Table of Contents

Friday, December 19, 2008

The 2008 Reds: Trying to Turn the Page

It's overdue, but here's my final (for now) look at the 2008 season Reds.

I've tried to include notes below each table about the meaning of some of the more obscure statistics, and many of these stats are discussed in detail in my player value series (see sidebar). But if you have questions please do not hesitate to ask!

NL Central Wrap-Up

Team W L PCT GB RS* RS/G* RA* RA/G* Pwins
CHN 97 64 0.602 0.0 822 5.11 645 4.01 99
MIL 90 72 0.556 7.5 750 4.63 689 4.25 87
HOU 86 75 0.534 11.0 719 4.47 751 4.66 77
STL 86 76 0.531 11.5 795 4.91 740 4.57 86
CIN 74 88 0.457 23.5 690 4.26 784 4.84 71
PIT 67 95 0.414 30.5 750 4.63 902 5.57 67

Remarks: RS, RA, RS/G and RA/G are all park-adjusted. Pwins is the PythagoPat predicted wins for each team. W%for90 is the winning percentage a team will need from now on to reach 90 wins. XtrapW is the extrapolated number of wins the team will get, assuming they maintain the same winning percentage.

Milwaukee tried to make it interesting, but this was nothing short of a trouncing by the Cubs. Best offense and best defense in the division, so it's no surprise that they held such a commanding lead virtually all season. The Brewers finally made the playoffs this year as a wild card team, but seemingly had nothing left as the Phillies made short work of them.

Perhaps the most interesting teams in the division were St. Louis and Houston, who ended in a virtual tie for third (Houston gets the nod because they played one less game, but both won 86 games. St. Louis faded down the stretch, while Houston surged. If you look at Pythagorean records, Houston's looks like a mirage. If they're smart, they'd think of themselves as an aging sub-0.500 team and sell off anything of value. But I don't think that's how they see themselves...

The Reds just kept blundering along as they always do...a bit better than the Pirates, but not by much, and not in a way that matters. Their offense was the worst in the division (by a wide margin), while their defense was second-worst. Long way to go to becoming a contender.

Here's THT's graphical recap of the season. If you trace the Reds line, it basically heads straight down starting from day one. Bleh.

The thing is, if you would have told me at the beginning of the season that Volquez would pitch like a Cy Young contender, Cueto would go 175 adequate innings, 5 of the top 6 bullpen guys (by innings) would have ERA's of 3.33 or less, Votto would finish 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting, Encarnacion would hit 26 homers, and Jay Bruce would hit 21 homers....I would said that the Reds would have had a pretty darn good season. They didn't. So what happened?

