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Preview: Rounding Third and Heading for Home

Rounding Third and Heading for Home

Thoughts and musings about our beloved Reds (and other baseball related items)

Updated: 2017-07-29T04:32:10.046-05:00


We've Moved!


If you're here, thanks for visiting!  This used to be where I posted thoughts about the Reds and other related (and sometimes unrelated) topics.  However, in mid-December I teamed up with long-time friend Zach Sanderson to create Big Red Smokey, a new and improved Reds-themed blog.  In this new space Zach and I hope to add new and better content more frequently, with added control over the site in general, since it's his personal domain.

So check it out, and thanks again!


Matt Moore and Contracts


Despite its title, this post was actually inspired by Trevor Cahill.  I was reading Keith Law's take on the Cahill/Parker trade (he doesn't think the A's got enough) and Cahill's contract caught my eye.  I hadn't realized he was signed through 2015 at a very reasonable price, with club options through 2017 (which includes very reasonable buyouts, I might add).  In the last 2 years of the deal, Cahill will be making 7.5 and 12 million dollors (how much are the Reds giving Bronson Arroyo?) and as Law points out, Cahill has the potential to be more that just a middle of the rotation guy.  In his age 22 and 23 seasons he's turned in 2.2 and 2.5 WAR (fangraphs).

But this isn't necessarily about Cahill.  It's about his team friendly contract.  This also got me to thinking about Matt Moore, who earlier this week may have set a new standard for team friendly contracts.  His 5 year, $14M signing may make him the most valuable trade chip in baseball (again, fangraphs).  And those numbers don't even include his 3 years of club options.  See the fangraphs article for more details.  This isn't the first time the Rays have done this.  If Moore's contract is the most team friendly in baseball, it's only slightly more so than teammate Evan Longoria's.  This isn't news, but when all is said and done the Rays have the potential to have enjoyed 9 years of Longoria's services at severely below market cost.

Point is, teams are doing this, and the Reds need to do this.  They already have, somewhat, with Jay Bruce, but compare these contracts:

Bruce: 6 years, $51 million, 1 club option, 8.0 career WAR before signing
Cueto: 4 years, $27 million, 1 club option, 5.4 career WAR before signing
Cahill: 5 years, $30.5 million, 2 club options, 2.8 career WAR before signing
Longoria: 6 years, $17.5 million, 3 club options, 20 major league at bats before signing
Moore: 5 years $14 million, 3 club options, 19 major league innings before signing

The differences here are obvious.  Just one man's opinion, but I think the Reds are waiting too long.  The Rays are pushing the envelope, and when you're in the AL East with their payroll, you need to.  The risk the team is taking on is nothing compared to the potential reward.  Obviously Longoria has worked out.  Remember, Bruce and Longoria were fighting it out for the title of #1 prospect just a few summers ago.  The Reds could have put themselves in the same position, and though Longoria has reached super-stardom, he is getting a third as much guaranteed money as Bruce.

What about Mike Leake?  Straight out of college he has produced 2.5 WAR in his two seasons with the Reds, and his style has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux (though obviously not quite at the same level).  While not yet a star, he'll be just 24 next year and most consider him the second most reliable starter the Reds have (hopefully third most by the end of this offseason).  Are the Reds waiting for his breakout year to sign him to a long term deal?  Why not do it now for a fraction of the cost?  I am literally just pulling numbers out of thin air here, but don't you think they could sign him to a Matt Moore type deal but with less money?  Think of how little risk there is there with massive upside.  Four years $10 million with a couple club options?

It's time for the Reds to be proactive and realize that teams with their payroll need to sign their promising young players BEFORE the price gets to high.

Pujols (6 Thoughts)


After a night's sleep and a little more perspective, here's what I think:

1. Albert Pujols is a grown man with remarkable talents and is entitled to apply for a job wherever he chooses.  Maybe it was money.  Maybe it was location.  Maybe he just felt like it.

2. Anyone demonizing him for taking more money needs to chill.  Who here, when faced with the question: "Would you like to do the same job for less money?" would answer yes?  Those attacking him for his supposed beliefs... you think more money in his pockets doesn't mean more money for his charities, organizations, churches, etc?

3. If it was in fact a higher power that led to this decision, thank you God for the mercy you have shown toward the other teams in the NL Central.

4. Despite my comments thus far, all along I thought it would be a sad day when Albert Pujols was no longer a Cardinal.  I say this not for the sake of the Cardinals, but for the sake of baseball and its fans.  Though it wasn't always pretty toward the end (from a business standpoint), Barry Larkin was a Red for his entire career.  I know how it would have felt if he had played for the Mets, even during his twilight years.  There is something about a player playing with one team and adds to the mystique of it all.  And yesterday, that was lost.  I'm not naive regarding the state of the game, or bitter about what free agency has done, but I still think it's worth celebrating when all of that fails to tear down the relationship between player and team.

5. It's still a business, and congrats to the Angels.  Certain aspects of baseball economics are a mystery to me, but I guess the Angels have a lot of money.  Something tells me, though, they'll come to regret this.  It's funny because it seems so ludicrous when a team is paying a 38-year-old three or four times what he's worth, but we still can't help ourselves.  I guess if they win a championship in the next several years it'll be worth it.

6. Thanks Albert for casting a dark cloud over what was a miracle season for the team I hate most.  Things feel a little more right.

Is This Thing On?


Time to warm up the engines again.  The moment has come to end another dry spell.*  That's why I'm starting slow (with a post that will probably have a longer asterisk than actual content).  MLB's Fan Cave has completed its first year and is currently open for applications for 2012.  Apparently the format will be slightly different as well.  They seem to be planning to accept a handful of applicants and implement a reality show format where contestants get voted off every so often.  Honestly though I'm not concerning myself too much with those details... I like to be surprised.  Point is, there's a higher chance of being selected.

*As usual I've done some soul searching to determine the cause of the lastest one, and not surprisingly, many of the usual suspects have emerged: (1) Sadly, when your team is disappointing, there is less motivation to write about them, or the sport in general.  However, I will say that, as was noted over at Redleg Nation, this team wasn't just disappointing.  They didn't just finish below .500 like so many Reds teams of the last decade.  They severely underachieved, and at no point looked like they would be any threat to the central division title.  They looked lifeless and disinterested, and digging deeper into that just seemed cruel and unusual.

