Table of Contents

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Out of the Park Baseball 2006 Released

For those who care:

Out of the Park Baseball 2006, a massive update in the OOTP game series, has just been released. This game is different from a lot of baseball video games, in that the focus is on player management, development, and strategy, rather than on hitting a virtual baseball. You take on the role of a manager/general manager, setting lineups, making trades, signing free agents, and developing players you draft as amateurs in your minor league system. This new version features a new interface, faster simulation, and the ability to simulate not just the major and minor leagues, but also the Korean, Japanese, Cuban, and Mexican leagues at the same time.

Check it out by following this link. Beware, this game can suck away hours and hours of time--but you'll be having a blast!

Nuxhall in hospital

I just wanted to send out get-well wishes to the 'Ole Lefthander, Joe Nuxhall, who is in the hospital with "double pneumonia." I'm sure I speak for everyone in Reds Nation when I say that we've been excited to have you around more often lately, and we're looking forward to your quick return. Get well soon.

Belisle to the DL, Germano up; Reds Acquire Estaban Yan

The Yan Acquisition

Today the Reds acquired Estaban Yan for 26-year old Sarasota (A+) relief pitcher Kyle Edens. First, Edens is far too old to be pitching in High-A ball to be taken seriously as a prospect--especially as a reliever--so we clearly didn't give up anything here. The question is what we got:

Recent Estaban Yan Statistics:
2003/TEX 23.3 9.6 2.7 1.93 0.366 6.94 5.00 4.74 -2.30 0.41
2003/STL 43.3 5.8 3.3 1.66 0.317 6.02 5.76 5.77 -2.60 0.50
2004/DET 87.0 7.1 3.3 0.83 0.316 3.83 4.05 3.96 17.20 0. 54
2005/ANA 66.7 6.1 4.1 1.08 0.276 4.59 4.76 4.84 6.20 0.47
Yan, 32, is a power pitcher without eye-popping strikeout rates and with a history of control problems and an occasional tendency to give up the long ball. When he's good, for example, in his 2004 season, he keeps the ball in the park well, walks batters at a league-average rate, and strikes guys out at an above-average rate. When he's bad, he strikes guys out at a league-average rate, gives up a lot of home runs (see 2003), and is prone to walking batters at a very high rate (see 2005). He has struggled early this season, but I still think it's too early to make much of 2006 statistics, so I'm just ignoring those for now. One thing I do like about him is his relatively high ground ball/fly ball ratio (54% in 2004), which is a good fit for GABP. Unfortunately, his 2003 season's adventures with the longball indicates he sometimes is mistake-prone.

Overall, I think Yan's a decent gamble to make. At 32 he's past his prime, but still could have a decent season. I like him better than 37-year old Rick White, who Marc Lancaster indirectly hinted might be the guy to go when Yan arrives tomorrow. White's peripherals have been in a steady decline over the past several years, where as the same is not necessarily true with Yan (though there are some indications of that). Further, Yan's good recent season is understandable based on reasonable improvements in his peripherals, whereas White's good year last year was driven by a suspicious and uncharacteristicly low 0.36 hr/9 allowed.

Since White hasn't been working out well for us and has not shown me (for what little that's worth, which isn't much) an indication that he could improve, perhaps it's time to ditch him and try this other guy for a bit. To this end, I did think it interesting that White was permitted to pitch the entire inning tonight despite pitching rather poorly and effectively ensuring that the game was out of reach by giving up a few runs in his latest inning of work. Maybe it was a last look at him?

Regardless, I don't see this as a major upgrade for us either. Yan may turn in a good season (PECOTA ERA projection was 4.45 in 55 innings, with a good case scenario of 3.43 ERA in 61 innings and a bad-case scenario of 5.97 ERA in 46.7 innings), but he's a stop-gap until we can get some help from our minor leagues. And unfortunately, most of that help appears to be in AA at the moment, and therefore is probably a year or more off.

