Table of Contents

Monday, July 31, 2006

Reds acquire Cormier and Lohse for Germano and Ward

The final day before the non-waivers trading deadline hits has brought two new pitchers for Jerry Narron's indulgence. Let's look at both deals and see what we gained as well as what we gave up:

Rheal Cormier for Justin Germano
Not be confused with the far younger, right-handed, and not as good (career-wise) Lance Cormier (which I keep doing), the 39-year old left-handed Rheal Cormier has been a mainstay of the Phillies bullpen since 2001, after being a starter earlier in his career. His acquisition by the Reds was accompanied by a one-year extension for Cormier, with a team option for 2008. Stats:
2003/PHI 84.7 7.2 2.7 0.43 0.212 1.70 3.12 3.44 34.5 58%
2004/PHI 81.0 5.1 2.9 0.78 0.242 3.56 4.15 4.58 19.8 57%
2005/PHI 47.3 6.5 3.1 1.72 0.305 5.89 5.26 5.48 -3.4 52%
2006/PHI 34.0 3.4 3.4 0.53 0.219 1.59 4.35 --- 17.4 ---
Rheal's ERA has ranged from brilliant to terrible depending on the season. As you can see, his FIP has been more consistent, although from '03 to '05 it has shown a steady and alarming incline (as have his walk rates). Last year, Cormier was across-the-boards bad, and this year his peripherals aren't looking a lot better. While his HR-allowed rates have declined back toward where they had been in '03 and '04, his strikeout rate has plummetted to a very poor 3.4 k/9. This, coupled with a steadily increasing walk ratio, makes Cormier's k/bb ratio and even 1.0--not a good thing. His wonderful 1.59 ERA this season seems to be very much the result of some outstanding luck on Cormier's part, as evidenced by his 0.219 BABIP. The one good thing I'll say about him is that he generally (except for last year...) keeps the ball on the ground, which is a good thing at GABP.

But from my vantage point, his numbers clearly indicate that the 39-year old is about to implode. He might be better than Brian Shackelford this year, but I'd happily take Shackelford over Cormier next season. This extension nonsense doesn't make any sense to me.

To get him, we gave up 23-year old Justin Germano, who was the other pitcher we got for Joe Randa last July (Travis Chick went to the Mariners in exchange for Eddie Guardado about a month ago). Now I'm not going to argue that Germano is a future all-star, but I think he's legitimate 5th starter material, with an upside of as 4th starter. And he's probably ready right now at 23 years old, despite the Reds' reluctance to use him this year. Stats:
2003/SDN-A+ 110.7 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 32.3 5.6 2.0 0.84 0.268 2.51 3.82 4.99 4.1 --
2004/SDN-AAA 122.7 7.2 1.8 0.88 0.273 3.37 3.49 4.22 24.3 --
2004/SDN 21.3 6.8 6.0 0.85 0.380 8.86 4.91 4.76 -9 53%
2005/CIN-AAA 49.3 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%

Overall, I don't really think that this deal helps the Reds this year. I'm more comfortable with Shackelford, and certainly Mercker (if he returns), as our 2nd lefty behind Bray. And I think it hurts the Reds long-term as they lose a potential starter. So I don't like this deal at all, Mr. Krivsky. Sorry.

Kyle Lohse for Zach Ward
I'm more comfortable with this one. Kind of. Kyle Lohse, 27, has been a back of the rotation starter for the Minnesota Twins since breaking in with them as a 22-year old in 2001. He's admittedly been a bit inconsistent over the years, and he's gotten shelled this year, but he's still fairly young and has had some very legitimate, solid seasons in Minnesota in recent years. Stats:
2003/MIN 201.0 5.8 2.0 1.25 0.279 4.61 4.39 4.43 29.7 43%
2004/MIN 194.0 5.1 3.5 1.30 0.310 5.34 5.11 5.04 7.9 46%
2005/MIN 178.7 4.3 2.2 1.11 0.296 4.18 4.58 4.77 30.9 46%
2006/MIN 63.7 6.5 3.5 1.13 0.332 7.07 4.57 --- -6.3 ---
Lohse is a low-k, high-hr, low-walk kind of guy. Precisely the kind of guy that the Reds have been "living" with for years now. So we shouldn't count on him to take our rotation to great heights. But in two of the previous three years, he maintained a VORP near 30, which is more than anyone else in our rotation can say. As an aside, Lohse's peripherals remind me a bit of Eric Milton's in Minnesota, though with slightly fewer strikeouts and slightly fewer HR's allowed.

