Overall Record: 55-50 (2nd in NL, 3.5 games behind Cardinals; 1st in Wild Card race, 1 game up on Diamondbacks)
Series Record: 16-8-10
Pythagorean Record: 51-54
Extrapolated Record: 85-77
Record if win half of remaining games: 84-78
Runs Scored: 521 (5.0/g, 6th in NL)
Runs Allowed: 534 (5.1/g, 10th in NL)
July Team Stats
July Record: 11-14
July Series Record: 3-5-0
July Pythagorean Record: 11-14
July Runs Scored: 118 (4.7/g)
July Runs Allowed: 133 (5.3/g)
July was a tough month for the Reds, and was quite possibly the toughest month of the year. After an excellent June, the Reds entered July tied for first place in the NL Central. Things were looking up. But starting with the Saturday, July 1st game in Cleveland, the Reds proceeded to lose 8 of their last 9 games heading into the all-star break, falling to the Indians, the Brewers (a sweep), and the supposedly struggling Atlanta Braves. The weakness of the Reds team had become clear: its bullpen seemed to lose the lead night after night, and the excellent Reds offense just couldn't seem to score enough runs to win. In four of the eight losses in the first part of July, the Reds offense scored five or more runs. Something had to be done to address the pitching situation, and fast.
Heading into the All-Star break, Reds fans and media alike were clamoring for there to be a deal. General Manager Wayne Krivsky had just acquired Eddie Guardado in what presently appears to be an excellent trade with the Seattle Mariners, but it clearly wasn't enough. So Krivsky, who was well on his way to achieving an Executive of the Year award at the time, made The Trade on July 13th, 2006. ... While history will have to be its judge, it may well be the worst trade by the Reds since the Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas deal of 1965. The Reds traded their (stud) young starting shortstop, Felipe Lopez, and their (stud) young right fielder, Austin Kearns, to the Washington Nationals for (admittedly stud) relief prospect Bill Bray, (average) middle reliever Gary Majewski, (anything but stud) shortstop Royce Clayton, infield (reserve) prospect Brendan Harris, and A-ball pitching prospect Daryl Thompson. The deal was universally panned among all reputable baseball observers as a steal for the Nationals. While I tried very hard to be positive--or at least tempered--about it at the time, I'm still reeling from it. It's been to the point that there have been days when I haven't even bothered to check the score. That's extraordinarily rare for me.
Following The Trade, the Reds powered back to win three of the five remaining series in the month, including a 4-game sweep over Colorado to start the second half. It wasn't enough to completely salvage the month, but it did get them back on top of the wild card standings, which is where they need to be to have a good shot at the post-season. Finally, in an attempt to bolster those chances further, Wayne Krivsky made two deals at the trading deadline, bringing in both Kyle Lohse and Rheal Cormier. The Reds can only hope that their refurbished bullpen can prove valuable enough in the remaining two months of play to offset the offense and minor league talent they gave up in the July trades.
While the month of May had a slightly worse record, percentage-wise, July felt worse, to me at least. There were a variety of reasons. The most important is that the Reds are actually still in the hunt at midseason. That's pretty exciting, but also means that any on-field struggles now feel that much worse. My expectations are high, and the walls of apathy that I build up around myself by this time every year aren't in place to shield me from misery.
On top of that, however, are the series of questionable decisions by both the front office (see The Trade, above) and on-field management (mishandling of Eric Milton, or the inexplicable benching of Edwin Encarnacion). I love this team, and want badly to trust its decision-makers. But this month has made it hard. And to think that on July 10th I shouted "In Krivsky I trust!" in the Reds' blogger roundtable, not to mention gave support to manager Jerry Narron. Seems like an eternity ago. Let's just hope that the Reds can get their act together and win that wild card. If they do, all will be forgiven.
Statistical Hitter of the Month: Scott Hatteberg, 0.425 AVG, 0.469 OBP, 0.658 SLG, 0.376 GPA, 13.8 VORP in July
Honorable Mentions: Adam Dunn, Rich Aurilia
Hatteberg had a brilliant month of July, and it no doubt helped him earn his recent contract extension through the 2007 season. Hatteberg has really turned his career around this year. While he'd been an iffy starter in two of his previous three years with Oakland, he has played almost entirely in a platoon role under Jerry Narron and has thrived. While I still don't see him as a full time starter, he has clearly demonstrated his worth against right-handed pitching this year, and I'm delighted to see him returning next year as we await Joey Votto's arrival in the big leagues.