Belisle to the DL; Justin Germano called up from AAA

I'm surprised it has taken this long, but 23-year old Justin Germano, long thought to be in the mix for the #5 rotation spot prior to the Arroyo deal in spring training, has finally been called up. It looks like they plan to use him in a mop-up/long-relief role, which is appropriate given that he has been starting. Whether Germano survives the Yan acquisition remains to be seen. But let's check out his stats:
2003/SDN-A+ 110.2 6.4 2.0 0.33 0.327 4.23 2.94 4.46 -3.9 --
2003/SDN-AA 58.0 6.8 2.0 0.93 0.293 4.34 3.70 5.86 -1.6 --
2004/SDN-AA 32.1 5.6 2.0 0.84 0.268 2.51 3.82 4.99 4.1 --
2004/SDN-AAA 122.2 7.2 1.8 0.88 0.273 3.37 3.49 4.22 24.3 --
2004/SDN 21.1 6.8 6.0 0.85 0.380 8.86 4.91 4.76 -9 53%
2005/CIN-AAA 49.1 7.0 0.9 1.28 0.335 4.01 3.81 4.65 4.3 46%
2005/SDN-AAA 112.0 8.0 2.6 1.04 0.293 3.70 3.78 4.66 11.5 45%
Germano was one of the two pitchers we acquired in the excellent Joe Randa trade last July, and he has progressed reasonably well thus far in his career. He looks to have excellent control, keeps the ball in the park reasonably well, plus last year he started striking guys out at a good clip. All peripherals tend to take a hit when you move up to the major leagues, so I wouldn't look for him to do a lot up in the majors this year. Most of the scouting reports I've seen on him project his ceiling as a back of the rotation starter, but effective back of the rotation starters can be valuable guys to have. For now, long relief seems to be a good fit for him.

Monday, May 29, 2006

On bunting a runner to third

Ok, so today I was ripping my hair out watching the Reds' 8th inning. Thanks to a zero-out double by Ryan Freel, we had the tying run on second with nobody out and a very good left-handed hitter in Felipe Lopez at the plate vs. a struggling right-hander in Brandon Lyon. And I proceeded to watch Lopez intentionally get himself out, bunting a scary two-strike sacrifice to advance Freel to third. Griffey was then intentionally walked, Aurilia struck out, and Adam Dunn flew out.

Ok, ignoring the rather awkward nature of Lopez's at-bat (what on earth was he doing taking the second strike and then bunting on the next pitch??), I couldn't understand why the Reds were bunting in this situation. I know this is the classic "small-ball" type of offense, but when you've got a (very fast) runner on second you already have a man in scoring position. Yeah, it's nicer to have him on third, but giving up an out to get him there always seemed like too big a cost to pay for setting up the possibility of a sacrifice fly or run-scoring infield ground ball.

Hoping to write a scathing article proving my point, I pulled up the run expectancy matrix at TangoTiger's website. This matrix was compiled using data from the 1999-2002 seasons and provides the average number of runs teams scored in an inning given each possible combination of baserunners and outs. I compared data on two situations:
  • With a runner on second and nobody out, teams scored an average of 1.189 runs.
  • With a runner on third and one out, the situation we had after Lopez sacrificed Freel over, teams scored an average of 0.983 runs. That's a 17% drop in how many runs you score.
Looks like a bad way to go about your business, eh? Well hold on: as any old-school ball-player will tell you, this maneuver is one you do late in a ballgame to try and score only one run. In the Reds' situation, they were down 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th, and needed that one run to force a tie and avoid losing so they could start focusing on winning (the old "play to tie at home" strategy). Therefore, what really matters in that situation is the probability of scoring a single run, not additional runs beyond the one. To examine this, I looked at our two situations in the next matrix on TangoTiger's website, the Run Frequency Matrix, which gives the probabilities of scoring 0, 1, or more runs in each baserunner/out scenario. Here are the data:
  • With a runner on second and nobody out, teams scored zero runs 36.8% of the time, one run 34.8% of the time, and two or more runs 28.3% of the time.
  • With a runner on third and one out, teams scored zero runs 33.8% of the time, one run 47.8% of the time, and two or more runs 18.3% of the time.
Wow. So it looks like the small-ball guys have a point. While the overall number or runs you'll score after sacrificing a runner to third decreases, the probability that you'll score at all increases from 63.2% to 66.2%. Not a huge increase, but an increase. And, if you have less confidence in the hitter you're asking to sacrifice (in this case, Lopez) than you do in the hitters that follow him (Griffey and Aurilia), then this does turn out to be your best move in that situation.

