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Monday, May 15, 2006

Today in Baseball (5/15/06)

Reds' status

Off day today, though the Reds had a 2-inning exhibition game vs. the Pirates that was rained out. Probably for the best, as they have to play an actual game tomorrow back at GABP. Eric Milton threw 2 no-hit innings. Whether that's enough for him to enter the rotation later this week is a reasonable question. My guess is that they'll want him to do another rehab start somewhere to get a decent pitch count in a game situation. That's especially likely given that both EZ and Williams pitched well this past weekend. I'm sure the brass is keen to see how they pitch their next time out.

Reds prospects getting attention

Our top two prospects were once again subject to some examination by the "expert" media. First, Homer Bailey was featured today in Kevin Goldstein's Future Shock. It wasn't all positive:
When the Reds drafted Bailey with the seventh overall pick in 2004, scouts saw him as a Josh Beckett clone--a big Texas righthander with blistering heat and a knee-buckling curveball. He's been dominating at times, and frustratingly inconsistent, but no more so than over the past four starts. In two of those outings, Bailey has fired six hitless innings, recording 11 strikeouts in one outing, and nine in the other. In the other two starts, Bailey gave up 11 runs in eight innings, including six over 2.2 on Saturday against St. Lucie. In the past, Bailey has gotten a reputation as someone who doesn't necessarily love baseball as much as he is exceedingly good at it. Nobody can really know just how much Bailey wants it, but that kind of reputation could stick around if his game-to-game performance continues to fluctuate like a mid-90s tech stock.
I've seen reports of this sort of thing before, but my preference would be to ignore it for now. Guys have different ways of showing their passion for the game. Some are fireballs, while others are more laid back. I've seen other reports that indicate Bailey has a good work ethic and is very coachable. Nevertheless, I'm reminded of similar negative comments about another former Reds pitching prospect, Brett Tomko...

Our other top prospect, Jay Bruce, was mentioned in a prospect feature by the Hardball Times' Chris Constancio. He starts with a recap of 19-year old Bruce's impressive first month and a half in low-A ball (0.287/0.342/0.559 w/ 7 HR in 136 AB's), and continues with this bit of analysis:
That kind of power is rare for such a young player. Let's suppose he finishes the year with an ISOP (slugging percentage minus batting average) over .220. Here is a list of 19-year-olds who have done that over a full season in the Midwest League during the past seven years:

2002 Brad Nelson
2001 Wily Mo Pena
2000 Austin Kearns
1999 Corey Patterson

That's not a bad list.
Well, Patterson may be a lost cause in the majors due to his complete inability to be selective about the pitches he swings at. Bruce has shown better patience so far than Patterson did in A-ball: Patterson walked 25 times in 500 PA's (once per 20 PA's) in 1999, whereas Bruce has walked 12 times in 148 PA's (~once per 12 PA's). By contrast, Kearns walked ~once per 6 PA's (90 times in 574 PA's), while Pena walked ~once per 16 PA's (33 walks in 544 PA's).

Halfway between Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena is a decent place to be, especially if Kearns and Pena finally materialize this season (early indications are good, though Pena has been a part-time player).

Minors Splits Available

This has been reported everywhere, but it bears repeating: The guy over at Brew Crew Ball has created a minor league splits database. It is only current for 2006 (lagged by a few days while the guy processes the data), and therefore won't be of much use until the end of the season--at best. Nevertheless, it's very important information that was otherwise unavailable to the public. How much does hitting in Las Vegas inflate your offensive stats? How does the left-handed Reds stud prospect Jay Bruce hit against southpaws? Finally, we'll have an opportunity to answer these questions. I look forward to incorporating this info into my Better Know a Red features next season.

Thanks to Minor League Ball for pointing out this great resource.

My New Favorite Baseball Blog

I've recently started reading a blog by a guy who goes by skyking162. Last week he started contributing over at fangraphs.com (and has done a bang-up job), but the more interesting (from my stat-oriented tastes) stuff is often on his personal blog. Here are a few highlights from his blog over this past week:
  • He did an analysis of how walk rate relates to other offensive statistics:
    • the offensive stats with the highest correlation to walk rate in 2005 were: OBP, XR/PA (extrapolated runs per plate appearance, a total-offense stat), HR/AB, ISO (isolated power: SLG-AVG), and K/AB. Therefore, walk rate tends to increase with power as well as with strikeouts. I find none of this surprising, as players who wait on their pitch will be more likely to hit a pitch with authority and drive it out of the park...or at least for extra bases. Furthermore, working the count will get you to a two-strike count more often, which will probably lead to more strikeouts.
    • On the other hand, walk rate correlated poorly with AVG and BABIP, which is a bit surprising. For the same reason that patient hitters hit for more power, I always figured that players who had high walk rates, and thus were more selective, would be more likely to get hits when they got a pitch they felt comfortable swinging at (see hit-with-authority comment above). That does not appear to be the case.
  • He announced his All-Man Crush team, which is dominated by players he believes are underrated...though may also include guys who led his fantasy team to the championship. Adam Dunn is his team captain.
  • Began a series of state-of-the-division reports, comparing 2005 team performances to early 2006 team performances. I'll be interested to see what he thinks about the NL-Central.