Friday, July 23, 2010

A Year Too Early?

John Fay reported today that Dusty Baker and the Reds would discuss his contract status in early August.  This leaves me with some mixed emotions.  On the one hand, Baker has done a pretty good job this year, I think.  He's made some very good moves (like dropping Stubbs in the lineup and moving Phillips up), but also some not-so-good ones (like sticking with Orlando Cabrera and failing to get Chris Heisey in the lineup more).  Prior to the season, my big complaint about Baker was a fear that he would overwork the talented young pitchers that the Reds have.  He's done a good job there, seemingly having learned something from his past transgressions.  I suspect he'll get an extension, and I think it's probably a good move.

That said, this runs in contrast to how I saw the season playing out.  At the beginning of the season, I thought the Reds would need one more year before they could become a contender.  I felt the Reds needed this year to do the following things:
  • Fire Dusty Baker,
  • Move on from the fixation with Johnny Gomes and let Chris Heisey or Todd Frazier become the everyday LF,
  • Trade Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo at the deadline for a few more quality prospects, and
  • Get rid of Orlando Cabrera in anticipation of Zack Cozart being ready for 2011.
The Reds success this season has changed things a bit.  First, as I said, Dusty Baker has had a good year, so I'm cautiously optimistic that extending is a good thing.  It seems to me that we'd still be better off with Chris Heisey in LF than Johnny Gomes (although Todd Frazier isn't looking so hot right now).  Skipping the pitchers for a second, Orlando Cabrera has been a train wreck, and Cozart and Paul Janish ought to have a decent battle for the shortstop spot next spring. 

The pitching is the interesting item.  The Reds position as contenders would seem to make dealing Harang and/or Arroyo extremely unlikely despite the starting pitching depth that the team possesses.  Although I still suspect that the team would be better off in the long run dealing at least one of their "innings eaters", moving a prominent veteran player at the trade deadline suggests that the team is throwing in the towel on the season.  This tends to negatively impact both team and fan morale, and for a team in contention, the short-term win or two that could be lost may well be the difference between going to the playoffs or not. 

On the other hand, the Reds are a team currently constructed for the rigors of the regular season, not for playoff baseball.  They lack the top of the rotation starters that teams need to rely on in the postseason.  I've written plenty about them having plenty of pitching depth but little in the way of an ace, so I won't belabor that here.  The point is, in a short series, the Reds don't have the pitching to match up with a team like the Cardinals who can throw Carpenter and Wainwright at you for four games.  On top of that, the Reds don't seem to hit good pitching all that well.  Maybe that's just my perception, but the Reds have been shut out  a lot for a team among the best in the NL in hitting.  They've been shut down by Johan Santana, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels (among others) over the last month or so.  That's the kind of pitching the Reds will face in the playoffs.

I'm loving the Reds resurgence this season.  I'm hoping that they catch lightning in a bottle and tear through the playoffs.  Deep in the back of my mind though, I'm wondering if exercising a bit of patience and grabbing a few more prospects at the deadline could ultimately lead to a greater number of playoff appearances in the coming years, and greater success once they get there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crowded in the Middle

I can't really recall a situation like the Reds face right now with their starting rotation.  In my mind, they've got ten decent starters, both for the remainder of this year and in future years, but none of those guys really stand out as top of the rotation kind of guys.  What should they do?  Let's look at what they've got to work with.  Several of the pitchers have some striking similarities, which, in my opinion, only makes it more difficult to figure out what to do.

The Veterans

Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang are the first guys to discuss.  They've been around the block, and we know pretty well what we're getting with them.  Both are free agents after this year, provided the Reds don't pick up their $13M options.  (Cot's Baseball Contracts has some nice salary information which helped me put this together.)  To this point, Arroyo has been worth 1.2 WAR and Harang 1.0 WAR this season, so they're not exactly living up to their current contracts at the moment.  Despite that, they continue to give the Reds more or less average production, as they have for several years.  They don't overpower guys; their stuff is basically average.  In fact, Arroyo's fastball only clocks in at 88.0, which is faster than only a dozen or so qualified starters in the majors.  Harang's is a more respectable, but still below average, 90.5.  

I've always thought of each of them as "innings-eaters", but after looking at the stats, I can see that's only really true of one of them.  Arroyo is working on a streak of five straight 200+ inning seasons and appears likely to get there this year as well.  In looking at the stats, I was surprised to find that Harang hasn't been so reliable these last few years.  Depending on how long his current back injury keeps him out, he could be looking at his third straight year of failing to hit 200 innings.  I tend to think that Harang is more likely to give you a big game, while Arroyo is more consistent and less likely to throw out a stinker.  The bottom line is, of all the guys on the staff, these two are the known quantities.  They're basically average pitchers who are going to give you six innings and keep you in the game more often than not.  Harang's inability to stay healthy at this stage of his career appears to make Arroyo the better bet going forward, both this year and in the future.  I think it is pretty safe to say that Harang's option will be declined next year.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the Reds try to bring Arroyo back on a two-year $16-18M contract or something like that.

I'm Back...

I've been out of town for while at my brother's wedding, so I haven't posted anything in a while.  I missed the atrocious string of heartbreaking losses to the Phillies, the near-perfect game by Travis Wood, the Cliff Lee trade, the All-Star Game, all the second-half previews and first-half reviews, and the seemingly endless break where nothing was going on.  There were a few posts worth making there, but it didn't happen.  I'm back now though.

To kick things off after the break, Bronson Arroyo pitched a great game, leading the Reds to a 3-2 victory over the Rockies.  Arroyo was dominating early, giving up only a single that Brandon Phillips usually fields cleanly through the first 6 innings.  He allowed a run in the seventh on a Jason Giambi RBI double (that I'd bet Chris Heisey would have caught if he'd been in for Gomes), but the wheels didn't come off until the eighth.  Miguel Olivo led off with a homer, but it was questionable enough to require a replay.  That could have been it for Arroyo.  At that point in the game, the Rockies were starting to get a read on Arroyo, and the break for review may have had an impact too.  In any case, Baker left Arroyo in, allowing him to walk Ian Stewart and give up a single to Clint Barmes.  If not for another awesome performance by Arthur Rhodes, Arroyo could well have been saddled with a loss in this game.  Baker could have prevented that possibility from ever coming up, but Arroyo only threw 93 pitches.  Even though the situation probably dictated that it was time for a change, I understand why Baker would have wanted to give him a chance to keep going.

Of course, Arroyo did get the win, and he can think Arthur Rhodes for that.  Rhodes walked the first batter he faced to load the bases with no one out and a one run lead.  He got Dexter Fowler (who earlier in the game robbed Jay Bruce of a three-run homer that would have made this situation moot) to fly out to Jay Bruce.  Ian Stewart wasn't about to try to run on Bruce.  Rhodes then struck out Jonathan Herrera and Carlos Gonzalez to end the threat and lead the Reds to victory.

On the offensive side, the Reds scored two of their three runs in the third inning.  I was watching the game on the iPod Touch, and I was amused by the Reds TV crew's description of what happened.  Brandon Phillips doubled to lead off the inning, and then "stole" third when he was caught going too far on Orlando Cabrera's bunt attempt.  (Why bunt in that situation?  It's the third inning!  The leadoff man is on second, the heart of your lineup is coming up, and you play in Great American Ball Park!  Start a rally, don't play for a single run.  But I want to rant on the TV guys, not Dusty, so back to it...)  With Phillips on third and no one out, Cabrera grounded out weakly to second.  The TV guys lauded Cabrera for professional hitting and making sure to get the run in, as if he shouldn't even have tried to get a hit in that situation.  What a load of bull.  Joey Votto doubled just after that play, and later came around to score on a Johnny Gomes single.  Had Cabrera got a hit, instead of a weak ground out, perhaps the Reds would have scored more.  With the recent power outage against the Phillies, giving away outs at the top of the lineup ought to be a definite no-no.  When you keep penciling Cabrera in up there though, you can't really avoid it.  (I don't even care that he had a RBI double later.  He needs to be moved down in the lineup, if he plays at all.)

OK, venting done, let's turn the page.  Edinson Volquez makes his first 2010 start tonight against the Rockies.  Here's hoping that he becomes the ace we need, especially after losing out on Cliff Lee.  The Reds have a bunch of good but not great pitchers right now.  They've got to figure out who their starting five will be going forward, and they'll need to figure out who they should be counting on if the playoffs roll around.  I'll work on getting my thoughts together about what they should do, but I've been struggling with it all week, and really have no idea what they should do.  It's a good problem to have right now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The One That Got Away

The Reds got back on the horse tonight with a 3-1 victory over the Mets.  Bronson Arroyo threw eight innings of one-run ball.  Brandon Phillips homered and drove in two runs.  Chris Heisey hit the go-ahead-homer in the seventh.  (He should really play more!)  This was a welcome change after Johan Santana shut the Reds down last night.  Of course, it could have been worse...

When I went to bed last night, the Reds had lost, and the Cardinals were winning 9-3 in the ninth inning.  I was resigned to the Reds' lead in the Central shrinking to a game, and just hoped that things turned around tonight.  Well, I was stunned to wake up this morning to find out that the Cards had lost in an epic meltdown (or "Meltdown", for the fangraphs followers in the audience) by Ryan Franklin.  The Cardinals have to be kicking themselves over that loss, and if they fall a game short of making the playoffs, they'll certainly look back to the game and wonder what could have been.