So I learned something. Apologies to Narron (or was it Dent at that point--I think Jerry had already been tossed from the game) for all those nasty thoughts I was sending his way through the TV.

P.S. The Latin Love Machine has returned!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eric Milton's performance last night

I had the great fortune to watch the game last night. Sure, Brandon Webb showed why I rank him among the top 3 or so right-handers in the league, if not baseball. But Eric Milton was magnificent. In the first inning, I immediately noticed that his velocity was back up from his previous start, routinely hitting 91 mph on the radar gun. This is still down from where he was earlier in the season (I saw him hit 94 mph in an earlier start), but this is at least back to the velocity he had last year. But what was really impressive was his location. When he struggles, Milton tends to miss up in the zone a lot, and I just didn't see that from him yesterday. And the results were amazing, with a staggering 9k's, 0 walks, 0 hr's allowed. Very encouraging. Hopefully he can keep it going next start.

I also wanted to say a few words about Eddie Encarnacion. EdE made a critical error as he rushed to get the ball out of his glove, though its impact was eventually lessoned by a rare set of mistakes from Todd Coffey in the 9th. But I also want to point out that Eddie made at least two outstanding defensive plays yesterday as well, including a thrilling pick, spin, and throw to his left. I won't apologize for his errors, but the kid has a great future defensively. A few years from now, we'll be singing his defensive praises.

Well, the next game's starting up, the kid/wife are asleep, so I'm hopefully going to be able to get a good part of it in as it happens. Hopefully Harang can continue his recent dominance and get the Reds back on track with a win.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Transaction Roundup (5/26/06)

I'm posting this in between burping my kid. Seriously, how is it that human infants are so bad at eating? It's not like they have a lot of other things to concentrate on. At least they're good at pooping.

The Reds have made a flurry of transactions over the past week, so it's time to play catch up:

Rich Aurilia activated from the DL; Rainer Olmedo optioned back to AAA-Louisville

Per Marc. Ray Olmedo did a pretty decent job after being used (i think) exclusively as an early-inning pinch hitter. He ended up hitting 0.333/0.400/0.333 in 10 plate appearances. But his future still appears to be, at best, as a guy off the bench in coming years. Still, he's a young kid, so perhaps a trade can be made at some point.

Aurilia's return means greater flexibility around the infield for Narron, which is probably a good thing. He's been extremely effective in his appearances this season, hitting 0.271/0.333/0.510. His power is surprising and will likely decline (though the guy did hit 79 HR's from '99 to '01), though his OBP is right where you'd expect it to be given his career. I like Richie, and having him back does improve our ballclub, as long as he's not overused. I'm not crazy about Narron hitting him 3rd or 4th most days, but I don't get overly excited about lineups, save for who is in them.

I'm going to hold off on posting more stats on Aurilia, as he's next in line for the Better Know a Red feature, which'll hopefully get started again soon.

To make room for Olmedo, spring-phenom Brian Buchanan was released. Buchanon was the guy that everybody loved in spring, but he hasn't been able to do much in Louisville, hitting a woeful 0.179/0.235/0.321 for the Bats in 78 at-bats. It's always a sad thing when I guy is released, but Buchanan was unlikely to ever help the Reds much.