Lohse's struggles this year appear, on the surface, to be due to two factors. First, his walk rate has been back up to the relatively high levels it was at in 2004. Looking at this guy's stats, it's clear he lives and dies by his control. But the other thing that's happening is that he's been a bit unlucky. His BABIP is a high 0.332, and his FIP (fielding independent pitching "ERA") is right where it was last year--4.57. Unless there is something fundamentally wrong with him that is leading to the high BABIP, I think we can reasonably expect him to give up ~4.5 runs/9 innings for the rest of the season. And with our offense...well, what's left of it...that should allow us to win about 50% of those games. Not bad for our #5 starter, and a helluva lot better than Mays or Williams.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Brandon Claussen comes back from the DL, which could happen soon if his rehab start today goes well. Both are the same age, and while Claussen probably has better stuff than Lohse, Claussen's control has usually been more inconsistent. I imagine those two will battle for the #5 spot for the remainder of the season, unless another of our starters gets hurt. I do think that both of them (and Milton, for what that's worth) could be excellent contributers to the bullpen, so this move should strengthen the pen as well.

Now we did have to give up Zach Ward to get Lohse. Ward, 22 years old and a 2005 3rd round selection, was rated the #10 prospect in the Reds' system (the #6 pitching prospect) by John Sickels in the pre-season, and was recently ranked by Reds Minor Leagues blogger Doug Gray as the #6 overall prospect in the Reds' system. He has pitched very well as a starter in low-A Dayton this year after taking last year off (high workload in college baseball). Stats:
114.0 7.5 2.9 0.16 0.226 2.29 2.74
Ward is definitely someone I could get excited about. His super-human HR/9 ratio is probably not an abberation, as Gray reports that his gound ball to fly ball ratio is a brilliant 3.31. His BABIP is a little bit low, but not so much to drive a big disparity between his ERA and FIP (and, for what it's worth, I've noticed that FIP tracks poorly once pitchers get below a 3.00 ERA). Ward's strikeout and walk rates are also above average, and definitely looks ready for high-A baseball.

But that's the thing. He's only an A-ball pitcher at this point, and prior to this year's 114 innings, hasn't been all that heralded. He might turn out to be an outstanding pitcher in the big leagues, but also might fizzle as he moves up the ranks--or he might get injured. There's no doubt that he's a legitimate prospect, but he's not a "can't miss" prospect on the level of a Homer Bailey or Jay Bruce. So while I don't like trading him, I'd be willing to do so if I felt it improved the major league ballclub--especially when we have a shot at the playoffs, which we do. I think having Lohse on the squad improves the team. And if he really catches fire as a starter, it could even be by a few wins. That's a big payoff for a 5th starter.

Weighing the two deals

So I don't like the Cormier deal, but I'm ok with the Lohse deal. Overall, how do the Reds come out? Well, the farm system was definitely hurt. Ward is a solid if not good A-ball pitching prospect, and Germano is a 23 (almost 24) year old AAA starter pitcher who appears ready for the major leagues. But the Reds are in a playoff race, so the big question to me is whether this improves the ballclub for the rest of the season. I'll assume that Claussen returns healthy from his rehab assignment in time for the August 8th start, which is the next time we need a 5th starter.

Before TradeAfter Trade
I don't think Cormier is really an upgrade over Shackelford, and I certainly like Bray better than Cormier, though I'm sure that Cormier will be used in a setup role until he fails. Ultimately, while it may look better to some, I think this deal is a wash.

The rotation doesn't necessarily change with Lohse in the picture, but what this does is set up both competition (good thing) and a fallback plan (very good thing) in case either he or Claussen can't do the #5 job. Marc Lancaster is reporting that Lohse will be in the bullpen slot, at least initially. I don't see Jason Standridge staying on the roster after this move, though the possibility that the Reds could cut ties with Weathers instead certainly exists. Overall, this move should strengthen the bullpen and make the rotation more solid.