Hitting

Last First PA BB% K% %LD BABIP AVG OBP SLG ISO OPS PrOPS lwts_RC wOBA RAR
Votto Joey D 589 10% 17% 25% 0.328 0.297 0.368 0.506 0.209 0.874 0.894 90.2 0.367 36.8
Dunn Adam 464 17% 26% 17% 0.243 0.233 0.373 0.528 0.295 0.901 1.032 72.6 0.376 30.8
Hairston Jerry 297 8% 12% 28% 0.357 0.326 0.384 0.487 0.161 0.871 0.812 49.4 0.369 22.6
Encarnacion Edwin 582 10% 18% 16% 0.264 0.251 0.340 0.466 0.215 0.806 0.851 77.2 0.348 22.0
Dickerson Chris 122 14% 29% 19% 0.410 0.304 0.413 0.608 0.304 1.021 0.880 24.1 0.429 13.7
Griffey Jr. Ken 425 14% 15% 19% 0.258 0.245 0.355 0.432 0.187 0.787 0.868 53.0 0.326 13.6
Phillips Brandon 609 6% 15% 16% 0.277 0.261 0.312 0.442 0.181 0.754 0.781 73.1 0.318 12.9
Bruce Jay A 452 7% 24% 21% 0.296 0.254 0.314 0.453 0.199 0.767 0.833 54.2 0.330 9.7
Ross Dave 173 18% 21% 25% 0.292 0.231 0.381 0.366 0.135 0.747 0.866 19.9 0.318 4.2
Valentin Javier 144 10% 19% 16% 0.293 0.256 0.326 0.411 0.155 0.737 0.741 16.7 0.324 2.8
Hanigan Ryan M 98 10% 9% 21% 0.284 0.271 0.367 0.365 0.094 0.732 0.845 11.3 0.329 2.3
Freel Ryan 143 6% 13% 20% 0.342 0.298 0.340 0.359 0.061 0.699 0.666 14.9 0.310 1.3
Cabrera Jolbert 126 6% 23% 21% 0.310 0.252 0.310 0.400 0.148 0.710 0.737 13.5 0.305 1.0
Phillips Andy A 80 8% 18% 19% 0.250 0.233 0.300 0.397 0.164 0.697 0.812 7.9 0.307 -0.2
Castillo Wilkin 34 3% 15% 24% 0.333 0.281 0.303 0.313 0.032 0.616 0.619 2.9 0.269 -0.5
Rosales Adam M 30 3% 13% 20% 0.240 0.207 0.233 0.241 0.034 0.474 0.617 1.6 0.215 -1.8
Castro Juan 11 9% 0% 10% 0.000 0.000 0.091 0.000 0.000 0.091 0.647 -0.7 0.065 -2.1
Richar Danny 37 0% 24% 15% 0.296 0.222 0.222 0.278 0.056 0.500 0.517 1.8 0.213 -2.4
Hopper Norris S 58 9% 10% 18% 0.227 0.200 0.286 0.200 0.000 0.486 0.719 3.4 0.230 -2.6
Hatteberg Scott 61 11% 11% 19% 0.191 0.173 0.262 0.231 0.058 0.493 0.701 2.9 0.232 -3.6
Keppinger Jeff S 502 6% 5% 21% 0.272 0.266 0.310 0.346 0.080 0.656 0.732 45.4 0.286 -4.6
Janish Paul 89 8% 20% 23% 0.230 0.188 0.270 0.250 0.062 0.520 0.715 4.8 0.245 -4.6
Bako Paul 338 10% 27% 18% 0.289 0.217 0.299 0.328 0.111 0.627 0.705 26.0 0.271 -8.2
Patterson Corey 392 4% 15% 16% 0.215 0.205 0.238 0.344 0.139 0.582 0.700 29.1 0.248 -14.0

Remarks: PrOPS estimates OPS based on batted ball data, and deviations between the two are often due to "luck." LWTS_RC are estimated runs created based on linear weights. RAR is runs above replacement player, without a position adjustment (that is done with the fielding data). All runs estimates are park-adjusted.

Rookie of the year runner up Joey Votto was the Reds' most valuable hitter, though three players: Adam Dunn (when with the Reds), Jerry Hairston, and Chris Dickerson were more productive on a per-PA basis based on wOBA (or R/G for that matter, not shown). Playing time matters, though, and Votto's performance was everything we could have hoped for. Still, while he was good, his performance at the plate is essentially only slightly better than what we got from Ken Griffey Jr. in 2007, and far below Adam Dunn's team-leading offensive production of the year before.

After Votto, the team's performances fall off pretty quickly. Encarnacion had a nice year at the plate, while players like Phillips predictably regressed from his '07 power explosion. What really hurt the Reds' offense, though, were these three players: Corey Patterson, Paul Bako, and Jeff Keppinger. All were essentially starters this year. Between them they received 1232 PA's (20% of the team PA's in 2008!!) and combined for ~27 runs below what we'd expect from a typical replacement player, or a deduction of 0.17 runs per game. Replacing those performances with replacement players wouldn't have gotten the Reds into contention, but it could still have netted them almost 3 more wins. Yikes.

So the story on 2008 offense? No star offensive players, a fairly weak supporting cast, and three of the top nine players ranked by playing time turned in sub-replacement level performances. Overall, the team was worth 129 runs above replacement. An average offense with the Reds' number of outs would be worth 169 runs above replacement, which puts the Reds' offense about 40 runs (4 wins) below average.


