Table of Contents

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

June 2006 in Review

Year-to-Date Stats
Overall Record: 44-36 (Tied for first in NL, 8 games over 0.500)
Series Record: 13-3-10
Pythagorean Record: 40-40
Extrapolated Record: 89-73
Record if win half of remaining games: 85-77
Runs Scored: 403 (5.0/g, 3rd in NL)
Runs Allowed: 401 (5.0/g, Tied-8th in NL)

May Team Stats
May Record: 15-12
May Series Record: 4-1-3
May Pythagorean Record: 14-13
May Runs Scored: 140 (5.2/g)
May Runs Allowed: 135 (5.0/g)

What a bizarre month. The Reds began the month with a brilliant 8-game winning streak against Houston, St. Louis, and the Cubs, but then proceeded to drop 10 of their next 11 at the hands of the Cubs, Brewers, and White Sox. The rest of the month was roughly 0.500 ball, though the Reds did finish with a nice 3-game winning streak vs. the Royals and the Cleveland Indians. The end result was a month in which the Reds won three more games than they lost, which was a nice improvement over their losing May. Even better, the Cardinals had a sub-0.500 month thanks to the absence of King Albert. This permitted the Reds to make up the 5 games they were back at the beginning of the month and end June in a dead heat with the Redbirds!

Much of the Reds success has to be attributed to the reawakening of the offense. While still a far cry from April's production, the Reds offense improved over a full run per game over May to 5.2 runs per game. Meanwhile, the pitching--thanks entirely to the starters--was able to stay relatively constant for the year at 5.0 runs allowed per game. From a distance, the Reds look to be in great shape to move on and win the division, or at least the wild card. However, there's a lot of reason for concern as well. While the front three starters -- Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and Elizardo Ramirez -- continued their effectiveness, Eric Milton seemed to be returning to his 2005 form, and Brandon Claussen was pummeled severely.

Even more problematic, the bullpen had a disastrous month. All members of the bullpen--Coffey, Weathers, Hammond, Mercker, Rick White, and Estaban Yan--were roughed up, often badly. A team cannot contend for a playoff spot without some semblance of the bullpen, so something is going to have to be done. To this end, general manager Wayne Krivsky has already eliminated White and Hammond, and at this point all bullpen spots except perhaps the closer are up for grabs. While some help may come from the minor leagues, our best hope seems to be via trade. Jason LaRue would seem to be our most disposable part, but his value is down due to a year-long slump. It's a difficult situation that will test our rookie general manager as the trading deadline approaches.

Nevertheless, for a team that was almost universally selected to finish in last place when the season started, the Reds are in remarkably good shape. With a few arms in the bullpen and some continued good performances from our starters, the Reds can remain in the hunt until season's end. It's been a great year to be a Reds fan. Let's hope they can keep it up.

Statistical Hitter of the Month: Ryan Freel - 0.364 AVG, 0.410 OBP, 0.584 SLG, 7/7 Steals, 11.7 VORP in June
Honorable Mentions: Dave Ross, Brandon Phillips

Despite still not having an everyday starting job, Ryan Freel exploded in June whenever he was in the lineup. Freel always seems to get in base. But this month he not only was able to generate an OBP over 0.400, he was able to hit with authority as well, slugging 11 extra-base hits in route to a 0.584 slugging percentage. Furthermore, he continued to be a threat on the base-paths, stealing a perfect 7 bases in 7 attempts to push his total on the season to 18 (82% success rate). Among Freel's most impressive games was his game vs. Cleveland on June 23rd, in which he went 5 for 5 with two doubles and two stolen bases, scoring 2 runs in the Reds' 3-0 victory. It was great to see Freel find his stroke this month. Making only $1,300,000 and able to play five positions extremely well, Freel continues to be among the most valuable and underrated players in baseball.

Impact Hitter of the Month: Adam Dunn - 9 HR's, 19 Runs, 20 RBI's, 113.2% Win Probability Added in May
Honorable Mentions: Dave Ross, Ryan Freel

Adam Dunn still hasn't gotten his bat going at the level he's proven to be capable of in previous years, but he's been pretty effective when it counts this month. His best-timed swing of the year--and possibly of his career--came on June 30th. The Reds were entertaining the Cleveland Indians in the first of a three-game series. The game had not gone well. Elizardo Ramirez gave up five quick runs in the first, and even though he recovered to pitch reasonably well through five innings, the Reds were down 6 runs when he exited. The Indians tacked another on in the top of the eighth, but the Reds came back for four runs in the eighth. The Reds managed to score another run to start the 9th inning, and then Adam Dunn came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. He proceeded to hit a 1-0 pitch hard to right for an Ultimate Grand Slam to win the game. When asked about where that one ranked in his career, Dunn replied "I hit one in Little League that was pretty cool. This is probably second." At least he's keeping things in perspective.

