Table of Contents

Monday, April 30, 2007

Josh Hancock

I wanted to send out my thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Josh Hancock. How terrible.

Update: John Sickels posted a prospect retro on Hancock this morning.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Better Know a Red #23 - Brad Salmon

Yesterday, the Reds promoted 27-year old Brad Salmon to the big league club to replace the DFA'd Rheal Cormier. Salmon was the Reds' 21st round selection in the 1999 amateur draft (that's the year that Josh Hamilton went #1), hailing from Jefferson Davis Community College (other Alumni include Joe Valentine). His first season with Billings was pretty rough, but he performed reasonably well in A and high-A ball over the next three seasons as a starter. In 2003, the Reds converted him to relief. Since then, he's shown steady, incremental improvements as he has slowly advanced through AA Chattanooga and AAA Louisville. 2005 saw significant improvements, but it was last season when Salmon seemed to finally take off.

2004/CIN-A+ 24 16.7 8.6 1.6 0.0 0.54 0.54 1.82 0.250 3.37 8.2 --
2004/CIN-AA 24 65.3 7.3 3.0 0.4 4.82 4.27 3.18 0.322 4.46 -5.4 --
2005/CIN-AA 25 72.7 8.8 3.8 0.4 3.84 3.34 3.06 0.326 4.65 7.2 50%
2005/CIN-AAA 25 16.3 4.4 2.8 1.1 3.31 3.31 4.73 0.231 5.39 4.4 59%
2006/CIN-AA 26 23.3 9.3 6.2 0.0 2.70 2.70 3.20 0.300 4.60 3.9 56%
2006/CIN-AAA 26 57.7 11.2 4.2 0.5 2.81 2.34 2.78 0.273 4.04 12.6 40%
2007/CIN-AAA 27 8.3 9.8 0.0 0.0 2.17 2.16 1.03 --- --- --- ---
Salmon's 2006 season is interesting, because the hard-throwing right-hander's strikeout rates really took off and were over 10 k/9 across AA and AAA. At the same time, his walk rates, which historically had been decent enough (mid to low 3's), also shot up. Overall, he walked a not-so-good 43 in 81 innings last year, but also struck out a very impressive 96. The net effect was a improved performance, but I worry that the command issues could be fatal once he starts pitching for Cincinnati. We can just hope that his command will return to where it was during the previous years in his career. He has been encouraging thus far in 2007--he has yet to walk anyone in 8 1/3 innings.

My guess is that his success in the majors will be determined by whether he can continue to get the ball over the plate. Also working in his favor, however, is the ability to induce ground balls--he usually (except at AAA last year) has had ground ball rates of at least 50%, and his career average of 0.48 hr/9 in the minor leagues is excellent.

It will be interesting to see how long Salmon can stick with the Reds this year. Jared Burton's rehab assignment is likely to expire within the next few weeks. Unless Salmon can really impress in his first few appearances, my guess is that he'll return to Louisville when the Reds are forced to promote Burton again. And even if he survives that transaction, the imminent return of Gary Majewski and eventual return of Bill Bray may also force him back down the river.

Still, I think there's a chance that Salmon can help the Reds this season. As Narron pointed out, they don't have much in the way of power arms in their bullpen outside of Coffey, and he seems to be pitching in the low-90's rather than the high-90's that he very occasionally flashes. If Salmon can be effective (throw strikes), he'll provide a nice change of pace from the other right-handers in the bullpen. According to PECOTA, one of Salmon's comparable players this season is Derrick Turnbow of 2005 (1.74 ERA, 67.3 IP, 64/24 K/BB)--obviously a best-case scenario, but that would be a nice addition to the 'pen. :)

The steroid bust

Maury Brown is making a lot of noise about the recent bust of a former NYMets batboy, Kirk Radomski, for steroid distribution. Here's an excerpt:
On the face of the news from yesterday, one might say that by the time one Kirk J. Radomski left his employment with Mets in 1995, the damage might not be as great as one thinks. After all, the first “survey test” for steroids wasn’t conducted until 2003 and regular testing of players till 2004.

Unfortunately, Radomski continued dealing in illegal performance-enhancing drugs until his Long Island, N.Y. home was raided in 2005.

With the FBI’s announcement yesterday of a plea agreement, there has been 17 months in-between the raid on Radomski’s home. Almost two years for the FBI to work with him in gaining valuable information on players—or, possibly dealing PEDs to players through the FBI in order to gain evidence on players. Could video surveillance of a sale or the possibility of Radomski wearing a wire when a deal was made have occurred? Given that those methods have been used with investigations into street drugs, how easy would it be to use them when the names associated could be star MLB players? Ambitious agents would surely like to see one or more star PED users mounted on their wall.
Obviously, much of what he's saying is speculative. But it will be interesting to see how big this thing gets. If we get into a situation in which there is verifyable and unambiguous evidence implicating a large number of current or former players, this could be an enormous scandal. And MLB and the MLB Players Associations will have no one to blame but themselves.

Cormier DFA'd, Brad Salmon promoted from AAA

Today, the Reds designated veteran LHP Rheal Cormier for assignment and promoted RHP Brad Salmon from AAA to replace him in the bullpen.

I'm going to make a separate post about Salmon tomorrow, because before I get to him I feel compelled to bitch for a moment about Cormier. The Reds acquired Cormier from the Phillies in exchange for RHP Justin Germano. Germano, who came to the Reds in the excellent Joe Randa trade of '05, was a starting pitching prospect with an admittedly average ceiling, but nonetheless a guy who could make a legitimate bid for the #4 rotation slot starting this season (and he is still just 24). Certainly not an untouchable, but far from a throw-away player.

Cormier, on the other hand, was a veteran left-hander with a sparkly 1.59 ERA. But in my evaluation of that transaction, I noted the following concerns:
  • He was 39 years old.
  • His strikeout rate had been dropping (irregularly) since 2003, and was, at that point, down to woeful 3.4 k/9 in 34 innings.
  • His walk rate had very steadily increased since 2003, and was currently a worse-than-average 3.4 bb/9. That made for a 1:1 k:bb ratio, which is awful.
  • His BABIP on the season was an incredibly lucky 0.219, which was the primary reason his ERA was so low. FIP predicted it to be 4.35.
  • (in the comments) The hype about his ability to get right-handers out was more hype than reality. His 3-year average split for lefties (7.0 k/9, 3.3 bb/9, 0.62 hr/9, 3.90 FIP) was better than his split for righties (5.2 k/9, 2.7 bb/9, 0.90 hr/9, 4.31 FIP).
Given this all this, I wrote:
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.
The result? Just 17 IP in 27 games this and last season for the Reds, allowing 10 runs (5.29 ERA). Today, John Fay wrote:
The deal will go down as one of Wayne Krivsky's worst. I can't blame him for the making the trade. Cormier had a 1.59 for Philly when the Reds acquired. You can chalk up the fact that he didn't pitch well for Reds -- 0-1, 4.50 ERA -- to bad luck.
Can't blame him for making the trade? Look, I'm just a 29-year old guy with an internet connection and a basic understanding of baseball statistics. I have no formal training of any sort in player performance analysis, have no ability to evaluate talent in any other way (I can barely tell one pitch from another when I watch games), and played only one season of little league ball (8th grade -- and I SUUUCKED). Heck, I don't even watch more than 10-15 regular season games a year, and only attend three or four. I'm hardly an expert.