Of course, this just makes all of us Reds fans that much happier.  Not only did this loss by the Cardinals keep the Reds atop their perch in the NL Central by two full games (three if the Cardinals choke away tonight's game, which is currently tied 7-7 in the 8th.), but it also provides some psychological relief for the Reds own meltdown at the hands of the Braves back in May.  If my memory serves me correctly, the score of that game was also 9-3 going into the bottom of the ninth.  Mike Leake had pitched a solid game and was in line for the win.  Seven runs later, the Reds had been handed a shocking defeat. 

It all happened so quick too.  I remember where I was.  I had spent the day downtown in DC for work, and I came home on the Metro.  I got in my car just in time to hear the sports report on WTOP radio at 15 after the hour.  They announced that the Reds had a 9-3 lead going into the ninth inning.  I was thrilled.  The next WTOP sports report came just as I was pulling into my garage at 45 after the hour.  They announced that the Reds had lost 10-9.  I was disappointed to be sure.  Still, even though it was very early in the season, I had high hopes for the Reds this year.  I thought the Wild Card was not out of the question, although I really didn't think we could hang with the Cardinals like we have in the division.  I just couldn't shake the feeling that the Reds were really going to want that game back come September. 

Now?  I'm not so sure.  The Cardinals have their own game that they flushed down the toilet, and the Reds are serious threats (if not favorites at this point) to win the division now.  In fact, suggests that the Reds have better than a 60% chance of winning the division at this point.  The chart below (from shows how the Reds division, wild card, and playoff chances have changed over the season.  On June 12, I posted that I was concerned about the disparity between the Reds and Cardinals upcoming schedules through the All-Star break.  I was just hoping the Reds would stay within hailing distance over this stretch, but they've really turned it on, particularly over this road trip.

I wouldn't go so far as to label the Reds front-runners, but the longer this lasts the more legitimate the Reds appear to be.  I'm still not to the point that I expect the Reds to win the division, but I'm definitely expecting them to be playing for it right up to the last week of the season.  If they lose the division by a game to the Cardinals, I'll no doubt be crushed.  At the same time, I'll probably be less inclined to dwell on that collapse against the Braves now, knowing that the Cardinals had to overcome a very similar meltdown just a couple of months later.  On the other hand, if the Reds come up a game short of the Wild Card it will be very tough to swallow.  Hopefully they'll keep putting "W"s in the books, and we won't have to worry about it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Drew Stubbs Big Day

Drew Stubbs set off some 4th of July fireworks on Sunday against the Cubs, hitting three home runs in the Reds 14-3 romp.  The three home runs broke Stubbs out of a big slump.  The slump was so bad, in fact, that Dusty Baker met with Stubbs on Saturday morning and sat him out of the game that afternoon according to Mark Sheldon, basically saying that Stubbs needed to be more aggressive at the plate.  So, did Dusty's pep talk do the trick?  Obviously, he's not going to hit three home runs every game, but did Stubbs suddenly learn something that will push his game to a new level?

I suspect that this is all just a combination of lucky timing and bad Cubs pitching.  If you recall, a couple of weeks ago, I posted about the relationship between Contact %, Z-Swing%, wOBA, and ISO.  The impetus for that post was the frequency with which Stubbs strikes out.  I ultimately concluded that while Stubbs really struggles to make contact, he'd be better served by simply swinging at more pitches in the strike zone, echoing what Baker would later tell him.  When Stubbs went off yesterday, I wondered if he had changed his approach to be more aggressive.

Take a look at these charts from  First, here are the pitches that Stubbs has swung at this season.

Maybe it's me, but this chart looks fairly sparsely populated on the outside corner (the right side).  Now, take a look at the pitches Stubbs has taken.

It appears to me that Stubbs rarely swings at pitches down and away.  The called strike picture tells a similar story.

The red points on this chart (the called strikes) certainly appear to be much more prevalent down and away in the zone.  It appears that Stubbs has trouble pulling the trigger on those down and away strikes.  I imagine teams would look to take advantage of that.  The Cubs?  Not so much.

Here are the same three charts from Stubbs game yesterday.  First, here are the pitches that Stubbs swung at.

Stubbs took eight swings in five trips to the plate, three of which ended up as home runs.  All eight of the pitches that Stubbs swung at were up and in the zone.  The home runs came on the two sliders and the curve ball.  I guess he was really on the breaking pitches.  What did he take?

It looks like Stubbs took eight pitches as well, five of them fastballs, and two of those down and away at the edge of the zone.  Go back and look at the first chart above.  See any red points down and away in the zone?  Not really.  Here, Stubbs got a couple, and just like the rest of the season, he didn't swing at them. 

If you ask me, the Cubs either didn't do their homework or executed their pitches very poorly.  Stubbs won't swing at fastballs down and away, and the Cubs pitched him up and in.  I doubt that Stubbs really did anything all that different yesterday.  He was a little more aggressive than usual on pitches in the zone, swinging at eight of ten strikes while his Z-Swing % on the year is just 63.2% (according to   Ultimately though, the pitches he saw were not the ones he struggles to swing at, so with such a small sample size, it's pretty hard to conclude that Stubbs had some kind of epiphany and will suddenly begin playing at a whole new level.  I hope he proves me wrong.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

No Votto?!

Wow...  So the MLB All-Stars were just announced, and three Reds made the team: Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, and Arthur Rhodes.  I was hoping for four All-Stars for the Reds, but I really thought Arthur Rhodes wouldn't get the honor because his work is done in middle relief.  The other three were locks though.  Except one of them didn't make it!

I couldn't fathom the possibility that Joey Votto would be left off the team.  Granted, Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez are very good and deserving of All-Star spots in their own right, but in an AL park where the DH will be used, there MUST be a third spot on the roster for a 1B, right?  It's not even clear that Pujols and Gonzalez should have been given a spot ahead of Votto.  According to fangraphs, Votto has the highest WAR for NL first baseman with 3.6, a full half-win ahead of both Pujols and Gonzalez.  It's a bit different on where Gonzalez sits at 3.7 WAR to Votto and Pujols' 3.2.  It's pretty clear that the three have performed similarly well this season.  Plus, as I mentioned, the NL needs a DH.  The highest wOBA in the NL belongs to...  Joey Votto!  In fact, Votto's .425 wOBA is well ahead of Gonzalez' .386.  If Votto isn't the NL's starting first baseman, he should at least be the starting DH, right?  How did Charlie Manuel miss this?

Wait, I see how...  On my first read through the roster, I missed a player: Ryan Howard.  Yes, Ryan Howard, currently 8th in both wOBA (.367) and WAR (1.2) among NL first basemen was named an All-Star over Votto.  I guess Manuel didn't feel like he could pass up his own first baseman.  That's just wrong, but we know that managers do it every year.  It doesn't make it any easier to stomach though. 

OK...  Venting complete, let's look ahead.  Votto was at least extended the courtesy of being put of for the final vote for the NL, along with Heath Bell (Padres), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Billy Wagner (Braves), and Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals).  Obviously, I think Votto deserves the spot, but let's make sure the numbers support that position. While Wagner (0.9 WAR) and Bell (1.3 WAR) have been pretty good as relievers, they don't compare to the hitters, so let's focus on Votto, Gonzalez, and Zimmerman.  Votto has been worth 3.6 WAR with a .425 wOBA, while Gonzalez (1.5 WAR, .356 wOBA) and a definitely solid Zimmerman (3.0 WAR, .372 wOBA) trail a fair bit behind.  (Gonzalez's numbers lag just a hair behind Jay Bruce.  Can you seriously make an argument that Bruce would deserve a spot on the team over Votto?)  Votto must be the pick here, right?  Well, maybe not.  The team already has three first basemen, but just two third basemen and four outfielders (and whatever Omar Infante is).  One of those other guys may fit the team's needs better.  My gut tells me that either Votto or Zimmerman gets the final spot.  It's a shame that those two guys aren't already assured of their spot.  They've both earned it, especially Votto.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Super for Jay Bruce, Not So Much for the Reds

In case you missed this bit of news, mlbtraderumors (via redreporter) indicates that Jay Bruce will be "Super Two" arbitration-eligible after this season.  He was the last player to qualify for Super Two status, edging out Chase Headley by two days.  What does that mean to the Reds?  Well, it means he will be able to file for arbitration, instead of earning $450K next season.  Bruce will probably finish the season with 3-4 WAR.  At $4.5M per win as the market rate, that's $13.5M-$18M as the market value for his services.  Typically, players get 40% of their market value in their first year of eligibility, 60% in their second, and 80% in the third and final year.  I'm not sure what to assume in the case of a Super Two player, as this will be the first year of four - not three like the typical player.  I'll assume that Bruce ends up getting 20% of his market value, but I'll project him to deliver 4 WAR.  If that's the case, Bruce will likely be awarded something like $4M for the 2011 season.  Unfortunately for the Reds, that's about an additional $3.5M that will not be available for other purposes.