Dunn had other great games in June. The day before, he hit an 8th inning double to bring home the winning run vs. the Royals. And on June 14th, Dunn hit an 11th inning three run shot to beat the Brewers. But Reds fans will remember the grand slam for years to come.

Statistical Pitcher of the Month: Aaron Harang, 2.97 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 7.8 k/9, 0.69 hr/9, 14.6 VORP
Honorable Mentions: Bronson Arroyo, Elizardo Ramirez

Harang continues to quietly have an excellent year. His strikeouts are still up compared to last year, which has resulted in him being over more dominant--and demonstrably legitimate. Harang currently leads the league in road ERA (1.57) and is third in the league in K/100P. While Arroyo has been the one in the spotlight, Harang has been just as reliable -- and looking back on our expectations at the beginning of the year, more comfortably in line with what we could reasonably expect from him. Harang had 6 starts in June, of which he won 4. His best was a complete-game shutout against the Cleveland Indians on June 23rd, the same game in which Freel went 5 for 5. It was Harang's second complete-game shutout of the year.

Impact Pitcher of the Month: Bronson Arroyo, 5 quality starts, 3 wins, 2.57 ERA, 88.4% Win Probability Added
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Harang, Elizardo Ramirez

Krivsky's prize acquisition continued his torrid first half with more of the same, keeping the opponents' bats silent and giving the Reds a solid chance to win. He was a model of consistency this month. Arroyo's best game was a 2-run complete game against the Mets on June 19th, though he only surrendered more than three runs one time in June and *never* threw fewer than six innings. The hallmark of Arroyo's run has been his outstanding control. Nevertheless, his strikeouts continue to pour in at a rate similar to his solid 2004 campaign and substantially higher than his more mediocre 2005 performance.

Unfortunately, there may be some signs that Arroyo is starting to slip a little bit. While his ERA was an outstanding 2.57 for the month, this FIP shot up to 3.96. That, coupled with a low BABIP (0.262) indicated that he was somewhat lucky to be as dominant as he was this month. The primary difference between this month and his May numbers was his unusually low 0.43 HR/9 allowed in May. Nevertheless, his numbers remain solid, his FIP remains below 4.00, and he continues to be the stopper of our rotation. I see no reason to expect complete catastrophe here--just a regression away from Cy Young candidate and toward a solid, dependable starting pitcher. I can live with that.

