Table of Contents

Sunday, June 03, 2007

May 2007 Reds Review Part 1: Overview

May 2007 in Brief
May Record: 9-21 (0.300)
Series Record: 1-8-0
Runs Scored: 142 (4.7 r/g, 2nd in NL)
Runs Allowed: 177 (5.9 r/g, last in NL)
Team OBP: 0.327 (5th in NL)
Team SLG: 0.456 (1st in NL)
Team FIP: 4.51 (13th in NL)
Team DER: 0.670 (last in NL)

Season to Date

Overall Record: 21-34 (0.382), 9 games back
Series Record: 5-12-1
PythagoPat Record: 24-31 (0.436)
Remaining Record Needed for 81 Wins: 60-47 (0.561)
Remaining Record Needed for 90 Wins: 69-38 (0.665)
Runs Scored: 251 (4.6 r/g, 5th in NL)
Runs Allowed: 286 (5.2 r/g, last in NL)
Team OBP: 0.323 (9th in NL)
Team SLG: 0.428 (6th in NL)
Team FIP: 3.92 (3rd in NL)
Team DER: 0.667 (Tied for last in NL)

What happened

Well...I'll let the graph do the talkin':
Let's try to come to grips with how bad May was for the Reds:
  • The Reds went from being an even 0.500 after the 11-2 win over Houston on May 1st to being 13 games below 0.500 after losing to Houston 10-2 on May 31st.
  • The Reds didn't win a series--much less even tie one--until the very last of the month.
  • Their longest winning streak was three games, which they reached twice during the month--once on the 1st, and once on the 30th.
  • The only times they won back to back games during May was during the latter short winning streak.
  • They went from four games behind the Brewers to nine games back. The only reason they were that close is that the Brewers (and Astros, and Cubs) were in a free-fall of their own.
The fact that their predicted win differential would put them three wins higher than they actually were is little comfort at this point, though it does indicate that the Reds wasn't as bad as their record shows...even though they still aren't that good of a team.

Here's how things fell out according to Win Probability for hitters, starters, and relievers:
As might be expected for a month as bad as this one, all aspects of the Reds look terrible in this figure. That tends to happen when you lose 21 of 30 games. But, in truth, the data aren't all bad. Let's look at each aspect of the team individually:

Offense
Despite showing a net negative WPA, the offense was actually quite good in May. In fact, its tally of 4.7 runs scored per game was the second best in the National League last month! This surge brought the Reds from 10th place in runs scored at the end of April to 5th place at the end of May. It's a great sign for what's left of the season.

Why did WPA drop so much with such a strong offensive effort? Well, for one thing, they did tend to score runs in bunches. They had run differentials of four or more in 5 of their nine wins on the month. When you keep adding runs onto a big lead, you don't get much of an increase in win probability. Furthermore, when the starting pitching is as bad as it was in May, and opposing teams immediately score a large number of runs early in the ballgame, it can take a lot of runs to cause a net improvement in win probability for the team, thus masking a lot of the scoring the Reds were doing. The Reds lost three games this past month in which they scored 7 or more runs...

Starting Pitching
While the starting pitching had been the strength of the Reds in April, it went to hell in May. Their ERA surged from 3.55 in April to a miserable 5.75 in May, while WPA dropped from +1.5 wins on May 1st to -1.0 wins on May 31st. Only a late surge during the Reds' 3-game winning streak prevented the starters from looking even worse by the month's end.

Interestingly, the FIP of the starters, a very respectable 4.40, wasn't nearly as bad as their ERA. This indicates that poor fielding and/or miserable luck may have played a role in how bad they were. It doesn't make those games disappear, but it might let us hope that they'll be better in the future.

Relief Pitching
The story in April was a combination of bad relief pitching and bad offense, particularly in high-leverage situations. In May, unfortunately, the relief corps continued to pitch poorly, posting a 5.44 ERA and a 4.80 FIP on the month. WPA indicates a drop of "only" ~1.25 wins on the month, however, indicating that they didn't have nearly as large a negative effect on games as in April...though my guess is that this is probably because so many games were out of reach by the time the relievers entered the game thanks to poor starting pitching that the relievers didn't figure much in a lot of games, even when the pitched poorly.

Defense
We'll cover this more in my May defensive review in the next day or two, but the Reds' defense continues to be a big problem--and perhaps, along with bad luck, has been their biggest problem on the season. The Reds' pitching, despite giving up an NL-worst 5.2 runs per game, currently has an FIP of 3.92. That's third in the National League. FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, predicts ERA based on the peripheral stats of strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed--things that fielders have no control over. When there's a major difference between FIP and ERA, like we're seeing with the Reds this season, it usually can be chalked up to either a) poor defense, or b) miserable luck.

Defensive Efficiency Ratio, or DER, is a measure of the proportion of balls hit into play that are converted into outs. By this measure, the Reds' defense is last in the league...and frankly, it's not even close. DER can be subject to some degree of random variation, however, and therefore I prefer to look at team defense via a statistic developed by Dave Studeman at THT, which estimates runs prevented above or below average based on batted ball types received by a defense. By this measure, the Reds defense isn't quite as bad, although it's still not good: -21 runs below average, which is good for 13th in the league.

Fortunately, MGL has just released his UZR fielding data for season to date (not to mention the 2003-2007 totals!), so we can look more closely at the Reds fielders and find out where the problems lie. Some of the names that pop up in those data as being well below-average surprised me. More on that in the next post.

May Transactions
Additions
Jared Burton (returned from DL - club couldn't hide him there any longer) - 5/9
Jeff Keppinger (from AAA - sub for Encarnacion) - 5/9
Bobby Livingston (from AAA - spot-start) - 5/12
Chad Moeller (from AAA - ...so Narron doesn't have to start Valentin) - 5/14
Marcus McBeth (from AAA - never pitched...) - 5/14
Brad Salmon (from AAA - human yo-yo) - 5/18
Jeff Keppinger (from AAA - human yo-yo) - 5/18
Aaron Harang (from bereavement list) - 5/20
Pedro Lopez (waiver claim, to AAA) - 5/21
Edwin Encarnacion (from AAA - time out over) - 5/22
Gary Majewski (from AAA - it's time for a reckoning) - 5/24
Bobby Livingston (from AAA - now the 5th starter?) - 5/28
Ryan Freel (to DL - head and neck -- let's hope he fares better than Corey Koskie) - 5/29

Subtractions
Jerry Gil (Tommy John surgery - was already on DL with elbow pain, out for season) - 5/4
Rheal Cormier (released - would briefly sign with Atlanta and then retire) - 5/9
Eric Milton (to DL - elbow, apparently has bothered him all season) - 5/9
Edwin Encarnacion (to AAA - time out) - 5/9
Brad Salmon (to AAA - make room for Livingston) - 5/12
Bobby Livingston (to AAA - human yo-yo) - 5/14
Jeff Keppinger (to AAA - human yo-yo) - 5/14
Aaron Harang (to bereavement list - grandfather) - 5/17
Marcus McBeth (to bereavement list, then to AAA) - 5/18
Josh Hamilton (to DL - tummy ache) - 5/22
Todd Coffey (to AAA - giving up too many HR's) - 5/24
Enrique Cruz (cleared waivers, removed from 40-man roster) - 5/24
Kirk Saarloos (to AAA - "three bad innings") - 5/28
DeWayne Wise (from AAA - the replacement-level outfielder is back) - 5/29