(2) I find that it's much easier for me to write during the offseason than during the season.  I think this is because not as much is happening in the offseason.  The internets are less saturated (are there degrees of saturation?).  Additionally, something else I noticed more than ever this season... I found it increasingly difficult to do analysis on a day to day basis because one day of baseball is like the blink of an eye.  How different, really, is one from the next.  Alternatively, analyzing an entire season is where real trends emerge.  It allows us to evaluate our teams and make decisions.  If you'll notice, it's really incredible how much perceptions can change from May to September.  Personally, I like to just watch and enjoy the games, rather than try and break down every minutia.

And (3), this was really only an issue in September and October, but who knew the Bengals would be relevant?  I certainly didn't.  After last year I almost thought my interest in the NFL would disappear entirely.  The Bengals were dreadful, and I was pretty sick of all the concussions and violence and "it's football, be a man" talk that was going on.  Turns out my football convictions aren't very strong, and rooting for a team without T.Ocho and with two standout rookies is unexpectedly refreshing.

Oh, and there's a (4)... I've been attending to some family stuff since July and really, finding free time to write about baseball was extremely difficult.

Anyway, as Poz would say, sorry, I'm back.  And so, consider this the start of a new non-dry spell, with posts upcoming about whatever I feel like writing.  Until next time, go Reds.  Do something.  Please.

Division Run Down: NL East


Getting my first real taste of live preseason baseball right now.  Yeah, it's the Yankees and Red Sox and we'll probably see them on national tv another couple hundred times this year, but it's still pretty great.  I approve of ESPN's new Sunday Night Baseball crew.Is it just me or does Spring Training just feel more right in Florida.  I need those palm trees.  Saturday can't come soon enough.So, just to remind my reader out there (no, that wasn't a typo), I've been running down the 2011 baseball season division by division.  Rather than go with straight projections I've tried to give it a little more character by simply naming the favorite and the anti-favorite, and then labeling teams based on my inclination to root for them.  And remember, my thoughts and feelings are subject to change based on whatever's convenient at the time.Friday through Sunday we ran through the American League (you know, cuz we don't want anyone feeling left out).  On to the National League East...The Favorite: Philadelphia PhilliesNot exciting, I know.  I really wanted to knock the Phillies off their perch (not that I'm bitter or anything), but I simply can't justify it.  Chase Utley's knee is a major question mark though, and on top of that, I just can't imagine their four aces working out exactly as planned.  At least one will have a down year, or will get hurt, or something, and their aging offense won't be enough to pick up the slack.  And I like the Braves (more on them later), but for now I gotta go by the book.The Neglected: Washington NationalsAgain, the status quo.  What were they doing this offseason exactly?  Did they think they were a few expensive pieces away from contending?  Well with that rotation you need a little more than Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche.  Ryan Zimmerman is probably the most underrated player in the NL, and I love the guy, but he needs help, and he doesn't have it.  Jordan Zimmermann is an interesting guy to watch, and I honestly think he and Gorzelanny might prove to be their two best starters.  The Nats are probably a few years away, IF Strasburg has a successful recovery and Harper does what he's supposed to, but 2011's not their year.Most Likable Team: Atlanta BravesThe Braves are often listed near the top in organizational prospect lists (no one's passing the Royals or Rays) and that makes them one of the more exciting teams to watch.  Joining Heyward among this year's starters is first baseman Freddie Freeman, and likely accompanying Tommy Hanson in the rotation is youngster Mike Minor.  Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters bring a ton of youth and power to the backend of the bullpen, and who isn't rooting for Chipper Jones at this point in his career (well, maybe a lot of people, I don't really know... but I like him).  And Brian McCann is quietly having a superb start to his still young career.  Throw in a couple likable guys like Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson at the front of the rotation and this is a no brainer.Least Likable Team: New York MetsThey spend like they have the money (which they do) and know what they're doing (not so much).  This team is so sad that I mostly just feel bad for Mets fans.  There's been enough drama and disappointment over the last few years that I'm just going to opt for brevity on this one, for all our sakes.Potential story line:I swear I'm not doing this on purpose, but I gotta go with the team I've yet to mention.  Since their existance I've found the Florida Marlins to be possibly the most facinating team in baseball.  They've won two World Series in less than 20 years and seem to find a way to contend no matter how many stars they trade away or how many young, unproven players they trot out there.  And it looks like they're in position to do it yet again.  They have five very viable young starters,[...]

Division Run Down: AL West


Something about a four team division makes it seem like a crap shoot every year.  Though this time I think there's a particular order popping up more often than not.  But of course, that usually means nothing...

The Favorite: Texas Rangers

They won the division comfortably last year, made the World Series, and though they lost their ace, the Rangers added free agent Adrian Beltre, they have the reigning American League MVP, and they will trot out a couple young starters showing promise, most notably Derek Holland.  They aren't without questions: Can Josh Hamilton say healthy, will Colby Lewis duplicate his 2010, and of course, what role will Neftali Feliz ultimately settle into?  Still, no other team in the West is in position to pass the Rangers.

The Neglected: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners lost 100 games last season for the second time in three years.  Much has been said about the unlikelihood of everyone on the team playing as poorly as they did, which should put them in line for an increased win total without changing much.  That being said, it's not hard to go up from 61, and they're still putting a lot of faith in youngsters Saunders and Smoak, and have very little starting pitching depth behind Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.  It's unlikely Seattle sniffs the .500 mark this year.

Most Likable Team: Oakland Athletics

It's funny, throughout the 90's the A's were unquestionably my least favorite team in baseball.  As a young, impressionable baseball fan I was left with a bad taste in my mouth when the Reds weren't given much of a chance going in the 1990 World Series.  That feeling lingered as players like McGwire, Canseco, Henderson, and Stewart just struck me as unlikable.

All that changed at the turn of the century when the A's were the focus of a new kind of baseball and the subject of some book that a bunch of people read.  Now the A's play the role of perpetual underdog as they try to win with less, endlessly searching for baseball market inefficiencies.  A stash of young, promising starters and a handful of slick fielding batsmen with some power peppered in here and there gives this team just enough to be interesting.