So if it was this obvious to me that Cormier's pitching skill had declined severely last season, why wasn't it also obvious to the Reds? Yes, I fully acknowledge that numbers don't always tell the whole story. This is especially the case with young players, where playing time and competitive level are not always consistent, and players can still make big jumps in their development in a short period of time. A knowledgeable scout can see things in a player that the numbers just don't pick up (see, for example, my massive underestimates of guys like Phillips & Ross last year). But when you're dealing with a guy with a long track record like Cormier, and the numbers are this clear on his decline--and this was as obvious a case of a fluke season as you can get (see also Mays, Joe 2001 and Franklin, Ryan 2003)--you absolutely have to pay attention to them.

Krivsky didn't.

(btw, the fact that I just let myself play "I told you so" in such over-the-top, borderline arrogant fashion means that I am hereby also requiring myself to fess up in similarly grandiose fashion to at least two substantial misses in judgment by the season's end. Hopefully they will be misses in the same direction as Phillips and Ross...Matt Belisle is a leading early candidate, though I'm not sure I've stuck out my foot and voiced my skepticism about him very well yet).

Photo by AP/David Kohl

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Denorfia traded for Marcus McBeth & PTBNL

Yesterday, Chris Denorfia was traded to the Oakland Athletics for two players to be named later, one of which was identified today as 26-year old RHP Marcus McBeth.

McBeth was the A's 4th round selection in the 2001 amateur draft out of the University of South Carolina. Like Jon Coutlangus, McBeth was drafted as an outfielder (also out of the University of South Carolina!), but after three years of hitting with little improvement, he converted to a reliever as a 25-year old. Since then, he has skyrocketed through the A's system, posting impressive numbers for someone who had just started pitching. And now, just two years later, he was acquired by the Reds.

Marcus McBeth Stats:
2005/OAK-RK 25 10.0 11.7 4.5 0.9 1.80 0.90 3.40 --- --- --- ---
2005/OAK-A 25 19.7 9.6 5.9 0.9 5.03 5.03 4.37 0.340 7.35 -1.4 30%
2005/OAK-A+ 25 2.7 10.0 6.7 0.0 0.00 0.00 3.20 0.200 8.48 0.4 20%
2006/OAK-A+ 26 8.7 14.5 2.1 0.0 0.00 0.00 0.67 0.077 2.43 4.0 31%
2006/OAK-AA 26 54.3 10.8 3.3 0.7 2.65 2.48 2.87 0.287 4.26 -0.20 43%
2006/OAK-AAA 26 7.3 8.6 7.4 3.7 11.10 11.05 9.09 0.211 13.25 0.80 18%
2007/OAK-AAA 27 10.0 5.4 2.7 1.8 2.70 1.80 5.50 0.184
--- --- ---
Sample sizes are pretty small here, except for his AA stint last year. But McBeth apparently throws pretty hard, and the result has been outstanding strikeout rates as he's flown through the A's minor league system (10.8 k/9 for 2005-2006). Nevertheless, he also has been pretty wild, with a two-year average walk rate of 4.2 bb/9. The latter flaw is not surprising given that pitching is so new to him, and was much better in 2006, and seems to have continued to be solid thus far in 2007. So I don't think there's any reason that he can't improve on that score. While his HR/9 rates have been pretty low thus far in his career, he is not a ground ball pitcher.

While his arm is probably pretty fresh given his recent conversion, he has yet to demonstrate an ability to get AAA hitters out (note the 5+ FIP's this year and last--his k-rate not been what it was last season, despite that shiny ERA, though admittedly we're dealing with very small sample sizes). Given that he will be 27 at the end of the season, time is not on his side. Still, I can see him helping the Reds, perhaps as early as this season. He seems similar to rule-5 pickup Jared Burton, as well as the recently-promoted Brad Salmon--a power right-hander with the potential for good things(tm) but also the potential to be undermined by control problems. He probably rates behind those two in the depth chart right now--Salmon has had success at AAA, while Burton's rule 5 status means that he'll basically have to fail in the majors before he is let go. But by season's end, he very well could move to the front of the pack, and might even get some appearances in our bullpen.

But having said all that, I'm not feeling very good about this trade. First, Denorfia is hurt and out for the season. Assuming he comes back from it--and admittedly, there is a risk that he won't, though Tommy John surgery is almost becoming routine, and moreover, he is not a pitcher and can play with a weaker arm than before the injury--we are dealing Denorfia at a moment when his stock is about as low as it gets.

Second, while obviously we don't yet know the identity of the other player the Reds will receive in this deal, we're dealing a guy who has a good shot at sticking as a solid big league center fielder and getting someone who is really just a borderline relief pitching prospect. No, Denorfia won't be a star, but he has gap power, plays good defense, and has good ability to get on base. I don't have a problem with dealing him per se (the Reds do have a crowded outfield with the apparent emergence of Josh Hamilton), but I think Krivsky should have aimed a bit higher in terms of the return. All that said, I'll withhold final judgement on this deal until I see who else the Reds get (it may very well turn out to be Jared Burton!).

Update: Christina Karhl wrote this about McBeth in her transaction analysis at BP:
So Krivsky instead decided to ditch someone no longer really in his ballclub's outfield picture for another reliever, and while that might seem like more of the same, McBeth's as interesting as a minor league reliever can get, bordering on meriting a 'prospect' label you don't often tag their kind with. A former centerfielder with mid-90s heat, he might have been able to punch his own ticket at some point with velocity alone. However, a nasty changeup and a promising slider give him an unusually broad assortment for a conversion project, and there's a decent chance he'll be able to stick in The Show before this season's out.
I don't always agree with Karhl, but she always offers a valuable opinion. Most people (including Reds' prospect expert Doug Gray, see comments below) seem pretty high on McBeth, which is encouraging. I still have reservations about him, and about the deal, but I'll definitely be rooting for this kid.
Photo from

Friday, April 27, 2007

Can we adjust OPS to account for variation in BABIP?

