Orioles FanFest Epilogue

I spent ~7 hours wandering around* the Baltimore Convention Center at the Orioles FanFest yesterday, and it was certainly an enjoyable experience. I jotted some notes down throughout the day, so I thought I’d share those.

* I don’t have any interest in getting autographs, so standing in long, long lines for them seemed like a waste of time to me. To each his own though.

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During the Q&A segment with various pitchers, including Kevin Millwood and Mike Gonzalez:

  • Millwood was very amusing; great jokes and generally being pretty laid-back. Now he just needs to pitch well.
  • Q: (To Gonzalez) How will it be like getting to know your fellow O’s relievers?

A: I want to become one* with the other bullpen guys.

* They do say that lefties are a little weird sometimes.

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Facial Hair Watch:

  • Luke Scott had an awesome mountain-man beard going. Makes me wish the O’s didn’t have a rule against it.
  • Nick Markakis also had a beard, but it was wild and disheveled. Looked like he just hadn’t done anything with it since the end of the season.

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T-Shirt Watch:

  • Saw four people in Matt Wieters Facts shirts; three of the Hope ones (which makes sense) and one of the Smoke-stack variety. It was pretty cool.

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Non-T-Shirt Watch:

  • Adam Jones showed up to his Q&A session looking snazzy in a suit. He was true to form though, chewing on some gum and being very personable.

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During the Q&A segment with the coaching staff:

  • Pitching coach Rick Kranitz was asked about the 100 pitch limit and the O’s having their guys go deeper into games. His response was that he sees no problem pushing the pitchers to 120-125 pitches. That might be OK once in a while if things are going well, but the tone of the answered seemed to me to indicate that it should be more the standard than the norm. I don’t like that one bit, considering a major injury to one or two of their top young pitchers could ruin their run at the playoffs before it starts.
  • Kranitz also mentioned that they use situational stats to determine which relievers come in and when. Awesome. I love using 10 at bat samples to make decisions.
  • When asked about warm-up protocols, Kranitz said that it’s different for each pitcher but that he prefers they don’t go passed 30 warm-up pitches or so. Apparently Steve Trachsel would use 60-70 pitches, which Rick thought caused him to tire after 3-4 innings of the game. I think that was because Trachsel sucked, but that’s just me.
  • The final questioner was Dave* from Sarasota, who asked T-Bone Shelby what should be done with Nolan Reimold. Shelby said that he should play left-field, as that’s what he’s been told… and that he really likes his job and the manager. It was an amusing scene all around.

* Trembley seemed to really be enjoying himself here.

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Media members Q&A:

  • To my surprise, Amber Theoharis came off best* amongst all participants.

* Generally reasonable and well thoughtout answers, if not exactly the kinds of things I would say.

  • A certain MASN writer came off as expected*, and the guy who runs Pressbox sounded somewhat angry and reactionary.

* I actually brought something with me just incase I was to interact with him. Given that his eyes > measuring things with statistics, I was going to give him a list of Orioles players from 2009 and ask that he order them from highest to lowest walk rate (BB/PA). Figured that should be easy as pie**, given that there are far fewer elements to keep in mind than when judging defense.

The list was, in alphabetical order: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, and Gregg Zaun.

The answer is: Zaun (13.7%), Reimold (11.4%), Scott (10.9%), Roberts (10.3%), Pie (8.5%), Markakis (7.9%), and Jones (6.9%). I was thinking he’d underestimate Zaun and especially Pie, while overestimating Markakis and Jones. Yes, I’m kind of a jerk about this. Not everyone deserves total respect for everything they do though.

** See what I did there? Punderful.

  • In general, the official media people didn’t sound as good as the bloggers at their Q&A. I might be a little biased on that, but I still think it’s true.

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There was on area set up for taking pictures with a player, and at one point Brad Bergesen was there and a little girl ran up when it was her turn and hugged his leg. Bergy got this really big sincere smile on his face – it was adorable.

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During the Q&A segment with Andy MacPhail and Dave Trembley (answers from MacPhail):

  • Q: Garrett Atkins has been going down hill in recent year; what did you see to make you think he could turn it around?

A: He got too HR happy… We thought it was ideal to have him play first-base*… He had 120 RBI recently**… Like Dave said, the 1 through 8 guys in our line-up can hit***.

* As discussed previously, this kind of thing concerns me.

** RBI? Really Andy? Come on.

*** Sorry Cesar.

  • Q: What’s your player valuation process like?

A: We have these sheets on every player, which contain some regular biographical information, some regular stats like batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs created*, and then some sabermetric** stats – looking at trendlines; their strike-out rates and walk rates; whether they’re using the whole field; whether they’re going up or down. Stuff the so-called “stat geeks”*** look at. There are these new stats measuring defense, but for me it’s really a subjective thing****. We do projections on all kinds of players before we make any moves, and so far every player we’ve acquired has preformed as we expected*****.

* Interesting that runs created (a stat invented by Bill James; OBP * SLG * AB at it’s most basic) was listed with the “regular” stats. I think Andy might actually have meant runs produced (RBI + R – HR), which is much less useful but would be considered pretty standard.

** It actually sounded to me like he said “sabermetic”, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

*** Thanks Andy, nice to know you care. I’m not saying it’s not true; it’s just that it has a somewhat negative connotation. Also, if this is the level of work that he thinks those kinds of people are currently doing then that’s not good. That’s a little less than the stuff you can find on here, and I’m a relative idiot when compared to some of the brightest minds in the field. It’s getting to the point that just using the word sabermetrics isn’t enough anymore – you really need embrace it to keep up with the top teams in the league. It’s certainly possible that I missed some other things he said though.

**** With defense still being a little undervalued on the free agent market, it would be nice if the team was in a position to really take advantage of it. Not saying to go 100% stats, but a little more acceptance of them would be a positive. No wonder Pie is only being thought of as a fourth outfielder.

***** I doubt they expected Ty Wigginton to be a below replacement level player last year. It would have been silly to give him any money, if that was the case.

  • Q: Any thought on what it would take to acquire Adrian Gonzalez?

A: I don’t know for sure, but I suppose it would take two of the “future building blocks” of the team, and I’m reluctant to part with those young arms*.

* Correct answer.

  • Q: Any thought to bringing Jim Thome or Nomar Garciappara in to DH?

A: Nope, but Thome is a great player* and a great guy.

* Trembley mentioned that he’s a future Hall of Famer.

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After the Q&A, MacPhail was stopped by a fan for a question off to the side that I overheard.

  • Q: The payroll disparity between different teams is unfair.

A: I actually agree, and I’ve talked to the commissioner about it. I don’t see why we can’t realign the divisions occasionally*.

* I’m really a fan of this idea, but I don’t see it being implemented anytime soon.

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Trivia (asked of the crowd during the Q&As):

  • Q: Randy Myers blew one save in 1997; who was it against?

A: The Oakland A’s. I wasn’t called on, but I even remembered that it was Jason Giambi that took him deep.

  • Q: Who’s the only pitcher who has won a World Series game in three different decades?

A: I referenced this on here a couple weeks ago, and so raised my hand even before the question was done being asked; Jim Palmer (won a gift card to MLB.com for that).

  • There were a few more that I don’t exactly remember, but I had around a 75% success rate. Better than I would have expected.

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I enjoyed meeting a whole host of O’s bloggers (Stacey from Camden Chat; Anthony and James from Oriole Post, Chris from Baltimore Sports and Life, Neal from The Loss Column, Kate from MASN), and had a good time all-around.