Other June Notes:
  • Dave Ross had an amazing month, taking over the starting catcher role for the team. In a way it's by default, as the other Reds catchers aren't hitting (see below). But even if they were, it'd be hard to keep him out of the lineup. Ross hit an amazing 0.316/0.397/0.684 on the month, slugging 6 home runs and driving home 14 in only 57 at bats. These efforts earned him my vote for NL All-Star catcher, despite him only possessing the starting role for one month of the season. I won't pretend to expect this sort of production out of him for the rest of the season, but he's proven to be a capable offensive threat.
  • Elizardo Ramirez continues to impress. This month, he managed a 4.10 ERA and a 3.74 FIP, and continues to post solid strikeout and HR-allowed rates, as well as excellent control. I'm very excited that he's a part of our rotation--if only he was still eligible for the rookie of the year competition. He might not win, but he'd get more attention.
  • Todd Coffey's transition to the closer role has been rather shaky (5.84 ERA, 6.29 FIP in June). His strikeout rate is WAY down (2.2 k/9??), his walk rate way up, and he's allowing home runs at a frequent rate for the first time this season. I still think he's a legitimate candidate for a closer role, but he's going to have to get things back into gear or we're going to have to look elsewhere...or at least we would if someone else in the bullpen were capable of getting hitters out, which unfortunately is not the case.
  • Other members of the bullpen have been similarly horrible. Perhaps most disappointing was David Weather's month (10.80 ERA, 9.10 FIP), as we were really counting on him to be the stabilizing guy in the pen--and for much of the year, he had been. Weathers left the game on Sunday, June 11th, when "severe tendinitis" in his shoulder flared up. He ended up missing 5 days, and clearly hasn't been the same since. His ERA went from 3.48 (where it had been for a while) to 4.35 with his outing on the 11th, and steadily rose to 5.40 by the month's end. I have to think that his shoulder problems are more severe than he and the Reds have been letting on, as it was too obvious of a turning point in his season to be unrelated. It's time to move him to the disabled list, let him heal, and hopefully allow him to come back and pitch effectively before season's end. I don't know who will replace him, but surely we can expect more from our setup man than a 10.80 ERA.
  • Jason LaRue (0.472 OPS in June, 0.596 OPS overall) and Javier Valentin (0.391 OPS in June, 0.566 OPS overall) still aren't hitting. Both took steps backward in June. It's downright weird at this point, especially in LaRue's case, as these two are solid major league hitters. And it's extremely disappointing from a player-management standpoint, because LaRue should be the most tradeable commodity on the team. We can replace him on our roster because of our logjam of catchers, he has a proven track record, and while he has a multi-year contract, he's not so expensive that a contending team wouldn't be willing to add him if they had the need of a solid catcher. We need him to get hot -- fast -- so we can try to deal him for bullpen help.
  • Brandon Claussen had a horrific month as well, and eventually was placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. This was probably more a move to get him off the active roster than anything else, but hopefully he can rediscover something in his rehabilitation assignment that can help him regain the effectiveness he showed last season. We were really counting on him to be a quality starter this year, and he hasn't been able to deliver. At this point, the #5 slot in our rotation is a huge black hole. I see little reason to think that Joe Mays can improve matters there, and if we're going to contend we can't just give up on every 5th game before it starts.
Reds June Hitting Stats:
Freel 82 4.3 16.4 27.3 7/100% 0.410 0.584 0.994 0.331 11.7 77.9%
Phillips 107 7.6 11.9 35.7 5/100% 0.391 0.480 0.871 0.296 11.5 46.2%
Ross 66 3.7 7.3 11.0 0/0% 0.397 0.684 1.081 0.350 9.3 78.3%
Griffey Jr. 109 7.8 12.1 12.1 0/0% 0.327 0.580 0.907 0.292 7.7 17.0%
Hatteberg 98 49.0 7.5 32.7 0/0% 0.406 0.494 0.900 0.306 5.8 -3.0%
Dunn 117 3.7 5.3 13.0 0/0% 0.368 0.537 0.905 0.300 5.6 113.2%
Lopez 119 5.2 7.4 29.8 6/75% 0.350 0.437 0.787 0.267 5.3 2.9%
Encarnacion 14 2.8 --- --- 0/0% 0.375 0.643 1.018 0.330 2.6 5.1%
Kearns 102 4.4 11.3 25.5 4/100% 0.330 0.441 0.771 0.259 2.2 -3.6%
Aurilia 89 8.1 17.8 22.3 0/0% 0.300 0.488 0.788 0.257 1.9 -40.0%
Olmedo 8 --- 8.0 --- 1/100% 0.375 0.571 0.946 0.312 1.1 9.2%
McCracken 12 6.0 --- --- 0/0% 0.250 0.417 0.667 0.217 -0.1 -7.5%
LaRue 26 6.5 26.0 26.0 0/0% 0.192 0.280 0.472 0.156 -2.7 -7.9%
Valentin 31 6.2 15.5 --- 0/0% 0.219 0.172 0.391 0.142 -3.9 -24.9%
Castro (50 Min) 14 7.0 --- 14.0 0/0% 0.286 0.500 0.786 0.254 --- ---

Reds June Pitching Stats:
Arroyo 42.0 6.4 1.9 1.07 0.262 2.57 3.96 15.6 88.4%
Harang 39.3 7.8 2.5 0.69 0.306 2.97 3.30 14.6 74.7%
Ramirez 37.3 6.0 1.4 0.97 0.263 4.10 3.74 9.0 37.8%
Mays (6 KC) 13.0 6.2 1.4 0.69 0.318 2.08 3.28 4.7 33.3%
Yan (13 LAA) 12.7 5.0 4.3 2.83 0.162 4.26 7.61 2.5 -41.0%
Milton 29.7 4.8 2.1 1.82 0.277 5.46 5.46 1.7 -55.7%
White (3 Phi) 6.0 4.5 3.0 1.50 0.118 4.50 5.37 1.5 -11.6%
Standridge 3.3 10.9 10.9 0.00 0.145 2.70 4.41 1.2 2.4%
Belisle 1.0 18.0 0.0 0.00 0.000 0.00 -0.80 1.1 0.7%
Mercker 8.3 2.2 1.1 2.17 0.208 4.32 6.21 0.8 -5.3%
Coffey 12.3 2.2 4.4 1.46 0.245 5.84 6.29 -0.1 -28.9%
Burns 3.0 3.0 0.0 3.00 0.385 9.00 6.87 -0.8 0.6%
Hammond 12.3 5.1 1.5 2.20 0.349 8.76 5.72 -4.4 -47.0%
Weathers 10.0 3.6 4.5 3.60 0.381 10.80 9.10 -4.7 -48.0%
Claussen 13.7 7.2 5.3 1.31 0.347 9.88 5.24 -5.6 -40.3%