2016-10-21T09:00:03-04:00In which this generation's best Red gains entry into a new level of the pantheon JOEY VOTTO -€” 8 Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank 2007-2016 1B 9 6 6 Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds Hit Field Pitch 2015 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 95% 5% 0% Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard Most Valuable Player -€” 2010 Hank Aaron Award -€” 2010 All Star -€” 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Gold Glove -€” 2011 OPS+ -€” 2010, 2016 OPS -€” 2010 On Base Percentage -€” 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016 Slugging Percentage -€” 2010 Doubles -€” 2011 Walks -€” 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 - 1st in career OPS+ - 1st in career on base percentage - 2nd in career slugging pct - 5th in career batting average - 8th in career HR On the whole, the gains made by the analytical community in the world of baseball have been a net positive. That talk show hosts supplement discussion of saves and RBI with WAR is rather astounding, I suppose. The sports world has a better sense today of who the best players in the game are than at any time in baseball history. That's a good thing. But it doesn't mean that there aren't flaws in the brave new world. Joey Votto played in 158 games in 2015 and 2016, coming to bat 18 more times in 2015. Relative to the league, his numbers were better in 2015, but not by so much that you couldn't call the two years neighbors: 174 OPS+ in 2015, 160 in 2016. He was a smart but infrequent baserunner in both years. His fielding percentage was virtually the same in both years and he underperformed the league average range factor at first base by roughly the same margin in both years. Joey Votto's bWAR was 3.6 wins lower in 2016 than in 2015. Hell, his bWAR in 2016 was lower than in 2009, when he hit worse than in 2016 and missed a month due to depression. I'll admit that I don't get it. Does any of this matter? I guess in the grand metaphysical scheme, probably not, but we are talking about a player with Hall of Fame talent, but potentially Hall of Very Good playing time, which means that 15-20 years from now, baseball fans across the country will be scouring Votto's record to convince themselves that he does or does not merit a vote towards election. And the record, based on the most commonly accepted wonderstat of the day, will tell our future selves that Votto had a down year (for him) in 2016. That bafflement aside, have you ever seen another player with such consistently superior numbers who made you wonder what he could do if he just put it all together for a full season? Rather famously, Votto had a not-so-good first half driven by a straight-up- bad April. His OPS, which ended the year within whispering distance of 1000, was in the 700's as late as June 26. From that point on, he only hit .394/.486/.659. By the way, Brandon Belt had a higher bWAR than Votto this year. Whatever. Votto wasn't going to win the MVP this year with or without math and the Reds were just another last place team with a transcendent player. I want to be there in Cooperstown to see him inducted though. Votto has cracked the franchise top ten based on his season (for those who don't have it memorized: Rose, Bench, Morgan, Larkin, Robinson, Perez, Roush, Votto, Groh, Pinson). Every player ranked above him, save for one mythically flawed character, is in the Hall. Votto has played in 1,268 games for the Reds, hitting .313/.425/.536 (157 OPS+). He has 1,407 hits, 221 home runs, and 862 walks. His #8 rank is three slots higher than a year ago and he remains #2 on the list of franchise first basemen. Top 15 1st Basemen in Reds history 1 Tony Perez 2 Joey Votto 3 Ted Kluszewski 4 Frank Mc[...]
Who'll take command of the series?
The Chicago Cubs finally saw their bats come to life in NLCS Game 4 on Wednesday, as they belted 13 hits and scored 10 runs to drop the Los Angeles Dodgers. That evened the series 2-2, creating a virtual Best of 3 series to decide who will get to face the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series.
The final game the Dodgers will host this series features Kenta Maeda on the mound for the Fightin' Scullies, and he'll look to improve upon his Game 1 start that saw him allow 3 ER in just 4 IP. He'll be opposed by his counterpart from that same Game 1, Jon Lester, who would probably take a repeat of his 6 IP, ER outing from Saturday.
With Clayton Kershaw looming as the Dodgers' starter for Game 6 on Saturday, tonight's contest will certainly set the stage for what should be a rather suspenseful finish to what has already been a great series to watch.
