Table of Contents

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Oswalt signs for big money

The mid-market Houston Astros tried to guarantee themselves at least one win per five games vs. the Reds over the next five years yesterday by signing Roy Oswalt to a huge 5-year, $73 million contract extension that will take him through his age 34 season. Pretty good birthday present, eh?

Wow. First, a 5-year contract is a mighty impressive...and rather risky thing to give a pitcher. There's no question that Oswalt has been a superb, vastly underrated (outside of the NL Central) pitcher for a lot of years now for the Astronomicals. And he's been as durable as anyone. But pitchers have a way of encountering major injuries and/or rapidly losing effectiveness, and 5 years is a huge commitment. Furthermore, the money is amazing. Joe Sheehan has an excellent article about this in Baseball Prospectus today. Here's an excerpt:
The numbers are staggering: an average annual value of $14.6 million per year, heights not reached by any pitcher in a deal longer than two years since the 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement increased revenue sharing and investment taxes on payrolls. Those mechanisms have served to make contracts signed before that CBA went into effect--such as megadeals for Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton and Mike Mussina anachronisms. Those three pitchers signed contracts paying more than $14 million per season in the 1998 and 2000 offseasons. In the four offseasons under the new CBA, free-agent pitchers maxed out at about $13 million per annum, with Pedro Martinez setting the pace. The top free-agent pitchers in each year signed deals within a small range of $12 million-$13 million per season.
Oswalt's deal dramatically raises the bar for top starting pitchers, setting the price for a top starter on the open market at $15 million per year. Given that the Astros had Oswalt's rights for 2007 for what would likely have been around $13 million (Oswalt is making $11 million in the second year of a two-year, $16.9-million deal) , you can look at this as a four-year, $60-million contract for 2008-2011.
As is the case any time salaries take a big surge forward, this is bad news for a small market team like the Reds. I'm not certain about this, but I believe that Harang may be eligible for free agency after next season, as he's currently in his 5th major league season. Even if he's ours through 2008 (like Arroyo), Harang and pitchers like Lohse will have the opportunity to go through arbitration, which awards salary based on comparable players. This signing could potentially increase the amount of cash the reds have to pay to their pitchers as early as this offseason.

Furthermore, money permitting, the Reds would undoubtedly love to sign a quality free agent starting pitcher this offseason. This signing will absolutely cause an adjustment of perhaps $1-2 million in the going rate for high-end starting pitchers, and this will percolate as you move down the ranks of quality free agents. It will be interesting to see what the offseason brings.

In other news...

The Reds have recently signed Jason Johnson and traded for Tim Bausher. I haven't looked at Bausher much yet, but I think the Johnson could do a great job in the #5 hole for the Reds. Potentially a very valuable pick-up. More on him soon.

Also, I'm blissfully ignoring what's happening with the Reds until I do my August recap, which will hopefully be up in the first few days of September (lots of relatives coming into town this weekend, though, so it might be a few days later than I'd like).

Minor League Season Ends

A few comments as the minor league season winds up. First, accolades:
  • Congrats to Joey Votto for being named Southern League MVP. Final stats: 0.319/0.408/0.547. Will be in AAA next season, and will almost certainly (saving an implosion) make his major league debut next year, probably late in the season.
  • Congrats to Chris Valaika for his recognition as the Pioneer League MVP. Valaika is definitely raising some eyebrows this season. A 32-game hitting streak can do that. Final stats: 0.324/0.387/0.520. Promote to Dayton, baby.
  • BP's Kevin Goldstein ranks Homer Bailey as the #2 right-handed pitching prospect in baseball...just barely behind the Yankees Philip Hughes. Combined stats: 138.2 IP, 2.47 ERA (1.59 at AA), 156/50 K/BB. 'Course, his season might not be over yet, even though it probably should be. I'd give him a 50:50 chance of making the rotation next year. Otherwise, he'll be in AAA.
  • Jay Bruce cooled a bit from his midseason form, but he ended up with a superb first full season with Dayton: 0.291/0.355/0.516. I'm sure he'll be in be in High-A Sarasota next year as a young 20-year old.
It's great to see so many Reds farmhands doing so well this year! Thanks to Doug Gray at for much of this news.