The Reds sign Joe Mays to a minor league contract

Mays, 30, missed all of the 2004 season, and was beat up on in '03 and '05. But he did have a good season in 2001, though his FIP and BABIP indicate that he was no where near as good as his low 3's ERA suggests:
1999/MIN 171.0 6.1 3.5 1.26 0.288 4.37 4.89 --- --- ---
2000/MIN 160.3 5.7 3.8 1.12 0.325 5.56 4.84 --- --- ---
2001/MIN 233.7 4.7 2.5 0.96 0.243 3.16 4.42 --- --- ---
2002/MIN 95.3 3.6 2.4 1.32 0.292 5.38 5.16 --- --- ---
2003/MIN 130.0 3.5 2.7 1.45 0.299 6.30 5.52 5.50 -3.0 49%
2005/MIN 156.0 3.4 2.4 1.33 0.319 5.65 5.21 5.24 -8.4 46%
Basically, Mays is a control-pitcher who relies on contact, defense, and his share of fly balls. While his strikeout rate was decent his rookie year, they plummetted each of the next three years, while his walk rates steadily improved. His best year, 2001, also showed, a substantial drop in his HR-allowed rate, though it's been far worse than league average since. Still, luck apparently played a tremendous role in his 17-13 record that year, with an extremely fortunate 0.243 BABIP and a very average 4.42 FIP.

In fact, I'd go so far to say that Mays' 2001 season is a beautiful example of why statistics like BABIP (it's usually in the 0.290 to 0.300 range) and FIP (I think of it as fielding and luck independent ERA) are so valuable. If you, as a general manager, have the good fortune to see a pitcher have that sort of year, you absolutely have to trade him that offseason. Because he'll almost certainly come back down to earth and lose his value the next year, just as Mays did.

As far as Mays' prospects go for the Reds, frankly, I think it's unlikely that he'll repeat anything like what he did early in his career unless he gets his strikeout rates way up. And 30-year old pitchers with a long track record of inadequacy don't have a renaissance very often. But it's not like the Reds are sticking the guy in their rotation today, so there's not much risk to this either. The only down-side I see is that it caused Josh Hall to be demoted to AA-Chattanooga. But at 25-years old, Hall's not made the sort of progress you'd hope to see from a prospect. Injuries suck.

Marc's post on the transaction

Mike Burns back to Louisville, Cody Ross comes of the DL, then traded to the Marlins

Burns was been ineffective with the Reds thus far and was sent down to make room for Ross's return, who has spent much of the past month in an exaggerated rehab assignment for a bruised finger. And then, today Ross was traded for a player to be named later or cash to make room for Kent Mercker's return from the DL. I'll be interested to see what we get for him, and I'm still curious to see who the player to be named later will be that we sent to the Dodgers for Ross. It's impossible to judge these moves before all the players involved are known. I liked the acquistion of Ross and thought he could be a very effective 4th outfielder. But we already have a few good candidates for a 4th outfielder, so I'm not overly upset that he's no longer with us. Hopefully he'll get some decent playing time with those young Marlins.

Dave Williams designated for assignment; Traded to the Mets for Robert Manuel

This is the biggie. Williams, who was penciled in as our #4 starter when spring training began (pre-Arroyo trade), has been largely terrible this year. And that shouldn't be too much of a surprise, because, as I noted in his BKR feature, Williams' apparently good season with the Pirates last year was heavily influenced by luck. The evidence is in his very low (lucky) 0.264 BABIP and rather bad 5.07 FIP and 5.32 PERA. Another case example of why peripheral-based pitching stats are so valuable.

Anyway, in return for Williams we got Robert Manuel, who had great success in rookie ball last year as an undrafted free agent signee for the Mets. Though as Chris from redleg nation pointed out in Marc's thread on the transaction, he was a bit old (22 yrs) for that league and therefore his success last year should be viewed with at least some skepticism. Stats:
2005/NCAA 66.1 5.6 2.2 1.23 0.248 3.12 4.46
2005/NYM-Rk 56.2 7.8 0.6 0.32 0.307 2.06 2.13
2003/NYM-A- 5.0 9.0 0.0 1.80 0.286 1.80 3.80
Maybe Manuel will turn out to be a sleeper prospect at some point in the future. But at this point, it seems like a pretty poor return for Sean Casey. I know it was a salary dump, but the best salary dumps still involve some fair prospects in return (see the Florida Marlins team this year). For all his faults, Casey was a decent ballplayer who could get on base at a good clip, even in years when he wasn't hitting well. The blame for this end result, however, lies not with our current general manager, Wayne Krivsky, but with Dan O'Brien, who made the Williams deal in the first place. While Casey's salary was too high for his production, he did contribute wins to the Reds in excess of his apparent trade value. As I've said before, O'Brien's clinching failure was his inability to make a deal for a decent pitcher last season and this past offseason. Krivsky bested him on that score in under a month on the job.