With Harang and Arroyo potentially coming off the books next year, and an abundance of pitching in the high minors, it would seem that this $3.5M won't be a killer.  The bigger question is, will the Reds attempt to strike now and buy out a free-agent year or two.  As redreporter pointed out, it would be a great time to do it.  What would it take though?  Gee, Brett Anderson was a 3.8 WAR player for the A's in 2009, and he was given a 4-year, $12.5M contract with two club option years for an additional $20M just before this season.  Adjust for inflation, and we're looking at something like $13M-$14M to buy out Bruce's remaining arbitration-eligible years, with $20M-$21M getting a couple of years of free agency too.  If the Reds could get Bruce for $35 for the next six years, I'd think they'd jump at that opportunity.  I'll be interested to see what they do.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bray Up, LeCure Down, and Thursday's Starter

The Reds called up Bill Bray, sending Sam LeCure back to Louisville after his rough start on Saturday.  Dusty Baker gave the impression that this was a temporary move.  According to
"We don't need his [LeCure's] spot for three or four more days, and we've got the Phillies coming in with all these lefties, so it's not a bad idea to have three lefties in the 'pen out there," Baker said. "When his spot comes up, then we'll see what our next move is. Sometimes when you're trying to win the pennant, you have to make these temporary auxiliary moves."
It is obvious that some kind of move will need to be made when a fifth starter is needed again, and if I am correct, that should happen on Thursday in Chicago against the Cubs.  I think there's a rule that says LeCure can't be called up again until he's been on the Louisville roster for ten days, unless he's replacing someone going on the DL.  With all the other talented options, this was probably it for LeCure.

That being the case, someone else will be getting that start.  Travis Wood has been pitching very well down at Louisville, and the Reds radio guys (Jim Kelch and Jeff Brantley, I think) seemed to suggest that they expected Wood to be the next guy to get the call.  He's due to pitch in Louisville on Thursday, so that seems to be the most likely scenario.  With Homer Bailey yet to throw rehab, I doubt he'd be in the discussion.

The wild card, I think, is Edinson Volquez.  He's looked really good in his rehab starts so far, and seems to be in line for a return to the rotation soon.  He's scheduled to pitch on Tuesday for the Bats.  With LeCure having a short outing on Saturday, it's not out of the question that LeCure could take that Tuesday start and free Volquez up for the Thursday start against the Cubs.  I'm not sure that the Reds would break Volquez's routine this soon though to make that happen. 

Wood is probably the most likely starter.  Regardless, it's pretty safe to say the move to send LeCure down is more permanent than Baker is letting on.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Back on Top!

It was a great night for the Reds.  A commanding 10-3 win over the Indians coupled with a 4-2 loss for the Cardinals puts the Reds back in first place by a half game.  Aaron Harang didn't pitch the cleanest game, but he got through seven innings on just 108 pitches despite walking five and giving up two home runs.  Logan Ondrusek and Micah Owings each threw a clean inning of relief.  Offensively, the Reds were paced by Drew Stubbs with a homer and 4 RBIs.  Scott Rolen added a homer, and Joey Votto extended his reached base streak to a MLB season high 33 games by drawing two walks.  Besides Harang, Votto was the only Reds starter without a hit.

By itself, taking first place back from the Cardinals would be a big night, but it was a great night for nearly the whole organization.  In AAA, Louisville's Travis Wood shut out Norfolk 7-0, striking out 9 in eight efficient innings.  At the AA level, the Carolina Mudcats had a solid 11-4 win behind the hitting of Kris Negron (2 for 4 with a 2B, HR, BB and 4 RBI) and David Sappelt (a double short of the cycle) and a solid start from Tom Cochran.  (If there was one down-side to the night, it is that Brad Boxberger gave up 3 runs in one inning of relief in his AA debut.)  At high A Lynchburg, James Avery struck out 7 in five innings as Lynchburg beat Kinston 9-1.  Brodie Greene had 4 hits, and Josh Fellhauer added 3 for the Hillcats.  Then there's Dayton.  They lost to Lansing 7-6 in 11 innings.  I guess you can't win them all.  On the plus side, Cameron Satterwhite continued his torrid hitting with 3 doubles and Tim Crabbe threw five one-hit innings (although he did walk six).

After a rough first half of the season for the Reds minor league teams - all four top teams were in last place in their respective divisions when Dayton and Lynchburg went to their All-Star breaks - it is good to turn the page and look ahead to the second half of the season.  Louisville has a 10 game deficit to make up on Columbus for the division and a 7 game deficit to Scranton for the wild card.  Unlike the other three minor league teams, they don't get to start with a clean slate for the second half.  Hopefully Carolina, Lynchburg, and Dayton will take advantage of this opportunity and put together a strong showing in the second half.  There is a lot of talent in the system.  They've just got to convert that into wins.  Tonight was a step forward for the organization.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Move to Be Made?

The Reds signed Gary Matthews, Jr. to a minor league contract today to play center field for Louisville.  Somehow, I don't think that's the move that's going to push the Reds past the Cardinals (who they only trail by a half game after the Cards loss tonight).  That being the case, what should the Reds do?

The Bullpen

Obviously the bullpen has been horrible this season, but they've looked better since calling up Jordan Smith from AA Carolina.  The Smith call-up was a surprise move, but the 24-year-old righty has looked very good, striking out four and walking no one in 4 2/3 innings of work.  His 4.20 FIP suggests his 1.93 ERA isn't likely to last, but that wasn't going to happen anyway.  Besides Smith, Logan Ondrusek and Nick Masset have shown signs of life lately.  Throw in the amazing season Arthur Rhodes is having, and the bullpen may not be as bad as they looked in the first half of June.

Of course, the Reds also have an embarrassment of pitching riches down on the farm, although they seem to be grooming all the top talent to join the rotation.   It was big news this week when Aroldis Chapman was allowed to pitch in relief during Edinson Volquez's rehab start for Louisville.  Chapman seems to me to be an ideal candidate to log some innings in the bullpen this season.  He's young, so the Reds will look to limit his innings.  To this point, he hasn't shown the pitch efficiency to be able to work deep into games.  His electric fastball would play a tick faster coming out of the pen.  Letting him throw every few days and get his feet wet in the bullpen seems like the right move to me.  Oddly enough, the other starter I would consider moving to the bullpen for the season is Edinson Volquez. He's been outstanding in his rehab starts, and the Reds appear to be intent on giving him a spot in the rotation.  It seems to me that Volquez could be better served by more cautious use coming out of the pen this season.  Plus, like Volquez, his electric stuff would play well from the pen.

Shortstop and Leadoff Hitter

Besides the bullpen, shortstop seems to be the glaring hole.  It's not just that Orlando Cabrera is having a rough year; it's also that Dusty Baker keeps running him out there as the leadoff man.  I'd give Paul Janish a shot to see what he can do, batting eighth (or ninth, if you want to use your lineup more efficiently).  We know his glove is better that Cabrera, and he's got more upside.  If you play Janish though, who should hit leadoff then?  Honestly, I don't care.  There are plenty of options that are better than Cabrera.  I'd suggest letting Chris Heisey give it a shot.  If you're not willing to push either Stubbs or Gomes aside, let him play in place of Bruce once every week or two, in place of Gomes once a series, and in place of Stubbs once a series.  His OBP is trails only Votto and Hanigan, and while that isn't likely to last, he's done all you can ask of him given the time he's been getting.  Plus, he's been solid in the field.  Gomes is terrible out in left, so the pitching staff would welcome that move.  Even playing him in center ahead of Stubbs might not be so bad.  Everything I've heard suggests that Stubbs is a great defender, but his UZR certainly doesn't suggest that he's anything more than average so far this year.  (Granted, half a season is a small sample size for UZR.)  Personally, I'd rather see Heisey and Janish get a shot now, and shift Cabrera and Stubbs to the bench.

Starting Rotation

So, is that it?  Call up a few pitchers and shuffle the lineup, and the Reds are good to go?  I don't think so.  I think there's still one hole that needs to be addressed.  I think the Reds need an elite top-of-the-rotation pitcher.  Forget St. Louis.  If the Reds do get past the Cardinals or claim the Wild Card, do you really want to go into the post-season with Harang-Cueto-Arroyo as your starting rotation?  I think not.  The funny thing is, the rotation has been solid.  Plus, there's great depth.  The Reds are planning to skip Mike Leake a few times as the season wears on in order to limit his innings, but they've still got Sam Lecure pitching OK and Homer Bailey and Edinson Volquez coming back from injury at some point.  Throw in Travis Wood and Matt Maloney in Louisville, and you could make a case that the Reds have nine decent starting pitchers.  If I was Walt Jocketty, I'd be looking to swap some of those decent starting pitchers for a big-time ace.  I'd seriously consider a half-year Cliff Lee rental.  If he likes playing for the Reds, they could sign him long-term.  If not, let him go, take two additional first-round picks in next year's draft, and hope Chapman is ready to take his spot in the rotation next year.

What might it take to acquire Lee?  His contract is favorable, so he'll command some top prospects.  Of course, he would just be a half-year rental, so that lessens the cost a little bit.  Supposedly the Mariners want a significant catching prospect included in the package of prospects.  Devin Mesoraco has had an excellent season so far, even showing some pop with a .567 SLG (although just a .267 OBP) for AA Carolina.  Plus, the Reds just drafted Yasmani Grandal in the first round, so they wouldn't have to look far to find their replacement.  If Mesoraco and Grandal are too green for the Mariners liking, perhaps they could be interested in Ryan Hanigan.  He's not going to be a star, but he's been solid splitting time with Ramon Hernandez.  (I'd hate to lose Hanigan, but for Cliff Lee, you'd do it in a heartbeat.)  The Mariners probably would want a couple of other good prospects too.  Yonder Alonso is blocked at first base here, but he would easily top Casey Kotchman's horrendous .254 OPS thus far.  I imagine he'd make a great trade chip.   Throw in Matt Maloney (or Travis Wood or Sam LeCure, although I'd prefer to see Maloney be the one to go) to take Lee's place in Seattle's rotation, and we ought to be pretty close to a deal.  I'm not a prospect evaluator, but it sounds pretty fair to me.  The Reds would be giving up a lot of talent if they lost Mesoraco, Alonso, and Maloney, but they'd be getting Cliff Lee for the rest of this year, and two new draft picks to re-stock the farm with for next season.