First pitch is set for just after 8:00 PM ET. The St. Louis Cardinals won't be playing.
2016-10-20T12:19:59-04:00Thursday links! If you’re a believer that online polls are completely truthful, well executed, and without flaw, you’ll be happy to hear that Baseball America weighed the collective opinions of their top writers and the top scouts in the game to judge the overall 2016 MLB Draft - and that the Cincinnati Reds were judged to have had the best one of all teams. Based largely on the very, very early returns from the top selections in the draft, BA determined that the Reds had, in Nick Senzel, both the best pure hitter in the class as well as the bat closest to reaching the majors, a flag that this rebuild can wave wide and high. Senzel, of course, blistered baseballs through Class A Dayton after a brief stint with the Billings Mustangs, and looks poised to continue to climb quickly towards the big leagues. Senzel might not have the power profile of, say, Kris Bryant - a college 3B taken 2nd overall who reached MLB in short order - he does have a lot in common with another 3B plucked out of college who reached the big leagues in his 2nd year after being drafted early in the 1st round: Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals. That’d be nice. If you’re a BA subscriber, you can sift through the Reds’ individual Report Card, which was released just yesterday. It’s ripe with details on not just Senzel, but the likes of Taylor Trammell, Chris Okey, TJ Friedl, and the other early standouts from the class ranked as the best of all MLB clubs. In other news of note to Reds fans, MLB has floated the idea of having an International Draft each year in lieu of the current bonus pool system, the same system that the Reds just used to spend gobs of money on the likes of Alfredo Rodriguez and Vladimir Gutierrez. BA’s Ben Badler dug deep into the proposal, which would institute a 10 round draft and raise the eligible age from 16 to 18, among other things, but he also highlights many of the perils in the current landscape that neither the current CBA agreement nor the proposed draft seem to have figured out. It’s a great read on a part of the modern baseball machine that often gets overlooked on a large scale. MLB Daily Dish’s Mike Bates tackled the International Draft concept, too, concluding that it would ultimately have a two-fold negative impact. I tend to agree completely, though I’ll also concede the current system needs an overhaul in some form. Thanks to the current system not having already been usurped by a draft, the Reds were able to sign 16 year old C/3B Victor Ruiz out of Mexico on Tuesday, by the way. My expert scouting report on Ruiz is that I’ve never seen him play, have no idea in any form or fashion of his talent or upside, I am no expert, and I am no scout. So, just cross your fingers and set a reminder on your phone for 2020 to ask about the kid again then. Finally, Thursday is 26 years to the day when the Reds dumped the Oakland Athletics in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series, and the Reds sure didn’t forget. It’s hard to beat watching Jose Rijo highlights, and it’s easy to forget that the ace of the ‘90 Reds was actually a member of the A’s before they traded him to Cincinnati in exchange for Dave Parker prior to the 1988 season. In fact, Rijo had been traded from the New York Yankees to Oakland for Rickey Henderson prior to the 1985 season, meaning he was traded for two separate MVPs during the course of his career. I’ll have to check with former fearless leader Joel Luckhaupt for confirmation, but I’ll go ahead and assume he’s the only player in MLB history to be traded for multiple MVPs and win a World Series MVP in his career. [...]