The question that keeps galling at me, however, is whether Lohse is much of an upgrade over Germano. Lohse has more experience than Germano, and probably has slightly better stuff (comparing their minor league numbers), but Lohse is also older and has struggled more with his control this season. I think Lohse is a better bet to pitch well for us this year, but I'm not sure of that. I've never really understood why Germano wasn't given the opportunity to pitch instead of Joe Mays, but it would have been nice to find out how he would have done. Without more information, and given Germano's age, I'd probably equate Germano's overall value with Lohse's, with Germano rating slightly higher in potential and Lohse rating slightly higher in immediate impact.

So I'd be much happier about today's events if those were the two players who were swapped. But instead, we also lost Zach Ward, who might turn out to be a really valuable major league pitcher 2-3 years down the road. So overall, I think today's activities hurt the Reds more than it helps them. Which sucks.

Hopefully, I'm wrong, and this move gives the Reds the depth they need to take the wild card this year. But it's not looking like a good day from the vantage-point of this armchair I'm sitting in.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hatteberg signed, Ross and Germano return, Mays and Wise out (and other news)

Sorry there's not been a lot of activity this week. Been a bit nuts lately at home. But I've got all kinds of good baseball stuff to talk about. Let's get started.

Hatteberg signs 1-year extension, with club option for 2008

Half of our platoon at first base signed a bargain-price extension for $1.5 million next year, with a club option for 2008. Hatteberg has been a tremendous asset this year from the left side of the plate, and $1.5 million is a small price to pay for having a professional hitter like him in our lineup. His recent stats:
2003/OAK 619 9% 11% 1.9% 0.342 0.383 0.725 --- 0.250 0.258 3.9
2004/OAK 635 8% 11% 2.4% 0.367 0.420 0.787 0.820 0.270 0.279 19.1
2005/OAK 521 10% 10% 1.3% 0.334 0.343 0.677 0.759 0.236 0.251 -3.6
2006/CIN 349 7% 13% 2.6% 0.419 0.509 0.928 0.893 0.316 --- 25.8
Hatteberg had a rough 2005 season. His PrOPS indicates that he was a bit unlucky last year, but even so his performance wasn't up to his standards. Given his age, I, and many other observers anticipated that he was on the decline. I still though he was a great pickup as a reserve, but not as a starter.

The Reds have used him almost entirely in a platoon role, and he's been fabulous, with the second highest offensive VORP of on the team (trailing only Adam Dunn). Even if he regresses back inti the mid/low-0.800's, he will still be a valuable guy, and $1.5 million is a very affordable rate for what he brings to the table. Kudos to Krivsky for both the signing and the extension.

Reds exchange Mays and Wise for Ross and (briefly) Germano

We already know Dave Ross as 'Da Man from the first half, and Justin Germano was here only for a brief appearance on Saturday before being sent right back to Louisville. So let's take one last look at the recently departed.

You have to feel for Joe Mays, who has been "asked" to accept an assignment to AAA by both the Royals and the Reds this season. This time, he accepted. But you have to wonder what his future might be. His numbers this year, last year, er...every year since his hit-lucky 2001 campaign have been dreadful:
1999/MIN 171.0 6.1 3.5 1.26 0.288 4.37 4.89 --- 37.3
2000/MIN 160.3 5.7 3.8 1.12 0.325 5.56 4.84 --- 18.0
2001/MIN 233.7 4.7 2.5 0.96 0.243 3.16 4.42 --- 71.5
2002/MIN 95.3 3.6 2.4 1.32 0.292 5.38 5.16 --- 3.0
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%
While his strikeouts may be up a little bit since joining Cincinnati, May's control has deserted him this year...and that was the only then keeping him even remotely effective. With his decision to accept a demotion to AAA-Louisville, I have to think that Mays realizes that his days as a major league starting pitcher are over. But he is only 30 years old, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that he could reinvent himself as a reliever, much as David Weathers, Kent Mercker, Chris Hammond, and so many others have. My hope is that the Reds place him in the Louisville bullpen and see if he can rediscover something to help him salvage his career.