I really like where the Reds are positioned right now.  They've got a tough schedule coming up, but they're playing well with just a few exceptions.  The bullpen has shown signs of life, and the Reds have more than enough pitching depth in the organization to cure any problems that creep up there from within.  Orlando Cabrera is a bad shortstop and an awful leadoff man.  I don't really see any appealing shortstop options on the trade market, so I'd move Janish to short and give Heisey a shot to see if he can hold down an outfield spot while hitting leadoff.  Other than that, I think this team has what it takes to be a contender.

Of course, being a contender simply gets you into the discussion.  It takes more to put you over the top.  I think what the Reds will need in September is a front-of-the-rotation starter, and I'd like to see the Reds try to put a package together to go out and get the best one on the market.  I'm not sure if a package of Mesoraco, Alonso, and Maloney is enough to pry Cliff Lee away from the Mariners, but I sure would like to see the Reds try to offer something like that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reds Look to Recover vs. A's

Seattle was a disaster.  The Reds offense, so reliable this year, was non-existent.  On the plus side, the bullpen looked very good.  Add it all up though, and the Reds were swept by a very bad (but very AL) team.  I suggested in a post a couple of weeks ago that the Reds upcoming schedule was not favorable for keeping up with the Cardinals.  At the time, the Reds held a half-game lead over the Cardinals.  They're down one and a half now, and the schedule isn't getting any easier (especially since the Reds have already played the Royals and Mariners - and badly, I might add).  According to, the Reds have seen their playoff chances decrease from 42.6% to 27.8% since that post.  It's time to right the ship, and with Mike Leake on the mound, let's hope the Reds can get it done tonight! 

To K or Not to K?

A few days ago (before the Reds' absolutely dreadful performance against the Mariners), I was wondering what to make of Drew Stubbs.  He strikes out a ton, and Adam Dunn showed that Reds' fans have little tolerance for strikeouts - even from good players.  It's pretty easy to see why Stubbs strikes out so much.  According to fangraphs, only five qualified players have lower Contact %.  While Stubbs struggles to make contact, his judgment of the strike zone is adequate enough.  His O-Swing % of 24.5 is good, and his Z-Swing % of 62.4 isn't that bad.  His struggles really do just come down to being unable to make consistent contact.

This prompted me to wonder whether understanding the strike zone or being able to make contact is the more important skill to possess.  I've done some digging, and I propose that "what separates the men from the boys" is being able to swing with authority at pitches inside the strike zone.  (Everything I'm about to present is the result of pulling data from fangraphs on May 18 for the 2010 season only.)

Batters who make contact at a high rate tend to swing at fewer pitches inside the strike zone.  In the chart below, I've plotted two series.  Each data point is a player, with the Reds players as the red series and all other players as the blue series. The x-axis is Contact % and the y-axis is Z-Swing %, both from fangraphs.  I've included a trendline which shows that Z-Swing % decreases as Contact % increases.  For what it is worth, the Reds players in this exercise are Johnny Gomes, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera, Scott Rolen, and Drew Stubbs.  Cabrera, Rolen, and Stubbs swing at roughly 60% of the pitches inside the strike zone, while everyone else is closer to 70-75%.  Cabrera and Rolen make contact at a high rate, while Stubbs' 71% contact rate makes him the lower-left red dot.

At first, I thought this suggested that batters who are more confident in their ability to make contact are more likely to "wait for their pitch."  In effect, I thought that high contact rate led to a low Z-Swing %.  After looking into it further, I now think something else is at work.  Before I get there though, some more findings...

Contact % has little effect on whether batters swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  Again, I'll use a similar chart to illustrate, this time with O-Swing % on the y-axis.

There is still a very slight downward trend, but it is nothing like the previous chart.  So, we've established that hitters who make good contact are less likely to swing at pitches inside the strike zone, but not really any less likely to swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  If good contact hitters were "waiting for their pitch", they'd be swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone than their more aggressive (inside the zone) counterparts.  What's the explanation then?

Better hitters swing at more pitches inside the strike zone.  This time, I'm comparing the Z-Swing % to wOBA, again from fangraphs.  I've moved the Z-Swing % to the x-axis and put wOBA on the y-axis.

There is a fair amount of variation in this chart, so the trendline isn't a great fit, but you can see that the trendline does tend to rise as Z-Swing % increases.  As for the Reds, we can see that Scott Rolen bucks the trend here, putting up a high wOBA despite a low Z Swing %.  Only Stubbs and Cabrera produce a lower wOBA than their Z Swing % suggests among the Reds. 

We've now established that batters with higher wOBAs tend to swing at more pitches inside the strike zone, that batters who swing at more pitches inside the strike zone tend to make contact less frequently, and that how often a batter makes contact doesn't really influence how often the batter swings at pitches out of the zone.  This all suggests that better hitters (as measured by wOBA) take a more aggressive approach on pitches inside the strike zone.  They swing at pitches in the zone more frequently, and they have a higher wOBA, so they must hit them with more authority, right?

Hitters who swing at a lot of pitches inside the strike zone also hit the ball with more power.   This chart shows ISO from fangraphs on the y-axis.

Again, there's a lot of spread here, but there's also a definite trend.  The Reds story is much the same, with Rolen significantly outperforming the typical player with his Z-Swing %, Cabrera underperforming - is there no spot on the bench for him?!  Brandon Philips actually has a lower ISO than the typical player with his Z Swing %, but I suspect the change from batting cleanup to batting second has something to do with that, as he's clearly changed his approach at the plate. 

The difference in ISO between a typical batter who swings at 60% of the pitches in the zone and a batter who swings at 70% of the pitches in the zone is .050.  This suggests that batters who swing at more pitches in the zone also swing harder.  Batters who swing harder also miss more, which explains the first chart above.  Batters who swing at more pitches inside the strike zone miss more pitches too.

To summarize, while major leaguers need to be able to make contact with regularity and lay off pitches outside the strike zone, really good hitters swing harder and more often at pitches that are in the strike zone.  One final chart to drive the point home...  In this chart, I grouped players based on their wOBA, then plotted their Contact % vs. their Z Swing %.  There is a clear tendency for the dark blue and pink points (higher wOBA) to fall on the upper left and the yellow and light blue points (lower wOBA) to fall on the lower right.  Better hitters swing at more good pitches and hit fewer of them.

Drew Stubbs may very well strike out a lot because he swings and misses a lot.  As opposed to worrying about making contact more though, if Stubbs is like most players, he'd be better served by swinging (and swinging hard) at more of the strikes that he's watching go by.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time for Heisey?

Johnny Cueto got the start for the Reds tonight, and pitched well despite taking the loss.  He allowed one run and four hits while striking out five and walking two in 5 2/3 innings. Unfortunately for him and the Reds, that wasn't enough to beat Cliff Lee.  Lee went the distance for the shutout, fanning seven while allowing just six hits and no walks.  Three of Lee's strikeouts were of rookie Chris Heisey, including the one that ended the game. 

I didn't realize how well Heisey has played in the limited opportunities that he's received since his call up.  Over at redreporter, they suggest that Heisey ought to be getting more playing time, mainly at the expense of Stubbs in center field.  Obviously Heisey won't keep up his .481 wOBA (before tonight's game), I think he should be getting more time too.  Hopefully they'll let him play with Gomes as DH this week.  If they do, I'd like to see the Reds give Heisey a shot to lead off.  If you've got to have Cabrera in the lineup, you can at least bat him near the bottom.  Heisey would at least provide some hope that the lead off spot might not be wasted.

What of Drew Stubbs then?  Should he be benched?  He's been OK, but he certainly hasn't been outstanding.  Supposedly he plays an excellent center field, but surprisingly, his UZR checks in at -2.6 so far this season.  Heisey, on the other hand, has a 0.2 UZR in center field and a 1.9 UZR when you factor in left and right.  I imagine Stubbs is probably still the better defender, but I also imagine that he's not nearly the defensive whiz that he's made out to be (at least by the Reds radio broadcast team, although I've seen it suggested elsewhere too).  At the plate, Stubbs is nothing special either, posting a .322 wOBA.  Still, if you've got to put someone on the bench to make room for Heisey, it has to be Stubbs.  Gomes (despite posting a -4.9 UZR in left field) checks in at 0.9 WAR, and Jay Bruce sits at 1.3.  After struggling early, Stubbs has come around and now sits at 0.5 WAR.  But Heisey is at 0.8 WAR in just 41 plate appearances over 26 games!  He's not that good, but he's done enough to warrant a chance.  Sure, the Reds look fine in center field, and they've got a huge hole in their bullpen that needs to be addressed, but they may be able to improve their plight if they gave Heisey more - if not most - of those center field at bats and let him do it from the lead off spot.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reds Lose to Keep Pace with Cardinals...