"You know what the difference is between hitting 0.250 and hitting 0.300? It's 25 hits. Twenty-five hits in 500 at bats is 50 points. Okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks -- you get one extra flare a week -- just one -- a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail -- just one more dying quail a're in Yankee Stadium." -- Crash Davis (Bull Durham)

The degree to which a player's Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) varies from season to season due to nothing more than random "luck" has been one of the more important discoveries in baseball player performance analysis. JC Bradbury's PrOPS statistic was an attempt to estimate batting performance based on batted ball types, rather than outcomes, thus removing a great deal of the luck (variation due to random factors) that we see in traditional "scorebook" statistics. The estimates of OPS that his approach generated seemed to get around variation in performance due to luck. For example, players with a positive difference between PrOPS and OPS (PrOPS-OPS > 0) one year tended to have either a negative difference or no difference the following year. Similarly, players with absurdly high BABIP's tend to have PrOPS estimates much lower than their actual OPS. More importantly, PrOPS has a better year-to-year correlation within players than OPS, and actually predicts subsequent year OPS better than OPS itself.

But there are two problems with PrOPS. First, JC Bradbury hasn't released (to my knowledge) the actual equations used to calculate PrOPS, which means that we can't completely evaluate his methodology. Furthermore, it restricts us to the PrOPS information we can gather from THT's (excellent) website, as there's no way for us to replicate his efforts. Second, batted ball data aren't always available. For example, I often like to look at splits throughout the season (e.g. home/away splits, or month-by-month splits), and I usually can't find batted ball data in those instances.

Therefore, I've been experimenting to see if I could develop a simple alternative to PrOPS that, while not as good, might still help separate lucky/unlucky performances from true player skill. In the end, I'm not entirely happy with the result, but I thought I'd report my findings nonetheless.

My approach is very simple, and is something I touched on in my spring training review: adjust a player's hit totals so that his BABIP is set to a more "typical" number, and then use those adjusted hit totals to calculate OPS. I make the explicit (and probably not completely valid, though also probably not fatal) assumption that the entire difference between "typical" and "expected" BABIP are singles--the "ground balls with eyes" that Crash Davis referred to above. If a batters' BABIP is higher than "typical," OPS should decrease, whereas if BABIP is already fairly typical, OPS should not change much.


Simple stuff here. The equation for BABIP is as follows:
  • BABIP = (H-HR)/(AB-HR-K)
So solving for H gives us:
  • H = (BABIP)*(AB-HR-K) + HR
This is the expected number of hits a player would receive for a given BABIP. We can then use these adjusted hit totals along with the other original stats (AB's, BB's, 2B's, 3B's, HR's) to calculate OPS as we usually do (we could also do the same with just about any other offensive statistic: Runs Created, Gross Production Average, etc). But what BABIP value should we use? I'll consider two alternatives.

The most straightforward, though not necessarily the most accurate way to estimate what BABIP should have been is to simply use MLB average. Over the past three seasons ('04-'06), the average BABIP, based on all balls hit into play, is 0.304.

This first approach, however, ignores the finding that batters do consistently vary in BABIP; excellent hitters often do have consistently higher BABIP's than poorer hitters. Dave Studenmund has done some research on this in the past and discovered that BABIP can be predicted with reasonable accuracy as %LD + 0.120 (I loosely confirmed this, though over the past three years the value one should add appears to be 0.117--though I used Studes' number in this report). Therefore, the second approach was to estimate BABIP using LD%. Granted, I am trying to get away from batted-ball data, but this will serve as a useful check of how badly the approach of using league average BABIP affects the results.

A third approach might be to use a hitter's career BABIP instead of current-year BABIP. This would be fine when looking at hitters with an established MLB track record, but we often want to look at hitters with only a year or two at the MLB level. It also complicates (slightly) the calculations we'd have to make, as we would no longer be able to calculate everything from just one row's worth of data (one season) in a spreadsheet. Therefore, I'm not going to pursue this approach for the time being.


Below is a scatter plot matrix comparing OPS, PrOPS, and the two adjustments to OPS that I proposed above: avg-aOPS (MLB Average BABIP adjusted OPS, approach #1 above), and ld-aOPS (LD%-determined BABIP Adjusted OPS, approach #2 above). Data are for all batters from 2004-2006 with a minimum of 100 plate appearances. I did not control for individual in this study, so individuals who played multiple years are represented more than once. Sorry--if that freaks people out, I can go back and re-do it, but I doubt it would change the findings much. Also, I removed Barry Bonds' 2004 line, because his ridiculous 1.422 OPS had incredibly high leverage and was throwing off my regressions & correlations.

"R2," or r-squared, values indicate the proportion of variance explained by regressing one variable onto another. The square root of R2 is r, Pearson's correlation coefficient. As you can see, all four variables were well-correlated with one another. There were a few incidences where there appears to be some non-linearity, and I haven't tried to compensate for that as of yet.

PrOPS was the least well-correlated with actual OPS of the three OPS estimates, but that makes sense, because PrOPS is based on a completely different set of data (batted ball, k, and bb rates). The most interesting finding here was that both avgBIPaOPS and ldBIPaOPS were both better correlated to PrOPS than they were to actual OPS. This seemed to indicate that some of the luck-based variation that PrOPS removes from its performance estimates are also removed in the two BABIP-adjusted OPS estimates. That was a very good sign that this approach may have some merit.

Furthermore, there is almost no difference between avgBIPaOPS and ldBIPaOPS in their correlations to actual OPS or PrOPS. This indicates, at least initially, that we don't lose all that much information by adjusting everyone's OPS to MLB average, rather than trying to estimate it from LD%, even though we know it's technically not right to do so. The primary consequence appears to be that the LD%-based estimates show a better linear relationship than the league-average based estimates. This makes sense because it might reflect the fact that BABIP's do vary in consistent ways between hitters.

Again, for this approach to be useful to me, it needs to work reasonably well in the absence of batted-ball data like LD%. So to assess that let's look at a case example (the 2006 Reds) and see how the three approaches compare in their player assessments. The hope is that they will all tell a fairly similar story, as thus be compatible techniques:
Above you see three graphs comparing an estimate of OPS to actual OPS for the 2006 Reds (minimum 100 plate appearances). The first is PrOPS, which I'm holding up as the gold standard. Individuals in the upper-left corner probably "underachieved" last season, meaning that their batted ball stats predict a better OPS than they actually had. Likewise, individuals in the lower-right probably "overachieved" (i.e. they were lucky).

