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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Evaluating Wayne Krivsky

There's been a lot of criticism around the Reds' blogosphere, including my own, of Reds' general manager Wayne Krivsky this season. It's certainly true that the Reds haven't been very good under Krivsky's reign, particularly this year. I don't agree with all the moves he's made, both last year and this year. But at the same time, it's worth noting that: a) Krivsky inherited a pretty terrible ballclub from his predecessor, particularly in terms of pitching and defense, and b) the Reds, according to their run differential, are actually better this year than they were last year (2006 Pythagorean record 76-86, 0.469; 2007 Pythagorean record prior to tonight 22-23, 0.489). The latter point doesn't mean that the Reds couldn't have done better, of course. But given the number of times we've heard calls for Wayne's head already this season, I think it's time to try to put forth some sort of objective evaluation of his overall performance.

One way to more objectively evaluate Krivsky's short-term impact (I'm ignoring player development, or trades of prospects coming back to haunt us--too short a time period here) on the Reds is to take a look at player transactions. If he's had a net positive effect, then players who have been acquired under Krivsky's reign should have made a greater contribution than players who have left under Krivsky's reign.

Let's take a look. Below are the players currently on the Reds roster that Krivsky has acquired, along with their VORP (Value Above Replacement Player, units are given in runs) since arriving. Next is a list of players that have left the team since Krivsky took over the team, along with their VORP for other MLB teams since they were discarded. Stats current through 5/21/07.

Players Added VORP Since
Players Discarded VORP Since
Bronson Arroyo 73.8
Wily Mo Pena 16.3
Brandon Phillips 34.1
Josh Hancock 16.2
Scott Hatteberg 25.1
Rick White 11.7
Dave Ross 18.6
Felipe Lopez 10.7
Kyle Lohse 9.5
Austin Kearns 10.1
Schoeneweis 8.6
Justin Germano 9.7
Josh Hamilton 8.0
Ryan Franklin 9.3
Alex Gonzalez 5.5
Brendan Harris 9.2
Victor Santos 5.0
Luke Hudson 4.4
Eddie Guardado 4.5
Cody Ross 2.0
Jeff Conine 3.9
Royce Clayton 1.3
Estaban Yan 3.2
Dave Williams 1.2
Bill Bray 2.9
Mike Burns 1.2
Jon Coutlangus 2.8
Tony Womack 0.3
Rheal Cormier 2.5
Chris Denorfia 0.0
Ryan Franklin 1.5
Brandon Claussen 0.0
Jason Johnson 0.9
Jason Standridge 0.0
Sun-Woo Kim 0.6
Zach Ward 0.0
Jeff Keppinger -0.2
Todd Hollandsworth 0.0
Todd Hollandsworth -0.4
Quinton McCracken 0.0
Cody Ross -0.6
Estaban 0.0
Bobby Livingston -0.8
Chris Michalak 0.0
Kirk Saarloos -1.2
Rheal Cormier 0.0
Chad Moeller -1.4
Jason Johnson 0.0
Mike Stanton -1.5
Sun-Woo Kim 0.0
Quinton McCracken -2.1
Chris Hammond 0.0
Juan Castro -3.3
Joe Mays 0.0
Gary Majewski -3.7
Rich Aurilia -1.5
Royce Clayton -3.8
Scott Scheneweis -2.6
Joe Mays -4.6
Ryan Wagner -2.7

Jason LaRue -5.8
Totals 187.4
Totals 91

Overall, even if you ignore the so-far lopsided Arroyo/Pena trade (57.5 run difference, relative to a replacement player), Krivsky's acquisitions have vastly outperformed the players he has discarded, at least thus far. In the short term, he's helped the Reds score/prevent just under 100 runs above replacement level compared to what they might have otherwise, which is good for almost 10 marginal wins. I don't see any way to describe that other than solid if not very good performance by a general manager.

  • Brandon Phillips, Scott Hatteberg, Dave Ross, Scott Schoeneweis, and Josh Hamilton were all acquired as free agents or in what look like severely lopsided trades, at least right now.
    • The common thread I see is that they were or are surprise performers. This seems to be where Krivsky has excelled: identifying players who have talent and ability, but have yet to perform (or haven't recently performed), and then acquiring them for little in return.
    • Lohse might also fit into that category, though we did give up a good prospect to get him...though it looks like Zach Ward is mostly just throwing relief this season in high-A ball, so maybe it was lopsided too.
  • Where has he gone wrong? Two main items stand out:
    • The Trade currently has netted the Reds -4.6 runs above replacement level. The Nationals and Devil Rays (who picked up Brendan Harris for nothing), on the other hand, have gotten 27.3 VORP out of former Reds associated with that deal. Granted, very few players of the players involved have performed like I thought they would after the trade, but that deal looks hideous right now. Just think how bad it might look if Kearns and Lopez had hit like we all thought they would (tonight excepted, of course...dangit).
    • Several of the Reds' discarded pitchers have been pretty good after leaving the Reds. We could sure use performances like that right now...
      • The late Josh Hancock was predictably solid, but who would have expected Rick White or Ryan Franklin to pitch like they have this year? Honestly, I think the latter two are bound to fall back to earth soon.
      • Justin Germano, who Wayne traded for Cormier last season, has had three brilliant starts in his homecoming to San Diego this season. He's bound to decline as well, though he should be a solid enough big league starter.
Now, all this is not to say that Krivsky has been perfect. Obviously, he has not. And obviously, any changes he has made to the Reds have not been good enough to meet the expectations of a team that is, according Bob Castellini, supposed to win (not just "be competitive"). But the guy's first year+ has been, on the whole, encouraging. I don't always agree with his moves, but so far, Krivsky's proven me wrong more often than right. That doesn't mean I'm not going to continue to watch his moves with a critical eye, but it does mean that he's earned at least some benefit of doubt.

The other thing I'm going to say is this: except in rare cases (Dan O'Brien was one of these, unfortunately), I think a general manager should have about a 5-year period before his work can be completely evaluated and a real decision about firing him should be made. This gives him time for his player development efforts to bear some fruit, time to overhaul the team to his own specifications, etc.

Krivsky's Twins model of a winning ballclub, which focuses on pitching and defense, with secondary attention to offense, is almost completely opposite to the team he inherited. The transition will take time. But my hope is that we're seeing the most painful period right now, because we, as Reds fans, have gone too long already without a genuinely good team to be proud of.