2016-10-20T09:00:06-04:00In which the long time second baseman does things a little differently but ends up in the same place BRANDON PHILLIPS - #24 Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank 2006-2016 2B 16 48 31 Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds Hit Field Pitch 2011 Never 69% 31% 0% Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard Gold Glove -€” 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 All Star -€” 2010, 2011, 2013 Silver Slugger -€” 2011 N/A - 8th in career doubles - 9th in career hits - 9th in career runs - 10th in career RBI - 12th in career HR Brandon Phillips, sitting on the receiving end of countless perennial forecasts of imminent demise, posted a year that was, at first glance, awfully similar to most Brandon Phillips seasons. What jumps off his player page at baseball-reference to my eyes is five straight seasons with an OPS+ in the 90s. As always, there are concerning signs buried in the finer print. For the first time in forever, according to the WAR metric, Phillips was a net negative in the field. Not coincidentally, Phillips recorded double digit error counts for the first time in a decade. BP's glove has always been his primary calling card; there are now indications of betrayal. In many ways, Phillips's 2016 season mirrored that of Jay Bruce. Phillips's walk rate, never a source of pride, fell precipitously to 3.1%. This was good for 67th best out of 67 NL batters who qualified for the league batting title, and was 1.2% less than his previous career low. Unburdened with the hassle of taking any walks, Phillips nearly led the league in swing rate, finding nearly 58% of all pitches worthy of an offer (the league average is 47%). This is an approach that works until it doesn't. Armed with a better than average BABIP, and a much better than average line drive rate, Phillips almost rose to the level of league average hitter. Any projection model worth its salt would call (again) for a severe decline for BP's numbers in 2017. Ironically, perhaps, it doesn't much matter for the Reds anymore. We know the team won't be competing for glory, so it's a year of transition one way or another. Phillips, very literally, is not the second baseman of the future as there is no chance he will be with the team in 2018. One of the top 3 items for which to grade Bryan Price in 2017 will be how he handles the playing time of Phillips and Peraza. Paramount to nearly everyone will be that the latter is appropriately developing. 2017, then, becomes a very important year to the legacy of Brandon Phillips. From a career accomplishment perspective, he's a virtual lock to hit his 200th career home run and steal his 200th career base. Among players you associate with the Reds, he'll be the 7th player to reach these dual marks in his career. More important for Reds fans will be how Phillips handles himself as a lame duck player, possibly being asked to reduce his playing time, possibly being offered the opportunity to finish the season with a winning ballclub, possibly facing for the first time the uncomfortable specter of diminished results from the seemingly unassailable and otherwise unrecommendable approach of swing at damn near everything. I suppose it would kind of passé to predict a drop-off now. With this franchise in the spot it's in, it's certainly conceivable that this serves as the BP post-mortem, vis-à-vis his time with the Reds. If so, how will (or should) Phillips be remembered as a Red? Fo[...]
2016-10-19T17:35:14-04:00It's a lot of money, but you already knew that. The Cincinnati Reds were set to have their existing TV contract with FS-Ohio expire after the upcoming 2017 season, but both officially settled that on Wednesday by announcing a new deal that will run through the 2032 season. The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan spoke with Phil Castellini about the deal earlier, and the team's COO gave some interesting insight into the new agreement. Castellini, the organization’s chief operating officer, said it represents a "nice increase" in yearly television rights fees, but is still a small-market deal when compared to other recent TV deals. The Reds’ current deal has guaranteed them $30 million a year since 2007. Terms of the deal weren't spelled out in great detail, but it's safe to say they'll be getting a sizable yearly increase over that $30 million mark. Of course, Castellini later revealed that the Reds had taken a minority ownership stake in FS-Ohio, which means the overall monetary benefit for the team's owners won't only come in cash flow. The lack of explosive fanfare for this would-be windfall is somewhat telling, I suppose, though it doesn't appear they're too disappointed in how things turned out, either. Obviously, the billion dollar overall agreements signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and others in recent years surely gave us all high hopes, but the combination of Cincinnati's market size and the team's recent, deep rebuild made those kind of figures unrealistic from the beginning. In reality, it seems this deal is roughly in-line with what should've been expected, which was largely factored into the decisions to sign some of the team's current players to long, expensive deals over the last few seasons. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors further broke down what we know about the deal, noting that the Reds' projected payroll for the 2017 season sits at some $88.5 million, or nearly $30 million less than when the team rolled out record payrolls in 2012, 2013, and 2014. While it's easy to quickly assume that the new TV deal should go directly to the big league payroll, the reality is that it's not really feasible to do that at this time. For one, the club has stocked its roster with young, inexpensive players, and the only way to spend this money on the 25-man roster would be to make a trade for an older, high-salary player or to dip into free agency - neither of which fits in line with the team's current, thorough rebuild. More likely, it's the kind of money that will help fuel the team's international signings and high draft picks, since a direct byproduct of drafting 2nd overall again is the necessity for larger signing bonuses. If this doesn't move the needle for you, that's probably because you've been hearing about it and expecting it for so long that it had become a foregone conclusion in your mind already. And, that's probably OK, given that the deal appears to be pretty much what you should've expected. Now, I suppose the question now becomes whether the team's minority ownership in FS-Ohio means they get to dictate which broadcasters call the games... [...]
Let’s do it again.
Last night was so much fun, I’ve* decided we should do it again.
The MLB Postseason will move forward in both the American League and the National League Championship Series again tonight. In Toronto, much remains the same as yesterday: the Blue Jays must win or go home. 33-year-old Marco Estrada will face off against Ryan Merritt, who I just learned was a real life baseball player about an hour ago.
Down at Chavez Ravine, the Cubs will just be looking to score a damn run after being shutout in their last 18 consecutive innings. The loss last night dropped the Cubs chances of winning the World Series to 25 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo predictions, and marks only the second time all season that they weren’t the odds on favorite in the model. They’re going to need their offense to get back on track in a major way tonight, or this series could go off the rails for them in a hurry (if it hasn’t already).
The Dodgers will turn the ball over to their own rookie, 20-year-old Julio Urias. The highly touted prospect made his MLB debut earlier this season and received 77 innings of work to the tune of a 3.39 ERA while striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings pitched. He came into the season as MLB.com’s number four rated prospect.
John Lackey will be pitching for the Cubs. Lackey, of course, is basically just the personification of a huge boner.
*Major League Baseball
2016-10-19T14:03:23-04:00The bets have been made. It's time to let them ride. It’s clear that the brass of the Cincinnati Reds has asked for patience from any and all who watch their team play baseball. Truthfully, that request can be dated all the way back to November 8th, 2013, a day on which the front office contractually indicated that the big-spending that had gone hand in hand with the big-winning of the previous years had reached its exhaustion point. That’s the day they made Skip Schumaker the single largest acquisition of that offseason, inking him to a meager 2 year, $5 million deal. It came on the heels of watching Shin-Soo Choo enter free agency with a price tag the team couldn’t afford, just a month after the team cut ties with manager Dusty Baker after the collapse at the end of an otherwise promising 2013 season. It was a move that admitted what we know now should’ve been more obvious at the time: that the Reds had tapped out their monetary resources, had truly added all that they could add, and that if that particular core of players wasn’t good enough to get things done, a teardown was barreling closer by the minute. Since that point, the team has asked for our patience in several other distinct ways, too. They asked for patience from fans as the team began that inevitable teardown, to acknowledge that it was neither plausible nor possible to trade every aging player all at once and still get the best value for each individual part. When Johnny Cueto was traded to the Kansas City Royals in July of 2015, GM Walt Jocketty intimated as much to The Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans. "We’re in a situation where this is the best thing for our franchise now," Jocketty said. Both Jocketty and team COO Phil Castellini also have asked for patience as the team wades through a growing ledger in the loss column, too. Castellini even opined last spring that there would be multiple years of bad baseball on display before the team could realistically expect to get back to its winning ways, as the Cincinnati Business Courier noted. "We expect to be truly competitive again by ‘18," Castellini said. All of those instances were both predictable and par for the course, really. The "please excuse our mess" signs you see on your favorite stores and restaurants as they revamp their inventories and menus. As the 2016 MLB Playoffs wind down and we inch ever closer to the transactional Christmas that happens days after the end of the World Series - when players opt in or out of options, teams face endless 40-man roster decisions, and players reach free agency - the Reds are going to ask us one more time to be patient, and its this particular request that should cause the most anxiety and fear from all of us. They’re going to ask us to watch as other teams make moves while they see if the bevy of decisions they’ve already made so far look like they’ll pan out. They’ve got to see if they were right in their player evaluation, and right on the players they targeted. More specifically, they’re going to ask us not to pine for moves that aren’t there to make, to trade players they just acquired to further churn the pool, to sign big-ticket free agents who overlap with multiple prospects they just brought in. Jocketty himself spelled that out at last year’s GM Meetings. "It's the sales approach our people are taking, come see the future, this is the young guys that we're going to be building the nucleus of our championship-caliber clubs in the next year or two. You're still going to see good baseball, it's going to be quality baseball, you're just going to have to try to convince that these younger players are going to be fun to watch," Jocketty said. The Reds have reached the point where there aren’t really any more built-in ways to overhaul things. Assuming a trade of Joey Votto is off the table, there is no Todd Frazier, no Jay Bruce, no Cuet[...]
2016-10-19T09:00:03-04:00In which a power hitter is jettisoned to New York and ungrateful fans in his new home town whine about it. JAY BRUCE - #29 Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank 2008-2016 RF 30 39 34 Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds Hit Field Pitch 2013 Never 81% 19% 0% Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard All Star -€” 2011, 2012, 2016 Silver Slugger -€” 2012, 2013 N/A - 7th in career HR - 16th in career RBI - 16th in career doubles - 16th in career slugging pct - 21st in career runs scored Jay Bruce did the Reds a major solid. We may never know, however, if it was intentional or not. Bruce, of course, was on the short list of likely-to-be-traded guys, which wasn't all that short a list given how bad the Reds were expected to be. Nonetheless, the assumption was that Bruce would be a prime trade deadline target, if. If Bruce continued to bounce back from his horrible 2014...if Bruce showed anything like the bat that got down-ballot MVP votes back in the good years, then some contender would be sure to come calling. As it was, on the day Jay Bruce was traded to the Mets, he was on pace to post his best offensive season ever. Then he was traded and it all fell apart, seemingly overnight. There's a not completely helpful narrative that would suggest that Bruce's struggles were almost entirely related to the city he was traded to. The big fish in the oh so tiny pond just couldn't figure out how to hit once he got to the most important city in the world, ya dang hicks. Could be, I suppose. It could also be that Bruce just randomly went into one of his infamous slumps. Wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also could be. The numbers suggest a slightly different picture. Jay Bruce's numbers with the Reds in 2016 were (I believe) a function of three separate, but not wholly unlinked, data points. First, Jay Bruce was a bit lucky. He had a larger percentage of fly balls leave the yard than at any time since 2009. Part of that might not have been luck (more on that in a bit), but some of it probably was, and he probably had inflated power numbers as a result. Hey, sometimes the Reds can get lucky once in a while. Second, Jay Bruce stopped any semblance of being selective at the plate. His walk rate, which had been good once upon a time but had been trending downwards in recent years, now plummeted from 8.9% in 2015 to 6.7% in 2016. Less walks is generally not a good thing, but... Third, Jay Bruce got more aggressive. His percentage of strikes looking was a career low. His percentage of balls swung at nearly a career high. Take also into account the fact that a higher than ever percentage of hits off Bruce's bats ended in extra bases and we get a certain picture: Swinging more, swinging harder. This can work in the short term, but pitchers will adjust. What happened in New York? Bruce doubled down. He swung at even more pitches (a whopping 55% of all pitches) but his contact rate dropped, leading one to believe that either he was pressing (plausible) or pitchers knew the new book on him (also plausible). In short, he was writing checks that he couldn't possibly cash long term, and the Reds were lucky/wise enough to stick the Metropolitans with the bill. None of which is to suggest that we won't miss the old lug in right field. In nine seasons with the Reds, Bruce came to plate 5,002 times, hitting .249/.319/.470 (110 OPS+) with 233 homers and 718 RBI. He was occasionally regarded as an outstanding right fielder. Bruce climbs from #35 to #29 on the all-time list, and inches up one spot on the team's list of best right fi[...]