PrOPS indicated that five players may have underachieved for the Reds last season: Jason LaRue and Adam Dunn were particularly high off the curve, while Griffey, Valentin, and Clayton also may have deserved better than they got. Only one individual, Chris Denorfia, was identified as someone who probably overachieved last season. Let's see how those findings compare to those derived from BABIP adjustements.

ld-aOPS, the OPS estimate based on a line-drive estimated BABIP, told a somewhat similar, though admittedly not identical, story. It identified LaRue, Dunn, and Valentin as underachievers, though it put Griffey and Clayton back onto the curve due to their low LD%'s last season. It also identified Hatteberg, Castro, and (perhaps) Aurlia) as slight underachievers. Denorfia was once again identified as an over-achiever.

avg-aOPS, the OPS estimate based on league-average BABIP, was the most different of the bunch. That's unfortunate, as it's the only one that I can use when I only have access to traditional statistics. It identified only LaRue and Griffey, both of whom had sub-0.250 BABIP's last season, as underachieving. Denorfia is once again the only real over-achiever thanks to his 0.345 BABIP. All other players were basically right on the line.

In addition to looking at the Reds, I also took a look at those MLB players ranked as the most extreme under- and over-achievers over the past three years using these three approaches. This analysis identified another problem: both of the two BABIP estimates tended to identify poor hitters as "under-achievers" and good hitters as "over-achievers" (even when plate appearance requirements were stepped up in excess of 250). They did this to a far greater degree than PrOPS did--in other words, a bit part of what it's doing is just regressing players to toward the mean. This, along with the Reds results above, indicate to me that doing BABIP-adjustments provides, at best, only a very rough estimate for how well a player is hitting.

Should we consider using it?

Nevertheless, despite my disappointment in the overall performance of this little stat, I still think it can be worthwhile if used cautiously. When BABIP's deviate in dramatic fashion from typical values (<0.250,>0.350), using the avg-aOPS approach will still identify lucky and/or unlucky performances and get an idea of what they would look like under more "typical" luck. The thing to remember is that a positive difference probably does mean that good or bad luck has played into a player's actual OPS value. In contrast, a lack of deviation from expected values doesn't necessarily mean that a players' statistics were in line with his "true" performance, it just means that the player's BABIP looks about right for his performance.

Therefore, I will go ahead and use the avg-aOPS (I'll just call it "aOPS" from now on) approach from time to time this season when PrOPS or raw batted-ball data are unavailable. I expect that it will be particularly valuable when looking at monthly splits, as small sample sizes do tend to result in highly variable BABIP's, and some of the huge swings we see in player performance may be able to be explained by simple, random variation in BABIP as opposed to actual variation in true player performance.

Banner day on Protrade

I'm still getting used to the Protrade market. I've found that, with the exception of major injuries (upon which people jump on the short bandwagon with incredible speed), for the most part player stocks are fairly steady. Some guys get undervalued (Ryan Church--listed @ $100, on pace for ~$150, PECOTA projects him even higher) or overvalued (Reed Johnson--listed @ $111, not-so-good projections, will miss at least half the season with back surgery), and generally just stay where they are.

Over the past 24 hours, however, people have been going crazy with the shorting. Mark Prior's end-0f-season (and maybe career) news dropped his price down to ~$20 (I only got in at ~$45). No big surprise there.

But once ProTrade retired his stock for the season, all the sudden some other shorts became popular. Two players I've been shorting since opening day, Bernie Williams and Corey Koskie, dropped from where they'd been since day one (Bernie @ ~$70, Cory @ ~$105) to the thirties overnight. As a result, I made upwards of $2000 on these holdings in the past 24 hours. To put that in perspective, I made about $2000 from when I began ProTrade in mid-march through yesterday, and much of that was by buying lots of hyped-up rookies prior to the season's start and then selling them off once the real games began.

Anyway, it's a fun site to play around with. It's about all the fantasy baseball that I allow myself, as it only takes a few minutes a day (or every other day) to play. ... 'Course, right now I have $8,500 that isn't invested, 'cause I haven't sat down to try to find additional undervalued individuals to buy. Among the Reds, only David Ross might be undervalued, but that's assuming he'll pull out of his slump...and it's been so bad that I'm feeling scared off by it right now, though the HR today was encouraging.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What could have been?

Joe Posnanski has a wonderful article on his blog tonight about players who might have been hall of famers had they originally been signed by a different team. It's an excellent read, and includes this little tidbit about a former Reds player who I'd never heard of (my knowledge of the Reds past, with the exception of Ted Kluszewki and Frank Robinson, starts at about 1970):
Hank Sauer

Might be in the Hall of Fame if: The Cincinnati Reds didn't HATE home run hitters.

The Honker did not get a chance to play full-time in the big leagues until he was 31 years old -- after that he hit 281 home runs. As Bill points out, that's more homers after 31 than, among others: Stargell, Musial, Schmidt and McCovey. It's one fewer than Reggie Jackson.

Why didn't Sauer get his chance earlier? The Reds were anti-home run. There's really no other way to look at it. From 1941 to 1947, the most homers hit by a Reds player was 20 (by Frank McCormick hit in the war-torn year of 1944). The Reds were all about pitching and defense ... and they never did appreciate Sauer. They finally gave him his shot in 1948, and he hit 35 homers -- he shattered the Reds' record by five homers.

His reward was to be traded to the Cubs the very next year for Harry the Hat Walker and Peanuts Lowery. Sauer hit 30-plus homers five times after that, including a monster 41-homer season in 1954 when he was 37. That matched Cy Williams NL record for most homers in a season by a player 35 or older.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thanks to Shaba

I wanted to send out a huge thank you to Shaba at the Spybot malware removal forums for helping me to clear up a frustrating adware infection on my work PC over the past two weeks. These folks spend an enormous amount of their free time helping people clear up challenging infections. It may take a bit of time to get their help (they get a lot of help requests!), but when you do, they are knowledgeable, friendly, and professional.

And before you ask, my PC was well protected with a variety of defenses--I know exactly how I got infected, and it was because I was being stupid. :)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Thank goodness for the off day...

I know I don't comment on all that many games here, but I've been listening to about 80% of them on the radio while at work. Great way to break up the monotony of pushing flies.

Today, though, I would have rather sat there in silence. It was just brutal. As it happens, the only two games from this home stand that the Reds won were the games I didn't listen to. So frankly, I'm pretty stick of hearing them lose. The offense has been horrible, and the bullpen has inexplicably imploded this past week. Everyone already knows this, but I just needed to put it down in writing for my own sanity.