Least Likable Team: Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim?)

Having only four teams limits our choices here (though I never really made it a rule that I wouldn't select a team for more than one category, it just kind of worked out that way so far).  But I think the Angels fit the bill here.  Acquiring Vernon Wells this offseason probably qualifies them immediately (I have nothing against Wells personally, it's just clearly an unlikable move).  Add in their silly name changes and I think it's an open and shut case.

Potential story line:

Is Billy Beane back?  I admittedly haven't had much of a chance to keep up with this story, but wasn't there talk of Beane being more interested in soccer than baseball last year?  Add in the fact that the A's haven't finished above .500 since 2006 and to most people Moneyball is a distant memory (or something to be proven ineffective).  If the A's young pitchers keep improving and the offense produces just enough to compliment their above average run prevention, I personally would like to see the Moneyball naysayers put back in their place just a bit (or at least we can try and convince them that they just don't understand what they're talking about, but that seems unlikely).

Overall Result: (slightly adjusted...)

Rangers 87 (+1)
Athletics 83
Angels 79 (+1)
Mariners 73

Division Run Down: AL Central


Today we move westerly in the American League and take on the Central, where it appears we'll have three teams battling it out for most of the season...

The Favorite: Minnesota Twins

I don't know if you can officially call any of the Twins, White Sox, or Tigers the "favorite", but the way I see it, this team has finished first the past three years (though technically they were tied with the White Sox in 2008 and lost the one game playoff), and are the favorites until someone else proves otherwise.  After eight months Justin Morneau has finally seen live big league action, and assuming he can make a full recovery, I think you have to project this team slightly ahead of it's competitors.  Remember, they did it last year without any help from Joe Nathan and only half a year from Morneau.

The Neglected: Kansas City Royals

The Royals have finished 4th or 5th in the AL Central for seven straight years.  They just traded away their ace.  They signed Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera in the offseason.  Recipe for a turnaround?  No.  But everyone knows what the Royals are playing for, and that's 2013 and beyond.  As for 2011, fans will have to be content with battling for 4th place and having a Yuni-less infield.

Most Likable Team: Chicago White Sox

The Twins are very likable.  Small market.  Down-to-earth face of the franchise catcher.  But I'm going with the White Sox here because they hit a lot of homeruns, and I think Adam Dunn and Mark Buehrle are two of the more interesting guys in baseball.  Having seen a lot of Adam Dunn in Cincinnati, he really is one of the funniest players I've heard talk.  And seriously, doesn't Buehrle seem to do something awesome and bad ass pretty much every year (see here for proof).  Besides all that, I live in Chicago, and it's always good to support the hometown team (even if I don't live on the south side).

Least Likable Team: Cleveland Indians

This is probably more of a personal thing rather than a widespread sentiment.  They just seem like a team of no consequence that really isn't doing much of anything.  And it makes me sad.  I mean, what happened to Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner and Matt LaPorta and Fausto Carmona (speaking of, who on earth assembled that rotation).  And I feel bad for Shin-Soo Choo because he really is one of the ten best outfielders in baseball and doesn't get much credit for it.  Hard to say when they'll become relevant again.

Potential story line:

The easy answer here is Miguel Cabrera, and it's my blog so I'm going with the easy answer.  I hope the guy can get back on track, because he is good at hitting a baseball, and it'd be a shame, both for him and for us, if that talent was wasted in any way.

Overall Result:

Twins 87
White Sox 85
Tigers 82
Indians 69
Royals 67

Division Run Down: AL East


Inspired by my Oriole-themed tweet/note from yesterday, I'd like to try something a little different (different as in non-Reds related*).  I know there are millions of places to go to find preseason predictions, but since all those other places have little to do with me personally, I'd like to do my own division-by-division run down before the season starts, hopefully in a way that's at least little bit different and keeps things interesting.  Also note that I hope to do this mostly off-the-cuff, without a significant amount of in depth research (though I imagine I won't be able to help myself and will still look stuff up as I'm going along).*This may become less of an exception for the time being for one main reason.  Last week I applied to MLB's Ultimate Dream Job (learn more here).  I honestly have no idea what to expect, but I figured hey, why not give it a shot.  Because really, I can't imagine a more aptly named job.  And since I included a link to this site on the application, I'm trying to include a few things from around the league.  You know... showcase my supposed versatility.That said, let's dive right in with baseball toughest division, the AL East...The Favorite: Boston Red SoxNo surprise here.  I don't think you could find another team listed atop any version of the 2011 projected standings.The Neglected:  Toronto Blue JaysThis has been written about countless times, but the AL East is just brutal.  And now that you can no longer count on the Rays to annually occupy the cellar, it's even worse.  You're either going to see the Blue Jays or the Orioles here, and if you've been paying any attention at all you know my newly found bias isn't letting Baltimore in the basement.It's almost as disheartening putting the Blue Jays there however as it seems, along with a handful of other teams, Toronto has a pretty stat-centric front office.  And of course Alex Anthopoulos is an intriguing figure and personally I'd like to see him do well.Unfortunately for Major League Baseball's Canadian representative, it seems they will once again fall victim to the depth of the AL East.  The offense showed last year it can hit some homeruns, but was it a Rogers Center phenomenon?  Overall it still lacks some punch, and their young staff doesn't look quite as impressive to me as the O's.One thing Jays fans should be celebrating all year long?  A Vernon Wells-less outfield (or more importantly, a Vernon Wells contract-less budget).Most likable team: Baltimore OriolesIn this section I hope to add some personal flavor by choosing a team in each division I'm somewhat inclined to root for.  In this case, the Rays might be a favorite for some, but I'm all about new blood, and at this point the Rays have been at or near the top for three or so years and I'm ready for someone else to rise above the oppression.  I'm not saying the Orioles are going to the playoffs or anything, but let's preview that lineup...Brian RobertsNick MarkakisDerrek LeeMark ReynoldsVlad GuerreroLuke ScottMatt WietersJ.J. HardyAdam JonesThat is solid top to bottom.  Yeah there are some veterans with question marks (Lee, Guerrero) and some younger guys with question marks (Wieters, Jones), but there's enough stability and enough upside that I think it could turn out well.  At least fun to watch.Least likable team: New York YankeesYou were expecting somebody else?Potential story line:If either of the Red Sox' new toys struggles at all out of the gate, it'll be big news.  The Red Sox are coming off of what they would consider a down year.  They spent lots of money, traded for the biggest name out there, and now have all the pressure that comes with it.  I think Adrian Gonzalez could have a giant year, and I wouldn'[...]