Commentary on Stubbs and Lincecum

Reds' #1 selection Drew Stubbs wrapped up his season by hitting 0.252/0.368/0.400 for the Rookie-league Mustangs. Not exactly what we'd hoped, though his on base percentage and high walk rates are still promising. Kevin Goldstein had this to say about him recently:
I gave Stubbs neither a plus nor a minus as his scouting reports were so mixed; there are many who thought he'd dominate the Pioneer League, and many who thought he'd immediately crash and burn as a pro. A strikeout for roughly every three at-bats is a concern, but he's showing all sorts of secondary skills.
Stubbs can still turn out to be something, but as a college hitter, he is already getting on the old side (22 in October) to be in rookie ball. By comparison, Joey Votto is 22 (23 in September) and just raked through AA. I'm sure that Stubbs will play in Dayton next year, hopefully with better success than the soon to be 24-year old B.J. Szymanski (0.239/0.309/0.415).

...maybe this is playing "I told you so" a bit too much, but I wrote in my piece on the '06 amateur draft that I was surprised that the Reds didn't go for one of the available college pitchers instead of Stubbs. In particular, Tim Lincecum was available at the Reds pick. Well.... today, Goldstein rated Lincecum as the #5 right-handed pitching prospect in baseball, saying this:
Lincecum is quickly becoming one of the hardest players to rank in all of minor league baseball. While it's only 26.2 innings, the raw statistics are ridiculous, and the stuff is as well; Lincecum has already touched 100 mph as a pro, and his curveball is among the best in the minors. The only issues here are some control problems in his past and his size--but at what point do we stop caring about the fact that the guy is 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds? He showed a rubber arm in college, never having injury problems despite some ridiculous pitch counts on Fridays and frequent relief appearances on Sundays. He's an aberration, and he's seemingly proven that what is normally a concern shouldn't be in this individual case. Yet, I put him fifth here--on stuff alone, he might deserve a ranking as high as No. 1.
Lincecum's combined line: 31.7 innings, 1.71 ERA, 12 bb, 58(!!!) k's combined in short-season A-ball and High-A ball in the Giants' organzation. That's filthy. ... Sure would be nice to have him right now.

...By the way, has made a huge improvement to its player stats pages. They now include a host of splits and game logs from the last 10 games. Still more to be done there, but it's a big improvement.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No Draft Pick Compensation?

I'm not in the mood to talk about the Reds right now, so let's chat baseball news. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are currently in negotiations to renew the Contract Binding Agreement, which expires at the end of the season. We're starting to hear about some of the negotiated changes to the next agreement. For example, Maury Brown just reported the following on his blog:
Ken Davidoff of Newsday reported just over a week ago that teams may no longer receive draft picks as compensation for free agents who leave as part of the upcoming CBA.

Now comes word through sources that all the clubs have been notified that this indeed will be the case as both the Players Association and MLB have come to terms on the matter.

This would explain, in part, why Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee have been on the trading block. Both the Nationals and Rangers have been hot to try and get something for these two players before free agency forces both clubs to possibly walk away without anything for these two top players that were not dealt at the trading deadline.
I'm surprised and disappointed to hear this. While determining who gets compensation picks, and what degree of compensation should be awarded for the loss of a given free agent have always been somewhat nebulous to me, the rule is there to help cushion small market clubs from the blows of free agency. Basically, here's how it works (to the best of my knowledge):
  • When a team loses a high-profile player to free agency, the team that ultimately signs the player is required to give the original team a draft pick in compensation for the free agency acquisition.
  • Different levels of free agents are established (somehow). The highest level (Type-A free agents) result in a pick in the first round. Lower-level free agents result in later-round picks.
  • Teams that finished in the bottom-15 of the standings are protected from compensation. So if the rule were to stay in effect this year and the Royals signed a type-A free agent this offseason, they would not be required to give up their first-round pick to the other team.
Here's an example, as was described in Michael Lewis's Moneyball:

The Oakland A's lost both Giambi and Damon (among others) to free agency after the 2001 season. All of their losses allowed the A's to draft and sign six players in the first round that year, which included two of their current top young players, Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton. As Rany Jazayerli has shown, early-round selections are far more valuable than later-round selections in terms of the frequency with which they pay off, so these compensation picks are legitimately valuable commodities.

It will be interesting to hear why this rule was abolished. To me, this looks like it hurts everyone but the big market teams. Players may be "hurt" because teams will be more likely to try to trade them in their free agency year (which is no fun for the player...probably...though I suppose some might like to be traded to contenders) to avoid losing those players and getting nothing in return. Furthermore, smaller-market teams are clearly hurt because they will no longer gain any compensation when big-market teams sign their best players. I just don't see a good justification for removing this underrated rule that seems to do nothing but promote competitive balance.