Desktop computer is still down (replacement hard drive is due Tuesday, though by the time I catch up with UPS, it'll probably be Wednesday or so), so I'm going to go busy myself tonight with some work on hitter babip. I'll avoid 2007 data entirely and just think about last year. As frustrating as last year was at times, it was a heck of a lot more fun than today. :)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Book Review: The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007

While this point has been made in other reviews, but the thing that impresses me the most about the Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 is how different it is from other annual publications. Most annuals provide statistics of the prior season, perhaps with summaries of major happenings within each league or each team. Some of the better ones provide team-by-team analysis and projections for the coming season. And some throw in a few additional, insightful articles about baseball or (often) baseball statistics.

What really sets the Hardball Times Annual apart, and makes it arguably the best of the bunch, is that it focuses on the latter component--insightful articles--far more so than its competitors. There are absolutely stats, which, in fact, are sophisticated, well-organized, and innovative. In addition to classic team and player stats, The Hardball Times makes use of a number of more advanced statistics to analyze both teams and players, including Win Shares, runs created and prevented, defense-independent pitching statistics, and detailed batted-ball statistics. It will be an excellent resource in the coming season, along with the wonderful Hardball Times website.

But the heart of the book lies in the 160 pages of insightful baseball writing by a huge cast of contributors. There is an emphasis in places on the previous season, but much of it is timeless, and will still be worth reading several years down the road. The book also spans a huge range of material, from baseball humor and blunders, to baseball history, to hardcore statistical analysis. In this way, it is more similar to a periodic editorial volume than a classic baseball year-in-review.

The book began with a series of articles recapping the 2006 season. After an introductory article by the always-interesting Dave Studenmund (10 things I learned last year), there was a separate review of the happenings within each division in baseball, as well as a recap of the playoffs. Generally, in each divisional review, each team was recapped for a paragraph or so, with some additional writing to describe how they interacted over the course of the season. The playoff review highlighted each game's major happenings, and did a nice job of summarizing the events as they transpired...though to be honest, I found this whole first section of the book to be the least interesting.

Fortunately, the next section was much better, with eleven short articles of commentary on the 2006 season. Highlights included a dissection how how Walt Jocketty assembled the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals by Brian Tsao, an investigation of the effect of the new drug testing policy on MLB performance by Steve Treder (basically, there wasn't much of a measureable effect), an interesting investigation of competitive balance by Vince Gennaro (he argues that it's only an illusion), and an analysis of the hugely successful Braves General Manager John Schuerholz's approach to his business by Mac Thomason.

From this point on, the articles broadened in scope, focusing less on the 2006 season and more on baseball in general, both in present day and in the past. Here are a few highlights:
  • John Brattain describes the initial origins and ultimate downfall of the Federal League. I had only passing familiarity with this league, but it is a remarkable experiment and one wonders what would happen if baseball's anti-trust exemption was dropped and the same thing was tried today.
  • There is also a wonderful article by David Gassko on Tommy John Surgery, in which he describes not only the origins and nature of this bizarre surgical procedure, but also its effect on current major league baseball. This "miracle" surgery has not only prolonged the careers of innumerable star-caliber pitchers, but it sometimes might even have improved their abilities.
  • David Gassko (he is a major contributer to this volume, along with Studes, and for good reason) attempts to evaluate the most valuable (in terms of total career contributions) pitchers of all time. In doing so, he does something that I hadn't seen anyone do prior to this article: he attempts to correct for the competitiveness of baseball. Gassko correctly points out (as others have before him--it's just this is the first I'd seen it) that baseball today almost certainly must be far more competitive now than it was in "the good old days," because a) training and medicine are far better now than they used to be, and, perhaps more importantly, b) the population from which baseball players can be chosen is far larger now than it was before--especially post-integration. Somehow, I never had realized how important integration was to the quality of competition in today's game before reading this article, and the implications of this for interpreting past performances. Gassko has continued this work recently with hitters at
  • John Walsh has a fabulous look at outfield arms, going back to the late 1950's, using his outfield throwing metrics. Some notable Reds that pop up as having excellent arms: Cesar Geronimo, Pete Rose, Paul O'Neill, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn (earlier in his career, apparently--last season he was below average), and Reggie Sanders.
  • Dave Studenmund conducted a very interesting study on what he calls Net Win Shares Value. He used a three-step process. First, he identified the typical payroll cost of a marginal win (a win over the 50-win threshold expected of a team with nothing but replacement players). He then looked at each player's salary, estimated the expected win shares above bench of the player given his salary, and then compared these expected win shares to actual win shares above bench. Finally, he converted this difference to a dollar value to determine the players who provided the most bang for the buck teams spent on them.
    • Among the Reds, the most valuable players in terms of net win share dollars, were Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, and Dave Ross, while the players who underperformed their salaries the most were Ken Griffey Jr. (by a LOT, due to his high contract and his only modest production), Jason LaRue, and, in third place, Eric Milton.
  • Greg Rybarczyk, owner of the fascinating HitTracker website, has a fabulous look at some of the insights that can be gained with more detailed physical data on batted balls. In particular, he looks at how the weather and park effects affected production by both pitchers and batters, and revealed some interesting results. For example, he finds that Arroyo-victim Glendon Rusch was really the victim of insane bad luck last year, with 20 of 21 home runs allowed being hit with a tail wind, pushing them an average of 27 extra feet, and all were at ballparks with high elevations. As a result, he had a disastrous season...but may have actually pitched with skill that would result in a reasonable season: Rybarczyk calculates that Rusch would have allowed only 9 home runs had he pitched under average conditions. Even more striking is his look at how Craig Biggio's home run totals in 2006 were substantially improved by hitting into Minute Maid Park's Crawford boxes in left field.
  • Dave Studenmund and David Gassko team up in a pair of articles to take a close look at batted balls: their run values, how splits between GB/FB/LD's vary among different sorts of hitters, and the extent to which players have control over their batted ball rates (on the latter point, pitchers have less control than hitters, though pitchers still do have some control, especially of ground ball rates). It's a fascinating pair of studies, and makes me think that much of our future insights into player performance will come from further investigation of batted ball tendencies.
If that sounds jam-packed with information, it is. But surprisingly, despite the quality and detail of the information, it always reads in a manner that was both clear and easy to understand. This was particularly notable in the statistics articles, which did a near-masterful job of both explaining the methodologies while at the same time maintaining readability--it's a fine line, and many other publications stray too far to one side or the other.

Before I close, I will make one point of modest criticism. There is a tendency among some of the studies in this volume to go on what are sometimes (at least in biological research, which is what I do in my day job) called "fishing expeditions": studies in which you run a huge number of statistical tests on a huge number of variables in the same dataset and then go through and try to interpret those that are significant. This is a problem that I often see in baseball research, so I don't mean to single anyone out here. But it can lead to--and, I suspect in some cases, has led to--false positives.