Mike Leake took his first loss tonight and the Reds bats failed to solve Clayton Kershaw.  Add it all up, and the Reds walk away with a 6-2 loss to go with their 12-0 drubbing in the rain last night.  The Reds haven't been playing well lately, and they've got to right the ship quick with a tough schedule coming up before the break.  Fortunately, St. Louis hasn't been able to take advantage of the Reds' lackluster play.  The two teams are currently tied for the division lead, but that says more about both teams failures than their taking advantage of opportunities before them.

The Reds wrap up a ten game homestand tomorrow.  During that span, the Reds are 3-6.  While it is true that the Giants and Dodgers are playing good baseball right now, good teams need to win their home games.  And there's no excuse for dropping two of three at home to the Royals.

Over that same span, the Cardinals have been every bit as bad.  They were swept by the Dodgers in LA.  (Hopefully the Reds can avoid the sweep tomorrow night.)  They lost a series to the lowly Diamondbacks as well.  At least they won the series against the Mariners, despite tonight's loss.

The problems appear to be significantly different for the two teams. The Cards scored five runs just three times over that span.  They also allowed five runs only three times.  The Reds, on the other hand, were able to put up five or more runs in five of their games, but the pitching was terrible, allowing five or more runs in a whopping seven games.

The Reds bullpen has been so bad that the Reds called up Jordan Smith from AA Carolina to make his debut last night.  Smith got the promotion despite boasting a 5.08 ERA and a K/9 of less than 4.5 for the Mudcats.  Somehow, this was seen as the best move the Reds could make.  I believe that Smith got the call because (1) he was already throwing relief, (2) he was on the 40-man roster, and (3) he's been very good in recent outings albeit in a small number of innings.  (Had they called up someone not on the 40-man roster, they'd have had to make room for him by releasing someone or designating them for assignment, meaning other teams could claim him.)  It's still a puzzling move.  (Of course, I thought the Rolen trade was puzzling too, and that worked out well for the Reds.)

Ultimately, I think the Reds are going to have to look at giving Aroldis Chapman, Matt Maloney, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, Sam LeCure, or Edinson Volquez some time in the bullpen.  That's six very good arms, and the Reds only need one of them in the rotation.  It seems to me that at least one if not two of these pitchers ought to be looked at as relievers in the Cincinnati bullpen for this season.  Next season is a different matter entirely, and that bridge can be crossed at an appropriate time.  The notion that these pitchers are starters and can't be used in relief is just nonsense.  Nick Masset was vying for the fifth starter spot last year and seemingly instantly became a key cog in the bullpen at the start of the season.  It can be done.  Earl Weaver used to break in young pitchers in bullpen roles all the time.  The Yankees (Chamberlain), Red Sox (Papelbon), and Rangers (Feliz) have all employed the approach in recent years with stud prospects.  Sometimes the conversion is a permanent one, and other times it is not.  With the talent available, it's time to put some of it to use now.

The important point here is that right now the Reds have a golden opportunity to make some noise in the NL Central with the Cards playing poorly.  If they're going to take advantage though, they've got to get more from their bullpen.  They've got enough good young arms in the system to cover whatever injuries might be in store for the rotation and yet still be able to provide immediate, significant help to the struggling pen.  They should send one or two of those arms to the bullpen now, before the Cards turning it around and a tough upcoming schedule leave the Reds in a familiar hole later this summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Upcoming Schedule

While I'm thinking about it, I should make a post about the Reds' upcoming schedule.  Between now and the All-Star break, the Reds play the Royals (2 games), Dodgers (3), @Mariners (3), @A's (3), Indians (3), Phillies (3), @Cubs (4), @Mets (3), and @ Phillies (4).  That's 28 games remaining, with 16 against teams with a .500 or better record.  Only the Royals, Mariners, Indians, and Cubs are below .500, and three of them play in the stronger American League.

At the same time, the Cardinals upcoming schedule includes the @Diamondbacks (3 games, including tonight's game), Mariners (3), A's (3), @Blue Jays (3), @Royals (3), Diamondbacks (3), Brewers (3), @Rockies (3), and @Astros (3).  They've got 27 games remaining, with only the Blue Jays and A's being above .500, and the Rockies right at it.  Not only that, but their games remaining against the teams below .500 include some really bad teams.  Arizona, Cleveland, Seattle, Kansas City, Houston, and Milwaukee all have winning percentages of .426 or less.  That means the Cards play 18 of their 27 remaining games against six teams that have among the eight lowest winning percentages in the league.  They should really clean up.

When you combine the talent disparity between the Cardinals and the Reds with the difference in the upcoming schedule, the Cardinals have a chance to open up a nice lead in the Central before the break.  On the other hand, if the Reds can finish the first half strong, avoid any long losing streaks, and stay within a couple of games of the Cardinals, they can maintain their new found swagger and position themselves very nicely as legitimate contenders for the Central for the rest of the year.  This is an important stretch, and there's little room for error here.  A few more losses like tonight's 6-5 extra inning affair may really cost the team down the stretch.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reds Lose in Extras

The Reds lost a tight one tonight, 6-5 to the Royals in 11 innings.  The Reds couldn't get the big hit when they needed it - a rarity for this team this year.  The Reds jumped out to a 4-0 lead after 4 innings, but the Royals rallied back with three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a 5-4 lead.  Somehow, Yuniesky Betancourt was the offensive star for the Royals, collecting three big hits on the night.  His double in the fifth plated the Royals first run.  His homer in the sixth gave the Royals their first lead.  Then he singled in the winning run in the eleventh to cap off the scoring.  If tonight's not the greatest night Betancourt will ever have on a baseball field, I'll be stunned.

For the Reds, Bronson Arroyo struck out 4 and walked 3 while giving up 6 hits in 7 innings.  He threw 108 pitches.  Logan Ondrusek, Francisco Cordero, and Daniel Ray Herrera each worked a 1-2-3 inning before Micah Owings surrendered the go-ahead run in the 11th.  At the plate, Scott Rolen had four singles and Jay Bruce doubled and homered.  Joey Votto's 0 for 5 night hurt, especially the fly out with runners on the corners and just one out in the eleventh.  Tomorrow's a new day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reds Win

OK, one last post as I catch up from the computer struggles of the last week.  The Reds won tonight, taking a half-game lead on the Cardinals for first in the Central (pending the outcome of the Cards-Dodgers game tonight).  The Reds got a good outing from Aaron Harang, who went seven solid innings to get the win.  He threw 114 pitches.  I wasn't following the action, but Harang appeared to leave the bases loaded in the seventh despite not allowing any runs in the inning.  It looks like the Reds got away with it tonight, but I wouldn't have minded seeing Harang come out a bit earlier myself.  The offense bounced back from a rough outing against Matt Cain the night before, plating 6 runs behind big nights for Orlando Cabrera (single and three doubles) and Scott Rolen (single and two doubles).  Drew Stubbs homered for the Reds as well.

The Reds conclude the series tomorrow with an afternoon game against the Giants.

Recap of Reds-Nationals at Nationals Park on June 4

I'm posting this very late because of some computer problems, but I actually got to see the Reds play last Friday night.  (You'll also have to forgive me if some of the details were a bit blurry.)  The Reds were in town to play the Nationals in their only trip to DC this year.  (I hate the unbalanced schedule!)  The Nationals won 4-2, but I was long gone by then.  Five-year-olds can only take so much.

The pitching matchup for the night featured Aaron Harang and Livan Hernandez.  In the sabermetric community, Livan has been the poster-child for luck this season, and on this night, he was only OK.  Of course, Harang was much less than that.  He was just awful, despite allowing only two runs.  In the second inning, with 2 out, Harang walked Hernandez in what I recall was just an atrocious at bat for Harang.  Christian Guzman made Harang pay when he followed with a single, plating Ian Desmond from second.  Walking the pitcher is just inexcusable.  For what it's worth, Harang learned his lesson.  The next time Hernandez was up - leading off the fourth - Harang threw him a meatball that Hernandez promptly hit right back up the middle for a single.  I'd have felt a lot better about the run scoring in the second had it been because Hernandez got a hit, instead of giving him a walk.

If I recall, Harang had thrown an astonishing 80 pitches in just 3 innings when he came to bat in the fourth.  He was so bad that my uncle and I had a very serious discussion about whether the Reds should pinch hit for Harang at that point.  The discussion lost some of its luster when Ramon Hernandez, hitting in front of Harang, killed a great scoring opportunity by grounding into a double play.  With two out and Johnny Gomes on third, Harang hit for himself.  He got through the fourth inning and finished the night with 98 pitches in only 4 innings, yet exiting with the score tied at 2 (after the Reds scored to tie it up in the top of the fifth).  His stat line just did not do justice to how bad he was.

On the other side, Livan Hernandez was solid, but not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination.  He threw nothing but junk, but the powerful Reds offense really struggled against it.  I saw him hit 87 on the ballpark gun one time (as he struck out Jay Bruce to end the third, if I recall correctly), but I saw him drop down as low as 61 with a stunning array of absolutely nothing.  For six innings, it worked like a charm.  He got ground balls when he needed them.  He allowed just a single extra base hit (a double to Gomes).  It felt like he was stranding runners all night long.

All in all, it was hard to watch.  Especially for a certain five-year-old I know.

Ultimately, it wasn't a

Long Layoff

Sorry for the long delay.  I've had a pretty tough time with my computers lately.  In the last two months, I've had a netbook fly off the roof of my car, an iPod Touch thrown into a drink by my little girl, and a desktop infected by a virus that three different anti-virus programs (including one I was paying $50 a year for) didn't even recognize, let alone fix.  I think I may be getting back on track here, but I'm not going to get my hopes up.

