produced though probably won’t change all that much (Zips projects Lombardozzi to be worth 0.8 fWAR in 483 PA’s).

2014 Projected Difference: -1.3 wins

Third Base

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

In 2013, Orioles third basemen were 5th in the league, producing 6.2 fWAR.  This value was produced in its entirety by Mr. Brooks Robinson Manny Machado. While Machado was basically average with the bat last year, it was his glove that made him so valuable. Machado’s projected production in 2014 takes a hit for two reasons.  First is his recovery from last year’s knee injury that will cause him to start the season on the disabled list.  Second is the fact that while Zips sees a modest offensive improvement across the board, it doesn’t believe Machado will have the same impact defensively.  It still sees him as having a well above average glove in 2014, just not a “one of the best fielding seasons ever” glove in 2014. Similar to Chris Davis, I think this projection is a little low, both offensively and defensively. I think he’ll beat projections for both, but will come up short in matching his defensive value from last year.

2014 Projected Difference: -2.5 wins

Shortstop

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

The Orioles produced 3.4 fWAR at SS in 2013, good for 8th best in baseball.  All of that production was courtesy of J.J. Hardy.  While Zips sees Hardy as having a slightly worse 2014 both offensively and defensively, it’s expecting him to have a very similar season (low OBP, good power, good defense).  Trading Alex Gonzalez shouldn’t change this table, as you can either give his at-bats to Casilla or (more likely) Hardy.  Because let’s face it, if he’s healthy, you should see Hardy manning the position every day.

2014 Projected Difference: -0.3 wins

Left Field

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

Orioles left fielders were essentially a middle of the pack group last year, producing 2.2 fWAR, placing them 16th in baseball. Nate McLouth (signed by the Nationals in the offseason) produced 2.5 of those wins, while a dubious cast of characters added some negative value when McLouth wasn’t in the lineup.  Zips sees most of McLouth’s PA’s going to newcomer David Lough in 2014, who is a similar player, but with less on-base ability and more defensive value.  Someone worth watching is Nolan Reimold.  If he’s healthy (this is said EVERY year), he is a guy who could play and produce a lot more than Zips is currently projecting (although, I’m not exactly putting my faith in Reimold’s health).

2014 Projected Difference: -0.8 wins

Center Field

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

The Baltimore center fielders produced 3.8 wins in 2013, putting them in the 13th spot in MLB’s rankings for the position.  Adam Jones was worth 4.2 wins, but as we’ve seen with other positions, the replacements can take away a lot of value in little time, as Jason Pridie produced -0.4 fWAR in ONLY 10 PA’s. Zips sees a very similar season for Jones in 2014 with slightly less power.  This projection looks right to me, except for the playing time. Jones is another guy who will be out there every day as long as he’s healthy, so I’m betting he’ll have more than 595 PA’s, which should increase his production on volume alone.

2014 Projected Difference: -1.0 wins

Right Field

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

In 2013, Baltimore’s right fielders were abysmal (and by right fielders, I mean Nick Markakis).  Markakis was the sole producer of the team’s -0.1 fWAR at the position, good (bad?) for 26th in all of baseball.  It will be hard for Markakis to be worse in 2014, and I think that Zips is giving him a pretty good projection for the year, with a chance for a slight increase in batting average and power (in my opinion).

2014 Projected Difference: +1.3 wins

Designated Hitter

2014 Zips Projection

2014 Zips Projection

Baltimore’s lack of production at the DH position in 2013 was documented several times here at Orioles Proving Ground as well as Camden Depot (for example, here and here).  As a unit, they produced only 0.4 wins.  Zips sees an improvement for the Orioles in 2014, mostly due to the signing of Nelson Cruz.  However, Zips only sees Cruz as a 0.9 fWAR DH in 2014, which is probably lower than many fans expect, although that projected line looks very reasonable to me. If there’s room for any improvement in the projections, it would come from Urrutia, who is still somewhat of an unknown quantity at the major league level.

2014 Projected Difference: +0.9 wins

Overall Difference in Offense Between 2013 and 2014 Projection: -4.7 wins

Later this week we’ll take a similar look at the Orioles pitching staff.

One Response to “Projecting the 2014 Orioles: Offense”

  1. […] week we looked at what the Zips projection system over at Fangraphs thought the Baltimore Orioles position players were capable of in the 2014 season.  Comparing those projections to the wins (fWAR) the team received at each of the offensive […]

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