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Baltimore Orioles and Moneyball

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The Orioles exhibited something last season that had me thinking about 2007 Orioles sleepers. They agressively promoted their minor league bullpen arms to their major league bullpen with considerable success.

Player G W L ERA WHIP SV SVO IP H R ER HR HBP BB SO
Brian Burres 11 0 0 2.25 0.875 0 0 8.0 6 2 2 1 0 1 6
Chris Britton 52 0 2 3.35 1.174 1 3 53.7 46 22 20 4 0 17 41
Sandy Rleal 42 1 1 4.44 1.521 0 1 46.7 48 25 23 10 0 23 19
Kurt Birkins 35 5 2 4.94 1.323 0 1 31.0 25 19 17 4 3 16 27
Jim Hoey 12 0 1 10.24 1.965 0 1 9.7 14 11 11 1 2 5 6

At the league minimum, the O's looked like they had found an efficient way to fill bullpen innings (read: $360,000 per middle reliever). This had me looking at Radhames Liz (149 Ks in 133 IP), Garrett Olson (162/165) and even Hoey despite his ugly debut. 73 Ks in 51 innings with a fastball in the upper 90s will do much to the idea that there is much more to consider. Then the Orioles went nuts and spent $42MM on middle relievers- $19MM on Danys Baez, $10MM on Chad Bradford, $12MM on Jaimie Walker and a measly million on Scott Williamson.

Is there any reason to believe the 4th place Orioles are better off spending the league minimum on four non-closers than $42MM? Apparently, the time hasn't come to apply some Moneyball thinking on middle relievers - although I can see the O's 2006-7 off-season as the tipping point.