In the meantime, I've realized that there's actually life away from the computer.  Who knew?!  I'll get back to blogging, but it will likely be less common than those first few weeks.  I would like to do more research too, so if you have any good ideas for me to explore, send them my way!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reds Fall to Cardinals

I put a lot of energy into the news that Ken Griffey, Jr. retired tonight, but there was also a pretty big game in St. Louis.  The Reds were beaten 4-1 by the Cardinals tonight after winning 9-8 last night.  With Sam LeCure up against Chris Carpenter, it wasn't exactly a shocking defeat.  The Reds tried to mount a rally in the seventh and pushed one run across, but that was all they could muster.  I missed a key play while putting the kids to bed tonight.  Scott Rolen had just driven Brandon Phillips in, and that left runners on the corners with Jay Bruce coming up and nobody out in the seventh.  I'm not sure what happened then, but the play log on fangraphs says

Jay Bruce singled (Liner). Scott Rolen out at second.
I'm not really sure how that happens unless Bruce hit a line drive that hit Rolen or something.  Whatever it was, it was a turning point, killing the last good chance to rally back.  Johnny Gomes subsequently struck out, and Drew Stubbs flied out to end the inning.  The Reds went down in order in both the eighth and ninth to end the game.

Both teams get a day off tomorrow, and they'll go into the break tied atop the division.  It will be the Reds' first off day in three weeks, ending a very tough stretch that has both shown flashes of great potential and exposed bullpen flaws that could haunt the team as the summer wears on.  The Reds come my way next to take on the Nationals in DC.  I'll be at Friday night's game.

A Kid's Memories of The Kid

It was inevitable.  Ken Griffey, Jr. has been miserable this season, and really hasn't been a significant player since 2000.  Still, it is a sad night.  It brings back a lot of memories.  Some great.  Some not-so-great.

From the time I was seven, I wanted to be a baseball player.  For many years, I was convinced that Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player who ever lived, and I was always looking for someone who could challenge Mays' combination of speed and power.  When I was in middle school, I marveled at Eric Davis.  He hit 27 homers and stole 80 bases in 1986 in just 132 games.  For an encore, he hit 37 homers and stole 50 bases in 1987 - in only 129 games.  If not for a mid-season injury, Davis would have been the first 40-50 man before there were any 40-40 men.  Davis was my favorite player, but his body proved too fragile to live up to his enormous potential.  I'll always remember the home run in Game 1 of the 1990 World Series that, I'll always believe, sealed the deal on the Reds sweep of the A's that year, but by then it was apparent that Davis wasn't going to be the "next Willie Mays."

No, the next "next Willie Mays" was already making some noise at that point.  Young Ken Griffey, Jr. was injecting life into a moribund Seattle franchise, delighting everyone with his power and speed for one so young.  (At least it appeared that way to me as a kid.  He was never really a 30 steal threat.)  As Griffey aged, he became a feared slugger, on pace to break Hank Aaron's home run record.  And of course, like Mays, Griffey played awesome and exciting defense in center field.  Griffey wasn't just going to be the "next Willie Mays," he was going to be something that we'd never seen before.  In 1993, Griffey hit 45 home runs, and from then until 2000, he was arguably the most feared and most exciting player in the game.

I have many memories of Griffey.  As a kid, I would occasionally go to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play.  I remember the day that Griffey ended Brad Pennington's major league career.  I was there.  April 24, 1994.  It wasn't the end of Pennington's career, but it was the "end."  I just knew.   The Orioles led 6-3 going into the top of the eighth inning.  Jamie Moyer loaded the bases with no one out, ending his day.  Pennington, a young lefty with a blazing fastball, came on to pitch to Griffey. Pennington struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings in both 1993 and 1994 and at least I believed that he had the potential to be an excellent reliever.  Pennington's first pitch was a wild pitch that brought in a run.  With first base open, the O's decided to go at Griffey anyway.  On Pennington's next pitch Griffey turned on a hard fastball and crushed it over the right field seats and onto Eutaw St.  It was as far as I've ever seen a ball hit.  Pennington's day was done.  He was sent down the next day and would remain in the minors for the rest of the 1994 season.  I'll always remember that event when I think of Griffey.

Despite living near Baltimore, I grew up a Reds fan.  When the word came out that Ken Griffey, Jr. wanted to be traded from the Mariners, I was watching with bated breath.  Atlanta was regarded as the favorite to land Griffey, but I held out hope that Griffey's Cincinnati roots would sway the decision.  His dad played for the Big Red Machine, and Griffey went to Cincinnati's famed Moeller High School, where he became the number 1 pick in the 1987 draft.  I was elated when news of the Griffey trade went through.  No one knew what injuries would do to his body and his game.  Obviously, looking back, we know that giving up a package of players that included Mike Cameron and Brett Tomko was not a good deal.  From 2000 to 2008 - the years Griffey played for the Reds - Cameron alone earned 35.3 WAR compared to Griffey's 13.2, according to fangraphs.  At the time though, I saw Griffey manning center field for a then-relevant Cincinnati Reds team.  Sure the $116M (I think) contract was big, but it wasn't what Griffey was worth.  He was giving the Reds a hometown discount.  He was the best player in the game, and he wasn't going to be paid like it.  Of course, now we know that didn't matter.  Griffey was a bust in Cincinnati, and his time there was marked by losing baseball.  This year, the Reds are finally starting to turn it around, but the poor product they've placed on the field this past decade or so can unfortunately be traced back to Griffey's contract.

Despite all that, I loved Griffey.  I got one last hurrah from the man.  On April 20, 2008, I had my first opportunity to attend a baseball game in Cincinnati.  Jay Bruce hadn't been called up yet and Griffey was still the face of the franchise.  After the game got going, rain moved in and threatened the proceedings.  I was at the game with my wife and our two children, then ages 3 and 1, so the weather put a real damper on things.  We tried to ride the weather out, but kids couldn't handle it.  We resorted to watching a few innings from on TV inside one of the shops on the main concourse.  In the top of the tenth, Edwin Encarnacion made a huge error that should have got the Reds out of the inning.  Two Brewers would come around to score making the score 3-1 and appearing to seal the game.  We left.  We barely get out of the stadium when fireworks went off.  Encarnacion had atoned for his error by hitting a home run, his second of the game.  Still, the Reds were down 3-2.  Then, more fireworks!  Paul Bako went back-to-back, and the game was tied again.  At this point, we're frantically walking around the stadium trying to find a way to see the end of the game.  We stumble upon a stadium entrance where a young man was guarding the entrance to an elevator, watching the game on the TV mounted above.  We hung out with him to see how the ending would unfold.  After a couple of batters reached base, Ken Griffey, Jr. came to the plate with one out.  Griffey ripped a ball to right field to drive in Brandon Phillips and win the game for the Reds.  The fireworks went off again, and I got to enjoy the long ride back to Maryland knowing that my childhood hero had won the game.

Griffey has been one of the best players to ever play baseball, an easy first-ballot Hall of Fame choice.  Even though his wRC barely cracks the top 150 of all time, Griffey was an icon of the sport.  His stats were impressive, but the injuries and general ineffectiveness late in his career make it difficult to really appreciate Griffey's greatness from statistics alone.  For me, it is the memories of Griffey that will linger.  I'll be able to pull out my 1989 Upper Deck #1 and show it to my kids.  I can show them the baseball that Griffey signed - the only signed ball I own at this point.  I'll be able to tell them the story about how my favorite shirt at one time was a Ken Griffey, Jr. t-shirt made to look like a baseball card, and how devastated I was when I ripped it hopping over a fence to retrieve a baseball during a pick-up game.  Those memories will last a long time.  I can only hope my kids get the opportunity to share their stories of the "next Ken Griffey, Jr." with their kids one day.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't really been able to keep up with all the action over the holiday weekend, so I'll give a bit of a recap of the interesting things I saw.  On both Friday and Saturday, the Reds were awesome.  They poured it on a struggling Astros team.  Then came Sunday.  Felipe Paulino pitched great for the Astros, and the Reds' powerful offense suddenly disappeared.  Mike Leake worked to keep the Reds in it though, and the Reds had a great opportunity to win the game, stranding five runners between the eighth and ninth innings.  The Reds have been so good at driving in runners in situations like that this season, so this was uncharacteristic.  The Reds still took the series though and could look forward to taking a one game lead to St. Louis to play the Cardinals.

That brings us to today.  The Reds got whipped by the Cardinals.  I didn't listen to much of the game, but the parts of the game I did hear were very interesting.  First, the Reds jumped on the board early and held a 2-1 lead going into a rain delay.  The rain delay lasted one hour and one minute, but both managers brought their starters back to start the fourth.  Jaime Garcia looked shaky in the fourth, and the Reds pushed across another run before Garcia got a big double play groundout to get out of the jam.  (That shouldn't come as a surprise to fangraphs readers, as Garcia has been getting a lot of attention there this season because of his ability to induce ground balls.)  So, after an hour rain delay and a long inning, Bronson Arroyo comes on to pitch for the Reds.  Hindsight is 20/20, so it is easy to say that Dusty should have just brought in Micah Owings for long relief and called it a night for Arroyo.  If I recall, Arroyo was already at 58 pitches through three innings at that point, so it wasn't like he was sailing through the Cards lineup anyway.  If it was any other team that the Reds were playing, I think Baker pulls Arroyo.  Still, I can't fault Baker too much because of the importance of the game.  This was shaping up to be a series where the Reds could really establish themselves and put the pressure on St. Louis to keep up.  The move backfired.  Arroyo would finish allowing 7 runs in 4 1/3 innings, while throwing 103 pitches in the process.