The one thing I do like about it is that Jim Bowden may be thoroughly screwed by the Soriano deal. And it's always nice to hear news of bad things happening to bad people. It's karma, baby.

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 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. :)

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?

Reds in virtual tie for first place with Cardinals

There are six games left in August, and then one final month to the season. Still lots of baseball to play. But the Reds are in a virtual tie for first place in the National League Central Division, and lead the wild card by 1.5 games. Booyeah!
Somebody pinch me! This is exciting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Reds exchange Schoeneweis, Belisle, and Norris for PTBNL, Shackelford, Guardado, Michalak, and Burns

There have been a series of recent transactions that deserve comment:

Schoeneweis for PTBNL + Cash; Shackelford Demoted Again

Anther day, another trade. This one finally involves a player that may actually prove valuable, 32-year old left-handed reliever Scott Schoeneweis. Stats:
2003/ANA 38.7 6.8 2.3 0.47 0.294 3.96 3.38 3.49 6.40
2003/CHA 26.0 9.3 3.1 0.35 0.333 4.50 2.78 3.08 1.70
2004/CHA 112.7 5.5 3.9 1.36 0.309 5.59 5.32 5.12 5.90
2005/TOR 57.0 6.8 3.9 0.32 0.295 3.32 3.67 3.77 12.90
2006/TOR 37.3 4.3 3.9 0.72 0.293 6.51 4.65 --- -0.80
In 2004, the White Sox tried Schoeneweis out as a starting pitcher, which is how he initially started (in painful fashion) his career with Anaheim. It didn't go well. Nevertheless, as a relief pitcher -- and often a LOOGY -- Schoeneweis has been excellent every year recent year prior to '06. Most notable are his superb HR/9 numbers, which are the result of his excellent 52-60% ground ball percentage. His strikeout totals generally are pretty high as well, though he always has been one to walk a lot of batters. This year, he's clearly struggled, with much lower than typical strikeout rates and higher than usual (though still very good) homer rates. His FIP is quite a bit lower than his ERA, however, indicating that he may have been a bit unlucky so far this season. With a change of scenery, we can hope that his strikeout numbers will increase and he'll see results in keeping with his peripherals.

Provided that his leg injury is as insubstantial as he claims, I think we can reasonably hope for a low to mid-4's ERA from him the rest of the way, which is definitely a valuable commodity. Hopefully the player to be named later won't be anyone worth fretting over.

Brian Shackelford was demoted AGAIN to make room. Whether Schoeneweis is any better than Shackelford is debatable, but I'm ok with this move. It is remarkable how much Shack has been jerked back and forth this year though. On top of that were those dismissed sexual assault charges, it has to be an incredibly frustrating year for the guy.

Guardado to DL; Belisle Returns

In the latest loss to our already-hobbled pitching staff, Eddie Guardado went on the DL. Will Carroll wrote this about his injury:
The Reds have gotten more than most expected from Eddie Guardado since acquiring him. Now he's injured, which is what most expected. A MRI showed that Guardado has inflammation in his elbow, not surprising given the problems he's had in his shoulder. The normal cascade pattern is holding for Guardado, who's now in much the same situation as his former teammate, Brad Radke. Both are holding on, hoping that their damaged arms can do just enough to give them one more shot at the postseason. For those of you wondering how much some athletes want that ring, look no further than this. Guardado heads to the DL, but shouldn't be on for much more than the minimum. Rest will help, but there's a point of diminishing returns
Not very encouraging. And I see no reason to suspect that Carroll's wrong about this one. The Reds' bullpen hasn't been great, but it's had a remarkably better look since Guardado took over 9th inning duties. Narron has indicated that he'll go closer by committee, which probably the only option he has now. Unless he wants to give Bray a go there... Personally, I'm all for using the best relievers you have in the highest leverage situations, whether they're in the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings, so that's fine with me. But I'm scared.

Belisle still hasn't been given a chance to do much this year, although to be fair he's been hurt a fair bit this year. Hopefully he can step up big for us and put up some zeros on the board.

