Table of Contents

Monday, May 08, 2006

Off-Day News Catch-Up, Part Deux

BP's Goldstein on Travis Chick
Kevin Goldstein profiled young AA-Reds prospect Travis Chick in his Monday Morning Ten Pack today. Excerpt (is it an excerpt if it's the whole bit?):
For the briefest of moments in 2004, Chick was flavor of the month in prospect land, putting together seven monster starts (2.13 ERA, 55 strikeouts in 42 innings) for Low-A Fort Wayne after being traded from the Marlins to the Padres in a deal for Ismael Valdez. The Padres jumped the then 20-year-old Chick to Double-A to begin 2005, and it proved to be an overly-aggressive move, as Chick struggled with his command and began to press, which led to issues with his delivery, which led to lower velocity, which led to more problems. After putting up a 5.27 ERA in 19 starts for Double-A Mobile, Chick was included in another trade, going to the Reds as part of the Joe Randa deal. So now he's 21, in his third organization, and back in Double-A, and Chick has reeled off four straight starts allowing two or fewer earned runs, something he never accomplished last year. If you were a young pitcher looking for a chance, Cincinnati could be the ideal organization. He's not coming up anytime soon, but a major league debut sometime this season is within reach.
I'd personally be mighty surprised to see Chick in a Reds uniform this September, but you never know. Nevertheless, I'd guess the more likely (good case) scenario is that he makes AAA by mid-late season, and then arrives in the big leagues near the end of the '07 season.

The Randa transaction--both signing Randa and then trading him to the Padres--is easily O'Brien's best set of moves. Getting two possible big-league starting pitchers (the other being Justin Germano) for a half-season rental of a guy like Joe Randa was a very impressive feat. Sure, he'd been hot in the first half, but Randa had only had one 0.800+ OPS season in the previous five years. Outstanding work. I almost feel guity.

What kind of Reds fan are you?

Red Hot Mama has released a highly scientific survey that determines exactly what sort of Reds fan you are. I scored as a "super fan." I'm a little disappointed that I didn't score higher, but I lost points on the "what is the happiest moment of your life" bit. Somehow the Reds winning the World Series was left off the list of options. I mean, heck, it was the defining moment of my childhood... :) So I had to settle for getting married. Kid being born might top it, but that's still a couple of weeks off yet...

Chris Chambliss, Reds Hitting Coach Extraordinare
The Enquirer had a nice article on Chambliss, the Reds hitting coach, and the job he's done with Reds hitters. They talk about his emphasis on being "aggressive but patient." This sounds a lot like what you hear from Oakland player development people. Waiting to get a good pitch, laying off pitches you can't hit, sitting on pitches you can hit early in the count, and having a good two-strike approach. Nothing revolutionary, but it's a tried-and-true approach that will work for a lot...not all (e.g. Vladimir Guerrero)...but a lot of ballplayers.

Chambliss's work with Dunn was particularly notable a few years ago, but this is the first time recently I've seen some credit given to him for the effectiveness of the Reds' hitters. Of particular note is how a number of hitters have come to Cincinnati and attained a renaissance over the last few years. Randa, Aurilia, Lopez, Valentin, and this season Hatteberg and Phillips. A lot of the credit has to go to the hitters themselves, but some must go to their coach.

Thanks to Red Hot Mama for helping me notice this article.

Baseball Prospectus on the Reds' Start
Baseball Prospectus had two articles that discussed the Reds' start last week. The consensus view is that the Reds are probably better than a lot of people gave them credit for at the season's beginning, but they're probably not as good as they have been thus far. That's pretty much my view as well. They examine a number of statistics to argue their case, but frankly I think it's too early to read much into rate-based statistics. Besides, while in my heart I know the Reds are probably going to slip, I'm still very excited about this team and the prospect that they could have a winning season. Maybe not a playoff-bound season, but they absolutely can win more than they lose.

The Effect of the World Baseball Classic on Pitchers
Nate Silver posted a really interesting article on the '06 regular season performances of pitchers who threw in the World Baseball Classic this spring. He notes that there was no WBC team on which the pitchers have (on average) performed better than their PECOTA projections this season. Excerpt:
These are very disturbing numbers. The relievers have emerged relatively unscathed--sixteen of the thirty-two relievers in our study have outperformed their PECOTA, and sixteen have underperformed it. But the starting pitchers have been brutalized. Nineteen of the 26 starters--nearly three-fourths of our sample--have underperformed their PECOTA. In most cases, they haven’t even come close to their projection. The weighted average ERA for the WBC starters is 5.49, a buck and a quarter higher than their PECOTAs. Keep in mind that these are supposed to be, quite literally, the best starting pitchers in the world, and that this performance has come over hundreds and hundreds of collective innings.
His hypothesis to explain this phenomenon is not that the WBC pitchers were overworked, but rather that their spring routines were disrupted by the WBC.

This is the first empirical evidence that I've seen indicating that the WBC affected player performance in the regular season. And frankly, I'm not surprised by it. Now as some may remember, I was a huge supporter of this tournament. But I also recommended some pretty substantial changes be made to it, the most important of which had to do with the scheduling. The spring simply didn't work. Major League players were not ready for competitive baseball, it interfered with spring training, and perhaps even worse in terms of press coverage, it overlapped with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It's just really bad timing. I realize that it's not realistic to try to hold it mid-season (though I'm not sure that it's as impossible as Bud would have us believe--especially if the all-star game was cancelled and that break expanded), but I've not been at all convinced by the arguments against holding it after the season. These are (based on Bud Selig's comments in innumerable interviews):
  • Players are beat-up after the end of the season: yes, some are likely to be tired and/or hurt, but most will have had several weeks off during the playoffs. Giving the World Series players a week or two off prior to the WBC tourament start seems as though it'd be enough time to recover and be ready to play, to me at least. I think this is less of a problem than having players who are rusty and still trying to find their swings and pitching motions in the spring.
  • Players will have gone home after the season on non-playoff teams: so what? I see no reason why a player wouldn't be willing to take some time off and then head out to the team camp to start praticing. You could even start the WBC team camps during the playoffs to let the players start working together and meshing as a team.
  • All the players that Bud Selig has talked to say it's a bad idea to hold it after the season: I've heard Chipper Jones, at least, specifically say that the tournament needs to be held after the end of the season when all the players are sharp and ready to play. After their experiences this year, I have little doubt that a lot of players will agree with him.
Edit: I can also think of one very good reason that they should hold the tournament after the end of the season. It would give both players and fans of teams NOT involved in the playoffs (particularly those that know by mid-season that they aren't going to be in the playoffs) something to look forward to that baseball season. It would have meant a lot to me if, last year, for example, we knew that, come November, I'd have a chance to see Griffey, Pena, Valentin, etc, on teams that could potentially win the Classic. That'd be a real thrill.