Matt Wieters, Adam Jones

The intriguing Baltimore Orioles lineup

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Or how bad can your team really be when your seven, eight and nine hitters all have a chance to reach 25 homers.

This is the Orioles lineup as I currently perceive it:

2B Brian Roberts
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Wilson Betemit
1B Mark Reynolds
3B Chris Davis
LF Nolan Reimold

Of course, there are some big question marks there, starting at the very top. Roberts overcoming his concussion problems is the real key to Baltimore’s offense this season. If he’s not ready to go, then not only does that put Robert Andino in the lineup, but it also likely means Endy Chavez would start over Reimold against righties, since that’s the only way the team would have a “true leadoff hitter.”

But let’s say Roberts is healthy. Markakis too. That’s an awfully intriguing lineup, isn’t it? Eight players there have a legitimate shot of getting to 20 homers. Markakis is one of the least likely, yet he could finish with 15 and still be one of the team’s best players.

Here’s my current projection for each player in that lineup:

Roberts: .269/.343/.389, 7 HR, 43 RBI in 453 AB
Hardy: .260/.315/.450, 25 HR, 75 RBI in 542 AB
Markakis: .301/.373/.461, 18 HR, 83 RBI in 612 AB
Jones: .287/.335/.473, 24 HR, 91 RBI in 571 AB
Wieters: .286/.360/.495, 25 HR, 80 RBI in 497 AB
Betemit: .269/.335/.456, 19 HR, 67 RBI in 447 AB
Reynolds: .240/.333/.490, 35 HR, 88 RBI in 526 AB
Davis: .247/.302/.434, 22 HR, 65 RBI in 511 AB
Reimold: .251/.333/.428, 18 HR, 54 RBI in 446 AB

Nothing there is too unrealistic, is it? Wieters’ projection is on the optimistic side, but then, I’m optimistic. Davis will need to keep his OBP respectible in order to get 500 at-bats, but given the alternatives, the Orioles might as well let him play full-time to see what he can do. Besides, Reynolds belongs at first base.

Of course, the Orioles aren’t at all likely to end up with eight 20-homer guys. No team in major league history has ever had more than seven (the 2009 Yankees and 2010 Rangers are two of the five teams to sport that many). But if things break right, it could be a surprisingly potent group one through nine.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.