The issue is that significance tests report how often you should find the result that is the observed amount different from the expected result (usually zero difference) just by chance. We typically define 0.05% as a cutoff probability for significance. The problem is that if you run 20 of these tests, all on the same dataset, you should expect to get at least one "significant" result just by chance alone (1/20 = 0.05), even when no difference exists. There are various ways of compensating for this issue, either by using different sorts of statistical methodologies, or by doing an adjustment to your significance cutoff (e.g. the Bonferroni method), but as far as I can tell, these were not employed.

Overall, though, this years' THT Annual offers outstanding value--insightful, innovative, and readable analysis, as well as an excellent selection of detailed and sophisticated statistics, all for a very affordable $20. This was the second year in a row I have purchased this publication, and I was again very impressed with it. There is no annual offseason baseball publication that I will be looking forward to more than next years' THT Annual.

You can purchase The Hardball Times 2007 Annual via, or in many local bookstores. I bought mine at Borders. :)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Is Drew Stubbs hitting? And other Reds news.

Is Drew Stubbs Hitting?
2006 first round pick Drew Stubbs, who struggled to make contact in his pro debut last season, is hitting 0.371/0.405/0.429 at Dayton, with 2 bb's and 8 k's in 37 plate appearances. K-rate is down a bit, 22% this year vs. 26% last year. Encouraging.... though it's worth noting that his BABIP is an absurdly high 0.481, which indicates that much of his surge might be due to nothing more than good fortune. I'd be more excited if he were showing a bit more pop (0nly a 0.058 ISO).

Freel Extended

Freel signed a 2-year contract extension worth a total of $7 million, plus some modest incentives based on (rather lofty) plate appearance levels. This contract will keep him through his age 33 season.

I'm a fan of Ryan Freel, but I'm glad they didn't spend an enormous amount of money on him. It's also just two years, so it's a managed risk. But one has to question how long Freel will remain effective, given his playing style and age. My guess is that he'll decline a bit either this or next season from his typical 0.370 OBP of the last three years, but will continue to be valuable given his patience at the plate, plus defense, and especially his tremendous versatility.

For what it's worth, PECOTA projects Freel's biggest decline (from "regular" to "fringe") to happen in the 2008 season, with fairly steady projection from there out through age 35. But looking at the actual projections, the biggest expected decline is in his stolen base rate--mid 30's to mid 20's. Overall, they project his bat to remain pretty solid, staying in the 0.350-0.360 OBP range for the next 5 years. If he does that, this deal will clearly be well worth it.

I also need to applaud Freel for the completely selfless attitude about the Josh Hamilton situation that he displayed in his conversation with Trent Rosecrans. I'm not sure that I'd be as selfless as he has been about both this and the Phillips situation, but I respect him for keeping his head on straight. Or, at least, saying the right things.

Josh Hamilton IPO'd on Protrade

...and I couldn't help but pick him up. I'm not positive that he'll take the league by storm, but I'm starting to believe despite understanding that his spring was due to a lot of good fortune. He debuted at $139/share, and I bought it about 30 seconds later at $142.86. He's currently trading at $144.05. If he can stay hot before entering his inevitable slump, I think he might fetch upwards of $160 or $170 before declining again. But maybe I'm just being optimistic.

I might well lose "money" on this, but I like having another reason to root for the kid. :)

Update: Heh, this was before I found out that he hit ANOTHER one last night. :)

Coffey lit up

For the record, I think Thom Brennaman was correct in yesterday's broadcast (which I finished listening to today--yay xm radio) to suggest that the Reds should have brought in a lefthander to face Berkman with two outs and a man on 2B. At least, that's what you do in an ideal world...especially because Coffey was pitching his third consecutive game. If the lefty (either Cormier or Coutlangus) was unable to retire Berkman, then you bring in either Weathers or Saarloos to face Lee. I would bring in Weathers, because Saarloos had pitched the prior two games--and I'm a big fan of bringing in a closer early in the game in a high-leverage situation.

Speaking of which, did anyone else's jaw hit the table when Marty mentioned Bill James yesterday--and not only mentioned him, but indicated that he very well may be right about something based on statistical evidence? I mean, holy cow, I nearly peed myself.

Moeller out, Hopper In

When the Reds' signed Moeller in the offseason, I wrote this:
Honestly, I'd be surprised if he lasts the season. The Reds always have roster size issues, and this year will be no different (e.g. we already have too many outfielders already on the roster). He should be an easy guy to cut.
So, while there's a sense in which this is a relief (i.e. Krivsky really *isn't* insane), it wasn't really surprising that the Reds activated Norris Hopper and DFA'd Moeller yesterday before the game. It removes the log-jam at catcher while giving the outfield depth a much needed boost. This was especially important because the outfield was starting to get stretched really thin, especially as Hamilton moves from backup to a most-of-the-time player.

It will be interesting to see whether Moeller will accept demotion to AAA. I hope he does, simply because I'm not wild about the Reds AAA catching crew and it'd be nice to have him for depth if/when either Ross or Valentin get hurt.

My computer is hurt

Finally, my desktop's hard drive is apparently fubar. Well, maybe. I'm hopeful that I can still recover stuff off of it, which includes all of my baseball research, not to mention a lot of family photos. It had been behaving strangely for a few days, and then yesterday evening it just wouldn't boot. I hate it when this kind of thing happens, but hopefully a fresh install of windows will be all it needs...though I have a feeling that I'll need a new drive. Bleh.

Josh Hamilton and Norris Hopper photos by AP/Al Behrman

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book Review: Rich Burk's Baseball Scorebook Model BP16-30

Keeping score is something of a lost art, but I find it to be a wonderful way to enjoy a baseball game. It helps me stay on top of every pitch, keep an eye on the big picture, and keep track of everything that happened in a game. What's more, keeping score gives me a record of a game that I can pull out years later should need or curiosity strike me.

When I was growing up, I learned to keep score at Reds games using the scorecard that came with the game program my Dad always bought. But by the time I got to college, I decided it was time to upgrade to a bound scorebook. The only one available at College Book Store in Athens, OH, was C. S. Peterson's Scoremaster (Rawlings)--and I bought every one they had in stock. It had a lot going for it: room to keep track of balls and strikes, play by play space for up to 12 innings, stat totals for all players, scorer notes, nice hard backing... And I've used these books for a number of years and have been pleased with them. But over the past year or two, I've grown a bit frustrated by some of that book's flaws and limitations, and therefore have been looking for a new scorebook for some time. And I finally found one.

