Table of Contents

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Today in Baseball (4/21/06)

Reflections on Tonight's Game
Outstanding game from Arroyo tonight. Wow. I'm feeling very encouraged by his performance thus far in the season, particularly with reference to his strikeout rates. Last year, his K rates fell from 7.2/9 innings in 2004 to a rather poor 4.4/9 innings. At the same time, his ERA (and FIP) rose a half-run. This year, through 4 starts, his K-rate is 7.4/9 innings. Very, very encouraging. I'm not saying he'll go 8 innings of 1-run ball every time out, but I think it's reasonable to hope for a 3.9 to 4.1 ERA from the guy this year. That'd be huge for us. Yeah, it's still early, but things are looking up for him.

The Reds didn't have a ton of chances today. But they were efficient when they needed to be, with good baserunning and "clutch" hitting. Felipe Lopez, in particular, was exciting on the basepaths. He continues to be perfect through six steals this season, and also advanced on a flyout to the outfield that facilitated his scoring on Hatteberg's single.

Trivial pursuits: I'd really like to know how many times a team has homered on the first pitch of the game and then not scored another run. Anyone seen anything on that? It can't have happened often.

Reds Value at $274 Million
The Enquirer has a brief article on Forbes Magazine's 2006 report on major league baseball team values. Chris Peale's opening states that "The Cincinnati Reds are growing in value." That's true, with the Reds showing an 8% growth over the past year. It's hard to get upset with 8% growth in a 200 million-dollar company.

But what I found really surprising about their numbers, however, was that 8% growth weighs in at only 20th (tied with 5 other teams) out of the 30 teams. The league average was 15%, with nine teams showing over 20% growth! If you look at the actual dollar increase in the past year, the Reds ranked 26th overall with an increase of around $22 million. In contrast, 14 teams increased value more than $50 million.

Major league baseball looks like a heck of a good investment right now for those with a few hundred million dollars lying around. No wonder the owners love Bud Selig so much. I don't have a terrific understanding of how these values are calculated, but it's clear the the Reds have got to figure out how to get in on this action better than they did last year. One way is probably to win: 4 of the 7 seven teams, in terms of total dollars gained, made the playoffs last year (Angels, Yankees, Astros, Cardinals). Another seems to be to spend money on free agents: both the Mets (+$121 million) and the Blue Jays (+$97 million) had large surges in their value this year. I'm very high on Bob Castellini, and I'm sure that we can expect the Reds franchise to gain value at an increasing rate over the next few years...if for no other reason than the increased win totals I expect under Krivsky, and the corresponding increase in attendance rates those wins will cause.

It should be noted that Major League Baseball has slammed Forbes Magazine's analysis, saying they had no access to the actual financial data and that the numbers were generally fabricated. Of course, this quote is somewhat telling:
"They make these numbers up," Manfred said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "However close and lucky they may get in aggregate, there are individual instances that materially misstate the situations. From our perspective, we just think it's important that people understand and realize these are not in real in any sense of the word."
Emphasis added. My guess is that there are a few inconsistencies with MLB's actual numbers (which are always top secret), but in general, it's pretty spot-on. I love how he claims they are made up and lucky, and yet at the same time acknowledges that they may be close...at least in aggregate. Fun with words!

2006 Amateur Draft Order/Sickels Profiles Top College Pitchers
Brian already mentioned this in the comments, but the draft order has been annouced, and the Reds' first pick is 8th of the draft. That's pretty good draft position, and should make it possible to pick up one of the better college starting pitchers available this year. As a preview to that, John Sickels has brief scouting reports on seven college pitchers who could go early in the draft. Several of those names are becoming familiar to me due to reading Kevin Goldstein's Future Shock columns at Baseball Prospectus. Particularly Andrew Miller (University North Carolina), Brad Lincoln (University of Houston), Tim Lincecum (University of Washington), and Brandon Morrow (University of California). This is the first year I've paid much attention..heck, any attention...to the amateur talent prior to the draft, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how these guys get picked. Hopefully the Reds will take a good one.

Relationship between Reds' runs and Reds' homers
Interesting little stat that McCoy mentioned in his meeting with Marty today: prior to today's game, the Reds have scored 51.4% of all their runs on home runs. The major league record is 47.7%, set by the Texas Rangers. The #2 team is the 1956 Cincinnati Reds.

What does this mean? Well, a team that scores a lot of runs via the long ball obviously has to hit a lot of homers. It also means that they have to hit those homers with men on base--we've had a bunch of three-run homers this year, and already at least two grand slams that I can think of (Encarnacion and Phillips). The Reds have been unbelievable offensively thus far, leading the league in runs (107; next highest is Braves at 91), home runs (32; next highest is Braves at 26), OBP (0.375; next highest are Brewers at 0.361), and SLG (0.531; next highest are Rockies at 0.482). Unbelievable numbers. I'm a bit skeptical they can maintain this dominance all year, but they sure are exciting to watch right now.

Hal McCoy Should Be Reading My Site
Hey, I read Hal every day, so why shouldn't he read me? Ok, so maybe that's a bit of an unfair (at least from McCoy's perspective--he's an excellent and very unique writer, even if he sometimes gets the details wrong), but I have to call Mr. McCoy on this article about Great American Ballpark. It's yet another indictment of GABP as being a huge hitters' park--a "baby Coors" as he puts it. As I wrote about in some detail before, GABP is actually a very neutral ballpark. It is more permissive than average to the home run, but even that effect is weaker than at several other parks. The reason so many home runs are hit at GABP probably has more to do with our outstanding offense and dreadful pitching than anything else. This is different than in Arlington or Coors, a point which Jerry Narron seems to realize.

Fun with small sample sizes: according to ESPN's park factors, GABP has been a huge hitters' park so far this season, with a runs park-factor of 1.390. However, it has actually been a bad place for home runs (HR factor 0.954)--hence Narron's comment that they'd seen the ball flying out "everywhere." Instead, runs in GABP seem to have come frm singles (factor 1.247), walks (1.130), and most especially doubles (1.645). I don't know about doubles, but the runs and homers are behaving in the opposite direction to the aggregate data over the past three years. Moral? Don't trust short-term impressions on the effect of a park. It's a lot more to do with "random" variation in player performance than anything else. Still, we're going to need to have a few pitchers with outstanding years in order to dispel this inaccurate understanding of our ballpark's characteristics.

Schramek Released
According to RedLeg Nation, former first-round (supplemental) draft pick Mark Schramekwas released yesterday. Schramek hit reasonably well in single-A Dayton (0.296/0.368/0.447/0.815), but may have been promoted too aggressively. He was in AA-Chattanooga before the end of his first professional season. They dropped him back down to A+ Potomac and Sarasota, but he never got his groove going again. I don't know that he was necessarily mishandled, or that he might have turned out differently had he been moved along more slowly...but it does seem like an odd set of decisions. Still, he was a better pick than Bowden's #1 pick in the '01 draft.

Quick Links
  • This is a great example of why I enjoy reading Marc Lancaster's blog so much.
  • Red Hot Mama ripped Fox Sports' Kevin Hench a new one, and for very good reason. I do get tired of the New England-bias of national sportswriters, but then I guess that's where the real money is.
  • I know RHM already linked this, but I bookmarked it in bloglines too so I wanna link to it as well. Daedalus might go to hell because of this, the resemblance is remarkable. Funny stuff. I really look forward to my daily homage at the Church of Baseball, if for no other reason than to see his latest visual masterpiece.