Of Betemits and Valencias

Posted Thursday January 17, 2013 at 11:03:21 am in Real Sports

The Orioles decided to let Mark Reynolds walk after putting up a collective 0.8 WAR over the last 2 years in Baltimore, but who will be taking his place?

The Orioles traded away David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to the Diamondbacks back in 2010 for Mark Reynolds. I'm a big fan of WAR as a snapshot when evaluating trades over the course of multiple years, so let's give it a go.

Mark Reynolds was coming off of a 2.3 WAR season in 2010 after putting up a 3.5 WAR season in 2009 with the Diamondbacks. Hernandez was being used (largely) as a starter for the Orioles putting up a combined 0.0 WAR over the course of 2009 and 2010 (-0.6 in 2009, 0.6 in 2010). Kam Mickolio was a fireballing reliever that came over in the Adam Jones trade with the Mariners. He put up a combined 0.4 WAR in 2008, 2009, and 2010 (0.2, 0.3, -0.1).

To understand the trade for Mark Reynolds, one has to understand the quagmire that was the Orioles 1B spot over the years prior:

2010: Ty Wigginton and Garrett Atkins

Ty put up a 727 OPS and Atkins a 562 OPS..Atkins was cut after 152 plate appearances. Most (including myself) didn't want him signed...and thought 152 plate appearances was about 100 PA too many.

2009: Aubrey Huff and Michael Aubrey

Aside from sharing some part of their names, they both were mostly lackluster. Huff put up a 725 OPS. Aubrey an 826 in only 95 very selective plate appearances. 

2008: Kevin Millar

A great/fun personality, but a 717 OPS. 

2007: Kevin Millar

785 OPS and a 365 OBP. 

2006: Kevin Millar

811 OPS and a 374 OBP.

The point being is that you had to go back to 2006 for a 800+ OPS. Back to 2007 for a 750+ OPS. Both from the same player (who was 34 and 35 years old, respectively).

Needless to say when Mark Reynolds was made available after OPS'ing 811 on average from 2008-2010....the Orioles jumped at the chance. 

MacPhail packaged Hernandez and Mickolio for Mark Reynolds to fill a positional need at 3B in much the same way MacPhail traded 2 relievers for JJ Hardy. 

The 2011 season for Mark Reynolds was largely a success. An 806 OPS and a 2.9 offensive WAR (per BBRef). But his defense at 3B was an overwhelming disaster which dragged his 2.9 WAR down to only 0.5 after taking into account his defense (-2.4 dWAR). 

The problem came in 2012. Mark lost weight and worked at 3B to try and regain some of what gave him a +0.6 dWAR in 2010 (which, by the way, was the first year of his career with a positive dWAR). But it wasn't to be. He was even worse at 3B leading many to say he had the yips at 3B. He ultimately lost his job and manned 1B for the remainder of the year. According to most he was infinitely better at 1B making highlight reel catches from the tips of his toes. Unfortunately outside of the glitzy plays, he was simply adequate (a negative UZR rating) at 1B. His offense fell off the planet for a large portion of 2012:

A 718 OPS in the 1st half with a 797 OPS in the second half. And aside from a phenomenal (albeit short) May of a 1.042 OPS and an equally as phenomenal August (983 OPS), Mark's bat was lackluster in the other months:

April/March: 467 OPS

June: 749 OPS

July: 643 OPS

September: 772 OPS 

September was driven by his historic New York Yankees performances which brought his OPS up from a 759 to an 816 in approximately a single week. However, over the last 3 weeks his OPS plummeted ~55 points. Yes, Mark's season was a rollercoaster.

The Orioles were faced with a decision at the end of 2012. He made about $7.5 million and was eligible for arbitration. Most had him at making $8 million. Most (including myself) didn't thnk the Orioles would offer him arbitration instead opting to try and resign him in the offseason to a respectable contract.

But it never happened. Apparently the Orioles didn't even bother speaking to him or his agent. The Indians swooped in and signed him to a $6 million one year contract. And the Orioles opted (instead) to tell Chris Davis he'd be the starting 1B'man. 

Was this a financial decision? After all Mark only put up a 0.8 WAR with the Orioles whilst making a combined ~$13 million. He was the poster child of underperforming his contract. Assuming 1 win means $5 million, he'd have to be worth 1.2 WAR in 2013 for the Indians for his contract to be worth it. 

I think Reynolds can put up a 1.2 WAR. He was hurt throughout 2012 playing out of position at 3B and adapting to 1B. 

My gut is that Duquette never liked Mark's performance: big power/strikeout machine with a solid OBP who has a negligible defensive acumen who is a constant rollercoaster of a player. His statisticians probably told him that the defense would still be inadequate in 2013...and that the offense wouldn't bounce back to 2011 levels.