Total Player Value (Hitting + Fielding)

Last First Pos RAR Fielding PosAdj TtlValue
Votto Joey D 1B 36.8 8.3 -10.6 34.4
Hairston Jerry SS 22.6 0.5 1.1 24.3
Dunn Adam LF 30.8 -3.6 -4.8 22.4
Phillips Brandon 2B 12.9 6.6 2.1 21.6
Dickerson Chris LF 13.7 3.6 -0.9 16.5
Encarnacion Edwin 3B 22.0 -11.3 2.1 12.9
Bruce Jay A RF 9.7 3.6 -2.8 10.5
Ross Dave C 4.2 0.1 3.2 7.5
Hanigan Ryan M C 2.3 2.3 2.0 6.7
Valentin Javier C 2.8 -1.1 -0.1 1.6
Griffey Jr. Ken RF 13.6 -8.6 -3.9 1.4
Cabrera Jolbert LF 1.0 0.4 -0.4 1.0
Phillips Andy A 3B -0.2 0.9 -0.1 0.6
Freel Ryan CF 1.3 -0.9 0.0 0.5
Castillo Wilkin LF -0.5 0.7 -0.2 0.0
Bako Paul C -8.2 1.5 6.7 0.0
Castro Juan SS -2.1 1.1 0.1 -0.9
Richar Danny 2B -2.4 0.1 0.1 -2.1
Rosales Adam M 3B -1.8 -0.5 0.1 -2.2
Hopper Norris S LF -2.6 -0.6 -0.2 -3.4
Keppinger Jeff S SS -4.6 -3.9 4.6 -3.8
Hatteberg Scott 1B -3.6 0.2 -0.8 -4.1
Janish Paul SS -4.6 -1.4 1.1 -4.9
Patterson Corey CF -14.0 0.8 1.4 -11.8

Remarks: RAR is the same as above, and is park-adjusted. Fielding is the average runs saved estimate between ZR and RZR. Position adjustments are adjustments of the run value of a player's positions, pro-rated for playing time. Total value is just the sum of all of these numbers, and is an estimate of total run value above a replacement player.

The nice thing about Votto is that his fielding at first base, at least as measured here, was good enough that he didn't lose much in the way of value despite playing an easy position. That's a really outstanding season by the guy--I was honestly pretty skeptical about whether he'd be a solid first basemen in the big leagues. I'm glad to see he's proven me wrong. I don't know if he'll improve much beyond this level, but he if he can do this every year I'll be thrilled.

It's also worth noting what an outstanding signing Jerry Hairston was last season. I rated him as not even being a replacement player, but he proved that the injuries he'd suffered in prior season must have been at least part of what held him back. I may yet do a price/performance comparison for free agent caliber players later this season, and I have to think that, given his status as a free agent and not a pre-arbitration player, Hairston was one of the best signings of the offseason. I don't think there's much chance he'll repeat this performance, of course, but I've been wrong about him before...

Phillips' defense continues to be one of his best assets, and it keeps him valuable. Dickerson had an amazing month, while Bruce went through some rookie struggles. Encarnacion's defense continues to hold him back severely--I agree with Joel, it's past time to try moving him to another position.

I think this table also shows why defense is so important to consider when rating players. Griffey on offense was worth 14 runs above replacement. But his defense negated his offense. Similarly, Bako's offense was horrific. But his defense was good, and it got him back up to replacement performance. Overall, though, the Reds gave 2470 PA's to players who produced 1.6 runs above replacement (offense + defense) or less last season. That's roughly 40% of the teams' playing time.

In fact, all of those players (Valentin-Patterson) combined for 28 runs BELOW replacement performance. And for that, the Reds paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$27 million (including Griffey's buyout money that we're splitting with the White Sox). That money should have been worth about 6 wins above replacement, so we have a difference between expected and actual return of nearly 9 wins. That would have been enough to flip the Reds above 0.500.

A lot of that is Griffey. And hindsight's 20/20, of course. But I have to think that's an exceptional amount of waste. And it's a big part of the reason the Reds were so bad this year.

Overall, the Reds' fielding numbers come in at -1.4 runs, based on a combination of ZR and RZR. It's worth noting that this might be missing substantially too high. THT's team fielding numbers, based on batted balls, indicate that the Reds had the worst defense in the league at -53 plays (-42 runs). bUZR at FanGraphs is in perfect agreement on this: -42 runs. The biggest disagreements were on Griffey, Dunn, and Keppinger--all were rated much, much worse via bUZR than my combination fielding statistic.