Impact Hitter of the Month: Adam Dunn, 18 runs score, 19 RBI, 5 HR's, 118.3% Win Probability Added.
Honorable Mentions: Scott Hatteberg, Rich Aurilia
For the second consecutive month, Adam Dunn won the my Impact Hitter award. While Hatteberg's overall numbers were slightly more flashy, Dunn's hot month of July had a bigger effect on games. And, unlike June, it wasn't the flashy, walk-off grand slams that drove up his WPA numbers. This month, he just consistently made steady, substantial positive contributions to ballgames. He had 4 games with a WPA over 20 and 8 games with a WPA over 10. Unfortunately, some of Dunn's best performances were ultimately games that the Reds ended up losing due to their pitching and defensive struggles. So if it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to just avoid retelling those tales. But you can look 'em up.
Oh, did I mention that Dunn stole four bases this month? In four attempts? And that he crank called Marty Brennaman on the Banana Phone during a rain delay? The dude is just so awesome.
Statistical Pitcher of the Month: Aaron Harang, 4.14 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 35 k:12 BB in 37 IP, 9.5 VORP
Honorable Mentions: Eddie Guardado, Elizardo Ramirez
This wasn't an easy decision. But for the wrong reasons. Unlike previous months, no one really dominated. Harang was at least very serviceable, and his peripherals and FIP indicate that he really pitched quite well, but was a bit unlucky (0.327 BABIP). So for the second consecutive month, Harang wins my Statistical Pitcher award. He started six games and won two of them--both times he didn't give up a run before turning it over to the improved bullpen. The other games, he was roughed up a bit more, although he still pitched at least six innings in all but one. Harang continues to have an outstanding season, and has proven to still be the Reds' ace while Bronson Arroyo returned to Earth. Clearly, at least outside of Cincinnati, Aaron Harang is one of the most underappreciated starting pitchers in baseball.
Impact Pitcher of the Month: Eddie Guardado, 1.04 ERA, 6 SV, 9 K's, 0.81 WHIP, 77.3% WPA
Honorable Mentions: Bill Bray, Aaron Harang
Eddie Guardado's arrival in Cincinnati has, rather quietly, been a godsend. It has quite literally been years since the Reds have had a guy who can come in during the 9th inning and shut down opposing hitters in 1-2-3 fashion. And yet, in his first month with the Reds, Guardado transformed the 9th inning from a time of nail-biting to a time of relative comfort, allowing only a one run the entire month on a solo shot by Clint Barmes on July 16. In the process, Guardado's '06 ERA dropped from a scary 5.48 to a respectable 4.26, and there's no reason to think he won't be comfortably into the 3's by season's end, thanks to superb peripherals. In truth, Guardado has been trending in the right direction since the end of April, so it really does appear that his struggles were primarily localized to the first month of the season. Hopefully, Eddie can take care of the 9th inning for the rest of the season, and perhaps stay on for next season as well.
Other Reds Notes:
- I first want to acknowledge the excellent month by Rich Aurilia. While not selected for either of my monthly hitting awards, he had a superb month, hitting 0.342/0.402/0.582, slugging four homers and driving in 10 runs in 87 plate appearances. While I've been bitter about Edwin Encarnacion being benched, there's no reason that bringing Eddie in means that Aurilia has to sit out. Aurilia is a versatile player who can adequately perform at any of the infield positions. Since our shortstop (Clayton) and our second baseman (Phillips) were marred in slumps (well...at least Phillips was...Clayton was just playing an age-adjustment away from his career 0.681 OPS) for much of the month, there was no reason not to move Aurilia to one of those positions and let Eddie play. While we might lose something in terms of defense by taking Phillips out, Clayton's defensive numbers have been poorer than Aurilia's over the past few years.
- Did you know #1: Despite receiving only 35 plate appearances, Edwin Encarnacion was 5th on the team in Value Above a Replacement Player in July? He was rated at 3.1 runs above a replacement player at third base, following Hatteberg, Dunn, Aurilia, and Freel (who, as an aside, has had two terrific months). Royce Clayton, Juan Castro, and Brandon Phillips combined for -4.6 VORP in 188 combined plate appearances, a full 7.7 runs different from Edwin's part-time contribution. I have no doubt that if Edwin would have played almost every day, we'd be looking at a minimum of a 10 run difference, which is the approximate difference of a full win. I'm a big fan of defense too, but that's an enormous difference in offensive production to make up for.