And if that's the case, I can understand. But I think a full year at 1B can probably net him ~1 WAR in 2013 for the Indians. Not signing Reynolds did beg the question: who would be manning 1B for the Orioles in 2013. I didn't think it'd be Chris Davis. I did hope (kind of think) it'd be Nick Swisher.

Alas, Nick Swisher also signed with the Indians. The Seattle Mariners decided to change their name to the Seattle Geriatrics...the Nats traded Michael Morse...and the Orioles were left with their tail between their legs.

So is the Orioles' offseason complete? I'd hope not. But let's pretend it is. Going into 2013 it appears the Orioles will solve the LF, DH, and 1B positions with the following pieces:

Nolan Reimold, Nate McLouth, Danny Valencia, Wilson Betemit, and Chris Davis.

It's intriguing. And mighty curious. By all accounts Nate McLouth is a cheap option. 1 year and $2 million. I firmly believe he's an insurance plan for Nolan Reimold who is coming off a spinal fusion surgery not asimilar to that of Peyton Manning. The Orioles will aim to keep Nolan on the field, and that probably means some work at DH.

Ah, DH. Let's analyze it. Assuming Chris Davis will man 1B...that means someone (or SOMEONES, hint hint...) have to take care of DH. Betemit is the ultimate choice being that if you think Mark Reynolds was scary at 3B...Betemit was just as scary. Perhaps more so. I'd imagine a toddler with concrete gloves could do better. But I digress.

Here are some interesting career numbers from Betemit.

Against LHP as a RHB: 228 AVG, 285 OBP, 352 SLG, 637 OPS

Against RHP as a LHB: 281/349/474 - 824 OPS 

No, you're not seeing things. That's a ~50 point difference in average. 70 in on base percentage. Nearly 200 points overall in OPS.

And his 2012 was very, very similar:

Against LHP as a RHB: 140/219/186 - 405 OPS

Against RHP as a LHB: 302/357/502 - 859 OPS

Pretty nutso, isn't it?

But what good is a platoon without the other part of the platoon. It's easy to say Nolan Reimold is that guy. But Nolan hits righties just as well as lefties. Only a 20 point split in OPS. He'd be a perfect option at DH in the event that Nate McLouth plays just as well in 2013 as he did with his tenure with the Orioles in 2012.

But that's a big assumption.

On November 28th, 2012 the Orioles picked up Danny Valencia from the Red Sox for some greenbacks. 28 year old Danny Valencia who put up a 497 OPS in 2012 between the Twins and Red Sox. He hasn't had an above average OPS+ since his rookie campaign in 2010 when he had a 119 OPS+ (and placed 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting).

Where does Danny Valencia play in for the Orioles? Well, assuming he gets a spot on the roster, he's either at 3B or DH. Most think DH, myself included. Now, his career splits are just as interesting as Wilson Betemit's, albeit a much smaller sample size:

Against LHP as a RHB: 316/359/472 - 831 OPS

Against RHP as a RHB: 232/271/355 - 625 OPS

Yes, a near 90 point difference in average and on base percentage. And a near 200 point difference in OPS. Just like Betemit...but against lefties.

The issue that comes into play is whether or not 2012 was an abberation for Valencia. He only played part of a season and was inconsistent. He was traded to the Red Sox in August from the Twins. In 2011 he had a 200 point difference in OPS just like his career numbers with an 822 OPS against lefties. But in 2012 his OPS was 497 overall.  Against lefties he had a 592 OPS. Against righties? A 448. So clearly the splits/tendencies are still there.

The question is can he revert to his 2011 or 2010 numbers? An 800+ OPS against lefties from Valencia with an 800+ OPS against righties from Betemit would be a boon for the Orioles at DH. 

Of course the other end of the equation is Chris Davis. Can he recreate a magical 2012 season where he put up an 827 OPS with 33 home runs? It's his first season since 2009 where he played more than 100 games. He was constantly shuttled back and forth from the majors and minors with the Rangers from 2010-2011. If he can be merely average or around there with the defense at 1B whilst putting up an ~800 OPS...then the absence of Mark Reynolds won't even be noticeable. 

But that's a big if. Bill James thinks it's possible with the bat. He's predicting a 286/340/532 split. Yes, that's an 872 OPS. Nearly 50 points more than in 2012. That'd be exceptional. It'd also be the first 870+ OPS season for an Orioles 1B'man since Will Clark in 2000.

If there's one thing Dan Duquette has been doing during a relatively quiet and boring offseason, it's been adding depth. Trayvon Robinson, Danny Valencia, Connor Jackson, Nate McLouth, other bullpen arms, etc. It really came in handy in 2012. Now let's hope it's a boon for the Orioles in 2013.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view