The Reds/D-backs game starts in just a few minutes! I'm looking forward to seeing baseball again. I wish my daughter could see more than a foot away, though. We'll just have to sit real close to the tv...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Back, +1 kid, and -1 hand

Hi everybody,

Just making a quick post to say that I'm back, at least in a limited capacity. I have a beautiful daughter and a tired but healthy wife to show for my absence, so I'm a happy trooper. I am finding that blogging time is somewhat limited when your baby girl is up at all hours asking for some alternation of diaper changes, feedings, and who knows what else. And that typing with one hand is an astonishingly slow process. But hopefully I can get back in the swing of things relatively soon. I've got some big things in store for this place yet!

Anyway, stay tuned.

In the meantime, let me just say that I was shocked to see Dave Williams designation for assignment. But my understanding is that the Reds still have the option of sending him to Louisville if they can't swing a deal for him. I think Williams can be valuable as a lefty out of the bullpen, though I'd agree that it's worth a go to try to trade him while he's still considered a starting pitcher. All in all, I'm pleased to see Elizardo getting the chance in the rotation over Williams. But E-Z's going to have to get his control back to succeed at this level. 3 walks in 5 innings are way over his normal rate! All in all, not a bad performance today though. Nice to see him get a second win.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Word verification active

Hi folks,

Unfortunately, I got hit with a substantial amount of spam today, so I've had to turn on word verification. I hate this thing and managed to go 2.5 months without it, but I'm not willing to clean up this much garbage more than once. Hopefully it's not more than a minor inconvenience for you folks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Better Know a Red #18 - Matt Belisle

In part 18 of our ongoing 25-part series, Better Know a Red, we turn our attention to the other young gun in the Reds' bullpen, Matt Belisle. Belisle was as second-round pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 1998 amateur draft out of McCallum High School, Austin, Texas. He had almost immediate success, posting outstanding numbers as a starter in both levels of A-ball and holding his own as a 22- and 23-year old in AA. On August 14th, 2003, during the "fire sale" that followed Jim Bowden's dismissal, the Reds acquired Belisle as the player to be named later in exchange for Kent Mercker.

Belisle debuted with the Reds briefly that year, pitched (rather poorly) a year in AAA, and then spent the entire 2005 season with the Reds club. He proved to be one of our more reliable pitchers last year. Nevertheless, he has been relegated to a long-relief role for much of this season due to the acquisition of Rick White and the success of Todd Coffey. Still only 25 years old, and Belisle still has some time to develop and may prove to be a reliable guy out of our bullpen this season.

Historical Statistics (for explanations of these statistics, please see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet in the side-bar):
2003/ATL-AA 125.3 6.8 3.0 0.36 0.304 3.52 3.22 4.67 -0.5 --
2003/CIN-AAA 26.0 5.2 1.7 0.69 0.315 3.81 3.62 4.85 0.2 --
2003/ATL-AAA 20.0 4.5 0.0 0.45 0.242 2.25 2.85 3.86 4.6 --
2003/CIN 8.7 6.2 2.1 1.03 0.309 5.19 4.00 --- --- ---
2004/CIN-AAA 162.7 5.9 2.8 0.89 0.315 5.26 4.12 4.99 -3.1 --
2005/CIN 85.7 6.2 2.7 1.16 0.312 4.41 4.40 4.70 3.5 54%
In his 2003 and 2004 minor league seasons, Belisle demonstrated an ability to keep the ball in the ballpark while exhibiting good control. He is not a strikeout pitcher, however, and maxed out at a fairly average 6.8 k/9 innings in AA. I doubt he'll ever reach that level in the major leagues.

Nevertheless, as he demonstrated last year, his combination of above-average control, average strikeout rates, and average-ish HR rates can result in an adequate pitching line. There were some rumors about him as a potential closer candidate last year, but his minor league numbers don't indicate much potential to become a classic (high strikeout) type of pitcher in that role. Nevertheless, there's good reason to think that he can continue to improve on his walk and hr-allowed numbers and become a very effective reliever, or even possibly a starter.

