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Monday, May 15, 2006

Today in Baseball (5/14/06)

Mercker to DL; Mike Burns promoted

Mercker, who has not pitched much of late due to a variety of ailments, was placed on the disabled list with inflamation in his left elbow today. As I mentioned in my BKR feature on Mercker, my biggest concern about him is his ability to stay healthy this year. In his stead, the Reds have promoted Mike Burns, who was demoted earlier in the season after some rough outings. Stats on Burns:
Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP PERA VORP GB%
2003/HOU-AA 105.2 7.6 2.6 1.28 0.335 6.13 4.22 6.93 -18.1 --
2004/HOU-AA 80.2 10.5 1.7 0.11 0.297 1.67 1.58 3.14 15.1 --
2005/HOU-AAA 30.0 10.2 1.2 1.20 0.243 2.10 3.07 4.13 7.6 43%
2005/HOU 31.0 5.8 2.3 1.74 0.240 4.94 5.20 5.70 1 50%
Burns, 27, was a late round pick out of college and progressed fairly slowly through the Astros minor league system. In the minors he has been a control guy with good enough stuff to strike out guys at a good to fantastic clip (please note that he was a bit old for AA, but his half-season in AAA last year was solid enough). His main weakness seems to be a proclivity for giving up the longball...which doesn't bode well for him in GABP.

His MLB debut last year in Houston was not very good. He saw declines in all of his peripherals, although his walk rate remained above average. How he'll fare in his second taste of the majors is anyone's guess. I see him as a guy who could potentially help us, but also as a guy who could be a disaster. And I don't know how to handicap it, as PECOTA essentially says the same thing:
Year/Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP PERA VORP GB%
PECOTA75 52.3 6.5 2.4 1.20 0.269 3.45 4.29 3.86 10.5 43%
PECOTA 49.3 6.4 2.6 1.28 0.280 4.23 4.48 4.48 5.1 43%
PECOTA25 37.0 6.3 2.7 1.70 0.299 5.54 5.15 5.54 -1.7 42%

Thanks to Daryl at Raising Reds for noticing this transaction.

Reflections on the Phillies' series

I didn't get a chance to see much of the games vs. the Phillies this weekend, which was probably a good thing. I'll just say that it was very nice to see solid performances from Ramirez, Williams, and Claussen. The Ramirez vs. Williams demotion question is suddenly interesting. I'm siding with Ramirez for now, but this next pass through the rotation will be pretty important for those two guys. Mercker's DL assignment may play a bit into Ramirez's, however, as it might make putting the left-handed Williams in the bullpen more likely. That's nothing but pure, unfounded spectulation, of course.

The offense will come around, though it's frustrating to see them hitting so poorly right now.

I'm no longer the new guy on the block

Thought I'd send out a welcome to Daryl over at Raising Reds. Daryl just started a new blog that aims to focus on the development of the Reds' minor league ballplayers. He has kicked off his site with a profile on the Reds' new AA-southpaw Jon Coutlangus. Looks like a valuable resource for the Reds blogosphere.

Arroyo Profiled

I meant to post this a few days ago, but Red Hot Mama has posted a profile on Bronson Arroyo in her Human League. Apparently, the guy blew her off ~42 times for the interview that his publicist originally offered. So now he's in trouble, as she's officially declared him her whipping boy for the year. That's a fate I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Hopefully it won't impact his play on the field--if he starts to return to his career norms, I'm going to blame her.

Reds' prolific base-stealing success: the influence of Billy Hatcher?

One of the really remarkable things that has helped ignite the Reds' offense this season has been their ability to steal bases at a remarkable clip. Hal McCoy wrote an article on this today, noting that the Reds were 40/46 in stolen base success, which is an outstanding 87% success rate (40 steals is a major league-best mark). The cutoff for profitability is about 72% (it varies depending on the number of outs among other things; see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet for more explanation), which means that what the Reds have done this season has been highly profitable.

Hal highlighted how Felipe Lopez (16 for 17, 94%) and Brandon Phillips (8 for 8, 100%) are leading the way. What he didn't mention was that this is a huge improvement for those two players. Last year, Lopez had only a 68% success rate (15/22), which was actually up from his previous years. Similarly, Phillips had success rates of 58%, 56%, and 44%(!!) over his last three seasons (the 44% was in the major leagues in 2003, the other two were in AAA).

This is a remarkable turn of events. While it's possible that we're just seeing some random variation, I'd prefer to think that these two players have really improved their ability to get good jumps. One possible reason is the presence of Billy Hatcher as our first base coach. Maybe it's his stocky frame that made me forget this, but looking up his stats shows that Hatcher was a prolific base-stealer of his own right during his career. In the 1990 season with the Reds, he went 30/40 (75%) in stolen base attempts, while his best year was 1987 when he went 53/62 (85%) with Houston. I've seen several articles about how Lopez has been working with Hatcher, including one in which Lopez credited Hatcher with picking up opposing pitchers' moves to first very quickly. If Hatcher is able to continue to help in this manor, he could be a very important contributor to the Reds' players' running games.

One thing I really liked from the article is this quote by Jerry Narron: "My big thing is success ratio and not to run just to be running." It's the second time I've seen him say something to this effect this year. A lot of old school baseball men who promote the running game talk about it as a way to make things happen, as if running with abandon will instantly be beneficial to your team. Unlike a lot of "statheads," I really do believe in the running game. But it has to be a smart running game, with a good success rate in order for it to be worthwhile. Otherwise, you can easily just run yourself out of the ballgame.