Odds and Ends


Having some friends over for dinner tonight but wanted to get a few thoughts in...

--Just tweeted this, but I'm slowly becoming an Orioles fan (secondary to the Reds of course).  They made a lot of interesting offseason moves, seem to be set at every position, have a young pitching staff, and of course play the role of underdog every year in the loaded AL East.  But most importantly, their new preseason home is our favorite spring training destination.  I think I need to get a hat.

--Currently in the middle of a massive fantasy draft.  It's done through Fangraphs, which has a new fantasy game this year, and luckily there is a pause function.  League has 12 teams and 40 roster spots per team, which if you're counting at home, is a lot of draft.  Hopefully we can get that done on Sunday.  I'm enjoying living out my fantasy of being a GM.

--As awesome as it is that baseball games are being played, I have a hard time getting caught up in spring stats because it's such a small sample size.  And players are facing guys who won't be in the major leagues much of the time.  I know this isn't a new concept.  I'll be glad when I'm down there watching games in person.

--If you haven't caught on yet, I'll be heading to Sarasota, Florida in a week to take in some sun, beach, beer, and baseball.  The plan is to attend at least one Orioles game, a Pirates game, and a Phillies game cuz they have a nice new stadium and amazing cheesesteaks.  As you might imagine, I'm very excited.

That's all for now.  Time to get ready for the Cincy/ND game.

The Reds Performance in 2011


One of the best and worst parts of the month and a half leading up to the regular season is the endless stream of preseason outlooks and predictions.  I mean, everyone has to do it, but so many of them aren't worth reading and most of the time we will inevitably (1) forget they even existed once the season starts, or (2) realize how silly it is to try and predict the goings on of a baseball season.

However, one series that certainly IS worth reading is this 30-part Question of the Day bit that Rob Neyer is doing over at SB Nation.  Today he addresses the Reds, though it's funny because the actual question doesn't seem to have much to do with the majority of the post, but of course that doesn't really matter.*

*The question is about baseball fans in Ohio and he points out that both the Reds and Indians have had successful seasons recently but didn't seem to perform as well in attendance as one would have expected.

Neyer brings up many points that have been discussed over at Redleg Nation and have been thought by me at some time or another (and who knows, maybe I even wrote them down in previous posts... I don't really remember).  He basically covers the two key issues...

The Reds are highly unlikely to lead the league in scoring again. Among the 13 Reds who totaled at least 100 plate appearances, Orlando Cabrera was the only one who had a bad year at the plate. Everyone else was either adequate, good, or great. Cincinnati's catchers, mostly Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan ranked second in the league in RBI, third in OPS. Scott Rolen stayed reasonably healthy and added to his Hall of Fame resume. Joey Votto, you know about.

This should still be a good hitting team. But perhaps not a great one.


I haven't looked at the underlying projections, but I will guess the Reds project to 84 wins because their hitting is expected to regress and their pitching isn't expected to improve at all.

I'm not going to argue with PECOTA. I don't know which of these fellows will be a Cy Young candidate, either. And if the Reds can't figure out an answer, it might be a long season.

So to recap, (1) we can't count on the Reds offense performing as well as it did last year, and (2) the Reds have a deep rotation with a handful of middle of the rotation guys but no ace, yet.*

*I of course recommend reading the whole thing.  One commenter - I think he writes for the Red Reporter - does point out that PECOTA is by far the most pessimistic projection for the Reds in particular.

And that's basically it.  Listen, the Reds have a good team, and I think it's pretty cool that we're arguing to what degree the Reds will be above .500 instead of is this the year they finally have a winning record.  It's a nice discussion to have.

But the bottom line is, the Reds need an ace, and yes they have a very deep staff, but they are gambling that one will emerge internally.  And they were content to stand pat on offense with no significant upgrades at the two opportunity positions.

All the forecasts are really saying the same thing, with different levels of optimism.  My prediction?  I'm excited for the year, I love this Reds team, and it should be a great race in the Central.

The Oscars


Dammit.  Ok, from here on out, I promise to stop making promises about the next time I'm going post.  After all, actions speak louder than words.

There are a couple things rolling around in the ol' noggin that will likely inspire a random smattering of words, and I'll start with the Oscars, though this is sure to get lost among all the posts submitted by everyone and his/her brother about last night's Oscars.

For me this year was a bit different.  For (1) I've actually seen several of the films nominated for best picture.  And (2), I made a concerted effort to watch the show.  Well actually it wasn't necessarily my concerted effort... my girlfriend's uncle hosted a gathering, which was a lot of fun.

Three of the four I've seen (The Social Network, Black Swan, The King's Speech) I LOVED.  The fourth, Inception, was fine, but with all the pre-release hype I just didn't find myself blown away.  I remember telling Zach that it just tied up too nicely for me.  Anyway, the effects were still great so I have no qualms with it winning those types of awards.

Those first three though.  Man, I think I could watch them again and again and again.  I don't remember the last time I watched multiple movies that came out within a relatively short amount of time that I enjoyed that much.  The 8 or so minutes of the actual King's speech were gripping, and I think it was pretty telling that during the introduction to the best picture category it was used as a back drop.  Obviously there are six movies I didn't see, but I must say I think the right picture won.

Though I must say, at the last minute I found myself rooting for The Social Network.  It was just such an incredible movie that kind of came out of nowhere.  A movie about facebook winning best picture?  How ludicrous!  But it was not unworthy.  The writing is great, the story is great (even if most of it isn't true and was merely played up for Hollywood), and Jesse Eisenberg is quickly becoming one of my favorite people to watch.  I don't buy many movies but I'm pretty certain this one will be gracing my bookshelf.

I still want to see The Kids Are Alright and Toy Story 3.  Erin said Winter's Bone and The Fighter were good, but I don't expect to be seeking those out any time soon.  And I'm not watching James Franco cut his own arm off. 

