First off, let me say this: I get it. And by that I mean I reallyget it. My future first born – who’s still many, many years away – is more likely to make the big leagues before Baltimore is set to contend in the ultracompetitive American League East.
So it’s not like the organization’s most recent move – placing right-hander Alfredo Simon on waivers – is going to set its future back any more. But still. This, on so many levels, represents the type move a team like this should simply avoid. It’s as if the old regime is picking up where the last one left off, and the one before that, and the one before that.
Either way, they’ve done it. They committed the cardinal sin in baseball: The Orioles failed to realize just, exactly, what they have – or had – in Simon.
Alfredo Simon’s role during his four-year career with the Orioles was never defined. Was he a starter? Or was he a reliever. No one really knew which. Perhaps some of the blame could be laid at the feet of one of his previous franchises – I’m looking at you, San Francisco – but with an organization so deeply entrenched with losing they had very little to lose by defining his role – either one. Instead, during his four years in Baltimore he made 19 starts, 59 relief appearances, and actually served as quasi-closer in 2010.
Fine. Plenty of teams fail to properly utilize their players.
But let’s look at Simon’s production the past two seasons.
Truthfully, he was pretty bad in 2010. According to FanGraphs, he cost the team almost one full win, posted a horrendous walk rate for a reliever, 4.01 BB/9, and an equally pitiful ERA (4.93). But he was coming off of Tommy John surgery. Pitcher’s never rebound – especially their command – completely during their first year back and Simon was no different. His 2010 walk rate was almost one full walk higher than his minor league numbers. And his SIERA (Skill Independent ERA), the most advanced ERA estimator, was also almost a full run better, at 4.11. His HR/9 that season, 1.82, was also unsustainably high too. So despite the poor showing there was reason to believe that 2011 would be a better year.
And it was.
Last season, Simon’s numbers, unsurprisingly, began to improve. He tossed 115.2 innings, saw his walk rate improve to 3.11 BB/9 (close to his career track record), was worth more than one win above replacement, and posted a nearly identical SIERA.
In fact, among pitchers with at least 100 innings last season, his 4.19 SIERA was better than Francisco Liriano, Jeremy Guthrie, who they just traded away, Nick Blackburn, John Lannan, Jonathan Sanchez, Chad Billingsley, Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens, and Ivan Nova, just to name a few.
And this isn’t a soft-tosser either. Simon’s fastball averaged 94.2 MPH last season, the seventh hardest heater in baseball (among pitchers with 100+ innings). Given his 6-foot-6 inch frame, the ball looks much harder than that too.
Double whoops, Baltimore.
And the Orioles simply don’t consider him good enough to roster this season. But they do have a place for the bespectacled Kevin Gregg, who happens to be the very definition of replacement level. Look it up. I bet you his name and/or picture is mentioned.
Yes, Gregg is making a lot of money – almost $6 million – but why keep an aging, replaceable reliever who’s been worth 0.2 wins over the last three years instead of a higher upside player that the team could potentially flip for something semi-worthwhile during the season?
Just eat Gregg’s salary and release him, not Simon.
Maybe the organization is hoping to squeak him through waivers because many teams are close to finalizing their Opening Day rosters? Don’t bet on it. There will be 10 claims on him, easily. And he probably doesn’t make it beyond the second or third one on the list.
Is this really a new regime or is it just an extension of the previous ones?
Either way, Dan Duquette has given no reason to believe that the Orioles are headed in the right direction. And this is just the latest example.
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