Pitching

Last First IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/F %GB BABIP ERA FIP OPSa BsR BsR/G RAR FIPRAR
Volquez Edinson 196.0 9.5 4.3 0.6 8% 46% 0.299 3.21 3.52 0.678 83.0 3.81 42.9 42.0
Arroyo Bronson 200.0 7.3 3.1 1.3 15% 42% 0.314 4.77 4.34 0.805 113.8 5.12 14.6 24.6
Harang Aaron 184.3 7.5 2.4 1.7 14% 34% 0.307 4.78 4.58 0.833 108.9 5.32 9.5 17.7
Cueto Johnny 174.0 8.2 3.5 1.5 14% 39% 0.298 4.81 4.72 0.799 100.7 5.21 11.0 14.1
Cordero Francisco 70.3 10.0 4.9 0.8 9% 41% 0.302 3.33 3.68 0.678 30.4 3.89 12.5 10.7
Affeldt Jeremy 78.3 9.2 2.9 1.0 14% 54% 0.317 3.33 3.53 0.726 37.2 4.27 4.6 8.1
Bray Bill P 47.0 10.3 4.6 0.8 8% 35% 0.348 2.87 3.44 0.774 27.0 5.17 -1.9 5.3
Burton Jared 58.7 8.9 3.8 0.9 10% 51% 0.301 3.22 3.75 0.710 27.8 4.25 3.6 4.6
Ramirez Ramon A 27.0 7.0 3.7 1.0 13% 43% 0.203 2.67 4.24 0.556 7.6 2.53 9.7 3.6
Belisle Matt 29.7 4.2 1.8 1.2 13% 51% 0.364 7.28 4.40 0.914 23.3 7.06 -4.2 3.5
Weathers David 69.3 6.0 3.9 0.8 8% 44% 0.310 3.25 4.27 0.775 39.1 5.08 -2.1 1.5
Lincoln Mike 70.3 7.3 3.1 1.3 16% 52% 0.276 4.48 4.36 0.711 32.0 4.09 5.5 0.8
Roenicke Joshua J 3.0 18.0 6.0 0.0 0% 22% 0.667 9.00 2.13 1.167 4.8 14.28 -3.2 0.8
Herrera Daniel R. 7.3 9.9 3.7 1.2 23% 64% 0.391 7.36 4.63 0.938 6.3 7.72 -2.4 -0.1
Mercker Kent 13.7 3.9 5.3 0.7 7% 40% 0.279 3.29 4.88 0.750 6.6 4.31 0.7 -0.6
Masset Nick A 17.3 5.7 2.6 1.6 15% 48% 0.265 2.08 4.80 0.722 7.5 3.90 1.7 -0.6
Adkins Jon 3.7 7.3 7.3 2.4 23% 22% 0.375 2.45 7.17 1.050 2.7 6.60 -0.7 -1.1
Thompson Daryl M 14.3 3.8 4.4 1.9 14% 40% 0.327 6.91 6.47 0.947 12.1 7.62 -2.9 -1.6
Majewski Gary W 40.0 6.1 3.4 1.4 13% 50% 0.390 6.53 4.92 0.959 33.4 7.51 -12.0 -2.0
Pettyjohn Adam 4.0 2.3 4.5 4.5 18% 9% 0.450 20.25 10.85 1.364 8.3 18.71 -6.2 -2.8
Bailey Homer 36.3 4.5 4.2 2.0 19% 44% 0.372 7.93 6.17 1.012 33.9 8.41 -10.6 -2.9
Coffey Todd 19.3 3.7 2.8 1.9 23% 54% 0.309 6.05 5.86 0.919 14.0 6.51 -3.7 -3.0
Fogg Josh 78.3 5.2 3.1 2.0 15% 38% 0.300 7.58 5.84 0.898 57.0 6.55 -6.7 -3.4

Remarks: BsR are base runs for a given pitcher, based on hitting events (not earned runs). RAR is base runs above replacement player, using a different standard for starters and relievers. Relievers with saves get a leverage-index boost in their RAR value. FIPRAR is a DIPS-based estimate of runs above replacement, using Tom Tango's Fielding IndePendent Runs as the runs estimator.