Speaking of, did he do anything last night?  His biggest contribution seemed to be standing next to a pretty girl while trying not to look high as a kite.  I wonder if while the two of them were rehearsing for this thing it became painfully clear that Anne Hathaway would be carrying the show.  I mean that's what happened, right?  As if she needed another marketable skill.

Reds 2011 Projections (Offense/Defense)


Welcome.  A week later I am getting to what I promised: Reds 2011 Projections.First, some background.  As I mentioned before, FanGraphs is an awesome website.  One of its particularly awesome features that I am utilizing in this post is fan generated player projections.  Here's how it works...(1) Select a number of dropdowns(2) SubmitIt's that simple.  Let's take a look at an example (click on the image for a larger view):Here we have Joey Votto, probably the funnest player for Reds fans to project.  You can see my entries above.  A few notes...Most entries are actually ranges.  This certainly allows for some wiggle room, and makes it more feasible that casual fans are predicting very specific stats for players they may or may not know very well.FanGraphs gives you the player's stats for the last several years, making it much easier to have an entry for say, Strikeout %, something no fan keeps track of (though of course our idea of how high or low it should be is influenced by what we see from the player with our eyes).This is still an inexact science.  They ask for batting order, which for Votto is easy, but what about Brandon Phillips.  Will he bat 2nd most often, or 6th?  Well, it's impossible to know, so you make your best guess and go with it.With all that being said, without further ado, let's take a look at my 2011 offensive projections (ordered by WAR, descending)...Lots of things going on here.  First off, it's interesting seeing where everyone lands from a traditional stat perspective.  From a Wins Above Replacement standpoint there are some things to note as well.  Let's go through them (I'm in a bullet sort of mood for this post, apparently)...Not surprisingly, Votto ends up with the most WAR, and I think his numbers look reasonable, to me.  I have his HR total going down slightly, just because I don't see Votto as a pure power hitter, and in general, his 2010 season was so sensational that I think some regression to the mean is in order.  I do think he can sustain an OBP at or above .400.Stubbs nets as many WAR as Bruce, likely because of his baserunning.  Again, this is based on a series of guesses (made by me) and assumptions (made by FanGraphs).  If you ask me straight up, whose OBP will be higher in 2011, Stubbs or Bruce, I would say Bruce.  But I have looked over my entries several times and both look reasonable to me for AB, Walk %, etc, and the results are what they are.That being said, these are two young players that I think have as much uncertainty surrounding them as any Red in the lineup.  Any Reds fan knows what Bruce is capable of, but when it's coming and to what degree is anyone's guess.  Bruce could hit 40 homeruns next year.  He could hit .300.  But I'm not basing my projections on that possibility.  Stubbs also has great potential.  If he cuts down the strikeouts a bit and keeps the power and speed, watch out.There's an Oakland A's blog called Baseballin' On A Budget that did a similar exercise in December.  He gives a few caveats that also apply here.  One, as I said before, is that it's really hard to predict this stuff, so for the most part I tried to stay fairly conservative.  Two is that it becomes difficult to get the total number of ABs and innings pitched exactly correct.  With my current results, I have over 5300 ABs for the season... probably a little high.  Innings-wise I'm just over 1300, which is probably a little low.  OK, because I'm sure there are several fringe guys that will end up pitching a handful of innings that I didn't capture here because they're in AAA or something of the sort (and will likely be at or[...]

January Update


As I'm guessing lots of people can tell you, keeping up a blog when you know there aren't many people reading it can be hard.  Especially a baseball blog in the middle of winter.  I find myself more often at Redleg Nation responding to one of Chad's posts, where I know people will actually read what I write.  But anyways, the point is that if this is ever something that will develop, I need to do it consistently, whether people are reading or not, because it's about the practice and the experience (thanks for the advice Rob!).

So, since I wanted to get something down yesterday but ran out of time, I decided to give the blog a quick make over instead.  As you can see there's a new background and color scheme.  I think it gives it a more open and airy feel, like you might actually be at a ballpark watching a game instead of staring at the inside of some random Reds fan's boring computer.  I did miss the red though so I added a border and a familiar friend at the top, though I'm not sure it lines up perfectly on all computers, and I don't know if I can move the title over a little to prevent it from overlapping (ah well).

Anyways, I would like to advertise for an upcoming post involving fan projections done on the fantastic website, fangraphs.  If you're a baseball fan and you've never been there, I highly recommend it.  The amount of information available is mind bottling.  And if you're a stat-minded fan, well, you may have to change your pants.  There they allow every fan to enter projections for each player.  They actually do it in a very interesting way and I'm obviously not really sure about all the assumptions they make, but it's very cool, and after you enter all your inputs, they will even calculate a WAR for each player (that's Wins Above Replacement - more details are available at fangraphs).

Point is, I've done a set of projections for the Reds, and I'd like to go over the results.  As you might imagine, it's hard to tell how trustworthy any of this is considering I'm guessing how baseball players will perform (an impossibly hard task), and I'm doing it for the team I love, so clearly I'm not unbiased.  But I tried to be as fair as possible.

So, until that is made available, please spend all of your time at the sites linked above.  Thanks.

Much ado about nothing...


So this is a post about how nothing is happening.  Seriously, there is really no Reds news to talk about, other than rumors and Jay Bruce's contract becoming reality.  Which of course is nothing to wag your finger at (did I say that right?).

But at this point that's probably the best news for Reds fans.  We don't need a GM who is going out making foolish moves just to do something.  We need a GM who is patient and waits for the right opportunity.  Who doesn't give up an ML guy and 2 top end prospects to land an ace who has had one excellent year.

I can honestly say that I've never been more interested in the Reds than I am right now.  That I've never followed off season baseball in the way that I am this year.  Football seems so secondary at the moment (probably being helped by the fact that the Bengals are an embarrassment).

Signing Bruce was the best thing that could have happened this off season.  I have mentioned being annoyed at WJ for not really doing anything and insisting that "our team is good" and that the young players will continue to improve.

That is probably true, but there are certainly other things to consider.  Will Janish hit like he did playing full time?  Will Cairo have another career year as a bench guy?  Will Rolen be able to be a viable clean up hitter (was he even last year)?  Will Arroyo win 17 games again?

These are all things that went exceptionally well last year that the Reds can't really count on happening again.  Yes, we have a lot of young players, especially on the pitching staff, who could be expected to improve.  And should everything go well, the Reds could have 3 or 4 top of the line starters.  But that's certainly far from a given, and considering everything that went right for the Reds last year, they'll need more than just a few improvements.  I mean, Joey Votto won't be beating out Albert Pujols for best player in the NL every year.

The Reds excelled in a number of things last year.  Two of the bigger ones, were bench play, and starting pitching depth.  As great as these things are, THEY DO NOT WIN A PLAYOFF SERIES.  Teams can get by with 3 starters in the DS.  Pitching depth does nothing there.  And while a good pinch hitter is helpful, I'd rather have another star than 3 good bench guys.

This has been an interesting off season and it's been so long since the Reds were defending division champs that I don't really know how it feels.  So far it's been nice, but it may be foolish to assume that the Reds can coast and still be contenders.  I am looking forward to that one big deal that gives the Reds that slight edge.  And I have faith that WJ will know just when to make it.

Bruce a Red long term


So Jay Bruce just signed a 6 year, $51 million contract with the Reds (with an club option for a seventh year), which is great news.  For all the talk of signing Votto long term, I think Bruce was the more important contract to get done, as he is 3 years younger than Votto and will be much less expensive at this point.  I would also argue that Bruce's ceiling is a little higher, as he is a former #1 prospect (in all of baseball) and plays a more premium position (and plays it very well).

This deal could take Bruce through his age 30 season, clearly encompassing his peak yers but not taking on the risk of something like a 10 year contract.  I think it's pretty ideal.  The money is very reasonable too.  A commenter on Redleg Nation conservatively estimated that Bruce would have gotten $30M in arbitration over the next 4 years, leaving around $21M for the remaining two years on the contract.  Clearly a bargain. 

Bruce was a 5+ WAR player last year when he really only began tapping into his offensive potential during the second half of the season.  If he puts up 5 wins above replacement in his age 27 season, assuming only a 5% increase in the value of a win each year, he'd be worth around $29M for that year alone.  Obviously a lot can happen between now and then, but it's kind of fun speculating what the Reds could be getting out of their star right fielder for years to come.

It's great news for Reds fans, and hopefully a great sign of things to come.  Jocketty's recent signings of Cairo and Arroyo (don't get me wrong, I like Arroyo, but 3 years seems a bit unnecessary) had me a bit worried, but no one can argue with this one.  And now I'm that much more excited to get that Bruce jersey I'm hoping to see under the tree this year.

2 Random Thoughts


  • So I've already stated my new lease on (blog) life.  However, I also wanted to mention that I was severely off base in a post made earlier this year titled "About this blog".  I stated that there must not be a notable Reds blog, especially one with a "sabermetric focus", if the Reds' spot on Rob Neyer's Sweet Spot network wasn't yet filled.

    Well, as I should have known, of course there are Reds blogs, lots of them, and lots of good ones.  And that spot has since been filled by Redleg Nation, which is a fantastic blog that I now check every day.  And on top of that, they are actually very sabermetric friendly over there.  So, I'm not saying that anyone noticed, but I wanted to right that wrong.
  • On the way home earlier this week I listened to ESPN's radio affiliate in Chicago interview the newest White Sox player, and former Red, Adam Dunn.  The guy is still a great interview and was a great player for the Reds and it's a shame the perception many in Cincinnati had of him.  I know it's been said plenty of times but his style, both on and off the field, was misunderstood and when he left the Reds definitely missed him.

    I was hoping to have some stats prepared to show just how valuable he was to those Reds teams, but I mostly just wanted to get this down (and it's not like you can't look the stats up yourself!).  Anyways, I will definitely be following him up here in Chicago and wish him the best.

Who's in Left?


@font-face { font-family: "Times New Roman"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } It’s not news that the Reds’ most glaring need is in left field.  Despite Walt Jocketty’s comments (and, from what I’ve heard, the feelings of many Reds fans), Jonny Gomes did not perform adequately in 2010.  His 104 OPS+ is acceptable, though his .330 wOBA isn’t impressive, and it’s pretty clear his defense is abominable.  Gomes cost the Reds around 16 runs with his defense in 2010 (more than a win and a half).  Both fWAR and sWAR have him slightly below zero.  This is not someone who the Reds want manning left field for another 130 games.Some of the online community would prefer Chris Heisey get a majority of the playing time.  And given no alternative, I agree.  As a rookie Heisey performed admirably.  His OPS+ and wOBA were similar to Gomes’ (103 and .328), but the difference is Heisey is a 25 year old rookie, and Gomes just turned 30.  The real difference though, is the defense.  Where Gomes was deficient, Heisey excelled, registering 5.6 runs above replacement in only 429 innings, according to Fangraphs.  Heisey is young and still developing, but it would seem that if the Reds don’t acquire anyone else, Heisey should get more of the playing time with Gomes certainly chiming in, as he does provide some production and can lesson the weight of full time duty.The interesting part, however, is thinking about who the Reds could get to patrol the outfield with Bruce and Stubbs.  I’ll run down a list of names I’ve heard…Shin-Soo ChooI can’t imagine the Indians giving up Choo very easily.  He’s just entering his first year of arbitration, so his salary will remain reasonable for a few more years.  And he’s been a very good player, registering over 5 wins above replacement the last two years, with adequate defense.  He’d be near the top of my list.Jacoby EllsburyEllsbury is a bit of a conundrum.  He was a vital cog in the Red Sox plans a few years ago, and stole 120 bases at an outstanding rate during 08 and 09.  But 2010 was mostly lost to injury, and now the rumors are the Red Sox are thinking of moving him.  A closer look at Ellsbury’s defensive numbers over his two full years proves a bit odd.  In 08 Ellsbury started 129 games, about half of which were in center, and had an outstanding 21.3 UZR – second best among all outfielders.  2009 was a different story.  In 150 starts, all in center, Ellsbury cost the Red Sox almost 10 runs (a full win).  Where should he really be?  I don’t know, probably somewhere in the middle, and probably closer to 08, but we won’t really know until he plays full time again.  His offensive numbers did improve from 08 to 09, so in both years he was a very serviceable player.Brett GardnerI maintain that Gardner doesn’t move unless the Yanks get Crawford, which does have a decent likelihood of happening.  If Gardner becomes available, he’s at the top of my list along with Choo.  Gardner became a full time player for the first time in 2010 (at the age of 26) and responded with an outstanding year.  A .383 OBP, a .358 wOBA, a 47/9 stolen base ratio, and the best outfield defense in baseball according to UZR (spent mostly in left).B.J. UptonUpton had a couple great years, at ages 22 and 23.  In the two years since, the contin[...]

Zack Greinke a Red?


Supposedly it's very possible that Zack Greinke gets traded before the start of the 2011 season.  The Rangers and Blue Jays appear to be the two teams that have shown interest so far, though it is fully expected that other teams get into this race and the Royals are by no means rushing into anything.  The Reds of course have also been linked, though so far Jocketty says they have not talked to anyone about it.

In the Winter Meetings live chat on ESPN Keith Law was asked if the Reds could be potential suiters.  His response, though purely speculation, was yes, and that he thought the Reds would be a great fit, as they are looking for a front line starter and have plenty of young talent to offer.  His suggestion was Mesoraco, Alonso, and Wood.  I've definitely seen those names thrown around in potential trade talks on the internets, so it seems to me the Reds could be willing to part with them.

My thoughts?  I don't know... I have trouble comparing current value to future value.  It sure would be neat to have a guy like Greinke though.

A New Beginning... Again


So call this try #3 at creating a consistently producing blog.  I have a new strategy this time.  Post short and post often.  Of course, not everything will be brief (few things I write are), but I think that the smaller my expectations are for a single post, the more likely it is to be realized.

With that said, I will begin my new lease on (blog) life today and attempt to put out material AT LEAST 3 days a week.  Even if it's my random thoughts on some minor off season move.


About this blog


Maybe not surprisingly, the earliest Reds moment I can distinctly remember watching, and can still play back in my memory today, occurred on October 20th, 1990 in the foul territory just next to first base. Todd Benzinger, not even the Reds regular first basemen (maybe he came in for defensive purposes) caught a harmless pop foul to complete a 4 game sweep of the mighty Oakland A's. I still have the Wheaties box with that Reds team on it. A "Wire to Wire" tshirt still inhabits my tshirt drawer. And just as many other lifelong baseball fans can point to a moment when their love of the game first began, I was hooked.

I could make the claim that my first academic memory came when I competed in the district math bees during my elementary years. Top 5 finishes in 1st and 2nd grade set the stage. You know those blurbs you sometimes see in magazines where they ask some professional athlete when they knew they could be something special? Well for me it wasn't athletics, but rather mathematics, and that moment occurred when I took home the gold in 3rd grade. Of course the very next year I tumbled out of the top 20, which made me worry I'd peaked early.

As with most things, I was a bit late to the Moneyball party. But when I finally got around to reading the book, I was into it. Since then I've developed and even deeper interest in the game, and guys like Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski (and many others) keep my interest piqued by writing (and talking, and talking about others' writing) about how the game is constantly evolving, and how the way we view it is ever changing.

So, I'll stop rambling on with lame backstory and say that I love baseball, probably more than ever before. And for someone who is also a numbers nerd, the "statistical revolution" of the last decade has been a lot of fun. Rob Neyer has his own blog on ESPN and this spring they have started a "blog network", with the ultimate goal to have an associated blog for every major league team. When I first heard about this endeavor I was excited since I had been unable to really find much of a Reds blog. Well as it turns out, I don't really think there is one, and certainly not one that has any sort of sabermetric focus (whatever that means exactly).

I'm not saying that my link will be on ESPN any time soon, but hey, why not take a negative (no Reds blog) and make it a positive (limited competition for beginner Reds bloggers). So that's what I've decided to do. You can see that I've taken two cracks at it already, and certainly there's a lot to learn. For instance, I went into that Brandon Phillips post ready to argue with anyone who thought Phillips should bat any higher than 5th in the lineup. After looking at some numbers though, I realized that the Reds really don't have any good top of the lineup guys. The post ended relatively soon after that.

The cool thing about blogging though, is that you can essentially do whatever you want (not to mention edit and proofread as little as you want). And what I want to do is this - take my thoughts and inquiries as a Reds fan (many of which are numbers driven) and put them in writing. And maybe, someday, those thoughts might catch the attention of a Rob Neyer, or someone else in the blogosphere. Hey, he's already read one of my posts! And actually, at this point, I think he's one of four people to read anything on here.

So to those who are actually taking in these words, enjoy!

Why is Brandon Phillips batting 2nd?


Brandon Phillips has 109 plate appearances in 2010, going into Monday's games. All of them have occurred while Phillips is 2nd (27), 3rd (5), or 4th (77) in the lineup. This is a bit befuddling. Perhaps I shouldn't be befuddled, considering who manages this team. Dusty Baker has often been accused of (among other things) being too old school, ignoring cold hard stats in favor of (perceived) speed and what position a guy plays in the field. Hitting Phillips 2nd because he plays second base or is able to accumulate stolen bases over the course of the year is what managers did in decades of yore. Now we know better.

Most Reds fans know the Brandon Phillips story by now. He was dealt to Cleveland as a 20 year old prospect in 2002, along with some guys named Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee, in exchange for Bartolo Colon. Three and a half disappointing seasons later Phillips was given up on by the Indians. And understandably so. In 462 major league plate appearances Phillips had rung up an OPS+ of 48 and got caught stealing more times than he was successful. And then he was traded (or rather given) to the Reds. Joe Posnanski just wrote a post on how our expectations of a player can affect how we evaluate him. Posnanski references Royals player Alex Gordon in particular. Though he could very well contribute to his team, and potentially outhit several players currently occupying spots in the Royals lineup, he was just sent to AAA because the Royals are running out of patience.

Well it seems the oppotiste may have happened to Phillips. He immediately made an impact with the Reds in 2006, accumulating notable hits and stealing a whole bunch of bases while rarely getting caught. This from a guy who the Reds acquired for basically nobody. A guy Reds fans were told was a complete disappointment. Well we rejuvinated him! Get that man playing on the other side of the state and look what he can do! The very next year Phillips joined the 30-30 club and has gone 20-20 both years since. Add to that stellar defense and a flashy personality.