DeWayne Wise just joined the team earlier in the month after completing a lengthy rehab assignment, and his arrival coincided with the release of Quinton McCracken. Wise had an excellent spring training, but hasn't shown anything more than the occasional flash of competancy, at any level, over the past several years (especially note his '05 and '03 seasons in AAA):
2003/TOR-AAA 305 24% 6% 3.3% 11/79% 0.262 0.389 0.651 0.215
2004/ATL-A 17 29% 6% 11.8% 1/100% 0.412 0.733 1.145 0.369
2004/ATL-A+ 16 38% 0% 0.0% 0/0% 0.250 0.375 0.625 0.206
2004/ATL-AAA 123 15% 4% 4.1% 5/100% 0.341 0.576 0.917 0.297
2004/ATL 173 16% 5% 3.5% 5/86% 0.272 0.444 0.716 0.233
2005/DET-AAA 414 18% 6% 1.9% 22/76% 0.285 0.354 0.639 0.217
2006/CIN-AA 55 16% 5% 5.5% 1/100% 0.455 0.740 1.195 0.390
2006/CIN-AAA 52 19% 10% 0.0% 2/50% 0.346 0.409 0.755 0.258
2006/CIN 14 29% 0% 0.0% 0/0% 0.143 0.143 0.286 0.100
Still, I'm a bit surprised to see him go. Again, you have to feel for the guy, as he hadn't even really been given a chance to do anything this year. And his decline leaves the Reds a bit short on outfielders. Right now, the Reds who are capable of patrolling the outfield are Dunn, Griffey, Freel and Denorfia. In the meantime, we're carrying three catchers and six infielders.

Dave Ross is no doubt here to stay, but Justin Germano just popped up for a start before heading back down to AAA. Therefore, a roster move will most definitely be made tomorrow. Who will it be? Well, looking at the Reds' schedule, they don't need a 5th starter until Tuesday, August 8th vs. the Cardinals. Given the rather limited outfield situation right now, I wouldn't be surprised to see Andy Abad (the only remaining outfielder in AAA that I've heard of) come up to replace Wise over that period of time.

But more interesting things could be afoot. Marc Lancaster thinks a trade might be brewing, though offers no ideas as to what might be up. Unless another huge trade occurs (Griffey?), the Reds' only marketable and yet replaceable property would seem to be a catcher. LaRue's recent improvements at the plate (well, at least the first week after the all-star break) might once again make him a valuable commodity, so that'd be my guess. But I've been saying that since spring training. :)

Yuliesky Gourriel Defects from Cuba

The young star of the Cuban National team, Yuliesky Gourriel, defected from the Cuba immediately following the '06 Central American games in Cartagena, Columbia. Accompanying him was veteran shortstop (and captain, as I recall, of the WBC Cuban National team) Eduardo Paret. Gourriel is considered by many to be a superb candidate for a career in the majors as a second baseman, and it looks like MLB teams are taking him very seriously. From Baseball Prospectus today:
With the news that Yuliesky Gourriel has defected (though there's no official confirmation), teams will begin the bidding war. Gourriel was a star in the World Baseball Classic. He'd need to get a lot of paperwork done in a hurry, but two baseball men I spoke to this evening think he's ready now. "I'd take him over Soriano on everything but power," one said. "I'm stunned. All we heard at the Classic is that he wouldn't go with all the family connections," said the other. "He's the biggest Cuban ever."
I have to say, I'd be delighted if Cincinnati took a serious stab at him. I doubt he'd be able to join a major league team this year, but you never know what might happen with those visas. A double-play combination of Phillips (at shortstop) and Gourriel could be a fantastic duo for a lot of years. That said, I'm sure the competition for him will be high.

As for Eduardo Paret...well, I don't know. I believe he's already in his mid-30's, though he hit well in the Classic and might be worth a shot in a backup role. Of course, given Cincinnati's rather shotty situation at shortstop right now, he might actually be an upgrade. But I've got nothing but that tiny sampling of games in the WBC to judge him on, as I haven't found a good source for stats on Cuban baseball players (if there even is one)...much less determined a way to figure major league equivalencies.

