March 7, 2012 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

2012 Fantasy Baseball : Top Five Questions: Baltimore Orioles

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Matt Wieters, BAL

Here are the top five questions facing the Baltimore Orioles in 2012.

5. Is it finally Wieters-time?

Thos of you that have been with since day one know how much trouble Wieters has caused me. I went from being his biggest supporter, to repudiating him after two years of struggles. Well, call me the Prodigal Son, since I am back on the bandwagon.

His skill set has fully flowered over the last two years, and there is nary a flaw. His K/BB, xBA, LD% and CT% all jumped forward in 2011, and a low-ish BABIP is the only wrinkle. Given a line drive rate of 20% his xBABIP is approximately .320 versus an actual BABIP closer to .280. Color us green if you own him already, since 2012 is the year.

4. Can any starting pitcher develop?

Maybe the single biggest problem in this organization is the utter inability to develop a starter. Despite tremendous talent up and down the young rotation, the team has yet to develop even a regular, plain-old league-average starter. Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton all have pedigree, good scouting reports in the minors and depressing major league results.

If you think we know whether any one of these guys will be good then you have more faith than you should. This is a good example of where the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy can lead us astray. There is no reason to prefer one of these guys over the others, and if you get lucky and your guy performs well, don’t bother looking for an explanation. For me Arrieta is the best of the lot but there are no winners here, only degrees of losing.

3. Jim Johnson or Matt Lindstrom?

We ignore Kevin Gregg for obvious reasons when it comes to this pen; so the question is whether Johnson holds the job.

Whenever the question is “can pitcher X hold the closer’s job” the answer is usually “yes.” There have been plenty of closers with terrible skills and speculating for closers starts with who has the job. And Johnson starts with the job.

Johnson will be a good litmus test for this theory; his K rate of 5.7K/9 in 2011 is terrible for a closer, his K/BB is marginal at 2.8 and he was a mere 9 innings away from that magical mark of 100 IP, from which few relievers recover. On the plus side are an extreme ground ball rate of 61% and not much else. Even that is not a benefit since his BABIP was below .270 and is certain to rise.

Let other’s pay $15-20 for Johnson and speculate on Lindstrom.

2. Will Nick Markakis ever hit for power again?

If you are looking for signs of life that Markakis doesn’t turn into Freddy Sanchez good luck to you. Markakis has four straight years of a decline in his linear weighted power, a terrible FB% and HR/FB% and his skill set looks like that of a singles hitter. Even that BA is suspect, as his LD% of 23% last year was a career high by a good margin.

Markakis had stomach surgery in the offseason to boot.

At least you know what you are going to get, in theory. But it isn’t exactly a lot. And as hard as it may be to believe, it looks like there is more downside here than upside, a depressing thought indeed for Orioles’ fans, if any.

1. Is Adam Jones ready to be a star?

After two years of a .280+ BA and a 25 HR power spike at age 25, one might be forgiven for thinking Jones may be a star and that even a 20/20 season might be in the offing.

Don’t bet on it.

Players that can go 20/20 .280 with a BB% of 5% and a K/BB ratio of 4-1 are as rare as the coelacanth. Sure, maybe we haven’t seen one for 90 million years but every once in a while they show up. Yes, this is true; we thought this sea creature was extinct for 90 million years until one was found. So it is not impossible that Jones might be a star.

As we are fond of saying, gravity is the strongest force in fantasy baseball. And it is tugging with all of its might on Jones’ ascendancy.

This leads me to a tee-off. Brandon McCarthy used statistical analysis, he says, to make himself a better pitcher. And it shows. Why can’t a guy like Adam Jones change what he does? Why can’t a hitter change their approach and take more balls?

My oft-stated view is that hitting is mostly a neurological process; it is not a conscious process like pitching. The neurons need to fire so quickly that there is no time for any decisions on a conscious level. Either your brain/optic nerves allow you to lay off a pitch or they don’t and there is not much you can do to change it if it is not there already. At least, that is my theory so feel free to prove me wrong.


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