Michalak to bereavement list; Norris Hopper promoted; Mike Burns designated for assignment

As expected, Michalak's follow-up appearance to his exciting flash in the pan Reds debut turned out to be pretty ugly. But since the Reds don't really have any other viable options for the #5 starter, the Reds are going to stick with him for at least one more start. Hopefully he can do well tomorrow, but I'm not really expecting much. Nevertheless, he's currently on the bereavement list so that he can attend the funeral of his 102 year-old grandmother (Wow! My grandmother would only be in her 80's if she was still around). This allowed the Reds to promote 27-year old right-handed center fielder Norris Hopper to the big league squad for a few days. Stats:
Year/Team PA %K %BB %HR SB/% OBP SLG OPS
2003/KC-AA 456 13% 6% 0.0% 24/71% 0.346 0.342 0.688
2004/KC-AA 403 11% 8% 0.0% 17/71% 0.345 0.309 0.654
2005/CIN-AA 483 8% 6% 0.2% 25/78% 0.354 0.368 0.722
2006/CIN-AA 46 22% 0% 0.0% 3/100% 0.265 0.370 0.635
2006/CIN-AAA 362 6% 5% 0.0% 24/77% 0.379 0.395 0.774
Generally a high-average hitter with almost zero power, he also doesn't walk enough to be particularly promising as a leadoff-type guy. The fact that he was able to improve his numbers when going from AA to AAA is a good sign, but he made this transition at age 27--an age when legitimate prospects should be well-secured in the major leagues. That's not to say that he can't be valuable as a 5th outfielder; I'm just saying that we shouldn't get too excited by his nifty 0.349 AAA batting average. His steal totals indicate that he doesn't have over-the-top speed, but is plenty capable of taking a base at a high success rate. I don't have any data on his fielding abilities, but the fact that he's playing centerfield for the Bats, as well as his good baserunning numbers, all suggest he's got good range.

Hopper will almost certainly be demoted tomorrow, but I'd look for him to get a call up in September to serve in as a pinch runner or late-inning defensive replacement. He might win us a game or two in that role.

Mike Burns was designated for assignment to make room for Hopper on the 40-man roster. Burns made the opening-day roster this year, but quickly got sent to the minors for ineffectiveness. He made it back once, only to get roughed up again. Burns is one of those guys who could turn into a serviceable reliever, as his minor league performance has included great walk rates and impressive strikeout rates. But he's starting to get near the latter half of his peak years and has yet to have any success on a major league ballclub. It won't surprise me if he gets claimed off of waivers...but then again, it won't surprise me if we keep him either.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ruhle back; Griffey's parents ill; Stewart on his way out

A few pieces of Reds news I wanted to acknowledge:

Vern Ruhle returns to Reds

I'm delighted to see that Ruhle finally made it back to the Reds, hopefully for the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see how the Reds deal with the fact that they have both Tom Hume (who has to be given at least some of the credit for the improvements of many Reds' pitchers this season) and Ruhle on staff, but for now it's just good to see the guy back in uniform.

Griffey's parents fighting cancer

Just a few days before Ruhle's return, however, we received the terrible news that Ken Griffey Jr.'s parents both may have cancer. His mother is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer, while Griffey Sr. is still in the diagnosis stage with prostate cancer. Best wishes to the Griffey family, who are nothing if not good people.

Steve Stewart told he will be let go

This was a big surprise to me, and I generally agree with most of what has been written on the various blogs and newspaper editorials. Stewart isn't a terrific sportscaster, but he's been surprisingly enjoyable to listen to this season. As Marty Brennaman stated, Stewart has improved dramatically since his first year with the team, and is among the best-prepared sportscasters I've heard. Sure, he's not artful or all that lively, but at this point in his career, I'd rate him as (probably) a more capable broadcaster than Nuxhall was over any part of my adult lifetime (I love Nuxhall, but it's more for his wonderful personality than his aptitude as a sportscaster). As is his style, Steve Stewart is reacting with unbelievable class and humility to this news. Hopefully, he will catch on somewhere quickly and continue his dream of being a major league radio broadcaster.

I'll be interested to see who they pick this time around though. The Lindner regime that chose Stewart was known for their caution and general blandness when marketing the Reds. I suppose that made Stewart a suitable choice for them.. The Castellini group, on the other hand, has shown a lot of spunk thus far in their PR. I have to think their choice for Stewart's replacement may reflect this style. Spring training should be an interesting time in the Reds' booth this season.