Something that I learned from Dave Studeman this week, that he didn't know last week

You gotta go check out BaseballRace.Com. You get to watch pennent races from past teams as if they were horse races. Studes recommends the '64 Phillies' fade and the '51 Giants/Dodgers races, but as a Reds fan I strongly recommend the '90 NL West, the '95 NL Central, the '99 NL Central, and, of course, the '75-76 NL West (goodness that '75 team was amazing). But whatever you do, don't watch the '03 or '04 NL Central races. They hurt.

"He has a nice fastball, but stuggles a bit with his control."

Finally, some amusing (at least to me) baseball history to close tonight's long post. This caught my eye over in the Minor League Ball Diaries. It describes a minor league player from the '50's and '60's named Steve Dalkowski. He may have had the fastest fastball ever. And the guy was just totally awesome. Stats from Wikipedia:
Year Age Club League Class G IP H BB SO W L ERA k/9 bb/9 h/9 whip
1957 18 Kingsport Appalachian D 15 62 22 129 121 1 8 8.13 17.6 18.7 3.2 2.44
1958 19 Knoxville South Atlantic A 11 42 17 95 82 1 4 7.93 17.6 20.4 3.6 2.67

19 Wilson Carolina B 8 14 7 38 29 0 1 12.21 18.6 24.4 4.5 3.21

19 Aberdeen Northern C 11 62 29 112 121 3 5 6.39 17.6 16.3 4.2 2.27
1959 20 Aberdeen Northern C 12 59 30 110 99 4 3 5.64 15.1 16.8 4.6 2.37

20 Pensacola Alabama-Florida D 7 25 11 80 43 0 4 12.96 15.5 28.8 4.0 3.64
1960 21 Stockton California C 32 170 105 262 262 7 15 5.14 13.9 13.9 5.6 2.16
1961 22 Kennewick Northwest B 31 103 75 196 150 3 12 8.39 13.1 17.1 6.6 2.63
1962 23 Elmira Eastern A 31 160 117 114 192 7 10 3.04 10.8 6.4 6.6 1.44
1963 24 Elmira Eastern AA 13 29 20 26 28 2 2 2.79 8.7 8.1 6.2 1.59

24 Rochester International AAA 12 12 7 14 8 0 2 6 6.0 10.5 5.3 1.75
1964 25 Elmira Eastern AA 8 15 17 19 16 0 1 6 9.6 11.4 10.2 2.40

25 Stockton California A 20 108 91 62 141 8 4 2.83 11.8 5.2 7.6 1.42

25 Columbus International AAA 3 12 15 11 9 2 1 8.25 6.8 8.3 11.3 2.17
1965 26 Kennewick Northwest A 16 84 84 52 62 6 5 5.14 6.6 5.6 9.0 1.62

26 San Jose California A 6 38 35 34 33 2 3 4.74 7.8 8.1 8.3 1.82

236 995 682 1354 1396 46 80 5.59 12.6 12.2 6.2 2.05
12.6 k/9 for his career, including around 17 k/9 in his first few seasons. That's crazy-high. But the best part is that despite striking out 1396 hitters in only 995 innings for his career, he also walked 1354--only 42 less than he struck out--and thus had almost exactly a 1:1 k:bb ratio. And look at his hit/9 numbers! He didn't allow more hits than innings pitched until a few brief stints during his 8th year in pro baseball. I can't imagine anyone being comfortable digging in against him. And yet his lifetime WHIP is over 2. Totally freaking awesome.

I would have loved to see that guy pitch. This site indicates that he was the model of Nuke LaLoosh of Bull Durham. I wonder how many team mascots he hit...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Narron: "Logic, I defy thee!"

From the DDN. Please note the bits I've emphasized in the text. My commentary follows.
Edwin Encarnacion isn't angry, just confused. Since coming off the disabled list July 6, he has played only eight games and hit safely in seven — 11-for-23 (.478), one homer, five RBIs.

He started Thursday against Milwaukee and had two hits and a walk before manager Jerry Narron pinch-hit for him in the seventh. He started Saturday and had two more hits.