'05 Splits:
Category IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP
vs. Left 30 6.3 4.2 1.20 0.355 4.20 5.33
vs. Right 55 6.2 2.0 1.14 0.290 4.57 4.23
Home 41 5.9 3.1 1.31 0.283 3.94 4.95
Away 44 6.5 2.4 1.02 0.341 4.90 4.31
Given that only one year of split information is available on Belisle, these numbers should be taken only as an indication of how he performed last year, rather than some sort of predictor of future performance. Nevertheless, his left/right splits look like you'd expect for a typical right-hander. Last year, he walked lefties far more often, but otherwise was similarly effective against them. That his walk rate was more than two-fold higher, however, pushed his FIP up into the 5+ range. Clearly, a key to Belisle's effectiveness is his ability to locate his pitches and, by extension, avoid free passes.

His home/away splits indicate that Belisle threw better away from home in ~40 innings per split, though his ERA did not agree, in part due to a relatively low BABIP at home. With only 40 innings in each split, I don't feel comfortable making any real conclusions.

PECOTA75 84.0 6.0 3.0 0.86 0.292 3.97 4.10 4.29 11.1 53%
PECOTA 70.3 5.8 3.2 1.02 0.306 4.61 4.47 4.80 4.2 53%
PECOTA25 62.3 5.5 3.3 1.16 0.327 5.62 4.76 5.62 -4.4 52%
ZiPS 135.0 6.1 3.1 1.07 0.292 4.73 4.42 --- --- ---
PECOTA predicts that Belisle's performance could range from very solid (PECOTA75) to disastrous (PECOTA25). ZIPS is more or less in line with the weighted average PECOTA projection (PECOTA). One thing that really surprises me about these numbers is that they predict a higher walk rate than Belisle has shown since playing in AA-ball with Atlanta in 2003. They also predict a substantial decrease (usually) in his HR-allowed rate from his performance last year.

At the time I write this (through only 15.3 innings), Belisle has substantially higher walk rates (4.1) than any of these projections, but his k-rate and hr-allowed rates are approximately in line with these numbers. A substantial issue for Matt so far this year are the relatively rare opportunities he has gotten, but given the poor performance of Rick White this year, I have to think he'll be getting more chances in the coming weeks. My hope is that he can solidify a job as a middle reliever this year, and continue in that role over the next half-decade. If he can get his walk and hr-rates under control--which may be a matter of getting frequent enough work--he can continue his work from last year and be an important contributor out of our bullpen.

Baseball Archive, The
Baseball Cube, The
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Prospectus '06 Annual
Baseball Reference
Baseball Think Factory
CBS Sportsline
Fan Graphs
Hardball Times '06 Annual

Anticipated Downtime

Hi folks,

I just wanted to give you people a heads-up that I may have some downtime in the coming days. My wife is due with our first on June 1, but she's been having regular contractions on a 3-10 minute cycle since Monday night. Which means the kid could come at any time.

I'm not sure how long I'll be out, but I do plan to resume activities here after the birth. Hopefully.

Rany Jazayerli Completes Draft Series

Last week, Rany Jazayerli posted the final installment of his incredibly valuable article series on the amateur draft. He investigated each position among players drafted from high school and college and tracked how they performed relative to their position the draft. His results, many of which are novel and surprising, give a great indication as to what sorts players are the most reliable picks. Here are some key data from his study (I'll report only the '92-'99 data over the first three rounds of the draft, though his study also includes data going back to 1984; data indicate percent improvement from the expected wins generated by a player, given his position in the draft):