Aurilia defeats Astros with 3-run homer

I don't highlight many games, but I do try to at least document some of the most dramatic games over the course of the season. The amazing thing about the Reds is that they've had so darn many of these amazing games this year. For all my frustrations over management decisions, and my ongoing concern about future implosions, these guys just keep on winning.

Last night, it was Rich Aurilia doing the honors, smashing a 3-run homer to tie up a 3-0 lead by the Astros in what had to that point been a frustrating game for the Reds' offense. It sure is fun when they win.

As has become my custom, here is the WPA graph for last night's game, courtesy of If you haven't already, you owe it to yourself to go exploring over at FanGraphs. The WPA graphs are their hottest commodity, but there is far more to the site than just win probability.
One of the interesting things about this graph is that it shows Aurilia's homer as pushing the Reds well over the 50% mark, even though the game was tied at that point. This was caused by two factors: 1. the Reds had more outs left than the Astros at that point in the game, and 2. the Reds possessed home-field advantage.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Hi folks,

This past week has been insane for me as classes get underway, as I've been heavily involved in the new graduate student orientation procedures at my university. This has resulted in me being unable to commit much (any, really) time towards the blog. I'll try to remedy this in the coming days, with profiles on the recent arrivals to the team and other news.

JD just pointed out that my permanent links were broken, apparently the result of my incomplete "upgrade" of the blog to the new blogger templates. To fix this, I've had to switch over to one of their templates, which I'm finding to be far less customizable than before. But that created all sorts of other problems. Most obviously, it killed my previous site layout, including all of my links to the left. Those are replacable though. The bigger problem is that the main text window is now absurdly small -- I had edited it it to be a decent width in the previous build. The result is that many of the tables I've historically been using are now running off the page. Very irritating.

Apparently they will restore the ability to directly edit the template soon, but how soon I can't say--hopefully within the month. In the meantime, I'm going to see if I can come up with some workarounds, which may involve alternate means of posting my data (using "pre" html tags and such). We'll see what I can come up with.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Update in Majewskigate

(Kudos to Chris at Redleg Nation for the title)

Interesting tidbit in Will Carroll's BP Under the Knife today about the Krivsky/Bowden feud:
On another Reds injury note, I'm told that Wayne Krivsky has asked the Nationals to send him a minor-leaguer to "even out" the Gary Majewski deal instead of filing a grievance.
I haven't seen this reported anywhere else, but Will Carroll has some excellent sources. It will be interesting to see whether anything comes of this. I'd be shocked if Bowden gives up anything more without a more tangible threat of sanctions.

Upgraded to Blogger Beta

I just "upgraded" this blog to the apparently new version of Blogger. It comes with several new toys to play with, including categories, so I'll probably be making some changes around here over the next week or so. One thing I'm definitely planning to do is to make a nicer banner image -- last week I changed my little Mr. Red guys up top, but it's still not quite where I want it to be. If something goes haywire, please let me know. Also, if you have any suggestions for formatting, style, or even content, feel free to offer them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hell truly hath frozen over

Aurilia is playing shortstop today! And Eddie Encarnacion is hitting above him in the batting order! We're actually playing all the guys that I would play if I were putting together the lineup! It's incredible!

So please, guys, score a lot of runs. Show Jerry this is a good idea. He needs the positive reinforcement.

Update: Three consecutive home runs is pretty impressive. Hope that'll do the trick. Though I have a feeling this is a "day game after a night game"-type lineup.

Ramirez sent to AAA; What Now?

Following his rather abusive treatment by Jerry Narron--seriously, the kid's only 23 years old and you're stressing his arm by pitching him on back to back days? Seriously?--Elizardo Ramirez was demoted to AAA-Louisville tonight. Through July, Elizardo was the Reds' third-best starting pitcher, racking up 10 quality starts in 17 tries. On July 27th, he had one of his best games, which included seven consecutive strikeouts in an 8-4 win over the Houston Astros. Since then, however, he's been shelled in three straight starts...along with that strange relief appearance in the 14-inning game on August 11th. The most notable thing that's happened in his recent bad games is that his control seems to have deserted him, as he's walked more batters than innings pitched in August. Very unusual for the usually pin-point-accurate Ramirez.

He shouldn't be physically tired just yet. The 102 2/3 innings he's pitched this season with the Reds, along with 22 minor-league innings, gives him a total of 124 2/3 innings this season. Last year, he threw about 150 innings between Cincinnati and Louisville, and in '04 he threw almost 140 innings. But he may very well be mentally exhausted. I'm ok with sending him down to help him recover some confidence. Hopefully he will get a few good starts under his belt and then be ready to pitch again for the Reds down the stretch.