But he didn't play Sunday and wasn't in Tuesday's lineup against Roger Clemens.

Asked if defense played into his decisions, Narron said: "Yes. And a lot of things factor into it."

Encarnacion is baffled, even though he realizes Rich Aurilia and Scott Hatteberg are hitting, too, making it difficult to squeeze three players into two positions. Narron said Encarnacion would start tonight and might start Thursday, too, then Friday in Milwaukee.

"He (Narron) hasn't talked to me, and all I can do is when I get the opportunity I have to do something with it," Encarnacion said. "I don't know what's going on, and it's hard for me, but I just try to do my job every day. I know when I play I'm OK because I do my work and then do my thing.

"But, yes, this is hard because I was playing before I got hurt, and I never expected it to be like this when I came back. But if we keep winning games, everything is going to be all right."

Asked if he might consider playing Aurilia at second base or shortstop so Encarnacion can play third and Hatteberg first, Narron said: "There is a chance of it. I came close Sunday — playing Aurilia at second. It isn't likely Richie would play short, not with Royce Clayton and Juan Castro playing short."

I could say all sorts of things in response to this article. I could mention that Encarnacion is only 23 years old and is the best looking offensive prospect we've had since Dunn and Kearns came up (and before that, maybe since Sean Casey?). I could mention that Aurilia had terrible defensive numbers at third base last year, while Encarnacion was above average. I could also mention that Royce Clayton has been a below-average shortstop over the past three years. Or, I could say that Castro's offensive VORP is generally so bad, even as a shortstop, that it largely negates any potential defensive bonus he provides. But really, all I want to say is this:


I was glad to see this. Even if it's only the media, someone's noticing. :)

In other news...
  • Tremendous game by Harang tonight. I was hoping he'd be as good as he was last year for us, but, in fact, he's been better. He has to be among the best trading deadline prospect pickups of the past several years, for any team. And Billy Beane doesn't give up a lot of cheap, quality players, so the Reds did good.
  • Maury Brown's BP Prospectus (subscription) article on blackouts was very revealing. I honestly had no idea that their blackout practices were so insane. One occasional commenter on this blog, Mike Grayson, was featured prominently:
While the territorial aspect has been a success for clubs for pulling in revenues, it has had unforeseen and highly negative impacts from a consumer standpoint. Case in point, Mike Grayson. Mike lives in Montana. He’s mostly a Reds fan, but also follows the Mariners. Problem is, the Mariners are blacked out where he lives. As Grayson says, “It seems very odd that a team that is literally over 500 miles away is blacked out. It's not like I would be able to go to a game easily if I can't watch on TV; it's a ten-hour drive at best. The blackout zones are ridiculous.”
  • New blog to watch: Global Baseball by jhelfgott. He's doing a year-long trip investigating baseball around the world. Right now, he's looking into the Dominican summer leagues. Fellow Reds blogger Doug Gray has requested that he do some work on the Reds' Dominican League affiliate there, and it sounds like that should be possible. I'd love to hear updates on what is going on with Wirfin Obispo... Also, jhelfgott has this recent story on the efforts of the Seattle Mariners to get baseball academies started in Europe. It seems like the Mariners are always at the forefront of pursuing foreign talent. I'd like to see the Reds do more innovation on that front.
  • The community has an ongoing feature in which they are collectively constructing a Top Prospects list. Homer Bailey came in at #9, while Jay Bruce came in at #16. No sign of Votto yet though.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Milton pitching, by-the-minute impressions

Milton's 3rd trip through the opposing lineup today is beginning with the leadoff batter in the 5th inning. Let's see what happens:

5th inning, looked good. 1 k, one soft ground ball, one walk, but then induced Carlos Lee to pop out to catcher.

6th inning, starting to lose it. A single followed by two consecutive fly outs, both of which were reasonably well hit. Barnwell's ground out might have tempted me to leave him in for the 7th, but not at the cost of letting Milton lead off the bottom of the 6th inning. He'd be done at this point if I were managing.