I'm sure it's no surprise that Volquez takes top honors here. Even though he tailed off as the season went on, Volquez was nothing short of outstanding last season. Hamilton may ultimately end up being the better value (he was worth ~55 runs above replacement last season), but the Reds can't be unhappy with what they got from Volquez. I just hope he can keep it up next season.

The trio of Harang, Arroyo, and Cueto all lag well behind Volquez. Arroyo, at least by his peripherals, showed a modest rebound from the prior year. And 175 innings of decentness from Cueto has to be considered a nice start for him. But Harang was one of the biggest disappointments, at least in terms of individual performances this year. We're just so used to dominance that struggles from the big guy are hard for me to fathom. His HR/9 really skyrocketed this year, while his other peripherals slipped a bit as well. His HR/F isn't outrageous, but his ground ball percentage dipped significantly. I think he'll rebound, but the days of 3.7 ERA's from the big guy might be behind him. Overall, all of these guys ended up with base runs between 5.1 and 5.3 per game. Not horrible for starters, but not good either.

The bullpen was surprisingly good, at least at the top. Cordero slipped a bit and was very wild, but was capable enough. Behind him, Burton, Affeldt, and Bray were all impressive, while Weathers and Lincoln were adequate.

One thing I find interesting, though, is disconnect between the 10 "main" guys above and the rest of the staff. The above 10 pitchers accounted for 1149 innings (of 1442, or 80% of team totals) and 600 (of 818, or 73%) of the teams' base runs allowed (100 RAR). At 9 innings per game, that's 4.7 base runs per game, which is almost exactly MLB average. The remaining pitchers accounted for 293 innings and 218 base runs, which is 6.7 base runs per game (-40 RAR). That is sub-replacement level performance from that group, led by Gary Majewski, Homer Bailey, and, of course, Josh Fogg. I don't know if that kind of split is larger than usual or not, but my feeling is that it probably is.

It's also worth noting that there's a substantial difference between what RAR and FIP-RAR report about the pitching staff. Reds pitchers were a combined 60 runs above replacement according to base runs. But they were a combined 119 runs above replacement according to FIP. A league-average staff would be ~180 RAR with the Reds' number of innings, so by either measure the Reds' staff was below average. But the gap between RAR and FIP-RAR totals has to be blamed at least in part on the fielders.

What that means to me is that we can attribute ~60 runs below average to the pitching, 40 or so runs to sub-par fielding (based on THT's and bUZR's defensive ratings), and maybe another 20 or so runs to simple bad luck. Or, if you don't feel so generous, split the remainder between pitching and fielding.

Summing it up

So, what we have here is a team with poor offense (~4 wins below average), poor fielding (~4 wins below average), and poor pitching (~6 wins below average). That works out to about 14 wins below average, or 67 wins. The Reds' Pythagorean win total was 71, so we're within the margin of error for this kind of thing (I wouldn't quibble if someone thinks I should be adding or subtracting a win from each of the component estimates). And it indicates that the Reds were rather lucky.

The above also matches up well to the team WPA/LI totals of 5 wins below average on offense and 10 wins below average on defense (projected 66 wins). The Reds' actual WPA totals were -2.7 runs on offense and -4.3 runs on defense (81-7=74 wins). This means that, as bad as the Reds looked, they were actually a bit "clutchy" (or lucky) to get past the 70 win mark. In fact, the Reds' clutch ratings were the second highest in baseball on defense and the 5th highest in baseball on offense. I don't think you'll find many who would suggest that this clutchiness is likely to continue next season.

...

You can make a legitimate argument that this was the worst Reds team since Bob Boone's 2001 Reds. Not exactly the news I was hoping to find when I started writing the post.

To say that I'm not particularly optimistic about next season is something of an understatement. I'm going to go cry now.


Thanks to the Hardball Times, who supplied most of the data used to generate the above tables. ZR data came from ESPN.com. Thanks also to Slyde, newly christened (at least officially) lead blogger at Red Reporter.com, for automating the population of my spreadsheets.