A few weeks ago, I happened across a google advertisement for Rich Burk's website. Burk is the play by play announcer for the Portland Beavers, and has recently released his own line of scorebooks. There are a variety of different options on his site, but I decided to buy the one he describes as the "cleanup hitter" of his scorebook line, the BP16-30, which I'm reviewing tonight.

The book opens with an excellent, graphical introduction to scoring and how to use the scorebook. It should serve as a good primer to anyone new to scoring, but is still worth a skim to folks who are more experienced, as Burk has a number of good "advanced tips" that I've already adopted. He also goes into detail on how to use some of the custom features in his book, including his excellent pitch count system. If you follow this link, you can read this introduction and see an example of the scorebook sheets themselves. Below, I'll showcase how I scored part of Sunday, April 15th's game vs. the Cubs. You'll note that I don't do things exactly as Burk does them (everyone has their own style), but that this book allows me to do some things that I wouldn't otherwise be able to do as easily.

We'll start at the top of the page:
Please note that I am only showing the top-of-the-inning page--the facing page has room for the bottom-of-the-inning defense, as well room to list the umpires.

Moving left to right, you can see pitching lines for the home pitchers (note that there is room for six pitchers--my old scorebook only had room for three), defensive charts for the home team, and a scoreboard for the game. I've never had either of the latter two features before, and I really like them. The defensive charts perhaps aren't necessary, but they might be nice to have, especially when I'm at a live game and don't have the benefit of an announcer to remind me who's who.

The heart of any scorebook, of course, is the play by play space:
We'll start at the left and work right. First, we see the list of players in the batting order. Note that there's plenty of space to write in substitutions or notes. Next is an interesting feature that allows you to write in relevant statistics prior to the start of the game. It's set up for AVG, HR, RBI, and SB/CS. I didn't write anything in here because I was watching the game on TiVO and didn't want to risk spoiling the game by logging onto a stats site. But I can definitely see doing this prior to driving out to the ballpark, though I'd probably substitute OBP and SLG for AVG and RBI...might also be nice to have PA instead of HR, just to keep track of sample size...but hey, I'm a geek.

Next we get to the inning columns. If we start in the first inning, we can see that Ryan Freel struck out swinging ("K") to start the game. Perhaps the best part of this scorebook, however, is also highlighted here--the pitch tracking system. To the left of Ryan's "K" are two columns: the left signifies balls, while the right signifies strikes. Each row represents a different pitch in the sequence. Here, we can see that Freel took the first pitch for a strike (the dot in the first row), and then fouled off two pitches (I'm using a diagonal slash to indicate fouls) before swinging and missing.

Phillips, the #2 hitter, had a more interesting at-bat. After swinging and missing at the first two pitches (I use a horizontal slash for a swing and miss), Phillips took a ball, fouled off a pitch, and then took another ball before flying out to center field. My old scorebook would let me show he had a 2-2 count when he hit the fly ball, but it wasn't easy to show that he battled back from being down 0-2. This sort of detail is fun to track (for me, at least), can quickly help you identify great at-bats, yet is usually not as easy to track in traditional scorebooks. I love this system: simple, easy to read and use, yet very powerful.

Let's move over to the fourth inning to highlight another novel feature, the RBI dots. Here's how they work: each dot represents an RBI at a different base, starting with home at the left and third at the right. A slash through a dot means a runner was left on base following an at-bat, while a circled dot represents an RBI. Here, we see that Hamilton struck out looking with Phillips on second base (Brandon stole second on the 6th pitch of the at-bat), leaving him on base with one out (note the slash through the "2B" dot). Fortunately, Jeff Conine came through with a "clutch" single on a 3-2 count (it was actually a run and hit play, though I haven't worked out a good way to note that), driving him home (circled "2B" dot). Junior and EdE subsequently struck out, stranding Conine at second (his SB bordered on defensive indifference, but I think that's a silly rule and gave him a SB--the official scorer did too). Note that the clean nature of this scorebook's cells allowed me to take some notes on Eddie's unfortunate K, as well as other interesting pitches and at-bats.

The other nice aspect of the pitch tracking system in this scorebook is that it makes it very easy to keep track of pitch counts for pitchers. This next section falls just below the inning columns:
Here you can see Ted Lilly's pitch counts, inning by inning. They went up remarkably fast considering that there were next to zero baserunners most of the night (10 strikeouts can push up your pitch count, of course), and he ultimately exited the game at 101 pitches (63 strikes, 38 balls) at the end of the 6th inning. I'm not showing it, but below this section is a fairly standard place to note runs, hits, errors, and men left on base.

There are a few additional features of this scorebook worth mentioning: it has a unique design in which there is a middle sheet that you flip back and forth between innings:
I find this to be a rather ingenious solution that allows all the detail that is jammed into the play by play section, as well as a full 16 innings worth of space for those extra inning games, and yet still manages to keep all the data for each game in one place. The only drawback is that you actually have to do the cutting yourself.

Following the game pages is a 5-page baseball glossary. There are a few minor omissions (e.g. infield fly rule, hit and run play, etc), but overall it's a good, concise, and readable dictionary of common baseball terms and plays--most of what you see on the field in a game can be explained by it. This would be a really nice resource to have available for someone who was learning the basics of the game.

I do have a few modest critiques. First, I have some questions about how durable this book will be. I'm not particularly kind to my scorebooks as I trek them to and from the ballpark. While the paper it is printed on is certainly not cheap or flimsy, and the spiral binding seems fine, my old scorebook seems a bit sturdier. This new book also doesn't have a hard back cover, which will make a clipboard a necessity when scoring at a ballpark--or even on the couch. I appreciate that this is a consequence of the limitations of publishing on Lulu, but it is still a factor worth considering.

Second, there are no stat lines for the batters. This isn't a big deal for me, as I honestly didn't bother to fill them out for most games with my old book. But some people enjoy doing this, and admittedly it is nice to be able to look back and immediately see who got hits, walks, etc in a game. Furthermore, some individuals who keep score little league or softball teams might be charged with keeping player stats, and even Burk's line of amateur league scorebooks meant for those types of games (more than 9 batters, for example) do not have stat lines for batters. This, of course, is a space issue. But I'm a bit surprised that none of his models offer this feature.

Finally, there is not a good place near the top of the page to give title information about the game. If one was a broadcaster and scored every game for one particular team, that wouldn't be a big deal, as there is a place to write in the date and game number near the bottom of the page. But if you're like me and score only ~10-20 games a year, you might find it necessary to write in your own title to make the game easier to find (see the first image above, "Cincinnati Reds @ Chicago Cubs"). Admittedly, of course, this particular model is geared towards broadcasters, which may be why the title line isn't there.