7th inning, on the decline. Starts with a strikeout of the opposing pitcher, but then promptly hit Rickie Weeks. I would have definitely pulled him at this point. Brady Clark grounded out, which is nice, but the Hall walk, which pushed Milton to 99 pitches, sealed the deal. Narron pulled Milton in favor of Majewski. Obviously that didn't work out, but at least Narron has learned something from Milton's last start.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Surprise trip to D-back game

My wife surprised me this afternoon by announcing that her work had an extra ticket to the Diamondbacks game. So instead of sitting at home watching the baby tonight while she went to the game (it was a work function), the three of us trekked out to the game. Our daughter's first baseball game was a great one, featuring:
  • A gem from Brandon Webb. 8 innings pitched, 2 earned runs (technically), 2 bb, 4 k, 4 double-plays induced, and only 104 pitches thrown. I quite literally get teary-eyed when I think about the idea of him pitching for the Reds someday. I know it's a pipe dream. But the idea of a guy pitching for the Reds who, every year, induces 66% of balls in play to be ground balls, has excellent control, and strikes out batters at an above average clip, not to mention has no history of injuries and is only's beyond intoxicating. He is from Ashland, Kentucky, and went to the University of Kentucky...maybe he's always longed to play close to home? Here's an example of why Webb is so awesome:
    • In the 8th inning, Russell Martin led off with a double down the line in left field. It was a line drive, and Brandon Webb thought it was a homer when it left the bat because he just hung his head--I thought he was hurt for a moment he was so upset. Everybody makes mistakes, ya know?
    • After a ground out by Olmedo Saenz, Rafael Furcal tapped a terribly hit little ground ball to Webb, who fielded it close to the line and was unable to make a play. Would have been an amazing play to get speedy Furcal, and Martin made it to third behind the play.
    • On the next play, J.D. Drew hit a ground ball to his brother, Stephen Drew, the Diamondbacks young shortstop prospect (more on him later). Tailor-made double-play ball, except that Stephen Drew couldn't get it out of his glove, and by the time he recovered, he wasn't even able to throw out J.D. Drew at first base (J.D. is still pretty freaking fast by the way, despite all his leg injuries). Martin scored on the error, and since you can't assume a double-play, it was ruled an earned run.
    • So what does Brandon Webb do next? First pitch to Nomar Garciaparra was another ground ball to Stephen Drew, who promptly fed Orlando Hudson the ball to start a beautiful double play (this time). It was amazing. Brandon Webb strolled off the field to a standing ovation.
  • In the second inning, Stephen Drew hit a line drive down the right field line to score Chad Tracy, who had led off the inning with a double. It was Stephen Drew's first major league RBI. I was impressed with Drew tonight. Aside from the error, he made a number of excellent plays, including a very impressive charge, field, and throw on a broken bat grounder from Willy Aybar. He looked good at the plate too.
  • Carlos Quentin, another of the Diamondbacks' fantastic looking prospects, celebrated his major league debut tonight by hitting a line-drive 2-run home run to left field. He also hit a line drive right at the left fielder in the 8th. Also darn near made an amazing catch in left field that turned into the Russell Martin double I mentioned above. Not a bad first night. If Quentin goes on to become the star that a lot of people think he will over the next decade, it will be pretty cool to be able to tell my daughter that her first baseball game was also the day of Quentin's major league debut, and his first home run.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Majewski blows it again, with help from Mercker

I actually feel bad for Gary Majewski, as he's going to get crucified by the fans over his disastrous appearances for the Reds thus far. Even though Bill Bray was clearly the Reds' prize from the recent trade in the long term, Majewski has been hyped by the team as main guy from the deal in the short term. He has had impressive numbers the past two seasons, but as I discussed in my piece on the trade, his ERA has been helped by being a bit hit lucky the past season and a half.

The guy is an average middle reliever. He can keep the ball in the park, but he walks a lot of hitters and doesn't strike a whole lot of them out. That's fine, he's still valuable in our struggling pen. But he's not really a setup man, and shouldn't be used in that capacity. ... not that we probably had much of a choice tonight after all the innings the bullpen threw last night.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Milton shelled because he was left in too long

So today I was sitting at home watching the game via MLB Gameday, and I was surprised to see that Jerry Narron let Eric Milton start the 7th inning. On the surface it didn't seem like a bad move--Milton is a veteran pitcher, had only thrown 89 pitches, and aside from a few mistakes that turned into home runs, he had pitched a beautiful ballgame.