Position College HighSchool
LHP 8.0% -45.2%
RHP -22.5% -6.4%
C 49.8% 17.2%
1B 113.1% -52.9%
2B 55.6% -89.7%
3B 55.2% 31.1%
SS 45.1% -16.3%
OF -5.3% -31.8%
Really interesting results here:
  • College infielders in general seem to be a solid way to go, as many college infielders get moved to different positions (often the outfield) during their minor league careers. The biggest surprise there has to be first basemen, however, as those guys don't shift positions as often as other players; apparently they're just extremely reliable hitting prospects.
  • Among high school hitters, catchers and third basemen were the only reliable choices. Shortstops weren't terrible, so one could consider those players as well. This makes sense, as the best high school athletes are often put into those key positions. Other positions, particularly on the right side of the infield, were disasters.
  • If you want to take a pitcher, college pitchers--particularly left-handers--continued to be the most reliable picks. High school righties were also reasonably good choices as far as pitchers go. College right-handers, however, were surprisingly poor choices.
    • At least one reason for this is probably that right-handed pitchers often have to be very talented to succeed in the major leagues. Since the best righty talent in the country usually gets gobbled up out of high school these days (high signing bonuses, etc), fewer of those players go on to college. This makes the talent level of right-handed college pitchers rather poor.
    • In contrast, left-handers often can make it and perform well in The Show with less overall talent due to their advantages vs. lefty batters. It's the 'ole "crafty lefthander" scenario: there are almost twice as many left-handed pitchers (~26-27%) as there are left-handers among hitters or in the general male population (~14%), indicating a lower overall talent threshold (assuming being left-handed is not "talent") for making it to the majors among southpaws. Predicting which lefty pitchers will be "clever" enough pitchers out of high school to succeed in the majors is apparently a very tough exercise as those players have a lot to learn yet about pitching. College pitchers tend to be more polished and closer to being big-league ready, making it easier to pick the smart and crafty-types from that talent pool.
The key thing to remember about all of these data is that these are just overall trends, and do not mean that, for example, Jay Bruce is doomed to failure because he was a high school outfielder (see Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn, etc). Rather, I think what these data suggest is that if you're planning to draft a player from a typically poor category, you should take another look at that player and see if there is any special rationale for selecting him.

Rany's articles do a great job of investigating specific success and failure stories for each position, so if you're interested, I highly encourage you to head over there and read through his articles in detail. There is a subscription cost, but you can test-drive their site on a month to month basis for only $5. If you like what you see--and I'll vouch that it's the best baseball info you'll find on the web--you can then subscribe for $40/yr.

Update: This information may be particularly interesting for those participating in the Minor League Ball mock draft on Sunday, June 4.

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 (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.

Better Know a Red #17 - Rick White

In part 17 of our ongoing 25-part series, Better Know a Red, we turn our attention to the Reds' new veteran right-handed reliever, Rick White. White, 37, a Springfield, Ohio Native, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 15th round of the 1990 amateur draft out of Paducah Community College in Paducah, Kentucky. He rose steadily through the Pirates' minor league system and eventually made his major league debut with an excellent rookie season for the 1994 Pittsburgh team, posting a 3.82 ERA in 75.3 innings of work. Although he has started on occasion, the vast majority of White's 500+ major league appearances have been as a reliever. Since his rookie year, he has bounced around the major leagues, playing for the Devil Rays, Mets, Rockies, Cardinals, White Sox, Astros, Indians, and last year, back with the Pirates. In general, he has had a solid but unspectacular major league career as a journeyman reliever. He was a member of the NL-Champion New York Mets in 2000 and participated in the subway series...which few outside of New York actually remember (I, at least, decided to skip that particular World Series...).

On January 31st, 2006, the Reds signed Rick White to a 1-year contract worth up to $900,000 if he reaches incentives (it's worth nothing that this move was among the last prior to Krivsky's hiring). They hope he will be a stabilizing force in middle innings out of the pen. Thus far, he has been up and down, and lately more down than up. When White is pitching well, the Reds' bullpen has three capable right-handers (White along with Coffey and Weathers) that can guide the Reds through the second half of ballgames. The Reds need that sort of performance to help make up for their inconsistent starting pitching.

For additional biographical information (with a humorous slant), please see Red Hot Mama's profile on Rick White in her Human League feature.