Despite these quibbles, I'm delighted with this new scorebook. Games I score come out much cleaner and less cramped than they did before thanks to the large & clean format, and I absolutely love the pitch tracking features. At $16.99 + shipping, it may seem a bit expensive for a scorebook (quote from my wife: "you paid $20 for book that doesn't even have anything in it??!?"). For me, though, it's worth it: this book not only provides me with all the features I was looking for, but it also provides a few new tools than let me score a baseball game more effectively than ever before. Highly recommended.

Click here to view Rich Burk's entire line of scorebooks, or here to preview and purchase the BP16-30 via

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lohse sets career strikeout high against Cubs

I had the good fortune of watching today's game on WGN's telecast. Comments:
  • To say that Lohse was awesome is an understatement, but what else can I say? His command seemed almost perfect for most of the night, and the few obvious mistakes that he made he got away with. It was one of those games that could have been very different with only one swing, but fortunately, things always went Lohse's way...
  • ...thank goodness, because our offense was hopeless against Ted Lilly. Three baserunners all night? Thank goodness for Phillips' speed and Conine's contact ability, or we wouldn't have scored a thing. I hope Adam Dunn's back spasms subside quickly, because this team borders on anemic without him in the lineup.
  • The Reds desperately need both Edwin Encarnacion and Dave Ross to figure something out and start hitting again. Both look really uncomfortable, and have seemed that way just about every game that I've seen them play this season. Those are the right-handed power bats in this lineup.
  • Hamilton didn't look so good today, though his last AB was a nice battle--even if he ended up striking out.
  • I thought the little video presentation that MLB put out about Jackie Robinson was pretty well done, except for the weird "I am Jackie Robinson" bit near the end. It's a good reminder about what a positive difference integration has made for the competitiveness of this sport (among other benefits). Speaking of which David Gassko has been doing a lot of work adjusting past player performance for competitiveness at THT. Here are links to parts one and two.
  • Tonight I broke in my new scorebook. I'm going to give it a full review soon, but here's a link to it--I really like it, huge improvement over my old one. Not without a flaw or two, but it's very, very nice.
Here is Fangraph's WPA graph from today's game:
That blip in the 6th inning? Yeah, my heart about siezed when Theriot flared that single. And then note the nice slide back down below 50%... :)

Photos by AP/Nam Y. Huh

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Better Know a Red #22 - Jon Coutlangus

LHP Jon Coutlangus played a pivotal role in this afternoon's victory over the Imploding Cubs, stopping them 1-2-3 with two strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth following the Reds' 6-run burst in the top of that inning. This got the Reds right back to the plate, which is precisely what you want to do in that situation...even if the Reds' hitters failed to do anything but strike out for the rest of the game. Anyway, it got me thinking that it was high time I did a profile on Coutlangus...

Coutlangus was a 19th round selection by the San Francisco Giants out of the University of South Carolina in the 2003 amateur draft. Originally drafted as an outfielder, Jon hit for two seasons, showing minimal power but decent on base skills and the ability to take a walk. He hit a decent 0.301/0.394/0.392 in his debut season in low-A Salem, but couldn't do much as a 23-year old in high-A ball the next season (0.194/0.293/0.242). Following the 2004 season, with a strong left arm, he converted to a reliever and saw near-instant success. He pitched his first year in high-A San Jose and was excellent, sporting a 3.04 ERA with a 79/29 k/bb ratio in just 77 IP. The Reds claimed him off of waivers on March 31st, 2006. I wrote this at the time:
He just converted over to pitching from the outfield last year after encountering limited success in '03 and '04 as a hitter. While he was a bit old for high-A ball last year, he did extraordinarily well considering it was his first year pitching in pro ball. He had a very high strikeout rate, average walk rates (K/BB = 2.7), and very low HR rates. Overall he looks like a nice pickup that might eventually make the club in the bullpen. I'd look for him to start in AA this year, as he has nothing to prove in high-A ball.
Coutlangus went on to have a good season out of the pen for Chattanooga as a 25-year old, and even had a cup of coffee (if that's possible with a AAA team) with Louisville at the season's end. Most recently, Coutlangus played in the Arizona Fall League, putting together a 2.70 ERA in 12 games (10 IP), with a 12/5 k/bb ratio. His best pitches are reportedly a cut fastball and a slider.

2004/SF-Rk 23 1 0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.00 0.00 3.20 --- --- --- ---
2005/SF-A+ 24 50 0 77.0 9.2 3.4 0.35 3.04 2.78 0.318 4.49 11.5 56%
2006/CIN-AA 25 49 0 63.0 8.0 4.6 0.00 2.86 2.95 0.250 5.06 5.6 59%
2006/CIN-AAA 25 2 0 2.7 6.7 3.3 0.00 0.00 2.83 0.286 3.76 0.2 43%
2007/CIN 26 2 0 1.7 10.6 0.0 5.29 5.40 8.49 --- --- -0.20 ---
The main issue with Jon's performance last year in AA is that his walk rate skyrocketed to unacceptable levels. Otherwise, he did great--nice strikeout rate, and more impressively, he didn't allow a home run all season. In fact, the home run Coutlangus allowed to Jason Bay on April 8th was only the 5th of his career (counting the one given up in the AFL), which now totals 156 1/3 regular season innings (majors and minors). I'm sure his HR rates will increase in the majors, but his GB% (almost 60%!) shows that he's good at inducing grounders and keeping the ball in the park. If that can be maintained in the big leagues, he can be valuable.

His lefty/righty splits looked normal last year for a lefthander, allowing an 0.486 OBP vs. lefty batters and an 0.570 OPS vs. righties (here you can see the effect of the low BABIP, though his k/9 and hr/9 rates didn't hurt here either).

Projecting his performance in 2007

Coutlangus is making the jump from AA to the majors, so we shouldn't get overly optimistic this season. Nevertheless, he seems to have the tools (lefty, high gb rate, decent strikeout rate) to be successful at the big-league level in the future, and clearly impressed enough folks on the Reds staff this spring to put him on the opening-day roster. For reference, PECOTA projects that Coutlangus will have between a 4.10 and 6.87 ERA this season (25th and 75th percentile projections). If he can keep his control issues from last year under wraps, I'd hedge him towards the better end of that range.

Still, I expect that he'll spend a lot of time in AAA this season. Unless there's another injury, or the Reds are successful in trading away Cormier, he seems destined to return to the farm when Bill Bray returns from the DL--which should be soon. Still, I can see him driving back and forth between Louisville and Cincinnati a lot this season, sort of like Brian Shackelford has over the past two seasons.

The Baseball Cube
Baseball Prospectus
Minor League Splits
AFL Interview on

Photo credits: Jerry Hale of