So what's the problem? Well, Phillips has an OPS+ of 97 as a Red. He's never shown much of an ability to walk nor has he posted an OBP higher than .331 (well below league average). He does steal bases nearly 75% of the time, which certain counts for something. I'm not sure where to find baserunning stats, but I wouldn't be surprised if Phillips is slightly disappointing given his speed, if only because he's been known to be a bit lackadasical.

The point is, does he belong at the top of a lineup? Probably not. However, a bigger question might be, who else do the Reds have? Despite an OBP figure of .318 this year, among qualified Reds hitters Phillips trails only Votto, Rolen, and Bruce. Are any of them leading off? Don't think so.

Last year? The only player with at least 300 ABs and a higher OBP was Votto, clearly this team's best hitter.

So maybe we can't blame Baker for throwing Phillips in the two spot. Hard to remember when offense was this team's strength.

Chris Dickerson vs Drew Stubbs


As we all know, the Reds were supposed to be dark horse contenders this year. Their core of young players, a potentially solid pitching staff, a stable bullpen and improved defense were all ingredients for a possible playoff run. Well, so far, the starters have struggled (rookie Mike Leake leads the staff with a 3.92 ERA, but carries with it 13 walks and only 13 strikeouts in just over 20 IP), and the Reds promising outfield of youngsters - Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Chris Dickerson - all have OBPs under .300.Jay Bruce will hit. Or at least that's what I keep reading. Concerned Reds fans should keep in mind that Bruce just turned 23 this month. He's essentially been a league average hitter at ages 21 and 22 and his power numbers improved from 2008 to 2009. Additionally, his plate discipline drastically improved as he decreased his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate, raising his BB/K ratio from 0.30 to 0.51. He's had a relatively slow start to 2010, but of course it's early.Which is what we should remember when considering Stubbs and Dickerson. I will admit that I was a big fan of Dickerson when he showed up in '08, and felt he deserved more playing time in the beginning of '09. Of course, his .413 OBP and .304 ISO was in only 122 plate appearances. In 2009 he showed a similar ability to get on base, posting a .370 OBP and a walk rate similar to '08. However, his power disappeared and his ISO dipped below .100. In fact, after hitting 6 HRs in his first 75 major league at bats, he's hit only 2 since (317 ABs).This lack of power shouldn't be a big surprise, however. In the minors Dickerson averaged only 14 HRs per 650 plate appearances (18 in AAA), so we wouldn't expect him to keep pace with his 2008 numbers. The bottom line is, Dickerson got a late start because his numbers in the minors aren't overwhelming. He got his first taste with the big club at age 26 and took on part-timer duties at age 27. Now 28, Dickerson has continued to show an ability to walk, get on base, and occasionally swipe a bag, while playing above average defense. At this point he's not likely to change much as a player.Meanwhile, the jury's still out on Stubbs. At 25 he's had a rough start to the 2010 season. 2009 was a bit better, but Stubbs still registered only a .323 OBP. He hasn't had enough major league at bats to draw any conclusions, but in the minors he posted .364 OBP and a decent stolen base percentage. Combine that with a surprising flash of power last year, speed, and above average defense, and Stubbs could do well patrolling centerfield in Great American Ball Park.Conclusion: In this case we are comparing a relatively known (Dickerson) to a relatively unknown (Stubbs). Dickerson doesn't have a ton of major league ABs either, but his numbers with the big club are pretty well in line with his performance in the minors. Neither is likely to be a star, but both could potentially be serviceable in the Reds outfield alongside Jay Bruce. 2010 should be telling as both players are set to receive significant playing time. At this point, I'd have to go with Stubbs simply because he is 3 years younger and still has some time to develop. For the Reds to contend in 2010 though, the entire outfield needs to significantly improve upon its April.[...]

Legal, but unnecessary


There was alot of talk leading up to Thursday's Bengals-Steelers game around the possibility of retribution. In the teams' first meeting on October 19th, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward broke the jaw of Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers. Rivers is now on IR (meaning, he's out for the year). No penalty was called; no fine imposed. Hines Ward is known as one of the toughest players at his position, if not in the entire NFL. If you're his teammate or a Steeler fan, you love him. Most everyone else feels otherwise. Ward's hit was deemed "legal" according to NFL rules, and that's not really the issue. Here's the video - unfortunately it's not great, but you get the idea.

So yes, I can agree that according to NFL rules, it is a legal hit. But why is that legal?? Every so often I read a player or writer talk about how the NFL going soft. Based on my own empirical research, I will say that more penalties are called now for unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer, etc. Defensive players sometimes complain that they are worried about not drawing a penalty instead of simply making the play. I understand that there's an element of ferocity to the game that makes it what it is, and I understand why some players claim the league is "softer" than it used to be. But when players are unnecessarily getting their jaws broken on a play that was fully intentional (meaning that Hines Ward fully intended to legally block Keith Rivers by hitting him as hard as he can - I'm not implying that he intended to break his jaw), doesn't that indicate a problem?

Couldn't Ward have made a perfectly effective block without lowering his shoulder and leveling an unsuspecting Rivers? Rivers was pursuing the ball, paying no attention to potential blockers coming from down field (nor should he be). This play is seen all the time in football, most often during punt or interception returns. A player pursuing the ball carrier is blindsided by someone coming in to block him. This makes for great highlights on SportsCenter, but what about when a player's season is ended? This is a specific instance where a rule could be instated without changing the nature of the game. Conversely, if a defensive back levels a receiver as he attempts to catch the ball, jarring the ball free, this is a "necessary" play. If the defensive player doesn't hit the receiver as hard as he can and the receiver catches the ball, the defensive player is doing himself and his team a disservice. Of course, there are rules protecting the receiver, such as no helmet to helmet contact, but further limiting what the defender can do in this situation would certainly change the game. That is not the case with the Ward/Rivers play.

Isn't there a penalty called "unnecessary roughness"? I would propose that a play that breaks a player's jaw, when the exact same football outcome could have been achieved through other, less violent means, be deemed unnecessary.

Please note: this post has nothing to do with my disdain for Hines Ward, which was nothing to do with the fact that I despise the Steelers.