The other thing that caught my ear (as it were) about the game was the way the Cardinals exploded out of the rain delay.  Arroyo got two outs, but then he walked the pitcher, Garcia.  Felipe Lopez then singled and Garcia aggressively went to third base on the play.  On the next play, Ryan Ludwick also singled to right, and Jay Bruce came up throwing.  In attempting to cut Lopez down at third, he allowed an alert Ludwick to take an extra base.  It seemed like kind of a moot point, in that it allowed Albert Pujols to be intentionally walked.  However, when Matt Holliday hit a two-run double giving the Cards their first lead, it leaves you to wonder how differently the inning might have played out.  Shortly after this, I went to dinner.  When I got back, the Cards were way out in front.  No need to rehash how they got there.

The thing that has my attention right now is how the Reds have been a different team these last two games.  The offense hasn't been explosive, as it was almost all May long.  They didn't hit against the Astros when the key situations came up.  On the mound, even though Mike Leake didn't give up any runs, he was constantly working out of trouble, just as Arroyo was today.  And on the bases, the Cardinals were the aggressive team today - something that has really defined the Reds so far this season.  Even the decision-making has been a bit questionable.  Jay Bruce's attempt to throw out Lopez today was a throw that shouldn't have been made.  It's conceivable that Dusty's leaving Arroyo in after the rain delay was a poor decision (and not simply a poor result).  Hopefully the Reds get their act back together quickly, but I suspect they're feeling the weight of being hunted by St. Louis, and it's messing with them a bit.  The teams are even now, so we'll see if the Reds can right the ship with Johnny Cueto on the mound tomorrow.  A win tomorrow would help the team get their confidence back.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Devin Mesoraco

Part of the fallout of the Ryan Hanigan injury was that Devin Mesoraco was called up to AA Carolina. He hit his first homer for the Mudcats today. Mesoraco is a former first round pick who hasn't hit at all until this year. This year though, he was destroying Carolina league pitching, with his 1.035 OPS leading the league. He'd have to be considered the most pleasant surprise in the Reds system this season.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wild Game, This Baseball

What a night on the diamond!  For the second time this year, a pitcher threw a perfect game - something that had only been done 18 times prior to this season.  Somehow, Roy Halladay gets the honor of being linked to Dallas Braden.  Go figure.

Then there's the amazing walk-off grand slam of Kendry Morales, who somehow managed to break his leg when he crossed home plate.  Seriously!  The video is here.

Of course, Beyond the Upper Deck those are just footnotes.  Because out here, the only thing that matters is that the Reds crushed the Astros again, 12-2, opening up a two-game lead on the Cardinals in the process.  (I guess I should add that the news that Ryan Hanigan broke his thumb and will be out a few weeks also matters, but lets focus on the positive.)  Jay Bruce and Ramon Hernandez each hit two homers and Miguel Cairo (seriously!) and Drew Stubbs added one apiece.  Aaron Harang pitched seven strong innings for the win.  The Reds offense continues to destroy bad teams, and the starting pitchers continue to turn in solid outings.  It's been a long time since a Reds team has looked this good.  One more game against the Astros before the Reds get another shot at the Cardinals.  A win tomorrow would be a great springboard into an important series for the Reds division title hopes.

News from the Minors

There have been a number of transactions in the last week, and I thought it might be worth highlighting some that caught my eye.

We all know that the Reds put Homer Bailey on the DL.  I mention that because that seems to been one of the main causes of all the activity.  First, Enerio Del Rosario was brought up from Louisville.  He had a rather bizarre debut, in which he struck out the only batter he faced, yet failed to retire a batter because the batter advanced to first on a passed ball.  Del Rosario was just a short-term call-up though, as the Reds sent him back down to make room for 26-year-old Sam LeCure who had a very successful debut last night, earning the win against the Astros.  Also at the major league level, Paul Janish was placed on the bereavement list, leading to the call-up of Drew Sutton.  Sutton hit his first major league grand slam last night.

At the AAA level, it was announced that Justin Lehr was expected to undergo Tommy John surgery.  Lehr has been a journeyman pitcher the last few years, giving the Reds a few good starts last year.  He was in the discussion for the fifth starter spot in spring training, but quickly pitched his way out of that discussion.  In a loaded Louisville rotation that includes Aroldis Chapman (who apparently hit 103 on the gun in his last start), Travis Wood, and Matt Maloney, Lehr never looked good this season.  With Lehr out and LeCure called up, Matt Klinker (25) was promoted from AA Carolina to the Bats.  Klinker has been excellent this season, striking out 53 and walking 11 in 55 1/3 innings.  His ERA of 1.63 was good for second in the Southern League.  Like LeCure, Klinker is often overlooked as a starting pitching prospect because he's a bit older now and the system has many other good pitching prospects.

At AA Carolina, Matt Fairel (22) was called up from Lynchburg.  I haven't seen Fairel given a lot of love in the scouting reports I've seen, but he's put together some nice stretches of performance the last couple of years.  He's only struck out 36 in 56 innings at Lynchburg, but he's 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA and he's walked just 13 batters.  He struck out 137 and walked 56 last year in 160 innings between Dayton and Sarasota. 

At Lynchburg, Donnie Joseph (22) was called up from Dayton.   Joseph had struck out 40 in just 23 innings while recording six saves for Dayton.  He was the Reds 3rd round selection in last year's draft.  Also, Byron Wiley was apparently released from Lynchburg, which I don't understand.  He has had a rough start to the season, but I think he has showed some promise despite being old for the leagues he's played in.  Redlegs Baseball suspects there's more to the decision than on-field performance.

There were other moves too, but those were the ones that caught my eye.

May Offense Brings September Baseball?

The Reds won again tonight, maintaining a one game lead over the Cardinals.  They crushed the Astros 15-6 in another blowout.  Sam LeCure made his major league debut tonight and pitched quite well, allowing two runs on six hits with five strikeouts and four walks in six innings.  He threw 98 pitches in picking up his first big league win.  Johnny Gomes was 4 for 4, finishing a double shy of the cycle.  (He had two singles.)  Drew Sutton hit his first major league grand slam (pinch hitting for LeCure in the 6th).  The Reds once again put the game away early and didn't look back.
With the Reds recent blowouts a couple of things have really come to my attention.  First, the Reds are taking advantage of playing some really bad teams.  They've owned the Pirates the last couple of times the two teams have played, going 6-1 with three shutouts.  Even the one loss was a 2-1 game that the Pirates pulled out with a ninth-inning homer.  The Reds have now beaten Houston all four games they've played this season, with none of the games being closer than two runs.  The Reds swept Milwaukee in the two game series that was the only time the two teams have met this year.  They've gone 2-1 against Cleveland and 4-2 against the Cubs (2-1 this month).  Since April 25, the Reds are 22-9.  They're 6-6 in that span against teams above .500 (the Padres, Cardinals, Mets, and Braves).  That means they're 16-3 against teams under .500 (Astros, Cubs, Pirates, Brewers, and Indians).  That four of the teams the Reds are beating up on are in their division certainly doesn't hurt.  If the Reds end up winning a Wild Card spot this season, the unbalanced schedule may well be a major contributing factor.

The second thing that caught my attention is that the Reds are actually really good.  I know, they're in first place; I should know they're good.  The thing is, I've never really thought of the Reds as having a legitimate chance of beating the Cardinals for the division.  I was hoping that maybe they'd get lucky and back into a Wild Card spot, but now, I'm starting to think they're for real.  In May, they've been outstanding at the plate.  According to fangraphs, they've got the highest-ranked wOBA of any team in the league in May at .371.  That's been aided by a .333 BABIP, which is also highest in the league, so they've been a bit lucky.  That's helped lift their OBP in May to .360, up from .322 in April.  On the other hand, they've also really been clobbering the ball.  Their ISO in May is .200, second only to the Blue Jays in all of baseball.  That's considerably higher than their mediocre .146 ISO in April.  They've basically gone from being an average to slightly below average hitting team in April to being one of the best hitting teams in baseball in May (and those stats don't even include tonight's game).

The funny thing is, I've looked at the Reds turnaround as being driven by their pitching.  It has felt that way, but that's largely because the rotation had such an ugly start to the season.  The starters are pitching much better now (3.90 FIP in May down from 4.69 in April), and the bullpen has gotten a bit better too (3.76 in May down from 4.18 in April).  Still, this is an average to slightly above average team on the mound, and I suspect this month's performance is more what we should expect from them.  (I should also point out that by "this month's performance" I mean the team FIP of 3.90 not the team ERA of 3.08.  They're not that good.)