Historical Statistics (for explanations of all the statistics used on this page, please see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet in the sidebar)
2003/CHW 47.7 7.0 2.5 2.08 0.298 6.61 5.46 5.25 -6.9 45%
2003/HOU 19.3 7.9 3.7 0.93 0.281 3.72 4.03 4.26 3.2 51%
2004/LAN-AAA 11.7 10.8 0.8 0.00 0.159 0.00 1.06 2.53 3.6 --
2004/CLE 78.3 5.1 3.3 1.72 0.277 5.29 5.68 5.56 1.9 49%
2005/PIT 75.0 4.8 3.5 0.36 0.320 3.72 3.81 4.11 6.7 56%
White's story over the past three years is that of an aging pitcher who reinvented himself. In 2003 and 2004 he was generally pretty bad. His strikeout rate dropped substantially between '03 and '4, while his walk rates and home run rates remained relatively high. Last year, White seemed to be much improved. His low strikeout rate remained, as his walk rates were relatively unchanged, but his HR-allowed rates plummeted to an almost absurdly low 0.36 hr/9: White only allowed 3 home runs in 75 innings. This newfound ability to keep the ball in the park allowed White to be a very effective pitcher last year, turning in an honest 3.72 ERA (FIP=3.81) and being a bright spot in the Pirates' bullpen.

'03 to '05 Splits:
Category IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP
vs. Left 91 6.7 3.7 0.99 0.280 4.53 4.38
vs. Right 129 4.9 2.9 1.47 0.308 5.16 5.42
Home 106 5.2 2.8 1.61 0.296 5.26 5.45
Away 91 5.7 3.8 1.29 0.281 4.35 5.23
Surprisingly, White has been more effective vs. left-handed batters than right-handed batters over the past three years. While he walks them more often, he strikes them out more often and allows fewer home runs to left-handers than to right-handed batters. And it's a substantial effect: in 2005, he posted a 2.96 ERA vs. lefties and a 4.09 ERA vs. righties! I haven't seen White pitch enough to know why this might be, though some right-handers can be very effective vs. lefties by throwing cutters in on the hands (e.g. Mariano Rivera). In contrast, the few times I've seen him, White seems to rely on a 94-mph fastball. I've love to hear from folks who might be able to explain this interesting split. Regardless of how he does it, this tendency has interesting implications for how he should be used, particularly given that the Reds are already carrying three lefthanders in their bullpen.

PECOTA75 59.3 5.3 2.9 0.76 0.295 3.42 4.08 4.05 11.6 52%
PECOTA 53.7 5.2 3.0 1.01 0.315 4.63 4.50 5.04 3.1 52%
PECOTA25 43.3 4.8 3.5 1.45 0.346 6.81 5.42 6.83 -9.2 51%
ZiPS 78.0 5.1 3.3 1.04 0.288 4.96 4.69 --- --- ---
Honestly, I'm surprised the projections are as kind to White as they are. All do predict a decline from last year, but there's a way in which I think they might be a bit generous All seem to agree that this strikeout rate is unlikely to return to its 2003 levels. That seems natural, given that '03 represented a career high in strikeout rate. However, they also predict that his HR-allowed rate will remain near his career norms: not as good as '05, but not as bad as they were in '03-'04. From my perspective, I see a guy who, at 36, managed a good season in the face of reduced ability (strikeout rate) by keeping the ball in the park a rate well below his career norms.

Whether he'll be able to maintain this good fortune (and I'm guessing that's mostly what it was) this season is questionable. Early returns, unfortunately, are not good. White has already, in only 16 innings given up more home runs (4) than he did in 75 innings last season (3). It's still possible that he could turn in a solid season for us, but my feeling is that he's headed for something closer to the PECOTA25 prediction, which is well below that of replacement level. Given his historical lack of effectiveness against right-handers, my strong preference would be to give more of the middle-inning situations to Matt Belisle to see if he can regain his form. Eventually, I'd probably recommend White's release in favor of someone from the farm system. However, with Ryan Wagner imploding at AAA, the only plausible replacements might be someone like Mike Burns or Jason Standridge, neither of whom seem to offer much of an improvement. Perhaps Balfour will return from his injury soon...

Baseball Archive, The
Baseball Cube, The
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Prospectus '06 Annual
Baseball Reference
Baseball Think Factory
CBS Sportsline
Fan Graphs
Hardball Times '06 Annual

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:
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:
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.