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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Better Know a Red #1 - Todd Coffey

To mark the first month anniversary of J.O.B.A.R. (not the most elegant of acronyms, I know), I am debuting a new feature I call Better Know a Red. B.K.R. will be a series of in-depth(ish) investigations of all players on the Cincinnati Reds' 25-man roster. It will focus on past performance and projections (in stark contrast to the Human League at my nemesis's website), but will also include the occasional tidbit or three about the player themselves. You'll be able to find quick links to all BKR featurettes on the right sidebar. Also, if you are curious about any of the statistics I will use in these features, please consult the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet, which may also be found in the right sidebar.

By random draw, our first target will be Todd Coffey. Coffey, 25, was a 41st-round draft pick by the Reds out of Chase City high school in 1998. He has steadily worked his way up the Reds minor league system since returning from Tommy John surgery in the 2000 season. He made his major league debut last year with the Reds and was immediately a stabilizing force in our bullpen. He is apparently something of a character, as evidenced by his loves of jello and banana/mayonnaise sandwiches. He'll also be a very important member of the Reds' 2005 staff.

Historical stats:
2003/CIN-A 56.0 8.5 2.3 0.16 0.343 2.25 2.29 4.09 1.2 --
2003/CIN-A+ 23.0 8.2 1.2 0.00 0.250 1.96 1.77 3.27 4.7 --
2004/CIN-AA 45.3 10.5 0.8 0.60 0.285 2.38 1.99 3.59 7.5 --
2004/CIN-AAA 13.7 7.2 1.3 0.66 0.317 5.27 2.98 3.95 0.5 --
2005/CIN-AAA 8.7 5.2 2.1 1.03 0.249 5.19 4.23 --- --- ---
2005/CIN 58.0 4.0 1.7 0.78 0.348 4.50 3.99 4.4 2.4 54%
Coffey was brilliant in '03 and '04 as he moved up through the minors. A strikeout pitcher who walks very few and allows very few homers, it's surprising that more wasn't made of his progression by the Reds' PR folks. In '05 his strikeout rate may have fallen a bit despite the level change, which may be because he abandoned his split-finger fastball last year. He claimed he would work on that pitch this past offseason and put it to more use this year, but I haven't seen word of what the result of that work has been. He struck out 6 in 12 innings (4.5k/9) of work this spring, which isn't showing much progress on that front. Nevertheless, Coffey has consistently has had above average control (1.7 bb/9 last year) and keeps the ball in the park (0.78 hr/9), which bodes well for his success this year. Overall, his performance may have been slightly better than his ERA indicates due to an unusually high BABIP (bad luck/defense). As evidenced by his low hr rate, Coffey does do a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (54% of all batted balls were grounders in '05).

2005 splits:
Category IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP
vs. Left 20.0 2.7 1.4 0.45 0.341 5.85 3.85
vs. Right 38.0 4.7 1.9 0.95 0.352 3.79 4.46
Home 32.0 3.4 1.1 0.56 0.354 3.38 3.92
Away 26.0 4.8 2.4 1.04 0.340 5.88 4.66
I normally like to evaluate splits over multiple years, especially in the case of relievers, because small sample size issues can drive misleading results. But we'll have to work with what we have. Last year, Coffey's ERA and FIP moved in opposite directions against lefties and righties. Essentially, he managed fewer strikeouts against lefthanders, but also allowed fewer walks and home runs. Despite the scary ERA vs. lefthanders, his FIP and peripherals indicate that he was almost equally effective against hitters on both sides of the plate.

Last year he was more effective at home than when away. As GABP is a fairly neutral park, this is not tremendously surprising. But what is surprising is that he actually allowed HR's at twice the rate on the road vs. at home, as GABP does induce a lot of home runs. I suspect that what we're seeing here is more the result of small sample sizes than an actual trend.

PECOTA75 99.7 5.6 2.1 0.81 0.287 3.37 3.82 3.71 20.3 50%
PECOTA 75.7 5.2 2.1 0.83 0.300 3.99 3.95 4.23 11.3 51%
PECOTA25 72.3 4.7 2.4 1.00 0.320 4.98 4.38 5.06 0.3 51%
ZiPS 72.0 5.9 1.6 0.75 0.305 4.13 3.52 --- --- ---
Both ZiPS and PECOTA predict a solid season from Coffey. All predict an increase in strikeout rates, though nothing close to the 8-9k/9ip that he pulled off in the minors. His walks and hr rates should stay relatively constant. With better defense and luck, I think it's very reasonable to hope for a sub-4.00 ERA from Coffey as he cements himself as a go-to guy late in the ballgame. He should be one of the bright spots on this year's pitching staff.

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