His demotion does have me worried about the rotation, though. Right now, the rotation stands as:
1. Harang (sort of struggling)
2. Arroyo (struggling)
3. Milton
4. Lohse
5. ????

I trust Harang to get it back together. Arroyo needs to figure something out and fast, but I'm confident in him as well. Milton feels like a wild card every time he goes out, though to be fair he's pitched somewhere between adequate and very well his last four times out. I'm still not sure what we can expect from Lohse, though I hope he can continue to deliver quality starts most of the time. But the #5 spot is a huge black hole until (unless?) Ramirez can come back. Let's run down some of the options:
  • Paul Wilson and Brandon Claussen are out until next season with injuries. I'm really bummed that Wilson never made it back this year, as a healthy Wilson would be a huge boost right now. Claussen hasn't be right since the season started.
  • If you think like Jerry Narron, Ryan Franklin is an obvious candidate for the job given his credentials as a starter the last four years. But he allows just as many fly balls & homers as Milton, and yet gets fewer strike outs. Disaster.
  • I wouldn't be surprised to see Michalak get another start after his performance last night, but his luck will probably run out the next time the Reds put him in a game. Disaster.
  • Belisle should be considered, but probably won't be, as the Reds have been surprisingly (to me at least) disinterested in trying him as a starter again.
  • Gosling is young and has major league starting experience, though he hasn't pitched particularly well in AAA this year (4.36 ERA in 97 IP, 78/49 K/BB...scary walk totals).
  • There's always Joe Mays... Heh, that'd be fun. He's still in the Louisville rotation, which is shocking--I was sure they'd try to convert him to a reliever so he can try to salvage his career.
  • I guess Phil Dumatrait is another option. He's been solid at both Louisville (3.86 ERA, 46/22 K/BB in 70 IP) and Chattanooga (3.62 ERA, 45/22 K/BB) this year. But that'd be jumping him two levels in one year, and might be too much to ask. His K and BB rates already took a hit when he moved up to AAA.
  • Justin Germano (3.69 ERA in 117 IP, 67/22 K/BB at AAA-Louisville this year) sure would be a handy cog right now, eh? But, of course, he's no longer with us.
Seriously, what the heck would you do if you were Krivsky? The Reds are in a playoff run and cannot afford to just give up on every fifth game, especially with the rest of our rotation being as shaky as it is. But I don't see a single viable option here. Do you go with a four-man rotation?

...There is Homer Bailey. I didn't ever think I'd say this, but I think it's worth a shot. Homer has pitched 118 innings this season between Sarasota and Chattanooga, which is still below the maximum limit I've seen quoted for him (~150 IP?). Maybe we should bring him up, keep a close eye on his pitch count in each game, and then shut him down as soon as he hits his maximum inning limit? Elizardo can come back at that point, hopefully.

Bailey may be our only shot right now. Yes, I know, you have to worry about injuring the kid or otherwise screwing him up. But the Reds are trying to make it into the playoffs for the first time in ELEVEN years. It's mid-August, and we're 2.5 games back of the Cards and lead the wild card by 0.5 games. Really, what's the difference between bringing him up now versus bringing him up next year around this time. Does one year make such a difference?

To me, this is when you go for it with everything you have. And Homer probably gives us our best (only?) chance to win among all the potential #5 rotation candidates right now. So let's all cross our collective fingers and give the kid a shot.

A Look at the Newest Reds: Franklin, Hollandsworth, and Michalak

Tonight, Chris Michalak had the kind of night that every journeyman minor leaguer deserves to experience at least once in their careers. It's the kind of thing that makes baseball so wonderful--anyone can be a hero, even if for just one night. Who knows what the future will bring for him and how long he'll stick with the club. Tonight, though, he's the man.

I've been planning to go through the Reds' recent acquisitions for a few days now. Let's start with Michalak, and then take a belated look at Franklin and Hollandsworth. Unfortunately, in terms of help past tonight's game, I'm not high on any of these three.

