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Monday, February 03, 2014

Jim Palmer on A.J. Burnett and the O’s rotation

What does the three-time Cy Young winner, eight-time 20-game winner, MASN broadcaster and greatest pitcher in O’s history think of Burnett?

“Well, he had a nice year with Pittsburgh,” Palmer said at FanFest on Saturday. “I was talking to Dom Chiti who is going to be our bullpen coach. He goes, ‘Entirely different leagues.’

“Now that doesn’t mean ... at least he’s a groundball pitcher. Maybe command is not where you want, at least when he was with the Yankees. But he’s got experience and has stayed healthy.

“I would imagine he’ll be expensive, but that is to be determined. He might be better than what you have, but then again, maybe not. Certainly, (Burnett has a) better track record. We know how difficult it is to pitch in the AL East - just one pitcher’s park, that is down in Tampa. But he does bring a lot of experience to the table.”

So does Palmer think that would be a good move?

“It could be. He’ll give you some options. As long as he wants to come here. He lives in Monkton. Looks like it would be a perfect fit,” he said.

...Some feel Burnett has reinvented himself somewhat as a pitcher. His groundball-to-flyball ratios in those two years with New York were 1.20 and 1.52, not bad at all. But he took it to another level the last two seasons, throwing more sinkers and his 2.34 ratio ranked third in the majors.

“Part of reinventing yourself is just to be a little more aggressive early in the strike zone,” Palmer said. “Dave Wallace (the new O’s pitching coach), that is one of his basic premises of pitching. He has a track record of getting guys to understand what they need to do to be successful. The stuff is still pretty good (for Burnett).”

Thanks to Butch.

Repoz Posted: February 03, 2014 at 09:32 AM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4650652)
I've thought it was obvious all offseason Burnett would sign with the Orioles, but at this point it seems likely he's just going to sign with the highest bidder from among the teams located within 100 miles of Baltimore and not in New York (Orioles/Nationals/Phillies/Pirates). The Orioles and Phillies will outbid the Pirates (who didn't make a qualifying offer because ownership isn't really interested in paying $10 million-plus to bring him back, and never was) and I'm yet to hear any indication the Nationals are interested, so.
   2. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 03, 2014 at 11:51 AM (#4650681)
The Orioles signing Burnett is my all-time "this move is completely doomed to failure" favorite.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 11:58 AM (#4650693)
I have no idea why Burnett would risk moving away from that defense and ballpark in Pittsburgh. As long as the Pirates get within a few million of the top bidder, he should run back there.

Is spending your last season getting shelled on a 3rd or 4th place Baltimore team really worth an extra $2-3M, when you've already made $120M?
   4. AROM Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4650700)
Baltimore's got a pretty good defense too, assuming Machado makes it back without restrictions.
   5. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4650701)
Wait, AJ Burnett is good again? How did I miss that?
   6. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4650707)
Burnett actually led the NL in K rate last year, which is pretty remarkable. His BB rate is sky high, but as snapper says Pittsburgh's defense and spacious outfield did a lot to mitigate that last year.

Pittsburgh doesn't really want him back at any reasonable price, though. The Pirates have spent the offseason making a show of thinking about spending money without actually spending any money. It just so happens that the cost of arbitration raises and the couple of small free agent signings they've made adds up to almost exactly what Burnett made last year.
   7. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4650716)
Could it be as simple as that the majority of the competition in the NL swings at his crap (putting him in a better count), while the Red Sox aren't likely to swing at anything?
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4650718)
Baltimore's got a pretty good defense too, assuming Machado makes it back without restrictions.

The left side of the IF is good, but the OF looks below avg. and Davis isn't good.

Plus, when Burnett has struggled, it has been the long ball that hurts him. He really doesn't want to be in Camden, with a 130 park factor for LH batter HRs.
   9. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4650719)
The Pirates added great pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett, and then got to the playoffs using only one of them, so now they'll try to get to the playoffs only using the other one.
   10. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4650723)
Yeah, but Burnett (and more pertinently, Burnett's wife) lives in Baltimore and if the Orioles are the high bidder he may well be willing to spend one more year getting paid $13 million to get lit up like a Christmas tree in his own home city, and then retire.