- Did you know #2: Who led the Reds in innings pitched in July? Not Arroyo with 33, and not Harang with 37. It was Eric Milton with 39 innings. And yet, as we've seen, when he is allowed to pitch late into ballgames, all hell can, and often does, break loose. Milton sported a dreadful 5.77 ERA in July, walking a very high 3.5 per nine innings allowing 6 home runs.
- Did you know #3: Who led the team in home runs allowed in July? No, it wasn't Eric Milton. It was Bronson Arroyo, who allowed eight. The first-half phenom came back down to earth in a hard way in July, with a 5.45 ERA (5.32 FIP--it's legit) over five starts (3 losses). The eight homers works out to a 2.18 HR/9, which is an extremely high rate. It's that HR-rate that is most encouraging to me, actually. While I don't think he's going to return to his Cy Young form, Arroyo should improve a lot this month, as no one allows that many homers for a consistent period of time. Furthermore, Arroyo's strikeout rate (7.9 k/9) and walk rate (2.2) look terrific, so he's not really showing much sign of tiring like he did last year. There is definitely some talent involved in determining a pitcher's HR-rate, but it seems far less consistent from year to year or month to month than either a strikeout or walk rate. As an example, in May of this year, Arroyo allowed only 2 homers in 42 innings (0.43 hr/9). So I'm not that worried about him. As I said last month, it's likely that he'll return to being a good middle of the rotation starter, and that's a great thing to have.
- The guy I am starting to worry about, however, is Griffey. I still think he's going to hit for us this year, but the odds of him having a season in keeping with his talent is growing slimmer and slimmer. In fact, his (current) 0.778 OPS this season is his worst since his rookie year back in 1989. One of the most troubling things about his performance is that he seems to have forgotten to take a walk. Last year, Griffey walked in 9.9% of his plate appearances, but this year he's down to just 6.8%. This tells me that he's not showing good patience at the plate, not working the count, and therefore not allowing himself the opportunity to get a good pitch to hit. Maybe it's time to get his eyes checked? No, really, I'm serious. I'm also worried about his batted-ball data, which are showing fewer line drives and more ground balls this season than any time in the previous four seasons (thanks, fangraphs.com):
Looking at this season's batted ball data on a day-by-day basis, those line drives have been dropping in frequency for at least a month now. Griffey's PrOPS (0.893) is still higher than his OPS (0.788) on the season, so some bad luck is probably playing into his performance thus far, but even an 0.893 OPS is pretty disappointing for Griffey's standards. Hopefully, something will click soon and he can carry the offense the rest of the way to the postseason.
- With Dave Ross on the DL for most of the month, Jason LaRue got a decent number of at bats for the first time since May. He responded with a decent month, most notably including an 0.439 OBP, though only a 0.333 SLG. I still think he's been horrifically unlucky (0.885 PrOPS vs. a 0.650 OPS), but I was hoping for more from him prior to the trading deadline. Now, it looks like we're "stuck" with three catchers for the rest of the season unless Krivsky can sneak someone like Valentin through the waiver wire and get a trade done.
- Elizardo Ramirez continued to get it done in July, posting a 4.56 ERA, but more impressively a 2.86 FIP in 4 starts. On July 27th, EZ struck out seven consecutive Houston Astros in one of his more dominant outings of the year. Again, where would we be without this kid?
- Finally, I've tried to be supportive of David Weathers this season, and on the surface he looks to have had a good month as well, posting a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. But his peripherals are horrible. 4.2 k/9, 5.5 bb/9, and 1.4 hr/9. This translates to a 6.12 FIP on the month. Only the 0.195 BABIP against him kept him from getting killed. I still think he's likely to still be hurt, but it also doesn't seem like something that can be fixed this season given that we're a month and a half past his tendonitis problem last June. Furthermore, his overall numbers on the season are similarly worse than they appear: a 4.50 ERA over 50 innings is ok, but it's offset by only a 5 k/9, a dreadful 4.7 bb/9 and a bad 1.73 hr/9, resulting in a 6.08 FIP on the season. ... Maybe it's time for the Reds to move on. There, I said it.
Reds July Pitching Stats: