Craig Calcaterra is the Lead Blogger for HardballTalk (NBC Sports).
You can find his work at http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/author/ccalcaterra/
You can also find him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/craigcalcaterra
Mr. Calcaterra has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from Orioles Hangout.
Orioles Hangout: "When Brian Matusz returns off the DL (3 to 6 weeks) the Orioles rotation will include himself, Britton, Arrieta, and Tillman. Based off of their ages and respective (limited) major league experience, it is understandably difficult for anyone to believe they will individually reach their ultimate ceilings in 2011. However, each of the four has been a prospect with plenty of pedigree. In conjunction with Guthrie, should the assumption be that they can cumulatively craft a league-average rotation this year?"
Craig Calcaterra: “Absolutely. Either Matusz or Arrieta (or both) could have breakout years. Zach Britton is already showing in his first two starts that he is the real deal. Guthrie is totally solid. Indeed, I think league average would be the worst case scenario right now.”
Orioles Hangout: "Baseball Prospectus wrote an article (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13413) that stated each of the last 5 American League East champions have each shared the highest WXRL (Expected wins added over a replacement level pitcher, adjusted for level of opposing hitters. WXRL combines the individual adjustments for replacement level (WXR) and quality of the opposing lineup (WXL) to the basic WX calculation.)
BP believes the O's bullpen to be weak. The perception in Baltimore is that the pen is a potential strength, but littered with escalated injury risks (Uehara, Gregg, Gonzalez, Johnson, Berken). Outside of the legitimate health concerns, I think the bullpen will be as good as the starting pitching in front of them. Your thoughts on the Baltimore pen?"
Craig Calcaterra: “I agree that the bullpen is a potential strength. Koji Uehara was excellent last year and Johnson, Jeremy Accardo, and Mike Gonzalez are all good live arms. And really, beyond elite dudes like Mariano Rivera, that’s all you can really hope for when you put a pen together. Good arms that stand a good chance of striking guys out. The O’s pen fits that description regardless of the hiccups they may have had last year. And, sure, there’s an injury risk. But there’s an injury risk for most pitchers.”
Orioles Hangout: "When we last spoke in January, the O's had yet to sign Guerrero. At that point you were opposed to the move unless it was an extremely low salary that he received. Part of your reservations was having Scott in LF, and part of your reservations were with how Guerrero finished 2010. As the O's did sign him, do you feel Baltimore 'owes' it to Guerrero to keep his bat in the lineup no matter what? Or do you think if he struggles the first six weeks that the Orioles should be rotating him in and out of the lineup?"
Craig Calcaterra: “The O’s have started strong and both Boston and New York look shakier in the early going than we assumed they’d be. I’d be surprised if this holds all year – I suspect the Sox and Yankees will be battling for the top and the O’s a good distance back – but unless and until that actually happens, the O’s need to proceed as any contender would proceed. If Guerrero is helping the team, he’s in the lineup. If he’s not, forget it. The Orioles owe no one anything except the fans, and to them they owe the best possible club they can put on the field each night in a way that does not sacrifice what is a bright future.”
Orioles Hangout: "Prior to the Matusz injury, Britton was ticketed for AAA. Most in Baltimore were in agreement that it made sense to keep Britton in the Minors until April 20th, for the organization to gain that additional year of service time. I think you can argue that the promotion of Britton was a mistake - that a full year of team control in 2017, likely means more than 3-5 starts to begin 2011. I also think you can argue the opposing view as well. The O's were initially doing what they could to protect their commodity (Britton) but that you can respect them for changing on the fly and doing what they needed to give this '11 team their best chance to win as many games as possible. Which side of the fence do you lean on?"
Craig Calcaterra: “I think it was Leo Durocher who said that you don’t save a pitcher until tomorrow because it might rain tomorrow. In my mind the same goes for young pitchers getting called up. If they’re truly not ready to get big leaguers out, sure, keep them down until they are because it can be pretty traumatic trying to learn in the majors. But given the risks over the course of five or six years to a pitchers’ health, that last year of the deal may not matter. If the guy flames out, fine, the sooner you’re done with him the better. If he’s a star you’ve probably already locked him up by what would have been his last year or traded him if you think you can’t afford him.
As for Britton, I am writing this on Saturday evening, a few minutes after he stone cold shut down the Rangers’ offense. In two starts this season, Britton is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA and has allowed just seven hits and six walks while striking out eight in 13 and two-thirds innings. He’d be wasting his time down at AAA.”
Orioles Hangout: "While a handful of games the opening week does not mean a whole lot, the O's were 37-37 in their last 74 games of '10, and upgraded at SS, 3rd, 1st, and LF. I didn't predict the O's to transform like Tampa did between the '07 (66 wins) and '08 (97 wins, AL Champion) seasons. I called for 83-79 and 4th place. Most predictions I saw were between 78 and 85 wins, and 4th or 5th place. (Prior to the Guerrero signing, you stated you were somewhere between the range of 76 and 81 wins) In your eyes, what would be an appropriate sample-size for expectations to be raised even further?"
Craig Calcaterra: “I tend to fall in with the traditionalists when it comes to saying whether a team is for real or not: Mother’s Day. OK, maybe a bit after that. Let’s call it May 15th. If they’re still rolling then, sure, I’d be willing to revise upward. For now we can certainly say that Tampa Bay looks worse than we thought they’d be, so it’s possible that’s where a good bunch of wins come from.”
Orioles Hangout: "I greatly enjoyed your recent piece on why you call out guys like Murray Chass. (http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/03/24/why-i-call-out-guys-like-murray-chass-and-t-j-simers/) HardballTalk / NBC Sports does an excellent job of giving spinets of information (and analysis thereof) of stories throughout baseball. By definition, that has you reading mainstream reporting. With some exceptions, I continue to see reluctance from traditional sources to incorporate more sabermetrical discussions into their reporting. As you look at reporting across the country, do you see a change?"
Craig Calcaterra: “I see a change, but I don’t see it – nor do I expect to see it – in terms that hardcore sabermetricians might desire. We won’t see, for example, a lot of discussion of specific advanced metrics or straight comparisons of players by WAR or what have you, because the mainstream baseball readership really doesn’t want that. Really: the average newspaper subscriber or even casual baseball fan on the web is way more mathophobic than guys who engage in sabermetric analysis truly grasp.
But what I do see – and what I think is way more important – is that the general ideas behind the metrics are being advanced in a pretty broad fashion. Idea like pitching wins not being a meaningful measure of a starter’s value.The importance of getting on base. The idea that fielding percentage is outrageously misleading. That stuff is being communicated by most newspaper beat writers and mainstream media opinion makers you see, even if they’re not doing it with the numbers and formulas. And I’m totally fine with that because, at the end of the day, the goal should be to make smarter baseball fans, not to make baseball fans who themselves can do statistical analysis.”
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