So, what should we expect going forward?  I think we should expect the Reds to play somewhere between the way they played in May and the way they played in April.  I think they'll fail to play to that May level because the batters have been pretty lucky in May, the starting rotation hasn't really performed as well as their ERA suggests, and the schedule has been quite favorable.  On the other hand, the Reds were really bad in April, particularly in the early part of the month, and I don't think that was all that reflective of who this team is.  If you throw out the games prior to April 25 (when the Reds really turned things around), the Reds' runs scored and runs allowed suggests they should be a .686 team.  There's no way they're that good.  Prior to that though, their pythagorean win percentage of .349 suggested that they should lose more than 100 games.  They're not either of those teams.  They do appear to be pretty good though, and I'm starting to think that the Reds will be right in the thick of the division race when the calendar turns to September.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Response to Fangraphs Comments about Rick Porcello

In my post about Dusty Baker and Pitch Counts that was posted on the fangraphs community research blog, I noted that Tigers starters threw more than 110 pitches more often than any other team in 2009.  Then, without looking it up, I suggested,
"Maybe Rick Porcello isn’t striking anyone out because his arm is about to fall off.  :-)"
I stated this because (1) I had just read something (I don't recall where, but apparently it wasn't on fangraphs) that explained why Porcello's strikeouts were so low this year and (2) there's greater concern with overworking young pitchers, and Porcello was the prominent young Tiger pitcher who came to mind.

A couple of commenters called me out on this, and rightly so.  It turns out, Porcello has been handled quite well.  Here is the same chart that was used in the original post, but it is limited to the Tigers and gives each starting pitcher on the 2009 Tigers team given their own series.

The blue boxes are the series for the 2009 Tigers team as a whole.  There are some really interesting features in this chart.  For one, Rick Porcello is the series of pink boxes.  As the commenters pointed out, he almost never exceeded 100 pitches and was frequently limited to 80-90 pitches.  The second thing that jumps out at me is how heavy the workload was on Edwin Jackson and, especially, Justin Verlander.  Verlander threw more than 110 pitches an amazing 65% of his outings.  With Jackson struggling in Arizona, it makes me wonder if his heavy workload last year might be at least part of the cause.

How does 2010 look for the Tigers?  Here is the chart.

Obviously the points are a bit more sparse with only a quarter of the season in the books, but we're seeing a similar pattern to 2009.  Porcello is not being overused.  Verlander has thrown more than 115 pitches in all but three starts.  With no Edwin Jackson in the rotation, the Tigers' team profile is more in line with other teams.

My takeaways from this are two: (1) Research it before you type it (even if it isn't the point of your post) and (2) Looking at the general team profile to compare teams may not be sufficient, as some players on the same team may well be handled significantly differently.  (I guess I would also add that Justin Verlander is either an amazing workhorse in this day and age or he's probably overdue for a big injury.)  :-)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Random Thoughts as the Reds Pound the Pirates

Game Recap

The Reds seem to like their one game lead in the Central.  The exploded out of the gate tonight.  Johnny Cueto struck out the first two batters he faced on the way to a nine-strikeout, no run performance over 6 excellent innings.  Offensively, Scott Rolen snapped an 0 for 11 slump with a three-run homer in the first, and Jay Bruce followed with a homer of his own.  The Reds cruised from there to an 8-2 victory.

Transaction and Injury Notes

Drew Sutton was called up, taking the spot of Paul Janish who was placed on the bereavement list.  Sutton hasn't really done anything noteworthy in Louisville as far as I can tell, but this is just a temporary move. 

According to Mark Sheldon, Sam LeCure will get the start tomorrow in what would ordinarily be Homer Bailey's turn in the rotation.  LeCure has been excellent for Louisville so far this season.  On a staff that includes Aroldis Chapman, Travis Wood, and Matt Maloney, Lecure has been the Bats best pitcher so far this season.  That's really saying something.

In the majors, Joey Votto is sitting again due to the stiff neck that kept him out yesterday.  Also, Brandon Phillips left the game early tonight due to injury.  I wasn't really paying attention, but it didn't sound too serious from what I could tell.

On the Farm

Aroldis Chapman got the ball tonight for Louisville and pitched well.  Chapman fanned seven in five scoreless innings.  He only threw 90 pitches, which is better than he's been doing, but still a bit inefficient for my taste.  Still, it is exciting to think what Chapman can bring to the table when he's ready.

Devin Mesoraco is having another big night down in Lynchburg too.  He's 3 for 4 with a walk and hit his tenth home run on the season.  He hasn't shown much at the plate until this year.  Let's hope he keeps it up, because he's been excellent this season so far.  (It's a good thing too, because other than Mesoraco, it seems to me that the talent in the Reds system is either REALLY young or already in AAA - and other than the pitchers, the "top prospects" aren't showing me a whole lot this year.)

Beyond the Upper Deck - Not June 4!

I purchased tickets tonight to see the Reds live on June 4 against the Nationals in DC.  There's a chance that it may also be Steven Strasburg's MLB debut, although I read something today suggesting that the Nats are going to wait till mid-June to call him up.  That's a real head-scratcher.  My seats are in the left field corner, so its not like I'll be right on top of the action if Strasburg is there anyway.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reds Win Again

I didn't get to follow tonight's Reds vs. Pirates game.  (I was out a bit late with my son's tee ball game, and I didn't have the luxury of following the game on my iPod Touch while getting the kids to bed since my daughter threw it in her grandmothers drink today.  Hopefully it will be all dried out and ready to go tomorrow.)  I see that Bronson Arroyo threw a beauty, and the Reds won 4-0 behind home runs by Miguel Cairo and Chris Heisey. 

As should be obvious by now, I like to pay attention to how many pitches Reds starters are throwing.  Arroyo threw 113, which is still a bit higher than I'd like to see.  I can kind of understand at this particular time though.  Tonight was game 13 of 20 in a row without an off day for the Reds.  During this most recent trip through the rotation, both Cueto and Bailey had to make early exits because of injuries, leaving the bullpen to pick up some extra innings.  When the Reds put Bailey on the DL, they quickly called up Enerio Del Rosario to help alleviate some of the bullpen workload.  The bullpen workload was enough of a concern that Harang was probably left in an inning longer than he should have been on Monday night.  Mike Leake was excellent last night and worked into the eighth, so that helped.  But with Arthur Rhodes ailing, Dusty probably still needs to rely more heavily on his starters at this point in time.

For what it's worth, at the same time I've been urging not to overwork the starting staff, redreporter has been looking at how the Reds' best relievers may be being overworked as well.  What's left?!  Well, there's actually an answer to that.  The Reds probably need to be using their lesser relievers a bit more.  The commenters correctly cited the fact that the Reds have been in a large number of one-run games and need bigger leads in order to get the lesser relievers opportunities that suit their skills (or lack thereof, I guess).  I'd argue that the way to do this is to avoid waiting until your starting pitcher starts to struggle to take him out of the game. 

Take Harang on Monday night as an example.  After six innings, he'd thrown 101 pitches and the Reds were comfortably in front 7-2.  Harang was even due to lead off!  It made perfect sense to tell him to hit the showers and let someone else get some work in.  Instead, Dusty sent him out to start the seventh.  According to the fangraphs game log, the LI (leverage index) was 0.33 when Harang went out to start the seventh.  I don't know much about LI, but I get that you want your best pitchers pitching when the LI is high (greater than 1) and your lesser pitchers pitching when it is low (less than 1).  Clearly this was a time when one of the lesser guys could have tried to get an inning of work in (and the Reds could have used a pinch hitter the inning before to boot).  Instead, Harang started the inning out, tired, and gave way to Del Rosario who entered the game to a 7-4 game with a runner on second and just one out.  The LI was 1.23 when Del Rosario took the mound.  Wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to let Del Rosario try to avoid getting into trouble in the first place, instead of asking him to try to clean up the mess after Harang ran out of gas?  I certainly think so.


I'm excited to report that fangraphs has posted my blog post about Dusty Baker's handling of the pitch counts of Reds starting pitchers to their community research blog.  It's great to be able to get such good feedback so early in putting this blog together.  I hope to submit more of my work to the fangraphs community research blog in the future, so if you have ideas you'd like to see me pursue, please suggest them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reds Waste a Good Outing by Leake

Mike Leake pitched a gem tonight, but he left with nothing to show for it. After seven shutout innings, he gave up a leadoff "triple" to start the eighth. It was really a routine fly ball to center, but Drew Stubbs lost the ball in the lights or clouds or something. One more double, and Leake exits trailing 1-0. A Brandon Phillips home run got Leake off the hook, but it wouldn't be enough, as the Pirates went on to win 2-1.

(I got to watch a few innings of the game on my MLB At Bat 2010 app on my iPod Touch. It was the first game I've really watched, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to watch on the small screen.  If you are considering the app, it is well worth the $15.)

As far as I could tell from the parts I saw, the pivotal play in the game was the Stubbs misplay. Stubbs has a reputation as an excellent center fielder. When his bat was struggling and Dusty Baker dropped him in the lineup, Baker defended him by saying that Stubbs had to stay in the lineup because his glove was needed in center. The fact is, however, Stubbs has not played well in the field this season, and tonight's gaffe doesn't exactly instill confidence that he is the long-term answer in center. According to fangraphs, his UZR for the season stands at -4.0, meaning he's cost the Reds a 4 runs (or a little under half a win) this season when compared to an average CF. In contrast, his UZR was 6.3 in just 42 games last season. I wonder which one is the real Drew Stubbs.  There have always been questions about his bat, especially because of his tendency to strikeout.  With a brutal 31.3% - even worse than Adam Dunn, who the Reds drove out of town because of all the strikeouts - Stubbs has the 8th highest K% in all of baseball.  If Stubbs continues to whiff at such prolific rates and continues to play such sloppy sloppy defense, we may be looking for a new center fielder soon.