But most Reds fans by now are well aware of how quickly things can go south for the lefthander once the first half of the ballgame is over. So when Xavier Nady led off the inning with a single, I was pleading with my computer screen to get the bullpen up and throwing. At that point, I had to step away to take care of a crying baby. By the time I returned, Beltran had hit his slam, and the game was well out of hand.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to pull Milton's numbers on a per-inning basis to see if he really has consistently been as frightening in later innings as I was thinking he had. The numbers speak for themselves. Through tonight's game:

1st - 15.0 in, 10 h, 4 er, 1 hr, 5 bb, 11 k - 2.40 ERA, 0.6 hr/9, 3.0 bb/9, 6.6 k/9
2nd - 15.0 in, 12 h, 7 er, 4 hr, 1 bb, 8 k - 4.20 ERA, 2.4 hr/9, 0.6 bb/9, 4.8 k/9
3rd - 15.0 in, 9 h, 4 er, 1 hr, 1 bb, 10 k - 2.40 ERA, 0.6 hr/9, 0.5 bb/9, 6.0 k/9
4th - 15.0 in, 15 h, 10 er, 4 hr, 4 bb, 9 k - 6.00 ERA, 2.4 hr/9, 2.4 bb/9, 5.4 k/9
5th - 13.7 in, 16 h, 10 er, 3 hr, 5 bb, 5 k - 6.57 ERA, 2.9 hr/9, 3.3 bb/9, 3.3 k/9
6th - 11.3 in, 21 h, 13 er, 3 hr, 6 bb, 8 k - 10.35 ERA, 2.4 hr/9, 4.8 bb/9, 6.4 k/9
7th - 7.0 in, 9 h, 7 er, 2 hr, 2 bb, 3 k - 9.00 ERA, 2.6 hr/9, 2.6 bb/9, 3.9 k/9
8th - 1.7 in, 4 h, 2 er, 1 hr, 0 bb, 1 k - 10.59 ERA, 5.3 hr/9, 0.0 bb/9, 5.3 k/9

Note the steady (after the first inning) rise in his bb/9 from the 4th through 6th inning. His strikeouts also seem to drop off a little bit, although he has struck a fair number out in the 6th inning. Nevertheless, what it looks like to me is that Milton starts to lose his control about half way through his pitch count, and this steadily leads to more men on base as well as an increased likelihood of home runs. Once the 6th inning arrives, Reds fans should hit the deck. I'm almost inclined to recommend removing him after the 5th inning no matter what. :)

Another way to look at this is by the trips through the lineup. CBS Sportsline has these splits, although I haven't updated them to be through tonight's game (they'd be even more dramatic):

First 9 hitters - 33.7 in, 20 h, 8 er, 3 hr, 5 bb, 21 k - 2.14 ERA, 0.8 hr/9, 1.3 bb/9, 5.6 k/9
Second 9 hitters - 29.7 in, 32 h, 17 er, 6 hr, 6 bb, 19 k - 5.16 ERA, 1.8 hr/9, 1.8 bb/9, 5.8 k/9
Third 9 hitters - 23.3 in, 38 h, 25 er, 7 hr, 9 bb, 12 k - 9.64 ERA, 2.7 hr/9, 3.5 bb/9, 4.6 k/9

Wow, that's really telling. The first two times through the lineup, Milton seems to be fairly effective, although he has given up a few more home runs and quite a few more hits the second time through the order. Nevertheless, by the third time through the order, Milton is walking people left and right, not striking guys out very often, and is giving up an insane number of longballs. That's a recipe for disaster.

The cause of this is likely a combination of two things: Milton getting tired and opponents figuring him out. I tend to think it's more the former than the latter, as I haven't noticed a trend in which teams are hitting Milton better the second time they see him in the season compared to the first time. But the results seem very clear--by the time the batting order comes around for the third time, Jerry Narron needs to be ultra-paranoid about Eric Milton. My suggestion is that he should be yanked the moment anyone gets on base.