Chris Michalak, 35-year old left-handed pitcher

Michalak's last year in the big leagues prior to tonight came with Texas in 2002, when he pitched 14 1/3 relief innings. He did split the 2001 season between relieving and starting for Toronto and Texas, ultimately going 8-9 with a 4.41 ERA in 136 2/3 innings. Here are his more recent stats:
2003/COL-AAA 120.3 5.4 3.3 1.65 0.286 4.41 5.48
2003/CIN-AAA 26.3 6.2 1.7 1.03 0.344 5.13 3.88
2004/FLO-AAA 34.0 5.3 4.0 2.38 0.299 6.35 6.79
2004/MIL-AAA 48.7 5.4 3.3 0.55 0.346 5.18 3.92
2005/ARI-AAA 165.0 4.0 2.3 1.47 0.259 4.47 5.19
2006/CIN-AAA 132.3 4.1 1.9 1.16 0.271 2.99 4.58
According to Baseball-Reference, his movement between teams in '03 and '04 were both the result of "conditional deals." At least it means he wasn't released each year. Nevertheless, what I see here is a guy who is doing everything he can to try to hang on and get another shot back at the big leagues. It finally happened tonight, four seasons after his last appearance. The reason for the delay was almost certainly the fact that he's been very inconsistent, even at the AAA level. His 2.99 ERA this year is his first below 4.00 since he returned to the minors, and he's done it entirely via his control. Strike outs are rare (4.1 k/9 is horrible, especially for AAA), and he allows a fair number of homers.

I don't see him having any sort of long-term success at the major-league level, I'm certain that the only reason he was brought up for today's game was that he had a fresh arm that could be insurance against Ramirez not being able to come back from last night's abusive treatment (which obviously he wasn't -- more on that later). I honestly would be surprised if Michalak sticks with the big league club for more than a week. But good for him for getting a night to remember as his career winds down. He made the biggest difference between a win and a loss in today's game, and that win could prove to be crucial to the Reds' post-season run.

Todd Hollandsworth, 33-year old left-handed outfielder

Hollandsworth began his major league career with a bang, winning the 1996 Rookie of the Year award with a solid if unspectacular opening campaign for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was the last time he'd even break 300 at-bats in a season, and has since found consistent if unglamorous work as a left-handed outfielder playing off the bench. Recent stats:
2003/FLO 252 22% 9% 1.2% 0.317 0.421 0.738 --- 0.248 0.252 0.0
2004/CHN 166 16% 10% 4.8% 0.392 0.547 0.939 0.917 0.313 0.308 13.5
2005/CHN 289 18% 6% 1.7% 0.301 0.388 0.689 0.700 0.232 0.237 -3.6
2005/ATL 40 33% 13% 2.5% 0.275 0.257 0.532 0.714 0.188 0.191 -3.0
2006/CLE 162 20% 2% 3.7% 0.253 0.442 0.695 0.731 0.224 --- -3.8
Basically, he's just not very good. He did have one surprisingly good season with the Cubs in 2004, but otherwise has maintained somewhere between a 0.532 and 0.738 OPS. His PrOPS has been more consistent in recent years (always above 0.700), but generally is right around or below replacement level.

Known as a good defensive guy in the outfield, and able to be a contact-oriented left-handed hitter off the bench, he probably does have some value as a 5th outfielder at this point in his career. But I'm not sure that he's any different in terms of what we can expect from him than the likes of Quinton McCracken or DeWayne Wise. He might have slightly more power than those guys, but he's not been able to consistently get on base at anything even approaching an acceptable rate, except, of course for that 2004 campaign. Honestly, I liked McCracken a little better--and I like Chris Denorfia a lot better, even though he's a righty. But as long as he doesn't become our starter in right field, I'm not going to complain that much...provided, of course, the player to be named later is unlikely to ever reach the majors.

Ryan Franklin, 33-year old right-handed pitcher

Prior to this season, Franklin was a regular in the rotation of the Seattle Mariners. He had one really good season with them in 2003, but as we'll see, defense-independent pitching stats do a world of good in explaining why he never came close to those numbers again:
2003/SEA 212.0 4.2 2.6 1.44 0.235 3.57 5.21 5.44 49.1 37%
2004/SEA 200.1 4.7 2.7 1.48 0.278 4.90 5.22 5.29 20.3 38%
2005/SEA 190.2 4.4 2.9 1.32 0.278 5.10 5.11 5.26 11.5 42%
2006/PHI 53.0 4.2 2.9 1.70 0.268 4.58 5.67 --- 8.4
Franklin is a low strikeout, high homer, low walk kind of guy. He allows a ton of fly balls, and a lot of those go out as home runs. His only saving grace, if you can call it that, is a below-average walk total. His peripherals have been remarkably consistent over the past several years, so we can expect no surprises this year. His 2003 ERA of 3.57 seems entirely driven by his very lucky 0.235 BABIP, with both his FIP and PERA showing 5+ runs/9 expectations. Not pretty. Furthermore, his hr/9 numbers took a big leap this year (they were already high!), no doubt in part due to pitching in Citizen's Bank Park instead of the more pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Expect more of the same in Great American Ballpark.

