Table of Contents

Friday, August 25, 2006

Too Long of a Post: This Site, Fangraphs, Encarnacion, Bailey, Guardado, and Freel.

A number of things I wanted to talk about today.

Site News

I've added two search bars to the top of this page. The first is a standard google search bar that is set up to allow you to search this site. I've added it because the "new and improved" version of blogger's search bar (way up top) has proven almost completely ineffective in finding the posts I want to find since I "upgraded" to the new blogger. I'm hopeful that they will address this problem soon so that I can remove that search bar. We'll see.

The second search bar is here to stay. It's a quick search bar that allows you to look up any major league player on fangraphs.com. It's an outstanding site that allows you to quickly access a tremendous variety of stats in a graphical format. It is interesting that many baseball stathead-types, myself included, rarely take advantage of graphs to display their data, despite the unique insights that can come visualizing your data in graphical form. I'm going to try to use visuals more often on this blog in the future, provided I can defeat some of these new problems with blogger.

I've added posting categories to this site, and updated my last 50 or so posts to include appropriate categories. The rest will have to wait for hopeful updates at a later time though, as I just couldn't take any more after that. You can always use the search feature to find my earlier postings on any topic you wish. I'm also still planning to add my "top articles" menu to the right...just haven't gotten it done yet.

Finally, I've been debating internally whether to continue onward with the Better Know a Red profiles this late in the season. At this point I've done a profile on every player who began the season with the Reds (I think). Furthermore, I've done a mini-profile with each transaction that has brought a new face to the team.

What I may do is add the mini-profiles from my transaction analyses to the BKR sidebar menu to allow easy access. After the season's over and the new PECOTA projections are released on baseball prospectus, I plan to march through these profiles once again. I enjoy doing them, but I'm hesitant to do much more on them now only to repeat that work in November or December. Besides, I think it will be fun to go back and compare my initial predictions for player performance with their actual performance. For the record, I blew the prediction on Brandon Phillips big time. :)

Fangraphs.com

Speaking of fangraphs, they have made a huge number of improvements to their site lately. These improvements include:
* Win Probability graphs for all games going back to 2002.
* Improved browse menus to find WPA games, which have the consequence of "graphically" showing you a teams' record in each month during the 2002-2006 seasons. It can be a happy thing. Here's the Reds' wonderful April 2006 (wins are green, losses are red):
* A bunch of new WPA-related statistics. I'm hopeful that they will manage to get the WPA stats hooked up to the rest of their player stats in future updates, but for now we have access to all sorts of WPA, leverage, and even everyone's favorite new offensive stat, clutchiness.

As a side note, I'm still very skeptical as far as how valuable these WPA-related statistics are in terms of predicting future performance, which is my primary interest with baseball stats. But they absolutely do a great job of describing past performance in a way that traditional stats fall short. They don't replace traditional stats, but rather complement our older measures with stats that are highly dependent on the game situations in which they occur.

Eddie Encarnacion and Jerry Narron

Speaking of WPA, Edwin Encarnacion currently has a huge lead over any other Reds' player in terms of his total net contribution to winning ballgames according the fangraphs' WPA stats. His mark of 2.78 WPA leads all Reds by over a full net win (0.5 WPA=one win over 0.500 due to a player's activities). The next closest are Adam Dunn (2.27 WPA) and Bronson Arroyo (2.16). Lonnie Wheeler's somewhat rhetorical question "Is Encarnacion Reds MVP?" isn't that out of line. Eddie's been brilliant when he's been able and permitted to play, especially given that this is his first full year.

Speaking of that Wheeler article, I can't let this line go without comment:
When given the chance, he also hit relentlessly off the pitchers of the National League, which Narron couldn't help but notice. "If he hadn't been on the DL," the skipper said, "you could compare his numbers to David Wright and (Miguel) Cabrera and (Scott) Rolen and all those guys, and they would be pretty favorable.
::sighs:: I wouldn't have had to make posts like this one if the ankle injury had been all that had limited Encarnacion's playing time this season. But at least he's starting every now. And Narron has also apparently finally seen past Clayton's inadequacies at the plate (not to mention his lack of defensive prowess) and is letting Aurilia play at short. I'd still prefer that he swap Phillips over to short and let Aurilia play second, but I can cope with that as long as the best lineup is playing most nights. Heck, I don't even care that much about the batting order, so long as the right guys are in there somewhere.

Homer Bailey

Since Elizardo Ramirez's demotion and now injury (eek!), there's been a lot of talk both here, around the blogosphere, and most recently in the papers about potentially bringing Homer Bailey up this season. Previous reports that I'd seen indicate that Bailey would be allowed to pitch up to around 150 innings this season, but recent quotes from Krivsky indicate that 130 innings was the target at the beginning of the season. Bailey is currently at 132.7 innings, which means that the Reds should be seriously considering shutting Bailey down. Instead, they're allowing him to continue to pitch, albeit with lower pitch counts, and apparently will allow him to participate in the AA post-season. ... though Krivsky surprisingly allowed for the possibility, for the first time, that Bailey could pitch for the Reds in the coming month.

While it's great to give a kid like Bailey the opportunity to be involved in the minor-league playoffs, I do think that if the plan was for him to top out at 130 innings this season, we should just shut him down. He's just too valuable to risk for something like a minor league playoff opportunity. This is a guy who has a legitimate chance to start the season as the #5 man in the Reds' rotation next year, and potentially be our ace a year or two later--for a long time. He may very well be the best totally homegrown Reds pitching prospect since Don Gullett, and has a good chance to have an even better career if he can avoid Gullett's injuries. Yes, he's that good. Which is precisely why we need to watch his workload early in his career.

If Bailey continues to pitch over the next few weeks, though, I'm still of the opinion that he should be pitching for the Reds major league club. Michalak has had two blissfully lucky outings in three tries out. He currently has twice as many walks as strikeouts, a BABIP of 0.237, and an FIP of 6.32 to go with his 4.76 ERA. He's a time bomb waiting to go off. We need a better option in the #5 rotation slot, and Homer's really the only option can predictably win some games for us. These names, which are apparently among those that Krivsky may be trying to acquire via trade, aren't likely to be an improvement over Joe Mays, Ryan Franklin, or Michalak, and I'm already getting worried about the number of players to be named later we've been promising (thanks to Red Reporter for the latter link).

Eddie Guardado

Will Carroll said this today about our closer's recovery:
Eddie Guardado will begin throwing again, his first time since hitting the DL. His availability is going to be based on pain tolerance--Guardado's never going to be 100% this season, but he's the type of guy who'll push himself beyond the normal breaking point for a chance at the postseason.
Eddie showed he can be effective despite hurting with his excellent July performance, so there's still a chance he could still come back and be effective. But there's always that question of how much better he could be with a week or two more rest. Of course, by then it could be too late for the Reds. It's all far too unpredictable for my liking, so I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Ryan Freel

Finally, to close, I wanted to send kudos to Chris over at Redleg Nation for his excellent workup on Ryan Freel and the relationship between his performance and his rest. It's the best empirical evidence I've seen to test the "common knowledge" that Freel needs some time off each week to remain as effective as he can be. Small sample size issues are always a factor with that sort of analysis, but the magnitude of the difference in performance between the rested and unrested Freels is definitely enough to make me want to see Freel get scheduled rest. ... If only Denorfia were still on the team to "spell" him in right field. At least we'll see Deno back here in September...right?