The Pirates added great pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett, and then got to the playoffs using only one of them, so now they'll try to get to the playoffs only using the other one.


That's wildly optimistic in my opinion. Wandy's extremely likely to end up having Tommy John surgery by Memorial Day.

Either Liriano will stay healthy and effective all year again and the Pirates will contend, or he won't and they won't. To me it seems pretty cut and dry. There's not a lot of potential around the roster for surprisingly strong performances in 2014 like they got out of Marte, Martin, Alvarez, and Liriano in 2013. The 2014 Pirates are practically identical to the 2013 Pirates, only lacking A.J. Burnett and with different players at first base and right field providing about the same performances. And they outperformed their Pythag by 6 wins last year.

If the 2013 Pirates were a 88-win team, if they all sustain their 2013 performance they're about an 86-win team in 2014. Somebody gets hurt, Marte turns into Jeff Francouer after all, Liriano does what he usually does and fails to stay healthy for two years in a row, and they're under .500.

This is why if I were them I would be inclined to get Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon to the majors very soon, and to hell with Super Two considerations--if they're going to get an unexpected 3+ wins' worth of value out of anybody, it's going to be one of those guys. Their window closes, locks and gets overlaid with brick in 2019 anyway.

If you're of the opinion that those guys aren't ready for the majors, then the wiser move at this point is simply to concede that 2014 probably isn't going to be a playoff year, don't trade any young talent for 2014-only veterans, and prepare for 2015. The really exciting thing for Pirates fans now is that the team can reasonably be expected to contend on into the foreseeable future, so there's no need to rush it.
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4650728)
Baltimore's got a pretty good defense too, assuming Machado makes it back without restrictions.

Baltimore's got a pretty good defense, but there's no defense against a short porch for a fly ball pitcher.
   12. Nasty Nate Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4650739)
If he's a bad pitcher, he's a bad pitcher... and if he's a good pitcher, he's a good pitcher. The home ballpark and his team's division won't change that, except superficially.
   13. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4650744)
That's just not so, Nasty Nate. Defense and ballpark definitely can actually change a pitcher's results based on how well they align with his skillset. If you have a great defensive infield and a terrible defensive outfield, a groundball pitcher will have more value to you than a flyball pitcher. If you play in a huge park (presuming you're smart enough in that case to field fast outfielders), a flyball pitcher will have more value than a groundball pitcher.

This is assuming the far more important K:BB ratio to be equal, of course. But A.J. Burnett most definitely will perform better for the Pirates than he will for the Orioles, because the Pirates have a superior defensive outfield and he will give up half the home runs.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4650745)
If he's a bad pitcher, he's a bad pitcher... and if he's a good pitcher, he's a good pitcher. The home ballpark and his team's division won't change that, except superficially.

Now that's pretty silly. Defensive support and home park have a huge impact on a pitcher's performance.

A RH fly-baller is toast in DNYS, see Hughes, Phil, but can thrive in Petco.

Edit: Coke to Zeth
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: February 03, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4650762)
Defense and ballpark definitely can actually change a pitcher's results based on how well they align with his skillset. If you have a great defensive infield and a terrible defensive outfield, a groundball pitcher will have more value to you than a flyball pitcher.

I think everyone is vastly overestimating the scope of the change.

A RH fly-baller is toast in DNYS, see Hughes, Phil, but can thrive in Petco.

Phil Hughes of last year would not have been good for any team (even if his raw ERA would have been lower for some teams). And he was better at NYS than on the road as recently as 2012.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4650793)
Phil Hughes of last year would not have been good for any team (even if his raw ERA would have been lower for some teams).

No, his ERA+ would have been better for other team. The impact on him of a short RF is much more than the park factor.

You're making the mistake that park factor affects everyone equally, It doesn't. Some players are impacted more, and some less.
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:17 PM (#4650796)
I fall somewhere in the middle here, but closer to Nate. There are obviously guys whose performance (rather than just his numbers) is going to be hurt by individual stadium characteristics, but I think the effect is mostly overblown. It's not going to be an issue for most players, and the guys who will be hurt/harmed will generally only see a small increase/decrease.
   18. Nasty Nate Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4650805)
You're making the mistake that park factor affects everyone equally, It doesn't. Some players are impacted more, and some less.


They don't affect everyone equally, but we're better off just considering the rough park factors rather than being too clever, and overthinking and overstating how we want to apply it to any individual pitcher.

Even if we went through the trouble of researching and calculating how the different environments would effect AJ Burnett, wouldn't the resulting projections be something like 105 ERA+ for the Pirates, and 103 ERA+ for the Orioles?

The Orioles shouldn't limit themselves to certain types of good pitchers; they have room for any good pitcher. Likewise, the Padres shouldn't avoid acquiring power hitters.
   19. Russ Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:34 PM (#4650811)
When I first opened this thread, I thought it was about Sean Burnett.
   20. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4650822)
I fall somewhere in the middle here, but closer to Nate. There are obviously guys whose performance (rather than just his numbers) is going to be hurt by individual stadium characteristics, but I think the effect is mostly overblown. It's not going to be an issue for most players, and the guys who will be hurt/harmed will generally only see a small increase/decrease.


I think there are significant second-order effects too. If Hughes has a really good inside fastball that he's confident with, throws a middling-to-good one, and gets homered on, he loses confidence in it and won't throw it again.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4650823)
The Orioles shouldn't limit themselves to certain types of good pitchers; they have room for any good pitcher. Likewise, the Padres shouldn't avoid acquiring power hitters.

The Padres should acquire LH power hitters, who aren't hurt by their stadium. The Orioles should acquire GB pitchers, or LH flyballers.

Why would you not tailor your team to your ballpark? The Yankees made a living on lefty power hitters and lefty starters for generations.
   22. Nasty Nate Posted: February 03, 2014 at 01:57 PM (#4650842)

The Padres should acquire LH power hitters, who aren't hurt by their stadium. The Orioles should acquire GB pitchers, or LH flyballers.

Why would you not tailor your team to your ballpark? The Yankees made a living on lefty power hitters and lefty starters for generations.

The Padres should also acquire good RH power hitters. And the Orioles should also acquire RH flyball pitchers, if they are good at pitching.

Tailoring your team to the ballpark only really comes into play when filling out the edges of your roster, or using it as a tiebreaker when considering 2 equally good players.
   23. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:02 PM (#4650846)
Burnett shouldn't consider defense -- that's not his problem.

But fit with a park absolutely should. The difference is likely worth well north of 2 ERA+ points, especially in extreme instances like Coors. I disagree with my less clean partner in name.
   24. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4650850)
Have you considered re-naming to "Cheerful Nate" or something along those lines? The two of you could play good cop/bad cop.
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4650851)
The Padres should also acquire good RH power hitters. And the Orioles should also acquire RH flyball pitchers, if they are good at pitching.

Tailoring your team to the ballpark only really comes into play when filling out the edges of your roster, or using it as a tiebreaker when considering 2 equally good players.


Disagree. A $10M ballplayer who is a complete mismatch for your stadium isn't worth $10M to you.
   26. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4650869)
Have you considered re-naming to "Cheerful Nate" or something along those lines? The two of you could play good cop/bad cop.


I do like Pleasant Nate. That could be fun.
   27. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4650871)
Done.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4650872)
A $10M ballplayer who is a complete mismatch for your stadium isn't worth $10M to you.


OK, but I think you are over-estimating how much fluctuation in either direction from $10M that the ballpark can be predicted to cause.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:33 PM (#4650874)
OK, but I think you are over-estimating how much fluctuation in either direction from $10M that the ballpark can be predicted to cause.

Maybe. But, I think that impact can be amplified by the psychological factors.
   30. Nasty Nate Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4650876)
My partner says the stadium made you play bad. I say it's all your fault! Just confess!

//throws interrogation-room chair
   31. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:43 PM (#4650881)
"Wait, which one is the good cop again?"
   32. DL from MN Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4650888)
The value to the team may be mitigated by the 81 games on the road but the player wouldn't me much of a gate draw if he's a bad fit for the ballpark.
   33. SoSH U at work Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:07 PM (#4650899)
The value to the team may be mitigated by the 81 games on the road

May be?

Again, I'm with the Nate with less desirable personal characteristics. This is something that mostly exists on the fringes, not the large effect some are stating. And there may be more mitigating factors.

Look at Adrian Beltre. Now, its understood that old Safeco was particularly hard on righthanded hitters, and that Beltre's offensive numbers there may (and, we should point out, it's still somewhat speculative how much was the park and how much was just normal variance) suffered because of it. OTOH, your ability to deal with this is somewhat limited. For instance, you can't have a lineup of 8 or 9 lefty batters because righties don't hit as well in your park, because that will disadvantage you in an entirely different (and more meaningful, IMO) way.

As for the psychological effects, to me that's on the team, not the park. If Phil Hughes gives up a lazy flyball to right that goes for a homer in that shitty park, that should be a one-time thing. But if it's doing long-term harm to his pitching, upstairs wise, then his manager/pitching coach/other support staff is not doing its job properly.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4650906)

Again, I'm with the Nate with less desirable personal characteristics. This is something that mostly exists on the fringes, not the large effect some are stating. And there may be more mitigating factors.

Look at Adrian Beltre. Now, its understood that old Safeco was particularly hard on righthanded hitters, and that Beltre's offensive numbers there may (and, we should point out, it's still somewhat speculative how much was the park and how much was just normal variance) suffered because of it. OTOH, your ability to deal with this is somewhat limited. For instance, you can't have a lineup of 8 or 9 lefty batters because righties don't hit as well in your park, because that will disadvantage you in an entirely different (and more meaningful, IMO) way.

As for the psychological effects, to me that's on the team, not the park. If Phil Hughes gives up a lazy flyball to right that goes for a homer in that shitty park, that should be a one-time thing. But if it's doing long-term harm to his pitching, upstairs wise, then his manager/pitching coach/other support staff is not doing its job properly.


The point is not that you go get 9 LH hitters in Seattle, the point is you avoid RH hitters who depend on pulling HR's to derive their value.

Safeco is fairly neutral on singles and doubles for RHB, and aids triples. So, you try and stock your team with RH gap hitters, and guys that use the whole field.

Adrian Beltre has averaged 6.5 WAR p.a. at age 31-34 since leaving Seattle. From age 26-30 he averaged 4.2 WAR in Seattle.

You don't think Safeco was hurting him?
   35. Ron J2 Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:19 PM (#4650909)
#32 Only a very few players have any impact on attendance beyond their contribution to wins and losses.

And Nate's very likely correct as to how any given park (and/or defensive support) will affect any given player. To my knowledge nobody's been able to do better than plugging in generic park adjustments and that rarely moves the dial when it comes to the value of a player's contributions.

Now there's plenty of room for improvement in projections so I'm not dismissing out of hand that Snapper et al could be correct in this specific case.
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:50 PM (#4650929)
And Nate's very likely correct as to how any given park (and/or defensive support) will affect any given player. To my knowledge nobody's been able to do better than plugging in generic park adjustments and that rarely moves the dial when it comes to the value of a player's contributions.

Now there's plenty of room for improvement in projections so I'm not dismissing out of hand that Snapper et al could be correct in this specific case.


When we're doing bulk projections, I agree. But when a team is signing a specific player to a big money deal, they should look a lot closer.

Just seeing what CitiField seems to have done to David Wright, and what Safeco did to Beltre, makes me think there is a real, sizable impact here.
   37. zonk Posted: February 03, 2014 at 04:03 PM (#4650934)
Taillon ought to be at least a strong candidate to open in the rotation, if not up on near the same schedule as Cole last year, no?

I guess you can never have too much pitching, but if I were the Pirates -- I'd be inclined to have Burnett back only at my preferred price point, which might indeed be a fair bit less than what he's looking for.

Even figuring regression from Liriano (and Locke), Cole was quite good. You've still got some moderately interesting arms in Morton, Wandy for who knows how long, a coupe of other guys that ought to get a few starts in Pimental and Andrew Oliver... Plus - didn't the Pirates take a flyer on Edinson VOlquez?

I get that, coming off a playoff appearance, you'd like to see them go for it/spend for it in 2014 -- I just think looking at the team composition (i.e., strong defense), the pieces in-house, and the pieces most likely to be ready either at the start of 2014 or early in 2014, well, I see Burnett as a luxury I'd take my chances without.
   38. Ron J2 Posted: February 03, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4650942)
#36 But that's precisely the issue Snapper. Classic case of confirmation bias. You've only looked at the cases that support your hypothesis. When somebody like Szym attempts to incorporate this into their models they find at most a very minor impact for a player moving to an unfavorable park.

Bill James used to argue strongly in terms of selecting players suitable for the park they are going to. Eventually he moderated his stance to something closer to likely not helpful to select players not well suited for their park. What that tells me is that he ran a study to try and find evidence of the stronger contention and couldn't find it. Doesn't mean it's not a real issue. There's a heck of a lot of volatility in player projections at the best of times and it'd be tough to devise a method that could detect something that's worth (say) 5 runs on average.
   39. ptodd Posted: February 03, 2014 at 07:34 PM (#4651058)
Any GM that brings AJ back to the AL East, or even the AL should be fired. Arroyo too.
   40. ptodd Posted: February 03, 2014 at 07:42 PM (#4651061)
Adrian Beltre has averaged 6.5 WAR p.a. at age 31-34 since leaving Seattle. From age 26-30 he averaged 4.2 WAR in Seattle.

You don't think Safeco was hurting him?
35


He was not too great on the road IIRCC, at least in 3 of his 5 years there. I suspect the lineup he was in hurt him more than SAFECO did, and injuries in 2009. With Boston and Texas he hit in the middle of good-great lineups most of the time. While the parks were good too, when he hit a shot they are out pretty much everywhere. Probably a constellation of factors for Beltre, park, team, health, motivation.
   41. SoSH U at work Posted: February 03, 2014 at 08:39 PM (#4651072)
Adrian Beltre has averaged 6.5 WAR p.a. at age 31-34 since leaving Seattle. From age 26-30 he averaged 4.2 WAR in Seattle.

You don't think Safeco was hurting him?


I think it's probable it hurt him a little. But it doesn't look like Safeco dampened the power numbers too much, other than his bad nut season. His average was way down, particularly compared to what he's done since leaving there.

Whatever the case, I doubt it was responsible for all, or even most, of that loss of value. I don't remember anyone, anywhere, suggesting that signing Beltre was a bad move because he couldn't hit in Safeco (perhaps thrown off the scent because Bret Boone had his best years as a righty power hitter there). Then again, I don't think Beltre is some ridiculous pull hitter (looking at an available hit chart, he isn't).

If I had to pinpoint one reason his numbers were down, I'd say it was because the Seattle organization has been an utter train wreck for the past 10 years.

To the extent that any effect exists, and I don't think it's a particularly significant. And, as Ron noted, I think it's a hell of a lot harder to predict this type of thing than to identify it (possibly wrongly) after the fact.
   42. DFA Posted: February 04, 2014 at 02:38 AM (#4651217)
The Orioles should acquire GB pitchers, or LH flyballers.


The homer index seems to vary for RHB or LHB. A 2007 study indicating a RHB bias, though in 2013 Camden Yards favored lefties more than righties.
   43. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 04, 2014 at 09:54 AM (#4651263)
I thought Burnett was retiring....
   44. Nasty Nate Posted: February 28, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4664310)
Fangraphs has a new article up discussing some of the issues from this thread.

The last paragraph:
Most fly balls wouldn’t be homers anywhere. Many homers would be homers everywhere. It’s a fraction of all fly balls that depend on a ballpark, and then after you apply regular park adjustments, it just doesn’t make sense that a guy would thrive in one place, and get annihilated in another. That’s an exaggeration. By far the biggest driver of success is the actual quality of the pitcher himself. Park environment makes a smaller contribution.

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