I don't honestly seem him helping the Reds much this year. And he might hurt them badly.

Accompanying Transactions:

For Michalak: Mercker to Disabled List; Bergolla DFA'd

Kent Mercker hurt his elbow during last night's game, and apparently fears it could be a severe problem. And that would effectively end his career, not to mention the chances of him helping the Reds reach the playoffs. It's a real shame. Mercker is, by all reports, a hysterical guy around the clubhouse, and, when healthy, he's been one of the few reliable relievers the Reds have had all year. This is a big blow for the Reds' bullpen. And we didn't need any more blows out there.

Bergolla, 23, was designated for assignment to clear room for Michalak on the 40-man roster. He may be picked up by another team as he passes through waivers, and that could come back to haunt us. Bergolla won't ever be a star, but he has a good chance to be a decent utility infielder. As Doug Gray pointed out, he's only 23, and he's been playing in AAA for two years now. By comparison, Reds '06 first-round selection Drew Stubbs turns 22 in October and is having only marginal success in Rookie-league Billings. Recent stats:
2003/CIN-A+ 557 11% 5% 0.4% 52/74% 0.309 0.342 0.651 0.225 0.221 -19.6
2004/CIN-AA 511 12% 8% 0.8% 36/86% 0.342 0.369 0.711 0.246 0.235 -7.9
2005/CIN-AAA 422 9% 5% 0.5% 16/84% 0.325 0.390 0.715 0.244 0.237 -0.6
2005/CIN 38 26% 0% 0.0% 0/0% 0.132 0.132 0.264 0.092 0.101 -6.1
2006/CIN-AAA 380 11% 4% 0.5% 9/60% 0.303 0.349 0.652 0.224 --- ---
Bergolla reminds me a lot of Juan Castro. Bergolla has yet to really hit well thus far in his career, but he has managed to remain modestly effective for an slick-fielding shortstop at each level he's encountered thus far. His performance this season is a bit disappointing to me, as I was hoping to see him show his MLB-readiness by pushing his OPS up toward the 0.800 mark. But he's still got plenty of time to develop into something that could have helped the Reds win. One could argue that this move allowed the Reds to win today's game by bringing up Michalak, though, so given that the Reds are contending this year, maybe that alone is worth the cost of losing him.

For Franklin: Zac Stott sent as the player to be named later to Philadelphia.

I'd never heard of Stott before this announcement. The right-handed pitcher was a late-round selection in the Reds' 2003 amateur draft. Stats:
2004/CIN-Rk 3.7 4.9 14.6 2.43 0.397 17.18 10.50
2004/CIN-Rk 51.0 6.0 1.8 0.53 0.300 2.82 3.22
2005/CIN-A- 71.3 6.1 3.7 1.01 0.328 4.16 4.53
2006/CIN-A- 16.7 8.1 2.2 0.54 0.374 5.40 2.90
2006/CIN-A+ 32.0 6.2 2.8 0.56 0.221 2.53 3.58
Primarily a reliever, he's posted solid peripherals in his first few professional seasons, and reached the high-A level this year at 22-years old (he turned 23 in July). He's not one of our better prospects, but is a guy who might eventually make it to the majors. But he's also the kind of guy who's ok to give up in a post-waivers deadline deal, as odds are he won't ever amount to much.

Also, Majewski and Standridge went on the DL to clear room on the active roster for Franklin and Mercker (who is now probably done).

For Hollandsworth: Unknown player to be named later; Denorfia demoted.

There's no question that Denorfia had struggled since being promoted (0.222/0.327/0.267), but I'd much rather see him at the plate than Hollandsworth. But at least we'll probably get to see him again in three weeks' time when the rosters expand. Of course, the Reds could be out of it by then. Hopefully he can get himself sharp again in AAA and help us out in right field once he returns.

I'll be on the lookout for the announcement of this player to be named later. That he hasn't been announced might indicate that he will come from this year's draft.

Stats courtesy of The Baseball Cube. Mostly.